United States: Background










The growing control of government by wealthy elites in this country is cause for serious concern. As corporations and well funded special interests groups pour ever-larger amounts of money into political races, government decision-making is becoming more and more the private arena of a tiny minority. At the same time, concerns about electronic balloting and disenfranchisement of people of color are weakening our democracy, distracting from the debate over ideas that should be at the center of a healthy political system. When democracy is weak, the chances to remedy other injustices shrink with it.
With more than 2 million people in jail, the US has a higher percentage of its residents incarcerated than any other nation. Most people behind bars are poor and working-class individuals. A disproportionate number of those in jail are people of color. This terrible imbalance surely represents a human rights crisis, as it demonstrates that equality under the law is more a concept than a reality. The use of capital punishment--again, disproportionately used against people of color--despite growing evidence that innocent people may have been executed, is equally disturbing. These trends demonstrate how politics and prejudice drive the criminal justice system in the US.
The crimes committed against people who aren't even citizens--immigrants just trying to come to this country--represent another kind of rights abuse in the US. Every year, hundreds of people die trying to cross the US-Mexico border. Torture and physical abuse of immigrants are not unusual. The US government, which has dramatically militarized the border in recent years, is largely responsible for these violations.
Finally, assaults against workers' rights to organize remain common. From farmhands in California to home care workers in Florida, workers who try to form trade unions are spied on, harassed, threatened, suspended, fired or deported. This sort of repression is intolerable since it violates the basic constitutional guarantee to freedom of assembly. Respect for basic liberties must not stop at the workplace door.
In the face of these crimes and abuses, people of conscience in the US must rededicate themselves to guaranteeing peace and justice here in our own country.