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We stand in solidarity and friendship

A gathering of people who work and pray with laughter, to reach for the stars that seem too distant to be touched, or too dim to be worth the effort. We try to be friends with people in need, and to celebrate life with people who believe that the struggle to be like Jesus in building a world more justly loving is worth the gift of our lives.

What We Do

Quest for Peace

Quest for Peace

See our work with local organizations in Nicaragua, the Institute of John XXIII and FEDICAMP.
Haiti Reborn

Haiti Reborn

See our work for reforestation and sustainable agriculture in northern Haiti.
Catholics Speak Out

Catholics Speak Out

The Quixote Center has been at the forefront of building a more inclusive church
Criminal Justice Reform

Criminal Justice Reform

We are working to create a new kind of justice system

Latest Blog Post

The Gospel According to Sanders

Yesterday, the soul-dead meat sack that used to be Sarah Sanders stood at the White House podium and defended the Trump administration’s family separation policy, saying, “It is very biblical to enforce the law, that is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.”

Given that she was being asked to comment on Jeff Sessions’s words (of which Sanders said she was “not aware of the Attorney General’s comments or what he would be referencing”) the day before, let’s just give a quick look at that theological tire fire here:

Persons who violate the law of our nation are subject to prosecution. I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.

Let’s briefly begin with Sessions’s comments:

  1. What the #%@?!
  2. That usage of “cite,” though accurate, is weird – and antiquated enough to sound wrong. Just say  “I would cite” without the “you to.” Constructive criticism.
  3. The administration’s concern about context does not seem to extend to the biblical text. Any theologian worth his or her salt would point out that, according to the New Testament, Christ is the “Lord of all creation” (Barth, Church Dogmatics II/1, IV/4) and as such while Christians are subject to the law of the land, the law of the land is itself subject to the law of Christ, which is love, and therefore when the law of the land violates the principles of Christ, Paul’s exhortation to obey the law cannot apply. 
  4. Paul goes on to talk about paying taxes. Where are those tax returns again?  Tsk, tsk.
  5. Separating families is not the law. If biblical scholar Jeff Sessions is doing this because Constitutional scholar Donald Trump says it’s the law, and if Trump says it’s the law because the democrats made it so (false, by the way) then both Sessions and Trump are behaving in an uncharacteristically submissive way to the minority democrats. (Could this be insincere posturing?) Note: Trump undid DACA, instated by a democratic president, but he and his Jeff are utterly helpless in the face of this made-up law that recent Trump crony Jesus Christ is supposedly now commanding them to enforce? Mmm, I’m skeptical.

Moving on to Sanders:

  1. It is “very biblical to enforce the law” – this statement is very vague. Which law is she referring to? Does she mean the law of the Deuteronomist? If so, it is incumbent upon me to point out that Jesus said that thing about rescuing sheep from wells that one time – in violation of Sabbath laws, noting that laws must be violated when someone is in need, including…“animals.”
  2. I realize you’re busy, but isn’t “being aware” of Sessions’s comments sort of part of your job?
  3. Insulting the intelligence of the reporters in the room in order to deflect attention from your own moral embarrassment –  well, that sounds pretty… feckless … don’t you think?

Ugh. This week has been a sh…feces tornado for immigration policy – so much so that we’ve been unable to keep up with it on our blog. However, we will provide further updates and analysis next week … so watch this space.

What the media is getting wrong about violence in Nicaragua

The situation in Nicaragua seems to worsen with every day, and the framing of the conflict in international media has worsened with it. Despite overwhelming evidence of violence and intimidation being employed by opposition groups, articles in the Miami Herald, The Atlantic, the BBC and elsewhere continue to talk about protesters as if all were non-violent students under the gun by a thuggish government. The only violence discussed is then blamed on the government – mostly through alleged support for para-police forces. The goal here is not to deny that the government has at times engaged in violent tactics. But this is far from the whole story.

Certainly the worst day since the original demonstrations in April was May 30, when someone opened fire on the Mother’s Day March in Managua. In that attack and other conflicts Masaya, Esteli, and Chinandega 16 people were killed. In an article that appeared on The Atlantic‘s website, the author claimed the police opened fire indiscriminately on the march and that “government snipers went headhunting.”

But there is no evidence that the police fired “indiscriminately” at protesters – no one I’ve read other than this author has claimed this. Some people at the scene blamed “turbas Sandinistas,” or Sandinista mobs, for the conflict that erupted when people leaving a Sandinista rally ran into the Mother’s Day March. However, no one knows who was doing the shooting. One theory is that pro-government/para-police forces fired on the crowd, a competing narrative is that it was armed groups affiliated with the political opposition. No one – including the Amnesty International statement that was presented as “evidence” of this claim – is able to say “government snipers” went “headhunting.”

Sixteen people were killed that day – but throughout the country. In Managua the death toll was 8. Other people who died included Sandinistas who were killed in Esteli when a caravan trying to get to Managua for a peace rally was attacked. Of course, the political affiliation of many of the people who died that day is actually unknown. They were, however, all men – which strongly suggests that no-one was firing “indiscriminately” but, to the contrary, quite purposefully.  The point is that even on this day, the violence was coming from multiple directions. 

Two-Weeks of Violence

During the two-week period since the collapse of the National Dialogue on May 23, nearly 60 people have died in Nicaragua – bringing the death toll since the original demonstrations were launched on April 16 to 139.  I reviewed local press reports of 41 of the deaths during this two week period and there are a few discernable patterns. Firstly, in only one case was a police officer directly implicated. A witness reported that a police officer shot someone twice, killing him during conflicts in Masaya on the night of June 2 that left 5 people dead. The rest of the deaths in Masaya that night were attributed to fighting between pro and anti-government gangs. This is the case for most of the deaths reported in the last two weeks.  

Secondly, this speaks to a larger pattern in which many deaths have occurred in conflicts in and around the “tranques,” or blockades that have been set up throughout the country by opposition groups. Who is responsible for these deaths is not clear. There is a pattern of armed gangs riding around on motorcycles and in pickup trucks, firing into groups at tranques. This is a tactic that has been blamed on government supporters by some local human rights groups – though the latest victim, Marcos González Briceño, was a police officer, killed on June 10. It is also becoming increasingly evident that organized criminal gangs are involved in staffing the tranques in some areas. 

Thirdly, while many of the people killed are of traditional age for students, many are not, suggesting that many are not students at all. Of the 19 reports of deaths during this two week period where ages were given, 11 people were 25 or older, and 8 of those were over 30 years old. In addition, the people who are dying are not all simply anti-government protesters.  Indeed, a gang attacked the police station in Mulukuku Monday morning (June 10), killing two more police officers. Police have died (three officers killed in one day). Sandinista activists have been killed. And people associated with local government have been killed and beaten. Some people have been killed just for being near a tranque when guns were fired.

It seems obvious that the violence is coming from multiple directions – and not simply state-supported. It is hard to find such discussion in international media accounts.

Beyond Killing

When the Mother’s Day March on May 30 broke up, some of the “non-violent” protesters in Managua tried to burn down Radio Ya, a Sandinista affiliated radio station, while people were still inside (arsonists finished the job the next night, burning what was left of the station to the ground). They also burned the offices of the ALBA Caruna near the University of Central America. These points are missing from IACHR report on that day’s events, though they do mention an attack with rocks on opposition media outlet, 100% Noticias.

Arson has become a tool of opposition groups throughout the country. Just a few examples from the past two weeks include: gangs burned the municipal offices in Granada, burned a high school and family courthouse in Masaya, burned down the Radio Nicaragua station, threw molotov cocktails in the national revenue building in Masaya, burned down a tax office in Esteli, and have set fire to numerous private homes of people affiliated with the Sandinista government. These attacks never register in international media accounts.

Of course, if there is a strategy that will come to define this historical moment, it is the “tranques,” or roadblocks. Setting up a roadblock as part of a protest is not a violent act. Setting up dozens of blockades in just one city, stifling commerce, causing food shortages, making it difficult, if not impossible, for people to receive medical assistance, stopping people at the point of a gun (or home-made mortar) to ask for papers, and then beating and or humiliating people suspected of being pro-Sandinista, on the other hand, has passed the bounds of nonviolence.

The tranques are no longer just roadblocks to disrupt inter-city travel, but have been set up within towns in increasing numbers – over a hundred in Masaya alone – with growing numbers in Managua, Esteli, Leon, and Chinandega. El Nuevo Diario reported Sunday that 4,000 trucks are now halted at the borders with Honduras and Costa Rica because they cannot travel through the country – tranques are not just impacting the domestic economy, but also intra-regional trade.

On Monday, June 11 the government began taking some tranques down in Managua. Though the police were accused of mobilizing alongside “turbas” in some neighborhoods, and of firing guns, no one in was reported to be seriously injured. Certainly in parts of Managua the process of taking down the tranques and cleaning the streets went smoothly.

Responsibility

To raise such points is to be dismissed as an Ortega apologist or some unreconstructed leftist who missed the memo on the neo-liberalization of the Sandinista Party. Meanwhile people who have consistently served the interests of opposition parties throughout the years are read as objective, and their ideas repeated by international media outlets unchallenged. To be clear, whether Ortega ultimately stays or goes is not my concern. My concern is that the simplistic, and ultimately false, narrative resounding in international outlets is feeding the violence. It gives cover to the opposition to continue to employ these tactics, which in turn is making any effort to restart a process of dialogue nearly impossible; unless, of course, Ortega meets opposition demands and pre-emptively agrees to step down.

At this point, the government has agreed to adopt recommendations by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission and establish the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts to investigate the violence. The Organization of American States received testimony last week after which it issued a resolution calling on “all political actors” to stop the use of violence. On Friday, Bishops in Nicaragua delivered a letter to Ortega giving their conditions for re-starting the National Dialogue. As I am writing on Tuesday afternoon, everyone is waiting for his response. There seems to be a small window of opportunity here before the situation blows up completely.

In the end, where the government has committed human rights abuses, the people responsible should be held to account. Non-state actors responsible for the majority of the killing, must also be held to account. However, by presenting such a one-sided narrative, the international media is undermining any chance that either of these things will happen. That should concern everybody interested in the truth and in reconciliation, whatever one thinks of Ortega.

UPDATE, June 13, 2018

After publishing this I read that 10 more people were killed yesterday in Nicaragua. El Nuevo Diario covered the deaths in relationship to the mobilization of the police and “fuerzas de choques” (shock troops) to attack blockades in Managua and several other cities. However, the details, as much as are available, make clear that more was going on.

Of the four people killed in Managua: one was murdered while driving to work by armed men in a truck (not at a blockade), another was a man accused of being one of the “choques,” and the two other deaths are unclear (may or may not be related to the protests). In Carazo two more so called “choques” were shot in the head. In Jinotega a member of the Sandinista Youth was shot and killed. A young man was killed during fighting in front of the police station in Diriamba – story does not indicate how he died. In the community of La Bodega on the Atlantic Coast another man was killed in a drive by shooting. An unidentified body was also found in Jinotega. All of this is surely tragic – and yet cannot all be laid at the feet of the government.

 

287(g) and the Community

In an effort to become more effective advocates on questions related to immigration, several team members at the Quixote Center have joined Sanctuary DMV as trained acompañantes. Accompaniment involves showing up to support our immigrant neighbors when they must engage with government authorities – or even private contractors – to comply with their immigration proceedings. For those neighbors, anything can happen when they reach the ICE office for their check-ins, including being detained in prison, being forced to wear an ankle monitor, driven to an airport and forced onto a plane out of the country, or leaving unscathed only to undergo this ordeal again before the month is over. 

Accompaniment is bringing us closer to the everyday realities lived by immigrant neighbors and one such miserable reality is captured in the legalistically labeled “287(g)” program.

287(g) is a program authorized under the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 that allows state and local police officers to collaborate with the federal government in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. This collaboration consists primarily of renting out jails and prisons to house immigrants and allowing deputized officers to question and arrest alleged non-citizens if they believe that an individual has violated federal immigration laws (American Immigration Council). According to ICE, there are currently 78 local law enforcement agencies in 20 states that have a 287(g) agreement, including three counties in Maryland: Anne Arundel, Fredrick, and Hartford.   

The 287(g) program allows the federal government to intrude on the sovereignty of states while also exposing the public to the enormous risks of racial profiling. Moreover, if immigration violations fall under civil law, why are all sorts of immigrants (including those with green cards, seeking asylum, etc.) being arrested and treated like criminals? Yet these abuses are a consequence of law enforcement officials – whether intentionally or not – viewing “others” through a racist lens that perceives any non-caucasian who lacks an “American” accent as having entered the country illegally and who may therefore be subject to detainment. 

ICE officials and their “deputies” (aka local law enforcement) are rounding up immigrants, particularly Latinx migrants, who are being branded by this administration as a threat. They are forcing them to wear ankle monitors not only to keep track of them but also to publicly brand and shame as well as ostracize them. They are utilizing propaganda and the politics of fear by calling them criminals and “animals” to garner public support for policies that justify their abuse. And they are separating families and sending immigrants to forced labor camps or prisons

287(g) has become a conduit for the continuation of America’s racist history and local governments involved in this program risk paving the way for genocide or ethnocide. We can stop this from happening by ridding ourselves of this toxic program. The 287(g) program is allowed because communities allow it, as a local option, but not a mandate, which is why your voice is so important.

Here’s how you can take action against 287(g) in your community and nationwide:

Locally – Strongly urge local law enforcement agencies to terminate their 287(g) agreements with ICE. Law enforcement agencies are not being forced into these agreements.

Nationally –  Reach out to your representatives and encourage them to support the PROTECT Immigration Act of 2017 (H.R.1236/ S.303) as well as the Detention Oversight Not Expansion (DONE) Act (S.2849).

Keep up to date on our latest actions

Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)