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Showing posts with label children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children. Show all posts

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Missionaries kidnapped in Haiti reach freedom, but murky U.S. policy generally fails ransomed abductees

Haitian child in 2012 (photo by Feed My Starving Children CC BY 2.0).
News came last week that the last 12 of 17 Christian missionaries abducted for ransom in Haiti in October either escaped or were released, reports vary, and walked miles to freedom. The circumstances of their liberation raise questions about the ongoing apparent lack of any clear U.S. policy on abductions abroad.

Less well reported than the story of the missionaries, Haitian lawyer and university professor Patrice Dérénoncourt was shot and killed on October 31 by the kidnappers who abducted him in October.  Dérénoncourt taught crimonology and constitutional law in the Economic, Social and Political Sciences Department of the Université Notre-Dame d'Haiti.

Dérénoncourt and the missionaries are typical of the some 800 kidnappings in Haiti just this year. Economic desperation and political turmoil have resulted in flourishing gang violence, and kidnappers seeking ransom have targeted aid workers and the education sector, children included.  Struggling to maintain rule of law, the Haitian government has not been able to get a handle on the problem.  Foreign governments seem either habitually disinterested or similarly impotent.

In the Dérénoncourt case, some of the $900,000 ransom demanded had been paid.  It is unclear whether any ransom was paid for the missionaries.  Representatives of the families and, apparently, the U.S. government through the FBI, were involved in negotiation over kidnappers' outrageous demand for $1 million per person.  Whatever reports are accurate, and whether or not a ransom was paid or the pressure simply became untenable, I find it difficult to believe that the last 12 missionaries surmounted a concerted effort by the kidnappers to keep them.

The Biden Administration was understandably tight-lipped about how it was dealing with the kidnapping crisis while it was going on.  Now that the event is over, it's time for an open conversation about what U.S. policy should be, both with regard to kidnappings and to the social and economic catastrophe unfolding less than 700 miles from Miami.

In the broader picture, U.S. policy on abductions for ransom seems at best inconsistent and at worst incoherent.  In late October, families of Americans still detained abroad, in China, Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela, called on the Biden Administration to do better.  "When we do meet with ... officials," the families wrote, "we feel we are being kept in the dark about what the U.S. government intends to do to free our loved ones."

The murder of an educator such as Dérénoncourt sets back rule of law in Haiti not by just one mind, but by a generation of students he would have taught.  Persistent instability in Haiti meanwhile is contributing to a burgeoning refugee crisis in the Americas and threatens to destabilize democracy in the Caribbean.  Even an isolationist American administration can ignore Haiti for only so long.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Scharf urges rational statutory construction to ease immigration plight of child victims of abuse, neglect

My colleague Irene Scharf published further research into easing immigration hardships for undocumented youth who have been victimized by abuse, abandonment, or neglect.  She explains (footnotes omitted):

In 1990, aiming to ease the difficult situation for undocumented child immigrants who were dependent on juvenile courts for their protection, Congress enacted the Special Immigrant Juvenile provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act, located at 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J) (the provision). In 2008, in an effort to further ease the plight of these young people, it amended the provision to relieve the proof requirement from proving abuse, abandonment, or neglect by both parents to that of one or both parents. Unfortunately, the provision maintains its “two-tier” citizenship system because one of its subsections denies Special Immigrant Juveniles (SIJ) who naturalize the same rights as other citizens possess to petition for their parents to immigrate [8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(27)(J)(iii)(II)]. In Second Class Citizenship? The Plight of Special Immigrant Juveniles [40 Cardozo L. Rev. 579 (2019)], I concluded that this limitation violates Due Process by creating this two-tier citizenship system. To address this inequity, courts should employ the doctrine of “rational legislating” to interpret this provision in a way that would place SIJs on an equal footing with other citizens. This would more accurately reflect the intent Congress had when it amended the provision in 2008, and permit naturalized SIJs to reunify with their parents.

Professor Scharf in the article further frames the problem in describing its impact on the lives of young people from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, relating experiences amalgamated from real clients of the immigration law clinic she has supervised for nearly two decades.

The article is Robbing Special Immigrant Juveniles of Their Rights as U.S. Citizens: The Legislative Error in the 2008 TVPRA Amendments, 30 Berkeley La Raza L.J. 41 (2020).

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Kids everywhere play

Kids find innocent fun in the toughest of living conditions. It's a reminder that soulful joy doesn't come from worldly things.

In the photo at left, kids in Ganvie Lake Village in Benin wanted to see themselves on the screen of my little camera. Ganvie has an unusual history tied to the Portuguese slave trade; read more at Atlas Obscura. Photo by my traveling mate, Dylan Armstrong. By the way, RI/South Coast US readers, you can catch Beninese world music Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo at The Vets in Providence, R.I., on February 22. Meanwhile watch her fabulous performance on YouTube.

The photos at right and below are from in and around Jamestown, a community in Accra, Ghana. This village was an NAACP stop for the 2019 Year Of Return (WBUR), and its Old Fort is one of the string of forts and castles that memorializes the horrific suffering inflicted on "the slave coast." Two boys I met on the street, one wearing a US Soccer shirt, were experimenting with a kite they had made out of plastic and wood debris and electrical tape. In Jamestown, ever smiling Masha was my tight-gripping companion. Both photos are mine, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0, taken with permission of their subjects.