politics of immigration
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that this year has seen a "notable trend of spontaneous returns" of displaced Syrians to their homes, both from outside and inside the country. Around 31,000 refugees returned from neighboring countries in the first six months of 2017, while more than 440,000 internally displaced persons went back to their homes—a combined total of nearly half a million. The main destinations are said to be Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus—all now largely under regime control after years of heavy fighting against rebel forces. UNHCR representative Andrej Mahecic said Syrians are seeking out family members, checking on property, and "in some cases responding to a real or perceived improvement in security conditions in parts of the country." But he warned that despite hopes over recent peace talks in Astana and Geneva, the "UNHCR believes conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity are not yet in place in Syria." (The Independent, July 1)
The US Supreme Court on June 26 agreed to review (PDF) the Trump administration's travel ban, partially lifting the temporary injunction that had blocked the ban's enforcement. The administration sought review of decisions issued by the US Courts of Appeal for the Fourth and Ninth circuits last month. The Supreme Court's order permits execution of the travel ban, but it "may not be enforced against an individual seeking admission as a refugee who can credibly claim a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States."
The Cuban government on June 17 responded to President Donald Trump's decision to reverse steps taken by the Obama administration to thaw relations between Cuba and the US. One day earlier, Trump had announced that travel and other exchanges between the countries will be restricted until Cuba resolves its human rights issues. Trump charged the Cuban government with various abuses such as the imprisoning of civilians, harboring of criminals, and forced labor and exploitation.The Cuban government responded by criticizing the US position on human rights as a double standard. The Cuban statement noted the "large number of cases of murder, brutality and police abuse [in the US], particularly against the African Americans..." Cuba called Trump's decision a significant "backward step."
The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on June 12 ruled against the majority of President Donald Trump's revised executive order limiting travel from six Muslim-majority countries. The ruling affirmed a district court injunction that blocked the order from being enforced. The judges affirmed the injunction on statutory grounds, finding the order in violation of federal Immigration and Nationality Act, rather than constitutional grounds.
The horrific Manchester suicide bombing of May 22 is said to have been carried out by a son of Libyan refugees, and speculation is rife that he was linked to militant networks rather than being a lone wolf. The UK's right-wing tabs are responding predictably. The Daily Star screams that Libya has become an "ISIS breeding ground where THOUSANDS of terrorists are created." We are told that the attacker's older brother "was recently arrested in the Middle Eastern country after intelligence suggested he was about to commit an attack there." After thusly revealing that they don't know where Libya is (it's in North Africa, not the Middle East), the Star goes on to sensationalize about the jihadist threat there. Embarrassingly, it cites a UN report from November 2015 (yes, more than a year and a half ago) that warned, "ISIS has clearly demonstrated its intention to control additional territory in Libya."
Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned May 8 that there are "systemic failures" in US immigration detention centers, such as unreasonable delays in health care and unqualified medical staff, leading to "dangerously subpar" care. The group expressed concerns about the Trump administration's plans to detain an even higher number of immigrants, which HRW believes will result in more "needless and preventable deaths." The group documented numerous incidents of "substandard and dangerous" medical care, and the misuse of solitary confinement for people with mental health conditions. According to the report, this type of substandard care contributed to seven of the 18 deaths in detention centers from 2012 to 2015.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, speaking to the Justice Department's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) on April 18, pledged that the Trump administration will have "zero tolerance for gang violence" from "transnational criminal organizations"—particularly singling out MS-13, the Central American narco-network that has its roots on the streets of Los Angeles. Citing a February executive order in which President Trump directed the Justice Department "to interdict and dismantle transnational criminal organizations," Sessions promised "concrete ideas to follow through" on the directive.
US District Judge District Judge William Orrick of the Northern District of California on April 25 issued a temporary injunction (PDF) against Executive Order 13768, "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States" (PDF), which would have allowed the federal government to withhold funds from municipalities that have been designated as "sanctuary cities." Orrick rejected the government's argument that the order was within the president's scope, saying, "The President has called it 'a weapon' to use against jurisdictions that disagree with his preferred policies of immigration enforcement... The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds."