International Human Rights Body Condemns Family Separation Under Trump Administration’s Zero Tolerance Immigration Policy

Aug 21, 2018
1:04 PM

The following media released was shared on Tuesday morning:

(Via US Customs and Border Protection)

Alamo, Texas – Yesterday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) formally condemned the Trump administration’s family separation practice and ordered the immediate reunification of five parents and their young children who were separated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials (CBP) in South Texas and the suspension of any deportations of parents that may separate these families.

This is the first time the IACHR has ordered precautionary measures to protect the rights of separated immigrants as a family unit. The Resolution highlights the importance of the right to personal identity and family unity, as well as the irreparable harm that separations cause to families, especially children. The Commission noted that family separations “result in physical, mental, spiritual, moral, psychological, and social harm on the children, [which may be] long-lasting and irreversible,” and may constitute cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of migrant children under international law. As the Resolution notes, the administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy has violated and continues to violate the human rights of these five families and thousands of others.

Specifically, the IACHR directed the United States to:

  • Reunite the five separated families originally included in the Precautionary Measures Request to the IACHR in order to safeguard their rights to family life, personal integrity, and identity, and report on the progress within 10 days.
  • Provide immediate medical, psychological, and communications support to the separated families.
  • Reunite families where the parent was deported without the child, taking into account the child’s best interests.
  • Halt any immigration proceedings that may result in the separation of children from their parents.

In a landmark decision, the Inter-American Commission demanded the Trump administration reunite five separated families and reaffirmed the international condemnation of the family separation policy,” said Efrén C. Olivares, Racial and Economic Justice Director for the Texas Civil Rights Project. “The humanitarian crisis is not over, and this ruling highlights it. While a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunify all separated children with their parents by the end of last month, many remain apart. Parents have been deported without their children and hundreds more families are being incarcerated in family detention centers, which are immigrant prisons that traumatize children and parents even further. As the Trump administration continues to fail to remedy a crisis of its own making, the IACHR’s decision brings us one step closer to reuniting these families and holding the government accountable.”

“This decision from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights further affirms that the world is watching in horror at the actions taken by this administration, with its misguided and cruel family separation policy,” said Leah Chavla, Policy Advisor for the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission. “The Commission rightly recognizes that forcibly separating children from their families can have long-lasting, potentially irreversible damaging effects on the development and wellbeing of these children. This only underscores the need for the administration to reunify these families quickly and safely, while their claims for refugee status can be processed.”

“The Commission rightly censures the Trump administration’s forced separation of families,” according to Elissa Steglich, Clinical Professor at the University of Texas School of Law’s Immigration Clinic. “With rulings from both the US federal court and the IACHR directing reunification, the administration has no basis to continue to keep children from their parents.”

This ruling follows an Emergency Request for Precautionary Measures filed in late May by the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Women’s Refugee Commission, the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, and Garcia & Garcia Attorneys at Law, P.L.L.C. with the IACHR on behalf of five parents separated from their children at the United States-Mexico border as part of the zero-tolerance policy of systematic separation.

The organizations requested that the IACHR urgently adopt measures requiring the United States to stop the practice of separating families and reunite the petitioners with their children. Under the Commission’s Rules of Procedure, the Commission can adopt measures requiring Member States to take actions in cases of serious, urgent, and life-threatening human rights abuses.

Since the Emergency Request was submitted, TCRP has interviewed and represents 377 additional families separated at the Texas-Mexico border, and confirmed as of August 21:

  • At least one father was separated from his two-year-old daughter after the federal injunction and in violation of the administration’s own executive order.
  • Out of 382 parents separated from their children who TCRP represents, 187 families have been reunited and released, 30 more have been reunited but are being held in family detention facilities.
  • Of TCRP’s remaining clients, 17 families have not been reunited and many of them are still detained in adult detention facilities.
  • In addition, at least 13 of TCRP’s adult clients have been deported without their children and two children were deported without the parent from whom they were separated.
  • Lastly, 124 of TCRP’s clients are no longer in ICE custody, but there is no confirmation as to whether they were deported or released.
  • TCRP is currently matching as many of our clients as possible with pro bono counsel to represent separated families in their asylum and immigration cases.

Please see the full IACHR Resolution here.

Please see TCRP’s original emergency request here filed in May, the request from the IACHR for additional information here in June, and TCRP’s response here.

Read the stories of the original five petitioners below: