NICHOLAS KULISH IN THE NYT: TORTURED IN VENEZUELA, HANDCUFFED BY ICE @ THE MIAMI ASYLUM OFFICE! — DHS Continues To Abuse Legal Authority, Clog Backlogged U.S. Immigration Courts! My Quote: “Why clog an already clogged court docket with a case that looks like a slam dunk?”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/13/us/asylum-torture-venezuela.html

Nicholas reports:

“Marco Coello, then a skinny 18-year-old high school student, was grabbed by plainclothes agents of the Venezuelan security services as he joined a 2014 demonstration against the government in Caracas.

They put a gun to his head. They attacked him with their feet, a golf club, a fire extinguisher. They tortured him with electric shocks. Then Mr. Coello was jailed for several months, and shortly after his release, he fled to the United States.

Human Rights Watch extensively documented his case in a report that year. The State Department included him in its own human rights report on Venezuela in 2015. With such an extensive paper trail of mistreatment in his home country, his lawyer, Elizabeth Blandon, expected a straightforward asylum interview when Mr. Coello appeared at an immigration office this April in Miami.

“I had this very naïve idea that we were going to walk in there and the officer was going to say, ‘It’s an honor to meet you,’” said Ms. Blandon, an immigration law expert in Weston, Fla.

Instead, he was arrested and taken to a detention facility on the edge of the Everglades. He was now a candidate for deportation. “Every time they would move me around, I would fear that they were going to take me to deport me,” said Mr. Coello, now 22.

Mr. Coello’s case drew extensive media coverage in both Miami and Caracas and, eventually, the intervention of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The senator helped secure Mr. Coello’s release, though he could still be deported.

The case may have been a sign of just how far the government is willing to go to carry out President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

“It’s very unusual — almost unprecedented — that ICE would arrest an asylum applicant who is at a U.S.C.I.S. office waiting for their asylum interview,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration law professor at Cornell Law School.”

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Just because arresting individuals believed to be in the U.S. without authorization is legal doesn’t mean that it’s not stupid or wasteful in many cases. Cases like this belong in the Asylum Office.

In a well-functioning system, Mr. Coello likely would have been granted asylum following his interview. Instead, he’s on an already overcrowded U.S. Immigration Court docket with a merits hearing scheduled for approximately one year from now.

What does the U.S. gain from these types of wasteful enforcement actions? What message are we sending to Mr. Coello and others who will eventually become full members of our society? What kind of messages are we sending to Venezuela and those attempting to escape from some of the world’s most brutal governments?

Read Nicholas’s complete report, which contains more quotations from me and others, at the above link.

PWS

06-13-17

The “Human Rights Free” Presidency — Trump Surrenders U.S. Leadership On Humanitarian Concerns — Embraces Some Of World’s Major Human Rights Violators!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2017/05/24/daily-202-trump-s-praise-for-duterte-s-drug-war-underscores-his-contempt-for-human-rights/5924d3dee9b69b2fb981db83/?utm_term=.7945757980b7

James Hohmann reports in the Washington Post:

“THE BIG IDEA: It’s one thing to not “lecture” foreign governments who abuse human rights. It’s something else entirely to praise them for it. And that’s exactly what Donald Trump did last month when he called Rodrigo Duterte.

The Post’s David Nakamura and Barton Gellman yesterday obtained a transcript of his April 29th phone call with the president of the Philippines.

“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job (you’re doing) on the drug problem,” Trump told Duterte at the start of their conversation, according to the document. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

“Thank you Mr. President,” replied Duterte. “This is the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation.”

Trump, who affectionately referred to Duterte as “Rodrigo” during their chat, then took an unsolicited dig at Barack Obama. “I … fully understand that and I think we had a previous president who did not understand that,” the U.S. president said. “You are a good man … Keep up the good work. … You are doing an amazing job.”

With Breanne Deppisch

Duterte called Obama the “son of a whore” during a press conference last September. When he promised to curse out the then-president if he brought up his death squads, the White House canceled a bilateral sit-down that had been scheduled. When Obama later raised concerns about his human rights record, Duterte replied that he could “go to hell.” (He often uses unprintable profanity.)

— The context of Trump’s comments matters: Duterte is an authoritarian thug. He has overseen a brutal extrajudicial campaign that has resulted in the killings of thousands of suspected drug dealers. His abuses are well documented, including in reports by the U.S. State Department and Human Rights Watch.

Duterte has publicly compared his campaign to crack down on drugs to the Holocaust, saying he would like to “slaughter” millions of drug addicts just like Adolf Hitler “massacred” millions of Jewish people. “Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now, there are 3 million drug addicts. … I’d be happy to slaughter them,” he told reporters last September. While Hitler (who actually killed closer to six million Jews) spoke of a “final solution,” Duterte says his campaign of mass killings is the only way to “finish the problem.”
He has said he would kill his own children if they ever took drugs.

One victim of Duterte’s crackdown was a 5-year-old girl, who was shot in the head last summer when armed men came to her house in search of her grandfather.

Eleven days before Trump phoned him, Duterte told a group of Filipino workers in the Middle East that if they lose their jobs because of the falling price of oil they can always come home to work for him. “If you lose your job, I’ll give you one: Kill all the drug addicts,” he said, according to the Philippine Star. “Help me kill addicts … Let’s kill addicts every day.”

The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize this year for a series of powerful photographs “showing the callous disregard for human life in the Philippines brought about” by Duterte’s policies.

A witness has testified that before Duterte became president, when he was a mayor of Davao City, he paid a squad of hit men to carry out summary executions that involved feeding a body to a crocodile, chopping up corpses and dumping slashed bodies into the sea.

Duterte has boasted to a group of Manila businessmen, on camera, about killing criminals in cold blood when he was mayor: “In Davao I used to do it personally, just to show the (cops) that if I can do it, why can’t you?”

He joked last year that the victim of a gang rape was “so beautiful” that he wishes he had “been first.”

Yesterday he declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao, as his security forces battled heavily armed militants linked to the Islamic State.
— Trump caught his own aides off guard during his phone call to Duterte by extending an open invitation for him to come visit the White House at any time, with no preconditions. “I will love to have you in the Oval Office,” Trump said, per the transcript. “Seriously, if you want to come over, just let us know.”

— A senior administration official, who confirmed that the quotes in the transcript produced by the Philippines government are accurate, said that the president was not condoning Duterte’s “individual tactics.” Rather, the official said, this was Trump’s “way of expressing solidarity over a common scourge.” But that’s not at all clear from the transcript, and it’s certainly not the impression any reasonable person on the other end of the line would have been left with.
— Trying to advance our national interest, previous presidents of both parties have certainly looked the other way instead of confronting human rights abuses. But they felt they had no choice, especially during the Cold War, and none seemed to relish this dark side of realpolitik.

— As part of his so-called “America First” agenda, Trump seems not just content but determined to have America abdicate its moral leadership in the world. It’s hard to claim American Exceptionalism when Trump praises Duterte this way. It’s hard to say we’re a shining city upon a hill when the American president consistently treats despotic strongmen with greater respect than democratically-elected allies.

— The president’s sometimes over-the-top praise for totalitarian leaders has been covered extensively, from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
— Coincidentally, Duterte was meeting with Putin at the Kremlin yesterday around the time that the Post’s story about the transcript broke. He’s referred to the Russian president as his “favorite hero.” This is from the write-up by RT, the government-financed propaganda network: “Duterte, who called Russia a ‘reliable partner,’ also emphasized that Manila is ready to develop relations with Moscow and is looking forward to purchase Russian arms.” Putin also lavished him with praise.

— Words matter: Autocrats have heard Trump loud and clear, and they’re emboldened. Abby Phillip and David Nakamura note that almost no attention was paid to the concerns that have made Saudi Arabia rank among the most repressive nations on Earth during the president’s visit this weekend. “Political protests in Saudi Arabia can be punishable by a death sentence and freedom of expression is severely limited. But Monday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross highlighted the absence of dissenters as a sign of the ‘genuinely good mood’ during Trump’s visit. … And Sunday, a lone event on Trump’s schedule aimed at bolstering civil society in Saudi Arabia was scrapped.”
“We are not here to lecture,” Trump said during his Sunday speech in Riyadh, speaking to about 50 political leaders of Muslim nations, many of which are led by strongmen. “We are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership, based on shared interests and values.”

— The foreign policy establishment was collectively horrified by the transcript of the Trump-Duterte call.

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Read the complete story at the link.

Let’s see, dissing US civil servants, promoting xenophobia and racism, shafting the poor and vulnerable, abandoning the sick and chronically ill, enriching his family and cronies, and emboldening anti-democratic autocrats throughout the world. Trump is the antithesis of almost all of the values many of us thought America stood for. Yet, he was elected to lead us. Go figure!

PWS

05-24-17

Here’s How Torture “Works” — Does President Trump Really Want The U.S. To Follow The Lead Of The World’s Most Brutal Dictators?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/syria-has-secretly-executed-thousands-of-political-prisoners-rights-group/2017/02/06/e4a7f56a-ecc5-11e6-a100-fdaaf400369a_story.html

The Washington Post reports:

“The majority of those executed at Sednaya were political prisoners, including many of the ordinary people who joined in the peaceful protests against Assad, the report says. Some were rebels who took up arms, and others were officers and soldiers who defected from government forces. But for the most part they were “doctors, engineers, protesters,” one former prison official is quoted as saying. “They were somehow understood to be linked to the revolution. Sednaya is the place to finish the revolutionaries. It’s the end for them.”

The report describes in chilling detail how the prisoners were taken out of their cells in batches, of up to 50 at a time, twice a week and in the middle of the night, typically on Mondays and Wednesdays.
They were given only cursory trials lasting one to three minutes at one of two military field courts that offered no semblance of judicial process, with sentences typically handed down on the basis of confessions extracted under torture. When the time came for their executions, the prisoners were handcuffed, blindfolded and led to a basement cell containing 10 stands and 10 nooses.

A former judge from the military court described the executions, saying it would often take up to 10 to 15 minutes for the prisoners to die. “Some didn’t die because they are light. For the young ones, their weight wouldn’t kill them. The officers’ assistants would pull them down and break their necks. Two officers’ assistants were in charge of this.”

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Also submerged in  the discussion of whether torture “works” — torture is illegal under both U.S. and international law. So much for the “rule of law.”

PWS

02/07/17

BREAKING: NYT: Tillerson New Secretary Of State!

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/us/politics/rex-tillerson-secretary-of-state-confirmed.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=b-lede-package-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

The NYT reports:

“WASHINGTON — Rex W. Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, was confirmed by the Senate on Wednesday in a 56 to 43 vote to become the nation’s 69th secretary of state just as serious strains have emerged with important international allies.

The many votes against Mr. Tillerson’s confirmation made his selection among the most contentious for a secretary of state in recent history, and he takes his post just as many traditional American allies are questioning the policies of President Trump. In the past 50 years, the most contentious confirmations for secretary of state were those of Condoleezza Rice in 2005, who passed by a vote of 85 to 13, and Henry Kissinger in 1973, who was confirmed 78 to 7.

Mr. Trump is the most unapologetically nationalistic president of the modern era who has questioned the value of many of the alliances and multilateral institutions that the United States has nurtured since World War II to keep world order.”

How Mr. Tillerson’s translates Mr. Trump’s vow of “America First” into the kind of polite diplomatic parlance that will maintain vital alliances will be a significant test.”

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Among Secretary Tillerson’s most Important duties as Secretary of State will be supervising the visa issuance process under the Immigration and Nationality Act, dealing with the foreign policy implications of U.S. immigration and refugee policies, negotiating international treaties, and overseeing the preparation of the U.S. Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights Conditions which are an important source of background information used in deciding many cases in Immigration Court and at the DHS Asylum Office as well as a tool used by refugee adjudicators in other nations that are signatories to the 1952 U.N. Refugee Convention.

Human Rights is also (or at least has been up until now) an important focus for the Secretary.  And, the Administration’s inclination to turn its back on the African continent because there is “nothing in it for us” (after all, what’s the value of saving thousands of human lives compared to profit making business opportunities  — America First — Humanity, why bother?) But, at some point, Secretary Tillerson is likely to discover that the Administration’s short-sighted dismissive attitude toward 1.3 billion of the earth’s inhabitants will come back to haunt him (and us).

PWS

02/01/17