The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has publicly condemned President Trump’s policy of separate migrant children from their parents at the border, saying in a statement that “separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”
“Our government has the discretion in our laws to ensure that young children are not separated from their parents and exposed to irreparable harm and trauma. Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together,” USCCB’s president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, announced at its biannual meeting in Fort Lauderdale.
“Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral,” DiNardo said in his opening remarks.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who unveiled the administration’s zero-tolerance policy last month, directed border agents to separate children from their parents at the border and prosecute the adults. The administration has framed the new policy as a deterrent to stop migrants from attempting to enter the country.
DiNardo blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recent announcement of changes to asylum policy.
“At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life,” DiNardo read. “The Attorney General’s recent decision elicits deep concern because it potentially strips asylum from many women who lack adequate protection.”
The group of bishops applauded DiNardo’s statement, according to Religion News Service.
Sessions announced on Monday that the Trump administration will stop granting asylum to victims of gang violence and domestic abuse.
“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim,” Sessions wrote in his decision.
The United Nations human rights office earlier this month demanded that the Trump administration “immediately halt” its policy of tearing migrant children away from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, declaring that the practice “always constitutes a child rights violation.”
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement on Tuesday that the office is “deeply concerned” by the U.S. government’s decision to separate migrant families, arguing that the policy “amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child.”
“Children should never be detained for reasons related to their own or their parents’ migration status. Detention is never in the best interests of the child,” Shamdasani declared, noting that the practice seems to have been in effect since October and has been applied “to both asylum-seekers and other migrants in vulnerable situations.”
“The child’s best interest should always come first, including over migration management objectives or other administrative concerns,” she continued, emphasizing that the policy “runs counter to human rights standards and principles.”
“The majority of people arriving at the U.S.’s southern border have fled Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—in many cases either because of rampant insecurity and violence, or because of violations of a range of other rights, such as health, education, and housing,” she noted. “The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalizing what should at most be an administrative offense.”
Shamdasani also pointed out that although “the rights of children are generally held in high regard in the U.S., it is the only country in the world not to have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.” The convention explicitly states that children “should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love, and understanding,” and has been active for nearly three decades.