Immigration advocates accused the US government on Thursday of "effectively disappearing" hundreds of children in a complaint over the widespread separation of families crossing the southern border. The groups filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which investigates alleged human rights abuses in North and South America, the AP reports. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced May 7 that the Justice Department would begin to prosecute every person accused of illegally crossing the US-Mexico border. Hundreds of families have been separated since then. An official from US Customs and Border Protection recently told Congress that 638 adults had been referred for prosecution between May 6 and May 19, bringing with them 658 children. Immigration lawyers and advocates say parents are being held in jail without knowing where their children are.
In one case outlined in the complaint, Border Patrol agents in South Texas arrested a 40-year-old man from Guatemala with his 12-year-old son. The complaint says the man was placed in a detention cell while his son was kept outside. By the time the man was taken out of the cell, the boy was gone. A lawyer working on the man's case called the government hotline for locating immigrant children in custody. According to the complaint, the boy's information was not in the system. The lawyer and the father don't know where he is. Efren Olivares, a lawyer with the Texas Civil Rights Project, says the US government's separating of families is "clearly in violation of international law." "No developed democracy in the world separates children and parents just because they came into the country," he says.
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