Federal authorities have released a Congolese woman seeking asylum with her daughter in the U.S. after she accused the Trump administration of unfairly separating immigrants like herself from their children, her lawyer said on Tuesday as quoted by Reuters.
The woman referred to in her lawsuit only as Ms. L, was “abruptly released” after she was detained in San Diego and her 7-year-old daughter was sent by federal authorities to Chicago four months ago, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.
“We hope that she’ll be reunited with her daughter immediately. And we will continue fighting this horrific nationwide practice because this mother is hardly the only asylum seeker who has had his or her child taken,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, who is representing the woman in court.
The ACLU said the woman had brought her daughter to the United States to escape violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The woman filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court Southern District of California on February 26, claiming that the Trump administration violated her constitutional due process rights, a federal law protecting asylum seekers and the government’s own directive to release asylum seekers, court documents showed.
According to Business Insider, people seeking asylum in the United States are interviewed by an asylum officer, and if they are found to have a credible fear of returning home, they can remain in the country to pursue their claims in immigration court.
Court challenges have led to limits on the amount of time children can be kept in immigration detention, and the government has often decided to release parents along with their children to await resolution of asylum cases.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has criticized the asylum process as rife with fraud. The administration has floated the idea of separating families at the border in an attempt to deter their migration.
“This is not a one-off case. We are hearing there are dozens if not hundreds of cases around the country. And the Administration is threatening to do even more family separation,” Gelernt said at the time the lawsuit was filed.
The Wall Street Journal adds that immigrant advocates said the suit was the first of what would likely be many challenges to the Trump administration’s decision to separate some immigrant parents and children. The practice isn’t a formal policy, though administration officials have said it is being considered as a way to keep immigrant families from trying to come to the U.S. illegally and applying for asylum. Officials with the Department of Homeland Security didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Immigrant families have been arriving at the border by the thousands since 2014, primarily due to violence in Central America. More than 260,000 such immigrants—mostly from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala—have been caught illegally crossing the Mexican border into the U.S. Most of them have sought asylum.
Since that first wave of families arrived, the federal government has tried to stem the flow with a variety of efforts. The Obama administration also opened a series of family detention centers to keep the immigrants jailed while their cases were decided. The immigration court system has more than 667,000 pending cases, meaning a final ruling in an asylum case could take several years.