The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported on arguments by Howard M. Cooper and Joseph M. Cacace to a federal judge in Massachusetts that he should not dismiss a putative class action involving migrant children who were forcibly separated from their families after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mr. Cooper and Mr. Cacace represent two migrant families residing in Massachusetts in their lawsuit against federal government officials for damages and a mental health fund based on violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, including due process, equal protection, and the protection against unlawful seizure.
The Department of Justice is seeking dismissal of the complaint on the basis that the federal court in Worcester lacks jurisdiction, the constitutional claims are not legally viable, and the individual defendants, including former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, have qualified immunity.
Mr. Cooper argued that the lawsuit seeks remedies for unconstitutional conduct carried out by individual federal officers.
“This (lawsuit) is about deterring discrimination,” Mr. Cooper said in court, as reported by the Telegram & Gazette. “It’s about deterring outrageous violations of the Fourth and Fifth amendments.”
Mr. Cooper asserted that the actions at issue were based on a "discriminatory animus" against immigrants from Latino countries who were properly seeking asylum.
Mr. Cacace, in arguing that Sessions and others are not entitled to qualified immunity and can be liable for the severe emotional harm caused by the border separations, added: “There is no compelling interest in traumatizing children."
Mr. Cooper and Mr. Cacace, along with other attorneys and organizations, filed the lawsuit on behalf of migrant children against various Trump Administration officials. An amended complaint, filed in response to a motion to dismiss filed by the Department of Justice, added a new count and asserted additional factual allegations. Mr. Cooper, Mr. Cacace, and co-counsel have also moved for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint asserting claims against the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
The suit seeks the establishment of a mental health fund to treat the thousands of children who were forcibly separated from their parents at the border.