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During IACHR Meeting, Groups Call on Biden Admin to Take Comprehensive Measures to Help Remedy Wrongs of ‘Zero Tolerance’ Family Separations

Washington, D.C. — Today, the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP), the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), and the University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic participated in a working meeting convened by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to make progress toward resolving the Precautionary Measures granted by the IACHR in 2018 on behalf of parents systematically separated from their children at the United States-Mexico border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy.

The civil and human rights groups represent five parents and their young children who were separated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials in south Texas in May 2018. The IACHR Precautionary Measures require the U.S. to take action to ensure not only the reunification of these families, but also the prevention of their re-separation, as well as the provision of medical and psychological services.

“When Trump was in office, he separated many families and especially the mothers suffered a lot,” said Vilma, one of the beneficiary parents. “He had no compassion for us migrants. We came here because of all the problems in our country and to be protected and to have a better life for our children. I hope this never happens again to any other family.”

After more than two years without substantive or good faith response from the U.S. government under the previous administration, the civil and human rights groups representing the families protected by these Precautionary Measures welcomed the opportunity to reset engagement with the Biden administration and its Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families (Task Force). Despite significant progress by the Task Force to date, the circumstances of the families who are beneficiaries of these Precautionary Measures point toward key gaps in protection and justice that remain unaddressed.

“We urge the IACHR to push for justice for separated families, for an end to ongoing family separations, and for the creation of appropriate systems and policies that honor family unity,” said TCRP Senior Attorney Karla Marisol Vargas. “TCRP continues to work with newly separated parents, as well as those granted these Precautionary Measures. Every time the U.S. government separates a family, both parents and children experience unspeakable trauma, the effects of which will be felt long after government investigations and task forces have concluded.”

“The IACHR is a global leader on questions of reparative justice,” said WRC Senior Policy Advisor Leah Chavla. “We urge the U.S. government to incorporate the Commission’s tried-and-tested guidance on measures to ensure that the deliberate and systematic separation of families never happens again. These measures must include, at minimum, durable immigration relief for these families, comprehensive and public investigation and accounting of the ‘zero tolerance’ policy and its impacts, and public acknowledgement of responsibility and apology by the U.S. government.”

“We are grateful that the IACHR has continued to push for accountability in connection with the extreme harms and serious human rights violations caused by the ‘zero tolerance’ policy,” said Denise Gilman, University of Texas School of Law Immigration Clinic Co-Director. “We urge the IACHR to seek a commitment from the United States to review all immigration policies, including those implemented at the border, to ensure that they do not result in more cruel separations of children from their families.”


Learn more about WRC’s work on rights and justice.