Amnesty International USA asked Eric Swalwell 13 questions about some of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.
Here is his 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?
At the southern border, we must immediately unite children and their families and stop the policy of separating families. We must also reverse the policy of mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum-seekers. Keeping asylum seekers detained unnecessarily overwhelms facilities for others seeking refuge. I’m an original cosponsor of the Keep Families Together Act, and as President, I would both move administratively to ban family separations and would encourage Congress to send me a bill like this so we could make it permanent law.
U.S. border authorities should not turn away refugees without registering or even determining if they are truly seeking refuge. We must increase funding for improved processing, medical care, court administration, and legal services.
I voted against Trump’s national emergency declaration aimed at building border walls. This inhuman approach will not solve the problem at our Southern border. We can strengthen staffing and update technology at our ports of entry, and support our Coast Guard, to interdict trafficking without treating refugees fleeing violence and poverty as criminals.
What can the U.S. do to address the causes of migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America?
This crisis requires leadership, not showmanship. Any showman can go to the border and demonize immigrants and refugees. A leader would go beyond the border and convene leaders from Mexico and South American countries to support working with Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, as well as any relevant NGOs, to see how we can alleviate the suffering that is driving people to seek asylum in the U.S.
If that requires increased foreign aid, then it’s an investment we should make. It is critical that we keep offering aid through USAID-assisted programs which are proving to be effective in providing alternatives to gang life as they provide jobs and teach skills, provide food, and security to reduce violence. These programs help families stay in place.
We must also continue to dispel untruths about why people are fleeing. We must ensure that the State Department reports are inaccurate in documenting human rights violations by these countries.
I support legislation including the United States–Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act which authorizes $577 million in foreign assistance to Central America for Fiscal Year 2020; imposes targeted visa bans on and freezes assets of individuals engaged in corruption impacting these countries; and enhances engagement with the Mexican government to support development efforts in southern Mexico and strengthen security cooperation at the shared border with Guatemala and Belize. It also requires advance notification to Congress on security assistance to Northern Triangle countries, regardless of the dollar amount for the following three years.
What role should U.S. refugee admissions play in our response to the global refugee crisis?
America must lead the world in rendering aid to the world’s most vulnerable, both to maintain geopolitical stability and as a moral imperative.
As a nation of immigrants and refugees, we have a special obligation to welcome immigrants and refugees. President Trump’s reduction in refugee admittances is morally repugnant. We should reinstate the Obama Administration’s level of funding for global humanitarian appeals and increase the number of resettlement slots and legal pathways for refugees by raising the cap above the Obama-era level of 110,000.
We also must reverse two unjust and harmful rules enacted by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions: barring victims of domestic abuse and gang violence from qualifying for protection, and allowing immigration officials to use an asylum applicants’ illegal entry into the United States as a strike against their asylum application.
We also should take a close look at our own role in creating crises that lead to refugee migration, and should hold our allies accountable for violations.
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?
America must offer support and solutions for those displaced by war, famine, rising sea levels, and other crises. During the Obama Administration, America gave more humanitarian aid than any other country ($3 billion) and it ranked first in supporting the UN’s lead agency in helping refugees. That’s a good starting place. We must invest in humanitarian aid to displaced persons and refugees, food, safe drinking water, medical aid, health, sanitation and hygiene services, and shelter for those who have been displaced.
Smart investments in building the resilience of vulnerable communities can ease humanitarian caseloads. We need to scale up recovery and resilience programs to help those affected recover their homes and livelihoods.
What policies should the U.S. implement to reduce and prevent gun violence?
I’m the only 2020 presidential candidate to make ending gun violence the top policy priority. I’m also the only candidate to call for a mandatory national buyback of all military-style semi-automatic assault weapons, to get them out of our communities once and for all, as described in my Assault Weapons Ban Act of 2019. We also must enact truly universal background checks for all gun and ammunition purchases, do more to take guns away from domestic abusers through my No Guns for Abusers Act, and push states to adopt gun violence restraining order laws.
But we also must restore hope to the hopeless in cities where gun violence is a daily, deadly reality. That means making major public investment in schools, job training, and job creation to lift people out of poverty and give them optimism and opportunity for better lives.
And we can both improve the data flow into our background check system and invest more in mental health services to ensure that firearms don’t fall into dangerous hands.
How should the U.S. address police killings of civilians, including the lack of transparency and accountability?
Those who protect and serve us must never be above the law themselves. I favor predicating the grant of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funding upon local agencies’ commitment to have all officers wear body cameras while on duty, and commitment to having their sworn workforces reflect the communities they serve through recruiting, training, hiring and retention of more officers of color.
I also support more and better police training to emphasize de-escalation and other nonlethal tactics, and civilian oversight commissions to review complaints. The Trump administration has encouraged law enforcement agencies to scale back or remove police oversight mechanisms, and the Justice Department has backed off investigations and monitoring of agencies with patterns of excessive force and other violations. These policies should be reversed.
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?
Leading the world against human-rights abuses starts at home. The Trump Administration’s Muslim ban is an immoral and unfair policy – no faith can be America’s enemy. And the president’s failure to condemn anti-Semitic elements of his base allows this pernicious evil to fester. An American president must speak out against religious-based hate with clarity – wrong is wrong, evil is evil. As President, I will increase the FBI’s and Justice Department’s funding to prosecute white nationalist domestic terrorists. I also will increase Department of Education funding to expand inclusiveness and diversity training and awareness for our kids.
On the global stage, America should use the International Religious Freedom Act to its fullest capacity to develop and implement strategy for promoting religious freedom abroad, including action plans for specific countries. We should step up use of mechanisms offered by the Global Magnitsky Act to impose targeted sanctions against specific officials, agencies, and military units committing religious freedom violations. Our State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development can assist countries in developing educational materials promoting tolerance, pluralism and respect for the human rights including religious freedom. And we can allocate funding through the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program and relevant Defense Department programs to train and equip foreign officials to protect places of worship and other holy sites.
How should the U.S. protect LGBTI rights at home and abroad?
People are people, love is love, and everyone must be treated equally under the law. Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity simply has no place in our society, and we must do all we can to stamp it out.
I have cosponsored bills including:
• The Equality Act to ensure the same protections already extended to other protected classes are equally available to LGBTQ Americans.
• The Student Non-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools, protect students from intimidation and violence, and create learning environments in which each and every child can learn and thrive.
• The Refund Equality Act to ensure that legally-married same-sex couples are permitted to file amended tax returns back to the date of their marriage.
• The Voices for Veterans Act to extend and expand the membership of the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans to include veterans who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
• The Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act to provide the same family benefits to lawfully-married lesbian and gay veterans as different-sex spouses.
Abroad, we can use the Global Magnitsky Act to impose targeted sanctions against specific officials, agencies, and military units committing human rights abuses against LGBTQ people.
And we must always speak out. In January, I helped lead a bipartisan letter urging the Secretary of State to publicly condemn violence against the LGBTQ community in Chechnya and to pressure Russian leaders to stop this persecution.
How should the U.S. ensure that our foreign and domestic policies protect sexual and reproductive rights?
All women have the right to control their bodies and make their own health decisions, including the right to a safe and legal abortion. This lawless president has inspired lawless state legislatures to pass unconstitutional bills; as president, I’ll work with Congress to protect women’s control of their own bodies without government interference and ensure women in every state retain access to abortion care. We must fight to protect Roe v. Wade to make sure abortion remains safe and legal; I support codifying into law the protections that Roe provides.
I’m an original cosponsor of H.R.1692, the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2019, to repeal the Hyde Amendment that denies poor women (and, disproportionately, women of color) their rights. I cosponsored this in previous Congresses as well.
I’m an original cosponsor of H.R. 2975, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would invalidate any state laws that single out abortion providers for requirements and restrictions that are medically unnecessary, do not promote women’s health or safety, and limit access to abortion services.
I’m a cosponsor of H.R. 2091, the Access to Contraception for Women Servicemembers and Dependents Act of 2019, to bring health care provided by the military in line with current law for civilian populations.
I’ve agreed to co-sponsor H.R.1055, the Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act, to repeal the global gag rule blocking U.S-funded NGOs from providing or even referring women to abortion care.
How should the U.S. address the targeting, harassment, and killing of human rights defenders and journalists around the world?
I’ve introduced H.R. 1684, the Journalist Protection Act, to make physical attacks on those reporting the news a federal crime.
In response to the heinous torture and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, I urged the president to invoke the Global Magnitsky Act and impose visa bans and targeted sanctions. When I’m president, no nation – regardless of other relationships with America – will get a pass for such behavior.
I support the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which calls for creating a coordinated inter-agency mechanism to handle issues related to journalists’ safety of journalists as well as helping countries develop legislation and mechanisms favorable to freedom of expression and information, and supporting their efforts to implement existing international rules and principles.
I cosponsored H.Res. 345, recognizing widening threats to freedoms of the press and expression around the world, reaffirming the centrality of a free and independent press to the health of democracy, and reaffirming freedom of the press as a priority of the United States in promoting democracy, human rights, and good governance in commemoration of World Press Freedom Day on May 3, 2019.
How should the U.S. respond to the increasing use of political repression by authoritarian regimes?
The United States should never cozy up to dictators. In his relationships with regimes like those in Russia, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia, President Trump betrays our democratic and humanitarian values and diminishes our standing in the world.
We must put liberal democratic values at the center of our engagement with the world. I intend to take the oath and catch a plane, going on a global affirmation tour to re-assure our allies that we still stand with them against authoritarianism. We should work with those allies to create and use a playbook for pushing back on authoritarian encroachment and abuses. We should work as a team on diplomatic efforts to isolate authoritarian regimes, with military force used only as a last resort to address extreme security risks. We should speak loudly and forcefully, from the diplomatic bargaining tables, from the Rose Garden, from the rooftops, in support of nonviolent mobilization for civil and political freedom around the world.
How can the U.S. ensure compliance with and accountability for its international human rights obligations in national security operations?
We cannot use national security as a justification for policies that violate international law; that goes for everything from how we treat detainees to our judicial practices to how we fight on the battlefield.
We must close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. We must provide humane treatment and fair trials in civilian courts to all suspected terrorists, including those who have been held at Guantanamo Bay. We must curtail and carefully control use of drone strikes, which have increased under the Trump Administration. We cannot permit surveillance or targeting of people based on their faith. And we must take a strong, unequivocal stand against use of torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
We can ensure our national security without sinking to the tactics and values of those who threaten it.
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?
Congress and the President must be vigilant to ensure that we are not selling arms to countries that are in violation of human rights and international humanitarian law.
Specifically, we should halt the sales of arms to countries and coalitions like the Saudi-Emirati coalition that is using US weapons to harm children and civilians in Yemen.
We must not let President Trump invoke emergency powers to bypass congressional review of weapon sales for Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. President Trump’s veto of a measure to end U.S. military aid to Saudi Arabia’s Yemen war effort is unconscionable.
Reform of our conventional arms transfer policy must not make it easier for American companies to sell weapons to countries that commit human rights abuses. The old policy prohibited arms transfers to countries that commit “attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians;” the Trump administration’s new policy bars transfers that are “intentionally” directed, a weaker standard. I would reverse this.
I oppose President Trump’s recent move to withdraw the United States from the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. His kowtowing to the National Rifle Association on this issue is disgusting.
How should the U.S. government hold businesses accountable for human rights abuses?
U.S. companies should be required by law to identify and prevent human rights abuses – our business, our economy, should never get in the way of our humanity. Companies should be held fully accountable for any violations of human rights or international law, and victims of such abuse should be able to seek fair justice. Whether it’s about wages, age of laborers, safe working conditions, pollution, trafficking, or other issues, no American should play a role in exploiting people abroad. Our standards and regulations must reflect this.
We should do all we can to adhere to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; the Shift Project is doing great work on guiding companies through this process. And our government should support NGOs, local community groups, and advocates across the world that are monitoring the companies’ conduct on human rights issues.