Lawsuit Seeking Damages on Behalf of Four-Year-Old U.S. Citizen Wrongly Detained and Returned to Guatemala

Lawsuit Seeking Damages on Behalf of Four-Year-Old U.S. Citizen Wrongly Detained and Returned to Guatemala

Leonel Ruiz o/b/o E.R. v. U.S., No. 1:13-cv-01241 (E.D.N.Y. settled Jun. 2015)

STATUS:
Closed

In March 2013, the American Immigration Council and Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton, later joined by the Legal Aid Justice Center, filed a lawsuit alleging that CBP officers at Dulles Airport in Virginia unlawfully detained a U.S. citizen child for more than twenty hours, deprived her of contact with her parents, and then effectively deported her to Guatemala. The case was one of ten complaints filed the same week to highlight CBP abuses along the northern and southern borders. --According to the Complaint, the girl was returning home from Guatemala when her flight was diverted from New York to Dulles due to inclement weather. CBP agents directed the girl’s grandfather, with whom she was traveling, to secondary inspection due to an issue with his immigration papers. CBP detained the girl with her grandfather for the next 20 plus hours, gave her only a cookie and soda, and provided her nowhere to nap other than the cold floor. -- Despite the grandfather’s repeated requests that CBP let him contact the girl’s parents in New York, they refused to do so. Some fourteen hours after CBP had detained the child, a CBP officer finally contacted the girl’s father, initially promising to put her on a plane to New York. But hours later, CBP again contacted the father, and this time claimed that the girl could not be returned to “illegals.” CBP gave the father one hour to choose between sending her to Guatemala or to an “adoption center” in Virginia. Fearing that he would otherwise lose custody of his daughter, the father decided that the only viable option was for her to go back to Guatemala. The lawsuit, filed by the child’s father on her behalf, seeks damages pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for the harm she suffered. -- The government moved to dismiss the case on the basis that the actions of the CBP officers fell within the discretionary function exception under the FTCA and also on the basis that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim. In a decision issued on September 18, 2014, the court found in no uncertain terms that the CBP officers’ actions did not fall within the discretionary function exception and that their treatment of the girl violated the settlement agreement in Flores v. Reno regarding the detention of minors and CBP policies promulgated to comply with that agreement. The court granted the government’s request for a change of venue. -- In June 2015, the parties settled the case, with the government agreeing to pay the girl $32,500.00

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July 2, 2015

Some say the wheels of justice turn slowly; however, when justice is finally delivered it is sweet. After more than two years of litigation, the U.S. government has agreed to settle a lawsuit...

July 2, 2015

Some say the wheels of justice turn slowly; however, when justice is finally delivered it is sweet. After more than two years of litigation, the U.S. government has agreed to settle a lawsuit...

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