Tag Archives: human rights

A Letter In Defense of Immigrants

22 Jun

To Whom it May Concern:

We are writing to you today out of concern and heartache. The atrocities that are occurring at our southern border – atrocities that have been occurring for months now – must stop immediately. As you know, in January of 1945 the Allied Forces liberated Auschwitz, the largest killing center and concentration camp of all those run by the Nazi Party. And here we sit today, in the country that spearheaded the liberation of people who were starved and tortured, families who were torn apart, communities that were decimated and we find that we are not much better. We find that this country that has, since its establishment, claimed to be a safe haven for the worlds most marginalized communities, has turned its back, as we once did on the Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor, on morality and decency and is instead using the force of its laws and its enforcers to further disempower those who lack voice, who lack protection and who lack a safe space to simply live. We said never again. And now here we are, as we lose the last of the Holocaust survivors, moving close to repeating the same horrific mistakes that we once stood firmly against.

This is not who we are. This is not who we want to be. This has to end now.

So we are writing to you to ask that you do not stop acting now that the horrific policy of separating children from their parents has ended. We are asking that you stand strong and say no to Trump’s attempt to overturn the Flores decision. We are asking that you stand with the people who are fleeing gang violence, domestic violence, drug wars and oppressive governments. We are asking that you stand with those who come to this country seeking safety and opportunity for themselves and their children. We are asking that you stand with them, not against them. Let us not continue to repeat the mistakes we have made in the past. We had internment camps once before, we cannot go down that road again. Indefinite detention is simply not an option. It runs counter to international Humans Rights norms as well as American values.

Please, stand strong. Just because we have a president who lacks a moral compass, a president who uses the plight of others to drum up his hateful base in an effort to continue eroding our democracy, does not mean that we should follow along blindly. It means we must be stronger than we have ever been before. And the first step is to show the people arriving at our southern border the respect they deserve. They are human beings just like us and should be treated as such. We urge you to do what we put you in office for: to help those who cannot help themselves and to stand in the way of Trump and the GOP’s effort to make the United States a place that is only for the white and the wealthy. This is a country of immigrants and underdogs and that is what makes it so special. We are begging you, please, do the right thing.

Your constituents

Jessy Caron and Rebekah Frank

A Letter to my Cat, Clark

2 Oct

Dear Clark,

I know that it has been hard for you recently, what with me working so many late nights and your feeding schedule being somewhat unpredictable. I also know that you have a lot of needs like head scratches, games of fetch, and the like. But right now your person is attempting to finish up an article on human rights and the water shutoff in Detroit and your constant meowing and knocking things off counter tops is proving rather distracting indeed. I understand that you like the sounds things make when they fall, but you must understand that sweeping up broken glass and picking up trash bag ties all over the house is not exactly my idea of fun. Also, I would very much appreciate it if you would stop chewing on things, such as the wicker basket on the kitchen table and my computer power cord. In fact, if you could stop going on the kitchen table entirely that would be greatly appreciated. I understand this is a lot to ask, but your sister does not seem to be having one bit of trouble with my requests as she has been sleeping contentedly on the sofa for the past 2 hours. You might argue that it is because of her ability to sleep for extended periods of time that she is a total fat ass, and you would have a point there, but I do not believe one day of catnaps would have any significant impact on your svelte physique. Any adherence to these requests would be greatly appreciated and subsequently rewarded with a catnip mouse.

Your frustrated person,


Money > People

23 Oct

If you haven’t yet noticed through reading this blog, or if you don’t already know about this through knowing me personally, I work in parallels.  I read things, I get upset about things, but sometimes the only way for me to make sense of it all is to compare the thing I am upset about — but that I lack the language to work through — to something else seemingly unconnected to it and draw a line between the two.  I guess I like to create an equal playing field within my mind and hold dissimilar things to similar standards.  That’s how I got from domestic violence within a human rights framework to trade agreements.  Onward.

This past week I had the pleasure of leaving Brooklyn and traveling, via Bolt Bus, to Washington, DC to visit a very good friend of mine who just recently started law school.  The timing couldn’t have been better.  She was on fall break and needed a small brain vacation from the stresses of the first year of law school which, as I understand it, is a torturous experience.  I needed a vacation from the stresses associated with the ridiculous amount of guilt I feel about avoiding my thesis.  It’s basically become a full-time job.  Anyway, one of the things we did while I was down there was attend a super interesting talk about the idea of domestic violence within the international human rights framework.  Yea, I didn’t really understand how that worked either.  So here is my very basic explanation of the things we learned about, lacking probably crucial details, because my memory just ain’t what it used to be.

So basically what I learned was that being a woman is a lot of times terrible.  And, not surprisingly, this is no different within the legal framework.  The professor and guest lecturer went over a number of cases over the past few decades within the United States that basically eroded the ability of victims of domestic violence (generally women and children) to bring charges against the state for negligence.  When someone takes out a restraining order, the idea is not that the state is in that person’s house, intervening at the first sign of trouble.  Instead, the police (or so I thought) have an obligation to enforce a restraining order if the holder of it calls them, reporting that the order has been broken in some way.  I learned that although one would think that a mandatory restraining order means that the police, an agent of the state by the way (until they are inevitably privatized which scares the shit out of me), are required to protect the holder of the order of protection from the person she took it out against.  That, oddly enough, is not exactly the case.  Mandatory, in this case, doesn’t actually mean mandatory.  The state is under no legal obligation to protect a victim from her victimizer even if she has gone through the appropriate mechanisms to seek guaranteed safety.  There were a few different legal avenues a woman could previously take to bring charges against the state for negligence.  All of those avenues have been systematically eroded, now leaving a victim without means to sue the state if, say, her children are murdered at the hands of her violent ex-husband from whom she is supposedly protected.  Scary, right?  So what is the next step?

This is where international human rights enters.  Human rights, or at least the way that I think about them, are based upon this moral and ethical understanding that all people are equal.  I know that is super simplistic.  What has happened in the US in terms of DV is that the state apparatus is protecting itself from the whims of its citizens.  Part of human rights is that they protect individuals from the whims of the state.  So, the next step could be that women, who have exhausted all domestic options in terms of holding someone accountable for the actions, or lack thereof, of the state or an actor of the state, bring their tale of violated rights to an international human rights body.    That body, in the case we heard about it was the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which then looks at the facts, looks at the legislative trail and comes to a decision as to whether or not an individual’s human rights have been violated and then sends that finding to the offending state, allowing the state in question to respond.  In the case of the US who, obviously if you know anything about our record on this sort of thing,* has not ratified whatever it needs to ratify to be held accountable by this organization and so whatever the IACHR might find in the case of the US basically holds no water.  It is an embarrassment to the US, sure, but there is nothing that the IACHR can do.  It has no power.

Part of the reason for this is that the United States, in all its exceptionalism and all its talk about holding other countries accountable for human rights violations, does not want to be held accountable for its own.  It does not want to give any other body jurisdiction over the affairs within its borders.  It’s like human rights isolationism.  So aside from a strongly worded letter, a victim has absolutely no recourse.  No wait while I blow your mind even more.

I just recently (as in about 20 minutes ago when I decided to write this blog) read this article in Salon by Matt Stoller.  It’s worth a read and contains a whole lot more about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) than what I am about to say.  Basically, the TPP, along with NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, gives foreign companies the rights to impact US law.  The WTO, for example, can put sanctions on the US if its domestic environmental, financial and social interest laws are too restrictive of foreign products.  Have you noticed that all tuna cans no longer have huge labels pronouncing that product dolphin-free?  That’s because it was negatively impacting companies exporting tuna to the US.  When we are dealing at an international level without standardization in regards to manufacturing and product safety, this is not something we can really afford.  And yet we do it.  Somehow it is reasonable to amend our laws to permit the sale of candy-flavored cigarettes but not to guarantee state-sanctioned protection of a domestic violence victim.  Abiding by international trade laws is more important than human rights norms.  Placating trade partners is more important than protecting our citizens.  Money is more important than people.

* The US has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child or the landmine ban, among other things.  I leave you to imagine why that might be.