Due to the constant stream of chaotic political news outpouring from the U.S. on a daily basis, one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the Trump administration has been largely ignored this past year. The ‘zero tolerance’ policy of the Trump administration has abused migrants’ human rights and will be responsible for detrimental long term mental health effects.
The conditions in which detained migrants have been forced to live epitomises the current administration’s disregard for their basic humanity. Migrants have endured weeks without access to showers, spent endless nights on concrete floors, and been deprived of drinking water. In one sickening incident, women had been told to drink the water from the toilet bowls by Border Patrol agents who mocked them. As if that was not enough inhumanity, Spanish-speaking women have also been medically abused through forced hysterectomies, causing irreparable damage without their consent or understanding.
The privately-owned Irwin County Detention Center in Georgia has refused to provide any Covid-19 testing for detainees who are symptomatic and has also adopted the practice of fabricating medical records. The grim reality of immigrant mistreatment by Border Patrol agents demonstrates a pathology of nauseating tormentation and oppression throughout the Border Patrol force and the contingent nature of the applicability of human rights in the U.S.
Through the aforementioned treatment against immigrants, the U.S. has breached several Articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR). This includes Article 5, which states that no one is to be “subjected to torture or…cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”, and Article 25 which demands that everyone is afforded a “standard of living adequate for the health and well-being [of themself]…including food, clothing, housing, and medical care”. The blatant disregard for Article 25 has been so extreme that several young children have died as a result of medical neglect from preventable illnesses.
The fundamentally unnecessary separation of families at the border has generated mayhem beyond comprehension, with the rising figure of 545 children being currently left orphaned by the policy because officials simply did not care enough to keep appropriate documentation. This practice has affected migrants who crossed the border at both illegal and legal ports of entry. The motivation behind the separation policy has been one of intimidation and deterrence, and the cruelty of its nature is precisely the reason as to why it was adopted.
The United Nations human rights office condemned the practice in 2018, stating that it “violates [migrants’] rights and international law”. However, if the Trump administration has been consistent in anything it has been its complete disregard for any opinion but its own, especially in matters of their illegal undertakings, thus the UN’s chastisement of the practice has been largely ineffective. For Trump supporters and administration members to deny that this policy was designed as anything but a cruel disincentive for families whose choices lie between facing violence and potential death in their home country or facing the brutality of detention center bullies would be laughable if it wasn’t so despicable. Families have been separated hundreds to thousands of miles apart, resulting in years of unforgivable separation.
The bullying tactics of the Border Patrol agents and the Trump administration with regards to immigrants has not been due to a lack of legal or moral knowledge, making it all the more disturbing. Their behaviour demonstrates a steady contribution to the erosion of Article 30 of the UNDHR which castigates any “destruction of …the rights and freedoms” set out in the UNDHR as they strip humanity from those who they consider inferior to them.
The dehumanisation of immigrants by the U.S. through stripping them of what little conceptual empowerment they previously had, and should have, from internationally respected human rights documentation is having, and will continue to develop into, long term detrimental effects on their mental health and self-worth. As such, the lingering legacy of these atrocities will be remembered and are discrediting the U.S.’s standing amongst other liberal democracies championing human rights.