Women Detained In Seattle Sue Federal Government Over Family Separation

Mothers protest outside the SeaTac Federal Detention Center, where asylum seekers separated from their children were initially held. CREDIT: DANIEL BERMAN FOR KUOW
Mothers protest outside the SeaTac Federal Detention Center, where asylum seekers separated from their children were initially held. CREDIT: DANIEL BERMAN FOR KUOW

Three women separated from their children at the U.S. border and detained in the Seattle area are suing the federal government.

Seattle-based Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) filed the lawsuit in federal court on Monday.

NWIRP director Jorge Barón says the suit challenges the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents when families cross the border to apply for asylum. It also claims that the three plaintiffs were not given prompt “credible fear” interviews, the initial step in the asylum process.

“Part of what we’re asking the court to do is to reunite these families as soon as possible,”  Barón said. “And that these individuals be given a chance to present their solemn claims in an expeditious manner.”

Attorneys will also ask that the courts expand the lawsuit to a class action. If they succeed, the lawsuits’ plaintiffs would include any parent currently detained in Washington state who has been separated from his or her child, or any parent detained in Washington state in the future.

The three plaintiffs—Ibis Guzman, Blanca Orantes and Yolany Padilla—were part of a group of more than 200 asylum seekers transferred to a federal prison in Washington state from a Texas detention center. According to NWIRP, the women have not seen their children in more than a month and haven’t been able to talk with them by phone.

NWIRP’s Barón said his organization plans to file additional legal documents asking the courts to move quickly on the lawsuit. Barón also has been working closely with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is preparing to file a similar lawsuit on behalf of people detained in the San Diego area.

Last week, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that Washington state would file its own lawsuit against the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that resulted in family separations. But while it challenges the same policy targeted by NWIRP, a state cannot sue on behalf of individuals.

After prolonged outcry and widespread protest, last week President Trump reversed his policy and said the U.S. would stop separating children from their parents.

Trump’s new executive order ending family separation suggests families should be detained together, but can be detained indefinitely. His administration has also not yet unveiled any plan to reunited the more than 2,000 children who were taken from their families before his executive order.

Copyright 2018 KUOW

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