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Home / Press Release / HRF CEO Michael Breen Statement on Human Rights Day
December 10, 2019

HRF CEO Michael Breen Statement on Human Rights Day

WASHINGTON - Michael Breen, the president and CEO of Human Rights First made the following statement in recognition of Human Rights Day and the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 

Today, on the 71st anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, the confluence of renewed authoritarianism, extreme ethno-nationalist populism, unsustainable inequality, rapidly advancing technology, and climate change are posing unprecedented threats to the human rights of people all over the world.

The situation feels dire; however, as we look to the year ahead, there is also opportunity. For too long, human rights conversations in the United States have been about harms perpetrated far away, against those we do not know or see. This moment, finally, has begun to crystallize for many of our neighbors that human rights is about us as Americans, too – that the dignity, agency, and future potential of every one of us is not guaranteed.

Nowhere is the need to protect human rights more urgent than on the U.S.- Mexico border. The Trump Administration, driven by xenophobia that dehumanizes desperate people seeking safety, is decimating protections for refugees and asylum-seekers. Whether by keeping people unnecessarily detained, restricting processing at ports of entry, stranding asylum seekers in Mexico, manipulating asylum law, or undermining efforts to solve the problems forcing people to flee, the administration is exacerbating a crisis it could, if it wanted to, resolve by adhering to American laws and ideals.

In response and in defense of human rights, this year Human Rights First:

  • Documented abuses at the border, creating a record for future accountability and making the data-driven case for policy change
  • Won asylum for refugee clients forced to “remain in Mexico” despite the Trump administration’s attempts to bar them
  • Partnered with veterans to stand up for refugees, win visas for wartime allies, and contest the militarization of the border

The Declaration of Human Rights was adopted more than 70 years ago, but the need for defenders to help human beings realize and defend their rights is more urgent now than ever. In the coming year, we will be building on our legacy of action, adding new capabilities to hold abusers accountable and connecting human rights defenders to supporters, to new tools, and to one another as we continue to put human rights first.