May 20, 2019 – Statement by BNHR Executive Director Fernando Garcia
“The chronicle of an announced death has just become a reality. We again hang our heads in mourning as what we dreaded, yet feared would be inevitable under the Trump Administration, has indeed come to pass. Another child has died in Federal immigration custody, the sixth in a year and the fifth since December alone. Once again our communities are beside ourselves with grief and rage. This is not normal. This is not acceptable.
These deaths are needless, callous, and cruel; there is no doubt that the Trump Administration has blood on their hands. These deaths are unprecedented; before last year it had been more than a decade since a child died in the custody of Federal immigration agents—now there are six. These deaths are abhorrent; this is a sign of the growing moral crisis that President Trump, Stephen Miller, CBP, and ICE are fueling at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Each and every one of these children could—would—be alive if this Administration valued their lives. Instead, these ‘leaders’ value enforcement that centers on exclusion, dehumanization, and degradation—and we are told to accept that death as a mere side effect. We are told that this is a product of ‘crisis’, all while our government steadily manufactures the conditions of that ‘crisis’. There is no invasion. There is no threat. We cannot let ourselves, our communities, our country, see these families—refugees and asylum seekers—as being less than human beings. Their lives and aspirations matter, and we must insist that our government extend the most basic measure of humanity in valuing these migrant’s lives while in their custody.
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The deaths of these children are the sign of a great failure. There must be answers from our government. There must be accountability from our agencies. CBP must agree to an immediate, independent external inquiry into the deaths of all children in its custody. Moreover, CBP must agree to immediately open all of their short-term holding facilities to independent inspection and to provide for regular inspection of these facilities, permanent and temporary, going forward. Congress must insist that DHS be more transparent and accountable and advance legislation like HR 2203, Representative Escobar’s Homeland Security Improvements Act. We must enact in law a lasting framework for ensuring that the Federal border and immigration enforcement embraces American values and stops eroding human rights, dignity, and lives.
Moreover, as much as we demand change from our government we must look within ourselves about what the deaths of these children mean about us. How many more children will we let die? And following this introspection, we must uplift our spirit, as people, to care for these families, to shelter them, and to welcome them into the ‘Land of Opportunity’. We must do better, and we cannot be afraid to recognize our own shortcomings.
America has long been a nation of immigrants. This is who we are. This is what has made us great—that we have been a place willing to welcome the tempest-tossed, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free, that we have lifted the lamp beside our golden door. Now as another generation of refugees makes the Southern border the New Ellis Island of our age, let us meet them with grace, welcome, and care. To do less—as this Administration sadly has to this point—is to betray not only these families, but our own values, our past, and our future.”
The Border Network for Human Rights, founded in 1998, is one of the leading human rights advocacy and immigration reform organizations located at the U.S./Mexico Border. BNHR has over 7,000 members in West Texas and Southern New Mexico. www.bnhr.org