Human Rights

“Camping”

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights | Leave a comment

If you read nothing today (and hopefully not any of my hormonal teenage crap), you should certainly read this piece:

Whenever people in the United States ask if I’ve ever been camping, I say “No, but does refugee camping count?” Apparently it’s only Real Camping if you take a shit in the deep woods. I had to shit in the desert in the wide open, and there was no environmentally friendly self-dissolving toilet paper out there. We used the sand as soap. I still believe it works. I have to.

The year was 1990. Iraq had just invaded Kuwait, and we didn’t know what was going to happen next. I was eight, I never knew anything anyways. I remember my parents trying to hold on to Kuwaiti Dinars, the old money. I remember seeing Iraqi soldiers, who were nice enough in the city to Indian immigrants with little kids. School was closed and I knew it was bad of me to be glad, but I was. We had sleepovers every night with my two best friends Aarti and Aru’s families. We danced, played cards, watched movies, and stayed up late every night.

Seriously. Do it. Then, send it to your friends and family members.

I shouldn’t be the only person to be rendered speechless and unproductive by this wonderful person and writer.

A Time to Change: Unconscionable Contracts and Workers’ Rights to Use Social Media As Concerted Activity

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights, Immigration | Leave a comment

Image representing Change.org as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Since I believe in open and honest communication and people are curious as to what transpired between Change.org and me, here is a fleshed-out version. It is not meant to ruffle any feathers but just a statement of facts that transpired over the course of the last few days.

I was told early Friday morning — before my last law school final and arguably what was supposed to be the best day of my life this year — that all blogging contracts were being terminated. Shocked and upset, I rushed off an email to the “Immigrant Rights” team, asking them to clarify what was going on and whether there was something else in the works.

I received a clarification: they would love to keep me on at 1/3 pay and did not discuss a new contract with me because I was doing my exams. I still don’t understand why it is acceptable to send me a notice of contract termination during my exams but not two sentences about a new contract. It is incompetent communication.

I was noticeably livid and posted on Facebook and Twitter about my disappointment over losing my job. Then I went to take my final exams. That evening, instead of celebrating with my law school classmates, I stayed in and received a copy of my NTA from DHS with charges that made no sense. I was in removal proceedings facing provably false charges and just lost my job, which would have been a tremendous help during proceedings. It was an extremely tense and stressful situation for me and my entire family.

I checked my email later, which had apologies from practically everyone from the owner of the site down to the Editor of “Immigrant Rights.” On Saturday, I was on the phone with the “Director of Immigrant Rights,” who tried to apologize once again and work through a new contract. On Sunday, I was given a new offer with an apology. I accepted the apologies, agreed with the offer and asked for a formal contract to be drawn up.

I don’t need to get into how I virtually built that site and lent credibility to several causes over the last two years. I wasn’t just a blogger — I went above and beyond the call of duty to teach people how to write, organize and even recruit new members for the team. I was a constant model for how to organize using social media. And that is an understatement. But I digress.

Late on Monday night, I was told that the company had issues with my use of social media. They felt disparaged and pointed to a contract provision that stated that I could never speak ill of an employee or the company under the old contract and going forward in the future. I was told an exception would be made for my past use but not going forward.

In typical law student fashion, I pointed out that the contractual provision from the old contract and the new one on the table was
1) unconscionable (standard boilerplate contract)
2) a violation of public policy (per NLRB v. American Medical Response of Connecticut, prohibiting a worker’s concerted use of social media is illegal)

The next thing I hear, there is no contract for me: clearly, a violation  of an agreement-to-agree in good faith.

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When is the Last Time Bombing A Country Freed People?

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights, Politics | Leave a comment

(en) Libya Location (he) ????? ???

Image via Wikipedia

I have a question. When is the last time bombing a country with Tomahawk missiles freed a people? Was it in Vietnam, Korea, the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq?

Frankly, I have no idea what is going on in Libya. Qaddhafi claims the uprising is Al-Qaeda forces. The “rebels” — who are religious but claim not to be extremists — say they want “freedom” for Libya from the despot. The UN Security Council passed a resolution to intervene and now the United States, along with France and the UK, are bombing the country.

I can’t help but see a pattern here and coincidences with prior bombing campaigns.

Coincidence #1. Many say that Libyans asked for help and military intervention and that this is not an invasion like Iraq. Rather, that this is an “internationally sanctioned” intervention. The focus is on the tyranny of the Qaddafi regime, much like the 2003 war against Iraq focused on the actions of Saddam Hussein and his mythical weapons of mass destruction.

Coincidence #2: Supporters of the war against Libya also decry the irony that the bombing campaign on the country began on March 19, 2011 — the 8th anniversary of the war against Iraq. Obama could not have picked a better date to commemorate the anniversary.

Coincidence #3. There is an oil factor here as well. The United States was chummy with Saddam till he decided to nationalize his oil industry in the early 90s. That’s when the country started having problems with Hussein gassing the Kurds, with weapons supplied by the United States. Similarly, Libya used to be categorized as a “rogue” country for quite a while. That was until it moved to dismantle its weapons of mass destructed program and liberalize its economy and signed the near-billion dollar oil contract with BP oil, following Tony Blair’s visit in May 2007. Due to the uprising, BP had to suspend operations scheduled to start this year. The company has a lot to lose if it does not resume operations and there is some evidence that it has a lot of power with the British government. (Read up on the Lockerbie bomber).

Coincidence #4. The interests of our allied powers are not so pure so saying that the war is internationally sanctioned is not any excuse. As the country with the largest oil reserves in Africa, Libya supplies 10% of Italy’s gas needs and in return Italy is the second biggest arms seller to the Qadaffi regime. It supplies 10% of France’s oil and petrochemicals and in return France is the biggest seller of arms to the Qadaffi regime. Finally, the BP (a UK-based oil company) investment in Libyan oil $2 billion and in return the UK was the third largest seller of weapons to the Qadaffi regime. Knowing that, I’m supposed to believe that when the UK and French used Italian airbases to implement a no-fly zone over Libya, they did so with the purest and most humanitarian of motives, much like the no-fly zones imposed over Iraq.

I’m not saying that this is a war for oil. Professor Ismael Hossein-Zadeh forewarns that there is strong evidence that the powerful interests vested in war and militarism actually use oil as a pretext to justify military adventures in order to derive higher dividends from the business of war such as defense contracting.

I’m saying that our interests are not as clear and convincing. The United States, France and the UK may have several different interests in attacking Libya, some taking precedence over others. The French interest may be the coming presidential election in France where Sarkozy is not a clear favorite to win re-election. There is a looming European economic crisis and an oil/gas crisis in the short term propagated by the internal turmoil in Libya does not sound appealing for any of the European countries involved in the war. The press says the UN Security Council vote was 10-0, but really there were major abstentions from Germany, India, Brazil and China. I guess they don’t have any interest in going to war with Libya.

If this is only for humanitarian purposes, it is unclear to me why intervention in Libyan affairs takes precedence over intervening in other countries with tyrants and despots as leaders. Why is the United States supporting anti-Qaddafi forces in Libya but not popular uprisings in equally undemocratic countries like Yemen, China, Iran, Bahrain and Sudan? Right now, Japan figures as more of a threat to the world and needs our help more than Libya but I do not see the same priority for the country. Maybe there is a simple answer to all this: it is easier to get rid of Qaddafi and almost everyone will be in a better place without any real objection from anyone.

I want to make it clear that there is no way I support Qaddafi but bombing Libya does not take place in a vacuum. There are economic and human costs involved, and as of now, it is unclear precisely what a successful bombing mission is supposed to achieve. No one is asking the people of Libya what they want to achieve from this. After all, their interests are the only thing that should matter in this new shock and awe campaign.

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Dissenting: On Cultural Elitism in the Law

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights, Racism | Leave a comment

Drug Enforcement Agency agents, suspecting Juan Pineda-Moreno of growing marijuana, snuck onto his property in the middle of the night and planted a GPS device on the bottom of his Jeep. Pineda-Moreno admitted to the marijuana charges (lets not get into the merits of drug laws against cannabis growth and possession), but has challenged the government’s evidence obtained through GPS. The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has now twice held that what the DEA did was perfectly fine.

To summarize, USA v.s Juan Pineda-Morena says that the government can step into your garage without a warrant, put a surveillance device on your car and in doing so, is not violating your privacy rights. The decision follows others where the once-liberal Ninth Circuit court effectively brutalized the Fourth Amendment.

The case begs the question of race and class. We know whose trailers and garages are so close to the public domain that agents can tread them without any real violation since neighbors do it all the time. We also know who lives in mansions and gated communities, and hence less susceptible to this particular encroachment of privacy.

I think Chief Judge Kozinski’s dissent is really important and makes a strongly-worded point made in few other judicial opinions:

There’s been much talk about diversity on the bench, but there’s one kind of diversity that doesn’t exist: No truly poor people are appointed as federal judges, or as state judges for that matter. Judges, regardless of race, ethnicity or sex, are selected from the class of people who don’t live in trailers or urban ghettos. The everyday problems of people who live in poverty are not close to our hearts and minds because that’s not how we and our friends live. Yet poor people are entitled to privacy, even if they can’t afford all the gadgets of the wealthy for ensuring it. Whatever else one may say about Pineda-Moreno, it’s perfectly clear that he did not expect—and certainly did not consent—to have strangers prowl his property in the middle of the night and attach electronic tracking devices to the underside of his car. No one does.

When you glide your BMW into your underground garage or behind an electric gate, you don’t need to worry that some-
body might attach a tracking device to it while you sleep. But the Constitution doesn’t prefer the rich over the poor; the man who parks his car next to his trailer is entitled to the same privacy and peace of mind as the man whose urban fortress is guarded by the Bel Air Patrol. The panel’s breezy opinion is troubling on a number of grounds, not least among them its unselfconscious cultural elitism.

I affirm.

5 Actions You Can Take To Halt the Deportation of Bita Ghaedi

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights, Immigration | 3 Comments

Really quick – An asylum seeker in the United Kingdom, Bita Ghaedi conducted a hunger strike for up to a month because she was terrified of being tortured and killed if she is forced to return to Iran. Guess what? She is being forced to go back now by the British government this coming Tuesday!

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

Bita sought refuge in the UK with viable grounds for establishing refugee status. In Iran, Ghaedi was bound, tortured, and scarred by pervasive gender-based violence. Her political activities with PMOI/MEK/MKO mark her as an opponent of the present regime, and also one who will face certain execution upon return to Iran. Bita has confirmed that she is “pretty sure it is benevolent, advisable and godly for them to kill me if I won’t be arrested.” There is no reason to deny her asylum claim.

So here is what you need to do:

1. Make the calls: (0191) 456 8910 to David Miliband and (020) 7035 4848 to Alan Johnson. Jam their phone-line and fill up mailboxes.

Sample message: “As a citizen of the United Kingdom, I am concerned about the deportation of Bita Ghaedi back to Iran. She was circumscribed, bound, tortured, and scarred by pervasive gender-based violence in Iran. Her political activities mark her as an opponent of the current regime, and also one who will face certain execution upon return to Iran. Bita has numerous reasons to fear for her life if she is returned. I urge you to intervene and stop her pending deportation to Iran which is this Tuesday.”

2. Change.org: Email alert to David Miliband and MP Alan Johnson to take action immediately to halt Ghaedi’s deportation. Get as many emails as possible sent to Miliband.

3. Send David Miliband a message on his Facebook account.

4. Tweet Miliband via Act.ly

5. In the U.K.? Join the DEMO this Monday!

MONDAY 19th April 2010

Assemble Home Office, Marsham Street, London @ 10am

After you are done with these, contact your local and national UK press as well as your favorite bloggers to give this issue attention!

Odds Jobs List

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights | Leave a comment

Inspired by Gabe

You won’t find these on my resume. They are lost to history.

First paid job ever: Taco Bell at the age of 16.

Best moment: A $20 tip from a guy who ‘liked’ me.
Worst moment: Too many to recall right now. Maybe some rude customer asking me if I knew how to count (while I am doing Calculus II), or the management keeping me beyond my paid hours to wash down the place. It helped gain the necessary experience for janitorial services later on though.

Second semi-paid job: High School Assistant Policy Debate Coach

I occasionally got some pocket money for teaching marginalized urban youth forensics. Then the program shut down.

From there, I was promoted to a part-time janitor and then full-time janitor by my mother, who brought me to this country for “greater opportunities.”

(I can safely bet that I would have never been a janitor in Fiji).

You can see all about how your janitor is probably smarter than you: Part 1 and Part 2.

Payment was in the form of free food and shelter, with occasional clothing. Worker’s compensation was out of question. This continued throughout my undergraduate years, graduate school and even after graduation with my Master’s Degree, till I broke my wrist in April 2008. Now I help on occasion but tasks like lifting garbage or vacuuming are much more difficult with my weak hand. Yes, now you know my weak spot.

Fanbases: This is not an ‘odd job’ but it was something I did as a hobby that felt like a job after a while. Most people have no idea, but I have actually created thriving online communities before DreamActivist. They were completely apolitical though and fan-bases for some Indian television celebrities. Do you know how I can record and rip videos at lightening speed? Or use video-editing software and photoshop? A lot of practice from this era.

I let it go as a hobby and have not updated in several years. See VluvAnita for one of my remaining forays into celebrity obsession. I had 5 others like this that got more hits per day than DreamActivist does today.

Yes, she knows who I am and I have her cell-phone number and we have spoken, text-messaged and I just grew up and out of it. Her posters still adorn my walls though.

Brave New Films, Jan 2008-June 2008 – Yes, how can I forget these exploitative fools? I heard they are now hiring a blogger for Afghanistan? Make sure to get them to give you a contract and not exploit you like they exploited DREAM Act students a couple years back. They were supposed to pay us but never did and let the ‘program’ go without any sort of communication.

I am lucky. This is it. I applied to Taco Bell again just two weeks ago but have yet to get a call back. But then everything happens for a reason. A friend says to hell with it, and I’ll get a much better gig than the crap I have been vying for the past month.

Odd is out. It’s time to get even.

Lessons from MLK

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights, Racism | 1 Comment

My middle-order MLK and the DREAM for Immigrant Rights was posted earlier today at Change.org but I will use my space here to share with you two more great lessons from Martin Luther King Jr., that guides my daily life and philosophy. The source is Letter from Birmingham Jail and this time, it is the “white moderate” under attack:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
-Martin Luther King Jr, Letter from Birmingham Jail

I have already once blogged this quote here, while deriding people in the ‘immigrant rights’ movement for holding the DREAM Act hostage. It still holds true today when ‘immigrant rights’ people are quick to blame and judge ‘anarchists’ for creating an atmosphere of violence when it is simply PIC who feel that pepper-spraying children is a necessary action when it comes to “crowd control.”

But it is not our ‘allies’ that I am too concerned about nowadays. We know how to use them and they know how to use us–it is an exploitation based on a symbiotic relationship. I am more concerned about those in our ranks who choose to do nothing.

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Report: The State of Freedom of Religion in Fiji

Posted on by Prerna in Fiji Coup Coverage, Human Rights | Leave a comment

While Fiji does not have the best record on ‘freedom of religion,’ the U.S. Department of State report is overwhelmingly balanced on the issue even though it notes instances of persecution.

There was some concern the religious crusade instituted by the Police Commissioner resulted in coercion within the police force to convert to Christianity. There were isolated reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. According to police statistics, reported incidents of sacrilege decreased from 39 in 2006 to 22 in 2007. Of the 21 reports of robbery and/or desecration of places of worship in 2007, 12 involved Christian churches, seven involved Hindu temples, and two involved mosques. Police surmised that many incidents had more to do with theft than with religious intolerance.

Several Hindu temples were attacked during the reporting period. In August 2008, a private temple in Ba was reportedly destroyed by arsonists. Following a string of temple desecrations in October, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama ordered a special investigation. Bainimarama stated that ending racism against Indo-Fijians was a priority for his administration.

There were isolated problems for religious groups viewed as outside the mainstream seeking to establish congregations in some villages and outer islands. In a few cases, local traditional leaders prevented groups from proselytizing or holding meetings.

I think it is fair to say that coupster Bainimarama respects freedom of religion even though his administration is not exactly capable of handling persecution. Freedom of expression, especially speech, is another matter altogether.

Amnesty International Report: Media Censorship in Fiji

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights | Leave a comment

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Fiji’s military-led government is using systematic human rights violations, including beatings, arbitrary arrests and media censorship, to control the South Pacific island nation, according to an Amnesty International report, Fiji: Paradise Lost.

Amnesty International expressed concern about about widespread human rights violations which followed President Ratu Josefa Iloilo’s abrogation of the Fiji Constitution on 10 April 2009. These include violations of the rights to freedom of assembly, opinion, expression and movement, the right to a fair trial, and freedom from arbitrary detention.

The full report is here.

Obama is a Liar

Posted on by Prerna in Human Rights, Immigration | 1 Comment

Crossposted at S4FC and The Sanctuary

It is sad that all our social networks and media blitzes are about how disrespectful Congressperson Joe Wilson was rather than how centrist and inappropriate Barack Obama is with his assertion that all human beings don’t deserve equal access to health care. He has to reiterate twice using the hateful discourse of ‘illegal.’ That’s just an all-new low for a President who once said that we have to take the hate out of the immigration debate.

I wish Joe Wilson was right and Obama was lying about the fact that undocumented immigrants would not be covered. But Obama is a liar. Just not in the way that Joe Wilson meant it. Once upon a time, Barack Obama used to be a proponent of single-payer healthcare — “Everybody in, nobody out.” Alas, that came with an asterick. *Illegals and people without proper government documentation need not apply.

That list also includes citizens:

I am effectively an “illegal immigrant,” since I do not have gov’t papers. Yes, this is because I am trans and a woman. (via @nueva_voz)

If the President had pursued immigration reform before healthcare, we probably wouldn’t be seeing this hateful fear-mongering heckling. Yet, President Obama has continued to pursue the same failed immigration enforcement policies of the Bush-era like 287g that is ripping apart communities of color.

Anything less than single-payer universal health care is a dismal failure when it comes to providing everyone with equal access to health care. Anything without a public option is not close to tolerable. I wish people were as outraged at Obama’s centrist and hateful otherization of human beings as they are at Joe Wilson being an idiot.