Refugee Justice

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights,

October 8, 2019

Dear UN Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights

We are residents of the State of Montana. We urge the United Nations High Commission of Human Rights to take immediate action against the United States of America and our President Donald J. Trump’s Administration under the December 10, 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article V. This Declaration states: “No one shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.”

We urge the High Commission to take this action because the policies of our government and the Trump Administration violate the rights of persons seeking asylum at our southern border. These violations cause permanent physical and emotional trauma to the individuals, families, and, most importantly, to the children who are victims of these policies. These policies are cruel, inhumane, degrading and amount to the torture of vulnerable, defenseless human beings.

Specifically, on March 7, 2017, the Trump Administration ordered the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to remove children from their parents pursuant to a “Zero Tolerance” policy. Under this policy nearly all adults who entered this country, whether legally seeking asylum or not, were subjected to having their children forcibly removed from their custody. These children were placed in foster care, often separated from their parent(s) or relative(s) by hundreds or thousands of miles and for weeks or months at a time.

And, to make matters worse, the Department of Homeland Security wholly failed to document or identify the relationships between the separated children and their responsible adult(s)—thus making nearly impossible any later ability to reunite the separated children with their parent(s) or relative(s). As a result, and years later, literally thousands of children are still “lost” in the system.

Most inhumane and degrading, however, were—and, apparently, are—the conditions in which these separated children were held captive. Television images and the reports of eyewitnesses have confirmed that these conditions were filthy and squalid: wire cages, stuffed with all ages and genders of children, sleeping on cold concrete floors with nothing but a foil “space blanket;” children without sufficient food, medical care and basic necessities; children deprived of even a toothbrush. A January 2019 report of the United States Inspector General referred to this situation as a “ticking time-bomb” requiring “immediate attention.”

Not to put too fine a gloss on this time-bomb, one child died from this inhumane treatment in 2018 and six children, aged from two to sixteen years, have died, so far, in 2019 while interned at the US southern border.

In the spring, 2019, Federal District Judge Dana Sabraw (US Southern District of California), ordered the US Government to formulate a plan to stop the separation of children from their responsible adult(s) and to reunite such children with their parent(s), relative(s) or sponsor(s). Judge Sabraw declared that the Trump Administration is legally responsible for all children separated at the United States-Mexican border.

Notwithstanding this order, and while, to date, some families have been reunited, many children and families remain lost to each other because, as noted, the Department of Homeland Security failed to keep basic, adequate records documenting the child-adult relationships extant when the separations occurred. Basically, children and adults were degraded and treated cruelly and inhumanely—no better than fungible livestock, to be herded and separated with little or no regard for their autonomy and inviolable dignity as human beings.

Moreover, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reports that the Trump Administration continues to separate families in defiance of a previously issued nationwide injunction. According to this report, at least 950 parent(s) and children—including babies—have been separated since this injunction was issued. As a result, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on September 20, 2019, to force the Trump Administration to discontinue separating children from their families at the southern US Border.

Sadly, the ACLU also reports that the Trump Administration continues to separate children and families under the guise of “child welfare.” The mendacity of this ruse is demonstrated, however, in the fact that the Administration’s separation policies and practices would not qualify as “child welfare” under any actual child health and safety protection program in the United States today.

Furthermore, members of the United States Congress, House of Representatives have visited the internment facilities along the southern border, have witnessed the inhumane, cruel and degrading conditions described above, and have proposed legislation to end these tortuous separations and treatment.

In like manner, Montana’s United States Senator, Jon Tester stated on August 7, 2019:

I visited the southern border, including the nation’s largest immigration processing center. I witnessed a humanitarian crisis. I’m concerned for the well-being of the unaccompanied children and families being held in unsanitary, overcrowded detention facilities. As Americans, I believe we should keep families together and provide these folks with safe and clean living conditions as they await their immigration processing.

Yet, despite these efforts, our United States Congress has not been successful reining in the Trump Administration. This Administration’s violation of the human dignity and basic civil rights of immigrants and its disregard of the lawful orders of our federal courts is emblematic of the Executive’s disdain for the rule of law. The Trump Administration must be held to account; its inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment of immigrant families must be stopped!

The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, Article V stands as a bulwark against the Trump Administration’s inhumane, cruel and degrading treatment and internment of immigrant children and their families at the US southern border. “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The Trump Administration’s policies stand in blatant violation and disregard of this Declaration and the international rule of law.

Indeed, our concern for this emergent situation is informed not only by Article V, but also by Article II, section 4 of our own Montana Constitution which guarantees the dignity of the human being as an inviolable right.

Neither Article V, nor Article II, section 4, nor the standards of any civilized nation would countenance the Trump Administration’s degrading, cruel and inhumane treatment of children and families at the United States-Mexican border.

The undersigned, and, we believe the vast majority of Americans, demand that immigrants, asylum-seekers, and especially their children, must be treated fairly, compassionately, with dignity, and pursuant to the rule of law.

Therefore, with this sense of responsibility, we respectfully urge your office to take appropriate action to enforce Declaration of Rights, Article V, against the United States and the Trump Administration.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully,

Montanans for refugee Justice

Veronica Whitaker, MSW, Helena MT

Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, Montana House District 84, Helena/East Helena MT

James C. Nelson, Montana Supreme Court Justice, (Ret.), Helena MT

Chari Nelson, Helena MT

Eleanor Parker, Esq. (Ret.), Helena MT

Patricia Bik, Attorney , Helena MT

Rick Cottingham & Beth Cottingham RN, (Ret.), Helena MT

c.c. Filipe Gonzalez, United Nations Special Rapporteur,

c.c. Leah Chavla, Esq, Policy Advisor, Migrant Rights & Justice

c.c. Mark Greenberg, Migration Policy Institute

John Moffatt, Elementary School Principal, (Ret.), Missoula MT

Dave & Mary Beth Garding, Helena MT

Shannon K. Thomas, Helena MT

Ms. Karen Ulen, Helena MT

Dr. Gail Waldby, Livingston Montana

James E. Cottingham, Billings MT/Helena MT

Moffie Funk, Helena MT

Shelley Nilsson, Livingston MT

MT State Representative Mary M. Caferro, Helena MT

Mr. Donald T. Jacques, Helena MT

Patrick W. Dolan, Seattle WA/Helena MT

Zane Zell, Shelby, MT

Gloria Zell, Shelby, MT

Dr. Julia Cougill, Helena, MT

Jessica Rubino, TypeWell Interpreter, Helena MT

Marilyn Hood Dayhuff, Bozeman Montana

Yvonne Williams, Billings MT

Mr. Francis A. Kromkowski, member, Helena Service for Peace and Justice, Helena, MT

Paul S. Donaldson, MD, Helena, MT

Rebecca H. Donaldson, RN, Helena, MT

Margaret Souza, Helena MT

Ms. Clare Kearns, Helena MT

Carol Kopec, Helena, MT

Bob Levitan, LPN, (Ret.), Helena MT

Lawrence and Nancy Anderson, Great Falls MT

Larry and Callie Epstein, Essex MT

Bonnie E. Bowler, Helena MT

Dick G. Pritchard, Helena MT

Rev. Rick Hulbert, Helena MT

Rodger D. Hulbert, Helena MT

The Very Rev. Stephen Brehe Retired Dean of St. Peter's Episcopal Cathedral of Helena, MT

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Montana Women For… We are a 501(3)(c ) organization in Livingston, Montana, working on progressive issues.

Margarita McLarty, Livingston MT

Thomas M. Kloker, Helena MT

Maureen Kloker, Helena MT

Joan Bousilman, Helena MT

Mr. Arthur Howell, Helena MT

Ms. Bonnie Howell, Helena MT

Karen Lane, MEd, Helena MT

Valerie Hellermann, RN, ED, Missoula MT

Carol Jacobsen, Helena MT

Michele Herrington, Speech Pathologist, Helena MT/ Heart Butte MT

Bill & Beckie Squires, Helena MT

Charles Briggs, Helena MT

Montana State Representative Jessica L. Karjala, Billings MT

Rep. Kim Abbott, Montana House District 83, Helena MT

Tom Laceky, Helena MT

Carolyn Laceky, Helena MT

Chris Christianson, Helena MT

Susan Capdeville, Helena MT

Susan Steffens, Helena MT

Joseph G. Steffens, III, MD (Ret.), Helena MT

Patrick Whitaker, Helena MT

Robert H. Sprute, Helena MT

Rep. Andrea Olsen, Montana House District 100, Missoula MT

Gretchen Rooney, Helena Montana

Suzanne Tarpey, Montana Progressive Democrats Executive Board

Deana DeWire, Montana Progressive Democrats Executive Board

Pete Talbot, Montana Progressive Democrats Executive Board

Mary Borchard, Montana Progressive Democrats Executive Board

Linda Gillison, Montana Progressive Democrats Executive Board

Rita Jankowski-Bradley, Community Action for Justice in the Americas, Asia & Africa

Judy Harris, Helena MT

Tim Harris, Helena MT

Linda Beischel, advocate for maternal/ child public health, Helena MT

Sen. Dick Barrett, Montana Senate District 45, Missoula MT

Rep. Connie Keogh, Montana House District 91, Missoula MT

Dr Shani Henry,Veterinarian and non-profit employee, Clancy MT.

Nancy Matheson, Montana activist

Mayor Wilmot J. Collins, City of Helena, Montana

Karrie Fairbrother, concerned citizen, Helena MT

Mary Poole, Executive Director, Soft Landing, Missoula, Montana

Kim Destiche, Clancy, Montana, human

Rep. Tom Winter, Montana House District 96, Missoula County

Rep. Marilyn Marler, Montana House District 90, Missoula

Nancy J. Nichols, Helena MT

Cathy Warner, Virginia resident

Karen J. Cooper, Helena, Montana

Kay McOmber, Helena MT

Jan Horan (Ret.) teacher, Helena MT

Tim Horan (Ret.) public health, Helena MT

Gus Byrom, Helena MT

Lynn Bolin (Ret.) Nurse, Helena MT

Nicky Twitchell, Helena MT

Catherine Knight, Public School Teacher, Helena MT

Scott Patterson, Global Citizen, Helena MT

Janice Frisch, Helena MT

Judy Fjell, Helena MT

Mackenzie Jones, Helena MT

Cheryl McKinty, Helena MT

Mary DuVernay, Helena MT

Rebecca Skeldon, Helena MT

Nancy Perry, Helena MT

Melissa Smith, Helena MT

Deborah Tomas, Charlo MT

Diane Magone, MSW (retired), Superior, MT

Sen. Christine Kaufmann, former Montana state legislator, Helena MT

Pat Kemp, Montana activist, Helena MT

Rep. Laurie Bishop, Montana House District 60, Livingston MT

Mary Catherine Dunphy, Miles City MT

Dennis Petrak, Black Eagle, Montana

James A. Regnier, Montana Supreme Court Justice (Ret.), Helena MT

Linda Regnier, Helena MT

Sharon Patton-Griffin, Great Falls MT

Kelly Parsley, MA MPH, Helena MT

Anna Donch, Bozeman MT

Elinor Edmunds Miller

Co-founder, Friends of Aschiana for Aschiana Center, Kabul, Afghanistan

Diana Taylor Norton, Helena MT

Gretchen Grayum, Garden Designer, Helena, MT

Cathy Reich, Superior MT

John Hart, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Christian Ethics, Boston University School of Theology

Member of the Delegation of the International Indian Treaty Council to the United Nations International Human Rights Commission, Geneva, 1987, 1990, Helena MT

Nancy Bleck, Helena MT

Nicole Scarberry, 5th Grade Teacher, Butte MT

Suzanne Mannix, Helena MT

Rita Charles, White Sulfur Springs MT

Krys Holmes, East Helena

Eric Stimson, Helena MT

Cass Mitchell, Helena MT, concerned artist

Sarah Lawlor, Public Relations Director Carroll College, Helena MT

Tess Lawlor, High School Student, Helena MT

Ellen Busch, Retired former World & Montana Educator, Helena MT

Margaret Benes, Retired teacher, Helena MT

Linda Fauhl, Massage Therapist, Helena MT

Catherine Morris, artist, Jefferson City MT

Lily Schroeder, Helena MT

B. Allan Davis, Helena MT

Judy Paten, Helena MT

David Paten, Helena MT

Judith G Paten, Helena MT

Adelle Terry, Helena MT

Jeremy Terry, Helena MT

JoAnn Hanson, Helena MT

Hugh Zackheim, Helena MT

Geziza K. Eller, Helena MT

Norm Rostocki, Helena MT

Lynda Saul, Helena MT

Colleen Campbell, Helena MT

Bret Charlton, Helena MT

Linda Gryczan, Helena MT

Carolee Pollock, Helena MT

Paul Jacquay, Helena MT

Ken & Karen McLean, Helena MT

Richard Weaver, Helena MT

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