In a press briefing on June 5,, Ravina Shamdasani, representative for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on the US to halt its recently mandated practice of detaining undocumented migrants and separating them from their children. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month announced a "zero tolerance" policy on illegal border crossings, with prosecution of all apprehended. "The practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child," Shamdasani said. "Children should never be detained for reasons related to their own or their parents' migration status. Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation."
Shamdasani notes that the US is the only country in the world not to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. "We encourage it to accede to the Convention and to fully respect the rights of all children," she stated. (Jurist, NYT)
While the government has not disclosed how many children have been separated from their parents as a result of the new policy, the Department of Health and Human Services said May 29 that it had 10,773 migrant children in its custody, up from 8,886 on April 29. A Customs and Border Protection official testified at a Senate committee hearing the previous week that 638 adults were referred for prosecution between May 6 and May 19 under the new zero-tolerance effort and that they brought 658 children with them. Parents who arrive with children are placed in federal detention facilities, while their children are sent to HHS shelters. Those shelters are now at 95% capacity, and HHS is preparing to add potentially thousands of new bed spaces in the coming weeks. HHS also is exploring the possibility of housing children on military bases. (WaPo, May 29)
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