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Judge refuses to rule on instant reunification of children and parents separated at the border

BRIDGEPORT —  A U.S. District Court judge in Bridgeport declined to make a ruling on instant reunification of parents and children who were separated at t...

BRIDGEPORT --  A U.S. District Court judge in Bridgeport declined to make a ruling on instant reunification of parents and children who were separated at the border.

The judge expressed his reluctancy.

He voiced questions of if instant reunification would set a legal precedent in regards to the 2,000 other children who are separated from their parents. He also questioned if instant reunification would undermine a recent California Court ruling that ordered the federal government to reunite all separated children and parents by July 26th.

Attorneys for the federal government said they believe the court does not have jurisdiction to make a ruling on instant reunification. Lawyers for the children argued it did under the rehabilitation act.

The government also provided further detail on their plan to reunify. They told the court they will bring all separated children to two detention facilities in Texas for the reunification and will provide VFB and JSR with priority reunification in what they called “the first wave,” which they are hopeful would be done before July 26th.

Lawyers for the children called this unacceptable.

“The government has come up with the only plan that is worse than no plan. The plan they have is to continue moving children like cattle to compound the trauma that has been done vulnerable children,” said Joshua Perry, the Deputy Director of Connecticut Legal Services.

“Today we learned that the government does plan to reunite the children, but inside of a detention center. This is not acceptable. They want to take the boy, JSR and the girl, VFB, to Texas, put them back on a plane and put them back inside of a jail. This is not a viable solution,” said Yale Law School student intern Hannah Schoen.

Lawyers for the children called one witness to testify. Andres Martin, M.D., a psychologist at Yale New Haven Hospital who diagnosed both children with PTSD during evaluations on July 1st.

During questioning, he recommended the instant reunification of the children and parents as the best means of treatment.

Government attorneys tried to poke holes in his testimony.

They asked him if reunification is not legally possible, could it be considered treatment for the children to go some place with a non-parent sponsor? They also questioned why Dr. Martin, admittedly — did not reach out to care providers at the NOANK group home where the children are being given care. Dr. Martin said their information would have been helpful to inform his diagnosis but ultimately would not have changed it.

Dr. Martin then described his conversations with JSR and VFB. In the case of JSR, the 9-year-old boy is from Honduras. He came with his father who he describes as his hero and protector. JSR initially ran away from doctors because he was scared. They eventually got him to speak with them after first discussing the World Cup soccer tournament.

JSR described being put in an ice box with other children who were cold and crying. JSR described seeing at least one of his grandparents bodies in a river with a neck wound. He said another body of someone he knew from the neighborhood was dumped in their backyard. The no claims gangs were trying to frame his father for murder.

He told Dr. Martin he was scared of the gangs.

JSR also survived at least one hurricane and several other traumas. Dr. Martin admitted that he expects some factual inaccuracies in JSR’s story but said it wouldn’t have changed his diagnosis of PTSD. He said JSR and VFB were both given two types of tests meant to measure trauma and they both scored very high.

JSR and VFB were not present in the courtroom.

Their parents listened through a video conference feed that kept glitching and slowing down the proceeding. Several issues involving microphones, static and not hearing questions created a challenge for court interpreters.

Prior to the court proceedings, there was a rally in support of the children outside of the courthouse where people held signs, chanted and sang songs. A small group of those protesters then went inside to listen to the proceeding.