‘Crime against humanity’
GREENWICH — For years, Greenwich resident Joseph Kaliko has focused volunteer and charity work on Greenwich and nearby cities including Bridgeport. But recently he widened his attention to take on an issue of much larger scale.
Kaliko, who founded the Needs Clearing House charity in town and is a past president of the Cos Cob Fire Police Patrol, has filed a human rights complaint against President Donald Trump with the International Criminal Court in protest of his policy that forcibly separated thousands of children from their parents at the nation’s southern border.
“I wanted to find an outlet for my anger and disgust over an administration policy that had no regard for the damage to human beings wrought by their ill-conceived family separation strategy,” Kaliko said. “The policy was a naked disingenuous attempt to gain leverage over Congress regarding the funding of a border wall without regard to the damage to people who did not deserve treatment not seen in the U.S. since the internment of Japanese people during World War II.”
A retired attorney, Kaliko worked as part of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s transition team in 2011 and has served on many state boards and commissions, among them the state Medical Examining Board, appointed by Malloy, and the Connecticut Bioscience Advisory Committee, appointed by Republican Senate leaders John McKinney and Len Fasano.
He acted in hope that a “critical mass of complaints” will be filed with the court, spurring it to investigate Trump for “a crime against humanity.”
The International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental tribunal located in The Netherlands. The United States participates as an observer.
Citizens have the right to file complaints, which Kaliko did in June by emailing email@example.com. He has not heard back from the court.
“Filing a complaint with the ICC is a constructive vehicle for people to vent their anger and disgust over the crime already committed,” Kaliko said.
The Trump administration policy of separating children from families was ended by an executive order from the president in June, but Kaliko said that action was not enough to remedy the harm caused to many children.
Most of the separated families have been reunited, but hundreds of children remain apart from their parents, including those whose parents were deported while they remained in custody in the United States.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, a Greenwich resident, criticized administration officials this week for “inadequate reunification plans and unconscionable separation policies.”
Blumenthal joined other Democratic senators in requesting an oversight hearing on family separation and reunification. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Blumenthal is a member of, on Tuesday heard testimony from Commander Jonathan White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a branch of the federal department of Health and Human Services. White said Trump administration officials were warned that their immigration policies would be dangerous to children.
The separation issue is one of several charging a particularly intense mid-term election year as the parties bitterly fight to gain or retain control of Congress.
In Connecticut’s Fourth Congressional District, Republican Harry Arora comes with a unique perspective. Arora, a Greenwich resident challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, is a first-generation American who came to the country as a graduate student from India. He criticized Kaliko’s complaint this week.
“The policy of family separation has been ended,” Arora said. “A majority of the kids have been reunited with their parents and there is ongoing effort to reunite the remaining as soon as practicable. Joe Kaliko’s complaint to International Criminal Court against the U.S. government is offensive to his other fellow citizens like myself. The U.S. continues to help the cause of human rights around the world. This is a shameful political move which harms American interests and standing.”
Aroroa said there needs to be expeditious due process to see if people crossing the border qualify for asylum or refugee status, and those who don’t “need to be asked to return.” He called for more resources for the federal Department of Homeland Security to provide due process within three weeks for families with children.
“Providing these extra resources would allow our government to implement the rule of law and do it in a compassionate yet firm manner,” Arora said.
In response, Kaliko said Arora should be offended by Trump, not him.
“My complaint concerns heartless people manipulating helpless children for political gain,” Kaliko said. “I too believe in border security; but not at the expense of the humane treatment of children and families.”
Himes, also a Greenwich resident, said the country is dealing with “acute and chronic failures” of its immigration system.
“The pressing concern right now is obviously reuniting children who were taken away from their families by this administration’s policy,” he said. “After touring a detention center in Texas, it’s clear to me that the, let’s not mince words, imprisonment of children is going to have lasting effects emotionally and psychologically. We also need to investigate all reports of abuse and neglect. As a nation we must right that wrong as quickly as possible, minimize the suffering that families and children must endure, and ensure that it never happens again.”
Himes said he understood why Americans are frustrated and angry “because of a what seems like unjust or arbitrary enforcement and the perception that our immigration laws are being applied punitively instead of to make us safer.”
He said it is understandable why people like Kaliko would look for avenues to try to remedy the situation.
“The International Criminal Court offers that outlet,” Himes said, adding he felt the “onus shouldn’t fall onto individual citizens to solve this problem.”