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

There Is Chaos At The Mexico-Guatemala Border As The Next Migrant Caravan Tries To Enter Mexico And AMLO Pushes Back

Things That Matter

There Is Chaos At The Mexico-Guatemala Border As The Next Migrant Caravan Tries To Enter Mexico And AMLO Pushes Back

Jose Torres / Getty

Last week news broke that another migrant caravan was forming in Honduras, in an attempt to safely cross Guatemala and Mexico on the way to the United States. Immediately, the reports were met with a mix of panic and indignity among Central American leaders who vowed to stop the caravan before reaching the US-Mexican border.

And it looks like that plan has been put into motion. Although Guatemala allowed many migrants through its territory, upon reaching the border with Mexico, many migrants were turned away, or worse.

A caravan of nearly 3,000 people has been met with force as they’ve tried to cross into Mexico from Guatemala.

Credit: Jose Torres / Getty

According to Guatemala, at least 4,000 people entered from Honduras since Wednesday, making for one of the biggest surges since three Central American governments signed agreements with the Trump administration giving them more of the responsibility for dealing with migrants. Even though these exact same countries are ill-equipped to handle the influx of migrants – let alone fight back against their country’s own poverty, violence, and corruption that force many migrants to flee in the first place.

Mexican government officials ordered them to block entry into the country. 

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute issued a statement saying it would detain any migrants without legal status, and deport them if they couldn’t legalize their status. 

Video footage showed scattered groups of migrants throwing rocks at a few members of the National Guard militarized police who were on the banks of the river attempting to thwart illegal crossings, while hundreds of others ran past into Mexico.

Hopes were raised on Friday after Mexican President AMLO announced that there were 4,000 jobs along the southern border available to migrants.

The day after AMLO’s statement regarding possible job opportunities, more than 1,000 migrants attempted to cross into Mexico. According to the country’s National Institute of Migration (INM), each migrant was interviewed and told about opportunities with two government development programs. which will be implemented along the southern border and in both El Salvador and Honduras.

Meanwhile, as migrants waited to be processed for entry into Mexico, a loudspeakers warned migrants against applying for asylum in the US. However, many migrants are doubtful when it comes to Mexico’s offer of work.

“I don’t believe that. It is a lie,” one migrant told Al Jazeera. “They are just trying to find a means trap us and to debilitate the caravan.”

The violence at the Mexico-Guatemala border has left children separated from their families as crowds were sent fleeing from pepper spray.

Credit: Jeff Abbott / Flickr

As Mexican security forces launched tear gas and pepper spray into a crowd of migrants attempting to enter the country – hundreds were forced to flee. The ensuing chaos left children lost without their parents and mothers and fathers desperately searching for their children.

A Reuters witness spoke to at least two mothers said their children went missing amid the chaos, as the migrants on Mexican soil scattered in an attempt to avoid being detained by Mexican officials.

“We didn’t come to stay here. We just want to cross to the other side,” said Ingrid, 18, a Honduran migrant. “I don’t want to go back to my country because there is nothing there, just hunger.”

Many have harsh words for Mexico’s President AMLO – calling him a puppet and a coward.

Although most agree that every country has the right to enforce its own immigration laws, many are upset with AMLO for the way his administration has cracked down on Central American migrants. Many see the crackdown as little more than bowing to pressure from Trump – turning him into a puppet of the US.

So what should AMLO do when dealing with unauthorized migrants and pressure from a US President?

First, violence and attacks on migrants simply crossing territory should never be on the table. Second, AMLO’s administration should let the caravan reach the US-border and let the asylum process play out as it was meant to do under international law. Just because Trump wants AMLO to join him in breaking international norms, doesn’t mean he should.

But many doubt that will ever happen. Neither of these presidents, Trump nor AMLO, will change course to support legal asylum claims.

So what’s next? Will Mexico relent and agree to pay for Trump’s border wall? Don’t dismiss the idea, not when the Mexican president has so far carried out Trump’s every whim.

This Mother Was Allowed Into The US With Her Daughters But Her Partner And Son Were Forced To Stay In Mexico, Now They’re Suing

Things That Matter

This Mother Was Allowed Into The US With Her Daughters But Her Partner And Son Were Forced To Stay In Mexico, Now They’re Suing

EqualityNow / Instagram

Remember their names: Maudy Constanza  and Hanz Morales. They are two Guatemalans who are suing the United States to keep their family together (they have two daughters who are with Constanza in the United States and one son, aged 9, who was returned to Mexico with Morales).

The recent crackdown on undocumented migrants and refugees under the Trump administration has produced all sorts of stories of broken homes, crushed dreams and near impossible survival. Chief among the many controversial steps that the government has taken in the last two years is the set of policies and transnational deals that have led many undocumented migrants to deportation.

The influx of migrants and asylum seekers into the United States comes from all over the world, and people fleeing dangerous situations in places as far as the Middle East or Africa use the southern border as an entry point into the US. However, the spotlight is usually placed on people of Latin American origin, mainly from Mexico and Central American countries that have long faced sectarian violence, social unrest, gangs and armed conflicts that, oftentimes, can be led back to what some critics claim is United States interventionism. Whatever the case is, the truth is that the American continent is experiencing a humanitarian crisis and governments will need to cooperate to ease human suffering and make asylum seeking processes more bearable. 

Most people whose families have been separated by the United States federal government remain silent in their powerlessness. After all, who would legally fight one of the most powerful countries in the world, right? Well, the answer lies in a Guatemalan couple that is actually suing the federal government in an effort to keep the family together. 

Maudy Constanza is an asylum seeker living in Massachusetts, her partner and son were ordered to remain in Mexico so they are suing.

Credit: Jonathan Wiggs / Boston Globe

The lawsuit claims that Trump’s asylum policy violates constitutional due process and does not guarantee equal rights. The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts in federal court in Boston last week.

The suit reads: “United States law protects asylum seekers like Ms. Constanza, Mr. Morales, and their children. The law forbids sending people to countries where they will be persecuted or tortured, and provides migrants with an opportunity to see an immigration judge before they may be sent to a place where they fear such persecution or torture.”

We have to remember that Guatemala lives unprecedented levels of violence and that the increasing flow of Central American migrants to Mexico has made them vulnerable as many individuals in the host country have perpetrated acts of violence and racism. 

Hanz Morales, Constanza’s partner, was shot four times in his home country of Guatemala, where criminality indexes are surging.

Guatemala is definitely not a safe place for Hanz Morales, and he fears for his life. The couple fled to Mexico with their three young children. They separated before crossing the United States border in July 2019. The Boston Globe details the ordeal that they escaped: “Hanz was a successful small business owner in a town 100 miles or so outside Guatemala City. Last year he witnessed a violent crime, during which he was shot. The family spent a year in hiding trying to evade the individuals who shot him, until they decided to move to the United States and seek asylum.” The rule of law not always holds true in Guatemala and other Latin American countries, so it was flee or die for the family. 

Constanza and her two daughters were allowed to stay in the United States, Morales and their 9-year-old son were sent back to Mexico, where unofficial refugee camps are dangerous and unsanitary.

Credit: Eric Gay / Getty

Morales and his son are among the approximately 50,000 individuals from Spanish-speaking countries that have been sent to Mexico to wait out their migration court process. This puts them in an extremely vulnerable situation and an economy of corrupt officials and lawyers, who take advantage of them, has sprouted in cities such as Reynosa and Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas.

As Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, told The Boston Globe: “In Matamoros, we now have what’s been called the worst refugee camp in the world.”

As the Associated Press reports, Morales and his son have experienced a hell on Earth while waiting in Mexico: “Morales and his son have survived an attempted kidnapping, struggled to find food and rarely leave their home because of the violent and dangerous conditions near the border, according to the ACLU. The organization wants a federal judge to declare the asylum policy unlawful and allow Morales and his son to await the outcome of their case in the U.S. with the rest of their family.” The ACLU has started similar processes in the Californian cities of San Diego and San Francisco.