OTHER VOICES

Rape and bureaucrats

Posted Dec. 16, 2011, at 5:37 p.m.

When Congress enacted the Prison Rape Elimination Act, it did so in the hope of curbing sexual assaults in facilities across the country. But today, with new rules to protect prisoners being finalized, the Department of Homeland Security is demanding that immigrants held in detention centers be exempted.

That’s outrageous. Of course Congress expected the law, and any regulations drafted as a result of it, to cover immigrants detained while they fight deportation cases. The plain language of the bill says so. The co-sponsors of the bill, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, R-Va., and Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-Va., have said so. A federal commission created by the law convened a hearing in Los Angeles in 2006 to focus specifically on sexual abuse in immigrant detention facilities because it considered it part of its mandate.

Yet the Department of Homeland Security is now squabbling over whether it or the Department of Justice has the authority to write rules that protect immigrants.

Isn’t it obvious that protecting detainees is more important than who is the boss of whom?

None of this is news to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. In fact, she has repeatedly vowed to improve conditions at detention facilities and says the agency has a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of abuse. Nevertheless, between 2007 and 2011, immigrants reported nearly 200 incidents of alleged sexual abuse, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. More than a dozen of those alleged assaults took place in facilities in Southern California.

The Obama administration needs to put an end to the bureaucratic infighting.

Rape is a crime. To apply the new regulations to some and not others would create a two-tier system of justice. That’s not acceptable. Immigrants who are detained while they fight deportation (and who, by the way, have not generally been charged with, much less convicted of, a crime) deserve the same protections provided to criminals sentenced to maximum-security prisons.

Los Angeles Times (Dec. 15)

Keystone election issue

Canadian oil giant Suncor Energy Inc. has finally pulled the pin on its operations in Syria to comply with international sanctions for the Assad regime’s murderous response to once-peaceful democratic uprisings.

For the Calgary-based megacorp, it means turning its back on an annual cash flow of approximately $250 million in natural gas production, a fair whack of money until we’re told it represents less than 3 percent of its cash flow.

But hats off, nonetheless.

While Suncor’s initial argument for hanging tough was the natural gas produced was solely for domestic use in Syria, its buy-in was needed for true sanction pain to be felt.

And now it has, all which puts Suncor on the right side of the equation when it comes to the greater good.

The Canadian firm’s experience underlines the difficulty in dealing with that troubled region, which is always a mug’s game for the West.

Putting distance between them and us is rarely wrong.

Over the weekend, as well, U.S. Republican House Leader John Boehner gave Canada’s energy sector a boost when he pushed the need for the Obama administration to buy into the Keystone XL pipeline which will bring “ethical oil” from Canada’s oil sands — as opposed to the “conflict oil” of the Saudi Arabias of the world — for refining in Texas.

In his weekly television address, Boehner refuted the president’s views, criticizing Obama for delaying approval of Keystone until after the 2012 election when it would not only create thousands of jobs, but also reduce American dependency on foreign oil.

With unemployment in the U.S. at 8.6 percent, job creation could very well decide victory in the presidential election, and the Republicans are clearly bent on making Keystone an election issue.

Ottawa Sun, Ontario (Dec. 15)

Freer trade

While the decision to station a contingent of Marines in Australia drew much attention during President Barack Obama’s recent trip to the Pacific region, the longer-term interests of the United States may have been more advanced by a pacific policy in the Pacific, through freer trade.

At the Honolulu summit conference of Pacific rim nations, Obama won commitments from Japan and Canada to join talks aimed at binding nine Pacific Rim nations to a trade pact in the next year.

Whether that happens is still a big “if.” But carry it off, and American exports — both goods and services — can expand significantly in the region.

America already has separate free-trade agreements with Australia, Chile, Peru and Singapore. Four that would be added would be Malaysia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Brunei.

Economists say it would be the largest free-trade area since that formed by the union of the U.S., Canada and Mexico in the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994.

While the stationing of more Marines in the Pacific region is seen as a check on aggressive moves by the communist government of China, the principal competition in the area is between the Almighty (sort of) Dollar and the Rising Renminbi, China’s currency. China’s efforts to expand its influence, both in trade and political ties, needed not involve a clash with American interests, but certainly raise that possibility — and many of China’s neighbors look at their giant neighbor with some suspicion.

We applaud Obama for this initiative and suggest it deserves bipartisan support should the negotiations prosper next year.

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. (Dec. 15)

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