A watchdog organization is accusing the U.S. government of 'human rights violations' against asylum-seekers on the country's southern border.
In a report issued Thursday, Amnesty International singled out policies by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees federal border and immigration agents, for what the organization called a 'systematic campaign of illegal pushbacks' that kept thousands of asylum-seekers from reaching the United States.
Amnesty International also said the U.S. government released inaccurate data on the number of children separated from their families under the Trump administration's 'zero tolerance' policy to prosecute all undocumented border-crossers.
'The Trump administration is waging a deliberate campaign of widespread human rights violations in order to punish and deter people seeking safety at the U.S.-Mexico border,' said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director for Amnesty International, speaks during a press conference in Mexico City, June 28, 2016.
The report also said U.S. policies under the Trump administration regarding asylum-seekers are an attempt 'to broadcast globally that the United States no longer welcomes refugees.'
'There are widespread human rights violations that were deliberately conducted,' Brian Griffey, one of the report's lead researchers, told VOA. 'They know what their obligations are' regarding human rights, he added of the Trump administration.
DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman criticized the research.
'This is a deeply flawed, inaccurate report authored by an open-borders activist group. ... It is not even remotely credible and should not be treated as such,' Waldman said of the report in an emailed statement to VOA on Thursday.
Amnesty International and the administration clash over how the government carried out its zero-tolerance policy, and how transparent the government has been with the data about separated families.
Turning away asylum-seekers can be considered a violation of the international law against refoulement - the return of a refugee or asylum-seeker to his country of origin, or a third country, where he is at risk of human rights violations.
FILE - Christian, from Honduras, recounts his separation from his child at the border during a news conference at the Annunciation House, in El Paso, Texas, June 25, 2018.
DHS's Waldman pointed to data included in court proceedings that identified 2,654 children affected by the administration's zero-tolerance policy.
However, Amnesty International said data it obtained from U.S. Customs and Border Protection indicated approximately 8,000 family units were separated after crossing the border since 2017, which could mean closer to 4,000 children affected.
'There hasn't been a full reckoning on family separations,' said Griffey, the Amnesty International researcher.
The Trump administration faces legal challenges regarding its policy changes on immigration and refugee issues.