Lawyers to focus on addressing immigrant children’s trauma

NEW HAVEN — Connecticut lawyers who helped reunite two Central American children and their parents who were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border by federal authorities said Tuesday that their focus now is on ensuring the children get treatment for the trauma they suffered.

The 14-year-old girl from El Salvador and 9-year-old boy from Honduras were detained by a government contractor in Groton for more than a month before being reunited with their parents and released on Monday. It came after a federal judge ruled the separations unconstitutional Friday and the parents were granted parole during their deportation proceedings.

The ruling came in a lawsuit against federal government officials filed on behalf of the children by lawyers for Connecticut Legal Services and Yale Law School. Judge Victor Bolden also ruled the children's post-traumatic stress disorders must be addressed.

A hearing before Bolden in federal court in Bridgeport is scheduled Wednesday on plans to treat the children's post-traumatic stress disorder, which was diagnosed by a psychiatrist.

The girl and her mother and the boy and his father are staying at an undisclosed location in Connecticut.

"They're beginning the long process of recovery from the deep trauma that the Trump administration's so-called zero tolerance policy has inflicted upon them," Yale Law School professor Muneer Ahmad said at a news conference Tuesday.

Ahmad said the lawsuit is the first in the country brought by children, and not parents, to challenge the administration's now-abandoned policy of separating families at the border.

The parents of the two children are seeking asylum from violence in their home countries and will be trying to obtain permanent legal residency in the U.S., their lawyers said.

The federal government has said up to nearly 3,000 children have been separated at the border. Officials say they're working to reunite more than 2,500 children 5 and older before a July 26 court-ordered deadline. Dozens of children under 5 were brought together with their families last week under another deadline.

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said at the news conference that the federal government inflicted "cruel, cruel child abuse" on the separated children and called the Trump administration's zero-tolerance policy "political sadism."

The girl and her mother entered the U.S. in mid-May and were detained. Lawyers for the children say authorities separated them while the girl was brought to a shower.

The boy and his father crossed the border on June 11 and were detained. Authorities took the father away while the boy was sleeping, the lawyers said.