(CN) – Parents separated from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border were coerced by border officials into giving up their claims for asylum and other legal protections with the promise that they would see their children again sooner, the American Civil Liberties Union alleged in a second amended complaint filed on Tuesday in federal court.
More than 2,000 kids have been separated from parents facing illegal immigration charges and sent to states across the country due to President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance immigration policy.
The ACLU filed the class action in February, challenging the government’s separation of families seeking asylum and was brought forth on behalf of Mrs. L, a Congolese mother and her 7-year-old daughter who were separated thousands of miles for months after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in San Diego.
Now in their second amended complaint, the ACLU says U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents use fear tactics to coerce parents with the promise of being reunited with their children.
“The government is also using the trauma of separation to coerce parents into giving up their asylum and protection claims in order to be reunited with their children,” according to the complaint filed federal court.
Reunifying families is still up in the air as well, the ACLU said.
In their complaint, the ACLU said the June 20, 2018 executive order claimed family separations would end and the Department of Homeland Security was directed to keep families together during any pending “criminal improper entry or immigration proceedings.”
But they allege the executive order does not contain plans for reunifying the families who were separated before June 20 and does not say how the federal government will return separated children to their parents who have already been deported.
The DHS was ordered to separate families when it was necessary to protect the child’s welfare, but the executive order did not set out how that standard would be applied, the ACLU said.
“In prior cases, the government has applied that standard in a manner that is inconsistent with the child’s best interest, including in Ms. L’s case,” according to the lawsuit.
The civil rights organization is asking the court to stop the federal government from deporting asylum seekers until they are reunited with their children.
On June 26, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered U.S. authorities to reunite families separated at the U.S. border within 30 days.
A July 3 status conference is set to determine if the court will need to implement and enforce the provisions of the June 26 order, including communication between federal agencies to track separated families.