Help Me to Find My Children: A Thirteenth Amendment Challenge to Family Separation

Ndjuoh MehChu
Date of Publication: 
February, 2021
Source Organization: 

During the height of the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy in 2018, 50 to 70 migrant families were separated daily. By January 2020, 4,368 children in total had been separated.  In “Help Me to Find My Children: A Thirteenth Amendment Challenge to Family Separation,” Ndjuoh MehChu, an interdisciplinary scholar with a focus on human and civil rights, criminal justice reform and critical race theory, develops a case that challenges involuntary family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border using the Thirteenth Amendment. MehChu argues that such separation deserves Congressional or judicial prohibition as an “incident of slavery.” First, he notes how the lens of the Thirteen Amendment links the practice of family separation to other historical practices that victimized other marginalized communities, a connection that may expand advocacy to better protect migrant groups. Secondly, he notes how Congress or the Courts can use the Thirteenth Amendment to interpret family separation as an issue of public morality. Migrant family separation would, according to the author, mean the failure of Congress and the courts to eliminate the system of slavery, which denied individuals dignity and the fundamental human right to the sanctity of family. (Erika Hernandez for The Immigrant Learning Center’s Public Education Institute) 


MehChu, N. (2021). Help me to find my children: A thirteenth amendment challenge to family separation. Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, 17(1).