The father of a seven-year-old Guatemalan boy with heart failure was hoping to find a more stable life in the United States. Instead, he lost custody of his son, and was unable to protect him while he was molested in a foster home several states away.
The Associated Press and PBS’ FRONTLINE reported Friday that the father is now suing the Trump administration, arguing its “zero tolerance” policy of separating immigrant children from parents resulted in his son being molested.
After the father’s home was burned down by local government authorities in Guatemala, the man took his son — who was suffering from heart failure — to the U.S. in May of 2018 an attempt to seek asylum and get his son the life-saving treatment he needed. Instead, the boy was separated from his father and sent to the Cayuga Centers foster home in Brooklyn, New York, which gets funding from the U.S. government for housing nearly 1,000 immigrant children. The boy told counselors he was sexually molested by other boys at the foster home.
In the meantime, the boy’s father was sent to a detention facility in Georgia, multiple states away from his son.
“How is it possible that my son was suffering these things?” the boy’s father told the AP and PBS. “My son is little and couldn’t defend himself.”
According to the original report, the boy and his father are one of 38 plaintiffs suing the Trump administration — specifically the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Homeland Security (DHS), and Health and Human Services (HHS) — arguing that its policy of child separation led to the boy being molested. while DOJ and DHS did not comment, HHS spokesman Mark Weber said the agency has an “experienced team of competent, hardworking men and women dedicated to the welfare of the children.”
“We treat the children in our care with dignity and respect,” Weber said.
Even though a federal court ordered an end to the child separation policy in July of 2018, an HHS Inspector General report found in 2019 that more than 100 children were still separated from their parents between July and November of 2018. Prior to Kirstjen Nielsen resigning as DHS Secretary earlier this year, the New York Times reported that President Trump pushed her to continue separating immigrant children from their parents in spite of the court order.
(Featured image: Fibonacci Blue/Creative Commons)
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.