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Haley to UN Human Rights Commissioner: Border Policy on Children Is Our Business

US Ambassador Nikki Haley at a United Nations Security Council meeting on June 1, 2018. (Albin Lohr-Jones/Sipa via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — UN Ambassador Nikki Haley lashed out at the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for trying to dictate U.S. border policy after criticism from the world body on the Trump administration’s deterrence policy of separating children from parents at the border.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the policy on Hugh Hewitt’s show Wednesday, noting “we are having more people coming bringing children with them entering between the ports of entry, between the ports of entry illegally, and they’re not, you cannot give them immunity.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Thomas Homan told the Center for Immigration Studies in D.C. on Tuesday that “it’s sad to see children cry when you take a parent out of a home, but because it’s sad doesn’t mean that we ignore the law.”

In a briefing this week on human rights issues in Egypt, the United States and Ethiopia, Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said the office is “deeply concerned that the zero tolerance policy recently put in place along the U.S. southern border has led to people caught entering the country irregularly being subjected to criminal prosecution and having their children – including extremely young children– taken away from them as a result.”

“The practice of separating families amounts to arbitrary and unlawful interference in family life, and is a serious violation of the rights of the child,” Shamdasani said. “While the rights of children are generally held in high regard in the US, it is the only country in the world not to have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We encourage it to accede to the Convention and to fully respect the rights of all children.”

“The use of immigration detention and family separation as a deterrent runs counter to human rights standards and principles. The child’s best interest should always come first, including over migration management objectives or other administrative concerns. It is therefore of great concern that in the U.S. migration control appears to have been prioritized over the effective care and protection of migrant children.”

The spokeswoman added that “children should never be detained for reasons related to their own or their parents’ migration status” and it “always constitutes a child rights violation.”

“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,” Shamdasani said. “The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalizing what should at most be an administrative offense – that of irregular entry or stay in the U.S.”

“We call on the U.S. authorities to adopt non-custodial alternatives that allow children to remain with their families and fulfill the best interests of the child, their right to liberty and their right to family life.”

In response, Haley said the United Nations “shows its hypocrisy by calling out the United States while it ignores the reprehensible human rights records of several members of its own Human Rights Council.”

“While the High Commissioner’s office ignorantly attacks the United States with words, the United States leads the world with its actions, like providing more humanitarian assistance to global conflicts than any other nation,” Haley said. “We will remain a generous country, but we are also a sovereign country, with laws that decide how best to control our borders and protect our people. Neither the United Nations nor anyone else will dictate how the United States upholds its borders.”

The administration faces several lawsuits over the policy, including a class-action suit just filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.