RFK Human Rights Launches Bold Immigration Initiative

On Dec. 13, 2019, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights announced a new $5 million immigration initiative aimed at bringing critical attention to the immigration crisis building beyond the atrocities at the southern border—including the less visible but equally destructive immigration raids, arrests, and deportation efforts being carried out throughout the United States.

Announced at the organization’s 2019 Ripple of Hope Awards dinner in New York City, the initiative will leverage the organization’s decades of expertise in pursuing human rights litigation and criminal justice reform.

The long-term initiative is being funded through the proceeds raised at the Ripple of Hope event, which included a report from a delegation of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights staffers and supporters who had traveled in November to the U.S.-Mexico border. Their presentation elicited an outpouring of response that evening, including substantial financial support.

“Our efforts next year will fight cruel and immoral immigration policies and practices as we seek equal justice,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, at the December gala.

“This work is urgent, as private prison companies are racing to build new immigration detention facilities across the country to keep up with the administration’s demands to cage immigrants, asylum seekers and their families,” added Wade McMullen, the organization’s managing attorney.

Despite the United States’ rich legacy of welcoming immigrants and those fleeing persecution, and recent moments of bipartisan support for a humane immigration policy, over the last three years the Trump administration has adopted some of the harshest immigration policies in more than a century. These include the imposition of restrictions on U.S. entry by individuals arriving from largely Muslim countries and multiple futile attempts to fund an ineffective border wall.

In addition, the Trump administration has implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy at the nation’s southern border that continues to lead to the separation of family members. The U.S. government’s “Remain in Mexico” tactics require asylum seekers to wait outside the United States in unstable conditions until a court resolves their cases, while other would-be refugees are shipped to nations falsely labeled as “safe third countries.” And the cruel imposition of “metering” has forced tens of thousands of vulnerable people fleeing persecution to wait in dangerous, makeshift shelters in Mexico before they can even initiate the application process for seeking asylum and safe haven in the United States. The result is a broken system, rife with human rights abuses, and ill-equipped to address the unique circumstances of today’s immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights will partner with local advocates to launch campaigns across the country that will protect communities affected by the human rights violations perpetrated by the current administration and galvanize public support for structural reform.

Using their formidable advocacy and mobilization capabilities, the RFK Human Rights organization and its frontline partners will work nationwide to hold local officials accountable and educate the public about the realities of immigration in their communities in order to support structural reform of current inhumane immigration policies and practices.

Read Kerry Kennedy’s letter to her daughters that goes to the heart of the issue.