“L.G.,” an asylum-seeker who fled to the U.S. following an abusive relationship with a member of the Guatemalan military, said she witnessed an immigration official physically yanking a terrified child from the arms of his mom. Shortly after, L.G.’s own daughter, 7-year-old “B.G.,” was taken from her too. “Almost every day, and sometimes multiple times a day, the immigration officers took a new batch of children away from their parents,” a legal filing states. “L.G. had to watch these separations and relive her trauma again and again.” The mom is now one of the parents seeking millions in damages from the Trump administration over the barbaric “zero tolerance” policy.
L.G. and B.G. would spend nearly two and a half months separated after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border near San Luis, Arizona. Even though she followed the law by coming through an official port of entry, L.G. says that an officer accused her of being a criminal, falsely telling her that “the law had changed.” (The Trump administration would certainly love to make this illegal, and has been taking illegal steps to stomp on the asylum process, but it remains the law.) Officials then used this lie to justify taking B.G. from her.
“On or about July 10, 2018, after nearly eight weeks of separation, immigration officers in Musick finally allowed L.G. a two-minute phone call with B.G. For the entire eight weeks up to that point, immigration officers had refused to tell her anything about her daughter, even though, in every place that she had been detained she repeatedly begged officers for information.” L.G. found out that B.G. had been sent to Hacienda del Sol, a children’s detention facility in Arizona that was later shut down after a number of facility staffers were accused of physically abusing children.
It doesn’t appear that B.G. was physically abused, but she was emotionally tormented, “only giving one-word answers to L.G.’s questions,” according to the legal filing. When she began to cry, the social worker ended the call. “This was the only time DHS allowed L.G. to talk to her daughter during the eight-and-a-half weeks the government forced them to be apart.” They would not be reunited for another ten days. “L.G. was overjoyed to be reunified with B.G. L.G. and B.G. hugged each other for a long time and cried.”
L.G. eventually passed her initial asylum interview, which she would have done from the start had immigration officials respected the law. Instead, they tore her family apart for months, leaving both mom and daughter traumatized. B.G., the legal filing continues, “cannot sleep unless her mother holds her. When L.G.and B.G. go on walks outside, B.G. is fearful and asks to return to the house because she is terrified that something bad is going to happen to them again.” Tuesday, Feb. 19, marks 208 days since a federal judge’s reunification deadline, but children stolen from families at the border are still in U.S. custody. Family separation remains a crisis.