A group of parents who had their children taken from them by the United States government announced on Thursday, Sept. 6, that they are filing a class action lawsuit against numerous individuals and agencies that have helped facilitate this crisis.
At the law firm Todd & Weld LLP in downtown Boston, three parents got up one after another to address the press, through an interpreter and through tears, telling the stories of their children who were taken from them when they came to the United States seeking asylum.
In addition to damages, the plaintiffs are trying to establish a find for mental health care that would be available to all plaintiffs who’ve been harmed psychologically and emotionally by the Trump administration’s decision to take away their kids.
The plaintiffs who spoke were identified by their initials. The first man who spoke, E.O., described that agony he went through.
“It’s hard to accept that my child was taken from me with deceptive statements…Not knowing whether someday i was going to see him again.”
He went on to say that he wanted justice from the government after having been subjected to the terror of having his child ripped from his hands.
“I’m here also because the government said there is justice and im here today to ask the government for justice, because i have suffered much damage myself and my child.
Separating me from my child has destroyed my heart.”
E.O. added that his kid was bullied harshly by another child in custody.
“When they told me that my child would be safe. I learned that my child had been struck by another child who’d been separated from his family, so where is that security that was promised?”
He added that his son still suffers from nightmares due to the attacks from the other child.
“My child is waking in the night and falling out of bed, the four time a night.i ask him the next morning what’s wrong, and he says ‘i was being chased by that child.’”
A woman, identified as L.J., said that she and her family hadn’t been aware of the new policy put in place by the Trump administration, and were stunned to be separated.
“When I entered the country I and my two children were detained. It never even occurred to me, it never even crossed my mind that I was going to be separated from my kids in a way that was very abrupt and hurtful. The way they were taken from me…my son is 17, my girl is just nine…
I asked them why they were doing this, why they were taking my children. They told us they were doing this to punish us, that they were taking our children and they’d be adopted to other parents.”
The complaint states that even though shelters exist that could house parents and kids together, and despite the fact that these parents have not been accused of any sort of abuse or neglect, their kids were torn from them and housed at facilities that, in some cases, were thousands of miles away from their parents.
The complaint goes on to state that the families had their Fifth Amendment right to due process violated when their children were forcibly taken from them, and that the children had their due process rights violated because they were subjected to punitive detention for a civil infraction. The complaint also asserts that the kids and their families are being discriminated against on the basis of race and ethnicity.
One of the cases cited in the complaint as precedent for the lawsuit is Flores vs. the United States. The settlement in this case requires the government to hold minor children “in the least restrictive setting appropriate to the minor’s age and special needs.” The settlement also mandates that the children be released after five days, or in emergencies, 20 days.
The lawsuit contends that the separation of children from their families was instituted for the purpose of discouraging them from entering the United States: “Defendants have adopted and implemented this practice for the express purpose of demonstrating to immigrants the agony that parents should expect if they dare to enter the United States with their children.”
The lawsuit goes on to say that “Border officials turned these families away unlawfully on the false claim that the United States is ‘full’ or no longer accepting asylum seekers. This unlawful practice artificially created illegal entry violations along the Southwestern border at places other than official ports of entry that would not have occurred otherwise.”
The kids were subsequently dubbed “unaccompanied minors,” even though they had been accompanied by their parents prior to being torn from them by government agents.
The lawsuit also contends that government agents lied to kids and their parents to facilitate the seperations. Kids were told that they were simply going to play with other kids, when really they were being taken away from their parents, and some parents were told that they were going to court, when really they were detained in a cell separate from their kids, and then transferred to a different detention center. Many parents were told that their kids would be adopted by other families, and many were deported without their children.
According to the lawsuit, kids were sometimes held in detention centers that had no beds or mattresses on which the kids could sleep. The suit also states that some of the people working at the detention centers were abusive towards the kids, and that the medical care was so lacking that a one-year-old died of a respiratory infection in a Texas facility. According to the suit, the child was turned away from the medical center twice, and spent six weeks in two hospitals after her release, eventually dying of bronchiectasis, pulmonitis, and a collapsed lung.
Once the children were erroneously designated “unaccompanied minors,” parents had to go through an arduous application process in order to become their own kids’ sponsors.
The lawsuit stated that the Trump administration has announced loudly, proudly, and repeatedly that the policy and the act of forced separation was born out of a racist desire to discourage immigrants from countries in South and Central America from coming to the United States: “Defendants and others in the Trump Administration have openly admitted that the practice of forcibly separating families at the Southwestern border, among other enforcement practices, was intended to target immigrants by their race, ethnicity, or national origin. The forcible separation of these families is also consistent with the racist and xenophobic hostility shown toward Latino immigrants, repeatedly voiced and demonstrated by President Trump and carried out by his Administration, including the defendants in this case.”