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Home / Blog / Washington Week on Human Rights: March 20, 2017
March 20, 2017

Washington Week on Human Rights: March 20, 2017

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Neil Gorsuch Confirmation Hearings

Confirmation hearings begin today in the Senate for Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump’s nominee to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia.  Gorsuch will have to answer tough questions about his opinions on key issues including executive power, independent judicial review, and fundamental rights. On Thursday, Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of these hearings, raising questions and concerns about Gorsuch’s record on issues of national security as they relate to the protection of human rights and the rule of law in U.S. counterterrorism operations.

Refugee Ban Halted

Last week a Hawaii court issued a ruling that imposes a nationwide block on implementation of sections two and six of the Trump Administration’s executive order that would suspend the refugee resettlement program, lower refugee admissions to 50,000, and ban the issuance of new visas and entry to the United States to nationals of six Muslim-majority countries. The ruling preceded another ruling against the president's order in Maryland, which was brought by refugee groups and foreign nationals who argued that the revised ban was motivated by anti-Muslim bigotry. 

On Friday the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it would appeal the Maryland ruling in order to better protect national security. Claims tying increased security to banning refugees from Muslim-majority countries however, have been roundly denounced by members of America's foreign policy establishment, who say the order will "weaken U.S. security and undermine U.S. global leadership."

Tillerson to Host Coalition Meeting on Countering ISIS

Wednesday Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will host a meeting with representatives of 68 nations to discuss efforts to combat ISIS. The meeting is the first full coalition meeting since 2014, and will likely focus on ramping up military and financial obligations aimed at defeating ISIS. Human Rights First notes that successful counterterrorism efforts must include efforts to combat extremism and to stabilize the region through support for civil society and increased efforts to address the global refugee crisis.

Quote of the Week

"Membership in an anti-Semitic organization like the Historical Vitézi Rend should raise serious concerns regarding whether an individual holds the sort of “hostile attitudes” that concern the Administration. Failure to address this case would further confirm the intent of this Administration is to discriminate on the basis of religion, rather than combat extremist views.”

—Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Ben Cardin (D-MD) in response to allegations that Sebastian Gorka is a member of antisemitic hate group Historical Vitézi Rend.

We’re Watching

NBC Nightly News takes a look at the inconsistencies of the U.S. immigration court system.

We’re Reading

Three veterans from Colorado write in The Hill that the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghan interpreters and translators that served alongside U.S. forces in the country needs to be saved.

Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino writes with Kerry Kennedy, Gloria Steinem, and Dolores Huerta in the Huffington Post that there is an indefensible silence on domestic abuse in the undocumented immigrant community.

The Associated Press writes that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has requested reform in U.N. Human Rights Council, otherwise the United States will not continue to participate.

The Chicago Tribune reports that if President Trump's fast-track plan to deport millions of immigrants is going to succeed, he will first need to resolve the current backlog of immigration and asylum cases in the court system.

The Washington Blade reports that the current U.S. delegation to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women meetings includes a known hate group.

On The Hill

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the nomination of the Honorable Neil M. Gorsuch to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. 11:00 AM, Hart Senate Office Building 216.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Atlantic Council will hold an event entitled, “Crimea: Reflecting on Three Years of Russian Occupation.” The event will feature Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH-1); Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11); Dr. Anders Aslund, Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council; Dr. Michael Carpenter, Senior Director at the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Robert Herman, Vice President for International Programs and Emergency Assistance Programs and Multilateral Initiatives at Freedom House; Ambassador Steven Pifer, Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution; Melinda Haring, Editor of UkraineAlert. 8:30 AM, 2255 Rayburn House Office Building.

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “America’s Role in the World.” The hearing will feature testimony from The Honorable Madeleine Albright, Former Secretary of State; Mr. Stephen Hadley, Former National Security Advisor. 10:00 AM, Rayburn House Office Building 2118.            

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing entitled, “Threats to Civil Society Around the World.” The hearing will feature testimony by Maina Kiai, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association; Vanessa Tucker, Vice President for Analysis at Freedom House; Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA; Douglas Rutzen, President and CEO at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law; Maria Stephan, Senior Policy Fellow at USIP. 1:00 PM, 2255 Rayburn House Office Building.               

The House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security will hold a hearing entitled, “Defeating a Sophisticated and Dangerous Adversary: Are the New Border Security Task Forces the Right Approach?” The hearing will feature testimony by Vice Admiral Karl Schultz, Director of the DHS Joint Task Force East; Paul Beeson, Director of Border Patrol for DHS Joint Task Force West; Janice Ayala, Director of Homeland Security Investigations and Joint Task Force Investigations; Rebecca Gambler, Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues at GAO. 2:00 PM, 219 HVC Capitol.              

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions will hold a hearing on the nomination of Alex Acosta to serve as Secretary of Labor. 9:00 AM, 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Flashing Red: The State of Global Humanitarian Affairs.” 10:00 AM, Dirksen Senate Office Building 419.             

The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a hearing entitled, “Perspectives from the DHS Frontline: Evaluating Staffing Resources and Requirements.” 10:00 AM, Dirksen Senate Office Building 342.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled, “Anti-Semitism Across Borders.” The hearing will feature testimony by Paul Goldenberg, National Director of the Secure Community Network; Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative on Combating Anti-Semitism for the Office of the Chairperson-in-Office at OSCE; Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs at the Simon Wiesenthal Center. 10:00 AM, Rayburn House Office Building 2172.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations Defense Subcommittee will holds hearing entitled, “A Review of the Budget & Readiness of the Department of Defense.” The hearing will feature testimony by Secretary of Defense James Mattis; General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff . 10:30 AM, Dirksen Senate Office Building 192.

Around Town

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute will hold an event entitled, “US-Mexico Relations and the Trump Administration.” The event will feature Geronimo Gutierrez, Mexican Ambassador to the US; Amy Glover, Director of Mexico Practice at McLarty Associates; Jeffrey Davidow, Former US Ambassador to Mexico; Carla Hills, Former US Trade Representative; James Jones, former US Ambassador to Mexico; Eric Olson, Senior Advisor for Security Policy at the Mexico Institute and Associate Director of the Latin America Program at the Wilson Center; Antonio Ortiz-Mena, Senior Advisor at the Albright Stonebridge Group; Arturo Sarukhan, Career Ambassador and Former Mexican Ambassador to the US; Andrew Selee, Executive VP and Senior Advisor to the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center; Earl Anthony Wayne, Career Ambassador and Former US Ambassador to Mexico; Christopher Wilson, Deputy Director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center; Duncan Wood, Director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center. 9:00 AM, Woodrow Wilson Center, 6th Floor, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.         

The Institute of World Politics will hold an event entitled, “The Challenge of Russian Active Measures” (rescheduled from March 14th). The event will feature Todd Leventhal, Research Analytics Officer at the Global Engagement Center with the U.S. Department of State. 4:00 PM, Institute of World Politics, 1521 16th Street NW, Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Brookings Institution will hold an event entitled, “The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein and U.S. Policy in Iraq.” The event will feature John Nixon, author of “Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein” and former CIA Analyst; Bruce Riedel, Senior Fellow at Brookings. 10:00 AM, Brookings Institution, Saul/Zilkha Rooms, 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C.                

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Wilson Center’s Global Europe Program will hold the 2017 Martti Ahtisaari Symposium on European Security and Global Perspectives. The symposium will feature Dr. Mikko-Olavi Seppala, Helsinki University; Her Excellency Kirsti Kauppi, Ambassador of Finland to the United States; The Honorable Martti Ahtisaari; Dr. Michael Haltzel, Senior Fellow at Johns Hopkins University; Dr. Karen Erickson, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Southern New Hampshire University; Professor Ilkka Ruostetsaari, Professor of Political Science at the University of Tampere; Ambassador James Goodby, former US Ambassador to Finland. 2:00 PM, Woodrow Wilson Center, 6th Floor, One Woodrow Wilson Plaza,1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.               

The Center for Strategic and International Studies will hold an event entitled, “A Roadmap for U.S.-Russia Relations.” The event will feature Igor Ivanov, President of the Russian International Affairs Council; Andrey Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council; Sergey Rogov, Scientific Director at the Institute of US and Canadian Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences. 3:00 PM, CSIS Headquarters, First Floor Conference Center, 1616 Rhode Island Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

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