U.S. Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) has revealed that it is targeting people living with HIV in family separation policies, in contradiction to federal immigration policy and Centers for Disease Control guidance.
On 25 July at a U.S. House Judiciary Committee hearing titled, “Oversight of Family Separation and U.S. Customs and Border Protecting Hearing,” Chief of U.S. Custom and Border Patrol (CBP) Brian Hastings stated to Representative Jamie Raskin (D-MD) that HIV status is a criterion used to separate families at the border.
According to reporting from Quartz, three sisters, ages 11, 12, and 14, were permanently separated from their father because he is living with HIV. The man and his three daughters crossed the border from Honduras seeking asylum in November 2018. Their mother previously died of AIDS-related complications in Honduras.
Despite a 2010 policy put in place by US Citizenship and Immigration Services that removed HIV positive status from the list of communicable diseases that bar immigrants from entry to the US, and subsequent confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control that HIV is not a communicable disease of public health significance to U.S. immigration, Hastings’ testimony asserted that HIV could be used as a reason to separate family members in immigration detention. Shockingly, when asked whether families were separated for the common communicable diseases such as the flu, Hastings said that they are not.
This incident confirms two things: first, CBP is comfortable to operate above the law—indeed, Hastings admits that he is unsure if the guidance CBP is following was from legal counsel. We know this to be true from the years of trauma and terror inflicted upon migrants at the border and the increasingly unabashed approach the Trump Administration has taken. This is particularly concerning because the underlying science that led to the 2010 HIV-related immigration policy change is being completely ignored by CBP.
Secondly, this incident shows that CBP and by extension the Trump Administration has no intent to respect the rights of people living with and affected by HIV. Trump’s frail call to end AIDS by 2030 will never come to fruition while discriminatory and punitive laws, policies, and practices exist.
For this reason, side by side with so many other flagrant human rights violations in the U.S., MPact cannot support the AIDS2020 conference to take place in San Francisco and Oakland. The Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD), the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC), International Civil Society Support (ICSS), in close partnership with Mexican advocates, are instead organizing HIV2020: Community Reclaiming the Global Response to offer a safe space for those who cannot or will not enter the U.S. for AIDS2020.
MPact in solidarity with networks of HIV advocates in the U.S. strongly condemns the actions of Custom and Border Patrol, demands an immediate end to family separation and for immediate closure of concentration camps. Human rights must be respected and protected for all, particularly immigrants and people living with and affected by HIV.