US Border Policy, Abuse of Children, to Face International Scrutiny in 2020

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

It is not news that the United Sates government is separating asylum-seeking families who turn up at the U.S.-Mexican border and try to enter this country illegally. But the Trump Administration’s treatment of children held for weeks without a parent, with no one to look out for them, may violate international law.

The emotional abuse of children who are locked up in deplorable conditions with not enough space or a bed on which to sleep will be under the microscope as possible violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This policy is not only brutal and tragic but may violate international treaties and law. Next year, the Trump Administration may have to answer for these abuses before members of the United Nations.

In 1995, the U.S signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, carried out by the United Nations (UN). Some of those agreements are now international laws to protect children’s rights.  Under this treaty, children at the borders still have rights.

Next year, the US, like all other UN members, must undergo at the Human Rights Council a process known as Universal Periodic Review. In May 2020, when the United States is up next, every other U.N. member will be able to ask questions and make comments and recommendations on U.S. respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, its voluntary commitments, and its treaty and customary international law obligations. Until mid-September, nongovernmental organizations were able to submit information – including statements from detained children themselves — as part of the process.

Universal Periodic Review is not a court process, and it can’t compel countries to take action. But it’s the only human rights process that covers all U.N. members, and its scope is broad. There’s a real value in the political pressure of regular review by other countries.

Source: Michael Garcia Bochenek and Warren Binford, “The U.S is Mistreating Children in Its Custody. Can International Law help?” America Prospect, August 15, 2019,

Student Researcher: Christina Chacon Sanchez (City College of San Francisco)

Faculty Evaluator: Jennifer Levinson (City College of San Francisco)