A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds that Haiti may lose all of its primary forest within the next 20 years:
Here, we find that Haiti has less than 1% of its original primary forest and is therefore among the most deforested countries. Primary forest has declined over three decades inside national parks, and 42 of the 50 highest and largest mountains have lost all primary forest.
The impact of this loss has been dramatic. The study is particularly concerned with the resulting loss of biodiversity. The authors find that:
surveys of vertebrate diversity (especially amphibians and reptiles) on mountaintops indicates that endemic species have been lost along with the loss of forest. At the current rate, Haiti will lose essentially all of its primary forest during the next two decades and is already undergoing a mass extinction of its biodiversity because of deforestation.
The loss of biodiversity and forest cover also impacts people’s lives directly, through increased flooding events and mudslides. As a result hundreds of people die each year in flooding events directly tied to deforestation.
Primary forests in this study refer to forests that have not yet been cut by humans – as opposed to secondary forests that are the result of reforestation efforts. While reforestation can have a huge impact in prevention of flooding, secondary forests lack the biodiversity of primary forest cover.
The one weakness in the report is that it lays blame on the poor who clear forests for charcoal and small-scale agriculture. While this dynamic is undeniable, the root cause of these practices is deep inequity in Haiti’s social-economy that drives the poor onto vulnerable land. Protecting forests from such encroachment may be necessary, but absent other solutions that provide avenues for alternative means to make a living, conservation efforts will simply further marginalize the poor. This is why our work in reforestation is first and foremost an agricultural project that integrates tree planting with agro-ecology, water protection, and animal husbandry. There is an inherent value in planting and preserving trees – but neither works sustainably unless accompanied by social practices that respond to the lived reality of the communities most directly affected.
As reported last week, Temporary Protected Status for Haitians will “almost certainly” be extended as the result of lawsuits moving forward in the federal courts. Temporary Protected Status is a special designation that allows people already in the United States to remain here following natural disasters or periods of political instability in their country of origin. Haiti is one of nine countries that have been granted TPS. Last year, Trump announced that TPS for Haitians in the United States would not be extended – and he has moved to phase out TPS for most other countries covered by it. Without an extension, Haitians living in the United States under TPS had until July 22, 2019 to leave the U.S. With the cases moving forward in the federal courts, this deadline will most likely be extended.
Canceling TPS impacts 50,000 Haitians living in the United States, and another 27,000 children born in the U.S. that would either be deported with their parents, or would be separated. Sejal Zota, legal director for the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild writes:
In 2017, Trump announced that TPS for Haitian nationals would end on July 22, 2019…In response, NIPNLG filed a lawsuit, Saget v. Trump, with the law firms of Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli and Pratt P.A, (Kurzban), and Mayer Brown. The suit was brought on behalf of a dozen plaintiffs, including Patrick Saget, Haïti Liberté, the largest weekly Haitian newspaper in this hemisphere, and Family Action Network Movement, Inc. (FANM). Trials these days are rare in cases like this: they are usually decided on motions. This makes the decision even more notable, suggesting that the court may truly wish to hold the government accountable. A trial will begin promptly on January 7, 2019.
Read more about what this means in this message from Steve Forester of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.
Immigration policy is the responsibility of the federal government. However, in the deeply polarized times we live in, achieving comprehensive immigration reform at the national level has not been achieved. Indeed, the last comprehensive legislation passed was in 1996 – and it was not good legislation, paving the way for mandatory detention.
While there have been a number of bills introduced into congress with the aim of overhauling the immigration system, the good bills have languished in committee, and the more problematic compromise bills have failed to gain enough support on the House or Senate floors.
In the absence of a reform bill, and amidst the ongoing war against immigrants being waged by the Trump administration, local action is an important way to push back against the system, while building networks and relationships that can become the foundation for a political alliance to ultimately transform the system. This past weekend the Quixote Center presented some ideas about local action in a workshop at Call to Action in San Antonio. While not comprehensive, we did offer a few examples of ways people can get engaged in local action to support immigrant communities. We offer a summary of these ideas below:
If you have a flexible schedule and are able to mobilize at a moment’s notice, volunteering with a rapid response network is worth considering. Response networks take on a variety of roles, the most common being mobilizing to be a witness to (and/or at times to disrupt) ICE activity in your community.
How to get started!
Labor Notes has a brief guide to creating a rapid response network here: http://www.labornotes.org/2018/08/building-rapid-response-network-defend-immigrant-workers
Before launching the process to create a rapid response network, first see what might already exist in your community. This is not an exhaustive list, but a few places to check:
National: United We Dream, Here to Stay Network https://actionnetwork.org/forms/immigrants-are-heretostay/
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (list of hotlines): https://www.nnirr.org/drupal/sites/default/files/immigration_hotlines_pdf.pdf
Being held in detention is very isolating experience. People often have no idea how long they will be held, and can be moved at any moment. Visiting people in detention can make a huge difference for those being held.
Creating a visitation program requires meeting ICE guidelines and the specific rules of the facilities. They do not make it easy!
The best place to start is Freedom for Immigrants, which provides detailed information on how to create a program, and will help guide local groups in creating a visitation program.
To see a list of visitation programs around the country and learn more: https://www.freedomforimmigrants.org/visitation-network/
There are a variety of ways in which people have organized campaigns to resist immigration enforcement measures at the local level. Until there is a comprehensive reform at the federal level, such efforts create important means of support, and help to build a broader network of public officials working in support of more humane policies. We offer a few examples below.
SAFE Cities Network
The Vera Institute for Justice coordinates the SAFE Cities Network, which provides legal assistance to immigrants who are facing deportation. SAFE Cities Network is a year old, and includes 12 cities and 8 counties in the United States. Through the first year, 38% of the people who received legal assistance were able to stay in the U.S., compared to the national average of 3% of people who face these proceedings without assistance. For more information about the SAFE Cities Network: https://www.vera.org/spotlights/safe-expansion-and-success
Trump has made Sanctuary Cities a target, by threatening to suspend federal funding in some cases. In addition, some states like Texas have passed state laws that attempt to obligate cities to enforce immigration laws. In response, new strategies have evolved for localities to push back. In Austin, for example, the City Council passed a resolution that police must inform people that they have the right to refuse to answer questions related to immigration status.
287(g) refers to a section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that allows the federal government to enter into formal agreements with localities in order to, in essence, deputize local law enforcement to take on the roles normally reserved for ICE. Over the past several years, there have been numerous campaigns by local activists for their communities to withdraw from 287(g) agreements.
Background (map and explanation): https://www.ilrc.org/national-map-287g-agreements
There are a variety of actions community groups can take to challenge ICE, raise awareness about conditions in detention facilities located in their area, or work to block the opening of new detention facilities. There is no specific model to follow here, but we provide a few examples of campaigns.
Using inspections to end abusive detention
This is an initiative coordinated by Detention Watch Network. They have a detailed guide on how to use ICE contracts and inspections to build campaigns to challenge detention policies. The guide includes creation of visitation programs and ways to use the media and other grassroots actions to build local campaigns. You can connect to the toolkit and other information here: https://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/issues/detention-oversight
A grassroots movement which has adopted some of the strategies of the Occupy Wall Street movement to protest ICE activity in cities around the country. The first encampment was in Portland in June this year. In Philadelphia protests led to the city canceling its arrest database sharing agreement with ICE. There have been Occupy ICE actions in many cities, mostly during the peak of the family separation crisis. Follow at hashtag #OccupyICE. Website: https://occupyice.org/
Background article (Guardian): https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/06/occupy-ice-movement-new-york-louisville-portland
As reported earlier, the first of the recent refugee caravans from Central America arrived at the U.S./Mexico border this week. The group of LGBTQ refugees had left the main group following harassment. The San Antonio, Texas-based organization RAICES raised funds for buses from Mexico City to the border. Sandra Cuffe, writing for Al Jazeera, provides some excellent context. [Note: Sandra Cuffe has been covering the refugee caravan for Al Jazeera since the beginning. You can review her articles here.]
An appellate court in Brooklyn ruled Wednesday that local police officers in New York state can’t hold immigrants in custody beyond their release date solely to turn them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a judicial warrant.
A network of cities that provide legal services to immigrants facing deportation is expanding. The Vera Institute for Justice launched the Safety and Fairness for Everyone (SAFE) Network, which currently includes 12 cities and 8 counties around the country.
Denver is the latest city to extend this program.
More background on the SAFE Cities Network.
TPS for Haitians will be extended as federal courts agree to let lawsuit move forward.
Elizabeth Warren is among a group of Senators who sent letters demanding details from private detention center operators CoreCivic and the GEO Group, as well as their auditors, The Nakamoto Group.
Mother reunited with child five months after separation at the border. More evidence that having legal representation makes all of the difference!