Stop the US “zero tolerance” immigration policy harmful to children and their families!

published 1 October 2018 updated 23 October 2018

Education International has endorsed the complaint lodged by United States (US) trade unions concerning the US “zero tolerance” immigration policy systematically and forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents, for the purposes of prosecuting parents for “illegal entry” in the country.

EI:Human Rights Council should urge the US Government to immediately revoke its policy of separating families of asylum seekers

“Education International is writing to you to formally join the complaint of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA) and 14 other human rights organisations to the Human Rights Council exposing the “zero tolerance” immigration policy of the US Government,” writes EI General Secretary David Edwards in a letter to United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet dated 26 September.

Edwards further reminds that often no communication happens between parents and children following their separation; they do not know where to find each other or when they will be reunited. Once separated, parents risk being deported while their children remain in federal custody.

According to AFT, more than 2500 asylum-seeking children have been separated from their parents along the border between the United States and Mexico; 500 of them remain in detention centres. Over 450 parents have been deported without any knowledge of their children’s whereabouts.

This policy has resulted in a cruel and inhumane abuse against vulnerable families and their children, that can be assimilated in some aspects to a form of torture. Separating families causes grave and potentially irreparable harm to children and parents; it may inflict long-term trauma and psychological distress on the children. It should be rescinded immediately.

As demonstrated by AFT in their complaint to the Human Rights Council, the US Administration immigration policy constitutes a grave violation of multiple internationally recognised human rights and tramples the principles of numerous international rights treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Convention Against Torture, the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders.

“We call upon the Human Rights Council to urge the US Government to immediately revoke its policy of separating families of asylum seekers,” Edwards concludes.

US unions: consistent patterns of gross and reliably attested violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms

The complaint procedure by US trade unions and civil society organisations (CSOs)addresses consistent patterns of gross and reliably attestedviolations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The United States has been systematically and forcibly separating immigrant childrenfrom their parents under a “zero tolerance” policy announced by Attorney GeneralSessions on 6 April, theactivist organisations noted. The policy calls for the prosecution of 100 percent of individualswho enter the United States unauthorized. Parents seeking asylum and humanitarian legalprotections in the United States between ports of entry on the border between the UnitedStates and Mexico with their children are referred for prosecution, their children aretaken from them and placed in the custody of a the Office of Refugee Resettlement, anagency within the Department of Health and Human Services, in group shelters, fostercare settings, or, in some cases, detention centers.

The US unions and CSOs reminded that the Trump Administration contemplated the pernicious scheme of separating childrenfrom parents in its early days. Then Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly announcedin March 2017 that he was “considering” separating Central American children fromparents when apprehended at the border “in order to deter more movement along thisterribly dangerous network. I am considering exactly that. They will be well cared for aswe deal with their parents.”

Thecomplaint also goes on indicating that the issue is being exacerbated by the fact that detention facilities for children are running out of space to shelter children who have been separated, according to two U.S. officialsand a report by NBC News. For example, on 15 June, the administration opened a “tent city” inTornillo, Texas, to house children separated from their parents.Also devastating for the trade unions and CSOs is the fact that, as of June 3rd, nearly 300 of the 550 children currently in custody at U.S. border stationsintended as only the first stop for children detained at the border – prior to transfer toOffice of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) –had spent more than 72 hours there.