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Family separation suit is headed to trial after Arizona court ruling

A lawsuit brought by a group of asylum seekers separated under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border policy is headed to trial. 

The lawsuit includes six fathers and six children separated at the Arizona border between November 2017 and May 2018. 

The zero-tolerance policy allowed border officers to criminally prosecute adults who crossed the border without permission and send them to separate facilities from their kids. Thousands of children separated as a result, sometimes for months at a time. Experts estimate as many as 1,000 children are still separated today.

Attorneys with the Southern Poverty Law Center and other legal firms filed a civil suit on behalf of the six fathers and their kids that seeks damages from the federal government for the emotional distress they suffered under the policy.

This week, a federal court in Phoenix ruled the government did not have immunity against those claims — and the case will proceed to trial.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration reached a settlement agreement on another suit filed by the ACLU to provide a fast-tracked asylum pathway, housing assistance, reunification funding and other aid to separated families. The case filed in Arizona is one of several dozen still open. 

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Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.