Legal Aid, Yale Law Sue Feds Over Immigrant Children

Allan Appel Photo(Updated) A 9-year-old boy from Honduras and a 14-year-old girl from El Salvador are suing the federal government after being separated from their parents at the U.S. border and then transported Connecticut.

The two children, who are being represented by attorneys at Connecticut Legal Services and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School, are each suing the government for failing to reunite them with their parents.

The boy from Honduras, who is being referred to in court documents by his initials, J.S.R., fled his home country when his grandparents were murdered and a dead body was left in his backyard.

“The federal government has put two thousand miles between a frightened nine-year-old boy and the most important person in his life, causing J.S.R. acute psychological harm and exposing him to the significant risk of long-term mental, emotional, and physical damage as a result of his trauma,” lawyers with Connecticut Legal Services wrote in their lawsuit against the federal government.

According to J.S.R.‘s complaint, he was taken from his father while he was sleeping in early June.

The 14-year-old girl, who is referred to as V.F.B., was lured away from her mother at a Texas detention facility on the promise of being given a bath and then transported more than 2,000 miles to a shelter in Connecticut, according to her lawsuit. The mother and daughter were seeking asylum.

“V.F.B. and her mother arrived in the United States in May 2018 after fleeing persecution in El Salvador. They arrived in the United States soon after Defendants announced implementation of their ‘zero tolerance policy,’” V.F.B.‘s complaint states.

The U.S. Attorney who filed an appearance in the two Connecticut cases, Michelle A. McConaghy, filed a brief opposing the plaintiffs’ request. She argues in the brief that “there is already a process, which Plaintiffs and their Parents are part of, for reunification.”

She also argued that the lawsuit is hindering the process of reunification: “Plaintiff J.S.R.’s father’s alien file was with agents who were working on making arrangements to reunify Plaintiff with his father. Unfortunately, the alien file had to briefly be pulled from that process so that the file could be reviewed so that the Defendants could access the factual history and adequately respond to the motions and complaints being filed in Court.”

Click here to read McConaghy’s full brief.

Yale Doc Sees Psychiatrist Damage

Allan Appel PhotoConnecticut Legal Services and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School held a press conference at Friday to discuss the suit.

More than 50 people crowded into the law school’s wood-lined faculty lounge for the press conference.

They learned that the two children have been separated for more than a month now from their parents with whom they crossed the border into Texas.

Joanne Lewis, managing attorney for Connecticut Legal Services, reported that her group’s attorneys and staff recently met with the kids, who are being kept in a 12-bed group home in Noank, a subcontracted facility normally used by the federal government to house unaccompanied minors. It presents a home-like atmosphere, different from the detention-like facilities in which people were kept immediately after crossing the border, she and other speakers reported.

She added that while the federal government was at a loss to find them, her group’s attorneys did. They’ve located the parents, both in Texas, and were able to arrange phone calls. They also were able to bring in Dr. Andres Martin from the Yale Child Study Center to examine the kids. His finding — that the prolonged separation is casuing deep developmental and psychiatric damage — led the CLS to demand its law suit immediate reunification with parents and in a non-stressful setting.

U.S. District Court Judge Victor Bolden will hear the case next Wednesday in Bridgeport. The suit also calls for the government to bring the parents to the court in Bridgeport on Wednesday.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, among the bevy of political speakers at the presser, said that there is no plan for that reunification and no information available.

He put it simply: “What the United States did is kidnapping. What this lawsuit seeks to do is right a legal wrong before July 26.”

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was equally blunt: “If a governor from any state, if an attorney general from any state had done this, they’d be indicted and impeached.”

New Haven State Sen. President Marty Looney said that by its inhumane actions, “The Trump administration is destroying the last vestige of American exceptionalism, the notion that American is more moral [than other countries].”

After The Executive Order

Markeshia Ricks PhotoThe immigration debate has focused on the U.S.-Mexico border and the new “zero-tolerance” policy enacted by the Trump administration in April. The policy led to more than 2,300 children being separated from their parents. In some cases, children were taken from their parents pending court proceedings, and then the parents were deported without their children.

In the face of widespread public condemnation over the new policy and how it has been executed, President Trump signed an executive order on June 20 that “continued the policy of initiating criminal proceedings for all individuals who crossed the border without authorization; however, in place of systematic separation of families, the EO called for indefinite detention of families in camps and makeshift facilities,” the complaint states.

The executive order “did not include any provisions to reunite families that had been separated at the border, nor did it purport to remediate the trauma or other harms caused by family Separation,” the complaint adds. “DHS has not disclosed any process for reunification of families prior to removal, including during the pendency of asylum claims, which may last for months. In litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, Defendants did not dispute that they had ‘no plans or procedures to reunify the parent with the child other than arranging for them to be deported together after the parent’s immigration case is concluded’.”

In separate but related litigation, the ACLU filed a class action in California challenging the government’s separation of families seeking asylum and brought forth on behalf of Mrs. L, a Congolese mother and her 7-year-old daughter who were separated by thousands of miles for months after crossing into the U.S.-Mexico border into San Diego.

In its second amended complaint, the ACLU says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents use fear tactics to coerce parents into giving up their applications for asylum in exchange for being reunited with their children.

On June 26, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered U.S. authorities to reunite families who had been separated at the U.S. border within 30 days.

On Thursday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters that his department is ready to reunite children in his care with their parents, starting next Tuesday with those under age 5.

But that still doesn’t immediately help the two children in Connecticut. Earlier today, Azar told reporters that no children had yet been reunited with their parents.

A court hearing on the administration’s efforts is scheduled for Friday in San Diego.

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posted by: Molly W on July 6, 2018  9:25am

Yale’s got 999,999 problems but the Law Clinic ain’t one. Thank you to everyone in the Clinic and Legal Aid for their work and advocacy.

posted by: OhHum on July 6, 2018  4:30pm

Ms Luria - How many immigrants will resettle in the sanctuary town of Madison. The housekeeper doesn’t count. Open those freedom gates and let the poor and huddled masses live in your homes and neighborhoods. Attend your schools and clubs. I don’t think that will happen. The moral high ground doesn’t get claimed because you hold up a sign. Do something meaningful bring in some immigrants to Madison. The browning of the shoreline shouldn’t just be the tanned ladies at the beach.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on July 7, 2018  6:38am

The lawsuits allege “racial animus against individuals of Hispanic origin”.
BUT Democrats apparently harbor no ‘racial animus’ against the 4.2 MILLION young people—who are USA citizens—who experience unaccompanied homelessness in the course of a year: 10% of young people—who are USA citizens— aged 18 to 25.
African American youth—who are USA citizens— are 82% more likely to experience homelessness.
BUT Democrats apparently harbor no ‘racial animus’ against these kids.
Non-white Hispanic youth—who are USA citizens—are 33% more likely to experience homelessness.
BUT Democrats apparently harbor no ‘racial animus’ against these kids, either.
THEREFORE, with the help of our in-office-for-life, careerist Democrat politicians, let’s create a diversion from this massive domestic failure
—which supposedly is not motivated by ‘racial animus’
—by focusing exclusively on those 3,000 children at the border—who are NOT USA citizens
—and whose parents crossed illegally, frequently with bogus asylum claims, often made by gang members who aren’t even the actual parents, but who are using kidnapped children as pawns to gain entry.
And let’s just continue to ignore those 4.2 MILLION young people—who are USA citizens
—because our in-office-for-life, careerist Democrat politicians know that THOSE kids won’t garner votes…

posted by: lulovegood on July 7, 2018  8:03am

To OhHum: No, this lady showing up and holding a sign DID do something, which is why this journalist took a photo. What it did was show that this resonates with ordinary people and some people will make the trip from towns like Madison to make it known how outraged they are. That must be hard for you to understand, sitting at home, fighting off all the reporters who want to photograph you sitting at your computer making snide personal comments about people and making unfounded assumptions about them. I came here to comment on how wonderful it is that Connecticut Legal Services and this Yale law clinic are doing this. I got sidetracked by the nasty irrelevance of your comment. I wish more people cared enough to SHOW UP. It would, most definitely, make a difference.

posted by: wesunidad on July 7, 2018  8:34am

It’s a class issue.

Madison’s (most white privileged) estimated median income (2016) was $118,569.

New Haven’s (mostly diverse African American, Hispanic and White - working class) estimated median income (2016) $40,457.

Got the picture?

But, if some of the people of Madison chose to take a stand on trump’s inhumanity, why wouldn’t their effort be very much appreciated?

posted by: JCFremont on July 7, 2018  1:43pm

First of anyone want to explain how a Congolese mother and child could cross Mexican-U.S. border. Exactly this is why people are angry. Follow the money, it is not just the Coyote’s making money on immigration. It is also odd that a group of federal workers, never known for their expedience can get children on an airplane to Hartford and New York City quicker than it normally takes them to answer the phone.

posted by: TheMadcap on July 8, 2018  11:40pm

“explain how a Congolese mother and child could cross Mexican-U.S. border”. Both nations named Congo have a refusal rate of almost 50% in regards to visa applications to the US State Department. So as a Congolese, you fly instead to any other nation in the western hempishere that has a good acceptance rate and make your way for the border and cross at a port of entry and ask for asylum. Ta-da

posted by: wesunidad on July 9, 2018  9:47am

To Christopher Shaefer,

You have lots of good points so thank you for that and for your research.

Yes, U.S. policy favors the children of the rich who mostly have their needs met, and the statistics you listed prove that.

However, are you sure in this case that the parents entered illegally? 

Correct me if I’m wrong, but seeking asylum to any country in the world is NOT illegal.  It is not a crime. 

Be thankful for that because under the trump regime/dynasty American Jews, African Americans, Hispanics and others may, at some future time, have to flee to other more civilized countries.

Millions of thanks to ACLU CT (I am a member), the Yale Law Clinic and to Legal Aid - beacons of help, inspiration and hope!  Your work is critical to all of us right now. Thank you.  Thank you.  Thank you.

posted by: JCFremont on July 9, 2018  1:37pm

@madcap more to the point, I know one can walk, drive or take a train from South and Latin America to the border but how about crossing an ocean? Let me guess these “accepting” countries have no plans of letting these new migrants staying just giving them a way station. I’m sure the countries leaders are being well compensated by The UN. If the countries accept them that is where they claim and are granted asylum. What was the reason stated for wanting leaving Congo? Vacation?

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on July 9, 2018  1:41pm

@ wesunidad It’s worse than you can imagine! “Mexican Kids Held for Months as Punishment for Border Crossing”. Oh. Wait a minute. I’m confused. This article is from 2015. Was Trump ALREADY president in 2015??
>>wesunidad says “under the trump regime/dynasty American Jews, African Americans, Hispanics and others may, at some future time, have to flee to other more civilized countries.” Yeah, the day after the election people ALSO were lamenting that members of the LGBTQ community soon would be carted away in cattle cars. It hasn’t happened yet, but obviously that’s something we should worry about.
>>Before African Americans “may, at some future time, have to flee” I assume they’ll wait until the current employment numbers tank: in May, “black unemployment fell to a record low, and the gap between black and white unemployment shrank to the narrowest ever measured”:
>>AND both blacks and Hispanics will need to be ‘reeducated’ to have their opinions ‘corrected’, if you know what I mean. The June Harvard-Harris Poll shows that an appalling 51% of Hispanics & 53% of blacks favor STRICTER immigration laws; 64% of Americans believe “that people who make it across our border illegally” ought to be sent home; the presence of children made little difference in the results:
**Forget the Feds! Obviously the Yale Law School should be suing the American voters!

posted by: NHPLEB on July 9, 2018  3:57pm

Senator Looney is mistaken.  The US lost its claim to moral superiority in our times when we demolished the small nation of Vietnam.  That cost us all our right to claim how good we are .  Our adventures in the endless oil wars add no luster to us either.

Having said that:  since we are so very awful;  how come everybody still wants to come here?

posted by: OhHum on July 9, 2018  6:46pm

@Christopher Schaefer - The article you posted from the Washington Post regarding Children being held for months as punishment for illegally crossing the border (dated 2015). Is amazing in that there was no outrage from the Left at the time. It’s also amazing that there were only 32 comments made as shown at the bottom of the article. When a similar article was printed by the same rag on June 9 of this year there were 3,200 outraged comments. Hmmm…

posted by: TheMadcap on July 9, 2018  10:14pm

“to the border but how about crossing an ocean?”

Seriously? Airplanes. AIrfare on a terrible airline even across the ocean is in fact not terribly expensive. Then of course there is organized smuggling, stowing people in nominal cargo planes, etc. The same thing happens on container ships, although more so from Asia.

“What was the reason stated for wanting leaving Congo? Vacation?
Probably. Overstaying the B-2 “Tourism, vacation, pleasure visitors” visa is how many undocumented immigrants who came directly to the US wound here.

posted by: wesunidad on July 11, 2018  10:59am

MLK sought to defeat ‘racism, militarism & materialism’.

I have a dream.