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Refugee Sanitation Facility Act
The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act was scheduled to be seen by the House of Representatives the week of May 20, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. During this period, the bill moved through the House but still has to pass the Senate. Reintroduced after December 2018 revisions by sponsor Grace Meng (D-NY-6), the bill aims to “provide women and girls safe access to sanitation facilities in refugee camps.”

Moving the Bill Forward

In April, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted for the bill to be seen by the rest of the House for a vote. Co-sponsored by 42 representatives, the bill is an international affairs policy that would call the Department of State to ensure safe and sanitary conditions for refugees being held by the US government, with special focus on the conditions where women, children and vulnerable populations are present. It is intended to be an addition to the preexisting Section 501 of the Foreign Relations Act, U.S. code 2601 that states “the provision of safe and secure access to sanitation facilities, with a special emphasis on women and girls, and vulnerable populations.”

A Rising Crisis

According to the American Immigration Council, the number of people forcibly displaced around the world grew from 42.7 million to 68.5 million between 2007 and 2017. Under United States law, a refugee is “A person who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because of a well-founded fear of persecution’ due to race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin.” This definition has been a part of US law since as early as the 1951 United Nations Convention. Since January 2017, the admission of refugees into the U.S. has dramatically declined. The Trump administration lowered the refugee admissions ceiling from 110,000 (set under the Obama administration) to 50,000.

As of July 2018, there were over 733,000 pending immigration cases and the average wait time for an immigration hearing was 721 days. The 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act requires all individuals seeking asylum at ports of entry to be detained until said hearing. Jarring images of these detention centers have been shared online, with depictions of children sleeping in cages and on the ground with no blankets. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act can help in providing more dignified conditions for refugees.

Though there are some organized efforts to provide sanitation to refugee camps, none of them are mandated by law. The Refugee Sanitation Facility Safety Act of 2019 would reflect in U.S. law the priority of treating all on its lands with human dignity.

– Ava Gambero

Photo: Flickr

Buy American LawsThe Trump administration is dusting off Depression-era laws to advance its “America First” agenda. The aptly-named “Buy American” laws require firms to buy U.S. materials when manufacturing military equipment.

In 2013, $20 billion went to foreign entities, roughly 6.4 percent of military spending. That money is spent largely on raw materials like lumber, fuel and construction materials from Canada and other allies. The enforcement of these 80-year-old laws would force the government to spend that money within the states.

While 6.4 percent isn’t a large chunk of total expenditures, the concern is the message it could send to U.S. allies when they are cut out. Bill Greenwalt, a former Defense Department procurement secretary believes that by cutting out allies, the U.S. will spark retaliation legislation. Many nations depend on the U.S. for military goods. Buy American laws could kick off many global domestic purchasing regimes and ultimately hurt U.S. sales abroad.

Furthermore, those regimes could end up not being specifically military equipment. An domestic purchasing agenda could instigate allies and developing markets to look inward or to each other for goods and put up trading barriers to the U.S. such as quotas and tariffs.

If the U.S. positioned itself to try its hand at grand-scale manufacturing and set up the tariffs favorable to domestic manufacturers, U.S. consumers and developing nations could suffer. For the U.S. consumer, prices of normally imported goods such as clothing, pharmaceuticals and cell phones could increase. Many middle and lower class citizens would feel the strain of these price increases and the overall standard of living would see a decline.

Developing nations could suffer as manufacturing and exporting goods to developed neighbors are one of the biggest staples of economic activity. Favoring domestic production to the purchase of fair trade goods from these nations could stunt their economies and put their citizens at higher risk of falling into poverty.

For both the U.S. and our trading partners, Buy American laws could be a game of mutually assured economic stagnation. Manufacturers and consumers everywhere could feel the burden.

Thomas Anania

Photo: Google