The vicious and calculated escalation of abuses and deaths of children at the US border over the last months have horrified millions across the globe. We have collectively witnessed an unprecedented scale of separation of children from their families; mass imprisonment of children in squalid detention camps; sexual and physical abuse of children, and the tragic deaths of families at the border, in journey and in detention.

As US-based members of the Global Coalition on Migration, we express anguish and outrage at the inhumane border militarization policies and child detention camps that have already taken the lives of seven children in custody in the last year. Yesterday, as thousands demonstrate in vigils taking place across the United States , we call on all global and regional allies to send messages of solidarity and echo our call to these policies that separate children from their parents and place them in detention – eliminating all options for people fleeing violence and conflict to exercise their fundamental human right to seek asylum.

On July 8th, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet stated that she was “deeply shocked” by the overcrowded and unsafe conditions migrant children are facing in detention facilities – clearly underscoring separation of families and mistreatment, including lack of adequate conditions and medical care.

The Trump Administration policy of separating children at the border has been described by Attorney General Jeff Sessions as aborder deterrence policy. Increasingly pushing people back at the border, the US is in violation of the International Refugee Convention by funneling asylum-seekers at official entry-points, forcing many to risk their lives at dangerous river and desert crossings to seek asylum. The US is conducting mass deportations in Mexico, incarcerating asylum-seekers and expansively rejecting many asylum cases linked to gangs and domestic violence. The last move to force asylum seekers to “remain in Mexico” while their cases are considered undermines access to due process and will result in more deaths of those who seek protection. The US should commit to welcoming more – not fewer refugees and asylum seekers – and roll back the barriers that have been imposed on access to asylum.

As US citizens have mobilized solidarity, we need to mobilize to end the practice of detention itself. “Scarcity” is an intentional policy of so-called “deterrence” by creating intolerable conditions. There should be NO detention of people seeking humanitarian protection, particularly children. Border-crossing should not be criminalized.

The xenophobic and racist threats continue to mount as the Administration announces plans to conduct mass raids of undocumented migrants across the country beginning on July 14th, threatening to detain and deport tens of thousands. The threats to migrants – including a deliberate practice of separating children from their families, a consequence of deportations – go well beyond the border.

The current crisis in Central America and the massive exodus reflects a legacy of US economic, military and political presence in the region for over a century. As such, the US has an even greater role to welcome those fleeing the consequences of violent and exclusionary policies. Likewise, this is not only about those who officially qualify as asylees. Many are fleeing economic and climate-related situations which are not contemplated by the Refugee Convention but which are nonetheless life-threatening. We reject a false dichotomy of “legitimate” asylum-seekers vs. “Illegitimate” migrants. Those who are forced to migrate should not be criminalized for not fitting into a particular category.

The devastating image of 23-month old Valeria Ramirez, lying dead in the Rio Grande alongside her father less than a month ago brings painful remembrances of the image of Aylan Kurdi on the Mediterranean shores in 2015. Along with the countless stories in between of migrants Losing their lives at international borders and in journeys, “death by policies” of border closures and militarization is now a global reality, particularly mirrored across the US, European Union and Australia .

We call on all those who share our shock and outrage at this dehumanization of people seeking humanitarian protection, including children, to take action- by speaking out both about current US policy, and how this is echoed globally. We call on governments to stop prosecutions of human rights defenders who are providing life-saving assistance and assistance to migrants, whether in the desert, at sea or in the journey.

We must build a different future now – one that affirms respect for human rights policies at international borders and upholds the fundamental human rights of children, of migrants and of all people seeking protection. No one seeking humanitarian protection should be placed in detention.

Signed, US members of the Global Coalition on Migration:

Alliance Americas American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) Priority Africa Network Pan Africa Network in Defense of Migrant Rights (PANIDMR)

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Global Coalition on Migration