This year, as we mark International Women's Day (March 8), we have some major milestones to celebrate. Just last week, for example, the U.S. House and Senate approved the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which assists victims of domestic and sexual violence. And yesterday, President Obama signed the Act into law. This is a great victory for women in the United States.
At the opening of the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations last Monday, the chair of the Commission spoke in clear and succinct language about this year’s theme—eliminating and preventing all forms of violence against women and girls. As the chair put it, “The current situation of violence against women and girls is unacceptable. Together we can find the solutions and bring about change.”
The two young girls were looking for firewood when the insurgents attacked them. They had left the refugee camp at six in the morning and begun their trek through the desert in search of scraps of wood or roots that could be used as fuel; firewood rations distributed by the United Nations had long been used up, and in the camp, no fuel meant no food. Five miles and several hours later, the two thirteen-year-olds had found only a few small sticks, hardly enough to keep a fire going. As a last resort, they knelt in the dirt near the shriveled stump of a tree, digging with their hands in search of hidden roots, littering the small patch of earth around them with holes. When they saw the five soldiers approaching, they tried to run away, but the men were too fast.
As sequestration looms, the Internet and listservs are abuzz with the controversy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE's) decision to release immigration detainees across the country to save money. The reality is that this is the right time to be questioning how we will pay for maintaining over 34,000 immigration detention beds at an average cost of $164 per night during a fiscal crisis, which is threatening to shut down critical components of Defense and Homeland Security.
Read the full blog on Huffington Post.
As the largest donor to humanitarian assistance programs, the U.S. government’s policies and strategies have a huge influence on humanitarian practice in the field. That’s why the Women’s Refugee Commission was so pleased when the U.S. released its first government-wide Action Plan on Children in Adversity: A Framework for International Assistance: 2012–2017.
Written with input from all the government agencies providing international aid for children, the Action Plan focuses on kids affected by disasters and HIV/AIDS, orphans, trafficked children, kids exploited for child labor, those recruited as soldiers and others in vulnerable situations—including the estimated 20 million children forced from their homes by war.
Last month, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) released its report "Immigration Enforcement in the United States." This report looked at how much the federal government's spending and programming for immigration enforcement since the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) has increased. The amount of money the United States has spent on immigration and border enforcement has skyrocketed in recent years as a result of the U.S.'s "enforcement first" approach to immigration. The report's findings are shocking. The U.S. government now spends more on immigration enforcement than on all other major federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined and immigration enforcement is the federal government's highest criminal law enforcement priority. Surprisingly, at a time when our government must be fiscally conservative and unauthorized immigration has abated, the call to increase spending on border enforcement is as loud as ever.
What does unprecedented enforcement spending actually mean for a vulnerable migrant seeking protection in the United States?
Read the full blog on Huffington Post.
Zahra Albarazi is a conducting research for the Women's Refugee Commission on statelessness in four countries. Read her blog on the situation for children of Jordanian mothers whose fathers aren't Jordanian, and therefore who don't have Jordanian citizenship.
I have been working on the issue of statelessness for several years now. During this time, I have focused mainly on legal research and awareness raising work, and I have been continually fascinated by the legal intricacy statelessness unfolds. Despite this interest, and despite having done previous field research on the issue, I do not think I truly comprehended the extent of the problem of statelessness until now. Through my involvement in a project co-ordinated by the Women’s Refugee Commission, conducting advocacy-oriented research in four countries that maintain or have recently removed gender discrimination from their laws, I have had the opportunity to spend time with affected families.
Periodically, we’ll be featuring interviews with members of our staff talking about how they got into the field and what inspires them. Here we highlight Dale Buscher, Senior Director for Programs. Dale oversees the Women's Refugee Commission’s reproductive health, livelihood, disabilities, child protection, adolescent girls, and migrant rights and justice programs.
Q. Where are you from originally?
A.I grew up in a very rural area—on a farm in northern Iowa near the small town of Algona.
Q. When did you start working at the WRC?
A. July 2005
Q. How did you get involved with the WRC?
A. I was working as a consultant with UNHCR [the UN refugee agency] in Geneva and was recruited by the Executive Director to come to New York.
When I met Luz at an immigration detention facility in rural Pennsylvania, she was desperate to see her one-year-old son. Luz was about to be deported back to Ecuador with her teenage son, but she didn't want to leave without her baby, who, unlike the rest of the family, was a U.S. citizen.
Luz had last seen her baby a few months earlier when she left him with a friend while she went to pick up her 15-year-old son from a shelter in Arizona. The mother of two and her older son were questioned by Customs and Border Patrol agents as they prepared to board a bus to return home. When the agents discovered that Luz and her son were unauthorized to be in the country, they detained them, and transferred them to Pennsylvania with an order of deportation.
...As a parent and advocate, I continue to be haunted by Luz's story. I cannot forget the desperation in Luz's voice as she worried about what was happening to her baby boy. As a mother of two myself, I could not imagine how this could be happening in the America I know and love. Unfortunately, Luz's story is all too common. In fact, between 2010 and 2012, our country deported more than 200,000 parents of U.S. citizen children. That translates to thousands of broken families and thousands of U.S. citizen children who are forced to grow up without their parents. What I have learned since that fateful day is that many of those parents want nothing more than to be with their children -- whether in the U.S. or their home country.
Read the full blog on Huffington Post.
The presence of hundreds of thousands of displaced Syrians, including countless vulnerable youth, is one of the most familiar—and challenging—aspects of the current Syrian refugee crisis. Most of these displaced youth are living in cities and towns in often desperate conditions, where a very different humanitarian response is required than in traditional camp programming, where most of the long-term expertise in the humanitarian community lies. Like refugees anywhere, these youth and their families are seeking better shelter, more work opportunities and greater security than would be available in their original places of residence or in camp settings.
Women's Refugee Commission Board member Samuel Witten writes about the struggles refugee youth living in the city have to access education or jobs. Read his blog on AlertNet.