National News

She got her son back after suing the Trump administration

Posted June 21, 2018 11:04 p.m. EDT

— A Guatemalan immigrant who sued top Trump administration officials over her family's separation reunited with her son early Friday after a month apart.

Beata Mariana de Jesus Mejia-Mejia's 7-year-old son, Darwin, arrived at Baltimore Washington International Airport on a flight from Phoenix early Friday.

The reunion was captured on a livestream from Libre by Nexus, an immigration bond company.

His arrival came days after his mother filed a lawsuit against several government agencies and top Trump administration officials, asking a judge to order authorities to release her son.

Mejia, 38, accused US officials of violating her rights when they took Darwin from her at an Arizona immigrant holding facility in mid-May.

Lawyers announced in court Thursday that an agreement had been reached just minutes before a hearing in the high-profile case was to start.

Even as they celebrated what appeared to be a victory, members of Mejia's legal team said their fight wasn't over as long as immigrant parents and kids remained separated as a result of the Trump administration's policies.

"This child is not the only child," attorney Mario Williams said. "There's thousands of children similarly situated we have to do something about."

'A knife in your chest'

Mejia told CNN this week that she'd been trying to learn her son's whereabouts for weeks. But no one had given her a clear answer.

"It's not fair for a mother," she said. "It's like they're putting a knife in your chest and killing you."

Meija's case isn't the only lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's months-long practice of separating kids and parents at the border, but it appears to be the first filed by an individual since officials announced their controversial "zero tolerance" policy.

On Wednesday a group of detained immigrants filed a similar lawsuit asking a federal court to reunite them with their children. And the ACLU has filed a class action lawsuit over family separations.

In an executive order Wednesday, Trump said he was reversing course and would be moving toward keeping families together in detention rather than splitting them up. But it's unclear how the executive order could affect families who were already separated. Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have said they're awaiting guidance.

Seeking damages

Mejia says she and her son came to the United States seeking asylum, fleeing death threats and domestic violence from her husband in Guatemala. They crossed the border May 19 near San Luis, Arizona, according to the lawsuit, and were immediately approached by Border Patrol agents and taken into custody.

Mejia says she never expected officials would take Darwin from her. The day they did, she says, they offered no explanation. They simply called his name, took him away and wouldn't answer any questions, she says.

According to the lawsuit, when officials took away her son, "he was screaming and crying and did not want to be taken away from his mother."

The HHS Administration for Children and Families, which runs shelters that house unaccompanied minors and children separated from their parents, hasn't responded to a request for comment on Mejia's son's case.

The Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and US Customs and Border Protection declined to comment, citing their policy of not discussing pending litigation.

Mejia was released from custody June 15 after Libre by Nexus paid her $12,500 bond. A legal division of the company is representing her in court.

During their separation, the mother says she tried repeatedly to call the number officials gave her to track down her son. It rang and rang, she says, but most of the time, no one answered.

On Wednesday evening, she was able to get through. She told her son the ordeal would be over soon.

Standing outside the courthouse Thursday, she told reporters she's starting to plan for their life in the United States. She wants to buy Darwin a soccer ball and a bicycle. And she'll keep fighting for him.

Her goal, now that he'll soon be back by her side: to give him a good education.