How Trump-Era Immigration Practices Led to Current Lawsuit Settlement Negotiations
Immigration continues to play out in our media. But some recent news offers possible financial relief for those families who were impacted by the Trump-era “zero-tolerance” practices that separated families at the border. Under those policies,
Border Patrol was tasked with charging and imprisoning parents for entering the United States illegally. Their children were removed from them and placed in shelters throughout the country.
The zero-tolerance practice of family separation was meant to be a deterrent for those considering coming to the United States illegally. Unfortunately, it also affected those who were here legally under our immigration and asylum laws.
Thousands of Children Removed From Their Families
During that time, approximately 5,500 children were separated from their parents as they faced criminal prosecution for illegal border crossing. But due to inadequate record-keeping and tracking systems, these families were separated for an extended period, at times not knowing where many of the children were or who they were with. Approximately 1,000 of these families have still not been reunited because parents have been deported.
Many of the lawsuits that have been filed have described significant mental health and psychological trauma for those children who were kept from their parents. The attorneys allege that the United States government, including the Department of Homeland Security, should compensate these families for their emotional distress and the harm done to them.
Lawyers representing some of these families, as well as attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union that has a parallel class-action lawsuit against the government, are now in negotiation for a settlement with the Biden administration to recover damages for these families.
Taking these cases to trial could be risky and unpredictable, given the rarity of these types of actions against the government.
Lawsuits and Emotional Distress
Can someone sue for emotional distress? Emotional distress is a type of mental suffering inflicted by another. While most people are familiar with a claim of emotional distress as part of another physical injury, the law recognizes emotional harm as a separate injury in itself. Historically, this has come to fruition over the years as we have developed a more comprehensive understanding of the harm and long-term consequences of mental and emotional injury.
Consequently, civil lawsuits can claim emotional distress independent from any other injury. In this case, however, the government is typically protected from civil claims because of the concept of sovereign immunity.
The Federal Tort Claims Act
In the case of these civil suits that are now negotiating settlement, many have been ongoing since five mothers and their children filed suit through the National Immigration Litigation Alliance in 2019 seeking compensation for the trauma they suffered under the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
This case was brought under the Federal Tort Claims Act that allows individuals to sue the federal government for injuries caused by the unlawful conduct of its employees.
Since then, there have been approximately 940 similar claims filed by families. In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union is also representing families in a parallel class-action lawsuit. A settlement is under negotiation at this time. Attorneys have suggested that a deal may be reached by the end of November.
How Difficult is it to Recover Damages for Emotional Distress?
While these cases being negotiated right now are extremely complex and filing suit against the federal government rare, seeking compensation for emotional distress is not impossible with the right evidence and legal counsel. While proving emotional distress can be more difficult than proving physical injury, there is a new greater understanding of psychological and emotional harm and modern science now offers recognized means for proving it.
If you have suffered emotional distress because of the negligent or intentional action of another, the skilled Las Vegas personal injury lawyers at LV Personal Injury can help. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case.