J.S.R. v. Sessions
V.F.B. v. Sessions
RELEASE AND FAMILY REUNIFICATION FOR IMMIGRANT CHILDREN
On Monday, July 16, CLS and the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School successfully won release and reunification for two immigrant families who were detained and forcibly separated after they came to the United States seeking asylum.
CLS and the clinic filed emergency federal lawsuits on July 2 on behalf of 9-year-old JSR and 14-year-old VFB, who were detained in Connecticut by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. The children escaped persecution and violence in their home countries of Honduras and El Salvador only to be taken from their parents as part of the Trump Administration’s illegal “zero tolerance policy."
On July 13, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Victor Bolden responded to the lawsuits by holding that the government’s conduct inflicted deep trauma and violated the children's due process rights. The judge ordered the government to act immediately to remedy the trauma it caused the children. Three days later, the government transferred the parents from Texas to Connecticut, granted them parole, and reunited them with their children.
These are the first cases in the country brought by children, rather than parents, to challenge the Trump Administration’s forcible family separation policy. They are also the first cases in which a federal court held that the government’s systematic dissolution of immigrant families violates the children’s constitutional rights.
At CLS, the children were represented by a team that included Managing Attorney Joanne Lewis and staff attorneys Massiel Zucco-Himmelstein and Kelly Bonafe. “This is a victory for two families and for an entire community in Connecticut that united behind these children and in support of our state’s basic values of freedom, fairness, and family,” said attorney Zucco-Himmelstein. “We look forward to a time when every immigrant child has the kind of support and advocacy that won freedom for JSR and VFB.”
CLS began representing JSR and VFB as part of its ongoing advocacy on behalf of children who are detained at a federally-contracted shelter in eastern Connecticut. For more than a year, CLS has been visiting the shelter several times a month to meet with, and advocate for, the children who are detained there. Until May of this year, those children were all unaccompanied minors -- children who came to the U.S. border without any parents or guardians. To date, JSR and VFB are the only children to arrive in Connecticut who were forcibly separated from their parents after crossing the border.
WHO ARE J.S.R. AND V.F.B.?
J.S.R. and V.F.B. are two of the more than 3,000 children taken forcibly from their parents at the southern border in the past months. They're the only two of those children held here in Connecticut.
J.S.R., age 9, fled Honduras with his father after his grandparents were murdered and a body was left in his family’s backyard. When J.S.R. arrived in the United States to seek asylum in June of this year, he and his father were locked in what J.S.R. describes as a “hielera” – an icebox – in a detention facility in South Texas. While J.S.R. was asleep, immigration agents took his father away and lied to the child about his father’s whereabouts. He has been detained in Connecticut since June 16. Since he got here, he has been allowed to speak with his father only once.
V.F.B., age 14, came to the United States with her mother seeking refugee from persecution in El Salvador, after her step-father was murdered outside the church where V.F.B. was praying. While V.F.B. and her mother were detained at a Texas facility, immigration officials sent the child to shower. When she returned, her mother was gone, and immigration authorities pretended not to know where she was. V.F.B. has been in Connecticut since May 16, and has been allowed to speak with her mother only once.
The forcible separation of children from their parents is a betrayal of U.S. law and Connecticut values. The Constitution State believes in family, freedom, and fairness. CLS went to court to hold our government accountable to our values, and to win release and reunification for two children who – like every one of our children – deserve Connecticut's love and support.
To learn more about CLS' litigation on behalf of J.S.R. and V.F.B., contact:
Connecticut Legal Services
62 Washington Street, Fourth Floor
Middletown, CT 06457
7/16/18: Government's Notice of Compliance