Attorney General Underwood Files New Victim Declarations, Motion For Expedited Discovery In Family Separation Case

News from the New York Attorney General's Office

July 3, 2018

Attorney General's Office Press Office / 212-416-8060


New Declarations Include Stories of Parents and Children who were Separated – Including a Number of Children who were Taken to New York

NEW YORK – Today, New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood part of a coalition of 18 Attorneys General asked a federal judge to order the federal government to provide details about and access to victims of the Trump administration's family separation policy on an expedited schedule, part of a new filing in their lawsuit to block the policy. The Attorneys General also filed a total of 99 declarations from individuals, organizations, agencies, and experts impacted by the Trump administration's policy, including from parents and children who were separated. 

“It is inhumane, unconscionable, and illegal to keep these children separated from their families,” said Attorney General Underwood. “The stories detailed in our case make clear the irreparable trauma being caused to these children by the Trump administration’s policy, which also continues to harm New York’s fundamental interests in protecting families’ health, safety, and wellbeing. This policy is unconstitutional and we will continue to do everything in our power to stop it.

The filing includes declarations reflecting the stories of parents and children who were separated; at least some of those children were taken to New York. That includes Edy, a nine-year-old boy from Honduras who was separated from his mother in May 2018; while Edy's mother remained in federal custody in Texas, Edy was taken by bus to a federally-contracted program in New York City. It also includes Yolani Karina Padilla-Orellana, who was moved to a detention facility in Washington State while her son was transferred to a facility in New York.

The declarations also include statements from New York State and City agencies, as well as Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which has served children who were separated from their parents, and Robin Hood, which funds a number of early childhood development, immigration legal services, and nonprofit programs impacted by the policy.

Click here for Exhibit 1 , Exhibit 34 , and here to read the full declarations; a table of contents is available here. Click here to read the motion for expedited discovery.

As of last week, New York had confirmed that at least 321 children who have been separated from their parents at the southwestern border were residing in New York State, in the care of 11 different provider agencies. Staff at one voluntary agency informed local government officials that the ages of most children newly placed at their agency, many of whom were separated from family at the border, are between the ages of four and twelve. The youngest child was a nine-month-old baby, in addition to multiple not-yet-verbal toddlers.

The children whom the Trump administration have separated from their parents and sent to New York are suffering extreme trauma. For example, a South American boy who was separated from his father at the Mexican border was rushed to the hospital because he was about to jump out of the second-story window of the group home where he was sent in early June after being forcibly separated from his family; the distraught child verbalized that he wanted to jump because he missed his parents. Twelve other young immigrant children who were separated from their parents at the border have been treated for physical and mental illnesses at New York City hospitals. One child was suicidal and others were treated for depression and anxiety.

The motion for expedited discovery filed by the Attorneys General today is necessary because hundreds of separated parents are in federal custody and the Administration can move them to other facilities at any time without notice. The motion asks the court to order the federal government to cooperate in facilitating access to detained parents and to report to the court on the progress of such efforts.

If the judge grants the motion for expedited discovery, it will require the federal government to respond to the states’ requests for information on an accelerated timeline and to cooperate with state requests to interview parents in federal detention. Some states have faced procedural difficulties or been denied access to federal detention centers and other federal locations that house affected immigrants.

The lawsuit was originally filed last week by the Attorneys General of Washington, Massachusetts, California, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. 

“Families like Edy’s deserve better than the Trump administration’s inhumane and unconstitutional policy of separating a 9-year old from his mother,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio. “New York City stands up for the well-being of the immigrants and refugees who have come to our City for a better life. I have seen what is happening to these families up close, at the border and in New York – and it must end.”

“As one of the nation’s largest poverty-fighting organizations, Robin Hood cannot be silent on this issue,” said Wes Moore, CEO of Robin Hood. “The damage brought on to children by this policy is so great and long-lasting that we are compelled to raise our voice — something we, as a philanthropy, don’t always do on policy issues. Robin Hood fights poverty wherever it lives, investing $120 million per year, from supporting immigrant communities to focusing on early childhood development. We know just how detrimental to life and health separating refugee children from their families can be, and we must do everything in our power to stop it.”

"Through KIND's work representing unaccompanied children in legal proceedings, and from what we have seen recently due to the Trump Administration's new policies, it is evident that there is no consistent process for ensuring communication among separated children and their parents. These separations, in addition to inflicting trauma, make it harder for children to access evidence and information from their parents that may support their eligibility for legal relief and make it increasingly difficult to ensure that children receive adequate legal representation. We are proud to join the New York Attorney General's Office in support of State of Washington, et al. v. the United States of America to ensure that these children, who have often fled horrific violence, are not further traumatized by family separation," said Jennifer Podkul, Director of Policy at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND).