Archive for the ‘Humanitarianism’ Category

China Admits: Still Long Way to Go on Human Rights, But…

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

CHINA Flag -2011China’s defense of its human rights record has long centered on its success at lifting millions of people out of poverty, by providing food, clothing, housing and economic growth for Chinese citizens. They’ve always claimed these as the most relevant measurements for developing countries like itself.

This month, Wang Chen, head of the State Council Information Office, said in a speech published in the English-language China Daily on July 13, that China still has “a long way to go” before its citizens can enjoy full human rights. While admitting problems and challenges, the overall report adopts a positive tone. China plans to draft a new Human Rights Action Plan for 2012 – 2015.

While human rights criticism continues from the USA and other countries, only a retrospective look, at some future date, will be able to ascertain if some significant human rights improvements have yet occurred, or are on the horizon.

However, for now we can only try to provide perspective on what is involved in creating a society that honors ‘human rights’. While, admittedly, comparisons are always ‘risky’, five things should be noted:
1) Nobody has yet explained or provided an example of ‘development’ that does not involve some form of oppression and slavery for any society – since ancient times up until the present.
2) The Chinese have enough people to not have to enslave others outside their borders, while getting dirty and terrible work to be performed.
3) The USA was not a bastion of ‘human rights’ or ‘civil rights’ until the 1970’s, or 195 years after it began – else there would have been no need for a ‘civil/human rights movement’ to give rights to more than 50 million-plus people (African-Americans who led most of the fight for human-rights, plus all the other groups that have benefited – women, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, etc). Human rights efforts that had begun near the founding dates of the country, never gained momentum until the 1945-1965 period, but had little effect until the 1970’s.
4) Each step along the way to ‘human rights’ in the USA, even for the white majority, has been on a road that involved fights, murders, and other pitched battles. In other words, not a peaceful path with everyone holding hands and singing in harmony.
5) Even today, some human rights battles still continue in the USA.

Moving Forward on Illegal Immigration: The Four Classes

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Serious discussion about Citizenship and Illegal residency must be narrowed down into at least four sub-areas of discussion to arrive at a humane solution.

Disparaging the motivations of people who raise questions about Caution-Illegalsimmigrant status will not accomplish anything. There are various motivations at work and not a single one. The fact that the immigration laws have not been previously adhered to, or selectively enforced, does not mean that such a sorry state-of-affairs should be allowed to continue indefinitely.

All Countries and all Peoples have laws and regulations about who may, or may not, reside in their territories. This has always been the case, since time immortal. Tribes and Clans had territories and recognized boundaries that they defended. The ancient societies of Egypt, Timbuktu, Kush, Greece, China, and Native America, etc, all have had similar rules that they sought to enforce.

I Demand to Live in USAArguments about how everyone in the USA is an ‘illegal immigrant’ because the Native Americans were here first, are totally absurd, since we would be forced to recognize: 1) that the Native Americans were several different nations – each with their own laws about residency – and not one singular, unified nation; 2) there cannot be a ‘turning-back-the-clock’ to fix the death and destruction that was visited upon them in North, South and Central America; 3) that under this argument, most Latin Americans would be ‘illegal’ even in the countries from which they seek to gain entry to the USA since the Native American populations of those Latin American countries were similarly destroyed and the current populations, by and large, have no claim to those Latin American lands either. In other words – under this argument, Mexicans would be illegal in Mexico.

Traveling this path in an argument is a sign of silliness and desperation. One would be forced to empty-out the entire Americas, sending everyone who is not Native American, back to Europe, Africa and Asia – perhaps leaving behind only those who could demonstrate a genetic mixed-connection to Native tribes.

Let us deal with today and recognize that one cannot reside in Mexico, Canada, anywhere inWhat Dont You Understand Europe, Africa, Asia or Latin America without permission of the governing authorities and the peoples who inhabit those countries. Therefore, why do some people think that illegally residing in the USA should be a ‘right’ without consequences?

What are the four sub-areas of consideration regarding the Immigration debate?

1) Children born in the USA from Illegal Immigrants and those brought into the USA as children by their parents, who entered illegally – yet they know no other country other than the USA.

2) Immigrant workers who perform a useful function in American society, doing the work like immigrants before them, (and slaves before either of them) which is back-breaking and often monotonous, that average Americans do not want to perform.

3) Immigrant workers who have jobs that should go to citizens, but are instead occupied by non-citizen, illegal immigrants. This is often aided and abetted by employers who chose to hire illegal immigrants because those illegal immigrants are not able to fight for citizen rights and are therefore compliant and easily abused.

4) immigrants who are allowed entry because of a promise to employ citizens. They need to be closely observed to assure that they’re fulfilling this obligation.

There are those who would argue that Americans should work-for-less-money in order to be more competitive with foreigners in the USA or abroad, however this is a fallacious argument. Following this logic, one would have to engage in a constantly downward competition wherein each person claims to be willing to work for less money than the person next to them. How then, would an American compete against a person who makes only $200 per year?

The Dream Act was originally proposed to address the first sub-area: the children born in the USA or brought into the USA by illegal immigrants. If they have no criminal backgrounds, and have been dutiful adherents of the laws of the USA, then they should be allowed to apply for citizenship. Such citizenship cannot be granted automatically, since they would need to be investigated and made to comply with some requirements (various ones are proposed) to make-up for their unintentional, yet deliberate violation of immigration laws. They would not be able to petition for Parents or other relatives, first until they’re ‘recognized’ adults, and then perhaps for a specific period of time. This proposed remedy is to fix something over which the youngsters exercised no control and could therefore be seen as innocent victims. It is a compassionate and humane solution.

Immigrant workers who work at hard and unpopular occupations should be allowed continuous and regular entry into the country to perform those jobs, until someone can demonstrate that Americans wish to perform those jobs – which is unlikely. Such entry would not necessarily be a ‘right’ to citizenship, and might require a special-category, or expansion of existing categories for temporary workers, between the current statuses of citizen and permanent-resident, because they would not be permanent but periodic. For the sake of the ‘soul’ of the country, they should not be abused and mistreated but recognized as performing a useful and respected task.

Those illegal immigrants who work in ‘higher level’ – not the hard and unpopular – occupations, should not be allowed to work. The Illegals vs US-Blacksunaddressed aspect of this is that approximately 50-percent of illegal immigration is composed of people who enter the USA legally, and then simply overstay their visas. This group, no matter how poor they may be relative to Americans, nevertheless has the money and wherewithal to board an airplane (or other transport) and legally enter via an official port-of-entry. Some of these people are lured here under false pretentions or with assurances that they can become ‘lost’ in the mass of citizens and remain undetected. Large numbers of illegal Europeans and Asians fall into this category, as do smaller numbers of African and Caribbean peoples.

One can make an argument that immigrants should be encouraged to fulfill those ‘higher-level’ occupations for which there are a shortage of trained Americans – usually thought of as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) positions for which few Americans pursue studies. If this strategy is to be pursued then it should be undertaken in tandem with efforts to get legal citizens to pursue the STEM subjects, making the importation of immigrants a temporary stop-gap measure.

Technological improvements have made it ever easier to track and verify Immigrants, if one wanted to. The institution of an E-Verify system, if properly administrated, makes a great contribution to this effort. Such a system needs to be regularly safe-guarded and reviewed for accuracy to avoid problems. When and if such problems occur this will undoubtedly be used to argue against its existence, but that would be a case of the proverbial ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ – rather than fixing it.

As for those already in the USA, a limited round-up would seem to be inevitable. Deportation In ActionThis would not be popular and cause many alarming headlines, but, not everyone would want to be ‘registered’, because they would not fit the ‘safe’ categories mentioned above – thus requiring their deportation.

It would be wonderful if people didn’t need to come to the USA to seek low-level employment, but this would be true only if their own country provided opportunities for self-sustaining work. Yet it cannot be the responsibility of the USA to fix other people’s countries, even if there are efforts to help. Such tasks would be too broad for any one country to undertake and the solutions would take many years, perhaps decades, or centuries, to have effect.

Risking Deportation to Support a Dream

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Jose-Antonio-VargasPulitzer Prize Columnist, Jose Antonia Vargas, has decided to make himself a ‘poster boy’ for those illegal immigrants who exemplify the good reasons for passing the so-called “Dream Act” through the American Congress. He set-off a small news tsunami by exposing himself as an illegal immigrant and speaking-out for passage of the legislation.

It is too soon to know what effect his self-exposure will have on the legislation and upon his personal life. Vargas risks imprisonment and deportation by his confession. The people who assisted him, and have decided to also be exposed as helping him, risk similar possible repercussions for their actions. While admittedly an act of bravery, the reactions to his confessions have been wide and various, often dependent upon perceptions that are not specific to him.

Vargas came to the USA the way that fifty-percent of illegal immigrants do, by airplane, from the Philippines when he was 12 years old. He doesn’t explain the legal status he had for this trip, but it had to involve a legitimate USA visa, which guaranteed entry. He was accompanied by a ‘coyote’ to whom his mother delivered him in Manila, and who, in turn, delivered him to his grandparents in Mountain View, California. .Vargas at 12years oldVargas would not only have no idea of what type of visa he had, nor if that visa was correctly applied for, since he would not become aware of his illegal status until he was sixteen (16) years old, and applied for a Drivers License. At the Motor Vehicles Bureau he would ‘discover’ that his Permanent Residence (Green) Card was a fake, when the License clerk proclaimed it was fake and told him to leave and not come back. That clerk could have had him arrested, on the spot, but chose not to do so. Instead he returned home to confront his grandfather about this ‘discovery’, which resulted in the revelation that would burden him from that time forward – that he was an illegal immigrant.

This was a stunning discovery for him. From that time onward he had to learn to avoid too much attention, at the same time satisfy his intellectual curiosity and interests in doing well. His grandparents preferred that he keep his head low and only strive to work at some, more-or-less, menial job that would bring little attention to him. Instead he found that he excelled at writing and developed into an award-winning, Pulitzer Prize, Journalist. Each step along the way he had moments of great anxiety and stress, for fear of being discovered as an ‘illegal’. At several strategic moments he had assistance from USA citizens – school teachers, counselors, co-workers, etc, some of whom have also come forward to admit their help – to help him keep his secret.

There are those who criticize his appearance on the ‘immigration stage’ as an attempt to claim a special status for himself because of his accomplishments. They state that he should not be afforded any special consideration because of what he has achieved. This position misses the foundation of his argument, whether or not one agrees with it. Vargas defends people, like himself, who came to the USA as children, who by definition had no control over their illegal entry, and have known no other home, other than the USA. Dream Act GraduationHe argues that his achievements have been made as ‘an American’, which should not afford him special status, but instead indicate the possibilities of what those, like himself, can contribute to the only country that they have ever known – when given the opportunity to do so.

The ‘Dream Act’ – actually has stringent requirements for those who would be accepted in the USA. It would not apply to others who decide to now enter in hopes of qualifying. It does not allow for repatriation of relatives, including parents. It only has applicability to those who have been in the USA since childhood, for a certain number of years.

Meanwhile, Vargas has made two potential errors in his argument – things that can be misunderstood and misinterpreted by other Americans. One is that, on national television (ABC-TV) he spoke of ‘going home’ when he plans to return to the Philippines for the first time in eighteen years. For many Americans, without contact with people from foreign countries, he could be seen as foregoing his claim to being ‘American’ by claiming some other place as ‘home’. In fact, America is his home and the Philippines is his country of origin, but this type of dialog is often stated this way among immigrants, legal or otherwise. It has a nostalgic feeling and would still be reflective of memories, in this instance, gathered up until the age of 12.

The other error was that his mother, in comments about his public pronouncements, told a NY Times reporter that Vargas had obtained a Philippine passport PI-Passportas a hedge against being deported and becoming a man-without-a-country. Yet to many Americans this would seem to be a confirmation that he doesn’t truly believe that he is an American, despite his protestations, and few USA-PassportAmericans know much about passports, nationality, and the concept of dual-citizenship.

We know that children forced to depart the USA, the only home that they’ve ever known, would not be “happy campers” in their new homeland and feel that they had been done a great ‘injustice’. This would not be very good for the USA in either a diplomatic or political-economic sense.

Are we going to round-up everyone – think millions of people – and deport them? Not really.
Can the USA prevent employers from hiring illegal immigrants? Maybe, but the other lesson of Vargas’ story is how he was able to create false documentation as part of his maneuvering through the system.
The unanswered part of the story is that American employers have proven that they often prefer to hire people who have little or no rights, and are therefore totally compliant and fearful – and easy to take advantage of.

Jose Antonio Vargas has attached his ‘name’ to a cause without a certain ending. It is a risky venture to undertake. Time will tell if he has made a wise decision.

Haiti: One Year Later

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Peacekeeping - MINUSTAHOn January 12, 2010 a devastating earthquake killed approximately 300,000 people and left nearly two million homeless in Haiti. One year later, more than one million people are still living in appalling conditions in “temporary” tent cities in the capital city and surrounding areas. A report released this week by Oxfam reveals that less than 45 percent of the $2.1 billion pledged for Haiti’s reconstruction has been disbursed. In addition, “less than 5 percent of the rubble has been cleared, only 15 percent of the temporary housing that is needed has been built and relatively few permanent water and sanitation facilities have been constructed.” Adding to Haiti’s misery is the recent cholera epidemic that so far has killed nearly 3,500 people. The all-too-common tent cities are particularly dangerous for women, where gender-based violence and sexual assaults are on the rise. This short video by Amnesty International highlights the dangers women face and emphasizes that “feeling safe from sexual violence is a basic human right.”

Meanwhile, this week in the United States, six civil and human rights groups filed an emergency petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), to halt the roundups, detention, and imminent deportations of hundreds of Haitian nationals by the U.S. government. Deportations from the U.S. to Haiti have been stayed on humanitarian grounds since last year, however on December 9, 2010 the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unexpectedly announced that it would resume deportations this month. A year after one of the most devastating humanitarian crises in history, Haitians continue to struggle to have their basic human rights met.

Saving Lives: Humanitarian Assistance is Both a Right and a Responsibility

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

WHD_August 19th is World Humanitarian Day—a day to honor the work of the hundreds of thousands of women and men around the world determined to eradicate disease, poverty, and violence. Humanitarian aid workers strive to ensure that those in need of life-saving assistance receive it, regardless of their religion, nationality, race, or politics. The right to this assistance is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is guided by humanitarian principles that include neutrality, impartiality, and operational independence. However, in many parts of the world, there is growing skepticism about the integrity of humanitarian aid. In its worst manifestation, this skepticism has resulted in an increasing number of targeted attacks on humanitarian personnel. (Including the 2003 bomb attack in Baghdad that killed 22 UN employees and the UN Special Representative Sergio Vieira de Mello. World Humanitarian Day was originally initiated in recognition of this tragic event.) A healthier form of criticism is represented in films like Good Fortune“a provocative exploration of how massive international efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa may be undermining the very communities they aim to benefit.” The film shows a Kenyan man’s farm being flooded by an American investor who hopes to alleviate poverty by creating a multimillion-dollar rice farm and a woman’s business being demolished as part of a U.N. slum-upgrading project in Africa’s largest shantytown. Humanitarian assistance is both a right and a responsibility. However, it is clear that we—as a world community—still have far to go in figuring out how to do it both right and responsibly.

How Do You Prove You’re A U.S. Citizen?

Friday, June 4th, 2010

“Immigration” is an issue that embodies many of the concerns and issues that are central to any discussion of human rights. It touches on many of the worries that people have about their lives. Nobody wants to experience discrimination, any form of degradation or torture, or have their movements restricted based upon nationality, religion or ethnicity. Everyone wants to be free to make a living.

USA-PassportsThere are two core questions in the current immigration issue that are not being addressed: 1)  How does someone prove their citizenship in the United States? 2)  What are the fundamental causes of illegal immigration and how do we prevent them?

Every country has the right and responsibility to protect its borders and to determine who has a legal right to inhabit the country and therefore legitimate claims on the resources of the nation and how those resources are to be distributed. In the United States, we have only one method of identifying citizenship. Only an American passport, or the newer passport card, can irrefutably identify someone as a citizen of the U.S. However, very few U.S. citizens have passports, and if they have them, no law exists that requires them to carry them on a daily basis. Many countries have national-identity-cards that details an individual’s citizenship status, but in the U.S., any talk of anything that approximates such a card, or something that might become a proxy for such purposes, instantly raises fears about government intrusion and control of personal information.

Without some national-identity-card, how does someone prove citizenship? Attempts to visually identify non-citizens, who may or may not be illegal immigrants, automatically requires a form of ‘racial profiling’, and is so arbitrary, that it leaves it to the enforcement officer to make judgments based upon their own perceptions and biases. This becomes a particular problem in the U.S. because the popular perception is that ‘illegal immigrants’ are Latinos crossing the Southern borders into the US. However, approximately 50-percent of illegal immigrants are people who have been legally admitted into the U.S. but have overstayed their visas. Therefore, most American citizen contact with illegal immigrants, are with people who are from countries not commonly associated with illegal entry, such as European and Asian countries.  Unfortunately, there is no reliable entry/exit tracking-process for people who have visited the U.S.

Ultimately, undocumented immigrants exist in the U.S. because of the ease of acquiring employment from the many businesses that hire them as cheap labor. Those businesses are also reluctant to participate in any efforts to identify undocumented immigrants.  It is likely that people would not seek to breach the U.S. borders if there was not a potential job awaiting them.

USA-PermResidence-01The appropriate questions for this dilemma are: 1)  Is there a form of citizenship identification that would be acceptable to U.S. citizens? 2)  How can the government enforce a process that punishes businesses for hiring undocumented  immigrants?

Remembering Rwanda

Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Nearly sixteen years have passed since the assassination of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, and the beginning of the Rwandan genocide. Within three short months, more than 800,000 people were killed by friends, neighbors, and members of Hutu Power militias. Several years ago, I had the  opportunity to visit and study in Rwanda, where I met remarkable young Rwandans who, after having witnessed unimaginable terror in their childhoods, have committed themselves to building lasting reconciliation in their communities. The majority of international media coverage and financial resources have been directed to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (held in Arusha, Tanzania), which has jurisdiction over charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Interestingly, a former U.N. ambassador for Rwanda, Jean Damascene Bizimana, who is accused of involvement in the execution of the genocide, was found last week in Alabama. Despite the obvious necessity of prosecuting the masterminds of the genocide, the Tribunal has only convicted 29 persons between 1995 and 2009, and thousands of survivors continue to feel that justice has not been fulfilled. Specifically, 250,000 women were reported to have been raped during the genocide, and approximately 70% of them contracted HIV as a result. While the trial of Jean Paul Akayesu established the international precedent that rape is a crime of genocide, many of the 100,000 survivors of sexual violence are still unable to access necessary anti-retroviral medication (ARV) or basic healthcare services. What does “global justice” mean for these survivors? What forms of “justice” is the international community responsible for after failing to stop the genocide in the first place? 


Names of the Dead

Egypt Accused of Using Lethal Force Against Migrants

Friday, March 5th, 2010

Migrants who seek to use the Egyptian border with Israel as a staging area for illegal entry into Israel have become victims of a shoot-to-kill policy, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The victims are primarily Sub-Saharan Africans – mainly from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, through her spokesman in Egypt, Rupert Coville, has expressed ‘acceptance’ of the idea that migrants often accidentally lose their lives during their efforts to cross remote land borders, but notes that these deaths are too numerous to be accidental and are caused by lethal weapons. The government of Egypt is being asked by the Commissioner to conduct an independent investigation into the activities and policies of the border State security forces. The use of lethal force on unarmed migrants is deemed inexcusable.

UNHCHUR - Ms Navi Pillay

Earthquake in Haiti: Natural Disaster and Manmade Devastation

Monday, January 18th, 2010

HaitiMy thoughts and prayers are with the millions of people impacted by the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti on Tuesday January 13. Print and online media is awash with stories and images of “one of the worst ever natural disasters in the western hemisphere.” No matter how many articles I read or how much live footage I watch the utter devastation, pain, and suffering are difficult to comprehend.

Amidst the endless stream of information detailing the destruction and tireless relief efforts there is also a plethora of suggestions of how and where to send donations, including information about the largest text-based fundraising campaign in history. As with most life-threatening emergencies there has been an immediate outpouring of support (an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review discusses why sudden crises pull heartstrings and loosen purse strings more than persistent, chronic conditions).

The media coverage is focused, in large part, on the current conditions, with only occasional reference to the historical and structural injustices that magnified the earthquake’s devastating impact. A provocative audio slideshow, published online in the July 2009 issue of Guernica Magazine, captures the reality that the current devastation is best understood as the manmade outcome of a long and ugly historical sequence. A May 2009 Times of London article points to the degree to which Haiti’s status as the poorest country in the western hemisphere – mired in historic debt, stricken by flood and famine, and rife with violence and abuse – was simply accepted.

It is critical that the international community confronts these historical and structural injustices as it considers the help that Haiti needs. An online post in Foreign Policy magazine calls on the international community to cancel Haiti’s debt. The Association for Women’s Rights in Development highlights the specific experiences and needs of Haitian women during this humanitarian catastrophe. If we are serious about Haiti’s recovery, we need to be as committed to addressing the country’s systematic injustices and inequalities as we are to emergency relief.

UN Seeks 2010 Humanitarian Aid Assistance

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

On Monday, the United Nations called on wealthy nations to provide a collective total of $7.1 billion to help fund humanitarian assistance in 2010 for nearly 50 million people in 25 countries. These funds would assist people whose lives have been torn by natural disasters and conflict in countries such as Afghanistan, Kenya, the occupied Palestinian territories, Sudan, and Somalia. However, many wealthy nations are claiming that financial pressures on their domestic fronts have significantly restrained their budget for international assistance. In the 2008 fiscal year, to give an example, the United States had $623 billion in military expenditures, while countries in the rest of the world had a combined total of $500 billion. What does such spending reveal about our global priorities? If the world can muster $1.1 trillion for military purposes, and can not find $7 billion to aid the people directly affected by political conflict, what are our chances of securing the universal human right to a social and international order that ensures that other rights, such as education, democratic participation, and health, can be fully realized?