By Mary Elizabeth Margolis



On Friday President-elect Donald Trump will officially take the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States. He will begin his term at a time when the world is facing many challenges to the protection of human rights including conflict in Syria, threats to liberal democracy from Russia and the far-right, and the ongoing tragedy of the global refugee crisis. If he is to successfully address these crises, President-elect Trump needs to prioritize national security policy and foreign policy that are in line with human rights obligations and the rule of law, while also honoring the long-standing U.S. tradition of providing refuge for the persecuted through robust resettlement and asylum programs.

Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act

Last week Congressman Jason Chaffetz introduced a bill that would severely undermine the U.S. commitment to refugees. The Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act (H.R. 391) would lead to the deportation of legitimate asylum seekers with well-founded fears of persecution, leave others in immigration detention for months, and put children at risk of return to trafficking, death, and persecution in their home countries. Human Rights First expressed its strong opposition to the bill when first introduced last year in a statement submitted for the record, expressing concern that passage would make it harder for those fleeing persecution and torture to file for asylum in the United States, a process already fraught with obstacles.

Trump Nominees Reject Torture

During last week’s confirmation hearings Senator Jeff Sessions, General John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, and Representative Mike Pompeo all stated that they would abide by laws that ban the use of torture. Likewise, in an interview last month in the New York Times President-elect Trump revealed that General James Mattis, nominee for secretary of defense, warned him against the use of waterboarding. This comes after 176 of America’s most respected retired military leaders—including 33 four star generals and admirals—sent a letter to President-elect Trump urging him to reject waterboarding and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody, which is unlawful and counterproductive. The military leaders emphasized that torture violates core American values and provides a propaganda tool for extremists wishing to do America harm.

Quote of the Week

“For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation. It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom. It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande. It’s what pushed women to reach for the ballot. It’s what powered workers to organize. It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima, Iraq and Afghanistan. And why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs, as well.

“So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional — not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change and make life better for those who follow. “

—President Barack Obama, during his farewell address

We’re Reading

The New York Times writes about the “lingering stench of torture” as the United States transitions to the new administration.

The Miami Herald reports that troops forced alleged al Qaeda commander Abd al Hadi al Iraqi into court at Guantanamo Bay.

The New York Times writes that retired military leaders are urging President-elect Trump against the use of torture.

The Washington Times reports on President Obama’s farewell address and his call for bipartisan cooperation in the future.

News Deeply shares the story of an Afghan translator who worked alongside U.S. troops. He now lives in fear that the Taliban will find him before he receives a visa to come to the United States.

We’re Listening To

This American Life offers an in-depth look at the Special Immigrant Visa program, which was created to protect wartime allies such as interpreters and translators in Afghanistan. Despite widespread support from veterans, the program often suffers because of political and bureaucratic difficulties.

On the Hill

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a nomination hearing for Governor Nikki Haley to be United Nations Ambassador. 10:00 AM, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Room 419.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions will hold a nomination hearing for Representative Tom Price to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services. 10:00 AM, Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 430.

Friday, January 20, 2017

2017 Presidential Inuaguration, U.S. Capitol, 11:30 AM.