In the current climate of widespread political, environmental, and economic turmoil, the People’s Health Movement-USA (PHM-USA) and Health Alliance International (HAI) stand in solidarity with the thousands of migrants escaping unlivable circumstances in their home countries. We support their right to a safe and just process for seeking refuge or asylum in the U.S. and condemn the treatment by the U.S. government of migrants escaping violence, persecution, and extreme poverty in their home countries. We call for a complete transformation of the racist, nationalistic policies currently in place which have caused gross human rights abuses and senseless deaths. Thousands of lives – including those of infants and children – are in jeopardy, and we call upon the national and international community to eliminate the barriers and injustices for those seeking peace and security across the border.
Doctors and scientists have long warned of the negative physical and mental health effects caused by the inadequate and neglectful handling of migrants such as that perpetrated by U.S. government. Detained migrants are being held in overcrowded conditions without access to basic needs such as adequate nutrition or sanitation. Health conditions, including mental illness, are going untreated even with migrants requesting treatment and evidence of suicide attempts at the facilities. Children under these conditions have a higher likelihood of developing profound anxiety and depression, as well as long-term psychological conditions such as separation anxiety and PTSD. Without adequate nutrition they may become underweight and/or malnourished, and later in life are at a higher risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Over a year after the court-ordered end to the Trump Administration’s controversial family separation policy, an estimated five migrant children per day continue to be separated from their parents at the border.
The human rights crisis at the border is by no means an isolated issue, with current U.S policy exacerbating the human rights abuses we are currently witnessing at our southern border. PHM-USA and HAI acknowledge the systemic racism and the role of the US government in the displacement of people from their home countries. The history of US intervention in Central American countries is closely tied with the current internal and international displacement. At present, there are approximately 70.8 million displaced people worldwide – the most of any time in history. The U.S. as well as Europe has contributed to this disaster by enacting increasingly nationalistic and xenophobic policies that restrict immigration, treat migrants inhumanely, and deter people from seeking asylum or refuge. Under international law, asylum seekers and refugees have the right to food, shelter, medical care, and freedom from violence and persecution. The U.S./Mexico border system is one example of gross inadequacy and outright refusal of the U.S. government to provide these protections.
The current human rights and public health crisis at the border necessitates immediate action to halt human rights abuses and transform the current immigration agenda. The U.S. must undergo an overhaul of its international policy and the immigration system guided by principles that view all humans as equals, regardless of nationality, race, health, socio-economic status, etc. Governing laws must be in line with morality, honoring each person’s human rights and dignity and ensuring safety and fair treatment of everyone.
PHM-USA and HAI call upon national and international voices to demand change from the current Administration’s policies. We call for immediate investigations into conditions in detention facilities to expose ongoing abuses suffered within their walls and the altogether elimination of these facilities. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – the vehicle by which deportations and detention abuses are carried out – must be abolished, with ICE’s operating funds diverted to support migrant families escaping violence, poverty, and political turmoil.
PHM-USA and HAI stand in solidarity with migrants hoping to pursue a peaceful life in the U.S. as well as with people protesting the racist and nationalist policies that dehumanize and abuse those seeking refuge at the border. As we demand the fair and just treatment of refugee and asylum seekers, we also call on broader US society to confront and work to dismantle our own racism. We assert that the answer lies not in heightened militarization of the border and the building of walls, but in a reimagined approach that respects human rights and welcomes and supports migrants in their quest for a new life.
Visit the following websites to learn about ways you can take action:
Doctors Without Borders, “Stand with Refugees” Action Steps
International Rescue Committee, “How Can I Help Asylum Seekers?”