Barnstable County Human Rights Advisory Commission Seeks New Members





Deb’orah Battles, M.Ed., Coordinator

Tel: 508-375 6611

Representing all 15 Cape Cod Towns



Contact: Deb Battles, Human Rights Coordinator

Barnstable County Human Rights Advisory Commission at 508-375 6611





September 12, 2019 – The Barnstable County Human Rights Advisory Commission (BCHRAC) seeks candidates to fill vacancies beginning January 1, 2020. The (9) member volunteer BC-HRAC was recently re-structured under BC Ordinance 19-10 by the County’s Assembly of Delegates to promote equality and human rights throughout Barnstable County.


Responsibilities include attending HRAC meetings and assisting the Human Rights Coordinator in educating the public about Human Rights and the HRAC through community & educational projects.


Interested candidates need to be permanent residents of Barnstable County. Persons with varied language skills and diverse backgrounds strongly encouraged to apply!   Please submit a letter of interest and resume/bio, by Email to , or Mail to: BC Human Rights Advisory Commission, HRAC Candidates, P.O. Box 427, Barnstable, MA 02630, or deliver in person to 3195 Main St.  Applications MUST be received no later than Thurs. October 10th, 2019 at 4:00 PM!!!


Interviews to be held the week of October 21st, 2019 for those selected.


For more information about the newly structured BC Human Rights Advisory Commission, please go to or contact our new Human Rights Coordinator, Deb Battles at (508) 375-6611 or



For Immediate Release” Malcolm McDowell Awards – 2018

The McDowell Award


Contact: (508) 375 6912 ~

Malcolm McDowell Awards – 2018

Two high school graduates received the Malcolm McDowell Awards this past week due to their excellence in humanitarian service and fierce support for human rights. The award was given in honor of the late Rev. Malcolm McDowell who was a stark proponent of human rights activism and whose legacy lives on by aiding students in their future endeavors after high school.

The first student who received this award was Amanda Pfautz, a Barnstable High School graduate. Amanda was an active member of the Barnstable Human Rights Club and pursued a variety of projects during her four-year high school term. Amongst these projects were her annual participation in the Housing Assistance Corporation’s “Big Fix”, fundraising for “Homeless not Hopeless Inc.”, and a food drive for the 9/11 Day of Service. Amanda plans to study at Emmanuel College, pursuing a degree in biology with a focus in health sciences. She then plans to go on to attend medical school with the hopes of entering a career in pediatric medicine.

The second student who received the award was Isabella Pellegrini, who graduated from Nauset Regional High School. Like Amanda, Isabella was deeply invested in the issues surrounding human rights and promptly joined the Nauset Human Rights Academy during her first year of high school. Over her four year tenure, Isabella became the Communications and PR director of the club, tasked with the duty of connecting with local organizations. Isabella took on this role by reaching out to the nonprofit organization, “Cape Cod People Against Trafficking Humans” (PATH), which works to eradicate human trafficking on Cape Cod integrated her knowledge into the club’s advocacy and fundraising. This fall, Isabella will be attending American University to continue her studies in the realm of international relations and human rights.

The award was presented by Kate Epperly, Vice Chair to the Human Rights Advisory Board and Malcolm’s wife, Kathleen McDowell. The HRC organizes the Human Rights Academy every year, allowing students to begin to explore topics world wide which pertain to improving living standards and protecting individual rights. The Commission looks forward to the future developments of both graduates and wishes them the best of luck at their respective institutions.


Local Human Rights Academy Takes On Injustice

February 14th, 2018

The Point interviewed a variety of students Cape-wide to discuss current events most pertinent to the issue of human rights. The radio show spoke with students about their involvement in the Human Rights Academy and the many projects they have pursued in bringing light to human right injustices. Click below to listen to the interviews!

For Immediate Release: Granting Political Asylum in the U.S.: How does it work and can Trump change it?

For Immediate Release:


Written by:

Richard Vengroff, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
University of Connecticut

Accredited Immigration Advisor

Immigration Resource Center,
CACCI, Hyannis, MA
Recently published in The Washington Post’s Monkey Cage

Granting Political Asylum in the U.S.: How does it work and can Trump change it?

In the last few days ICE arrested about 200 Iraqi refugees in Michigan and ordered them deported.  These mostly Christian Iraqis are seeking asylum in the U.S.  They argue that they will face religious persecution and possibly death if returned to Iraq. They have been denied a hearing in immigration court. A federal judge has intervened.   The judge’s decision should be hitting the fan early this week.

The case appears to be the result of new Trump administration rules intended to make it harder to secure political asylum in the U.S. The new guidelines order Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to more aggressively push for deportation. At the same time new Jeff Sessions selected judges are being added to the backlogged federal immigration courts that handle asylum claims. It’s too early to tell how the new rules will affect asylum seekers but the results are unlikely to be favorable to asylum seekers.

So how exactly does someone go about seeking asylum in the U.S. – and what are the chances of actually receiving it? On paper, the process is clear. In practice, it varies dramatically from one part of the country to another – and even from one judge to another.

What is the process for securing asylum?

To be granted political asylum in the U.S., applicants must prove that they have a credible fear of death or torture if returned to their home country. They must also meet at least one of the five conditions specified under the 1951 Refugee Convention, which the U.S. signed in 1967: persecution in one’s own country because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a social group. Economic conditions, crime and violence by non-state actors – like criminal gangs — do not qualify a person for asylum.

To receive asylum in the U.S., the applicant must apply within one year of arrival, which is called an “affirmative application,” or after being ordered deported, called a “defensive application.” In either type of case, applicants must produce the evidence to prove persecution. Applicants have a right to have a lawyer, but the U.S. government doesn’t have to provide that lawyer if an applicant can’t afford one or find one pro bono.

In affirmative cases, a Department of Homeland Security asylum officer interviews the applicant. Less than a third of such cases are granted asylum at this level. The Trump administration wants DHS to approve still fewer. If asylum is denied, the officer issues a removal order for the applicant and refers the case to a federal immigration court. Defensive applications skip the asylum officer and are immediately referred to immigration courts.

Immigration courts aren’t like the more familiar federal courts, which are part of their own branch of government and whose judges, once confirmed by the U.S. Senate, serve for life. Rather, immigration courts are operated by the Department of Justice; the attorney general alone appoints the judges, and DHS officers serve as prosecutors. There are 54 immigration courts, which have from two to 33 judges. At the end of 2016, over 270 judges served on these courts. And they are governed mostly by administrative rules handed down by the executive branch and less so by federal case law.

New Trump rules strongly encourage ICE officers to reject and refer applicants for immediate deportation if they don’t fit the criteria or don’t have a “well-founded” fear of returning to their home country, or both. They will often reject out of hand asylum claims from countries deemed friendly to the U.S., whether or not that country respects human rights.

Not all judges rule alike.

Using data from the Syracuse TRAC immigration judge reports, I examined the performance of immigration courts and judges for the five years between 2011 and 2016. Including only judges who handled at least 100 asylum cases during this period gave me a sample of 267 judges across 54 courts. On average, judges handled about 400 cases each, ranging from a low of 108 cases over the five-year period to a high of 2240 cases.

Here’s what I found. First, despite the law’s clear criteria, asylum denial rates vary widely by judge. Of the 115,500 cases studied, judges denied asylum in just under half the cases. But that’s only the average. One judge denied asylum in nearly every case; another, almost never.

Second, as the figure below shows, asylum denial rates vary by region. Among New York’s 31 judges, the median denial rate was only 14 percent. However, the seven Houston judges denied 86 percent of asylum requests. One immigration attorney told me that the best advice she can give an asylum applicant living in Houston is to move to an area of the country like Arlington, VA, where chances of being granted asylum are much higher.

For Immediate Release: 12 Teachers Recognized at State House

For Immediate Release

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Contact: Jacqueline Reis,


12 Teachers Recognized at State House

On June 15, Secretary James Peyser, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, Education Committee Co-Chairs Sonia Chang-Díaz and Alice H. Peisch, Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske, and many state legislators recognized 14 notable teachers at the State House. The honorees were:

  • 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Cara M. Pekarcik, a science teacher at North Quincy High School;
  • 2018 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year Kevin Dua of Somerville High School (For an example of his work, go to the Commonwealth Museum’s website to see a video his class made called “Reclaiming Black Faces”).
  • Massachusetts Teacher of the Year finalists Martha M. Boisselle, who teaches English language learners at Brighton High School in Boston; Kathy Boisvert, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Millville Elementary School, part of the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District; Sarah Foster, a special education teacher at Laura Lee Therapeutic Day School in Lowell; Todd Paul Kefor, an English teacher at Norton High School; and Brian A. Sheehan, a music teacher at Salemwood School in Malden;
  • Massachusetts Teacher of the Year semifinalists Lisa Brown, a special education teacher at Nauset Regional High School in Eastham; Jasmin DiRusso, a second grade teacher at the Martin E. Young School in Randolph; and Calla Freeman, a kindergarten teacher at the William M. Trotter Innovation School in Boston; and
  • Finalists for the 2016 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching: Jennifer Lee Donais, a sixth grade teacher at the Dr. Paul Nettle Middle School in Haverhill; Karen Walsh Fortin, a kindergarten teacher at Florence Sawyer Elementary School in Bolton, part of the Nashoba Regional School District; Lorie Hammerstrom, a fourth grade teacher at Merrymount Elementary School in Quincy; and Laura Richardson, a first grade teacher at the Edith C. Baker Elementary School in Brookline.

Speakers included 2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and 2017 National Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee and North Quincy High School Student Vivian Tran, one of Ms. Pekarcik’s students. Congratulations to all!(