Children’s Rights Report Urges UN Human Rights Committee to Hold U.S. Accountable for Illegal and Unnecessary Families Separations

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Camilla Jenkins


New York, NY–On September 11, Children’s Rights and fellow advocates JMACforFamilies and Angela O. Burton submitted a report, Family Separation is an Urgent Civil and Human Rights Issue, urging the United Nations Human Rights Committee to hold the U.S. accountable for the separation and destruction of families.

Family Separation is an Urgent Civil and Human Rights Issue demonstrates how the U.S. government actively fails to uphold its human rights commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) regarding the unnecessary and harmful separation of children from their parents and families. ICCPR is a key international human rights treaty adopted by the UN in 1966 and ratified by the U.S. in 1992.

The report powerfully lays out how the U.S. child welfare system violates the human rights of families by unnecessarily separating them and forcibly placing children in government custody, where they face great risk of harm. It describes U.S. policies and practices that result in family separation for migrant children at the Southern border, but also decades-old federal laws that lead every day to child removal and family separation for non-migrant children as well in communities throughout the country

“The relationships of thousands of children and parents are severed each year. Once in government custody, children pay a heavy price. They are at increased risk of involvement with the criminal legal system, sex trafficking, homelessness, and other devastating harms,” says Sandy Santana, executive director of Children’s Rights. “Our report adds momentum to the growing national movement to defend children’s and families’ right to family integrity, and furthers our efforts to stop the U.S. government from unjustly separating them.”

The report condemns a child “welfare” system that disproportionately targets Black and indigenous children, noting that the U.S. government itself has acknowledged that the system “is responsible for many structural barriers and racial biases that have contributed to family dysfunction, separation, and destruction under the guise of safety and well-being.”

Family Separation is an Urgent Civil and Human Rights Issue represents the latest action Children’s Rights has taken to make the case that the right to family integrity is a human right as recognized by international laws and standards. Through our efforts, UN officials last year called on the U.S. to amend or repeal child welfare laws that have a disparate impact on families of racial and ethnic minorities and just recently issued a declaration supporting the right to family integrity for families of African descent.

The UN submission concludes with a list of concrete recommendations to ensure that federal and state systems and policies recognize the fundamental right to family integrity. The hope is that the U.S. government will meaningfully address the concerns and recommendations raised during its appearance before the Committee in October.

Learn more here.

About Children’s Rights

Children’s Rights is a national advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of children living in or impacted by America’s child welfare, immigration, juvenile legal, education, and healthcare systems. We use civil rights impact litigation, advocacy and policy expertise, and public education to hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Our work centers on creating lasting systemic change that will advance the rights of children for generations. For more information, please visit