JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Democrat politician Joe Biden’s win in the recent United States presidential election may be a huge welcome to human rights activists, as he is predicted to pay greater attention to human rights like others in his party.
“We know that the difference between Republican and Democrat leaders is that a POTUS from the GOP [Great Old Party] will focus more on investments and businesses, while a Democrat president will pay more attention to issues such as environmental protection, human rights, and democratisation,” Yusran, an international relations expert at Budi Luhur University, told TOC.
The return of the DACA
However, the US is facing challenges in handling social justice issues at home such as police brutality on Black people—most notably highlighted by the case of George Floyd, who passed away after then-police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck during arrest—that triggered protests across the country and around the world.
New York-based lawyer Marina Shepelsky told TOC that the fate of immigrants—especially undocumented ones—must be a top priority for Biden.
“Immigration issues is one of the main problems as there are around eleven or maybe twenty million undocumented immigrants in the US. That’s a lot.
“Under the Trump administration, there are some bad things that happened, and we need a lot of improvement,” she said.
Undocumented immigrants, said Shepelsky, are afraid of being abused and of reporting crimes to the police, often moving around to avoid deportation.
Shepelsky—who is also an advocate for immigrants’ rights—added that Biden’s promise as soon as he becomes the POTUS is to restore DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a program for undocumented immigrants under which they could bring their children to the US, have their deportation postponed for two years and obtain a working permit in the country.
Trump defended his tough immigration policy despite mounting protests from lawyers who could not locate the parents of 545 children separated at the US-Mexico border at the end of October.
Anti-racist protests due to the death of George Floyd
The murder of Floyd—a Black American man who was suspected of possessing counterfeit money in Minneapolis in May—sparked a wave protests both in the US and elsewhere.
When asked about why Floyd’s brutal death caused such a massive outrage despite his case not being the first among other cases of police brutality against Black people in the US, Shepelsky said that Black people and anti-racists of other races have long been angry with how Black people have been systemically discriminated and disenfranchised in the country.
“I have a Black friend who told me that she teaches her son not to wear a T-shirt with a hood and to always have their hands on the wheel while in their cars … This is what we White people don’t focus on or think about. Police often assume that Black people must have stolen something and done something wrong,” the award-winning lawyer explained.
Biden’s human rights policy: How do Southeast Asia and the world see it?
Politics and security analyst Yohanes Sulaiman opined that the US under Biden will need Southeast Asian nations to counter China’s influence, predicting that the US may not be consistent in raising concern over human rights.
The US has been criticised for applying double standards on human rights.
For example, the country lambasts China’s reported treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, but remains silent over Israel’s brutality against Palestine — the US, being one of Israel’s staunchest allies, is “the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II”, according to the Congressional Research Service in its report this month.
The US has also been criticised for its relative silence in terms of the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine province.
The US and other West European countries are still supplying arms to Saudi Arabia, which are purportedly often used to target civilians in impoverished Yemen.
The political upheaval led to war in Yemen, which has been going on for five years.
Yusran said that the world anticipates the US’ commitment to human rights under Biden.
The West Papua issue is one of the most sensitive issues to Indonesians, given that Pacific nations often raise such a problem at international forums.
Separatist groups in Papua are still fighting for the province’s independence.
However, senior policy analyst Marc Joffe raised concerns about Biden’s likely interventionist policy due to the support the politician gained from senior military officers — this may mean that Biden will maintain US troops elsewhere.
“What the policy will look like, well, we’ll see. But Biden will try to get the US more involved in world conflicts, so maybe he will make troops stay in the Middle East,” Shepelsky wrapped up the interview, predicting that Biden will reverse some of Trump’s policies regarding immigration and international cooperation.