“Family separation was one of the defining abuses of the Trump era, constituting a profound stain on the conscience of the United States. As Physicians for Human Rights has documented, the U.S. government’s forcible separation of asylum-seeking families constituted cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and, in all cases PHR evaluated, meet criteria for torture and enforced disappearance.
“We welcome Secretary Mayorkas’ marked tone shift from the previous administration – he was right to call family separation ‘the depths of cruelty,’ and reunification of these families a ‘moral imperative.’ In many cases, these acts were not just cruelty – they were torture.
“Reunification is a crucial first step and we are thankful that the Biden administration is partnering with legal counsel and community organizations to reunite families rapidly. But reunification is only part of the U.S. government’s legal and moral obligation to families who endured separation. These families must continue to be provided mental health services to help address the severe psychological trauma inflicted on them by the U.S. government. Additional funding for mental health services is urgently needed. The families should also be offered legal residency in the United States as well as redress for harm endured. Sec. Mayorkas said the family reunification task force would ‘explore lawful pathways’ for citizenship – the administration must deliver on this pledge, as reunification amidst danger in these families’ countries of origin would be a travesty. We will be watching.
“In addition to restitution and redress for the survivors, we continue to call for accountability for the perpetrators of the family separation policy. Justice requires accountability, and without investigating the full extent of this human rights violation and holding those who designed and implemented this policy responsible, we risk a repeat of this shameful chapter of history. President Biden called the family separation policy ‘criminal.’ Now his administration must act to help heal those who endured family separation and hold those liable to account.”
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.