Disturbing: Boat Full of Migrants Land on Spanish Beach, Evade Police…

August 10, 2017 aurorax 0

I know what you’re thinking. Another migrant story? Yes. They’re getting a bit tiring, I know. They’re never ending over there. Much like, well, the constant leak of illegal immigrants flooding into Europe like some kind of disease. That’s not racism, it’s an analogy. Now we have this video, a perfectly unnerving example of a day in […]

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Haitians join other refugee groups in fleeing to Canada

August 8, 2017 aurorax 0

Fearing deportation, as many as 150 Haitians have been crossing the border into Canada every day this past week, hoping the United State’s neighbor to the north will have a more lenient stance than that of President Donald Trump’s administration. Reuters reports that officials in Quebec have opened several sites, including Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, to […]

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Climate change cited as a leading national security threat around the world

August 2, 2017 aurorax 0

The issue runs almost even with ISIS, while cyberattacks and the refugee crisis rank lower.

In this Nov. 18, 2015 photo, Bangladeshis from nearby districts who have come to help build a dam pose for a photograph in the island district of Bhola, where the Meghna River spills into the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh. Though Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been internationally recognized for raising awareness of climate-change issues, Bangladesh has no specific plan for dealing with its own people displaced by climate-related disasters, other than offering them temporary shelter. CREDIT: AP Photo/Shahria Sharmin

People around the world say climate change is one of the greatest threats to national security.

While cyberattacks and the condition of the global economy are also points of stress, a survey from Pew Research Center published Tuesday indicates that climate change and ISIS are the two leading concerns for people across 38 countries.

Those surveyed were asked to weigh eight potential threats, including power and influence from the United States, Russia, and China, as well as an uptick in refugees from countries like Iraq and Syria. But those concerns paled in comparison to ongoing climate shifts and ISIS: 61 and 62 percent, respectively, of respondents felt those issues were pressing.

Which takes precedent — climate change or ISIS — differs starkly across regions and political persuasion.

Partisan divisions were clearly reflected by the survey. Those who consider themselves ideologically aligned with the political left in Europe and North America see climate change as a more pressing threat. By contrast, those who lean towards the right were more concerned about ISIS, as well as the number of refugees fleeing countries like Iraq and Syria.

Climate change will fuel terrorism, report warns

That division is especially clear in the United States. U.S. respondents who identified as politically liberal overwhelmingly named climate change as a security concern, with 85 percent saying the issue is a priority, as opposed to 31 percent of those on the right — a 55 percent divide.

“The stark partisan divide between those on the left and the right means there is a large portion in the United States that doesn’t see climate change as a threat,” Jacob Poushter, a senior researcher at Pew, told the New York Times. “But there’s a large percentage that does, so that lowers the number.”

Senior EPA official resigns with scathing message for Trump and Pruitt

Climate change and ISIS have each disproportionately impacted certain areas over others, something reflected by the data.

“ISIS is named as the top threat in a total of 18 countries surveyed — mostly concentrated in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the United States,” the survey notes. “A substantial number of these countries have endured deadly terrorist attacks claimed by the Islamic militant group. In 13 countries, mostly in Latin America and Africa, publics identify global climate change as the topmost threat.” This trend occurs on a national level as well. African countries like Kenya and Senegal are understandably worried about climate change.

But Latin American countries also overwhelmingly voiced concerned about the issue, with only Venezuela listing the global economy as a greater priority (Venezuela is currently in a state of political and economic crisis). While those nations are generally less susceptible to climate change than some regions, residents of Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and their neighbors overwhelmingly voiced concerns about the risk posed to national security.

That could be due to any number of factors, including exposure to extreme weather, such as the recent flooding in Colombia.

“In Latin America the impacts of climate change both in terms of extreme events as well as the intensity and frequency of events has really gained momentum,” Paula Caballero, global director of the climate change program at the World Resources Institute, told the Times.

World leaders commit themselves to climate action without the United States

Most countries citing climate change as a concern second to ISIS were based in Asia. Jordan, Lebanon, and Tunisia all disproportionately named the extremist group as a security threat, a concern likely influenced by ongoing attacks and violence in the Middle East and North Africa. Still, much like other regions, climate change still came in a close second for many Asian nations. Others were more concerned with different regional dynamics — China’s influence concerns South Koreans, while Japan is alarmed by cyberattacks.

Cyberattacks also ruled the day in the United States, coming in second only to ISIS. Only 56 percent of U.S. respondents said climate change was a major threat to national security. That could be a reflection on contemporary politics. President Donald Trump has notably withdrawn the United States from the Paris climate agreement, while making efforts to revive the country’s dying coal industry. At the same time, cybersecurity has become a more pressing concern for Americans, amid ongoing news coverage of Russian hacking efforts during the 2016 presidential election.

While virtually all countries surveyed expressed alarm over climate change, coal and oil exporting nations sounded a more muted note than their counterparts.

While virtually all countries surveyed expressed alarm over climate change, coal and oil exporting nations sounded a more muted note than their counterparts. Despite pressing climate concerns in Asia, the issue came in second for India and third for Indonesia, where coal reigns.

In oil giant Russia, meanwhile, climate change barely seemed to register, despite the nation’s support for the Paris agreement. Russians ranked climate change the fifth biggest threat to national security — after ISIS, the economy, refugees, and the influence of the United States.


Climate change cited as a leading national security threat around the world was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Climate change cited as a leading national security threat around the world

August 2, 2017 aurorax 0

People around the world say climate change is one of the greatest threats to national security. While cyberattacks and the condition of the global economy are also points of stress, a survey from Pew Research Center published Tuesday indicates that climate change and ISIS are the two leading concerns for people across 38 countries. Those […]

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As United States cracks down on refugee resettlement, the ‘Ellis Island of the South’ keeps open…

July 27, 2017 aurorax 0

As United States cracks down on refugee resettlement, the ‘Ellis Island of the South’ keeps open arms

The Clarkston, Georgia area accepts 1,500 refugees a year, but Trump’s anti-immigration agenda threatens the town’s inclusiveness.

Clarkston area residents hold signs reading “GA loves refugees” while posing for a drone photo. CREDIT: Kira Lerner

CLARKSTON, GEORGIA — When 44-year-old Leon Shombana moved to the Atlanta area in 2012 as a refugee, almost a decade after he fled a violent civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, he found a job in a poultry processing plant.

The job was hard and the conditions were difficult. So when he learned that a coffee truck in the the small town of Clarkston, Georgia was willing to hire and train refugees and help teach them English, he jumped at the opportunity.

A little over a year later, Shombana is a manager at Refuge Coffee Co. in Clarkston, a town that’s often referred to as the “Ellis Island of the South.” In recent decades, the Clarkston area has accepted roughly 1,500 refugees each year, making the town the most diverse 1.4 square miles in the United States. Clarkston is now home to people from more than 40 countries speaking more than 60 languages.

On a hot and humid Saturday morning in June, Shombana took a break from manning the truck’s espresso machine, even as the line for coffee snaked around the parking lot. Standing behind a podium, smiling wide, and speaking in his now-fluent English, Shombana told more than a hundred neighbors how happy he was to celebrate World Refugee Day in a town that has accepted him and allowed him to start a new life.

Leon Shombola works as a manager at Refuge Coffee. CREDIT: Refuge Coffee

“When I start here, I was asking myself, am I going to find the people who speak the same language with me? Am I going to find the people from different places?” he said. “I realized that Clarkston is the place to be… Each kind of person you want to see in the world, you can find them in Clarkston. Clarkston is a good place for us. This is a place of refugees.”

Shombana recognizes how lucky he is. The world right now is experiencing the largest forced migration crisis in recorded history, with more than 21.3 million refugees worldwide. And opportunities, especially in the United States, are quickly disappearing. President Trump campaigned for the presidency with a staunchly anti-immigrant, anti-refugee message, and in his five months in office, his administration has followed through with actions that have terrified the residents here.

In recent months, refugees in Clarkston have reported being verbally harassed and assaulted while walking their children to school or pumping gas. Cab drivers say they fear for their safety. And undocumented immigrants who don’t have the protection of a refugee status, including ten Somalis who were detained in April, worry that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents could stop them without cause and send them away from this multicultural haven.

“I’m an American and I don’t feel good for the first time,” said Omar Shekhey, director of the Somali American Community Center, which works with roughly 7,000 Somali refugees and immigrants in the area. “We are in a daily survival mode almost. It was hard before. Now its like 20 times worse.”

In the shadows of the KKK’s Stone Mountain

Trump’s presidency has brought a level of racism and xenophobia to Clarkston that has roots in its more troubled past. The town was once 90 percent white and was used as a meeting ground for Ku Klux Klan rallies. Longtime residents remember when the white supremacist group would light cars and crosses on fire atop nearby Stone Mountain and then throw them off the cliffs.

That began to change in the 1980s, when the federal government was looking to add structure to refugee settlement in the United States. After a search of the country, Clarkston was designated a resettlement area because of its proximity to Atlanta, walkability, and availability of public transportation and affordable housing.

Over the next few decades, a coalition of resettlement organizations helped more than 1,000 refugees come to the Clarkston area each year, reshaping the racial, ethnic, and cultural makeup of the town.

The Ku Klux Klan burns a huge cross atop Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, Ga. on July 23, 1948, while initiating 700 new members. CREDIT: AP Photo

By 1990, whites had become a minority. The transition was not always easy — many older white residents claimed refugees were threatening the way of life here, but largely they have moved elsewhere, according to community leaders. Today, reminders of the town’s white supremacist past are rare.

Instead, the main streets are dotted with community centers and immigrant and refugee-owned businesses, including Asian grocery stores, halal restaurants, and African handicraft shops. Nearby Stone Mountain, once a KKK stronghold, is now an amusement park.

Clarkston’s success with resettling agencies has been used as a model for other American cities and even other countries. Though the unemployment rate here is more than twice the national average and the poverty rate is high, resettlement agencies tout the fact that 90 percent of Clarkston refugees are independent within 180 days.

“Refugees who are resettled in Clarkston have a higher self-sufficiency rate than almost anywhere else in the country,” said Jim Neal, director of Clarkston-based Friends of Refugees.

Clarkston’s 34-year-old mayor, Ted Terry, who was elected in 2013, told ThinkProgress that many of the misconceptions about refugees — that they will bring crime or terrorism — are flat out wrong. In fact, when the town increased the number of refugees it took in under President Obama, the crime rate when down, he said.

“Refugees are some of the safest, most peaceful and law-abiding residents that any mayor would want to have in their city,” he said.

The refugee ban president

To immigrant and refugee communities across the country, Trump’s election was a shocking and traumatic event. In Clarkston, the residents took it especially hard.

“The mood here was very somber after Election Day because we were dealing with folks who we care about who were afraid,” Neal said.

Just a week after his inauguration, Trump issued his executive order banning people from six Muslim-majority countries and refugees from all over the world from coming to the United States. The order immediately affected resettlement in Clarkston. “It really slowed to a trickle,” Terry said.

Residents worried about friends, family members, and other people from their countries of origin who were in the process of planning their resettlement, or who have been trying to seek refugee status. The slowdown in new arrivals also hurt local businesses, who rely on refugee customers.

“We had one of our grocery stores tell me that his receipts were down like 30 percent from this time last year, and it was because there was basically a pause in February and March because no refugees were coming in,” Terry said.

In late June, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to Trump’s ban, but also lifted a stay lower courts had imposed on the 120-day ban on refugees who cannot show a “bona fide relationship” with someone in the United States. Though the court ruled in July that grandparents and relatives of American residents must be permitted while the court considers the challenge, many refugees are still in limbo waiting for a final word from the country’s highest court.

The five resettlement agencies that work with the U.S. State Department to place people in Clarkston are highly dependent on federal funding. “The attempted travel ban and the slowing of the refugee process has meant they have had to make cuts,” Neal said. Some agencies, like World Relief, have had to close offices and lay off employees around the country.

“No one here has closed offices, but there have been some layoffs,” Neal said. “What we’re starting to see is that they just don’t have the bandwidth to do that continuing casework in some ways. That’s a real impact.”

Omar Shekhey, director of the Somali American Community Center. CREDIT: Kira Lerner

While the slowdown in resettlement was the most prominent effect of the ban, its impacts were felt more widely. Clarkston residents from places like Sudan worried about traveling home to see family and then not being let back in to the United States.

“Families are concerned they’re not going to be reunited, or united in the first place,” J.D McCrary, executive director of the International Rescue Committee in Atlanta, told ThinkProgress.

“It raised a lot of fears and a lot of questions and concerns,” Neal said.

The fears extend to the greater community. Not every immigrant in Clarkston has a refugee status, so the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants is hurting another population in Clarkston.

“We had never had any concerns about ICE in the refugee community until just the past couple of months,” McCrary said.

In April, ICE detained ten Somali immigrants and is preparing to send them back to Somalia, a country suffering from a drought so intense that aid workers predict more than 60,000 people will die.

“Their only crime is that they need to get their paperwork in order and get another day in court,” Terry said. “They came to America legally but now have become undocumented because of the patchwork of immigration laws. Now, more than ever, we need comprehensive immigration reform.”

In May, ICE officials and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who represents Clarkston, hosted an event. There, Naima Musse, whose husband Abdusalam Hussein was detained, said that if her husband goes back to Somalia, he will face constant danger from extremist group al-Shabaab.

“Who will take care of them there? The pirates? The extremists?” she asked, holding back tears.

ICE agents arrested Hussein at his home, immediately after he dropped his five kids off at school. “Some of them didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to their family,” Shekhey said about the ten detainees.

“It’s really sad that we’re breaking up families, and it’s really affecting Clarkston,” Terry said.

Libertian refugee Monica Sherriff, and Congolese refugee and Leon Shombana speak at the World Refugee Day celebration. CREDIT: Kira Lerner

At recent town meetings, children have told Terry that their parents are sending them out to get groceries because they fear being stopped by ICE agents and “they don’t even want to go outside anymore.”

“It’s really creating this shadow over the whole community where we’re pushing people to the periphery or underground,” he said.

The fear is impacting Clarkston law enforcement’s ability to do its job. “If a large portion of the population refuses to interact with police, go out into the public, or call 911, then it’s harder to solve crimes and some won’t go reported,” Terry said. “We’re going to have a less safe community.”

In early May, Clarkston’s city council unanimously voted to became the first city in Georgia to adopt a “non-detainer policy,” saying it the town would not cooperate with ICE officials in detaining undocumented immigrants. “We let our people know, to the extent that we’re allowed by federal and state law, that our officers are not going to be doing double duty as immigration cops,” Terry said.

The vote was important, yet largely symbolic because Clarkston doesn’t have a jail, so it has little ability to control who can be held by police.

Supreme Court’s Muslim ban decision sparks anger from refugee advocates

The move was applauded by immigration advocates, including Johnson.

“Donald Trump is causing terror within the refugee and immigrant communities of America,” Johnson told ThinkProgress. “Until he stops with his harsh and divisive rhetoric, then the terror will continue.”

Keeping the town’s doors open

Neal said the refugees he works with in Clarkston are prepared to resist the Trump administration’s agenda.

For one thing, they know that elections don’t always have favorable consequences, he said. Many came to the United States because of the result of an election. “Refugees come from places where an election isn’t necessarily a good thing,” he said. “Or it has the potential and often does have really bad outcomes.”

As they fight back, they’re not going it alone. Rep. Johnson said he has been working since Trump’s inauguration to make sure all of his constituents know that they are welcome in Georgia.

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) speaks to constituents in Clarkston. CREDIT: Kira Lerner

“What we have done here in Clarkston since January is to make sure that our immigrant community understands that we know the stress that they feel, we understand how terror works, and we’re trying to calm the waters to let them know that all the people of Clarkston and many of the people in the fourth district are with them,” he said.

Friends of Refugees and other organizations have been leading workshops and seminars, explaining what refugees and immigrants should do if they are approached by federal officials.

“There was a lot of conversation about, here’s what to do if ICE comes to your apartment door,” Neal said. “They did role plays and went through the various scenarios… Folks were asking: ‘Are we still welcome here? Do people want us? What’s going to happen?””

Information was provided to the population at the events in multiple languages, including papers saying “The police are there to help you.”

Neal said one particular handout struck him. “There were various bullet points and the last bullet was: ‘You have a right to practice your religion,’” he said. “I just found myself thinking, this is February 2017 and we’re in the United States.”

The education campaign has also extended to others in the community, encouraging people to support their refugee neighbors.

“We have tried to talk about the fact-based, positive benefits of refugees to our community, the importance they have to our economy, their success and value and character as citizens,” Neal said.

“It doesn’t just make good humanitarian sense; it makes good economic sense to welcome refugees and immigrants,” McCrary said. “Making sure that people understand that is going to make the big difference.”

Volunteer applications to Friends of Refugees are up 400 percent from last year, Neal said, proving that other community members also recognize the value of treating refugees like they belong in Clarkston. “That’s people rising up and looking for what they can do,” he said.

Clarkston area residents at the World Refugee Day celebration. CREDIT: Kira Lerner

“The one thing that’s going to make a difference is the upswelling of community voices and community support,” McCrary added.

At the World Refugee Day event in June, more 100 people drank cappuccinos and lattes from Refuge Coffee and listened to refugees share their personal experiences coming to Clarkston. Kids and adults decorated welcome home signs for refugees who have yet to arrive in the area, and wrote postcards to their lawmakers encouraging them to look at Clarkston as an example of the positive benefits refugees can have on this country.

“The future is going to look more diverse, more ethnically complex,” Terry said. “If we can make that work in Clarkston, then it gives me hope for the rest of the world.”


As United States cracks down on refugee resettlement, the ‘Ellis Island of the South’ keeps open… was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

‘Peaceful’ Migrants Hit a Truck Driver with a Brick, Try Breaking into the UK…

July 26, 2017 aurorax 0

The United Nations, European Union, and Human Rights Watch are all still bitching about the “mistreatment” migrants allegedly face. While demanding European countries subject themselves to even more refugees (see EU Launches Tyrannical Battle Against Countries Not Taking ‘Enough’ Refugees.). Something the UN and friends keep hushed up: how these “peaceful” migrants abuse those who welcome them […]

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Australia disappointed by U.S. failure to take in refugees as promised

July 21, 2017 aurorax 0

A “refugee swap” deal was made by the previous administration.

Australia’s Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton speaks to reporters in Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, Wednesday, June 21, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Rod McGuirk

Now that the U.S. government has reached its annual refugee resettlement cap as set by the Trump administration, hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers from Australia won’t be able to enter the United States as promised during former President Barack Obama’s administration.

In the last year of Obama’s term, the U.S. government promised to take in 1,250 refugees from Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka who have been living for more than three years in immigration camps on the Pacific islands of Papua New Guinea and Nauru. In what amounted to a “refugee swap,” Australia said in September it would resettle Central American refugees living in U.S.-supported detention camps in Costa Rica.

That swap now won’t proceed since the United States hit its annual refugee cap. Trump signed an executive order to cut the number of refugees and immigrants the United States would take in — down to 50,000 from 110,000 set by his predecessor — before the 2017 fiscal year ends on September 30. The U.S. Department of State announced last week it has reached its 40,000 number and halted the refugee resettlement program until the upcoming fiscal year.

The only way out of Nauru for some refugees is suicide

“We’re disappointed that they haven’t been able to move this month, which was my hope, but their new program year starts on Oct. 1, and we’re working with both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that we can get people off as quickly as possible,” Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton told reporters this week.

Australia has stuck by a strict immigration blockade policy that turns away refugees who arrive by boat. Refugees and asylum seekers are then detained at refugee processing centers on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea or Nauru.

People who wind up in these detention sites often describe their detention as cruel. An October 2016 Amnesty International report found that it was common for detainees to try and kill themselves because of the horrific conditions they allegedly faced. Children face mental health challenges, abuse, and neglect issues.

The Australian government has began the process to shut down the Manus Island center by October 31, so it could move refugees to the township of Lorengau. But the refugees have refused to go, saying they don’t feel safe. That has led to authorities reportedly cutting off power, water, toilets, and phones to the inhabitants.


Australia disappointed by U.S. failure to take in refugees as promised was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Supreme Court allows Trump to keep blocking refugee resettlement

July 19, 2017 aurorax 0

SCOTUS weighs in on the Muslim ban.

Ali Said, of Somalia, center, leaves a center for refugees with his two sons in San Diego. Said is among the last refugees allowed into the United States before stricter rules kick in as part of the travel ban. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gregory Bull

The U.S. Supreme Court will allow President Donald Trump to enforce part of his Muslim ban that blocks refugee resettlement.

On Wednesday, the Court stayed part of a lower court order that broadly exempted from the ban refugees who are in the process of being resettled.

The Supreme Court’s move means the stay will remain in effect until the case regarding Trump’s ban is resolved in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit — essentially, allowing the Trump administration to enforce this part of its ban as the case winds its way through the court system.

BREAKING: #SCOTUS denies DOJ request to clarify June 26 #travelban order, but stays dist ct order on refugees pending DOJ appeal to 9th Cir.

 — @chrisgeidner

There are about 24,000 refugees waiting to be resettled who don’t have a family member in the United States, but who do have a relationship with a refugee resettlement agency working to place them.

It’s not all good news for the Trump administration. The Court also declined the government’s request to clarify a previous ruling that held other people subject to Trump’s ban — nationals of Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Syria — may still enter the United States if they “have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The denial of this request means the lower court’s interpretation of this language, which is more permissive than the Trump administration’s, will be allowed to stand for now.

The Trump administration had chosen to interpret the Supreme Court’s previous order as narrowly as possible, saying that having a grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, or sibling-in-law in the U.S. doesn’t count as having a “bona fide relationship” in the country.

In a Hawaii district court order handed down last week, however, Judge Derrick Watson said the definition of a “bona fide relationship” needed to be broad enough to encompass those familial relationships.

Supreme Court’s Muslim ban decision sparks anger from refugee advocates

In what represented a major blow to the ban, Watson also held that refugees who “have a formal assurance from an agency within the United States that the agency will provide, or ensure the provision of, reception and placement services to that refugee” are exempt from the ban, a broad ruling that essentially meant refugee resettlement could continue as usual.

The Supreme Court’s move on Wednesday keeps in place Watson’s definition of “bona fide relationship” for nationals of the six targeted countries, but reverses his ruling on refugee resettlement.

Three of the Court’s most conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch — dissented, saying they would have preferred to reverse Watson’s entire ruling and keep blocking grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, and siblings-in-law of U.S. citizens from entering the country.

On Monday, the State Department announced it would uphold Watson’s expanded definition of a “close familial relationship” for nationals of the six targeted countries, preempting the Supreme Court’s ruling on Wednesday.

The number of refugee admissions in 2017 reached 50,000 last week, the limit that Trump placed in his executive order. The number is significantly lower than the 110,000 limit that the Obama administration set last year.


Supreme Court allows Trump to keep blocking refugee resettlement was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.