Washington, DC, October 27, 2014.- At a hearing held before the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights (IACHR) lawyers, activists, and members of civil society made recommendations to the U.S. government on the humanitarian crisis faced by unaccompanied children arriving at the United States’ southern border.
“We call on the United States to provide real protection to these unaccompanied children reaching the southern border,” said Viviana Krsticevic, Executive Director of the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL). “First and foremost, they are children. At all times, the State must honor the guarantee against the return to danger. The U.S. must protect their best interests, rather than placing them in harm’s way or in punitive detention.”
At the hearing, the petitioners called on the United States to adequately screen and protect all unaccompanied children, to create independent mechanisms to monitor due process and detention outcomes, to guarantee all children’s right to legal representation, and to honor the right to seek affirmative asylum by ending its support for interdiction units and militarization of borders. The petitioners also requested that the US government participate in a joint working group to follow up on the Commission’s recommendations, and to make any responses to the IACHR publicly available.
The Commission was particularly influential in bringing about the closure of T. Don Hutto, the last existing family detention center, in 2009. But during the past year, the United States has opened three new family detention centers, where documented abuses have occurred, and the number of detained families has increased from 90 to approximately 4,000.
Commissioner Felipe González pointed to the United States need to justify this practice as a deterrent measure by stating that detention does not stop migration and, more fundamentally, punitive detention of children and families is contrary to international law.
The Inter-American Commission recently completed a crucial on-site visit to monitor the human rights situation of migrant and refugee children and families in Texas from September 29 to October 2, 2014.
“An increase in the number of children seeking protection should be met with more and better protection. Instead of this, the State has shown that it is taking unfortunate steps backward,” said Viviana Krsticevic. “We hope the information and analysis we provided today will aid the Commission to once again guarantee that all children are protected.”