Cameroon's Olympic delegation has confirmed that seven of the African nation's 37 athletes have disappeared from the Olympic Village. Drusille Ngako, a reserve goalkeeper for the women's soccer team, is believed to have been the first to disappear in July, escaping the compound while her teammates travelled to Coventry for a final training match against New Zealand. Swimmer Paul Ekane Edingue, scheduled to compete in the men's 50-meter freestyle, disappeared with his personal belongings next, followed by five eliminated members of the men's boxing team: Thomas Essomba, Christian Donfack Adjoufack, Mewoli Abdon, Blaise Yepmou Mendouo and Serge Ambomo. The news comes after the Ethiopian team's 15-year-old torch bearer Natnael Yemane, a member of the London Organizing Committee's International Inspiration program, disappeared in Nottingham on June 27.
The Guardian speculates that the athletes were motivated to escape the Olympic Village for economic reasons and aim to remain within the European Union. Such disappearances are unfortunately not unusual at international sporting events. After 26 athletes sought asylum during the 2006 Commonwealth games in Melbourne, Australia, nine athletes from Sierra Leon, Tanzania and Bangladesh disappeared from the 2009 tournament. Not all seek legal residence, however, and in 2011, 15 Ethiopian athletes disappeared from the All African Games in Mozambique, a regional hub for illegal immigration. They were rumored to have fled to South Africa in search of employment.
The Olympic games are also known for numerous political defections. Deutsche Welle tracks the first incident to 1948, when Marie Provaznikova, then president of the International Gymnastics Federation, refused to return to her native Czechoslovakia. In a similiar protest against the Soviet Union, nearly half of Hungary's Olympic delegation defected in 1956 after the failed revolution. The small island of Cuba, however, gets the gold for most defections as low wages and political oppression pushes many talented athletes to seek new teams abroad. Though Cuban coaches have attempted to prevent player-loss by forcing teams to leave competitions early, a national soccer team member managed to file for political asylum as recently as April 2012. Making news for his bronze medal in the men's all-around, U.S. gymnast Danell Leyva is the son of two Cuban athlete defectors
Whether foul play or a transnational job search is at fault, the International Olympic Committee remains in the dark. When asked about the disappearances, IOC spokesman Mark Adams told Reuters: "We are unaware of it."
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The first plane carrying South Sudanese "returnees" out of Israel arrived in Juba, South Sudan, on June 19.
Amidst escalating tensions over African migration to Israel, Israeli interior minister Eli Yishai described the eventual "return to their homes and countries" of [migrants] as "inevitable." Of Israel's 60,000 African migrants, the majority come from Eritrea and the two Sudans.
Greeting the plane in Juba, Joseph Lual Achuil, South Sudan's minister of humanitarian affairs, claimed that the process of return was voluntary: "People are not being deported. We have agreed with the Israeli government for our people to be peacefully and voluntarily repatriated," he said. While ‘returnees' are being offered a stipend of $1300 per adult and $500 per child by the Israeli government, the degree to which repatriation is truly a matter of choice is debatable.
While those who left Israel on the first plane volunteered to do so, the crackdown, known under the code name "Operation Going Home," has rounded up and arrested hundreds of migrants so far. The usually bustling neighborhood of ‘Little Africa' in South Tel Aviv is reportedly deserted. New laws allowing migrants to be jailed for up to three years without trial or deportation came into effect on June 3. In addition, any Israeli citizen harboring or helping migrants can now face jail time of up to 15 years.
The current government campaign to stem the flow of African migrants has begun with newly independent South Sudan -- the only one of the top three source countries which maintains diplomatic relations with Israel.
Many South Sudanese fled to Israel to escape the ongoing violence at home, often crossing the Sinai desert from Egypt by foot to reach Israel. Last week, an Israeli court ruled that 1,500 South Sudanese are no longer at risk in their homeland and can be returned home, giving the government the legal right to deport them.
Recent months have seen protests and acts of vandalism targeting African communities in Israel, an atmosphere that many claim has been instigated by the comments of some politicians. The deportation drive is also creating immense discomfort amongst many Israeli citizens, who are acutely of aware of their own identity as an immigrant nation founded by Jews fleeing persecution in Europe after World War II.
The subtext beneath the deportation process is a racial argument that cuts to the core of competing views about what Israel's identity as a ‘Jewish state' should entail. For the current government, identity is clearly framed by ethno-religious demographics. As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu argues:
"If we don't stop their entry, the problem that currently stands at 60,000 could grow to 600,000, and that threatens our existence as a Jewish and democratic state. This phenomenon is very grave and threatens the social fabric of society, our national security and our national identity."
Whether such a view can be justified as commensurate with Jewish values remains to be decided.
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists from around the world are planning to fly into Tel Aviv's airport in hopes of traveling to the West Bank. Over 700 people have already scheduled flights and as many as 1,200 are expected to arrive at Ben-Gurion between Thursday and Friday. Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Israel's Public Security Minister, responded to the planned ‘aerial flotilla', saying:
"These hooligans who try to break our laws will not be allowed into the country and will be returned immediately to their home countries."
Five activists have already been arrested upon arrival. While airport security is on high alert, activists like Nicolas Sheshni say there is no plan to riot or cause disruption:
"We have no intention of staging a political protest inside Israeli territory. We only want to tour Palestine and show solidarity with the Palestinian people."
Sheshni and 300 other French activists hope to plant olive trees in Ramallah and tour the ancient city of Bethlehem. Travelers usually conceal their intent to travel to the West Bank for fear of facing immediate deportation. But in the next several days, many activists will declare Palestine as their final destination, protesting their lack of ability to visit Palestinian friends and family. Dozens of Israeli security forces are now stationed at Ben-Gurion. Friday flights from Europe will be directed to a separate terminal and passengers will undergo thorough immigration procedures.
Netanyahu defended Israel's plan to deport the activists:
"Every country has the right to prevent the entry of provocateurs and trouble-makers into its territory. That is how all countries behave and that is how Israel will act. We must prevent the disruption of normal life for Israeli citizens."
Maritime efforts of pro-Palestinian activists have been paralyzed in Greek ports, but who knows what the skies will hold in the coming days.
llee_wu via Flickr Creative Commons
As Egypt spent the last few weeks proving, strongmen are a great means to maintain an unpopular policy status quo -- until they're not. Policymakers in Washington were famously glad to do business with Hosni Mubarak as long as he kept peace with Israel; now they have to worry that a democratically elected Egyptian government may not feel inclined to honor the pact.
But Americans and Israelis aren't the only ones now realizing the shortsightedness of this kind of realpolitik. Europeans in particular have made more than their fair share of devil's bargains with Arab regimes. And it seems like they'll be the first to reap the consequences:
The Italian government has declared a state of emergency and asked for EU help in blocking thousands of Tunisians from reaching its shores…
Some 3,000 people from Tunisia arrived over the weekend on the Italian island of Lampedusa following the ousting of Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in recent days, according to Rome…
Anti-immigration policies lie at the core of Mr Berlusconi's government. He has sealed similar deals with other authoritative regimes, such as Tunisia's neighbouring Libya, irrespective of the abuses and bad treatment of refugees.
Europe has long been codependent on Arab regimes with less-than-scrupulous human rights records. Like the United States with its extraordinary rendition program, the European Union has kept its hands clean by outsourcing its illegal immigration problem to neighboring dictators: For the promise of good relations and sizable foreign investment, Tunisia's Ben Ali and Libya's Qaddafi have been willing to use their security forces to ensure that poor Africans don't reach European shores. But what happens when those forces are accountable to the public's common good, rather than a leader's personal deals? The answer probably involves Europe enjoying a brief period of denial and then building much more housing for asylum applicants.
A report released today by the group Physicians for Human Rights details the horrific mistreatment of African refugees who are captured as they try to cross through Egypt and into Israel. The Africans -- mainly from Somalia and Eritrea -- are systematically raped, beaten, burned and then extorted by Bedouin human traffickers before they are sent across the border into Israel. Download the full report here if you want to read in appalling detail about the experiences of a few of these African migrants.
According to Human Rights Watch, the Egyptian government turns a blind eye to these abuses. That's probably because they feel that it helps discourage migration from Sudan, Somali and Eritrea though Egyptian territory. How else does Egypt discourage migrants from trying to use the country as a transit point? A shoot to kill policy. Egyptian security forces have shot and killed more than 85 migrants in Sinai since 2007 by Human Rights Watch's count. Scores more are deported back to their countries of origin, where they are often in danger because of war or threats from the government.
Some of these migrants are asylum seekers, while others are just looking to move to a new country where they can find work and make money. But Israel doesn't want these people as residents any more than Egypt wants them as travelers. Israel repatriated around 150 Sudanese asylum seekers on Monday, according to a report in the Christian Science Monitor. Israel fears that immigration from Africa will take jobs from Israeli Jews and pose a threat to the Jewish demographic majority.
MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images
Tesgaye, once an aspiring fighter pilot, was one of 80 Ethiopian cadets sent to a Soviet military training facility in the remote republic of Kyrgyzstan in 1989 to master the art of flying combat aircraft.
"At that time in Ethiopia there was a military government, and because of an agreement between the Soviet Union and Ethiopia, they used to train pilots for the country's air force," Tesgaye explained.
Within two years, both the Soviet Union and Ethiopia's Marxist regime had collapsed, forcing the cadets to think carefully about their options for their future in a strange and foreign land.
Almost 20 years later, still fearing reprisals back home for the small role he played in the brutal rule of deposed Marxist leader Mengistu Haile Mariam, Tesgaye is marooned here — a world away from a family that has grown older without him.
The cadets have endured some horrific racial abuse during their time in exile, an ironic parallel to the thousands of Kyrgyz migrant workers who receive similar treatment in Russia.
As foreign moles in suburban America, the "Murphy's" of Montclair -- two of the recently exposed Russian "illegals" (read: spies with boring long-term assignments) -- were charged with the difficult task of acting less Russian. Meanwhile, back in Moscow, migrant workers have been forced to take on precisely the opposite challenge: acting more Russian.
Ire toward foreign arrivals in Moscow is nothing new (double-digit murders of foreigners are standard each year in the capital city), but the recent proposal of a "Muscovite Code," a set of measures designed to encourage cultural assimilation, highlights just how intense the pressure to conform truly is. The rules, to be developed by city officials with input from local residents, would outline the "dos and don'ts" of traditional Russian culture; everything from speaking Russian-only in public (a do) to turnstile-hopping "like goats" (a don't). Supporters of the new measure note that these rules would not be mandatory, but would instead serve as a helpful resource for foreigners unfamiliar with the city's unspoken code of conduct. As Mikhail Solomentsev, head of the Moscow city government's Department for Inter-Regional Communications and Regional Policies explained:
"At the moment, there are unwritten rules that residents of our city have to adhere to... For instance, people shouldn't slaughter sheep in a courtyard, make shashlyk on their balcony or walk around the city in their national dress - and they should speak Russian."
Many, however, don't consider the proposal quite so benign. The new rules, they say, are simply one more way to reinforce Moscow's already entrenched culture of xenophobia. Of course, after Monday's revelations, Moscow officials might be wise to consider another (unintended) use of the Code: a how-to guide for "illegals" doing their best to blend in...
DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images
After a decade-long legal battle, President Barack Obama's Kenyan aunt, Zeituni Onyango -- remembered as "Auntie Zeituni" in Obama's Dreams From My Father, has won the right to remain in the United States.
The basis for Onyango's asylum request was never made public, but her lawyer Margaret Wong said last year that Onyango first applied for asylum "due to violence in Kenya." The East African nation is fractured by cycles of electoral violence every five years.
Onyango initially came to the U.S. in 2000 just for a visit, Wong said. Her first request for political asylum in 2002 was rejected, and she was ordered deported in 2004. But she didn't leave the country and continued to live in public housing in Boston.
Onyango's status as an illegal immigrant was revealed just days before Obama was elected in November 2008. Obama said he did not know his aunt was living here illegally and believes laws covering the situation should be followed. Wong has said that Obama wasn't involved in the Boston hearing. The White House also said it was not helping Onyango with legal fees.
Onyango's lawyer Margaret Wong says the judgment "really does give people hope." Though I'm not really sure how inspiring the case really is for those facing similar battles without nephews in the White House.
Arizona may be just the tip of the iceberg, the Christian Science Monitor reports:
Oklahoma is looking at passing tougher penalties for illegal immigrants caught with firearms. South Carolina might make it illegal to hire workers on the side of the road. In addition, state immigration legislation is also being considered in Idaho, Utah, Missouri, Texas, North Carolina, Maryland, Minnesota, and Colorado.
In many cases, the potential legislation is merely part of the perpetual national debate about immigration, which has taken form in more than 200 state-level immigration bills being signed into law each year from 2007 to 2009, notes Catherine Wilson, a political scientist at Villanova University in Philadelphia.
As we saw in Arizona, states in the midst of a crisis aren't necessarily going to enact the best of laws to get out of it. With Washington largely seemingly unwilling to touch the politically toxic issue, states are going to continue to deal with the problem themselves.
Mexico's government no longer believes its citizens are safe in the state of Arizona:
The Mexican government Tuesday took the unusual step of issuing a travel alert urging extreme caution by Mexicans working, studying or otherwise spending time in Arizona. The warning came in response to that state's tough new immigration measure, which is to go into effect this summer, requiring people in Arizona to carry proof of their legal right to be in the United States and requiring police to check for it.[...]
"As was clear during the [Arizona] legislative process, there is a negative political environment for migrant communities and for all Mexican visitors," the alert said, posted in Spanish and English on the ministry's website.
Although details on how the law will be enforced remain unclear, the alert said, "it must be assumed that every Mexican citizen may be harassed and questioned without further cause at any time."
Obviously addressing the probelm of illegal immigration is going to require taking action on both sides of the border, and thanks to Arizona, Mexico now seems a lot less likely to cooperate in efforts to find an effective remedy.
John Moore/Getty Images
It's well known that America's immigration system has its problems. But the travails of 30 survivors of January's earthquake in Haiti may take the cake for complete ineptitude and inhumane treatment.
In the wake of the complete devastation of the country, the humanitarian crisis contributed to a totally chaotic environment. A group of survivors, many of whom had lost loved ones in the quake, and some of whom had been pulled from the rubble themselves, boarded a plane to Florida after given permission by U.S. marines. Aftershock quakes were feared, and the evacuation process from Port-au-Prince airport was less than orderly: obviously, the priority was on saving as many lives as possible. It's no surprise that normal visa procedures weren't followed precisely.
Upon landing, the thirty Haitians (none of whom, according to theNew York Times, have criminal histories) were taken into custody and held for deportation -- despite the fact that all deportations to Haiti were suspended in the wake of the tragedy. Two months later, they're still in jail.
The story's already a massive fail, yet it gets even worse. Some of the refugees have U.S. citizen family members, who have pleaded with the government to allow the detainees to stay with them. Yet the Haitians still remain in jail. They've received no mental health care -- I wonder, could these people be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after their entire country was wrecked by a massive earthquake, killing hundreds of thousands? -- despite offers of free treatment from local clinics. Certainly, the following doesn't make it sound that they're mentally scarred at all:
The youngest detainee, Eventz Jean-Baptiste, 18, has no parents. “He is now responsible for his two younger brothers, who are homeless and living in a tent city in Port-au-Prince,” Charu Newhouse al-Sahli, the statewide director of the advocacy center, wrote in urging his release to his aunt and uncle in Coral Springs, Fla.
Mr. Jean-Baptiste describes putting his little brother and a cousin’s baby on top of a collapsed concrete wall during the quake, as they all prayed and cried. Afterward, “we had nothing to eat or drink,” he said. “I thought if I stayed in Haiti any longer I would not survive, and my family would not survive, so I decided to try to board a plane.” No one asked him for papers until he reached Orlando, he said.
Brian P. Hale, a spokesman for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, gave the Times this wonderfully caring quote:
In order to mitigate the probability that Haitians may attempt to make a potentially deadly journey to the U.S., we clearly articulated that those who traveled to the U.S. illegally after Jan. 12 may be arrested, detained and placed in removal proceedings.
This shouldn't be a hard fix.
Lee Celano/Getty Images
The big domestic news today is the Conservative Political Action Committee conference, or CPAC, where dozens of major Republican and conservative thinkers (from Minority Leader John Boehner to Glenn Beck) are speaking to 10,000 members of their base. The big news out of CPAC is the Mount Vernon Statement, a commitment to Constitutional-conservative positions with signatories including Grover Norquist, Edwin Meese, and Tony Perkins.
Here is an excerpt:
Each one of these founding ideas is presently under sustained attack. In recent decades, America's principles have been undermined and redefined in our culture, our universities and our politics. The selfevident truths of 1776 have been supplanted by the notion that no such truths exist. The federal government today ignores the limits of the Constitution, which is increasingly dismissed as obsolete and irrelevant.
Some insist that America must change, cast off the old and put on the new. But where would this lead -- forward or backward, up or down? Isn't this idea of change an empty promise or even a dangerous deception?
The change we urgently need, a change consistent with the American ideal, is not movement away from but toward our founding principles. At this important time, we need a restatement of Constitutional conservatism grounded in the priceless principle of ordered liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
The Mount Vernon Statement draws support from a number of conservatives, including many members of the Tea Party movement. Here's the problem. The Mount Vernon folks espouse sticking to the letter of the Constitution. But many of them also vocally support some things the Constitution does not -- like military commissions for enemy combatants and closed borders.
According to the Constitution, enemy combatants should be tried in civilian courts. And the Declaration of Independence lists the British crown's restriction of free immigration as one of its grievances: "[The king] has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands."
Some Constitutional conservatives -- like Norquist -- do not attempt to square this circle. They instead support free immigration policies and trying terrorists in civilian courts. Others, it seems, reconcile themselves to an elastic constitution in some circumstances. Either way, it is the subject of feisty debate among conservatives.
The lawyer for the 10 American missionaries charged with taking 33 children out of Haiti without permission was fired earlier this week by the group's legal advisor, Jorge Puello, after being accused of trying to offer bribes to get the group out of jail.
If you think that's weird, the situation took a bizarre turn yesterday when it was revealed by the New York Times that Mr. Puello was also being investigated for allegedly leading a trafficking ring involved with Central American and Caribbean women and girls.
No wonder Mr. Puello said in an interview that he was "representing the Americans free of charge because he was a religious man who commiserated with their situation." Color me crazy but employing the services of a wanted international trafficker typically isn't the best way to convince a judge that you weren't trying to smuggle children. I can't help but think that these guys are now way up the proverbial creek.
In the wake of this week's earthquake, the United States has halted the deportation of undocumented Haitian immigrants. Now, immigrants' rights advocates and Florida lawmakers are pushing the administration to grant Haitians Temporary Protected Status, a special dispensation given to immigrants who cannot return to their homelands:
On Wednesday, South Florida's three Cuban-American Republican members of Congress -- Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- sent a joint letter to Obama requesting TPS for Haitian nationals, along with immediate humanitarian aid for Haiti. They have organized a news conference on Thursday to talk about the issue.
"How much does Haiti have to suffer before Haitians in the United States are granted TPS pursuant to law?'' said Lincoln Diaz-Balart Wednesday. ``The reason TPS exists in the statute as an option for the president is precisely for moments such as this in Haiti.''
The other countries whose nationals are currently eligible for TPS are El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan. Given Haiti's traumatic recent history and promximity to the U.S., I have to wonder why isn't already on that list.
From Unredacted, the very cool blog of the National Security Archive, here is a letter from Lee Harvey Oswald, who assassinated U.S. President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, asking for citizenship from the Soviet Union. He lived in the Soviet Union, mostly in Minsk, from 1959 to 1962; the Soviets rejected his request for citizenship. A PDF of the letter is here -- a bit grainy, but readable. Here's what it says:
I Lee Harvey Oswald, request that I be granted citizenship in the Soviet Union, my visa began on Oct. 15, and will expire on Oct. 21, I must be granted asylum before this date. [Unreadable] I wait for the citizenship decision.
At present I am a citizen of the United States of America.
I want citizenship because; I am a communist and a worker, I have lived in a decadent capitalist society where the workers are slaves.
I am twenty years old, I have completed three years in the United States Marine Corps, I served with the occupation forces in Japan, I have seen American military imperialism in all its forms,
I do not want to return to any country outside of the Soviet Union.
I am writing to give up my American citizenship and assume the responsibilities of a Soviet citizen.
I had saved my money which I earned as a private in the American military for two years, in order to come to Russia for the express purpose of seeking citizenship here. I do not have enough money left to live indefintly [sic] here, or to return to any other country. I have no desire to return to any other country. I ask that my request be given quick consideration.
Lee H. Oswald
Earlier today, Yoani
Sanchez posted questions to U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro regarding U.S.-Cuban relations on her blog, Generación Y. Sanchez, who was recently denied a visa
to visit New York City to attend an awards dinner after she was awarded
a Marie Moors Cabot Prize from the Columbia University Graduate School
of Journalism, received a direct response from Obama himself.
Obama addresses each point with steadfast poise, sticking to his administration's usual positions on the topic. He categorizes Cuban affairs as a domestic and foreign policy issue for the U.S. and emphasizes democratic rule, freedom of speech, and human rights, familiar rhetoric from the president. He also does not rule out a visit to the island in the future, not to work on his tan, but rather as a "diplomatic tool":
I look forward to visit a Cuba in which all citizens enjoy the same rights and opportunities as other citizens in the hemisphere.No word yet if Castro intends to reply. However, his mind may be on other things after Human Rights Watch's release of the report "New Castro, Same Cuba," condemning his regime:
In his three years in power, Raúl Castro has been just as brutal as his brother. Cubans who dare to criticize the government live in perpetual fear, knowing they could wind up in prison for merely expressing their views.Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images
With more than 2,000 killings this year in Ciudad Juarez, pictures of gunshot victims strewn about the streets and bulletproof-vested shopkeepers attending terrified customers, potential paramilitiary group formation, calls for UN peacekeeping troops and dire predictions of the violence spreading north the United States-Mexico border is increasingly looking like an all out war zone.
Perhaps it is because of this that I was surprised this morning to attend a conference calling for recognition that the transborder region is increasingly more a region than a border. Speakers at "Rethinking the U.S.-Mexico Border," came from both sides of the border, but it's more accurate to see their flawless bilingualism as an expression that they truly do view the area as a region that must work as one in order to harness the potential of what is already a $300 billion economy.
Among the recommendations presented by one group, the "Binational Task Force on the United States-Mexico Border," was the need to target demand for illicit drugs on both sides of the border (20 percent of drugs produced in Mexico are consumed there, most of the rest goes to the US), as well as the creation of parallel border agencies (such as the synergy between Canada and the US) facilitating coordination between the two countries. Importantly, they called for a reinstating of the American ban on assault weapons, and more work on preventing arms and cash smuggling south. They also advocate immigration reform in the US and more focus on development in Mexico to stem flows north. On the flip side, Mexico also needs to start taking illegal immigration seriously.
Given that NAFTA is now 15 years old, none of this should sound very surprising. But remembering that a lot of the talk about the border in recent years has involved walls (electrified or otherwise), vigilantes, and how to make everybody just stay put on their own side, this all sounded pretty good. As most of the speakers emphasized, it's not about philosophically agreeing with unilateral solutions or not, they simply don't seem to work.
Jesus Alcazar/AFP/Getty Images
Russian analyst and ex-KGB operative Igor Panarin wants the U.S. to enjoy its last eight months. Because after that, the world's sole superpower will be embroiled in a civil war that will destroy it. This message has found an audience in the radical right wing Tea Party movement.
Mass immigration, economic decline, racial tensions and moral degradation will spark the war that leads to this civil war and subsequent splitting of the United States. These are same fears expressed at Tea Party rallies throughout the US.
In Panarin's dystopia the south will go to Mexico. The Northeast will go to the E.U. The Midwest will go to Canada. The West Coast will go to China and Alaska will go back to Russia.
Fans of irony take note. The people who say the U.S. is headed toward Socialism, or Fascism, or both, or whatever, are paying an ex-KGB academic to speak at their conferences. At a speech in Houston, Panarin said Texas' talk of secession -- consisting largely of Chuck Norris' offer to run for president and the controversy surrounding immigration is a sign that the end is nigh for the U.S.A.
Image via Richard Conn Henry/Wikipedia
Somalia may generally be thought of as a source of refugees, but fierce conflict in Ethiopia is sending more and more refugees into the country with predictably negative effects. There's recently been a large increase in street children and a rise in gang conflict in the city of Hargeisa, which is often an initial stopping point for immigrants seeking to travel further into Somalia or Yemen.
Children flocking to Hargeisa join Somali kids in searching for the most basic necessities, using any means necessary to find their next meal off the streets. Current estimates claim there to be about 3,000 children, most of them boys between five and 18, living on Hargeisa's streets. Lacking families and home environments many of these children cling to gangs as a source of fraternity and stability. In the past two years, approximately 5,000 knives and weapons, commonly used in robberies, have been recovered from street children. Mohamed Ismail Hirsi, Hargeisa's Central Police Station commander recently stated:
"In the last 72 hours, we have arrested more than 30 street children who have committed crimes such as stealing mobile phones in different parts of the town."
Increased crime by these young boys is complicated further by the fact that a 2008 juvenile justice law has yet to be implemented, forcing these children to be charged and processed as adult perpetrators.
In the Financial Times on Wednesday, Chris Cook argues that British immigration laws are giving an unfair edge to soccer clubs with more money.
Clubs with deep pockets hire the small number of local and foreign gifted players available, while poorer clubs must make do with the remaining, potentially much weaker, local journeymen.
Not only that, he says, but the protectionist measures of allowing non-European workers only if the fit certain high-skill benchmarks also inflate wages for less-skilled Europeans, raising ticket prices.
Cook contends tougher competition would boost the English national team:
The impact of more foreign players on the elite band of players who might conceivably play for the national team is that they need to play better to keep their places in their club teams. So, they improve. The English team has markedly improved since foreign footballers started pouring into the country’s top league.
Would some British and European soccer players be pushed out of work if rules were liberalized? Probably, but a more competitive league would be worth it Cook says.
Consumers of an increasing range of products will soon feel the pain in their wallets already endured by so many fans on a Saturday afternoon, who routinely complain that they pay ever-greater sums to watch a football league dominated by just four clubs. What English football needs is fewer English footballers.
Not knowing that much about the economics of the Premiere Leage, here's a question: If teams in the lower half of the standings became much more competitive, would it increase their revenues? Higher ticket sales? More advertising?
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
A new government scheme has recruited a group of Saudi women to work locally as housemaids for the first time in the country's history. The thirty women, aged 20 to 45, passed a stringent application process and underwent intensive training before they were given contracts in homes across Jeddah.
The Ministry of Labor only permitted Saudi women to find jobs in domestic services two years ago. Work in the sector has been long stigmatized, thought of as "demeaning," and thus almost exclusively undertaken by economic immigrants.
Migrant workers currently constitute at least 67 percent of the Saudi Arabian workforce, though less conservative estimates place that figure anywhere between 85 and 90 percent. Most economic immigrants come from South and Southeast Asia and fill positions in the services and health sectors as nurses, maids, nannies and drivers. Despite strict labor laws and visa requirements, the Kingdom has come under repeated criticism for allegations of abuse leveled against foreign nationals and as a hub for human trafficking for those in service industries.
Jay Director/AFP/Getty images
The weirdly persistant belief held by many Americans that President Barack Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States has been back in the news lately thanks to Major Stefan Cook, the "birther" soldier who
was granted has requested conscientious objector status because he refused to fight for a president he believes is illegitimate. There's also a bill gathering some support in the House that would change election law to require candidates to prove their citizenship.
The birther phenomenon is predictable form of paranoia given the president's unusually exotic (for a president, anyway) background. But isn't the larger scandal that the anachronistic natural-born citizenship requirement in Article II of the constitution still even exists?
Let's imagine that Barack Obama had been born in Indonesia or Kenya or anywhere else for that matter, and hadn't become a citizen until moving to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. Is there one good reason why that would make him less fit to be president?
Put another way, is there one good reason why foreign-born governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jennifer Granholm can't legally run for president but Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin can?
Naturalized citizens like Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Madeline Albright have been allowed into the highest positions in the U.S. national security establishment without anyone questioning their loyalty. Why shouldn't voters be allowed to decide whether a foreign-born candidate is American enough to be president? New York voters didn't mind the fact that Hillary Clinton had never lived in the state before running for its senate seat.
The fact that children of immigrants like Barack Obama, Bobby Jindal, Colin Powell and Rahm Emanuel were born in the United States rather than their parents' home countries seems like a pretty arbitrary distinction. A person can't help where they were born any more than they can help the color of their skin or their gender.
The last election saw the first person of color elected president and a woman get closer than ever before. Pretty soon, more than 15 percent of the U.S. population will be foreign-born. It's time that they had same shot.
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images
In a widely publicized move, the Obama administration is due to finally and officially announce its easing of restrictions to Cuba. U.S. citizens will now be able to travel and send money to the country more easily. (See FP's photo essay on Cuba for more details; and this FP article by Nestor Carbonell for a convincing argument against rushing into engagement.)
The Miami Herald says the announcement, to be made this afternoon, is meant to coincide with the Summit of the Americas, which starts on Friday in Trinidad and is attended by heads-of-state from North and South American countries.
Thankfully -- apparently the pet-poisoning revelation hasn't hurt relations.
The New York Times' Julia Preston, who reports today on Barack Obama's plan to start pushing for immigration reform as early as May, seems to doubt the political wisdom of the U.S. president's move.
As she notes, it could get extremely ugly, with immigration opponents likely to "mobilize popular outrage against any effort to legalize unauthorized immigrant workers while so many Americans are out of jobs."
And indeed they will. Lou Dobbs is going to have a field day, and the Republican base is going to lose its collective head. It doesn't seem even remotely plausible that Obama will get a bill passed in this economic climate.
That said, perhaps the president has another aim in mind. Maybe he doesn't expect to pass legislation this time around. Maybe he's thinking ahead to the 2010 midterm elections, and looking to give the Republicans just enough rope to hang themselves on this issue. If he moves forward, the GOP's worst elements will come to the fore, branding the party for years to come as narrow-minded and regressive. Without George W. Bush as the voice of tolerance and reason on immigration, the party's base will swiftly alienate Latino voters once and for all, and meanwhile frighten white suburban voters who are repulsed by racial appeals.
At least, that's the only explanation that makes sense.
Thanks to improvements in law enforcement, Georgia's criminals are all heading north to Russia, according to President Mikheil Saakashvili. And he's just fine with that:
Our main export to Russia is not wine, but 'thieves in law" and other criminal elements," Saakashvili said at the opening ceremony of the new building of the Georgian Interior Ministry in Tbilisi on Tuesday.
Today, Georgia has almost gotten rid of organized crime and criminal ringleaders thanks to the police, who are not corrupt like they used to be, he said.
In an ironic twist that was bound to happen sooner or later, the job of watching the U.S.-Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants from coming to take American jobs...has been outsourced. Thanks to live streaming videos, anyone with an Internet connection can now log on and keep an eye on the Texas border and report illegal immigrants or drug smugglers to the authorities. (I watched a section of the Rio Grande for about three minutes yesterday but then I got bored. Sorry America.)
Interestingly, foreigners seem particularly taken with the project:
Anyone with an internet connection can now help to patrol the 1,254-mile frontier through a network of webcams set up to allow the public to monitor suspicious activity. Once logged in, the volunteers spend hours studying the landscape and are encouraged to email authorities when they see anyone on foot, in vehicles or aboard boats heading towards US territory from Mexico.
So far, more than 100,000 web users have signed up online to become virtual border patrol deputies, according to Don Reay, executive director of the Texas Border Sheriffs' Coalition, which represents 20 counties where illegal crossings and drugs and weapons smuggling are rife.
"We had folks send an email saying, in good Australian fashion, 'Hey mate, we've been watching your border for you from the pub in Australia'," he said.
Since the first 15 of a planned network of 200 cameras went live in November, officials claim that emailed tips have led to the seizure of more than 2,000lb (907kg) of marijuana and 30 incidents in which "significant numbers" of would-be illegal immigrants were spotted and turned back. Some tips came from Europe, Asia and beyond, but most online watchers are based in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, three of the four US states that share a border with Mexico.
A post master in Britain is causing waves in his Nottingham neighborhood. Deva Kumarasiri is turning away customers who "can't be bothered to learn English," insisting "they must go away and learn it before he serves them."
Kumarasiri feels that as a Sri Lankan, taking a stand against his fellow immigrants -- and turning his back on the tenants of political correctness -- is easier for him. He's free to say what's on the minds of native Englishmen.
Don't boo our soldiers when they come home from Iraq. Don't live your life without embracing our culture. Don't stay here without making any effort to learn the language. And if you don't want to be British, go home....
"I don't expect immigrants to be fluent in English overnight. Lots of people struggle to master another language but they get much more respect if they at least try. I'm not being a racist, just a realist."
While there's no denying his patriotism, one has to wonder whether or not this will be good for business.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images
In early January, Egypt starting deporting Eritrean refugees -- somewhere between 45 and 65 are thought to have been sent home. These refugees tried to enter Isreal through the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. And the deportations say much less about the refugees themselves than the perilous but staunch relationship between Israel and Egypt.
In short, Israel has turned up the pressure on Egypt in recent months to secure that country's side of the Sinai peninsula border -- a hot spot for trafficking of humans (like the Eritreans), goods, and weapons into the Gaza strip).
In June of last year, just as a 6-month ceasefire with Gaza went into effect, 1,200 more Eritrean refugees were detained and later deported. Recently, during the Gaza crisis, Human Rights Watch researcher Leslie Lefkow says she believes Egypt has sent between four and six flights of refugees back to Eritrea.
From the looks of it, pressure to clamp down on migrants is both formal and implicit. Israel imposed a strict policy to limit non-Jewish immigrants in 2007, facing what it feared was a tsunami of Africans seeking work or amnesty. In April 2007, Israeli and Egyptian authorities reportedly agreed on a policy of 'hot returns' -- wherein all illegal border-crossers caught in Israel would be handed over to the Egyptians within 48 hours. The plan faced resistance from refugee advocates, but it's not clear that the process ever stopped.
Now, with Gaza smuggling at an all time high, Egypt is in the hot seat to get all border crossings under control. The change in Egypt's actions on the border -- at least on refugee policing -- is apparent. "Egypt has always been respectful of refugee law, but this is a different scenario," Abeer Etefa of the UN High Commission for Refugees in Egypt told me.
Sinai has always separated Egypt and Israel -- in geography and politics alike. This time, it's refugees caught in the middle.
Photo: JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images
Using data from the Department of Homeland Security, Northwestern University grad student Ian Stevenson created this gorgeous animation showing the flow of immigrants into the U.S. over time, color-coded by their regional origin. Each dot represents 100 people:
(Hat tip: Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward)
Proposition 8's defeat in California isn't the only thing making headlines for the gay rights movement as of late. According to the Washington Post, gay Mexican citizens who seek asylum in the United States are facing an increasingly uphill battle. Changes to the general asylum policy and a few rejected cases have resulted in what many fear is the end of a practice that provided safety for dozens since the mid-1990s.
Persecution based on sexuality, in a country where machismo and conservative Catholic ideals run deep, once made a strong enough case for gay Mexicans seeking refuge up north. But liberalized laws on homosexuality and an increase in gay pride efforts have made the case a harder sell. Mexico City now recognizes civil unions, and the city's gay pride parade draws more than a million people each year.
So why should the United States leave open the possibility of asylum? Despite the gains, negative attitudes in Mexico about homosexuality persist, leading to workplace discrimination and brutality against gays. Between 1995 and 2006, more than 1,200 Mexicans were killed because of their sexual orientation. And for all the good they might have done for the country's gay rights movement, liberalized laws have provoked a backlash from homophobic parts of society -- including some members of the Mexican police force.
Another reason to leave the asylum option? Consider the impact these homophobic attitudes and actions have on the spread of HIV/AIDS. Men who have sex with men in Mexico are over 100 times more likely to contract HIV than the general population. Says Martin Martinez Sanchez, a Mexico City hospital employee, of gay men in the capital city:
They have sexual encounters in clandestine areas, and in parts of the city that are just horrible and dangerous... Later they go home and have unprotected sex with their wives. Many gays feel they have to have a wife for appearances."
For many, asylum might not just mean escaping discrimination -- it can mean a lifeline to better care. Mexico's routine medication shortages mean inconsistent treatment for the disease, which usually requires daily pill dosages. As long as prevention and treatment measures for AIDS lag, the United States ought to think twice before closing its doors.
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