Global Compact for Migration Offers a Strong Signal for the Protection of Human Rights

             

L: Representatives from the Mission of Tuvalu to the UN and Palau’s Ministry of Immigration with Salote Soqo, UUSC’s Senior Program Leader R: Civil society groups meeting outside the conference venue

Delegations came together in strength and in unity to improve global governance on migration.

The stocktaking meeting for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration which took place in Puerto Vallarta December 4-6, 2017 was “extraordinarily” positive. Extraordinary in the sense that during a time of rising nationalism and xenophobia around the world, there was great convergence amongst delegates to center the global compact on the protection of the rights of all migrants, and that the withdrawal of the United States from the compact did not seem to deter the spirit of the deliberations. What was seen instead was delegations coming together in strength and in unity to improve global governance on migration.

In addition to the unifying call for a human rights-centered compact that respects and empowers all migrants, other messages were loud and clear: the compact should be gender sensitive, respect migrant workers, protect children, counter xenophobia and the criminalization of migrants, encourage data-driven policies, ensure ethical business practices for migrants regardless of their status, uphold existing conventions and treaties, respect national sovereignty and above all else, increase the benchmark for addressing migration.

These are all overlying principles that we must support when it comes to governing all forms of migration, including climate-forced displacement. UUSC hopes that states will adopt these principles in earnest as they develop domestic and regional policies and we encourage states to combine compassion with urgency and diligence as they embark on this historic momentum.

The high number of non-state actors that turned up at the meeting and their engagement since the inception of the global compact has also been encouraging. From faith leaders to labor unions, and other civil society groups, like UUSC – our engagement with state delegations has made this process inclusive. Perhaps it was the scenery that made this meeting so pleasant or probably the fact that we were only a few weeks away from the holidays, but this is the standard that we hope the negotiations will adopt moving forward into 2018 and beyond.

UUSC Response to Supreme Court Action on Travel Ban

Yesterday, we learned that the Supreme Court would allow Trump’s “travel ban” to take effect while litigation challenging the executive order proceeds. The order bans travel to the United States from eight countries—six which are predominately Muslim. This is bitter news, and we are deeply disappointed by the Court’s decision.

Make no mistake: the Trump administration’s travel ban remains as legally and morally indefensible now as before. The current restrictions, announced in October, simply extend and expand the original “Muslim ban,” which has already been ruled unconstitutional by several appellate courts. As the President continues to espouse white supremacist rhetoric, he consistently makes his discriminatory and illegal motivations clear. However, we at UUSC are not deterred by his actions and will continue to build relationships that support and strengthen the work of our grassroots partners and other allies who are at risk under this Administration.

In the coming days, the Ninth and Fourth Circuits will hear challenges brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and allied organizations. Courts across the country have routinely struck the bans down as unconstitutionally targeting Muslims, and we look forward to a ruling on the merits of this case that will undoubtedly show that no one, not even the President, has the power to discriminate. UUSC has signed on to amicus briefs in these cases, reaffirming our commitment to welcoming immigrants and refugees and supporting them as they build their lives in the United States.

Collaborating to Serve Refugees in Challenging Times

This week UUSC organized a convening in Zagreb, Croatia of civil society organizations – many of them UUSC partners – serving Syrian refugees along the Balkan Route. Twenty-six representatives from 16 organizations came together to discuss how they can better coordinate their work, to problem-solve challenges that they face, and to expand their networks in neighboring countries in order to continue serving refugees. It was a privilege to provide the space and hear reflections and feedback from organizations on the front lines of this crisis, many of which experience scrutiny and harassment from their local governments. Because of those security interests we have chosen not to name specific participants.

On behalf of the UUSC family, Rachel Freed and I were grateful for the opportunity to spend time with this quality group of attorneys, case workers, and humanitarians striving to protect refugees in an environment where doing so is highly unpopular.

Participants of the UUSC Convening of Refugee Service Providers in the Balkans.

The groups who participated in the convening face extreme challenges: the closing space for civil society organizations in Eastern Europe, a rising tide of right-wing governments and factions, and general anti-immigrant sentiment throughout the region. When the Balkan Route closed in 2016, refugees headed for Western Europe were suddenly stuck in transit countries ill-equipped to serve the long-term needs of asylum-seekers. Further, both the refugees and the organizations providing services to them faced growing public hostility fueled by a misinformation media campaign similar to what we have recently seen in the United States. Governments are using increasingly aggressive, inhumane tactics to stop the tide of migrants, and there have been reports of border guards pouring water on freezing migrants in the middle of winter, using attack dogs, and other forms of violence and intimidation at border crossings.

As refugees wait for their claims to be processed they are often isolated from the rest of society in camps with varying degrees of accommodations and where their freedom of movement and access to services may be limited. In the camps, education opportunities for children are minimal, and psycho-social support is insufficient to deal with the trauma many have recently endured. The organizations who came together this week are among the only groups providing essential services ranging from legal assistance; protection against gender-based violence and the exploitation of unaccompanied minors; and mobile teams providing medical care. Case management is challenging and the formal systems of care and communication are insufficient. Gatherings, like the one held this week, help the organizations build their relationships—expanding informal networks which are frequently relied on to provide care in such a complex environment.

Participants break out in small groups to discuss the challenges they face and how they can problem solve and support one another.

As the rest of the world turns its attention to other crises, these 16 organizations continue on until the job of resettling and assimilating refugees is done. Much of the funding that was available at the height of the crisis has moved elsewhere and what remains often comes with conditions that challenge the integrity of the mission-driven service providers. As such, the financial support of UUSC members is particularly crucial and we appreciate the generosity so many have shown to ensure we’re able to make a positive difference where we can.

Read Danielle’s pre-trip blog post, Balkans Convening Aims to Offer Support to Partner Refugee Organizations.

The U.S. Has A Moral Responsibility to Support Refugees

UPDATE: On Wednesday, September 27, 2017 the White House officially announced to Congress that it will set the refugee admissions cap to a historic low of only 45,000 in FY2018. In response, UUSC calls on Congress to do everything in its power to raise the cap to at least 75,000. The administration’s efforts to shut the door on refugees as part of its xenophobic political agenda do not diminish the moral responsibility of the United States to provide refuge for those fleeing violence and persecution. We continue to stand with refugees, their families, and their communities and will continue to fight for their rights.

UUSC condemns the White House’s threats to cut the refugee admissions quota to a historic low of less than 50,000 and urges the administration to institute a refugee admissions quota of no less than 75,000 in FY2018. At a time when the world is in the midst of the largest global migration crisis on record, any decision to reduce the refugee admissions cap would be an affront to the moral responsibility of the United States to provide a safe-haven for those fleeing violence and insecurity.

Lowering the admissions level is not factually grounded and represents yet another example of the Trump administration’s attacks on refugee and immigrant communities that include the Muslim ban, supporting the RAISE Act, and the decisions to end the Central American Minors (CAM) and the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs. Despite what the administration claims, these attacks on refugee and immigrant communities do not promote national security or the economy. They are only designed to further the Administration’s nativist political agenda. As recent leaks have revealed, the administration appears to recognize that there is no justification for reducing the quota and has even gone so far as to actively suppress evidence about the contributions refugees make to our economy in order to justify their plans to reduce refugee admissions.

It is also important to note that news of the administration’s potential cuts to the refugee quota came the same week that the Supreme Court rejected part of a Ninth Circuit decision temporarily halting Trump’s executive order commonly called the “Muslim ban.” This ruling means that refugees will no longer be protected from the ban, even if they have a preexisting agreement with a resettlement agency. While the lower court ruling regarding extended family members still applies, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the Muslim ban on October 10. In response, UUSC has signed onto an amicus brief calling on the Supreme Court to affirm the previous holdings of the Ninth and Fourth Circuits and block the ban from being enforced.

In recognition of the pattern of attacks on refugee and immigrant communities coming from the White House, it is critical that we take action in solidarity with refugees and immigrants. We encourage you to join us in supporting #NoMuslimBanEver, a national month action of online and in person events leading up to the Supreme Court hearing.

Please check our website, Twitter and Facebook accounts regularly for updates on how you can continue to join us to support refugee and immigrant communities and resist the Muslim ban.

 

Innovation Fellowship Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the UUSC Human Rights Innovation Fellowship?

The UUSC Human Rights Innovation Fellowship is a one-year $25,000 grant, awarded to individuals or organizations, designed bring about systemic change by creating, nurturing, or spreading an innovation in the areas of UUSC’s work. These innovations may be technological or financial products or apps, pathbreaking applied research, advances in corporate accountability, legal arguments, methods of mobilization, or methods of community outreach.

What is the theme for 2018 fellowship?

The theme for the 2018 fellowship is resisting criminalization. The fellowship should address a major challenge facing individuals and/or communities who are criminalized in the United States. Criminalization refers to policies and practices that stigmatize, scapegoat, and profile whole communities as “criminal” or “terrorist.” UUSC’s primary goals in this campaign are to advance community protection strategies and expanded sanctuary, decriminalize poverty, and advance restorative justice.

Who can apply for the fellowship?

Individuals or non-profit organizations with an innovative project that is relevant to the fellowship’s theme can apply. In addition, advocacy organizations, academic institutions, research centers, grassroots organizations, and UUSC partners may apply for the fellowship. However, UUSC partners’ proposed innovations must be separate from ongoing grants. Collaboration by applicants is encouraged.

Applications must be submitted in English.

What are the assessment criteria for the fellowship?

  1. Alignment with UUSC approach and values: The application must reflect UUSC’s values and be compatible with UUSC’s approach to environmental justice and climate action.
  2. Impact: The project must positively impact or benefit marginalized communities in terms of scale and/or scope.
  3. Competency of applicant: The individual or organization must demonstrate clarity and rigor in assessment of the social problem and theory of change of the innovation.
  4. Applicant’s track record: The applicant must have a demonstrated track record that indicates knowledge, competency, and experience in the fellowship’s thematic area.
  5. Creativity of innovation: The application will be judged by the extent to which the project is new, different, or timely.

What is the selection process?

The online application forms will be reviewed by UUSC, with input provided by UUSC supporters. After the initial review, we will conduct a face-to-face interview in person or over Skype or Zoom. The final selection will be made by UUSC.

What are the key dates and timeline of the fellowship selection process?

Applications for our 2018 Human Rights Innovation Fellowship are now closed.

Applications open: November 2017

Applications close: January 2018

Awardees announced: April 2018

Can I reach out to UUSC to inquire about the status of my application?

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, UUSC will be unable to respond to questions regarding an application’s status until April 2018 when the fellowship is awarded. Please e-mail any questions at that time to innovation @ uusc.org.

What do the fellows receive?

Fellows will receive a maximum grant of $25,000.