Federal Judge Rejects Biden Administration’s Demand to Throw Out Family Separation Lawsuit


May 11, 2022 

MEDIA CONTACT: Lance Wilson lance@theworkeragency.com, 341-203-0888


Federal Judge Rejects Biden Administration’s Demand to Throw Out Family Separation Lawsuit  

A Nothern California federal judge denied the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by California families separated at the border   

CALIFORNIA — Yesterday evening, a California federal judge provided a legal path forward for three Bay Area families who sued the U.S. government for the harm they suffered when federal officials forcibly separated them at the border. Magistrate Judge Kandis A. Westmore’s decision to deny the U.S. government’s motion to dismiss held that “[t]he fact that the Government is now attempting to evade liability for a policy that is still being unwound, as some children are still waiting to be reunited with their families, is not legally defensible.”  

 The judge further denied the U.S. government’s motion to move the case to Arizona.   

“The court confirmed that the U.S. government must be held accountable for the intentional harm and abuse it inflicted on families separated at the border,” said Bree Bernwanger, Senior Immigrant Justice Attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. “The Biden administration needs to stop trying to defend Trump’s cruel and unlawful family separation policy in court. As the court correctly recognized, it’s indefensible.”   

This is the federal government’s first response to a family separation lawsuit since the Department of Justice abruptly shut down global settlement negotiations to resolve families’ claims in December 2021. Since the government filed its motion to dismiss in this case, it has filed similar motions in litigation brought by separated families across the country. 


The plaintiff parents, Wilbur P.G., Erendira C.M., and Joshua G.G.*, and their children, filed suit in June 2021 against the U.S. government seeking damages for the harm federal officials inflicted on them by forcibly separating them at the border and subjecting them to harmful conditions of detention and medical neglect.     

I am glad the court allowed us to move forward in holding the government accountable for the harm they caused my daughter and me when they separated us,” said Erendira C.M., an indigenous Guatemalan mother whose daughter who was six at the time of separation, and one of the plaintiffs in the case. “I will continue to fight to ensure that no family suffers the way my daughter and I have suffered.”    

“We’re encouraged that Judge Westmore recognized that our clients’ lawsuit against the government may proceed,” said Chris Sun, an attorney with Keker, Van Nest & Peters. “The government’s draconian family separation policy has caused severe and lasting trauma for these families. We’re working to ensure that they receive justice and the protections our nation should have provided when they entered its borders.” 

The families are represented by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and Keker, Van Nest & Peters, LLP and filed the 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 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 isolated in detention, not knowing if they would ever see their children again.     


View the decision denying the Motion to Dismiss here.

View the Motion to Dismiss here.    

View the Complaint here.   

*Names are changed to protect privacy