- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2019

The U.N.’s human rights commissioner on Monday blasted the U.S. for the conditions illegal immigrant children face when they are caught sneaking across the border, calling it “undignified.”

Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile and now the U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights, said she doesn’t want to see illegal immigrant children detained at all, saying it may even be “prohibited by international law.”

She also said she’s not a fan of adults being detained, and when they are, it must be in accord with safeguards.

“In most of these cases, the migrants and refugees have embarked on perilous journeys with their children in search of protection and dignity and away from violence and hunger,” she said in a statement. “When they finally believe they have arrived in safety, they may find themselves separated from their loved ones and locked in undignified conditions. This should never happen anywhere.”

She listed overcrowded facilities, inadequate health care and food and poor sanitation as her concerns.

Homeland Security officials acknowledge the overcrowding — though they’ve made strides to lessen the extreme levels. But they object to the claims about food, water and sanitation, saying cells are cleaned daily, and there is “adequate” provision of food and water.

Ms. Bachelet acknowledged what her office called “the complexity of the situation” of migration, where the numbers have overwhelmed American authorities’ ability to handle the flow of people.

The border processing facilities, generally built in the 1980s and 1990s, were never meant to hold migrants for days or weeks. They were designed at a time when illegal migration was chiefly Mexican adults, who could be processed and returned to Mexico within hours.

Over the last few years that has shifted, and children and families from Central America now make up most illegal immigration across the border — and they cannot be quickly returned.

They are supposed to be sent to other agencies — the families to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and unaccompanied children to the Health Department — but both of those agencies had run out of space, leaving the border facilities backed up.

Ms. Bachelet suggested the solution lies in better conditions at home, which she said could help keep people from fleeing their countries.

Academic studies and U.S. border officials say that while conditions may be rough in Central America, where most of the illegal border jumpers are now from, the chief reason they’re coming is jobs and economic opportunity — the same reason as previous waves of illegal immigrants.

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