Families Separated at the Border Seek Justice as Biden Administration Continues to  Defend Trump Policy in Federal Court


September 20, 2022 

MEDIA CONTACT: Raya Steier rsteier@lccrsf.org


Adding to the nearly thirty lawsuits across the country, three more families forcibly separated at the border under the Trump-era policy are suing the U.S. government and urging the Biden Administration to follow through on promise of reparations and justice.

San Francisco, Calif. (Sept. 20, 2022) — Today, three indigenous Guatemalan families ripped apart under the family separation policy filed a lawsuit against the United States government. The plaintiffs join a group of, now, ninety-nine plaintiffs who were victims of the family separation policy, which was designed to traumatize migrants. They seek financial reparations for the cruelty purposefully inflicted upon them and for the ongoing trauma from their separation and detention. The three families are bracing themselves for the Biden Administration to oppose their claims in court. 

The plaintiff parents Eduardo I.T., Ignacio P.G., and Benjamin J.R.*, and their children, fled persecution and abuse in Guatemala to seek safety within the U.S. Instead, U.S. immigration officials intentionally traumatized them and their children. The government carried out a practice of child disappearance, refusing to provide information about their children’s welfare or whereabouts. While their children wept daily in government-contracted children’s shelters, the parents were left in detention facilities for months without adequate food or water.  

The families expressed frustration as the Biden administration acknowledged the harm caused by the family separation policy but has not made amends. “Fighting in court means that my son and I have to relive the trauma over and over again,” said Eduardo I.T.*, an indigenous Guatemalan father whose son was a teenager at the time of separation, and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “I had no idea where my son was for weeks. The officials did not bother to find a translator in my native language Q’eqchi’, so I wasn’t told where my son was taken or even if he was safe. I suffer from psychological problems because of what happened, and it is something that we will have to live with for the rest of our lives. I hope that one day there will be justice for my family and all of the families that suffered.” 

The three plaintiff families were eventually reunited and are now in asylum proceedings in California as they navigate the ongoing harm that impacts their daily lives. While the harm inflicted on them cannot be undone, the plaintiffs seek damages from the U.S. government for the abuse they endured.

The families in this lawsuit are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. 

“Our clients have been waiting for years for the government to take accountability for intentionally traumatizing them,”  said Victoria Petty, Immigrant Justice Fellow at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “The Biden Administration has repeatedly acknowledged the egregious harms inflicted on the thousands of families subjected to the family separation policy. Yet, the Administration continues to fight the families at every step in federal court and has thus far refused to offer any compensation to remedy the consequences. Under our justice system, when you harm someone, you must make them whole. We won’t stop until our clients are made whole.”

“In an attempt to escape persecution, these three families came to the United States in search of peace and safety,” said Dustin Chase-Woods, Associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP.  “But instead of experiencing the humane treatment asylum-seeking families are entitled to under the law, these vulnerable individuals were further victimized by a cruel family separation policy that intentionally inflicted even greater trauma on parents and children alike. With this lawsuit, the families are insisting on a measure of justice that a civil lawsuit can provide: compensation for the lasting damage that the government deliberately and callously inflicted.”

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


View the complaint here. The case is I.T. et al. v. United States, Case No. 4:22-cv-05333 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 20, 2022).

*Names are changed to protect privacy