For Immediate Release
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) voices grave concern over an announcement today by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Justice Department will begin prosecuting everyone who crosses the southwest border into the United States and separating parents and children crossing the border – a policy change which characterizes those fleeing persecution as criminal offenders and parents bringing their children to safety as smugglers.
Kathryn Hampton, PHR’s asylum network program officer, warns that the move will split up vulnerable families and violate U.S. commitments under international law.
“The ‘zero-tolerance’ measure announced today will lead to more families being separated and to children – who are already traumatized and fleeing violence – being further injured, emotionally and potentially physically, because of the abrupt way in which they are removed from their family unit and the inappropriate conditions in which they are subsequently detained.
“Customary international law requires states to ensure that the best interests of children are at the heart of all policies and practices affecting minors. Children have the right to be cared for by their parents, not to be separated from parents against their will, and to be heard in procedures concerning them. Moreover, family unity is recognized in refugee law and migration law as an essential human right – even after families have crossed international borders.
“The Trump administration’s attempt to covertly embark on a new border policy which literally tears children out of their mother’s arms is hidden under the guise of deterring smugglers and traffickers. In fact, such a policy could incentivize desperate migrants who are fearful of being accused of smuggling to send their children alone across the border – further jeopardizing those children’s safety and well-being.”
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.