Washington Week on Human Rights: February 1, 2016

Top News

Global Refugee Crisis Congress will address the ongoing global refugee crisis during a series of hearings this week. On Wednesday, the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing entitled Crisis of Confidence: Preventing Terrorist Infiltration through the U.S. Refugee and Visa Programs. This hearing follows the Senate’s rejection of the American SAFE Act, legislation that was widely criticized by national security experts. On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security will hold a hearing entitled Another Surge of Illegal Immigrants along the Southwest Border Security: Is this the Obama Administration’s New Normal? The hearing will serve as a platform to push for floor votes on the “Protection of Children Act” and “Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act.” Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer has detailed the anti-refugee and anti-asylum provisions in these bills and the harmful impact they will have on children fleeing violence and human rights defenders seeking protection.

Antisemitism and Extremism France’s justice minister has resigned, reportedly because of concerns over plans to revoke French citizenship from dual nationals convicted of terrorism. The resignation came just days before France’s parliament will debate a constitutional amendment to put the proposal into law. Parliament will also soon consider whether to add a further three-month extension to the state of emergency imposed after the November 13 Paris attacks. A top French court upheld the state of emergency last week, rejecting an appeal by France’s Human Rights League. Thousands of people took to the streets in France on Saturday to call for an end to the state of emergency. Human Rights First’s recent report, Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Countering Antisemitism and Extremism in France, recommends that France’s emergency security measures be time-limited and narrowly-construed to respond to specific threats, in order to avoid undermining the French government’s commitment to the protection of human rights and civil liberties as an integral part of long-term comprehensive security strategies.

Trafficking This week the House of Representatives will consider the Trafficking Prevention in Foreign Affairs Contracting Act (H.R. 400), bipartisan legislation that promotes enforcement of existing policies to prevent human trafficking on U.S. government contracts. Human Rights First has urged passage of the measure that would require the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development to develop specific definitions of what constitutes a recruitment fee in order to enable compliance with the existing government-wide ban on charging workers recruitment fees.

Call for Nominations Human Rights First is seeking nominations for the 2016 Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award. The 2016 award will go to an individual or organization outside of the United States who has demonstrated an exceptional commitment to human rights advocacy in areas such as human trafficking, religious freedom, LGBT rights, refugee protection, and defense of civil society, among others. The winner will be selected by a distinguished jury and will receive a trip to the United States to engage in advocacy and a $25,000 prize. Nominations for the 2016 award are due by March 10.

Quote of the Week

“(W)e must confront the reality that around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise. We cannot deny it. When we see some Jews leaving major European cities — where their families have lived for generations — because they no longer feel safe; when Jewish centers are targeted from Mumbai to Overland Park, Kansas; when swastikas appear on college campuses — when we see all thact and more, we must not be silent.

“An attack on any faith is an attack on all of our faiths. It is an attack on that Golden Rule at the heart of so many faiths — that we ought to do unto others as we would have done to us. For Americans, in particular, we should understand that it’s an attack on our diversity, on the very idea that people of different backgrounds can live together and thrive together.”

—President Obama’s January 27th remarks at the Righteous Among Nations Award Ceremony

We’re Reading

Writing for The Advocate, Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord analyzed the key components of successful global LGBT human rights advocacy in light of claims made that western influence has had a negative impact on the movement.

Vox developed two new charts to illustrate the rate at which Jews are leaving Europe for Isreal, citing a recent rise in antisemitic violence.

In an opinion piece for Newsweek marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, Moshe Kantor called on the European Union to take action to combat antisemitism.

Writing for The Boston Globe, Michael Ignatieff argued that the United States can and should be doing much more to address the global refugee crisis by significantly increasing the number of refugees resettled and fully funding humanitarian assistance needs in key Syrian border states.

We’re Listening

National Public Radio’s Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson examined Denmark’s response to refugees seeking asylum within its borders, including the widely criticized new law requiring police to seize cash and other valuables from those refugees seeking protection from violence and persecution. The network’s Melissa Block aired a story about her experience trying to reconnect with a Syrian refugee she met last year in Greece.

On the Hill

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Frontline Response to Terrorism in America.” Willy Sparks, chief of police of the Everest Metro Police Department, Weston, Wis.; William Bratton, police commissioner of the New York City Police Department; Rhonda Mae Kerr, president and chair of the board of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Austin, Texas; Edward Davis III, CEO of Edward Davis, LLC and former commissioner of the Boston Police Department, Boston, Mass.; Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Office of Emergency Services and the governor’s homeland security adviser, Mather, Calif., will testify. 10:15AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

The House Homeland Security Committee will markup the “National Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel Act of 2016”; the “Enhancing Overseas Traveler Vetting Act”; the “Foreign Fighter Review Act of 2016”; the “Amplifying Local Efforts to Root out Terror Act of 2016”; the “Counterterrorism Advisory Board Act of 2016”; the “Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel Exercise Act of 2016”; H.R.4383, the “DHS Human Trafficking Prevention Act of 2016”; and the “DHS Acquisition Documentation Integrity Act of 2016.” 2PM, 311 Cannon House Office Building

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing on “Crisis of Confidence: Preventing Terrorist Infiltration through U.S. Refugee and Visa Programs.” 10AM, 311 Cannon House Office Building

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Canada’s Fast-Track Refugee Plan: Unanswered Questions and Implications for U.S. National Security.” Guidy Mamann, senior partner at Mamann, Sandaluk & Kingwell LLP, Toronto, Canada; David Harris, director of the International Intelligence Program at INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc., Ottawa, Canada; Dean Mandel, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent, Buffalo Sector, representing the National Border Patrol Council; and Laura Dawson, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars’ Canada Institute, will testify. 10AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee hearing on “Another Surge of Illegal Immigrants Along the Southwest Border: Is this the Obama Administration’s New Normal?” 9AM, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Around Town

Monday, February 1, 2016

The George Washington University (GWU) Elliott School of International Affairs will host a discussion on “U.S. Leadership on the UN Human Rights Council,” as part of the Ambassadors Forum series. The event will feature Keith Harper, U.S. representative to the UN Human Rights Council; and former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Esther Brimmer. 6PM, GWU Elliott School, 1957 E Street NW, Seventh Floor, City View Room, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion on “America’s Role in the World.” The event will feature Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass. 4:30PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) will host a discussion on “Countering the Spread of ISIL and Other Threats.” The event will feature State Department Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism Tina Kaidanow; and Thomas Sanderson, director of the CSIS Transnational Threats Projects. 12PM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Second Floor Room B, Washington, D.C.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Aspen Institute will host a discussion on “The Refugee Crisis and the Responsibility of Nations: A Test of Global Conscience.” The event will feature Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, permanent representative of Brazil to the United Nations; Alexander Aleinikoff, former deputy high commissioner for refugees of the United Nations Refugee Agency; and Mark Lagon, president of the Freedom House. 12PM, The Aspen Institute, One Dupont Circle, Suite 700, Gildenhorn Conference Room, Washington, D.C.

The Brookings Institution will hold a discussion on “The Global Refugee Crisis: Moral Dimensions and Practical Solutions.” The event will feature Elizabeth Ferris, research professor at Georgetown University; Bruce Katz, scholar for Brookings Institution; and Tamara Wittes, director of Brookings’s Center for Middle East Policy. 2PM, Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Falk Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

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Published on February 3, 2016


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