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Veterans Storming Capitol Hill 

This week members of Veterans for American Ideals will convene in Washington, D.C. to call on members of Congress to save the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program and protect funding for refugees seeking asylum in the United States. The SIV program, which protects Afghan interpreters and translators serving alongside American troops, is set to expire next month. If the program is not renewed, thousands of Afghans and their families will be at risk simply because they chose to work with the U.S. Armed Forces.

The SIV program is currently under consideration by members of the Armed Services Committees who are in final negotiations to reconcile the National Defense Authorization Act. Military leadership has called for the program to be continued to honor the United States’ promise to protect these brave men and women and to maintain our credibility in the global community.


Congress is back in session this week and reports indicate that the National Defense Authorization Act could be one of its first orders of business. Following President-elect Trump’s promise to overturn several of President Obama’s human rights-related executive actions, Congress has ceased negotiations and removed several provisions within the NDAA, including the Russell Amendment, which could have jeopardized workplace protections for LGBT individuals. At this point, it is unclear where negotiations stand on issues related to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Human Rights First has urged Congressional leaders to protect provisions that uphold human rights.

Trump Transition

As President-elect Trump continues to assemble his administration, Human Rights First has issued a call to action focused on three key pillars of our work. In a video message released ahead of Thanksgiving, Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino noted that we will not back down on key human rights issues, including:

No return to torture. We joined forces with retired generals and admirals, experienced interrogators, and other national security experts after 9/11 to shut down the “enhanced” interrogation program and pass new laws against torture. We will continue to partner with our national security allies to make sure the United States never returns to torture.

No new barriers for refugees fleeing persecution and violence. We win asylum for children, women, and men fleeing persecution. We will mobilize Americans from all walks of life—veterans, businesspeople, the faith community, and others—who share our belief that the United States must continue to be a beacon for those seeking safety and freedom.

No more bigotry and hatred. Our experts have exposed how the far right encourages violence that targets religious minorities and vulnerable communities overseas. We will apply our expertise in confronting antisemitic and anti-LGBT violence to the disturbing rise in hate crime and harassment in the United States. We will join forces with all Americans who reject Islamophobia and who won’t stand for a religious test for entry to the United States.

Quote of the Week

“Life is so different, but we are here comfortable. We are here thankful for everyone try[ing] to make us happy, make us comfortable, try[ing] to help us. Thank you for everyone, the government, the friends, the community here.”

—Nour Kashak, member of a Syrian refugee family recently resettled in Fresno, California, celebrating their first Thanksgiving.

We’re Watching

Elisa Massimino, President and Chief Executive Officer of Human Rights First, talks about how in the most uncertain of times we must make sure that our ideals remain a guiding light for the nation.

We’re Reading

The New Jersey Telegraph writes that children are being driven to work in deplorable conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Star Ledger reports on one man’s journey from persecution to political asylum amid a furor of immigration reform.

Vox discusses how President-elect Trump’s choice for CIA director could take the agency back to its darkest days.

The New York Times reports on the lawsuit aiming to hold two CIA contractors accountable for torture.

Around Town

Monday, November 28, 2016

The United States Institute of Peace will hold a discussion entitled, “Can Interfaith Contact Reduce Extremism Among Youth?” The discussion will feature Rabia Chaudry, USIP; Ayub Ayubi, Renaissance Foundation, Pakistan; Georgia Holmer, USIP; Susan Hayward, USIP. 1:30 PM, USIP, 2301 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Wilson Center will hold a discussion entitled, “Elections Have Consequences: A Look at Poland.” The discussion will feature Leszek Balcerowicz, former deputy prime minister of Poland; Piotr Kosicki, University of Maryland; Przemlyslaw Zurawski vel Grajewski, adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs; Slawomir Sierakowski, Krytyka Polityczna; Ruth Greenspan Bell, Wilson Center. 12:00 PM, Woodrow Wilson Center, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 6th Floor, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Foreign Policy Initiative will host the “2016 FPI Forum: An Era of Consequences.” The event will feature Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee; Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE); General Joseph Votel, Commander of US CENTCOMM. 8:00 AM, Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will host the “Global Security Forum 2016.” The event will feature Mike Rogers, Former Representative for Michigan’s 8thCongressional District; Max Boot, Council on Foreign Relations; Mieke Eoyong, Third Way; Christine Wormuth, Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy; Leon Panetta, Former Secretary of Defense and Former CIA Director; Representative Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. 8:00 AM, CSIS, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

The United States Institute of Peace holds a Twitter chat on “Resisting the Lure of Violent Extremism.” 9:00 AM, using the hashtag #CVEExchange.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Stimson Center will hold a discussion entitled, “Disclosing the Drone Program.” The discussion will feature Jameel Jaffer, Founding Director of the Knight First Amendment Institute; Charlie Savage, New York Times Washington Correspondent; Rachel Stohl, Director of the Conventional Defense Program at the Stimson Center. 3:30 PM, 1211 Connecticut Avenue NW, 8th Floor, Washington, D.C.

2016 Human Rights Summit

On December 13 Human Rights First will hold its annual Human Rights Summit. The high-profile event brings together activists and leaders from government, business, the military, and faith communities to discuss today’s most pressing human rights problems and challenges for American leadership. Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Summit has become Washington’s premier celebration of Human Rights Day—a call to action for American leadership in defense of freedom and democracy, at home and around the world. We hope you will join the conversation in person or online via our live stream.

This year’s program will also feature the awarding of the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to Janvier Murairi Bakihanaye of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

To register for the 2016 Human Rights Summit visit

Advocates and Allies in the Global Equality Movement: A Celebration of Human Rights Day

Join Human Rights First and Human Rights Campaign on December 12 to honor advocates and allies from around the world as we celebrate advances and mark continuing challenges facing LGBTQ communities globally. This year we will honor Caleb Orozco, executive director of United Belize Advocacy Movement (UNIBAM) and lead plaintiff in the landmark case that overturned Belize’s sodomy law, and Olena Hloba, co-founder of Parents Initiative Tergo, an ally organization of parents of LGBT people, Ukraine.

December 12, 2016 from 6:00-8:00 PM, Law Offices of Baker & McKenzie, 815 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Please RSVP here