The UN’s statement makes clear that separating kids from their parents at the border is a human rights violation
The United Nations Human Rights Office has called on the United States to “immediately halt” its cruel policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. The UN states that there’s “nothing normal about detaining children.”
A statement released today from spokeswoman for the UN high commissioner for refugees, Ravina Shamdasani, outlines everything wrong with the Trump administration’s increasingly enforced policy of separating kids from their parents at the U.S. and Mexico border.
Shamdasani says the policy “led to people caught entering the country irregularly being subjected to criminal prosecution and having their children — including extremely young children — taken away from them as a result.”
“The use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles,” she says. “The child’s best interest should always come first, including over migration management objectives or other administrative concerns. It is therefore of great concern that in the US, migration control appears to have been prioritised over the effective care and protection of migrant children.”
The UN says the policy is “arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life” and “a serious violation of the rights of the child.”
In April, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave direction for all instances of illegal border crossings to be prosecuted. The new “zero tolerance” policy has resulted in hundreds of migrant kids being separated from their parents and sent to border stations, according to NBC News. As of this past Sunday, almost 300 of the 550 migrant kids currently in custody at U.S. border stations had been there long enough to exceed the 72-hour time limit for immigrants of any age to be held in the temporary facilities at the border.
Almost half of those 300 kids are under the age of 12.
The stations are run by border patrol and by no means equipped for the longterm housing and care of children. Greg Chen, director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association says, “It would be highly inappropriate and even unsafe to hold children for extended periods in these short-term border facilities because they often lack the adequate medical and nutritional resources for these young people. It would place these children at risk of harm if they are housed with adults without the proper privacy that children should have.”
Currently, US Health and Human Services, the country’s agency responsible for sheltering unaccompanied migrant children for the longterm, has 11,200 unaccompanied children in their care with it taking an average of 45 days to find a sponsor for a child to stay with until their parents’ immigration status is sorted out.
Peter Boogaard, a former DHS and White House official in the Obama administration and currently a spokesman for immigration reform group FWD.us says these children having nowhere to go and being away from their parents is not entirely the fault of HSS. He says the agency wasn’t given enough warning to prepare for the children’s arrival. “What’s happening now is a broad indication of a total lack of planning or forethought for the policy they enacted,” he tells NBC. “They didn’t think this through at all — what it would mean for kids, for their parents and for the operational challenges.”
The UN is clear with their stance on this issue. “The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalizing what should be at most an administrative offense: That of irregular entry and stay in the U.S..”
“We call on US authorities to adopt non-custodial alternatives that allow children to remain with their families and fulfill the best interests of the child, their right to liberty and their right to family life.”