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Friday, June 1, 2018

Activists Turn to International Law to Try to Stop Trump's 'ZERO TOLERANCE' Border Policy

Stephen Dinan

 Immigrant-rights groups asked the Organization of American States on Thursday to step in and try to force the Trump administration to end its new “zero tolerance” policy at the border, saying parents who broke the law are being thrown in jail without knowing what’s happened to their children.
The activists called for the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to invoke Article 25 of the IACHR charter to order the U.S. to stop filing criminal charges against illegal immigrant parents, and to “promptly” release illegal immigrant children from custody.
Even if the OAS were to attempt action it would not be binding on the U.S., leaving the groups’ actions more about the symbolism of seeking international condemnation.
The activists, led by the Texas Civil Rights Project, said parents and children are facing serious emotional harm and it’s time the international community get involved.
“Any amount of deliberate, unjustified separation between children and parents by a state — especially when employed as a punitive tactic — is a violation of their human rights,” the activists said in their petition to the OAS.
Their petition was filed on behalf of five illegal immigrant parents nabbed at the border last week along with their children. In each case, the parents were separated from their children.
The parents say they have no idea where their children ended up, and the government is refusing to provide them information.
Some of the parents said they are fleeing violence or other dangers back home.
But in each case the migrants chose to jump the U.S.-Mexico border rather than enter through a port of entry to make an asylum claim, which is the standard legal process.
While jumping the border has long been a crime, previous administration’s have only selectively prosecuted it. Instead, most illegal immigrants are sent into the immigration system, where the main penalty is deportation, not jail time.
The Bush and Obama administrations did use prosecutions against some adult illegal immigrants to fight back against surges of illegal immigration.
Now facing a new surge, the Trump administration has expanded prosecutions, making them the standard rather than the exception under a new zero tolerance policy.
And the administration said that includes parents traveling with children. Otherwise, officials argued, illegal immigrants would realize that the key to gaming the system was to show up at the border with children, including by kidnapping them.
The administration argues that it’s treating the lawbreakers the same as anyone who is prosecuted and ends up in jail. Every lawbreaker is separated from his or her family, officials said.
Immigrant-rights activists counter that the zero tolerance policy itself is inhumane, and illegal immigrants who come as families shouldn’t be detained at all, much less face criminal charges.
Their petition, though, seemed to conflict on some points. It said the Trump administration has “a deliberate official policy” to separate children from their parents — then a few sentences later acknowledged that the government never “specifically mentions separating children from their parents” in the zero tolerance policy.
That hasn’t deterred Democrats in Congress who, like the activists, blame President Trump.
Congress is on a week-long vacation but a number of Democrats have said they’ll introduce legislation to try to stop separation of parents and children. It’s not yet clear how that legislation would work without creating a loophole smugglers could exploit.
The White House, meanwhile, said it’s more worried about a different kind of family separation: people whose relatives are killed by illegal immigrants.
“Juan Pina was forced to bury his 14 year-old daughter after she was strangled, raped, and murdered by an illegal immigrant. He has been separated from his daughter forever,” the White House said on Twitter Thursday afternoon.
Administration officials didn’t immediately respond to questions about the OAS appeal.
The activists, in their petition to the OAS, said they tried to track down the children of the five migrants named in the case. First, they found the phone number the government lists for its hotline is inaccurate, with two numbers interchanged.
After finding the correct number, and spending 45 minutes on the phone, the activists were only able to track down six of the seven children at issue.

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