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Judge rejects government's request to dismiss suit seeking compensation, mental health care payments for children forcibly separated from families at border

A federal judge in Massachusetts has denied the request of the U.S. government to dismiss a lawsuit seeking monetary damages for the long-term trauma and harm inflicted on children who were forcibly separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration, as well as a fund for mental health care and services and ongoing monitoring of the children’s well-being.

The putative class action under the Federal Tort Claims Act seeks compensation for the harm and trauma minor children suffered because of actions by federal government officials and employees who separated migrant children from their families for the express purpose of instilling fear in migrants to deter them from crossing into the U.S.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman allowed the claims of the named minor children to continue, including intentional and negligent emotional distress, false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, and loss of consortium.

The judge rejected the government’s argument that the claims should be dismissed under Federal Tort Claims Act exceptions immunizing the government from liability for certain discretionary actions – in part because the judge found the alleged conduct violated the constitutional due process rights of the claimants to family integrity.

The judge also rejected the request by the government to transfer the case to federal court in Texas.

The named minor children are from Guatemala and reside in Massachusetts with their families.  In 2018, they were detained and separated from their parents for weeks after crossing the border to seek asylum.  While detained, the children were subjected to physical abuse and verbal taunts by employees of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and Border Patrol.  They suffered life-altering trauma that caused extreme emotional and psychological harm.

“After enduring the traumatic ordeal of being separated from their families at the border, followed by the government seeking to avoid responsibility at every turn, our clients look forward now to having their day in court to hold the United States accountable for the forcible separation of immigrant children from their families,” said Todd & Weld partner Joseph M. Cacace, co-counsel for the claimants.

Todd & Weld Founding Partner Howard M. Cooper is also working on the case. Mr. Cooper and Mr. Cacace are working with co-counsel David A. Vicinanzo, Nathan P. Warecki, and Lauren Maynard of Nixon Peabody LLP; Susan B. Church and Derege Demissie of Demissie & Church; Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal of Lawyers for Civil Rights; and Jeff Goldman of Goldman & Partners Immigration Law.