Following legal action over a Congolese mother and child detained thousands of miles away from each other despite having a credible asylum claim, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has “filed a class-action lawsuit Friday accusing the U.S. government of broadly separating immigrant families seeking asylum”:
Immigrant advocates say the mother and daughter’s case is emblematic of the approach taken by President Donald Trump’s administration. The lawsuit, which asks a judge to declare family separation unlawful, says “hundreds of families” have been split by immigration authorities.
The lawsuit also raises the case of a Brazilian woman who the ACLU says was separated from her 14-year-old son after they sought asylum in August. The ACLU says the woman was given a roughly 25-day sentence jail sentence for illegally entering the country and then placed in immigration detention facilities in West Texas, while her son was taken to a Chicago facility.
In the case of the Congolese family—publicly only known as “Ms. L” and “S.S”—“when the officers separated them, Ms. L. could hear her daughter in the next room screaming that she did not want to be taken away from her mother.” While Ms. L was recently released from a California jail following the ACLU’s initial lawsuit, seven-year-old S.S. remains detained, alone, in an Illinois facility.
“A Homeland Security spokesman would not comment on this case,” the Washington Post reported earlier this week, “but said that the department does not ‘currently’ have a policy regarding separating asylum-seeking parents and children who are detained.” But, families have been and are being separated and detained, possibly at heightened levels in the Trump era:
Michelle Brané, director of the migrant rights and justice program for the Women’s Refugee Commission, said that through attorneys and social service organizations, she had identified at least 426 immigrant adults and children who had been separated by authorities since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. Brané said she did not have a comparable figure for Obama’s administration.
But Brané said since the new administration began, her office has received far more reports of adults being held in ICE facilities without knowing where their children are.
“A lot of these kids are already afraid because they’re fleeing something and they know they’re fleeing something,” she said. “And to have them pulled away, that can be devastating for a parent.”