Central American mother and daughter reunited at the US airport. Photo credit: Anonymous.SEATTLE, April 7th (IPS) – “A crime against humanity” and “a shame for our great country”: Such is the 99-year-old Benjamin Ferencz, the last surviving Nazi prosecutor in the Nuremberg war. Crime trials marked the forced separation of thousands of immigrant children by the Donald Trump administration from parents seeking asylum.
Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, cited a statement from the American Association of Pediatrics that the policy of family separation is a form of “government sanctioned child abuse” that causes “irreparable harm” with “lifelong consequences.” could ”. He added, “The idea that any state would try to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is incomprehensible.”
A report by Doctors for Human Rights now raises questions about criminal liability and accountability that flow from politics. And it points to possible avenues to justice for both victims and perpetrators.
“You Will Never See Your Child Again” – The Persistent Psychological Effects of Family Separation “makes the case that US immigration officials’ separation of immigrant children from their parents constitutes torture and enforced disappearance.
To examine the families’ experiences, PHR clinicians conducted psychological examinations on a sample of asylum seekers from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who had been forced to separate for an average of more than 60 days by US immigration authorities.
They found that before leaving Central America, all families had already been “trauma” because “targeted acts of violence” occurred primarily as a result of gang activity. All parents feared for their children and believed that traveling to the United States would offer them protection.
When the families arrived in the US, treatment by the US government made the pain worse. “Parents reported that immigration authorities forcibly removed children from their parents’ arms, removed parents while their children were sleeping, or the children simply” disappeared “while their parents were in courtrooms or receiving medical care.” Almost all parents said they received no explanation as to why their children were being taken away, where they were being held, or whether they would be reunited.
Mental health diagnoses by medical experts showed that almost all victims had post-traumatic stress disorder and many also met diagnostic criteria for major depression or generalized anxiety disorder.
Citing the United Nations Convention Against Torture, PHR stated that “the treatment of asylum seekers by the US government through its family segregation policy is cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and results in torture in all cases assessed by PHR experts . “It noted that” the policy and practice of family segregation is also an enforced disappearance that occurs when state agents hide the fate or whereabouts of a person deprived of liberty. ”
The report comes to the conclusion that the US government is obliged according to national and international standards to “compensate victims of torture and ill-treatment, including in the form of rehabilitation services; Ensure the families of disappeared children learn the truth about the whereabouts of their family members by providing adequate government funding to ensure timely reunification of all separated families, including deported parents. and prosecute US officials for breaking the law. “The document ends with detailed recommendations to the Biden Administration and Congress for policy changes to achieve these and other goals.
Physicians for Human Rights executive director Donna McKay said in a statement that families who have endured this treatment should receive “legal residency in the United States” as well as ongoing psychiatric care and “reimbursement in financial compensation.” as recommended in the report. She called on the new Minister of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, to keep his promise that the Family Reunification Task Force proposed by President Joseph Biden would explore “lawful avenues” for separated families to become citizens. And she called for “accountability for the perpetrators of family separation policies”. PHR is a New York-based non-governmental organization that was awarded the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
According to the PHR report, 5,512 children were forcibly separated from their families by border guards between 2017 and 2019. Of the 1,556 children who were separated between July 1, 2017 and June 26, 2018, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, 207, or 13.3 percent, were under the age of 5.
In 2018, the ACLU filed a successful lawsuit, Ms. L v. ICE, in which a federal court found the practice unconstitutional and called on the government to reunite all separated families.
But even now the damage continues. As of January 2021, more than 611 of the forcibly separated children had not yet been reunited with their parents, according to the ACLU. Lee Gelernt, associate director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said Trump administration officials continued to withhold delayed or critical data and provided outdated contact information even after the ruling in the Ms. L. v. ICE case. As a result, some children have been separated from their parents for almost two years.
Learned in an email informed me that the organization currently has a class action lawsuit pending in Arizona against people responsible for family separation.
Family values and barbed wire
However, the full scope of the family segregation is much broader than just the one that Trump forcibly tore apart. It also includes the many immigrant children and parents already living in the United States who have been separated by deportations, detentions, and other forms of persecution aimed at immigration status during the three previous administrations. For example, many of the hundreds of thousands deported after raids by immigration and customs authorities were parents whose children were left behind, sometimes without a breadwinner.
Since the Trump administration began, the restrictive policies have also harmed thousands of other children seeking asylum alone or staying with their families. Many who have already entered the asylum procedure have been detained for long periods in poor conditions. Tens of thousands of others had to wait for their court dates in dangerous camps in the Mexican border area. Thousands more were prevented from applying for asylum at all by “measuring” asylum applications, leading asylum seekers to put their names on long, unofficial lists and wait in Mexico to even turn to border officials. Many others were excluded from border crossings through unofficial and later official shutdowns.
Much of this blitzkrieg against immigrants has been harshly criticized by international human rights officials. Michelle Bachelet Jeria, the current United States High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of Chile, said she was “deeply concerned” by several Trump policies that “drastically reduced protection for migrant families.” She highlighted the separation of families, migration protection protocols (Remain in Mexico), “the arbitrary deprivation of freedom” and “the denial of access to humanitarian services and aid”.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas Director, said: “Trump’s efforts to end asylum are a sweeping assault on human rights. … The obligation to protect the rights of people who seek safety is a fundamental tenet of US and international law – and the US is failing miserably. The “crisis” at our borders is not the result of people “flooding” our border – it is a crisis of xenophobic measures that disguise themselves as security measures and only serve to exacerbate human suffering. ”
The abuse, torture, and disappearances of children and parents were not accidental or unintentional. Trump, his then Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and his advisors Stephen L. Miller and Steve Bannon were ideologically driven by what could be termed white sadonationalism.
As Jen Kirby of Vox reported, Trump complained during a meeting about Haiti, El Salvador and African countries: “Why do we want these people from all these shitty countries here? We should have more people from places like Norway. “Around four fifths of all immigrants to the US come from Latin America, Asia and Africa. As a result, Trump’s staff employed a number of deliberately cruel practices to prevent any form of authorized or unauthorized immigration.
Some of the ideas that they supposedly considered psychotic. The reporters from the N.Y. Times, Michael D. Shear and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, said: “In private, the president had often spoken about building a border wall with a water-filled ditch filled with snakes or alligators and asked aides to get a quote. He wanted the wall to be electrified with spikes that could pierce human flesh. “He also reportedly suggested that soldiers shoot migrants if they throw stones, but his staff told him it was illegal to do so. He later suggested shooting migrants in their legs to slow them down, but was told again that it was not allowed.
Most of the hundreds of executive orders and bureaucratic traps that Trump’s cadre has set up may not be indictable. But they have harmed all types of immigrants free of charge, violated their human and civil rights, and tried to demonize them. The multiple border crises that Trump produced and directed were B-class agitprop which constituted a border flooded by “bad hombres” and aimed to combat the hatred of immigrants in its gullible base.
The Refugee Act of 1980 guarantees immigrants the right to seek asylum, not just in ports of entry but anywhere along the border.
However, in order to enforce the zero tolerance policy of sessions, Customs and Border Protection created a Catch-22. They took up the admission of asylum seekers in official ports of entry with “measurement” only slowly. Then, as more and more people were forced to wait weeks or months in dangerous camps to cross the border away from ports of entry to apply for asylum with the Border Patrol – which was their legal right – officials castigated them as a flood of “illegal aliens” and arrested them. To further hamper the asylum process, Trump implemented his policy of staying in Mexico (ironically referred to as migrant protection protocols), which forced around 70,000 people who had been granted asylum hearings to wait for their court dates in Mexico. The government also made arrangements with the Central American governments to send some migrants back to the places from which they had fled in the first place. The cumulative damage caused by Trump policies effectively eliminated the right of asylum.
Many of the increased numbers of children and families now seeking asylum at the border are due to the desperate despair of the tens of thousands of migrant families stranded in limbo over the past two years. These arrears have also been exacerbated by Trump’s undermining many programs that previously hosted and integrated children and families, leaving staff and infrastructure in smoking ruins.
Tragically, most crises and suffering could easily have been averted. All Trump had to do, instead of declaring “zero tolerance”, was to treat asylum seekers lawfully and rationally. When, instead of doubling down on his “wall” scam, sending troops to the border and filling private immigration prisons, he was determined to get asylum seekers out of Mexico, involve more asylum agents and case managers at the border, immigration courts expanded with nonprofits Organizations have worked together to obtain asylums and have sent targeted resources to Central America and Mexico, there would have been little or no border drama and much less waste of public resources. But creating threats and crises, criminalizing immigrants, and militarizing the border were exactly the point.
Family separation and other forms of persecution of immigrants are not only false, cruel, and often illegal. They are also nonsensical. Asylum seekers, refugees and other immigrants – authorized and unauthorized – are not at risk of being rejected. On the contrary, they are fellow human beings who deserve encouragement and welcome, and colleagues who are caught in the tides of the same global economy. It’s also a valuable resource for a stagnant, aging American-born population: Decades of evidence shows that the benefits of immigration to this country’s people and economy far outweigh the costs.
Violating the rights of immigrants also weakens US national security. When other countries see the US torturing children and parents while blocking asylum seekers and refugees, the credibility of US criticism of human rights violations by other countries is devalued.
Dig out of the rubble
On January 20, a bombed-out migration landscape greeted the arriving Biden administration. On his first day in office, the new president sent a bill to Congress to provide a route to citizenship for most of the 10.5 to 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. It also issued several implementing orders to address immigration-related injustices, including asylum and family segregation. However, the new administration has not yet been able to build capacity fast enough to deal with the backlog of suffering families and unaccompanied children at the border, or to rebuild or repair much of what Trump was dismantling. And some of Biden’s positive proposals seem to have stalled due to depleted reserves of political capital.
The new family reunification task force appointed by Biden, chaired by DHS Secretary Mayorkas, got to work quickly. A court file reported by CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez found that the number of children and parents still separated under “zero tolerance” had dropped from 611 in January to 506 by the end of February.
Mayorkas told the news media that efforts to return to the US asylum seekers excluded under Trump’s “Remain in Mexico,” which Biden canceled, are returning to the US. The secretary announced that the admission of those affected by the program has been expanded to three US ports of entry. The government hopes to give the separated families a choice of where to reunite, and if they choose to reunite in the United States, “we will explore lawful ways to keep them in the United States and meet the needs of the family.” can enter. ”
These allowances should also be offered to any other person who has been wrongly prevented from applying for asylum or who has been wrongly refused.
The Biden government should also ensure that families are not separated by their current border policy. Currently, families with children and adults seeking asylum in most areas are unceremoniously rejected at the border under Title 42, a controversial public health provision published by Trump’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, unaccompanied children are accepted into the asylum procedure at the border. Because of this discrepancy, rejecting families can give them an incentive to help older children escape danger by sending them on on their own. The sooner these families are allowed to apply for asylum together, the faster a source of children crossing alone and the resulting family separation will decrease.
“To turn border reception into a humanitarian model, many large federal agencies must implement a major shift in short-, medium-, and long-term approaches,” wrote Clara Long of Human Rights Watch. “While the administration has made important advances, children are still stuck in border prisons because former President Trump’s administration destroyed the existing system of ensuring the safety of children at the border. The current situation requires urgent and sustained action to remedy this error. From the moment children cross the line, safe and quick reunification procedures should be further refined. ”
Beyond the work of the family reunification task force, the Biden administration must not allow the past to be the past. It should launch multi-level investigations into abuses of all types of immigrants by the Trump administration.
The President should direct internal investigations to be carried out by Inspectors General in the Justice, Homeland Security and other relevant departments. All of Trump’s remaining political candidates should be screened and, if necessary, dismissed or moved to where they cannot cause further harm. Those found to have violated any law or regulation should be prosecuted legally or administratively.
Congress should convene a selected committee modeled on the church committee of 1975 to investigate crimes and abuses of the Trump administration against immigrants and refugees, including Muslim and African travel bans. They should recommend far-reaching reforms and investigate responsible officials.
Finally, other governments and non-governmental organizations should pursue the possibility of bringing charges against those responsible for family segregation in international human rights organizations such as the International Court of Justice and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Another avenue to be investigated could be lawsuits in courts of other countries that invoke universal jurisdiction over serious international crimes. This is the legal doctrine according to which the Spanish judge Baltazar Garzón Real brings human rights suits against the Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet.
Trump, Miller and their accomplices may not face trial in a glass booth in Tegucigalpa. But there is reason to hope for asylum seekers and refugees. It will require continued pressure from immigrant justice and human rights movements and responsive action at all levels of government to unravel wrongdoing, restore all victims to health, and punish perpetrators – all in the face of violent mobs fueled by xenophobia and racism by republican demagogues. Ultimately, immigration law, laws and practices must be reinvented to ensure that asylum, refugee and all other human rights of immigrants in the United States are fully respected.
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