Update 12/8/22: The Biden administration has now appealed Judge Sullivan's ruling, backtracking yet again on their promises to protect asylum rights. While the outcome of the litigation is not yet clear, the administration's decision increases the odds that Title 42 will remain in effect past its currently-scheduled end date.

Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.

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September 12, 2016, Rights Reading

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September 12, 2016

Our weekly roundup of what we’re reading: a few select articles from the front lines of human rights that we don’t want you to miss.

1.“Why Are You Keeping Me Here?” Unaccompanied Children Detained in Greece, Kelly Lynn Lunde, Human Rights Watch, September 8, 2016

UUSC has long been active in advocating for the rights of women and children from Central America who are held in family detention centers in the United States. Kelly Lynn Lunde’s research report reminds us that the problem of children in detention is not limited to our country.

The over 3,300 unaccompanied asylum-seeking and migrant children arriving in Greece since January are routinely detained, and many are held for months at a time in protective custody.

In addition to being held for longer than the state-mandated limit of 25 to 45 days, these children are housed in filthy, sometimes rat-infested cells. When there isn’t enough room to keep them segregated from other inmates, children are put in the same cells as adults.

Similar to the actions of UUSC and other members of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s Diapers in Detention campaign protesting the abusive treatment of children in U.S. detention centers, Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls for the Greek government to provide suitable alternatives to detention for these children, and also demands that European Union member states do all they can to relocate asylum-seeking children out of Greece.

Read the latest news about UUSC’s continuing actions against refugee family detention in the United States here, and the work of UUSC volunteers and partner organizations in Greece here. A list of ways you can get involved in UUSC’s efforts to advance refugee rights worldwide is posted on our website, along with UUSC’s current action demanding that President Obama immediately release the mothers and children held at Berks Detention Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania.

It’s only been two months since Rodrigo Duterte was sworn in as president, but since that time over 2,400 alleged drug dealers and users have been killed – “more than half of them by vigilantes,” as the L.A. Times reports. International public opinion against Duterte’s brutal violations of human rights are intensifying, and this editorial notes how, in addition to the trauma inflicted on Philippine citizens, there are implications for the strategic relationship between the United States and this important ally nation. The Philippines have joined in efforts to resist Chinese adventurism in the South China Sea, winning a complaint against China filed with an international arbitration court at the Hague. But Duterte’s murderous policies make it difficult for the United States to ally itself with a political leader that former Filipino President Benigno Aquino III once described as a “dictator in waiting.”

The L.A. Times calls for President Obama and his successor to withhold financial support for the Philippine National Police, who are used to support Duterte’s war on drugs. The editorial’s final sentence is one UUSC members and supporters will find familiar in calls for U.S. pressure to reverse abusive official policies of other allied nations: “U.S. tax dollars shouldn’t support law enforcement officials engaged in profound violations of human rights.”

UUSC has worked with partner organizations in the Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan struck the island nation in 2013. Read UUSC’s statement of solidarity with the people of the Philippines and the on-the-ground actions of our partner organizations in today’s human rights crisis here.

3. “Water is Life: Lawrence Visits Standing Rock,” The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell, MSNBC, September 6, 2016

This video by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell covers the story of Native American efforts to block construction of a crude oil pipeline in South Dakota, from a number of unexpected angles.

The story begins with Alice Brown Otter, a 12-year-old activist who ran 1,519 miles from Standing Rock, South Dakota, to Washington, D.C., to protest against the Dakota Access pipeline. The story takes a disturbing shift to images of attack dogs used against Sioux protesters. O’Brien reminds views of how dogs were used in similar ways against 1960s civil rights activists in the South.

Most significantly, O’Brien’s piece contrasts the way average Americans and the Sioux think about water. For us, water is an important element of the earth and the human body, but ultimately it is just a commodity. For the Sioux, water is sacred. They believe we are water, that water is life.

O’Brien’s closing statement celebrates the wisdom and spirit of a young woman-to-be: “We can only hope that 12-year-old Alice brown Otter doesn’t have to spend the rest of her life trying to teach us what she already knows. ‘Mni wiconi. Water is life.’”

Read about UUSC’s research and policy work on the human right to water in Defending the Human Right to Water: A Decade of Support for Global Water Justice, by Amber Moulton, and The Invisible Crisis: Water Unaffordability in the United States, by Dr. Patricia Jones and Amber Moulton, here. This fall, watch this site for additional research studies about water and other climate justice issues.

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