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Women’s Refugee Commission Welcomes Introduction Of Legislation To Protect Human Rights At The Border

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 19, 2013 – Yesterday, Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard [D-CA] introduced the Protect Family Values at the Border Act, legislation aimed at improving the standards of treatment for individuals apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). The bill focuses in particular on preventing practices that separate families and threaten the safety of women and children at the border.

“Based on reports of human rights abuses on the border, it is critical to establish clear standards for the humane treatment of migrants and give the Department of Homeland Security the flexibility it needs to keep families together. This bill will help institutionalize a culture that treats individuals with fairness, dignity and respect and reflects our values as Americans,” said Congresswoman Roybal-Allard.

“This important bill recognizes that border security and enforcement do not need to come at the expense of humanitarian considerations,” said Michelle Brané, Director of Migrant Rights and Justice at the Women's Refugee Commission. “Family unity, humane treatment of migrants and safe repatriation practices need to be part of the comprehensive approach to border security. This bill stresses the importance of enforcing our existing immigration laws in a manner that is consistent with our basic system of values.”

The Protect Family Values at the Border Act creates protections for people held in CBP custody and ensures families are not needlessly separated and placed at increased risk of harm. This bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to promulgate regulations that establish standards for CBP custody. These regulations would cover basic humane treatment, such as the provision of food, emergency medical care, translated legal documents, timely transfers and access to facilities by nongovernmental organizations.

The bill also ensures that the United States' commitment to family unity and family values is reflected in policies and procedures used by CBP. The Protect Family Values at the Border Act gives DHS flexibility when considering migration deterrence programs to prevent practices that separate families and threaten the safety of women and children. Specifically, the Act ensures that women and children are not repatriated in an unsafe manner or needlessly separated from family members with whom they are traveling. The bill also includes provisions that help agents identify individuals with humanitarian and physical safety concerns.

“Rule of law and humane treatment of women, children and families are not mutually exclusive,” said Brané. “At the Women's Refugee Commission, we regularly confront the effects of our existing border policies and practices on women and children though our research and advocacy on behalf of asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants. We call on Congress to act quickly to pass the Protect Family Values at the Border Act to ensure that persons encountered by CBP are safe, and treated with dignity and respect.


Michelle Brané is available to comment at 646.717.7191