Bay Area Families Sue U.S. Government for Family Separation at Border and Abuses in Immigration Detention, Demand Reparations


June 10, 2021 

Media Contact

Sam Lew, 415-272-8022,  

Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area  


Bay Area Families Sue U.S. Government for Family Separation at Border and Abuses in Immigration Detention, Demand Reparations 

In the first case in Northern California, three families are suing the U.S. government for forcibly separating them from their children under Trump’s 2018 family separation policy   

CALIFORNIA —Three Bay Area families who were separated at the U.S.–Mexico border in 2018 filed suit this morning against the U.S. government seeking damages for the harm immigration officials inflicted on them by subjecting them to the Trump administration’s inhumane and unlawful policy of forcible family separation at the border.  

The plaintiff parents, Wilbur P.G., Erendira C.M., and Joshua G.G.*, and their children are the first affected families to file suit for damages in Northern California and are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and Keker, Van Nest & Peters, LLP.

In addition to seeking damages to compensate for the lifelong harm caused by the separation itself, the suit seeks to hold the federal government accountable for other abuses the families suffered while jailed in federal immigration detention facilities, including one parent who sustained lasting physical injuries after being denied medical attention and a child who was sexually abused in custody. 

“We are suing the U.S. government because its family separation policy caused our clients unimaginable suffering and lasting trauma, which is precisely what it was designed to do — and because its abhorrent detention practices led to physical injuries on top of the emotional trauma our clients experienced,” said Bree Bernwanger, Senior Immigrant Justice Attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “This lawsuit seeks to secure compensation for the physical and emotional harm our clients suffered, but we hope it will also send a powerful signal to the government that  the systemic abuse of asylum seekers must never happen again.” 

The families filed this federal lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), a law that allows individuals to sue the U.S. government directly for injuries by federal agents. 

All three families entered the United States by crossing from Mexico into Arizona around May 2018, fleeing persecution and severe violence in their home countries in Central America. After undertaking harrowing journeys in hopes of exercising their right to seek asylum in the U.S., the U.S. government forcibly separated the three parents and children, ages 6, 11 and 13 at the time, without notice or explanation. Wilbur, Joshua, and Erendira spent weeks detained in facilities unable to speak with their children or receive any information about them.  

“These three families endured filthy and over-crowded cells, inadequate food and water, and little to no medical attention—all while being separated from their children and under government officials’ threats of deportation,” said Hayden Rodarte, Justice Catalyst Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “By asserting their rights under the FTCA, these families speak truth to the powers that intentionally hurt them and thousands of others, and seek reparations for these harms as the first steps on their paths to healing.” 

“Immigration agents are not above the law. Their conduct violated federal law and that’s what our clients will prove in court,” said Christopher Sun of Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP.  

*Names are changed to protect privacy  

View the complaint here.