Central Americans Separated from Children Sue Federal Government

June 20, 2018

MERCEDES, Texas — Three Central American political asylum seekers represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) Wednesday filed for a temporary injunction in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to halt the separation of families of immigrants and to reunify immediately already-separated children with their families.

The suit came on the same day that President Trump issued an Executive Order reversing his administration’s  policy of separating asylum seekers from their children.

On Thursday, TRLA took steps to request relief from the court on an emergency basis to obtain information and a plan from the government  on reunification of families. The order does not address those issues and administration statements indicate that the it will not be applied retroactively to asylum seekers whose children have already been separated.

The complaint states, “This lawsuit challenges the federal government’s recent decision to indefinitely separate immigrant parents from their young children. The government’s separation policy is designed, intended, and administered as a means of deterring all immigration, even legal immigration by those with a right to seek asylum. This is punishment, it interferes with family integrity, and it interferes with access to courts, all of which our Constitution’s Fifth Amendment does not allow. Families naturally experience forced separation as torture and they urge this Court to stop it.”

The plaintiffs include a Guatemalan refugee, who was separated from her sons, ages 2, 6 and 13, after passing their credible fear interviews; a Guatemalan refugee fleeing a violence threat, who was separated from her nine-year-old son after going to immigration officials asking to apply for asylum; and a Honduran refugee who was shot and threatened with further violence and was separated from his 12-year-old daughter as they sought asylum. They are being represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA).

The complaint states that the defendants forcibly separated plaintiffs from their children without cause and are using family separation as punishment, which causes irreparable harm.The plaintiffs are seeking a preliminary injunction against the separation of families and the immediate reunification of children with their families.

For more information, contact Jerry Wesevich, TRLA attorney (915) 241-0534; or Nancy Nusser, Press Officer (512) 374-2764; (410) 934-9588; nnusser@trla.org