UN migration agency snubs Trump’s nominee to lead it

In this image taken from video, Ken Isaacs, the US candidate for the International Organization for Migration leadership, talks to the media in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday June 29, 2018. The United Nation's migration agency snubbed the Trump administration's candidate to lead it on Friday, a major blow to US leadership of a body addressing one of the world's most pressing issues - and only the second time that it won't be run by an American since 1951. (AP Photo)

GENEVA (AP) — The U.N.’s migration agency snubbed the Trump administration’s candidate to lead it on Friday, a major blow to U.S. leadership of a body addressing one of the world’s most pressing issues — and only the second time that it won’t be run by an American since 1951.

Portuguese Socialist and former European Union commissioner Antonio Vitorino won a race to be the next director-general of the International Organization for Migration, edging out both a top IOM official and U.S. candidate Ken Isaacs, the body said in a statement.

Vitorino, 61, will become the group’s second director-general not from the U.S. since the intergovernmental organization was founded. He is a former EU commissioner for Home and Justice Affairs who has been President of the “Notre Europe” think tank for the last seven years, and is considered very close to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, also a Portuguese Socialist early in his political career.

Isaacs was eliminated in early rounds of voting, and Vitorino won by acclamation over runner-up Laura Thompson of Costa Rica, currently an IOM deputy director-general who was vying to become the agency’s first woman chief.

The move marks a searing rejection of the U.S. candidate just as the Trump administration has been retreating from or rebuffing international institutions — including two others based in Geneva: Earlier this month, the United States pulled out of the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, and Trump has recently criticized the World Trade Organization as “unfair” to the U.S.

“Yet another sign that US power, authority and prestige has been so dramatically diminished,” tweeted Keith Harper, who was the Obama administration’s ambassador to the rights council. The “IOM Director is seen as an ‘American seat’ and Trump was unable to place an American in it.”

The U.S. State Department congratulated Vitorino, calling the vote “a very competitive election with three highly qualified candidates.”

“IOM is an important partner for the United States around the globe, and we are committed to working with IOM to address root causes of migration and to promote safe and legal migration,” it said in a statement.

Isaacs’ candidacy had been clouded by U.S. policies like travel bans and migrant family separations — and his own comments that critics have called anti-Muslim. But few diplomats streaming out of a Geneva conference center dared to offer an explanation about how an American was stripped of a post that the U.S. has held a lock-hold on for decades.

One, Senegalese diplomat Youssoupha Ndiaye, simply spoke of the early result: “The American is out.”

Vitorino, who was selected by the dues-paying, ballot-casting members among the 172 countries in the IOM, will succeed longtime U.S. diplomat William Lacy Swing, who leaves in September.

An intergovernmental body that became a U.N.-related agency in 2016, IOM has had only one director-general who wasn’t American since its creation 67 years ago.

But Mark Hetfield, a self-described friend of Isaacs who heads the humanitarian group HIAS, which works with IOM, put the blame on policies and invective from the man in the White House — not the candidate for the U.N. migration agency job.

“This IOM election really was not about Ken Isaacs, for whom I have a lot of respect as a humanitarian,” Hetfield said. “The election was an international referendum rejecting President Trump and his xenophobic, Islamophobic and isolationist policies.”

“Let’s face it, Isaacs’ tweets were no worse than the ones coming out of the White House,” he added.

The administration is fresh off major international scorn over the separation of migrant families coming across the Mexico border. The U.S. Supreme Court has also upheld his ban on U.S. travel for citizens of a number of countries, most of them predominantly Muslim.

Trump has also yanked the United States out of the Global Compact for Migration — a fact that several diplomats, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the balloting, cited as a worrying sign about U.S. policies on an issue that has vast implications around the world.

Isaacs himself had been on the defensive over retweets and other social media comments that some critics viewed as anti-Muslim, so much so that he shut down his Twitter account. After that, he carefully stage-managed his media appearances and kept to script — with State Department handlers advising him or in tow.

Isaacs, a vice president at the evangelical Christian humanitarian group Samaritan’s Purse led by Pastor Franklin Graham, met with dozens of government officials during his months-long bid — working diligently to put to rest suspicions and pointing to his track record in the field and as a manager.

Meeting with reporters in March, he said IOM’s work was “in my wheelhouse.”

IOM has over 10,000 staffers in offices in more than 150 countries. Its work includes providing humanitarian aid to migrants, and helping track deaths of migrants across often deadly Mediterranean waters between northern Africa. It also helps to resettle migrants accepted by foreign countries — and at times return them home.

After the voting, Isaacs said he had congratulated Vitorino after the “great race,” and said it was “an honor for me to run as a candidate for the United States and that’s all I have to say.” He did not take questions.

Playing in Isaacs’ favor, along with the legacy of U.S. leadership, was money: The United States is traditionally the single biggest donor to the IOM, followed closely by the European Union.

One diplomat said “the change is surprising,” before alluding to Trump: “Maybe he will get the message.”

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Jamey Keaten

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  • Thank you very much. I’ll take that pop quiz now, please.

    TRUE OR FALSE: “The U.N.’s migration agency … the International Organization for Migration … Its work includes providing humanitarian aid to migrants”.

    FALSE. Oh sure, “to the world, it appears that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is a humanitarian organization … formally welcomed into the United Nations family as a ‘related organization.’ … But this elevation of IOM contains a strong element of ‘blue washing’ – the use of humanitarian language and branding to mask more controversial projects [such as: (1) to serve as] an attractive tool for Western states seeking to outsource their border-control policies, especially to third countries and non-state actors. … [And (2) to take part in a] complicity in the torture and arbitrary detention of refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centers. … [And (3) to breach] the prohibition against arbitrary detention and inhuman treatment under international law. … [And (4) to commit] a violation of the non-refoulement obligation under international refugee law … [by making] returns … not voluntary [but] exposed to harm upon return.”

    Source: Cameron Doig and Asher Hirsch, “Why Indonesia Shows the IOM Isn’t Necessarily Helping Migrants: As the U.N. migration agency faces criticism over its actions in Libya, researchers Cameron Doig and Asher Hirsch find parallels in its work in Indonesia: They warn against ‘blue-washing’ IOM as a purely humanitarian agency”, News Deeply,October 26, 2017.

  • Truth is, though:

    (1) “The US makes up a quarter of the world’s gross income … but hits the maximum cap under UN rules, so it only foots the bill for only 22% of the UN regular budget. … China covers 14% of the world’s total income but pays only 8% of the UN budget. … Russia accounts for 2% of the world’s income but pays for 3% of the UN budget. India accounts for 2% of income around the globe but pays less than 1% of the UN budget.”

    (2) “Over the last two decades … France, Germany, Japan and the UK have seen their proportion of the UN budget slashed over time. Countries like China and Russia have seen their responsibilities increase. But the US hasn’t seen a change in payment [other than] when [in 2001] the maximum contribution cap was cut from 25% to 22%”.

    (3) As far as “contribut[ing] in goods like food, clothing and fuel to other satellite organizations tied to the UN … the US actually makes up less than 9% of these goods and services. India — which contributes very little to the regular budget itself — pays more than 6%. Belgium and the United Arab Emirates pay 5% each, Denmark pays 4%. Turkey, France and the United Kingdom pay 3%.”

    Source: Ryan Struyk, “Trump says the US pays too much to the UN: Well, it’s complicated”, CNN, September 22, 2017.

  • I’d be interested to know what the principles and criteria for action this UN agency for migration has?

    What are the specific “tests” it has established to encourage this country’s policies and laws in contrast to that country’s policies and laws?

    What are the intellectual foundations for its stance?

    Seems more of a typical activist, emotionally-driven organization than one grounded in testable ideas and rationality.

  • Read & weep: Cameron Doig and Asher Hirsch, “Why Indonesia Shows the IOM Isn’t Necessarily Helping Migrants: As the U.N. migration agency faces criticism over its actions in Libya, researchers Cameron Doig and Asher Hirsch find parallels in its work in Indonesia: They warn against ‘blue-washing’ IOM as a purely humanitarian agency”, News Deeply,October 26, 2017.

  • I suspect that we will see more and more of this sort of international reaction.

    Those who support Trump will rejoice in the isolation of the US as much of the rest of the world seeks to protect itself from the consequences of the current administration. An administration which is seen as unstable due to the unpredictability of knee-jerk policy formation, ill-considered (and always reversible) policy modification and the dropping of promises when the minimal attention span gives way to boredom. A country that cannot be relied upon to keep its commitments becomes an international pariah just as the playground misfit is excluded from group activities. The negotiation skills displayed with N Korea (basically – you have what you want and I’ll settle for a nice photo) frighten the US’s allies and encourage its enemies.

    Those who rejoice – and i’m aware that many don’t – are risking finding out the harsh fact that the US – whilst very powerful, is not capable of providing them and their families with financial, health and employment security if it unites the rest of the economically strong countries against it. No country wants a trade war but the art of the bully is inappropriate for business on the global scale.

  • Lazy ignoramus asks, (although he could have looked it up if he gave a damn). Here is the answer:

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Article 14.

    (1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
    (2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

  • Trump already made attacks on the system for handling refugees. People fleeing persecution (pretty much to please his white supremacist voting base).

    The current policy of putting children in gulags and detaining families is directed at people seeking asylum. Those claiming persecution. I wonder why the administration is so averse to due process rights or access to counsel for people making such claims? So much for claims of rule of law.

    Of course we wouldn’t consider such a migratory workforce such a big deal if we created manual labor visas. Allowing such people whose work we as a nation are relying on to be compensated legally. Or if there was greater support for organized labor so such work would have living wages (and reduce the dependence on alien labor).

    But that doesn’t fit into the neo-nazi inspired narrative of treating such people as subhuman. Rousting them with paramilitary forces who lack all accountability and oversight. They prefer to waste money on attacking immigrant communities than look for sensible solutions.

  • I actually think that would be a good idea. Everyone gets an ID card (not SSN). They enter country, provide labor and get paid. Workers pay federal and state taxes. No path for citizenship unless the follow correct procedures. Any children born in the US are citizens of their nation of origin.

  • You seem to stop short, why?

    “asylum” needs to be defined, operationalized, tested. And our country allows for those tests to be performed. Having criteria and performing tests also implies cases of failing the test…but this you’re not willing to accept.

    The left just wants to wave all people in, mindless of the damage they’re doing to the “remain behind” population in these countries, who now don’t have the more agile, initiating, intelligent, skilled, mobile people in their country to build they’re country’s…what’s the word you mindless used elsehere…oh yeah “AUTONOMY”,

    The left only thinks about a sliver of the problem because they’re puppets activated by selective images.

    You’ve never been in Iraq, Syria to look at the remain behind people.

  • You apparently did not notice he asked about this particular agency, not the UN in general.

    The UN is big on long fine-sounding documents and a mite short on implementing them.

  • Trump’s “attacks on the system for handling refugees” consisted of enforcing laws his predecessor disregarded.

    Very few of the folks crossing the border are “people fleeing persecution”. They’re people exiting sh-thole countries which Trump’s predecessor did NOTHING to assist them in getting their own affairs in proper order, and in some cases worsened – e.g., “walking” firearms into Mexico which wound up being used against their police and our border agents.

    There are no “children in gulags” in the United States.

    That is pure propaganda for the mid-terms from the DNC.

    If you “wonder why the administration is so averse to due process rights or access to counsel for people making such claims”, you might want to take a look at the previous administration’s failure even with a sure majority in both houses of Congress to fund enough administrative judges to hear the claims in its eight years of empty promises.

    But that doesn’t fit into the neo-nazi inspired DNC narrative that observing the law is “treating such people as subhuman”.

    Are you on the DNC payroll?

  • Which is funny since the Trump policy doesn’t even allow for those detained to even adequately submit their claims to be evaluated. The whole purpose is to frustrate potential asylum claims and to literally hold children for ransom to avoid parents making them.

    If the government was so serious about asylum claims and rule of law, then why is it doing everything possible to deny access to due process to even let USCIS evaluate them?

    “The left just wants to wave all people in”

    You are making crap up about the views of others because you can’t justify the measures taken now. You are ignorant of the basic facts and laws involved and you would rather argue a strawman position than deal with legitimate criticism over repugnant, malicious and useless actions

    “what’s the word you mindlessly used elsehere…oh yeah “AUTONOMY”,”

    Which you used incorrectly.

    “who now don’t have the more agile, initiating, intelligent, skilled, mobile people in their country to build their country’s”

    Aww poor ignorant bigot is concerned for those countries? Nope. You are also blithely ignoring how our immigration has always worked. We have always taken the best of what the world has given us or turned the worst of them into useful productive people. We have taken people who were literally emptied out of prisons and turned them into vibrant communities.

    “The left only thinks..(followed by BS)”

    How the hell would you know? You don’t even bother to read what others say and feel the need to lie about the positions of others.

    “You’ve never been in Iraq, Syria to look at the remain behind people.”

    You are setting up a stolen valor argument? So you are saying we should never take in refugees fleeing persecution and war. What kind of white supremacist garbage is that? Like most of our ancestors in the country have?

    As usual you are pretending to be concerned for life while really showing contempt for others.

  • What? Semi-reasonable measures being suggested? Have you told fellow right wingers?

    “No path for citizenship unless the follow correct procedures. ”

    There have to be procedures to allow it for people who are not a threat to society. In most cases the people who are illegal aliens have none to rely on.

    Even worse about 2-3 million of them didn’t come here illegally or sneak across the border. People who came here legally, paid taxes, worked for a living or received an education here. But due to the ridiculous nature of many of our employment and education visas had no means to staying (and being productive). Immigration reform would reduce the illegal alien population by at least 50-70%

    But that is not as useful for appealing to white supremacists as filling quotas and private detention centers with menial laborers, agricultural workers and domestics. [BTW don’t ever give me any of that phony MS-13 crap, Trump’s policies are enabling transnational gangs]

    BTW Our system allows people with enough wealth to buy a green card (Between $250K-$500K). So its not like there is any kind of moral underpinning to it.

    “Any children born in the US are citizens of their nation of origin.”

    Already in existence. See 14th Amendment citizenship clause. Anti-“Anchor baby” legislation is pretty nasty boneheaded stuff in general. To undermine the one thing about our system which has been effective at integration of generations of immigrants to our nation.

  • How can you say that “[v]ery few of the folks crossing the border are ‘people fleeing persecution”? Have you spoken with any of these people? Do you know folks who have spoken with them? How familiar are you with the situation in Central America? Are you aware of the fact that gangs often rule entire villages? Are you aware of the fact that if boys refuse to join gangs, their families are often threatened? Are you aware of the fact that women who are abused are usually unable to get help form the authorities? Are you aware that people who have been victimized by gangs are often afraid to turn to the police, because many police officers receive money from the gangs?
    It has been my experience and that of my colleagues that most of the people who are fleeing do have claims. The claims may not ultimately be successful, but they are, indeed, legitimate.

  • I don’t think that this was so much a repudiation of the US as it was of Trump. Of course, he won’t get the message and will spin this a dozen different ways — whatever way strikes his fancy at any given moment.

  • I can say that very few of the folks crossing the border are people fleeing persecution because very few are adjudged people fleeing persecution.

    Are you aware that gangs often rule entire neighborhoods in Chicago and Baltimore?

    Are you aware that if boys refuse to join gangs in suburban Montgomery County Maryland they are often killed?

    Are you aware that many American women who are abused are unable to get help from authorities?

    The law which was passed in 1985 was not designed to deal with the fact that some places suck, that life can be difficult, dangerous, and at times fatal.

    It was designed to deal with actual persecution.

    Unless you have an organization that you can name and actual citations you can make “It has been my experience and that of my colleagues that most of the people who are fleeing do have claims” cuts zero ice.

    There is not a lawsuit in the USA that is filed that doesn’t have a claim behind it.

  • There do not have to be procedures for people who are here illegally to disappear into the population. There is no reason to release them unless and until they are legal.

  • Well Lying Bob has to rationalize the repugnant policy in place to willfully frustrate asylum claims, keep children forcibly separated from their parents and lock families up indefinitely. So he and many other malicious ignoramuses make up crap about these people. Calling them drug mules, human smugglers and gang memembers. Anything to deny the humanity of those detained.

  • Any children born in the US are citizens of their nation of origin.

    “The policy stems from the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 1868 text states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.””

  • Understood. This the problem caused. As I stated earlier, the people claiming asylum are not facing persecution in their home countries. They have been schooled what to say to qualify for the asylum process.
    Let’s just call it what it is. A migratory workforce that has no intention to assimilate. So let’s deal with it that way. You come in the country, do the work, have children, when the work is done; You head home. Any children born to a migratory worker are not US citizens.

  • One may certainly say what one wants. However, the rates of denials among immigration courts and immigration judges vary so widely by immigration court and by immigration judge, that an objective observer who chooses to educate her/himself on he subject would not base determinations of the validity of people’s cases on immigration judge decisions. Texas and Arizona have particularly low approval rates. The very same cases that get denied there would possibly be approved elsewhere. Also, when people are represented by attorneys, the likelihood of approval increases, because attorneys know what evidence needs to be presented.

    The Patriot Act requires written evidence, which is often very difficult to get; it’s an obstacle that many applicants are unable to overcome, although they most certainly experience persecution.

    Which law was passed in 1985?

    I have no time to do research for you. If you choose to be uninformed, that is certainly your right.

  • 1980 … my typo.

    At this point roughly 20% are successful.

    Do the math.

    I have no time to do research for you. If you choose to be uninformed, that is certainly your right.

    However, running around with your hands in the air pointing to problems that also exist in the United States and spouting “It has been my experience (in an unknown position in an unknown organization doing what the deity only know) and that of my (unnamed) colleagues (in the unnamed enterprise)” in support of something illegal does not win anyone over who did not already agree with you.

    The previous administration dawdled for eight years doing nothing but disregarding the law.

    Now it is this Administration’s turn.

  • Well, ignorant Spuddie, since you don’t even know what the law is under which one can ask asylum, or what the criterion are, and have been advocating disregard of the law for some years, it’s hard to call someone else “Lying” anything without lying.

    I can hardly wait until the mid-terms.

  • Whatever Bob’s real name may be, he is certainly choosing to see things from a particular point of view, ignoring facts that might indicate that he’s wrong.