Washington Week on Human Rights: May 4, 2015

Top News

Immigration Detention Over the weekend, more than 500 people gathered in Dilley, Texas to protest the Obama Administration’s immigration detention policies that have put hundreds of mothers and children behind barbed wire fences since their arrival last year. The Dilley family detention facility is operated by the Department of Homeland Security and can accommodate up to 2,000 people. The administration has kept these families, many of whom are fleeing violence and persecution in their home countries, in detention as part of an effort to deter other Central American refugees in harm’s way from crossing the Southern border to seek protection in the United States. In March, the administration requested and Congress appropriated $345.3 million to increase family detention beds by 3,700%. Ahead of Mother’s Day this coming weekend, Human Rights First has compiled a fact sheet about family detention and the United States, the nation’s responsibility to protect those seeking asylum here, as well as effective and less costly alternatives to family detention.

Human Rights in the Gulf Gulf state leaders plan to ask President Obama for a new weapons system and security guarantees when they meet with him next week in Washington, DC and at Camp David. The meeting will include leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet with the foreign ministers from the Gulf in Paris on Friday, May 8. Last month, President Obama said that he would have “tough conversations” with Gulf leaders about addressing internal challenges, including human rights abuses. Last week, Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley returned from the UAE and published a Huffington Post piece calling on Washington to use next week’s talks to confront Gulf leaders on the use of combatting terrorism and other spurious justifications to repress their citizens, including the jailing of peaceful dissidents. Human Rights First has also written reports on human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Trafficking As the Senate Appropriation Committee’s Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies subcommittee hosts a Thursday hearing on the FY2016 proposed budget for the Department of Justice (DOJ), prominent leaders from the business and financial sectors, law enforcement, the military, federal, state, and local government, and the civil rights community are calling on Congress to fully support DOJ programs that increase the risks for human traffickers by increasing prosecutions through enhanced collaboration. This group of ambassadors is organized by Human Rights First and has launched a major public education and advocacy effort to disrupt the business of human trafficking. The group is co-chaired by former Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps General Charles C. Krulak (ret.) and former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Louis J. Freeh. Human Rights First has also issued a blueprint, “How to Dismantle the Business of Human Trafficking,” that outlines steps the United States can take to weaken the human trafficking supply chain and put traffickers out of business.

Quote of the Week

“Believe me, the world needs American leadership more than ever, and I’m proud to say that we are more engaged than ever. We are mission driven institutions, and that is what makes those who serve patriots and public servants. Diplomacy today is as daunting as it was for my father’s generation. And it is every bit as important to our security and prosperity as it was in the post-war period.”

—Secretary of State John Kerry in an April 29 opinion piece for The Hill

We’re Reading

In a piece for The Washington Post, Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino warned against mistaking allies for enemies in the human rights movement, noting that “Advocates within the government complement the work of their allies on the outside.”

Writing for The Houston Chronicle, former head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Julie Myers Wood highlighted the severe backlog in immigration court proceedings, calling on Congress to appropriate funds to fully staff the courts so that asylum seekers will no longer have to wait years for their day in court.

In a piece for The Hill, Human Rights First’s Daphne Eviatar expressed hope that the new attorney general Loretta Lynch will usher in an apolitical approach to prosecuting terrorism effectively through the federal court system.

The Miami Herald reported that the proposed defense authorization bill seeks to impose more restrictions on the transfer of detainees from the facility at Guantanamo Bay, slowing the progress the administration has made on closing the facility.

We’re Watching

On This Mother’s Day“, a Human Rights First video about the hundreds of mothers and children who fled violence in their home countries and will spend this Mother’s Day in family detention.

On the Hill

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Defense Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the proposed budget estimates and justification for FY2016 for the Defense Department. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter; and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey will testify. 10:30AM, 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee will hold a hearing on the proposed budget estimates for FY2016 for the Justice Department. Attorney General Loretta Lynch will testify. 10:30AM, 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Around Town

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) will hold a discussion on “No End in Sight: The Worsening Syrian Refugee Crisis.” The event will feature Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Kelly Tallman Clements; Anastasia Brown, director of resettlement services at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Erol Kekic, director of immigration and refugee program at Church World Service; and Kathleen Newland, director of the Refugee Protection and Humanitarian Response Program at MPI. 1PM, MPI, 1400 16th Street NW, Suite 300, Washington, D.C.

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will host a discussion on “Current Dynamics in Eurasia Region: Political and Economic Implications.” 5PM, SAIS, Rome Building, 1619 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Johns Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) will hold a discussion on “Kazakh Presidential Elections.” 5PM, SAIS, Rome Building, 1619 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

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Published on May 4, 2015

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