The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Trump administration for forcibly separating parents awaiting asylum proceedings from their young children.
The ACLU, which filed the class action lawsuit at the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of California on Friday, claims the practice by government agencies of separating young children from their families violates the Process Clause and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The lawsuit represents a proposed class of “hundreds of individuals whose minor children have already been taken from them.”
The class-action suit broadens an existing ACLU lawsuit that attempted to reunite a woman with her 7-year-old daughter after they were detained separately by U.S. officials. The pair had sought asylum in the United States after fleeing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the ACLU. The young girl frantically screamed that she “did not want to leave her mommy” as they were being separated, yet the government claims she would not be safe with her mother, according to the lawsuit.
The mother and child were placed in separate detention facilities 2,000 miles apart. The mother was released earlier this week but is still waiting to be reunited with her daughter, the ACLU said.
“Because the government has a practice of separating parents from their children without a hearing or any showing of abuse or neglect, they are operating in a manner that is common to all Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit read. “The class as a whole is therefore entitled to an injunction ordering Defendants to reunite class members with their minor children.”
An asylum-seeking mother from Brazil who was separated from her 14-year-old son was also recognized as a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesman Tyler Houlton claimed that the government is separating families to protect the child and reasons otherwise should be viewed “with the level of skepticism they deserve,” according to CNN.
“However, we retain the authority to do so in certain circumstances, particularly to protect a child from potential smuggling and trafficking activities,” Houlton said.
However, the practice of separating children from their parents resembles an intentional deterrence strategy by the Trump administration.
DHS is reportedly considering a plan to separate Central American children from their parents at the U.S. border as a way of deterring parents from crossing the border, the agency’s secretary John Kelly told CNN earlier this week.
The agency would separate families “in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network… They will be well cared for as we deal with their parents,” Kelly said.