KRMFL, in cooperation with the National Immigrant Justice Center, American Immigration Council, and Arnold & Porter, filed legal claims today on behalf of six asylum-seeking families who were separated at the southern border. The families were victims of the Trump administration’s cruel and illegal family separation policy.
The separation policy subjected the mothers and their children, as young as five years old, to irreparable psychological harm at the hands of the federal government. Indeed, that harm was the very point of the policy: numerous high-level officials, including President Trump himself, celebrated the deterrent effect they expected a policy that inflicted such distress and suffering would have.
The mothers were offered no information about the whereabouts or well-being of their children, from whom they were separated for months at a time. “It was the worst moment of my life, when officers tore my crying daughter from my arms,” said Leticia, one of the claimants. “I didn’t know where she was going or when I’d see her next — and I couldn’t tell her she’d be safe. It was four months and one day until I saw her again…. We came to the U.S. because we feared for our lives in Guatemala, but rather than offering us safety, the U.S. government has scarred my daughter and me for life.”
Medical practitioners who examined the families found that they exhibited symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), insomnia, loss of appetite, chronic headaches, excruciating chest pains, severe anxiety, and dramatic weight and hair loss. This is consistent with research around the consequences of separating children from their parents at a young age. That research reveals damage lasting into adulthood, as well: “Separation and the resulting fear and trauma cause toxic stress, and this can have a lasting impact on a child’s developing brain,” said Dr. Minal Giri, chair of the Illinois chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Refugee Immigrant Child Health Initiative. “It puts children at risk for developmental delays, regression and emotional problems. Long-term research has tied this level of toxic stress in children to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic illnesses as adults.”
Each claimant seeks $3 million for the government’s intentional infliction of emotional distress. The claims, filed with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, will allow the families to file lawsuits in federal court if the government refuses to settle within six months.
In total, the U.S. government has admitted to separating more than 2,700 children from their parents or guardians after they crossed the southwestern U.S. border. Recent reports indicate that the number of families separated may have been much higher.
To read the claims, please visit the American Immigration Council’s website.