UN to US: halt migrant child separation policy

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)

Sessions: stop granting asylum to victims of gang violence

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a decision June 11 calling for immigration judges to adopt a narrower interpretation of "membership in a particular social group" when deciding whether to grant asylum to undocumented immigrants. This interpretation would deny most asylum seekers who are victims of domestic abuse and gang violence.

The Immigration and Nationality Act gives the Attorney General the authority \to grant asylum when an immigrant faces persecution in their home country on the basis of "race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion." In his opinion, Sessions recognized that the Board of Immigration Appeals had granted asylum to groups such as "married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship" in the past, but Sessions overruled such decisions determining that the Board had applied the incorrect standard in review of such cases. (Jurist)

UN rights chief condemns US migrant child separation policy

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a June 18 statement criticized the US policy of separating immigrant children from their parents. The commissioner cited the American Association of Pediatrics, which called the policy "government-sanctioned child abuse." (Jurist)