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Amnesty International USA today called for a halt on the nomination of Chad Wolf to serve as Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, unless and until all information relevant to Wolf’s involvement in human rights violations—including the family separations policy—is fully and thoroughly investigated.

Charanya Krishnaswami, Americas Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA, said:

“Chad Wolf has participated in, and in many cases presided over, DHS’s perpetration of serious human rights violations. From proposing the separation of families to recklessly detaining tens of thousands of people during a global pandemic to deploying DHS forces to “dominate” civil rights protesters, Wolf has an abysmal record on human rights. Until that record is fully and thoroughly investigated, Wolf’s nomination should not proceed.”

Amnesty International has documented how mass separations of families seeking safety constituted ill-treatment, and in some cases, torture, irreversibly harming thousands of parents and children. Internal emails show Wolf was directly involved in the decision-making process that led the administration to implement family separation to deter people from seeking safety. 

In addition to Wolf’s participation in the family separations policy, Amnesty International USA is concerned that Wolf has overseen and implemented policies that have paved the way for grievous human rights abuses. He has expanded and defended the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which has sent tens of thousands of  people to dangerous and precarious conditions in Mexico while they seek asylum in the United States; aided the administration in weaponizing the pandemic to expel tens of thousands of asylum-seekers, families, and children in plain violation of asylum and anti-trafficking laws. 

Wolf has also presided over one of the deadliest years in immigration detention on record, keeping tens of thousands of people jailed arbitrarily and indefinitely during a global pandemic, where at least eight have died of COVID-19. Instead of releasing families from detention facilities, his department has sought to introduce family separation by asking parents to consider choosing to remain detained together indefinitely in dangerous conditions or separate from their children.     

Wolf has served as the public face of DHS’s protest deployments, justifying and publicly defending his officers’ excessive use of force and unwanted presence in cities like Portland. Amnesty International USA has documented how federal agents working for DHS contributed to human rights abuses committed against Black Lives Matter protesters this summer, including medics, monitors, and members of the media.  

Amnesty International takes no position on the appointment of particular individuals to government positions, unless they are reasonably suspected of crimes under international law and could use their appointment to the position in question to either prevent accountability for these crimes or to continue their perpetration. The organization calls on Senators to thoroughly and fully investigate Chad Wolf given the gravity and range of rights abuses that have taken place during his leadership at the Department of Homeland Security.

Note: today, trucks in Washington, D.C., targeting ICE and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), will call on the agencies to free people from immigration detention. The trucks will confront viewers with a black and white image of a child’s hands behind chain links, with the chain links each featuring the names of dozens of children and their parents currently detained.

Media contact: Mariya Parodi, [email protected]