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Children First

Por Mariel Fiori
February 2019
“There is no cause which merits a higher priority than the protection and development of children, on whom the survival, stability and advancement of all nations - and, indeed, of human civilization - depends”, Plan of Action of the World Summit for Children, September 30th 1990. This world summit adopted a Declaration on the Survival, Protection and Development of Children, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty that has been ratified by 196 states recognized in the General Assembly of the United Nations. Well, all states of the world with the exception of the United States of America. What?

Yes, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) the international treaty ratified by the highest number of states of the United Nations, counts with the signature of the United States, but not with its ratification. Notwithstanding this fact, the U.S. helped draft and commented all of the 54 articles of the Convention, a binding document that emphasizes that children have the same rights as adults, underlining rights that arise from their special status as human beings that, because of not having reached full physical and mental development, require special protection. In addition, presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama expressed support, but never had it ratified in the Senate.

It would be very good to have it ratified, say proponents, because it stresses the right of survival, development and protection against abuse, negligence, and exploitation. It also deals with issues of juvenile justice. It would be good, not only to protect the rights of American children that too early on are punished, and even for life, in the criminal justice system, but also for the thousands of children that still are separated from their families after having crossed the southern border of the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which filed a case against the government last summer for the reunification of the 2,737 children that were perversely separated from their parents on the border last year, says that that number falls short. On the one hand, hundreds of children have still not been reunited and it is unknown if they will be some day. On the other, in January 2019 a report of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services concluded that there have been thousands more separations than 2,737, but it does not actually have good records. This means, we have thousands of invisibilized children and their unknown families, all traumatized, and in a sad limbo that does not respect the constitutional or human rights of asylum seekers.

And there is more. The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which works with the Department of Homeland Security, has been sued by the Southern Poverty Legal Center, the Aid Justice Legal Center, and a law firm based in Washington D.C. for the tremendous traumas that more than 10 thousand children detained in their shelters in 2018 should not have had to withstand.

In addition to the pending trials, popular pressure and groups and coalitions have helped alleviate the direst circumstances. For example, the monument to horror that the tent camp in Tornillo, Texas represented, and through which 7000 minors passed, has just closed. At the local level, those who feel the need to express their displeasure and fight for immigrant children and their families have several options. For example, every Thursday at noon a group of Poughkeepsie residents organize a march for the rights of  immigrant children. They get together at the parking lot of the establishment in front of Marist on route 9 a couple minutes before noon. They march from 12 to 1pm. Posters are welcome.

Another idea. The organization Hand in Hand, proposes making playdates with other families, but instead of getting together at a park or someone’s house, the meeting should take place in front of Wells Fargo or Chase Banks to ask them on February 16th, to show a little bit of love and break up their relationship with private prisons. Find more information here:

As aphorist Mirko Badiale put so well: "On every child there should be a sign that says: ‘Handle with care, dreams inside.” Children first. Don’t you think?

Mariel Fiori
Managing Editor


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