Farmworker Awareness Week Day Three: Take Action to Ban Chlorpyrifos

“We started around four [4:00] to four thirty [4:30] in the morning,” one worker reported. “I heard someone say ‘it’s raining,’ I didn’t feel anything but I could smell it. I could smell a chemical smell like a garden product. I heard a plane or helicopter I never saw it but I heard it. I did have symptoms, my head was hurting, and my eyes were itchy and really watery.”

Farmworkers, like the man quoted above in this Mother Jones report, are routinely exposed to pesticides. In the incident above, men working a field were hit with doses of chlorpyrifos from a crop-duster spraying an adjoining field and Vapam, which had been injected in heavy doses at a nearby potato farm that produces for Tasteful Selections. As a result of this incident, Tasteful Selections and the pesticide company that sprayed chlorpyrifos were both fined for failing to disclose the presence of the pesticides. Pat Trowers of the Pesticide Action Network, is quoted in the Mother Jones story, saying “The fines levied against these companies amount to little more than pocket change for large-scale growers….It’s simple—the punishment should fit the crime. Higher fines and larger no-spray zones around workers would be a much more effective deterrent to pesticide drift problems.”

Today is Day Three of Farmworker Awareness Week. The theme for the day is Life, and the action is to call on Congress to institute a ban on chlorpyrifos. You can join in the action by connecting to the Pesticide Action Network here.

As reported in the Guardian last May:

Chlorpyrifos is widely used in US agriculture, sprayed on crops such as corn, wheat and citrus. However, growing evidence of its impact upon human health led the EPA to agree with the chemical industry more than a decade ago that the product should not be used indoors to get rid of household bugs.

The pesticide has been linked to developmental problems in children such as lower birth weight, reduced IQ and attention disorders. Large doses of the chemical can cause convulsions and sometimes even death. People are exposed through spray drift, residues on food and water contamination.

Chlorpyrifos, which is produced by Dow Chemicals, can still be used for agricultural purposes but after a legal challenge by environmental groups, EPA scientists stated that the pesticide was not safe for any use and proposed widening the ban.

A subsequent ban of chlorpyrifos was rejected, however, under the new Trump administration. Scott Pruitt, administrator of the EPA, said he denied the ban to provide “regulatory certainty to the thousands of American farms that rely on chlorpyrifos”. The EPA said there were “serious scientific concerns and substantive process gaps” in the plan to banish chlorpyrifos. The next review of the chemical isn’t scheduled until 2022.

Farmworkers cannot wait until 2022. Join the call to action! Contact your legislators!

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Activism in Retrospect

During the last two weeks of February, the Quixote Center was involved in actions of solidarity for Dreamers and the people of Honduras. I attended the Honduras Awareness Tour (Feb. 22) and the Catholic Day of Action for Dreamers (Feb. 27) and was equally moved by both events that called us to be a catalyst for change. Below are my reflections on these experiences.

Honduras Awareness Tour

On February 22, I attended the Honduras Awareness Tour in its final stop in Washington, D.C. The three-city tour was an opportunity for Honduran journalists and human rights activists, Joaquin Mejia and Claudia Mendoza, to update the public on the current conditions of Honduras. It was only befitting that the tour ended in our nation’s capital since both speakers emphasized the destabilizing role the U.S. has played in its foreign policy towards Latin America, in particular, Honduras, starting with the Obama administration’s legitimization of the 2009 coup in which democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya was ousted from power by the Honduran military (NCR). For a country that claims to promote democracy and is even considering punishing other countries for not upholding democracy (as seen, for example, in the NICA Act), the U.S. position to dismiss democracy in Honduras by engaging with the Honduran military speaks volumes about the continuation of foreign policies that disregard the plight of the people of Honduras.

The event began with disturbing news reported by the event host, Oscar Chacon (Executive Director of Alianza Americas). He told the audience that Mejia’s family was still receiving death threats for his role of using Radio Progreso to discuss the conditions of Honduras. We also heard that one of Mendoza’s loved one’s passed away from an illness the night before. There before us stood two fearless people, determined to bring a message despite personal loss. The message, simply put, is that Honduras is suffering. Their democracy is being choked and as U.S. citizens we need to hold our government accountable for these actions and demand change. Why is our government still sending military aid to Honduras, a country where activists are met with death (#BertaVive)?.   

Overall the event provided a much-needed update on the conditions in Honduras. This is a U.S. concern as well since the people of Honduras need us to stand with them. They need us to raise our voices to a level that demands change in U.S. foreign policy. We need to support avenues of authentic journalism like Radio Progreso and the many other organizations in Honduras being harassed in an effort made to silence them. Now more than ever it is important to stand with the people of Honduras.

Catholic Day of Action for Dreamers

The final Tuesday in February was a day of both hope and sorrow. On February 27, Quixote Center staff took part in the Catholic Day of Action for Dreamers, a peaceful protest in Washington, D.C. that encouraged Catholics and non-Catholics to elevate voices in support Dreamers and demand their right to stay in the U.S. The first year of the Trump administration has been a disaster for immigrant families. The administration’s dehumanizing rhetoric and willingness to use families to create a deal for a misconceived border wall is, frankly, disgusting. 

QC staff: (left to right) Mfon Edet, Jessica DeCou, Jocelyn Trainer

The protest was an opportunity to stand with our neighbors, families, and friends who are Dreamers, during this stressful time in their life. Have you ever been in a situation when you didn’t know where you were going to live or have to face the possibility that your family could be split apart? The amount of stress those types of concerns come with is too heavy to bear alone. We need to support immigration reform that leads to paths to citizenship for not only Dreamers but all immigrants who have built lives here.

The number of people that showed up in support of Dreamers was beautiful to witness. There was mass in the morning at St. Peters on Capitol Hill and a rally in front of the Senate building in which different activists spoke about the much-needed change in our immigration policies. The protest eventually moved inside of the Senate building where protesters met in the rotunda to pray. Soon after the prayer, the protest ended with the arrest of approximately 40 nuns.

After the arrest, I saw protest participants walking directly into their state representatives’ offices to discuss the need for a path to citizenship with better immigration reform legislation. I also saw families around the rotunda crying and it dawned on me even more that this is their reality. They are in limbo and it’s SCARY. With our members of Congress failing to support positive immigration reform, and with the current injustices of ICE raids, the voices of immigrants are being ignored.

Overall I’m glad to have been a part of this protest. As a Catholic, a person of color, a first-generation American, and an activist, seeing the nuns being arrested coupled with the families crying made me take a step back to look at the conditions of this country. In the words of Daniel Neri, one of the speakers at the rally, “We are not criminals, we are not rapists, we are good people” (NCR). 

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Country Highlight: Nepal

Part VIII of a series on TPS

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Temporary Protected Status holders increasingly fear they will not be permitted to remain in the United States. Within the last year the Trump administration has terminated TPS for four out of the 10 designated countries.  This week TPS for El Salvador was terminated, impacting over 260,000 people who have lived in the U.S. for over 17 years. TPS holders and supporters continue to press for a permanent, legislative solution. In support of this effort we continue our series on TPS; this week with a profile of Nepal.

Nepal began receiving TPS in 2015, shortly after the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the country. The earthquake left roughly 9,000 dead, 20,000 injured, over 10,000 displaced, and destroyed 824,000 homes. Though two years have passed since the earthquake, over 2.8 million Nepalese remain in need of humanitarian aid.

The government is seen as largely ineffective in implementing reconstructive efforts or distributing aid due to political instability and infighting. In late 2016, the government attempted to implement the new 2015 Constitution, which ensued in months of violent protests and opposition throughout the country, halting reconstruction efforts.

The political infighting led to delays in establishing or legitimizing an earthquake recovery authority. Without any government authority heading the reconstruction, the majority of victims of the earthquake were forced to spend two monsoons and two winters in makeshift shelters.

Finally, the Reconstruction Authority was created eight months after the earthquake. It estimates that USD$9 billion is needed to complete all the necessary reconstruction in the country. The international community raised USD$4.1 billion to aid Nepal; however, as of April 2017, only 12% of the aid money has been distributed, indicating the ineffectiveness of the agency.

Major criticisms from the international community of the Reconstruction Authority included that it lacks coordination between donors and the governments, possesses a limited understanding of local concerns, and has a dearth of civil engagement. This leaves many organizations attempting to directly give aid to local communities and avoid government involvement.

As with many natural disasters, the earthquake affected the disadvantaged and poor the most. Rural communities in particular have been hard to access and have thus far received little assistance for emergency housing and relief. Of those whom have received government compensation disbursements to rebuild their homes, they face shortages of water, raw materials, inspectors, and engineers needed to rebuild, consequently halting the already slow reconstruction.

The government faces complaints from Nepalese over a lack of transparency and information provided to the public about the time constraints to receive compensation disbursements, and knowledge regarding where and how to receive aid. Although, some believe that there is hope to enact positive governmental change in the elections scheduled for May 2018.

Currently, there are 8,950 Nepalese living in the United States under TPS. This is not an undue hardship to America, and it is clear that the Nepalese government is not capable of adequately handling the return of these citizens.

Please continue to call your legislators and urge them to support legislation that extends TPS and also creates a pathway to permanent residence. See more on legislative options here.

 

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The NICA Act and the never-ending hypocrisy of U.S. foreign policy

The Nicaragua Investment Conditionality Act of 2017 could see action in the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks. The “NICA” Act directs U.S. representatives at international financial institutions like the World Bank,International Monetary Fund and Inter-American Development Bank to block international assistance to Nicaragua until “the Department of State certifies that Nicaragua is taking effective steps to increase election integrity, promote democracy, strengthen the rule of law and respect freedom of association and expression.” The NICA Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives this fall. The version in  the Senate is slightly different than the House version, additionally calling for a report “on activities of certain regimes” in Nicaragua – specifically, Russia, and Venezuela. Senator Leahy’s co-sponsorship of the current effort with bill author Ted Cruz makes it very possible that this version could pass in the Senate.

At the same time, and going mostly unnoticed in the United States, Donald Trump signed an executive order on December 21 declaring a “state of emergency” as a result of rampant human rights violations and corruption around the world. In the order, Trump promises to use the weight of the U.S. government to crackdown on human rights abuse and corruption by freezing the assets of individuals involved in perpetrating such abuse. The Executive Order goes on to list 13 individuals from around the world that are presumptively immediate targets for action. Among those listed is the president of the Supreme Electoral Council in Nicaragua, Roberto José Rivas Reyes. Reyes seems to be guilty of living a luxurious lifestyle while having a modest official salary. Reyes’ inclusion on this list, and the resulting Department of Treasury investigation, is also referenced in the Senate version of the NICA Act.

The official concerns of U.S. policy-makers stem from actions taken by Nicaragua’s Supreme Court and Supreme Electoral Council in preparation for elections in 2011 and 2016. In 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that Ortega could run for re-election despite a constitutional ban on presidents serving consecutive terms. The Court ruled that such a ban violated another constitutional right, the right of an individual to run for office. However one views this decision, and the Court was and remains clearly in the Sandinista camp, the controversy surrounding the ruling was obviously well covered in Nicaragua’s media – which routinely lampoons Ortega and other political leaders in ways that would make Borowitz blush. Ortega still won 62% of the vote. In 2016 Ortega won again. Prior to the election the Supreme Electoral Council cancelled the legal status of leaders of the Independent Liberal Party, driving a wedge in the opposition Coalition for Democracy. Without an effective opposition Ortega would go on to win with 72% of the vote.

One need not be any kind of cheerleader for Ortega’s institutional maneuvering as head of the Sandinista party to acknowledge that his, and more importantly the party’s popularity is based on improving the lives of many people. Since 2006, the Sandinista government has provided free healthcare services, eliminated school fees (imposed by previous governments under the pressure of structural adjustment programs), invested in rural communities, and significantly reduced poverty. Nicaragua has also enjoyed a growth rate of nearly 5% in recent years. The NICA Act, if passed, would erode the government’s ability to sustain these programs. We must assume U.S. policy-makers are well aware of this; undercutting the popular basis of Sandinista rule is the goal.

As the U.S. government prepares to possibly sanction Nicaragua for what it deems electoral malfeasance, it is standing by the re-election of Juan Orlando Hernández in Honduras. The comparison is instructive. Hernandez ran for re-election despite a constitutional ban on consecutive terms for the president. He was allowed to do so by a questionable ruling of Honduras’ Supreme Court under the control of his party. This caused little concern for U.S. policy-makers. The election in Honduras was the third since a coup d’etat removed president Manuel Zelaya from office in June of 2009. Hernandez represents the coalition of forces that undertook that coup, and with U.S. support, that coalition has sought to consolidate its control over the country ever since. Despite widespread human rights abuses, the United States continues to provide tens of millions of dollars in assistance to security forces. Those security forces have been implicated in the assassination of dozens of social movement leaders. Honduras remains one of the most dangerous countries for human rights defenders, journalists, and environmental activists. In the wake of the coup, the murder rate sky-rocketed to the highest in the world; the murder rate for women doubled.

The election in Honduras took place on November 26, 2017. As the tallies were posted by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla was running ahead of Hernández. The tallies were quickly taken off-line, and no further public disclosures were made for several days. When preliminary results were then posted Hernández had pulled ahead, a near statistical impossibility given earlier results. Protests increased around the country demanding that there be a transparent recount, and then a new election (given that some ballots had “disappeared”). It took over two weeks for election authorities to make Hernandez the official winner. The Trump administration congratulated him the same day. The Organization of American States has called for a new election, as have the people of Honduras. The U.S. government has accepted the results. Amidst the violent crackdown against demonstrators by government forces that has resulted in at least 40 deaths, the U.S. certified Honduras’ progress in human rights in order to continue funding security forces.

The juxtaposition of U.S. policy toward Nicaragua and Honduras could not be more absurd if one actually believes the guiding issue for United States policy is democratic practice.  However, U.S. administrations have proven over and over that the U.S. government cares little about the integrity of elections in Central America. The U.S. concern is simply that the “right” people win: Those who support unencumbered corporate access to resources and labor.

What to do?

Contact your Senator and tell them to oppose NICA Act. You can call your Senators using the Capital Switchboard (202) 224-3121 Or, send a letter opposing the NICA Act directly to your Senators using our friends at the Alliance for Global Justice’s online platform here.

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Operation Streamline: Fast Tracking Deportation

In November, I traveled to the School of the Americas’ (SOA) Encuentro Watch to learn more about immigration and the demilitarization of the US-Mexico border. Upon arrival, I was picked up from the Tucson airport and driven to US District Court Pro SE Office in Tucson, Arizona. This courthouse is noteworthy, because it is one of the three courts in the country that utilizes Operation Streamline.

Before arriving in Tucson I knew nothing about Operation Streamline, but assumed it was some system to speed-up immigration. Well, I was kind of right, but it is much more about deportation and far worse than I had imagined.

Quick Overview

Operation Streamline is a joint effort by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice initiated in 2005 in an effort to impose zero-tolerance immigration enforcement along the U.S.-Mexico border. Prior to Operation Streamline, most apprehended undocumented immigrants faced civil deportation proceedings in court while criminal charges were typically reserved for undocumented immigrants with prior criminal records or repeat entrants. Under Operation Streamline, all unauthorized immigrants are charged with criminal violations of the federal law and face prosecution for ‘illegal entry’ or ‘illegal re-entry’.

En Masse Hearings

Under Operation Streamline, defendants are tried in en masse hearings, meaning that up to 80 individuals can be tried simultaneously. Upon apprehension, undocumented immigrants are detained for 1-12 days before their hearing. Typically, defendants receive court-appointed attorneys or public defenders, who represent dozens of defendants at once (sometimes during the same trial).  Defendants are not given time prior to their hearing to meet with their attorney. As a result, the defendants have little or no time to understand the charges against them, consider plea offers, or discuss legal relief options. This hinders legitimate claims for immigration relief, such as asylum. Most en masse hearings are condensed into one day.

Due to the rapid and dehumanizing nature of en masse hearings, due process is not observed, and important distinctions are lost or ignored. For example, public defenders have reported being appointed to represent U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, as a result of Operation Streamline.

Once convicted of illegal entry or re-entry, the defendant is sent to a detention center or private prison to serve their jail time, and upon completion of the sentence is deported. With a criminal record, it is extremely difficult to pursue legal entry or immigration options to the United States.

Prison Time

Private prisons have greatly profited from Operation Streamline due to the constant flow of new prisoners. Repeat offenders typically receive a sentence of 30-180 days, with a maximum of 20 years. In Tucson alone, incarceration costs are estimated at $63 billion annually, in addition to the legal costs.

Operation Streamline was created to further deter unauthorized entry into the United States through Mexico. However, there is no statistical evidence indicating that Operation Streamline is correlated with such a decrease. Instead, it has become more dangerous to cross into the U.S., resulting in the loss of many lives.

Many Americans are unaware of Operation Streamline and how it has been used to create a whole new class of people labeled as “criminals,” even though they have not violated any criminal law. While standing outside of the Federal Court in the searing Tucson sun, I listened to the stories of those directly affected by Operation Streamline. These stories had much in common, insofar as they were told by upstanding members of society attempting to take hold of the American Dream, but forcibly removed from the place they call home.

The first step to combat Operation Streamline is knowledge. Americans need to know that their tax dollars are being used to fund the criminalization and deportation of thousands of children, women, and men seeking a better life. We have developed a fact sheet to boil down this issue.

Various faith groups and humanitarian organizations urged former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to shutdown Operation Streamline and continue to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Join their efforts by calling your legislator or Jeff Sessions to let them know you do not condone Operation Streamline and would like to see it ended.

Here is how you can find and contact your elected officials.

You can contact Jeff Sessions through the DOJ.

If you’d like a more condensed version, we also have a one-page Operation Streamline Factsheet you can share. 

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Take Action in Defense of Democracy in Honduras

The crisis in Honduras in the wake of the November 26 election continues.  As documented here by Rick Sterling the evidence suggests strongly that the ruling National Party tampered with the voting process to ensure victory for Juan Orlando Hernandez:

After midnight on election night, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) stopped posting updates and effectively shut down for the next 36 hours. The TSE’s president, David Matamoros Batson, said the TSE had received 13,000 tally sheets but was missing 6,000 from the total. With just over 18,000 total, this does not quite add up. Then two hours later, Matamoros increased the number of missing tally sheets to 7,500.

When updates resumed, mid-day last Tuesday, the results consistently favored the incumbent right-wing President Juan Orlando Hernandez. The opposition lead steadily diminished then disappeared.

The leader of the Opposition Coalition against the Dictatorship, Salvador Nasralla, denounced the apparent malfeasance and protests commenced across the country. Police and military have sometimes responded violently. Numerous unarmed Hondurans have been killed over the past five days.

On Monday, more than a week after the election, the TSE announced results giving a narrow victory to the incumbent National Party President Juan Orlando Hernandez. As mass protests continue, the opposition has demanded a recount of all the tally sheets received after the TSE shutdown.

The situation continues to evolve. Protests have continued. The police, remarkably, announced that they would no longer enforce a curfew or prevent peaceful protests. A welcome respite after 10 days of state violence that left at least 13 people dead and hundreds detained.

The United States has some responsibility for events. It has provided military and police assistance to Honduran forces, despite years of evidence of complicity with human rights violations since the coup in June of 2009. Just this week it was announced that the Trump administration had certified Honduras as making sufficient strides in the protection of human rights to continue to receive aid – close to $55 million in the upcoming fiscal year. The Obama administration made a similar certification last year, claiming that Honduras had made significant progress to “protect the right of political opposition parties, journalists, trade unionists, human rights defenders, and other civil society activists to operate without interference.” A description sorely at odds with events on the ground.

As events continue to unfold we join with other human rights and solidarity organizations to demand that the U.S. government respect the democratic process. We invite all of you to contact your members of congress and demand that the U.S. respect the democratic process in Honduras.

You can call the U.S. Capital Switchboard to directly contact your Senators and Representatives: (202) 224-3121.  Get their phone numbers and email addresses; send them copies of this and other information; politely insist that they agree to any and all of the following demands; share your efforts with the media, family, friends and networks.

In the short term, the U.S. government and politicians must:

  • Publicly condemn the multiple acts of documented electoral fraud being carried out by the corrupt, military-backed government of Juan Orlando Hernandez and the National party;
  • Publicly condemn the suspension of constitutional rights, the imposition of a curfew and the acts of police and military repression happening across Honduras against anti-electoral fraud protesters and other citizens;
  • State unequivocally that the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez and the National Party will be held fully accountable for any and all electoral fraud and repression taking place;
  • Immediately suspend all economic, military, police and other “security” related relations with the corrupt, repressive government in power;
  • Advocate for a complete recount of ALL votes, carried out under full national and international supervision, or a new run-off election is held under full national and international supervision.
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Country Highlights: Somalia & South Sudan

Part VI of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

The Trump Administration is proving ruthless in their mission to limit immigration to the United States. Within the last two months, the Department of Homeland Security has ended TPS for two out of the 10 TPS-designated countries. However, there is a glimmer of hope for the remaining countries; DHS extended TPS for Sudan in September, showing some leniency and willingness to continue the program.

Between Somalia and South Sudan, 320 individuals are in the U.S. under the protection of TPS due to civil war and extreme violence in both countries. Though there are few TPS recipients from Somalia and South Sudan, compared to other TPS designated countries, we must remember they had a long and likely treacherous journey to reach the United States, and the number of recipients is no measure of their relative importance or the gravity of the conditions they left behind.

 

South Sudan

South Sudan received a freedom in the world score of 5/100 from Freedom House due to a lack of political rights, an inoperative government, an absence of civil liberties, and ineffective rule of law. South Sudan gained independence in 2011, and it has been at civil war since 2013, after President Salva Kiir (a Dinka) fired Vice President Riek Machar (a Nuer), deepening the division between the ethnic groups.

Violence was centered in Juba, the capital, but has since spread throughout the country. The UN and the African Union have reported government forces and armed ethnic militias directly targeting civilians, for murder, rape and torture. As of 2016, 1.9 million South Sudanese were internally displaced; there were 1.5 million refugees in neighboring countries; death toll estimates were in the tens of thousands; and ethnic cleansing was underway in parts of the country.

 

Somalia

This year Somalia received a 5/100 freedom in the world score from Freedom House due to grave human rights abuses, a lack of a free or stable government, and judiciary rife with impunity, among other things. The country is divided between three major actors: the internationally-supported national government, the separatist government, and al-Shabaab – all of which are fighting for legitimacy, power, and territory. This infighting has resulted in the loss of thousands of civilian lives, internally displaced persons, and loss of infrastructure.

According to reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as of 2016, 1.1 million Somalis were internally displaced; an additional 1.1 million Somalis refugees were in other countries; and over 50,000 civilians had been killed. Al-Shabaab routinely carries out guerilla-style assaults, public beheadings, bombings, and targeted attacks against civilians and civilian structures, such as schools and hotels. Al-Shabaab is not the only group responsible for violence against civilians. Reports from the UN confirm that both the Somali Federal Government (SFG) and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) are responsible for human rights and international law violations, including rape and indiscriminately killing citizens.

It is feared that the return of Somalis and South Sudanese from abroad will further exacerbate the crisis in both countries. The sheer amount of violence alone has made the return of citizens from abroad impossible. Coupled with the lack of economic opportunity and sustainable infrastructure, the return of South Sudanese and Somalis migrants appears unfathomable.

Please continue to call and write your legislators to fight for the renewal of TPS and to support the SECURE Act, which would create a pathway to permanent residency for TPS holders.

 

Up Next:

Country Highlights: Yemen and Syria – coming December 15th

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Country Highlights: Central America

Part V of a series on TPS

Missed the last blog?

On November 6th the Department of Homeland Security announced the end of TPS for Nicaraguan migrants. Following this news, 2,550 Nicaraguans were given notice to prepare for deportation in 12 months. Hondurans were given some respite; the Department of Homeland Security announced an extension of six months for TPS holders in order to further assess the living conditions in Honduras. Salvadorans will likely hear in January if they have been granted an extension for TPS.

Taken together, 252,000 TPS recipients from Honduras and El Salvador have lived in the United States for over two decades. With the current administration debating their TPS renewal, thousands nervously await their fate in an uneasy limbo.

Both El Salvador and Honduras began receiving TPS after Hurricane Mitch caused widespread destruction in 1998. The countries continue to receive TPS due to rampant violence.

The U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning in January for Honduras stating, “With one of the highest murder rates in the world and criminals operating with a high degree of impunity, U.S. citizens are reminded to remain alert at all times when traveling in Honduras”. A similar warning for El Salvador was issued in February declaring, “El Salvador has one of the highest homicide levels in the world and crimes such as extortion, assault and robbery are common”.

We must question, if the U.S. government acknowledges the extreme violence in these countries, then why do they want to deport thousands of people to return to these dangerous conditions?

TPS was designed to protect people from living amidst extreme violence.

Honduras faces major corruption and impunity problems within the government and armed forces. During the 2015 presidential election, over 12 opposition candidates and activists were killed, and President Juan Orlando Hernández was linked to a social security embezzlement scheme. The police and army are known to be involved in drug trafficking and extortion. Fewer than 4% of homicides result in conviction, leaving very little hope for protection or justice for Hondurans. Journalists, human rights workers, land activists, and LGBQT persons are at highest risk of violence from gangs and authorities.

The rampant violence in El Salvador is chiefly due to the two of the largest gangs, MS-13 and 18th Street (both exported from Los Angeles). In the 2014 presidential election, the two major political parties, ARENA and FMLN were caught making deals with gang leaders in exchange for votes, highlighting the gangs’ political influence. Gangs have gained control over large portions of the country, and as a result tens of thousands of children have fled north, often unaccompanied, in order to avoid forced gang induction and violence. Police are attempting to crack down on gang-induced violence, causing an increase of lethal armed conflict and an upsurge of gang member and civilian deaths.

Unfortunately, we cannot reverse DHS’s decision to end TPS for Nicaragua, but there is still time and hope for the renewal of TPS for Honduras and El Salvador! Be proactive and call your legislators to urge them to support the renewal of TPS.

 

Up Next:

Country Highlight: Somalia and South Sudan – coming December 1st

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Reclaiming the Truth: Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Many of us we were taught in elementary school that Christopher Columbus was a brave Italian explorer who first discovered the Americas. We remember him as a hero and for this reason honor him with his own day, Columbus Day. However, this provides a white washed, ethnocentric version of United States’ history. Upon examining the true root of the holiday and the factual history, we discover Columbus Day celebrates, and honors the colonization of the Americas, and the genocide and ethnocide of the indigenous peoples. Columbus encouraged the enslavement and mass murder of indigenous peoples along his voyage and ‘discovery’ of the Americas. To ignore these atrocities by celebrating  Columbus Day, we also have to ignore the violent reality of European colonization, and devalue the indigenous populations within the Americas.

In the United States, states, cities, and universities throughout the nation have taken steps to pay homage to the indigenous peoples impacted by European colonization by celebrating an alternative to Columbus Day called, Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Indigenous Peoples’ Day recognizes that people were in the Americas before the land was ‘discovered ’ by Columbus, and that they were nearly erased from history after his arrival due to the spreading of diseases and violent repression. This movement to reclaim U.S. history with the truth by celebrating alternatives to Columbus Day, began in 1992 in Berkeley, CA in which the title Indigenous Peoples’ Day was coined on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival. Today, 4 states, 55 cities, and 3 universities celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Supporters of the alternative holiday also intend to draw attention to the fact that indigenous communities continue to be marginalized, discriminated against, and lack access to basic services in the United States.

Various Spanish speaking countries in Latin America have begun to celebrate Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) as an alternative to Columbus Day. Día de la Raza pays tribute to the Hispanic heritage of Latin America, and honors the countries that were brutally conquered by Europe. This celebration is also meant to remember and celebrate the peoples, cultures, and traditions suppressed by European explorers during a continuous and seemingly unending process of colonization that has lasted for centuries. As in the United States, Día de la Raza serves to promulgate the current challenges many indigenous communities continue to face in Hispanic and Latin cultures.

Although there are positive steps and actions being taken to factually rewrite our history, more still needs to be done. There are still 46 states, and numerous cities as well as universities throughout the United States that do not recognize any alternatives to Columbus Day. In doing so, they have chosen to silently accept and promote an ethnocentric version of U.S. history. On this day in particular, please support the recognition of indigenous peoples and their cultures. You can take small steps by not observing Columbus Day as a holiday and/or by sharing the true meaning of Columbus Day with at least one person. Another step you can take (on a larger scale) is to contact your mayor or congressional representatives requesting that your city or state celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

 

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NICA Act: Perpetuating Suffering in Nicaragua

The Nicaraguan Investment Conditionality Act (NICA Act) is a congressional bill introduced in July 2016. The NICA Act focuses on limiting long term aid to Nicaragua from financial institutions such the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank due to the Nicaraguan government’s restrictions on transparent elections and limitations on political freedoms (i.e. political opposition parties).

The NICA Act (H.R. 5708) was passed in the House in September 2016 and is currently being reviewed in the Senate. The House sponsor for the bill is Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Senate sponsor for the bill (S. 3284) is Senator Ted Cruz.

Adverse Impact

Many individuals are in support of the NICA Act without fully understanding the negative impact of this bill if passed. “Nicaragua is the poorest country in Latin America and second poorest in the Western Hemisphere.” (Foundation for Sustainable Development) Financial opportunities are rare to come by in Nicaragua because of the limited amount of job opportunities. On top of that, financial institutions i.e. banks, are extremely limited; throughout the country there are between 10 – 20 banks throughout the country.

The NICA Act is the United States’ solution to punishing the current Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega. Although we do not agree with or condone Daniel Ortega’s approach to politics and human rights overall, the NICA Act is not an appropriate response. The reason being is because the NICA Act will perpetuate poverty within the country.  The NICA Act will also perpetuate the unbalanced relationship between the U.S. and Latin American countries by continuing to view the Latin American region as the “backyard” to the United States in which they can treat the people in this countries however they like.

By making micro loans impossible for the Nicaraguan people to attain with the presence of the NICA Act, the United States will be taking a strong hold approach to systematic change in the Americas. History is repeating itself with this bill because we have seen it before with the Cuban embargo. In an effort to punish the late Fidel Castro by banning trading opportunities to Cuba, the Cuban people suffered severely, not so much Fidel Castro. It actually gave more leverage for Fidel Castro to preach to the Cuban people more animosity towards the United States.

Change the Policies

At The Center we advocate for better U.S.-Latin American foreign policies that uplifts every country in the Americas. Therefore we are against the NICA Act because of the negative effect it will have on the Nicaraguan people and U.S.-Nicaragua relations overall.  We ask that you stand with the Quixote Center as we oppose this bill by contacting your state Congressional representative. Express to your congressman/woman that they have the opportunity to alleviate the suffering of the Nicaraguan people by not enacting the NICA Act.

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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)