Plan International is urging the U.S. administration to reverse its “zero tolerance” immigration policy and end the practice of forcibly separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border, including the detention of children taken from their parents. Such practices are reprehensible, regardless of migrants’ legal status, and are a direct violation of the legal rights of asylum seekers under U.S. law, as well as under treaties to which the U.S. is a ratified party.
The U.S. has long been at the forefront of welcoming and protecting vulnerable people, and those fleeing violence and persecution around the world. At a time when a record 68.5 million people are being displaced by conflict and persecution, it is more important than ever that the U.S. upholds its responsibilities for providing protection to children and families.
Affected families at the border are facing a myriad of complex issues, including malnutrition, lack of opportunities for youth, Zika, and other social factors—all of which are complicated by rampant violence and corruption. Plan is particularly concerned about the innocent children whose lives are affected by such circumstances outside their control, and the negative impact the administration’s policy is having on their wellbeing. Children in such situations often witness terrible violence and experience emotional stress, while their usual social support and education are disrupted. When they are separated from their parents or other caregivers, they can become even more vulnerable.
The consequences of failing to protect children can be life-shattering. The deep developmental and emotional scars borne out of violence and traumatic experiences can affect their ability to become healthy and emotionally balanced adults as much as any physical injury.
Plan International was founded in 1937 as a response to the Spanish Civil War, on the belief that people would see the children displaced by that conflict not as “war refugees,” but as children whose future was in doubt. In 1937 and the years that followed, millions of Americans answered that call, demonstrating the values of the nation and embracing our common humanity. That is why Plan International is calling on the U.S. administration to continue to act on those principles by stopping the unjust and inhumane practice of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
More than 2,000 families have been forcibly torn apart in the last six weeks. Thousands of children are already being held in tent cities or other deplorable conditions by U.S. authorities. The girls, boys, women, and men forced by crisis and violence to flee their homes and nations should be supported in their time of need. As a world leader, the U.S. must provide hope and opportunity and prevent a lost generation of children.