Zero-Tolerance: The Trump Administration's Human Rights Violations Against Migrants on the Southern Border

82 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2020 Last revised: 14 Jun 2021

Date Written: 2021

Abstract

In 2017, the Trump Administration imposed its policy of zero-tolerance immigration enforcement on the southern border. This policy resulted in the forcible separation of families and the prolonged detention of children in harsh conditions, without due process or adequate resources. The Trump Administration unleashed these policies to deter people from immigrating and seeking asylum, consistent with President Trump’s racist rhetoric and campaign promises. This article analyzes and critiques these policies based on international human rights law, noting the resonance human rights norms find among diverse religious traditions.

The article begins with detailed analysis of the Trump Administration’s policies that divided families and detained children in wretched conditions, in violation of U.S. law. It proceeds to evaluate and criticize these policies under treaties ratified by the U.S., conventions it has signed but not ratified, and established customary international law. In the name of border enforcement and immigration deterrence, the Trump Administration’s policies violated the fundamental human rights of migrants and people seeking asylum in the United States, including the right to family life, rights of the child, and rights to be free from ill-treatment and arbitrary detention. The abrupt and often permanent separation of families, the indefinite detention of children without proper care, and the failure of process in these policies are all stark violations of binding international human rights laws. These policies affront the moral conscience of multitudes, eliciting sustained protest from civil society and faith leaders.

The article concludes with a recognition that international institutions and legal mechanisms may not be adequate to compel the Trump Administration to respect international law, so political and electoral responses are vital to ensure that human rights remain at the heart of the American enterprise. It suggests the accord between religious, ethical perspectives and human rights principles is valuable to reinforcing popular support for these norms. As the world bears witness to these cruel abuses of human rights, Americans must decide whether and how to hold the government accountable for the inherent dignity of all people within the rule of law.

Keywords: Human Rights, Immigration, International Law, Children’s Rights, Families

Suggested Citation

Baker, Jeffrey R. and McKinney Timm, Allyson, Zero-Tolerance: The Trump Administration's Human Rights Violations Against Migrants on the Southern Border (2021). 13 Drexel Law Review 581, Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2020/12, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3559908 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3559908

Jeffrey R. Baker (Contact Author)

Pepperdine Caruso School of Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

HOME PAGE: http://law.pepperdine.edu/faculty-research/jeffrey-baker/

Allyson McKinney Timm

Justice Revival ( email )

P.O. Box 6216
Washington, DC 20015
United States

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