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Trump Administration Threatens to Upend Decades of Human Rights Law, According to Rights Group

***Updated on Monday, October 29, 2018***

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Unitarian Universalist Service Committee says closing southern border would be illegal and immoral

CAMBRIDGE, Mass./WASHINGTON, D.C. — Friday, October 26, 2018 — President Trump’s threat to close the southern U.S. border to Central Americans is unlawful, racist and intended to fuel a false sense of crisis, according to human rights organization the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC).

“Any attempt by President Trump to ban entry of migrants and deny asylum at the southern border is unacceptable, immoral and contrary to U.S. and international law that affords people the right to apply for asylum when they reach U.S. soil,” said Rachel Gore Freed, UUSC’s Vice President and Chief Program Officer.

“The Administration once again seems to think they can violate the rule of law with impunity. Trump is threatening to overthrow fundamental human rights safeguards by invoking the broad executive powers he used in his notorious “Muslim Ban.” Then as now, these policies are unjust, discriminatory and lawless.

Freed said the Administration’s actions are an attempt to “hijack the conversation about immigration and asylum in this country, deliberately stoking fear and racism. People seeking safety from persecution in this country bring with them the gift of their courageous struggle for freedom. They are not a threat. They are a benefit to this nation.

“This is not an invasion. Sending 5,200 troops to help round up children and families is outrageous,” Freed said. “Many of the current caravan’s migrants are children or families. Most are traveling thousands of miles in life-threatening circumstances to find relief from violence and persecution.

“Militarization at the border in response to the human rights crisis in the Northern Triangle will only deepen the existing crisis. The Trump Administration needs to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” she said.

“The continuing Central American migrations are a reflection of the complete failure of Trump’s foreign policy approach with Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The U.S. instead has supported the corrupt and abusive Morales and Hernández administrations, by providing military support to Guatemala and Honduras, and in El Salvador in years past.

“The United States has directly contributed to a crisis that is forcing people to flee the region, in part a problem of the U.S.’s own making.”

A new report on human rights abuses in Honduras, co-authored by UUSC and SHARE El Salvador (with offices also in Berkeley, California), The Struggle for Human Rights and Transformation in Honduras, details firsthand accounts of human rights violations in one of the most violent countries in the world, including extra-judicial killings, imprisonment of human rights advocates, rape, torture, starvation and land grabs. 

As outlined in the report and in response to President Trump’s current plans to prevent Northern Triangle migrants from escaping to find asylum in the U.S., UUSC is pressing the Administration and Congress to:

  • Ensure and adopt U.S. domestic policies and laws that protect human rights — including unobstructed access to claim asylum, an end to detention of asylum-seeking individuals and families, an end to family separations in policy and practice, and renewed protection of the U.S. Temporary Protection Status program.
  • Keep providing humanitarian aid but cease providing military support to Northern Triangle governments.
  • Adopt and carry out foreign policies that protect human rights.

UUSC’s Freed said rights advocates are concerned that U.S. courts may fail to provide a bulwark against the administration’s threatened executive action. “It is possible that the Supreme Court may allow yet another discriminatory ban like the Muslim ban to stand — this time, a ban against Latinx asylum seekers.

“But this doesn’t change the fact that U.S. law and longstanding practice are clear,” she said. “If people come here fleeing persecution because of who they are and what they believe, our government has a duty to fairly adjudicate their claims for protection.”