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Amnesty International USA calls for halt on Chad Wolf nomination

Amnesty International USA calls for halt on Chad Wolf nomination
© Greg Nash

Human rights advocacy group Amnesty International USA on Wednesday called for a halt to the nomination hearings for acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad WolfChad WolfVoting rights group files suit against Trump, administration officials alleging voter intimidation Business groups, universities file lawsuit over new rules targeting H-1B visas US extends Mexico, Canada border closures MORE, citing “serious human rights violations.” 

The U.S. section of the international nonprofit called the announcement “rare” for the organization, saying in a press release that the group “takes no position on the appointment of particular individuals to government positions, unless they are reasonably suspected of crimes under international law and could use their appointment to the position in question to either prevent accountability for these crimes or to continue their perpetration.” 

The statement came ahead of Wolf’s appearance before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning. Wolf has served as the acting DHS chief since November, with President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE formally nominating him to the role last month. 

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In its press release, Amnesty International USA cited internal emails showing Wolf’s involvement in implementing the Trump administration’s 2018 “zero tolerance” policy that allowed it to separate immigrant families and prosecute anyone who crossed the U.S. border illegally. 

“Amnesty International has documented how mass separations of families seeking safety constituted ill-treatment, and in some cases, torture, irreversibly harming thousands of parents and children,” the nonprofit said in the statement. “Wolf was directly involved in the decision-making process that led the administration to implement family separation to deter people from seeking safety.” 

The group added that it was “concerned that Wolf has overseen and implemented policies that have paved the way for grievous human rights abuses.” 

Amnesty International USA also criticized the use of federal agents in response to the recent surge in racial justice demonstrations following police killings of Black individuals, saying that “Wolf has served as the public face of DHS’s protest deployments, justifying and publicly defending his officers’ excessive use of force and unwanted presence in cities like Portland.”

The group ended the press release by calling on U.S. senators to “thoroughly and fully investigate Chad Wolf given the gravity and range of rights abuses that have taken place during his leadership at the Department of Homeland Security.” 

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DHS did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment on Amnesty International USA’s critiques.  

NBC News reported early Wednesday morning that DHS had given more than $6 million in contracts since September 2018 to the firm where Wolf’s wife holds an executive position. 

A DHS spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that Wolf was unaware of any of these contracts until he was notified by reporters. 

"At no time in any of his positions since joining DHS has Acting Secretary Wolf been involved in awarding any contracts," the spokesperson said. "The whole process is performed by career officials. Even if he were involved with the procurement process for this particular contract, which he was not, he would have had to recuse himself due to even the appearance of impropriety."