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.

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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.

 

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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).

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Update on Nicaragua: Interview about Situation in Masaya

Over the last week there has been an increase in violence in Nicaragua. In Masaya several people were killed, government buildings burned, a market ransacked, and ongoing blockades of the roads leading into the city.  Much of the media attention about the ongoing political crisis in Nicaragua has ignored the conflicts in cities outside of Managua, or focused solely on accusations of excessive force by the police. We feel it is important for people to understand the complexity of the situation, and the ways in which violence and intimidation are also being used by opposition groups, with most of the people simply caught in the middle.

This week, I interviewed John Perry, who has lived in Masaya, Nicaragua for the last 15 years, and works as a volunteer with a local NGO in the field of sustainable rural development. We talked about the situation in the city over the last few weeks. The views expressed here are John’s, based on his observations.

There has been a tremendous amount of violence in Masaya over the last week. Several people have been killed, a school was set on fire, and people assumed to be supporters of the government have been attacked, or houses set aflame. What have you been seeing and hearing from friends in the area?

Until mid-April, Masaya was a peaceful city (and Nicaragua the most peaceful country in Central America). All that changed when police responded violently to a student protest in Managua. This awoke a lot of resentment in Masaya against the government, including from its previous supporters, and barricades appeared in the streets. There were pitched battles between pro- and anti-government groups. Even demonstrations calling for an end to violence (like one I took part in on Sunday May 6) were attacked.

Since then the violence has become far worse. Ransacking of businesses (with people running off with TV sets and motor bikes), destruction of public buildings (including the tourist market) and burning down the houses of Sandinista sympathisers have become a nightly occurrence. We are in the bizarre situation where Masaya’s people (for the most part) are destroying their own city.

The international media has been focused solely on a narrative that presents protesters as peaceful, and laying almost all of the blame for violence on state forces. It sounds like things are a lot more complicated than that. Does the violence in Masaya seem to be coordinated?

All that can be said for certain is that the media’s simplistic narrative is wrong. Both ‘sides’ are using violence. Protesters claim that government sympathisers are destroying public buildings, but even if this were true, would they then burn their own homes?

If you look at the BBC coverage here, it faithfully follows the narrative. Yet you look at the photo and observe (a) the road has been ripped up to make the barricades and (b) those manning them have lethal weapons. In what other country would this be regarded as exercising a constitutional right to protest (which is what the protesters claim)? In what other country would the police not arrive in force to remove the barricades and arrest those holding the weapons?

Throughout the country, blockades have been the dominant strategy of the opposition to create tension and put pressure on the government.  I understand you are actually trapped between two different blockades, and that travel is difficult, if not impossible outside the city. Can you say what it is like to be in a blockaded city now?

Masaya is effectively cut off by road from everywhere else and has been for several days. We live outside the city so can only enter it on foot. There are two major problems with the barricades. One is obvious – they disrupt the normal life of the city, preventing people from working and getting food, preventing deliveries to shops. In a city where most work in low-paid jobs, this is creating enormous hardship. My wife walked to the Masaya market this morning and came across a young woman trying to walk to the hospital who had started to give birth in the street. She persuaded a passing cyclist to take her to the Red Cross on his crossbar.

But an even more serious aspect is the intimidation. People are being asked for their papers at the barricades by masked youths carrying homemade mortars; they’re having their bags searched. Anything linking them to the government or police means they won’t get past – or worse. A police guy in civilian clothes was ordered to burn his police uniform publicly (it was hidden in his rucksack). In other cases, people have been stripped and humiliated. We had a call for help from a policewoman who lives between two barricades, and who is scared stiff her house with two young children will be burnt down while she is at work.

It seems amazing that the blockades have been allowed to continue – though I assume the government is reluctant to order the police out to break them up in force. It seems like this is a strategy that will turn on the opposition eventually – as it is wreaking havoc on people’s lives. Do you see this going on much longer?

It’s very difficult to say. Many of the Masaya barricades are at head height so it would be extremely difficult for the police to remove them unilaterally. Even the riot police lack the equipment that most police forces have in developed countries. So the only route to peace is through negotiation – the process of national ‘dialogue’ being led by the Catholic church – but which has made only sputtering progress so far.

From a national perspective, you wrote a piece for the London Review of Books’ blogin early May that noted there is little honest discussion about what happens if Ortega’s government collapses. What comes next? How are you feeling about that a month later? Does there seem to be any strategy here from the opposition other than disruption?

Nicaragua has a past history of conflict, but based on clearly conflicting ideologies – people fighting against the repressive Somoza dictatorship in the 1970s, and the revolutionary government against the US-funded Contras in the 1980s. This time the ideological divide is far from clear. On one side, we have a government which mixes a mildly neoliberal economic policy with social investment, but via a party machine which stifles dissent and fails to bring on a new generation of leaders. It supports LGBT rights and promotes the role of women in politics, yet imposes strict abortion laws. But whatever its deficiencies, it stands in contrast to the governments between here and the Texas border, which all have far greater problems of democratic failure, corruption and violence, whether led by the state or by criminal gangs.

On the opposition side, we have two sets of ideas which contradict each other. One says that the government has given up its revolutionary principles and should return to them; the other (despite being called the Sandinista Renovation Movement, the MRS) has aligned itself with the right both in Nicaragua and in the support it receives from the US. Both are temporary allies because they want more ‘democracy’ and for Daniel Ortega to resign, but if Ortega were to leave peremptorily, who would fill the power vacuum and how? The situation reminds me of East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, when many activists wanted the coming change to lead to democratic socialism. But those who brought in the capital to transform the country were, unsurprisingly, capitalists.

A lot of the discourse about recent events here has focussed on the failure of the international left to criticise the Ortega government (even though, it seems to me, such criticism has been plentiful, especially over the ‘megaproject’ of the interoceanic canal). But what interests me is how the country moves on from the present situation. Who do those destroying Masaya now think will invest to rebuild it next year or the year after, and at what political cost? How can we avoid a further collapse into the chaos of which Masaya gives us both an example and a warning? How do we help Nicaraguans recover their peace and curb the brutality which has been unleashed? Those on the right who want Ortega out of office now have their own plans to prosper from the chaos: they want a massive civic insurrection to get power and then they’ll enter government with a ‘business spirit’ and start cutting taxes. No doubt in both respects they’ll be cheered on by the Trump administration. But what alternative can the left support that shows a better route out of the current crisis?

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Update on Nicaragua: Amidst Ongoing Violence, National Dialogue Suspended Again

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued its preliminary report (available in Spanish and English), following its investigation May 17-21, that 76 people were killed during protests that began in April and in demonstrations since. Drawing on hundreds of interviews, they documented that the government of Nicaragua, especially the anti-riot police, had acted with disproportionate and unnecessary force.

The IACHR is part of the hemispheric human rights system, and as such its mandate is to monitor and make recommendations concerning violations of human rights by state actors. The IACHR’s investigation is not, therefore, telling the whole story concerning violence in the country.

One of the weaknesses of this report, and one issued by Amnesty on Tuesday, May 29, is that there is little effort to contextualize the state response with documentation concerning violence perpetrated by opposition groups, who have burned government facilities, attacked demonstrations, fired guns and homemade mortars at police, blockaded roads throughout the country, and so on. So, while most of the protest activity appears peaceful, there is also violence coming from some of the government opponents.

Against this background, the National Dialogue entered its fourth session on May 23rd with a discussion on proposals from a coalition of opposition groups called the “Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy.” The proposed approach called for substantive systemic changes, including:

  • Moving up the general, regional and municipal elections,
  • Non re-election for the president,
  • Reduction of the number of deputies of the National Assembly
  • Application of recommendations of the IACHR.
  • Electing a new Supreme Electoral Council
  • Separating Social Security from the Government (which I read as privatizing these services, a core demand of COSEP).
  • Allowing the Police and the Army to remain subject to civil authority (which they already are, so it’s not clear what specific institutional remedy is sought here).

The government indicated a willingness to discuss the proposals, which are clearly designed to challenge the dominant role of the Sandinista party in all branches of the government, on the condition that the blockades on major highways be lifted. The opposition coalition declared that the blockades would remain. In their view, the blockades are applying the only meaningful pressure on the government to negotiate.

The result was a stalemate, and the National Dialogue was suspended on May 24.

The blockades of all major highways in Nicaragua has had an enormous impact on commerce. Though the blockades are cleared periodically to allow some vehicles through, the delivery of goods and the ability of people to get around has been severely impacted. As the blockades continue, they are predictably leading to skirmishes between the blockaders and others; one person was killed at a blockade near Leon last Wednesday. 

Following the suspension of the National Dialogue, tensions increased further. In Leon and Chinandega protesters and counter-protesters fought in several neighborhoods. Manuel de Jesús Chávez, a young man caught in the crossfire, was killed with a bullet to the head. Another 76 people were injured, some remain in critical condition. 

On Wednesday, May 30, Mothers Day in Nicaragua, the Madres de Abril, mothers of students and others killed in the April protests, held a march in Managua with thousands of supporters.  Going on at the same time was a Sandinista rally, where Daniel Ortega spoke, calling for peace. As the rally ended, and people began leaving, the two marches came into contact. Conflict erupted, and spiraled quickly. Two Sandinista youth were among the first killed. In all, 16 people died, 80 more were injured. While most reports speak of an “attack on” the Mothers Day march, it seems things were a bit more complicated. An account from Giorgio Trucchi, in Managua:

[t]he same ‘peaceful protesters’ again attack the pro-government Nueva Radio Ya, burn, loot and destroy what was left of it. Then they go to the Caja Rural Nacional (Caruna), a cooperative that for years has managed ALBA funds for social projects that have benefited thousands of families. They attack the facilities and burn everything, including parked vehicles.

And so, the bloodshed continues. While everyone is pointing a finger at the government, it is important to point out that since the demonstrations were launched in April, the only groups that have actually benefited from the violence are in the political opposition. Indeed, the opposition strategy seems to be to make the country ungovernable, through roadblocks and attacks on government facilities, until the current administration agrees to a process that will lead to Ortega’s departure.

It is hard to imagine the government agreeing to this. But as the days wear on, the government’s position is weakened by the conflict in the streets – and the perception that it is the government or allied forces responsible for the majority of it. In the meantime, government opponents have little reason to go back to the table. 

Like Manuel de Jesús Chávez, most of the country is left caught in the crossfire.

Following the deaths during the Mother’s Day March, the National Dialogue, scheduled to restart on May 31, was suspended again by the Bishops acting as mediators.

 

 

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Pushback from Immigration Advocates

I don’t need to repeat all the bad news on immigration this week (although I may do a little of that). Instead, I’ll begin by focusing on how grassroots activists, advocacy groups, and even some politicians are organizing to quash the oppressive and inhumane policies being propagated by the executive branch in the name of spurious national security interests. 

Yesterday, Quixote Center staff attended a rally in Baltimore, protesting the Trump administration’s “family separation” policy as part of the National Day of Action for Children

House Democrats have also released a letter demanding that the administration end the policy.

Representatives from Texas advocacy groups, law firms, and the Women’s Refugee Commission have filed a formal complaint, in the form of an Emergency Request with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, demanding that children be reunited with their parents and that the family separation policy end immediately. They maintain that this policy violates international human rights standards as well as U.S. asylum laws and due process.

The ACLU has released a report documenting instances of child abuse by Customs and Border Patrol and ICE. The report is chilling and can be read in full (along with FOIA documents) here.

Stephen Miller, speaking for the White House, echoed the tired refrain that asylum is a “loophole” that needs to be closed.

Earlier this month, DHS secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, said, “If you as a parent break into a house, you will be incarcerated by police and thereby separated from your family. We’re doing the same thing at the border.” Not to beat a dead horse, but we would remind DHS once again that asylum seekers are not lawbreakers.

At the same time, despite protests by senior staff, Nielsen defied the administration by dispersing federal grant money to sanctuary cities. So, there’s that.

In another example of one step forward, two steps back, John Kelly said that TPS status should be eliminated and those here under that status be given a path to citizenship. In the same interview, however, he praised the family separation policy and reassured the nation that the children will be cared for – put into foster care or whatever.”

In other news:

At a rally in Tennessee on Tuesday, Trump engaged in a dangerous call and response.

“They’re not human beings,” Trump said. “What is the name?”

“ANIMALS!” the Angry Mob responded.

Scary. Really.

Last Thursday, Trump appointed Ronald Mortenson to be Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. Mortenson is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think-tank and Southern Poverty Law Center-Designated Hate Group with associations to white nationalism. Last year, Mortenson wrote an opinion piece, for example, titled “Most illegal aliens routinely commit felonies.”

Coming up:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will introduce a bill that would put a halt to Trump’s family separation policy.

And finally:

Thanks to all of you who commented on the DHS Notice this week. We tripled the number of comments and drowned out its supporters. Good work!

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Fewer Books for Maryland Inmates

Research shows that education plays a major role in reducing recidivism rates. Whether through the GED programs being offered in prisons or the presence of libraries, access to education is an important element of self-development for individuals, including prison inmates. 

In an effort to keep prisons “safe” and to decrease drug smuggling, however, correctional department officials in Maryland have deemed it necessary to limit inmates’ access to books. When asked how often drugs were smuggled into Maryland prisons via books, J. Michael Zeigler, a Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services deputy secretary, was unable to report that information. This form of inmate control is nothing new and was implemented recently in New York.  

“Books are important for everyone, but access to books is crucial for prisoners. Inmates have no or very limited access to the internet, so reading is a way to stay connected to society, if not to just pass time. Policies on book access for prisoners are widely divergent, and sometimes bafflingly inconsistent, across state, federal, and private prisons.” (Quartz Media)

Prisons have the opportunity to use tax dollars to benefit society as a whole, but instead they want to waste money by decreasing educational opportunities, which will send newly released individuals back to jail (because they’ve gained no other skills) only to start the cycle over again. Currently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is examining the legal remedies needed to stop this action.

As mentioned in Proverbs 16:27, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” and that same saying can be applied to one’s mind. 

Describing a 2014 RAND study on correctional education, Lois Davis, a senior policy researcher and co-author of the comprehensive report, said, “it really, for the first time, dispelled the myths about whether or not education helps inmates when they get out. Education is, by far, such a clear winner.”

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Take Action: Tell Homeland Security to Stop Using Children As Bait

Since publicly announcing the tactic of separating children from their parents when detained by ICE (including asylum seekers), the government has seen an increase in the number of unaccompanied children they need to house. 

Now, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a public system of records notice (SORN) detailing its intent to modify its system to allow greater sharing between DHS and Health and Human Services, which oversees the placement of unaccompanied children into foster care. Frequently, relatives come forward as sponsors but this measure will discourage family members from doing so. This seemingly dull and bureaucratic measure masks the intention of serving as an immigration check on the sponsor and all members of the sponsor’s household.

Let’s say Johnny has an aunt in the U.S. who is a citizen, but she lives with her sister who is undocumented. Johnny’s aunt knows that if she comes forward as a sponsor for her nephew, her sister will likely be detained and deported. She therefore chooses not to come forward and Johnny remains in a group home…or on a military base.

In short, DHS, HHS, and ICE are using children as bait.

The public comment period on this notice will remain open until June 7. We urge you to comment on the notice and perhaps to politely tell DHS where to shove it.  

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This Week in Immigration

Just to give a sense of the unrelenting and multi-pronged attack on immigrants being led by the executive branch and likeminded members of Congress, we decided to bring together some stories just from the past few days. It’s dizzying, so I tried to keep commentary to a minimum and let the volume of stories speak for itself.

Monday/Weekend

Jeff Sessions ruled that immigration judges can no longer close cases, opening the door to re-opening 350,000 closed cases, which could “result in the imprisonment and deportation of immigrants who now have a clear path toward legal immigration status,” says Dan Werner of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Steve King (R-IA, the pride of my home state of Iowa) has introduced a Bill to jail sanctuary cities officials (HR 5884) called the Libby Schaaf Act, named after the mayor of Oakland who alerted residents to pending ICE raids.

California is considering extending Medicaid to all adults regardless of immigration status, further flouting Trump’s ongoing attacks against sanctuary cities.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam will allow the ban on sanctuary cities to become law without his signature (despite law enforcement’s opposition to the bill), saying “it’s time to move on.”

Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn) proposed a bill to crowdfund the border wall (Border Wall Trust Fund Act).

 

Tuesday

Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, was asked in a hearing with the House Committee on Education and the Workforce whether teachers should report undocumented students. Devos responded with a resounding “I think that’s a school decision,” leading civil rights groups to say, “um… no.”

The House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security held a hearing they called Stopping the Daily Border Caravan: Time to Build a Policy Wall. The policy in question was asylum, which Republican lawmakers described as a “loophole.” Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) complained that asylum seekers get all the breaks but frequently fail to appear at their asylum hearings “most likely because their claim was unfounded in the first place” (not because they never received their Notice to Appear, or they’re afraid of deportation, or they reunited with family members elsewhere in the country…). Echoing Trump, she characterized minors as “vulnerable to gang recruitment.” Capitol Police were called on to remove peaceful protestors from the room. You can learn more by clicking the link, where you’ll find full video and transcripts.

 

Wednesday

The Senate Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration held a hearing called TVPRA (Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act) and Exploited Loopholes Affecting Unaccompanied Alien Children. This hearing also addressed MS-13 gang recruitment. Video and transcripts are available here.

The House voted on a prison reform bill cooked up by Jared Kushner, which threatens to make prison slave labor the norm, but prohibits pregnant women from being shackled, unless guards determine that they really, really need to be. 

Trump talked immigration on Long Island, doubling down on his use of the word “animals” to describe MS-13 gang members and suggesting that foreign aid be denied to those countries that allow criminal immigrants to come here (a policy that would likely make worse some of the problems that cause people to leave). In this same photo-op, Trump said the following about children crossing the border: “They look so innocent. They are not innocent.”

Also, in a post-game interview with FOX, Trump seemed to suggest that NFL players who kneeled during the anthem be deported…? Or leave voluntarily? It wasn’t clear.

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Statement of the Cooperative Movement of Nicaragua on National Dialogue

The Cooperative Movement of Nicaragua issued the statement below on May 5, 2018 regarding their participation in the National Dialogue process, which was formally launched on May 16. As of this writing, Orlando Núñez has not been included at the main table of negotiation as requested in this letter. [Graphic with participants listed,  from El Nuevo Diario].  We provide a translation into English below. A scanned copy of the original with the full list of signatories is here

We are reproducing (and, in this case, translating) this document, as we did with the ATC Statement yesterday, in an effort to present the voices of those in Nicaragua that the international media continues to ignore in coverage of the ongoing political crisis.  Major media outlets continue to give voice only to the opposition, and a narrow segment of that opposition – those calling for Ortega’s removal from office. There is a wide range of interests and organizations participating in the National Dialogue. Few are wholly uncritical of the government, but most are looking to construct a new consensus for moving forward.  

Statement of the Cooperative Movement of Nicaragua

“I lean toward a regime of cooperatives” – A. C. Sandino

The Nicaraguan Cooperative Movement, which brings together 5,000 cooperatives and 300,000 cooperatives, organized into Unions, Centrals, Federations and Departmental Councils of cooperatives, announces the following statement on the situation in Nicaragua and on the Table of National Dialogue.

Statement from the Cooperative Movement of Nicaragua

  1. We regret the death of young people and police and we show solidarity with the families of the victims.

  2. We demand that justice be done for the relatives and that the guilty be punished.

  3. We regret the violence unleashed as a result of the student protests, which in a short time have tarnished the image of the country with all the political, economic and social consequences.

  4. We encourage the communitarian identity that the National Police has had until now and we discourage any confrontation between the police and the people, especially any act of repression against the civilian population.

  5. The Nicaraguan cooperative movement has suffered a history of violence from the very first cooperative organized by Sandino in 1934, in which most of the families were bombarded by the National Guard, to the self-defense cooperatives formed during the war of aggression combined with a civil war during the decade of the 1980s, in which our cooperatives were attacked by the forces of the counterrevolution and tens of thousands of peasant families from both sides died. For such reasons we reject all those attitudes that foment violence, war and death, wherever they come from.

  6. We feel concerned and assume the share of responsibility that correspond to us about what is happening and will happen in Nicaragua, but we celebrate more than 27 years of reconciliation between Sandinista families and families coming from the counterrevolution, living together fraternally within our cooperatives, thus contributing to national reconciliation.

  7. We recognize and encourage deepening public policies in favor of the cooperative sector by the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity, as well as the peaceful climate in which we perform our work, particularly our participation in the Bureaus of Production, Consumption and Trade. Thanks to the peace, organized effort and our active participation in institutions, we have achieved food sovereignty, producing most of the food for our rural and urban families, generating self-employment for 300,000 individuals through our work.

  8. Perhaps the young people of the city do not have knowledge of this strategic sector of the national economy, partly because the universities have not managed to incorporate even the peasant sector into the academic curriculum, and even less so have they incorporated the cooperative sector; and partly because there exists the impression, even within our institutions, that private business is the only sector that produces national wealth and employment.

  9. On the reforms to the Institute of the Social Security (INSS), the initial object of the protests, we propose a progressive tax, that is to say that those who earn more pay more. We strongly oppose the privatization of social security and offer to work for cooperative insurance.

  10. We ask the National Government and the Episcopal Conference that we be included, along with small producers in general, in a four-party agreement, since we are neither business owners nor salaried workers, therefore we do not feel represented by COSEP nor by the labor unions, although our sector is as important as theirs.

  11. We invite all the living forces of the nation, the government and the opposition, the business sector and churches of all denominations, the academic sector and the media, political parties and the general public, to unite and work for peace, stability and public safety, representative and participatory democracy, the restoration of rights, civil liberties, reconciliation and national unity.

  12. We respectfully request of the Episcopal Conference and the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity a seat in the National Dialogue and we propose our colleague Orlando Núñez, who has accompanied us all this time, to represent us at the economic table.

  13. The Cooperatives of the Association of Rural Workers (ATC), the Cooperatives of the National Union of Farmers and Cattle Ranchers (UNAG) and the associations of the Nicaraguan Council for Micro, Small and Mid-size Businesses (CONIMIPYME), join this release.

Managua, 5thof May of the year 2018

We attach the signatures of the various organizations.

 

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Contact Us

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    Ste 214
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  • 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.

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