Wednesday, December 27, 2023

One Thing the U.S. Must Do to Protect Human Rights in the Immediate Aftermath of the 75th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Samantha Barzaga

By Samantha Barzaga, 2L at Florida State University College of Law and a member of the International Human Rights Advocacy Clinic

December 10, 2023, marked the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This document outlined, for the first time, a fundamental global standard of human rights for universal protection. The Biden administration should commemorate this special occasion by designating Temporary Protected Status for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, is a program that allows migrants living in unsafe countries to work and live in the United States for an extendable period of time. The Department of Homeland Secretary can designate a country for TPS if there has been an ongoing armed conflict, an environmental disaster, or some other extraordinary condition that would not allow nationals to return. Though only one is required, the DRC satisfies all of these requirements.

Since 1996, the Central African region has faced escalating conflict. This is largely due to the First Congo War, beginning in the wake of the 1994 genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda. After this genocide, nearly two million Hutu refugees settled in the North and South Kivu provinces. Some of these refugees were Hutu extremists, which led to the organization of militias by Hutu groups, and eventually Tutsi militias to combat these Hutu groups in the Congo. The result was a gruesome war replete with human rights abuses and mass displacement.

The Second Congo War in 1998 was similar to the first war, eventually ending in 2003. It caused around five million deaths, and millions of people remained internally displaced by 2008. These wars have led to ongoing conflict and human rights abuses through today, exacerbated by intervening causes along the way including a severe Ebola outbreak in 2018 and the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo in 2021.

I spoke with a Congolese refugee who experienced the 1996 conflict firsthand. He lived in the city of Uvira and remembered leaving the Congo in October of 1996. He walked almost 500 kilometers to the city of Kalemie, and on the way witnessed rampant shootings and people running for their lives. He saw a baby get shot, and the mother left the baby and ran away. He recalled people running into lakes and drowning. Someone was beheaded in front of him. He survived by drinking rancid water and consuming tree roots. When he arrived in Kalemie, youths were being recruited to join the rebel soldiers, so he eventually fled to Meheba refugee camp in Zambia. From there he made his way to Zimbabwe, where he met his wife and started a family. He eventually ended up in the United States just before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This refugee’s story is one of countless similar narratives as confirmed by The UN Mapping Report, which catalogs the most serious human rights incidents occurring in the DRC between 1993 and 2003. It highlights the ramifications of this conflict including the inability to protect borders, prosecute crimes, and maintain strong branches of government.

For these reasons, hundreds of organizations and over fifty members of Congress have called on the Biden administration to designate TPS for the DRC. The U.S. has previously acknowledged the severity of the situation in the DRC. In October 2022, the Department of State issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory warning U.S. citizens not to travel to the DRC. The advisory underscored the ongoing conflict, violence against civilians, and humanitarian crisis. It is time for the Biden administration to heed the call to protect the Congolese. There is no better time than the immediate aftermath of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

December 27, 2023 in Migrants, Refugees, Universal Declaration of Human Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 6, 2023

New Article: Afghan Allies in Limbo: The U.S. Immigration Response

Lindsay M. Harris, Afghan Allies in Limbo: The U.S. Immigration Response, Howard Law Journal, Vol. 66, No. 3, (2023). Abstract below.

After the fall of Kabul in August 2021, the U.S. government airlifted an estimated 120,000 people to safety from Afghanistan. An airlift of this scale was unprecedented, but also woefully inadequate as a solution to the Afghan humanitarian crisis. This article analyzes the U.S. immigration response to the Afghan humanitarian crisis following the Taliban takeover.

While the U.S. granted humanitarian parole for two years to approximately 76,000 individuals permitting them to enter the United States, along with creating a new category of priority for refugee processing for Afghans, the government and Congress to date have failed to follow through on logical and stable pathways to permanent immigration status for our Afghan allies.

The U.S. has failed the Afghans airlifted to the United States by failing to pass an Afghan Adjustment Act and forcing Afghans through the dysfunctional and delayed Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) process or the backlogged and re-traumatizing asylum system. Similarly, the government’s handling of the estimated 66,000 humanitarian parole applications filed on behalf of Afghans still trapped in Afghanistan or in the region has been nothing short of abysmal. Approval rates plummeted after the end of August 2021 and the U.S. government took in over $25 million in fees for applications that have since languished for now close to a year.

In contrast, the U.S. created an innovative and expeditious process for the reception of Ukrainian refugees – eliminating hurdles and barriers still in place for Afghans and facilitating the admission of over 150,000 Ukrainians into the United States. Months later, the U.S. created a special process for humanitarian parole for Venezuelans, and then later Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians. This article situates the disparate treatment of Afghans and Ukrainians as one of the latest episodes in the long history of racism in the creation, execution, and implementation of immigration policy in the United States. The stark contrast in treatment for Ukrainians and Afghans underscores the need for an end to biased decision-making and to truly welcome those fleeing violence and conflict with a principled and impartial immigration system, grounded in humanitarian principles.

April 6, 2023 in Books and articles, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 10, 2023

Event 3/16: Decolonizing Refugee Law

On Thursday March 16, 2023, from 3:00 – 4:30 PM EST, Cornell Law School, Global Strategic Litigation Council for Refugee Rights, and the Refugee Solidarity Network, will present a virtual panel on Decolonizing Refugee law. Register here.

The legal protection of the rights of refugees and other migrants is inscribed within imperial and colonial legacies. This virtual event will consider decolonial practices and the protection of refugees with a focus on positive practices for refugee protection in South and Southeast Asia. Speakers will reflect on the challenges and opportunities for realizing human rights posed by colonial-era laws and legal work in countries which are neither parties to the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees nor its 1967 Protocol. The event will open with framing remarks by Professor E. Tendayi Achiume, reflecting on these themes as well as decolonization itself as a frame for critique. The event will then proceed as a discussion of examples of legal advocacy work promoting refugee rights under contemporary applications of colonial-era laws, such as the Foreigners Act (1946) in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and open to a broader discussion of practical strategies for litigation and other legal advocacy in the context of such legacy legal frameworks.


  • Tendayi Achiume, Alice Miñana Professsor of Law, UCLA Law and former UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
  • Roshni Shanker, Executive Director, Migration & Asylum Project
  • Umer Gilani, Advocate and Partner, The Law and Policy Chambers
  • Zaid Hydari (co-facilitator), Executive Director, Refugee Solidarity Network
  • Ian M. Kysel (co-facilitator), Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School

Please note: additional speakers may be confirmed in due course.

March 10, 2023 in Global Human Rights, Race, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 27, 2023

Event 3/2: Webinar on The Courts, Climate Change, Migrant and Refugee Rights

On March 2, 2023, from 4:00PM to 5:30PM EST, join the American Society of International Law's  International Refugee Law Interest Group  (IRLIG), the Migration Law Interest Group (MILIG), and their co-sponsor, the Global Strategic Litigation Council for Refugee Rights (GSLC) for a webinar exploring the current state of international migration and refugee law and human rights applicable to those displaced by global climate change; how the law should evolve to meet the current mobility challenges; and practical avenues in international, regional, and national courts to facilitate the progressive development of the law for the protection of the rights of those moving in the context of climate change. The distinguished speakers will be Viviana Krsticevic, Jane McAdam AO, Matthew Scott, and the event will be moderated by Melissa Stewart.

The webinar is free and open to the public. Register for the event here.

February 27, 2023 in Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 23, 2023

New Article: Refugeehood Reconsidered: the Central American Migration Crisis

Macedo, Stephen, Refugeehood Reconsidered: the Central American Migration Crisis (Jan. 18, 2023). Abstract below.

“Who is a refugee?” This essay explores the lively debate on this question in ethics, political theory, and international law. The world now has more refugees than any time since World War II, and there may be no area of public policy in advanced Western states more fraught with deep moral and practical dilemmas. Are state persecution and alienage necessary conditions of refugeehood or is mortal peril sufficient, whatever its cause? The essay describes the various moral grounds relevant to claims for refugeehood, including general humanitarian duties, obligations arising from past and ongoing relations and commitments under international law, and the existence of the state system itself. Particular attention is paid to the Central American migration crisis, and the question of reparative obligations on the part of the U.S. arising from climate change and past state policies that have unjustly harmed sending countries. Further complicating the question of what we ought to do, even for progressive policymakers, is the looming threat of right-wing populist backlash.

February 23, 2023 in Books and articles, Immigrants, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

New Article:The End of California’s Anti-Asian Alien Land Law: A Case Study in Reparations and Transitional Justice

Gabriel “Jack” Chin and Anna Ratner, The End of California’s Anti-Asian Alien Land Law: A Case Study in Reparations and Transitional Justice, 20 Asian American Law Journal 17 (2022). Abstract below.

For nearly a century, California law embodied a rabid anti-Asian policy, which included school segregation, discriminatory law enforcement, a prohibition on marriage with Whites, denial of voting rights, and imposition of many other hardships. The Alien Land Law was a California innovation, copied in over a dozen other states. The Alien Land Law, targeting Japanese but applying to Chinese, Koreans, South Asians, and others, denied the right to own land to noncitizens who were racially ineligible to naturalize, that is, who were not White or Black. After World War II, California’s policy abruptly reversed. Years before Brown v. Board of Education, California courts became leaders in ending Jim Crow. In 1951, the California legislature voluntarily voted to pay reparations to people whose land had been escheated under the Alien Land Law. This article describes the enactment and effect of the reparations laws. It also describes the surprisingly benevolent treatment by courts of lawsuits undoing the secret trusts and other arrangements for land ownership intended to evade the Alien Land Law. But ultimately, the Alien Land Law precedent may be melancholy. California has not paid reparations to other groups who also have conclusive claims of mistreatment. Reparations in part were driven by geopolitical concerns arising from the Cold War and the hot war in Korea. In addition, anti-Asian immigration policy had succeeded in halting Japanese and other Asian immigration to the United States. Accordingly, one explanation for this remarkable act was that there was room for generosity to a handful of landowners with no concern that the overall racial arrangement might be compromised.

February 8, 2023 in Books and articles, Immigrants, Race, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

United States Signed Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection, Joined Twenty Other Countries in Vowing Safer Migration

By Anezka Krobot, rising 2L at St. Louis University

Earlier this summer, the United States joined Argentina, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay in Los Angeles to present and sign the new Declaration on Migration and Protection. The Declaration outlines four pillars that each government has committed to upholding: (1) stability and assistance for communities; (2) expansion of legal pathways; (3) humane migration management; and (4) coordinated emergency response.

Along with signing the Declaration, the U.S. has promised a set of concrete deliverables for each pillar. For the first pillar, stability and assistance for communities, the U.S. will announce $314 million in new PRM and USAID funding for stabilization efforts in the Americas, including support for socio-economic integration and humanitarian aid for Venezuelans in 17 countries of the region.

To support the second pillar, expansion of legal pathways, the U.S. will launch the development of a $65 million U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) pilot program to support U.S. farmers hiring agricultural workers under the H-2A program, provide 11,500 H-2B nonagricultural seasonal worker visas for nationals of Northern Central America and Haiti, roll out new Fair Recruitment Practices Guidance for Temporary Migrant Workers with the cooperation of major employers, including Walmart, and commit to resettle 20,000 refugees from the Americas during Fiscal Years 2023 to 2024. The U.S. will also resume and increase participation in the Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program and resume the Cuban Family Reunification Parole Program.

For the third pillar, humane migration management, the U.S. will announce a multilateral “Sting Operation” to disrupt human smuggling networks across the Americas and improve the efficiency and fairness of asylum at the border. As for the fourth pillar, coordinated emergency response, the U.S. will be involved in the early-warning system that will be implemented to alert the involved countries of large cross-border movements.

“The Americas region is facing a human mobility crisis that is unprecedented both in its complexity and scale. No country can address this situation on its own,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. “The Los Angeles Declaration builds upon existing frameworks and brings us closer to a continent-wide coordinated response based on the principles of international cooperation, solidarity and respect for human rights, as set out in the Global Compacts on refugees and on safe and orderly migration.”

Some organizations have been more wary of the Los Angeles Declaration. For example, the Los Angeles Declaration has been compared to the Valletta Action Plan signed in 2015 between European and African states, which the EU defines as “a set of political and operational measures to enhance cooperation between African and European countries with the aim to provide a framework for humane and sustainable management of migration on both sides of the Mediterranean”.  In reality, the EU’s implementation of the Valletta Action Plan has focused on containment and securitization, instead.  It’s unclear whether the Los Angeles Declaration will follow the same fate.

August 10, 2022 in Immigration, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 10, 2022

New Article: The Right to Remain

Timothy E. Lynch, The Right to Remain, Washington International Law Journal, Volume 31 (June 2022) Abstract below.

Article 12.4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.” Citizens clearly enjoy Article 12.4 rights, but this article demonstrates that this right reaches beyond the citizenry. Using customary methods of treaty interpretation, including reference to the ICCPR’s preparatory works and the jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee, this article demonstrates that Article 12.4 also forbids States from deporting long-term resident noncitizens—both documented and undocumented—except under the rarest circumstances. As a result, the ICCPR right to remain in one’s own country is a right that should be particularly valuable to the many people in the world who have lived in, and established a relationship with, a country which is not their country of citizenship—including lawful permanent residents, long-term refugees, Dreamers and other long-term undocumented residents, and people born in countries without birthright citizenship. These people cannot be deported from the countries they call home.

July 10, 2022 in Books and articles, Immigrants, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Event 4/7: Ukraine's Refugee Crisis: The Faces of War

The world is witnessing the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since WW II as millions of refugees are streaming from Ukraine into neighboring countries. These refugees are crossing into Poland, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova, and Romania. Soon other countries, including the U.S., will be receiving these refugees.

This webinar will deal with these issues as well as resettlement and many other issues associated with this tragic migration. Most of us have witnessed the painful faces of these women and children on the news. The numbers may be great but each person has an individual story that began with a normal life before the invasion by Russia. These people of Ukraine are demonstrating tremendous courage and we should not lose sight of this. In this webinar, you will hear from leading voices who know of this crisis and will share with you their perspective. This is a fluid situation that is changing daily. However, the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice's Rights of Immigrants Committee felt that the urgent situation in Ukraine demanded that they bring you this Webinar as quickly as they could. 


  • Reginald M. Turner, Jr. – President, American Bar Association
  • Alesya Pavlynska – Counsel, Arzinger
  • Anna Ogrenchuk – President, Ukrainian Bar Association
  • Inna Liniova – CEO, Ukrainian Bar Association
  • Craig Redmond – Senior Vice-President of Programs, Mercy Corps
  • Smita Dazzo – Senior Director, Legal & Asylum, HIAS
  • Brian J. Egan – Partner, National Security, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
  • Jill Marie Bussey – Director for Public Policy, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services
  • Magdalena Paszkiewicz – Advisor & Media Contact, Polish Foundation Mum in the City of Kielce
  • Richard Pena – President and CEO, Law Offices of Richard Pena, P.C.

This ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice Webinar will take place on Thursday, April 7th from 2:00 pm-4:00 pm Eastern Time.

To register for this complimentary event, click here.

April 5, 2022 in Refugees | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, November 8, 2021

Event: 11/10 Webinar: Refugees and Asylum in USA: Review of Domestic Interpretations are at Odds with International Guidance

Wednesday November 10, 2021, at 12noon ET, the American Bar Association will host a webinar entitled Refugees and Asylum in the U.S. & Review of Domestic Interpretations at Odds with International Guidance.  This webinar will review the differences between the Refugee and Asylum processes (which includes Withholding of Removal) in order to provide clarity to new practitioners about the start contrasts between the two USA refugee programs and to inform on international law compliance. This program’s speakers will focus on two topics:

Topic 1: The Hon. Paul Grussendorf

Paul Grussendorf has worked with both the refugee and asylum programs in the United States and abroad. He headed a law school legal clinic at the George Washington Law School representing asylum seekers, served as an Immigration Judge handling asylum cases, worked as a Supervisory Asylum Officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services [CIS], as a refugee officer with Refugee Affairs Division of USCIS, and as a refugee officer and supervisor with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Topic 2: The Hon. Jeffrey Chase

Jeffrey Chase is a retired Immigration judge for New York City. He has written extensively about the inter relationship of international law sources with the U.S. national law when administering cases involving asylum and refugee applications. He has a blog entitled Opnions/Analysis on Immigration Law. He coordinates The Round Table of Retired Immigration Judges, an informal group of Retired Immigration Judges from both the trial and appellate level, who weigh in on topics relating to the administration of justice by the Immigration Court. The Round Table files amici briefs, and has issued position papers and testimony on issues affecting due process and the administration of justice by the Immigration Courts.

For more information and to register for this webinar, visit:

November 8, 2021 in Immigration, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Event: 9/23 Annual Global Strategic Litigation Roundtable 2021 Day 1

On Thursday September 23, 2021, at 9am ET, the first day of the Annual Strategic Litigation Roundtable 2021 will take place virtually, co-hosted by UNHCR, HIAS, Asylum Access and, this year, the new Global Strategic Litigation Council for Refugee Rights.

The first panel will provide an opportunity to share insights on recent legal issues in different jurisdictions. In the second session, we are glad to introduce the Global Strategic Litigation Council for Refugee Rights which will serve as a hub for activists seeking to use strategic litigation and related legal advocacy to advance the protection of refugee rights and the consistent and progressive development of international law worldwide. The third panel will explore a few of the litigation challenges on COVID- 19 related border closures and ensuring the inclusion of refugees and asylum-seekers in COVID-19 relief grants.

More information available here. Registration is available here.

September 21, 2021 in Immigration, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Judge Orders Parents Reunited With Their Chidren

A San Diego federal judge has ordered immigration officials to reunite children and parents.  In addition to barring the now suspended practice of separating children from families, Judge Dana Sabraw ordered that children under five be reunited with their parents within fourteen days and that parents of children of all ages be permitted to speak with them within ten days.  Further the court order requires parents subject to deportation to leave with their children.

In what will no doubt be an oft quoted sentence from his opinion, Judge Sabraw said, " The unfortunate reality is that under the present system migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property." The administration's attitude expressed by Judge Sabraw is simultaneously arrogant as well as cavalier.  Invoking property rights reminiscent of slave owners, the administration has not bothered to properly document the parental relationship of children in its custody.  As Judge Sabraw noted, the Executive Order that terminated the process of separating children from parents made no mention of whether or how to reunite already separated children from the parents who brought them across the border. 

"The facts set forth before the court portray reactive governance responses to address  chaotic circumstance of the government's own making. They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process

A status conference in the case is scheduled for July 6th.

Of note, the Plaintiffs in Ms. L; etal v. ICE were certified as a class, thus permitting the nationwide injunction.  The injunction was issued on the same day that Justice Thomas opined on the validity of federal courts issuing nationwide injunctions in the case of Trump v. Hawaii.   The Supreme Court refused to rule on the issue in Trump v Hawaii but the issue may not be capable of escape as the Ms. L case winds its way to that court.

June 27, 2018 in Immigrants, Immigration, Margaret Drew, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Deja Vu at Justice

Image1Acting Attorney General Sarah Yates last week instructed Justice Department lawyers not to defend the Trump Administration's executive orders on immigration. By that night, she was fired.  Immediately following, the order was rescinded.

Yates' letter was eloquent and clear in outlining her function within the government and how it differs from the role of White House legal counsel. 

Yates' refusal to comply with orders contrary to accepted legal and human rights practice echoes the Justice Department's response to White House directives during Watergate.  Then, White House disregard for the rule of law was rebuffed by Attorney General Elliot Richardson and others within Justice, leading to their firing. Those firings are known as the Saturday Night Massacre. 

 Just as Martha Davis' post noted Justice Scalia's remark that the Korematsu facts could happen again, we are reminded that executive attempts to dismantle fundamental legal structures is being repeated.

At the DC Women's March, Gloria Steinem spoke of President Trump's mental health problems. We Image1now know that President Nixon was delusional and suffered from the same grandiosity as President Trump. But this time we were forewarned. 


February 6, 2017 in Global Human Rights, Margaret Drew, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Honoring Elie Wiesel: On the Opposite of Love

Elie Wiesel was our conscience and our memory of the Holocaust.  He was voice for millions of the murdered because of the hatred and madness of one leader and his supporters.  But also the Jewish citizens died due to the overwhelming silence of others.  It is both easy and difficult to understand the fear of speaking out when neighbors are disappearing.  Consequences of disagreeing with Hitler, as with other dictators, were and are severe and usually fatal. But that begs the question on how dictators ascend to national control in the first instance.

Anyone who read Night was no doubt haunted by the inhumanity.   But one of the lessons Mr. Wiesel taught us was not to wait in confronting hateful conditions as they are developing. Politics rooted in hate can be powerful and, if not curbed,  lead to the sort of unimaginable suffering that Mr. Wiesel endured.   Not confronting hatred when it first appears permits inhumanity to grow.  Failure to confront hatred opens the door for demagogues.

As we celebrate July 4th, we might ponder how easily we could lose our independence through our silence.  As Mr. Wiesel taught: "The opposite of love is indifference."















July 3, 2016 in Discrimination, Ethnicity, Gender Oppression, Global Human Rights, Immigrants, law, Margaret Drew, Migrants, Refugees, social justice | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Loss of Kindness: A Human Rights Backlash

As discussed by both Martha Davis and JoAnn Kamuf Ward earlier, countries are struggling with the refugee crisis.  But U.S. citizens have responded poorly.  While the administration offered of aid by way of admitting Syrian refugees, many individuals  in the U.S. responded to that proposal with unkindness.  It appears that many Americans lack the fundamental empathy necessary to care for those who struggle. 

While some of the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim resolve may be based in fear, that does not account for all of the immigration backlash.  Much anti-immigrant sentiment originated long before current events.  Anti-immigrant hatred pre-dates both the Syrian migration and the Paris attacks.  

Playing off of the poverty and under-education and the consequent limited opportunities of many of their constituents, along with the arrogance and narcissism of some wealthy, Donald Trump and Ben Carson revel in the chaos that erupts after their increasingly aggressive attacks on those who seek safety and a better life in the United States.  But the politics of exclusion are not new.  The U.S. has turned away those desperate to escape brutality before.  The current situation reminds me of U.S. refusal to accept European Jewish refugees escaping Hitler's scourge who arrived at our shores on the U.S.S. St. Louis. That shame of that particular act of cruelty has not diminished with time.  In the current instance, however, the state is not the culprit. But others who seek power are. 

As JoAnn Kamuf Ward reminded us, we can do better.  We have a chance for a do over.  But so far many Americans refuse to consider, let alone learn from our historical regrets.  Once again, I fear that historians will record us as turning our backs on those who are at risk of dying at the hands of their governments.  All because some who seek power lack both the courage and dedication necessary to seek the common good. 

November 24, 2015 in Immigrants, Immigration, Margaret Drew, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Can We Do Better This Time?

JoAnn Kamuf Ward, Lecturer-in-Law & Associate Director, Human Rights in the U.S. Project, Human Rights Institute, Columbia Law School

Across Europe, countries are deciding how to respond to the current humanitarian refugee crisis and balance that response with concerns of safety and security (or not).  As Martha Davis reported here, in Sweden, history is playing an important role in shaping the response.

In the U.S., we face some of the same challenges.  It is impossible to deny the overwhelming sense that nowhere is safe.  But the quest for safety and security should not be driven only by fear.  As the NY Times Editorial Board wrote on Wednesday

It is impossible to prevent all violence by hate-filled sociopaths and ideologues who are willing to die, and confronting the extremist threat from ISIS and other terrorist groups will require many strategies. But none of them require demolishing the values that are the heart of democratic societies, including the free flow of people and information. Banning all refugees, as some in America and Europe are demanding, would be an ineffective and tragic capitulation to fear. Governments should improve border controls and vigilance, but expanding wiretapping and other surveillance in free societies must be resisted.

This is a sentiment echoed by many, including Washington Governor Jay Inslee, one of the few state governors who has publicly committed to welcoming Syrian refugees.  Thirty one governors have threatened to exclude Syrian refugees (the legality of this gubernatorial action is debunked here and here).

In an NPR interview Governor Inslee discussed his attempt to do better than the U.S. has done in the past.  In 1942, two months after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued an executive order that set the stage for the forced relocation and internment of more than 100,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry. This broad and overzealous response was motivated by concerns about safety and security married with fear, as well as misunderstanding, racism, and discrimination.

The Supreme Court’s Korematsu decision, which ruled that the exclusion and internment of Japanese American was constitutional, has never been overturned.  Yet the Federal government has renounced its actions and the decision.  In 1988, the United States, under President Reagan enacted the Civil Liberties Act.  The Act offered a much needed apology, as well as reparations for individual survivors of internment.  It also stated that the actions taken by the United States constituted “a grave injustice.”  And further, that the U.S. response was “motivated by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."

But in this time of deep polarization and politicization, there is not even consensus on lessons to be drawn from Japanese internment.  The same day as the Inslee interview, Mayor Bowers of Roanake, Virginia, cited the actions of President Roosevelt as justification to halt assistance to Syrian refugees in his city.  The Washington Post quickly offered its own critique of the Mayor’s position, as did a number of other news outlets.  With such disparate views of the past at play, it is hard to see the path forward.

In the days ahead, let us recall one fact:  overzealous, reactionary responses that are driven only by fear have a real human cost.  John Tateishi, who spent his childhood years in an internment camp, led efforts to secure redress for the victims of Japanese internment to ensure the same mistakes were not repeated in the future.  He drew inspiration from the Japanese saying kodomo no tame ni” (which translates to “for the sake of the children.”)

Certainly, the responses we choose today will impact not only us, but our children.


Note:  On Friday Mayor Bowers apologized for his remarks, after facing sharp criticism.


November 23, 2015 in JoAnn Kamuf Ward, Refugees | Permalink | Comments (0)