The U.S. government has separated 1,995 undocumented children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border between April 19 and May 31, officials confirmed on June 15.
The separation of families stems from U.S. President Donald Trump’s new “zero tolerance” migration policy, which has been criticized by Democrats and Republicans alike.
Former U.S. first lady Barbara Bush spoke out against the separations, calling them “cruel” and “immoral,” and U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein called the practice “unconscionable.”
“The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” al Hussein is reported to have said in a Human Rights Council session in Geneva on June 18.
“I call on the United States to immediately end the practice of forcible separation of these children.”
But Trump continues to defend his administration, instead blaming the policy of separation on House Democrats he has tried to pressure into working with their Republican counterparts to pass an immigration bill.
“If the Democrats would sit down instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly,” Trump said. “Good for the children, good for the country, good for the world.”
He also defended the measures by saying the U.S. can not become a “camp” for illegal immigrants.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility — it won’t be,” he said at the White House on June 18.
Photos and video released in mid-June by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Office show immigrants — including children — detained held in large cages inside the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas. The images show them using foil sheets as blankets and sleeping on mats on the floor.
CBS was one of several media outlets to tour the facility on June 17 and reported that after crossing the border, undocumented children are sent to facilities operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services while their parents go to a different detention centre to await prosecution.
Media were reportedly not allowed to take photos inside America’s largest immigration processing facility.
But these government issued photos of the Central Processing Centre, combined with other photos from the crisis, offer some perspective of the experience of undocumented children and adults crossing the border under the federal government’s new “zero tolerance” migration policy.