Washington Week on Human Rights: June 29, 2015

Top News

Family Immigration Detention As Independence Day approaches, the Department of Homeland Security has announced reforms that will allow detained families who pass a credible fear or reasonable fear screening interview to be released on a bond that is “reasonable and realistic, taking into account ability to pay” or other conditions of release. Human Rights First notes that the steps could reduce detention times for many women and children, but do not address the most fundamental problem: the fact that family immigration detention exists. This month, a year after the surge of families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, many women and children remain in detention. Human Rights First recently released “U.S. Detention of Families Seeking Asylum: A One-Year Update,” a report that chronicles the problems faced by mothers and children held at family detention centers in the United States, including lack of counsel, barriers to asylum, and the trauma of detention. Human Rights First has pressed the Obama Administration to end the practice of putting families seeking asylum in immigration detention facilities. Immigration authorities can use more cost-effective and humane alternatives to detention if needed. In addition, the organization has urged that those seeking asylum have access to counsel so that they have the opportunity for a fair consideration of their asylum claim.

Guantanamo Reports over the weekend indicated that the Obama Administration will appoint Lee S. Wolosky to serve as the State Department Special Envoy for Guantanamo. In that role, Wolosky, a former National Security Council director under Presidents Clinton and Bush, will coordinate much of the administration’s efforts around the transfer of Guantanamo detainees. The special envoy position at the State Department has been vacant for six months. The announcement came at the same time as the facility’s Periodic Review Board announced that Guantanamo detainee Abdul Rahman Shalabi should be released to his native Saudi Arabia, where he will participate in a rehabilitation program for militants and will be subject to continued monitoring. Shalabi, who was never charged with a crime, had been on hunger strike for nine years. The Obama Administration established The Periodic Review Board as part of its plan to responsibly shutter the facility by the end of the president’s second term. The board examines each detainee’s case and makes a determination about whether they are eligible for release or require continued detention. There are currently 116 detainees at Guantanamo, and about half of those remaining have been cleared for transfer by U.S. intelligence and security agencies. Human Rights First has issued a blueprint, “How to Close Guantanamo,” detailing steps the administration should take to meet the president’s goal.

Quote of the Week

“The message at the heart of these reports is that countries do best when their citizens fully enjoy the rights and freedoms to which they are entitled. This is not just an expression of hope. This is a reality, and it is proven out in country after country around the world. After all, we live in a time when access to knowledge and openness to change are absolutely essential. And in such an era, no country can fulfill its potential if its people are held back, or more so if they are beaten down by repression.”

—Secretary of State John Kerry during the release of the 2014 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

We’re Reading

The New York Times reported on Homeland Security’s first steps in ending family detention, stating that women and children with credible fear will be offered lower release bonds.

As the movement to release LGBT immigrants from detention gains momentum, The Texas Tribune spoke with advocates on why LGBT asylum-seekers may have valid claims to asylum, and why they should be released.

In the Washington Blade, Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord expressed deep concern for a gay propaganda bill advancing through Kyrgyzstan’s government, which limits free speech for LGBT advocates.

We’re Watching

After the Supreme Court of the United States’ historic ruling that LGBT couples in all 50 states have the right to marry, President Obama spoke from the White House Rose Garden and affirmed that LGBT rights are human rights. The president noted, “And this ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.”

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Published on June 29, 2015

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