WASHINGTON, June 12 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) and 18 of their colleagues sent a letter Tuesday to United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley urging the Trump administration to uphold the United States' international human rights treaty obligations and present Congress with a plan to take action to reduce shameful levels of poverty across the country. The letter follows on the heels of a scathing final report from the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, on his official visit to the United States.
The UN report, which will be presented to the Human Rights Council of the U.N. General Assembly later this month, highlights the contrast between the few Americans with immense wealth and the more than 40 million people living in poverty, including millions living in what the report describes as “Third World conditions of absolute poverty.”
“We believe the massive levels of deprivation outlined in the report – as well as the immense suffering this deprivation causes – are an affront to any notion of the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Given the breadth of poverty outlined in the report, these rights are simply illusory for millions in this country,” the members wrote.
More than 13 million American children live in poverty, more than 1 in 5 homeless individuals are children and the United States has the highest youth poverty rate and infant mortality rate among comparable nations. Meanwhile, the United States is the only country in the world that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a treaty that protects the economic, health and social rights of children.
“These findings sound a call to action we must heed. We urge your Administration to immediately submit the Convention on the Rights of the Child treaty to the Senate requesting its ratification,” the members wrote.
Sanders, Sewell and their colleagues also agreed with the report’s conclusion that the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion in tax cuts “overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.” And they called on the administration to address the “country’s discriminatory treatment of communities of color, indigenous populations, women, children, people with disabilities, and citizens living in U.S. territories” – discriminatory treatment that is inconsistent with American treaty obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
In conclusion, the members urged the Trump administration to address severe inequality and poverty, which has been decades in the making, by eliminating cash bail, recognizing health care as a human right, addressing inadequate access to banking services, ensuring that all citizens have access to clean water and sewage services and working to improve internet and transportation access.
The letter was also signed by Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). It was signed in the House by Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), John Lewis (D-Ga.), Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), James P. McGovern (D-Mass.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.).
To read the letter, click here.