RAICES, Arent Fox, and Aldea PJC File Suit Against Detention Center Company for Forcefully Re-Separating Immigrant Families

NEW YORK – RAICES, Arent Fox LLP, and Aldea PJC have filed suit in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas on behalf of a group of 26 plaintiffs – 13 noncitizen children and their 13 noncitizen fathers – who fled life-threatening violence in their home countries to seek asylum in the United States.

In June 2018 the US District Court for the Southern District of California issued a nationwide preliminary injunction prohibiting the US Department of Homeland Security from separating families and requiring reunification of those families previously separated. Plaintiffs were initially separated by the Department of Homeland Security, reunified pursuant to the court order, and detained at the Karnes Detention Center in Karnes City, Texas, run by the defendant The GEO Group, Inc. Federal contractors, such as the private prison company GEO Group, manage and operate detention centers where people are held indefinitely pending resolution of their immigration claims.

Two months after the federal court injunction, and in direct violation of that order, GEO sanctioned the unlawful re-separation of these 13 children from their fathers. With no prior notice, GEO permitted armed men to forcibly remove the fathers from their rooms at the Karnes Detention Center by using bulletproof vests, shields, knee pads, boots, helmets, tear gas equipment, and guns. GEO then loaded the fathers – without their children – onto buses and transported them to the South Texas Detention Complex that GEO also operates in Pearsall, Texas, nearly two hours away. Fathers screamed and cried loudly for their children. Others vomited blood and shook uncontrollably. Because GEO told the fathers that they would never see their sons again and all of the circumstances appeared to confirm it, one father attempted suicide.

GEO refused to inform the fathers where they were being taken, why they were again being separated from their children, where their children were located, whether their children were safe, and who would care for them. GEO also told the fathers that they would be deported without their children, that their children would be adopted by families living in the United States, and that they would never again see their children.

“GEO’s actions caused the fathers and their children to suffer great distress, trauma, and anguish,” said Arent Fox Partner Julius A. Rousseau, III. “GEO’s actions caused the fathers to reasonably believe that they would be indefinitely detained and that they would never see their children again. Today, we seek relief for the trauma these families experienced and continue to experience.”

“GEO intentionally traumatized families who came to the United States seeking refuge. These brave families seek justice and accountability for the atrocious actions conducted by The GEO Group, Inc., a private prison company,” said RAICES Director of Litigation, Manoj Govindaiah.

“When GEO received these fathers and children, they did so fully aware of the deep traumatization these families experienced as a result of their initial separation. They knew the separation was illegal. They knew these children were extremely fragile, and their fear of permanent separation was still very real. Then GEO violently separated them again, showing callous disregard for the law and the families’ mental and physical health. GEO’s conduct will have a lifelong impact on these families. They must be held accountable,” said Bridget Cambria, Executive Director of Aldea PJC.

Plaintiffs are seeking a trial by jury to address all claims raised in the lawsuit and relief for compensatory damages, including for emotional distress, psychological trauma, and mental anguish. The plaintiffs are represented by RAICES, Arent Fox LLP, and Aldea PJC.

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