By Mary Elizabeth Margolis

Top Items

Ambassador Haley Travels to Jordan and Turkey

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is currently on a trip to Jordan and Turkey learning about the situation facing Syrian refugees in these countries and witnessing the impact of United Nations and United States humanitarian assistance. The trip is an opportunity for Ambassador Haley to see the impact of U.S. policies and rhetoric first hand, and to send a fresh message of support to the countries that host the overwhelming majority of Syrian refugees. Human Rights First urged Haley to prioritize not only U.S. humanitarian assistance for refugees fleeing violence in Syria but also other key elements of a comprehensive response to the global refugee crisis, including U.S. resettlement initiatives, a fully funded assistance and diplomatic budget, development investment in host countries, and respect for the human rights of refugees.

House Judiciary Considers Bill Targeting Refugees and Asylum Seekers

This week the House Judiciary Committee is considering the Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act (H.R. 2431), a bill that would harm refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless people fleeing persecution. H.R. 2431 would significantly increase the use of immigration detention, increase barriers to seeking asylum in the United States by expanding already sweeping inadmissibility provisions that mislabel innocent refugees and victims of armed groups as supporters of terrorism, and deny countless asylum seekers their day in court by requiring expedited removal of broad swaths of immigrants in need of protection. Human Rights First, along with 25 leading human rights, refugee resettlement, and faith organizations, called on the members of the committee to reject this bill, emphasizing that many provisions in the bill would severely limit access to asylum and undermine U.S. commitments to refugee protection.

President Trump Overseas

President Trump embarked on his first international trip this weekend, making his first stop in Saudi Arabia where he showered uncritical praise on his highly repressive hosts, announced a $110 billion dollar arms deal, and pledged to “make allies of all who share our goals, continuing the administration’s disturbing trend of putting aside human rights concerns in its relations with key allies. President Trump’s remarks on Saturday failed to recognize that repressive practices foster the very grievances that drive violent extremism and threaten peace and stability, and that successful cooperation to counter violent extremism must include support for universal human rights values, and an end to government restrictions on freedom of expression and independent civil society. President Trump travelled to Israel today and then go on to the Vatican, Belgium, and conclude the trip in Italy for the G7 summit.

Quote of the Week

“I think it’s in our national security interest to advocate for democracy and freedom and human rights now, with a recognition that you may not get it overnight.”

—Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

We’re Watching

Members of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus marked International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia by speaking out against the ongoing atrocities going on in Chechnya and calling on President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation to stop the violence.

We’re Reading

The Miami Herald reports on Human Rights First’s research finding that immigration authorities have been turning away asylum seekers at the border.

According to the Associated Press, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley pledged increased support for Syrian refugees while in Jordan this weekend.

The Los Angeles Blade reports that President Trump is receiving wide criticism for his silence on the continued abuse of the LGBT community in Chechnya. Meanwhile, Instinct Magazine reports on Russia ending its so-called investigation into the detention and abuse of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya.

FiveThirtyEight reports that immigration arrests are swamping the court system.

On The Hill

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Worldwide Threats. The hearing will feature Honorable Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence; Lieutenant General Vincent R. Stewart, USMC, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. 9:30 AM, Dirksen Senate Office Building SD-G50.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will hold a hearing entitled, “Russia Investigation Task Force Hearing (Open & Closed).” The hearing will feature The Honorable John Brennan, Former Director of the CIA. 10:00 AM, Open Session in HVC-210, U.S. Capitol.

The House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security will hold a hearing entitled, “Visa Overstays: A Gap in the Nation’s Border Security.” 2:00 PM, HVC-210, US Capitol.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration will hold a hearing entitled, “Building America’s Trust Through Border Security: Progress on the Southern Border.” 2:30 PM, Dirksen Senate Office Building 226.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The House Committee on the Budget will hold a hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget. The hearing will feature The Honorable Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget. 9:30 AM, Longworth House Office Building 1334.

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a hearing entitled, “Border Insecurity: The Rise of MS-13 and Other Transnational Criminal Organizations.” 10:00 AM, Dirksen Senate Office Building SD-342.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Lee Francis Cissna to be Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services at DHS. 10:00 AM, Dirksen Senate Office Building 226.

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing entitled, “Freedom of Belief: Countering Religious Violence.” The hearing will feature Rev. Thomas Reese, Chair of the United States Committee on International Religious Freedom; Alan Cooperman, Director of Religion Research at The Pew Research Center; Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University; Dr. Kamran Bokhari, Senior Analyst at the Center for Global Policy. 1:30 PM, Rayburn House Office Building 2255.

The Atlantic Council will hold an event entitled, “The Kremlin’s Gas Games in Europe: Implications for Policy Makers.” The event will feature Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH; Edward Chow, Senior Fellow with the Energy and National Security Program at CSIS; Bud Coote, Senior Fellow in the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council; Ilya Zaslavskiy, Author of “The Kremlin’s Gas Games in Europe: Implications for Policy Makers”; Emily Meredith, Deputy Bureau Chief at Energy Intelligence. 2:00 PM, Hart Senate Office Building SH-216.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a hearing entitled, “Assessing the United Nations Human Rights Council.” The hearing will feature the Honorable Kristen Silverberg, Former Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs; The Honorable Tom Malinowski, Former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Mr. Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch; Mr. Ted Piccone, Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution. 2:00 PM, Senate Dirksen Office Building 419.

Around Town

Monday, May 22, 2017

Human Rights First, Open Society Policy Center and the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University will hold an event entitled, “The Future of Academic Freedom: Hungary’s Central European University & American Institutions Abroad.” The event will feature Eva Fodor, Pro-Rector for Social Sciences and Humanities, Associate Professor of Gender Studies, Central European University; Alexandra Medzibrodszky, PhD Student, Central European University; Daniel Berg, MPA Student, Central European University; Jeff Gedmin, Senior Fellow at Georgetown University and Former President for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Rob Berschinski, Senior Vice President for Policy at Human Rights First. 12:30 PM, Marvin Center Grand Ballroom, George Washington University, 800 21st Street NW, 3rd Floor, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

CSIS will hold an event entitled, “The Russian Military of 2035.” The event will feature Tomas Malmlof, Political Scientist at the Swedish Defense Research Agency; Michael Kofman, Senior Research Scientist, CNA Corporation. 10:00 AM, CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.

The Heritage Foundation will hold an event entitled, “South Caucasus: The Threats and Challenges for the Trump Administration.” The event will feature Luke Coffey, Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy; Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., Director of CENRG and Senior Fellow at IAGS; Efgan Niftiyev, Director of the Caspian Policy Center. 12:00 PM, The Heritage Foundation, Allison Auditorium, 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Wilson Center will hold “A Conversation with Congressman Adam Kinzinger: The Way Forward for America’s Longest War.” The conversation will feature Rep. Adam Kinzinger (IL-16) and Jane Harman, Director, President and CEO of The Wilson Center. 9:00 AM, Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 6th Floor, Washington, D.C.

New America will hold a book discussion entitled, “Anatomy of Terror: From Bin Laden’s Death to the Rise of the Islamic State.” The discussion will feature Ali Soufan, Author and CEO of The Soufan Group. 12:15, New America, 740 15th Street NW #900, Washington, D.C.