I have been asked by the Whoville Refuge Site to formally request that you offer them sanctuary as political refugees. I wish to argue that their rights, under both the U.S. Constitution and international law have been systematically violated. I further wish to argue that it is your responsibility as the Mayor of a Human Rights City to offer them sanctuary in order to remedy this situation.
I am sure you are familiar with the concept of “sanctuary”. During the Central American War of the 1980s networks of churches in America offered sanctuary to refugees from El Salvador and other countries victimized by an illegal war conducted by the U.S. government.
Municipalities have also acted as sanctuaries. When the Iraq was began in 1990 the city of San Francisco acted as a sanctuary to soldiers who refused to fight for reasons of conscience. More recently, San Francisco declared itself a sanctuary for undocumented workers. This is an apt parallel. Like the unhoused, undocumented workers have had their rights illegally and systematically violated by the American government at many levels. There is apt precedent for a city to act as a sanctuary.
As you know, the city of Eugene has systematically violated the rights of the unhoused by criminalizing homelessness through a series of patterns and practices. The task force you formed in 2012 asked that laws criminalizing homelessness be examined and modified. Instead, your city has escalated this practice. A letter to the city council from Eric Tars and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty dated 14 July 2014 has outlined these practices and explained why they were on dubious grounds owing to the U. S. Constitution and international law.
Once more, rather than a reexamination of your city’s patterns and practices, we have seen an escalation. Just this weekend, police, in contact with the refugees of Whoville, have claimed that the City Attorney has told them they no longer have to give 24 hours notice to people seeking shelter on public property, despite district court decisions to the contrary. The police have also threatened to confiscate the tents of people as “evidence” for illegal camping. Again, they said they were acting under instruction from the City Attorney. In the Winter months, for police to do so is tantamount to giving a death penalty for a second degree misdemeanor, which seems to constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
As you know, in the past year two United Nations Human Rights commissions have denounced the United States for its policy of criminalization. I should also like to point out that United Nation Commission on Torture has also taken up the issue of criminalization, and is consider whether many of the practices that Eugene, along with other cities, employs constitute torture..
In the three years since Eugene proclaimed itself to be a Human Right’s city, much progress has been made. For example, the city has acquired the internet domain name www.humanrightscity.com. Eugene would not be taking such a visible profile on the issue of human rights if it was not willing to take action, and to have its actions held up to scrutiny. To offer protection to victims of systematic institutional violence is the logical next step. If you wish to meet with the refugees, this can be arranged.
Thank you for your attention and consideration. I am,