When U.S. Border Patrol began separating families at the southern border, reunification became the number one priority for countless immigrant advocacy groups, pro-immigration legislators, and, of course, the affected families. The Trump administration officially ended the policy that allowed these separations to occur, but the separations have continued through 2020.
For those who have achieved reunification, the suffering is far from over. In January, two Guatemalan fathers filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, seeking $12 million to compensate for the suffering and abuse they and their children endured and continue to endure. After coming to the U.S. to seek asylum, both fathers were separated from their children in Arizona in May of 2018. They couldn’t reunite with their five- and seven-year-old children for over two months.
The lawsuit alleges that, during this two-month period, the children endured abuse at various facilities and foster homes. Now, both the children and fathers suffer symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, including nightmares, flashbacks, extreme separation anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression.
Additionally, the lawsuit alleges that the U.S. government implemented the “cruel and unconstitutional” policy with full knowledge of the trauma it would inflict upon families. The trauma, according to the lawsuit, was the government’s goal, as it would theoretically deter other potential immigrants from coming to the United States.
A report by CNN contrasts the details of the abuse and cruelty of Border Patrol agents with comments from the Department of Health and Human Services, who claims their agency provides a “safe and healthy environment” and gives children “access to nutritious food, clean clothes, education, and medical services.”
The families did not experience this “safe and healthy environment.” One of the two plaintiffs came to the U.S. because his son desperately needed medical treatment. A charity had helped them pay for major heart surgery for the six-year-old, but they said he needed regular checkups with a cardiologist to ensure he survived the recovery process. This, combined with the persecution they faced in their Guatemalan village, forced the father to seek asylum in the U.S. When he told the Border Patrol agent these details, the agent verbally and physically abused them.
The goal of the lawsuit is not just to obtain reparations for the families but to prevent the government from implementing similar legislation at any point in the future.At Guerra Sáenz, PL, we are deeply committed to advocating for the rights of immigrants. Because Mr. Guerra was an immigrant himself, he understands the stress and trauma people may experience as they fight for their immigration goals. If you are hoping to build a future in the United States, our firm is ready to stand by your side. Contact us today at (888) 936-3228 to schedule your initial consultation.