On this dayJun 05, 2018

U.S. Policy Separating Migrant Families Denounced by United Nations

Image |  Stringer, Reuters

On June 5, 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Office decried the practice of separating children from migrant families entering the United States. The UNHRO was responding to findings that U.S. authorities had separated several hundred children, including infants and toddlers, from their parents or other family members while implementing a "zero-tolerance" policy that required the criminal prosecution of any undocumented immigrant discovered crossing the U.S.-Mexican border at an unauthorized location.

Under Article 3 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, the best interest of the child must be paramount to other policy considerations. The United States is the only country in the world that has refused to ratify the UNCRC, but remains impacted by its standards and the positions of the United Nations.

Child psychologists and neuroscientists have described the severe trauma children experience when separated from their families. Moreover, court documents from litigation related to family separation detail stories of young children crying in cages and exhibiting symptoms of significant trauma even after being reunited with their loved ones. A 17-year-old detainee described the treatment of a two-year-old who had been separated from her mother: “No one was helping her. The guards treat her like any other older kid. They call her name and expect her to get in line.”

Soon after the large-scale family separations began, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit to challenge the practice. On June 29th, a federal court granted an injunction and ordered the federal government to reunite more than 2,600 children separated from their families. Progress toward compliance with that order was slow, however, hampered by inefficient, poorly planned systems, incomplete record-keeping, and seeming indifference on the part of federal agencies. “The government deported hundreds of parents without their children,” ACLU officials explained, “without a plan for how they would ever be found.” Months after the court's initial deadline, dozens of children remained detained, facing significant legal obstacles to release and reunification.

In June 2018, the U.S. also announced that it would be withdrawing its membership from the U.N.’s Human Rights Council in protest after the Council issued a report concluding that American policy had driven forty million Americans into poverty and left five million people surviving amid “absolute desperation.”

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