The Abolishment of the Kafala System, How Qatar’s World Cup Nomination Led to Change in Their Labor System

By: Francis Mulligan

            The announcement that Qatar would host the 2022 FIFA World Cup was met with widespread criticism. How does a country with no historical success in international soccer and a population of fewer than two million people become the host of the world’s most notable sporting event?[1] Claims of corruption within FIFA were widespread at the time and were later substantiated with arrests.[2] FIFA officials were arrested under charges of racketeering, money laundering, and wire fraud a few years after the announcement. Following these arrests, leaked documents showed that Qatar had offered FIFA $400 million weeks before the bidding process had ended in order to host the tournament.[3]

 

Additionally, there were, and still are, numerous practical issues that plague the upcoming tournament. Notably, the average temperature in Qatar makes playing the tournament in the summer nearly impossible. As a result, the tournament, which has always taken place in the summer, has been moved to the winter.[4] This has raised problems for players and their domestic club teams, who compete throughout the winter months. Numerous domestic leagues have come forward and said that they do not want the tournament to take place in the winter.[5] A spokesman for the English Premier League stated, “The prevailing view from the leagues has been that displacing the 2022 World Cup significantly from the original summer dates disproportionately impacts the sporting integrity of our competitions.”[6] Also, there are questions as to whether the infrastructure of Qatar can withstand the increased traffic the tournament would bring. The country’s infrastructure is designed for that of a small nation, as Qatar’s population at the time was under two million; the last World Cup saw over seven million tourists visit Russia.[7] An influx of almost four times Qatar’s population visiting the nation could provide a great strain on hotels, roads, airports, etc.[8] Most importantly, Qatar did not, at the time of the announcement, have any stadiums in which the games could be played. Despite this, the Qatari government assured FIFA that the stadiums would be built and completed by the start of the tournament.[9]

 

The need for new stadiums led to a large influx of migrant workers entering the country. Since the announcement of the World Cup, Qatar’s population has grown from 1.6 million to 2.6 million. Most of that growth is the result of the influx of migratory workers. Many of the workers hail from countries in the south of Asia, such as Nepal, Bangladesh, and India.[10]

 

All of this has shined a light onto Qatar’s labor system. Qatar, along with other nations in the Middle East (Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates), employs the Kafala labor system.[11] Kafala, meaning sponsorship in Arabic, ties employees to specific employers.[12] The employers sponsor employees’ visas and issue residency permits.[13] The Kafala system is part of immigration law in these countries and is monitored and regulated by each nation’s Ministry of the Interior.[14] Issues arise due to the control the employers then have over the employees. Stories of employers taking their employee’s passports away for years, refusing to allow employees to change jobs, and wages being withheld for months at a time are numerous.[15] Furthermore, the working conditions on construction sites have been dangerous. Employees have claimed that they were being forced to work without water in the desert.[16] Lastly, employees have claimed that they were not allowed to leave the country without employer permission.[17] Any claims of abuse were disregarded by authorities who would meet with the employers of the workers. The employers would claim that nothing wrong had taken place. Then, workers would often be deported or punished for going forward with claims of abuse.[18] A lack of a legitimate system of redress for employees, along with the Kafala system has left migrant employees powerless in dealing with their employers.

 

Once the World Cup was been granted to Qatar in 2010, human rights groups across the globe began to scrutinize the Kafala system. Those criticisms fell upon deaf ears until 2013. In 2013, the International Trade Union Confederation warned that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar risked over 4,000 lives.[19] Mortality figures acquired by the organization showed that migrant workers from Nepal and India alone were dying at a rate of over one person per day.[20] This was at a time in which the government of Qatar was making public claims that over 500,000 more workers were needed to finish the World Cup’s construction on time.[21] In 2014, the Human Rights Council of the United Nations stated, “The recruitment process for migrants needs to be further formalized in order to prevent exploitation . . . The kafala system is a source of abuse and exploitation of migrants, and should be abolished.”[22]

 

Once the pressure of international criticism began to mount, Qatar attempted to make changes to the Kafala system, but they were not enough. Following a report by Amnesty International in 2016, the International Labor Organization (ILO) and Qatar entered into a three-year program to carry out extensive labor reformation.[23] The ILO is a UN employment rights agency whose mission is to advance social justice and set international working standards.[24] The focus of this three-year program is to adjust wage payments, to reform the Kafala system, and to provide workers with more power in labor negotiations.[25] This plan operated in a manner through which the ILO would make recommendations to Qatar in order to reach certain goals, but all of the decision-making would still be in the Qatari government’s hands.

 

Despite this three-year plan, migrant workers in Qatar still saw their wages withheld by employers. In 2018, multiple construction companies withheld wages from employees for several months before ceasing operations altogether, leaving thousands without any pay for months of work.[26] Additionally, as part of the reformation process, the ILO set up a complaint system for employees to seek redress against unfair labor practices. The ILO received over 6,000 complaints in a year from workers regarding the harsh working conditions or employer mistreatment.[27] The complaint system was supposed to be quick and efficient, where Qatari officials would issue a ruling on a complaint within six weeks. However, complaints took anywhere from three to eight months to be resolved instead.[28] Due to this elongated and ineffective complaint system, employees who were not paid their wages would forego civil action against employers and instead often elected to leave the country after working for months with nothing to show for it.[29] Many human rights organizations continued to call for the end of the Kafala system due to these continued issues. In August of 2019, over 5,000 workers took to the streets protesting the delay of wages and poor working conditions.[30]

 

Two months later, on October 17, 2019, Qatar pledged to abolish the “Kafala” system altogether and add a minimum wage to the country’s labor laws.[31] A Qatari official stated, “Qatar has made substantial progress on labour reforms and it continues to work with NGOs, including the International Labour Organization (ILO), to ensure that these reforms are far-reaching and effective.”[32]

 

The announcement has been met with acceptance but also hesitance. A spokesman for Amnesty International said that “it would be a major step forward if these measures finally allow workers to return home or change jobs without restriction. We will be closely scrutinizing the details of this announcement and pushing for any positive measures to be quickly and fully implemented.”[33] Due to the recent failed efforts of the Qatari government in reforming its labor system, human rights organizations understandably want to see the abolishment of the Kafala system play out before claiming this as a victory. However, this effort by Qatar is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

 

In conclusion, a surprising positive emerged from the 2022 FIFA World Cup being given to Qatar. The granting of the World Cup to Qatar was, according to leaked documents, due to FIFA accepting a bribe from the Qatari government. Many issues regarding the tournament’s practicality remain, but the social activism and backlash over Qatar’s labor practices have led to the country abolishing a system that perpetuated inhumane labor practices. Now, Qatar has pledged to be one of the first countries in the Middle East to abolish the Kafala system and establish a working minimum wage. While these reforms are not yet in place, if the country follows through with their promises, then Qatar may be an example for other nations in the region to follow.

[1] Amnesty International, Reality Check: Migrant Workers Rights With Four Years To The Qatar 2022 World Cup, https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2019/02/reality-check-migrant-workers-rights-with-four-years-to-qatar-2022-world-cup/.

[2] Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz, U.S. Charges 16 FIFA Officials in Widening Probe (2015), https://www.cnn.com/2015/12/03/sport/fifa-corruption-charges-justice-department/index.html/.

[3] Qatar’s secret $880m World Cup payments to FIFA (2019), thetimes.co.uk/article/revealed-qatars-secret-880m-world-cup-payments-to-fifa-p3r5rvw9x/.

[4] Steven Mufson, Facing Unbearable Heat, Qatar Has Begun to Air-Condition the Outdoors, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/world/climate-environment/climate-change-qatar-air-conditioning-outdoors/.

[5] Tony Manfred, FIFA moving the 2022 World Cup to winter is a total mess — and the world’s biggest teams are outraged (2015), https://www.businessinsider.com/fifa-will-not-compensate-clubs-for-2022-world-cup-move-2015-2/.

[6] Id.

[7] FIFA, 7.7 million football fans visit FIFA Fan Fest during Russia 2018, https://www.fifa.com/worldcup/news/7-7-million-football-fans-visit-fifa-fan-fest-during-russia-2018/.

[8] Mufson, supra note 3.

[9] Id.

[10] Amnesty International, supra note 1.

[11] International Labor Organization, Reform of the kafala (Sponsorship) System, https://www.ilo.org/dyn/migpractice/docs/132/PB2.pdf/.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Priyanka Motaparthy, Understanding Kafala: An archaic law at cross purposes with modern development (2015), https://www.migrant-rights.org/2015/03/understanding-kafala-an-archaic-law-at-cross-purposes-with-modern-development/.

[15] Amnesty International, Qatar World Cup of Shame (2016), https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2016/03/qatar-world-cup-of-shame/.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] International Trade Union Conference, Qatar 2022 World Cup Risks 4000 Lives (2013), https://www.ituc-csi.org/qatar-2022-world-cup-risks-4000/.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] François Crepéau, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Mission to Qatar, ¶ 25-32, 80, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/26/35 (April 23, 2014).

[23] International Labor Organization, Qatar, https://www.ilo.org/beirut/countries/qatar/WCMS_654238/lang–en/index.htm.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Amnesty International, Qatar: Despite Reform Promises, Migrant Workers Still Return Home Without Wages or Justice (2019), https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/09/qatar-despite-reform-promises-migrant-workers-still-return-home-without-wages-or-justice/.

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

[29] Id.

[30] Faras Ghani, Qatar Moves to Announce Abolishment of Kafala System (2019), https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/10/qatar-moves-announce-abolishment-kafala-system-191017070750729.html.

[31] Id.

[32] Id.

[33] Amnesty International, Qatar: Pledge to End Abusive ‘Kafala’ System Must Truly Transform Workers’ Rights (2019), https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/qatar-pledge-to-end-abusive-kafala-system-must-truly-transform-workers-rights/.

FGM Victims Deserve Better U.S. Asylum Protections

By: Bianca Gutierrez

 

From stifled whispers to impassioned shouts, our country is renewing focus on the conversation relating to the scale and scope of violence against women. The media covers headlining stories of sexual assault, domestic violence, and the strength in healing found in survivors of these events. One issue remains eerily ignored and yet horrifically prevalent: female genital mutilation (“FGM”). Because FGM is both invisible to the public eye and sometimes insufficient for asylum protections, victims of FGM face a unique barrier to asylum grants. Due to lack of binding uniform legal authority, FGM victims should be afforded protections spelled out in the Immigration and Nationality Act, instead of facing contradictory protections afforded by caselaw, USCIS guidelines, and IIRIRA.

Also known as female genital cutting (“FGC”), female genital mutilation is a tradition practiced worldwide that involves the “intentional injury or removal of the external female genital organs for non-medical purposes.”[1] FGM procedures vary, but most include the painful process of partial or total removal of the clitoris and labia minora and sealing the vaginal opening. This is meant to reflect the cultural importance of purity and chastity in young women. FGM procedures can also include “pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, and cauterizing the genital area.”[2]

Publicly occurring today in over twenty-nine countries, this practice is embedded in cultural and religious traditions that emphasize “traditional notions of femininity, control of female sexuality, preservation of family honor and preparation of marriage” and seek to remove parts of the female body that are considered “impure” or “unclean.”[3] Regardless of these antiquated motivations, the process of FGM cruelly strips women and girls of their autonomy and sexual agency. This extremely painful procedure can lead to a myriad of life-long health complications including severe bleeding, problems during urination, infertility, ovarian cysts, open sores in the genital region, hemorrhages, bacterial infections (tetanus or sepsis) during and after pregnancy, and increased risk of newborn deaths.[4]

Adding to the horrifying nature of FGM, victims are often subjected to the procedure without anesthesia, and the tools used are unsanitary and rudimentary, such as knives; these tools can worsen the possible health complications.[5] Victims are often forced to undergo pre-marital FGM and are physically restrained during the procedure by other women that have themselves suffered FGM.[6] Following most FGM procedures, victims are immediately bandaged from their knees to their waist and abandoned; it takes weeks to recover even while lying down.[7]

According to FGM victims, the consequences of undergoing FGM are often worse than the procedure itself and include ongoing physical, sexual, and psychological complications.[8] Specifically, the sexual and psychological effects of FGM leave victims facing irreversible consequences.[9] Unfortunately, the FGM procedure is widespread, even today. In 2013, the World Health Organization estimated that 30 million girls under the age of 15 are at risk of being cut.[10] With over 140 million victims throughout the world, female genital mutilation is internationally recognized as a violation of women’s fundamental and human rights.[11]

Due to the prevalent and dangerous nature of FGM, women and girls at risk of being cut have been fleeing violence in search of asylum across the globe. Beginning in the 1990s, courts around the world started recognizing FGM as a form of persecution for asylum claims.[12] In Aminata Diop (1991), the French Commission for Appeals of Refugees officially recognized female genital mutilation as a basis for persecution to woman “exposed to FGM against [their] will, where FGM was prescribed, encouraged or tolerated.”[13] The Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada followed suit in Farah v. Canada (1994), describing it as a “torturous custom” and extending asylum protection FGM victims.[14] The trend continued among international courts when the Australian Refugee Review Tribunal recognized the applicant’s well-founded fear of female genital mutilation in RRT N97/19046 (1997).[15] Additionally, the United Kingdom acknowledged in Yake (2000) that persecution through FGM constitutes a well-founded fear and described the violence as a serious “human rights issue” because “the procedure. . . amount[s] to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” in Fornah (FC) (Appellant) v. SSHD (Respondent) (2006).[16]

United States jurisprudence has evolved alongside that of the international community in recognizing FGM as a well-founded fear for asylum. In a 1996 landmark case, In re Fauziya Kasinga, the United States Board of Immigration Appeals (“BIA”) found that female genital mutilation constituted well-founded fear in, and the applicant was granted asylum because she was a member of a social group comprised of women in Togo who had not been cut and who refused to submit to FGM.[17] The court adopted FGM into the established definition of persecution because the level of harm inflicted met the standard set forth in in 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(A) and was consistent with previous categorizations of persecution.[18] Importantly, this was the first time the court recognized FGM as persecution, relying heavily on “Considerations for Asylum Officers Adjudicating Claims from Women,” an Immigration and National Services memorandum.[19]

Because Kasinga set the precedent for past persecution asylum claims, the BIA drew a sharp contrast in Matter of A-T when an FGM victim filed for asylum asserting a well-founded fear of future persecution. The BIA reasoned that because FGM is a one-time procedure, victims of FGM lack basis to assert a well-founded fear of persecution in the future for the same type of harm inflicted. Using this rationale, BIA attempted to categorize FGM as an “isolated incident” of persecution, instead of what was observed in Kasinga that FGM is “continuing and permanent” type of persecution. However, this case was vacated and remanded by the Attorney General, and the federal courts generally agree that FGM is a permanent and continuing circumstance.[20]

The inconsistency of U.S. case law regarding protections for FGM victims reveals the need for binding legislation. The reduction of FGM to only past persecution reflects the deep misunderstanding of other cultures and dangers victims face around the world. The notion that BIA minimized the horrific, disfiguring procedure as nonpermanent, isolated incidents highlights the need for stronger protections for FGM victims in U.S. asylum laws.

To be clear, there are other legal protections that are afforded to FGM victims in the United States. These include the Gender Persecution Guidelines published by the Immigration National Services and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act (“IIRIRA”).[21] The Gender Persecution Guidelines officially recognized gender-based persecution as a potential ground for asylum and outlined important points for reference and clarification.[22] When the IIRIRA was published in 1996, Congress criminalized the practice of FGM to anyone that “knowingly circumcises, excises or infibulates the whole or any part of the labia majora or labia minora or clitoris of another person under the age of 18 years old.”[23] These legal protections are important for FGM victims and women and girls who are at risk of being cut; however, there still exists a gap of protections that contradict U.S. criminal law when these protections are not binding to FGM asylum seekers.

In order to strengthen existing asylum protections, victims of FGM and women and girls at risk of being cut should be afforded protections spelled out in the Immigration and Nationality Act and not subjected to the unpredictability of a guideline.[24] Because guidelines do not bind immigration officials, FGM-based asylum claims are left to the discretion of immigration judges.[25] Leaving the approval of FGM-based claims to immigration judges directly contradicts the domestic policy that clearly denounces FGM by criminalizing the practice in all its forms. No longer invisible and unheard, FGM asylum applicants should be afforded legislative protections when they seek asylum in the United States of America. These protections will minimize the possibility that crucial case law is overturned and that the standard set by other countries that afford protections for FGM victims with similar asylum claims is met.

 

 

 

[1] Pooja Shah, Note, Cutting Female Genital Mutilation from the United States: A European-Influenced Proposal to Alter State and Federal Legal Responses when Affording Relief to Somali Victims in Minnesota, 22 Cardozo J.L. & Gender 583, 584-85 (2016).Top of FormBottom of Form

[2] Id. at 585.

[3] Id. at 586-87.

[4] Id. at 586.

[5] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Female Genital Mutilation at 4 (May 2009), https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/4a0c28492.pdf.

[6] Shah, supra note 1, at 585.

[7] Vanessa Ortiz, Comment, Culture Shock: Expanding the Current Federal Law Against Female Genital Mutilation, 3 FIU L. Rev. 423, 424 (2008).

[8] UNHCR Guidance Note, supra note 5, at 3.

[9] Sanctuary for Families, Report, Female Genital Mutilation in the United States: Protecting Girls and Women in the U.S. from FGM and Vacation Cutting (2013), http://www.sanctuaryforfamilies.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2015/07/FGM-Report-March-2013.pdf.

[10] Sanctuary for Families Report, supra note 9, at ii.

[11] Id.

[12] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Female Genital Mutilation at 6 (May 2009), https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/4a0c28492.pdf.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] In re Kasinga, 21 I. & N. Dec. 357, 366 (B.I.A. June 13, 1996); see also 19 I. & N. Dec. 211 (B.I.A. March 1, 1985).

[19] American Immigration Lawyers Association, INS Issues Guidelines from Womens Asylum Claims, AILA Doc. No. 95053180 (May 26, 1995), https://www.aila.org/infonet/ins-guidelines-from-womens-asylum-claims.

[20] Top of Form

Matter of A— T—, 24 I. & N. Dec. 617 (B.I.A. September 22, 2008)Bottom of Form

[21] American Immigration Lawyers Association, INS Asylum Gender Guidelines, AILA Doc. No. 95053159 (May 31, 1995), https://www.aila.org/infonet/ins-asylum-gender-guidelines; see also H.R. Rep. No. 104-828 (1996) (Conf. Rep.).

[22] American Immigration Lawyers Association Gender Guidelines, supra note 21.

[23] H.R. Rep., supra note 21.

[24] Eva N. Juncker, A Juxtaposition of U.S. Asylum Grants to Women Fleeing Female Genital Mutilation and to Gays and Lesbians Fleeing Physical Harm: The Need to Promulgate an INS Regulation for Women Fleeing Female Genital Mutilation, 4 J. Int’l Legal Stud. 253 (1998).

[25] Juncker, supra note 24.

Crimmigration: The Stigma Behind the Criminality of Immigrants

By: Kathleen Andrade

 

Immigration rates have been growing exponentially in the United States. Under the current Trump administration, significant immigration regulations have been imposed. Some of these regulations include: implementing the travel ban (which banned nationals of eight countries, most majority-Muslim, from entering the United States), cancelling the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (which provides work authorization and temporary relief from deportation to approximately 690,000 unauthorized immigrants brought to the United States as children), and ending the designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for nationals of Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan.[1] These types of regulations have exacerbated the stigma behind immigration.

 

Somewhere along the way, the term “immigrant” has adopted a negative connotation, and certain stereotypes have become associated with this group of people. Some of these include judgments of character and assumptions of actions. A common assumption is that all immigrants come to the United States illegally and are therefore criminals or that they are more likely to commit crimes when compared to native-born citizens. Therefore, there is a dual relationship between criminality and immigration of both documented and undocumented individuals in the United States and, with respect to that relationship, a more pronounced stigma exists. As it is such a broad classification of people, there are many tiers to immigration. Some examples are naturalized immigrants, undocumented immigrants who cross the border, immigrants who enter the country on a temporary visa, and immigrants who overstay that visa and later become undocumented. The United States takes pride in being a country founded on the idea that people deserve the chance to create a better future, which is why many people from developing countries or countries under political turmoil flee to the United States with the hope to encounter some form of stability.

 

What appears to be a result of these assumptions are harsh penalties and preventative measures implemented that promote a negative message of exclusion and resentment towards immigrants as a whole. For example, throughout his campaign, President Trump focused the nation’s attention on building a wall at the border as a preventative measure to stop immigrants from entering the United States from Mexico.[2] However, statistics show that from 2010 to 2017, the population of undocumented immigrants from Mexico fell by a remarkable 1.3 million.[3] The primary form of entry into the United States of undocumented immigrants was from overstaying their temporary visas, not from crossing the border illegally.[4]

 

Multiple studies have been designed to answer a lingering question: are immigrants more likely to commit crimes than native inhabitants? What might be shocking to some people, given the stereotypes that tend to be attached to the “immigrant” title, is that immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes when compared to native-born citizens.[5] This holds true for both documented and undocumented immigrants. There is no satisfactory evidence to show that immigration has resulted in an increase in crime. “The problem of crime in the United States is not ‘caused’ or even aggravated by immigrants, regardless of their legal status. But the misperception that the opposite is true persists among policymakers, the media, and the general public, thereby undermining the development of reasoned public responses to both crime and immigration.”[6] It is difficult to make the determination that criminality and immigration have a direct correlation when the evidence to support that claim is not present; the accusations that are typically made regarding the crime rate by immigrants have no evidentiary support.

 

The impact of having a negative societal viewpoint on immigration is crucial because societal norms and behaviors can influence decisions and outlooks on issues. If society views immigrants in a negative light, it naturally follows that the legal system will also adopt those viewpoints in its laws and opinions. An example of this is 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv). In 2018, the Ninth Circuit, in United States of America v. Sineneng-Smith, held that 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) was unconstitutional and that the overly broad plain language of the statute demonstrates how negatively immigrants are viewed. Subsection Four of the statute states, “[A person who] encourages or induces an alien to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry, or residence is or will be in violation of law.”[7] In itself, Subsection Four would criminalize certain communications with non-citizen family members, communications related to advocacy for immigrants, or even communications between employers and employees.[8] These effects reach further than just immigrants, but also to the people around them, simply because immigrants are looked down upon.

 

Immigration is an issue that is becoming more relevant as the years progress. Due to its importance, one should be aware of the negative effects of the stigma behind immigration. Not only is it important to generally overcome ignorance and to better understand the realities of these situations, but it is also important to be aware that societal beliefs, while they might seem inconsequential, are significant and have the capability of spiraling into something greater.

 

The butterfly effect is a theory where one small action can result in a big difference later on. It is known for its famous analogy that a minor perturbation, such as the flap of a butterfly wing, can cause something as destructive and chaotic as a tornado somewhere else in the world. What might seem insignificant in the moment, such as a overgeneralized assumption or comment about immigrants entering the United States, can lead to legislation being passed or court opinions being decided that will have a lasting and disturbing impact on the lives of families. It is important to become aware of the realities of immigration policies in the United States in order to end the stigma.

 

 

[1] Sarah Pierce and Andrew Selee, Immigration under Trump: A Review of Policy Shifts in the Year Since the Election, Migration Policy Institute (December 2017), https://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/immigration-under-trump-review-policy-shifts.

[2] Robert Warren, US Undocumented Population Continued to Fall from 2016 to 2017, and Visa Overstays Significantly Exceeded Illegal Crossings for the Seventh Consecutive Year, Center for Migration Studies (Jan. 16, 2019), https://cmsny.org/publications/essay-2017-undocumented-and-overstays/.

[3] Warren, supra note 2.

[4] Warren, supra note 2

[5] Walter Ewing et al., The Criminalization of Immigration in the United States, Immigration Policy Center Special Report, Washington: American Immigration Council (Jul. 13, 2015), https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/

research/criminalization-immigration-united-states.

[6] Rubén G. Rumbaut & Walter A. Ewing, The Myth of Immigrant Criminality and the Paradox of Assimilation: Incarceration Rates Among Native and Foreign-Born Men, Immigration Policy Center Special Report,” Washington DC: American Immigration Law Foundation (Spring 2007), https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/r

research/myth-immigrant-criminality-and-paradox-assimilation.

[7] 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) (2012).

[8] 8 U.S.C. § 1324(a)(1)(A)(iv) (2012); see, e.g., United States v. Henderson, 857 F. Supp. 2d 191, 197 (D. Mass. 2012) (exemplifying an instance when an employer was charged and convicted based on communications with an employee); see also United States of Am. v. Sineneng-Smith, 910 F.3d 461 (9th Cir. 2018) (in which the Ninth Circuit found persuasive was a grandmother who asks her grandson to overstay his visa).

An Analysis Into the Debate Revolving Birthright Citizenship and Illegal Immigration

By Jordan Leonard

In fall 2018 President Trump made waves in the political and Constitutional establishment by alluding to an executive order which would end the idea of birthright citizenship as it is currently understood. The President’s idea is certainly controversial[1] (as with most things President Trump has done). The first argument made by those critical to this idea, is that changing birthright citizenship is forbidden by the Fourteenth Amendment.[2] Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment clearly reads “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”[3]

Critics of the President’s proposal have focused on the wording of the Fourteenth Amendment to criticize the plan. For example, CNN opined “[s]uch a step would be regarded as an affront to the US Constitution, which was amended 150 years ago to include the words: ‘[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.’” (emphasis added)[4] The ACLU argued “[t]he President cannot erase the Constitution with an executive order, and the 14th Amendment’s citizenship guarantee is clear.”[5]

President Trump was also criticized by members of his own party. For example, Senator Chuck Grassley was quoted as saying “[i]t seems to me born in the United States is pretty simple, subject to the jurisdiction there of might be a little more debatable by lawyers and I am not a lawyer but it seems to me it would take a constitutional amendment to change that as opposed to an executive order.”[6] Paul Ryan, the former Speaker of the House, also criticized the President’s plan as violating the Fourteenth Amendment—“I think in this case the 14th Amendment is pretty clear, and that would involve a very, very lengthy constitutional process. . .”[7]

Although the President’s plan to end birthright citizenship has been largely criticized on the grounds of the Fourteenth Amendment (this essay does not analyze the President’s plan to do so by executive order), Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina vowed to introduce legislation that would be similar to the President’s proposed executive order.[8] Further, the Vice President weighed in on the matter by arguing that the President’s proposal to end birthright citizenship to children of illegal immigrants may not run afoul of the Fourteenth Amendment[9] (however an executive order may  run still afoul of the Constitution). Vice President Pence argued “‘The Supreme Court of the United States has never ruled on whether or not the language of the 14th Amendment subject to the jurisdiction thereof applies specifically to people who are in the country illegally.’” Senator Chuck Grassley later made a formal statement echoing the Vice President’s argument :

Birthright citizenship for the children of permanent resident immigrants under the Fourteenth Amendment is settled law, as decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Wong Kim Ark. There is a debate among legal scholars about whether that right extends to the children of illegal immigrants. . .[11]

Vice President Pence and Senator Grassley’s arguments therefore define the parameters of this discussion—does Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment require birthright citizenship to children of illegal immigrants born in the United States?

Senator Grassley rightly points to the Citizenship Clause of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, and to United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649 (1898), as the most relevant case on the matter. But what exactly was the Citizenship Clause intended to accomplish and what exactly did the Wong Kim Ark Court decide?

The Fourteenth Amendment was the second of the three post-Civil War amendments and was ratified in 1868.[12] The Thirteenth Amendment, ratified in 1865,[13] eliminated slavery in the United States[14]; the Fourteenth Amendment granted civil rights to former slaves (and greatly expanded rights of all Americans against states);[15] and the Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870,[16] granted political rights to former (male) slaves.[17]

The Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment reads “[a]ll persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” The Supreme Court in in United States v. Wong Kim Ark explained the Citizenship Clause’s

main purpose doubtless was, as has been often recognized by [the United States Supreme Court], to establish the citizenship of free [African Americans], which had been denied in the opinion delivered by Chief Justice Taney in Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857 19 How. 393; and to put it beyond doubt that all blacks, as well as whites, born or naturalized within the jurisdiction of the United States, are citizens of the United States.[18]

Prior to the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Citizenship Clause, however, “national citizenship [was] derivative of state citizenship, except in cases involving the naturalization of immigrants and the regulation of federal territories.”[19] The Fourteenth Amendment changed this dynamic. Instead of being a citizen of a state first, the Citizenship Clause “made clear that all Americans were in fact citizens of the nation first and foremost, with a status and set of birthrights explicitly affirmed in a national Constitution.”[20] Therefore, the Citizenship Clause removed the authority of the states to revoke the citizenship of former slaves.

Read this way, the Citizenship Clause could plausibly be understood much like every other provision of the Fourteenth Amendment—to limit the power and authority of the states.[22] In turn, Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment suggests that Congress would be responsible for carrying out the Citizenship Clause.[23] But, if the Fourteenth Amendment, as a whole, was intended to expand the power of the Federal Government,[24] it would seem that a reading of the Citizenship Clause which requires the citizenship at birth for the children of illegal immigrants would in fact limit Congress’ powers under Article 1 Section 8 Clause 4—“[t]o establish a uniform rule of naturalization.”[25]

To the best of my knowledge, the Fourteenth Amendment has not largely been argued to place limits on Congress’ Article I powers. Even in extreme cases, such as segregated schools, the Supreme Court could not rely on the Fourteenth Amendment. Instead, in Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 (1954), a companion case to Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S.483 (1954),[26] the Supreme Court held the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (also contained in Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment) did not limit the powers of the federal government.[27] Therefore, the Supreme Court relied on the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to eliminate segregation in the District of Columbia’s public schools.[28] If the Citizenship Clause were read to require birthright citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants, it would also create a Constitutional loophole that would limit Congress’ Article 1 Section 8 Clause 4 powers.

A counter argument, however, would be that Congress did intend to limit itself through the Citizenship Clause. The Supreme Court in Wong Kim Ark reasoned that after enshrining birthright citizenship in The Civil Rights Act of 1866,[29] Congress intended to fortify birthright citizenship in amendment as opposed to the standard legislative process.[30] Nonetheless, any argument that would potentially change Congress’ Article I powers should not be taken lightly.

Next, as the Vice President correctly pointed out, and Senator Grassley echoed, the Wong Kim Ark decision did not directly address the question of whether the Citizenship Clause mandates birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants born in the United States.[31] Instead, the question presented in Wong Kim Ark was very specific:

whether a child born in the United States, of parents of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States, by virtue of the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.’[32]

The Supreme Court answered this question affirmatively.[33] Critics of the President’s proposal, further, argue that the Wong Kim Ark decision accurately captures the whole of the legislative intent behind the Fourteenth Amendment—to “extend birthright citizenship to non-U.S. nationals.””

However, the Supreme Court in Wong Kim Ark did not explicitly go this far. As indicated above, the question presented was very narrow,[35] and the specific issue never arose because Wong Kim Ark was not born in the United States to illegal immigrants. [36]

However, the Wong Kim Ark Court does indicate that there are only two primary exceptions (outside of the exception for children born to members of Indian Tribes[37]) to the general rule that persons born in the United States become citizens at birth. These exceptions are: the children of foreign diplomats, and children of “alien enemies in hostile occupation.”[38] However, others have argued children of illegal immigrants should not obtain birthright citizenship, and point to the earlier case of Elk v. Wilkins, 112 U.S. 94 (1884).[39] In Elk, the question presented was

whether an Indian, born a member of one of the Indian tribes within the United States, is, merely by reason of his birth within the United States, and of his afterwards voluntarily separating himself from his tribe and taking up his residency among white citizens, a citizen of the United States, within the meaning of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.[40]

The Supreme Court held that he was not a United States citizen under the Citizenship Clause.[41] The court reasoned “an Indian cannot make himself a citizen of the United States without the consent and cooperation of the government.”[42] Therefore, some commentators have argued birthright citizenship should not extend to the children of illegal immigrants because the United States government has not consented to their presence.[43]

However, the obvious counter argument to the requirement of “consent” is, as Professor Kamp points out, that “consent” does not appear in the Citizenship Clause.[44] Nonetheless, it is not much of a leap to question why a Native American who was born in the territorial United States could not make himself a citizen without consent of the United States, but illegal immigrants can make their children citizens by a transgression of the laws of the United States.[45]

President Trump will certainly face an uphill battle if he intends to do away with birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants via executive order.[46] However, as Senator Grassley suggests, the Constitutionality of eliminating birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants through legislation may have more room for interpretation.[47]

That being said, any legislation which seeks to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants is still on shaky ground.[48] There is evidence that shows “the legislative record as a whole makes unmistakably clear that the Senators understood the Fourteenth Amendment to extend birthright citizenship to non-U.S. nationals,”[49] the Wong Kim Ark decision, although not directly on point,[50] confirms this position,[51] and citizenship at birth has been the norm since at least Wong Kim Ark, except in a few narrow circumstances which did not include the children of illegal immigrants.[52]

[1] See John Wagner, et al. Trump Vows Executive Order to End Birthright Citizenship, a Move Most Legal Experts Say Would Run Afoul of the Constitution (Oct. 30, 2018), www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-eyeing-executive-order-to-end-citizenship-for-children-of-noncitizens-born-on-us-soil/2018/10/30/66892050-dc29-11e8-b3f0-62607289efee_story.html?utm_term=.ff66aecb3585. Last accessed 3/15/5

[2] See Jud Mathews Birthright Citizenship and Presidential Power (Nov. 3, 2018), https://verfassungsblog.de/birthright-citizenship-and-presidential-power/

[3] U.S. Const. amend. XIV. § 1.

[4] Kevin Liptak Trump Claims He Can Defy Constitution and End Birthright Citizenship (Oct. 31, 2018), www.cnn.com/2018/10/30/politics/donald-trump-ending-birthright-citizenship/index.html.

https://www.cnn.com/2018/10/30/politics/donald-trump-ending-birthright-citizenship/index.html

[5] Id. quoting Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project

[6] Lukas Voss Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley Addresses Trump Announcement on Birthright Citizenship (Oct. 31, 2018), cbs2iowa.com/news/local/iowa-senator-chuck-grassley-addresses-trump-announcement-on-birthright-citizenship.

[7] Eliza Collins Paul Ryan Disagrees with Trump’s Call to End Birthright Citizenship, Says It Would Be Unconstitutional (Oct. 31, 2018), www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/10/30/trump-cant-end-birthright-citizenship-executive-order-ryan-says/1821031002/.

[8] Susan Heavey U.S. Senator Says Will Offer Bill to Back Trump Birthright… (Oct. 30, 2018), www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-citizenship-graham/u-s-senator-says-will-offer-bill-to-back-trump-birthright-citizenship-plan-idUSKCN1N426C.

[9] Jordain Carney Graham to Introduce Legislation to End Birthright Citizenship (Oct. 31, 2018), thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/413832-graham-to-introduce-legislation-ending-birthright-citizenship (quoting Vice President Pence in Politico).

[10] Id.

[11] Sen. Chuck Grassley, Grassley Statement on Birthright Citizenship (Oct. 30, 2018), www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-statement-birthright-citizenship.

[12] History.com Editors, 14th Amendment (Nov. 9, 2009), www.history.com/topics/black-history/fourteenth-amendment.

[13] History.com Editors, 13th Amendment (Nov. 9, 2009), https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/thirteenth-amendment.

[14] See U.S. Const. amend. XIII.

[15] See U.S. Const. amend. XIV. § 1; Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Constitution: A Biography, 382 (2005).

[16] History.com Editors, 15th Amendment (Nov. 9, 2009), https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/fifteenth-amendment.

[17] See U.S. Const. amend. XV; Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Constitution: A Biography, 382 (2005).

Cf. U.S. Const. amend. IXX.

[18] United States v. Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. 649, 676 (1898).

[19] Akhil Reed Amar, America’s Constitution: A Biography, 381 (2005).

[20] Id.

[21] See Id.

[22] See Tulane University Law School, History of Law: The Fourteenth Amendment, https://employment.law.tulane.edu/articles/history-of-law-the-fourteenth-amendment (“the 14th Amendment, designed to place limits on states’ power as well as protect civil rights.”).

[23] U.S. Const. amend. XIV. § 1.

[24] Id.

[25] U.S. Const. art I. § 1. Cl. 4; See also Adam C. Abrahms, Note, Closing the Immigration Loophole: the 14th Amendment’s Jurisdiction Requirement (1998), 12 Geo. Immigr. L.J. 469, 469; 486.

[26] The Brown Foundation, Combined Brown Cases, 1951-54, www.brownvboard.org/content/combined-brown-cases-1951-54. https://brownvboard.org/content/combined-brown-cases-1951-54#bolling

[27] Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497, 499 (1954).

[28] Id.

[29] See Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. at 675; see also Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/39th-congress/session-1/c39s1ch31.pdf .

[30] Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. at 675.

[31] See Jordain Carney Graham to Introduce Legislation to End Birthright Citizenship (Oct. 31, 2018), thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/413832-graham-to-introduce-legislation-ending-birthright-citizenship (quoting Vice President Pence in Politico); Sen. Chuck Grassley, Grassley Statement on Birthright Citizenship (Oct. 30, 2018), www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-statement-birthright-citizenship.

[32] Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. at 653.

[33] Id. at 705.

[34] Mathews, Supra, n. 2.

[35] Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. at 653.

[36] Id. at 652.

[37] Elk v. Wilkins, 112 U.S. 94, 109 (1884).

[38] Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. at 682. But see Adam C. Abrahms, Note, Closing the Immigration Loophole: the 14th Amendment’s Jurisdiction Requirement (1998), 12 Geo. Immigr. L.J. 469, 485 (arguing that children of illegal aliens meet the children of enemy aliens exception because “the illegal aliens are without doubt in the United States against its will and therefore their children must be excluded.”)

[39] Allen R. Kamp Article: Constitutional Interpretation and Technological Change, 49 New Eng. L. Rev. 201, 223.

[40] Elk, 112 U.S. at 99.

[41] Id. at 109. Top of Form

[42] Id. Bottom of Form

[43] Allen R. Kamp Article: Constitutional Interpretation and Technological Change, 49 New Eng. L. Rev. 201, 223.

[44] Id.

[45] See Kelly Gindele , article, The Birthright of Citizenship as to Children Born of Illegal Immigrants in the United States: What Did the Drafters of the Fourteenth Amendment Intend? (2007), 34 N. Ky. L. Rev. 367, 387-388

[46] Mathews, Supra, n. 2.

[47] Sen. Chuck Grassley, Grassley Statement on Birthright Citizenship (Oct. 30, 2018), www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-statement-birthright-citizenship.

[48] See Mathews, Supra, n. 2.

[49] Id.

[50] See Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. at 653.

[51] Mathews, Supra, n. 2.

[52] See Wong Kim Ark, 169 U.S. at 682.

Capital Punishment- An International Perspective

By Lexi Thiel

A few weeks ago, while scrolling the first page of the international law section of the British online newspaper, ‘The Independent,’ among the ten or so articles featured, I noticed that two of them were focused on the death penalty, albeit in different countries. The use of the death penalty is arguably one of the most controversial issues in the American legal system, but I had never stopped to ask myself whether it was the same way in other countries. After reading the two articles, I decided to look deeper into the death penalty issue internationally.

Initially, it is worth noting, that the state of the death penalty within the United States is not entirely clear. As of October, 2018, the death penalty is permitted in thirty states.[1] Capital punishment is also lawful within the federal government and military.[2] In recent years, many states have enacted legislation concerning the issue, but the results have been all over the place. Some states, such as Georgia and Colorado, passed legislation prohibiting the imposition of the death penalty for defendants with intellectual disabilities.[3] Interestingly, Georgia has also recently enacted legislation encouraging prosecutors to seek the death penalty in cases of murder of a law enforcement officer.[4] Florida now requires unanimity among jurors in order to impose the death penalty, while Idaho, likely responding to the recent trend of exoneration of death row inmates on the basis of new laboratory procedures being applied to decades-old evidence, passed a law requiring that sexual assault evidence kits in cases involving capital punishment be preserved by law enforcement until the execution is completed and no further unidentified suspects exist.[5] Over time, many states have simply abolished the death penalty.

While each state has its own legislation concerning the death penalty, and there is not much of a consensus between the states as to whether the death penalty is constitutional, how it should be applied, whether there are limits to who can be executed and for what crimes, etc., the fact remains that the death penalty is still alive and well in the United States. Internationally, the United States has held firm in that position as well. In December 2016, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved a decree “calling for a worldwide ‘moratorium on the use of the death penalty,’” for the sixth time in ten years.[6] The United States represented one of the forty votes against the moratorium, in contrast to the a hundred and seventeen votes in favor.[7] Those involved explained the United States’ vote by arguing that capital punishment decisions rest with each Member State individually, since capital punishment in general is not in violation of international law.[8] Commentators noted that “the position reflects the American reality of supporting the death penalty in principle, but increasingly outlawing it in practice.”[9] As mentioned above, only thirty states authorize the death penalty. Furthermore, even though the practice remains legal in over half the states, only five states actually performed executions in 2016[10].

The second part of the General Assembly’s resolution concerned safeguards for defendants in countries that chose to keep the death penalty. The General Assembly stressed the importance of the application of international laws to the death penalty decisions within the Member States.[11] Specifically, the resolution called for capital punishment to be limited to defendants who commit only the most serious crimes, which it defined as “intentional crimes that have ‘lethal or other extremely grave consequences.’”[12] The resolution also sought to impose procedural requirements when the death penalty was a possibility. These include a fair trial by a competent court, a final judgement, the right to appeal, and the ability to seek a pardon.[13] While the United States voted in the negative regarding the resolution as a whole, those involved with the decision seemed to be in full agreement with this second aspect of the resolution. In this regard, the U.S. practices what it preaches, since over time the Supreme Court has limited the capital punishment sentence to defendants over the age of majority who commit the most grievous murders, and even when the death penalty is imposed, there is often decades that pass before execution when the defendants are exercising their appeal rights established under due process in the U.S.[14]

The United States is not the only country that still authorizes the death penalty, but it is one of a limited few. The number of executions internationally has fluctuated in recent years, but currently the global trend seems to be moving towards abolition of capital punishment.[15] While in 2015 the number of global executions reached its peak, and in 2016 the number of death sentences imposed was at an all-time high, according to Amnesty International, since 2017 the world has seen a decrease in such measures.[16] As of 2017, hundreds of countries had outlawed capital punishment, leaving just a few who continue to carry out executions.[17] In fact, in a somewhat startling figure, just four countries accounted for 84% of executions that year.[18] Those countries were Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iraq. That year, Iran recorded over 507 executions, Saudi Arabia recorded over 146, Iraq recorded over 125, and Pakistan recorded over sixty.[19] For comparison, the United States had the eighth-most executions in 2017 with twenty-three.[20] These countries have consistently been the global leaders in execution numbers. Interestingly, however, it is widely believed that China is actually responsible for the most executions, by a long shot. China considers data on capital punishment a state secret, so the number of executions are not publicly reported. Consensus seems to be, however, that China executes thousands of people annually, which, if true, would be more than the top eight countries with the most confirmed executions combined.[22]

Among the countries that still authorize capital punishment, there are significant differences in their application. One difference between countries lies in the crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed. As I discussed earlier, in the United States, each state has formulated its own legislation regarding capital punishment, so states differ with respect to crimes punishable by death. Federally, the United States lists forty-one capital offenses for which the death penalty may be imposed.[23] Most of these capital offenses consist of some sort of murder, such as murder of a member of Congress, an important executive official, or Supreme Court Justice, murder committed in a federal government facility, murder by a federal prisoner, etc.[24] Other examples of capital offenses include treason, death resulting from aircraft hijacking, willful wrecking of a train resulting in death, genocide, and espionage.[25]

As you can see, all of the capital offenses in the U.S. are either forms of homicide or offenses that are considered especially dangerous to the security of the country, usually relating to terrorism. Other countries take a different approach to defining capital offenses. Specifically, as of 2017, fifteen countries imposed the death penalty for drug-related offenses, predominantly those located in the Middle East and North Africa.[26] This practice seems wrong, compared with the U.S.’s practice of only imposing the death penalty for the most heinous, typically violent, offenses. The idea is not so far-fetched however, as only recently, President Trump publicly voiced support for capital sentences in drug-trafficking cases. Whether this ever comes to fruition is up for debate. It seems, though, to violate international law, which, as mentioned earlier, imposes limitations on the types of crimes for which a defendant may be executed.

Some countries who authorize the death penalty in non-violent drug cases have taken measures recently to limit the use of capital punishment in these instances. For instance, in Iran, the threshold for drug amounts required to enforce a mandatory death sentence was increased.[27] The fact that in Iran, not only is capital punishment authorized for certain non-violent drug offenses, but the death penalty is mandatory for those crimes without regard to aggravating or mitigating factors in any given case, is alarming. Time will tell whether Iran continues to restrict capital punishment’s role in drug cases. Additionally, in Malaysia, legislation was recently amended allowing for discretion in sentencing drug trafficking offenders, taking away the mandatory aspect it had before.[28]

Another difference between countries that authorize the death penalty concerns the types of people that can be executed. One major area of divergence among countries is the age at which a defendant may be sentenced to death. In the United States, the death penalty is not authorized for offenders under the age of eighteen, following the 2005 decision of the Supreme Court in Roper v. Simmons, which held that imposing the death penalty on defendants who were minors when the crime was committed violates the Eighth Amendment.[29] This practice is also banned under international human rights law under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which was adopted by the General Assembly of the UN in 1966 and has been ratified by 169 countries, including the U.S.[30] Still, some countries continue to use the death penalty in cases involving minors. Specifically, Amnesty International found that since 1990, nine countries were responsible for the executions of 138 offenders under the age of eighteen.[31] Among those countries are China, Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, countries that consistently perform the most executions worldwide.[32]

Countries also differ on the procedural protections provided to those facing a possible death sentence. ICCPR Article 6 expressly delineates the rights of defendants facing capital punishment under international human rights law.[33] Its provisions unequivocally prohibit the imposition of the death penalty to an individual who has not received a fair trial.[34] Under international law, a fair trial requires, at the minimum, “the presumption of innocence, being informed promptly and in detail of all charges, the right to appoint counsel of one’s own choosing, sufficient time to prepare a defense, the right to be tried without undue delay by an independent, impartial tribunal, and the right to review by a higher tribunal.”[35] Still to this day, several countries follow practices inconsistent with international law in this regard. One example is Indonesia, where research uncovered the country’s disregard for the requirement of a fair trial in death penalty cases. For example, international human rights law mandates that the defendant be afforded a “competent” and “professional” attorney and translator, yet these rights were often denied in Indonesia.[36] Additionally, due to the vagueness of the laws in Indonesia concerning police tactics during interrogation, the vast majority of convicts in the country are subjected to improper force and intimidation by police during interrogation in conflict with the rules surrounding obtaining confessions in death penalty cases.[37]

There are several arguments commonly used to support abolition of the death penalty. Countries that have outlawed capital punishment vary in their reasons. In Europe, the issue is viewed as one of morality. The European Union takes a strong stance on capital punishment by making abolition an absolute condition to EU membership.[38] This is based on the position that capital punishment “undermines human dignity and makes any miscarriage of justice irreversible and fatal.”[39] From this it is clear that the EU views execution as both contrary to its fundamental values and problematic in light of potential wrongful convictions. Interestingly, the countries that still authorize the death penalty are typically “less democratic and less committed to the protection of human rights,” so morality appeals may be less effective.[40] Though the United States is a democracy with a commitment to human rights, it retains the death penalty and similarly is not as concerned with moral considerations. Instead, the trend toward abolition in the United States is more a result of efficiency concerns.[41] Research in the U.S. has shown that the death penalty costs the states more money than life imprisonment.[42] In fact, before the economic recession in the U.S., only fourteen states had abolished capital punishment. Once states began facing financial difficulties, eight more proposed abolishment as a cost-saving measure.[43]

In sum, capital punishment is just as controversial globally as it is in the United States. This has led individual countries to have varying approaches to the issue, much like the states in the U.S. The prevalence of capital punishment has waxed and waned internationally over the past decade, so it remains to be seen whether this most recent decrease in executions will continue toward eventual abolishment worldwide. Either way, it is clear that the General Assembly of the UN and other international authorities will remain active in ensuring that capital punishment is implemented consistent with international law.

[1] Death Penalty Fast Facts, CNN (Mar. 22, 2019), https://www.cnn.com/2013/07/19/us/death-penalty-fast-facts/index.html.

[2] States and Capital Punishment, NCSL (June 6, 2018), http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/death-penalty.aspx.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Lincoln Caplan, The Growing Gap between the U.S. and the International Anti-Death Penalty Consensus, The New Yorker (Dec. 21, 2016), https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-growing-gap-between-the-u-s-and-the-international-anti-death-penalty-consensus.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Research Shows a Global Trend Towards Abolition of the Death Penalty, but More Work Remains, Amnesty International (Apr. 11, 2018), https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/research-shows-a-global-trend-towards-abolition-of-the-death-penalty-but-more-work-remains/.

[16] Id.

[17] Id.

[18] Id.

[19] The Death Penalty: An International Perspective, DPIC, https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/death-penalty-international-perspective.

[20] Id.

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] 41 Federal Capital Offenses, ProCon.org (Sept. 12, 2012), https://deathpenalty.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=004927.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Research Shows a Global Trend Towards Abolition of the Death Penalty, but More Work Remains, Amnesty International (Apr. 11, 2018), https://www.amnestyusa.org/reports/research-shows-a-global-trend-towards-abolition-of-the-death-penalty-but-more-work-remains/.

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

[29] Execution of Juveniles in the U.S. and other Countries, DPIC (Oct. 22, 2018) https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/execution-juveniles-us-and-other-countries.

[30] Id.

[31] Death Penalty, Amnesty International, https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/death-penalty/.

[32] Id.

[33] The Death Penalty under International Law, International Bar Association, https://www.ibanet.org/human_rights_institute/about_the_hri/hri_activities/death_penalty_resolution.aspx

[34] Id.

[35] Id.

[36] Sharifa Amalia, Research Finds Most Death Penalty Convicts in Indonesia Still Denied Fair Trials, Magdalene (Jan. 18, 2019), https://magdalene.co/story/research-finds-most-death-penalty-convicts-in-indonesia-still-denied-fair-trials.

[37] Id.

[38] Statement on the Death Penalty, Delegation of the European Union to the Council of Europe  (Oct. 17, 2018), https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/council-europe/52324/statement-death-penalty_en.

[39] Id.

[40] Carol S. Steiker and Jordan M. Steiker, The Pope Changed the Catholic Church’s Position on the Death Penalty. Will the Supreme Court Follow?, Time (Aug. 15, 2018), http://time.com/5359690/pope-death-penalty-supreme-court-united-states/.

[41] Id.

[42] Saving Lives and Money, The Economist (Mar. 12, 2009), https://www.economist.com/united-states/2009/03/12/saving-lives-and-money.

[43] Id.