Guest post by Sharice Davids
Candidate for U.S. Congress
Every year, thousands of immigrants, asylum seekers and migrants assume great hardships to find safety in America. They choose our country because they see the United States as a land of justice, as a place of safety, and a beacon of hope.
Central American countries are facing unprecedented gang violence. The same countries are also dealing with a steep rise in domestic violence against women and children.
Yet last week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions used his authority over the U.S. immigration court system to overturn asylum protections for domestic violence and gang violence victims — essentially closing our doors to thousands of immigrants legally seeking safe refuge within America’s borders.
The legal merits that Sessions himself used to set this new precedent can be debated and will likely be challenged in court. But separate from any legal proceeding or judicial hearing, we the people of America must honestly question the morals that are currently guiding our government, and challenge whether our leadership is honoring basic human rights that we have agreed to uphold.
The current administration has revoked our country’s promise to protect immigrants brought here as children. Now, our Dreamers are living in uncertainty and fear of imminent deportation to a land they’ve likely never known. The same administration is ripping families apart at our borders, admittedly inflicting irreparable pain upon innocent children in order to deter parents from attempting entry into our country. This new stance on asylum seekers is simply the latest in a sickening string of shameful decisions that neglect to consider the basic human dignity of the people affected by them.
Our immigration system is a complex and complicated maze, ripe for confusion and mistreatment. A vast majority of American people and legislators alike agree that we need comprehensive reform. What that looks like exactly is the topic of intense and often partisan debate.
Before any details are decided or even discussed, I call on all lawmakers to adhere to the tenants and legal framework of human rights that America has agreed to. Turning away women and children in grave danger; warehousing children in cages; deporting people whom we promised to protect — these actions are not reflective of the America I want to live in. They do not represent the values our country claims to hold. And further, they do not uphold the treaties and declarations to which the United States has committed.
Starting as early as the Declaration of Independence, America’s “founding fathers” saw immigration as necessary to the United States and humanity. They stated that the King of England’s attempt to obstruct “Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners” and preventing “populations of these States” as one reason for declaring independence.
In 1948, America was part of the UN General Assembly that adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document clearly states the basic rights of liberty, security and safety. In addition, Article 14 guarantees the right to “seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
Stemming from Article 14, the United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees was first adopted and signed by the U.S. in 1951. This report further lays out the basic rights that should be honored and protocol that should be taken in regards to both refugees and asylum seekers.
If America is to be the land of opportunity and the beacon of hope that we claim, our immigration policies must be rooted in the fundamental principles of humanity. They must recognize, respect and honor the basic human rights of all people. And they must uphold the commitments we as a country have made to the international community.
Our asylum laws were written to protect victims fleeing persecution in their home countries. By limiting the scope of these laws and refusing to acknowledge gang violence or domestic violence as a valid reason to seek asylum, we are turning away women and children in grave danger. We are discounting their worth as human beings and disregarding their basic needs of safety.
We must demand that all of our laws policies and practices — including but not limited to immigration — reflect the morality we claim and the legally binding commitments we’ve made.
Sharice Davids is a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Kansas’ Third Congressional District. A proud Kansan, Sharice was raised by a single mom, and when elected will be the first Native American woman in Congress. After graduating from Johnson County Community College, she went on to earn an Ivy League law degree from Cornell and worked under President Barack Obama as a White House Fellow.