January Human Rights News Roundup

human rights news united statesUnited States Edition

Amnesty International’s purview has always been international human rights, and although our work in that area is very important, this month’s human rights news roundup focuses on events happening in the United States. It’s a new year, with a new Congress and a new opportunity to make changes domestically. Here’s the latest going on within our borders:

Advances in Reproductive Health Since Roe v. Wade – Boston Globe – Although Amnesty International doesn’t focus on reproductive rights, it’s an important component of women’s rights both at home and abroad. Even with the great strides we made over the past 40 years, we’ve also taken many steps backward, such as the fact that there’s no federal funding for abortion policies. This article focuses specifically on abortion policy in Massachusetts, showcasing that there’s still a lot of resistance toward abortion.

Senators Push Immigration Plan – Reuters – Immigration reform is badly needed in this country, and it looks like there’s finally movement in this area. The plan, put forward by a bipartisan group of senators, will allow illegal immigrants to register with the government and be able to work here after paying a small fine. This plan doesn’t really provide any permanent legal status, and doesn’t address border enforcement. President Obama also planned to make immigration reform a priority this term, especially since it didn’t get addressed over the last four years.

Dear Congress: Let’s Get Moving Together! Reauthorize VAWA Now – Amnesty International Blog – Great news! The Senate and the House of Representatives have jointly announced the reintroduction of the reauthorization the Violence Against Women Act. We really hope this goes through, and has the additional provisions to protect immigrant women, LGBT individuals, and Native American and Alaskan women. Now’s a good time to take action and to encourage Congress to reauthorize VAWA.

Apple Pledges to Eradicate Child Labor from Technology Supply Industry – The Guardian – A plus one for corporate accountability and responsibility! Apple recently cut off ties with its manufacturer after finding over 70 cases of underage workers and falsified documents. The company is also making every effort to boost transparency in its supply chain and to make sure its manufacturers are providing good working conditions and not using child labor. It’s companies as big and powerful as Apple that can really make a difference on these issues.

Dear Obama: Pivoting to Asia Doesn’t Mean Abandoning Human Rights – The Atlantic – This article particularly addresses issues in Myanmar, which has been a focus of our chapter for years and years. Even though the country has made significant improvements, there are still a war insurgents in the Kachin state, and its unclear whether those soldiers are acting independently or on behalf of the government. Not to mention, there are still human rights violations in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand. We hope President Obama makes a clear stance on these issues, and ensure addresses these issues as the US builds relationships with the continent.

Sample Immigrant Rights Letter

immigrant rights

Immigrant rights are an issue around the world, not just in the US.

Continuing our previous work with sample urgent action letters, this time we have one regarding immigrant and migrant rights, specifically in Mexico. This particular case involves folks at a migrant shelter who have been subject to threats and to information theft. We are writing a letter to urge the government to grant the shelter protection as well as to investigate the threats and the theft cases. Please send a letter to the address below, using the sample letter as an example of what you should write to the governor:

Governor of Coahuila State
Rubén Moreira Valdez
Palacio de Gobierno Piso 1, Zona Centro, Saltillo, Coahuila C.P. 25000

Dear Governor,

I am writing in concern for the BELEN MIGRANTS SHELTER, which has been subjected to threats and to information theft over the past few months. I demand that you and the authorities provide effective protection to members of the shelter in accordance to their wishes.

I also call on authorities to carry out a full, prompt and impartial investigation regarding the information theft events and telephone threat received by members of BELEN  MIGRANTS SHELTER, and to carry out an effective protection program as stipulated in the precautionary measures granted by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights.


Your Name

For additional sample letters, check out our examples on the death penalty and for a prisoner of conscience, as well as our write-a-thon letter examples:

Young Illegal Immigrants Eligible for Driver’s Licenses

getting a driver's license

Getting a driver’s license is now something immigrants in California can do.

News from the immigration front today! Driving is a privilege, not a right, and young illegal immigrants in California will be able to earn that privilege. The state will soon begin to issue driver’s licenses to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the country as children. The bill has been approved by state legislators, and is headed to the governor’s desk right now to be signed into law.

The Obama Administration approved a federal deportation relief law where young illegal immigrants who meet certain criteria can apply for two years of deportation relief. This law grants work permits, and it’s up to the states to decide whether or not to issue driver’s licenses, to offer in-state tuition, and other services. California has decided to grant these services once the work permits are issued. The directive applies to immigrants 30 years old or younger who are students or high schools graduates. Applicants must have also been in the country for at least five years, must have been brought to the US before the age of 16, and have no criminal record. Even though California driving law bans driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants, those who qualify for deportation relief will be considered “temporary legal residents” and could get a driver’s license.

However, those who can now get a driver’s license won’t automatically get one in the mail. They have to earn it by taking the driver’s test, just like everyone else. The best way to prepare and to ensure that you pass the test is with California DMV practice tests. These practice tests will make it easier to take the real thing. These practice tests will also be helpful to those who speak English as a second language, where the questions and answers can be extra tough. It’s important to note that the California driver’s test has 36 questions on it, and at least 30 of them must be answered correctly in order to pass the test. These practice tests mentioned only help with the written portion, not the on-road driving portion.

Illegal immigrants in California who want the privilege of driving are able to get that privilege once they have work permits. But, they do need to pass the driver’s test, and you only have three tries to pass the test. This makes California DMV practice tests so crucial, especially for a population that wouldn’t want to mess up this opportunity. It’s a great step forward in the rights of immigrants in the United States; we just need more states to participate to give more people in the country a chance at social mobility.

What else do you think our government should do to grant more rights to the immigrant population? Do you at least think this is a step in the right direction?