The international community is condemning the Trump administration’s policy of tearing apart immigrant families crossing the U.S. border.
In May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy would include the prosecution of all immigrants crossing the U.S. border without documentation — thus separating families. The government has reported at least 2,300 kids have been separated from their parents in the weeks since, but the real number is likely far higher, as there have been reports of families separated earlier in the year as well. There are also cases of kids being forcibly taken from their parents at official ports of entry, where they were seeking asylum.
As more reports come in — of asylum seekers being turned away at the U.S.-Mexico border, of an 8-month-old baby torn from their parents, of the government setting up “tender age” facilities to hold kids under the age of 13 including babies and toddlers — the international criticism has grown.
On Monday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein condemned the policy, saying, “The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable. I call on the United States to immediately end the practice of forcible separation of these children.” Amnesty International also called the policy “nothing short of torture.” The next day, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi also condemned the policy.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday that he “can’t imagine” what the families must be going through. “What’s going on in the United States is wrong. I can’t imagine what families living through this are enduring,” he told reporters. “This is not the way we do things in Canada.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May also condemned the forced separation of families. “On what we have seen in the United States, pictures of children being held in what appear to be cages are deeply disturbing,” she said Wednesday. “I clearly, wholly, and unequivocally said it is wrong.”
Pope Francis told Reuters he supports U.S. Catholic bishops who have called the Trump administration’s immigration policy “immoral” and “contrary to our Catholic values.”
“It’s not easy, but populism is not the solution,” he said in an interview published Wednesday.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also condemned the policy on Wednesday — a day after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley specifically cited Iranian human rights abuses in her rationale for the United States quitting the U.N. Human Rights Council. “One cannot watch with a sound state of mind these children crying on TV,” Khamenei wrote on this English language Twitter account. “How can they commit such a crime, separating children from mothers for a cruel policy? Now, that’s who they are.”
Even far-right former French presidential candidate Marine le Pen said she was opposed to separating families. “I am opposed to a procedure that separates parents and children,” she told France 2 television Wednesday, according to the Washington Post. “Those who are responsible are the immigrant parents and the politicians who encourage them to come.” As head of the National Front party, Le Pen is known for her notoriously anti-immigrant stances, and as a result earned the support of Trump in last year’s presidential election.
In Mexico, Trump’s family separation policy has come up in multiple presidential campaigns.
José Antonio Meade, representing the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, said he was “horrified” by the policy and “profoundly distraught” on Monday, according to reporting from BuzzFeed News. “Mexico will be a voice that always speaks out loudly against these human rights violations.”
Angel Avila, spokesperson for the “For Mexico to the Front” coalition, called the policy “inhumane” and added, “We’re talking about violations of all human rights guarantees.”
Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who is set to visit Trump next month, told public broadcaster NOS, “I think we’ve all seen those images of that crying girl, and have also read the stories. That’s all distressing.”