Member States Reach Agreement on Anti-Racism Document

22 04 2009

The anti-racism Durban Review Conference on 21 April adopted its final outcome document. It has its flaws particularly some questionable free speech paragraphs and its vulnerable to the charge that it did not need to include language regarding foreign occupation, though there is no mention of Israel by name. There are also a lot of NGO groups that are understandably frustrated at how language about the transatlantic slave trade was watered down in the final out come document.

But considering what the previous drafts looked like this final outcome document is a dramatic improvement. What’s more, the NYT has correctly framed this as a victory for the UN process and a loss for Ahmedinejad and those who wanted to use the Israeli-Palestinian question to either overshadow all other global racial discrimination issues or not participate in the conference at all.

The adoption of the resolution by the committee that coordinates the conference ended months of negotiation that removed contentious clauses referring to Israel and Palestine and trying to make defamation of religion an offense against human rights.

The conference will formally adopt the document here on Friday, but it is no longer open to debate or amendment, diplomats said.

Announcing the adoption of the resolution to warm applause from delegates, the conference president, Amos Wako, who is from Kenya said: “What we have decided shows the outcome when you remain engaged in the process. It shows that boycotts do not assist.”

“This is very good news indeed,” said Navi Pillay, the United Nations human rights commissioner, who hosted the conference. “It’s the culmination of months of deliberation.”


Announcing the adoption of the resolution to warm applause from delegates, the conference president, Amos Wako, who is from Kenya said: “What we have decided shows the outcome when you remain engaged in the process. It shows that boycotts do not assist.”

I fully expect a lot of critics to focus on the language regarding foreign occupation and free expression. But in the meantime I think the administration has got to be reconsidering participating in the follow process, given how this turned out.

Plus, the outcome document is very progressive on a whole range of issues from calling for a aggressively punishing hate crimes to urging governments to embrace equal opportunity programs from establishing national human rights bodies to affirming the right to organize to calling for the humane treatment of migrant workers in addition to calling for the ratification of other U.N. social justice treaties.


Homeland Security Sees Uptick in Hate Group Recuritment

17 04 2009

A Department of Homeland Security report on the rise of right wing hate groups and extremism was leaked this week. The DHS report is called “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment.”

Unsurprisingly, the report found that the spike in undocumented immigration, the current economic downtown, and the election of the first African American president have spurred their efforts in winning new recruits.

Not exactly news to many of us, but its different when you see this documented by the government.

Of course, much of the controversy surrounding the report has focused on how these groups recruit disgruntled military veterans that find it difficult to readjust to civilian life, but that’s far from the report’s central focus. And anyone who takes time to read it would soon discover that himself.

But even if some civil libertarians and conservatives raising concerns about whether or not the government should be monitoring political beliefs, I think this presents many civil and human rights advocates with an opportunity to to promote greater awareness about the rise of hate crimes and their clear, though often overlooked, relationship to hate speech. That’s not to say we should go out of our way to criminalize intolerant speech, but being vigilante about countering intolerant speech can be critical to reducing hate crimes.

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act, which seems like it will be introduced this session of Congress, would provide local authorities with more resources to combat hate crimes and give federal government jurisdiction over processing hate crimes in states where the current law is inadequate.

In my opinion, I think the key findings in the report include:

  • Over the past five years, various rightwing extremists, including militias and white supremacists, have adopted the immigration issue as a call to action, and recruiting tool. Debates over appropriate immigration levels and enforcement policy generally fall within the realm of protected political speech under the First Amendment, but in some cases, anti-immigration or strident pro-enforcement fervor has been directed against specific groups and has the potential to turn violent.
  • In contrast to the early 90s, the advent of the Internet and other information age technologies s has given domestic extremists greater access to information related to bomb-making, weapons training, and tactics, as well as targeting of individuals, organizations, and facilities, potentially making extremist individuals and groups more dangerous and the consequences of their violence more severe.
  • Lone wolves and small terrorist cells embracing violent rightwing extremist ideology are the most dangerous domestic terrorism threat in the United States. Information from law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations indicates lone wolves and small terrorist cells have shown intent—and, in some cases, the capability—to commit violent acts.
  • Most statements by rightwing extremists have been rhetorical, expressing concerns about the election of the first African American president, but stopping short of calls for violent action.
  • Historically, domestic rightwing extremists have feared, predicted, and anticipated a cataclysmic economic collapse in the United States. Conspiracy theories involving declarations of martial law, impending civil strife or racial conflict, suspension of the U.S. Constitution, and the creation of citizen detention camps often incorporate aspects of a failed economy.

Also, see Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano’s statement on the report here.

Houston Residents Clash Over Immigration

9 04 2009

(Hat Tip: Houston Chronicle)

NYT: Obama to Push Immigration Reform This Year

9 04 2009

This could be risky if it is not done right since the anti-immigrant right has been waiting for this. The last time comprehensive immigration reform came up in the Senate in June 2007 we got clobbered on cloture by the score of 46 yeas to 53 nays. Of course, you cannot discount the fact that the bill was being pushed by an deeply unpopular president on a reluctant Congress in different political environment. But still its something to think about.

At any rate, Julia Preston at the NYT says once the CIR bill drops it will feature many of the familiar elements that Obama campaign on:

In broad outlines, officials said, the Obama administration favors legislation that would bring illegal immigrants into the legal system by recognizing that they violated the law, and imposing fines and other penalties to fit the offense. The legislation would seek to prevent future illegal immigration by strengthening border enforcement and cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, while creating a national system for verifying the legal immigration status of new workers.

I really hope that does not mean reviving E-Verify or the no-match stuff. Those policies just don’t work. But I do like the fact that the administration is at least signaling they will push some version of CIR this year. It’ll be interesting to see if certain members of Congress will embrace their inner Tom Tancredo on this one or get on the right side of history.

Census Politics

9 04 2009

Most people who follow the politics surrounding Census are focused on a certain set of obstacles to achieving an accurate count such as the ongoing immigration crackdown, the foreclosure crisis, and counting people displaced as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. But apparently we can now add gay marriage to the list of emerging issues confronting the 2010 count, which is used to allocate funding for building roads, maintaining schools, improving hospitals, and apportioning legislative districts.

Money quote from the New York Times

Also on Tuesday, in a separate effort to bolster the number of census respondents, the mayor and the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, wrote to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, asking that the Census Bureau, which Mr. Locke oversees, count legally married same-sex couples as “married” in the 2010 census. As it stands, the bureau plans to count these couples as “unmarried partners,” since federal law does not recognize same-sex marriages.

“Recognizing these unions for statistical purposes may encourage greater participation in the census” among lesbians, gays and bisexuals, Mayor Bloomberg said. “And greater participation and accuracy are the end goals of the census outreach effort.”

Meanwhile with the count beginning in less than a year from now, a Census Director, Dr. Robert Groves, has  been nominated, but not confirmed yet and Congressional Republicans are getting busy looking for issues to reject him.

Ohio Congressman John A. Boehner told the Washington Times, “Mr. Groves reportedly advocated a scheme to use computer analysis to manipulate census data, rather than simply conducting an accurate count of the American people.” House Minority Leader also added, “We will have to watch closely to ensure the 2010 census is conducted without attempting similar statistical sleight of hand.”

Rep. Boehner is cynically using Groves expertise in sampling against him in order to portray the nominee as a voodoo numbers guy and Democratic hack. Boehner is trying to propagate this myth despite the fact Goves won the endorsement of even Bush’s former Census Director Louis Kincannon, who called the nominee an “eminent scholar” and said statistical sampling is a “nonissue,” according to the National Journal.

Who knew that a national head count could be so political?

Obama Reaffirms Support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

21 03 2009

At a town hall meeting in Mesa County, California this week, Obama reaffirmed many of the same principles of comprehensive immigration reform that he campaigned on in the 2008 presidential election. Those guiding ideas include a path to legalization, securing the border, and employer verification. But at the same time he said he did not want to create a system that would discriminate against someone “just because you’ve got a Hispanic last name or your last name is Obama.” He also reiterated his support for a comprehensive approach to immigration rather than tackling the problem in a piecemeal fashion.

Until now, Obama choose to only discuss immigration issues when engaging Spanish only media. This time, however, he is voicing the same message while on CNN, which is somewhat of a big step and could be an indication that it might be on the agenda this coming fall or late summer.

Money quote:

Now, it only works though if you do all the pieces. I think the American people, they appreciate and believe in immigration. But they can’t have a situation where you just have half a million people pouring over the border without any kind of mechanism to control it.

So we’ve got to deal with that at the same time as we deal in a humane fashion with folks who are putting down roots here, have become our neighbors, have become our friends, they may have children who are U.S. citizens. (Applause.) That’s the kind of comprehensive approach that we have to take. All right. Okay. (Applause.)

(H/T: America’s Voice)

Arizona Sheriff Puts Immigrants in Tent City

13 02 2009

On February 4th, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio of reality TV fame began removing 200 undocumented immigrants from inside Maricopa County’s Durango Jail to a segregated area outside of it the widely known as “Tent City,” where they will be surrounded by an electrified fence. The star of Fox network’s “Smile … You’re Under Arrest!” invited members of the media to witness undocumented immigrants marched off chained together to what’s been described as a military camp in the desert where temperatures can reach as high as 100 degrees.

Sheriff Arpaio claims the move was necessary to accommodate burgeoning inmate population and save taxpayer money, despite providing no explanation of how that will happen. “We have expanded the tents to be able to house as many as 2500 inmates out of the 10,000 currently incarcerated in the jails,” he explained in a press release. Undocumented immigrants detained in tent city will remain there until they complete their sentences or deported to their home countries.

But critics charge Sheriff Arpaio treatment of prisoners warrant legal scrutiny. ACORN called the move a “blatant disregard for civil rights.” According to the Phoenix New Times, Arpaio has been the target of 50 times as many prisoner related lawsuits than the jail systems of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston combined from about 2004-2007.

Last year, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has also urged the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department to investigate Sheriff Arpaio for a “pattern and practice of conduct that includes discriminatory harassment improper stops, searches, and arrests.”

Now it seems some calls for investigating the sheriff is starting to get some traction. Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives Congressman John Conyers recently sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano asking for both of them to investigate Sheriff Arpaio for violating the rights of immigrants. Neither official has responded just yet.

But in the mean time check out this video from Democracy Now! on Sheriff Arpario and his immigration enforcement efforts.