The following is from Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and a member of the AFL-CIO. She is the former president of the United Federation of Teachers. Please add your name.
Tomorrow I’m going to the United Nations and filing a human rights complaint against Donald Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen and the administration for their cruel behavior at the border, where they’re separating immigrant children from their families who are legally seeking asylum.
Americans, from religious leaders to former first ladies, have been pleading with the Trump administration to stop its zero tolerance policy and enforcement actions terrorizing immigrant communities. But still, the administration continues to senselessly separate small children from their parents and house them in cages. This is so harmful to these kids that pediatricians who visited the prisons have called it child abuse. This isn’t a partisan issue either, even Republican members of Congress have called on Trump and Sessions to stop this cruelty.
That’s why the AFT has taken the step to formally file a complaint with the United Nations. The zero tolerance policy that separates children from their families violates international law, including the U.N. Convention Against Torture and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We believe this reckless disregard for children and the severe trauma it inflicts violates the U.N. Convention Against Torture, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and the U.N.’s Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders. The administration’s mistreatment of refugees violates not only all of these international conventions but also the spirit of who we are as Americans.
Sessions’ use of a quote from the Bible to justify these actions was both morally repugnant and legally wrong. We have laws that enable asylum for immigrants. And aside from the Constitution’s separation of church and state, Sessions ignores the many biblical passages that directly contradict the administration’s actions, such as “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Now major religious organizations, such as the Catholic and Methodist churches, have denounced these actions. We believe in keeping families together to ensure they can thrive.
We are a nation of immigrants strengthened by diversity. An overwhelming number of Americans oppose these policies. As the granddaughter of Jewish immigrants to the United States, I think of all the opportunity I’ve had because they were immigrants. Now, I shudder to think that America is building prison camps for refugee children. When our government rips crying children from their parents’ arms, we must all stand up. These are parents and children seeking asylum, and we have a moral obligation to help them.
That’s why our complaint is joined by labor, immigration, civil rights and faith groups. And other progressive groups are joining me in signing the letter asking for action.
This administration is failing its moral obligation to these people who are seeking asylum—and ultimately to us. This is a crisis, and I honestly never thought that the United States would be doing something so cruel and disheartening in 2018.
This complaint is just one step in the fight against these policies. Tomorrow I’ll be at the United Nations, and next week I’ll be at the border with other educators demanding that the government stop separating families.