Haiti Update: Vote on New Government?, PetroCaribe, and Immigrants Arrested in Bolivia

Update: Jean Henry Céant was confirmed as Haiti’s new Prime Minister following votes in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies on Saturday, September 16. 

In July, widespread protests in Haiti following an announced cut in fuel subsidies led to the resignation of Prime Minister Guy Jack Lafontant and dissolution of the cabinet. Since the resignation, Haiti has been without a functioning government. President Moïse nominated Jean Henry Céant to the post of Prime Minister on August 7, but his confirmation in Parliament has been delayed. Last week, with a scheduled recess looming, Céant formally presented his list of proposed ministers to Parliament.

The slate of ministers has proved to be controversial. Of the 18 ministers proposed, 6 were part of Lafontant’s government, and 3 have had their eligibility challenged. One of the nominees, Osner Richard named Minister of the Environment, has already been forced to step down on the basis of his holding dual citizenship (with the United States). Additionally, of the 4 appointed Secretaries of State, 3 were part of the previous government. The selections have led to widespread criticism that Moïse is controlling the selection process in an effort to keep the government under the control of his Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK), despite opposition concerns about the government that led to the resignation of Lafontant back in July.  The PHTK holds the largest bloc of seats in both houses, but is far from a majority in either, and thus must hold together a coalition to get the slate of ministers passed. At this point, the votes do not seem to be there.

Deputy Jerry Tardieu, who represents Pétion-Ville as a member of the Verité party, has been among the outspoken critics of Moïse role in the selection process. From Haiti Libre:

I…recommend that the Executive reconsider the formation of the Government as soon as possible, leaving the designated Prime Minister free to choose leading figures who can inspire confidence in society and give the government a serious image. This indiscriminate insistence on imposing personalities stamped PHTK, even when they are competent, is contrary to the wishes of the living forces of the nation who had opted for the establishment of a government of openness that soothes and builds confidence. It proves that President Jovenel Moïse has still not taken the right measure of the events of July 6 and 7, 2018, does not understand the stakes of the hour and even less the risks for tomorrow.

To the [designated] Prime Minister Céant, I hope that he has the courage to resign if he can not have the free hand, that is to say the freedom to choose credible and competent personalities to form a Government capable of providing solutions immediately.

There was no vote before deputies recessed Monday. However, President Moïse ordered a special session of parliament, calling members back to Port-au-Prince to hold a vote on the new government. We’ll update when we hear the results of the special session.

PetroCaribe

Hanging over the process of selecting a new government is ongoing outrage over embezzlement of money through the PetroCaribe fund. PetroCaribe was a regional effort put forth by the Venezuelan government in 2006, that allowed governments to purchase oil at a discount in order to use funds for development projects. Under PetroCaribe’s agreement, the government purchases oil from Venezuela, paying back 60% of the purchase price within 90 days. The extra funds are to be paid back over 25 years at 1% interest. In theory, the extra funds are to be used to develop infrastructure, at rates below what multilateral lenders would provide.

In October last year a senate committee led by Evallière Beauplan (Northwest Department) released a scathing audit that showed misappropriation of funds through the awarding of $1.7 billion in non-bid contracts for reconstruction projects between 2008 and 2016. The beneficiaries of the contracts included people closely associated with former president Martelly (also of the PHTK) and his prime minister Laurent Lamothe. Some of the accused are part of the current government, like Wilson Laleau, who is Moïse’s chief of staff. Public anger over the corruption, which has left Haiti with over $2 billion in debt to Venezuela with little to show for it, continues to grow and played a significant role in animating the protests in July.

Some examples of the waste include (via the Miami Herald):

[C]onstruction overages that include the ministry of public works paying for 10 miles of road that actually measured 6.5 miles; the signing of a contract between the ministry of public health and a deceased person; large disbursements by government ministers with no documents to support the expenditures, and tens of millions of dollars paid to Dominican and Haitian firms for post-earthquake roads, housing and government ministries that never materialized or weren’t completed.

One of the most blatant allegations involved the reconstruction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, one of 40 government buildings that crumbled during the earthquake. The Dominican firm Hadom was awarded a $14.7 million contract, and paid $10 million up front, to construct the building that remains unbuilt. Hadom’s lucrative Haiti contract is among several given to Dominican firms after the quake that became the subject of separate probes in Haiti and in neighboring Dominican Republic, where Hadom owner and Dominican Senator Félix Bautista was accused of embezzlement. The Bautista case was eventually dropped by the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court.

As the economic situation in Haiti continues to deteriorate – projected growth this year was lowered to 1.2% by the IMF – frustration with the government only increases. A campaign asking Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a (“Where did the Petro Caribe money go?”) has launched on social media, and protests continue in the streets. The situation remains volatile. It is hard to know how much hinges on the new government, or what space it will have to operate within the confines of the neo-liberal policy constraints Haiti is forced to operate under, but if the new government returns many of the same players back to power, it will only fuel the opposition.

100 Haitians Arrested in Bolivia

Last week we reported on the increasing challenges faced by people who have migrated out of Haiti looking for new opportunities. Earlier this week, over 100 Haitians were arrested in Bolivia as they traveled through the country from Brazil and Chile – two countries where many Haitians have resettled since the earthquake in 2010.

The arrests also included two Haitians and five Bolivians (the four drivers of the buses and a woman who processed tickets), all charged with trafficking.

 

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Church reform is a necessary, but insufficient response to abuse

As most know by now, a grand jury investigated allegations of abuse of children by priests in 5 dioceses in Pennsylvania. Their report was released last month. After years of repeated incidents and revelations about abuse in the church, the report was on one level not surprising. And yet, the details of incidents are very disturbing. The report contains an appendix that documents allegation against 300 priests and illuminates a pattern whereby the priests were shielded from public exposure, moved to new positions, rarely disciplined, and only in a handful of cases prosecuted. It is hard to draw any other conclusion than that church leadership put concern for the institution, both its reputation and material resources, above the people they are expected to serve. Because the instrumental view of parishioners exhibited by this response is so diametrically opposed to the servant leader notion that buttresses the idea of the church, many have simply had enough – once again – with the hypocrisy.

Calls for reform abound, many of which call upon the “culture” of the church to change: These include confronting the clericalism of the church, calling into question celibacy and the requirement that priests be unwed, and demanding transparency from an institution too often clouded in mystery. From the traditionalists in the church, there are accusations of a “cult of homosexuality” in the hierarchy, and, at least in Archbishop Vigano’s charges, an accusation that Pope Francis shields those priests. These latter calls mistakenly equate homosexuality with a tendency to pedophilia, a claim for which there is no empirical standing.  

In discussing the events that have occurred since the grand jury report was issued, it is important to re-center the victims of abuse in the conversation. And here we must also look outside the church itself. In the United States 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Nearly 60,000 children were sexually abused last year alone and we know that reporting of sexual abuse undercounts significantly it’s actual occurrence – indeed it is estimated that only 12% of childhood sexual abuse is ever reported. In almost every case, the perpetrator of sexual abuse is someone known to the child, and one in three is a family member. Boys are more likely to be abused at a younger age – 28% of male victims are abused for the first time before the age of 10, compared to 12.3% of girl victims. 96% of the people who sexually abuse children are male, 80% are adults.

Given the hidden nature of abuse it is hard to know definitively what the trends are. Certainly, as little as it is reported, it is reported more now than in the past. There is more of an effort to provide services to victims and to train caregivers about signals to watch for as indicators of possible abuse. Yet, it still occurs, is still not reported, and often, when reported to those closely connected, it may well be covered up by institutions and families.

With this in mind, it is important to point out that most of the reform ideas put forward have little to do with addressing underlying causes of abuse, or the victims themselves.  The reforms speak more to institutional incentives to cover up abuse. Certainly, on those grounds alone, demanding transparency, demanding that church officials be required to report suspected abuse to civil authorities, and challenging the clericalism that permeates church culture are all important things to do in response to the crisis. But we are still left with men who abuse children, and the reality is that there is nothing exceptional about the men in the Catholic Church on this count.

When I was 13 a male teacher offered me oral sex – not the first teacher to make such offers, but the most direct. I felt like I was marked. Another teacher at the same school had a sexual relationship with a close female friend of mine that lasted over a year – she was 14 when it ended he was 28. Yet another friend was raped by a football player in (a different) high school. She reported it. When she grew angry with the school administration that nothing was done, she was suspended. I could go on. Most of us could, either from personal experience or those of people close to us. Think about that.

And so, I am admittedly bemused by the reform agenda on the Church as a primary response to the abuse “scandal.” As a friend noted a couple of days ago, as we prepared for a demonstration, perhaps that first demand should not be “end patriarchy,” or “woman priests now,” or “down with the hierarchy” (all laudatory goals I would support), but just this:

Stop abusing children!!

And after the demonstration at the Cathedral, we can carry that sign to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility, local public and private schools, and the police department, with a stop at the Baptist Church along the way. Then maybe bring the sign home and hang it in living room.  

 

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Migration: From the Dominican Republic to Chile and the U.S., Haitians face increasing barriers

Haiti Update, September 10, 2018

Looming Crisis in the Dominican Republic

August 25 was the deadline for immigrants to present required documentation to regularize their status under the Dominican Republic’s controversial National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners (PNRE). Close to 98% of the people impacted are from Haiti. Under the provisions of the PNRE, 230,000 people of Haitian descent had registered with the government of the Dominican Republic by an earlier deadline in 2015. However, formalizing their status requires them to present documents to the Dominican Republic’s government (birth certificates and passports being crucial). Very few Haitians have been able to secure these documents from the government of Haiti despite repeated promises that they would be issued.

To highlight the dilemma now faced by over 200,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, cane cutters protested at Haiti’s embassy in Santo Domingo this week to demand that documents be produced. Over 4,000 cane cutters from Haiti had paid 1000 pesos each in 2015 to secure documentation from Haiti’s government, and these documents have not been provided.

Meanwhile, Sonia Vásquez, the National Representative of the United Nations Population Fund, implored the government of the Dominican Republic to not begin mass deportations in response to the crisis, arguing that doing so would have a dramatic impact on many sectors of the Dominican Republic’s economy and society.

Tensions along the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic remain high.  Back in March thousands of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic fled across the border at Anse-à-Pitres. A Dominican man had been killed and wife assaulted in Pedernales  – Dominican authorities accused three Haitian men for the crime. As a result, attacks and threats against Haitians increased. Such incidents happen periodically, with the government of the Dominican Republic stereotyping Haitians as criminals and using the tensions for political purposes.

The International Office of Migration has been monitoring the border at regular and irregular crossing points since the earlier 2015 deadline passed, and have documented a large number of border crossings – over 240,000 from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. The majority have been “voluntary” returns – but nearly a quarter have been official deportations.

Wave of Anti-Immigration Policies

Migration out of Haiti remains a high, but options of places to go have been reduced. Following the earthquake in 2010, Brazil opened immigration to Haitians. Close to 65,000 Haitians moved to Brazil looking for work in the years since, only to see the economy there collapse and their options narrowed. Many began a long trek to the United States – traversing 7,000 miles and 11 countries, a journey covered at length in an investigative report by the Miami Herald in 2016.

One of the danger spots for Haitians is Nicaragua, which has ramped up security along the border with Costa Rica since 2015, austensibly for reasons related to the drug war. Nicaragua’s recent political crisis has overtaken these issues – but as recently as February 2018 Haitian migrants and others were still routinely blocked from crossing through Nicaraguan territory.

Over the last several years, Over 100,000 Haitians have moved to Chile (equivalent to 1% of Haiti’s population). However, as was the case in Brazil, many have found work opportunities to be scant, and prospects further diminished by the increase in migration to Chile from people fleeing economic collapse in Venezuela. Then in April, newly elected right-wing President Sebastián Piñera eliminated the temporary visas that allowed Haitians to go from tourists to regular migrants once they obtained a job, a status that had allowed them to then bring their families from Haiti.

Here in the United States, the Trump administration refused to renew Temporary Protective Status for Haitians, put in place following the 2010 earthquake. Which means 59,000 Haitians in the United States face expulsion in July 2019.

Meanwhile, international banks and multilateral lenders continue to bleed Haiti’s economy, while corruption scandals among Haiti’s U.S. protected elite, most recently questions about former president Martelly’s “management” of $3.8 billion in PetroCaribe Funds (which must be paid back to Venezuela), are ongoing. All of which is a reminder that foreign policy is immigration policy – even though we refuse to acknowledge that. The people of Haiti, like many others from Central America, the Middle East and Africa, are caught in the middle: Dislocated by war and greed, and increasingly unable to find safe haven elsewhere.

 

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Update on Prison Strike, September 5

Beginning on August 21, people incarcerated in prisons and jails and immigration detention facilities began a series of actions to raise awareness about the conditions of their imprisonment. Accompanying the call to action is a list of 10 demands for reform. The Prison Strike is now two weeks old – and will run until at least September 9, the anniversary of the Attica uprising.

Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is launching a new coalition to carry the demands from the strike forward beyond September 9. You can read about that here – and get involved if you feel called to do so.

The latest update from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak includes the following confirmed activities over the past two weeks. It is important to get information out. Prison authorities have responded to media inquiries largely denying that anything is going on inside. As you might imagine, it is very difficult to organize sustained protest inside a prison. So, for those who have picked up this charge, we should lift up their efforts wherever we can.

Washington – Representatives of over 200 immigrant detainees at Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington declared a hunger strike on day one of the national prison strike. Amid fears of retaliation, 70 across three blocks participated. As of this time, seven continue to refuse food into a second week.

Georgia – Prisoners in Georgia State Prison “Reidsville” have reported a strike, according to Jailhouse Lawyers Speak.

South Carolina – Jailhouse Lawyers Speak is reporting that prisoners in the following facilities are on strike: Broad River Correctional Institution, Lee Correctional Institution, McCormick Correctional Institution, Turbeville Correctional Institute, Kershaw Correctional Institution, and Lieber Correctional Institution. The actions in these facilities include widespread workstrikes, with only a few prisoners reporting to their jobs, and commissary boycotts. McCormick prisoners have been subjected to strip searches everyday since August 21.

North Carolina – Prisoners at Hyde Correctional Institution in Swanquarter, NC demonstrated in solidarity with the strike. There have been unconfirmed reports of strikes at other institutions across the state.

California – At New Folsom Prison a hunger strike started by Heriberto Garcia on August 21 has spread to Lancaster State Prison outside Los Angeles: William E. Brown, Jr. and his group are also striking.

Ohio – At least two prisoners at Toledo Correctional Institution began a hunger strike on August 21. David Easley and James Ward were moved into isolation for participating and authorities have cut off their means of communication to outside contacts.

Colorado – Starting around August 7, ten prisoners at Sterling Correctional Facility announced a hunger strike against a two week long 24 hour a day lockdown of 38 administrative segregation prisoners.

Indiana – Prisoners in the segregation unit at Wabash Valley Correctional Institution initiated a hunger strike on August 27 demanding adequate food and an end to cold temperatures in the unit.

New Mexico – On August 9, prisoners at Lea County Correctional Facility in Hobbs, NM organized a work stoppage against conditions at the prison, which is operated by private corporation GEO Group. Tensions at the prison reached a tipping point prior to the date of the strike and prisoners could not wait before initiating their protest. All facilities in New Mexico were placed on lockdown status on the morning of August 20. This statewide lockdown has since been lifted except for Lea County CF.

Florida – Jailhouse Lawyers Speak asserts that five Florida facilities are seeing strike activity: Charlotte CI reports 40 refusing work and 100 boycotting commissary. Prisoners at Dade Correctional say 30-40 on strike, Franklin Correctional reports 30-60, Holmes Correctional reports 70, Appalachee Correctional reports an unknown number.

Nova Scotia, Canada – at Burnside County Jail in Halifax prisoners went on strike and issued a protest statement in solidarity with the strike and naming local demands. They went through a lockdown and extensive negotiations with authorities. Those who refused to cooperate with humiliating body scans were punished by being locked in a dry cell (no water or working toilets) for three days.

Texas – IWOC was forwarded a message dated August 23 from inside administrative segregation (solitary) of Stiles Unit, Beaumont, TX, confirming that 2 prisoners are on hunger strike in solidarity with the national action: “I feel great. But very hungry! And not because I don’t have food but because of our 48 hours solidarity with our brothers and sisters. It’s the only way we can show support from inside of Seg. Let everyone know we got their backs.” IWOC has confirmed that Robert Uvalle is on hunger strike in solitary at Michael Unit, Anderson County, TX in solidarity with the nationwide strike. Robert has been in solitary for most of his 25 years inside.

This list of activity comes from a zine called Solid Black Fist, created for people incarcerated and allies during the strike. You can read the latest issue here.

Finally, last week, America magazine called the Quixote Center looking for a “Catholic angle” on the prison strike. Apparently we are one of the few faith based organizations to have endorsed the strike and the strikers’ demands. The article from Kevin Clarke came out Friday. You can read that here.

Keep up to date on the strike and solidarity activities:

Amani Sawari and Jailhouse Lawyers Speak

Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

 

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Update on the Prison Strike August 29, 2018

The Quixote Center is one of over 300 organizations that has endorsed the demands of prisoners around the country who are engaged in various forms of protests that began last week and runs through September 9th.

It is difficult to get confirmation of actions that take place inside prisons, but today’s update from Jailhouse Lawyers Speak included the following items that were confirmed from the last few days:

  • 200 ICE detainees at NWDC, Tacoma WA initiate hunger strike and work stoppage
  • David Easley and James Ward are on hunger strike in Toledo CI, OH
  • 100 prisoners organized rally, displaying banners on the yard at Hyde Correctional Institution
  • Work stoppage of all prisoners, except 12-15 prisoners from the “privilege unit,” in McCormick CI, S.Carolina
  • ~100 prisoners rallied in yard with banners “Parole,” “Better Food,” “In Solidarity” in North Carolina
  • Palestinian political prisoners issued statement of solidarity from their prisons in occupied Palestine
  • Revolutionary artist Heriberto Sharky Garcia declares hunger strike at Folsom Prison in Represa, California
  • Non-violent protesters at Burnside Jail in Halifax, CA publish their demands in solidarity

There are a number of different ways to get involved, You can review the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee webpage for more details. Specific items include.

The strike has received a significant amount of press – to review articles you can check out Jailhouse Lawyers Speak here. A few examples:

Democracy Now!– From Attica to South Carolina: Heather Ann Thompson on the Roots of the Nationwide Prison Strike.

The Guardian– US inmates stage nationwide prison labor strike over ‘modern slavery’

BBC– US inmates nationwide strike to protest ‘modern slavery’

The Washington Post– Inmates across the U.S. are staging a prison strike over ‘modern-day slavery’

NPR– Inmates Plan To Hold Weeks-Long Strike At Prisons Across U.S.

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Daily Dispatch 8/20/2018

A new series in which we (will aspire to) offer a sampling of today’s headlines on immigration, race, and related stories.

August 20, 2018

An article in The Hill discusses the impact of Attorney General Session’s recent decisions to reopen 8,000 immigration cases, which had been administratively closed, on judicial independence.  

ICE, ICE Baby: Trump is planning an event to celebrate the “heroes” of Immigration Customs Enforcement amidst growing calls for the agency to be dismantled by some Democrats.

Highlighting the political dog-whistling underneath this celebration, hard-line immigration sheriff Richard Jones, of Butler County, Ohio has been invited as well – Butler once sent a bill to Mexico for immigration enforcement costs.

Meanwhile, some of the “heroes” of ICE, detained a man while he was driving his pregnant wife to the hospital. The detention was caught on video. Maria del Carmen was left to fend for herself. ICE later claimed the man was wanted in Mexico on homicide charges, but released no details. Arrona has been in the United States for over 10 years.

A new study shows that the lack of Congressional action on immigration reform is creating a host of state and local initiatives that are undermining federal authority. 

Relatedly, Gaurav Madan, a volunteer with Sanctuary DMV, writes in the Washington Post that, in light of recent ICE enforcement actions, the District of Columbia needs to step up its commitment to being a sanctuary city and push back against the narrative of criminality that is cast upon immigrants. Local organizers sent a letter to the mayor demanding a public hearing of the steps the city was going to take.

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Trump’s War on Immigrants has Many Fronts

The Trump administration is waging a war on immigrants with many fronts, including: Adopting “zero tolerance” policies at the border, expanding detention, seeking ways to limit legal immigration, making it harder for people to become permanent residents and citizens, and launching a massive review of people who have become naturalized citizens. On all fronts, Trump’s war is being waged using existing policy instruments and institutions. We must acknowledge this reality – as the entire system is deeply flawed. At the same time, Trump has gone to extraordinary lengths to generate fear and make an inhumane system even more intolerable.

Family Separation

As we reported last week, the Trump administration declared that it was unable to locate the parents of over 500 children separated from their families at the border, and suggested that the ACLU would be better placed to find them. U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw said that this was unacceptable:

“Many of these parents were removed from the country without their child,” Sabraw said. “All of this is the result of the government’s separation and then inability and failure to track and reunite. And the reality is that for every parent who is not located there will be a permanently orphaned child. And that is 100 percent the responsibility of the administration.”

Sabraw [also] said the government must identify a person or team to oversee the remaining reunification process, potentially from the State Department or the Department of Health and Human Services, and produce a plan as to how reunification would be accomplished.

Contrary to Trump’s assertion that family separation was simply a by-product of enforcement of federal law – it now seems clear (not that we ever doubted it) that the administration sought to target families for enforcement. The organization Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) has issued a new report, Death by a Thousand Cuts, which documents step by step the policy changes employed by the Trump administration to target children and families for enforcement.

All of this was done intentionally to spread fear and to discourage migration to the United States, and the administration is not done yet, as it seeks to alter the Flores Agreement in order to detain children and families longer. From Newsweek:

The Trump administration had argued last month that in order for it to end its family separation policy, it would need to be able to detain children with their families longer than the 20-day maximum period outlined in the Flores agreement.

The administration’s bid to modify the decades-old deal was shot down by Judge Dolly M. Gee of the Federal District Court in Los Angeles, however, with the judge saying there was no basis for changing the agreement and that it was an issue the legislative branch would have to solve.

“They are claiming that much of this is a deterrent, to deter future immigration,” [KIND spokesperson] McKenna said. “But, we see it as, if it’s a matter of life or death, they are going to come anyway—and for many of the children we represent, it really is a matter of life or death.”

Legal immigrants under fire

As reported by NBC News, the Trump administration is expected to issue an order that would make it more difficult for people to become permanent residents and then citizens.

The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare, four sources with knowledge of the plan told NBC News.

The move, which would not need congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller’s plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.

The plan will move to the Federal Register soon – where some period of public comment should be available. Until then, you can call the White House and let them know that this is wrong! White House comment line: 202-456-1111.

De-naturalization

Just in case we thought creating a dragnet at the border, separating children from their families as a matter of policy, and seeking to block legal immigrants from obtaining green cards and or seeking citizenship is not enough, the Trump administration is also launching a “de-naturalization” task force that could potentially strip people of their citizenship. The announcement was made several weeks ago. Vox created an informative background piece on denaturalization, its history, and what the current mandate is (or at least, what it is supposed to be).

On the current mandate of the taskforce, it is really limited to reviewing fingerprint records on some 300,000 + applications, to check if anyone had applied for citizenship under a false name. As explained by Vox:

The denaturalization task force that USCIS is assembling now is the next phase of something that, under the Obama administration, was called “Operation Janus” — and that stretches all the way back to the Bush era.

In 2008, a Customs and Border Protection agent discovered that more than 200 people from four countries had become US citizens despite having past deportation orders — something that should have, legally, disqualified them from naturalization — because the deportation order was under one name and identity and the citizenship had been granted to another. The identity fraud hadn’t been caught because the fraudsters’ fingerprints hadn’t been digitized, and so they hadn’t turned up matches in an existing DHS database.

DHS subsequently launched a task force to figure out just how many fingerprint records it was missing from people who should be barred from citizenship. In 2011, it calculated that the answer was 315,000: people who’d been convicted of crimes or were fugitives, or who had been ordered deported from the US since 1990. About half of the 315,000 print sets ultimately got digitized, but the department ran out of money before it could finish the job.

This does not mean that there are hundreds of thousands of fraudulently naturalized citizens out there. It just means that any one set of missing fingerprints might theoretically match to someone who had become naturalized under a different identity.

In late 2016, the government started accelerating its Operation Janus efforts again. In September 2017, the DOJ filed its first three civil denaturalization suits under Operation Janus. (The first successful denaturalization order under the operation was issued in January.)

In June 2018, the director of USCIS, Cissna, announced that he was hiring a team of attorneys for a separate office in California for the purpose of investigating the remaining Operation Janus cases and making the necessary referrals to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

Every week seems to bring some new horror, some new step intended to make life harder for people who have migrated to this country. The Trump administration’s war on immigration has laid bare the inequities in our immigration system. It must be taken apart and rebuilt with a new set of principles at its heart; principles that recognize the fundamental rights of all people, wherever they are born, to live free of violence, intimidation and economic degradation.

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Lessons from Haiti: Another View on the Nicaraguan Crisis

Since April 18, the solidarity movement has been struggling over how to interpret events in Nicaragua and where to push in terms of advocacy and/or speaking out. As with many people following the situation, I have watched and listened to friends take a harsh line towards one another and with me about articles I have written. While the division in the solidarity movement is not in and of itself new, the tensions have boiled over. The gulf between people over how the situation is understood and should be represented is enormous. There are even calls from some to support U.S. sanctions against the government of Nicaragua, and to expand U.S. pressure on Ortega and the FSLN to step down. My sense is that we must resist this push for U.S. intervention; the potential consequences are dire.

For myself, the ghost hovering over my understanding of what is going in Nicaragua, and more to the point, my fear for the future, is not Venezuela or Syria, but Haiti in 2004. At the time, the solidarity community was deeply divided over Aristide’s rule. His effort to craft an institutionalized party (Fanmi Lavalas) from the Lavalas movement had created divisions within that movement; his embrace of some neo-liberal policy reforms, accusations of corruption, and accusations of political violence employed against opponents resulted in many on the left moving into an oppositional position against Aristide. As with Nicaragua today, much of this division was in response to division within Haiti. Groups like Batay Ouvriye and the Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif (PAPDA), all with deep ties to solidarity groups in the U.S., began denouncing Aristide and even calling for his resignation. This sounds all too familiar.

In late 2003 and early 2004, armed groups began moving from the Dominican Republic into Haiti, burning police stations and public facilities. As these groups approached Port-au-Prince, the business community was organized into the “Democratic Convergence” with other sectors of civil society, and stepped up their long-time opposition and expanded protests. On February 29, 2004 Aristide was forced to leave Haiti. Escorted to an airfield by U.S. special forces, he was put on a plane to the Central African Republic. His claim that he was forced out of office at the point of a gun, was dismissed out of hand. There was no investigation. Many on the left accepted this de facto coup. Convinced of Aristide’s failings, they accepted at face value the claim that he resigned freely. What might come next seemed to worry them not at all.

There was no constitutional transfer of power. With the parliament inactive, the United States, Canada and France essentially handed off leadership to a transitional authority under Gerard Latortue, who had worked previously with the United Nations, and was working as a business consultant and talk radio host in Boca Raton, Florida, when appointed as Prime Minister. The U.S. military was dispatched to “stabilize” the situation, eventually handing over occupation to a United Nations peacekeeping mission in the fall of 2004. Though officially ended last year, a smaller “follow-up” mission continues to be a presence in Haiti 14 years later.

Between Aristide’s removal from power and Preval’s re-election in February of 2006, thousands of people died. The international “community” which had denied access to funding to President Preval during his first term, and later Aristide, opened the the aid floodgates for Latortue. Billions of dollars flowed into the country, which, to this day, are largely unaccounted for. Concessions were granted to corporations for large swathes of Haiti’s resources. It was corruption on scale that dwarfed anything Aristide had been accused of (much less proven), all coupled with political violence on a scale that rivaled (and, by some measures, surpassed) the coup regime of 1991-1994.

The solidarity community in the United States with ties to Haiti was deeply divided – a division that, whatever else was on the table, constantly came back to the question of Aristide’s rule and his future. It is hard to know what might have been achieved otherwise, but ultimately there was no effective voice to push back against the United States’ propping up of Latortue amidst widespread violence and intensified neo-liberalization. People allied in the anti-Aristide camp, would point to violence by armed groups nominally aligned with Lavalas to justify and ignore the broader destruction taking place.

Since April 18 of this year, I have had a strong feeling of deja vu. Obviously there are enormous differences between Haiti and Nicaragua. The FSLN is deeply entrenched in the economic, social and political life of Nicaragua, in a way that Fanmi Lavalas was never able to achieve in Haiti. Nicaragua’s democratic institutions are more deeply embedded, and even if one accepts the worst about Ortega’s machinations, there is a baseline of stability in Nicaragua that Haiti, under constant intervention from the United States, has not been able to achieve.

On the one hand, this means that Nicaragua is able to resist intervention to a greater degree. This is evident whether one accepts the “coup has been defeated” narrative, or the “government remains intransigent” narrative, as both interpretations speak to the resilience of the state in the face of external pressure.

On the other hand, if Ortega is ultimately forced from power, what comes next could be accompanied by even greater bloodshed, given the embeddedness of the FSLN. I am convinced that there is no way Ortega’s resignation, or even early elections, will satisfy the United States and those in the opposition who have aligned with U.S. policy-makers in the long-term. Why? Because the FSLN will remain the largest, most stable party in Nicaragua even without Ortega. Indeed, even if Ortega were to resign, unless the constitution is simply thrown out the window, a Sandinista will replace him, as his replacement would be left to the National Assembly to choose. If early elections are held, the FSLN will very likely win a large portion of seats in the assembly, if not a majority – and possibly the presidency – depending on who runs. None of this will be acceptable to the United States and allied forces in Nicaragua.

What happened in Haiti is also instructive about the future of the FSLN under U.S.-brokered regime change. In the wake of Aristide’s “resignation,” the United States transformed the political arena, defended the pillaging of the economy, and practically destroyed Fanmi Lavalas (ironically by trying to take it over in an absurd effort to clear the way for Marc Bazan – a long-time opponent of Lavalas – to run as the Fanmi Lavalas candidate in 2006). Preval’s return to power at the head of the Lespwa coalition in 2006, despite all of the U.S.’s efforts, would mark the last “free” election in Haiti. In 2010, amidst the aftershocks of the earthquake, the vote was simply discarded. The U.S.-supported candidate, Martelly, was put into a runoff in place of the Lespwa candidate who had actually received more votes in the first round. With this decision made under unrelenting pressure and threats of sanctions from the U.S. government, Martelly would go on to win, amidst widespread abstention. Lavalas was excluded entirely from the election.

For those of us in the solidarity community, I suggest we take seriously the hard-earned lessons of the Haitian example in 2004. Calling for accountability regarding the violence in Nicaragua, both from state forces and armed groups aligned with the opposition, is important; but I would emphasize that this accountability should come through domestic channels or the multilateral forums that Nicaragua participates in. This week, the government has invited the United Nations, the Vatican and members of the European Human Rights community to help mediate a new, expanded round of national dialogue. This has the potential for achieving an accounting of what has transpired, and creating a path toward resolution and reconciliation.

Continuing to call for Ortega’s removal from power, and inviting further intervention from the United States in the form of sanctions that would only further destabilize and polarize the situation in Nicaragua, seems like a really bad idea. Marco Rubio, who has led the right-wing charge against the FSLN in the Senate, has even spoken of the possibility of war in Nicaragua, and has tried to recast the crisis as a national security issue for the United States. Rubio and his partners in Congress make strange allies for those on the left, and they are certainly not the allies of the majority of people in Nicaragua. Those with such a policy orientation have no track record of bringing democracy to any part of the world. Nor, clearly, is that their intention.

As the violence on the ground in Nicaragua has subsided dramatically over the last two weeks, there is space for a conversation about long-term political solutions. We should welcome and support this opening. But inviting alliances with those on the political right in the United States, which has long sought to dismantle the Sandinista government, is about the worst thing that could be done for Nicaragua.

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Inspirational and Influential Women of the World: Dolly Pomerleau Part III

I first met Dolly in January of 1996. I had just moved to Washington, D.C. and was looking for a job. I had contacted the Quixote Center a few months prior about the possibility of setting up a small project to donate funds to a clinic in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. The clinic served the neighborhood of the Mothers of Heroes and Martyrs, where I stayed in July of 1995 with a Witness for Peace delegation. This had been my first trip to Nicaragua, and the group I was with was eager to help out the community in a meaningful way. Friends directed me to “check out the Quixote Center” to see if they could help. I did. Bill Callahan helped direct some of our funds to the clinic, but a long standing project wasn’t in the works. It was my first experience of what I would come to love about the Quixote Center. The whole celebrating dreams bit is real – laced with enough realism to keep people from wasting time and money. When I came to Washington, D.C., I was reaching out to everyone I had come into contact with doing work in Nicaragua and solidarity with Central America more generally – asking if they needed help. Some of these cold calls would lead to lifelong friendships, with Chuck Kaufman and Kathy Hoyt of the Nicaragua Network, members of the Witness for Peace community (where I actually did get a job!), and, of course, the Quixote Center. I dropped by the Quixote Center that January. Bill was warm and welcoming. Dolly was equally inviting and funny. They took me to lunch and took a lot of time, it seemed to me, with a young guy who knew nothing, but had recently been to Nicaragua. If you’ve spent time with Dolly you know, she asks questions. She takes an interest in people. She can make you feel like you are interesting, like your story matters. Later, when I started working at the Quixote Center, I discovered she was also very honest. Never “brutally” honest, but she had high expectations about the work we did, and especially how we communicated that work to our “constituency.” She was always clear when she thought I (or anyone) could do better. And she was always generous with praise when warranted. On this first meeting, I did not land a job. But I got a few names and a much appreciated explanation for how the D.C. street grid worked. I went on to work for Witness for Peace that year and then I was off to grad school. But I kept running into Bill and Dolly. At Witness for Peace, I was part of organizing a fast on the capitol steps as one of the early SOAWatch actions. I invited Bill and Dolly to lead one of our evening reflections. I later would run into them at street festivals selling artwork and t-shirts for the Nicaraguan Cultural Alliance. Dolly was always cheerful and warm. In the Fall of 2001, I was finishing grad school and completing a semester teaching assignment at the University of Maryland. I found out the Quixote Center was hiring a policy coordinator for the Quest for Peace program and I applied. At the time, I was simply looking for a bridge between grad school and a full-time teaching assignment, but I ended up staying and staying, and then leaving only to return. Since that first meeting in 1996, there has been a gravitational pull of sorts that has kept me in the Center’s orbit and Dolly has been at the center of it. When I first started working at the Quixote Center, I established this rough schema about the relationship between Bill and Dolly and their respective roles. Bill was the charismatic leader. Always with the grand smile, unforgettable laugh, mischievous eyes that could pull you. He was the weaver of dreams, with his writing and his speaking. Dolly was the transactional leader. She was, in brief, the one who made sure things got done. Dolly has charisma to spare, and Bill could certainly finish a project, but their strengths I do believe lined up this way and reinforced each other, and through them, the Center.   For the years I have worked with Dolly she has been both a colleague and a mentor. Even now, I learn from her far more than I return. From my perspective, her greatest strength is her ability to mobilize people. She looks for ways to include others and does not hesitate to ask someone to take on a task. And though she can be a tough critic – a reputation she relishes I think – the result is that the end product is always better. With any other organizer all of this might sound a bit controlling, but Dolly’s genius is her ability to magnify her own expectations while making space for other people’s creativity. Dolly doesn’t want things done her way – she just wants whatever is being planned to actually get done and to be done well. In my time with the Quixote Center Dolly has handed me grant proposals to write, fundraising letters to layout, or the name of a donor to call. She has asked me to write poems and songs and to draw pictures for different programs. She’s been my strongest ally in encouraging me to try new, sometimes wacky tactics and she has also been the first person to say, bluntly, “that won’t work” (though she is willing to be convinced otherwise, provided you bring your best game to the conversation). She, more than anyone else, has taught me about the transactional part of organizing work. And not just me. From the current mayor of New York City, to heads of national organizations, to the current staff at the Quixote Center, Dolly has helped a generation of activists be better at the work they do. It is hard to imagine the Quixote Center without Dolly. Her wealth of experience, her insistence that our work make a difference, but also be interesting, even fun where it can be, and her enormous wit and energy will all be missed. I also fear our staff meetings will be longer now – Dolly had little patience for a lot of talking that seemed to lack direction. We all do, but she would actually stop it! I know that for Dolly retiring from the Quixote Center means passing along the legacy to a new cohort to carry the work forward. I don’t expect she will retire from the work of making this world more justly loving. She’ll continue to put her energies into new projects, enjoy her garden and travel. The Quixote Center will be fine though. She has implanted in all of us her passion for making impossible dreams possible. Dolly is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met. She made me a better organizer and has shown more confidence in me at times than I have felt myself. Mostly, she has been a great friend. I will cherish all of the times I have worked with her at the Quixote Center, and I look forward to future adventures with her.  
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Inspirational and Influential Women of the World: Dolly Pomerleau Part II

Dolly Pomerleau was one of the pioneers who founded the Quixote Center in 1975. She and Bill Callahan launched this justice work with a strong commitment to social justice in both civil society and within the Catholic Church. In both arenas, that justice included changing structures to establish the equality of women and men. Dolly was utterly committed to that and all the other projects and ideals to which the Center committed itself over the years. 

She was a Co-Director of the Center from the start… shaping the vision and helping launch many different projects. From the beginning, she advocated feminist ideals and full gender equality, making sure these values were a part of every aspect of life at the Center. 

And in 1975, she was one of the pioneering women who founded the Women’s Ordination Conference (WOC), the organization that has been a leader in the quest for women’s equality in the Roman Catholic Church for more than 40 years. The Quixote Center has long worked in coalition with WOC.  

Over the years, Dolly worked on a variety of projects at the Quixote Center, including Catholics Speak Out, which emphasized the crying need for gender equality and an expanded role for lay decision-making in the Church.

Photo from The Catholic Connection, October 1976.

She is a strong advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and was one of several women who chained themselves to the front door of the Republican National Committee when that party took the ERA out of its platform. The group was there for a full day in the hot sun, attracting a wide range of onlookers, including Republican women inside the building, many of whom were at their windows, pointedly expressing support for the action with hand signals, flag waving, and the like. 

Dolly is also committed to rectifying injustices of any kind where her actions might make a difference. She protested US attempts to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980’s, helping to establish the Quest for Peace project, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for Nicaragua over the years. This meant filling many cargo containers of aid that were shipped to that country regularly and sent to the Center’s partner organization, the Institute of John XXIII in Managua. The Institute then distributed the aid to the neediest parts of Nicaragua.  

Several times, Dolly visited that country and travelled with Ketxu Amezua of the Institute to see the many and impressive projects that were underway as a result of help from the Quixote Center. Her fluency in Spanish was an enormous help in all this work. 

In the United States, Dolly was never shy about protesting US policy in Nicaragua, and one time was arrested in the rotunda of the US Capitol as part of a group that was kneeling to pray for an end to US actions against the Nicaraguan government. 

She also advocated for justice in Haiti when Aristide was the duly elected President, and she helped establish a new project at the Center called Haiti Reborn. 

Her values were broad. When some new staff people at the Quixote Center – Jane Henderson and Shari Silberstein – suggested a project aimed at ending the death penalty, Dolly (and the staff) endorsed it heartily. This project eventually spun off from the Center to become Equal Justice USA. 

And oh yes… Dolly is a native of the state of Maine – northern Maine near the Canadian border. Thus she is tri-lingual: English, French, and Spanish.   

Dolly has been a strong and fearless advocate for justice in both church and civil society. She may be retiring from the Quixote Center, but her words and her spirit will never retire! She will always be there! 

Maureen Fiedler

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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)