Separated migrant families demand millions from US agencies


HOUSTON (AP) — Eight immigrant families demanded millions of dollars in damages today from the Trump administration for separating them, including a Guatemalan woman who alleged an officer said her 5-year-old son would be taken and then taunted, "Happy Mother's Day."

In claims filed with the U.S. government today, the parents accused immigration officers of taking their children away without giving them information and sometimes mocking them or denying them a chance to say goodbye.

The claims allege many children remain traumatized even after being reunited with their parents, including a 7-year-old girl who won't sleep without her mother and a 6-year-old boy who is reluctant to eat.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.

The Trump administration has acknowledged it separated more than 2,000 families last year through the implementation of a zero-tolerance policy intended to crack down on Central American migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. Government watchdogs have also said it's unclear how many families were separated in total because agencies did not keep good enough records as the policy was implemented.

In her claim , the Guatemalan woman alleges she was detained in May with her son in a type of temporary detention facility nicknamed a "hielera," or icebox in Spanish. The immigration officer who taunted her and three other women told them the law had changed, that their children would be taken away, and that they would be deported, the claim alleges.

The woman says another immigration officer woke her up at about 5 a.m. days later, ordered her to bathe and clothe her son, and then took her son into another room. The woman says she begged not to have her son taken, then asked that the two be deported together to Guatemala rather than separated. Her son only spoke the indigenous Guatemalan language of Mam.

"The officer laughed," the claim says. "He made fun of her indigenous accent and said, laughingly, 'it's not that easy.'"

They were reunited in July, but then placed in a family detention center. They were released in November.

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