Repeal of DACA: a Republican Success, an American Public Policy Failure

By: Sophia Cole

Edited By: Indira Bhattacharjee

Frequent and vigorous debates concerning immigration have thrust the DACA issue into the spotlight as one of the most contentious and relevant issues in the 21st century. We live in an increasingly transnational world, where border security and migration underscore critical national policies of most countries. Indeed, Western nations have experienced soaring immigration trends and governments are left scrambling to respond with appropriate policies. However, arriving at a national consensus on what is an appropriate response to an influx of immigrants is extremely difficult. President Trump’s recent dismantling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program highlights one such decision.  To yank the rug out from under Dreamers who have invested their lives and money in the US is not only egregiously cruel but will also damage the US economy by creating human capital holes that would otherwise be filled by Dreamers. This paper seeks to show that this policy, or move to repeal policy, is based on a culture of fear rather facts by examining the market and government failures surrounding the policy.

DACA Background

DACA emerged from a 2012 executive order signed by President Obama. The program allowed Dreamers, classified as undocumented immigrants arriving in the US, to embark on a path to citizenship. By registering with the government, the possibility that Dreamers would get ‘lost in the system’ is removed; further stipulations ensure participants would be educated and have the desire to work, further reducing the chance of free riders.  

Additionally, the 90% of Dreamers who worked also paid into social security, but cannot collect it; this provided considerable support to a government institution groaning under the pressure of an aging workforce. Benjamin Goggin at digg, highlights that by the time President Trump announced the repeal of DACA, there were some 800,000-program recipients contributing to the wealth and knowledge of US society, a simultaneously minuscule and consequential number.  

The Labor Market

So, what really happens to the labor market with an influx of immigrants? Popular opinion claims immigrants reduce available income and capital for everyone in the labor market by taking a share. However, the Committee on National Statistics prove that immigration has the opposite effect, where it actually increases capital return, “making capital more productive and increasing income to owners of capital”. Immigration also causes aggregate income to increase, in which some would lose their jobs but the net benefits would exceed the losses.

Having said that, an individual’s boost in income  “depends on the number of immigrants relative to natives, natives’ share of income, and the size of the wage effect of immigration” and on whether immigrants complement or substitute native’s jobs. Theoretically, in the US labor market “the influx of immigrants initially drives down wages but native incomes still rise in the aggregate due to the immigration surplus.

Another common misconception about immigration is that migrants are mostly poor and have little to no savings, thus becoming a burden to the native society. However, data has shown the contrary is true, “Even if immigrants arrive without capital, domestic savings and investment will rise as a result of the higher return to capital”. In fact, when “the capital-labor ratio is restored, the adverse wage effect of immigration and the immigration surplus disappear. Immigrants who are who complements to native workers will cause a native wage increase as a result of increased productivity. However, the opposite is true as well- given immigrants are more likely to be substitutes for low- skilled labor jobs and the fact that most Dreamers do not fall into that category, this reasoning should not be the base of repealing policy.

Market Failures

Markets are not flawless. In very few cases, markets left to their own devices do facilitate astonishingly efficient allocation of resources. Immigrants in the US, documented or otherwise, face systemic discrimination that permeates the labor market, leading to market failure in the form of non-price entry barrier.  This can be quite devastating because it reduces labor supply and negatively affects quality because the applicant pool is reduced, drives up labor costs, increases income inequality and restricts the labor market.

Letting Dreamers work in the US has economic benefits. As aforementioned, many immigrants, including Dreamers are educated and contribute to our social security system. By removing those people and closing our borders, the US takes a loss on growth in social security. This leads to intergenerational inequity, in which policies have damaging impacts spanning generations.

It is still unclear what trends will emerge from the US’ declining workforce but we do know that it is crucial to focus on “educational investments in youth, including the children of immigrants; and on the skill composition of future immigrants… Driving out young workers who will pay into the system for many decades is a way to make these problems worse.”

Government Failures

Not all government is good government. Governments often have a crucial role in the success of a market when intervening in times of failure. According to empirical data, and Paul Krugman at New York Times, Dreamers are “an exemplary segment of our population”, productive and committed to working hard and staying out of trouble, and for many that meant pursuing higher education as ways to improve their lives.”

The repeal cast a wide net that covered high skilled workers and human capital, which the US will no longer be able to utilize, creating a social deadweight loss. What’s more is that the US government literally cannot afford to fully repeal DACA. The Brookings Institute declared DACA’s dismantling to come with “mind boggling” price tag of nearly $10 million, which is 100% more than ICE’s annual budget of $5 million.

Importance of Framing in Policy

The strategic terms used to shape political discourse surrounding immigration debates within the US conjure a frightening social problem. Negative connotations of immigrants frame the repeal of DACA as policy that is protecting Americans from those who cause them harm. Illegal alien connotes a dichotomy of Us versus Them by emphasizing “both the unlawful activity and the fact that those arriving are different and foreign.”

The term undocumented worker highlights a different narrative, in which “immigrants have entered the country to work and merely lack the appropriate paperwork.” Attorney General, Jeff Sessions has encouraged this discourse in effort to pass the DACA repeal by asserting the program has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” The President himself is guilty of fueling an Us versus Them culture by stating his concern for “the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system” in reference to DACA.

Government officials are rational humans and respond to incentives like everyone else, most often to gain political support, which often affects the outcome of a policy. In essence, the revocation of DACA was a political tactic born out of rent-seeking and nationalistic notions that immigration, and free trade by extension, should be curtailed.

Image Source: USA Today

Four Years Later: What We Learned from the Ebola Crisis

By: Rebecca Desantis 

Introduction 

The increasing frequency of global health emergencies that affect multiple nations and regions necessitates a better understanding of the role global governance systems play in combatting public health crises. Much like the global nature of today’s international security situations, health emergencies demand a robust global management system that minimizes the damage of epidemics while maintaining economic and political stability in the face of crisis. In the past decade, governments have responded to multiple global health emergencies with limited staff, resources, and information. No crisis has exposed the deficiencies of the global health management system more than the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa, beginning in 2013 and ending in 2015. Ebola is a rare and deadly virus that spreads by direct human contact, and is characterized by fever, weakness, vomiting and unexplained bleeding. This epidemic not only caused 28,000 cases of Ebola, and 11,000 lives lost, but also led increased distrust of the World Health Organization (WHO) and healthcare workers, worldwide hysteria and panic, and economic slowdown.

Looking back to this time four years ago, the Ebola crisis exposed significant gaps in global healthcare management in the developing world. Scholar David Fidler of the Council on Foreign Relations, explains that, “although unprecedented in international cooperation on health, the current regime complex for global health governance suffers from defects that many experts believe are responsible for suboptimal outcomes for individual and population health.” Knowing that there have been advances in global healthcare management, Fidler, like many in the field, believe that minimal change will occur if global leaders like the United States and the UN don’t focus attention on building up the capacity for international actors to address global health crises. Understanding the need for change begs the question: What policies do global health actors like the WHO and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) need to reform in order for our response to global health crises to improve?

The Case of the Ebola Outbreak

            In December 2013, the first Ebola virus infections of this outbreak occurred in the West African country of Guinea. Patient zero was a small boy in a village in Southern Guinea, who was documented as having symptoms of a mysterious disease. Local health workers first classified it as cholera-like diarrhea, then as hemorrhagic fever. Because Ebola had never been diagnosed in the region before, it was not on the radar. Over the course of the next year, the outbreak infected tens of thousands of people, spreading primarily through Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The region was susceptible to the rapidly spreading disease because of the porousness of the national borders, which allowed people to freely move between countries. Furthermore, because the Kissi ethnic group lives in a region spread over all three countries’ borders, the disease spread with them, as seen in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Kissi Ethnic Group

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The Ebola epidemic hit a region that was moving towards economic and social stability after civil conflict had made the region unstable. Because of poor infrastructure and the inability for the region to diagnose and contain the first incidents of Ebola, the virus was able to quickly spread through the region. It was not until March of the following year that international Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) began setting up operations in the region to help deal with the spread of the disease. Most notably was Doctors without Borders, who stepped in to try to control the virus and grab the world’s attention.

By July of 2014, international attention grew and concern for the virus spreading to other countries became paramount. Some countries attempted to prevent spread of the virus by encouraging schools, universities, and other organizations to implement travel bans or quarantine travelers, which only increased the growing sense of fear in the international community. The number of new cases continued to grow, and the number of deaths steadily rose. This was when the most external funding came to try to deal with the virus, including $200 million coming from the World Bank. By the end of 2014, the virus had spread to neighboring countries; however, the number of cases began to decrease, and the spread was being contained.

During this global health crisis, a number of weaknesses and issues with how the WHO, CDC, and the health ministries dealt with the epidemic became apparent. The most detrimental issues included the process of reporting and documenting infections, the insufficient health infrastructure, and the general lack of accountability of the WHO and its regional partners.

Reporting Disease and Accountability

The length of time it took for the international community to recognize the crisis and respond hampered the containment efforts. Because there is no incentive for countries to report disease, the countries affected did not immediately report the virus to national representatives. This is in contrast to the process of reporting disease that is spelled out in the International Health Regulations (IHR), which are legally binding for all WHO member states. According to the WHO, the goal of the IHR is “to help the international community prevent and respond to acute public health risks that have the potential to cross borders and threaten people worldwide.” The IHR requires countries to report outbreaks to WHO, and subsequently explains the procedures for the response by the WHO and the reporting country. This process is important because it helps dispatch emergency response teams to the region and sets in motion security measures.

Kevin Sack of the New York Times reported on the political mess that was the reporting process in the Ebola crisis. Based in interviews with WHO staff, the representatives of the African Regional Office of the WHO were dispatched to gather information about the outbreak, but politics came before the needs of the people. Underfunded offices, unclear reporting lines, and incompetent representatives led to information not being transmitted to the WHO headquarters in Geneva. The WHO regional office also rejected help from the CDC because they wanted to handle the problem without help, which upset US officials. The CDC director at the time explained to Sacks that he was unsure who was leading the Ebola response, further showing the blurred reporting process, and ultimately caused delays in aid.

The lack of accountability from the WHO, and its local and regional representatives is also prevalent in this crisis. The Harvard Global Health Institute and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola site this issue as one of the main reasons that the response to the Ebola outbreak was not quick.  The Panel explains that there is no incentive for local communities to report cases of disease to the appropriate WHO representatives. This stems from the distrust of healthcare officials because some villages viewed them as tools for the government to get more foreign aid funding. Others distrusted the health workers because they said they couldn’t follow their normal burial practices of washing the bodies, which was important to their culture, yet furthered the spread of disease. The delay in reporting caused the Ebola epidemic to spread more quickly and overwhelmed on-the-ground response teams.

Accountability doesn’t only apply to reporting the disease at the start, but also to the WHO’s response to the reports. The Harvard report states that the WHO was slow to send out the response teams, and quick to pull out their teams when the situation started improving. Sacks also mentions reports of healthcare workers who left the region only to see the situation worsen.

Insufficient Infrastructure

A second glaring weakness evident during the Ebola crisis is the missing infrastructure to deal with epidemics. As seen during the crisis, families struggled to get their sick to hospitals because of the lack of proper roads, and even if they reached a medical facility, they could be turned away due to the overcrowded conditions.

The slow response resulted from a lack of hospitals, doctors, nurses, and medical equipment in the developing world. Infrastructure overhaul and prioritizing emergency care requires appropriate funds, yet before the Ebola crisis, money was not being funneled into these types of programs. The lack of capacity at the local level to address and report cases of infectious disease makes it challenging for organizations like the WHO to mobilize a quick response specific to the needs of the situation.

Recommendations

The Harvard-LSHTM Independent Panel on the Global Response to Ebola provides a number of recommendations that urge the global governance system to make needed changes to their response to epidemics and call on political leaders to make those changes. Their recommendations focus specifically on the global response systems and their ability to build up global capacity.

Their recommendations are helpful, and the independent nature of this panel shows the critical nature of these recommendations. Their most crucial recommendation is their section on good governance reforms for the WHO, which recommends the WHO refocus on their core functions (providing leadership, shaping the research agenda, translation and dissemination of valuable knowledge, setting norms, articulating ethical and evidence-based policy options, providing technical support, catalyzing change, and monitoring the health situation and assessing health trends) and ask member states to demand a Director-General who will challenge government leaders who choose not to cooperate with reporting procedures. This will help ensure accountability at all levels of the WHO, and in their coordination with national governments.

Considering these recommendations, the WHO should go further by implementing the following reforms:

  1. Speed up the global response by creating a streamlined system for reporting cases of disease. This may involve incentivizing the reporting process or making it easier for local doctors and health administrators to report to national authorities and WHO representatives, which will then report to the WHO headquarters. It should be the role of the WHO to respond to every disease threat swiftly and appropriately.
  2. Increase funding to the African Regional Office of the WHO to re-implement their corps of anthropologists who work with villages on cultural practices to disease prevention and general healthcare practices. This was clearly a shortcoming of the regional office and re-implementing this office could help avoid distrust of healthcare workers in the future.
  3. Encouraging grassroots organizations and NGOs in the region to refocus efforts on local healthcare capacity building. The global response needs to be matched with infrastructure improvements on the ground. Infrastructure was a main issue in the spread of Ebola and increasing the capacity of villages to fight disease will help contain the spread. This would also help the WHO be able to act faster, because they will be able to work in better cooperation with local healthcare providers.

Image Source: Getty Images

Rebecca is in her last semester of American University’s Master’s of Public Administration program, concentrating in International Management. She hopes to use this degree to pursue her interest in education accessibility and access here and abroad, ideally working for an international organization. Her academic interests include higher education access, crisis management, and organization structure and management. 

Origins of the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

By: Leah Johnson

Edited by: Dylan Lamberti

Since violence erupted in the Rakhine State of Myanmar on Aug. 25, 2017, Rohingya people have been fleeing across the border at an alarming rate. The New York Times reported on Sept. 26, 2017, that the number of new arrivals in the neighboring country of Bangladesh had risen to 480,000 in just one month. Sixty percent of these are children attempting to escape the violence and an estimated 6,000 children entered the country without parents. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who is the top human rights official of the UN, stated that the situation in Myanmar is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya; however, this has been disputed by the UN representative for the Myanmar government. As the violence escalates and more casualties are incurred, international institutions are scrambling to respond both diplomatically and economically.

As sudden as this may seem, this situation was not created overnight; tensions have been brewing in Myanmar for decades. The Rohingya trace their origins in the region to the 15th century, when they began migrating to the former Arakan Kingdom in great numbers. Many more arrived while Rakhine was under the rule of British India in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Rohingya are Muslim who practice a Sufi-inflected variation of Sunni Islam, while the majority population in Myanmar is Buddhist. In 1948, Myanmar declared independence. Since then, all successive governments in Myanmar have represented the Buddhist majority and have not recognized the Rohingya as one of the country’s 135 ethnic groups, rendering them stateless.

Statelessness is an incredibly pressing issue for the Rohingya. Because they do not have citizenship anywhere the Rohingya do not have a government to protect their rights. When they flee Myanmar and become refugees, resettling them in new places is incredibly difficult. Pakistan currently hosts the third largest population of Rohingya in the world with estimates totalling more than 500,000 Rohingya people, who arrived during a previous exodus in the 1970s and 1980s. In Pakistan, the Rohingya live in abysmally poor settings and are deprived of basic rights. The New York Times reported that up to 30 families share a single tap of water, which often flows for less than four hours a day. There are no hospitals in the slums where they live and death rates are high among women giving birth who are not admitted to government hospitals. Moreover, police routinely harass the Rohingya. Many Rohingya have or have previously had Pakistani national ID cards for years, but are now facing discrimination or outright denial when they try to renew their cards. Without these cards, they cannot apply for jobs, their children cannot attend school, they cannot access government hospitals, and they are occasionally arrested and held on unaffordable bail for not presenting identification. These issues are compounded in refugee camp settings where there is limited access to supplies and economic resources.

A direct path to citizenship, either in their home state of Myanmar or in their current host countries, is one of the most sustainable ways to address the refugee crisis the Rohingya face. Those who have been permitted to reside in Myanmar are considered “resident foreigners,” not citizens, putting them at risk of abuses because of their religion. While those Rohingya who have managed to obtain citizenship in Myanmar still face persecution and stigma, they have also been afforded legal protection. However, because Myanmar’s army is constitutionally obligated to occupy at least 25 percent of seats in parliament, the effectiveness of this legal protection is unclear. It will take a long time for the Rohingya to overcome their marginalization, but it is nearly impossible without the provision of basic rights afforded to citizens.

International organizations, UN member states, NGOs, and the government of Myanmar should begin taking steps to ensure that the Rohingya do not remain stateless. First, financial aid should be provided to both Bangladesh and Pakistan to ensure that the Rohingya residing there are receiving basic necessities. Additionally, UN officials who have been present in Myanmar since the country gained its independence should facilitate peacekeeping talks and assist with providing aid to those who have been internally displaced. Actions taken by the international community should be weighed carefully, lest they inadvertently cause another military coup in Myanmar. Most importantly, any country currently hosting Rohingya should begin negotiating a potential path to citizenship for the Rohingya.

 

Leah Johnson is a second year Masters of Public Administration student focusing on international management. She is currently working as a research assistant intern with the American Institutes for Research and hopes to continue to work in international development and create empowering programs. Her policy interests include refugee and migrant rights, education, and fighting human trafficking.

Dylan Lamberti is a first year Political Communication student and Hart A. Massey Fellow at American University. Originally from Canada, Dylan completed his undergraduate degree at McGill University, where he ran the McGill International Review, which sparked his interest in international politics and American foreign policy.

Image Source: The Independant

President Trump’s Syrian Policy

By: Naila Rafique

Syria has suffered from a civil war for the past seven years now. This conflict has torn the country apart and attracted international attention and scorn, including from the United States, for its use of chemical weapons. All previous deliberations have been unsuccessful. To make matters complicated, the new Trump administration launched air missiles at a Syrian airfield. The Trump administration has not clarified if this was a single attack or part of a broader political strategy towards the complicated and stagnant Syria conflict.

US policies towards the Syrian conflict have thus far been unsuccessful. Former President Obama called for the resignation of Syrian President Assad in August 2011 with the signing of an Executive Order 13582. In February 2016, the United States, Russia, and Syria agreed to a cease-fire at the Geneva Peace Conference. It should be noted that other nations and organizations have implemented economic sanctions and similar procedural methods to put pressure on Assad, including The Arab League, European Union, China, and Turkey

The Trump administration has taken similar procedural methods as the Obama administration by supporting Russian-led cease-fire talks. Even though President Trump has been quiet about how exactly to deal with the Syria conflict, it is clear that the Trump Administration is not afraid to take retaliatory action. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “if you violate international norms, if you violate international agreements, if you fail to live up to commitments, if you become a threat to others, at some point a response is likely to be undertaken.” The White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, also mentioned, “the President retains the option to act in Syria against the Assad regime whenever it is in the national interest, as was determined following that government’s use of chemical weapons against its own citizens.” Although the Trump administration has not laid out a clear strategy, it is clear that they are not afraid to take action.

Some issues that stand in the way of an effective Syria policy include the involvement of non-state actors, a lack of informational transparency, unstable strategies, and poor international public opinion. According to the US foreign policy scholar, Patrick O’Heffernan, non-state actors may range from terrorists to nongovernmental organizations (NGO) who lobby for their causes at both the domestic and international levels. In the Syrian conflict, some non-state actors are unwilling to consider a plan without the ousting of President Assad, causing a stalemate in negotiations. There needs to be a push for actors on all sides to be a part of the conversation.

There is also a need for informational transparency to encourage the policy process. Knowledge is an important dimension of power and can be an important determinate of international policy coordination. It is important for the Trump administration to increase their transparency. Furthermore, implementation and sustainability are crucial to the conflict-resolution process. Implementation is not effective if it is not sustainable. The Trump administration should pursue avenues of addressing this conflict, which yield sustainable outcomes.

Finally, international public opinion is essential to addressing this crisis. If the international actors intertwined in a crisis sense no real international support, they will be more likely to resort to more radical means to achieve freedom. Allowing the ability to achieve international support will allow civilians to be seen as individuals that need our help. International support can lead to the collection of resources urgently needed by those affected by the conflict. The Trump administration has failed to encourage sympathy towards Syrian civilians.

Policies that address the aforementioned concerns may lead to successful, sustainable, and impactful reforms in Syria. The Trump administration has been in office for more than 100 days and it is time they prioritize creating a coherent policy to help Syria.

 

Image Source: New York Times

Can We Solve World Hunger? Reflections on Global Food Security

On February 22, 2017, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres addressed a press briefing, pleading with UN member countries to help fight the humanitarian crisis that has resurfaced in North-East Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. This crisis, which has been developing for decades, is at a critical turning point and gaining international attention. Twenty million people in the Middle East and Northeast Africa are facing food insecurity, which often leads malnutrition, starvation, and death. Guterres urged members to remember, “In our world of plenty, there is no excuse for inaction or indifference.” This issue will not resolve itself and the global community needs innovative and creative solutions to address food insecurity. It is the responsibility of the current and incoming generation of world leaders devote more time and resources to combating an issue that will shape the health and stability of the growing global population.

What is the crisis?

World hunger finds itself on a list of cliché phrases that makes it into speeches and reports by organizations and speakers aiming to garner attention for their mission, or support for a larger cause. But what is world hunger?

Although there are many ways to define hunger in its literal sense, the Hunger Project describes hunger as a symptom of the problem of poverty, dependence, and inequality. This holistic understanding brings light to all parts of hunger, not just the physical aliment. Understanding that hunger is result of many underlying issues has helped improve the quality of responses to the issue, but the sense of urgency surrounding this issue has dwindled in the past few decades. The numbers show an increase in people affected by hunger and malnutrition, and a decrease in funding to help combat this issue. The UN is calling this “the greatest humanitarian crisis” since 1945.

Source: BBC 

Why is there a surge in world hunger?

Food insecurity is hitting North Africa and the Middle East the hardest. There are many factors contributing to this widespread food shortage, including some that did not exist until recently. Conflict and fighting prevent the neediest populations from accessing food because of large-scale displacements and reductions in the flow of resources. Additionally, unstable governance leaves little structure to get food to those who need it, and federal money may not make it into the hands of the people who can do the most to help. Finally, poor infrastructure, like unpaved roads and a lack of vehicles, makes the distribution of resources near impossible. The list goes on, and the situation continues to disintegrate.

This crisis is certainly on the minds of those working on food security issues on a global stage. The UN Sustainable Development Goals, a list of tasks to achieve worldwide by the year 2030, lists Goal 2 as “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” This is no small undertaking, especially because the global population is expected to grow to 9 million by 2050 and the demand for food will grow. There are ways we can work towards achieving this goal, but it will require a better understanding of the causes of food insecurity.

Reflection on the future of food security

After recently attending the 2017 NASPAA-Batten Student Simulation Competition on Food Security, along with nearly 400 other graduate students in public policy and management from around the world, I can reflect on this global food crisis through a new understanding of the challenges we face to achieve the UN goal.

This one-day immersive computer simulation asked us to use our background in policy and administration to advance global food security by creating and implementing local and national level projects. Each hypothetical project would affect each region in different ways, but ultimately would increase or decrease our overall food security score. At the end of this experience, the largest takeaway was clear: there is no one cure for food insecurity.

Food supply and demand play a large role in the global hunger crisis, but these are affected by agricultural conditions, natural disasters, economic incentives, land area, and more. Each time we chose a project that would target one area of insecurity, it would have an unintended consequence on another area; sometimes positive and sometimes negative. As our frustrations grew, we became aware of the challenges world leaders face to solve this dilemma. Although we may not have solved world hunger that day, we were able to present a few targeted solutions based off our research and simulation:

  1. Funding of crop-specific investments and innovation: This is important to help increase the value of the crops being produced worldwide, in order to prevent disruption to production already in place. This empowers farmers to take more ownership of their crop and consider ways to produce at a higher rate through innovative techniques with less resources, or find new ways to use crops. Farmers need encouragement and incentives to produce in a more market friendly way and prevent additional waste from misuse.
  2. Diversification of Infrastructure: Every region of the world has different infrastructure needs and should be addressed in a strategic and specific way. Investments in infrastructure will make a significant difference over time and, specifically, investments in diversification will help to improve access to land and increase non-farming employment.
  3. Community Based Access: Buy-in is very important for new food security initiatives, and it is essential to include vulnerable populations, like women, families, and indigenous people. Programs that increase access to best economic practices education through community based organizations will lead to these communities being able to produce more, which in turn will increase household incomes and reduce poverty.

It is through more programs like this, and more access to resources on food security, that attention will shift to the root causes of hunger. However, change also comes down to funding. Without the appropriate amount of funding for projects in developing countries, hunger will continue to strike, and the death rates will rise. Current efforts to cut funding to global organizations that are working on behalf of the UN’s mission are concerning. Without developed countries like the United States taking a serious role in funding innovative global food projects, those countries struggling to save vulnerable communities may be without options and this crisis will continue.

 

Image Source: Vocative

Xenophobic Violence in South Africa

By: Ifeoluwa Olawole

As recently as February 2017, a group of anti-immigrant protesters in Pretoria, South Africa set out to protest the presence of immigrants from other parts of Africa like Nigeria, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. This protest led to the looting and ransacking of stores owned by immigrants. Between February 5 and 18, Nigerian buildings, properties, and places of worship were destroyed in a wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa. This was not a first incidence of xenophobic violence in South Africa’s history. Indeed, much of the xenophobic violence can be rather quotidian in nature—an attack on a shopkeeper may be recorded by the police as just a regular robbery, for instance—and collecting accurate data on this kind of violence can be problematic. Yet it is no secret that there has been a surge in xenophobic violence since the transition to democratic governance in 1994. How then can one explain its occurrence and cause?

Hostile rhetoric and violence against immigrants shouldn’t come as a surprise to many especially given the global temperature regarding nationalism and a dislike for the other more recently. Increasing intolerance of non-citizens is no surprise in a world that includes constant demands for leaders put their countries first, executive orders prohibiting citizens of certain countries and members of certain religions, citizens voting to leave the European Union, and plans to literally build walls to keep others out. However, xenophobia didn’t just suddenly emerge in South Africa. Past events in history have paved the way for this sort of violence. Newly democratized in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party of post-apartheid South Africa, employed an intensive nation-building agenda in a bid to build cohesion and overcome cleavages from the past. This quest for national identity was successful. In 2011, 61.7 percent of South Africa would rather identify as South Africans than with their ethnic groups. However, this kind of staunch nationalism can consequentially lead to more hostility towards outsiders. Thus, violence against refugees and foreigners in South Africa reoccurs every year like clockwork, and has even surged in the past few years.

Because of South Africa’s liberal asylum policy and better standards of living than other African countries, one can see why it’s the choice of refuge for immigrants. South Africa is often seen as a safe haven for immigrants, refugees seeking asylum, and many Africans seeking better opportunities away from their home countries ridden with wars, famine or economic upheavals. In a public opinion survey of South Africa Citizens, 4 in 10 South Africans still think foreigners should not be allowed to live in South Africa. Immigration is constantly a huge challenge for the country. In 2015, an Afro-barometer survey found that more than 1 in 5 South Africans would like the government to deport all foreigners. It is all the more unfortunate that people seeking better opportunities are faced with such violence and discrimination.

Xenophobic violence against immigrants can be explained by structural and rational approaches. Structural approaches explain this phenomenon through large systems, institutions, and structures of a society, while rational approaches endorse individual maximization and/or individuals weighing the costs and benefits of a circumstance. Structural reasons, like the history of violence in South Africa, poverty, economic inequality, rising unemployment and poor public service delivery may contribute to this xenophobia. Unemployment levels in South Africa continue to surge, with about 26 percent unemployment rate. Some experts believe foreigners are just scapegoats for the grievances of South Africans, despite the fact that many immigrants actually contribute to the economy in forms of small business, and skills in demand.

Unusually, the unemployment rate for international migrants was much lower than others in a 2012 report by the Migrating for Work Research Consortium (MiWORC). However, they also found that people born outside the country were far less likely to be employees than those born in South Africa; international migrants are more likely to run their own businesses and thus contribute to the economy. Further, people born in other countries “were far less likely than those born in South Africa to be employed by government.” And those employed are often employed without good benefits and formal contracts. The history of violence in the country cannot be overlooked as well. After years of apartheid struggle, South Africa still struggles with violence and has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Citizens blame foreigners for these crimes; citing Nigerians as the perpetrators of drug crimes and prostitution. Yet foreigners are victims of a substantial amount of these crimes.

A second approach for explaining this violence is the rational explanation, which suggests that political leaders incite this uproar in citizens as a strategy for political gain. One such example of political leaders inciting division is Johannesburg’s Mayor who has made controversial comments linking immigrants to criminals and asking them to leave the city.  In the same fashion, Zulu King Zwelithini asked foreigners to “pack their bags and go” as they are stealing South African jobs. Not long after Zwelithini’s divisive comments and rhetoric, violence against immigrants in Durban erupted.

Interestingly, this xenophobic violence is often not colorblind and usually targets black foreigners and immigrants. White migrants are safe. They are often seen as beneficiary to the economy, while their black counterparts are often subject to hackneyed stereotypes and prejudices. Given the aforementioned explanations, one would expect hostility and violence to be targeted towards all immigrants and not a specific sub-type. This might suggest an alternative reason, worthy of further research on the causes of xenophobic violence.

Unfortunately, the South African government isn’t doing enough to stop xenophobic violence. Few political leaders including the President have spoken out against it, and no one has been convicted of xenophobic attacks, including an incident in 2008 which led to the death of more than 60 people. Some African countries are calling for their nationals to return home, but this is seldom a solution. Instead, political leaders need to continually and consistently condemn such vicious attacks and hostility against immigrants. The police must arrest and punish offenders. Foreign ministries in South Africa and Nigeria are reportedly working together on an “early warning system” to track xenophobic attacks and prevent them. This is definitely a good start, as forums including representatives of both countries will meet every three months, but there also needs to be better records of foreign-born individuals and protection for such people. More needs to be done to ensure the proper well being of those who have been victims of such malicious attacks. Although citizens’ grievance due to socioeconomic problems is never an excuse for violence, the government must do more to improve the economy and raise the standard of living for its citizens.

Image Source: KokoFeed

An “Alternative Fact:” Muslim Refugees Are Not a Threat to America

During his Presidential campaign, Donald Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Less than a month into his presidency, Mr. Trump attempted to uphold this promise by signing an executive order prohibiting immigrants and visa-holders from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 120 days. This also included the indefinite suspension of resettling Syrian refugees. The countries included in the order are Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. While House officials attempted to justify the order by citing the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the San Bernardino, CA shooting rampage; none of these attacks were perpetrated by people born in the seven named countries. Further, the White House’s own list of 78 terror attacks that targeted the West does not include any individuals from Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, or Yemen, four of the seven countries named in the ban. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani claimed the ban focuses on “the areas of the world that create danger for us . . . it’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.” As numerous legal battles and massive protests in airports from Los Angeles to Chicago to New Jersey show, the executive order was quite politically and legally contentious.

Despite claims to the contrary, there is overwhelming evidence, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, that there is a minuscule chance any refugee intends to engage in terrorism in the U.S. According to the Washington Post, Senators Lindsey Graham, R-SC and John McCain, R-AZ issued a joint statement expressing concern that the executive order could “become a self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.” Muslim extremists have on average killed 9 people per year since 9/11; while guns kill over 12,800 people on average per year. Since 9/11, Muslim-American extremists have caused 123 fatalities, while during the same period over 240,000 Americans were victims of gun violence. In fact, according to the Cato Institute, zero Americans have been killed by foreigners from the seven listed countries in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil in the past 40 years. Omar Mateen, the individual responsible for the deadliest terror attack in the US since 9/11, which killed 49 of the 54 fatalities in 2016, was an American citizen.

Citizenship of U.S. Terrorists

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Americans are at a significantly higher risk of dying at the hands of a fellow American due to gun violence or by homegrown violent extremists. Between 2002 and 2014, 85 percent of terrorist attack victims were killed by guns. This makes perfect sense, as guns are far more accessible than other weapons like explosives or biological weapons. If even a fraction of the budget spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the so-called War on Terror was spent on pragmatic gun control policies, the US could address a real threat to Americans. Though gun control is also a contentious issue among Americans, according to Gallup, large majorities of Americans agree with at least using more thorough background checks on gun purchases and banning gun sales to individuals on the no-fly list.

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If President Trump wants to live up to his promise of protecting Americans from terrorism, he might also consider focusing on homegrown right-wing extremists. The Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, carried out by anti-government extremist and American citizen Timothy McVeigh, killed 168 people, making it the second deadliest terrorist attack in US history. From the KKK and white supremacists to neo-Nazis, anti-abortion attackers, and sovereign citizens, these right-wing extremists actually pose a threat to Americans, while refugees fleeing violence and persecution do not. Local law enforcement officials have been aware of this domestic threat for years. In a 2015 survey of 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide, roughly 74 percent listed anti-government violence as the biggest violent extremist threat to their jurisdiction, while only 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence. According to the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center, right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.

As evidenced above, the threats of gun violence and ring-wing extremists far outweigh the threat of jihadist-inspired terrorism in the US. Banning refugees and thoroughly vetted immigrants from entering the US is not only futile in the fight against terrorism, but could have serious consequences to counter-terrorism efforts. Setting aside the obvious humanitarian and safety implications, President Trump’s hypocritical statements, and the blatant xenophobia embedded in the immigration ban, the “evidence” on which the order is predicated is simply untrue.

Image Source: Andres Kudacki, AP