Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., expresses its deep concern about the well-being of detained migrants taken into custody along the US-Mexico border. As Jews we have a special understanding of the immigrant experience, especially refugees seeking safe haven from perilous circumstances in their native countries. Hadassah reaffirms its dedication to health, human rights, and the advancement of human dignity in response to this humanitarian crisis.
Hadassah is alarmed by the recent US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) report detailing the “dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley” and calls for immediate attention to alleviate multiple violations of DHS’s Transport, Escort, Detention, and Search (TEDS) standards.
Overcrowding at some detention facilities, at times exceeding twice a holding cell’s capacity, has contributed to outbreaks and rapid spread of disease. The OIG has self-reported numerous health and safety concerns, including limited or no access to essentials for basic hygiene and proper nutrition. Members of the medical community have also raised concerns regarding the quality of care available. These problems represent urgent public health concerns and must be addressed immediately.
Hadassah is especially distressed by the condition of detained minors and all migrant children who have been separated from their families. The safety, physical health, and emotional needs of children are paramount. Prolonged detention, inadequate supervision, limited physical contact, and separation from family are well-documented contributors to pediatric traumatic stress.
Hadassah calls upon Congress and the Administration to work together and take immediate steps to:
- Prioritize the health, safety and well-being of detained migrants – ensuring access toessentials for basic hygiene (e.g. showers, soap, toothpaste, clean clothes), proper nutrition,and medical care so that the conditions of detention meet humanitarian standards andcomply with US law.
- Enforce all TEDS standards and the terms of the Flores agreement, which mandates facilitystandards and the timely release of children from custody.
- Reunify all separated families or place minors with extended family members, wheneverpossible, until such reunification can be implemented.
- Improve assistance to migrants who wish to apply for refugee status or asylum inaccordance with US law and speed the processing of claims.