Tell Congress: End Family Separation | Physicians for Human Rights

Tell Congress: End Family Separation

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Medical experts have spoken: family separation constitutes torture, and it needs to end now. Physicians for Human Rights and thousands of health professionals across the nation are calling for an immediate end to family separation, for children to be reunited with their parents, and for the United States to respect the legal rights of migrants to seek asylum. Join us as we ask members of Congress to protect families from human rights abuses at the U.S.-Mexico border by supporting the Refugee Protection Act. Act now! 

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Your Message
End Family Separation
Dear Members of Congress,

I am writing to ask you to protect families from human rights abuses at the U.S.-Mexico border by supporting the Refugee Protection Act of 2019, introduced by Senator Leahy (VT) and Representative Lofgren (CA).

The administration’s practices and policies, intended to crack down on those seeking asylum in the United States, have included the separation of families and attempts to expand and prolong family detention. These brutal actions have severely harmed the health of migrant adults and children and further compounded the trauma experienced by this extremely vulnerable population. Now, new research conducted by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) provides evidence of how the U.S. government’s treatment of asylum-seekers is more than just trauma, it’s torture.

PHR’s new report, “You Will Never See Your Child Again,” documents the adverse physical and mental health effects resulting from the administration’s policy of family separation. These include symptoms and behaviors consistent with trauma and its effects: having severely depressed moods, overwhelming symptoms of anxiety, and physiological manifestations of panic and despair. Children have exhibited reactions that include regression in their age-appropriate behaviors, crying, loss of appetite, having nightmares and other sleeping difficulties, loss of developmental milestones, as well as clinging to parents and feeling scared even after reunification with their parents.

The U.S. government’s treatment of asylum seekers through its policy of family separation constitutes cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and, in all cases evaluated by PHR experts, constitutes torture.

Furthermore, because the U.S. government failed to accurately track the whereabouts of children and parents in its custody, to facilitate parental contact, or plan for reunification – thus depriving children of their due protections under the rule of law – these policies also constitute enforced disappearances.

As a deeply concerned citizen and voter, I strongly urge you to support the Refugee Protection Act of 2019 (H.R.5210/S.2936). This bicameral legislation provides a comprehensive plan to reform the U.S. asylum system, including a section dedicated to keeping families together. In addition, Congress should:

• Continue to exercise oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other agencies to halt any further family separations, except in cases where there is a proven risk of present harm to the child, and hold government officials accountable to acknowledge the persistent harms of the family separation practice;
• Provide reparation to families injured by unlawful government conduct;
• Require DHS to provide information about numbers of separated and reunited families and the whereabouts and status of previously separated parents and children to appropriate Congressional committees and make aggregated data publicly available;
• Codify the minimum child protection standards of the Flores Settlement Agreement into law, in order to prevent indefinite detention of children in inhumane conditions;
• Require rigorous independent oversight for any funding related to CBP field operations and immigration detention, especially family and child detention;
• Decriminalize irregular entry by asylum seekers, as required by the Refugee Convention, to ensure that administrative penalties for crossing between ports of entry are proportionate;
• Oppose policies that unlawfully limit access to asylum and uphold U.S. law, which establishes the asylum process for those with a credible fear of persecution, as well as the right to not be returned to likely persecution;
• Ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by the United States in 1995 and ratified by every other country in the world;
• Increase funding for alternatives to detention programming, contracted with non-profit organizations, that enable families to remain in the community and access basic services while their proceedings are pending;
• Increase funding to add asylum processing capacity by dedicating resources to the Executive Office of Immigration Review for immigration judges and to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for asylum officers.

To do anything less is to support policies and practices that violate the basic human rights of migrants, including the right to be free from enforced disappearance and torture.

Sincerely,
[First Name] [Last Name]