Michael Breen Testimony at Congressional Hearing “Kids in Cages: Inhumane Treatment at the Border”
President and CEO, Human Rights First
Hearing entitled: “Kids in Cages: Inhumane Treatment at the Border”
House of Representatives
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Washington, DC, July 10, 2019
Chairman Raskin, Ranking Member Roy, and distinguished members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for this opportunity to testify on one of the most urgent human rights problems in the United States today: our government’s treatment of refugees and migrants.
Human Rights First is an independent, non-profit advocacy organization that challenges America to live up to its ideals. For more than four decades Human Rights First has pressed the United States to take a leading role in promoting and defending human rights. Our organization was founded in 1978, at a time when the United States was jailing and seeking to deport refugees fleeing repression in Haiti, Central America, and the USSR, among other countries. We worked with members of Congress to pass the landmark 1980 Refugee Act, which established a legal framework for refugee protection. In our advocacy, we partner with religious organizations, former military leaders, and other veterans, and we recruit and train lawyers to provide pro bono legal representation to asylum seekers. Over the years, we’ve helped thousands receive protection.
Last summer, it was the Trump Administration’s policy of family separation that saddened and horrified many Americans. This summer, it is the appalling treatment of men, women and children detained in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) facilities that is rightfully causing a furor. Refugees and other migrants have endured numerous other injustices and abuses that have gone largely unnoticed, or under-noticed.
Since 2013, large numbers of refugees from the Northern Triangle in Central America—including many unaccompanied children and mothers with young children—have sought refuge in the United States. The persistent suffering and disorder at the border aren’t, however, the inevitable result of this displacement. Rather, they are the direct, predictable—and indeed predicted—result of the administration’s actions.