D.A. v. United States

D.A., et al., v. United States of America, et al., No. 1:20-cv-03082 (N.D. Ill., filed May 22, 2020)

On the night of May 23, 2018, D.A. and A.A. entered the United States with their mother, Lucinda Padilla-Gonzales, seeking asylum from political violence in their native Honduras, along with other asylum seekers. Shortly after crossing the U.S. border, several U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers approached the group and arrested them. The CBP officers loaded the group into a van without offering them food or water. They insulted Lucinda and her children, calling them liars and telling them that they were tired of immigrants, and questioned their motives for coming to the United States. The CBP officers also told the group that they would all lose their children.

CBP officers took Lucinda and her children to the Ysleta Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas. The type of holding center they were taken to is commonly referred to by asylum seekers as a “hielera” (an “icebox,” in Spanish) because of the freezing cold temperatures. D.A. and A.A., who were still wet from crossing the river, were forced to sit, shivering, on concrete steps in the hielera. CBP officers did not give them any blankets or jackets to protect them from the cold while they waited. Though Lucinda had crutches for her injured leg, CBP officers confiscated them. The family remained in the hielera for approximately one and a half days, during which time CBP officers repeatedly insulted them.

On or around May 24, 2018, federal agents took Lucinda and told her that she was going to federal prison. The federal agents did not give Lucinda an opportunity to explain anything to D.A. and A.A., or hug and kiss them goodbye. As the federal agents took Lucinda away in handcuffs, fourteen-year-old D.A. and five-year-old A.A. screamed and cried for their mother through a plexiglass divider.

Lucinda and the children remained separated for almost three months. Both the mother and the children were mistreated in government custody, exacerbating the trauma of their separation. The family filed administrative claims for damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) to which the government failed to respond.

In this action, filed on May 22, 2020, the family seeks damages under the FTCA for the trauma they suffered and continue to suffer. They also brought claims against the government contractor responsible for the care and custody of the children, Heartland Alliance. The complaint alleges that the United States is liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, negligent supervision, conversion, abuse of process, and loss of consortium, and that Heartland Alliance is liable for breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, negligent supervision, and violation of the Rehabilitation Act.On September 30, 2020, Plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint. On October 16, 2020, both the federal Defendants and the Heartland Alliance Defendants separately moved to dismiss. Briefing was completed in December 2020. On May 18, 2021, Plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion to stay the proceedings for 60 days for the parties to pursue settlement. As such, the Court struck the motions to dismiss with leave to reinstate should settlement negotiations fail. On July 19, 2021, Plaintiffs and Defendant USA jointly requested that the stay be extended until September 17, 2021. However, Plaintiffs requested that the stay of their claims against Defendant Heartland Alliance be lifted and that Heartland Alliance’s pending motion to dismiss be reinstated.

Documents:

Counsel: Loevy & Loevy; Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project (ASAP)

 Contact: Conchita Cruz | (305) 484-9260 | conchita.cruz@asylumadvocacy.org