Global Movement for Children calls on US to reunite families, as Federal Judge sets deadline for border authorities

The Global Movement for Children in Latin America and the Caribbean – of which Child Helpline International is a member – has made an urgent call on the US to reunite the children and young people who have been separated from their families.

Under the US’ “zero tolerance” policy, adults who cross its borders in violation of migration laws are detained pending a judicial process. Until 20 June this resulted in the separation of more than 2,000 children from their families. On 20 June, US President Donald Trump approved an Executive Order declaring that families would be kept together during their detention. However, the order does not define a clear, specific mechanism for reuniting those families that have already been separated, nor does it establish the length of time that families will remain in detention.

The US district court judge in San Diego on Tuesday has in the meantime granted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed over family separations. The judge ordered US border authorities to reunite separated families within 30 days, setting a deadline in a process that has so far yielded uncertainty about when children might again see their parents. If children are younger than five, they must be reunified within 14 days.

Many of those affected have fled from their own countries because of violence, or the fear of being abducted, mistreated or even murdered. Children have been at risk of being married against their will, or worse still being sexually violated or even raped. The measures being implemented by the US government now place these migrants in further situations of discrimination, crisis and distress.

The criminalisation of migration and the forced separation of families constitute serious violations of human rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) states very clearly that no migrant child should be held in detention, and other international instruments make very clear provisions for the protection of migrants and the enforcement of their rights, and specifically for the rights of children in these situations.

The Global Movement for Children in Latin America and the Caribbean is calling on all those organisations that defend human rights ­– the Inter-American Human Rights System, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to take whatever measures are necessary to ensure the protection of every child and every family. The Movement demands that the US government immediately puts an end to its “zero tolerance” policy, and repairs the damage already done as a result of its actions.

Download the original letter, in Spanish.