Andrew Yang

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks during the 100 Club Dinner at SNHIU
MANCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE - FEBRUARY 08: Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang speaks during the 100 Club Dinner at SNHIU on February 08, 2020 in Manchester, New Hampshire. The 2020 New Hampshire primary will take place on February 11, making it the second nominating contest for the Democratic Party in choosing their presidential candidate to face Donald Trump in the 2020 general election. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Amnesty International USA asked Andrew Yang 13 questions about some of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.

Here is his response exactly as provided:

  • How should the U.S. respond to the growing number of asylum-seekers, including families and children, seeking protection at the U.S. southern border?

We need to drastically increase funding for asylum courts so that we can hear these cases in a timely manner. We must treat asylum-seekers in a humane manner, not keeping them in cages or separated from family members. We need to ensure that basic services are provided to asylum-seekers. We need to come up with clear guidelines for who qualifies for asylum and stick to them.

Most importantly, we have to recognize that asylum-seekers are humans looking for a better life for themselves and their children.

  • What can the U.S. do to address the causes of migration from the Northern Triangle of Central America?

The poverty rate in El Salvador is 29%. In Guatemala, it’s 59%. And in Honduras, it’s over 60%. These migrants are coming to the United States, despite poor odds for making it or being admitted, because the economic situation on the ground is so poor.

We need to work with our allies in the Northern Triangle in order to improve the situation on the ground. We need to help them build their economies up and diversify them. We need to help the government combat violence in these areas, which is cited by over 20% of migrants as being the cause for their desire to leave their homes. And we need to work with our allies between the Northern Triangle and the US, including Mexico, to ensure that proper security is in place to protect these migrants, and to provide an alternative location to end their migration other than the United States.

  • What role should U.S. refugee admissions play in our response to the global refugee crisis?

The best thing the US can do to mitigate refugee crises is to stop engaging in military adventures overseas that lead to regional destabilization. Since we’ve played a role in the current crisis, it’s important that we work with the international community to alleviate it.

The Trump administration’s moves to minimize the number of refugees we accept is inhumane. We need to ensure that we’re doing our part to relocate a number of these individuals, helping them find a new, safe home. However, we can’t possibly take in everyone who has been displaced, and many of these individuals would do better in countries to which they have closer language or cultural ties. We need to encourage our allies, and increase funding to USAID, which Trump has cut by 24%, in order to take in refugees, when possible, as has been occurring in South American during the Venezuelan crisis.

  • What kinds of support could the U.S. provide to countries and regions experiencing record levels of internal displacement induced by causes as wide-ranging as climate change and warfare?

The US needs to rejoin the rest of the world in directly tackling climate change and investing in climate renewal technologies, providing new developments at heavily subsidized rates to areas of the developing world hurt most by climate change. We need to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, and make and stick to ambitious targets for decarbonization. We also need to take a global leadership position on investment in renewable energy technology and innovation.

Direct aid to countries with IDP crises caused by warfare is a much more difficult problem, as those countries tend to lack the infrastructure to distribute aid well, have corrupt governments, or are actively discriminating against the populations that are displaced. We need to work with regional allies – especially those that share borders with these countries in crisis – to increase the number of IDPs they’re willing to accept into their countries.

  • What policies should the U.S. implement to reduce and prevent gun violence?

The US should focus efforts on gun safety. We need to ensure that every firearm is registered. We need to make sure anyone who wants to purchase or use a firearm is both licensed and educated in their use, similar to the way we treat cars. And we should provide tax credits for anyone who purchases gun-safety items such as a gun safe or trigger lock.

Anyone who wants to purchase or transfer a gun should go through a background check, and that background check needs to be completed. People who have a history of domestic violence, violent mental health issues, or have been arrested for a violent crime should be precluded from purchasing a firearm.

There should also be a “cooling off” period in order to combat the epidemic of suicides in this country, and all locations that sell guns should have information on mental health resources available for individuals in crisis.

Gun manufacturers also need to have safety standards imposed on them, for example they should be required to manufacture guns that are difficult to alter after sale.

  • How should the U.S. address police killings of civilians, including the lack of transparency and accountability?

We can start through three initiatives:
1) Have the CDC track gun violence, and the FBI track police shootings
2) Provide all officers with body cams, create a presumption of guilt if it is turned off, and have the Justice Department increase their willingness to bring suits when there’s a shooting
3) Provide all police departments with resources to provide deescalation training, and other trainings that will increase the likelihood of situations being resolved without violence

  • How should the U.S. address human rights abuses suffered by religious and ethnic minorities at the hands of government and non-government actors worldwide?

First, we need to stop getting involved with countries that are carrying out these atrocities. One thing I’d do is end all aid to Saudi Arabia and the UAE as a result of their actions in Yemen.

We need to prevent all US companies from working with governments or organizations that are actively involved in the persecution of any religious or ethnic group, especially those that are providing technologies that can be used to carry out this persecution. For example, McKinsey provided consulting services for governments in China, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa – this is unacceptable.

We need to place trade sanctions on these governments and seize any of their assets in US jurisdictions. We also need to work with our allies to do the same.

As many of the governments engaged in these persecutions are heavily reliant on oil, we should also move towards renewables so that we stop subsidizing their actions.

  • How should the U.S. protect LGBTI rights at home and abroad?

At home, we need to ensure that protections for the equal rights of LGBTI individuals are enshrined in law. Transgender children in schools should have their rights protected, and transgender individuals who wish to enlist in the military should be allowed to do so.

Abroad, we need to bring sanctions against countries that are actively persecuting their LGBTI citizens. We also need to allow individuals who are facing persecution into the US – if other countries don’t want their talents, then we’ll be more than happy to have them.

  • How should the U.S. ensure that our foreign and domestic policies protect sexual and reproductive rights?

We need to appoint judges that will protect Roe v. Wade. We need to repeal the Hyde Amendment and the global gag rule. And we need to make sure that Medicare for All covers all sexual and reproductive health issues.

Additionally, we need to start enshrining these protections at the state and legislative level. If the Supreme Court can’t be relied on to protect sexual and reproductive freedom, then we need to do so legislatively throughout the country.

  • How should the U.S. address the targeting, harassment, and killing of human rights defenders and journalists around the world?

Changes in technology have made this issue even more complex. Social media and the internet have broadened the definition of journalist, and activists are more visible. In this new world, repressive regimes are seeing new threats. We have to ensure that human rights are protected.

Domestically, we need to stand up to this administration’s wholesale assault on the media. It’s resulting in death threats and could result in a chilling effect on our media. We also need to invest in local journalism, which I will do through my local journalism fund and National Journalism Fellows program.

Abroad, we have to do better at sending a clear message to countries that are engaged in these abuses. What does it say when we go through with billions of dollars of arms sales to Saudi Arabia after they kill a journalist working in America? Countries that engage in these abuses will have to face consequences, such as sanctions, and individuals involved in ordering or carrying out these crimes should have assets under US jurisdiction seized.

  • How should the U.S. respond to the increasing use of political repression by authoritarian regimes?

As with all areas where we want to influence foreign actors, sanctions and targeted asset seizure can be used in these cases.

But we must also tell US companies that if they provide tools to these repressive regimes, they will face both civil and criminal consequences at home. With the interconnected nature of the world and the ease of obtaining information on events around the world, it can no longer be an excuse that a company is just providing neutral software or banking services, or didn’t know what it would be used for.

US companies that provide regimes with tools they use to violate human rights will be held accountable.

  • How can the U.S. ensure compliance with and accountability for its international human rights obligations in national security operations?

First, we need to reimplement the rule that requires the disclosure of civilian casualties from US airstrikes outside of warzones. In fact, the US should be much more open with disclosing these casualties, unless they pose a direct national security risk.

Second, we need to refrain from designating Areas of Active Hostilities in order to minimize areas where more lethal force is authorized.

Under my presidency, torture would absolutely not be allowed, and I would instruct leaders within the military to prosecute anyone who engaged in or authorized such actions. I certainly wouldn’t pardon members of the military who committed war crimes or murder.

  • What can the U.S. do to ensure U.S. arms are not used to perpetuate human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law?

The situation in Yemen is heartbreaking, and the US should absolutely end its involvement in the conflict. Outside of ending sales of arms to the countries exacerbating this crisis, we also need to end other support. Intelligence, refueling, and training operations should all end immediately. Saudi Arabia currently assumes our support; we need to show them that we expect our allies to respect human rights and not commit war crimes.

  • How should the U.S. government hold businesses accountable for human rights abuses?

We need to increase the penalties and standards – both civil and criminal – for companies that are involved in human rights abuses. We also need to ensure that there is clear and accessible jurisdiction in these cases, and people with standing to bring the suit when the direct victims are remote.

Companies should, by law, be required to perform due diligence to ensure that their activities abroad aren’t contributing to or benefiting from any human rights abuses. There should be someone at these companies designated as being responsible for this due diligence, answering personally if the company engages negligently in any human rights abuses. And we should provide significant tax incentives for B-corps in order to promote American values within the business community.