Plaintiffs seek damages for ‘significant and lasting trauma’ caused to parents and children
Thousands of families have been torn apart under the zero tolerance policy announced by the Trump administration in 2018. Under this policy, every migrant – including asylum seekers – attempting to cross the US border anywhere other than at an official point of entry should be detained and criminally prosecuted.
Today, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), a nonprofit organization that provides free, low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, global law firm Hogan Lovells, and the Arizona co-lawyer Lewis Roca filed a lawsuit against the US government.
Read: Tens of thousands protest President Trump’s hardline immigration policy from coast to coast (July 1, 2018)
Filed in the Federal District Court of Arizona on behalf of the parents, she seeks damages for the harms they and their children suffered as a result of their forced separation at the border under the policy of zero tolerance of the previous administration.
The four plaintiff families in the lawsuit still suffer from being separated and detained but have received no explanation, acknowledgment or apology from the US government, he said.
Tami Goodlette, director of litigation at RAICES, said: “We are taking the Biden administration to court to ensure these families get the compensation they deserve for the trauma inflicted on them by the federal government.”
“Zero Tolerance was an intentional act of abuse, and it is the responsibility of the current administration to repair the ongoing harm done to these families.”
The federal government separated each of the four complainant families without notice, information and without a reunification plan, according to the complaint.
Read: Biden outlines steps to undo Trump’s immigration policies (February 2, 2021)
“For weeks parents and children were held separately, sometimes thousands of miles apart. For weeks parents and children have been begging to be reunited,” he says.
“And for weeks the government – due to a combination of incompetence and cruelty – refused to provide information on the whereabouts of their loved ones, their well-being or if they would ever see each other again. .”
The suffering the government has inflicted on asylum-seeking families was intentional and has been exacerbated by its refusal to provide families with information about missing family members or to implement adequate measures to ensure reunification, says the complaint.
Hogan Lovells’ lawyer, Danielle Desaulniers Stempel, said: “The US government has separated thousands of families in a brutal but deliberate attempt to prevent families from continuing to seek asylum in the United States.
“The four plaintiff families named in the lawsuit suffered experiences that are unfortunately only too representative of the thousands of other families who have been separated.”
“This harm was not accidental – it was the government’s goal,” according to the complaint. “Federal officials at the highest levels have repeatedly and publicly confirmed that the family separation policy was designed to inflict trauma in order to deter future asylum seekers from coming to the United States.”
Ken Rossman of Lewis Roca added, “We look forward to helping these families get the relief they deserve.”
“Each of the plaintiffs’ four families was held in dangerous and inhumane conditions, without food, water, bedding or space to sleep,” according to the complaint. “They were housed in facilities with inadequate toilets and forced to go days or weeks without access to clean water.”
The plaintiffs seek damages under the federal tort claims law for the “significant and lasting trauma” caused by government policy to parents and their children.