John Hewson: We must continue to call out racism everywhere
This week I had the privilege of speaking in support of Tim Soutphommasane, who delivered his final speech as Race Discrimination Commissioner at the University of Western Sydney. It was an excellent speech and an excellent event, but, in many ways, it was a shame that he had to make it.
Tim did an outstanding job as commissioner, having to handle two attempts to weaken Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, our historical standard for the treatment of race issues, by both Abbott and Turnbull, and other concerted attacks on immigration and multiculturalism.
It has become a most disturbing and unfortunate feature of recent politics, particularly here and in the US and Europe, that many politicians – seeking short-term personal, political advantage – have played the race card. Sometimes it is little better than blatant racism, on other occasions they hide it behind a confected concern for some broader issue, such as immigration, or the activities of “Sudanese Gangs” or the “excesses” of multiculturalism.
In particular, there has been a strong anti-immigration movement evident in most European elections in recent years, gaining significant momentum with the “flood” of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and North Africa.
The Brexit vote in the UK was driven by concerns about the lack of an effective immigration policy, and the exaggerated threat of some 5 million refugees to hit their shores in the next few years.
Trump has made a feast of anti-immigration sentiment, everything from his planned wall to keep out new Mexican illegals, to wanting to “expel” those who had arrived over several decades to establish a home in the US, raise and educate their kids, to his travel bans on arrivals from certain Muslim majority countries, through to outright commitments to ban all Muslim immigration.
In our country, we have had Pauline Hanson defining herself as anti-immigration, particularly anti-Chinese and anti-Muslim immigration, specifically to tap certain latent racism lying just under the surface in certain Australian communities.
Then the likes of Howard (with his own history of wanting to reduce Asian immigration as a means of boosting his failing poll standing in the 80s) let Hanson’s maiden speech sit without comment for some days, then only to notionally accept that we had to recognise that “some” in our country hold such views, all in the misplaced belief that her comments would manifest as additional electoral support for his government.
Trump administration moves to block victims of gang violence and domestic abuse from claiming asylum
Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence, a move that could block tens of thousands of people, especially women, from seeking refuge in America.
The decision, which immigration advocates are sure to aggressively fight, comes as Sessions seeks to use the authority of his office to sharply change U.S. immigration law to make it less friendly to asylum seekers.
The attorney general has the power to issue decisions that serve as binding precedents for immigration judges. In this instance, he used a case involving a victim of domestic violence from El Salvador to rule that survivors of such “private” crimes are not eligible for asylum under U.S. law.
The woman, referred to in immigration court as A.B., for her initials, said she was fleeing years of physical and emotional abuse by an ex-husband who had raped her. An immigration judge had denied her asylum claim, but the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled in her favor in 2016, saying the Salvadoran government had shown it was incapable of protecting her, even after she moved to another part of the country.
Sessions’ decision overturned that ruling.
“Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” Sessions wrote in his ruling. “The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime, cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”
He acknowledged the “vile abuse” that the woman reported, but in effect said that U.S. law could not help her.
In a speech earlier in the day to a training session for immigration officials, Sessions telegraphed his position, saying that “asylum was never meant to alleviate all problems — even all serious problems — that people face every day all over the world.”
His anticipated “ruling restores sound principles of asylum and long-standing principles of immigration law,” he said.
Sessions emphasized at the conference that immigration judges will be required to follow his interpretation of the law. Under immigration law, the attorney general’s rulings are binding on immigration judges unless overturned by a federal appellate court.
The decision’s most immediate impact could come long before asylum seekers get to an immigration judge, said Lenni B. Benson, a professor at New York Law School and director of its immigration clinic.
Anti-fascist protesters rally against racism in Italy
Protesters have gathered to denounce racism after an Italian man opened fire on African migrants in Macerata. Immigration has become one of the most important political issues in the run-up to parliamentary elections.
Thousands of anti-fascist protesters on Saturday took to the streets to rally against racism in the eastern city of Macerata, where an Italian man earlier this month opened fire on African migrants, injuring six people.
Up to 30,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Macerata carrying placards and shouting slogans against rising right-wing extremism. Protesters also gathered in Milan and other cities across Italy.
“We are here because we want to be a dam against this mountain of hate which is spreading continuously, a social hate against migrants and, in general, against the poor,” Francesco Piobbicchi, a protester, told Reuters news agency.
Tensions reached a fever-pitch on February 3, when Luca Traini, a 28-year-old who ran as a candidate for the far-right Northern League at local elections, went on a two-hour shooting spree targeting African migrants in Macerata.
Traini reportedly told police he was out to avenge the death of Pamela Mastropietro, an 18-year-old Italian woman who was found dead by police. Authorities arrested a suspected drug dealer with Nigerian origins for the murder of Mastropietro.
‘Hate, terror and division’
Protesters also decried political parties’ attempts to use migration as a scapegoat for other issues in the run-up to parliamentary elections slated for March 4.
“If there’s unemployment, blame the government, not the migrants,” protesters chanted during the rally. “The political parties are using populism to create hate, terror and division,” said Valentina Guiliodora, who joined the demonstration.
Italy has witnessed a resurgence of far-right activity, including growing support for the neo-fascist party New Force (Forza Nuova), in tandem with a wave of migrants reaching Italian shores from North Africa over the past four years.
Three judges sue Ministry of Justice for race discrimination
Three judges from black and Asian backgrounds are suing the Ministry of Justice for race discrimination and victimisation, the Guardian has learned.
Recorder Peter Herbert, one of the group bringing employment tribunal cases, has been involved in a long-running case against the ministry over a speech he made saying that racism could be found in the judiciary. He lodged proceedings this week.
The cases put further pressure on the MoJ shortly after it refused to accept a recommendation from a report written at the request of the prime minister to set diversity targets in the judiciary.
The MoJ has agreed to carry forward most of the recommendations in David Lammy’s report on the variation in treatment and outcomes for those from black and minority ethnic communities in the justice system. But the Labour politician said he was “disappointed” the decision on representation in the judiciary.
According to the MoJ, just 7% of court judges are from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds (Bame) and 10% of tribunal judges.
Herbert’s dispute relates to a speech he made at a rally in Stepney, east London, in April 2015. He commented negatively about the decision to bar Lutfur Rahman, the former mayor of Tower Hamlets, from holding public office for five years and claimed that racism was present in parts of the judiciary.
Herbert said in the speech: “Racism is alive and well and living in Tower Hamlets, in Westminster and, yes, sometimes in the judiciary.”
The second case relates to a retired immigration judge of African origin who is bringing a claim in the employment tribunal based on victimization, discriminatory remarks and unfair distribution of work.
The third case is brought by a district judge of Asian origin, who was sitting as a social security panel chair when a complaint was made about him for repetitious and oppressive questioning.
Todd: A survey dives into how people define racism and how that impacts their view of immigration
Racism. Immigration. Few topics can combine to ignite such anger, contempt and division.
It was not always this way. The belief that it is racist to want to reduce immigration has only been a significant viewpoint since the 1960s for some in the West. It’s still not a common belief among people in Asia.
A Canadian-raised demographer has discovered that people of good will, across nations, use the word racism differently. Their disagreement over the meaning has led to often bitter, possibly unnecessary, polarization.
Fascinating research by Prof. Eric Kaufmann of the University of London, Birkbeck, breaks new ground showing the contrasting ways people in 18 countries understand the hyper-charged term, racist.
Kaufmann writes in the academic journal Foreign Affairs there is sharp disagreement among people in the West, but not so much the East, over whether it’s racist to want to protect one’s own ethno-cultural group.
His research grew out of an article by the Brookings Institution’s Shadi Hamid, in which Hamid contends white “racial self-interest” should be distinguished from white racism.
Hamid believes protecting one’s ethno-cultural group, one’s “people,” is an age-old phenomenon, which is different from actively discriminating against others out of a feeling of group superiority.
Kaufmann’s research sheds light on immigration-values conflicts that are riveting the West.
Kaufmann’s findings also might illuminate how Canadians could approach immigration trends, such as those showing whites have become a minority in Toronto and Vancouver.
In a nutshell, the Kaufmann-led Ipsos-Mori survey of 14,000 people in 18 countries found a majority “do not think it’s racist to want less immigration for ethno-cultural reasons.” Even among Americans and Canadians, who were the most inclined of all to say it’s “racist to want to reduce immigration to maintain group share,” that belief was held by only about 37 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.
TRUMP OUTLINED A NEW PROPOSAL FOR AN IDEOLOGICAL SCREENING TEST FOR “EXTREME VETTING.”
The 2016 Republican nominee for President of the US, Donald Trump presented a proposal to the American public that would effectively ban anti-Semites from entering the country. Trump was speaking in Youngstown, Ohio when he outlined his new proposal. He said, “In the Cold War, we had an ideological screening test. The time is overdue to develop a new screening test for the threats we face today. I call it extreme vetting. I call it extreme, extreme vetting.”
The proposal is not without precedent, which is why Trump was alluding to the ideological screening tests that were ubiquitous during the Cold War, preventing communist leaning people from entering the country. Jewish groups also attempted to have broad bans placed on anyone with Nazi connections or sympathies. The proposal to ban anti-Semites from entering the country comes in the wake of terrorist attacks by extremists in several countries all over the world, notably France which has seen a dramatic increase in terrorism fueled attacks since 2015. Trump echoed this sentiment while selling his pitch for a ban on anyone found to be anti-Semitic, “As we have seen in France, foreign populations have brought their anti-Semitic attitudes with them.”