Start With Dignity Campaign Ignites Call on President Biden to Protect Human Rights Inside the U.S.

SAN DIEGO — In response to an onslaught of human rights violations, particularly of communities of color, immigrants and unhoused community members across the United States, Alliance San Diego and allies today announced the launch of Start With Dignity, a binational campaign calling on the Biden administration to honor the dignity of human life by aligning with global human rights standards. The campaign unites us all in a movement to “start with dignity,” lighting the way forward for more inclusive laws and policies with a focus on addressing police brutality and inhumane treatment.

Every year, over 1 million people are threatened with or subjected to use of forceby law enforcement in the United States. Over 250,000 people are injured as a result, and over 1,000 people are killed. This past year, 2022, was the deadliest. In any given year, only about 10 local and state officers are convicted and no federal border agent has ever been convicted for taking a life while on duty. This type of abuse and impunity is uniquely American, enabled by a deficient use of force standard that violates the international human right to life. The U.S. standard allows law enforcement to use force that an officer believes is 'reasonable,' rather than limiting it to force that is 'necessary and proportionate,' which is the international standard derived from treaties signed and ratified by the U.S. 

As part of the United Nations Human Rights 75 initiative, Start With Dignity asks everyone to sign a petition to President Biden calling on him to pledge to uphold the United States’ commitment to human rights here at home, for everyone. That begins with changing the use of force standard to ‘necessary and proportionate’ to save lives. Changing the standard changes the question that should have been asked when border agents killed Anastasio Hernández Rojas or when local police killed Alfred Olongo or Dr. Yan Li. Without laws that protect human rights, the U.S. continues to violate international treaty obligations and strips people of dignity

Dignity is the point of a democracy, but people cannot live in dignity when they cannot trust law enforcement to protect their human rights,” said Andrea Guerrero, Executive Director of Alliance San Diego. “The United States cannot hold itself out as a human rights leader when it does not protect these same rights at home. Actions speak louder than words. In this year in which we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it’s time to start anew, to start with dignity in aligning our laws with our international human rights obligations to recognize the dignity inherent to each and every one of us.”

The sign-on petition will be delivered to the Biden administration and members of Congress in December, which marks the official anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Community members and partner organizations are encouraged to visit to support the campaign calling on the United States to recognize our dignity and pledge this year to protect human rights for us all, beginning with changing the use of force standard.

“Every day, thousands of people in this country are threatened with or subjected to police violence. I am one of those people,” said Ted Womack, Civic Engagement Manager at Alliance San Diego. “It starts with police racially profiling me in a stop, compelling me to let them search me, then handcuffing me on the curb or putting me in the police car while they question me, and often with the threat of violence if I don’t comply, all because I am a Black man in America. This is a common experience of people in my community, and sometimes it ends tragically with police unnecessarily hurting or killing someone. When you’re a person of color, you worry about any encounter with law enforcement becoming violent. I have been stopped by the police more than 50 times and I am terrified every time.” 

“In border communities, the threat of violence is even greater,” said Lilian Serrano, Director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition. “U.S. border agents often outnumber police in border communities around the country. Since we began tracking in 2010, more than 270 people have died in encounters with border agents. They include citizens, residents, migrants, and travelers. A border agent has never been held accountable for any of these deaths. Border agents also harm thousands of people with impunity. Marisol García Alcantara, a migrant, is one example. She was shot in her head by a border agent while in the back seat of a car that agents claim did not yield on an Arizona road. She survived, but was deported with a bullet lodged in her head, and no one ever asked, was the shooting necessary and proportionate? The answer would have been No.” 

Community members are encouraged to follow the Start with Dignity campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to stay up-to-date on further actions, including live media and social events. #startwithdignity #empiezacondignidad