US writers recall their migrant journeys in protest at asylum seekers' treatment

Khaled Hosseini, Ocean Vuong and Neil Gaiman among leading authors to sign a letter to the US Congress, urging action to remedy ‘atrocious conditions’

Neil Gaiman, Khaled Hosseini, Ariel Dorfman and Viet Thanh Nguyen are among more than three dozen migrant and refugee writers calling on the US Congress to take “immediate steps to rectify the atrocious conditions for asylum seekers being detained today”.

Forty authors, all of whom have migrated to the US or are the children of migrants, signed an open letter pleading with Washington politicians to take action over inhumane conditions in detention centres on the US-Mexico border.

“The reports of death, abuse, overcrowding, untreated illness, malnutrition and lack of basic hygiene are abhorrent, especially since many of those affected are children,” say the writers, including The Kite Runner author Hosseini, the Chilean-American novelist and playwright Dorfman and the Pulitzer-winning Vietnamese-American novelist Nguyen.

In the letter, published in the Nation, they call on Congress to “meet our moral obligations by ensuring those held by our own government receive elementary necessities like sanitation supplies and access to medical and legal personnel”.

The writers, who also include Paul Muldoon, Ocean Vuong, Gary Shteyngart and Reza Aslan, urge Congress to provide migrants with access to medical care, nutrition and hygiene; to allocate resources for judges to hear cases more efficiently and with due process; to forbid tax dollars being spent on holding asylum seekers in countries where they face danger; and to reverse the White House’s evisceration of the refugee resettlement programme.

Earlier this month, a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General warned that facilities in the Rio Grande valley in southern Texas faced dangerous overcrowding and required immediate attention.

“We remember well the experience of utter paralysis that’s part of nearly every immigrant’s journey: of standing before the US immigration system, praying to not be found wanting,” say the writers. “Today, those enduring unspeakable conditions at our border are praying, just as we once prayed, when it was our turn. They may be praying to a different god, or different gods or different entities, but it doesn’t matter; what matters is that the power to address their prayers lies with you, the United States Congress. Please, do not let them go unheeded.”


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
US using coronavirus pandemic to unlawfully expel asylum seekers, says UN
CDC recently issued order encouraging immediate deportation of non-citizens without valid documents, citing obscure quarantine law

Nina Lakhani in New York

17, Apr, 2020 @7:19 PM

Article image
Asylum seekers routinely turned away from ports of entry, advocates say
The US government has urged migrants to use official border posts but at remote crossings they are often left frustrated

Ana Adlerstein

19, Dec, 2018 @12:53 PM

Article image
Border South review: slow train to US border purgatory
Raúl Pastrana’s compassionate film rides with a Nicaraguan migrant trying to cross into America, and a US researcher seeking traces of others who never made it

Charlie Phillips

08, Jun, 2019 @4:30 PM

Article image
Migrant caravan members unfazed by Trump: 'He'll change his thinking'
Many migrant caravan participants express optimism in their vision of the US as president tweets: ‘Go back to your country’

David Agren in Pijijiapan

26, Oct, 2018 @6:01 PM

Article image
'Like a child': the disabled migrant stranded and alone in Mexico
Like thousands of migrants arriving in the US before him, José was forcibly separated from his family under Trump administration policy

Adam Gabbatt at the US-Mexico border and in Virginia

28, Jul, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
Texas migrant deaths ‘a horrific human tragedy’, says San Antonio mayor
Discovery of 50 people dead in a trailer prompts outpouring of compassion but governor bucks trend by blaming deaths on Biden

Samira Asma-Sadeque

28, Jun, 2022 @2:43 PM

Article image
Migrant surges hint at chaos at US-Mexico border once Title 42 expires
Critics of Covid migration restriction, ending next week, say it illegally prevents asylum claims and places migrants in danger

Joanna Walters and agency

16, Dec, 2022 @11:00 AM

Article image
Searching for Diego: the hunt for one missing migrant in the Arizona desert
In the deadliest year for people attempting to cross the US-Mexico border, a search party tries to find a missing 19-year-old

Justo Robles on the Arizona-Mexico border

25, Nov, 2022 @11:00 AM

Article image
'The US can't dump people in Mexico': Trump asylum policy in doubt
Head of immigration authority says Mexico has ‘asked for answers’ on ‘catch and return’ – but shutdown isn’t helping

Sarah Kinosian in Tijuana, Mexico

05, Jan, 2019 @12:01 PM

Article image
US Customs and Border Protection closes bridge to Juárez after rumor causes migrant rush
Hundreds of migrants tried to race across the Paso del Norte bridge to El Paso after false internet post said the border was open

Victoria Bekiempis

13, Mar, 2023 @5:41 PM