The top United Nations official for Human Rights is calling on Washington to end the practice of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” said Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, Monday.
Nearly 2,000 children were taken from their families over a six-week period in April and May as part of a new “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.
CGTN’s Jessica Stone reports.
The enforcement policy prosecutes illegal immigrants as criminals, which rarely happened before. Under U.S. law, children can’t be jailed. So, when U.S. Marshals take parents into custody, their children get placed with relatives, or held in juvenile detentions centers or even foster care.
There is no U.S. law that orders children separated from their families.
U.S. President Donald Trump has defended the policy, and he called on the opposition party to help pass legislation toughening the nation’s immigration laws.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility. Won’t be. You look at what’s happening in Europe. You look at what’s happening in other places; we cannot allow that to happen to the United States. Not on my watch,” said Trump.
Trump has not acknowledged that he has the power to waive the criminal prosecutions that are tearing immigrant families apart at the U.S. border. And now, he is losing support within his own party.
Every living U.S. First Lady has taken a public stance against the separations. Over the weekend, Laura Bush, wife of former president George W. Bush wrote an editorial in The Washington Post, opposing the separations.
“I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our national boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”
Michelle Obama tweeted her support: “Sometimes truth transcends party.”
Hillary Clinton also tweeted, saying: “We should be a better country than one that tears families apart, turns a blind eye to women fleeing domestic violence, and treats frightened children as a means to a political end.”
Rosslyn Carter, wife of 39th U.S. President Jimmy Carter said: “The practice and policy today of removing children from their parents’ care at our border with Mexico is disgraceful and a shame to our country.”
Even the current First Lady has raised questions. On Sunday, Melania Trump issued a statement through her spokeswoman.
“Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families.” The first lady called on Republicans and Democrats to find a solution. “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart,” the statement said.
Opposition lawmaker Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas said: “No one here is arguing for bad guys to be allowed into the United States.” Lee is arguing instead against a practice that the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics calls “government-sanctioned child abuse.
“We are fighting to the very end for children who are snatched away from their families,” Lee said.
Administration officials remain unconvinced. U.S. Department of Homeland Security Director, Kirsten Nielsen told a conference, Monday, that releasing parents with their children amounts to a “get out of jail free card” policy for those in the country illegally.
Jessi Calzado Esponda on the trauma of migrant children separated from family
CGTN’s Elaine Reyes spoke with Jessi Calzado Esponda who is the CEO of Cuba Inspires and president of the Refugee Alliance’s Washington office.
She delved into her own experience as a migrant child and the trauma that children at the border face.