Education

United Nations: U.S. Immigration Policy Harms Children

By Mary Ann Zehr — April 14, 2008 1 min read

Children from migrant families are vulnerable in this country to having their human rights violated, according to a report released last month by the United Nations. (Click here for the link to download the 27-page report, which is at the top of the list. Choose “E” for English.)

About a year ago, Jorge Bustamante, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants for the United Nations, visited the United States to investigate the effects of U.S. immigration policy and procedures on migrants, including children. (See my earlier posts, “New Yorker Reporter Writes about Hutto, From the Outside,” and “U.N. Expert Will Look Into Rights, Conditions of U.S. Migrants.”) Here’s an excerpt from his March 5, 2008, report (which I just learned about):

The Special Rapporteur notes that the United States lacks a clear, consistent, long-term strategy to improve respect for the human rights of migrants. Although there are national laws prohibiting discrimination, there is no national legislative and policy framework implementing protection for the human rights of migrants against which the federal and local programmes and strategies can be evaluated to assess to what extent the authorities are respecting the human rights of migrants.

Mr. Bustamante makes a recommendation regarding treatment of unaccompanied minors (I wrote about this group of immigrant children for Education Week in November 2006). He says they should be removed from “jail-like detention centres and placed in home-like facilities.”

He mentions education issues briefly in the report, saying that in some cases, migrants have “limited access to health and education.” He notes how in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the presence of migrant workers in the Gulf Coast region has created tensions over language barriers and education.

Mr. Bustamante contends that U.S. immigration policies that result in the separation of family members are bad for children. He says that raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities have caused “social devastation” by separating children from parents. He adds that children whose parents are detained can suffer “trauma and severe loss from the sudden, prolonged, and sometimes permanent absence of that parent.”

The United States delegation to the United Nations called the report “disappointing,” according to a March 8, 2008, article in the Los Angeles Times. The article says the delegation pointed out the U.S. has one of the world’s most generous immigration policies and that Mr. Bustamante’s report presents “an incomplete and biased picture of the human rights of migrants” in the United States.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.