Julie Martin is chairperson of the Human Rights Commission in Red Wing.
Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel inhuman or degrading treatment." Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that belong to every person. They are based on shared values like dignity, fairness and respect.
Basic human rights of immigrants and refugees are being neglected at our borders and at American immigration detention centers.
Two weeks ago a team of doctors and lawyers went in to investigate what was happening at the Clint Border Patrol Station in Texas. They found 350 children jailed in this facility that has space for 100. The conditions there are degrading and inhumane.
It is a human wrong that any children in this country are being held without a toothbrush.The lights in their cages have been kept on 24 hours a day and they sleep on concrete floors. The investigators described the overpowering stench within the facility.
It is human wrong that any child is dirty she hasn't been able to shower since crossing the border. Their clothing is caked with snot and tears.
It is a human wrong that mothers don't have the ability to properly wash their babies' bottles with warm water, so they use their drinking water and they have no access to soap.
The overcrowding, poor hygiene and lack of basic needs have led to lice and flu outbreaks. Older children are trying to take care of and soothe infants and toddlers. This is human wrong and these refugees are entitled to human rights.
The eye-witness teams that went to the facility called this situation torture. When you are allowed to break the spirit of a human and in this case children, by keeping them dirty, hungry, sick, cold, in cages and without a way to get rest by sleeping, it is emotional torture and it is a human rights violation.
When they are finally reunited with their families and have food and shelter and all of their basic needs met, the trauma that our government has subjected them to will not go away. The doctors who visited the children report that they are showing unnatural signs of attachment disorder. These children do not know whom to trust.
It is a human wrong that these children are asylum seekers and are being denied special immigrant juvenile status for which they are eligible. Most are women and children, not drug dealers and criminals. They are just trying to survive, which is what every one of us here today would do if we were tired of being poor or afraid that our children would go outside and be killed by gang violence.
None of us here would choose to swim across the current of a river with our 2-year-old on our back unless we were trying to escape an unspeakably harsh situation. After fleeing the worst traumas imaginable, our country is meeting them at the detention centers with even more human indecency. This is a human wrong and it needs to stop.
We stand together tonight to demand the end to inhumane treatment of people entering our country. We demand that our government honor basic human rights for all.