LOS ANGELES, Dec 13: A Guatemalan mother and her son have filed a lawsuit against the US government for separating them for more than two years under then-President Donald Trump’s (2017-2021) “zero tolerance” immigration policy. The lawyers said on Tuesday.
The lawsuit alleges that Leticia Perren and her son Yovani were subjected to inhumane treatment and forced isolation for 792 days.
Yovani, who was 15 at the time, was separated from his mother shortly after his arrival in the United States in 2017 and his mother was deported.
Between 2017 and 2018, the Department of Homeland Security separated more than 5,500 migrant children from their families at the southern border of the United States.
Perren was initially kept in Texas in harsh and abusive conditions without medical attention, while the boy was sent to a shelter, notes the lawsuit.
The mother was not allowed to talk to her son for almost a month. They were also denied information about each other’s whereabouts and well-being.
“We are calling for justice, but not just for our family,” Perren said in a statement.
They said that with the legal action they want to ensure “that the US government never again separates families trying to find a safe haven and build a new life in the country”.
For his part, Yovani said no one should have to go through “the fear, the uncertainty, the despair”.
“Trauma doesn’t go away, it stays with you. Many families who have been reunited like ours are still at risk of being deported to countries where they fear for their lives. This is what makes me want to share my story. Inspires you to do and keep fighting.” For justice,” added the young Guatemalan.
Conchita Cruz, co-director of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP), which represents the two in the lawsuit, said it was “disgusting” what the government did to them, and thousands more under Trump’s policy.
The lawsuit comes a year after the Department of Justice (DOJ) abandoned negotiations with families separated by a “zero tolerance” rule.
The conversation was part of a lawsuit filed in 2019 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to seek compensation for affected families.
In that sense, Cruz warned that the administration of President Joe Biden “is once again traumatizing separated families with aggressive litigation tactics.”
“Without courageous asylum seekers like Leticia and her son, Yovani, fighting to hold the government accountable, there is nothing to stop the government from reintroducing family separation policy,” Cruz lamented.
The lawsuit seeking monetary damages for trauma and injuries as a result of the family separation was filed in the US Court for the Eastern District of New York on Monday, December 12.
At least two agencies of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and one of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are named in the Guatemalan family’s lawsuit.