By Joanna Prisco
While more than 2,000 migrant children remain corralled at US border stations, images of their prison-like living conditions and audio recordings of their desperate sobs are being shared around the world.
In response, a mounting number of UN figures, religious leaders, and politicians have expressed bipartisan outrage over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” family-separation policy, calling it immoral, abusive, and a violation of human rights.
Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, spoke out against the policy during his most recent address in Geneva, according to a report in The Hill.
“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” al-Hussein said, citing statements made by American Academy of Pediatrics President Colleen Kraft to BuzzFeed News this week, calling the policy a form of child abuse.
“[The trauma of separation can] cause irreparable harm to lifelong development by disrupting a child’s brain architecture,” said Kraft.
The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, also released a statement condemning the practice.
“There are effective ways to ensure border control without putting families through the lasting psychological trauma of child-parent separation,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said. “UNHCR stands ready to support the United States in implementing humane and secure alternatives.”
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres further cemented opposition to the policy on Monday, stating that refugee and migrant “children must not be traumatized by being separated from their parents,” according to Reuters.
In an immigration meeting at the Vatican, Pope Francis stated that migrants are not numbers, but people with feelings that need ongoing protection, adding that “particular concern must be shown for migrant children and their families,” according to CruxNow.
The extended Vatican statement, reported by VOA News, noted:
"Children are the ones who are suffering the most from forced migration. We must respond effectively to the challenges created by these flows, balancing the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity, and co-responsibility."
Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.
Back on US soil, Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson Bishop Edward J. Weisenburger even went so far as to suggest there be “canonical penalties” for Catholics involved in separating children from family members at the border.
While his fellow members of the cloth disagreed with punishing patrol agents for following orders, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops President Cardinal Daniel DiNardo issued a statement denouncing the enforcement of laws separating undocumented parents from their children when they enter this country.
“Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together,” DiNardo’s statement read. “While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”
UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore echoed those sentiments on her Twitter account, stressing the importance of children’s rights.
Stories of children being separated from their parents at the US border are heartbreaking.— Henrietta H. Fore (@unicefchief) June 18, 2018
Children are at the core of every family – their best interests must be at the core of every policy. #ProtectFamilies#AChildIsAChild
While statements from the four living former first ladies, senators, and celebrities continue to denounce Trump’s migrant children policy, President Trump himself has remained staunch in press conferences. At yesterday’s announcement of a new ‘space force’ arm of the military, President Trump addressed the recent furor, proclaiming the US would not “not be a migrant camp … not on my watch,” NBC reported.
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