A Congolese mother and her 7-year-old daughter have been reunited after being detained separately for more than four months. “Ms. L” had passed her initial asylum screening after fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo last year, but rather than detain them together, officials separated them, detaining the mother in California and “S.S” in Illinois. “When the officers separated them,” the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) said at the time, “Ms. L. could hear her daughter in the next room screaming that she did not want to be taken away from her mother.”
The ACLU launched a series of actions, one suing for the family’s release and another “accusing the U.S. government of broadly separating immigrant families seeking asylum.” One estimate of detained families separated by the Trump administration goes into the hundreds. The initial lawsuit led to the release of Ms. L in early March, but S.S. remained detained—and alone from her only family here—thousands of miles away. Finally, late Friday night, the young girl was released back into her mother’s arms:
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, told ABC News that, following a DNA test the government requested to prove she was really the mother of this child, the woman was permitted to travel to Chicago from San Diego on Tuesday. Late Friday, he said, her daughter was released and brought to a shelter in Chicago where she will be staying with her mother.
“They were hugging each other and sobbing,” Gelernt told ABC. “It was just incredibly emotional.” (Their identities have been withheld by the ACLU in the event they are denied asylum and must return to the Congo.)
“Although the woman and her daughter are now together, the ACLU will keep pursuing the lawsuit for other parents who have found themselves in the same situation.” According to Michelle Brané, director of the migrant rights and justice program for the Women’s Refugee Commission, “at least 426 immigrant adults and children who had been separated by authorities since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017.” An ACLU petition calling on the Trump administration to stop separating detained families has collected nearly 20,000 signatures, and the class-action lawsuit has a hearing next month in California.
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