ASAP clients Suny Rodriguez and her minor son settled a first-of-its-kind federal lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for $125,000. The lawsuit sought monetary damages under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) for the mistreatment that Suny and her son suffered while imprisoned in border detention facilities, including inhumane conditions, threats of family separation, and coercive tactics pressuring them to abandon their legitimate asylum claims.
When asked why she decided to file this lawsuit, Suny said, “I decided to bring this lawsuit because I wanted to bring to light the injustices against asylum seekers – mothers and fathers who bring their children to the United States in search of safety. What happened to my family should never happen to anyone’s family. I hope that other families will see my case and no longer be scared to stand up and tell the public the truth about what goes on at the border.”
With Suny’s case as important precedent, ASAP plans to help more asylum-seeking families fight back, especially those who have been impacted by zero tolerance policies at the border such as family separation. ASAP and the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) formed a strategic partnership to bring cases on behalf of individuals who have suffered abuses in detention and who were separated from their families by the U.S. government, including monetary damages cases under the FTCA.
“We are in awe of Suny’s courage to challenge the mistreatment she and her family faced in detention and at the border,” said ASAP Co-Director Conchita Cruz. “Her victory has the power to serve as a blueprint for future lawsuits against CBP and ICE, and as a source of inspiration for families who want to hold the government accountable for the trauma, pain and suffering caused by inhumane immigration and border policies.”
Suny and her son were represented by ASAP, the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic (WIRAC) at Yale Law School, Elora Mukherjee of Columbia Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, and Gibbons P.C. For more information about the case, click here. And click here to read Sarah Stillman’s profile of Suny for the New Yorker.