Amnesty International USA asked Elizabeth Warren 13 questions about some of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.
Here is her response exactly as provided:
How should the U.S. respond to the growing number of asylum-seekers, including families and children, seeking protection at the U.S. southern border?
Let’s be clear, there is no emergency at the border – and an immigration system that cannot tell the difference between a criminal, a terrorist, and a 12-year-old girl is a system that does not make us safer or reflect our values. We must hold the Trump administration responsible for its illegal and immoral immigration policies.
I visited the children and families in McAllen, Texas who were torn apart by President Trump’s cruel family separation policy. It was devastating. Our first priority should be reuniting children who are still separated from their parents, stop the deportation of parents who have yet to be reunited with their children, and end this inhumane policy. I’ve co-sponsored legislation that would help reunite families separated at the border, prevent parents separated from their children from being deported, keep families who’ve crossed our borders together, and protect children who have suffered because of these policies. I also opposed President Trump’s efforts to divert disaster relief funds to build a border wall.
America’s diversity, fueled by generations of immigrants from across the globe, makes us a stronger, more vibrant nation. I voted for the 2013 bipartisan immigration reform bill — and I will continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform that creates a permanent solution that provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including DREAMers, and for qualified recipients of Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure, helps us retain talent trained at our world-class institutions, and protects our borders.
What can the U.S. do to address the causes of migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America?
The journey to the United States is arduous and dangerous — but still many people attempt it because they feel they have no other choice. We need comprehensive immigration reform that will protect our borders without targeting families fleeing violence and risking everything for a fighting chance for their kids. But there’s also a lot we can do to help address this crisis at its root. We can start by restoring the aid that President Trump cut to the Northern Triangle countries. We should provide them with the resources they need so that families there can build a future and don’t have to flee their homes. Investing in the region to address corruption, improve safety and security, and expand economic opportunity – those outcomes are good for us, too. The United States should act as a good neighbor and lead the push for positive change in the region, particularly for those most at risk.
What role should U.S. refugee admissions play in our response to the global refugee crisis?
President Trump’s decision to dramatically reduce the number of refugees allowed into the United States is a failure of moral leadership. President Obama set the refugee ceiling for fiscal year 2017 at 110,000, but President Trump has drastically cut this number since taking office, announcing that the cap would be just 30,000 for fiscal year 2019. Not only has President Trump reduced the cap, but his administration has dragged its feet on actually admitting refugees.
The United States has always been a beacon of hope for people around the world, and the last thing we should be doing is continuing to limit or ban people from entering the country. We can keep our country safe and uphold our values by helping people fleeing violence and persecution. That’s why I joined my Senate Democratic colleagues in calling on the Trump Administration to not only increase the cap on the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the United States, but to also strengthen the federal government’s resources so we could accept more refugees. It’s also why I fought against President Trump’s illegal Muslim Ban. And while the Supreme Court upheld the ban, the American people know it isn’t right. Together we will keep fighting against religious discrimination, xenophobia, and hate – and as President, I will rescind this ban.
What kinds of support could the U.S. provide to countries and regions experiencing record levels of internal displacement induced by causes as wide-ranging as climate change and warfare?
We have many tools in the toolbox that we can use to address internal displacement around the world. It starts with putting an end to U.S. involvement in endless wars in the Middle East and around the world; reversing Trump budget cuts to the State Department, USAID, and non-military development programs; and leading efforts to assist refugees through the UN and other multilateral organizations. I’ve supported a number of resolutions and bills that seek to address internal displacement in countries around the world, including the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act and Defeat ISIS and Protect and Secure the United States Act. I also signed a letter urging President Trump to address the humanitarian and political crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where some 3.8 million people are displaced.
As president, I would also return the United States to the Paris Climate Accords in recognition of the role that climate change plays in exacerbating the migration crisis. We must go far further than Paris to reduce global emissions, but we can only do that when we’re leading from the front. We also need other countries to slash their emissions, and that means supplying the world with clean energy products to put us on the right path. That’s why I am an original co-sponsor of the Green New Deal, and why I proposed a new $100 billion federal program dedicated to working with foreign governments and companies to purchase and deploy American-made clean, renewable, and emission-free energy technology.
What policies should the U.S. implement to reduce and prevent gun violence?
Gun violence is a national emergency, but right now our government is being held hostage by the NRA. There’s so much we could do to improve safety for our children and for all of us. To start, we need to pass universal background checks, ban military-style assault weapons and bump stocks, and close the gun show loophole. It’s also time to lift the senseless ban on federal research into gun violence, so we can start studying gun violence like the public health crisis that it is. And I’ve called on shareholders of the nine major gun companies to use their financial leverage to ensure the companies they’ve invested in are taking steps to reduce violence – because the gun industry should be held accountable for the gun violence epidemic.
Additionally, I’ve co-sponsored Senator Blumenthal’s Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act and his bill to ensure that all firearms are traceable. I fought hard against the Trump Administration’s decision to allow the online publication of blueprints for untraceable 3D printable firearms, and I released a report with Congresswoman Clark that shows most Massachusetts educators oppose arming teachers – because we should be investing in more counselors and mental health professionals for our schools, not weapons.
How should the U.S. address police killings of civilians, including the lack of transparency and accountability?
The vast majority of police officers sign up so they can protect their communities. They are part of an honorable profession that takes risks every day to keep us safe. We know that. But we also know – and say – the names of those whose lives have been treated with callous indifference. Sandra Bland. Freddie Gray. Michael Brown. We’ve seen sickening videos of unarmed, black Americans cut down by bullets, choked to death while gasping for air – their lives ended by those who are sworn to protect them.
Policing must become a truly community endeavor – not in just a few cities, but everywhere. That means embracing community policing, funding de-escalation trainings and community-based violence intervention programs, demilitarizing our local police forces, and building trust between communities and law enforcement. It also means having police forces that look like, and come from, the neighborhoods they serve.
As president, I will also return to some of the practical efforts President Obama had in place – working with police departments, signing consent decrees, and ensuring law enforcement is focused on prevention rather than incarceration.
We honor the bravery and sacrifice that our law enforcement officers show every day on the job – and the noble intentions of the vast majority of those who take up the difficult job of keeping us safe. But police are not occupying armies. This is America, not a war zone – and policing practices in all cities – not just some – need to reflect
How should the U.S. address human rights abuses suffered by religious and ethnic minorities at the hands of government and non-government actors worldwide?
First, the United States must lead by example and fight against religious discrimination, xenophobia, and hate at home. It’s a serious problem when many American politicians seem to accept – even embrace – the politics of division and resentment. We must speak out against hateful rhetoric of all kinds.
We must also call out human rights abuses abroad and seek to hold those who perpetrate them accountable. That’s why I’ve co-sponsored multiple resolutions and bills calling for the safe, dignified, voluntary, and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees displaced by the Burmese military’s ethnic cleansing and to promote democracy and human rights in Burma. I am a co-sponsor of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which would hold China accountable for its gross human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region. I’ve also co-sponsored a resolution that called for reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka and the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act, which will hold perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Syria accountable.
How should the U.S. protect LGBTI rights at home and abroad?
Every person should be treated with dignity and respect and feel safe to be who they are at home and abroad. The United States can start by being a leader on protecting LGBTI rights. I am a co-sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, and I believe Congress must pass this bill to ban discrimination against LGBTI individuals in employment, housing, and other areas. I introduced the Refund Equality Act to remove restrictions that prevent married same-sex couples from amending their federal tax returns and recouping money to which they are entitled. I led the fight against the discriminatory ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual people and pushed the FDA to change its policies. I co-sponsored legislation to eliminate the despicable practice of conversion therapy nationwide. I’ve also spoken up on behalf of groups battling to end bullying against young people – especially against LGBTI students – and supported several bills to strengthen schools’ efforts against bullying.
Additionally, I’ve spoken out against President Trump’s offensive, harmful, and entirely unjustified ban on transgender Americans serving in the military. Banning service members based on gender identity is shameful, unconstitutional, and makes us less safe. The only thing that matters when it comes to allowing military personnel to serve is whether or not they can handle the job. We must keep fighting until every American is free to be themselves and serve their country without discrimination.
How should the U.S. ensure that our foreign and domestic policies protect sexual and reproductive rights?
I’ll fight my heart out to defend a woman’s fundamental right to access safe, legal abortion and control her own body at home and abroad. That’s why I’ve called on Congress to pass new federal laws that protect access to reproductive care — federal laws that ensure real access to birth control and abortion care for all women, and will stand no matter what the Supreme Court does. All women — no matter where they live, where they’re from, how much money they make, or the color of their skin — are entitled to access high-quality, evidence-based reproductive health care. I support repealing the Hyde amendment and passing the EACH Woman Act, which would also prohibit abortion restrictions on private insurance. And we should ensure all future health coverage — including Medicare for All — includes contraception and abortion coverage.
We must also undo the current Administration’s efforts to undermine women’s access to reproductive health care — including ending President Trump’s domestic gag rule and fully supporting Title X family planning funding. But ensuring that reproductive health care is available to every woman in America is just the beginning. Republicans made their fight global when President Trump reinstated the global gag rule to stop our international development agency from funding any overseas health center that may provide abortion services or counseling with their own funds. That’s why I am a proud co-sponsor of Senator Shaheen’s Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act, which would permanently repeal the global gag rule.
How should the U.S. address the targeting, harassment, and killing of human rights defenders and journalists around the world?
A free press is crucial to vibrant democracies and strong communities across our country and around the world. I fiercely opposed President Trump’s decision to prioritize weapons sales and the interests of defense contractors by refusing to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. My anti-corruption bill – the largest anti-corruption bill since Watergate –would also end influence-peddling by foreign actors and limit the influence of foreign companies, individuals, and governments on public policy. My Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act would further slam shut the revolving door between giant contractors and the Pentagon.
I have also co-sponsored legislation that would promote protections for human rights defenders and journalists in the Northern Triangle. I co-sponsored a resolution calling on the Iranian government to respect people’s right to peacefully protest and a resolution calling on Saudi Arabia to release human rights and women’s rights activists and journalists from prison. I also co-sponsored a resolution that urged countries to free 20 women who were unjustly imprisoned around the world. And I co-sponsored a resolution calling for the immediate release of Wa Lone and Kyaw Seo Oo, journalists unjustly imprisoned in Burma who were finally released in May.
How should the U.S. respond to the increasing use of political repression by authoritarian regimes?
After years as the world’s lone superpower, the United States is entering a new period of competition. Democracy is running headlong into nationalism, authoritarianism, and corruption.
But the thing about authoritarian governments – they are rotten from the inside out. Authoritarian leaders talk a big game – about nationalism, and patriotism, and how they alone can save the state and the people. But it is rotten by its very design because it stacks the deck for the wealthy and depends on corruption to survive.
From Hungary to Turkey to the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, wealthy elites work together to grow the state’s power while the state works to enrich those who remain loyal to the leader. That’s corruption, pure and simple. This combination of authoritarianism and corrupt capitalism is a fundamental threat to democracy, both here and abroad. We need to be honest about the hard work that is needed to restore our democracy and to align our foreign policy abroad to regain the trust of the American people.
We must also reprioritize diplomacy and reinvest in the State Department and the development agencies. Alliances are about shared principles, like our shared commitment to human rights, but they are also about safety in numbers. Not even the strongest country should have to solve everything on its own.
How can the U.S. ensure compliance with and accountability for its international human rights obligations in national security operations?
Our foreign policy must take an honest look at the full costs and risks of our military actions – and be conducted in a way that is consistent with our values and with international law. The human costs of our wars in the Middle East have been staggering: hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and many millions more injured or displaced.
Seriously addressing the issue of civilian casualties is essential to upholding our values at home and advancing our interests overseas. That’s why I have led the fight in Congress to ensure that U.S. forces make every effort to recognize and avoid harm to civilians in their operations. I introduced the Preventing Civilian Casualties in Military Operations Act, which requires the Defense Department to submit a comprehensive annual report detailing civilian casualties caused by U.S. military operations, and I successfully got this provision included in the FY 2018 NDAA. I also successfully fought to appoint a senior civilian at the Pentagon responsible for civilian casualty policies, and to demand access and consultation with NGOs and aid groups who operate on the ground in conflict areas. I led the fight to demand additional transparency about U.S. Central Command’s support for Saudi-led operations in Yemen, and obtained General Votel’s acknowledgment that CENTCOM had the ability to track whether those operations resulted in civilian casualties. And I called for investigations into the airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders facility in Yemen and reports that U.S. service members were hired for targeted killing operations.
What can the U.S. do to ensure U.S. arms are not used to perpetuate human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law?
We can start with a simple premise: defense industry profits should not outweigh the lives of innocent civilians. Take Saudi Arabia, for example. A Saudi-led coalition has bombed thousands of Yemeni civilians and potentially allowed the transfer of U.S. weapons to violent extremists. The Saudi regime even ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, merely because he was critical of the government. And yet the Trump Administration has continued to support arms sales to Saudi Arabia because it’s good for American defense contractors’ bottom line.
I have voted to disapprove of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and to halt U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and I will continue to do so. But we also need to end the stranglehold of defense contractors on our military policy. That’s why I introduced the Department of Defense Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act, which would limit the influence of contractors on the military and provide additional transparency into their actions.
How should the U.S. government hold businesses accountable for human rights abuses?
All workers deserve a safe workplace. That starts with making it easy to join a union, putting an end to so-called right-to-work laws, and making sure workers have fair and stable hours. It also means implementing rules that limit workers’ exposure to harmful chemicals, ensuring companies maintain adequate records of workplace injuries, and requiring federal contractors to disclose labor law violations to receive taxpayer funds.
While international trade deals have worked well for elites and multinational companies, they often leave workers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. I’ve fought against trade deals negotiated by corporate interests at the expense of consumers and workers, and I’ve supported provisions that strengthen safety, labor rights, public health, and the environment.
I also fought to implement Sections 1502 and 1504 of the Dodd-Frank Act. My Corporate Executive Accountability Act ensures that executives whose companies engage in criminal negligence, including human rights violations, can go to jail, and my Accountable Capitalism Act requires companies to consider the interests of the communities in which they operate.
Additionally, I fought against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Moving these pipelines forward pits hard-working Americans against our environment, public health, and the protection of tribal lands.
And finally, we must end the use of private prisons. I’ve worked to hold private prisons accountable for their violation of health and safety standards and abuse of immigrants in their custody – and these prisons have no place in any part of our criminal justice system.