K.O. and E.O. Jr., v. United States, No. 4:20-cv-12015 (D. Mass., filed Nov. 9, 2020)
Plaintiffs nine-year-old K.O. and her older brother, seventeen-year-old E.O. Jr., were forcibly separated by CBP agents from their mother upon entry to the United States, during the Trump administration’s “Zero Tolerance Policy.” Plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), among other federal agencies. The Plaintiffs allege claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, asserting common law claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, false arrest, assault and battery, negligent supervision, tortious interference with parent-child relationship, and loss of consortium.
On May 19, 2018, plaintiffs K.O. and E.O., along with their mother, entered the U.S. at the southern border to seek asylum from violence and persecution in Guatemala. They were apprehended by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agent and forcibly separated from their mother. The mother was never charged with a crime. CBP agents also called the father and told him his children were in custody, separate from their mother, and would be placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).
As the father began the ORR reunification process, the children were reunited and placed back into an ICE facility where they were detained in separate cells that faced each other. They spent two days there and were not allowed to speak with each other. They only had access to thermal blankets. Plaintiffs allege that there was no supervision, no support for children as young as two or three years of age, and the guards physically and verbally abused the children. After two days, ICE agents told the children their mother had been deported. The children were then transferred to ORR facilities in Michigan and were once again separated from each other. One child was placed in an ORR foster care home and the other was placed in an ORR group home. The children were eventually reunited with their father on June 19, 2018. Meanwhile, the mother remained detained in Texas and was unable to contact her husband. After she passed her credible fear interview, she was released on June 28, 2018. The children were separated from their father for 31 days, and their mother for 38 days.
Similarly, Plaintiff C.J., was eleven years old when CBP separated him from his father after travelling to the United States to seek asylum from persecution in Guatemala. They were separated for a total of 36 days. In addition to the trauma from the forcible separation, C.J. was assaulted by another child while he was detained in an ORR facility.
Plaintiffs seek damages and to establish a fund for the mental health treatment of all class members that were forcibly separated from their parents.
Plaintiffs filed their complaint on November 9, 2020. On February 28, 2022, Defendants filed a motion to transfer the case to Western District of Texas or in the alternative dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The district court held that change of venue was not warranted and denied the motion to transfer. The court also granted the motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part. All claims brought by the parents in their personal capacities were dismissed. Any claims of negligent supervision or negligence in causing the family separation were dismissed. All other claims remain.
Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on April 11, 2022. On May 10, 2022, Defendants filed a motion to transfer or alternatively a motion to dismiss the amended complaint. On January 9, 2023, the court reiterated its decision denying the transfer and granting and denying in part the motion to dismiss.
- Defendants’ Brief in Support of Motion to Transfer or Alternatively Dismiss the Complaint
- Amended Complaint
- Order Denying the Motion to Transfer, Granting in part and Denying in Part the Motion to Dismiss
Counsel: Todd & Weld LLP, Demissie & Church, The Law Offices of Jeff Goldman, Nixon Peabody LLP, Lawyers for Civil Rights
Contact: Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, Lawyers for Civil Rights, firstname.lastname@example.org