Rosenbaum said he had assumed that the government would want to settle to keep from going to discovery, the process of collecting evidence in a civil court proceeding, which would have involved interviews with children traumatized by the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy.
A former Justice Department official said that immigration issues routinely got kicked to the White House and that there it was expected that Miller would get involved.
The final resolution would not come for six more months. In November 2019, the judge in the case ordered the government to pay for mental health services, which the Justice Department appealed unsuccessfully. The nonprofit Seneca Family of Agencies was awarded a $14 million contract in March to provide screenings and counseling to migrant families.
The delay not only withheld services from the migrant families, but it also kept Seneca from reaching all of those affected, because some were deported before they could be reached. NBC News has reported that lawyers in a separate federal court case still have not found the parents of 666 separated children.
Seneca has now connected with over 500 migrant families, all of whom have been reunified and were not deported.
«Reunification does not erase the trauma caused by the separation. It is just the first step in the healing process. The need to connect families to services is urgent, because when treatment is delayed, it may exacerbate and compound the trauma of the separation,» said Paige Chan, executive director of Seneca.
Cheryl Aguilar, founder and lead therapist of the Hope Center for Wellness in Washington, D.C., one of Seneca’s partners in implementing mental health services, said the group is treating four children separated from their parents as part of the case.
That includes an 8-year-old girl who is terrified that her mother will leave at any moment and a boy approaching his teens who wets his bed because of the trauma suffered from separation, she said.
«There were delays in getting kids services, and that delays the healing,» she said.
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Amy Lally of the law firm Sidley Austin, another lawyer representing the separated families, said she was «extremely frustrated when the settlement fell apart» in October 2019.
«When the settlement failed to get approval, my first thought was of the lost time. The months spent negotiating the proposed settlement were months that mothers and children and families continued to suffer, without redress, from the trauma imposed by the government,» Lally said.