News Release Archive - Legal

New Report Calls on Biden to Put an End to Program That’s “Not Far From Slavery”

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DAVID BACON, dbacon@igc.org@photos4justice
ANURADHA MITTAL, amittal@oaklandinstitute.org, @oak_institute
Bacon is author of the new report “Dignity or Exploitation – What Future for Farmworker Families in the United States?” for the Oakland Institute. Mittal is founder and executive director of the group.

Bacon said today: “The H-2A program has created a captive labor force, made to work in brutal and often illegal conditions. In practice, it is not far from slavery. The majority of these migrant workers arrive in the U.S. already in debt. Department of Labor regulations permit companies to subject them to quotas that require them to work at an exhausting speed. Efforts to organize against exploitative conditions have been met with terminations, deportations and blacklisting.”

The report states that: “H-2A workers also face disproportionate exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The report describes some of the most acute situations, and analyzes the basic reason for the high infection rate — congregate housing, or barracks, where workers sleep in bunk beds.

Growth of the H-2A program has also exacerbated an existing housing crisis for rural workers, as recruitment has skyrocketed from 10,000 visas in 1992 to over 250,000 in 2020. The exploitative conditions and vulnerability of migrants who came under the H-2A program are very close to those of the bracero program that was in place from 1942 to 1964. The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which put an end to the bracero program, established an immigration system based on family reunification and community stability, protecting the wages, rights, health, and housing of farmworkers. This system is under increasing threat today.

Mittal said: “Restoring the family preference system and halting the H-2A program are two of the most important decisions that will face the Biden administration in regards to the direction of U.S. immigration policy. The new administration needs to choose whose interests they are going to serve. Will it support the H-2A program and protect the profits of growers, or will it stand with the farmworkers who labor in the fields to feed this country?”

Will Biden End the Militarization of Police?

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JARIBU HILL, jaribu.hill@gmail.com@truthteller711@blacks4peace
NETFA FREEMAN, netfa@ips-dc.org@Netfafree

Hill and Freeman are both on the coordinating committee of the Black Alliance for Peace. Freeman is writing a forthcoming book: Community Control Over Police.    The group recently released a statement calling for an executive order to end the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which siphons military equipment to police in the U.S.

The group states: “The gratuitous militarization of police forces across the United States through this program has helped to turn these agencies into brutal weapons of repression. Therefore, nothing short of complete abolition of this program is acceptable.

“BAP has demanded abolition of the 1033 program since BAP’s 2017 founding. It now asks the public to sign a petition (available in English and Spanish) demanding the Biden administration and Democrats commit to abolishing this racist and brutal program.”

Hill is also executive director of the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights. She added: “Here in the belly of the Deep South beast, we understand the harsh and irreversible effects measures like 1033 have had and continue to have on those who languish in poverty, forced to live in shanty shacks and tenements.” She formerly served as municipal judge for the city of Hollandale and is a human rights attorney and a veteran community organizer.

The group noted: “The National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 that then-Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) supported and President Bill Clinton (D) signed into law created the 1033 program by expanding on a previous program.”Responding to outrage about the heavily militarized police response to protests after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama enacted a policy in 2015 that appeared to limit the program, but made little difference in any department’s ability to acquire and use military weapons.

“Even with the scale-back, the Obama administration managed to transfer a $459 million arsenal to police agencies. …

“President Donald Trump came into office and reversed Obama’s cosmetic changes. What the Biden administration is now proposing by reversing Trump’s reversal to the Obama policy is not enough, as reverting the policy to Obama’s altered version is not justice.”

Biden Continuing Assange Prosecution, Launched By Trump DOJ

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KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin@shadowproof.com, @kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola just wrote the piece “Assange Prosecution, Launched By Trump Justice Department, Will Continue Under Biden.”

He writes: “The Justice Department under President Joe Biden plans to continue the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that was launched under President Donald Trump.

“‘We continue to seek his extradition,’ Justice Department spokesperson Marc Raimondi told Reuters, days before February 12, the deadline for the United States government to submit its ‘grounds for appeal.’

“The statement represents a departure from President Barack Obama’s administration, which declined to prosecute Assange. Justice Department officials were reportedly concerned about the threat it would pose to press freedom.

“On January 4, British district judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected the U.S. government’s extradition request and concluded Assange’s mental condition was ‘such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.'”

Gosztola notes that earlier this week “a coalition of civil liberties, press freedom, and human rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Center for Constitutional Rights, Committee to Protect Journalists, Fight for the Future, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Human Rights Watch, PEN America, Project on Government Oversight, and Reporters Without Borders, signed on to a letter demanding that the Biden Justice Department drop the charges against Assange. …

“During Biden’s first foreign policy speech on February 4, he proclaimed, ‘We believe a free press isn’t an adversary; rather, it’s essential. A free press is essential to the health of a democracy.’ …

“However … U.S. security agencies believe they should monitor, neutralize, and even target dissident media organizations that may employ practices pioneered by WikiLeaks.”

See Gosztola’s extensive reporting on Assange’s trial, which he covered in London.

While vice president, Biden likened Assange to a “hi-tech terrorist.”

Debunking Biden State Dept. Claim Putting Israel Above the Law

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Friday evening, the U.S. State Department released a statement: “Opposing International Criminal Court Attempts to Affirm Territorial Jurisdiction Over the Palestinian Situation.”

JOHN QUIGLEY, quigley.2@osu.edu
Professor emeritus of international law at Ohio State University, Quigley’s books include The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict and The International Diplomacy of Israel’s Founders: Deception at the United Nations in the Quest for Palestine (both Cambridge University Press).

He said today: “The United States bucks the international consensus by claiming that Palestine is not a state. The U.S. opposition to an investigation into war crimes committed in Palestine hinders the International Criminal Court in preventing such crimes. The decision by the pre-trial chamber to allow an investigation to proceed will allow the Prosecutor to investigate crimes committed by both sides. One of the war crimes the Prosecutor seeks to investigate is the transfer of civilians to Israeli settlements in the Palestine territory that Israel occupies. That activity is defined as a crime in international law, because a belligerent occupant does not gain a right to move its own people into the territory it occupies. The actions of Israeli officials in regard to the settlements is almost universally regarded as a war crime. The International Criminal Court is the only international institution that has jurisdiction to investigate this crime. It has that jurisdiction because Palestine, as a state, is party to the Statute of the International Criminal Court. The fact that the United States does not consider Palestine to be a state does not keep the International Criminal Court from taking jurisdiction. An investigation will now be able to proceed.”

Also see recent accuracy.org news release: “Desmond Tutu: Biden Should End Israeli Nuclear Cover-up and Save Billions.”

Biden Says He’s Ending the Yemen War, but Will He?

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SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, @shireen818
Al-Adeimi an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University. Since 2015, she has played an active role in raising awareness about the Saudi-led war on her country of birth, Yemen, and works to encourage political action to end U.S. support.

She just wrote the piece “Biden Says He’s Ending the Yemen War — But It’s Too Soon to Celebrate” for In These Times. She gives Biden credit for positive moves, but scrutinizes his speech at the State Department yesterday in which he said: “We are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen including relevant arms sales. … At the same time, Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks and UAV strikes and other threats from Iranian supplied forces in multiple countries. We are going to continue to help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people.”
But Al-Adeimi notes: “Unfortunately, qualifiers like ‘offensive’ and ‘relevant’ do not signal a clear commitment to ending all forms of support for the U.S. war in Yemen, which includes targeting assistance, weapons sales (the U.S. is the largest supplier of arms to Saudi Arabia), logistics, training, and intelligence sharing with the Saudi-led coalition. Labeling Yemen’s Houthis as ‘Iranian supplied forces,’ and making a commitment to defending Saudi Arabia’s ‘sovereignty,’ echoes President Obama’s initial pretense for entering the war on Yemen in 2015. …

“Importantly, [National Security Advisor Jake] Sullivan noted that ending the war in Yemen ‘does not extend to actions against AQAP,’ or al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. While sanctioned by the [2001] AUMF [which is continuing to be used to justify attacks in many countries], it’s important to oppose this parallel U.S.-led war in Yemen that has also led to the killing of civilians.

“Now, more than ever, it is vital to hold a firm line about what a real end to U.S. participation in the Yemen war means: an end to all U.S. assistance, including intelligence sharing, logistical help, training, providing spare parts transfers for warplanes, bomb targeting, weapons sales and support for the naval blockade (we still don’t know the full extent of U.S. support for the latter). It also requires that the United States immediately reverse the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), a determination that is cutting off critical aid to northern Yemen and significantly escalating the crisis of mass starvation.

“Because these things have not yet come to pass, it is critical to keep up the pressure until the war is really ended. As much as we might welcome positive messaging – no doubt a result of the pressure exerted by dogged organizers – we must not rest until we have won actual material relief. …

“The Obama-Biden administration made numerous announcements in 2012 and 2013 that it would end the U.S. war in Afghanistan by 2014. But we saw that declarations do not, in themselves, end U.S. aggression. This principle especially applies when declarations are loaded with red-flag-raising qualifiers like ‘offensive operations’ and ‘relevant weapons systems.'”

Over 100 Groups Call for Biden to Close Guantánamo

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More than a hundred human rights and civil liberties groups are calling on President Joe Biden to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and end indefinite military detention.

See the letter they have signed, noting that Guantánamo was “designed specifically to evade legal constraints, and where Bush administration officials incubated torture. … United States government has viewed communities of color — citizens and non-citizens alike — through a security threat lens, to devastating consequences. … It is long past time for both a sea change in the United States’ approach to national and human security, and a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused. Closing Guantánamo and ending indefinite detention of those held there is a necessary step towards those ends. We urge you to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly 20 years.”

Among the groups signing the letter are the Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Victims of Torture, American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Advocacy Project, Physicians for Human Rights, Muslim Solidarity Committee and Witness Against Torture.

Available for interviews:

ALIYA HUSSAIN, via Jen Nessel, jnessel@ccrjustice.org@theCCR
Hussain, a Center for Constitutional Rights advocacy program manager said: “That so many groups are calling for an end to the indefinite detention of Muslim men without charge or fair trial at Guantánamo, and see it as part of a broader movement to uphold human rights, demand accountability for U.S.-sanctioned torture and violence, and fundamentally change the flawed criminal legal system, is significant. There is wide-ranging public support for President Biden to close Guantánamo. He must take bold and decisive action, and we will hold him accountable until he does.”

Over 100 Groups Call for Biden to Close Guantánamo

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More than a hundred human rights and civil liberties groups are calling on President Joe Biden to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and end indefinite military detention.

See the letter they have signed, noting that Guantánamo was “designed specifically to evade legal constraints, and where Bush administration officials incubated torture. … United States government has viewed communities of color — citizens and non-citizens alike — through a security threat lens, to devastating consequences. … It is long past time for both a sea change in the United States’ approach to national and human security, and a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused. Closing Guantánamo and ending indefinite detention of those held there is a necessary step towards those ends. We urge you to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly 20 years.”

Among the groups signing the letter are the Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Victims of Torture, American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Advocacy Project, Physicians for Human Rights, Muslim Solidarity Committee and Witness Against Torture.
Available for interviews:

ALIYA HUSSAIN, via Jen Nessel, jnessel@ccrjustice.org@theCCR
Hussain, a Center for Constitutional Rights advocacy program manager said: “That so many groups are calling for an end to the indefinite detention of Muslim men without charge or fair trial at Guantánamo, and see it as part of a broader movement to uphold human rights, demand accountability for U.S.-sanctioned torture and violence, and fundamentally change the flawed criminal legal system, is significant. There is wide-ranging public support for President Biden to close Guantánamo. He must take bold and decisive action, and we will hold him accountable until he does.”

Nonviolent Resistance to Myanmar Coup

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MICHAEL BEER, michael@nonviolenceinternational.net, @NVIntl
Executive director of Nonviolence International, Beer has been to Myanmar many times and has worked for 30 years supporting the nonviolent campaigns for peace, justice, and democracy in the country. He is in contact with activists there, many of whom are afraid to speak publicly.

He said today: “The people of Myanmar are resisting the military coup d’etat. Government doctors are going on strike. Myanmar citizens responded last night by engaging in a mass nonviolent tactic of caceleroza which involves the banging of pots and pans. Many governments, including South East Asian nations, are protesting. Ethnic minorities in the country are united in opposition. World-wide, citizens are planning to re-launch global boycotts. This coup will not succeed if enough pressure can be brought upon the coup plotters.

“Despite the overwhelming electoral defeat of the military’s political party, the military has copied U.S. former president Trump’s strategy of criticizing the validity of the election and are now trying to overturn the election. This may have been prompted by the military leader’s fear of losing power as a civilian where his vast wealth might be at risk.

“People around the world are sickened by the coup d’etat in Myanmar by the rapacious Burmese military. Despite having enormous power in the country, they were not satisfied with sharing power with a civilian government but decided to return to their long-standing practice of ruling the country for the benefit of themselves.”

New Domestic Terrorism Legislation “Would Make It Worse”

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CHIP GIBBONS, chip@defendingdissent.org, @ChipGibbons89
Policy director at Defending Rights & Dissent, Gibbons recently wrote the piece “The Capitol Riot Was Bad Enough. New Domestic Terrorism Legislation Would Make It Even Worse” for Jacobin, which states that since 9/11, the U.S. government has erected a vast “apparatus in the name of ‘national security.’ Yet this security apparatus completely failed to thwart a plot carried out in plain sight.

“On top of that, just last summer, demonstrations against police violence and racism were repeatedly met with militarized police and wanton repression. In a country where you can’t even take expired suntan lotion past airport security, where Quakers organizing against the death penalty are surveilled in the name of ‘counterterrorism,’ and where police that resemble an occupying army — because they are literally equipped with gear from an occupying army — greet peaceful protests, it’s rational to wonder just how all of this could have happened.

“One thing is certain: the failure to prevent the Capitol attack is not because of a lack of police powers or anti-terrorism measures. Still, some people have wasted no time hijacking the moment to advocate new domestic terrorism legislation. A lawmaker in the solidly Democratic state of Maryland has proposed a state domestic terrorism statute, and others are sure to follow.

“This is not the first time in recent memory that far-right violence has sparked calls for new domestic terrorism legislation. The general uptick in violence that has plagued the Trump years, including the horrific white supremacist shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, has produced a steady drumbeat of demands for a new domestic terrorism law. Joe Biden’s campaign website put him on record as backing a new domestic terrorism law, though it’s unclear where he currently stands.”

Last year, The Intercept published Gibbon’s in-depth investigation: “FBI Opened Terrorism Investigations Into Nonviolent Palestinian Solidarity Group, Documents Reveal.”

See National Security Archives documents on FBI and NSA spying on Martin Luther King Jr.

You Can’t Fight Fascism by Expanding the Police State

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EVAN GREER, evan@fightforthefuture.org, @fightfortheftr

Greer is deputy director of Fight for the Future and recently wrote the piece “You can’t fight fascism by expanding the police state” for Fast Company, which states: “In the coming days and weeks we are likely to see pundits and lawmakers call for things like passing a new domestic terrorism law, expanding mass surveillance programs, increasing funding for the FBI and law enforcement, installing backdoors in encrypted messaging apps, and arming police with more technology like facial recognition and social media monitoring software. …

“This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing. Expanding the U.S. government’s already bloated surveillance state will only bring more terror and harm to the same communities that Trump targeted with his racist policies and rhetoric. …

“President-elect Joe Biden has already expressed that he supports the creation of a new domestic terrorism statute. Experts warn that a new law isn’t needed — acts of terrorism are already illegal. Creating a new designation would fail to prevent right-wing attacks while threatening marginalized communities with increased surveillance, prosecution, and harassment for engaging in First Amendment protected activities. In the last few years, top Democrats and Republicans have called for billions of dollars in additional funding for the FBI, and have scuttled attempts to rein in the phone and internet spying programs enabled by the USA Patriot Act, which was rushed through Congress faster than lawmakers could read it in the immediate wake of 9/11.”