What to Know
- Scores of children separated from their families were sent to government-contracted shelters or foster care hundreds of miles away.
- A judge ruled the federal government's separation of two children currently housed in Connecticut from their parents is unconstitutional.
- Under court order, the Trump administration is scrambling to reunite migrant families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The legal team that sued the federal government on behalf of two Central American children brought to Connecticut held a news conference Tuesday to celebrate the judge’s ruling that led to the family reunifications on Monday.
The two families are making up for lost time together after being separated weeks ago at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, the attorneys from Connecticut Legal Services and the Yale Law School Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic said.
“They had a lot to express, there was a lot of feeling in that room,” Connecticut Legal Services Deputy Director Joshua Perry said of the moments after Monday afternoon’s reunifications.
Perry described driving on the highway with the 14-year-old girl from El Salvador and her mother. They had been separated for more than two months.
"Her mother looked out at the green hills of Connecticut took a deep breath and said it is beautiful to be free,” Perry said in his opening remarks.
A 9-year-old boy from Honduras also reunited with his father Monday afternoon after Immigration and Customs Enforcement granted parole for both of the plaintiff’s parents.
“The fact that they’re all at liberty now increases the chances of their ability with assistance of counsel to obtain a kind of relief that will be lasting,” said Muneer Ahmad from the Yale Law School Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic.
Gov. Dannel Malloy took aim at the Trump administration as he joined the attorneys in support of their legal victory. He said the administration’s actions violate the 1951 treaty relating to the status of refugees.
“This is a government that has made it impossible or nearly impossible for thousands of individuals to seek that status and then blames them for not having that status,” Gov. Malloy said.
The federal lawsuit from July 2 to challenge the Trump administration’s so-called “zero-tolerance” border crossing policy was the first brought on behalf of children separated from their parents. Attorneys said the significance of U.S. District Court Judge Victor Bolden’s decision from last Friday that found the policy unconstitutional is that it was the first to recognize the rights of the children, not just the parents.
“Each of the nearly 3,000 children separated from their parents including our two clients have rights that can and must be defended,” Ahmad said.
The legal team applauded Bolden for recognizing each day apart harmed the children.
“And the legal remedy must be a trauma informed one that privileges children’s healing above all else,” Ahmad added.
The families are still figuring out whether they will stay in Connecticut, the attorneys said.
“Kids belong with their parents, people fleeing persecution deserve protection, children should not be held in cages, families belong together,” Ahmad said, concluding his prepared remarks.
The attorneys have a conference call Tuesday afternoon with the court and representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s office to discuss the next steps and whether a hearing scheduled before the family reunifications will happen Wednesday morning in Bridgeport.
NBC Connecticut investigates was first to report that a child separated from parents at the border was staying at the Noank Community Support Services.