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First Phase of Reunifications in Family Separation Class Action Concludes

Paul, Weiss, the American Civil Liberties Union and three nonprofit partners achieved a major milestone in Ms. L v. ICE, the national class action challenge to the Trump Administration’s family separation policy, when U.S. District Judge Dana M. Sabraw in San Diego declared that the first phase of reunifications has been concluded.

Since August 2018, at the request of the ACLU, Paul, Weiss has led a court-established Plaintiffs Steering Committee aimed at assisting migrant parents separated from their children upon entering the United States. The firm has been coordinating these efforts with the ACLU and three nonprofit groups, Justice in Motion, Kids in Need of Defense and Women’s Refugee Commission. Paul, Weiss’s role grew following a report of the Office of the Inspector General in January 2019 that suggested that family separations may have begun earlier than initially thought. Subsequently, the court ordered the government to conduct an accounting of families separated prior to the official implementation of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy in the spring of 2018.

Thanks to the Steering Committee’s tireless efforts, of the 2,815 children of the original class members, 2,797 have been reunified with their parents or placed with sponsors. Eight children remain in the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) after their deported parents indicated that they do not wish to reunify; six children remain in ORR care after their parents were found unfit for reunification; and one child remains in ORR care because the Steering Committee could not obtain a parental preference.

Paul, Weiss and its partners are continuing their efforts to locate 1,030 children of the expanded class members. So far, the Steering Committee has successful reached 395 parents or their attorneys. Due to unsuccessful attempts to reach the remaining parents by telephone, these parents will need to be reached by other means, such as arduous on-the-ground searches in their countries of origin; toll-free telephone numbers set up in the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and El Salvador; letters in Spanish and English sent to approximately 1,600 addresses provided by the government for potential class members that the Steering Committee has not yet reached; and broad-based media outreach efforts to publicize the toll-free phone numbers created by the Steering Committee in Spanish language media.

The Paul, Weiss team involved in the Steering Committee’s efforts with respect to the expanded class is led by firm chairman Brad Karp, litigation counsel Steven Herzog, corporate associate David Marshall, pro bono Attorney BJ Jensen and litigation associate Allison Penfield, and has been assisted by more than 130 other Paul, Weiss associates, summer associates, paralegals and members of the firm’s e-discovery team.

March 6, 2020

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