Samantha R. Bentley*, Comment, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor (Unless They Are From “One of Three Mexican Countries”): Unaccompanied Children and the Humanitarian Crisis at the U.S. Southern Border, 54 U. Rich. L. Rev 569 (2020).

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There is undoubtedly a humanitarian crisis at the southern border of the United States.[1] At the height of the Trump Administration’s Family Separation policy in Summer 2018, thousands of children were separated from their parents.[2] Photos of children in cages,[3] children sleeping on the floor wrapped in mylar blankets,[4] and children screaming,[5] went viral. This issue was in the news again in June 2019 when several Democratic Presidential candidates visited a detention center for unaccompanied children in Florida.[6] This issue reflects the inadequacies within the United States immigration system. Specifically, it reflects a failure to respond to the increased number of children and families seeking admission into the United States, primarily at the southern border.[7]

This Comment argues that the United States’s response to the humanitarian crisis at its border is wholly inadequate. It argues that the government chose to advance two policies, Zero Tolerance and Family Separation, that exacerbated the humanitarian crisis at the border. These policies facilitated practices that violated domestic and international law. Most importantly, this Comment argues that the United States government traumatized one of the most vulnerable groups of people in the world: children.

Part I discusses United States immigration law, specifically as it relates to unaccompanied children. It will also discuss the background of the Zero Tolerance and Family Separation policies implemented in response to the border crisis. Part II will discuss the United States’s international legal obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Part III will discuss the policy implications of Zero Tolerance and Family Separation on domestic law. It will also provide policy alternatives and recommendations. Lastly, Part IV will discuss the policy implications of Zero Tolerance and Family Separation under international law.


 *  J.D. Candidate, 2020, University of Richmond School of Law; B.A., 2017, Virginia Commonwealth University. I am forever grateful for the love and encouragement of my family and friends who provide continuous support, no matter what. I would also like to thank my fellow members of the University of Richmond Law Review for their excellent editing and assistance with this Comment.