The Right to Seek Political Asylum and Protect Family: By ANN FAGAN GINGER

Friday October 08, 2004

Everyone who lived through the McCarthy Cold War period in the U.S. knows that an FBI on the prowl for “communists” soon goes after “fellow travelers” and anyone on a list of “subversive organizations.” Many intelligent, politically-active writers, actors, and scholars left the U.S. to avoid blacklisting and possible criminal charges because of their beliefs and activities. 

Without fanfare, these Americans sought “political asylum” abroad. Their experiences lead people today to be concerned about how the U.S. Government is treating applications for political asylum today. 


20. To Deal Promptly and Fairly with Political Asylum Petitions 

Throughout U.S. history, people from many nations have sought asylum in the U.S. from persecution in their native lands. Some were refugees from starvation—Irish farmers the U.K. starved off their land in the 1800s. Some were refugees from fascism—Jews and communists fleeing Hitler in the 1930s. The problem is world wide. U.N. treaties and programs directly address the need for political asylum from repressive regimes. 

Islamic/Muslim/Middle Eastern communities in the U.S. are taking up the cases of people arrested and detained while awaiting action on their heart-felt applications for political asylum.  

It is much easier for the government to get an administrative law judge to order a person deported to a country where he fears political persecution than it is for a prosecutor to get a federal judge and jury to convict someone charged with rape or murder. 

In several communities, Middle Eastern organizations are beginning to meet with Irish organizations and with Haitian and Colombian groups to make common cause to protect the rights of everyone seeking political asylum in the U.S. 

Actions of government agents in dealing with applicants for political asylum belong in the required reports by the U.S. Government to the three U.N. human rights committees administering the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention Against Torture, and the Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Complaints about the behavior of Immigration and Customs agents and others in the system can be made to the Office of Inspector General in the appropriate agency. Changes in political asylum law can be proposed to members of Congress. 

And concerned people can constantly remind the media, and other government officials, that this is, very largely, a nation of immigrants who came to these shores to seek asylum from political persecution and discrimination in getting jobs and promotions and in business dealings. 

Report 20.1 

“Operation Liberty Shield” Detains Asylum Seekers (“Operation Liberty Shield Turns Liberty on its Head,” Human Rights First, March 18, 2003.) 

Report 20.2 

INS Detained Palestinian Muslim After He Filed an Asylum Petition (Karen de Sá, “Caught in the Aftermath: Hard Life of a September 11 Detainee,” The Mercury News, Aug. 12, 2002.) 

Report 20.3 

U.S. Denied Asylum to a Palestinian Family, Deported Them to Jordan (James Irby, “Palestinian Family Loses Deportation Battle,” ABC13 Eyewitness News, March 28, 2003.) 

Report 20.4 

US Detains Irish Immigrant Seeking Asylum (“No Time for Love,” Boulder Weekly, June 16, 2003.) 


21. To Protect the Family, Especially Children 

In 1787, the new U.S. Constitution proclaimed the U.S. was established to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity ... .” That is the only mention of children; “family” and “women” are not mentioned. 

To “insure domestic tranquility” and to “promote the general welfare” are used to support the Government’s duty to children. Concerned parents, teachers, government officials, and activists see many paths to action to protect the family, especially children, after 9/11. 

All of these paths call on busy, effective people to join their parent/teacher associations, to attend meetings of the school board to express opinions on school policies, to tell members of state legislatures, Congress members, and presidential candidates that a commitment to children, and families, means funding programs that uphold the First Amendment and promote the general welfare for all residents of the U.S. 

Report 21.1 

U.S. Mistreating Unaccompanied Minors Entering U.S. (“First National Survey of Children in Immigration Detention Exposes Mistreatment, Lengthy Detentions, Legal Barriers,” Amnesty International, June 18, 2003.) 

Report 21.2 

Bush Cuts Housing Vouchers (Lynda Carson, “Bush’s Cuts Cause Crisis in Section 8 Housing Program,” Street Spirit, June 2004, page 4.) 

Report 21.3 

U.S. Judge Sentenced African American Teenager for Website (Merlin Chowkwanyun, “A Strange and Tragic Legal Journey: The Case of Sherman Austin,” Counterpunch, Oct. 11-13, 2003.) 

Report 21.4 

Teacher Called Secret Service to Interrogate Students (Marcelo Rodriguez, “Secret Service Interrogation of 2 Students Sparks Furor,” Los Angeles Times, May 13, 2003.) 

Report 21.5 

U.S. Limited Sex Education Funding to Abstinence-Only (“ACLU Hails Federal Court’s Decision to Halt Taxpayer Financing of Religion in Abstinence-Only Progams,” ACLU of Louisiana, July 25, 2002.) 


To be continued... 



Berkeley resident Ann Fagan Ginger is a lawyer, teacher, activist and the author of 24 books. She won a civil liberties case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1959. She is the founder and executive director of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, a Berkeley-based center for human rights and peace law. 

Contents excerpted from Challenging U.S. Human Rights Violations Since 9/11, edited by Ann Fagan Ginger (© 2004 Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute; Prometheus Books 2005) 

Readers can go to mcli.org for a complete listing of reports and sources, with web links.