The United States prides itself as one of the leading nations in democracy and human rights. These ideals have directed our decisions since the “founding” of our country, a country on the land that already belonged to Indigenous peoples. The Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The preamble of our Constitution states, “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” This trend continues in the missions of many current U.S. agencies. The Vision of the U.S. Department of State boasts, “On behalf of the American people we promote and demonstrate democratic values and advance a free, peaceful, and prosperous world.” Despite these intentions, the United States is not respecting the human rights of all individuals.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have both released extensive reports on the United States government’s recent failures to protect human rights. In Amnesty International’s report, they note that the U.S. has forfeited its membership in the UN Human Rights Council, disengaged with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, dismantled refugee resettlement and externalized the asylum process at the U.S.-Mexico Border. Amnesty International also brings attention to the arbitrary detention of asylum seekers and the indefinite detention of child asylum-seekers. Human Rights Watch’s 2020 World Report for the United States adds that the U.S. returned over 55,000 asylum seekers to “dangerous and unlivable conditions in Mexico.” To summarize, the report states, “The Trump administration made little use of its diminishing leverage to promote human rights abroad; continued to undermine multilateral institutions; and flouted international human rights and humanitarian law as it partnered with abusive governments.”
These trends have been highlighted in media coverage throughout the past two years. In 2019, the question of “concentration camps” ravaged news sources and forced academics to consider the definition of concentration camps and if it was applicable to the detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border. People wishing to seek asylum in the United States were and continue to be held in detention centers while they are awaiting status decisions. Children are separated from their parents. Those held in the centers experience horrendous living conditions, sleeping on concrete floors, receiving little food, and residing in overcrowded cells.
Stories this year brought attention to the forced sterilizations occurring in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) concentration camps. The stories from witnesses state that there are multiple forms of medical abuse, including forced sterilization and hysterectomies. Also, reports demonstrate that there was a lack of informed consent during medical procedures. Since the release of this story, research on the history of sterilization programs in the United States has revealed that at least 60,000 people were sterilized in the 20th century. Forced sterilization is a common tactic used in atrocity crimes and genocidal regimes.
As the student-led movement to end mass atrocities, STAND has a moral imperative to advocate for an end to these atrocities in our own country. As we typically focus on foreign policy issues and mass atrocities abroad, we cannot neglect the fact that similar abuses are happening within our borders. We address the forced sterilization of Uyghurs in East Turkistan, but we have neglected to address that in our own country. We have advocated against the detention of Rohingya in Burma, and must also advocate against arbitrary detention in our own country. With this statement, we acknowledge the abuses occurring in our own country and pledge to address them. We refuse to stand by any longer, as we recognize that silence inadvertently promotes the perpetrator’s voice and permits the continuance of these actions.
We call on the United States government and the incoming administration to:
- Reverse the trends of human rights abuses in the United States.
- Disband the current model of detention for immigrants and asylum seekers and ensure that the rights accorded to these individuals through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, UN Resolutions such as the protection of persons from detention or imprisonment, the Refugee Act, and other international human rights treaties and bodies are respected throughout the process in the future.
- Revamp ICE policies and operational procedures to have a humane process.
- Prosecute the individuals participating in criminal practices that violate human rights.
- Hold the U.S. to the same standards applied to foreign governments, as outlined in the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018.
- Condemn atrocities committed on U.S. soil swiftly and hold perpetrators accountable through legislation, where necessary.
STAND’s Managing Committee is STAND’s central decision-making body, and works to ensure that students have the resources to effectively organize their campuses and communities.