Human rights groups blast Obama’s plan to open more immigrant family detention centers
June 23, 2014
The Obama administration on Friday announced a plan to open new detention facilities to house families apprehended while crossing the southwest border, drawing criticism from congressional Democrats and immigrant rights groups who say there are more humane ways to handle migrants.
“Human rights require that detention be the last resort, not the first,” said ACLU Legislative Counsel Joanne Lin in a statement. “Families should be moved out of detention as soon as possible and be released under humane and reasonable supervision, including community-based alternatives to detention which have proven to be cost-effective and efficient.”
The push for ramped-up detention is the federal government’s response to an unprecedented surge of migrant children crossing the US-Mexico border, which both Democrats and Republicans are calling a humanitarian crisis. The plan also calls for more judges and immigration officials in the area to expedite deportation proceedings. While the majority of children detained near the border are traveling alone, the new detention centers will specifically house children who came with families.
Clara Long, an immigration policy researcher at Human Rights Watch told The Nation, “We’re really concerned that, especially where children are detained, that these centers will not be under compliance with international law.”
“The underlying approach to such a program should be ‘care’ and not ‘detention,’” Long said, stressing children under detention should have access to education, legal aid, counseling and recreation. Alternatives to detention, such as electronic monitoring via ankle bracelets, should be considered, Long added.
US Border Patrol says it has captured 47,000 unaccompanied minors since October 1 and estimates say that number could reach 90,000 by the end of this fiscal year. Most of the minors arrived from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, countries plagued by rampant gang violence. Researchers for the UN human rights commissioner for refugees found that many of the children crossing the border are fleeing threats of violence in their home countries. Fifty-eight percent of 400 unaccompanied minors interviewed by researchers “raise potential international protection needs.” UNHCR guidelines minors who are seeking asylum “should not, as a general rule, be detained.”
“As a human rights organization, it bothers us that they see detention as the only option. It doesn’t matter how many more beds they have, this will continue to happen,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Texas-based Border Network For Human Rights. “We need policy solutions, not just infrastructure.”
Garcia told The Nation that the federal government should find a way to grant asylum to migrants fleeing violence in their home countries. There should also be legal path for migrants to reunite with families are already living in the US, he added.
Congressional Democrats, including Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Luiz Guiterrez (D-IL), also spoke out against the detention plan. In a statement offered to BuzzFeed, Senator Menendez said, “Using up our nation’s resources to jail families will not be a deterrent—these kids are fleeing violence and are willing to risk their lives to cross the border. The threat of a jail will not stop these families from coming here. Instead, we need to fully address the root causes of the crisis.”
On Thursday, Senator Menendez released a twenty-point plan to address the border crisis. The plan recommends Obama administration to continue cracking down on human smugglers and traffickers taking advantage of the surge. It also calls for increased efforts to provide detainee children with legal representation.
The number of people forced to flee their homes across the world has exceeded 50 million for the first time since the second world war. More
Graphic: Cath Levett
The world finally woke up to the horror unfolding in Iraq last week, when the country’s second-largest city, Mosul, fell to Islamist militants, leading 500,000 to flee the northern city.
The group behind the insurgency, known as ISIS, is an offshoot of al-Qaida and has been ruthless beyond measure. One Reuters reporter described bodies of security forces littering Mosul’s streets, as the black flags of ISIS hung over Mosul’s government buildings. Photos released by ISIS on June 15 reportedly show a gruesome mass execution of soldiers carried out by ISIS in the Salahuddin province.
The crisis in Iraq escalated rapidly on Thursday as Iraqi Kurdish forces took control of key military installations in the major oil city of Kirkuk and the Sunni jihadi group Isis revealed its intention to move on Baghdad and cities in the southern Shia heartland. Full story here
To demonstrate opposition to the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup, protests, strikes and direct actions have been sweeping Brazil in massive numbers. Occupying a space next to Arena Corinthians in São Paolo, where the first match will be held, over 10,000 people are protesting in the name of Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MTST). Around the rest of Brazil, such as in Rio de Janeiro, countless others are organizing smaller protests against the government.
Their slogan is #NãoVaiTerCopa, or “There will be no Cup.” MTST coordinator Maria das Dores Cirqueira summarizes their grievances telling the LA Times, “When the government told us we would host the World Cup, we hoped there would be improvements for us. But they aren’t putting on a Cup for the people, they’re putting on a Cup for the gringos.”
Thailand’s military seizes power in coup
BBC News: Thailand’s military has staged a coup d’etat, with the country’s army chief saying that the military is taking control of government in the the southeast Asian nation.
Photo: Screengrab of Thai military chiefs making a TV address (BBC News)
Syrian refugees in Lebanon: June 2012, June 2013, and April 2014
Inside the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia’s Danakil desert, camel caravans are used to carry salt. For centuries, the essential mineral has been mined by the Afar people, known for their ability to withstand extremes. The terrain is rugged, travelers are scarce and so are motor vehicles, where the average annual temperature is the highest in the world, and can rise to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, 50 degrees Celsius.
The Afar still cut the salt by hand, loading it onto camel caravans for the two-day journey to Berahile. The slabs are then transported from there by truck to all parts of Ethiopia for sale as table salt and for use in animal feed. The salt trade, from the pans to the camels to the trucks, fuels the entire economy for the area.
Mining is done on ground up to two kilometers deep of pure salt. Workers operate in stages: Peeling the salt from the soil by sticking long thin tree trunks beneath the shell; detaching a large salt-board from the layer underneath; then breaking the salt-board into smaller ones with an axe. Gentle chiseling removes top and bottom thin layers, exposing clean salt. A final chisel slips the lateral faces for a more uniform look.
About 2,000 camels and 1,000 donkeys make the trip daily from Berahile to the quarry. Each camel can carry up to 300 pounds of salt that sells for about US $10. (Polaris)
(Photographs by Ziv Koren/Polaris)
According to a World Bank report, about 80% of the world’s poorest people live in just 10 countries. Several smaller countries, however, actually have a greater proportion of people living in extreme poverty.
Source: Prosperity for All
1. West Bank: Hyatt (left) recently took a yoga lesson from a visiting American yoga instructor. She is now teaching the young residents of her village, Zataara, a small village on the outskirts of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The women are increasing in number each week—and they say it is proving to be the ultimate release. 2012
2. West Bank: Students from the Al-Quds University javelin team wrap up the last practice before summer vacation in the West Bank city of Abu Dis, next to the Israeli Separation Wall. 2013
3. Gaza: A toy store van drives along Gaza’s beach high way. 2013
4. Gaza: A woman plays with two baby lion cubs born in the Rafah Zoo. Gaza once had six zoos, but two were closed due to financial losses and the deaths of large animals. Gazan zoo keepers are renowned for creativity in limited options, having famously painted a donkey as a zebra, smuggling in animals in the tunnels, and stuffing them once they are dead as animals are not easy to replace. 2013
5. At the Qalandia checkpoint in the West Bank, accompanied by a sheep for the Eid celebration, a young man enjoys a cigarette on the last evening of Ramadan.
6. Teenage girls try on dresses for an upcoming dance at their private school in Ramallah.
7. 14 year old Sabah Abu Ghanim, Gaza’s famous girl surfer, waits to catch a wave.
8. Family and friends play cards on the roof in the Dheisheh Refugee Camp of Bethlehem. With narrow streets and limited space, the roof is often a refuge for many families to sit together and enjoy the breeze.
9. A boy attempts to bathe a reluctant donkey in the ocean on the outskirts of Gaza’s Deir al-Balah refugee camp.
10. West Bank: A Palestinian youth from Hebron enjoys a swim in Ein Farha, considered to be one of the most beautiful nature spots in the entire West Bank. It, like many other nature reserves and heritage sites in the West Bank, is managed by the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority.
Three more killed in Venezuela unrest, students battle troops. Violence began when National Guard troops blocked opposition marchers from leaving Plaza Venezuela to head to the state ombudsman’s office.
Aboriginal rights a threat to Canada’s natural resource agenda, documents reveal
March 3, 2014
The Canadian government is increasingly worried that the growing clout of aboriginal peoples’ rights could obstruct its aggressive resource development plans, documents reveal.
Since 2008, the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs has run a risk management program to evaluate and respond to “significant risks” to its agenda, including assertions of treaty rights, the rising expectations of aboriginal peoples, and new legal precedents at odds with the government’s policies.
Yearly government reports obtained by the Guardian predict that the failure to manage the risks could result in more “adversarial relations” with aboriginal peoples, “public outcry and negative international attention,” and “economic development projects [being] delayed.”
“There is a risk that the legal landscape can undermine the ability of the department to move forward in its policy agenda,” one Aboriginal Affairs’ report says. “There is a tension between the rights-based agenda of Aboriginal groups and the non-rights based policy approaches” of the federal government.
The Conservative government is planning in the next ten years to attract $650 billion of investment to mining, forestry, gas and oil projects, much of it on or near traditional aboriginal lands.
Critics say the government is determined to evade Supreme Court rulings that recognize aboriginal peoples’ rights to a decision-making role in, even in some cases jurisdiction over, resource development in large areas of the country.
“The Harper government is committed to a policy of extinguishing indigenous peoples’ land rights, instead of a policy of recognition and co-existence,” said Arthur Manuel, chair of the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, which has lead an effort to have the economic implications of aboriginal rights identified as a financial risk.
“They are trying to contain the threat that our rights pose to business-as-usual and the expansion of dirty energy projects. But our legal challenges and direct actions are creating economic uncertainty and risk, raising the heat on the government to change its current policies.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs declined to answer the Guardian’s questions, but sent a response saying the risk reports are compiled from internal reviews and “targeted interviews with senior management in those areas experiencing significant change.”
“The [corporate risk profile] is designed as an analytical tool for planning and not a public document. A good deal of [its] content would only be understandable to those working for the department as it speaks to the details of the operations of specific programs.”
Last year Canada was swept by the aboriginal-led Idle No More protest movement, building on years of aboriginal struggles against resource projects, the most high-profile of which has targeted Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline that would carry Alberta tar sands to the western coast of British Columbia.
“Native land claims scare the hell out of investors,” an analyst with global risk consultancy firm Eurasia Group has noted, concluding that First Nations opposition and legal standing has dramatically decreased the chances the Enbridge pipeline will be built.
In British Columbia and across the country, aboriginal peoples’ new assertiveness has been backed by successive victories in the courts.
According to a report released in November by Virginia-based First Peoples Worldwide, the risk associated with not respecting aboriginal peoples’ rights over lands and resources is emerging as a new financial bubble for extractive industries.
The report anticipates that as aboriginal peoples become better connected through digital media, win broader public support, and mount campaigns that more effectively impact business profits, failures to uphold aboriginal rights will carry an even higher risk.
The Aboriginal Affairs’ documents describe how a special legal branch helps the Ministry monitor and “mitigate” the risks posed by aboriginal court cases.
The federal government has spent far more fighting aboriginal litigation than any other legal issue – including $106 million in 2013, a sum that has grown over the last several years.
A special envoy appointed in 2013 by the Harper government to address First Nations opposition to energy projects in western Canada recentlyrecommended that the federal government move rapidly to improve consultation and dialogue.
To boost support for its agenda, the government has considered offeringbonds to allow First Nations to take equity stakes in resource projects. This is part of a rising trend of provincial governments and companies signing “benefit-sharing” agreements with First Nations to gain access to their lands, while falling short of any kind of recognition of aboriginal rights or jurisdiction.
Since 2007, the government has also turned to increased spying, creating a surveillance program aimed at aboriginal communities deemed “hot spots” because of their involvement in protest and civil disobedience against unwanted extraction on their lands.
Over the last year, the Harper government has cut funding to national, regional and tribal aboriginal organizations that provide legal services and advocate politically on behalf of First Nations, raising cries that it is trying to silence growing dissent.