The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Thursday, demanding the federal government pay damages to migrant families who were separated under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.
The lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Arizona, calls for punitive and compensatory damages from the Trump administration, according to court filings. The progressive organization also wants the government to create a new fund that covers the cost of mental health care for families that were separated at the U.S-Mexico border.
“The suffering and trauma inflicted on these little children and parents is horrific,” ACLU lawyer Lee Gelernt said in a press release on Thursday. “Tragically, it could take years for these families to heal. Some may never recover, but we are fighting to give them a chance.”
The lawsuit targets the White House, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Faced with a mounting immigration crisis at the southern border, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance”policy for those entering the U.S. illegally in April 2018. The policy directed attorneys at the border to prosecute all illegal alien border crossing referrals from Homeland Security “to the extent practicable.”
Previously, a much smaller percentage of illegal border crossers faced criminal prosecution. Following implementation of zero tolerance, criminal charges rocketed as a significantly higher number of parents also faced prosecution. A consequence of this, however, was that families began to be separated as parents were taken to jail and their children were transferred to the federal Health Department.
The zero-tolerance policy soon garnered widespread criticism after stories of migrant parents separated from their children circulated throughout the media. President Donald Trump put an end to the backlash by signing an executive order in June 2018 that directed family units to be detained together.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan later said that, while family separation did reduce the flow illegal migrants crossing the border, it ultimately “didn’t work” because lost the public’s trust.
The ACLU has been behind numerous lawsuit targeting the Trump administration’s immigration agenda, including border wall construction, fast-track deportation of illegal aliens, Remain in Mexico, and a host of other programs.
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