Family Separation as a Violation of International Law

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Devastating to the individuals involved and frequently destructive in its long-term impact on cultural groups and entire societies, the involuntary separation of families is a widespread problem that deserves increased attention as an issue of international human rights. Today, the international legal system is beginning to address the concerns of the family and the need for justice within the family, and to develop norms that in many circumstances treat involuntary family separation as a violation of international law. Its approach, however, has been fragmentary and inconsistent, viewing family separation through particular lenses, such as children's rights or privacy, without establishing a coherent framework that brings these various perspectives together. In this article, we identify and compare the emerging principles of international law that relate to the issue of family separation and elaborate on them in a way that, we hope, will help to build such a framework.