TPHS alumnus files lawsuit at University of Chicago

Fernando Stepensky (‘15), a third-year law student at the Immigrant’s Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, is representing father and son Selvin Argueta Caal and Selvin Argueta Najera in a lawsuit against the United States Government surrounding the pair’s two-year separation — triggered by the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy — at the Mexico-U.S. border.

The father and son from Guatemala were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018 under former President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration enforcement policy.

While an executive order issued by President Joe Biden in 2021 rescinded Trump’s policy and worked to reunite separated families, the physiological and psychological effects of their separation still linger, the lawsuit claims.

When Selvin Sr. and Selvin Jr. sought asylum in the U.S. along the Texas border after fleeing Guatemalan gangs, they were unaware of the “traumatic and dehumanizing experience” they would live through for the next two years in addition to their grueling journey, according to Stepensky.

“It was incredibly difficult to meet with them and talk about essentially the most traumatizing moments of their lives, over and over again,” Stepensky said.

Stepensky, acting as a student-attorney, joined the case after seeing coverage of separated families at the U.S.-Mexican border.

“When the news was coming out about the zero-tolerance policy, I thought it was absolutely horrible [and] absolutely unnecessary,” Stepensky said.

Stepensky, who worked as a sports editor on The Falconer during his time at TPHS, recounted his years on the staff as nurturing his interest for current events.

“Being on The Falconer with [Mia Boardman Smith], I became a lot more passionate about social justice issues,”

Stepensky said. “I think a lot of the reason that I went to law school came from my passion for journalism.”

Stepensky will graduate in June and plans to pursue a career as a lawyer.

Read on Issuu.

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