Friday, February 15, 2019

Child Separations Continue

A child’s first plane ride should be a fun one, perhaps part of a journey to visit grandma, or maybe a trip to Disneyland. But for “L.E.A.,” it was one that tore her away from her mom. The child and her mother, Leticia, fled Guatemala last May, only to be separated by U.S. agents at the southern border. Leticia was sent to Nevada, while L.E.A. was flown, by herself, thousands of miles away to New York. They would not see each other again for months.
Leticia now joins Elena, “Dania,” and three other families in seeking millions in damages after being forcibly separated and traumatized by the Trump administration. “The government intentionally subjected these six parents and their children, who were as young as five, to extraordinary trauma that will have life-long implications,” law firm Arnold & Porter said in a statement.
L.E.A. is that 5-year-old. Leticia said that during the first part of their separation, not one official gave her information on her daughter’s whereabouts, or if she was even alive. She was only able to find her because a fellow detainee gave her the number of a social worker, who was then able to locate the girl in New York. “About one month after being forcibly separated from her daughter,” a legal filing in the case states, “Leticia and L.E.A. were finally able to speak to each other on the telephone.”
It would still be months until they were reunited. During this time, officials tried to deport Leticia after she failed her initial asylum interview through no fault of her own. “The asylum officer, claiming they were out of time, ended the interview before Leticia finished explaining why she feared for her life in Guatemala.” By then a federal judge had ordered the reunification of separated families, but officials threatened Leticia with a taser unless she signed their documents. It took an emergency filing from her attorney to block her imminent deportation.
Leticia and L.E.A. were finally reunited after four months and a day, but the separation has taken its toll despite their being together again. “L.E.A.’s suffering has continued since her release,” the legal filing continues. “She has nightmares. Leticia is often woken by her daughter in the middle of the night, still asleep and sweating, screaming, ‘mama, mama.’” Friday, Feb. 15, marks 204 days since a federal judge’s reunification deadline, but children stolen from families at the border are still in U.S. custody. Family separation remains a crisis. 

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