Humanitarian Crisis at the Border

August 2019

Civil & Human Rights

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 to essentials for basic hygiene (e.g. showers, soap, toothpaste, clean clothes), proper nutrition, and medical care so that the conditions of detention meet humanitarian standards and comply with US law.
  • Enforce all TEDS standards and the terms of the Flores agreement, which mandates facility standards and the timely release of children from custody.
  • Reunify all separated families or place minors with extended family members, whenever possible, until such reunification can be implemented.
  • Improve assistance to migrants who wish to apply for refugee status or asylum in accordance with US law and speed the processing of claims.

Hadassah's Policy Statements represent the organization's official stance on a wide variety of issues facing our nation, Israel and other international matters of concern. Policy Statements are debated and voted on at national meetings by Hadassah’s national board and delegates from our membership. Once approved, statements become official policies of the organization and serve to define Hadassah's overall agenda and advocacy priorities. Hadassah, as a charitable organization classified under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, is prohibited from any direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, candidates for public office.