RI Joins 83 Organizations in Condemning Family Separation and Detention of Asylum Seekers at U.S. Southern Border

Refugees International President Eric Schwartz joined leaders from 83 organization in sending the following letter to Congressman Paul Ryan, Senator Mitch McConnell, Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Chuck Schumer.  

Dear Speaker Ryan and Leaders McConnell, Pelosi and Schumer: 

We write today to urge Congress to take immediate and decisive action to end the Administration’s policy of prosecuting asylum seekers and detaining children and families at the U.S. / Mexico border.  Any such action should also immediately reunify children who were separated from their parents by previous Administration orders.  Mass detention of families is unconscionable, regardless of the legal status of migrants, and prosecuting asylum seekers is a direct violation of their legal rights under U.S. law and treaties to which the U.S. is a ratified party.   

InterAction is the largest alliance of U.S.-based development and humanitarian NGOs.  As organizations who have supported or directly delivered assistance to displaced persons and other vulnerable populations overseas, we know both the unique challenges and responsibilities that host governments and communities face.  Based on our experience, we believe there is no challenge that could possibly justify mass detention of migrant families.  The U.S. has spoken out against very similar practices by other countries.  This cruel and inhumane practice undermines our moral standing internationally – particularly with other countries that are hosting refugees and asylum seekers. 

The trauma caused to children and families seeking refuge in our nation by these policies will have ramifications for generations to come.  On an individual level, children who undergo detention or have been forcibly separated from their families experience toxic stress that can profoundly and permanently impact their mental, physical, and emotional development.  Any remedial action taken by the Administration or Congress should also seek to address the psychosocial support needs of children and families traumatized by such separation and detention. 

Over 2,000 families were forcibly torn apart in the past six weeks.  Thousands of separated children are still being held in tent cities or other deplorable detention facilities by U.S. authorities.  Asylum seekers have been prosecuted in direct violation of U.S. law and treaty commitments.  Ending separation of new arrivals only addresses one aspect of this cruel and inhumane policy while allowing others to continue.  If the Administration fails to immediately end and remediate its unacceptable policies, it is up to Congress to stop these injustices that undermine our identity as a nation. 


1. Lucy Martinez Sullivan, Executive Director, 1,000 Days

2. Andrea Tamburini, Chief Executive Officer, Action Against Hunger

3. Jonathan Duffy, President, ADRA International

4. Steven J. Smith, President and CEO, Airlink

5. Melanie Greenberg, President and CEO, Alliance for Peacebuilding

6. Robert Bank, President and CEO, American Jewish World Service

7. Michael J. Nyenhuis, President and CEO, Americares

8. Robert Kelty, Executive Director, Amref Health Africa  US  

9. Emily Arnold-Fernandez, Executive Director, Asylum Access

10. Elana Berger, Executive Director, Bank Information Center

11. Dan Stoner, Board Chair, Basic Education Coaltion

12. Chris Palusky, President and CEO, Bethany Christian Services

13. Rev. David Beckmann, President, Bread for the World

14. Elizabeth Hausler, Founder and CEO, Build Change

15. Michelle Nunn, President and CEO, CARE USA

16. Polly Byers, Executive Director, CDA Collaborative Learning

17. Serra Sippel, President, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE)

18. J. Daryl Byler, Executive Director, Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University

19. Nancy Press, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Child Aid

20. Anne Lynam Goddard, President and CEO, ChildFund International

21. Colleen Kelly, Chief Executive Officer, Concern Worldwide US  

22. Lisa Hilmi, Executive Director, CORE Group

23. Osman Dulgeroglu, Chief Executive Officer, Embrace Relief Foundation

24. Robert W. Radtke, President and CEO, Episcopal Relief & Development

25. Carol Miller, Founding Partner, Five Heads Strategic Communications

26. Gary Edmonds, President and CEO, Food for the Hungry

27. Andrew Albertson, Executive Director, Foreign Policy for America

28. Chris Collins, President, Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

29. Sean Lawrence, Executive Director, Giving Children Hope

30. David A. Weiss, President and CEO, Global Communities

31. Dr. Rebecca S. Hage Thomley, Chief Executive Officer, Headwaters Relief Organization

32. James Mitchum, Chief Executive Officer, Heart to Heart International

33. Kathy Spahn, President and CEO, Helen Keller International

34. Mark Hetfield, President and CEO, HIAS

35. Jeff Meer, US Executive Director, Humanity & Inclusion

36. Thomas Dente, Chief Executive Officer, Humentum

37. Judith A. Hermanson, President and CEO, IHC Global

38. Dr. Linda Pfeiffer, President and CEO, INMED Partnerships for Children

39. Samuel A. Worthington, Chief Executive Officer, InterAction

40. Victoria M. Sheffield, President and CEO, International Eye Foundation

41. Barry La Forgia, Executive Director, International Relief Teams

42. David Miliband, President and CEO, International Rescue Committee

43. William S. Reese, Chief Executive Officer, International Youth Foundation

44. Sharif Aly, Chief Executive Officer, Islamic Relief USA  

45. Joan Rosenhauer, Executive Director, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

46. Charles J. Hooker, IIII, President and CEO, Keystone Human Services

47. Amb. Daniel V. Speckhard (rt.), President and CEO, Lutheran World Relief

48. J. Ron Byler, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

49. Neal Keny-Guyer, Chief Executive Officer, Mercy Corps

50. Umar al-Qadi, President and CEO, Mercy-USA for Aid and Development

51. Joel R. Charny, Executive Director, Norwegian Refugee Council USA

52. Abby Maxman, President and CEO, Oxfam America

53. Steve Davis, President and CEO, PATH

54. Tessie San Martin, President and CEO, Plan International USA

55. Ester Neltrup, President and CEO, Planet Aid

56. Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness, Director, Compassion, Peace and Justice Minstry, Presbyterian Mission Agency

57. Dr. Tom Kenyon, CEO and Chief Medical Officer, Project HOPE

58. Eric Schwartz, President, Refugees International  

59. Nancy E. Wilson, President and CEO, Relief International

60. Joanne Carter, Executive Director, RESULTS

61. Rod Brooks, President and CEO, Rise Against Hunger

62. Emily Vargas-Baron, Director, RISE Institute

63. Carolyn Miles, President and CEO, Save the Children  

64. Shawna Bader-Blau, Executive Director, Solidarity Center

65. Mishelle Rudzinski, Executive Director, SPOON

66. Clint Borgen, President, The Borgen Project

67. Tosca Bruno-van Vijfeijken, Director, Transnational NGO Initiative, Syracuse University

68. Eskinder Negash, President and CEO, U.S.Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

69. Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO, UNICEF USA

70. Roland Fernandes, Treasurer, United Methodist Committee on Relief

71. Chris Whatley, Executive Director, United Nations Association of the United States  

72. Anne-Marie Grey, Executive Director and CEO, USA for UNHCR

73. Dianne Calvi, Chief Executive Officer, Village Enterprise

74. Michael Deal, President & CEO, Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA)

75. Lynn Malooly, Executive Director, Water for South Sudan

76. Sarina Prabasi, Chief Executive Officer, WaterAid  

77. Elizabeth McGovern, Executive Director, WEEMA International

78. Emily Bove, Executive Director, Women Thrive Alliance

79. Sarah Costa, Executive Director, Women’s Refugee Commission

80. John Lyon, President, World Hope International

81. Anita Shafer Aaron, Executive Director and CEO, World Institute on Disability

82. Carol Bremer-Bennett, Executive Director, World Renew

83. Richard Stearns, President, World Vision U.S.

84. Halil Demir, Executive Director, Zakat Foundation of America