As the year comes to an end and we reflect on our accomplishments, I am deeply grateful for your partnership and support of Human Rights First. In a year filled with bitter partisanship and lots of noise, together we made a difference. Let’s celebrate these achievements, even as we gear up for the challenges ahead!
Here are the real-world outcomes we achieved this year with your support:
President Obama issued a public report setting out the legal and policy framework for counterterrorism operations. Throughout the Obama Administration we pushed for it to set out—in public and in a single document—all the rules that govern the U.S. approach to countering terrorism. This reporting now helps define the rules of the road for the next administration.
The Obama Administration met its goal to bring 10,000 desperate Syrian refugees to safety and resettle more than 85,000 refugees total. Through a series of reports based on missions to Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan and persistent advocacy with the administration and Congress, we kept up the pressure that was instrumental in meeting this meager goal. Working alongside some of the nation’s most prominent national security experts, retired military leaders, and former government officials, we succeeded in making the case that reaching this goal was not only the right thing to do, but was essential to American security. We will be mobilizing these partners again in 2017 to advocate for vulnerable refugees who are increasingly caught in the crosshairs of our nation’s politics.
Defeated an effort to eliminate the United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. Created by the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate bias-motivated acts of violence and discrimination against LGBT people around the world, the position of Independent Expert came under attack this year. We fought to make sure the U.N. General Assembly voted to keep it.
Stopped legislation that would have shut down the resettlement of refugees from Syria and Iraq. At a time when the world is facing the largest refugee crisis since WWII, the so-called “American SAFE Act” was a disgraceful effort to block the protection of vulnerable people—including women and children—fleeing the very terrorist groups our country is fighting. Our efforts—including rallying a stunning array of former cabinet officials and national security experts from both parties—were instrumental in killing the bill. Sadly, we expect continued attempts to bar refugees from the United States next year, and we are gearing up to fight them.
Extended the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program and increased the number of visas available for wartime allies seeking protection in the United States. Working in partnership with veterans, we secured an increase in the number of visas available for the translators, engineers, security guards, embassy clerks, logisticians, cultural advisors, and soldiers who have risked their lives alongside American military personnel. In 2017 we will continue to work with veterans through our new Veterans for American Ideals project to make sure our country does not abandon those whose lives are at risk because they helped us.
Secured more funding for global anti-slavery programs. The scourge of modern day slavery robs an estimated 21 million men, women, and children around the world of their rights and freedom. It’s an atrocity—and it’s also a wildly lucrative business, producing $150 billion in profits for the perpetrators. Along with a powerful and diverse coalition, we helped pass the End Modern Slavery Act that will spur investment to hold slave traders and their accomplices accountable for this horrific crime.
Blocked the holding of children in immigration detention facilities in Pennsylvania and Texas. A Texas judge blocked the issuance of licenses for family immigration detention facilities in Karnes and Dilley, Texas, noting that the facilities are ineligible for childcare facility licenses. Similarly, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services did not renew the childcare operating license for the Berks County family detention center. We will continue to work to protect the rights of vulnerable asylum seekers.
Elisa Massimino President and Chief Executive Officer
Human Rights First is an independent advocacy and action organization that challenges America to live up to its ideals. We believe American leadership is essential in the struggle for human rights so we press the U.S. government and private companies to respect human rights and the rule of law. When they don't, we step in to demand reform, accountability and justice. Around the world, we work where we can best harness American influence to secure core freedoms.
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