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Congolese asylum seeker reunited with 7-year-old daughter after months apart

ACLU is suing the Trump administration over its "horrific family separation practice."

Taken at the US-Mexico border on March 12, 2018. A Congolese mother and her seven year old child were reunited after being separated for months following their arrest at the border. CREDIT GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images
Taken at the US-Mexico border on March 12, 2018. A Congolese mother and her seven year old child were reunited after being separated for months following their arrest at the border. CREDIT GUILLERMO ARIAS/AFP/Getty Images

After more than four months being held thousands of miles apart by U.S. immigration officials, a Congolese asylum seeker has been reunited with her seven-year-old daughter, the American Civil Liberties Union reported Saturday.

The two fled to the United States across the Mexican border. Upon arrival in November, they turned themselves in to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agents. The mother was held in San Diego. Her daughter was sent to a facility in Chicago — alone.

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Earlier this month, the mother was released from detention after the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of her and her child arguing there was never any legitimate reason to separate them. The lawsuit “accused the Trump administration of violating the pair’s constitutional rights and demanded that they be reunited immediately,” the Washington Post reported.

The daily described the moment at which the two were forcibly separated: The mother  “could hear her daughter in the next room frantically screaming that she wanted to remain with her mother.” Days after her mother’s release, the young girl remained at the Office of Refugee Resettlement in Chicago.

The lawsuit describes the woman as speaking little English and hailing from a village in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It also reports that her initial screening determined that she had a “credible fear” of returning home.

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, told ABC News that, following a DNA test the government requested to prove she was really the mother of this child, the woman was permitted to travel to Chicago from San Diego on Tuesday. Late Friday, he said, her daughter was released and brought to a shelter in Chicago where she will be staying with her mother.

“They were hugging each other and sobbing,” Gelernt told ABC. “It was just incredibly emotional.” (Their identities have been withheld by the ACLU in the event they are denied asylum and must return to the Congo.)

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Although the woman and her daughter are now together, the ACLU will keep pursuing the lawsuit for other parents who have found themselves in the same situation. ABC News reports that a hearing is slated to take place next month in San Diego.

“There remain many other families who have been separated,” Gelernt said in a statement. “And we will continue to attack this horrific family separation practice.”