Family Separation is Torture: Global Justice Clinic Submits International Law Brief to U.S. District Court

The Global Justice Clinic at NYU School of Law, together with law professors, clinics, and organizations expert in international human rights and immigration law, filed a brief amici curiae (friend of the court brief) in federal district court this week, arguing that the U.S. government’s continued practices of family separation and arbitrary detention of asylum-seekers violate binding international law. The Clinic’s work on the brief was led by students Anjali Mehta and Ashley Miller, under the supervision of Professor Margaret Satterthwaite and supervising attorney Nikki Reisch.

Amici—who included former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez, law school clinics specializing in immigration law such as NYU School of Law’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, and organizations that work at the intersection of immigration, refugee, and human rights law such as Justice in Motion—submitted the brief to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in support of a habeas corpus petition for release of a detained asylum-seeker who was forcibly separated from her young son upon presenting herself at a Port of Entry in Texas. Nearly a year later, she remains in detention in El Paso, isolated from her son and the rest of her family.

The Global Justice Clinic first learned of her case through an Amnesty International report about the violations of rights of asylum-seekers in the United States, which included a detailed investigation of U.S. immigration practices and policies.

The Global Justice Clinic’s brief argues that the practice of family separation constitutes torture under international law because it is an intentional government act that results in the severe suffering of both parent and child, done for the purpose of coercing asylum-seekers to give up their asylum claims or deterring future migrants. The brief further argues that depriving asylum-seekers of their liberty without any individualized justification for, or independent review of, their custody constitutes arbitrary detention, in violation of international law. These practices have been widely condemned by international human rights experts, including the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and UN working groups, which have also called upon the United States to cease family separation and the arbitrary detention of asylum-seekers.

Read the brief.

Read more about amici in the Motion for Leave to File.


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