As a further development of increasingly hostile U.S. immigration policies, it has been found that the Trump administration has been detaining young migrant children in hotels, before they are expelled from the country. The children are held for as long as several weeks on end, with some as young as one-year-old. This largely immoral action on the part of the U.S. government comes with the administration’s decision to put the United States asylum system to a complete halt due to the Coronavirus pandemic. However, the pandemic cannot be used as a justification for denying individuals their fundamental human right of asylum, especially to some of society’s most vulnerable: young children. The Trump administration must be held accountable for its abysmal approach to those seeking asylum in the United States.
According to documents from The Associated Press, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has employed a private contractor to take displaced children to hotels in Arizona and at the U.S.-Mexico border. These children are typically detained in the hotels for several days before being deported to their home country. However, records have shown that longer periods are not uncommon, with one five-year-old child being detained for nineteen days.
The detainment of young migrant children has been heavily denounced, particularly by lawyers and various advocates who have highlighted the serious implications it carries. According to these groups, the detainment of already vulnerable children in these hotels greatly exacerbates the risk of developing further trauma.
Leecia Welch, a lawyer for the NGO National Center for Youth Law, emphasised the deeply inhumane nature of the situation. She stated that the Trump administration has “…created a system in which there’s no accountability for expelling very young children.” She stressed that there “…really aren’t enough words to describe what a disgraceful example of sacrificing children this is to advance heartless immigration policies.”
The Trump administration adopted an increasingly hardline approach to U.S. immigration in March of this year. With the spread of Coronavirus, an emergency public health declaration was enacted which essentially brought the U.S. asylum system to a total halt. It was stated that the United States would not be accepting any asylum seekers, citing the Coronavirus pandemic as justification. During this time, at least 2,000 unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the United States were deported to their country of origin.
Records regarding the detainment of children who had been deported to their countries of origin in April and June were made available to lawyers representing the interests of the children, according to Al Jazeera. The records showed that at least two one-year-old children were held in the hotels for two days, with a large number of young children between the ages of three and five years old being held for two weeks. The records further revealed that the children who had been deported were unaccompanied in crossing the border into the U.S., but gave no further details.
The Trump administration’s shameful treatment of asylum seekers must come to an end. The increasingly hostile policies illustrate a blatant disregard for human life, alongside a disregard for U.S. obligations in the context of asylum under international law. Asylum is a human right which President Trump should not continue to continuously deprive vulnerable people of.
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