Viewpoint

Advocate Len Morris: Children’s Rights are Human Rights

 Photos found at vox.com

Photos found at vox.com

People around the world have been shocked and repelled by the behavior of the Trump Administration in separating children from their families at our southern border. Children under five were taken from their mothers, while almost three thousand other children were separated from parents and placed in detention centers hundreds and even thousands of miles away, The public outcry has been bipartisan and has included Melania and Ivanka Trump, along with the House and Senate Republican leadership. The video and audio of children crying as they were taken from their mothers has been stomach-turning, as has the imagery of children being held in cages, detained and treated like animals. Over the past few weeks, there continue to be dismaying reports of children abused in these same centers with forced medications, the use of restraints, withholding of food, solitary confinement.

In spite of a federal judge’s order to reunite all children with their families, the Department of Homeland Security has slow-walked the process, missing court-ordered deadlines, while simultaneously deporting their parents. Using children as political pawns in a cynical effort gin up his base, President Trump is personally responsible for orphaning young children and clearly could care less. He is assisted in this process by a handful of dedicated appointees whose fallback position is that they are only following orders and the rule of law, though no law is actually broken when a migrant requests asylum. Incredibly, no less than our Attorney General called the implementation of these heartless policies a Christian act using Romans to justify enforcing the law. What he overlooked in his remarks was that we are not a theocracy and he has no business inflicting his personal religious beliefs on all Americans. Furthermore mistreating children is anything but Christian. A reminder, Jeff, it was Jesus Christ who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

The Administration continues to refuse due process to migrants seeking asylum, has attempted to farm out the reunification process to the ACLU (an effort rejected by the court) and clearly has no record of the whereabouts of the hastily deported parents. As of now, there are still hundreds of children held in illegal custody, including almost 100 children under five years of age.

I say illegal, because the United States is violating a series of United Nations Declarations on Human Rights that includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Declaration on the Rights of the Child (1959), and the Convention on the Rights of Child (1989). In the aftermath of World War Two, where an estimated 65 to 80 million people perished, these framework documents were established to express a global consensus on the inherent dignity of humankind, regardless of race, gender or nationality. In the process, children were singled out for special care, as they are wholly dependent on adults for security and the basics of a decent life.

Here are some provisions of these documents that the Trump administration violates daily in practice and in spirit.

“In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

States parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable laws and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interest of the child.

States parties shall respect the right of a child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.”

— The Convention on the Rights of the Child:
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“The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.

The child shall in all circumstances be among the first to receive protection and relief.

The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.”

— The Declaration of the Rights of the Child [This opinion piece was originally published at the web site of Media Voices for Children, an online community for children’s rights, on August 24, 2018 and can be read here. As of September 13, 2018, news reports from AZcentral.com estimated that more than 400 children remained separated from their parents in border detention facilities.]

Len Morris is an award-winning film maker who has made several child labor films, including the seminal documentary, “Stolen Childhoods.” He is the recipient of the Iqbal Massih Award from the U.S. Department of Labor for his child labor advocacy.

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