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!

Monday, December 05, 2011

Alleged Drug War Tactics Under Fire

Five years after Mexican President Felipe Calderón declared war on the country's violent drug traffickers, his government is fighting accusations by human-rights activists that it allowed the killing, torture and kidnapping of civilians in its drug war. While the government denies systematic abuses, mounting reports of such cases could erode popular support for the offensive by Mr. Calderón. And with Mr. Calderón's legacy largely built on his fight against organized crime, the reports could also hurt his party's bid to hold on to the presidency in elections next year.

Netzai Sandoval, a Mexican human-rights lawyer, asked the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Nov. 25 to investigate Mr. Calderón and top security officials—along with leading drug lords—for alleged war crimes. The request came with a petition signed by more than 23,000 people, led by a group of mostly leftist academics, jurists and journalists. The petition says the abuse by the Mexican state is systematic. The petition names Mr. Calderón and his top security officials for at least 470 specific cases of human-rights abuses. A recent Human Rights Watch report said it found strong evidence of participation of security forces in 170 cases of torture, 39 disappearances, and 24 incidents of extrajudicial killings. Since Mr. Calderón took office five years ago, 46,000 people have died in drug-related violence, most of it, according to the government, between rival cartels fighting for turf. The president has sent 45,000 troops to try to quell the violence and reclaim territory from drug lords. He has also tried to improve the local and federal police forces.

This is neglect and abuse by the government. All of this evidence clearly demonstrates that the government has been encouraging acts that deprive Mexican citizens of human rights. The government should be held accountable for this disturbing amount of torture that it encouraged to inflict onto others. There is a tremendous amount of corruption that is taking over the government and there is a similar trend in many other countries that are known as third world. This is a step to hold the government accountable to improve human rights in Mexico and in other parts of the world.

Seeking Asylum for the Wrong Reasons

Two men, one aged 42 and the other aged 52 fled the United Kingdom in July 2008 and came to the United States seeking asylum claiming they faced persecution of their right-wing views. The two men believed that they would be able to gain asylum in the U.S. for their government was unfairly convicting them for things they said online. The men were charged with publishing hate speech against Jews, Blacks, and Asians online and were then charged and convicted of race hate offences; after they were released on bail, the pair escaped to the U.S. were they claimed asylum. The two men lost their cases for asylum and were ordered deported back the United Kingdom in 2009.
It is clear, through this case, that people come to the U.S. claiming asylum with a false understanding of what asylum is meant for and what it is meant to protect or people try to claim asylum as a way to escape serving a jail sentence for crimes they committed. Not only does the U.S. government, but all the governments in the world need to do something in order to stop these fake cases that just waste the time of Immigration Judges. Any suggestions?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Amnesty International Calls for Arrest of G.W. Bush?

Former President George W. Bush is headed to Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Zambia from Thursday through Monday to spread awareness about AIDS, cervical and breast cancer. On World Aids Day of Thursday, he met in Tanzania with former President Clinton and President Obama, who has commended Bush's continued efforts, lauding the program that "has saved hundreds of thousands and thousands and thousands of lives, spurred international action, and laid the foundation for a comprehensive global plan that will impact the lives of millions." Despite the noble cause of his trip, Amnesty International has called upon the three nations to arrest Bush as he travels between the countries, stating that there is evidence of his "alleged involvement in and responsibility for torture," referring to the Bush administration's use of waterboarding on three Al-Qaeda leaders.

Is Amnesty International acting out of genuine concern for human rights abuses, or are they following an ulterior political agenda? The organization has received a huge amount of funding from organizations with anti-Bush leaders, such as George Soro's Open Society Institute, and has oft been accused of infusing its campaigns with far-left politics, exploiting its tax exempt status. The request could be viewed as an attempt to embarrass the former President, and could even incite violence against him as travels. Critics of AI go on to note that the waterboarding was used against terrorists with the intention of saving the lives and protecting the human rights of millions of others; intelligence has suggested that this interrogation technique likely produced the information that led to locating Osama bin Laden. These were people who had devised atrocities against humanity- and yet AI is infuriated by the treatment of three terrorists. I think the critics make a valid and interesting point- but I'm left to wonder if that sort of claim is a slippery slope. If human rights exist in virtue of our being human, should we be able to sacrifice another group's rights for ours just because they are terrorists?

FARC's lack of concern for human lives

Just 8 days ago, on November 26, the bodies of four members of the Colombia security forces were found in a FARC run camp in Solano, Caqueta. The FARC had been holding the four members of the security forces for over 10 years and he bodies were only found because of a war between FARC and the Colombian army. The killing of captives by the FARC is a war crime and therefore the people responsible for the deaths of four innocent people should be brought to justice; however, it is highly unlikely that they will be. Even if the people responsible confess, they would receive a jail sentence that would be less than what they should actually get due to the Justice and Peace Law that was created in Colombia in 2005. The Justice and Peace Law offers reduced sentences to any and all members of a guerrilla group as long as they confess what they have done. The possibility of receiving a lighter sentence for committing a crime such as murder is not appropriate in any way. Rather, it gave way for individuals to commit more crimes for they knew that their prison sentence would be less if they confess than before the law was created. In my own opinion, the Colombian government needs to do something now before the FARC and other guerrilla or paramilitary groups get any worse.

DR Congo: Rein in Security Forces

November 28 was the presidential and legislative elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But there was a lot of electoral violence. Between 11/26-28, at least 18 civilians died and 100 were seriously wounded, according to the Human Rights Watch. The majority of these people were killed by the Republican Guard soldiers, and rival political parties, and attacked by armed groups and mob violence. A researcher said, “security forces should be protecting people, not fueling the violence.” I think this is something that many of us have said but it never happens. In countries all of the world, including the US, the security forces are not adhering to the law and are not protecting citizens. The Republican Guard soldiers shot and wounded a 21-year-old pregnant woman while she walked home from the market. She said. “they began shooting at everyone in the crowds on the side of the road. I anted to run, but the soldiers shot me in the foot.” Violence like this must be stopped.     

Secrets and Woes of Indian Gays

A weird thought is that I have never met a Bengali gay person. I'm sure they exist but homosexuality is very taboo in places like Bangladesh. The average Bengali adult (parent's generation and older) can't even decipher the concept of being gay, of such a "unnatural"idea. It made me wonder the perceptions of gays in larger, South Asian countries, like India. Although this article is from 2007, I think that it is still relevant today. The article talks about Sangini, a support group for gays, that meets in secret in the Indian capital of Delhi. As homosexuality is illegal in India, people have to take a lot of precaution to speak of the whereabouts of this group and in general about their sexual orientation. A homosexual man claimed, “they should legalize homosexuality-why should we forced to keep ourselves hidden-the law and society needs to change.” However, the law has been the same for a very long time. Gays are discriminated against by the police. But I think there is hope for them. The US based Human Rights Watch has expressed concern. There are various groups that are lobbying the government and the courts to change the law. I think it’s very difficult for Indians to accept the concept of homosexuality. Because they think it’s so unnatural, I don’t think they can understand why homosexuality should be legal. Although the US has a long time to go with accepting homosexuality, I think that we have come a long way-with many states legalizing gay marriage.   

Police violating human rights in Occupy Wall Street?

Now, before everyone and their mother begins ranting on their opinions towards OWS, I just want to make clear that I will not be conveying any of my personal views to this protest. As I'm sure many of you have heard of the recent pepper-spraying business to protestors, I just wanted to raise the question whether police officers are violating humans rights. One of the most popular happenings so far was when a police officer pepper-sprayed a line of passive students sitting on the ground. You can watch the video here. There are further stories of an 84-year-old woman being pepper sprayed. You can see the image here. There is another story of an NYPD officer eating pizza that was delivered to imprisoned protestors. You can read it here. As American citizens, we have the right to protest and I understand that most protests become violent and the police is supposed to control it. But they are not supposed to adhere to the violence themselves. If there was a riot going on, then maybe, it is more understanding to use pepper-spray but for a line of passive students? who are just sitting on the ground? I think that's ridiculous. When I come across things like these, it's not really that different from police officers hitting and abusing citizens in Jamaica (as I read about for my case).   

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Jailed Afghan rape victim freed but 'to marry attacker'

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pardoned a rape victim who was jailed for adultery, after she apparently agreed to marry her attacker.

An Afghan woman named Gulnaz was raped and sentenced to prison for adultery for 12 years. Her attacker is the man that she is suppose to marry. Gulnaz's lawyer told the BBC she hoped the government would allow Gulnaz the freedom to choose whom to marry.

Gulnaz is serving time in prison for being a victim of rape. She also gave birth to her daughter while she was in prison. There is no justice and freedom for many Afghan women. Gulnaz’s story is an example of one of the many Afghan women who suffers and is still getting denied basic human rights in the country. In the United States, we typically overlook the freedom we have. We have the right to advocate and stand up for those basic human rights. Also, we have the choice to make decisions without interference of the government, and are able to hold the government accountable for depriving human rights.

Human rights groups say hundreds of women in Afghan jails are victims of rape or domestic violence. Half of Afghanistan's women prisoners are inmates for "zina" or moral crimes. The BBC's Bilal Sarwary, in Kabul, says recent cases of violence against women are embarrassing for the Afghan government. Many Afghan women rights activists say there must be an end to the culture of impunity and police must punish all those behind violence against women, he adds.