After an episode described as both cruel and horrific, an asylum-seeking mother and her daughter were reunited this month in Chicago. The daughter, who just turned 7, had been held thousands of miles apart from her mother since November.
According to an American Civil Liberties Union attorney representing the family, the mother and child fell into each other’s arms crying in a moment of tremendous emotion upon meeting after so much time apart.
Ms. L., from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, spoke: “It has been such a painful time. I am so grateful to be with my daughter again. I want to thank all the people who supported me and my daughter.”
The two had fled the DRC with a “credible fear” of returning home,” according to their ACLU attorney. After successfully presenting all the required documents, immigration officials decided to jail the woman on the mistaken belief that the girl wasn’t her child.
But there were no allegations of abuse or neglect, the mother’s detention was never explained and no DNA test was done at the time to confirm that S.S. was Ms. L.’s child. Only after the lawsuit and pressure from the Chicago Tribune and other news organizations was the mother released from the facility in San Diego. Only after the lawsuit and media coverage was a DNA test performed, a test that confirmed the two are mother and child.
At a rally in downtown Chicago, Lee Gelernt of the ACLU Immigrant Rights Project. said the ACLU believes the Trump administration is intentionally separating asylum-seeking families to deter other asylum seekers from coming to America. The ACLU has filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that hundreds of families like Ms. L. and S.S. have been separated, including a Brazilian mother and child, with the mother being held in Texas and the 14-year-old boy detained in Chicago.
“That is a horrific, horrific thing, and we need to stop it,” Gelernt said. “This is just the start. We’ve expanded our lawsuit because we have seen that hundreds of little kids are sitting apart from their families.”