Integrity Legal

Posts Tagged ‘Human Rights’

29th July 2011

Notwithstanding the fact that the American federal government currently finds itself in gridlock due to issues such as the debate over the raising of the debt ceiling and other issues pertaining to the national deficit there appears to be one issue that seems to be continually overlooked by members of both parties in the United States Congress. That issue is: federal recognition of State licensed same sex marriage. Regardless of the provisions in the United States Constitution regarding Full Faith and Credit as elucidated in the language of the Full Faith and Credit Clause, the third section of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” precludes federal recognition of same sex marriage even in situations where such unions are legalized and/or solemnized in one of the American State jurisdictions which license such marital unions.

In the interests of full disclosure, this blogger originates from the Great State of Kansas and that State has opted to pass a ban upon same sex marriage as a State Constitutional amendment. This blogger disagreed with the promulgation of that amendment at the time because he has always believed that the States have no right to legislate as to We The People‘s natural rights and prerogatives. That stated, where State legislation augments personal liberty and is not preempted expressly by the enumerated powers of the federal Constitution, such legislation should be accorded Full Faith and Credit pursuant to the United States Constitution not to mention pursuant to the law of the land in the United States of America.

Bearing the above in mind, the issue of same sex marriage and federal recognition thereof is a thorny one since there are those States which expressly ban such unions while concurrently there are those which expressly permit such unions. Therefore, there could be a situation where a same sex marriage is performed and thereby legalized in one State and thereafter the couple cannot be divorced in another State jurisdiction as said jurisdiction does not permit such unions pursuant to State public policy. The courts in the non-recognizing State may be required to recognize that a same sex marriage in another jurisdiction exists in fact, but may not allow the same sex couple to receive a divorce. For more on these concepts it is prudent to review the previous blog posting regarding the concept of vertical vs. horizontal Full Faith and Credit.

Bearing all of the above in mind, it is this blogger’s opinion that the issue of same sex marriage recognition, at least at the federal level, is a virtually non-partisan issue since it touches upon basic human rights as well as those notions inherent to the concept of States’ Rights. As a result, politicians should not have a “tough sell” on this issue with respect to their constituents as Republican legislators can note that support of legislation such as Representative Jerrold Nadler‘s Respect For Marriage Act is supportive of reserved State prerogatives. Meanwhile, Democrats can note that support for repeal of DOMA is in the interests of human rights, civil rights, and Equal Protection.

It remains to be seen how these concepts will come to evolve as the legislative session continues, but it is clear that this issue dovetails many key concepts that Americans associate with personal freedom and Constitutional law.

– Benjamin Walter Hart

For further information regarding federal recognition of same sex marriage please see: Certainty.

For information pertaining to legal services in Southeast Asia please see: Legal.

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11th June 2011

Something very troubling recently came to this blogger’s attention. This posting must be prefaced with a statement for posterity: the vast majority of American civil servants are upright, honest, and conscientious employees of the American State and Federal governments who try their best to assist and provide valuable services to the American public. Their hard work should not be overlooked especially in this current era of virtually instantaneous communication.

One of America’s strengths stems from her flexibility and versatility in a political, foreign relations, and geopolitical context. In a domestic context this international flexibility is hard won as it generally stems from fierce national political and legal debate. The following is quoted directly from the website MyFoxDetroit.com:

ROMULUS, Mich. (WJBK) – The Mandy family says they were on their way to the happiest place on earth (Disney), but had to go through hell to get there. “I realize they’re trying to keep people safe, but come on, does he look like a terrorist?” said Dr. David Mandy. The family was going through security when two TSA agents singled Drew Mandy out for a special pat down. Drew is severely mentally disabled. He’s 29, but his parents said he has the mental capacity of a two-year-old, which made the experience that followed at metro Detroit’s McNamera Terminal that much harder to deal with. “You have got to be kidding me. I honestly felt that those two agents did not know what they were doing,” Mandy told us. Dr. Mandy claimed they asked Drew to place his feet on the yellow shoe line, something he didn’t understand. They proceeded to pat his pants down, questioning the padding which was his adult diapers. When the agents asked Drew to take his hand and rub the front and back of his pants so they could swab it for explosives, his dad stepped in and tried to explain that Drew was mentally challenged. “They said, ‘Please, sir, we know what we’re doing,’” Mandy said. The TSA agents saw Drew holding a six-inch plastic hammer. “My son carries his ball and his hammer for security. He goes everywhere with (them),” said Mandy. The TSA it seems saw the toy as a weapon. “He took the hammer and he tapped the wall. ‘See, it’s hard. It could be used as a weapon,’” Mandy explained. “So, Drew’s also holding the ball, and I said, ‘Well, how about the ball?’ He (said), ‘Oh, he can keep that.” Dr. Mandy was told he would need to have the toy shipped if he wanted to keep it, a process which caused them to almost miss their plane, so he pitched it. “It just killed me to have to throw it away because he’s been carrying this like for 20 years,” Mandy said…

The administration of this web log strongly encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks above to read more and also view the video of the interview with this man’s father.

The so-called “Transportation Security Administration” (TSA) is, quite simply: a travesty. This story is absolutely heartbreaking.

Continuing, there is a poignant film from Hallmark Hall of Fame entitled: The Boys Next Door. This film is mentioned because the narrative of the film chronicles the lives of a group of mentally challenged men who are simply trying to live their lives like any other Americans inherently endowed with the privileges and/or immunities of American Citizenship. Their fictional trials, tribulations, and treatment at the hands of greater society provides illumination about what freedom means for people of all backgrounds in the United States and across the globe. There is a very salient moment to be taken from this film in the context of these current events. Perhaps it may be best to quote directly from a critical article written by Hal Boedeker, Sentinel Television Critic, on February 4th 1996 and posted on the website of the Orlando Sentinel, OrlandoSentinel.com:

The movie also spells out its good intentions. Jack imagines feeble-minded Lucien telling a state senate panel: ”Civilizations are judged by the way they treat their most helpless of citizens. And if you turn away from me, you extinguish your own light, deny your own warmth.”

The administration of this weblog encourages readers to click upon the relevant hyperlinks noted above to read this article in full and gain further insight. Furthermore, viewing this film may be insightful as well, under the circumstances. For a relevant video clip please click HERE.

The reader needs to recognize that Mr. Mandy, like all Americans, is endowed by his creator with certain inalienable rights and one of those inalienable rights is the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures pursuant to the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution. How is it reasonable, America, to believe that a man in Mr. Mandy’s position should have his 4th Amendment rights stripped without just cause? Was there probable cause to have these rights stripped? Were there exigent circumstances? What security interest was upheld by trampling upon this man’s liberty? More importantly, how can Mr. Mandy’s public servants have the audacity to treat him with such disrespect when, in reality, it is their job to serve and protect HIM!!!! For if not him, then whom? Furthermore, is not Mr. Mandy accorded an unfettered right to travel pursuant to both his State and United States Citizenship? Finally, would it be unreasonable to posit that Mr. Mandy may be entitled to some just compensation for having a treasured item, which apparently had been literally held for twenty years, taken and thrown out pursuant to a questionably lawful search?

This story was acutely difficult to read because the victim of this injustice is the same age as this blogger. There is an old saying: “There but for the grace of God, go I.” Simply put: were factual circumstances different, this could just as easily have been this blogger or any reader in this audience. That stated, I would hope that if I were mentally disabled my civil servants would comport themselves in such a way that facilitated my travel and aided me in my distress (as one can only infer that this incident caused this man considerable distress and consternation since having one’s “pant’s patted down” AKA: being groped, is upsetting for anyone, especially Americans who are used to their government, usually in the form of bonded peace officers; respecting their privacy and right to be free from unwanted searches, seizures, and molestation by American governmental agents).

Whatever excuses or apologies that TSA wishes to extend regarding this incident are irrelevant for they have committed an irrevocable violation of this man’s Constitutional and Human rights, but this issue goes deeper as these are the servants of We The People and therefore it is upon us as Americans to recognize this problem in order to make attempts at redressing it via either election, legislation, or even; perhaps, a possible legal decision.

At the level of the sovereign American States, it would appear as though further efforts are being undertaken to curtail the questionably legal activities of the TSA.To quote directly from the official website of the Examiner, Examiner.com:

The federal Transportation and Security Administration may have thought it had the last word in its battle with the state of Texas over a controversial bill that would make airport pat-downs a criminal offense. The fight, however, is anything but over as the state Senate prepares take up the bill for the second time. The bill, HB 1937, would make it a misdemeanor for TSA personnel to touch “the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing.” The penalties for violating the law would be a $4,000 fine and up to a year in jail…

Readers are asked to click upon the hyperlinks above to find out further details. Frequent readers of this blog may recall that Texas was recently the scene of some tension regarding these issues as the Texas Senate became the recipient of what would appear to have been significant federal pressure operating against similar legislation which was previously submitted. It also appears as if the sovereign State of Texas is not the only State which may be looking at such legislation, to quote directly from the website of STGNews, Stgnews.com:

SALT LAKE CITY – Representative Carl Wimmer (R-Herriman) opened a bill file today that, according to his website post,  “will prohibit TSA pat downs in Utah without reasonable suspicion. Texas needs us to stand with them.” Taking a hint from what Texas has sought to enroll in her laws, this suggests that Transportation Security Administration agents, on site at Utah airports, may become subject to the same criteria that other law enforcement officials must meet before performing a search upon a person…

The administration of this web log highly recommends that readers click upon the above cited hyperlinks to read this story in detail.

As it appears that the sovereign State of Utah is now joining the chorus of those calling for legislation regarding the curtailment of TSA abuses. It remains to be seen whether any such legislation will actually see passage. It seems likely that this is not the last we have heard on this issue.

– Benjamin Walter Hart

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14th August 2010

This author recently came across the following information regarding petitions submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The following is a direct quotation from a press release from the Organization of American States distributed by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA):

On December 27, 2002 and July 17, 2003, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the “Inter-American Commission” or the “IACHR”) received petitions from the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the law firm of Gibbs Houston Pauw, and the Center for Human Rights and Justice (“the petitioners”) against the Government of the United States (“the State” or “United States”) on behalf of Wayne Smith and his children and Hugo Armendariz and his children, respectively, (hereinafter collectively the “alleged victims”) in relation to Mr. Smith and Mr. Armendariz’s deportation from the United States. According to the petitions, the State violated the alleged victims’ rights protected under Articles I (right to life, liberty and personal security), V (right  to private and family life), VI (right to family), VII (right to protection for mothers and children), IX (right to inviolability of the home), XVIII (right to fair trial) and XXVI (right to due process of law) of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (the “American Declaration”).

Deportation, also referred to as removal, is the process whereby foreign national(s) residing or remaining temporarily in the United States, either lawfully or unlawfully, are sent back to their home country (or another country outside of the United states) usually following proceedings in which a tribunal adjudicates the legality of a foreign national’s presence in the United States. To quote the aforementioned press release further:

Regarding the merits of the case, the petitioners allege that Messrs. Smith and Armendariz, both of whom were legal permanent residents in the United States, were subjected to deportation without permitting them to present a meaningful defense in administrative and judicial courts, including the following alleged internationally-required consideration of humanitarian equities to deportation: the alleged victims’ length of legal residency in the United States; the alleged victims’ family ties in the United States; the potential hardship on the family members left behind in the United States; the alleged victims’ links with their countries of origin; the extent of the alleged victims’ rehabilitation and social contribution to the United States; any medical or psychological considerations; and the gravity of the alleged victims’ offense and the age when it was committed.

Lawful Permanent Residence (LPR) is a legal status in the United States also referred to as “Green Card” status. Those American Citizens married to a foreign national often seek a CR1 Visa or an IR1 Visa in order to obtain the benefits of lawful permanent residence for their foreign loved one(s). Under certain circumstances an alien present in the United States in lawful permanent resident status can be stripped of said status if they have committed certain “aggravated” criminal offenses or other acts which are deemed to be grounds for removal from the USA, or grounds of inadmissibility to the United States (if the LPR has been abroad and is seeking readmission to the USA or if State law allows activity which Federal law deems to be a legal grounds of inadmissibility) . To further quote the aforementioned press release:

In its response on the merits, the State asserts that under international law each sovereign nation has the right to establish reasonable, objective immigration laws that govern the circumstances under which non-citizens may reside in its country. From this principle, the State argues that the statutory scheme established by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (hereinafter “IIRIRA”) and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (hereinafter “AEDPA”) is a reasonable exercise of sovereign authority to protect U.S. citizens and other non-citizens alike who reside in the United States. Under IIRIRA and AEDPA, a legal permanent resident who has been convicted of an “aggravated felony,” is deportable without the opportunity of receiving a waiver of deportation from an immigration or federal judge. In addition, the State asserts that the petitioners interpret the relevant articles under the American Declaration too expansively and that they fail to recognize the proviso in Article XXVIII of the American Declaration, which permits Member States under certain circumstances to curtail a person’s individual rights in order to preserve the rights and security of others. The State asserts that the mandatory deportation of a non-citizen convicted of an “aggravated felony” is such a circumstance.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRAIRA) is a significant piece of Immigration legislation in that it changed some of the procedures relevant to removal. Specifically, expedited removal, a comparatively quick removal proceeding often conducted by Officers of the Customs and Border Protection Service (USCBP), was essentially created by the  provisions of the IIRAIRA. In recent years, some believe that deportation of “aggravated felons” in LPR status has increased, but that some of those removed from the USA have had certain due process rights violated in the course of their removal. The case in question seems to rely upon arguments based upon this supposition. To quote the aforementioned press release further:

After having reviewed the positions of the parties and their accompanying evidence, the IACHR concludes that the United States is responsible for violations of Wayne Smith and Hugo Armendariz’s rights protected under Articles V, VI, VII, XVIII, and XXVI of the American Declaration. The Inter-American Commission further concludes that it is well-recognized under international law that a Member State must provide non-citizen residents an opportunity to present a defense against deportation based on humanitarian and other considerations, such as the rights protected under Articles V, VI, and VII of the American Declaration. Each Member State’s administrative or judicial bodies, charged with reviewing deportation orders, must be permitted to give meaningful
consideration to a non-citizen resident’s defense, balance it against the State’s sovereign right to enforce reasonable, objective immigration policy, and provided effective relief from deportation if merited. The United States did not follow these international norms in the present case. The IACHR presents its recommendations to the State regarding these violations of the American Declaration.

One can speculate as to the ultimate result of the above decision by the IACHR as the above finding could have implications  in future removal proceedings as agents of the United States government as well as Immigration adjudicators may be required to provide future prospective deportees with an opportunity to form a defense strategy based upon humanitarian considerations. The exact nature of future defenses based upon humanitarian grounds remains to be seen, but this finding may place more rights in the hands of those foreign nationals in American removal proceedings.

For related information please see: I-601 waiver.

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