This a the second of a series of comments how the Trump administration's Orwellian attempt to evade scrutiny on human rights violations in a number of policy areas by narrowing the definition of human rights, using the ancient concept of "natural law" as a pretext, may affect the rights of immigrants.

The shocking news of yet another death of an asylum applicant in ICE custody, this time a transgender woman from El Salvador, from alleged medical neglect at a notorious private "processing center", i.e. prison which has been the subject of many complaints of mistreatment over the years shows that the issue of how to define human rights is not by any means merely an intellectual or academic exercise (something that Trump is not known for having any great interest in himself), but that this issue has real life - and death - consequences.

Details of the case of the detained woman, Johana Leon, also known as Joa, who had passed her a credible fear determination interview based, one can assume, on fear or persecution of transgender people in her home country, are given in the June 3 report by The Guardian:

Trans woman seeking asylum dies after pleading for medical help in US custody

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/03/trans-migrant-dies-ice-us-immigration-johana-leon

The Guardian's report shows that the alleged medical neglect at the private prison, known as the Otero County processing center, was evidently no isolated instance of mistreatment of immigrants in US custody. The report quotes Isa Noyola, deputy director of the immigrant rights group Mijente and who has visited the Otero prison, as follows:

"ICE is wreaking havoc inside our detention centers...They are in the business of making people unhealthy and violating human rights"

It is easy to see why Trump would like to narrow the definition of human rights as much as possible in order to justify discrimination and abuse of both immigrants and LGBT people, two groups toward which he and hi administration have acted against with particular venom and animosity.

Returning to the ancient concept of "natural law" which originated in ancient Greece, if not earlier, might seem like an effective way to limit human rights today.There were no transgender people in the ancient world, and attitudes toward immigrants and well be described by the single ancient Greek word "barbarian".

But there were exceptions, particularly in the works of two of the greatest poets of classical western civilization, Vergil and Hesiod, as I will discuss in my next comment on this issue. Both these writers show a broad, humanistic attitude toward immigrants which could not possibly be more different from the Trump/Miller administration's agenda of persecution and discrimination today.

One should not hold one's breath waiting for Trump's proposed "Commission" on redefining (and distorting) human rights - in accordance with a totalitarian immigration agenda - to take up the views of these two great humanistic ancient writers.


Roger Algase
Attorney at Law