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October 13, 2016

Human Rights First Urges President Obama to Take Action to Secure Human Rights Legacy

Washington, D.C. - As President Obama enters the last 100 days of his term in office, Human Rights First today urged him to take specific actions to secure his legacy on human rights. The call came in a letter outlining specific policy actions that are within the president’s executive authority to implement by the end of his term, including ramping up leadership to address the global refugee crisis, bringing counterterrorism practices in line with human rights norms, and maximizing the potential of a political solution to the conflict in Syria.

"Mr. President, you will leave office at a time when the need for American leadership to address a range of global crises is acute. While our country cannot solve these challenges alone, it is strongly in our national interest to advance the universal ideals of human rights,” wrote Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino. "I urge you to leave no doubt that America stands for the bedrock premise of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that our nation did so much, under Eleanor Roosevelt’s leadership, to craft: respect for human rights is the foundation of peace and security in the world.”

Recommendations for President Obama outlined in the letter include:

  • Continue to take aggressive action to transfer, prosecute, and otherwise find dispositions for the remaining 61 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. 
  • Increase resettlement of refugees—including Syrians—to the United States to better address the global crisis.
  • Launch a private refugee sponsorship pilot program that would allow Americans to sponsor refugees to come to the United States.
  • End the detention of immigrant children and families, many of whom are asylum seekers fleeing horrific violence in Central America.
  • Take executive action—by means of Executive Order or policy directive—to bequeath to the next administration meaningful restrictions limiting war authorities—such as those claimed under the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF)— to situations that clearly rise to the level of armed conflict.
  • Direct the Executive Office for Immigration Review to meet its own 100 immigration judge hiring goal, which would cut down immigration court wait times.
  • Release asylum seekers on parole by requiring compliance with the Department of Homeland Security 2009 Asylum Parole Directive, which confirms that an asylum seeker found to have credible fear of persecution should generally be paroled if his or her identity is sufficiently established and he or she does not pose a danger to the community or an unmanageable flight risk.  
  • Maximize the Possibility of a Political Solution to the Conflict in Syria by supporting the U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for the protection of civilians, acting to build on the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement painstakingly negotiated with Russia over many months, and continuing to press for its full implementation by all parties.
  • Translate into action the administration’s argument that human rights abuses foment extremism by issuing a forceful statement to the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council indicating that the bilateral relationships are unsustainable as long as they violate rights with impunity.

For more information or to speak with Massimino contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at [email protected] or 212-845-5269.