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  • Civil & Human Rights Groups File Emergency Request to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Stop Family Separations, Reunite Families

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    McAllen, Texas Today, the Texas Civil Rights Project, the Women’s Refugee Commission, the University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic, and Garcia & Garcia Attorneys at Law, P.L.L.C., filed an Emergency Request for Precautionary Measures with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (“IACHR”) on behalf of parents systematically separated from their children at the United States-Mexico border.

    The civil and human rights groups represent five parents and their young children who were separated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials (“CBP”) in South Texas. Federal agencies have not provided the parents with any information regarding their children’s whereabouts. As a result, the parents are suffering extreme harm; many broke down sobbing recounting the separation from their children. In many cases, the parents were not told that their children were being taken. In one instance, Border Patrol agents told a mother they were taking her daughter to give her a bath, but they never returned the child.

    In response to this horrific practice, the groups are requesting that the IACHR adopt measures requiring the United States to immediately 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 action in cases of serious, urgent, and life-threatening human rights abuses.

    The separation of families at the border by federal agents has become the norm under United States Attorney General Jefferson Sessions. On April 6, 2018, Sessions announced the adoption of a so-called “zero tolerance” policy at the United States-Mexico border regarding immigrants and even asylum-seekers who cross into the country without authorization. In the city of McAllen, Texas, this zero-tolerance policy has been implemented en masse — leading to children being separated from their parents for indefinite periods of time and reportedly held in facilities under the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement (“ORR”).

    There is no process in place for the children to communicate with their parents, or for the parents and children to know each other’s whereabouts. There is likewise no process in place to guarantee that the separated children will be promptly and safely reunited with their parents.

    The groups are requesting the IACHR to adopt Precautionary Measures requiring the United States of America to, among other things:

    • Reunite the five Petitioner parents with their children immediately, and ensure that, if ordered removed, no parent is removed from the country without being allowed to decide whether the child will return to the home country with the parent or remain in the United States to seek relief;
    • Immediately cease the systematic practice of prosecuting parents and separating children from their parents at the United States border.

    Efren Olivares, Racial and Economic Justice Director for the Texas Civil Rights Project, issued the following statement:

    “This administration has taken American Exceptionalism to a whole new level: no developed democracy in the world systematically separates children from their parents simply for coming into the country. There is a human rights catastrophe happening at our doorstep as a direct consequence of this administration’s callous disregard for families fleeing violence and death. For the past week, we have spoken to and taken declarations from inconsolable parents who have no idea where their children have been taken or if they will ever see them again. Toying with the lives of people fleeing violence to send a message is not only cruel, but also a violation of the international human rights and conventions to which the United States is a party. We will not sit idly and watch  this crisis unfold — we have asked the IACHR to immediately require the U.S. government to reunite these families and stop this inhumane and illegal practice. The world’s eyes are on our country.”

    Denise Gilman, Director and Clinical Professor for The University of Texas School of Law, issued the following statement:

    “The administration’s practice of separating families is cruel and lawless.  It must end immediately. The practice causes devastating and potentially permanent psychological harm to traumatized children.  At the same time, it wreaks havoc in the immigration system. Children are forced into separate proceedings apart from their parents and asked to speak for themselves in court while parents must fight for asylum from within remote immigration detention centers.  History will judge this moment harshly.”

    Leah Chavla, Policy Advisor for the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, issued the following statement:

    “Regardless of the mechanism used, separating children from their parents in order to deter them from seeking protection is horrific, puts children’s well-being at risk, and undermines our legal system. This is our country at its worst. We reach out now to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to demand that the U.S. government abide by international law and its own domestic laws to protect children and to provide refuge for asylum-seekers and immediately cease this barbaric practice of ripping families apart.”

    Read the Request for Precautionary Measures here.
    Read the stories of the petitioners here.