A family of asylum-seekers were reunited yesterday, after they were separated as a result of a Trump administration policy that has led to widespread chaos and suffering at the southern United States border. After the government agreed to settle an ACLU lawsuit, a father and young son are now safely in Massachusetts with their family.
While Maudy Constanza and her two daughters were screened and released into the U.S. after presenting compelling asylum claims, her partner and their son—both of whom arrived at the border shortly thereafter—were forcibly returned to Mexico while their cases were processed. Under what was dubbed the “Migrant Protection Protocols” by the Trump administration, Hanz Morales and their young son were forced to walk across a bridge from the U.S. and into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, a place where migrants are actively hunted by cartels. Morales begged U.S. authorities not to do this, but border agents told him that, unless he and his son crossed the bridge, the federal government would separate them indefinitely.
After returning involuntarily to Mexico, the father and son spent several days in extremely perilous conditions, surviving an attempted kidnapping, and going hungry when it was too dangerous to go out to buy food. While they eventually found shelter farther from the border, they continued to live mostly in hiding.
“I feel tremendous happiness,” said Morales. “I am very happy to be with my wife and my daughters, and I feel safe because I am in a safe country with all of my family. This is a great blessing that God has made possible.”
“We are thrilled that this family has been reunited after nearly seven months apart,” said Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. “This Trump administration policy is one of many meant to separate families and inflict pain on those who seek our protection. No family should be forced to go through that, yet many are facing that same trauma right now. The ACLU remains committed to ending this policy once and for all.”
In January 2020, the ACLU of Massachusetts brought a federal lawsuit to reunite Constanza, Morales, and their children, all of whom fled Central America for their lives and sought protection in the United States. Under the Trump administration’s forced Return to Mexico policy, nearly 60,000 asylum-seekers have been stranded in dangerous cities along the U.S.-Mexico border, waiting for court dates in an asylum system that the Trump administration is seeking to dismantle. Far from providing “protection” for migrants and asylum-seekers, this unprecedented policy has exposed people to severe risk of violence and persecution.
“Removal from the Migrant Protocol was critical to our clients’ safety and we are encouraged by the results of this important case,” said Kirsten Mayer, litigation & enforcement partner at Ropes & Gray, who is working on the matter pro bono. “My team is thrilled to have supported the great work of the ACLU here.”
“This reunion is bittersweet because this family never should have had to endure this separation and heartbreak,” said Susan Church, co-counsel and Constanza’s immigration lawyer. “Although we are overjoyed to see them reunited, many more people are still suffering under this dangerous asylum ban.”
In addition to the ACLU of Massachusetts lawsuit, the ACLU and the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties have filed lawsuits against the policy.