A Guatemalan mother who crossed the border illegally in May with her 7-year-old son has sued the Trump administration, accusing officials of forcibly taking away her child as punishment for coming to the U.S. to seek asylum, the Arizona Republic reports. In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in Washington, D.C.’s federal court, Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia describes being taken to a holding cell with her son after being apprehended by Border Patrol agents on May 19 near San Luis, Az., The 39-year-old woman told the agents she was escaping severe violence in Guatemala and death threats, including threats by her husband against her and her son. Two days later, men in green uniforms told her they needed to take her son but would not tell her why.
The boy was “screaming and crying” as the agents took the boy away, even though Mejia demanded an explanation, the lawsuit says. Mejia said she was taken to a detention facility in Eloy, Az., and was released on June 15 after passing an interview showing “credible fear” of being harmed if she returned to her home country. More than four weeks after they were separated, Mejia said she has not been told the exact whereabouts of her son, only that he is being held at a shelter for migrant children somewhere in Phoenix. It appears to be the first lawsuit filed by a parent separated from a child under a zero-tolerance border policy that the Trump administration defends as necessary to deter illegal immigration despite an explosion of criticism that the policy is cruel and traumatizes parents and children. This month, a federal judge in San Diego allowed to go forward a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union challenging the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from parents at the border.