Human rights concerns under a Trump presidency

December 1, 2016 Opinion

The purpose of this article is not to discourage people or create fear and distress. It is simply an attempt by two political science students to create awareness about human rights. It is imperative that people be aware of their rights, how they are currently regarded under the Obama administration, and how they will likely be changed during Trump’s time in office. Awareness and education is the only way to protect and promote human rights at home and abroad.

Environmental Rights

A healthy environment is necessary for all other rights to be preserved, which makes environmental rights human rights. President Obama campaigned on reducing dependence on fossil fuels and becoming a world power in renewable energy. Trump has vowed to lift restrictions on energy reserves such as coal and oil and cancel funding to UN climate change programs. He has labeled climate change a hoax and could abandon the Paris Climate Pact.

Reproductive Rights

In order to live healthy and dignified lives, women need to have autonomy over their own bodies. Under President Obama’s administration, our nation has advocated for women’s right to reproductive freedom and supported the notion that governments should not intervene in private family matters. Trump will likely nominate conservative, pro-life Justices to the Supreme Court who may threaten to overturn Roe v. Wade. He wants to ban abortions and “punish” women who get them, defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Foreign Policy in Syria

The war in Syria is the worst humanitarian crisis since WWII. President Obama has staunchly resisted any military action against the Assad. Since 2011, the U.S. has been the single-largest donor of aid ($6 billion). The number of refugees we will resettle this year has increased to 110,000.

Trump has made it clear his main priority will not be humanitarian assistance, but rather killing ISIS terrorists at the risk of civilian casualties. Given his “unique” relationship with Vladimir Putin, the possibilities of cooperation with Russia and allowing war-crime-committing Assad to remain in power also seem to be likely options.

Human Rights of Immigrants and Migrants

There are some 11 million undocumented workers living in the United States. Although they pay billions in taxes each year and represent a vital portion of the workforce, undocumented workers are still among the most vulnerable and exploited workers in America. Human rights by definition are NOT dependent on citizenship, but rather on simple humanity. Trump’s anti-immigration policies would not only trigger a constitutional crisis, they would be severe violations of human rights.

Use of Torture

Torture is one of the most clearly defined and unarguable human rights abuses. President Obama campaigned to reduce inhumane interrogations and for the closing of Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo remains open, but there are restrictions in place that prevent abusive interrogation techniques. Trump has publically supported “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and advocated for killing the families of terrorists—a war crime in itself.

Civil and Political Rights

Some Constitutional scholars and human right activists have expressed concern over Donald Trump’s commitment to civil and political rights, particularly the right to due process and whether or not he will extend due process to immigrants, Muslims, and suspected terrorists alike. Trump’s campaign emphasized the need for “law and order” in the inner cities. He has expressed support for discriminatory stop-and-frisk policies, the profiling of mosques, disenfranchisement through restrictive voter ID laws, and libel laws against journalists.

Commitment to Human Rights Internationally

Despite the leadership position on human rights the U.S. took during the 20th century, its record of promoting and protecting human rights since then can be said to be mixed at best. The U.S. has still not ratified most of the major international treaties. When it does ratify a treaty, the U.S. usually adds a reservation or declaration to it that negates protection of certain rights. Furthermore, the U.S. Constitution fails to recognize the economic, social, and cultural rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Amnesty International has said it has serious concerns about the strength of commitment it expects to see from the United States under Donald Trump. It is highly unlikely that with a Republican-controlled Congress the U.S. will make any progress ratifying any of these treaties or continue the same level of commitment to the international human rights system.

Healthcare

The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being.” The Affordable Care Act insured 20 million Americans who were previously uninsured. Trump has been an avid supporter of repealing and replacing the ACA, which will leave millions of citizens uninsured. (One positive note: he does not believe in denying healthcare because of preexisting conditions.) He supports a Health Savings Account, which allows the purchase of health insurance across states. Interestingly, after his election, Trump deviated from his original stance, saying he plans to reform, not repeal Obamacare.

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