Things That Matter

Migrant Families Separated At The US Border Are Suing The Government Over Their Inhumane Separation Policy

The ACLU has recently filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of five migrant families and their children, who the lawsuit says were “torn from their parents’ arms with little or no warning.” The suit alleges that the U.S. government “cruelly and inhumanely separated” children from their parents in Arizona and along the U.S. border, and by doing so, is culpable in the trauma inflicted on the families. The lawsuit details the unimaginable trauma that these families during several months in federal custody in 2018. 

Karina, who was just 13 years old at the time, was forcibly separated from her mother on Christmas Day. Karina was so devastated, she was handcuffed as a means to control her while her mother was taken away. They didn’t see each other again for 16 months. They’re telling their stories in the hope that it will help all families who were forcibly separated to gain reparations from the government. 

Seven-year-old Diana fell asleep in a detention center and woke up to find her father, Jorge, was taken away without a chance to say goodbye.

Credit: @NickMiroff / Twitter

Diana and Jorge fled Honduras after their family had been “subjected to death threats, intimidation, and violence,” according to the suit. Last June, the two arrived on U.S. soil and immediately turned themselves in to CBP and asked for asylum. They were immediately taken to a concrete cell that was “filthy and smelled of urine,” court documents read. They were given Mylar emergency blankets and no other mats, pillows or blankets. Children slept on benches while parents slept on the concrete floor. 

Around midnight, a CBP officer took Jorge out of the cell. Jorge assumed it was to ask him some questions and that he’d return to his daughter. The officer put cuffs on his wrists and ankles and escorted him to a detention facility, with no chance to say goodbye. Jorge begged for answers on what would happen to his daughter, but the officer ignored him. When they finally reunited, Diana didn’t hug her father back. She had become attached to her social worker. Months later, Diana is suffering from severe separation anxiety. The two are still pursuing asylum.

Beatriz was three years old when she saw ICE “violently remove a child from her mother,” court documents read. Then ICE took her away from her father.

Credit: @MelissaGomez004 / Twitter

When a mother refused to give up her child, four CBP officers tried to forcibly take the child from her. One officer repeatedly “struck the woman with his hands,” the suit states. Beatriz clung tighter to her father, who knew he would face violence if he didn’t let her go. Her father was deported without her. Beatriz would be taken thousands of miles away to New York and be assigned to a caretaker who would physically abuse her while she was in federal custody. When Beatriz was deported five months after her father, he noticed a scar on her back and bruises on her legs. She said a woman hit her with the “hard part of a belt,” according to the suit. The two are currently living in Santa Isabel, Guatemala, and struggling. Beatriz almost entirely lost her ability to speak Mam, the Mayan language her family speaks. After reunification, the suit states Beatriz was “was uncomfortable being around
her parents after they were reunited, almost as if they were strangers to her.”

Andrés, then 6 years old, kicked and screamed as he was pulled from the arms of his father, Jacinto.

Credit: @JoyceWhiteVance / Twitter

Jacinto tried to tell the guards that Andrés had a heart murmur but the suit alleges the guards were “uninterested.” The suit alleges that one officer told Jacinto that his son now “belonged to Trump.” When Jacinto wept in his cell, without his son, another officer mocked him for crying “like a little girl,” court documents state. Jacinto was deported while Andrés remained in U.S. custody. They wouldn’t see each other again for another ten months.  Meanwhile, Andrés was put into foster care where his caretakers asked him to call them “Mom” and “Dad.” When they were reunited over a year later, things were different. Andrés cries more often, has a shorter temper and struggles to be apart from Jacinto. The two are currently seeking asylum.

The suit alleges that family separation would invariably produce trauma and that the U.S. did not offer any mental health services to those families.

Credit: @peterdaou / Twitter

The suit is alleging that the trauma was intentional as a means to deter Central American families from even seeking asylum. According to the suit, U.S. officials who ordered that the family separation policy goes into effect “destroyed families
to inflict severe pain on Central American immigrants, hoping that this would cause them
to abandon their asylum cases and deter other Central Americans from seeking asylum or
other immigration relief in the United States.” One parent traumatized by the family separation policy died by suicide. 

If the families win the lawsuit, reparations could be made to all families affected by family separation.

Credit: @fams2gether / Twitter

The suit isn’t just trying to share traumatic stories. It’s trying to illustrate how a single event has broken families, even after reunification. Nearly all families have been reunited, but the symptoms of PTSD live on. Parents are scarred from being forcibly deprived of protecting their children from their own PTSD and continue to suffer from “fear and anxiety, trouble sleeping,
nightmares, painful headaches, and dizzy spells, and other symptoms,” according to the suit.

Winning would be a huge win to Latinos, who the suit alleges were racially targeted by President Trump. More than 95 percent of the class action plaintiffs are from Central America.

READ: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Got Real Emotional In Episode About Undocumented Immigrants And Family Separation

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The Number Of Migrant Kids Still Separated From Family Rises To 666 As The Search Continues To Find Missing Parents

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The Number Of Migrant Kids Still Separated From Family Rises To 666 As The Search Continues To Find Missing Parents

Despite widespread efforts by an international network of volunteers and lawyers, hundreds of kids remain separated from their parents as a result of Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Volunteers had been calling hundreds of phone numbers provided by the government and even had been going door to door in several Central American countries in an attempt to locate family members. However, much of that search has been put on hold thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, new information provided by the government indicates that the number of children missing their parents now stands at 666. A number that is growing as more evidence comes to light, despite the fact lawyers have successfully reunited many families.

Lawyers working to reunite children with their parents say that the number of cases is higher than previously thought.

Lawyers who have been working to reunite migrant families separated by Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy at the border now believe the number of separated children for whom they have not been able to find parents is 666, higher than they told a federal judge last month, according to an email obtained by NBC News.

Previously, the lawyers said they could not find the parents of 545 children after they had tried to make contact but had been unsuccessful. But in a new email, lawyers point out that the number is higher because the new group includes those “for whom the government did not provide any phone number.”

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, explained to NBC News that the new number “includes individuals in addition to 545 for whom we got no information from government that would allow meaningful searches but are hopeful the government will now provide with that information.”

However, the work to reunite families continues as a strong pace.

As the administration provided lawyers with additional phone numbers to aid the long-running search, the search continues.

Volunteers have searched for parents by phone and by going door-to-door across Central America, which has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee has also established toll-free numbers in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and mailed letters to 1,600 potential families.

According to the committee, it’s believed that the parents of 333 children are currently in the U.S., while parents of the other 295 are believed to be outside the country.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the parents and children are still separated, only that the committee has been unable to locate the parents. The committee has found other family members for 168 of the 628 children whose parents have yet to be located. So progress is being made, regardless of how slow it is.

The family separations were a result of a ‘zero tolerance’ policy pursued by the Trump administration.

Shortly after taking office, Trump made it clear that cruelty would be the focus of his immigration policy. And he quickly followed that promise up with actual policy, instituting a so-called ‘zero tolerance’ policy on the U.S.-Mexico border that led to migrant families being separated.

Prior to the borderwide “zero tolerance” policy, the Trump administration tested family separation in a pilot program in the El Paso sector. The vast majority of the children referenced in the email obtained by NBC News were separated during this pilot program, but the total also includes some children who were separated under zero tolerance.

More than 2,700 children were separated from their parents in June 2018 when U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered an end to the practice under the “zero-tolerance” policy. He ordered them reunited within 30 days. And now here we are more than two years later.

Biden says that he is committed to reuniting all families separated under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

As president, Joe Biden has committed to reuniting families who were separated under Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy. However, Biden has so far not decided whether separated parents who remain outside the U.S. will be given the opportunity to come to the country to reunite with their children and pursue claims to asylum.

The ACLU wants Biden to allow separated families to return to the United States to be given some kind of legal status.

“We think that’s only fair given what they’ve been put through,” Lee Gelernt, attorney representing parents for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the AP. “We will find the families but we cannot provide the families with the right to return to the United States and give legal status. Only the administration can do that.”

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As Trump Defends Family Separations, Biden Calls It “Criminal” And Outlines His Plan For Compassionate Border Policy

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As Trump Defends Family Separations, Biden Calls It “Criminal” And Outlines His Plan For Compassionate Border Policy

Politicians understand that courting a broad and diverse coalition of voters is the key to winning the election. That is what paved the way for the 2008 victory of President Barack Obama as well as the House and Senate during the same election. So far, early voting numbers for young voters are way higher than this point in the 2016 election.

Likewise, Latinos are a large electoral voting bloc in the 2020 elections. In fact, for the first time ever, the Latino vote outnumbers the Black vote. According to the Pew Research Center, there are 32 million eligible Latino voters and that accounts for 13 percent of all eligible voters. This is a major step into democracy for the Latino community.

And with large numbers of Americans also supporting common sense immigration reform with a focus on compassionate policies, it makes sense that the Biden campaign is working hard to show the contrast between his policies and those of the Trump Administration.

During the last presidential debate before the election, President Trump was given the chance to address his cruel family separation policy.

Credit: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

At the final debate, Trump was asked about the 545 children who still haven’t been reunited with their families after being separated from them because of his administration’s immigration policy.

The Trump Administration previously pursued a “zero-tolerance” immigration policy as a deterrent for immigrants by prosecuting adults who crossed into the country without authorization, resulting in systematic family separation. 

It was one of the few times Trump has been directly confronted about the worst human rights abuse of his four years in office.

At first, Trump blamed smugglers for bringing children over the border, not admitting that these children had come with their parents and been taken from them on orders from his administration. When the president finally acknowledged the reality, though, he gave us a window into what he actually thinks about family separation: In his view, it wasn’t that bad.

In his response, Trump defended those policies and failed to detail how we planned to help bring those families back together. In that same thought, he also claimed that the “they [the kids] are so well taken care of.”

“Yes, we’re working on it, we’re trying very hard,” Trump said when pressed on how his Administration was working to reunite the families.

Several recent stories about the conditions these kids are in contradict Trump’s talking points.

Credit: John Moore / Getty Images

To Trump’s point about the children being “so well taken care of,” though, his administration has also argued in court that it doesn’t need to provide detained children with a “toothbrush,” “towels,” “dry clothing,” “soap,” or “sleep.” This was while his Border Patrol was denying children those things and also while it was refusing donations of those things to give to the detained children.

But still, Trump thinks that the children who may never see their parents again “are so well taken care of.” He did not mention the at least six children who have died in CBP custody in less than a year.

As Biden fact checked Trump on the 545 children who still haven’t been reunited with their parents, Biden called the policy ‘criminal.’

Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

After Trump’s non-answer to how he plans to reunite these broken families, Joe Biden, clearly impassioned, went to work fact-checking Trump. In direct response to the administration’s inhumane and cruel policies, Biden said the policy “makes us a laughingstock and it violates every notion of who we are as a nation.”

As the two sparred over the policy, Biden went on to call it ‘criminal.’

“What happened? Their kids were ripped from their arms and separated and now they cannot find over 500 sets of those parents and those kids are alone. Nowhere to go, nowhere to go. It’s criminal,” Joe Biden went on to say.

During the final presidential debate, Joe Biden outlined his vision to fix our broken immigration system – he outlined how he will lead with compassion and end the Trump Administration’s cruel policies that tear children away from their mothers.

Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

The immigration portion of the debate spanned several subjects. Asked about the Obama Administration’s immigration policy—which included record deportations— Biden sought to create rare distance between himself and the President he served.

When asked about Obama’s immigration agenda, Biden admitted “We made a mistake. He added “It took too long to get it right. Took too long to get it right. I’ll be President of the United States, not Vice President of the United States.”

One important policy Biden plans to follow through on is protecting DREAMers. An overwhelming majority of Americans support protecting Dreamers and Biden echoed these sentiments. During the debate he committed to creating a pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented people. He specifically nodded to DREAMers, whose status the Trump Administration has challenged.

It’s also worth noting that one of the reasons these policies weren’t able to be implement during the Obama-Biden administration was the united Republican obstructionism. For example, the Republican-led House refused to take up the bipartisan immigration deal passed by the Senate in 2013.

Even when he wasn’t directly addressing the issue of family separations, Joe Biden kept families in the discussion.

During the debate, Joe Biden did his best to avoid getting into arguments and instead tried to keep the focus on the issues and they impact the American family – and families longing for a chance at the American Dream.

From Covid to family separations, Biden touched on all of the issues that keep American families up at night. And given the feedback from several post-debate polls, Americans support many of the progressive policies that Biden mentioned during the debate.

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