“Mom, when are you coming to get me? Please come now!”

Racial Justice

Massachusetts-Based Mother Separated From 9-Year Old Son At Border Sues Federal Officials To Secure His Release

Texas Facility Holding Child Probes Mother’s Religious Beliefs And Practices To Determine If She Is Fit To “Sponsor” Own Son

On Friday, June 29, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, the Brazilian Worker Center, and WilmerHale, the international law firm, filed an emergency complaint to reunite a 9 year-old boy who was forcibly separated from his mother by federal government officials at the U.S. border. The child – currently held in a facility in Texas – has been separated from his mother for 30 days. Officials at the facility where he is being detained have interviewed his mother to determine if she is fit to “sponsor” her own child, including questioning her about her religious beliefs and practices. The complaint was filed after federal officials refused to release the child despite recent legal developments at the national level requiring family reunification.

The mother and child, identified in court papers as W.R. and A.R., surrendered themselves to immigration officials on the U.S. border and immediately explained that they were fleeing Brazil after enduring a harrowing campaign of domestic violence at the hands of an abusive husband. The mother sought refuge in the U.S. after her husband threatened her life and tried to entangle their child in drug activity.

Once in custody, mother and child were immediately separated.

“My son was ripped from my arms, and I was transferred from detention facility to detention facility. I have not seen my son since that day. My life has become a nightmare,” said W.R.

Since being released, the mother has tried contacting her son, but the phone numbers change frequently. “Sometimes, I am allowed to talk to him, but sometimes I am not,” said W.R. When they manage to speak, their phone calls are closely monitored. Officials would not even confirm the name or location of the facility where the 9 year-old boy was being held until counsel intervened on the mother’s behalf.

As the complaint notes, federal officials physically transferred the son to a facility in Texas where he was subjected to medical examinations and immigration interrogations – all without the mother’s involvement or consent.

In her attempts to be reunited with her child, authorities have referred to the mother as the “sponsor” of an “unaccompanied child” – not a parent. The mother’s religious beliefs and practices have also been improperly and unlawfully examined. The first questions the government-contracted case worker asked were about the mother’s religion and religious practices. Specifically, the case worker asked whether the mother was Christian and attended church.

“Family unity lies at the heart of our American values. We will not stand idly by as the federal government tears immigrant families apart and sows fear and uncertainty in immigrant communities,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, the Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice.

“This story can be heard countless times in Boston and across the country as mothers continue to be released without their children. These missing children need to be immediately reunited with their parents. The federal government must respect the rights of immigrants,” said Natalicia Tracy, the Executive Director of the Brazilian Worker Center.

“The treatment that this family faced after fleeing for their lives and seeking asylum in the United States is horrendous,” said Jocelyn Keider, attorney at WilmerHale and counsel for W.R.

“Perhaps even more troubling is the official response. The government has actively kept our client’s son from her and has treated her as a stranger rather than as his mother. The government’s actions are a violation of her basic human rights. We hope this lawsuit spurs action on the part of the courts and results in our client’s son being immediately returned to his mother,” said Lucy Heenan Ewins, attorney at WilmerHale and counsel for W.R.

This lawsuit is designed to compel the federal government to immediately return this minor child to the arms of his mother. The complaint was filed in Federal Court in Boston along with an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.

Learn more about the 9 year-old boy’s separation from his mother:

WR Affidavit iso TRO and PI

The mother’s federal court complaint is available here:

AS FILED Complaint