Three undocumented migrant mothers filed a lawsuit Tuesday against President Donald Trump's administration, demanding to be reunited with the daughters they were forcibly separated from after crossing the Mexican border to seek asylum.
The complaint was lodged in a Los Angeles court on behalf of the mothers by the legal aid center Public Counsel and the law firm Sidley Austin LLP, denouncing the "inhumane" practice of forced separations as "cruel and unnecessary."
"Every minute that these children continue to be held in detention and separated from their parents, the emotional harm builds," said Mark Rosenbaum, director of Public Counsel.
"What these children are experiencing is unconscionable and contrary to who we are as a people. We are asking the court to demand that the government address the harm they have deliberately inflicted."
Public Counsel has coordinated its complaint with similar lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego and another lodged in Seattle.
The separations are part of Trump's "zero tolerance" border campaign.
The suit demanded the immediate reunification of the mothers, who are being held in California and Washington state, with their daughters, who are in detention in Texas and Arizona.
The complaint also demanded that the families be released and granted "mental health services for themselves and their children appropriate to address the trauma of separation."
The advocacy group said that one of the women, identified only as 37-year-old J.P, was being held in a detention center run by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency in Irvine, California, while her 16-year-old daughter L.P. was held in Texas.
It said that after being detained, mother and daughter were kept "in a cold, windowless room alongside other detainees. There were no beds, showers or private toilets, and the lights were on 24 hours a day. Ms P and L.P. were fed nothing but lukewarm soup for three or four days."
The complaint added that the daughter "recalls witnessing other children forcibly taken from their parents, and seeing a mother being physically restrained by guards as her son was taken away. Guards at the facility taunted mothers, saying: 'If you're such a good mother why would you bring your child here?'"
ICE did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A dozen other states have said they intend to file complaints against the federal government's actions.
A Honduran child and her mother, fleeing poverty and violence in their home country, wait along a border bridge after being denied entry from Mexico into the US on June 25, 2018 in Brownsville, Texas