Rep. Lewis: Executive Order Fails to Address Moral Crisis
WASHINGTON – Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) made the following statement in response to the administration’s executive order issued today that authorizes the indefinite detention of children in violation of decades of Federal child welfare law:
“Make no mistake: Today’s executive order fails to address or end this moral crisis. It merely replaces the unacceptable evil of family separation with the unacceptable evil of child detention.
“This order continues an assault not just on immigrant families but also on our country’s legacy of affirmatively protecting human rights. Children will still be in cages, will still be traumatized, and will still cry out for our help.
“How can members of this administration persecute those fleeing violence? How can they ignore their anguish, pain, and suffering? How can they look themselves in the mirror?
“Parents and their children have a legal right to seek asylum in this country, no matter how they get here. Federal authorities should not lock refugees up or charge them with made-up crimes. Thoughtful and compassionate nations that are committed to international human rights law should lead by example – by offering kind words, open ears, and helping hands.
“This so-called ‘zero tolerance’ policy is not keeping with the values and the principles of our country. The administration could and should end it today – not double down and torment families and children fleeing violence and persecution.
“Today’s actions prolong the shame and the disgrace that this administration has brought on our country and our people. History will not be kind in its judgment of those who are party to these inhumane and hateful policies.”
On Wednesday morning, Congressman Lewis joined other Democratic Members on the House Floor to denounce this administration’s cruel policy of family separation. Last week, he joined many of these same Members in protest at the headquarters of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and on 15th Street Northwest near the White House.
The United States is a party to key, core international human rights conventions – the International Bill of Human Rights and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. In addition, current U.S. law allows any refugee to apply for asylum at a port of entry, along the border elsewhere, or even in the United States. The 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement specifies existing Federal protections to prohibit the indefinite detention of children.
Today’s executive order disregards those protections and lays the groundwork for the administration to detain families indefinitely.
Congressman Lewis supports alternatives to family detention, like the Family Case Management Program, which this administration ended in June 2017 despite a 99.6% success rate. This program placed families in programs that helped them navigate the asylum process, costing less money and respecting their dignity as human beings.
In addition, Rep. Lewis is an original co-sponsor of H.R. 6135, the Keep Families Together Act, which would dramatically limit the separation of families, and he joined colleagues in sending several letters on this issue, including:
- A letter earlier this month to Secretaries Azar and Nielsen and Attorney General Sessions urging the end of the so-called “zero tolerance” policy; and
- Letters to the House Appropriations Committee in March and June of this year opposing funds for family separation and instead supporting alternatives like the Family Case Management Program.