Separated children allowed to stay in U.S. to receive medical care

August 30, 2018

Two immigrant children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border and detained in Connecticut reached a settlement with the federal government Wednesday that allows them to stay in the country for a year and receive access to medical care to help them heal.

“After the harrowing trauma that government put our young clients through, this grant of legal immigration status to remain in the United States and seek treatment is important in bringing stability to their lives,” said Aseem Mehta, a law student intern with the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School, which represented the children with Connecticut Legal Services.

The settlement represents a conclusion to the case, which drew commentary from Connecticut’s congressional delegation and governor and sparked protests in Bridgeport in support of the children. Filed in June, it was the first lawsuit in the nation to find that separation of families at the border violates the constitutional rights of children, not only their parents, according to Connecticut Legal Services.

The children, a nine-year-old boy from Honduras and a fourteen-year-old girl from El Salvador, were granted one year of humanitarian parole in the United States Wednesday.

“Now that they have legal status, this will allow them to access certain benefits that they will need such as medical insurance and things,” said Carrie O’Connor of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic. They will also have time to slowly collect evidence for their asylum case they recover from their trauma, she said.

The settlement does not provide legal status to the children’s parents. The parents’ fate will be determined by a class action lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of immigrant parents separated from their children at the border. A federal judge has maintained a stay blocking the government from deporting these parents since July.

But Wednesday’s settlement could serve as a model for resolving other cases involving children separated from their parents, O’Connor said.

“The result here is a victory for sanity and reason, but it is only a temporary or interim solution,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “I’m proud to have advocated for these children and their parents, but there are thousands like them whose status remains uncertain and I will continue the fight for reuniting these families.”

Congress is considering legislation that would prevent families separations in the future and “provide realistic solutions” for the children separated this year, Blumenthal said.

The children in the Connecticut case are now with their parents somewhere in the U.S., O’Connor said. They were released from Noank Community Support Services Inc., a nonprofit in Groton that contracts with the Department of Health and Human Resources, at the end of July.

They are the only two children who were separated from their parents at the border who were known to be held in Connecticut.

Andrés Martin, a professor of child psychology at Yale University, examined the children and determined they suffered from PTSD and were at risk for additional mental harm if they continued to be separated from their parents, he said in his testimony.

The two children experienced trauma before they were separated from their parents at a detention center in Texas. The fourteen-year-old identified in the case only by her initials V.F.B. came to the U.S. from El Salvador in May with her mother, after her stepfather was murdered outside the church where they were praying, said Lewis. The nine-year-old J.S.R. arrived in the U.S. in mid-June with his father, fleeing Honduras after his grandparents were murdered and the body of his father’s friend was tossed in their backyard.

Both children had their parents taken away without warning: V.F.B. when she was showering, and J.S.R. when he was sleeping.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; Twitter: @emiliemunson

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