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This week, Amnesty International USA Executive Director Paul O’Brien, Amnesty International Mexico Executive Director Tania Reneaum Panszi, and Amnesty International Americas Director Erika Guevara Rosas wrote to Vice President Kamala Harris ahead of her June trip to Guatemala and Mexico, urging her to work with leaders to develop a regional strategy that addresses the root causes of displacement and migration while respecting the human rights of asylum-seekers and migrants.  The Amnesty leaders also urged Vice President Harris to raise key human rights concerns including the arms trade, gender-based violence, unlawful use of force, human rights defenders, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances.

“A regional approach to leadership on human rights must first center the root causes of displacement and migration,” said Amnesty International USA Executive Director Paul O’Brien. “A regional approach means no country is left to address cross-border issues on its own. The United States can, and must, support Central American governments in developing and implementing programs to protect human rights.  A person’s well-being must not depend solely on the country they happen to be in.”

The letter calls on the United States to:

  • Immediately stop misusing public health quarantine authority to expel adult asylum-seekers and families at the U.S.-Mexico border by rescinding the March 2020 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order and rescinding the accompanying Health and Human Services final rule.
  • Ensure access to humanitarian protection at the U.S. border including by ensuring immigration counsel and freedom from detention.
  • Expand access to regional protection for those displaced by violence and persecution, including by establishing a multilateral resettlement initiative for Central Americans, which should include the improvement and expansion of the U.S. Protection Transfer Arrangement and Central American Minors programs, and evacuation mechanisms for individuals at risk of imminent harm.
  • Fund evidence-based programs addressing poverty alleviation, climate change adaptation and resilience, community-based violence prevention (including preventing gender-based violence and anti-LGBTI violence) and anti-corruption efforts.
  • Ensure the meaningful, effective, and informed participation of all persons impacted by the climate crisis.
  • Regularly meet with human rights defenders; publicly recognize the importance of their work; and fund and staff programs that support and protect human rights defenders.
  • End the federally licensed export of firearms from U.S. companies to Mexican security force units, including police and military units, that are implicated in grave human rights violations or known to collude with organized crime.
  • Strengthen oversight of licensing for firearm exports and report on the new interagency process between the Department of Commerce and Department of State for reviewing such license applications.

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