ACLU sues Trump admin for holding asylum-seeking mother and child in separate facilities

ACLU sues Trump admin for holding asylum-seeking mother and child in separate facilities
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Trump administration, alleging officials unlawfully separated a mother and daughter who entered the country seeking asylum, The Associated Press reported Monday.

The Congolese woman and her 7-year-old daughter are currently being held in separate facilities about 2,000 miles apart. The mother is in San Diego, while the child is at a facility for unaccompanied minors in Chicago.

The woman and her child turned themselves in to U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in California in November after entering the country, according to the AP.


They were initially kept together, but after five days the daughter was removed “screaming and crying, pleading with guards not to take her away from her mother,” the lawsuit states.

The U.S. government is required to hold children in the “least restrictive setting” possible, according to a 1997 precedent known as the Flores settlement, which the Trump administration has called to end.

The ACLU alleges that the separation shows how the Trump administration targets immigrant families seeking asylum.

The mother and daughter have spoken by phone about six times since their separation four months ago, according to the lawsuit. The woman had also passed the preliminary screening to see if she had a “credible fear” of returning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the suit states.

The ACLU is requesting that the woman and her daughter be placed in a shelter for African asylum seekers or a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) shelter.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, told the AP that the woman is “worried sick about her daughter, whether she’s ever going to see her again.”

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson declined to comment, citing a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

The lawsuit comes amid a crackdown on immigration under the Trump administration. ICE Acting Director Thomas Horman told the AP in January that "many" asylum seekers "are taking advantage of a low threshold."

- Updated at 4:18 p.m.