Fearing for their lives, a mother and her 7-year-old daughter fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to the United States in November. But within days of arriving in San Diego, the refugee mother and child were forcibly separated from each other by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, and the child has since been kept in a detention center in Chicago—thousands of miles from her mother.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit on Monday on behalf of the family, alleging that the separation was a blatant violation of due process required by the Fifth Amendment. The mother was given no explanation or justification for her daughter’s removal, the lawsuit stated. The brief went on to describe how the mother could heard her daughter screaming frantically in the next room when they were first separated, and how the two family members have only been allowed four phone calls in the months since their separation.
Separating parents and children was, in fact, an immigration strategy meant to deter illegal immigrants from entering the US, proposed by John Kelly in March of 2017, when he was still Department of Homeland Security Director. In an interview on CNN, Kelly assured the public that under the proposed strategy the administration planned to turn minors over to the Department of Health and Human Services, where “they do a very, very good job of putting them in foster care or linking them up with parents or family members in the United States.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics denounced the Trump administration’s proposal as “harsh and counterproductive.” Children are vulnerable to severe emotional distress during the trauma of immigration, explained the pediatric group, and the US immigration authorities would only be exacerbating the situation by separating families, they said.
Nevertheless, it appears that separating families is exactly what the administration is doing.
Because the Congolese mother passed the initial asylum screening, which established that she had a “credible fear” of returning to the Congo, she and her child are eligible for release from detention. And while lawyers from the ACLU are working to ensure this happens speedily, for the time being, the mother and daughter remain apart for no justifiable reason—other than the toxic idealogy of the Trump Regime.