Liberians Go Home?

Via African Loft:

Thousands of Liberians living in the United States face deportation at the end of next month. This follows the expiry of the temporary immigration status granted to 14,000 Liberians who fled the civil war in the 1990s. The US government extended their temporary protection status during Charles Taylor’s dictatorship in Liberia. But after he was toppled in 2006, and a new government installed the following year, they were given 18 months to return home. Senator Jack Reed from Rhode Island, which has a large Liberian community, said many of them have become an important part of the community and should be allowed to stay. But Dan Stein, president of an NGO for immigration reform, said it is time for them to go back and rebuild their country.

Here is CNN clip on the story:

I find ludicrous the argument that this is a “mockery” of short term asylum… These Liberian families should be given credit for integrating and contributing to the elaboration of a diverse American society. This is how History happens – people migrate for varied reasons (including war) and establish themselves in new places. Why fight it?!

In addition, on a more pragmatic level, Liberians in Liberia rely on the vital lifeline provided by family members abroad. With 14,000 Liberians in the US, you can be sure that their wealth is spread deep into family circles back home. In fact, remittances from the US to Liberia averaged $6 million/month in 2007. (see previous post for background)

Of course, I’m sure the fact that some (but not all) Liberians in the US have been linked to gang violence and other societal woes is informing the opinions of deportation advocates. But what community doesn’t have its fringe? There are plenty of Liberians in the US who have productive, happy lives, and for who returning to Liberia means leaving schools and healthcare for their children (services they have earned through their hard work and contributions to the IRS). As the CNN report notes, some of these families have children who were born in the US and have US citizenship – we can at least hope that good immigration lawyers will be able to keep these families together.

It’s refreshing to see politicians such as Sen. Jack Reed from Rhode Island take a stand for the Liberians.

YES WE CAN

Haven’t blogged in a while… Shame on me. I’ve been consumed with work for WJC and for Niapele, and, also completely absorbed by this neverending election coverage.

Tomorrow, we are making History. This is HUGE! It’s hard to contain my excitement… (little thought for HRC…. you were my gal)

his most inspiring speech? Which one was your favorite? (or least, if you are voting for the old man)

A More Perfect Union, March 2008

Defining "refugees"

I’d like to preface this post by reminding you what the global “refugee context” is: 

I’ve mentioned before, in some posts here, how the legal definition of “refugee” has become obsolete in the 21st century. While on paper, the definition seems quite broad, it fails to include dozens of millions of displaced people, who, as a result, see their most fundamental human rights violated. There are 16 million refugees in the world today who fall under the mandate of the UNHCR or the UNRWA (4.6 million Palestinian refugees, out of the 16 million fall under the latter’s jurisdiction). In addition to these already staggering numbers, there are an estimated 51 million displaced people who do not fall under any international legal mandate. 51 million. And that is not taking into account the vast numbers of people who flee their homelands but are never able to register as a refugee or an asylum seeker, for reasons as varied as inability to read, write and understand the process involved or too much psychological trauma to handle complicated, inefficient bureaucratic processes. It’s most likely impossible to know exactly how many people fall into the latter category – but I would say there are easily a few million displaced people who have not been taken into account by the UNHCR statistics. 
Anyway, this leads me up to the story of the day, that of Pape Mbaye, a gay Senegalese man who was granted refugee status in the US on the basis of his facing persecution due to his sexual orientation. The article (unfortunately) barely touches upon the novelty of this type of refugee case, merely noting that only “a handful” of similar cases arose in the past, and is focused on the plight of homosexuals in West Africa (as far as my experience goes, I haven’t encountered a single West African who is tolerant of homosexuality…. sadly).
It is nonetheless noteworthy that Mbaye was able to receive refugee status on those grounds – and given that his well-being was genuinely endangered by conservative zealotry, I think it’s fantastic that the US granted him refugee status. However, for every Mbaye, there are 100,000 (or more) individuals who yearn to live in a different country, far away from the misery, oppression and persecution that pervades their daily lives. What of them? What of the hundreds of Africans who end up ship wrecked on the coasts of the small southern European island of Malta? Why must they languish endlessly in precarious conditions? What of the thousands of Liberian refugees in Ghana who cannot avail themselves of the inadequate amount of assistance that the UNHCR is able to provide them with? 
The fight for the rights of those who suffer is far from over….

The "Thinking Brains" of Foreign Policy

On my right, we have the military-industrial complex. If you haven’t (yet) watched “Why We Fight”, the excellent documentary by Jarecki, I recommend you do. Particularly during election time, it’s always good to be reminded about the threat to checks and balances in the government.

McCain is interviewed in this documentary – quite interesting position he lays out (I hope this arouses your curiosity – seriously – watch this documentary!)

On my left, “top foreign policy experts“. I love this graph:What this says is that “experts” completely changed their predictions within 11 months – does this suggest that asking for their opinion is probably rather useless, as it is bound to change with the ebb and flow of realities on the ground?

Is there any predictive value to this? I really doubt it: this poll, if it does anything at all, only re-affirms what everyone already knows. I hope we are not using these “expert opinions” to inform our foreign policy strategy (oh wait. we are.)