‘I thought I was never going to see my son ever again’

‘I thought I was never going to see my son ever again’

July 26, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

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“Thousands of families were brutally torn apart under the cruel and heartless Zero Tolerance policy, causing irreparable harm and suffering,” said Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), global law firm Hogan Lovells, and Arizona co-counsel Lewis Roca. They are representing three moms and one dad who they say “are still reeling and suffering from being separated and detained but have received no explanation, acknowledgment, or apology from the U.S. government.”

“For weeks, the parents and children were detained separately, sometimes thousands of miles apart,” the complaint states. “For weeks, the parents and children begged to be reunited. And for weeks, the government—due to a combination of ineptitude and cruelty—refused to provide information on their loved ones’ whereabouts, wellbeing, or whether they would ever see each other again.” 

A shocking report from The Washington Post last month revealed that officials with the previous administration had actually complained that court-mandated reunifications were actually happening too quicklyTae Johnson, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official who has continued to serve under the Biden administration, was among them. ”The suffering that the government inflicted upon families seeking asylum was intentional, and was exacerbated by its refusal to provide information to families about their missing family members, or to implement adequate measures to ensure reunification,” groups said in the release.

“That harm was no accident—it was the government’s goal,” the complaint states. “Federal officials at the highest levels repeatedly and publicly confirmed that the Family Separation Policy … was designed to inflict trauma in order to deter future asylum seekers from coming to the United States.” Biden, as a candidate, decried separations as “criminal,” but his administration has sought to dismiss family separation lawsuits. No official with the previous administration has ever been held accountable for the crime of family separation. In fact, the president who carried it out looks very likely to run again. Sarah Isgur, a Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III spokesperson who defended the policy, was later hired by CNN.

Experts said that when the Justice Department claimed it was unable to reach “a global settlement,” it meant that nearly 1,000 families that had been seeking financial relief under the negotiations would now have to go to court individually to fight for some justice. “The Plaintiffs are seeking damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the ‘significant and lasting trauma’ caused by the government’s Policy to both the parents and their children,” organizations said. 

“I thought I was never going to see my son ever again,” one mother tells NBC News. “I would ask for information about him, and they would ignore me. They would tell me to forget about him.” That report said that she was told multiple times that her son would be put up for adoption.

“We are taking the Biden administration to court to make sure that these families get the compensation they deserve for the trauma inflicted upon them by the federal government,” said Tami Goodlette, Director of Litigation at RAICES. “Zero Tolerance was an intentional act of abuse, and it is the current administration’s responsibility to rectify the ongoing harms caused to these families.”

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