Second Guatemalan woman sues Trump administration over border separation

Second Guatemalan woman sues Trump administration over border separation
UPI

June 26 (UPI) — A second Guatemalan woman filed suit Tuesday against Trump administration officials to be reunited with her child.

Perla Karlili Alemengor Miranda De Velasquez filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on behalf of her 12-year-old daughter and herself, so they could be reunited after more than a month apart.

The suit says U.S. border agents forcefully separated Velasquez from her daughter while she sought U.S. asylum near San Luis, Arizona, on May 19, citing “severe violence” in Guatemala. Officials released Velazquez on bond after she established a claim of credible fear and was not judged to be a flight risk or danger to the community. Her daughter, however, was kept in federal custody, according to the suit.

The suit alleges that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other officials of President Donald Trump’s administration have violated due process and equal protection rights under the U.S. Constitution.

In particular, the suit argues Sessions “has unabashedly targeted asylum seekers who originate from Central America.”

It also alleges defendants violated Velazquez’s rights to be free from “arbitrary and capricious agency action,” under the Administrative Procedure Act, and her rights under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the United Nations Convention Relating to Status of Refugees.

In addition to Sessions, the suit names Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin McAleenan as defendants.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Director of Office of Refugee Settlement Scott Lloyd and John Doe 1, Field Specialist for Bodencamp Children’s Shelter operated by Upbring/Lutheran Social Services in Texas are also named as defendants.

The suit comes a week after another Guatemalan woman seeking U.S. asylum similarly filed suit against Trump administration officials to be reunited with her 7-year-old son after they were separated at the border.

The woman in the first suit was identified as Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia, 39.

Mejia was released from custody June 15 after posting bond, but her son was not returned to her at that time. She said she and her son escaped violence in Guatemala, including death threats from her husband and said immigration officials did not tell her why they took her son or where they kept him.

Government lawyers said Mejia’s suit filed last Tuesday was unnecessary because the son was in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement and in the process of being released. Mejia was reunited with her son on Thursday.

More than 2,300 immigrant children have been separated from their parents since Session announced the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy in April, according to the Department of Homeland Security, and it’s believed the majority of them are from Central America, Velazquez’s suit says.

Trump signed an executive order Wednesday for immigrant families to be detained together by the Department of Homeland Security pending court proceedings after a national outcry over the separations.

“What the Administration cannot even remotely explain or justify, rationally, is continuing the separation of children whose parents assert Asylum and make a credible fear claim,” Mejia’s suit states. “Nor can the Administration explain refusing to return children to their parents, who were released-regardless of whether they sought asylum or were detained for a misdemeanor offense.”

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