Peace and Human Rights

As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and long-time human rights advocate, I am committed to fighting for civil and human rights for all people at home and abroad. Throughout my career I have worked to ensure that peace, justice and respect for human rights are central to United States foreign policy, and I will continue working towards a more peaceful world in the 117th Congress.

The U.S. must partner with our neighbors across the globe to maintain national security and peace, fight infectious disease and tackle injustice. We must keep our commitments and continue to invest in foreign assistance, without which we cannot hope to achieve a more peaceful and prosperous world. And we must choose diplomacy and engagement over saber-rattling and war.

 

Western Hemisphere

During my time in Congress, I have worked hard to protect human rights throughout the Western Hemisphere. When protests in Haiti concerning long-standing corruption and gross human rights violations led to the deaths of dozens of Haitians, I led a letter with over 100 of my House colleagues demanding that the State Department investigate corruption and human rights violations by the Haitian government. I also wrote legislation that barred U.S. military assistance to the Haitian armed forces given the troubling human rights record of its leadership. Having been engaged in Haitian human rights work for more than three decades, including as a Human Rights Watch investigator, I am determined to help craft a foreign policy towards Haiti that is centered on the needs and aspirations of the Haitian people.

Supporting foreign assistance to our allies in Latin America is also critical. When the Trump State Department suspended approximately $450 million in foreign assistance that Congress had approved for El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, I joined 100 of my colleagues to write to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to restore this critical funding.

Throughout the 116th Congress, I fought back against the Trump administration’s militaristic belligerence around the globe. I was a proud original cosponsor of the Prohibiting Unauthorized Military Action in Venezuela Act, which would forbid a President from authorizing the use of military force against Venezuela without Congress’s approval, and I spoke out against the militaristic posturing of the Trump administration towards Venezuela repeatedly. It is up to Congress to decide how, when and where the U.S. military is engaged around the world, and I believe American military intervention in Venezuela is not an option. I also remain gravely concerned about the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. We must ensure that U.S. aid is there to ease the suffering of the Venezuelan people—not turn them into political pawns.

 

Middle East

I used my position on the House Foreign Affairs Committee to push back against the warmongering and aggression that characterized the Trump administration. When it became clear that the Trump administration was considering a war with Iran, I introduced the bipartisan Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Clarification Act, a bill to reaffirm that the Trump administration would have to receive an explicit authorization from Congress before engaging in military action against Iran. At the same time, I have been a vocal proponent of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—often called the Iran nuclear deal. President Trump’s decision to abandon that deal brought Iran closer to a nuclear weapon and made the world less safe.

As a strong supporter of Israel, I am committed to ensuring the safety of the Israeli people. I cosponsored the United States-Israel Cooperation Enhancement and Regional Security Act, which authorizes enhanced security assistance to Israel in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding reached by President Barack Obama in 2016. I have also worked hard to protect Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. That has included advocacy for the human rights of the Palestinian people. In November 2019, I led more than 100 Democrats to rebuke the State Department’s decision to reverse decades of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy on illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In June 2020, I was proud to join 190 of my colleagues in a tremendous demonstration of unity, making clear directly to the Israeli government that annexation of the West Bank should not move forward.

The Saudi-led war in Yemen has led to a staggering crisis, and it’s happening on our watch.  Yemen’s health infrastructure has crumbled, leaving many without access to life-saving medicine. It is long past time to bring U.S. military involvement in this calamity to an end, and in hearings held by the House Foreign Affairs Committee I challenged Trump administration officials who argued it was justifiable to continue arms sales to Saudi Arabia given the horrific Saudi-led war in Yemen. I proudly cosponsored and voted for H.J.Res.37, a resolution directing the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.

 

Asia

Standing up for human rights and against ethnic cleansing and genocide has been a key component of my work on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. My first trip abroad as a member of Congress was to Bangladesh, where I met with Rohingya refugees, as well as garment workers around Dhaka. I introduced the Rohingya Genocide Determination Act to require the Secretary of State to issue a determination on whether the atrocities perpetrated by the Burmese military against the Rohingya constitute genocide and to make clear the bipartisan consensus in Congress that a genocide occurred. I also wrote the Burma Political Prisoners Assistance Act, which would provide assistance to political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Burma. As repression worsened around Burma’s elections in 2020, I introduced a bicameral, bipartisan resolution urging the Burmese government to allow for free, fair, inclusive, transparent, participatory and credible elections. After the Burmese military seized total control over the government in February 2021, I introduced a resolution condemning the coup and calling for the military to release all political prisoners

I have also continued my decades of advocacy for human rights in China. I cosponsored the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation that would ensure goods made in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and imported into the United States were not made with forced labor. The bill also prohibits certain imports from Xinjiang and imposes sanctions on perpetrators of abuse and exploitation.

What China is doing to Tibet is not simply repression of individuals, but a slow extinction of a whole culture through infiltration, surveillance and starving it out of existence. We simply can’t let that happen. I look forward to seeing the president appoint a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, as required by the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002. I also supported the Tibetan Policy and Support Act, which authorizes funding for the Office of the U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, for activities that preserve Tibet’s cultural traditions and language, and other projects. It also instructs the State Department to work to establish a consulate in Lhasa and would bar China from establishing any new consulates in our country until that happens.

I have been a strong and vocal advocate on behalf of the Armenian people since my arrival in Congress. As a member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, I was pleased to cosponsor H.Res.190 in the 116th Congress, which expressed the sense of the House of Representatives supporting visits and communication between the United States and the Republic of Artsakh at all levels of civil society and government. Additionally, I was proud to stand with the Armenian people as an original cosponsor of H.Res. 296 in the 116th Congress, a resolution recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide. Finally, I support critical assistance to Artsakh and have written to the House Appropriations Committee to support de-mining efforts and other necessary humanitarian projects there.

 

Foreign Aid

Humanitarian assistance is a crucial tool for peaceful U.S. foreign policy. Given the damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, it is essential that the United States continues to provide assistance to vulnerable populations around the world. In the 116th Congress, I strongly opposed the short-sighted cuts proposed by President Trump to U.S. foreign assistance. I also signed several letters to the House Appropriations Committee in support of robust funding for critical foreign assistance programs, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), maternal and child health care and more. I will continue to advocate for the foreign assistance budget and oppose ill-advised cuts to these vital investments.

 

Immigration

We must fight immigration policies that violate the rights of those seeking safety in our country. Policies like separating families and detaining children are an abomination, and we must reunify families while affording people—especially those who have spent years living, working and paying taxes here—a path to citizenship.

Immigrants in our communities also deserve not to be treated as a monolith, but to have their cases heard individually in immigration courts. That is why I introduced the bipartisan Deferred Removal for Iraqi Nationals Including Minorities Act to protect Iraqi nationals—including Chaldean Christians—who will face persecution for their religion, ethnicity or ties to America if they are forced back to Iraq against their will.

 

Death Penalty

I have long opposed the death penalty as a fundamental human rights violation, a position in line with the United Nations and 170 of its member states. It is high time for the U.S. to end the practice. In the final and traumatic days of Donald Trump’s presidency, he rushed through several executions, overseeing more state-sanctioned deaths than any president in over a century.  While I’m grateful that we now have a president who opposes this vile policy, there is no reason to leave its use in the future to chance. In addition to my categorical opposition to its use, I note that the U.S. and our state governments have implemented capital punishment in a way that put innocent people to death, as well as grossly disproportionate numbers of people of color. These facts alone require us to end its use.

 

Military Spending

I support having by far the strongest military in the world, but that does not mean we need to spend more than the next seven countries combined. Proponents of more military spending argue that the burden of cuts would fall on servicemembers and their families. That is simply and definitively untrue. The bloat in military involves not wages and benefits for our troops but unnecessary weapons systems, nuclear expansionism, and waste, fraud and abuse. We need to end the wars and the waste that have cost Americans trillions without making us safer. In the 116th Congress, I voted against H.R. 6395, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021, which greenlit nearly $740.5 billion in military spending; nearly ten times the investment the HEROES Act included for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Investing in our communities, and in institutions that elevate peace and human rights, is how we are going to best protect Americans and serve their needs.

More on Peace and Human Rights

July 15, 2021 Press Release

WARREN, MI – Today Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09) released the following update on the case of Danny Fenster of Huntington Woods, MI, a journalist unjustly imprisoned by the Myanmar military since May 24:

“It has been 53 days since Danny Fenster of Huntington Woods, MI was arrested in Myanmar. I’m reaching out to provide a few important updates on his case:

July 14, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Today, the Co-Chairs of the House Haiti Caucus released the following statement:

“As the co-chairs of the House Haiti Caucus, our central mission is to lift up the voices of the Haitian people and craft U.S. policy that puts their will and wellbeing first. We believe these priorities have grown even more important in the wake of Jovenel Moïse’s assassination one week ago. 

July 9, 2021 In The News

President Biden said Wednesday that he was “shocked and saddened” by the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti and the shooting of the leader’s wife, Martine Moïse. The sentiment from the American leader, whose administration has vowed to put a renewed focus on Haiti, came even as it faces difficult questions about U.S. policy goals and actions.

“We condemn this heinous act,” Mr. Biden said in a statement. “I am sending my sincere wishes for First Lady Moïse’s recovery.”

July 9, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09) released the following update on the case of Danny Fenster of Huntington Woods, MI, a journalist unjustly imprisoned by the Burmese military since May 24.

July 7, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Co-Chairs of the House Haiti Caucus released the following statement regarding the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.

July 7, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Andy Levin (MI-09), Co-Chair of the House Haiti Caucus and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, released the following statement after the assassination of Haitian president Jovenel Moïse.

“I offer my sincere condolences to Jovenel Moïse’s family and pray for the swift recovery of Martine Moïse following this heinous act.

July 1, 2021 In The News

Journalist Danny Fenster, managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was trying to fly back to metro Detroit to see his family.  

Since then, there has been an outpouring of support and calls for his release from journalists, politicians, and the general public. 

June 30, 2021 Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI) and Congressman John Moolenaar (R-MI) along with the entire Michigan delegation reintroduced the Deferred Removal for Iraqi Nationals, Including Minorities Act to provide two years of relief from detainment and deportation for Iraqi nationals who have orders for removal.
June 30, 2021 In The News

Washington — Two Michigan lawmakers are reintroducing a bill Wednesday in Congress that would grant Iraqi nationals with orders of removal 24 months of relief from deportation while they pursue immigration relief. 

U.S. Reps. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, and John Moolenaar, R-Midland, first introduced the legislation last term, in 2019, but it never moved out of committee. 

June 30, 2021 Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The co-chairs of the House Haiti Caucus made the following statement after the release of an Organization of American States (OAS) report: