In a decision legal experts described as “pathbreaking,” a federal judge in Los Angeles has ruled that the U.S. government must furnish and pay for mental health counseling for immigrant families traumatized when they were separated at the border by federal agents.
According to the New York Times, the decision by U.S. District Judge John A. Kronstadt, issued late Tuesday, will force the government to immediately provide mental health screening services to immigrants across the country affected by the Trump administration policy of separating the adults and children of immigrants caught trying to cross into the United States illegally.
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California Berkeley School of Law, described the decision as “groundbreaking” in an interview with the Times. Carl Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond, who specializes in federal courts, called it “pathbreaking.”
“The court is recognizing that when a government creates a danger that inflicts trauma, the government is responsible for providing a solution,” Chemerinsky said. “It is not something I have seen a court do before.”
The judge’s ruling holds the Trump administration accountable for what the Times called the “enduring psychological harm” of separating parents from their children at the border.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs, a Guatemalan woman separated from her teenage daughter in May 2018, said the separation policy violated the families’ constitutional rights. “Cruelty cannot be part of an enforcement policy, and here it was the cornerstone of the policy,” said Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer with Public Counsel.
Unless appealed, the preliminary injunction will require the government to pay for mental health services to the thousands of affected immigrants no matter where they are in the country for, perhaps, years to come, the Times reports.