Washington, D.C., 25 July 2022 –The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), global law firm Hogan Lovells, and Arizona co-counsel Lewis Roca filed suit against the United States government today in federal district court in Arizona, on behalf of parents seeking damages for the harms they and their children suffered from being forcibly separated at the border under the prior administration’s Zero Tolerance policy.
Thousands of families were brutally torn apart under the cruel and heartless Zero Tolerance policy, causing irreparable harm and suffering. The four Plaintiff families in the lawsuit are still reeling and suffering from being separated and detained but have received no explanation, acknowledgement, or apology from the U.S. government.
Tami Goodlette, Director of Litigation at RAICES, said: “We are taking the Biden administration to court to make sure that these families get the compensation they deserve for the trauma inflicted upon them by the federal government. Zero Tolerance was an intentional act of abuse, and it is the current administration’s responsibility to rectify the ongoing harms caused to these families.”
The federal government separated each of the four Plaintiff families with no notice, no information, and no plan for reunification, according to the complaint. “For weeks, the parents and children were detained separately, sometimes thousands of miles apart. For weeks, the parents and children begged to be reunited. And for weeks, the government—due to a combination of ineptitude and cruelty—refused to provide information on their loved ones’ whereabouts, wellbeing, or whether they would ever see each other again,” the complaint states.
The suffering that the government inflicted upon families seeking asylum was intentional, and was exacerbated by its refusal to provide information to families about their missing family members, or to implement adequate measures to ensure reunification.
Hogan Lovells attorney Danielle Desaulniers Stempel said: “The U.S. government separated thousands of families in a harsh but deliberate attempt to prevent families from continuing to seek asylum in the United States. All four plaintiff families named in today’s suit suffered experiences that are sadly all too representative of the thousands of other families who were separated.”
According to the complaint: “That harm was no accident—it was the government’s goal. Federal officials at the highest levels repeatedly and publicly confirmed that the Family Separation Policy . . . was designed to inflict trauma in order to deter future asylum seekers from coming to the United States.”
Ken Rossman of Lewis Roca added: ”We look forward to helping these families obtain the relief they deserve.”
According to the complaint: “Each of the four Plaintiff families were detained in unsafe and inhumane conditions, without adequate food, water, bedding, or space to sleep. They were housed in facilities with inadequate restrooms and forced to go days or weeks without access to clean water.”
The Plaintiffs are seeking damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act for the “significant and lasting trauma” caused by the government’s Policy to both the parents and their children.
In addition to Goodlette, the team from RAICES includes Vanessa Rivas-Bernardy and Daniel Hatoum. The Hogan Lovells team includes partner Justin Bernick, senior associate Stempel, and associates Michael West, Dana Raphael, and Melissa Giangrande (all Washington, D.C.). The HL team also includes associates Mohan Warusha Hennadige (New York) and Cory Szczepanik (Denver), law clerk Diala Alqadi (New York), and paralegal Alicia Balthazar. In addition to Rossman, the team from Lewis Roca includes Gary Bendinger, Alejandro Barrientos, and Katie Derrig.
The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees. Learn more at Raicestexas.org.
Global law firm Hogan Lovells has a long tradition of supporting ground-breaking social developments, focusing on access to justice and the rule of law. As lawyers, we recognize this commitment is part of our professional practice and collectively we spend more than 100,000 pro bono hours per year on work to achieve lasting impact for others.
Lewis Roca is proud of its longstanding association with RAICES and historic culture of providing pro bono services for people with financial need, promoting legal representation, and donating significant resources to ensuring justice for the indigent.