Tag Archives: Law & Politics

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

Malaysia News | UyghurS

Malaysian PM announces asylum provisions for refugee Uyghurs

  • Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamed indicated that the country would not honor extradition requests from China for Uyghurs fleeing persecution.
  • The announcement follows a statement from the foreign minister indicating that an inquiry into human rights violations in the Xinjiang region of China.
  • Hundreds took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to protest the ongoing incarceration of more than a million Uyghur Muslims in “political re-education” camps in northwest China.

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Malaysia not to extradite Uighurs seeking asylum” (Andalou Agency | December 2019)

Malaysia to probe rights violations against Uighurs” (Andalou Agency | December 2019)

In KL, hundreds of Muslims protest against China’s treatment of Uighurs” (Malay Mail | December 2019)

Malaysia Feature | Refugees

The Hardships of Refugees in Malaysia

Although Malaysia has long offered refuge to persecuted Muslim populations, Malaysian law does not distinguish between asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants. As a consequence, refugees experience high levels of legal precarity, severely limiting access to healthcare, employment, and educational opportunities. Immigration police frequently raid businesses in search of undocumented workers, and children are frequently pushed into work because of an educational system with limited resources to accommodate them. While more than 164,000 refugees in Malaysia are officially registered with the UN Refugee Agency, many more languish in the long registration queue. Today, activists are working to pressure the recently installed government to become a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol to improve protections and access to opportunity for those seeking life and livelihood in the wake of war and persecution.

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‘We have nothing’: A life in limbo for Malaysia’s Yemeni refugees” (Al Jazeera | March 2019)

Inside Malaysia’s ‘Living Hell’ for Refugee Children” (NewsDeeply | February 2018)

Study

UNHCR Figures at a Glance in Malaysia

New Zealand News | Muslim

New Zealanders rally in support of Muslim community as government takes action

  • Some 15,000 people attended a rally in Christchurch to honor the memory of the 50 who died in the recent terror attacks.
  • The country’s chief censor issued a ban on the attacker’s manifesto, classifying the document in the same way as other terroristic propaganda such as Islamic State materials.
  • More than 1,000 voluntarily turned in their weapons as the government moved to ban military-style semiautomatic weapons, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcing she expects legislation to be in place by mid-April.

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Thousands attend New Zealand vigil, rally to fight racism, remember Christchurch victims” (Reuters | March 2019)

Censor bans ‘manifesto’ of Christchurch mosque shooter” (The Guardian | March 2019)

Christchurch shootings: New Zealand to ban military style weapons” (BBC News | March 2019)

Brazil News | Indigenous

Brazilian president strips indigenous affairs agency of land reservation capability

  • President Jair Bolsonaro issued a decree shifting the ability to create and define the boundaries of indigenous land reservations from the National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) to the Ministry of Agriculture.
  • Bolsonaro previously announced intentions to loosen environmental and indigenous protections, even as farming and mining groups carry out armed attacks against indigenous communities.
  • The order was the first of Bolsonaro’s presidency, issued only hours after taking office.

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Bolsonaro strips agency of right to decide native land in Brazil” (Agence-France Presse, via Yahoo! News | January 2019)

Brazil’s new President Jair Bolsonaro rolls back Indigenous tribe protections” (The Associated Press/Reuters, via ABC News | January 2019)

Brazil’s FUNAI Calls Army to Help Protect Isolated Indigenous Tribes” (The Rio Times | December 2018)

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FUNAI

Palestinian Territories News | Women with Cancer

Israel denies Palestinians with cancer access to treatment as medication dwindles
  • The Israeli government has indicated that six Gazan women suffering from cancer can travel to the West Bank (despite its lack of treatment capability) or abroad for treatment.
  • The women had previously been denied exit from the Gaza Strip because they are related to members of Hamas—a common punishment disproportionately burdening women—and continue to be denied permit to travel to East Jerusalem, where Palestinian hospitals are located.
  • The Gaza Health Ministry also announced the termination of its chemotherapy treatments in Gaza hospitals due to depletion of medical supplies, which cannot be replenished due to the recent tightening of the Israeli military blockade.
Read

Israel Proposes Gaza Cancer Patients Be Treated in West Bank, Where Treatment Is Unavailable” (Haaretz | August 2018)

Roundup: Gaza suffers escalating medicine, humanitarian goods shortage by Israeli blockade” (Xinhua News Agency | August 2018)

Many Gazan Women Are No Longer Able to Enter Israel for Cancer Treatment” (The New Yorker | June 2018)

Germany News | Asylum-Seekers

Report indicates attacks on asylum-seekers down in Germany
  • According to police, there were 704 cases of anti-refugee violence from January to June, down more than a third from 2017.
  • The 2018 attacks included 77 on asylum shelters and 627 direct attacks on refugees, resulting in 127 injuries.
  • The reduction has come as immigration debates continue to erupt along political fault lines, including the introduction of “anchor centers” for asylum-seekers awaiting judicial decisions and the limited restart of family reunifications.
Read

Fewer attacks on refugees and asylum shelters in Germany” (Reuters | August 2018)

Germany opens refugee ‘anchor centres’ amid criticism” (Al Jazeera | August 2018)

Family reunification for refugees resumes in Germany” (Deutsche Welle | August 2018)

Japan News | Women

Medical university in Tokyo found to have altered women candidates’ scores on entrance exam
  • A probe found that Tokyo Medical University, one of Japan’s most prestigious medical schools, systematically boosted male applicants’ scores while cutting female applicants’ in an effort to reduce women’s admission to the school.
  • Investigators discovered that scores on the exam had been affected for at least a decade, driven by admissions officers’ belief that parental obligations would interfere with women’s commitment to the profession.
  • The discovery was found amidst a broader investigation into corruption involving the alleged admission of a government official’s child in exchange for subsidies.
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Tokyo Medical University admits subtracting points from repeat male applicants’ scores and boosting others to secure donations” (The Japan Times | August 2018)

‘Makes me shake with rage’ – Japan probe shows university cut women’s test scores” (Reuters | August 2018)

‘Betrayed’: victims of Tokyo medical school scandal speak out” (The Guardian | August 2018)

Israel News | Ethnic & Religious Minorities

Israeli parliament passes law formally establishing country as Jewish nation-state
  • The new basic law codifies a number of ultranationalist principles, including Hebrew as the sole national language, the expansion of Jewish settlement as a national priority, Jewish symbols as national symbols, and a unified Jerusalem as the nation’s capital.
  • Previously, Israel existed formally as a multiethnic democratic state, with Arabic as the second national language and the concerns of Arab Israelis—who comprise a fifth of the population—at least nominally afforded equal weight in matters of national identity and self-determination.
  • While some observers have dismissed the law as largely symbolic, Arab lawmakers and progressive advocates argue it provides the legal ground for segregation and discrimination and reduces ethnic and religious minorities to a second-class citizenship.
Read

Israel Passes Controversial Jewish Nation-state Bill After Stormy Debate” (Haaretz | July 2018)

Israeli Law Declares the Country the ‘Nation-State of the Jewish People’” (The New York Times | July 2018)

Israel passes controversial ‘Jewish nation-state’ law” (Al Jazeera | July 2018)

Saudi Arabia News | Women

Saudi flight academy opens applications to women as mobility restrictions lifted
  • Oxford Aviation Academy has received hundreds of applications from women at its flight school branch in Dammam.
  • The change comes as the government has lifted a decades-old ban that prohibited women from driving or traveling without permission.
  • Despite the legal relaxations, women still face a number of mobility obstacles, including many derived from the country’s guardianship laws.
Read

Saudi aviation academy to train first women pilots” (Reuters | July 2018)

The ban on Saudi women driving is ending: Here’s what you need to know” (CNN | June 2018)

How Guardianship Laws Still Control Saudi Women” (The New York Times | June 2018)

China Feature | Uyghur

The Transnational Oppression of Uyghur Chinese

Growing paranoia over terrorism by and radicalization of China’s Muslim Uyghur minority has led to the dramatic expansion of state surveillance activities in Xinjiang—where Uyghurs account for nearly half of the population—and abroad. Digital surveillance, travel restrictions, indefinite detention, “reeducation” camps, and the exploitation of intra-community and transnational relationships have dramatically expanded the crackdown on ethnic minorities perceived as threats to the integrity of the state. After fleeing China, Uyghur emigrants find themselves and their families (some of whom remain in China) subject to harassment by Chinese security forces in places as far flung as Istanbul and Washington, D.C. BuzzFeed News and The Globe and Mail have profiled a number of Uyghur Chinese in exile and the oppressive conditions they and their families face, including high levels of distrust and fear of advocacy.

Read

Spy For Us — Or Never Speak To Your Family Again” (BuzzFeed News | July 2018)

How China is targeting its Uyghur ethnic minority abroad” (The Globe and Mail | October 2017)

Additional

‘It is about Xi as the leader of the world’: Former detainees recount abuse in Chinese re-education centres” (The Globe and Mail | July 2018)

One in 10 Uyghur Residents of Xinjiang Township Jailed or Detained in ‘Re-Education Camp’” (Radio Free Asia | June 2018)

Connect

Uyghur Human Rights Project

Denmark News | Low-income Muslim Immigrants

Denmark approves new classification and requirements for low-income immigrant neighborhoods
  • The Danish government plans to classify low-income, predominantly Muslim immigrant neighborhoods as “ghettos,” triggering a set of household requirements for the receipt of welfare benefits.
  • Starting at one year of age, children will be separated from their families for 25 hours a week for education in “Danish values” (including Christian religious traditions), while other Danish children typically do not begin school until age six.
  • The policy comes as anti-immigrant sentiment has increased in the country, with political figures (including the Prime Minister) denigrating immigrant enclaves and demanding assimilation.
Read

Denmark to school ‘ghetto’ kids in democracy and Christmas” (Reuters | May 2018)

In Denmark, Harsh New Laws for Immigrant ‘Ghettos’” (The New York Times | July 2018)

‘No ghettos in 2030’: Denmark’s controversial plan to get rid of immigrant neighborhoods” (Vox | July 2018)

China News | LGBTQ Immigrants

Hong Kong court green-lights spousal visas for same-sex couples
  • Hong Kong’s highest court ruled in favor of a two British-national partners, which is expected to open residential visas to spouses regardless of gender in the partnership.
  • Without spousal visas, the same-sex partners of Hong Kong residents could only reside in the city on short-term tourist visas that prohibited work or access to public services.
  • While a recent poll showed more than 50% of Hongkongers support same-sex marriage, native Hong Kong residents still do not have access to same-sex marriage rights, though advocates and some legal experts have suggested the ruling could serve to expand their access to housing and family rights.
Read

Mexico News | Indigenous

Indigenous communities throughout Mexico protest presidential election, press for self-rule
  • Residents have banned political parties, destroyed protest signs, patrolled streets for campaign paraphernalia, and blocked ballot delivery throughout small towns in the western state of Michoacán as anti-government sentiment has grown.
  • Seven municipalities covering 16 towns and at least 50,000 voters have decided to opt out of the election, and Maya communities in Guerrero and Chiapas have begun mobilizing as well.
  • Although popular leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has advocated for Mexico’s indigenous communities in the past, historical and ongoing neglect by and corruption in the government has led many indigenous Mexicans to disengage and push for greater autonomy.
Read

Indigenous Mexicans spurn presidential vote with blockades, bulldozers” (Reuters | June 2018)

The Mexican indigenous community that ran politicians out of town” (The Guardian | April 2018)

Mexico’s Indigenous Council Continues Campaign Despite Violence” (teleSUR English | January 2018)

Hungary News | Asylum-Seekers, Undocumented Migrants & Advocates

Hungary passes laws criminalizing support of asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants
  • The Hungarian parliament passed legislation criminalizing the “organization of illegal immigration,” prohibiting individuals and organizations from providing aid to undocumented immigrants including support in asylum petitioning.
  • Framed as retaliation against the pro-immigrant efforts of billionaire Hungarian-American philanthropist George Soros, the laws could subject those found guilty of providing support to asylum-seekers to imprisonment for up to a year.
  • The passage comes amidst a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, spearheaded by recently reelected Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Read

Hungary passes anti-immigrant ‘Stop Soros’ laws” (The Guardian | June 2018)

Hungary to criminalise migrant helpers in crackdown” (BBC News | June 2018)

Hungary aims to criminalize aiding illegal migration in ‘Stop Soros’ bill” (Reuters | May 2018)