Amnesty International USA asked Jay Inslee 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?

America’s character is defined by its openness to those who come here seeking asylum and refuge. But President Trump’s cruel rhetoric and policies endanger that idea of America as a place of safety and hope for asylum seekers. The next president must ensure our country once again welcomes and efficiently manages claims of asylum seekers recognized under international law, and my America’s Promise plan accomplishes exactly that. I will:

    • Order an end to “metering” at U.S. border ports of entry that is designed to deter immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from presenting themselves.
    • End the Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which was blocked by a U.S. federal judge in April 2019, but remains ongoing during appeals
    • Direct Cabinet secretaries to expand cooperation with the UNHCR and the Mexican government to strengthen procedures and institutions for asylum seekers in Mexico.
    • Ensure qualified USCIS officials are conducting credible fear interviews. In fiscal year 2018, 75% of the nearly 100,000 individuals seeking asylum passed their credible fear interviews and advanced to the next step in the process.
    • Restore and significantly expand the scale of caseload management systems for connecting refugees and asylum seekers with infrastructure to ensure effective participation in hearings, including legal aid resources, and interpreter services. From 2016 to 2017, the Department of Homeland Security piloted the Family Case Management Program that achieved 99% participation appearance rates for immigration hearings – but the program was abandoned by the Trump Administration despite its success.
  • What can the U.S. do to address the causes of migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America?

The United States must assist the Northern Triangle nations in addressing the root causes of large-scale family migration to the United States, especially climate change. The decision to end U.S. foreign assistance to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador only encourages migration to America by vulnerable children and families. As president, I will:

    • Restore and expand federal foreign assistance funding for the Northern Triangle nations. The State Department diverted $450 million in funding for these nations that supported anti-poverty, education, and food and agriculture assistance programs in these three countries. These programs directly impacted both the role of climate change in undermining these nations’ stability and economies and raised standards of living for those living in high-migration areas.
    • Reverse the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants and refugees from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua, and for individuals covered by the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program.
    • Launch a regional refugee resettlement initiative that brings together the efforts of national governments, NGOs, and international partners such as the UNHCR to collectively manage the unique needs of applicants from the Northern Triangle region.
    • Restore the Central American Minors (CAM) program to allow for reunification of qualifying minor children and expand in-country processing of immigrants seeking entry.
    • Direct the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department, and other agencies to prioritize support for locally driven efforts to stabilize local economies and provide for sustainable livelihoods in the face of climate disruption, increasing economic opportunity, wealth creation and reducing the need to migrate.
  • What role should U.S. refugee admissions play in our response to the global refugee crisis?

President Trump has totally, and intentionally, abandoned America’s values and historical role as a place where refugees and asylum seekers can resettle and contribute to our economy and national life. But the next president must reclaim our historical leadership role and develop an approach that works. I am proud of the action I’ve taken to protect refugees in Washington state. In 2015, we welcomed and took immediate action to protect Syrian refugees when many other governors succumbed to fear about Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS.

That’s why my America’s Promise plan calls for raising the ceiling for annual refugee admissions to the United States to allow for the acceptance of historic numbers of refugees, meeting and eventually exceeding the target of 110,000 refugees that was set during the final year of the Obama Administration. This is a minimum standard for the United States to reclaim its historic leadership role on resettling refugees. The damaging, unacceptable, and arbitrary caps on refugee resettlement imposed by the Trump Administration — which hardline voices in the White House have sought to reduce even further, to as low as 15,000 annually — are reportedly lower even than levels advocated by America’s diplomatic and military leadership. These damaging caps serve only to undermine our international leadership.

  • 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?

Climate change is an urgent and immediate cause of the expanding global migration crisis. It is neither a new nor small factor. Twenty-four million people on average have been displaced around the world each year since 2008 due to extreme weather events. Many others are driven from their homes by indirect climate change impacts force people to migrate in search of food, water, livelihood, shelter, or to avoid conflict. Climate migration is a reality now, from distant places such as Bangladesh to the very shores of Washington state, where native populations are being forced to move inland to save themselves and their culture.

In addition to steps already mentioned, I will:

    • Evaluate options to adopt the U.N. Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) at the earliest practicable date, to ensure U.S. participation in a globally coordinated strategy. The Compact establishes systems for information sharing and analysis to predict and address migration, deals with the impacts of both sudden-onset extreme weather events and slow-onset climate change impacts, and strengthens regional and international cooperation to address irregular migration caused by climate change and other root causes. 
    • Advocate for the creation of a U.N. Special Rapporteur on Climate and Security to oversee the emergence of global climate and security threats. The Rapporteur will work with the Security Council and other member states to create a comprehensive plan for improving the capacity of the U.N. to coordinate responses to climate-related displacement and disasters.
  • What policies should the U.S. implement to reduce and prevent gun violence?

I have never been afraid to stand up to the gun lobby to keep our families and communities safe. That was true in 1994 when I voted for a national assault weapons ban, a vote that contributed to losing my seat representing Washington state’s rural, conservative 4th Congressional District. It’s been true during my tenure as governor – even at the White House, where I confronted President Trump over his determination to arm teachers by urging him to do less tweeting and more listening to teachers and students who want to learn without violence. And it will be true when I’m president.

In Washington state, I’ve implemented three voter-approved initiatives in my state. These initiatives closed the background check loophole, created Extreme Risk Protection Orders so families and law enforcement can temporarily remove firearms from people threatening themselves or others, and banned the sale of semi-automatic rifles to people under the age of 21. I’ve also signed legislation that restricted the manufacture of untraceable 3D-printed “ghost guns”, created new tools to help prevent firearm suicide, that allows for Extreme Risk Protection Orders to be applied to people under the age of 18, requiring safe storage of firearms within the home of a child threatening to harm themselves or others.

These policies are a model for the nation, and are examples of the right way to keep our communities safe – especially students at school, because no child should be expected to sacrifice their lives to save their fellow students.

  • How should the U.S. address police killings of civilians, including the lack of transparency and accountability?

Police use of deadly force is a challenge facing every community in America, including in Washington state. It disproportionately impacts people of color and those with mental health issues. Over the past two years, Washington has directly taken on the challenge of police use of force and I am very proud of how we were able to come together to achieve reforms. Bringing the parties together to work in collaboration with one another, not as adversaries, serves as a model for how to achieve reforms. Through difficult conversations between law enforcement and community members, including family members of those killed by police, new laws were created to provide more clarity, accountability and oversight. Laws on police use of force were modified to allow for prosecution when police use unreasonable deadly force. De-escalation and mental health training is now being put into place for law enforcement. Independent investigations are required whenever there is a case of police use of deadly force. Through better training we can reduce these incidents and with independent investigations and changes to the law, we will ensure accountability and transparency. The relationships that were built through this process that will continue to have impacts and allow the sides to communicate and work together as difficult issues continue to arise. There is much more work to do, in Washington state and America, to prevent police violence, but I believe what Washington state has done is a model for the country and for the next president.

  • 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?

The Trump Administration has shamefully abandoned America’s traditional role in this space but has been perfectly willing to side with powerful nations and non-state actors that undermine human rights, rather than with targeted minorities that rely on strong international support. It is essential that the next president reverse the Trump Administration’s shameful abandonment of this role, and restore America’s insistent focus on protecting and expanding human rights around the globe.

But we must also do more, and that is why my Global Climate Mobilization plan places the urgency of defeating climate change at the heart of American foreign policy – and with it, protections for targeted minorities, front-line communities and vulnerable populations around the globe. We must use existing legal authority to confront government officials and non-governmental actors who undermine and attack civil society advocates in their own countries and around the world. We must protect indigenous peoples and cultures of countries threatened by climate change as well as governments and corporations that seek to profit from fossil fuels. We must reengage with the world to ensure that the rights of migrants and internally displaced persons are respected, and that they do not fall victims to authoritarian or xenophobic governments who would target them for violence or repression. And with a renewed commitment to international cooperation and recognition of the environmental, labor, and human rights shortcomings in international trade regimes to date, the United States can once again be a trusted ally of religious and ethnic minorities around the world.

  • How should the U.S. protect LGBTI rights at home and abroad?

In Washington state, we’ve protected and expanded the rights of our LGBTI community. We’ve banned conversion therapy, created birth certificates that allow for accurate representation of people’s gender identity, and I ensured that no Washington state employee would travel to a state with discriminatory “religious freedom” laws for anything other than essential business. Gender identity and sexual orientation are also protected under our state’s civil rights laws.

As president I would ensure the same is true across America by signing the Equality Act. I would also end Donald Trump’s shameful ban on transgender servicepersons and his efforts to restrict LGBTI people from enjoying the rights of marriage and adoption afforded to all Americans. I would also restore the focus on protecting LGBTI people in our diplomacy, challenging the policies of nations that discriminate or commit violence against their own LGBTI communities. I would also bring to an end U.S. immigration policies that disproportionately harm LGBTI immigrants.

  • How should the U.S. ensure that our foreign and domestic policies protect sexual and reproductive rights?

There’s no question that the right to reproductive freedom in America is under as grave a threat as has existed since Roe v. Wade was decided. Women need more access to healthcare and abortion, both in America and abroad, where U.S. defense of a woman’s right to safe reproductive care is essential. As president, I will fight to enshrine abortion as a civil right. And because no justices should be appointed who will overturn the right to an abortion, I will be particularly attentive to determining whether I can be highly confident that a prospective Supreme Court nominee will respect a woman’s right to reproductive freedom.

I’ve fought for abortion rights throughout my career, including voting against the Hyde Amendment in 1993 as well as the ban on late-term abortion in 2003. As governor I signed the Reproductive Parity Act, ensuring that health insurance covers abortion as a part of maternity care, and that all forms of birth control are covered without out-of-pocket costs. Additionally, our state successfully sued against to stop Donald Trump’s effort to create a “gag rule” on abortion, and I voted against the global gag rule in Congress. I’m also the only candidate to have both voted for and implemented Obamacare, which ensured extended health insurance coverage that included maternity care to over 650,000 people through Medicaid expansion in my state. Both here and around the world, we should be making it easier for women to get the care that they need, not harder.

  • How should the U.S. address the targeting, harassment, and killing of human rights defenders and journalists around the world?

The United States must be an unswerving champion of human rights and the free press, and its president must always be on the side of protecting those who stand up for our fundamental values, rather than inciting violence against them. Autocrats, corrupt politicians, and powerful corporations do everything they can to suppress, intimidate, and even commit harm against journalists. President Trump’s relentless attacks on the news media and human rights activists alike are disgusting and antithetical to American values, which celebrate journalists as truth-tellers on science and the public interest instead of smearing them as the “enemy of the people”. That is why I have proposed a plan to totally reform American foreign policy, placing the defeat of climate change at its core, alongside the defense of human rights and international law against dictators, autocrats, and corporate bad actors.

In my Global Climate Mobilization plan, I have committed to using the authority granted by Congress and presidential proclamation to hold accountable those in foreign countries who target, harass, and kill journalists and human rights activists. I will follow the law where President Trump has broken it and make a presidential determination, as requested by Congress, on the role played by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And unlike the Trump Administration, when I am president there will be no hesitation or reluctance to confront foreign governments over mistreatment and imprisonment of journalists and human rights activists.

  • How should the U.S. respond to the increasing use of political repression by authoritarian regimes?

One of the most outrageous aspects of the Trump Administration has been President Trump’s willingness to ignore political repression by foreign governments, if they praise him or offer him inducements. His contempt for political dissent and willingness to side with autocrats – from Brazil to Russia to Hungary to Turkey to the Middle East and elsewhere – strengthens the world’s worst human rights actors and undermines America’s values at home and ability to lead abroad. And the Trump Administration’s recent attempts to intimidate and threaten activists who would protest pipelines with criminal penalties shows that he’s all too willing to import these tactics to America.

As president, I will ensure that the world knows once again that the United States sides with internationally-recognized human rights and freedoms. I will restore America’s support for civic dialogue and independent media in countries where the Trump Administration has abandoned it, such as Hungary. I will make strong protections for human rights, labor, and environment as essential part of America’s trade relationships, including by implementing the Core Labor Standards of the International Labour Organization, strongly enforcing labor standards with stiff penalties, and empowering non-governmental organizations. My administration will also actively participate in international efforts to hold accountable governments that mistreat indigenous peoples and forest dwellers. And my Global Climate Mobilization plan calls for strongly enforcing the Global Magnitsky Act, as well as Presidential Proclamation 7750, to impose consequences on government officials and government-aligned actors who target dissidents in their countries and around the world.

  • How can the U.S. ensure compliance with and accountability for its international human rights obligations in national security operations?

President Trump’s callous disregard for our obligations under international law to protect civilians in conflict areas constitutes a failure of his duties as commander-in-chief. The latest example is his recent, wrong-headed consideration of presidential pardons for individuals convicted of war crimes against Iraqi civilians, which does a disservice to the vast majority of our armed forces personnel who perform their duties with honor and in accordance with the law, and who deserve our respect. The president of the United States bears a responsibility to set the expectation for our country and our armed forces that the Law of Armed Conflict is to be strictly observed, and that the U.S. must do everything possible to safeguard noncombatants even in the most complex conflict areas. As president, I will set exactly that expectation, and my Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and combatant commanders will all clearly understand that expectation. And I will achieve the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, a goal that I supported in Congress.

  • 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?

Human rights must be an essential factor in determining which countries are eligible to receive arms from the United States. The Trump Administration’s refusal to consider these factors, as well as its determination to circumvent critical Congressional oversight of arms sales, is a foolish and shortsighted mistake that will only serve to further undermine America’s credibility and international leadership. As president, I will recommit the U.S. to the ATT and restore human rights as a principal consideration in each potential overseas arms sale. And I will also end U.S. military support for the Saudi-UAE coalition campaign in Yemen, which lacks the support of Congress and contributes to unspeakable human suffering in Yemen and destabilization of the region.

  • How should the U.S. government hold businesses accountable for human rights abuses?

One of the most significant impediments to ambitious global climate action has been consistent opposition from fossil fuel industries and leaders of nations that prop them up. We must not only hold these companies to account, but also eliminate the unique role that fossil fuel companies play in undermining human rights and harming indigenous populations. That’s why my Global Climate Mobilization will:

    • Take immediate action to repeal fossil subsidies and end other giveaways, including working with Congress to repeal more than $20 billion in annual direct domestic fossil fuel subsidies — most of them oil industry tax breaks.
    • Use diplomatic levers to ensure that members of the G20 deliver on their standing commitments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies.
    • Holding governments and corporate actors accountable for violating international best practice in forest governance and/or reneging on commitments to protect globally important forest resources
    • Promoting international best-practice forest governance, which includes: recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities; and use of free and informed consent when governments or third parties pursue changes to land occupied or used by these peoples.
    • Careful monitoring of the participation of fossil fuel corporations.
    • Ending the current model for dispute resolution — the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system — in U.S. trade agreements, while including basic investor protections to encourage investments that further the public interest.
    • Establishing a national strategy to encourage nations with economies dependent upon fossil fuel exports to diversify their economies and build strong civil society.