Washington Week on Human Rights: March 13, 2017
By Mary Elizabeth Margolis
President’s Budget Request
President Trump is expected to submit his budget request to Congress on Thursday. The administration has indicated that the new budget will include drastic cuts to many federal agencies, including the State Department, and increased funding for defense spending. More than 120 retired generals recently signed a letter to the White House arguing that major cuts to diplomacy and development would be harmful to national security interests. Additionally, deep cuts to humanitarian and refugee funding would be catastrophic as the world faces the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Cuts in U.S. efforts to address this crisis could destabilize our allies who are struggling to host millions of refugees fleeing from violent conflict and persecution.
Revised Refugee Ban to Take Effect
The administration’s revised Muslim and refugee ban suspending the refugee admissions program and halting travel from six Muslim-majority countries is scheduled to take effect on Thursday of this week. On Wednesday, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland are scheduled to hear arguments against the ban, which may result in blocking the executive order from taking effect. There are currently more than 61,000 refugees who have been approved by the Department of Homeland Security for resettlement in the United States. Many of these security clearances will expire during the suspension of the refugee program, causing families to be delayed from finding safety for many months to years longer. Last week more than 130 former U.S. officials including Secretaries of State John Kerry and Madeleine Albright, former secretary of homeland security Janet Napolitano, and former national security advisor Susan Rice, wrote to President Trump to express concern over the executive order, warning that it will jeopardize U.S. relationships with allies and partners on whom the United States relies for vital counterterrorism cooperation and information-sharing, and is counter to American Ideals.
Afghan SIV Interviews Suspended
Last week the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan ceased scheduling interviews for applicants to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The program, which provides visas to Afghans who worked as translators or interpreters, or were employed by, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Afghanistan, is a vital pipeline to safety for individuals who are threatened because of their work in support of the U.S. mission. In December Congress passed the FY17 defense authorization bill reauthorizing the 2009 program for an additional four years, but only added a mere 1,500 visas. Three months later those visas are nearly gone with more than ten thousand applications pending. Human Rights First is pressing Congress to take immediate action to protect the United States’ wartime allies by authorizing as many visas as necessary for the Afghan SIV program to ensure our allies are not left behind.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“A natural outgrowth of a country plagued with terror and violence is innocent men, women and children who are the victims of that same terror and violence, in the very same place, left with no choice but to flee their homes. Centered in Syria and Iraq, there was then and is now a worldwide refugee crisis.
And, great nations do not close their eyes and padlock their doors to a worldwide refugee crisis.
In national security, the first reaction is not always the best one. In a free and democratic society, national security means striking a balance between our basic physical security and the values we hold dear as a people. In national security, we are the guardians of one as much as the other.”
—Jeh Johnson, former secretary of homeland security
Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohamedou Slahi gives 60 Minutes an uncensored account of the enhanced interrogation he endured at the facility—and why it doesn’t work.
Daphne Eviatar writes in The Atlantic that the administration’s revised executive order remains at its core a Muslim ban.
The New York Times reports that the Trump Administration is working to loosen counterterrorism rules.
The Los Angeles Times writes about the administration’s revised executive order on immigration and refugees and the legal challenges it faces.
The Associated Press reports on Bahrain’s attempt to dissolve a secular political party.
Foreign Policy reports that Special Immigrant Visas are running out for the brave men and women who served alongside U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
ON THE HILL
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15, 2017
The House Committee on Armed Services will hold a hearing on “Military Assessment of the Security Challenges in the Greater Middle East.” The hearing will feature testimony by General Joseph Votel, Commander, U.S. Central Command. 10:00 AM, 2118 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on “Six Years of War in Syria: The Human Toll.” The hearing will feature testimony by Drs. Farida, Abdulkhalek, and Rajab; The Right Honourable David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. 11:00 AM, 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “The Modus Operandi and Toolbox of Russia and Other Autocracies for Undermining Democracies Throughout the World.” 2:30 PM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.
THURSDAY, MARCH 16, 2017
The House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing entitled, “Honoring our Commitment to Recover and Protect Missing and Exploited Children.” 10:00 AM, 2175 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.
MONDAY MARCH 13, 2017
The Atlantic Council will hold an event entitled, “Regional Perspectives on U.S. Policy in the Middle East.” The event will feature Dr. Kristin Diwan, Senior Fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute; Dr. H.A. Hellyer, Nonresident Senior FEllow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East; Dr. Haykel Ben Mahfoud, Nonresident Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East; Dr. Karim Mezran, Senior Fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East; Dr. Nicola Pedde, Director of the Institute for Global Studies. 3:00 PM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C.
TUESDAY, MARCH 14, 2017
The Woodrow Wilson Center will hold an event entitled, “Immigration, Refugees, and American Foreign Policy.” The event will feature Andrew Selee, Executive Vice President and Senior Advisor to the Mexico Institute; Joseph Cassidy, Former Director for Policy, Regional, and Functional Organizations, International Organizations Bureau, US Department of State; James Jay Carafano, Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, Heritage Foundation, and former Advisor to President Trump’s transition team; Doris Meissner, Senior Fellow and Director, US Immigration Policy Program, Migration Policy Institute. 10:00 AM, Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.
The Atlantic Council will hold an event entitled, “A New Western Strategy to Counter Putin’s Russia.” The event will feature Ash Jain, Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security; James Nixey, Head of the Russia and Eurasia Program at Chatham House; Fabrice Pothier, Senior Fellow at the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security; Constanze Stelzenmuller, Robert Bosch Senior Fellow of Foreign Policy at Brookings; Carol Lee, White House Correspondent at the Wall Street Journal. 10:30 AM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C.
The Institute of World Politics will hold an event entitled, “The Challenge of Russian Active Measures.” The event will feature Todd Leventhal, Research Analytics Office at the Global Engagement Center, US Department of State.4:00 PM, Institute of World Politics, 1521 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C.
THURSDAY, MARCH 16, 2017
The Atlantic Council will hold a discussion entitled, “America’s Role in the World: Congress and US Foreign Policy.” The event will feature Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA-6); Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH-2); Karen Attiah, Editor of Global Opinions at The Washington Post. 9:00 AM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C.
The George Washington University Law School will hold a conference entitled, “A More Perfect Internet: Addressing Digital Incivility, Cyber-Violence, and “Fake News” The conference will feature Jacqueline Beauchere, Chief Online Safety Office at Microsoft; Laurie Kohn, Director of the GW Family Justice Litigation Clinic and co-Director of the Cyber-Violence Project; Emma Llanso, Center for Democracy and Technology; Professor Matt Hindman, GWU’s School of Media and Public Affairs.10:00 AM, The GWU Law School Faculty Conference Center (Burns 505), 2000 H Street NW, Washington, D.C.
FRIDAY, MARCH 17, 2017
The Atlantic Council will host Congressman Adam Kinzinger for a discussion entitled, “America’s Role in the Middle East and the World.” With Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); Ambassador Frederic Hof, Director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. 8:30 AM, Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C.