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Women’s Refugee Commission Supports American Civil Liberties Union’s Lawsuit Challenging Family Separation

Washington, D.C. – On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ms. L., an asylum-seeking mother from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was wrongfully separated from her seven-year-old daughter, S.S., at the border by U.S. immigration officials in November 2017.

The plaintiff in this case was seeking protection in the U.S. for herself and her young daughter but was instead separated from her daughter by U.S. officials. According to the filed complaint, Ms. L. and her daughter have been separated for over four months to date and have only been able to communicate approximately six times over the telephone. Despite the determination of an asylum officer that Ms. L. had a significant possibility of ultimately receiving asylum, and the existence of an ICE Parole Directive, Ms. L. remains detained at an adult immigration detention facility in southern California, while her young daughter is being detained 2,000 miles away.

The Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) has documented the practice and impact of separating arriving families, including protection-seeking families, along the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico. Under the Trump administration, WRC has seen an increase in separations and continues to strongly oppose proposals that would formalize this cruel practice into policy.

Leah Chavla, policy advisor for the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, made the following statement about the lawsuit:

“Family separation is cruel, traumatic, and unjustified. It is clear that this administration is employing use of this practice in order to punish and deter families, especially asylum-seeking families, from seeking refuge in the United States. This is not only abhorrent but also illegal under international and domestic law. WRC fully supports this litigation and hopes that it will help to prohibit traumatic separations of families in the future and establish better, more robust oversight mechanisms and accountability for the treatment and processing of all families and children arriving at our border.”

Michelle Brané, director of the Migrant Rights and Justice Program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, made the following statement about the lawsuit:

“It is impossible for us to know how often this is happening and how many families are being separated because part of the problem is that it appears random, and to our knowledge, neither CBP, ICE, nor ORR keep track of separations. Attorneys, including public defenders, have seen a significant increase in the number of cases in which parents, including asylum seekers, are being prosecuted for entry. WRC has encountered an increase in the number of women we interview in detention who report having been separated at the border, with or without prosecutions. Unfortunately, this cruel practice is becoming standard and our government should be working to unify families, not separate them.”

Read the filed lawsuit here.