Congress: Reject funding to expand family detention NOW.
The Trump administration’s emergency request for funding at the U.S. southern border includes money earmarked for expanding family detention and for allowing untrained border patrol agents to screen migrants seeking asylum. Please, add your name now to urge Congress to reject these destructive and harmful allocations in this funding request.
Dear Speaker Pelosi,
I join Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) and medical professionals across the country to urge Congress to reject portions of the White House’s recent FY 2019 Emergency Supplemental Budget Request for Southern Border Humanitarian Needs. Despite an urgent need for humanitarian support and increased legal and medical capacity along the southern border of the United States, I am concerned about certain elements of the emergency budget request that could have dire effects on the health, safety, and human rights of migrants and asylum seekers.
In a request sent by White House acting budget Director Russell Vought on May 1, 2019, the Trump administration requested new funds to expand family detention. Detention of asylum-seeking children, even when detained together in a family unit, is a violation of their human rights and will expose them to grave risks to their health and well-being. Prolonged detention increases the risk of serious health problems, including severe and chronic anxiety, depression, suicide, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The White House also included a request for $23 million to begin implementing a program to allow border patrol agents to conduct credible fear screenings. Forensic documentation carried out by PHR’s volunteer, nonpartisan clinical experts over the past 30 years has shown that trauma-informed adjudicators who have the appropriate expertise to assess persecution are critical to ensuring that asylum claims are evaluated fairly. Border patrol agents who are primarily responsible for law enforcement are not recruited or trained with the skills needed for this task – and a pilot program that asks untrained law-enforcement agents to expand their job description is not a viable option.
Despite Director Vought’s warning that, if the administration's budget request is not expediently granted,“…thousands of children might remain for lengthy periods of time in facilities that were never intended to be long-term shelters, rather than being expeditiously transferred to HHS custody,” it is imperative to the health, safety, and legal rights of asylum seekers—particularly children—that Congress carefully consider the legal and medical impacts of the administration’s request.
I urge you and colleagues in Congress to reject funding for a pilot program empowering Border Patrol agents to conduct credible fear interviews for asylum seekers, and to refuse to expand the already worrisome detention of children and families awaiting asylum proceedings. Rather, funding should be allocated to support community-based alternatives to detention, which have been proven to be effective in ensuring compliance with immigration proceedings, while providing better access to necessary medical and legal services.
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
The Honorable Richard C. Shelby
The Honorable Nita Lowey
The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
The Honorable Kay Granger