Thursday, February 22, 2018
The survivor youth of the Parkland Florida shooting see the duplicity of politician's sympathy. Action to prevent gun violence is what the survivors are looking for, not words. Senator Rubio accepted over $3,000,000 in NRA funding and received its A+ rating. The hypocrisy of his offering sympathy is as obvious as it is offensive.
Mr. Rubio argues that no law would have prevented the Parkland massacre. The evidence is otherwise. Austraila has virtually eliminated mass shootings since passing its 1997 law banning semi-automatic and other weapons. The US has never had such a ban so Mr. Rubio has no basis for arguing that a law will not prevent gun massacres. That Mr. Rubio and others are unwilling to experiment with a ban that might protect children, may hint at the size of the monster he and other legislators have created. Banning future sales is of automatic and semi-automatic weapons is one thing. Collecting those currently owned is another. Perhaps their fear is that they will become targets and a revolt of sorts will ensue. Maybe. But a ban has to start sometime.
That the US is willing to sacrifice youth of all ages is appalling to those within and without our borders. The false equivalency of the claim that gun rights equal rights to freedom does not hold up in the face of the slaughter of children.
A European observer said it well: America´s obsession with equating the right to buy and possess a gun with a fundamental human right and freedom, while simultaneously justifying it as a constitutional right, does not harmonize with the European values, according to which the right to life is a human right and not the right to take someone else´s life.
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Ben and Jerry's Foundation is seeking proposals for social justice and economic justice projects. Pre-proposals are due on April 18, 2018. One year grants of up to $25,000.00 will be awarded to organizations that promote social justice, including environmental justice, and whose operating budgets are under $500,000.00 annually. Click here for a list of 2016 grantees
Grant awards focus on grassroot organizations recognizing that:
True change occurs only when underlying systemic forces are understood and addressed Lasting change occurs when Social Justice Movements are built from the ground up and grassroots groups come together across sectors and constituencies to work for the common principles of Human Rights and Justice for All.
Tuesday, February 20, 2018
The Pozen Center for Human Rights at the University of Chicago is seeking a director for Human Rights Practice. The position is a three year one.
The director is expected to lead graduate and undergraduate students in developing solutions to real world human rights problems.
A range of projects is envisioned including "arts-based projects that explore questions surrounding the rights of migrants and asylum seekers, LGBTQ and women’s rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, policing and other law enforcement practices, the right to shelter, public health, the right to water or land, homelessness, or statelessness. [The Center is] particularly interested in practitioners who use innovative new practices including social media, the visual arts, or big data."
Those with a history of working with students will be preferred.
For more information click here. Application review begins on March 5th.
Monday, February 19, 2018
Macy's announced its decision to sell hijab. Hijab are just one product in the Verona line, which is intended to offer modest clothing with Muslim women as the primary target consumers. The decision is not without controversy. The usual haters have criticized the company for selling "Muslim" products. But the decision reveals positive indicators of the acceptance of Muslim women as well as recognition that Muslim women are an increasingly significant percentage of Macy's business market. Nike had already announced its intention to release a "Pro Hijab" for women athletes.
Macy's announcement reminds us that there is no political correctness in whether a woman decides to wear hijab. Many women choose to wear hijab representing a deeper connection to faith, Others decry wearing hijab because of symbolism of controlling women through prescribed clothing. In Iran last week, 29 women were arrested for removing their hijab as part of a protest against mandatory wearing of hijab.
While debate and controversy continues, women acknowledge that this is a matter of choice. Women's autonomy is the issue that connects various sides of the hijab debate.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
The Red Mountain Theater Company announced its first festival devoted to human rights themes. The Birmingham based company has several new plays devoted to developing understanding an empathy for those whose experiences are unlike our own. The productions are i n collaboration with the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.
A press announcement informs: This empathy and understanding of another's point of view is perhaps now more important than ever in our nation - and especially in Birmingham, a city marked by a fractured and violent past. However, it's from that pain that the inspiration for Human Rights New Works Festival was born- a festival that would serve [as] a catalyst for healing and hope in a future of equitable treatment of all.
The range of topics addressed is impressive. Fighting censorship, struggling parents to accept a transgender child, and voting rights activism are among the topics unveiled in new plays and other writings.
The festival runs March 15-18. More information may be found here.
Thursday, February 15, 2018
Adam Foss is an amazing advocate for juveniles. As a Suffolk County (MA) prosecutor, Mr. Foss learned to listen to his young clients and came to understand the reasons why poor, and often brown or black, youths engage in criminal activity. Interrupting the school to prison pipeline is something he recognizes that all of us can do. Addressing the fundamental needs of poor boys and girls, such as education and self-esteem, are key. The difficulty comes in convincing prosecutors to be invested in listening to the juveniles' stories and creating responses that assist them in escaping lives of financial and emotional poverty. Adam Foss' transformative approach to juvenile justice can lead to not only transformation of the juveniles but of the prosecutors, as well.
Mr. Foss' website, prosecutorimpact.com, emphasizes those benefits when prosecutors have a broader vision of how justice is accomplished. Prosecutors need to embrace a paradigm shift from conviction being considered the only "win". According to Mr. Foss, a win includes:
Improved community safety
Repaired harm of the victims
Improved long-term community health
Hold those who commit crimes accountable in ways that increase their chances for success in the community.
The last element gives essential support to the first three.
Here is link to Mr. Foss' Ted Talk.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Under-reported in discourse addressing prison conditions and human rights violations is the particularly harsh treatment of women prisoners. The dis-empowerment that comes with gender oppression brings with it even more abusive conditions for pregnant women who have even less control over their lives than other prisoners.
A class action lawsuit filed in Almeda County, California addresses the horrific conditions suffered by incarcerated women the Santa Rita prison. The lawsuit details the horrific conditions, particularly for pregnant women. The lawsuit details pregnant women being denied blankets, healthy nutrition, and fresh air. Pregnant women are denied medical care and encouraged to have abortions.
A press release describing the suit states the "The women seek injunctive relief under the U.S. and state constitutions and demand an end to inhumane and sexually biased treatment at Santa Rita. Plaintiffs charge they are subject to more restrictions and harsher treatment than male prisoners, including being held in holding cells for longer periods of time, being denied equal access to jobs outside the cell, limited on classes and education, and subjected to more frequent strip searches and body cavity searches." One woman delivered her child alone with the baby's umbilical cord around the child's neck. The woman screams were not only ignored, a prison employee shut a door to muffle the sounds. Other inhumane treatment is described in the complaint.
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
If (like me) you need some inspiration to keep going in these dark times, take the time to watch or read this interview with legendary organizer Dolores Huerta, conducted by Professor Rachel Rosenbloom of Northeastern University and to be published in the upcoming August 2018 edition of Signs.
About "Number 45," Huerta says, "as an organizer, I see this as a great organizing opportunity. Because when people are challenged, and we’re being challenged right now, I think it really gives people the motivation to get involved. If they haven’t been involved before, then this is the time to do it. Because 'number 45''s attacking so many people, so that gives us a chance to say, 'Okay, we’ve got to stand up not only for ourselves but for these other brothers and sisters and these other movements that are also under attack.'”
She's right, you know.
Monday, February 12, 2018
On January 24, the NAACP and the NAACP Legal & Educational Defense Fund sued the Department of Homeland Security for terminating the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for nearly 60,000 Haitians, claiming the decision is racially discriminatory. The TPS determination should be based on a neutral evaluation of whether the conditions in the country have sufficiently improved to allow the safe return of migrants. Instead, the NAACP argues, the administration’s rationale is pretextual, and reflects the broader context of President Trump’s open hostility to non-white immigrants that began on the day he launched his campaign and have persisted since then. TPS has also been terminated for Nicaragua, El Salvador and Sudan.
“The decision by the Department of Homeland Security to rescind TPS status for Haitian immigrants was infected by racial discrimination,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, director of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund. “Every step taken by the Department to reach this decision reveals that far from a rational and fact-based determination, this decision was driven by calculated, determined and intentional discrimination against Haitian immigrants.”
Specifically, the NAACP argues that the discriminatory motive “is supported by the Administration’s departure from the normal decision-making process; the fact that the decision bears more heavily on one race than another; the sequence of events leading to the decision; the contemporaneous statements of decisionmakers; and the historical background of the decision.”
Haitian immigrants were first granted TPS after the catastrophic January, 2010 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands of people and rendered a million homeless, with many more residing in substandard housing. In extending the designation in 2011, then-DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano observed that the “earthquake has exacerbated Haiti’s position as the least developed country in the Western Hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world.” In October, 2010, Haiti was hit by a cholera epidemic brought by UN peacekeeping troops from Nepal and spread through reckless waste disposal management. The epidemic has killed nearly 12,000 people and sickened more than 900,000, and continues today. After years of stonewalling, the UN finally offered Haiti an apology for last year, but has only raised a tiny fraction of the $400 million the U.N Cholera Relief Fund in Haiti intended to provide cholera remediation, improvements to the water and sanitation system, and relief to victims. Although the previous administration contributed millions to cholera remediation, the Trump administration has refused to contribute anything at all, blaming the epidemic on the UN’s incompetence. And then, in October, 2016, Haiti was hit again by a devastating Category IV hurricane that intensified the country’s political and economic instability.
The Trump administration’s animus towards Haitians was evident as early as April, 2017, when then Secretary John Kelly instructed DHS to begin seeking evidence that Haitian TPS recipients were either criminals or receiving public assistance. “The administration’s efforts to gather this data on Haitian TPS recipients trades on false anti-Black stereotypes about criminality and exploitation of public benefits, and suggests the effort to manufacture a public safety rationale,” the complaint argues. Further evidence of discriminatory intent includes Trump’s June, 2017 comment that all Haitians have AIDS, and is reinforced in his January, 2018 comment that he did not want migrants from “shithole” countries, asking “Why do we need more Haitians?,” followed by an order to take them out of a draft immigration plan. Senator Richard Durbin, who was shaken by the tenor of the meeting, characterized Trump’s focus on Haitians as “an obvious racial decision.” But as Brian Concannon, Executive Director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy and Haiti said, “President Trump’s remarks about Haiti are false. They are an affront to the dignity of the Haitian people and the American people.” There has also been a dramatic spike in the number of Haitians deported last year.
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, told the Miami Herald that immigration policies do not typically belong in the courts, but that “we have to acknowledge that the immigration policies of this administration seem more and more clearly rooted in racism and racial animus.” His organization is involved in several lawsuits against the administration, including Trump’s travel ban. “When Trump says we need a Muslim ban to protect the country from terrorists, when he says we need a wall to protect the safety of our communities, what he’s saying is ugly racism; Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans are criminals,” Simon continued. “The more he talks, the more the doors of the courtrooms of this country should be open to challenging immigration policies that clearly seem to be based on race and ethnicity.”
Sunday, February 11, 2018
The Public Welfare Foundation will hold a day-long forum: A Conversation on Race, Redemption and Restoration. The forum will be held on March 9, 2018 in Washington, D.C.
The invitation states "We will dive into candid conversations about: advancing racial justice, particularly within the youth and criminal justice field, the steep barriers to opportunities facing individuals who transition back to communities from the justice system; and necessary strategies to restore communities experiencing crime, violence, and lingering impacts of the criminal justice system. "
While the conference is by invitation only, it may possible to secure admission by contacting the Foundation directly to explore availability.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
by Margaret Drew
Previously, I wrote about the human right to transportation. In modern culture, access to basic human rights, such as work, housing, medical care, and education, can hinge on the ability to travel. During the spring 2017 semester, students in UMass Law's Human Rights at Home Clinic conducted a transportation study of the South Coast Massachusetts area. Prior area transportation studies had been conducted, but none from a human rights perspective.
Students rode bus routes operated by the Southeast Regional Transportation Authority (SRTA), interviewing riders during the process. As part of their due diligence, students met with Eric Rousseau, SRTA administrator, who twice during the semester engaged students during our weekly seminar. The first visit came at the beginning of the study and the second when the students presented their findings. The collaboration that developed created an opportunity for both sides to discuss their different approaches. One obvious difference revolved around economics. While Administrator Rousseau must justify expenditures to regional stakeholders, the students argued for change based upon the needs of riders, without regard for cost or the number of riders affected. Once the student's report was released, the partners easily found common ground on changes to be made. Some changes will be accomplished in the near future, while others may take longer, while others involve third party cooperation, such as municipalities.
Simple changes, such as enforcement of no-parking zones, and cutting tree limbs that block bus stop signs are more easily accomplished and are under local control, rather than SRTA's. The same is true of sign postings, as well as ensuring that bus drivers routinely lower buses to ease access for elderly and disabled. One change that will be likely accomplished by year's end is creating a bus stop for those visiting our local house of corrections, as well as increased signage along specific routes.
We anticipate a long term collaboration with SRTA and look forward to additional improvements. Anyone wishing to read the report's executive summary or would like assistance in designing a transportation study are welcome contact Margaret Drew at email@example.com
Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Harvard University will host a program on Migration and the Humanities. The opening reception will take place this evening with a performance by the Silkroad Ensemble and introductory remarks by Drew Gilpin Faust.Friday's conference will address issues on Identifty and Dignity, and Survival and Security.
The conference is free and open to the public.
Tuesday, February 6, 2018
Under the current administration, sanctuary cities have too often become a target for federal immigration enforcement rather than places of safety for families and individuals who should be a low priority for law enforcement resources.
An interdisciplinary team at Northeastern University is currently investigating whether the sanctuary designation helps members of immigrant communities feel safe, building community resilience. Participating scholars are conducting research in several formally designated safe communities, asking “In what ways do sanctuary cities impact perceptions and experiences of safety and inclusion not only for residents who might avail themselves of sanctuary, but for other residents as well, particularly members of marginalized social groups?”
As one aspect of the project, Professors Serena Parekh (Philosophy) and Martha Davis (Law) recently released a White Paper on the philosophical justifications that support sanctuary designations. In sum, the authors argue that a legitimate government must ensure that all residents (not citizens alone) can access basic rights like food, water, elementary education, and the mechanisms of justice like the courts. This argument dovetails with the provisions of human rights law, which explicitly extend basic protections to all residents of a state, regardless of their contingent legal status within the state. Building on the philosophical analysis, the authors offer suggestions about the scope of effective sanctuary provisions that would meet human rights and philosophical standards.
We have to ask: Will Philosophy defeat the pernicious policies of the current DOJ?
Not likely, at least in the short term. But at the same time, there are good reasons to expose the illegitimacy of the current administration's immigration policies at every opportunity, and the White Paper is intended to contribute to this effort.
Monday, February 5, 2018
We might be forgiven for thinking that the Department of Justice would prioritize expanding access to justice. Instead, the New York Times reports, the DOJ's Access to Justice initiative, started in 2010, has been essentially shuttered, with no staff and no support from the Department. The New York Times' calls to the DOJ for an explanation were unanswered.
The White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable, one of the A2J office's accomplishments, also appears to have gone dark. The material on the Roundtable's website is archived. Its last publication -- pushed out in January 2017 -- is an exploration of A2J indicators relevant to U.S. efforts to implement the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 on access to justice.
Will this move by DOJ eventually trigger scrutiny by the international community? Will it give countries where access to justice is a fiction more cover for their human right violations? The existence of the Access to Justice office was not a secret -- the US had touted it, and NGOs had praised it (while calling for more funding) in several reports to human rights bodies.
NGOs like the National Center for Access to Justice will carry on this work, to the extent that they can, and local governments have taken great strides in recent years to expand access to counsel. But the absence of a partner in DOJ, and the apparent lack of DOJ commitment to the issue, is likely to hinder progress both domestically and internationally -- sad news when access to justice should be an issue that garners bipartisan and universal support in the U.S.
Sunday, February 4, 2018
Increasingly, courts and legislatures recognize the importance of the rights to counsel in immigration cases. New York expanded to universal representation in immigration court due to its of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project.
Vermont has a bill pending that would require appointment of counsel in any matter arising out of or relating to immigration status.
Meanwhile, in the manner of two steps forward and one back, the 9th Circuit, held that children in removal proceedings have no right to counsel. The case involved accompanied children, but the opinion denies that the child in question had a sufficient liberty interest in having counsel because of his short time in the United States. The court noted that the Immigration Court judges' more proactive involvement in the proceedings the child is protected. Apparently the Court failed to remember the Immigration Court judge who thought that a three year old was qualified to represent herself.
More on the juvenile immigration case may be found here.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
With an original introduction by the Professor Stark, this topical volume is an invaluable resource for scholars, students, and activists."
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
First, the deadline: February 5 is the deadline for submitting a paper/panel proposal to this year's annual conference of the Academic Council on the UN System (ACUNS). The conference, held in Rome from July 12-14, 2018, will focus on Human Rights, Migration, and Global Governance. More information is available here.
Second, the headline: Laura Germino, a co-founder of the human rights group Coalition of Immokalee Workers, attended the State of the Union address as the guest of U.S. Representative Lois Frankel. Germino, who directs CIW's Anti-Slavery Program that combats sexual harassment and abuse, is featured in a video released by Rep. Frankel prior to the event. Frankel and her guests wore black to the speech in solidarity with the #MeToo movement.
Tuesday, January 30, 2018
It’s hard to know where to begin when considering the horrific abuse perpetrated by Larry Nassar. The failure of the adults to believe the young gymnasts who came forward or, worse yet, who cautioned the girls not to pursue the matter. The failures of the institutions involved, including Michigan State University and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Ramifications now being wrought owing to those failures. The obscuring of the crimes even as the numbers of victims went from one to a few to dozens to more than a hundred.
The perseverance of the victims to push forward—and here a shoutout to survivor Rachel Denhollander is deserved, as she—now an attorney—was the one who finally got the situation out of the shadows.
How about the sheer temerity of Nassar to carry out these actions in this flagrant way; no stealthy actions here as Nassar molested them with their parents or his colleagues in the room. Add to that the position that Nassar had, the esteem in which he was held, and his straight-up normal or even meek appearance. He certainly did not look the part. That guy wouldn’t abuse his patients. That guy wouldn’t have child pornography on his computer. And how could a medical treatment be legitimate when girl after girl brings forward assertions of sexual assault. How is that believable the 30th time, the 61st time, the 122nd time, or the third or fourth time?
The conflict of interests here uncovered may ultimately be astounding. To whom were these complaints made? And to whom did those people owe fealty? Were there proper systems and procedures in place? Were they clear? Were they followed? Will they be fixed?
What about the girls? What courage it took for them to tell someone; how many times might they have replayed it in their mind…could that have happened ....but it was Dr. Nassar and he wouldn’t have done that….but I know what I experienced. So they came forward and were dismissed. It is what commonly happens: we do not believe the victim. Especially this type of victim in this type of case. So we add damage upon damage. But their strength remains constant. It is fitting that their names are now painted in homage on a rock at MSU.
What about the parents? Can you imagine? Entrusting their children to the care of this esteemed doctor who would help them remain injury-free or who would, alternatively, minister to their wounds. The guilt that must haunt those parents, whose primary job it is to keep their children safe.
And the good doctor. Who did these acts over decades, survived multiple investigations, listened to the victims’ statements, had already been convicted of and sentenced for child pornography charges and STILL wrote to the judge, “Hell hath no fury like of a woman scorned.” Nearly unbelievable. And the judge herself. Was her behavior too much to be impartial?
What about the journalist who pursued the case, seeking justice? What about the current Department of Education, which will be reviewing the way MSU handled this. What about the dominance and protection of sports in a collegiate setting. Too many What Abouts…
Yes, it is surely hard to know where to begin.
Monday, January 29, 2018
Excerpt from the State of the Union address, Jan. 6, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world.
The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.
To that new order we oppose the greater conception—the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear."
Sunday, January 28, 2018
On January 11, 2018, New Orleans City Counsel passed a resolution that required the city to screen investments to assure that those investments in corporations that profited from human rights abuses were not part of the city's investment portfolio. New Orleans led the nation in passing this resolution. Promoters of the resolution noted the impact that de-investment had on ending apartheid.
Amnesty International USA called the resolution "a positive step for the city in guaranteeing that public funds are not used to support or facilitate the suffering of others through violations of not only the city's values, but also of international human rights and humanitarian law.
Yet, the day after passage, the Mayor announced that he would not abide by the terms of the resolution. Despite the fact that resolution developed over one year, the Mayor claimed that the resolution was not sufficiently considered. And some council members voiced concerns that implementation of the resolution would be used to single out Israel. Despite the length of time it took for this resolution to pass, apparently the opposition developed not because of concern over the principles but concern over the Solidarity Committee's sponsorship.
What was absent from the process was a conversation around implementation, which was to happen by committee. Implementation of any human rights act can be complicated, but the hasty withdrawal of the resolution left no room for discussion on which companies would be affected and how investment and de-investment decisions would be made. Decisions made out of fair undermine human rights endeavors.
Two unknowns overshadow the situation: whether there is any room to reach an understanding that would address the all concerns, given the political charge of the situation. Also, will the reversal of this resolution, and the resulting distrust, cause undue scrutiny of future, unrelated human rights resolutions.