• Press Release

Amnesty International USA, Coalition Partners Launch Campaign to Fight the Assault on Immigrant, Refugee Rights

February 6, 2017

Contact: [email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC – In response to President Trump’s recent executive orders on immigration and refugees, a coalition of leading human rights, civil rights, legal, and faith-based groups launched a joint initiative today to protect the rights of refugees and immigrants at U.S. borders.  As a first step, they are demanding President Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kelly end the mandatory detention of people seeking asylum, including children and their parents.

In a joint statement of purpose, the coalition said: “We stand united in our rejection of the immigration-related executive orders issued by the White House which, taken together, constitute an unlawful assault on the rights of all immigrants and refugees. These orders sharply curtail access to asylum and due process for those fleeing extreme violence and human rights abuses.  We are coming together to ensure that any person seeking protection under U.S. law is given a meaningful and fair opportunity to assert their claim – whether at the U.S. southern border or from inside the United States.”

“Last week, President Trump made hateful rhetoric into policy. He closed U.S. borders to refugees and others seeking asylum, turning our country’s back on people who are fleeing horrific violence. It is cruel, inhumane and unlawful to target people for deportation based on their national origin or religion,” said Amnesty International executive director Margaret Huang. “President Trump and Secretary Kelly must release all refugees and others seeking asylum – especially children and families – from mandatory detention immediately. Neither the law nor our shared values of equality and dignity for all support criminalizing and inflicting further suffering on vulnerable people.”

“The way a country treats asylum seekers is a reflection of its values and principles. The recent Executive Orders halting our refugee system and banning others based on where they come from is affront to America’s long, proud history of protecting those fleeing persecution. The times in our history when we have turned our back on those seeking refuge, or have imposed restrictions based on religion or national origin, have been a shameful stain on America’s legacy as a land of freedom and equality,” said American Immigration Lawyers Association executive director Benjamin Johnson. “Rather than turning our backs, it is time to recognize and address the violence, whether across the ocean, or in our own hemisphere, that is forcing men, women and children to flee for their lives. To do anything less than protect these most vulnerable families, and give them a meaningful chance to seek protection, is a violation of core American values.”

“President Trump’s executive orders on immigration and refugees violate U.S. human rights commitments and this country’s commitment to liberty,” said Human Rights First director of refugee protection program Eleanor Acer.  “The United States has the ability and the capacity to both protect refugees and effectively manage its border without locking up vulnerable asylum seekers in detention facilities for months or longer. We urge the administration to abandon this harsh and unnecessary policy.”

“The Women’s Refugee Commission urges the Administration and Congress to ensure that we continue to be a nation that welcomes those fleeing violence and seeking safety. Responding to those who’ve risked everything to find safety with detention, deterrence measures, and bans that deny their access to protection violates U.S. values and does not make America safer,” said Migrant Rights & Justice director Michelle Brané. “Asylum seekers and refugees must be treated fairly and with dignity, and we must ensure that everyone is able to access a just and humane immigration system that respects due process and human rights.”

"We stand in solidarity with all people seeking asylum, regardless of where they come from, what religion they practice, or what their gender or sexual orientation is," said Church World Service president and CEO, Rev. John L. McCullough. "We urge the U.S. government to live up to our moral and legal obligations to protect those fleeing violence and persecution, risking their lives for the hope to reach safety and rebuild their lives. Now is the time to uphold equal protection and our moral authority, and welcome our neighbors seeking asylum in the United States."

"We are proud to join U.S. Welcomes because we believe our nation's true colors will ultimately prevail in rejection of this administration's nativist policies that target immigrants and refugees. The detention of asylum seekers is shameful," said National Immigrant Justice Center executive director Mary Meg McCarthy. “We will fight together until those seeking safety on our shores find the haven our laws and values demand.”

“Border communities stand in solidarity with refugees and asylum-seekers.  Trump’s announcements run contrary to our communities’ — and America’s — long-standing tradition of protecting the vulnerable,” said Southern Border Communities Coalition director Christian Ramirez. “We will continue to fight for a nation that is fair and just, and remain committed to ensuring that the rights and dignity of those who travel through and seek safety in our region are protected.”

“This is a critical moment for all of us to rise to the challenge before us – to champion the human rights and access to justice for men, women, and children in migration,” said National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights executive director Catherine Tactaquin. “We have a long ahead of us in this country and globally to ensure that those in the most vulnerable situations—who have been forced from their homes by wars and violence, persistent poverty, persecution of all kinds and increasingly, environmental degradation—can live in peace, with safety and with social and economic wellbeing. We are proud to join with our partners to take this stand to demand an end to family detention and the detention of asylum seekers. This is just one more important step against the racist, xenophobic and outright cruel policies that are seeking to demonize and criminalize those seeking to unite with their families and find refuge in our country.”