Washington Week on Human Rights: September 26, 2016

Top Items

Global Refugee Crisis

On Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Immigration and National Interest Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine the administration’s FY2017 refugee resettlement program. Emir Hadzic, a Veterans for American Ideas member who recently spoke on a panel about refugees at the White House, will submit testimony during the hearing and urge members to fully fund the president’s proposed resettlement budget. Hadzic, a Muslim refugee from Bosnia, served 20 years in the United States Marines before recently retiring.

This week’s hearing comes just days after Texas Governor Greg Abbott decided to withdraw the state from the refugee resettlement program, erroneously claiming the program is a threat. The governor’s decision removes the state as the administrator of the program, which will transition to a designated non-governmental organization. Refugees seeking safety and a chance to rebuild their lives will still resettle in Texas. Another VFAI member and current Human Rights First fellow, Joe Jenkins, responded to that decision in a piece published by the Waco Tribune-Herald, calling Abbot’s decision out of step with American and Texan ideals.

United Nations Recap

Last week in New York City the United Nations held its High Level Meeting on Refugees and Migrants and President Obama hosted his Leaders’ Summit on Refugees. Both gatherings brought together global leaders to coordinate a response to the world’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. Human Rights First’s Eleanor Acer spoke during the U.N. proceedings, urging countries to uphold commitments to refugee protection laws and human rights obligations.

During the Leaders’ Summit, a number of countries committed to increase aid, resettlement, and other alternative pathways to live in safe countries. Countries participating in the summit increased commitments to U.N. appeals and agencies by $4.5 billion. Additionally, 360,000 formal refugee resettlement slots and other legal routes were pledged, doubling the number pledged in 2015 according to the administration. This number, however, pales in comparison to the global need.

In a report released last month, Human Rights First laid out steps the United States should take to lead a comprehensive effort to address the global refugee crisis, focusing on areas where U.S. action is vital. Most critically the United States should champion the human rights of refugees, including the rights to protection from return to persecution, the ability to work legally, and freedom from deprivations of liberty and arbitrary detention.


As the nation turns its attention toward the first presidential debate and election season heats up, national security leaders are keeping a laser focus on ensuring our country never returns to torture. Some of the nation’s most experienced and respected retired military leaders and interrogation experts agree that there should be no debate about torture. It is un-American, unnecessary, and makes our nation less safe. In June, ahead of both parties’ national conventions, 62 of these leaders called on the platform committees to unequivocally reject the use of torture.

Human Rights First recently launched a video library featuring leading experts talking about this important issue. Click here to hear their take on torture. Read more at Human Rights First’s Never Torture web page.

Quote of the Week

“And so I believe that at this moment we all face a choice. We can choose to press forward with a better model of cooperation and integration. Or we can retreat into a world sharply divided, and ultimately in conflict, along age-old lines of nation and tribe and race and religion.

“I recognize not every country in this hall is going to follow the same model of governance. I do not think that America can—or should—impose our system of government on other countries. But there appears to be growing contest between authoritarianism and liberalism right now. And I want everybody to understand, I am not neutral in that contest. I believe in a liberal political order—an order built not just through elections and representative government, but also through respect for human rights and civil society, and independent judiciaries and the rule of law.”

President Obama’s final address to the United Nations, September 20

We’re Reading

The Wall Street Journal discusses the increased scrutiny on legal immigration programs in Congress.

The Associated Press shines a light on living conditions inside family immigration detention centers.

Foreign Policy reports on the need to provide Special Immigrant Visas to Afghan interpreters and translators who served alongside U.S. troops.

Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley writes in The Hill that after years of rights being trampled in Bahrain, it’s time for action.

Politico reports on backlash to presidential candidates meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Around Town

Monday, September 26, 2016

The George Washington University (GWU) Law School will hold a conference entitled, “The Role of Law in the Fight Against International Terrorism.” 8:30 AM, GWU Law School, 805 21st Street NW, Morton Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

The Henry L. Stimson Center will hold a book discussion on the title, “How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything.” The discussion will feature author Rosa Brooks and Stimson Board Chairman Lincoln Bloomfield Jr. 3:00 PM, Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Ave NW, Eighth Floor, Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Woodrow Wilson Center (WWC) will hold a discussion entitled, “Civil Society in Eastern Europe and Eurasia: Thriving, or just Surviving?” The discussion will feature Orysia Lutsevych, manager of the Ukraine Forum, Russia and Eurasia Programme at the Chatham House Royal Institute of International Affairs; Thomas Melia, assistant administrator of USAID for Europe and Eurasia; and Douglas Rutzen, president and CEO of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. 9:30 AM, WWC, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, Ronald Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Hoover Institution will host a discussion entitled, “How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon.” The discussion will feature Benjamin Wittes, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and Rosa Brooks, author. 5:00 PM, Hoover Institution, 1399 New York Avenue NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C.

On the Hill

Monday, September 26, 2016

The American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) will hold a debate entitled, “When Should the US Use Force Abroad?” The debate will feature Phil Giraldi, executive director of the Council for the National Interest; Michael Doran, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute; Ilan Berman, vice president of AFPC; former Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Jeffrey Bergner; Gerry Warburg, professor at the University of Virginia; and Will Ruger, vice president of the Charles Koch Institute 11:45 AM, 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Fifteen Years After 9/11: Threats to the Homeland.” The hearing will feature testimony by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, FBI Director James Comey; and Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 10:00 AM, 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Senate Judiciary Immigration and National Interest Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Administration’s FY2017 Refugee Resettlement Program.” 10:00 AM, 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.


Published on September 26, 2016


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