NEW YORK – This week, the White House requested $4.5 billion in funds toward U.S. southern border operations that would harm children and their families. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is calling on congressional leaders to reject the White House’s Emergency Supplemental Budget Request that would prolong detention of asylum seekers, threaten the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers, and increase the risk of serious health problems for asylum-seeking children.
The budget request includes troubling asks, including $155 million for 960 additional family detention beds at a Dilley, Texas facility – beyond the 2,500 beds already included in the original FY 2019 budget – which would further expand the government’s capacity to detain children.
“The detention of asylum-seeking children, even when detained together in a family unit, is a violation of their human rights,” said Michael Payne, advocacy officer for PHR. “Prolonged detention increases the risk of serious health problems, including severe and chronic anxiety, depression, suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even death.
“Congress should instead use funding to support community-based alternatives to detention, which have been proven to be effective in ensuring compliance with immigration proceedings, while providing better access to necessary medical and legal services for children and families.”
Additionally, the administration requested $23 million for a new program that would allow Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents to conduct so-called credible fear screenings, which would give CBP agents the authority to screen asylum seekers without the proper training needed to facilitate these assessments.
“Forensic documentation carried out by the nonpartisan clinical experts in Physicians for Human Rights’ volunteer Asylum Network over the past 30 years has shown that asylum officers and judges who have the appropriate expertise to assess trauma and persecution are critical to ensuring that asylum claims are evaluated fairly,” said Kathryn Hampton, who coordinates Physicians for Human Rights’ Asylum Network program. “Border patrol agents who are primarily responsible for law enforcement are not recruited or trained with the skills needed to assess migrants for asylum – and a pilot program that asks untrained law enforcement agents to expand their job description is not a viable option.”
Additional PHR resources:
• Press Release: “U.S. Administration Is Neglecting the Real Emergency at the Border,” February 15, 2019.
• Blog Post: “ICE in the ER: How U.S. Policies are Causing an Immigrant Health Crisis,” December 7, 2018.
• Report: “From Persecution to Prison: The Health Consequences of Detention for Asylum Seekers,” June 1, 2003.
• PHR’s policy brief, “Zero Protection,” analyzes records of harmful practices by U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel. Turning away asylum seekers at ports of entry, dumping water left for migrants crossing the desert, and patrolling hospitals in search of undocumented individuals are some examples of how U.S. agents regularly violate migrants’ right to seek asylum and even endanger their lives.
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.