This week, as a result of violent extremism, the world mourns the tragic loss of life in Paris and Beirut. In light of these brutal attacks, it is more critical than ever that the world not turn against refugees fleeing the same types of violence and extremism at home.
In Paris, nearly 70 years ago, another historic event took place. At the end of World War II, and with thoughts of addressing future refugee crises, the global community came together to approve the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amongst other things, the declaration established asylum for refugees escaping persecution as a basic human right and had a profound effect on subsequent binding international human rights treaties and covenants.
Now, with the worst international refugee crisis since World War II, it is increasingly important that we not turn our backs on those turning to us for help.
Whether it is Central American mothers and children fleeing drug gangs, police corruption, and rampant gender-based violence, or Syrian families escaping widespread civil war and violence, it is the duty of the United States to provide a place of refuge.
Unfortunately, the U.S. practice of detaining refugees who cross the southern border continues to negatively impact women and children fleeing gender-based violence. We urge the U.S. to end family detention and embrace vulnerable families seeking protection in line with our recent position paper, “Righting the Wrong: Why Detention of Asylum Seeking Mothers and Children in America Must End Now.”
Our report has three primary recommendations:
- 1. End Family Detention Now: The detention of families, many of whom are survivors of domestic and sexual violence, is unjust and immoral. Even short term detention has been found to have severe and long-lasting harm on mothers and children. The nation’s two primary family detention centers are run by private prison companies, which are increasing in market share at the expense of the physical and mental well-being of detained women and children.
- 2. Discontinue Expedited Removal for Arriving Mothers with Children: Rather than forcing traumatized mothers to exhaustively retell their entire history of sexual and domestic violence to a chain of border and immigration agents, officials at the border should send mothers with children directly to a judge to determine eligibility for asylum. This will save time, money, and further trauma.
- 3. Fund NGOs to Offer Comprehensive Orientation and Community Based Support to All Mothers and Children: Rather than keeping mothers and children in the prison-like settings of detention centers, NGOs should be funded to provide comprehensive and holistic community based support to these families. The expertise of NGOs will not only aid families in receiving the most effective medical and mental health care, but will also improve their court hearing attendance rates.
Please take action now to protect refugees when they need it most!