Adding to Over 40 Lawsuits, a Bay Area Family Sues the U.S. Government for Separating them at the Border and Subjecting them to Cruel Conditions of Detention and Medical Neglect

MEDIA CONTACT: Raya Steier, C:530-723-2426,


San Francisco, CA – Today, adding to over 40 lawsuits with over 100 plaintiffs across the country, a Honduran father and daughter* in the Bay Area filed a lawsuit against the United States government for forcibly tearing them apart at the border and subjecting them to cruel conditions of detention and medical neglect. The plaintiffs seek damages for the emotional distress caused by the Trump administration’s illegal practice of using the trauma of family separation to deter migration.

In May 2018, the Bay Area family sought safety in the United States, fleeing persecution and violence in Honduras. After the family undertook a treacherous journey to the United States, hoping to exercise their right to seek asylum, immigration officials in El Paso forcibly separated the father from his child, who was 9 years old at the time, for two months with no notice or explanation. 

As recently as September 26, 2023, the Department of Justice said it “remain[s] committed to achieving a just resolution for the victims of this abhorrent policy.” President Biden has said separated families “deserve some kind of compensation.” Yet the Biden administration continues to fight families one-by-one in court, arguing that the federal government is immune from lawsuits seeking recovery for the wrongs of family separation—a position that dangerously encourages future administrations to resume the practice, or even put it “on steroids.” These newest plaintiffs are bracing for the government to oppose their claim in court.

The family is represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and Kirkland & Ellis LLP. The lawsuit is brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), a statute that allows individuals to sue the U.S. government directly for injuries by federal agents.

“We wish that the Biden administration would honor its pledge to provide justice and accountability for the suffering of our clients. Until they do, our organization, our generous partners at Kirkland & Ellis, and our clients will fearlessly litigate this case,” said Victoria Petty, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area.

“We can’t help J.C.O.C. get back the time that he lost when separated from M.M.O.S. But we can try to get them both some relief, and an acknowledgement of how abhorrent this policy has been for so many families,” said pro bono counsel Yan-Xin Li of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

A copy of the complaint is available here.


* To protect privacy, the father identifies himself in the lawsuit as J.C.O.C. and his daughter as M.M.O.S.