By: Ezihe Chikwere*

Prior to being sworn into the oval office, Donald Trump ran on a platform based on a multitude of promises, one of those promises being to toughen laws on immigration and specifically, to “Build a Wall” blocking off Mexico. As of today, the wall has yet to be built but immigrants entering from the southern border leave their lives at the mercy of United States Border Control. Although Donald Trump’s Administration is not the first to implement strict border security laws, this is the first time that these many children were taken from their parents and detained leading to a multitude of human rights violations. Prior to Trump’s Administration, the percentage of children from Mexico taken from their parents at the southern border was .03%. However, by 2018 this percentage surged to 3.6%.[1] It is evident that Trump is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve a homogenous United States society. The issue with this nationalistic ideology is its failure to acknowledge its inhumanity and its unlikeliness. The United States, unlike other countries with homogenous ethnic identities, is based on civic identity. The issue that the many western states is facing today is finding ways to humanely stop the surge of refugees and those seeking asylum. To what extent should the west, specifically the United States in this case, intervene in Mexico to mitigate the “conflict” from its roots. And lastly, is this population negatively impacting the overall well-being of the United States?

 In 1908, the term “melting pot” was coined in the play The Melting Pot, as a way to describe the assimilation of immigrants into the United States. The United States was founded upon the culture of immigration beginning with the first settlers in 1607 with the founding of Jamestown. Whether these immigrants came willingly or by force, their legacy is rooted into the foundation of the United States.

 Regardless of the significant impact immigrants have had on the United States, it is evident that racism and xenophobic fears have guided the federal policy making of this nation. Although undocumented immigrants are not protected by the United States Constitution, all immigrants, including children, are protected by international law. Thus, the acts of the United States government against immigrant populations, specifically Mexican immigrants, have violated numerous articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Specifically, Article 9, which states that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”, Article 5 which states that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.” Lastly, the United States is in violation of Article 13 which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”[2] Throughout this article, numerous international human rights violations inflicted upon Mexican migrants by the United States will be revealed.        

 On January 25, 2017, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13767, also known as the Border Security and Immigration Improvements. The purpose of this executive order is for the federal government to work alongside state and local governments to impede the “recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border.”[3] As expressed, this executive order, Trump’s administration issued a “zero tolerance policy” in the spring of 2018.[4] Under this policy, all adults entering the country illegally, specifically adults entering directly from Mexico, are to be prosecuted.[5] If these adults are accompanied by children, the children are mandated to be taken away from their parents and put into shelters.

While said to be put into “shelters or foster care”, between May and June of 2018, over 3,000 immigrant children were put into detention facilities under the authority of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The living conditions of these children in the detention facilities were poor and inhumane to say the least. For example, 200 children were being held in an old warehouse in McAllen, Texas. In these centers or cages rather, children are scattered across the floor sleeping on matts.[6] Children are being held in literal cages, ranging from 20-50 people in one cage. Not only are their physical conditions poor, but the simple fact of being separated from their parents at such young ages, causes negative impacts on their mental health. Children as young as 2 years old were stripped from their mothers in an unknown land and are now being held as prisoners with no foresight of their futures. Although President Trump has recently signed an executive order to end family separations at the border, the blatant inhumanity of such acts must be brought to light.

It is safe to argue that the United States has violated each of these articles with the execution of the family separation policy and the zero-tolerance policy on immigration. By detaining children and their parents, this inevitably prevents the family from maintaining itself as a unit. As for Article 5, it is evident that by separating children, especially children as young as 2 years old from their parents, the United States government is not protecting these children physically and mentally. Also, forcing children into cages without any sense of personal agency, should also be a clear example of degrading and inhumane treatment. In regard to Article 13, Executive Order Border Security and Immigration Improvements was specifically drafted to target Mexican immigrants coming from the southern border. The verbiage of this Executive Order was clearly intended to prevent the movement of free people throughout states. Therefore, it is safe to assume that those working in the detention centers do not respect the ethnicities and cultures of the detained children, thus violating Article 9.   

The fear of immigration in the United States is rooted in not only the fear of one losing their jobs to someone who is willing to get paid for less, but in the fear of unfamiliar ethnicities and races. Ethnic differences in the United States have long been a basis for various methods of exclusion. For example, on February 19, 1942 former President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 as a means to prevent espionage after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.[7] Thus, about 200,000 Japanese-Americans were forced to relocated to military zones, now recognized as internment camps. Thousands of Japanese-Americans were arrested without any due process and were forced to separate from their families.[8] Conditions at the Japanese internment camps were described as violent.[9] Many of the camps were overcrowded which led to violent protest and violent suppressions.[10] As a result, many died from 1942-1945. These conditions are comparable to the political climate today. Although the United States is not fighting a war, President Trump has waged a war on not only “illegal” immigration but immigration as a whole. As a result, innocent immigrant children have to bear the cost.

 It is important for the United States government to remember why immigrants first landed on American soil. Many people were looking for better opportunities, seeking asylum, or fleeing religious and ethnic persecution. Today, the reasons for entering the United States remain the same. The extremities to which the United States government has gone to keep human beings from seeking refuge and better opportunities has breached international human rights and must be stopped. As a world power, it is almost impossible for the United States to be regulated by international law. However, this is why it is important to disregard power structure when it comes to the overall safety and rights of human beings. Each state has a sovereign right to create laws without the intervention and influence of international laws. However, a standard must be set if these laws conflict with international human rights. Executive Order 13767 is blatant breech on international human rights.

[1] Maya Rhodan, “Here are the facts about President Trump’s Family Separation Policy”, The NY Times. June 20, 2018.

[2] Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[3] Federal Register, “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements”, The Daily Journal of the United States Government. January 25, 2017.

[4] Lucy Nicholson, “US ‘zero tolerance’ immigration policy still violating fundamental human rights laws”, The Conversation. June 27, 2018.

[5] Ibid 1

[6] Lia Eustachewich, “How children live inside cramped immigration detention centers”, The NYPost. June 18, 2018.

[7], “Japanese Internment Camps”, October 29, 2009.

[8] Ibid6

[9] Ibid 7

[10] Ibid 8


*Disclaimer: The content contained in the following material is the sole ownership of the author and does not reflect the Towson University Journal of International Affairs nor Towson University in any respect whatsoever.