Families and Children
- • In many cases, legal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for decades, including lawful permanent residents with U.S. citizen spouses or children, are summarily deported if they have been convicted of a crime, even a minor one without the opportunity for an individual case assessment.
• This policy permanently split families apart.
• Immigrant families, many with small children, are being kept in jail-like conditions in “family residential facilities” in Texas and Pennsylvania.
• Despite the recent improvement of conditions in these “family residential facilities”, they are still an inappropriate place for children and families.
• Every year in the United States, thousands of non-citizen children who have been separated from their parents or other legal guardians undergo removal.
• Unfortunately, pro bono (volunteer) legal services for these “unaccompanied children” are in short supply, and very few of these children have the resources to hire their own legal counsel.
• Many have no choice but to go through the difficult and intimidating experience of appearing in immigration court unrepresented.
Applicable Human Rights Instruments:
• All children deprived of their liberty have the right to be treated with dignity and respect (Article 10-1 ICCPR).
• Children should be confined and imprisoned only in exceptional circumstances or as a last resort, and then only for the shortest possible time (Article 37-b Convention on the Rights of the Child).
• Unaccompanied minors who arrive in the USA to seek asylum should have automatic legal representation, and guardianship arrangements to protect their interests (§4.2 Guidelines on Policies and Procedures in Dealing with Unaccompanied Children Seeking Asylum).
• Articles 16-3 UDHR and 23 ICCPR state that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”
• Moreover, the law should protect every person against interference with their privacy, family, home or correspondence or unlawful attacks on their honor or reputation (Article 17 ICCPR).
• These articles raise a principle: the right to family unity.
• The principle of family unity imposes limits on a states’ power to deport (UN Human Rights Committee, “General Comment 15: The Position of aliens under the Covenant,” November 4, 1986).
• The government should place families in alternative-to-detention programs, a humane alternative for managing families whose immigration status is in limbo.
- The UNSR Report recommends that “[f]amilies with children should not be held in prison-like facilities. All efforts should be made to release families with children from detention and place them in alternate accommodations that are suitable for families with children.”