RAICES, Hogan Lovells, and Lewis Roca file suit on behalf of families separated twice as part of U.S. threat to asylum rights
More Than Three Dozen Cases on Behalf of Plaintiffs Separated Under the Zero Tolerance Policy are Currently Pending Against the U.S. Government in Federal Court
WASHINGTON, D.C., 8 May 2023 – Five years after the unlawful and unconstitutional implementation of the Zero Tolerance policy, and as the U.S. implements heightened asylum restrictions in advance of the government’s decision to lift the temporary Title 42 public health order authorizing the expulsion of migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic, immigrant rights not-for-profit RAICES, global law firm Hogan Lovells, and Am Law 200 firm Lewis Roca are continuing the fight for families. Late Friday, counsel filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government on behalf of two families separated at the U.S. border not once — but twice — to punish families who were exercising their legal and human right to request asylum.
The plaintiff families, two father-son pairs, were forcibly separated in 2018 for over 60 days before being detained at Karnes County Immigration Processing Center, an ICE immigration prison — where they were re-separated for 24 hours as a scare tactic while in the custody of the U.S. government. Both parents and children continue to suffer from the long-term toll wrought by their forcible separations, including significant physical, mental, and emotional distress.
Under the Zero Tolerance policy, federal officials deliberately separated at least 5,569 children from their parents with the stated intent to deter anyone seeking safety and security in the U.S. More than three dozen cases on behalf of plaintiffs separated under the policy are currently pending against the U.S. government in federal court — reflecting the breadth of the harm caused by the country's actions against asylum seekers.
“Accountability matters. Imagine arriving in the U.S. to seek safety from persecution and having your children forcibly taken from you, not knowing whether or not you'd see them again. Imagine being reunited in filthy prison cells before being separated again by the very government that promises protection,” said Javier Hidalgo, Interim Director of Litigation at RAICES. “Regrettably, the families represented in this case do not have the luxury of imagining — because they were forced to live the reality. It is an honor to witness their bravery as they seek to hold the U.S. government accountable for its acknowledged abuse of human and legal rights.”
As detailed in the complaint, “Re-separating the parents and children a second time inflicted a unique form of harm. The second separations compounded the significant trauma and distress the families had already suffered and left Plaintiffs with a fear and mistrust of authority … The second separation stripped away any semblance of reassurance the families felt from being reunited, leaving the parents and children to constantly wonder whether—and when—they might be separated yet again.”
Danielle Desaulniers Stempel, senior associate at Hogan Lovells said: “Five years after the prior administration implemented the Zero Tolerance policy, these families have yet to be compensated for the significant harms and trauma they suffered at the hands of the U.S. Government. The plaintiff families’ experiences are sadly all too representative of the thousands of other separated families, including the many families who suffered additional trauma after being re-separated a second time.”
Allison Whitehill, associate at Lewis Roca added: “The plaintiffs in this case, like countless others, have suffered irreparable harm and trauma at the hands of the U.S. government as a result of its cruel zero tolerance policy. It’s time that the government takes responsibility for those actions, and we look forward to helping these families achieve that.”
In addition to Javier Hidalgo, the legal team from RAICES includes Vanessa Rivas-Bernardy. The Hogan Lovells team includes partner Justin Bernick, senior associates Danielle Desaulniers Stempel and Mike West, associates Melissa Giangrande, Dana Raphael, and David Wilner, and paralegal coordinator Alicia Balthazar. The team from Lewis Roca includes partner Gary Bendinger, and associates Allison Whitehill and Katie Derrig.
The case is P.C.J. et. al v. United States of America in the United States District Court for the District of Arizona. The complaint is available here.
RAICES, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit founded in 1986, is the largest immigrant legal services provider in Texas and pairs legal and social services case management for immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees with national policy advocacy and impact litigation in pursuit of systemic change. RAICES continues to work directly in support of 57 families separated under the Zero Tolerance policy and who are class members in the class action lawsuit Ms. L. v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 310 F. Supp. 1133 (S.D. Cal 2018). Learn more at raicestexas.org
Global law firm Hogan Lovells has a long tradition of supporting ground-breaking social developments, focusing on access to justice and the rule of law. As lawyers, we recognize this commitment is part of our professional practice, and collectively, we spend more than 150,000 pro bono hours per year on work to achieve lasting impact for others.
Lewis Roca is proud of its longstanding association with RAICES and historic culture of providing pro bono services for people with financial need, promoting legal representation, and donating significant resources to ensure justice for the indigent.