Michael is committed to the protection of human rights globally. At a time when the rights of too many are stifled by authoritarianism, repression, and persecution, Michael believes the United States needs to reclaim its leadership role in advocating for human rights and freedoms.
Protecting persecuted religious and ethnic minorities should be a central tenet of our foreign policy. Our democracy assistance should be used to support local civil society organizations promoting religious tolerance and ethnic cohesion while exchange programs should be leveraged to bring foreign religious leaders to the United States to learn about interfaith work and tolerance. I believe we should aggressively consider the use of Global Magnitsky sanctions and other tools to put pressure on foreign government officials and individuals to end abuses. In the cases when such minorities face no choice but to flee their home nations, I have been proud to support the Lautenberg Amendment, which facilitates the resettlement of religious minorities from the former Soviet Union and Iran, and to be a cosponsor of the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act. I believe that these legislative vehicles are vital, but more than anything represent an approach we must more broadly pursue: our nation has a unique role and responsibility to support minorities struggling for freedom and dignity around the world.
Freedom from persecution for one’s religion or ethnicity is a human right I strongly believe in as a Christian and as an American. Populations suffering persecution look to the United States for help because we value these freedoms, and upholding them helps preserve the international rules-based order that we rely on. So we have a job to do in holding governments and non-state actors accountable for these violations of human rights. We can use existing tools like the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) or the Global Magnitsky Act that would result in travel bans and asset freezes, sending a strong message that religious and ethnic persecution are unacceptable. We’re not missing options – we’re missing political will and a foreign policy based in our values. We should also provide assistance to communities targeted because of their religion or ethnicity, especially those who have endured crimes against humanity. Americans, throughout our history, have helped the persecuted recover and rebuild.
One of the core tenets of my administration would be the reaffirmation of respect for human rights domestically and in U.S. foreign policy. The U.S. should make it clear to the international community that human rights abuses, such as those suffered by religious and ethnic minorities at the hands of government and non-government actors worldwide, will not be tolerated and would be met with clear repercussions. The current administration’s foreign policy is transactional, while my administration’s policy will be based in U.S. values and beliefs. Additionally, I would pursue sanctions against individuals who are guilty of human rights abuses.
No one should suffer because of who they are or what they believe. The United States must make very clear in its diplomatic exchanges that religious and ethnic persecution will not be ignored. We must support civil society institutions that fight discrimination and persecution. And when possible, we should apply targeted pressure, such as my call on the administration to apply export controls on cutting edge technologies used by Chinese institutions to surveil and jail the Uighurs and other Muslim Chinese communities in the Xinjiang region. We must call out attacks on religious communities as I did when the people attending church services in Sri Lanka were murdered. But this is not enough – there are times when people cannot safely remain in their home countries, and the United States must have a generous asylum policy that lives up to our international humanitarian obligations by providing asylum to those with a well founded fear of persecution, regardless of ethnic or religious background. We must also fund institutions such as UNHCR, which have the experience and international standing to provide safety and a path to refuge for people fleeing such oppression.
The Trump Administration has shamefully abandoned America’s traditional role in this space but has been perfectly willing to side with powerful nations and non-state actors that undermine human rights, rather than with targeted minorities that rely on strong international support. It is essential that the next president reverse the Trump Administration’s shameful abandonment of this role, and restore America’s insistent focus on protecting and expanding human rights around the globe.
But we must also do more, and that is why my Global Climate Mobilization plan places the urgency of defeating climate change at the heart of American foreign policy – and with it, protections for targeted minorities, front-line communities and vulnerable populations around the globe. We must use existing legal authority to confront government officials and non-governmental actors who undermine and attack civil society advocates in their own countries and around the world. We must protect indigenous peoples and cultures of countries threatened by climate change as well as governments and corporations that seek to profit from fossil fuels. We must reengage with the world to ensure that the rights of migrants and internally displaced persons are respected, and that they do not fall victims to authoritarian or xenophobic governments who would target them for violence or repression. And with a renewed commitment to international cooperation and recognition of the environmental, labor, and human rights shortcomings in international trade regimes to date, the United States can once again be a trusted ally of religious and ethnic minorities around the world.
Bernie believes that the United States, along with our peers in the international community, must firmly condemn and hold abusive governments accountable, which are persecuting, imprisoning, and in some cases killing their citizens for their religious beliefs or ethnicities. And we must ensure our trade agreements protect the human rights of those in our country as well as civilians abroad.
The United States does best when we do right. Our country must provide global leadership and offer moral clarity when engaging in a complex world. We must shine a light on human rights abuses, reinvigorate our own commitment to justice, and leverage our economic, political, and diplomatic strength to ensure greater freedoms for all. The increase in religiously based hate crimes are on the rise, and the United States must stand for religious freedom.
Leading the world against human-rights abuses starts at home. The Trump Administration’s Muslim ban is an immoral and unfair policy – no faith can be America’s enemy. And the president’s failure to condemn anti-Semitic elements of his base allows this pernicious evil to fester. An American president must speak out against religious-based hate with clarity – wrong is wrong, evil is evil. As President, I will increase the FBI’s and Justice Department’s funding to prosecute white nationalist domestic terrorists. I also will increase Department of Education funding to expand inclusiveness and diversity training and awareness for our kids.
On the global stage, America should use the International Religious Freedom Act to its fullest capacity to develop and implement strategy for promoting religious freedom abroad, including action plans for specific countries. We should step up use of mechanisms offered by the Global Magnitsky Act to impose targeted sanctions against specific officials, agencies, and military units committing religious freedom violations. Our State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development can assist countries in developing educational materials promoting tolerance, pluralism and respect for the human rights including religious freedom. And we can allocate funding through the State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance Program and relevant Defense Department programs to train and equip foreign officials to protect places of worship and other holy sites.
First, the United States must lead by example and fight against religious discrimination, xenophobia, and hate at home. It’s a serious problem when many American politicians seem to accept – even embrace – the politics of division and resentment. We must speak out against hateful rhetoric of all kinds.
We must also call out human rights abuses abroad and seek to hold those who perpetrate them accountable. That’s why I’ve co-sponsored multiple resolutions and bills calling for the safe, dignified, voluntary, and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees displaced by the Burmese military’s ethnic cleansing and to promote democracy and human rights in Burma. I am a co-sponsor of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, which would hold China accountable for its gross human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous region. I’ve also co-sponsored a resolution that called for reconciliation and accountability in Sri Lanka and the Syrian War Crimes Accountability Act, which will hold perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Syria accountable.
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.
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