The UN Human Rights Office has urged the White House to halt its zero-tolerance policy of separating parents from their children at the US-Mexico border, reports Newsweek. The practice has caused asylum-seekers and others in vulnerable situations to be “subjected to criminal prosecution and having their children—including extremely young children—taken away from them as a result,” a spokesperson said in a statement released Tuesday. She said that several hundred children, including toddlers, had been separated from their families since October. In April, the New York Times estimated that more than 700 children had been taken from parents or guardians in the prior six months, and NBC News estimates that there are currently 550 children in custody at the border. The US was quick to respond, with UN ambassador Nikki Haley accusing the UN of hypocrisy by focusing on migrant children while ignoring “the reprehensible human rights records of several members of its own Human Rights Council," she said.
The zero-tolerance policy is an attempt to reduce the thousands of Central Americans, primarily from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, who cross the US-Mexico border each week asking for asylum from violence in their own countries, according to the Guardian. President Trump sought to distance himself from the policy in a tweet Tuesday that blamed the problem on “bad legislation passed by the Democrats.” “Border Security laws should be changed but the Dems can’t get their act together! Started the Wall,” he added. But there is no law requiring that parents be separated from their children, per Politifact, and the policy was announced by the attorney general and implemented by the White House. The US is the only UN member state that has not ratified the UN convention on children’s rights, but since it has ratified similar conventions, it has a legal obligation to every child in "its care," the UN spokesperson says, calling the separations "arbitrary and unlawful." (Read more illegal immigrant stories.)