PHOENIX, AZ — April 26, 2022 — A mother and daughter filed suit yesterday in federal district court in Arizona to seek redress for the cruel separation forced upon them under the Trump Administration’s inhumane family separation policy. After entering the United States to escape violence in their country of origin, the family was detained and forcibly separated. For nearly two months, the mother and daughter had no idea if they would ever see one another again. The lawsuit comes after negotiations with the Biden Administration over a potential nationwide settlement for separated families fell apart in late October when details about these negotiations were leaked to the Wall Street Journal.
“During his campaign, President Biden acknowledged that family separation was a ‘weapon’ used by Trump ‘against desperate mothers, fathers and children seeking a better life,’” said Public Counsel Staff Attorney Joel Frost-Tift. “He said it was ‘criminal,’ that the policy made the U.S. a ‘laughingstock’ and that it ‘violate[d] every notion of who we are as a nation.’ But his administration has yet to provide these families with meaningful relief from this policy that he called ‘criminal’ and federal courts have declared unconstitutional.”
Plaintiffs, who are requesting anonymity and are identified in the lawsuit only as JP and LC, are an indigenous Guatemalan family who arrived in Arizona in May 2018. Within days of their arrival, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents forcibly separated them, causing LC to faint from terror as CBP agents tore her from her mother. LC was then taken to a shelter in Phoenix, Arizona while JP was taken to a detention center in Irvine, California, more than 300 miles away. For more than two months, JP and LC were kept separated, not knowing if or when they would see each other again.
“This case challenges the Trump Administration’s unlawful separation of a mother from her teenage daughter with the intention of inflicting severe emotional distress,” said Timothy Burroughs, an associate at Proskauer. “The Proskauer team is proud to be working with our partners at Public Counsel and Squire Patton Boggs to hold the government accountable for its unlawful actions. Our clients need redress and the U.S. government must never again engage in this immoral policy.”
This case is one of several individual lawsuits being brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) against the United States government seeking compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of separated families. The FTCA was enacted in 1946 and provides a means of compensating individuals who have suffered personal injury, death, or property loss or damage caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission by an employee of the United States government.
“The government’s separation of JP and LC at the border was not only inhumane, it was a violation of federal law,” said Daniel Pasternak, a partner at Squire Patton Boggs. “We are hopeful that the court will agree with us and provide appropriate relief to JP and LC, as well as other families who were separated at the border.”
Read the complaint HERE.
For press inquiries, contact Rekha Radhakrishnan: EMAIL HERE.
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