ACLU files class-action lawsuit on ICE, DHS separating asylum-seeking families

ACLU files class-action lawsuit on ICE, DHS separating asylum-seeking families
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced Friday it has filed a national class-action lawsuit against multiple federal government agencies over the practice of separating asylum-seeking families.

The suit, filed on behalf of two plaintiffs in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, accuses the federal government of a “nationwide unlawful practice of separating parents and children absent any showing that the parent presents a danger to the child.”

Multiple government agencies are named as defendants in the complaint, including Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement, as well as top officials at the agencies.

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The lawsuit expands on a previous lawsuit filed by the ACLU in an effort to reunite a Congolese mother and her 7-year-old daughter who were detained 2,000 miles apart.

The woman was released earlier this week from a detention center in San Diego, according to The Associated Press, but her daughter remains detained in Chicago.

The lawsuit also mentions a Brazilian woman it calls Ms. C., who fled to the U.S. with her 14-year-old son in August 2017. The suit claims the two were seeking asylum, but the woman was detained for entering the U.S. illegally and spent nearly a month in prison, and her son was sent to a holding facility in Chicago.

The two have been separated since last year, according to the suit.

“Ms. C. is desperate to be reunited with her son, who has been having a difficult time emotionally since being separated from his mother,” the complaint reads. “Ms. C. worries about him constantly and does not know when she will be able to see him.”

The lawsuit seeks a judge’s declaration that the separation of families is against the law.

“Whether or not the Trump administration wants to call this a ‘policy,’ it certainly is engaged in a widespread practice of tearing children away from their parents,” Lee Gelernt, the deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. “A national class-action lawsuit is appropriate because this is a national practice.”

DHS has no set policy to separate asylum-seeking parents from their children, according to the AP.

In a statement on the original lawsuit filed on behalf of the Congolese woman and her daughter, DHS press secretary Tyler Houlton said the complaint should be treated with “skepticism.”

“We ask that members of the public and media view advocacy group claims that we are separating women and children for reasons other than to protect the child with the level of skepticism they deserve,” Houlton reportedly said at the time.