Lawsuit alleges child abuse and neglect after Trump administration family separation

Lawsuit alleges child abuse and neglect after Trump administration family separation
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Two fathers who were separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border as a result of the Trump administration’s policies are suing the government for $12 million, claiming the children were subject to abuse and neglect while in federal custody.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court of Arizona, argues that the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy was “cruel and unconstitutional.”

“The United States government tore these families apart pursuant to a cruel and unconstitutional policy: The government intended to inflict terror and harm on these small children and their fathers, as a means of deterring others from seeking to enter the United States,” the lawsuit said.


The lawsuit claims the families were detained at the southern border in May 2018 after crossing over from Mexico. They were fleeing violence in Guatemala and attempting to seek asylum in the U.S.

The Hill has reached out to the Department of Justice for a response. 

Administration officials had touted the zero tolerance policy as a way to deter migrants from crossing into the U.S. with their children. The policy officially began in 2018, and resulted in thousands of children being separated from their parents at the southern border in just six weeks. It was rescinded after a massive public backlash. 

Despite a court ruling ordering the administration to end the policy and reunite all affected families, the administration has continued to separate children from their parents.   

According to the lawsuit, the fathers were separated from their children for more than two months, and the federal government gave little, if any, information regarding the location and safety of the children.

The families “suffered, and continue to suffer, physical, mental, and emotional harm,” the lawsuit states. More than a year after they were reunited, the lawsuit says the children exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 


One of the plaintiffs, who is referred to in the lawsuit by the pseudonym Abel, described his ordeal in a statement released by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“We came looking for safety, and instead, we were caged like animals. [My son] was taken from me and I had no idea what was happening to him. When I learned that he was abused by other boys, I was sick with grief. No one deserves this cruelty,” Abel said.

Abel’s 7-year-old son Obet was taken from him and brought to a facility in New York operated by a government contractor. He spent his days in the facility and nights in a foster home. 

According to the lawsuit, Abel’s son was sexually abused by other children in the foster home. Obet told the foster adult what happened each time, but the abuse persisted.

After he eventually disclosed the abuse to a worker in the facility where he spent his days, the lawsuit says the boy was placed in a new foster home the same day.

The other father, identified in the lawsuit as José, was eventually sent to Georgia while his 5-year-old daughter was sent to New York. 

The lawsuit alleges she suffered “multiple instances of harm,” including being touched inappropriately by a boy in her foster home. She was moved to another foster home after she reported it.