Rights Disappear When US Policy Engages Children As Weapons of Deterrence
AMA J Ethics. 2019;21(1):E58-66.
9 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2019 Last revised: 8 Feb 2019
Date Written: January 1, 2019
Although the United States provided significant guidance in drafting the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) it has never ratified the convention. The failure to ratify has taken on critical significance in light of new federal policies that have detained over 15,000 children in 2018, separated families, accelerated removal of asylum seekers, and emphasized deterring families from seeking asylum.
This article raises ethical and health implications of these refugee policies in light of the United States’ failure to ratify the CRC. It first examines the development of the CRC and international refugee law. It next lists some of the new policies and case law implemented by Attorney General Sessions in 2018 that have led to the detention and separation of children from their family, undermining legal protections for asylum applicants. The CRC calls for governments to examine the best interests of children seeking refugee status, but federal policies preclude consideration of that goal. In addition, although the CRC calls for appropriate legal protection for children, current policies neglect that goal and instead criminalize children and families before they have been provided with legal representation or assistance. Such policies exacerbate the trauma of children fleeing violence in their homeland and undergoing the risks of flight. This article raises ethical issues including whether judges and lawyers for the government should participate in legal proceedings when toddlers appear unrepresented. The failure to ratify the CRC in conjunction with these new deterrence polices undermines legal protections for children worldwide.
Keywords: convention on the Rights of the Child, refugees, detention, deportation, deterrence, asylum, family separation, children
JEL Classification: I18, K33, K37
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation