Separated migrant families demand millions from US agencies

Seven-year-old Andy (C) is reunited with his mother, Arely (R), at Baltimore-Washington International Airport July 23, 2018 in Linthicum, Maryland. (AFP)
Updated 12 February 2019
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Separated migrant families demand millions from US agencies

  • The claims were submitted to the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services under the Federal Tort Claims Act

HOUSTON: Eight immigrant families demanded millions of dollars in damages Monday from the Trump administration for separating them, including a Guatemalan woman who alleged an officer said her 5-year-old son would be taken and then taunted, “Happy Mother’s Day.”
In claims filed with the US government Monday, the parents accused immigration officers of taking their children away without giving them information and sometimes mocking them or denying them a chance to say goodbye. The claims allege that many children remain traumatized even after being reunited with their parents, including a 7-year-old girl who won’t sleep without her mother and a 6-year-old boy who is reluctant to eat.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.
The Trump administration has acknowledged it separated more than 2,000 families last year through the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy intended to crack down on Central American migration at the US-Mexico border. Government watchdogs have also said it’s unclear how many families were separated in total because agencies did not keep good enough records as the policy was implemented.
In her claim , the Guatemalan woman alleges she was detained in May with her son in a type of temporary detention facility nicknamed a “hielera,” or icebox in Spanish. The immigration officer who taunted her and three other women told them the law had changed, that their children would be taken away, and that they would be deported, the claim alleges.
The woman says another immigration officer woke her up at about 5 a.m. days later, ordered her to bathe and clothe her son, and then took her son into another room. The woman says she begged not to have her son taken, then asked that the two be deported together to Guatemala rather than separated. Her son only spoke the indigenous Guatemalan language of Mam.
“The officer laughed,” the claim says. “He made fun of her indigenous accent and said, laughingly, ‘it’s not that easy.’“
They were reunited in July, but then placed in a family detention center. They were released in November.
Stanton Jones, a lawyer for the families, said the families were entitled to monetary damages because of the government’s “inexplicable cruelty.”
“The government was harming children intentionally to try to advance what it viewed as a policy objective,” Jones said. “It’s heinous and immoral, but it’s also a civil wrong for which the law provides a claim for relief.”
The claims were submitted to the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The act gives government agencies six months to respond before a potential lawsuit, Jones said.
HHS spokeswoman Evelyn Stauffer said the department couldn’t comment on the claims, but that HHS “plays no role in the apprehension or initial detention” of children referred to its care, including children who were separated from their parents by immigration authorities.


Russia’s Putin to discuss Golan Heights with Lebanon’s president

Updated 4 min 10 sec ago
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Russia’s Putin to discuss Golan Heights with Lebanon’s president

  • Kremlin spokesperson said the US decision could have negative effects on the peace in the region
  • Aoun hopes Russia will help mediate the situation with Syrian refugees in Lebanon

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin will discuss the US decision to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights with Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun at talks in Moscow later on Tuesday, the Kremlin said.

Their scheduled meeting came after US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation on Monday officially granting US recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

“Such decisions undoubtedly have negative consequences from the point of view of a settlement in the Middle East and the general atmosphere of political settlement in Syria,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Aoun arrived in Moscow on Monday and is expected to sit down for talks with Putin at the Kremlin later on Tuesday.

The presidents will also discuss Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The country has taken in over 1 million refugees, of what is equivalent of a quarter of Lebanon’s population.

Aoun said at a meeting Tuesday with Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of Russian parliament, that Lebanon faces “a terrible economic fall-out” from the Syrian crisis and expressed hope that Russia would help his country repatriate the Syrians.

Lebanese politicians are divided over how to handle relations with the Syrian government and repatriation of refugees and look to Moscow to help to mediate that.