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Salvadoran immigrant mom sues US to be reunited with baby who needs to breastfeed

Weeks after a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to bring families separated at the border back ...

Posted: Aug 18, 2018 9:37 AM
Updated: Aug 18, 2018 9:37 AM

Weeks after a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to bring families separated at the border back together, a Salvadoran woman has filed a federal lawsuit in Washington asking to be reunited with her infant daughter who needs to be breastfed.

Leydi Duenas-Claros also seeks a halt to her deportation proceedings and wants the government to reconsider her denied asylum claim.

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"We are waiting to go before a judge and will be able to comment more at a later time," said Claudia O'Brien, an attorney for Duenas.

Duenas was set to be deported on Thursday, but O'Brien was told the proceedings were postponed.

In May, Duenas, 30, came to the United States with her then-11-month-old daughter, one of her five children who by birth are US citizens, to seek asylum, the lawsuit says. They were separated after she and her child crossed the border.

"(The mother) has suffered, and continues to suffer, extreme anguish and trauma due to the forcible separation from her infant child -- a baby so young that she was breastfeeding prior to the separation," the lawsuit says.

The suit says the forced separation impacted Duenas' ability to prepare for asylum proceedings. She said that during her credible fear interview she didn't give the government all the information about threats to her family from an MS-13 gang member because she worried he would find out.

She was denied asylum in late July.

Despite the President signing an executive order in June to stop family separations, mother and daughter have yet to be reunited, the court document says.

In July, a federal judge in California ordered the US government to temporarily pause deportations of reunited families to allow attorneys time to debate whether the judge should more permanently extend that order.

Duenas said she fled from El Salvador because she fears her brother-in-law will kill her and her daughter, according to the lawsuit. She is at a detention facility in Pearsall, Texas, and her daughter is in Houston. According to court filings, her other children, who returned to the United States one day before their mother, are with a caregiver.

Duenas had taken her family to El Salvador after years of living in Houston because their home burned down in October and she had nowhere to live, court documents say.

Nina Pruneda, a spokeswoman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency cannot comment because the case is being litigated.

The lawsuit was filed in the federal court in the District of Columbia.

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