Separated migrant families demand millions from US agencies

Seven-year-old Andy (C) is reunited with his mother, Arely (R), at Baltimore-Washington International Airport July 23, 2018 in Linthicum, Maryland. (AFP)
Updated 12 February 2019
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Separated migrant families demand millions from US agencies

  • The claims were submitted to the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services under the Federal Tort Claims Act

HOUSTON: Eight immigrant families demanded millions of dollars in damages Monday from the Trump administration for separating them, including a Guatemalan woman who alleged an officer said her 5-year-old son would be taken and then taunted, “Happy Mother’s Day.”
In claims filed with the US government Monday, the parents accused immigration officers of taking their children away without giving them information and sometimes mocking them or denying them a chance to say goodbye. The claims allege that many children remain traumatized even after being reunited with their parents, including a 7-year-old girl who won’t sleep without her mother and a 6-year-old boy who is reluctant to eat.
The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.
The Trump administration has acknowledged it separated more than 2,000 families last year through the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy intended to crack down on Central American migration at the US-Mexico border. Government watchdogs have also said it’s unclear how many families were separated in total because agencies did not keep good enough records as the policy was implemented.
In her claim , the Guatemalan woman alleges she was detained in May with her son in a type of temporary detention facility nicknamed a “hielera,” or icebox in Spanish. The immigration officer who taunted her and three other women told them the law had changed, that their children would be taken away, and that they would be deported, the claim alleges.
The woman says another immigration officer woke her up at about 5 a.m. days later, ordered her to bathe and clothe her son, and then took her son into another room. The woman says she begged not to have her son taken, then asked that the two be deported together to Guatemala rather than separated. Her son only spoke the indigenous Guatemalan language of Mam.
“The officer laughed,” the claim says. “He made fun of her indigenous accent and said, laughingly, ‘it’s not that easy.’“
They were reunited in July, but then placed in a family detention center. They were released in November.
Stanton Jones, a lawyer for the families, said the families were entitled to monetary damages because of the government’s “inexplicable cruelty.”
“The government was harming children intentionally to try to advance what it viewed as a policy objective,” Jones said. “It’s heinous and immoral, but it’s also a civil wrong for which the law provides a claim for relief.”
The claims were submitted to the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The act gives government agencies six months to respond before a potential lawsuit, Jones said.
HHS spokeswoman Evelyn Stauffer said the department couldn’t comment on the claims, but that HHS “plays no role in the apprehension or initial detention” of children referred to its care, including children who were separated from their parents by immigration authorities.


India’s Supreme Court chief justice denies sexually harassing assistant

Updated 20 April 2019
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India’s Supreme Court chief justice denies sexually harassing assistant

  • “This is unbelievable,” Gogoi, India’s most powerful judge said
  • The allegations, dating from October, were carried in full by a number of major Indian online publications

MUMBAI: The chief justice of India’s Supreme Court, Ranjan Gogoi, on Saturday denied allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances toward a junior court assistant who worked in an office at his home and that she was subsequently victimized.
“This is unbelievable,” Gogoi, India’s most powerful judge, told a special hearing of the court he called on Saturday so that the allegations could be addressed. “I should not stoop low even in denying it.”
Gogoi said the events showed that India’s judiciary was under “serious threat” and was being destabilized by a larger conspiracy, without elaborating.
“There is some bigger force behind the woman,” he said.
The allegations, dating from October, were carried in full by a number of major Indian online publications on Saturday.
The 35-year-old woman, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, wrote a letter to all 22 of the Supreme Court judges along with an affidavit detailing her allegations on Friday.
Those included a series of allegations that the woman and her family were victimized by a series of related actions by the authorities, including the termination of her employment, and the suspension of her husband and his brother, who worked in the Delhi police force.
She also says another brother of her husband’s had his Supreme Court job terminated and she also faced a “false and frivolous” bribery complaint, leading to her arrest and subsequent bail.
“Me and my family’s victimization is a consequence of my not agreeing to the sexual advances made by the Chief Justice of India, Justice Rangan Gogoi,” she said in the letter to the judges.
Justice Arun Mishra, who joined Gogoi on the bench for the special hearing, said the allegations were “wild and baseless.”
The court asked the media to show restraint in covering the case to avoid undermining the reputation and independence of the judiciary, though it decided not to issue a gag order.