A girl stands in the lobby of the Adelanto immigration detention center, in Adelanto, California, U.S., April 13, 2017.
© 2017 Reuters
Today, the UN’s human rights office denounced the US practice of separating children from their migrant and asylum seeker parents at the US border.
In response, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley bashed the organization, suggesting that the UN “ignorantly attack(ing)” the US was evidence of “hypocrisy.” While deflecting from the issue by pointing to the “reprehensible human rights records” of other countries sitting on the UN Human Rights Council, she added defiantly that “[n]either the United Nations nor anyone else will dictate how the United States upholds its borders.” But she misses the point.
Yes, the US does have a right to protect its borders – but not by trampling the rights of vulnerable families and children. The UN’s human rights office in Geneva, led by High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has an admirable track record of shining a spotlight on human rights abuses around the world, and it’s to their credit that they didn’t shy away from criticizing this US policy. Human rights don’t end at border zones, after all.
Since early May, the Trump administration has separated over 658 children from their parents at the US border, thanks in large part to its unjust and cruel new “zero tolerance” policy. This policy sends parents into detention and prosecutes them for the crime of entering the country illegally, while their children – including infants and toddlers – are taken into government custody separately and alone.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said the separations would be a “tough deterrent” for migrants coming to the United States, and today Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the policy a “legitimate” warning to people who might come to the United States with their children. These are truly shocking statements. A practice of tearing children apart from their parents to keep others from coming is abusive and completely indefensible.
“The US should immediately halt this practice of separating families,” the UN spokesperson said. We agree whole heartedly. Parents and children should be treated with dignity and be kept together.
Haley may be trying to deflect attention away from these cruel policies by attacking the UN, but the severity of the Trump administration’s approach is lost on no one.