Footage described as ‘horrifying’ and ‘inhumane’ of a child detention center in Texas, USA, is making its rounds on social media and has caught the attention of several human rights activists around the world including Belize. The Washington Post is reporting the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers. More than 100 of these children are younger than four years old. The reason for these separations is a zero-tolerance policy for their parents, who are accused of illegally crossing the border. Here in Belize, attorney Lisa Shoman is speaking out. Shoman who has served as Foreign Affairs Minister and Belize’s Ambassador to the USA has written an open letter to the US Embassy in Belize. In her letter Shoman tells the US Embassy quote, “your government does not have to break up families—it is the choice of your current government to jail people with credible asylum claims who haven’t violated any laws. That is what is causing these heartbreaking family separations.” End of quote.
Lisa Shoman, Former Ambassador to the US: There is a situation that families with children who enter illegally are being separated. The parents are being dealt with for the misdemeanor of illegal entry and then deported but their children are not being deported with them. They are being separated. I spoke to a lady this morning who told me she has Honduran family who went to the border, entered illegally, and got separated from her teenage daughters. She was actually leaving her country because the daughters were under threat from gangs and to the day of today having been deported she does not know where here children are. The second situation which is also not law is that families are showing up at U.S. border entry points and requesting asylum and when asylum is requested and I recall no laws have been broken, this is what you are supposed to do: request asylum and when asylum is requested parents are being separated from their children and because the parents are being held in detention centers and situations which are like prisons U.S. Law specifically the case of Flores vs. Reno which is a known Civil Rights Case does not permit children to be held in those situations and so therefore children are being separated from their parents. I am going to make a direct appeal to all Belizeans who are U.S. Citizens and who are as disturbed of this as I am. Please contact your U.S. Congressman, contact your U.S. Senator and protest this state of affairs. This is not law, it is policy and the administration must be made to understand by its citizens that it is intolerable and it is inhumane and it must stop.
Shoman served as Ambassador to the US for seven years.