United States District Court, D. Connecticut
J.S.R., by and through his next friends J.S.G. and Joshua Perry, and V.F.B., by and through her next friends A.B.A. and Joshua Perry, Plaintiffs,
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, III, et al., Defendants.
RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY
A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
5, 2018, J.S.R. and V.F.B. (“Plaintiffs”), two
children, who were separated from their parents after
crossing this country's southern border, filed a motion
for preliminary injunction against numerous federal
government officials and entities (collectively
“Defendants” or the “Government”),
seeking an Order that would “(1) enjoin Defendants
from continuing to detain Plaintiffs J.S.R. or V.F.B.,
maintaining their separation from their parents, or delaying
release to suitable sponsors; and (2) after parent and child
confer, order Defendants to release J.S.R. and V.F.B. by
July 13, 2018 to a suitable sponsor or to reunite with their
respective parents, as directed by the Plaintiffs.”
Mot. for TRO at 1, ECF No. 17; Mot. for TRO at 1, ECF No. 43.
Defendants opposed the motion. ECF No. 46. The Court held a
hearing on July 11, 2018. ECF No. 52.
following reasons, the motion for a preliminary injunction is
GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.
as all parties have, that the constitutional rights of J.S.R.
and V.F.B. have been violated, and that irreparable harm has
occurred as a result, the motion for a preliminary injunction
is GRANTED and relief directed towards the
effects of the constitutional violation suffered by these
minor children, namely trauma or more precisely,
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), shall be
upcoming hearing on Wednesday, July 18, 2018 at 11:00
a.m., each party shall present a plan for addressing
the children's PTSD not only up to and including family
reunification, but also after it. Their respective parents,
J.S.G. and A.B.A., are ordered to be at this hearing and the
Court therefore will issue writs of habeas corpus ad
testificandum to ensure their availability for
testimony, to the extent warranted.
extent that J.S.R. and V.F.B. seek immediate reunification
with their respective parents, the motion for a preliminary
injunction is DENIED. As further discussed
below, such relief is being addressed by another court.
Indeed, these parents are class members and therefore parties
in that other case and any such relief should be obtained in
and through that proceeding.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Andrés Martin, M.D., M.P.H., a child psychiatrist with
“more than twenty years of experience interviewing,
assessing, and treating vulnerable children, including
survivors of trauma, ” testified before the Court on
July 11th. See Decl. of Andrés
Martin (“Martin Decl.”), Mot. for TRO, ECF No.
17-5 (listing numerous credentials and publications). Dr.
Martin, a professor of child psychiatry at the Child Study
Center at Yale University School of Medicine, is also the
Medical Director of the children's Psychiatric Inpatient
Service at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, a
sixteen-bed in-patient unit for children under age fourteen
with serious psychopathology. The Court found him to be
qualified as an expert in child psychiatry.
Martin and a team of child psychologists interviewed J.S.R.
and V.F.B. in Spanish on July 1, 2018. Using two standardized
instruments, they diagnosed both children with post-traumatic
stress disorder (“PTSD”). The following facts are
based on Dr. Martin's testimony and other information
submitted by the parties. No. other witnesses were called at
the hearing, although the Court considered the various
affidavits and other documents submitted by the parties.
Martin testified that J.S.R., a nine-year-old boy, fled with
his father from Honduras after his grandparents were murdered
and the body of a family friend was left in his backyard.
While in Honduras, J.S.R. had witnessed gang violence,
including witnessing his grandmother dead, with her body
tossed in a river and her neck split open. He also saw the
dead body of someone he knew from his neighborhood dropped in
his backyard. That second murder was blamed on his father by
gang members who had made repeated threats to his father. Dr.
Martin reported that, as far as J.S.R. knew, his father was
being framed for the murder.
has a strong and loving bond and relationship with his
father, whom J.S.R. identifies as the key protector and role
model in his life. While the two were traveling, his father
would find work so that he could bring home food for J.S.R.,
and J.S.R. reported to Dr. Martin that there would be times
when his father did not eat so that J.S.R. could eat. Dr.
Martin explained that the trip from Honduras to Texas was not
itself a particularly traumatic event for J.S.R.; it was
long, arduous, hot, and there was hunger, but it was not
and his father arrived in Hidalgo, Texas, and were confined
in freezing conditions-J.S.R. described being held in an
“ice box” or “freezer”-and were
eventually transferred to an immigration detention center.
J.S.R. described to Dr. Martin being puzzled and surprised by
the last time that he saw his father. He explained being told
that his father was going to sign some paperwork and that he
would be right back, but he never returned.
to Dr. Martin's testimony, J.S.R. experienced being kept
in a windowless cage with other young children for
approximately four days while he was being transferred to the
custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement
(“ORR”). He is now with Noank Community Support
Services, Inc. (“Noank”), in Groton, Connecticut.
His father is now located at a detention center in Texas.
Before the filing of this lawsuit, J.S.R. had spoken with his
father two times over the three weeks at Noank.
Martin reported that J.S.R. does not sleep well, does not
trust adults, and is depressed and tearful. He is terrified
of the prospect of returning to Honduras, because of his fear
of gang violence there and the harm that could befall his
father or his family.
Martin successfully employed two standardized instruments
commonly used for a diagnosis of PTSD with J.S.R. The first,
the trauma health questionnaire (“THQ”), is a
list of a wide array of potentially traumatic events. J.S.R.
scored 14 out of a total of 23 points on that scale. The
second, the childhood post-traumatic stress symptom scale,
quantifies the symptoms of PTSD and has a maximum score of
51, with a score of 15 or higher qualifying a child for a
diagnosis of PTSD. According to Dr. Martin, J.S.R. scored 38,
which Dr. Martin described as an extraordinarily high score.
Dr. Martin testified that J.S.R. has a full-blown acute PTSD
symptomatology, on top of a chronic, traumatic background,
resulting in a more pronounced trauma.
to Dr. Martin, V.F.B., a fourteen-year-old girl, fled with
her mother from El Salvador after her step-father was killed
by a gang. They entered the United States mid-May 2018, and
reportedly were held in freezing conditions near the border
while they awaited removal proceedings.
Martin observed that V.F.B. has a close-knit relationship
with her mother. She has learned crafting skills from her
mother, and they have survived together through the murder of
V.F.B.'s step-father and an arduous trek from El Salvador
to Texas. Dr. Martin explained that, like J.S.R.'s
journey, V.F.B.'s trip itself was not especially
traumatic; the separation from her mother, however, did
result in considerable trauma.
at the detention center, V.F.B. went to take a shower. When
she returned, her mother was gone.
16, 2018, the Government transferred V.F.B. to ORR custody
and detained her in Noank. Her mother is in a detention
center in Texas. During the six weeks preceding this
litigation, V.F.B. had spoken with her mother once. She has
since had more contact.
1, 2018, Dr. Martin's team interviewed V.F.B. and found
her affect to be blunt and flat. Uncomfortable talking about
the material, she would hide her face behind her arm or shy
away from the interviewer. During the interview, she cried
team attempted to apply the same two standardized instruments
with V.F.B. On the childhood post-traumatic stress symptom
scale, V.F.B. scored 21 out of 51. A score of 15 or above is
considered consistent with PTSD. The team had more difficulty
using the trauma health questionnaire because V.F.B. had
difficulty answering many questions and often avoided them.
Dr. Martin considered her so distressed that she did not
understand certain simple concepts and therefore could not
answer the questions coherently.
Martin expressed grave concern for the children if they are
not reunited with their families, and he testified that there
likely will be both short-term and long-term physical and
mental health consequences for the children. He explained
that symptoms of trauma, including sleeplessness, depression,
anxiety, tearfulness, and hopelessness, will not remit on
their own, and that the children are at risk for mental
health consequences, including higher rates of depression,
anxiety, symptoms of PTSD, substance abuse disorders, and
more. They are also at a higher risk of physical conditions,
such as cardio-vascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Martin recommended that the most important remedy for both
children would be to take away the traumatic stressor,
J.S.R.'s separation from his father and V.F.B.'s
separation from her mother. Dr. Martin also recommended that
they be reunified in a non-stressful environment, where they
could have freedom of movement, space, safety, and access to
schools. He also recommended that the children have ongoing
trauma-informed psychotherapy and care. He expressed that the
timing of the reunification mattered: that the children had
already been separated from their parents too long, and that
every day adds to the gravity of their situation.
2, 2018, J.S.R. and V.F.B. each filed Complaints and
petitions for habeas corpus. Compl., ECF No. 1. Each
plaintiff also filed a motion for a hearing. ECF No. 8. On
July 3, 2018, the Court granted the ...