Guatemalan migrant alleges officers mockingly said 'Happy Mother's Day' before they separated her from 8-year-old daughter

Getty Images/Spencer PlattA Honduran child plays at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center after recently crossing the US-Mexico border with his father on June 21, 2018 in McAllen, Texas.
  • An emergency lawsuit to reunite a Guatemalan woman with her 8-year-old daughter was filed by the ACLU and two law firms.
  • The two were separated after they illegally crossed the US-Mexico border to seek asylum in the US.
  • The mother alleged that before she and her daughter were sent to different detention facilities, one of the guards mocked her circumstance.
  • “In an act of unmitigated cruelty, when Ms. Gonzalez-Garcia was told that her daughter would be taken from her, an officer said, ‘Happy Mother’s Day,'” the lawsuit alleges.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts (ACLU) and two Boston law firms filed an emergency lawsuit to reunite a Guatemalan woman with her 8-year-old daughter, after they were forcibly separated when they illegally crossed the US-Mexico border.

In the court filing, 31-year-old Angelica Rebeca Gonzalez-Garcia claims that before she and her daughter were sent to different detention facilities, one of the guards mocked her circumstance.

“On May 11, 2018, without being provided any justification, mother and daughter were forcibly separated as a consequence of the government’s policy and practice of family separation at the southern US border,” the lawsuit said.

“In an act of unmitigated cruelty, when Ms. Gonzalez-Garcia was told that her daughter would be taken from her, an officer said, ‘Happy Mother’s Day.'”

Mother’s Day was on May 12, one day after the alleged incident.

“One of the officers asked me ‘In Guatemala do they celebrate Mother’s Day?'” Gonzalez-Garcia said. “When I answered yes he said, ‘Then Happy Mother’s Day.”

“I lowered my head so that my daughter would not see the tears forming in my eyes,” the lawsuit continued. “That particular act of cruelty astonished me then as it does now. I could not understand why they hated me so much, or wanted to hurt me so much.”

Gonzalez-Garcia was eventually sent to Colorado, while her daughter was sent to a shelter in Texas. Gonzalez-Garcia was released by an immigration judge pending her asylum case, and is now residing in Massachusetts but has not been reunited with her daughter.

“I’m desperate. I’m pleading. I want my daughter back with me,” Gonzalez-Garcia, who had slept in the same room as her daughter since she was born, said at the ACLU’s offices. “She’s a little girl. She hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Her attorneys argue the separation violated due process rights and the Constitution’s equal protection guarantees.

“They’re being separated for most evil, bureaucratic reasons,” attorney Susan Church said, according to The Associated Press. “This is a life altering traumatic event. Every day that goes by without these two reunited is adding to the trauma of this child.”

The lawsuit claims Gonzalez-Garcia’s is fearful and has suffered a high fever in detention, and has been left bruised from an injury by another detained child.

The incident marks another concerning case following the President Donald Trump’s executive order that ended the policy of separating migrant families but did not order currently separated families to be reunited.

“We are going to keep the families together,” Trump said as he signed the order last week. “I didn’t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.”

Federal agencies and the White House were criticised in the days leading up to Trump’s order. The family separations were a result of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which criminally prosecuted migrants who cross the US-Mexico border and separated them from their children.

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