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Arnold & Porter Obtains Settlement for Central American Families Seeking Reunification

April 16, 2019

A historic settlement reached on April 12, 2019, by the US government and plaintiffs represented by Arnold & Porter and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is expected to result in approximately 2,700 children living in dangerous conditions in Central America safely reuniting with their parents in the US.

The underlying lawsuit, S.A. v. Trump (Northern District of California Case No. 18-CV-3539 LB) was brought by 12 children and parent applicants, as well as the immigrant rights group CASA, on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals to challenge the Trump Administration's abrupt termination of the Central American Minors parole program (CAM).

The CAM Program was a humanitarian program created by the Obama Administration to help alleviate the crisis of unaccompanied minors arriving at the Southern Border. CAM allowed parents lawfully in the United States to apply for refugee or parole status on behalf of their minor dependents in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The children were interviewed and processed in their home countries. If the children passed security and health tests and showed that they were at risk of harm, they were typically granted parole and allowed to travel by air to the United States (at their parents'expense). When the program was terminated in 2017, approximately 2,700 children had received conditional grants of parole but had not yet traveled.

The lawsuit, filed in June 2018, asserted that the government's retroactive termination of the CAM parole program violated the Administrative Procedure Act. In December 2018, US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler found that the government's mass revocation of conditional approvals from CAM applicants was unlawful. On March 1, 2019, Judge Beeler granted in part Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and ordered the government to finish processing all applicants who had received conditional grants of parole when the program was terminated.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Court's preliminary injunction will be made permanent and the government will agree not to appeal or otherwise challenge the injunction. The government will submit a compliance plan to the Court and will make regular reports to the Court on its progress in processing the applications.

The Arnold & Porter pro bono team included Daniel Asimow, John A. Freedman, Gaela K. Gehring Flores, David J. Weiner, Dana O. Campos, Mateo Morris, Phillip A. Geraci and Susan S. Hu.