Thursday, April 30, 2009
Some are very angry at President Obama’s reaction and some say inaction about the subject. Meanwhile, some still argue that the wrong thing done for the right reason is still justified. Torture has clearly shown not to deliver accurate results. Does torture derive from the indignant feelings felt by the torturers? Is torture ever justified? We have been evaluating torture in third world countries for our asylum cases. When we evaluate torture by our own country, is it ever justified? Is it justified anywhere? Does the use of torture change based on countries’ economic standing? Is torture ever tolerable?
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
This article tells the story of a family from Ecuador who uprooted their lives to move to the United States. As educated professionals in Ecuador, they gave up a comfortable life and rewarding jobs to live in a cramped apartment and work grueling jobs that are labor intensive. Despite the hardships, this family did it all to provide their daughter with a better education. As the mother notes, “My hopes are dead. Right now we’re just focused on the education of the children and their future. Let them reach their goals and have their dreams.”
Unfortunately, it is not that easy. This family represents nearly three quarters of 2.3 million undocumented families that have one child who is a United States citizen. Like this family, 400,000 of these “mixed-status families” have children that are both citizens and non-citizens. While the younger son lacks ambition, he is a US citizen and therefore can obtain a job in the country and has access to finical aid and scholarships to finance a college education. On the other hand, the daughter was one of the 65,000 young people that graduate from American high schools each year without immigration papers. Despite her stellar grades and obvious potential, her only options were the public universities in her state. Without a social security number, she was unable to obtain the kind of job her credentials merited after graduation. She now works as a bookkeeper, in a job that she is over-qualified for and underpaid.
Is it fair to these children that are brought to the United States by their parents to be so limited in their potential? This daughter had no say in coming to this country. Because of where she was born, she can continue to excel at school and work hard but she is extremely limited in where that work can take her. Since her brother was born here, he does not have this concerns and the sky is his limit. The New York State Youth Leadership Council is pushing Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would grant legal status to high school graduates who were brought to the United States by their parents before they were 15 years old and attend college for 2 years or serve in the military. Along with providing an incentive to work hard in school, it creates an essential opportunity. It is unfair to limit the potential of children of illegal immigrants who were given no choice in their situation and this act serves to create an equal playing field for these children in "mixed status families."
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Refugee Camps inside the area of conflict: What is the purpose of safe zones when they don't protect civilians?
I saw this article and it struck me as devastating and is an example how refugee camps established within the area of conflict just do not work. How can the government presume to protect its citizens from harm when the main camp is in the center of the conflict zone. I understand the desire to stay in their home region, but if it is ensure their safety, I would move the camp south of the line. Are we seeing another Korea? Or Cameroon? or Central African Republic? When does the violence end? When and more importantly how can we ensure the safety of populations affected by internal conflict?
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Looking at these tragic events in the context of Human Rights/Human Wrongs, I cannot help but wonder if the United States is actually capable providing a better life for recent immigrants fleeing persecution and violence in their home countries. Stories have surfaced about the backgrounds of many of the victims of the Binghamton shootings. For example, Layla Khalil, a 57 year old wife and mother of three came to the United States after surviving a numerous car bombings in Baghdad. After only a few years in the U.S., she has become the victim of the same kind of violence that she sought to escape when leaving her home country of Iraq.
Furthermore, while it is hard to call a killer a victim after taking the lives of 14 other innocent people, it appears that he felt persecuted himself by law enforcement officials. According to a letter that he sent to a news station on the day of the shootings Wong states, "Of course you need to know why I shooting? Because undercover cop gave me a lot of ass during eighteen years." Obviously, it is hard to confirm or deny this apparent motive for the shootings or whether there is a mental health issue in this case, the letter indicates a feeling of isolation that produced anger because he could not speak English as well as a clear feeling persecution from police.
Thus, when looking at how the current immigration system can be amended or improved, does this story tell us anything about the necessity for assimilation and support in the process? Or is this sort of violence unavoidable? Can the U.S. accommodate all immigrants and provide the persecuted around the world with better lives? Should we be responsible for this as the most powerful nation in the world?
Saturday, April 04, 2009
On Monday, a boat carrying African migrants from Libya to Italy capsized, resulting in the deaths of at least 200 people. Libya is a popular stopping point for migrants whose ultimate destination is Europe, with most continuing on to Italy as a base-point for other destinations in Europe. While many travel to Europe “first and foremost to help their families back home with a paycheck,” many of these people can also qualify as refugees.” Of the 36,000 people that arrived in Italy by sea from North Africa last year, 75% applied for asylum and 50% were granted from form of international protecting.
This is not just an isolated incident. Whether it be by being thrown off board by human smugglers trying not to get caught by navies in the Gulf of Yemen, by dehydration in the hot desert between the US and Mexico, or ships capsizing in dangerous water, thousands died each year on their journeys to seek asylum. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres is quoted as saying; “We are seeing it all over the world.” He believes that Monday’s tragedy shows the desperate steps that people are willing to take “to escape conflict, persecution and poverty in search of a better life.” Human smuggling is a very lucrative business that pries on the desperation of people, particularly those who lack the resources to obtain safe travel. Since it is underground, it lacks any regulation that ensures the safety of migrants. Even if they survive, many migrants are re-traumatized en route to safety. While interning at a human rights organization, I heard numerous horrific stories about what coyotes would do to migrants, particularly women.
Does the international community have a moral obligation to provide refugees with safe transportation between the countries they are fleeing from and where they wish to seek asylum? I believe that what happened on Monday is tragic, but it is even more tragic is that this is a story that happens more often than we realize. I believe the international community should come together and discuss some sort of system that could assist asylum seekers in arriving to safety instead of only providing assistance once they are able to flee themselves from the situation of persecution.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Today thirty years later, Kaing Guek Eav is being tried in front of a U.N.-backed tribunal just outside the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
Without hestitation we think "Justice! Finally!" However, I want us to rethink this system. We punish the guilty for crimes that we have come to comprehend as inhumane and thus we almost unconsciously dehumanize these people. I am in not way or form excusing the horrific, brutal and uncomprehendable actions of the Khmer Rouge. Instead I am questioning if justice comes in the form of punishment? Punishing the guilty has somewhat been transformed into mission of separating and locking up the "guilty" and ultimately pretending that they do not exist. Because the expensive bars of the system, we are "safe."
In the deep trenches that has become the complicated and incomprehensible area of violence, is there ever simply a "good guy" and a "bad guy"? Much to our diappointment our world does not allow us to simply "fight for" the ultimate "good". Some even may argue that violence of mind is more brutal than any degrating violent torture.
People make choices that are horrifying. They may rob others of their innocence, their courage, their faith, and their hope. However, in putting these people on trial and sentencing them to life in prison or death, is justice being achieved?
As Eav stands trial and the verdict become known, are the 1.7 million people's lives brought to justice?
What is justice?
Every person has the power to do horrendous and horrible things whether we admit it or not.
Perhaps still, the trail of Eav is unquestionibly necessary, but is it justice?
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
By not condoning the admittance illegal drugs or fire-arms enter the U.S. from Mexico via the major drug cartels, which were deemed extremely dangerous and out of control, President Obama is sending a strong message of disapproval to the cartels themselves, but the Mexican government as well. The plan announced last year allots 7 million dollars towards the relief efforts in protecting our borders.
All of this comes days before Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is scheduled to visit Mexico City, and President Obama to visit shortly after sometime next month. By increasing the protection at the border, is President Obama through his actions endangering his diplomatic standing/relationship with Mexico?
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Gay Iranian teen loses asylum appeal
(CNN) -- The Netherlands has rejected an asylum plea by a gay Iranian teenager trying to escape possible persecution in his homeland.
Mehdi Kazemi believes he will face persecution if he is made to return to Iran.
Mehdi Kazemi, 19, had originally sought asylum in Britain, where he was taking classes on a student visa, because, he said, his boyfriend had been executed in Iran after saying he and Kazemi had been in a gay relationship. Britain's Home Office rejected his request, prompting Kazemi to flee to Netherlands.
Tuesday's decision by the Council of State -- the highest administrative court in the Netherlands --means Kazemi could face deportation to Britain, which he fears will send him back to Iran.
Council spokeswoman Daniela Tempelman said the council decided it must comply with the Dublin Regulation and return Kazemi to Britain. Watch how teenager has lost his right to remain. »
Under the Dublin Regulation, European Union member nations agree that an application for asylum submitted in any EU country would be handled by that country alone. The regulation seeks to ensures that an asylum seeker is not redirected from nation to nation simply because none will take responsibility.
Kazemi's initial appeal for asylum in the Netherlands, made in October, was rejected. He then appealed unsuccessfully to a regional court in December. His last appeal was to the Council of State in January.
Tempelman said that in order for the Dutch court to consider Kazemi's asylum application, he needed to prove that Britain did not handle his asylum application properly, but he wasn't able to prove any wrongdoing on the part of the British government.
Kazemi now has exhausted his chances for appeal in the Netherlands and, according to Tempelman, could be returned to Britain on a short notice. The British government about six months ago accepted the Dutch request to take him back.
Kazemi's lawyer will have the option of taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights to request an "interim measure" that could allow Kazemi to stay in Europe until further notice.
"If anybody signs his deportation papers and says, look, he's got to be deported to Iran, that means they have signed his death sentence," said Kazemi's uncle Saeed, who asked CNN to withhold his last name over safety concerns.
Gay rights activists in Europe and Iran are also researching Kazemi's case.
"When Britain is prepared to send a young man back to possible execution, that is inhumanity on a monumental scale," said Peter Tatchell, an activist for gay campaign group OutRage. "And I hang my head in shame, as a British citizen."In a written statement, Britain's Home Office said that even though homosexuality is illegal in Iran and homosexuals do experience discrimination, it does not believe that homosexuals are routinely persecuted purely on the basis of their sexuality.
Monday, March 09, 2009
Although Ciudad Juarez and El Paso, Texas are separated by the US-Mexico border, the two cities compose one of the largest bi-national metropolitan areas in the world. Before the end of 1848 U.S.-Mexican war, they were the same town, El Paso del Norte. Although they have seen been broken up to form two cities, each day 60,000 still people travel between these two cities.
Despite their proximity, reality is much different depending on which side of the fence you live on. Although Ciudad Juarez’s economy has been doing well in recent years, violence has escalated. Beginning with the brutal killings of more than 400 women and children since 1993 in what has been deemed by some as a “feminicide,” violence has been rising in the area. A recent surge in violence has left 350 people dead in Ciudad Juarez this year alone and 1,000 across the country. Last year, the drug violence was so brutal that 6,290 people lost their lives in Mexico. This article explains the situation in the morgues in Ciudad Juarez, which has gotten so bad that the morgue is forced to turn corpses away: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hQk0IcGHRThAZGok6vKI4lrnPasQD96Q0D7G0.
As the violence continues to increase, more and more people are coming to El Paso to seek asylum in the US. According to a BBC article, “Drug-related violence in Mexico has become so extreme that some policemen and journalists would rather sit in a cell at a US immigration detention centre than run the risk of being caught in the crossfire between rival gangs in their home country.” One journalist who is currently living in El Paso on temporary visa notes that, “I would prefer seven months in jail because it’s a matter of life and death.”
The asylum cases that we are working on involve people from countries that are located far away from the United States, in some cases half way around the globe. Fleeing from land only separated from the US by a fence, these asylum seekers from Ciudad Juarez are a large contrast to what we have seen.
My question is whether the asylum process should be different for them or does it not matter if the asylum seekers comes from .01 miles outside the US or 10,000 miles? To me, I think that we need to pay special attention and give consideration to our neighbors in this process. In addition, the US should continue its effort to control the drug war in Mexico. Along with the obvious concern that the violence could spill over to US soil, it’s impossible not to see what is going on there. As Ciudad Juarez is physically visible from the United States, I hope that we do not turn a blind eye to the situation there.
Monday, March 02, 2009
(I'm admittedly a student from last year - but I couldn't help myself from posting when I saw the article. What can I say? I miss the class!)
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
I was shocked when my father told me about this story the other day... A woman beheaded here in the U.S? Is this an honor killing? A simple homocide? Is homocide ever simple? I find this story pertinent because we are all dealing with cases regarding various human rights abuses. It's a little ironic that the very abuse that many come to our country fleeing happens here, less than 500 miles away from our school. I like to think that I am culturally sensitive, but I have no tolerance for customs that dictate a painful death. I'm sure death by decapitation is far from comfortable.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Breakthrough, the human rights organization responsible for this video game, is known to mix fantasy with reality with the goal of educating young people on immigration issues. They have another online video game called “ICED-I Can End Deportation” in which “a player assumes the role of one of five characters with uncertain immigration status, trying to avoid deportation and secure citizenship. That game can be found at www.icedgame.com It serves as a good mental workout for us so I would suggest that you take 15 minutes from “facebooking” and play these two pretty wild video games about detainees and legal status. Talk about human rights group stepping up their game huh?
I only had the opportunity to see Dr. Des Forges a few times at African Studies Association conferences. I was surprised at how physically tiny and fragile she looked. In my mind -- she was a giant -- what else could she be -- standing up to human rights abusers whatever their ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.
It came as quite the shock to hear that she had died in a plane crash --over Buffalo. To Dr. Des Forges' family -- I am sure that nothing will soothe the pain of her loss -- but I think that you should know that there are many others, like me, out there that admired her from afar. She was an inspiration and a true hero. May she rest in peace.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
As community leaders and organizations dedicated to serving and advocating on behalf of the Liberian community, we write to bring to your attention an urgent issue facing Liberians living in the United States. Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), which currently protects Liberians from deportation, will expire on March 31, 2009. We ask that you make the extension of DED for Liberians for an additional 18 months an immediate priority upon taking office to ensure that Liberians are not forcibly removed from the United States.
Many Liberian refugees who fled civil war over the past two decades have made homes in the U.S. Now, they are in danger of deportation to a fragile country and separation from their families, livelihoods, and communities. The United States has extended protection from deportation to Liberians, either Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), since the outbreak of the Liberian civil war in 1990.
The fledgling democracy of Liberia, however, continues to face a period of critical rebuilding. Despite the progress that the country has made under the leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, conditions have not improved enough to absorb the estimated 3,600 Liberians currently residing legally in the U.S. who will have to leave by March 31, 2009 if DED is not extended.
The United States has a special historical relationship with the Liberian people. In 1822, a group of former slaves from the United States arrived in what was to become Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia—named after U.S. President James Monroe. The national language of Liberia is English. Liberia has been a strategic and military ally to the United States, particularly during World War II when Liberia provided access to rubber and served as a troop transit point for American forces.
It is not surprising that when civil war erupted in Liberia in 1989, forcing hundreds of thousands of Liberians to flee, many looked to the United States for peace, safety, employment, health, and education. Liberians left one of the bloodiest conflicts in recent history. Horrific violence and human rights abuses, including mass executions, torture, dismemberment, rape, looting, banditry, and the widespread use of child combatants, traumatized the Liberian population and left the country’s infrastructure in ruins.
About half of Liberia’s citizenry was displaced and now resides throughout Africa, Europe, and the U.S. As many as 270,000 reside lawfully in the U.S., with large Liberian communities in California, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. While most have obtained legal permanent residence, the Department of Homeland Security estimates that approximately 3,600 have only the temporary legal status that is conferred by DED.
Current situation in the U.S.
In metropolitan areas with large Liberian communities, the termination of DED would adversely affect certain sectors of the economy, such as long-term healthcare, that employ large numbers of Liberians. In these areas, entire neighborhoods would be affected by people leaving their houses, apartments, and businesses behind.
Also at issue is family separation. Liberians who sought protection in the U.S. have painstakingly rebuilt their lives. They married and raised families here—including both U.S.-born and Liberian-born children. Forcing the return of those under DED would tear families apart.
Current situation in Liberia.
Liberians should not be sent back to a country that is still struggling to recover from the devastation of war. The Liberian government needs time to rebuild the infrastructure and social services necessary to support its population and to establish a stable and secure democracy. With the election of President Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia has been able to achieve a fragile stability. Nonetheless, life expectancy in Liberia today is just under 42 years. The risk of contracting diseases such as malaria, yellow fever and typhoid are extremely high. More than 85 percent of the population is unemployed. Nearly all Liberians remaining in the country live in Monrovia, which has virtually no power, clean water, or habitable building. President Johnson Sirleaf has raised concerns that the return of those with DED “would put an unbearable burden on our already strained resources.”
Liberians residing lawfully in the U.S. have been a valuable source of assistance to their relatives and friends in Liberia, sending them money that helps stimulate Liberia’s weak economy. This source of support would be severely diminished if Liberians are forced to leave the U.S.
Please act now.
We know that people do not flee their homes without reason. They leave to escape oppression, violence, poverty and desperation. They emigrate in the belief that new surroundings offer them and their families safety and security. Many Liberians have sought safety in the U.S. They have become our neighbors and have enriched our lives and our economy.
Please act immediately to ensure that Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberians does not end on March 31, 2009.
The Advocates for Human Rights, Minneapolis, MN
All Souls Unitarian Universalist, Immigration Task Force, Kansas City, MO
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Philadelphia, PA
American Jewish Committee, New York, NY
American Refugee Committee, Minneapolis, MN
Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), Washington, DC
Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, New York, NY
Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition, Washington, DC
CASA de Maryland, of Silver Spring, Wheaton, Gaithersburg, and Baltimore, MD
Catholic Charities, Immigration Services, Archdiocese of Atlanta
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC), Washington, DC
Center for Victims of Torture, Minneapolis, MN
Chaldean Federation of America, Farmington Hills, MI
Coalition for New South Carolinians, Columbia, SC
CommunityHealth Center of Richmond, Staten Island, NY
Deported Diaspora, Boston, MA; Cambodia; Cape Verde
El Centro del Inmigrante, Staten Island, NY
The Episcopal Church, Washington, DC
Hawaii Hispanic News, Honolulu, HI
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), New York, NY
HIAS and Council Migration Service, Philadelphia, PA
Hispanas Organizadas de Lake y Ashtabula (HOLA), Ashtabula, OH
Human Rights First, New York, NY
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
International Rescue Committee (IRC), New York, NY
IRATE/First Friends Visitor Program, Elizabeth, NJ
Jewish Alliance for Law & Social Action (JALSA), Boston, MA
Jewish Community Action, St. Paul, MN
Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, Tucson, AZ
Jewish Vocational Service, Kansas City, MO
Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, New York, NY
Jubilee Campaign USA, Fairfax, VA
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Baltimore, MD
Mennonite Central Committee, Washington, DC Office
NAACP, Washington, DC
National Council of Jewish Women, Washington, DC
National Immigrant Justice Center, Chicago, IL
National Immigrant Solidarity Network, Los Angeles, CA
Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC), York, PA
Priority Africa Network (PAN), Oakland, CA
Progressive Jewish Alliance, Los Angeles, CA
Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Washington, DC
United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, Washington, DC
US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Washington, DC
Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, Washington, DC
Westchester Hispanic Coalition, Mount Vernon, NY
West Coast Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Women’s Refugee Commission, New York, NY
The Workmen’s Circle /Arbeter Ring, New York, NY
World Relief, Baltimore, MD
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Some believe that this was not an arbitrary act of violence. It may very well highlight attitudes towards immigrants in Italian society. In recent years, many Italian citizens have developed negative attitudes towards immigrants due to the rising number of immigrant arrests for high profile crimes (for example, the murder of an Italian admiral’s wife in Rome).
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano seems to be taking the right approach. He has issued a statement warning against “any display and risk of xenophobia, racism and violence.”
However, the words of Carabinieri Major Emanuele Gaeta are appalling. After investigators revealed that the attackers were suspected of having been under the influence of alcohol and drugs, he stated, “We can exclude racism as a motive because they were so high.”
This 35-year-old Indian immigrant was beaten and then set on fire. He narrowly escaped death and currently suffers from burns on 40% of his body. This crime against him could have vast implications for the safety of other immigrants living in Italy, and the possibility of this danger should not be masked. This crime should not be dismissed as an arbitrary act of violence. The fact that the attackers were abusing drugs does not eliminate the possibility that race and nationality may have been a motivating factor in the crime. Should drug use really encourage us to overlook the fact that this may have been a hate crime? Should it automatically exempt these men from facing the repercussions of such a crime?
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Chester Gillis, a professor at Geeorgetown University said, “I don’t think the Vatican doesn’t care about Jewish-Christian relations, but at least it appears that internal church matters trump external relations.” It seems then that the price of healing internal rifts comes at the denial of some of the worst human rights atrocities in history. If the Pope can easily write off the Holocaust, what else can he ignore for religious unity?
Shame on you, Pope Benedict.