The UN rights chief on Monday condemned the "unconscionable" separation of migrant children from their parents at the US border, as First Lady Melania Trump made a rare political plea to end the deeply controversial practice.
The "zero-tolerance" border security policy implemented by US President Donald Trump's administration has sparked tears among migrant families and outrage on both sides of the political aisle. It took on particular resonance as America celebrated Father's Day, AFP wrote.
"The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said as he opened a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
He called for Washington to immediately end the practice of "forcible separation of these children."
'Evil' migrant policy
Democrats, meanwhile, stepped up their opposition to the policy, describing it as "evil."
"They call it 'zero tolerance,' but a better name for it is zero humanity, and there's zero logic to this policy," said Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, after leading a group of Democratic lawmakers to the Mexican border.
They toured a converted Walmart supermarket that is now housing about 1,500 immigrant children, after which Merkley said "hurting kids to get legislative leverage is unacceptable. It is evil."
Bracing for more child arrivals, the government plans to build camps at military bases in Texas.
Authorities said that during one recent six-week period nearly 2,000 minors were separated from their parents or adult guardians – a figure that only stoked the firestorm.
Trump has said he wants the separations to end, but continues to blame opposition Democrats for the crisis, which critics say is of his own making.
Amid deep divisions, congressional Republicans have struggled to craft a viable immigration plan.
Immigration is one of the most divisive issues roiling American politics.
The number of separations has jumped since early May, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that all migrants illegally crossing the US border with Mexico would be arrested, regardless of whether the adults were seeking asylum.
Since children cannot be sent to the facilities where their parents are held, they are separated, which the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned causes "irreparable harm" to the children.
One Honduran asylum seeker killed himself in detention after US authorities separated him from his wife and three-year-old son last month, The Washington Post reported.
Some of Trump's fellow Republicans also have said the policy must end.
The administration has decided "to separate children from their parents to try to send a message that if you cross the border with children, your children are going to be ripped away from you," Senator Susan Collins told CBS television's "Face the Nation."
"That's traumatizing to the children who are innocent victims, and it is contrary to our values in this country."
In one incident that highlighted the crisis, five immigrants died and several others were injured after a high-speed chase with Border Patrol agents in Texas ended in a crash, US media said.