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Planned Parenthood Joins Arnold & Porter in Filing Claim on Behalf of Mother Torn Apart From Son Due to Federal Family Separation Policy

July 29, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a refugee mother and son filed legal claims against the U.S. government for the cruel treatment, and subsequent trauma. Arnold & Porter and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California are filing the claims on behalf of Patricia and Alessandro*, the mother and six-year-old son, who were separated for weeks after fleeing violence-plagued Honduras to seek safety in the United States.

The claims, filed with the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, detail the excruciating suffering Patricia and Alessandro endured as a result of the administration's policy to separate migrant families — a policy that senior government officials admitted was intentionally cruel so as to deter migrants from seeking refuge in the U.S.

Patricia and Alessandro join eight other families that Arnold & Porter is representing pro-bono in legal claims related to the administration's family separation policy. The family is also represented pro-bono by Maggy Krell, Chief Legal Counsel for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, who first met Patricia at Port Isabelle Detention Center in South Texas in June 2018.

Shortly after arriving at the Texas border, Patricia was detained, and Alessandro was taken from her. She was falsely promised that they would be reunited quickly, but instead several weeks passed and she was given almost no information as to where her son was. It was agonizing; she feared the worst and did not know whether she would ever see him again. Meanwhile, Alessandro, underwent similar trauma—having been given no information about when or if he would ever see him mom again.

Now seven years old, Alessandro continues to suffer from severe anxiety and sadness after being separated from his mom for over a month. At times, he is even unwilling to leave his home for fear he may be separated again from his family. Patricia, too, still feels the emotional effects of this experience as she often is unable to sleep for more than three to four hours at a time and suffers from violent nightmares.

"The administration's forcible separation of immigrant families is the most heartlessly conceived and recklessly implemented government policy of our lifetime. It was also unconstitutional," said Erik Walsh, Counsel at Arnold & Porter. "In a premeditated effort to deter Central Americans from coming to the U.S., the Trump administration chose to make an example out of vulnerable families like Patricia and her six-year-old son, Alessandro, who were fleeing violence and seeking safety in our country. Instead of providing refuge, our government ripped a six-year-old away from his mother, sent him to an undisclosed shelter, did not allow the two to speak for twenty days, and kept them apart for five weeks. As was the administration's intent, Patricia and Alessandro suffered severely. The government must now be accountable for the harm it caused them."

"No family should ever have to endure what Patricia and Alessandra went through. While they are now together as they should be, ripping parents and children apart will have long-term traumatic effects for Patricia, Alessandro, and the thousands of other families impacted by this heartless and ineffective policy," said Maggy Krell. "These claims are the first step in holding the Trump-Pence administration accountable for choosing to inflict grave emotional destress and suffering upon families. To the families that have been separated and continue to be traumatized during this time—let me be clear: Planned Parenthood stands with immigrants and will continue to fight against federal policies that gravely undermine healthy outcomes for all families."

*Names have been changed

» View the complaint

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