Sunday, August 25, 2019
The administration's response to the court order affirming its violation of the Flores settlement was to amend immigration regulations to permit the indefinite detention of minors. The administration looks to replace the Flores settlement with the new regulation. Previously the maximum legal limit was 20 days. The move is another blow to the rule of law and disavowing court rulings with which he does not agree. Under the new regulation, the children are to be held with their parents. But that was part of the Flores settlement so enforcement of this new regulation is open to speculation.
Given the profound psychological damage done from any detention, the continuation of long-term detention will continue to have long-term consequences. If the administration stops separating families that will be a mitigating but not a curing factor.
Lawsuits are planned to challenge the regulation which is scheduled to take effect in 60 days.
Thursday, August 22, 2019
President Trump's efforts to create enemies where there are none and encourage violence are frightening but not original.
The President told reporters "I think that any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty." The statement followed criticism Israel denying entry into the country of two US congresswomen from entering Israel and the President's role in that ban. There are so many things wrong with the statement. Should dual loyalties be expected of Jewish Americans? Would dual loyalties be tolerated for those from other middle eastern states? The statement assumes that Jewish Americans are monolithic both in national loyalties and political views. But all of this is nearly irrelevant.
The President is taking his plays from tried and true methods. Historically, Jewish people have been targets whenever a demagogue diverts followers and would be followers from his own human rights abuses. The questions of dual loyalties will soon be forgotten. The after effect will be enhanced violence against Jewish people in America. The President has nothing to lose. The President encourages violence and Jewish people have been the targets of horrific violence. Those are the images that President raises. Jews as enemies to be destroyed. Jews as foreigners in their land. Jews as disloyal. This was the rhetoric of Hitler and other demagogues. The rhetoric that gives permission for followers to destroy property and person of Jewish communities. Permission has been granted.
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Following up on yesterday's post, one of the many concerns with the US prison system, is the use of private prisons. The profit driven systems have added additional burdens for the incarcerated and their incentive is to incarcerate as many as possible. The latter burden falls mostly on minorities. The first thing that the incarcerated lose is their dignity. Private prisons promote that result with their focus on profits, rather than providing decent living and medical conditions for the men and women (and now children at the border) they house.
According to the Sentencing Project "Since 2000, the number of people in private prisons has increased 47%, compared to an overall rise in the prison population of 9%. In six states, the private prison population has more than doubled during this period. The federal prison system experienced a 120% increase in use of private prisons since 2000, reaching 34,159 people in private facilities in 2016. Among the immigrant detention population, 26,249 people – 73% of the detained population – were confined in privately run facilities in 2017. The private immigrant population grew 442% since 2002."
Change is coming.
New York has been one of the leaders in removing private prisons from state systems. In addition to banning private prisons, New York has divested state pension funds from private prison holdings in CoreCivic and GEO Group and prohibits NY State-chartered banks from financing and investing in private prison corporations.
In June. Nevada banned the use of private prisons for core services, including custody and housing. The bill's primary sponsor said "Outlawing for-profit prisons once and for all will better help us achieve a criminal justice system of equity, integrity, and fairness — a system that views prisoners as people instead of profit margins.” Also in June, Nevada enacted a law prohibiting private prisons from housing detained immigrants.
For those living in states that use private prison systems, this might be a good time to contact legislators to encourage a bill that will prohibit their us.
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
The conference call is here:
"Mass incarceration and overcriminalization in the United States are subject to critique by some on both the right and the left today. Many critics increasingly talk of prison abolition. At the same time, the international human rights movement continues to rely upon criminal punishment as its primary enforcement tool for many violations, even as it criticizes harsh prison conditions, the use of the death penalty, and lack of due process in criminal proceedings. What would it mean for the human rights movement to take seriously calls for prison abolitionism and the economic and racial inequalities that overcriminalization reproduces and exacerbates? And what might critics of the carceral regime in the United States have to learn from work done by international human rights advocates in a variety of countries?"
More information about the event is available here.
Monday, August 19, 2019
Across the country, ICE agents are chilling our system of access to justice by executing arrests of immigrant litigants as they attempt to attend their court dates in state courts. In June, a federal district judge in Massachusetts preliminarily enjoined the practice, opining that it violated a common law privilege against civil courthouse arrests that is incorporated into the judicial system.. Not willing to alter their policies in the face of considerable nationwide opposition, including from state prosecutors, the US Government has now appealed that ruling to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals.
Meanwhile, another example of chilling access to human rights is playing out at and near the US southern border. In June, Physicians for Human Rights published a sobering account of the impact of aggressive ICE actions on those seeking medical care: "Not in My Exam Room." Describing the many ways in which ICE actions -- parking lot and ambulance searches, shackling, surveillance in examination rooms -- compromise patient care, this essay notes:
"The right to non-discriminatory access to medical care is [. . .] well established under international human rights law. Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care.” The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights codified the “right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.” The treaty requires signatories, which include the United States, to take steps necessary to assure that all persons have access to medical services.[ Implicit in this right is the concept of non-discrimination. Health care is especially vital for vulnerable or marginalized populations and must be accessible without regard to social or immigration status."
Sunday, August 18, 2019
The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has decided the case brought against the Trump Administration for human rights violations against the immigrant children being held in detention. The lower court had found the administration in contempt of the 1997 Flores settlement which addressed specifically the treatment of migrant children. The Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. The settlement requires the administration to provide safe and sanitary conditions for the children held in detainment. You may recall that the panel was astounded at the Justice Department's argument that the Flores agreement did not mandate permitting children to sleep or allowing them to wash.
Judge Marsh Bezon authored the opinion, stating: “Assuring that children eat enough edible food, drink clean water, are housed in hygienic facilities with sanitary bathrooms, have soap and toothpaste, and are not sleep-deprived are without doubt essential to the children’s safety.” The lower court had found that the children were not receiving hot, edible or a sufficient number of meals during a given day; lacked clean drinking water, clean bedding, toothbrushes, soap and towels; and endured sleep deprivation as a result of cold temperatures, overcrowding, lack of proper bedding and constant lighting.
Thursday, August 15, 2019
The federal government has announced an expanded public charge rule for immigrants seeking a visa, green card, or other immigration status, potentially disqualifying those who have received a broad array of public benefits including food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance. Considerable opposition was registered during the notice and comment period for this new rule -- so much so that the government acknowledged the many negative comments that it received, stating that "[w]hile some commenters provided support for the rule, the vast majority of commenters opposed the rule." Indeed, even the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, a government agency, opposed the proposal. But to no avail. The administration had its own agenda that would not be put off track by comments from the public, suggesting that the Notice and Comment period for this rule was a farce from the beginning.
Thirteen state attorneys general have already swung into action, calling the new rule "arbitrary and capricious," and filing a lawsuit against the federal move. Santa Clara County, California and San Francisco have filed a separate suit seeking a preliminary injunction.
The human rights framework that weighs against this change has been spelled out by a number of organizations opposing the new criteria, including Human Rights Watch, the Columbia Human Rights Institute and the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the American Friends Service Committee.
The revised rule is set to go into effect on October 15.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was charged with evaluating the U.S. government's programs for training foreign security forces on human rights, required under 10 U.S.C. s. 333. The GAO's report was issued earlier this month. Among other things, the report assesses the
extent to which the Department of Defense (DOD) and the State Department track the provision of and funding for such training, and examines the extent to which DOD and State have evaluated the effectiveness of the training.
To reach its conclusions, the GAO reviewed laws, regulations, guidance, agency training and funding data, and course catalogs, and interviewed
The GAO found that that neither DOD nor State systematically track human rights training, and that they have also failed to assess the effectiveness of the trainings that are offered. As the GAO noted, both agencies have ample funding to provide such trainings, and "[m]onitoring and evaluation would enable DOD and State to determine the effectiveness of U.S.–provided human rights training for foreign security forces."
The GAO made three recommendations; in an astonishing move, the State Department rejected the GAO recommendation directed to its trainings conducted under the International Military Education & Training Program (IMET). According to one source, both the DOD and State Departments complained that it was too difficult to isolate and track the human rights content in the trainings.
The GAO's summary of the report states: "GAO is making three recommendations, including that the Secretary of Defense establish a process to systematically track mandated human rights training and develop a timeline for implementing monitoring and evaluation. DOD agreed. GAO also recommends that the Secretary of State develop a plan with a timeline to monitor and evaluate such training. State disagreed. GAO continues to believe the recommendation is valid as discussed in the report."
The GAO's report begins with the statement: "Promoting respect for human rights is a U.S. foreign policy goal." What message does it send to the these foreign military forces when the DOD drags its feet and the State Department flatly refuses to conduct an adequate evaluation of their human rights trainings?
Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Over the years, this blog's periodic Symposia have been particularly popular. In June 2017, we ran a series of five blog entries analyzing the U.S. Supreme Court opinion in Sessions v. Morales-Santana, that continue to be popular with readers. As you're preparing classes for the fall, from Constitutional Law to Federal Courts to Immigration Law to Family Law, check out this series of short but pithy comments on all aspects of the SCOTUS opinion.
The first Symposium entry, Sessions v. Morales: Two Cheers for Equality, is here. For Deborah Brake's insightful analysis of the remedial issue in the case, look here and here. Rachel Rosenbloom's expert analysis from an immigration perspective is here. Nancy Dowd provides a family law perspective here.
Monday, August 12, 2019
As we reach the so-called dog days of August, we'll be reposting some of our most popular blogs from over the past few years, as well as new and original content. With the spate of mass shootings and patterns of vitriol from high places in the U.S., our first "greatest hit" posting is a blog by Lauren E. Bartlett, currently a law professor at St. Louis University, titled The Human Rights of Love. First posted on February 13, 2015, this blog post still finds new readers ever week, according to our logs. Clearly, folks are searching the internet for both love and human rights!
Thursday, August 8, 2019
The IACHR issued the following press release this week:
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) strongly condemns the mass shootings that took place recently in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Chicago, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee and resulted in at least 34 fatal victims and more than 50 injured persons. The IACHR expresses its solidarity with the victims of these serious events and joins their pain in these very difficult moments.
The IACHR is concerned that mass shootings have been frequent in the past months, leaving the population in a state of vulnerability. In this regard, the massacre in El Paso is of very high concern. According to public information, the attacker wrote a "manifesto" directed against migration and the Hispanic population of the United States. This fact is unconscionable. This would constitute an attack on a population based on its place of origin, in the midst of a national debate on migration in the United States.
The IACHR expresses concern about expressions that stigmatize migrants and other minorities and condemns all crimes motivated by hatred, racism, xenophobia or intolerance. In addition, it reiterates its call on authorities to abstain from public speech that can lead to violence and calls upon the general population to reject any expression that violates human dignity. Hate crimes or speeches based on doctrines of superiority related to social and human differences are morally and legally forbidden, socially unjust, dangerous and contrary to international and Inter-American human rights norms and standards.
The IACHR reiterates that it is the fundamental duty of States to implement well-articulated legislative, political and institutional measures to protect and guarantee the rights to non-discrimination and equality. History shows tragic examples of acts of discrimination that have evolved into crimes occurred by the exacerbation of hatred against certain groups. Therefore, every democratic society must adopt necessary measures to prevent and punish these acts, especially in a regional context with increasing discriminatory public discourses.
Over recent years, the IACHR has strongly condemned numerous mass shootings in the United States and has repeatedly urged the government to adopt effective gun control legislation to prevent and substantially reduce gun-related violence. Many public venues have become the center of this form of violence, including schools, concert venues and places of worship, and little has changed in terms of civilian access to firearms. These latest tragedies again call attention to the urgent need for the adoption of measures that constitute effective gun control policies, along with other measures directed to prevent hate speech in the United States.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.
Wednesday, August 7, 2019
By Sarah H. Paoletti, Practice Professor of Law and Director of the Transnational Legal Clinic, University of Pennsylvania School of Law
Every year, tens of thousands of adolescents and young adults come to the United States with dreams of engaging in a rich program of cultural exchange through the J-1 Summer Work Travel (SWT) visa. The ideals are lofty – to provide students from across the globe the opportunity to “come to the United States to share their culture and ideas with people of the United States through temporary work and travel opportunities.” But the reality is very different. Instead of opportunities for exchange, those who come on the J-1 are often confined to labor and live under substandard conditions, and go largely unnoticed while they labor in hotels, restaurants, amusement parks and resorts across the country. Some are subjected to human trafficking.
For the past several years, the International Labor Recruitment Working Group, has been documenting exploitation in the J-1 program. Their findings were recently published in a comprehensive report, Shining a Light on Summer Work Travel, illustrating how systemic flaws in the J-1 Summer Work Travel (SWT) visa program contribute to exploitation by employers looking for cheap labor largely in the services industry, and calls attention to the ongoing failure of the federal government to adequately respond.
My first introduction to the J-1 program was in the Fall of 2006. The Transnational Legal Clinic at Penn Law received a call from a social service provider in Harrisburg, PA reporting on foreign-exchange students living in extremely cramped conditions for which they were being charged well-above market rate, and struggling to make ends meet on their earnings as employees at McDonalds and the Holiday Inn Express. When we met with the students, from a diverse range of countries including among others, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Poland and Romania, they shared stories of their extremely overcrowded living conditions, long and unpredictable hours of work at McDonald’s and cleaning rooms at the local Holiday Inn Express, the injuries sustained, the isolation, and the fatigue. They mentioned the high fees they paid for their visa, and their unfulfilled expectations and hopes of traveling the United States before returning to school in their home countries. We filed a complaint with the Department of State.
In 2011, I was invited to Hershey, PA as part of a human rights delegation assembled by the National Guestworker Alliance to meet with a group of students on J-1 visas who were assigned jobs in manufacturing plants that boxed chocolates for the Hershey company. Those students shared markedly similar experiences to those I had met five years earlier. The promise of cultural exchange was left unfulfilled. Instead, the delegation found: participants had been were victims of fraud and coercion in recruitment and contracting; they were not paid fair wages and were subject to unlawful deductions; they were subjected to unsafe and sometimes abusive, exploitative and discriminatory working conditions; they were denied freedom of contract; their rights to freedom of association and to organize were interfered with; and they were subjected to threats, intimidation, coercion and retaliation, particularly those who sought to exercise their rights. There was one other commonality the students from 2006 and those from 2011: they all shared the same “sponsor” – CETUSA, the Council for Education Travel USA.
Following the Hershey students’ public protests, supported by the National Guestworker Alliance, the U.S. State Department subjected CETUSA to a two-year ban from participating in the J-1 cultural exchange program, finding that CETUSA was not only living up to its obligations to ensure a cultural exchange, but also finding abusive working conditions and threats from the company directed at those students who bravely complained. In addition, the State Department undertook a review of the program itself and promised reforms to ensure participating students were protected.
Nonetheless, as the ILRWG has documented and aptly demonstrated in Shining the Light, participants in the J-1 Summer Work Travel program continue to experience the same abuses that led to the temporary ban of CETUSA, clearly demonstrating that the abuses are the result of not just one bad actor, but of systemic flaws in the program.
Among the report’s key recommendations is for the U.S. government to recognize the J-1 program for what it is – a labor program – and to regulate it as such, in a manner that respects the ILRWG’s principles for fair recruitment. While the J-1 programs, including the SWT program, were initially created as exchange programs, operated and regulated by the U.S. State Department, it has grown significantly over the past several decades as a program for bringing in temporary workers. In 1996, there were 20,728 J-1 SWT participants. That number peaked at the end of the Bush Administration in 2008 at 152,726. The numbers dropped in subsequent years, but since 2015, those numbers are on a marked rise again from 94,728 in 2015 to 104,512 in 2018. Yet the Department of Labor plays no role in oversight of the program, while employers like Disney, McDonalds, Holiday Inn and Six Flags benefit.
Shining a Light, co-authored by ILRWG members Daniel Costa (Economic Policy Institute), Shannon Lederer (AFL-CIO), Jeremy McLean (Justice in Motion), Meredith B. Stewart (Southern Poverty Law Center), and Sulma Guzman (Centro de los Derechos del Migrante), comes at a critical time in national and global discussions around migration. Policy-makers are increasingly looking to temporary labor migration programs as a means to reduce irregular migration. Shining a Light provides evidence-based analysis and recommendations for addressing the common systemic flaws that can turn opportunity into abuse. Exploitation under any other name is still exploitation, and it’s time for Congress, as well as the Departments of State and Labor, to address the flaws in the J-1 and other temporary work programs that allow for exploitation in the name of cultural exchange and work.
Tuesday, August 6, 2019
Save the dates of October 10-12th for the Morehouse Human Rights Film Festival. The film festival will "reintroduce Morehouse as an institution that fosters ongiong discussions about human rights and social and political issues of today. The goals of the festival are to educate and expand awareness of social justice issues nationally and internationally; generate conversation and dialogue around human rights, justice and injustice; and inspire innovative and creative new approaches to social change."
The organizers will announce successful entries on August 10th.
To purchase tickets click here.
Monday, August 5, 2019
Late last week, a number of outlets reported on a draft regulations prepared by the current Administration that would raise the bar for establishing a violation of the Fair Housing Act based on disparate racial impact. It's worth noting that international human rights law, particularly the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD), recognizes disparate racial impact as a rights violation and calls on nations to remedy such impacts. By cutting back on those claims under domestic law, the U.S. will be distancing itself from the standards in CERD, one of the few human rights treaties ratified by the U.S.
Sunday, August 4, 2019
Lawyers can get hung up on laws. But human rights belongs to many disciplines, and it's worth exploring how the pieces fit together to promote social change. The June 2019 issue of the Health and Human Rights Journal, an open-source publication of the Harvard School of Public Health, has a special section on human rights in museums, classrooms, and communities. Here's a short summary of the articles from the editor, Sarah Willen:
"This special section looks beyond the juridical domain to explore three cases in which unconventional encounters with human rights spurred non-specialists—that is, members of the American public—to contemplate the relationship between health and human rights. In the first case, I write about an exhibition with a provocative title at a federal museum: “Health Is a Human Right: Race and Place in America.” This exhibit was designed to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Office of Minority Health and Health Equity at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2013. In the second paper, Bisan Salhi and Peter J. Brown analyze a pedagogical attempt to spark engagement with human rights concepts among US undergraduate students of global health. In the third paper, Nadia Gaber investigates two efforts to use community-based participatory research strategies to help protect and fulfill residents’ right to water in the American cities of Flint and Detroit, Michigan. Authors of all three papers are medical anthropologists with cross-training in public health or clinical medicine, and all employ qualitative research methods, including audio-recorded interviews, open-ended surveys, and participant observation."
Thursday, August 1, 2019
Much is discussed in the law these days about freedom of religion. Not so much is mentioned about freedom from religion.
Even less has been discussed about the spiritual bankruptcy that the United States is experiencing. That discussion parallels the discussion of human rights needs and expectations between the democratic candidates. Candidate Marianne Williamson has not focused on her spiritual beliefs and ideas and rightly focused on the policy shifts she would make as president. But beyond debate responses, Ms. Williamson brings respectful language stemming from her spiritual beliefs that reflect human rights principles of respect and dignity.
Earlier candidate Williamson said, “Politics should be a container for our deepest conversation, But it has become a container for our most shallow conversation.” While Williamson is considered a long shot candidate, her language of inclusiveness and the clarity of her policies has drawn public attention. Perhaps the lesson other candidates should take away is to speak to the public in respectful language, no matter who or what is the topic while promoting policies that include addressing the needs of struggling individuals and a struggling democracy.
Wednesday, July 31, 2019
The "pro-life" administration recently announced that it is reemploying the use of the death penalty in federal cases. As Human Rights Watch reported the announcement is a "slap in the face" to those advocating for true reform in a criminal justice system that has proven over and over again to be discriminatory.
The revival ignores not only racial discrimination but the increasing awareness that significant amounts of prisoners are being exonerated. One consequences of the public coverage of exonerations is that public support for the death penalty is declining,
The decision contributes to the international criticism that the US has lost all moral leadership, particularly in when it comes to human rights.
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) today published Democratic candidates' answers to a series of foreign policy questions, probing their positions in advance of the second round of candidate debates.
CFR Question #1: How, if at all, should China’s treatment of the Uighurs and the situation in Hong Kong affect broader U.S. policy toward China?
Says Cory Booker, "Protecting human rights must be a central tenet of our foreign policy . . . "
Kirsten Gillibrand responds, "history has taught us that we never ultimately advance our interests when we ignore human rights abuses . . . "
To see the complete set of candidate answers, click here.
Monday, July 29, 2019
Every day I am haunted by thoughts of children in cages, dirty, hungry and without anyone to hug them.
Tonight we went to hear David Sedaris. One of Sedaris' former students opened for Sedaris by reading a very funny essay of her own. As a teacher, it was nice to see a former professor promoting a student. We were treated to two hours of non-stop laughing. His diary readings along with his first-time tests of new material were hysterically funny. The audience was receptive and appreciative. Serotonin levels raised, I left with a more carefree outlook.
I mentally contrasted my evening with those who are suffering and recalled someone saying that the best thing we can do for the next generation is to be optimistic. About a year ago, Time published a piece by KJ Dell'Antonia How to Raise Optimistic Kids in Pessimistic Times.
The author wrote: "There are excellent reasons for anyone — nations, businesses, schools — to seek out the optimistic. And it’s even truer for parents who wish to see their children succeed both as kids and as adults. Optimists are more resilient. They make better entrepreneurs, experience better health outcomes, live longer and are more satisfied with their relationships. Optimism enables people to continue to strive in the face of difficulty, while pessimism leaves them depressed and resigned to failure — even expecting it."
So yes- not only is it healthy and good mentoring to laugh, indeed it is imperative. Ways to find relief from grief and other distress is probably the most valuable tool we can give our young. Not to ignore serious fault lines in our world, but to show ways to survive with our humanity intact.
Sunday, July 28, 2019
Andrew Bremer has been nominated to be the US Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. According to a report issued by Human Rights Watch Bremer has been on record on opposing abortion even in the case of sexual assault. This position is contrary international human rights law as well as US current policy. "Of particular concern is Bremberg’s statement at his confirmation hearing that he does not support victims of rape accessing abortion. He expressed his support of the US government’s extraordinary threat at the UN Security Council in April to veto a resolution on gender-based violence in armed conflict because it included a reference to victims’ access to sexual and reproductive health care."
"Authoritative interpretations of international human rights law establish that denying women and girls access to abortion is a form of discrimination and jeopardizes a range of human rights."
Approval of Bowman for the Ambassador postion will further not the work of the US people but the goals of the newly formed Commission on Unalienable Rights.