The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights slammed the United States’ recently enacted zero-tolerance immigration policy that separates migrant families in detention, arguing “the child’s best interest should always come first, including over migration management objectives or other administrative concerns.”
The Trump administration has defended the separation policy as a necessary deterrent, but the UN body countered that “the use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles.”
“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,” said Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “While the rights of children are generally held in high regard in the US, it 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.”
Shamdasani called on the U.S. to “immediately” halt the practice and “adopt non-custodial alternatives” to handle undocumented migrant families.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley rejected the criticism from Zeid’s office.
“Once again, the United Nations shows its hypocrisy by calling out the United States while it ignores the reprehensible human rights records of several members of its own Human Rights Council,” Haley said. “While the High Commissioner’s office ignorantly attacks the United States with words, the United States leads the world with its actions, like providing more humanitarian assistance to global conflicts than any other nation.”
The New York Times reported in April that, over a period of six months, about 700 children were taken from undocumented migrants who had claimed to be their parents.
The American Civil Liberties Union told the NYT that since April the pace of separations has accelerated sharply. Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the group’s immigrant rights project, told the newspaper that nearly 1,000 children may have been taken from their families since April.
U.S. security officials have denied that they separate families at the border while being criticized by President Trump for failing to do more to curb the numbers of migrants crossing the border, according to the NYT.