Friday, January 17, 2014

Justin Bieber and IRAIRA

It's hard to believe that Justin Bieber's allegedly egging of a  neighbor's house could lead to his removal (deportation) from the U.S.A. But, because the egging resulted in about $20,000 in damages, this could be classified as an "aggravated felony" in U.S immigration law. That coupled with his hitting of a photographer could land the young lad in removal proceedings.

Justin Bieber is not a U.S. citizen, or a Legal Permanent Resident of the US, but rather a Canadian citizen with what's called a non-immigrant visa. That means that he has to renew his visa to be able to work and live in the US every year.

Because of a 1996 Congressional law called the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), Bieber could be removed from the US back to his native country, Canada. As the following article outlines,, it is unlikely that he would be deported because of his celebrity status (and his ability to hire the best lawyers money can buy), but many non-US citizen individuals -- permanent residents or visa holders -- are deported because of this IRAIRA law.  

Friday, December 09, 2011

Struggles with Illegal Immigration

The plan to stem illegal immigration calls for building a fence along the desert border and increasing fines for companies that hire illegal immigrants. Some fear that without a firm hand against illegal immigration, the demography of the nation will be at risk. One government official says, "It's true that they come from Third World countries, but [we] cannot accommodate all of them."

If I asked you to name what country I am talking about, you would probably say the United States. But you would be wrong, as this actually is describing a situation in Israel right now. An article in the Israeli newspaper, Ha'Aretz, explains the details of the aforementioned plan. 

I just think it's funny how two completely different nations halfway around the world from one another can have virtually identical challenges with illegal immigration. 

What do you think? Should Israel (or America, for that matter) build a fence to keep out illegal immigrants? What is the proper response? I'm grateful for any insights and comments.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

South Africa: LGBT Rights in Name Only?

This is a very interesting article. In South Africa there is discrimination taking place against the LGBT community. Which exist outside of South Africa however it is employed by government officials as well. There have been various acts of sexual harassment against the LGBT. When they reach out for justice they are often laughed at and discarded. For an example a young girl tell Human Rights Watch:
“He had seen my lesbian friends coming home and he talked about how we all dress like men,” 22-year-old Dumisani (pseudonym) told Human Rights Watch. “He dragged me to the bushes. There was no one around. He told me to take off my pants. I was refusing but he was beating me. He raped me until it was late at night. … I saw the guy after that, too. A week later I heard he had raped another girl. He was arrested but he came out three days later and beat her up so badly, she was in hospital for three weeks. I was so scared.”
Yes these women chose to dress like men but how does a man raping them help their character. I have so many mixed feelings about the underlying issues of LGBT however I do not feel as though they should be discriminated against especially not by government officials. The government should be protecting them. I hope you guys read the article and share your thoughts.

Rights group: South African lesbians face abuse

In South Africa, lesbians are being abused. Lesbians and transgender are living in constant fear of harassment as well as physical and sexual violence. The Human Rights Watch reported that this is a contrast to the South African constitution. Same-sex marriage is legal in South Africa and the country has among the most liberal laws on sexual orientation on the continent. But cultural attitudes don't always match the constitution approved in 1996 by lawmakers determined to show they were more progressive then their apartheid predecessors.

One woman told Human Rights Watch of a series of rapes by her cousin, her coach and her pastor. Another said a female cousin spiked her drink so that the cousin's boyfriend could rape her. A third said that after a rape. "I really hated myself."

Raping a lesbian, HRW researchers found, can make a man a township hero. Attackers boast publicly of their crimes and declare to their victims, "We'll show you you're a woman," the report said. Such attacks are known as "corrective rapes" in South Africa.

The Human Rights Watch is calling on the South African government to reach out and implement a system to free lesbians and transgender from living in fear. However, I don’t think it only depends on the government to make these changes. The citizens of South Africa need to realize that their society needs a change to protect the rights of all human beings. Educating the public is a step to bring change to South Africa to build the society that the country is trying to achieve.

Bangladeshi man receives reprieve after 19 years.

Ahmed Hossain came to New York City 19 years ago and applied for political asylumHe worked for a rival political party in Bangladesh. His lawyer put the wrong name and birthdate on his application so the case was denied. How does this even happen?? He won the green card lottery and his interview was scheduled for September 11 so his interview was cancelled and was rescheduled for a time when green cards were no longer available. Eventually, the Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens/Bronx) and Se, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) reached out the immigration officials and eventually, he was granted one year of stay. He is married to an American citizen and has two children. It does not seem like he had any criminal charges and he is a cab driver. I am curious to know more about his legal case. I feel bad for this man because of all of the unfortunate events that caused his application to keep going for almost two decades. I can’t imagine the kind of stress the family felt because it seems like he is the provider for them. I am glad that he finally received something but what happens after the one year is over?     

How do we weed out the liars from genuine asylum seekers?

As the semester has come to an end, I can't help but evaluate our asylum system as a whole. With a better understanding of the law and reading so many cases, I think I can finally make some comments. I think we all agree that the system needs work. An article published a few months ago in the New York Times raised the same question: How can the asylum system be fixed?  This article was open for a discussion. It mainly stated that New York receives the highest number of cases than any other city in the US. In 2010, 76% of such cases were granted of some kind of relief, compared to 51% nationwide. Even though fraud is a big issue in asylum cases, judges still "err on the side of caution, believing that the approval of fraudulent claim has fewer dire consequences than denying a real one." A commenter pointed out that there is usually one judicial law clerk to every four judges; so when courts receives 1,200 cases, you have to be quick and you can't necessarily delve into everyone's cases-which is something everyone deserves. She suggested that a structural reform is key to making changes in the asylum system and that we should have an independent court, as opposed to courts within the Department of Justice. Though this is a plausible way for reformation, many people feel otherwise. In fact, some of the commenters simply wants an end to asylees and refugees in the US. 

Their argument is that Americans still have to pay taxes so the "liars" can receive their benefits. They do not want to be taxed on their hard-earned dollars for people who lied to get relief. Also, the US has its fair share of poverty as well (obviously-not as extreme as the slums of India or many African nations. Below are two comments that stood out to me: 

"Stop asylum isn't fixing the problem in the home country, but making immigration lawyers rich and their clients liars. We can't afford it. Those people are immediately paid SSI and then get FREE medical insurance ( medicaid or medicare) while many taxpayers footing THEIR BILL have neither. Now that's real abuse..." 

"Zero - allow no more into the US -- We cannot take care of our own, why should we be taking care of foreigners who mostly likely lie to get here. We have how many homeless veterans? This is dispictable!! Stop bringing in asylum seekers/refugees from other countries. WE CANNOT AFFORD THEM IN LIEU OF AMERICANS. We are being flooded as a nation by refugees from Burma -- STOP THIS MADNESS. If these people cannot fight for their countries, rest assured they would be the first to flee America if they had to fight for the USA. No more asylum, no more refugees!" 

I think these are way too harsh and these people obviously do not know much about the ayslum process. I actually read an article a while back on people's perceptions on the number of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia but the actual numbers were much lower. But, to be honest, I don't really know where I stand on this issue. On one hand, I think that the US has a moral responsibility of helping those in need and I'm glad that the US and similar countries are safe havens for many individuals across the globe but at the same time, I don't really feel comfortable granting asylum to liars. I don't trust almost anyone and I am especially critical of those seeking ayslum, even the one that my classmates and I worked. I think that even if we do have a reformation in the court system, it still doesn't resolve the issue of weeding out the genuine asylum seekers from fraudulent ones. How do we even guarantee this? The more fraudulent cases granted will continue to misrepresent asylum seekers to the general public and create more hostility to them in the US.    

What do you think? 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Role of media to spread human rights awareness

Recently, an advocacy organization, Global Witness, that helped to establish an international certification program to prevent the sale of blood diamonds withdrew from the Kimberley Process coalition saying the effort was no longer effective. The coalition was created in  2003 because conflicts in Angola and Sierra Leone were being fueled by diamond sales. The group withdrew after a decision last month was made to to allow Zimbabwe to export diamonds where there have been reports of widespread human rights abuses by government security forces.  This article sheds insight on the current issue.

In reading about blood diamonds in the NY Times, I couldn't help but think about the impact that media could play on spreading knowledge and awareness of the issues that exist. I knew nothing about the existence of blood diamonds (must be the sheltered life i live) prior to the thriller film debut. The movie (trailer here) included Leanoardo DiCaprio in his quest and role in the blood diamonds web. The blood diamonds refer to the diamonds mined during the Sierra Leone Civil War in 2002 and sold to finance conflicts by providing warlords and international diamond companies. The Sierra Leone Civil War actually led to the creation of the above discussed Kimberley Process coalition.

It amazes me the impact that media can have on an individuals knowledge and awareness. We blog on this site - but mainly people interested in human rights come to this blog. With movies we have the ability to reach so many individuals who don't even know that they have an interested in human rights advocacy.

A Broken Immigration System?

Most people agree that it is not a good thing to detain/jail someone if they have not committed a crime. However, the American immigration system does just that. It detains, sometimes in maximum security prisons, asylum-seekers who are fleeing persecution from their home country. Granted, the immigration system has been reformed to make that more of the exception, rather than the rule, but there are still many asylum seekers who have never committed a crime, yet they are being detained in U.S. prisons waiting for their asylum hearing. What's worse, even though EOIR and I.C.E. have expedited the system so that those in detention are processed more quickly, they still have long waits -- especially if their case is appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA).
What's the answer?  Obviously-- we have to be aware of potential security threats to those whose identity remains unverified, but is this the best that we've got?

Digging for gold, children work in harsh conditions, paid with bags of dirt

Mali is Africa’s third largest gold producer. Artisanal mines rely on heavy human labor and little mechanization. People throughout West Africa are flocking to work in the primitive pits. Approximately 100,000 to 200,000 people in Mali are working in artisanal mines, according to the Human Rights Watch report which will be released Tuesday. Twenty to thirty percent of the workforce in African artisanal mines is child labor. The children working in the mines, some as young as six years old, help dig shafts with pickaxes, lift and carry heavy bags of ore and pan the gold with an amalgamation process involving mercury. These children experience harsh working conditions on a daily basis where they have terrible headaches, back pain, joint aches that can potentially lead to long-tern spinal injury for some of these children who are carrying very heavy loads.

A 15 year old named Samba Dairra, journeyed 200 miles to live in a plastic hut alone and work in an artisanal gold mine in Mali. The teen came to the mine to help support his five younger brothers and sisters. The main reason he left his home is to help his parents by sending them money. Diarra’s parents can’t afford to send him to school because he has to support his younger siblings. Diarra spent his first day pulling up gold ore that was mined by men working deep underground. At the end of his first day, he was paid with a bag of dirt while gold is currently trading at around $1747 an ounce. Some children working in the mines never get paid. Those who do, get just a few dollars a week.

It is extremely heartbreaking that these young children like Diarra are working for little or nothing so that they can contribute to their households. They are shouldering responsibility at an early age, which is taking away from their childhood because many of these children will continue to work in these mines for most of their lives because they have no other forms of work or means to get educated. I hope these children can receive justice and one way we can help is to stop purchasing diamonds to prevent the diamond industry from growing.

War Dance

While watching the documentry channel a few days ago, I came across this incredible documentary called War Dance that follows the Acholi tribe as they prepare the Bwoli and other dances/songs for an intertribal competition in the National Music Festival in Kampala. At the competition, the other tribes insult the children for being from Northern Uganda, accusing them of being murderers from the bush. The group ended up taking home a number of awards- it was really inspiring to see that so many children who had come from such frightening and horrible circumstances could come together to create something so beautiful. As the children sang, they all had such genuine, beautiful, and contagious smiles

While there is a happy ending, the rest of the film is filled with heartbreaking moments. I started watching as a young, former child soldier of the LRA (no more than 12) traveled to a military camp, photo of his brother in hand. He came to see the lieutenant, and asked if he could talk to the rebel they had caught just a few days prior. The lieutenant obliged and the boy sat down with this rebel and asked if he had seen the boy’s brother. The rebel explained that the brother was likely dead. “I will tell my mother so we can go on with our lives,” the boy said bravely. I felt my heart sink as the boy looked at the rebel in the eye and said, “Why did you capture me, and capture children like me?” The rebel looked uneasy and lowered his eyes; finally, he said, “if you want a strong family, you must have a lot of children.”

I recall reading in Lukwago’s narrative of how he was forced to kill his friend, but when this Ugandan child looked into the camera and explained how he was forced by the rebels to take hoes to the back of facedown farmers, I got a bit teary-eyed. These were not just words on a page, this was a face, a life with a story. “I have never even told my mother that I have killed; you are the first to know,” he confessed after explaining the graphic details. Those who cried would be killed; those who refused to kill would be killed themselves. This film is definitely worth a watch; It really is moving. I can try to get it on NetFlix if anyone is interested in a break over reading days!