Help us Heal the Trauma Created by the Administration’s Cruel and Abusive Treatment of Children
Public Counsel, like all individuals and organizations of conscience, has been outraged by the Trump Administration’s inhumane and unconstitutional policy of separating children from their parents and warehousing them in detention centers that enlarge the grave and potentially fatal trauma experienced. While President Trump has now backed away from this policy and signed an order stating that henceforth family members will be detained together, this does not address the special harm suffered by the 2,000 children who have been used as disposable pawns in a game to secure a border wall and foment racial hatred. Even if many of these children are ultimately reunited with their parents in family detention facilities, the harm they suffered prior to reunification cannot be properly addressed or treated in a detention facility.
We have already been at the forefront of providing direct services to and bringing impact litigation on behalf of the victims of policies like the Muslim Ban and the termination of DACA, and we have long been there for innocent children struggling to survive separation from their parents and caregivers. We have the know-how and expertise to do the same with respect to the child abuse our government has committed in our name. Here’s how:
Individual Legal Services: Public Counsel is the leading provider of legal services to families and unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in the Los Angeles region. Our attorneys have helped hundreds of unaccompanied children and families fleeing horrific gang violence in Central America win the right to stay safely in the United States and remain together. Because so much more is needed beyond legal assistance, our staff social workers also provide comprehensive support to help these severely traumatized families secure the physical and mental health services, housing, and emergency aid they need to not just survive, but to repair their shattered lives.
Our work is increasing exponentially because of the Trump Administration’s family separation policy and sweeping attack on the rights of asylum seekers. We have so many children and families to help, all of whom need individualized attention from professionals like those on our staff. Here’s one example of our recent work on behalf of Teresa and Sofia—a mother and child just like the thousands of new arrivals being separated and detained.
Teresa’s Story: Public Counsel attorney Liz Hercules-Paez met “Teresa” in April while conducting outreach at the Musick Detention Facility in Irvine, CA. Teresa had been separated from her five-year-old niece, “Sofía,” whom she has raised as her daughter, when they crossed into the US seeking asylum. Originally from Guatemala, the family fled the country fearing for their safety after Teresa suffered an attempted rape and multiple death threats by her employer. Teresa was sent to a detention facility in Irvine, while Sofía was sent to a children’s detention facility in Tucson. For nearly two months, a distraught Teresa had no contact with Sofía and no idea what had happened to her. With Public Counsel’s help, Teresa won her own release on bond earlier this month. She is now living in Texas and awaiting removal proceedings. Sadly, Sofía is still detained. Teresa and Sofía are now able to speak on the phone, and we are working to identify advocates on the ground in Arizona to secure their reunification.
Impact Litigation and Policy Advocacy: While Public Counsel’s immigration team works to protect the rights of individual children and parents, our impact litigation team is preparing a case that will address the psychological harms and inhumane conditions that children and their families have suffered as a consequence of their forcible separation. The case, which will benefit families fleeing persecution and eligible for asylum, will seek the release of family members from detention facilities, which both induce and exacerbate child and family trauma. It will also seek mental health services to address the trauma experienced as a result of family separation. The litigation we are now preparing will be a first of its kind in that it is aimed at ensuring that the horrific harm caused by separating children from parents will be redressed in an appropriate and effective way. Our track record of winning cases that have stopped the termination of DACA and required the government to address childhood trauma prepares us well for this litigation strategy.
In addition, our attorneys recently argued an important case before the California Supreme Court that will ensure that immigrant children residing in California who have suffered abuse or abandonment are able to access Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a federal remedy which provides stability for children and puts them on a path to citizenship.
At the same time, we are pursuing other advocacy tools to protect immigrant families. For example, Judy London, Directing Attorney of Public Counsel’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, testified in support of a motion by Los Angeles County Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl to oppose the administration’s family separation policy. Additionally, we continue to work closely with California legislators to draft legislation to enhance the safety of all immigrants in California, with a particular focus on protection from deportation for Central American families who have fled extreme violence.
Conclusion: We are thankful to all the donors, advocates, and community members who are joining us in the fight to protect the rights and wellbeing of immigrant families who have been impacted by Trump’s family separation policy. If you are interested in supporting our work, your donation to Public Counsel will go directly to support the efforts described above. With your help, we will prevent families from being separated, reunify them whenever possible, and change a policy that does not reflect the values of compassion and human rights that we hold dear.