Category Archives: Other

U.S. Feature | Indigenous Asylum-Seekers

The U.S. Immigration System’s Indigenous Language Problem

The surge of asylum-seekers from Central America in the mid-2010s revealed critical language gaps in the asylum system: namely, the lack of competent Mayan-language interpreters. Language shapes each stage of the immigration process, from Border Patrol interrogations and detention to credible-fear interviews and post-approval integration. Non–Spanish-speaking indigenous children are at particular risk, with five of the six children who have died in Homeland Security custody having been indigenous and others traumatized by separation from their families in an unfamiliar language environment.

With three Guatemalan Mayan languages ranking among the top 25 languages used in immigration courts last year, the demand for interpreters exceeds supply, with the U.S. government relying on an uneven landscape of third-party companies and non-profit volunteers. The New Yorker highlights how skill deficiencies, U.S. President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, and a strained asylum system have combined to produce unique vulnerabilities for indigenous asylum-seekers.

“The indigenous population was likely the least able to understand their rights, and may therefore have been more susceptible to losing their children and waiving away their own asylum rights.” 

Read

A Translation Crisis at the Border” (The New Yorker | December 2019)

Previous Coverage

Anyone Speak K’iche’ or Mam? Immigration Courts Overwhelmed by Indigenous Languages” (The New York Times | March 2019)

Indigenous immigrants face unique challenges at the border” (High Country News | June 2018)

Ancient Mayan languages are creating problems for today’s immigration courts” (Los Angeles Times | August 2016)

Connect

Asociación Mayab (English version)

The Mayan League

U.S. Research | Incarcerated Black & Latinx

Mixed Optimism in New U.S. Incarceration Statistics

Racial and ethnic disparities in incarceration in the U.S. have long been the target of research, with the gaps an indicator of the effects of unevenly policed populations and legacies of bondage, segregation, and criminalization. Nevertheless, the difference in rates of incarceration in federal and state prisons between groups has shrunk, and criminal justice reform advocates hope that the last decade has been an indication of a turning of the tide towards de-incarceration and the decriminalization of communities of color.

New data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics continue to enliven those hopes as they show continuing gains in 2016 in the wake of the incarceration apex in 2009, and analysts have begun offering a number of reasons for the tightening numbers, including changes in drug-related law enforcement and an increased focus on sex crimes. However, disparities at the the juvenile level have widened, and advocates and researchers continue to worry over the growth of contributing phenomena including the school-to-prison pipeline.

1,458,173 (2016) vs. 1,553,574 (2009)

Total number of prisoners (decrease of 6%)

486,900 (2016) vs. 584,800 (2009)

Number of black prisoners (decrease of 17%)

339,300 (2016) vs. 341,200 (2009)

Number of Latinx prisoners (decrease of <1%)

439,800 (2016) vs. 490,000 (2009)

Number of white prisoners (decrease of 10%)

33% (black) vs. 23% (Latinx) vs. 30% (white)

Percentage of prison population by race/ethnicity

12% (black) vs. 16% (Latinx) vs. 64% (white)

Percentage of overall population by race/ethnicity

1,604 (black) vs. 856 (Latinx) vs. 274 (white)

Number of incarcerated people per 100,000 adults in racial/ethnic group


Study

Prisoners in 2016 (Bureau of Justice Statistics | January 2018)

Read

The gap between the number of blacks and whites in prison is shrinking” (Pew Research Center | January 2018)

A Mass Incarceration Mystery” (The Marshall Project | December 2017)

Black Disparities in Youth Incarceration” (The Sentencing Project | September 2017)

Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2017” (The Prison Policy Initiative | March 2017)

There’s been a big decline in the black incarceration rate, and almost nobody’s paying attention” (The Washington Post | February 2016)

U.S. Feature | Prisoners with Disabilities

Seeking Justice for Prisoners with Disabilities in the U.S.


Source: Disability Rights Washington YouTube

The failure of prisons to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, ruled applicable to prisons in 1998, has created a quagmire within the criminal justice system: although people with disabilities are incarcerated at rates far higher than their demographic proportion and comprise nearly a third of the total prison population, they are funneled into systems that refuse to follow the law when it comes to adapting their protocols and facilities to those disabilities. Beyond the mass incarceration of people with disabilities, once incarcerated, disabled people face longer sentencing, solitary confinement, inaccessible vocational training, poor education administration, and limited medical access, exacerbating the negative effects of physical and mental illnesses and creating cycles of re-marginalization and inadequate preparation for release.

VICE News examines the impact of incarceration on people with disabilities and attempts to advocate on their behalf given the numerous conflicts of interest present in the reporting and petitioning process.

Read:
Punished Twice” (VICE News)

Related reads:
Making Hard Time Harder” (The AVID Prison Project, June 2016)
Disabled Behind Bars: The Mass Incarceration of People With Disabilities in America’s Jails and Prisons” (The Center for American Progress)
Know Your Rights: Legal Rights of Disabled Prisoners (The American Civil Liberties Union)

Cameroon News | Anglophones

Violent police response to protests by Anglophone Cameroonians leaves at least four dead
  • The killings took place when security forces fired live rounds in the air at a local market in Bamenda, the country’s second-largest Anglophone city.
  • Anglophone Cameroonians have demonstrated in recent weeks over perceptions of second-class status across issues including the dominant use of French in schools, police brutality, and unequal distribution and application of resources.
  • Cameroon’s bilingual administrative structure—a result of the colonial period when the country was split between Britain and France—has marginalized Anglophone Cameroonians, largely clustered in only two of the country’s ten administrative regions.

Read more:
Cameroon urged to investigate deaths amid anglophone protests” (The Guardian)
Bamenda protests: Mass arrests in Cameroon” (BBC)
Mass protests in Cameroon are exposing the fragility of its dual French-English system” (Quartz)

(Image Credit: Reuters, via The Guardian)

Kazakhstan Feature | Kazakh Language

Saving the Kazakh Language, One Film at a Time

Despite its predominantly ethnic Kazakh population, Kazakhstan has struggled to promote widespread use of the Kazakh language within its borders. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstanis have nevertheless demonstrated continued preference for Russian, with 84.4% of the population speaking the language. For film distribution, this has meant that Russian-dubbed foreign films—many coming from Hollywood—have been in considerably higher demand than Kazakh-dubbed ones. The government has sought to promote the integration of the country’s historical language via Kazakh’s status as the official language and laws requiring film distributors to dub or subtitle foreign films in Kazakh. EurasiaNet explores the challenges within the film industry of balancing cultural and political considerations with social demand for what some ethnic Kazakhs worry may become a marginalized language.

Read:
Kazakhstan: Movies Going Kazakh, But Distributors and Audiences Resist” (EurasiaNet)

(Image Credit: CityKey.net, via EurasiaNet)

Russia Feature | Adoptive Families

The Assisted Families of Russia

Image Credit: Irina Yakobson/The Moscow Times
Image Credit: Irina Yakobson/The Moscow Times

The Moscow Times delves into the intricate process of adoption in Russia, highlighting the legal and psychological challenges faced in a country that sees relatively high levels of adoption, but also high failure and dissolution rates. Couples discuss their attempts to celebrate their families and increase the visibility of adoption in Russia as the nation closes many of its doors to international adoption.

Read the full feature at The Moscow Times.

Myanmar News | Muslims, Interfaith & the Unmarried

Myanmar president signs bills perceived as targeting Muslim minorities, interfaith couples, and the unmarried into law
  • President Thein Sein signed four “Race and Religious Protection Laws” into being in the lead-up to November elections.
  • The laws include one criminalizing polygamy and unmarried cohabitation and two laws restricting religious conversion and interfaith marriage.
  • Buddhist nationalists in the country have promoted the laws as the latest in a series of measures restricting the activities and practices of the country’s Muslim minority.

“They set out the potential for discrimination on religious grounds and pose the possibility for serious communal tension.”

Read the full story at Reuters.

(Image Credit: Toru Hanai/Reuters)

Israel News | Incarcerated Palestinians

Israel looks to release Palestinian hunger-striker after months of charge-less detention
  • Israeli authorities have offered release to prisoner Mohammad Allan on the condition that he be exiled for four years.
  • Allan lost consciousness last week after having been on hunger strike for two months, but vowed to refuse basic nutrients after being revived.
  • One of a number undertaken in protest of Israel’s “administrative detention” of prisoners (overwhelmingly Palestinian) without charge, the hunger strike has continued even as the government recently passed a law allowing for the force-feeding of prisoners.

“I think that, under the circumstances, this is a realistic proposal that would be good if he accepts it.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.

(Image Credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters, via The New York Times)

U.S. News | Transgender

California grants first gender reassignment surgery to trans inmate
  • Following extensive medical review and testimony, the state agreed to pay for the surgery for trans woman Shiloh Quine, who will be transferred after surgery to a women’s prison.
  • However, the decision did not resolve the question of whether such surgeries are constitutionally guaranteed for prisoners, including the 400 in California alone who are receiving hormonal treatments.
  • In April, another prisoner, Michelle Norsworthy, won a court order to undergo reassignment surgery but was paroled before the procedure was carried out.

“Sex reassignment surgery is medically necessary to prevent Ms. Quine from suffering significant illness or disability, and to alleviate severe pain caused by her gender dysphoria.”

Read the full story at the Los Angeles Times.

Palestinian Territories News | Women

Gender equality advocates campaign to remove marital status from Palestinian ID cards in the West Bank
  • Women testify to facing harassment and discrimination when presenting their cards, including intrusive questioning from landlords while searching for housing rentals.
  • Members of women’s rights groups launched a campaign in April petitioning for the removal of the status, with Sharia judges and other officials indicating openness to the change.
  • The Ministry of the Interior has expressed support for the idea, but deflected responsibility for change to the Palestinian Legislative Council, which would have to create legislation for the removal to take effect.

“I experienced difficulty in finding a home to rent as a divorced woman. Landlords kept telling me, ‘You’re a woman, where are we supposed to find you to collect the rent?’”

Read the full story at Al-Monitor.
(Image Credit: Ammar Awad/Reuters, via Al-Monitor)