Executive Orders, Caravans, and What Asylum Means

Citizenship, Immigration, Uncategorized, US Politics

Originally Titled: Trump’s Executive Order on Caravans and What Asylum Means

Originally Published: The Public Purpose Journal

Trump’s Executive Order on Caravans and What Asylum Means

November 25, 2018

There is a group of people that originated in Honduras, slowly moving through Mexico. It has been reported that they intend to approach the US-Mexican border and seek asylum within the United States. The news outlets covering the story of this group have referred to them as a caravan of migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, amongst other, more colorful language not seen in any legal documents.

President Trump has asserted that he will sign an Executive Order banning the caravan’s entry into the U.S. and deny their claims to asylum. The term ‘caravan’ disguises the various legal definitions of migrants. To clarify, a migrant is an individual that leaves his or her country to seek residence in another country. A refugee, is an individual that leaves his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. An Asylee is a person seeking the protection of a country that is found to have well-founded fear of persecution.

The difference between the definition of refugee and asylee is marginal. Two individuals may face the same persecution and well-founded fear in their country of origin but the way in which they seek protection determines their title under the law. To be considered a refugee, the individual must register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a U.S. Embassy, or with a specially trained non-governmental agency in their country of origin. This requires the individual to identify, locate, and register with one of the above stated offices and wait for the office to issue a refugee referral, with which the individual can then travel to the United States.

To be considered an asylee, the individual must be on U.S. soil or at a port of entry and file Form I-589, an application for asylum, within one year of arriving in the U.S. Asylees are permitted to bring their families with them and to include them on their application for asylum. There are two ways to apply for asylum, affirmative asylum and defensive asylum.

Affirmative Asylum applies to a person on U.S. soil who approaches U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for protection. This is a person who is not being threatened with deportation. If their request for protection is denied, they are subject to removal.

Defensive Asylum applies to a person who is apprehended and is in removal proceedings. The person may file for asylum. Their case will be heard by a judge to determine if there is a credible fear of persecution that would prevent their deportation and return to country of origin. The individuals in this process do not have access to appointed legal counsel.

It would stand to reason, based on the definitions put forth in domestic law, that the caravan comprises migrants that may be asylum seeking. They are not refugees and are not governed by the refugee admissions process as they have opted to apply for protection at the border.

On Oct. 3, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, filed an injunction against the decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for individuals from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador. Until the resolution of the case, beneficiaries of TPS from the above stated countries will be permitted to remain in the U.S. with their valid documentation. This is of note in the case of the Oct-Nov Caravan if claim that there are a wide-ranging number of nationalities represented in the group is true.

Each year the President and Congress determine a ceiling for the number of refugees that will be admitted to the country. The number of asylum applications and cases cannot be easily regulated as they are filed on-the-spot by individuals, not through an agency or organization. In September, the current administration announced that the ceiling for refugee in FY 2019 would be 30,000. This is the lowest threshold set since the implementation of the Refugee Act of 1980. This stands in stark contrast to the information released by the UNHCR indicating that the number of refugees in the world is the highest it has ever been, a total of 68.5 milliondisplaced persons.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the decision to lower the refugee ceiling due to increasing numbers of asylum applications filed at ports of entry. The energy and attention of officials needed to be reallocated to the borders and the asylum applications filed there. While there is a backlog of asylum applications, there are a few important things to note in the context of President Trump’s looming E.O.

  1. The number of persons apprehended at the border in FY 2017 is not statistically significantly different than the number apprehended during the Obama years. At 310,531- the number of people attempting to enter the U.S., asylum seeking or not, shrivels in comparison to the over 1 million per-year that were attempting to cross the border between 1990 and 2001. There is not a crisis at the border. There was a crisis at the border.
  2. The Trump Administration overturned a 2014 procedural policy implemented by the Obama administration to streamline the resettlement process for unaccompanied minors from Northern Triangle of Central America. This policy was created to reduce backlog and more effectively provide the protection that domestic and international law calls for in the case of refugees and asylees. The 1980 Refugee Act had similar intentions, giving the President additional powers to adjust the ceiling in the case of humanitarian crisis so as to create policies and procedures that could more effectively respond to the needs of refugees and asylees.
  3. The U.S. is a signatory to the 1951 and 1967 U.N. Convention and Protocols on Refugees. This convention defines refugees, asylum-seekers and their rights. It also prohibits refoulment, the return of an individual seeking protection to their country of origin where they may face persecution. This also prohibits the restriction of movement, that is, detention. While the U.N. treaty allows for States to determine their own asylum application procedures, the right to free movement and the right to liberty and security of the person, protects refugees and asylum seekers for being mistreated in detention centers and the violation of their human rights and dignity. The U.S. Constitution, Amendment 14 protects even non-U.S. citizens from any action that denies their life, liberty, or property without due process of the law.

As a signatory to the high-profile U.N. treaty on refugees, the U.S. affirms its obligation to the international community to protect vulnerable populations in the understanding that other States will as well. The right to seek asylum is defined as a human right. The Universal Declaration on Human Rights has been called upon to defend U.S. intervening actions taken in the pursuit of protecting vulnerable populations facing violence and attack in their countries of origin.

The E.O. President Trump has threatened to sign will ban entry of the caravan into the U.S. and deny their applications for asylum before they’ve been filed. This is a violation of International Law, U.S. legal precedent, and the core values upon which the country prides itself.

The United States asserts itself as a force of good in the world, a warrior in the pursuit of morality, even greatness. The E.O. to deny the Caravan the right to asylum is not pursuant to making our country great.

Girls’ Access to Education in Turkey

Political Economy, Uncategorized

Originally Titled: Girls’ Access to Education in Turkey Still Needs Improvement

Originally Published: The Borgen Project Blog


May 9, 2018

Turkey has long boasted a prominent geographic position between Europe and Asia. It has been an important site for the exchange of goods and ideas for centuries. Its long history along major trade routes has created a unique culture that values expression and religion. Education has long suffered in this region but recent efforts have proven valuable in improving access to education, specifically girls’ access to education in Turkey. In order to understand how the country is handling inequalities, it is important to evaluate its education system as a whole.

The Turkish Education System

Turkey’s education system is monitored and regulated by the state. Its structure is very similar to the United State’s system, with an optional preschool enrollment before primary school (lasting four years), then a middle school level (another four years). The secondary portion of the education system has not always been mandatory, but since 2012, students have been required to complete schooling up through grade 12.

The overwhelmingly young population of the country continues to put pressure on education systems. One of the primary pressures facing the system is seeking out equal opportunities for Turkish students. Primary education and secondary education are the foundation for opportunity. With increases in access to education, students are graduating from the primary and secondary school systems and increasingly seeking higher education both at home and abroad.

Turkey is home to 166 universities and this number could be growing. Turkish universities have been enrolling refugees as well as attracting international students from countries in Europe and the Middle East.  There is an active effort to recruit international students to engage with the Turkish higher education system. Students have also been outgoing, seeking opportunities in the U.S., Germany and Canada. As Turkey has a relatively high unemployment rate for university graduates, foreign markets become increasingly appealing for ambitious students.

How Opportunity is Still Lacking

At the start of the twenty-first century, Turkey addressed its weaknesses with education through the Basic Education Programme. This encouraged enrollment and made at least eight years of education mandatory, which has since been increased to 12. Girls’ access to education benefitted the most from this strong regulation and standardization from the state. Enrollment rates increased and literacy improved, thus gender gaps in access to education are diminishing significantly.

The rural-urban divide tends to be a strong indicator of access to education. The Southeast portion of the country experiences a rate of illiteracy over 30 percent. The Ministry of Education (MONE) recognizes these disadvantages for rural and impoverished youth and has created programs and channels through which to increase access to education for disadvantaged youths.

Addressing Girls’ Access to Education in Turkey

One of MONE’s programs is the creation of 13 boarding schools, 11 of which were designed for young girls. By increasing access to school supplies, food, safe transportation and technology, MONE has assisted in narrowing the gap between urban and rural access.

Another organization addressing girls’ access to education in Turkey is Hey Girls, Let’s Go To School, a grassroots campaign powered by volunteers working in rural areas going door-to-door lobbying families on behalf of young women’s education. These volunteers talk with skeptical family members and are effective in addressing cultural concerns that weigh on the hearts and minds of the girls’ caretakers. Since the start of the program in 2003, the group has been successful in enrolling 20,000 young girls in the education system.

Girls of Hope is a documentary that highlights the challenges of girls’ access to education in Turkey. The lack of adequate resources and safe venues for education are one of the obstacles addressed in the film. Cultural standards and practices are further challenges for girls that most often prevent them from accessing education.

Turkey is aware of the shortcomings of its education system and has taken meaningful steps to improve access for all. Organizations focused on girls’ access to education in Turkey have helped the country progress and will continue to narrow the education gap between young boys and girls in the country.

Women’s Achievements Through Education in Israel

Political Economy, Uncategorized

Originally Titled: Women’s Achievements Through Education in Israel

Originally Published: The Borgen Project Blog


May 31, 2018

As Israel has become a center for innovation, the state has attracted investors and entrepreneurs from across the globe. In fact, new technology in computer science and cyber security entices nearly 15 percent of the world’s venture-capital in the industry. While the standard of living in Israel ranks around 19th in the world, over one-fifth of its population lives in poverty.

Education Combats Poverty

One of the ways in which the country combats poverty is through access to education in Israel. Israeli culture and history emphasizes the importance of education and employment in traditionally white collar jobs. Israel’s education system is three-tiered, schooling children from age 5 to 18.

The OECD’s report on education recognizes Israel as one of the most educated countries in the world; almost half of the countries 25 to 34 years old held bachelor’s degrees. While there is high participation in higher education, there are major gender inequalities.

Gender Inequality in Israel

UNICEF’s data indicates that girls fare better in primary and secondary schools with rates slightly higher than their male counterparts.While access to education in the state-run school system is generally equal, the outcomes of this system are not. Education in Israel succeeds in educating its population through 18, but does not always provide ample employment opportunity for its women.

Women in Israel are enrolling in higher education, making up about 57 percent of incoming students. They are outperforming their male peers but are less likely to find work upon graduation.

Women are also paid around 30 percent less than their male counterparts, which is higher than the OECD average of 26 percent. Despite a well-educated population, over 20 percent of Israel’s population lives below the poverty line; the connection between gendered wage disparities and poverty is curious. Arab women and haredi men tend to see the highest rates of unemployment. Engaging women in the workforce and building on the classroom education experience could benefit the economy and quality of life for families in Israel.

Women in the Workforce

Women participating in the workforce, although earning less than men, also work fewer hours. The primary reason for the large portion of women working part-time is child care — only half of women with higher education and children aged 0 to 4 worked, while their husbands, with similar education levels, were employed at a rate of 84 percent.

The cost and responsibility of childcare rests primarily on women’s shoulders, preventing women from adding to the family income and also creating a ripple effect in delaying a woman’s professional development and the timeline for her career. That being said, Israel does have policies to protect women in the workforce before, during and after their pregnancy. With 6 months maternal leave, about 3 months paid, these policies provide incentives for women to remain in the workforce during childbearing years.

Keeping Israel’s Future Bright

While the future of Israel looks bright, low participation in the workforce remains a daunting problem hindering economic development and poverty reduction. By continuing to explore ways to strengthen the system of education in Israel, the state can improve on one of its best assets — its people.

An asset-based community development plan can help firms benefit from improved labor participation, and benefit families living below or near the poverty line. All in all, creating opportunities for women and using their education in Israel can lead to reduced poverty and a more robust economy.

Missed Information about Refugee Populations


Originally Published: The Borgen Project Blog

Originally Titled: What You Might Not Know: Facts About Refugees


May 2, 2018

The recent use of chemical weapons in Syria has once again brought attention to the country and its citizens, those remaining within Syrian territory and facts about refugees who have been forced to flee. The conflict in Syria has created an unprecedented amount of refugees, the largest number on record. The United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees defines a refugee as “any person forced to flee from their country by violence or persecution.”

The journey of the refugee is riddled with uncertainty. The person is forced to leave their home and become an asylum seeker. The asylum seeker enters a foreign state in search of refugee status. For many asylum seekers, the journey is perilous. Traditional and safe forms of transportation across state boundaries are rare. For Syrians hoping to make landfall in Europe or Libya, options were limited and sea voyages were often part of the journey.

The lack of adequate vessels and safety equipment led gave way to unfortunately high mortality rates on the sea. The images emerging from the shores of Greece, Turkey and Libya capture the dire situation under which this journey was made. Major media outlets have published images showing refugees tired, distressed or worse. What is missing from this seemingly hopeless narrative are the rights guaranteed to these people as global citizens.

Refugees are entitled to certain rights. These persons are entitled to security, are not to be involuntarily returned to the country from which they are fleeing and should receive the same rights as other foreign nationals. Often, the influx of large quantities of people into already fragile economies creates an environment that does not allow the refugee the living conditions and opportunities for education, work and healthcare that are called for by human rights standards.

Often the very meaning of the word refugee is misunderstood. Surrounding the issue of displaced persons are numerous misconceptions and the facts are lost in assumptions. In hopes of clarity and dissuading any misconceptions about who refugees are, here are some facts about refugees:

Facts About Refugees

  • Around 65 million people are displaced currently; this number accounts for refugees living inside and outside the country where they are facing persecution.
  • More than half of refugees are produced by only three countries: Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan.
  • More than half of the refugees around the world are under the age of 18. These children are five times less likely to be enrolled in school.
  • Lack of economic opportunity and poverty do not qualify a person as a refugee.
  • Refugee crises are far-reaching and impact almost every continent. The Middle East and North Africa is not the only region impacted by refugees.
  • The average length of displacement is more than 10 years.
  • Being granted asylum in a state does not guarantee resettlement in that state.
  • In 2016, 189,900 refugees were resettled, compared to the 22.5 million refugees that were living outside their home country.
  • African and Middle Eastern countries host more than half of all current refugees. European countries and the Americas account for a little more than 30 percent of refugees.
  • The United States accepted the largest amount of refugees in its modern history in 1980.
  • The United States Refugee Admission Ceiling in FY 2016 was 85,000 persons.

The story of the refugee cannot be easily described through numbers and statistics. The larger narrative is more complex than can be easily summarized into key facts. The numbers neglect the individual experience of the refugee. These facts about refugees not do justice to the larger issue of statelessness but rather offer a snapshot of the problems facing displaced persons and the global community.

As these facts about refugees illustrate, refugees are often subjected to living in extreme poverty due to lack of resources available in camps and the slow, bureaucratic process of resettlement. These individuals lack access to adequate healthcare, education and opportunity for economic growth. Camps intended for emergency shelter become long-term solutions. There are many organizations doing incredible work to provide food, shelter and services to displaced persons.

The Development of and Legal Principles Behind Birthright Citizenship

Citizenship, US Politics
Originally Published: The Public Purpose Journal: American University’s School of Public Affairs Graduate Journal
Originally Titled: Threats to Birthright Citizenship
November 23, 2018

President Trump has recently spoken publicly about his skepticism over the United States’ Birthright Citizenship Policy. The discussion over the revocation of Birthright Citizenship has emerged as a potential strategy to lower the number of individuals in the United States as a result of immigration and to prevent the availability of citizenship to their children. President Trump has threatened to sign an Executive Order ending a 152-year-old amendment to the U.S. Constitution which has serious implications for Americans- of birth and naturalization.

The right of U.S. citizenship by birth was established with the 14th Amendment in 1866. The Amendment states:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of the law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The context out of which this amendment emerged is crucial in understanding the importance of its maintenance. Following the end of the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves with the 13th Amendment, the 14th Amendment sought to include newly freed slaves and their children into the citizenry of the United States. It affirmed their rights and privileges under the law. The context of this amendment to the Constitution was inclusion. Its purpose was to fill a gap left in the definition of who is American as crafted by the founding fathers.

The 14th Amendment and its applicability was scrutinized by racial prejudice and bias against an individual’s country of origin. This led to the Supreme Court hearing of U.S. vs. Wong Kim Ark. In this case, Wong Kim Ark was born to Chinese immigrant parents on U.S. soil. He spent his entire life as an American citizen living in California. Upon returning from a visit to China, U.S. custom agents denied his reentry into the United States and his claim of citizenship based on the fact that the Chinese Exclusionary Act was in effect. This prohibited Chinese immigrants from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens. The Supreme Court held that Wong Kim Ark was a U.S. citizen by birth and was entitled to the rights and privileges of any and all other U.S. citizens.

The decision maintained that any immigration law discriminating against country of origin did not apply to children born on U.S. soil. The Court referenced an 1853 Pamphlet published in Philadelphia, stating:

“The right of citizenship… is incident to birth in the country… The child of an alien, if born in the country, is as much a citizen as the natural born child of a citizen, and by operation of the same principle.”

Your parents’ country of origin does not affect your status as an American.The decision of the court and the legal principle from which the 14th Amendment draws is jus soli, meaning right of soil. The origin of jus soli in U.S. citizenship law informally borrowed from English common law and was the primary method for determining who was American before the Civil War. Slaves were not given citizenship rights until after emancipation and the 14th Amendment. In an 1844 New York case, the court held that a child born to foreign nationals visiting or only temporarily residing in the United States was still entitled to U.S. citizenship. Though formal citizenship law did not appear as an amendment to the Constitution until 1866, there is clear precedent for the reliance on and upholding of jus soli in determining citizenship and American identity before.

This stands in contrast to the principle of jus sanguinis, meaning right of blood, that originated in Europe in response to shifting borders and the displacement of citizens from origin states. Following the redrawing of geopolitical boundaries in Europe throughout the 19th and 20th century, German leadership proposed a policy of determining national identity and belonging through ancestry rather than by location. Jus Sanguinis in its origin, was proposed as a method for reuniting separated families and granting citizenship rights to children born abroad to citizens. Though its basis in nationalist sentiment would later be used for oppression and genocide, in its origin, jus sanguinis was intended to be inclusive.
Jus Soli is primarily used in the Western Hemisphere and is the primary method for granting citizenship in a little over 30 countries. Many states’ citizenship law encompasses elements of both jus soli and jus sanguinis.

In examining the place for Birthright Citizenship in U.S.policy, there is not definitive right or wrong, especially when other developed countries’ policies are examined. Many European states rely heavily on narrowly defined Jus Sanguinis and still other developed, comparable countries rely on a restricted definition of Jus Soli. There is a strong argument to be made on behalf of both principles.

In moving forward in the debate over Birthright Citizenship, a few suggestions should be made:

  1. The debate over limited citizenship, naturalization, and immigration controls has sociological, political and economic components. It would be irresponsible to ignore data essential to the decision making process beyond demographic data. The economic cost and benefits of awarding the nearly 250,000 babies born to immigrant parents in 2016, (the last year such data can be accessed).
  2. Birthright Citizenship is not an all-or-nothing policy and should not be treated as such. The adjustment of the policy to have more stringent restrictions could be a meaningful step in meeting the goals of and maintaining the values of the American people. Many comparable, developed countries have restricted policies based on jus soli. Congressman Steve King, representing Iowa’s 4th Congressional District, introduced a Bill in the House in January 2017 that sought to address the issue of Birthright Citizenship, seemingly combining principles of jus sanguinis and jus soli. The amendment would require one parent to have citizenship or be a legal resident alien for the child, born on American soil, to be considered a U.S. citizen. The language of the Bill is subtly exclusionary. All 11 of the Congressmen named on the Bill in its introduction were members of the Republican party (two of the congressmen were defeated in reelection campaigns, one resigned following accusations of sexual harassment).
  3. When changes are proposed to such a fundamental policy, the American people should have an opportunity to engage with the system and voice their support or opposition. Recent polls have indicated 65% of respondents support the continuation of Birthright citizenship, a number that has actually increased since Trump took office. An Executive Order may be the quickest way to shift policy, it is not the most effective, or legal, channel for amending the Constitution. Legal scholars from around the country have stepped forward offering insight into potential outcomes of such an Executive Order.

In conclusion, the debate over Birthright Citizenship speaks to the core principle of who is American and who is not. While the United States has long been a country of immigration, this is not the first time the question over birthright citizenship has emerged and it will most likely not be the last. As Americans grapple with the defining of who is a citizen and what it means to be American, there is value in the recollection of our core values.
E Pluribus Unum, a statement that served as the motto in the founding of the United States and appears on the official seal not only of the President but on the seal of the Vice President, Congress, and the Supreme Court. E Plurbius Unum serves as the motto of the U.S. and is present in every office charged with the duty of governing the country. What does this Latin phrase mean exactly?
“Out of many, one.”
The union of varying peoples is as integral to and symbolic of the American identity as the bald eagle.

The best outcome of the debate is the involvement of the elected officials comprising our legislature and their careful consideration of the extensive body of research on migration, citizenship, and legal precedent that exists around this issue.
The question of belonging and membership in the American system will go unanswered until then.