Lawyers seek order to reunify detained children with parents
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Lawyers for two immigrant children detained in Connecticut after being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border asked a federal judge on Wednesday to order that the girl and boy be reunited with their families.
A four-hour hearing was held at U.S. District Court in Bridgeport. Judge Victor Bolden did not issue a ruling and scheduled a status conference for July 18.
Attorneys from Yale Law School and Connecticut Legal Services are representing the children and say their parents are seeking asylum in the U.S. because of persecution in their home countries. The 14-year-old girl from El Salvador was separated from her mother in May, and the 9-year-old boy from Honduras was separated from his father last month.
The boy testified Wednesday that he was scared to go home because of gangs. A psychiatrist testified both children show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. The girl’s mother and the boy’s father, who both remain detained in Texas, watched the hearing via a video conference.
Lawyers for the children, identified by only initials in court documents, argued the forced separation violates the children’s Fifth Amendment rights to liberty and family unity and is racially discriminatory. They are being detained by a government contractor in Groton.
In court documents, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle McConaghy argued no court orders are needed because the two children already are covered by a June 28 ruling by another federal judge in San Diego. They said a ruling in the Connecticut case would interfere with last month’s decision.
In that ruling, Judge Dana Sabraw ordered that children under 5 who were separated from families under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy must be reunited with their parents within 14 days and children 5 and over must be reunited with their families within 30 days, by July 26. More than 2,000 older children are awaiting reunification.
Several dozen people gathered outside the Bridgeport courthouse Wednesday morning to protest the Trump administration’s immigration policies. They chanted “No fear. No hate. No bias in my state” and held signs saying “Immigrants Make America Better” and “No Ban. No Wall. No Cages.”
“We demand that these children be reunited with their parents immediately,” said Vanessa Suarez, one of the protest’s organizers. “It is unjust to force these kids to go through this process without their parents. ... The judge may have denied their parents from being physically present with their kids in court today, but we will fight until they are reunited and safe. This is the time when families need each other the most.”
The boy and his father fled Honduras because they feared for their lives after the boy’s grandparents were murdered and the body of a family friend was left in their backyard, according to court documents filed by Yale Law School students.
The girl fled El Salvador with her mother after her stepfather was killed by gang members for refusing to lend them his scooter, according to the law students.