Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) welcomes the release of a new training course for Asylum Officers charged with hearing claims from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex asylum applicants. Given the increasing volume of people who seek asylum in the US after facing persecution and torture in their home countries because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, this new training course is a sorely-needed resource for government officials who hold the fates of LGBTI asylum applicants in their hands.
PHR commends Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s decision to create an exemption to the “material support” bar for health professionals who have provided medical assistance to wounded combatants. The decision is a major victory for health professionals who were forced to provide health care to alleged terrorists during armed conflict. Previously, medical professionals forced to provide care to members of terrorist organizations, some under the threat of torture or death, were denied asylum in the US.
The United States government’s reliance on indefinite detention in both national security and immigration contexts reflects an abdication of its legal and moral responsibility to treat those in its custody humanely, as well as an abdication of its responsibility to protect its military and civilians from retaliation on account of its continued refusal to honor the rule of law.
Health professionals who work in the immigration detention system are bound by the same standards of conduct that apply to the treatment of patients in private clinics and hospitals: to treat their duty to patient as their first priority and to always act in the best interests of the patient. However, this duty becomes severely compromised when the interests of their employer intrude upon or directly conflict with the needs of patients.
PHR has done considerable research on the impact of psychological torture techniques used by US personnel on terrorist suspect detainees and has now applied that work in a new context: Domestic US incarceration and treatment of prisoners.