Five years after being separated under Trump’s 2017 Family Separation pilot program, our client “Ana” and her father have finally been reunited in the United States! Ana was just two years old and non-verbal when she and her father entered the US. After the pair was detained, Ana’s father – her sole living parent – was suddenly separated from the young child and subsequently deported, leaving Ana afraid and alone. At the time, Ana only understood the Indigenous language of her Guatemalan community, and once her father was taken away, there was no one to explain to her what was happening. Although Ana’s grandmother lived in Florida at the time, the government sent Ana to live in foster homes for about five months before finally uniting her with her grandmother.
That’s when we stepped in. AI Justice’s Children’s Legal Program represented Ana, by that time three years old, to fight her deportation. There is no right to free legal representation in immigration proceedings, even for babies and children like Ana. Without AI Justice’s free legal services, Ana would have faced a government attorney alone in her deportation proceedings before an immigration judge. The situation was so unique and troubling that during Ana’s initial hearing before an immigration judge, the judge appeared to be taken aback by the child’s age and at a loss of how best to move forward with the case. The cruel, dehumanizing effects of family separation were abundantly clear.
Because she was so young, she was unable to articulate a fear or basis for an asylum case. Our expert attorneys had to act fast, and thanks to their hard work, we were able to get Ana’s case terminated in August 2019, halting her deportation proceedings. In February 2021, our Litigation Program filed a Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) lawsuit seeking justice on behalf of Ana for the trauma and lasting harm of family separation.
Finally, in April 2022, after five long years of separation, Ana’s father has been allowed to enter the United States and is reunited with Ana. Thanks to the work of AI Justice’s Litigation Program, working together with the ACLU and the administration’s Family Reunification Task Force, they will be allowed to remain together in the US. We are so happy that the family can be together once again!