skip to main content

Paul, Weiss is committed to providing impactful pro bono legal assistance to individuals and organizations in need. Our program is all-encompassing, spanning the core issues facing our society.

Paul, Weiss Secures Significant Settlement for Family Separated at Border

Paul, Weiss, working with the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project and other pro bono partners, secured a settlement for a father and son who had been separated from each other by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials at the U.S.-Mexico border in November 2017. The plaintiffs asserted claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act for battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. After litigating the case for several years, and shortly after submitting cross-motions for summary judgment, the parties agreed to settle the case for a significant settlement amount in July.

In November 2017, shortly after crossing the border, the father and his then-three-year-old son were detained by Customs and Border Protection officials and transferred to ICE custody as a family unit. After several days in ICE custody near San Diego, ICE officials separated the child from his father based on purported doubts about the parental relationship. Paul, Weiss, the ACLU and other pro bono partners demonstrated that the separation was due to negligence by ICE and that ICE officials had no basis on which to doubt the familial relationship. Through depositions, we were able to show that ICE had in fact failed to follow its own policies on how to verify a familial relationship, including failing to conduct an interview with the family, and failing to send their identification papers to the local consulate for assessment.

Instead, ICE forcefully removed a three-year-old child from his father’s arms, as the child screamed, “Papi, don’t let them take me away!” After being separated, the child was sent to live with a foster family in Houston (with whom he had no previous relationship), while the father remained detained in an ICE facility near San Diego. Paul, Weiss and co-counsel were also able to show that, once ICE officials confirmed the parental relationship, the government took no action to reunify father and son. Finally, after more than two months living with a Texas foster family, the child was released to his mother’s custody. His father was finally released in January 2018, and the family is now living together in Miami.

The Paul, Weiss team included litigation partners Geoffrey Chepiga and Jacqueline Rubin, counsel Hallie Goldblatt and Steven Herzog, associates John Donnelly, Yoav Gaffney, Yoosun Koh, Tiffany Lo, Andrew Topal and Jing Yan, and senior staff attorney John Potamousis.

© 2024 Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP

Privacy Policy