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CCA students start petition in support of human rights campaign

CCA students met with Rep. Scott Peters about human rights legislation that they've been supporting.
(Courtesy of the Fair Trade Canyon Crest Academy Campaign)

A group of Canyon Crest Academy students launched a petition in support of legislation that would address human rights abuses.

Last year, the students started the Fair Trade Canyon Crest Academy Campaign to advocate for changes in the Alien Tort Statute, which grants federal courts power over certain lawsuits filed by citizens of other countries over alleged violations of international law.

The amendment that they’re advocating for is called the Alien Tort Statute Clarification Act, which would give workers in other countries the standing to sue U.S. companies over human rights violations.

The act was introduced two months ago by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin, D-Illinois and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, but has not yet undergone any committee hearings. The students have also been in contact with U.S. Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, and representatives of U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla from California.

“Since our ideas line up perfectly with theirs, we’re planning on taking that amendment and further pushing that to the House,” said CCA rising senior Jumari Querimit, one of the students involved in the campaign. “We’re doing that with connections that Rep. Peters aided us with.”

Their petition has about 70 signatures so far toward an initial goal of 100.

“I think it’s been really encouraging meeting all these congressmen and government officials,” another one of the students, rising senior Joyce Lin, added. “It’s been really nice to have their support and it’s opened our eyes to some questions we haven’t considered, so I think they’ve done a really nice job pointing us in the right direction.”

The student campaign started after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 8-1 last year to throw out a lawsuit alleging that American companies Nestle and Cargill aid and abet child slavery by purchasing cocoa from the Ivory Coast. Six people from Mali who filed the suit said they were trafficked into Ivory Coast as child slaves for cocoa production.

The court ruled that there needed to be “more domestic conduct than general corporate activity common to most corporations” for the case to prevail under the Alien Tort Statute.

“Nearly all the conduct they allege aided and abetted forced labor — providing training, equipment, and cash to overseas farmers — occurred in Ivory Coast,” read the court’s opinion. “Pleading general corporate activity, like ‘mere corporate presence,’ ... does not draw a sufficient connection between the cause of action respondents seek and domestic conduct.”

CCA rising senior Ilana Krelstein said “it was really meaningful as high school students to be able to reach out to our elected officials and contact them directly.”

“It really meant a lot that we were able to push an amendment onto the floor of Congress and how they’re helping us as well,” she added. “It’s really inspiring and I think it puts more faith in the justice system for us.”

Other members of the team are rising seniors Sarah Strasberg, Kloë Godard and Iris Carnahan, rising juniors Kait Podlich and Karthik Jandhyala, and rising sophomore Tess Denning.

“I think that this campaign also helps us apply what we learn in school to the real world,” Sarah said.

For more information about the petition, visit change.org.


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