AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, America has reacted with horror and outrage over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has separated children from their asylum-seeking parents. These families seeking asylum are not criminals—many are fleeing the Northern Triangle of Central America (El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala), one of the deadliest regions in the world, where their communities are overrun by organized crime, violence, human trafficking and persecution; they seek refuge and compassion from our nation. These children and their parents have suffered irreparable harm and trauma; and

WHEREAS, because the American people have spoken in ways that could not be ignored, President Trump issued an executive order that calls for the pullback of the separation policy, but which, in fact, has not completely stopped the separations, nor repaired the harm already done to thousands; it has only replaced one crisis for another, but children do not belong in jail under any circumstances, and family unification must not be traded for family imprisonment; and

WHEREAS, denying the nurturing care that babies, toddlers and young school-age children require for proper development may cause these children in detention to suffer irreversible neurological and developmental damage; and

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers has fought back against this inhumane treatment of children; we have taken action across the United States and in the halls of Congress; we have delivered books and education supplies to children and families at the southern border; we have presented a formal complaint for action to the United Nations Human Rights Council; and we have participated in many actions across the country; and

WHEREAS, the AFT has worked alongside civic leaders, clergy, refugee and immigrant rights groups, and other community organizations in this work—including the Hispanic Federation, Kids in Need of Defense, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Action Network, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, PEN America, T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, the UndocuBlack Network, United We Dream, Voto Latino and our sisters and brothers in the labor movement—to right this horrible wrong; and

WHEREAS, children are being forcibly taken from their parents’ arms and immediately locked up in cages and detention centers by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and are later transferred to group shelters and foster care settings by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the Department of Health and Human Services; CBP officials have consistently relied on deceitful practices to separate children from their parents, such as telling parents that their children are being taken for a bath, when in reality they are being placed in a cage and detention center, and later transferred to ORR custody; and

WHEREAS, the traumatic policy of forcibly breaking families apart at the border, and the refusal to grant asylum to refugees, violates the letter and the spirit of numerous U.N. treaties and protocols, including the “Convention against Torture,” “the Right to Family Life,” “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and the “Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders”:

RESOLVED, that we must stand up and call this separation policy exactly what it is: a crime against humanity. We have witnessed this scene before in history, including but not limited to: during the forced separation of families of millions of enslaved people, a founding act of violence and inhumanity in the United States; during the unconscionable internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II; during the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust; in Argentina, with the “disappearances” of children and loved ones during a generation of political repression; and with the refugee crisis and family displacement in present-day Syria. Our darkest times have often been marked by the forced separation and detention of “the Other,” and it is happening again today, in full view of the American people and the world; and

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers condemns and calls for a total repeal of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policies and indefinite family incarcerations that erode our values, divide our nation and separate children from their parents. We will press our actions on every front, using all our resources to push back—in the streets, through the media, in courtrooms, in our union halls, in houses of faith, in Congress and at all levels of our legislatures; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT calls for due process that provides all children and families seeking asylum with adequate protections and legal services, including a legal advocate who can provide children and families with guidance through the legal, humanitarian and asylum process; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT calls on all members to become part of a national vigilance and resistance network to confront this national crisis; when we see in our schools and communities children who may be victims of the government’s inhumane policies, we will utilize social media and report the situation to national organizations that stand ready to assist, such as the Vera Institute of Justice (, dedicated to securing equal justice and supporting immigrants’ legal representation; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will fully engage in the political battle to see that this kind of tragedy never occurs again in this country; we will continue to oppose the gutting of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, and the separation of children and family detention; we will fully support proposed legislation that opposes the Trump administration’s unconscionable policies, such as the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act in the House of Representatives, and the Keep Families Together Act in the Senate; and we will support those who are leading the legislative fight, including Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), among many others; and

RESOLVED, that as representatives of those who teach and care for the next generation, we call for community-based alternatives to family detention, and for congressional oversight on the care and treatment of children in U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Office of Refugee Resettlement facilities to ensure the medical, educational and mental health needs of children are being met; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will continue to press its formal human rights complaint (co-signed by 14 additional human rights activists) lodged with the United Nations Human Rights Council, urging the council to raise awareness and response, and pull the curtain back on this cynical policy that is both cruel and immoral; and

RESOLVED, that we will work with Education International and Public Services International to take expedited action to secure the introduction of a U.N. General Assembly resolution, during September’s New York meetings, condemning the Trump administration’s action at our southern border to be a crime against humanity.