Rejecting Refugees on Human Rights Day

December 10, 2020—Today is International Human Rights Day, marking the 1948 adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the birth of the modern human rights movement at the United Nations.  To our national shame, the Trump Administration today also released new asylum regulations that gut asylum protections in the United States, tragically turning our country’s back on those fleeing persecution and seeking to breathe free on our shores.    

In the aftermath of the Holocaust and with the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gave practical form to the world’s collective cry of “never again.” More than seventy years later, the refrain from the Trump Administration is an isolationist rant. 

President Trump went through the motions yesterday, officially proclaiming today as International Human Rights Day, but he spent most of the week tweeting a torrent of lies about his election defeat, desperately trying to convince courts and legislatures to invalidate legal ballots and the will of the American people.  President-elect Biden, in contrast, pledged to “stand with human rights defenders here in the United States and the world over as we put universal rights and strengthening democracy at the center of our efforts to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”  And he reminded us that we all have rights, “no matter how we look, how we pray, or whom we love.” 

Today’s deadly asylum regulations are really an attempt to codify the cruel legacy of the Trump Administration: refugee families ripped apart, children thrown in cages, and vulnerable people turned back at the border.  President-elect Biden has pledged to overturn that legacy and rebuild our country’s refugee and asylum system.  That will require the President-elect’s personal commitment, the dedication of officials across the government, and, most importantly, the empathy of ordinary Americans.     

All of us living in the United States—Democrats and Republicans alike—have  a responsibility to undo the misery caused by this outgoing Administration. On this International Human Rights Day, let’s redouble our efforts to make our country a haven for those fleeing persecution.  

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