The Truth About Busing Migrants from the Border to DC: A Story of Welcoming

UPDATE: The DC Attorney General’s office, whose funding is separate from that of the mayor’s office, has announced a grant program of $150,000 to aid nonprofits leading the welcoming response. We welcome this news, but unfortunately this level of funding is still woefully inadequate to meet the needs of mutual aid groups. 

In April, Governor Abbott of Texas began sending migrants from the US southern border to Washington, DC, with Arizona joining soon after. So far, Texas and Arizona have collectively bused over 7,000 migrants from the border to DC, and now Texas is beginning to send buses to New York City as well.  

 The narrative cycling around conservative media outlets is that Governors Abbott and Ducey have “stuck it to the Dems” by “bringing the border crisis” to their front doors. Abbott and Ducey are using migrant families, who are real people with hopes, dreams, and unimaginable journeys, as political pawns to spin a media narrative about an “immigrant invasion.” There are anecdotal reports of migrants being coerced onto the buses, told that they will be taken to their desired destination, and then sent to DC or New York instead.  

At the same time, many migrants have also been able to benefit from the program, because DC or New York are much closer to their final destination than the Texas or Arizona border. Others don’t have a final destination in mind. Forced to flee their homes, they are content to board a bus to DC or New York City, where, they are told, there will be resources and jobs waiting for them.  

In the case of DC, it is true that the buses have overwhelmed these resources. But this is not the fault of a “migrant crisis,” or the migrants themselves, but of a lack of institutional will to act.  

From day one, a mutual aid network of volunteers, activists, and immigrants’ rights advocates has been mobilizing to welcome and assist migrants arriving in DC despite a vacuum of institutional support from local or federal government. Though FEMA has provided federal funds to SAMU First Response, the main nonprofit officially in charge of coordinating, it has been woefully inadequate to keep up with the needs of receiving, housing, and transporting migrants.  

Sanctuary DMV, through the organizing and willpower of its volunteers, has been able to welcome thousands without such support. In New York City, a mutual aid and solidarity network led by Team TLC NY  is already assembling volunteers to greet and process migrants.  

Both cities’ governments have struggled with how to respond, further complicated by a lack of communication and cooperation from Texas regarding the arrivals.   

 The DC Department of Human Services has been illegally excluding migrant families from the shelter system despite available bed space, denying them critical resources such as a case manager, who could assist in school enrollment, health insurance, and receiving medical treatment. 

 Neither the city or federal government are willing to play a direct role in addressing what immigrant advocates say is a building humanitarian crisis. Indeed, the government’s failure to act is causing the humanitarian crisis in the first place. DC’s Mayor Bowser has not allocated any local funds or government resources to welcoming efforts, despite being able to apply to FEMA for reimbursement, and city officials have been encouraging nonprofits to seek additional federal aid instead.  

 The federal government declined Mayor Bowser’s request for assistance from the National Guard to process migrants, though she plans to renew this request. Sanctuary DMV has pushed back on this request, noting that doing so only serves to further militarize the reception of migrants, and that the city should instead focus on existing services, such as expanding shelter capacity, social services, and language access.  

 New York’s Mayor Adams claimed that migrants were overwhelming the shelter system before Governor Abbott had even begun sending buses. As aid groups pointed out, the shelter system was already overwhelmed by a variety of factors, such as understaffing and rising evictions.  

 To his credit, Adams quickly mobilized emergency measures to accommodate migrants in the shelter system, and appeared in person to greet migrants. Serious challenges still remain, as a new report shows that migrant families are being separated when entering the NYC shelter system. But perhaps Mayor Bowser can consider following in New York’s example and finally commit to welcoming.  

 It is important to remember despite the murky intersection of city, state, and federal politics, and despite the narrative being further weaponized by anti-immigrant media outlets and politicians, the communities of DC and New York City have stepped up.  

 “We recently learned that people have donated about $160,000 to Governor Abbott’s effort to bus people to DC. And we – the DC community – have raised over $350,000,”  said Amy Fischer, Americas Advocacy Director at Amnesty International USA, and who has been actively welcoming with Sanctuary DMV. 

 “While politicians on both sides of the aisle use fear-mongering tactics to undermine the human right to seek asylum, we know that is not reflective of communities. When we feel overwhelmed with the numbers arriving, or the lack of capacity, our answer is not to tell people not to come. Our answer is to call for more support to expand our capacity to welcome, not shut the door.” 

 Ways to Help 

There are several ways that anyone, anywhere, can take action today: 

 If you are based in DC, there are a couple of ways to help aside from making a donation:  

  • Click to send a letter, tweet, or phone call 
  • Spanish, French, and Portuguese speakers are greatly needed. Volunteers are also needed to sort donations and for clean-up.  
  • Clothing, toiletries, and baby supplies are most needed.  

 In New York City, Team TLC NYC has been leading the welcoming efforts. Click HERE to support.  

 

 

 

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August 14, 2021 Haiti Earthquake Anniversary

Early in the morning of 14 August 2021, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck southwest Haiti, killing 1200 people, injuring 12,000, and causing hospitals, schools and homes to collapse. Hundreds of thousands of people were in immediate need of humanitarian assistance, and many still are. 

The Quixote Center has been working in Haiti since 1999 and we maintain strong and trusted partnerships. As a result, we were able to mobilize funds for short and medium-term assistance to those most in need. Thanks to the donations we received from supporters, Quixote Center sent the following earthquake relief funds to Haiti: 

$2,000 to Kolektif pou Lakay. This funded food and sanitation kits to smaller communities in the Les Cayes area.  

$2,000 to Fondasyon Mapou. This went to support delivery of emergency supplies to the community of Baraderes. 

$12,000 to the Haiti Response Coalition. The Quixote Center serves on the executive committee of the HRC and was involved in planning HRC responses. Funds went to a direct cash assistance program and to general funds to support temporary staff/mobilizers to coordinate programs with community leaders in all three departments impacted by the earthquake. 

$2,400 through the Religious of Jesus and Mary, long time partners in programming in Gros Morne. These funds supported emergency seed delivery from Gros Morne to communities in the southern peninsula communities of Toirac and surrounding areas like Mailloux, Sous De Vie and Barat. Seeds enabled small-scale farmers to replant after losing their crops to the earthquake. 

Our earthquake response work continues through our membership in the Haiti Response Coalition (HRC). In June the HRC convened a conference in Haiti to improve coordination, support Haitian-led responses, and discuss long-term emergency preparedness. This will diminish the need for outside assistance and coordination during emergencies and improve Haiti’s capacity to lead its own emergency response when the time comes. 

 We send our gratitude to you, our donors, which make this work possible. In recent weeks many of you have asked us for our take on what can be done to respond to the current crisis of violence and governance in Haiti. Stay tuned for our post on that topic next week.  

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Quixote Center Celebrates Victories Against Anti-Immigrant Policies 

Quixote Center Celebrates Victories Against Anti-Immigrant Policies 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 9th, 2022 

Contact: Alexandra Gulden 

alexandra@quixote.org 

Washington DC – The Quixote Center celebrates victories against two Trump-era policies: the defeat of Congressional amendments aimed at extending Title 42, and the effective end of the “Remain in Mexico” program.  

Over the weekend, the Senate passed the Inflation Reduction Act, landmark health and climate legislation, without anti-immigrant amendments that threatened to extend Title 42 indefinitely. On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it will no longer enroll asylum seekers in MPP, commonly referred to as “Remain in Mexico,” and those who are currently enrolled will be allowed to await their scheduled court dates in the U.S. 

“We thank all our partners, supporters, and elected officials who have made phone calls, written letters, and made a stand to demand an end to inhumane and anti-immigrant policies like Title 42 and the ‘Remain in Mexico’ program,” said Quixote Center Executive Director Dr. Kim Lamberty. “Together, these policies have jeopardized the safety of families and adults fleeing from danger, leading to over 10,000 violent attacks against migrants and asylum seekers.  

“The fight is not yet over, as Title 42 remains in place, and immigrant communities continue to face invasive surveillance and detention. We urge the Biden administration to swiftly take all necessary steps to end both Title 42 and ‘Remain in Mexico’, and take action to humanely welcome migrants and asylum seekers, rather than continue to cruelly detain, deport, and expel those seeking safety.” 

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The Quixote Center empowers vulnerable families and communities to become the artisans of their own destiny through transforming oppressive systems and structures. Inspired by liberation theology and Catholic Social Teaching, we do this through sustainable development, advocacy, economic justice, environmental, and educational initiatives. Our current focus is on Nicaragua and Haiti, where we support programs to empower impoverished families and communities, and support for migrants in Mexico and Central America, where we work to mitigate the damage of US immigration policies. Together with our partners, we dream of a world more justly loving. 

 

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A Teacher’s Reflections on the Quixote Center’s Solidarity Trip

Mural at La 72 Migrant Shelter

Two days before the Quixote Center trip to Mexico, a local journalist called me. Louisiana legislators had just drafted a proposal allowing teachers to bring guns to school, and the press wanted a comment from a local teacher. Just ten days after the Uvalde shooting, leaders hastily crafted legislation to demonstrate their resolve in preventing such tragedies in Louisiana.  

“As an educator and a parent, Ms. Molina,” said WDSU’s anchorman Sherman Desselle. “What’s your response to this proposal?”  

“Teachers and students have the right to expect that their schools will be safe,” I said. “It is the responsibility of our public officials and security officers to protect us. Shifting that responsibility to teachers is not fair.” 

Three days later with the murder of nineteen school children and their two teachers still haunting my country’s conscience, I listened as Honduran, Guatemalan, and Ugandan women recounted story after story of their own leaders’ abdication of responsibility to protect them and their children in their homelands. Not one of them recited the “looking for a better life” story–the sanitized narrative of seeking economic security in the American Dream. Instead crushing details of sexual violence, extortion, kidnappings and murders of husbands, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons gushed from their mouths in a litany of terror and desperation.  

“We would not be here if the police had done their jobs,” said a young Guatemalan mother after escaping the narcotrafficker who kidnapped her and held her hostage for three months of rapes and beatings. 

Even as these women flee an astounding level of physical and sexual violence at home, the risk of such violence is extremely high on the road north. Not naïve, migrant women prepare as best as they can. They told us of being “vaccinated” for the journey—taking oral contraceptives to prevent pregnancy if they are raped along the way.  

Each woman sighed as she recounted countless and futile attempts to seek protection and justice from law enforcement and human rights organizations. Each voiced the devastating lack of results, the dismissiveness of officials or even worse…the divulgence of their reports to gangs who retaliated with more intimidation, threats and violence.  

Every migrant woman’s story illustrated the scars of an institutional failure to protect them and their children, and the very name and walls of their temporary refuge, the Franciscan migrant shelter La 72, serve as poignant reminders that this failure is not merely anecdotal but historic and well-documented.  

La 72 is named in memory of 72 migrants who were massacred in Tamaulipas, Mexico in 2010. Today women and children fill the chapel of La 72, a memorial to the murdered migrants. Resting on floor mats with their backpacks and water bottles at their sides, they face the chapel’s altar wall where seventy-two crosses remind them of the tragic fate of their predecessors. Each cross bears the name of a murdered migrant and the flag of his/her country. Some have only the flag… “because we still don’t know the names of all the victims,” explained Alejandra Conde, La 72’s Coordinator of Structural Change. 

The killings are suspected to be the result of collusion between Mexican police officers and drug cartel leaders. In 2011, twelve Mexican police officers were detained on homicide charges in the case. But not until May of this year was anyone convicted and sentenced for crimes against the migrants. Even then, when a Mexican judge finally convicted eighteen drug cartel leaders, it was for the abduction, not of the murders, of the 72 migrants. 

The walls of La 72 do not let migrants or visitors forget the complicity of our nation’s leaders in the heartbreaking tragedy of forced migrations.  

 Another wall at La 72 features a map of the Americas. Former US President Donald Trump’s orange hair erupts into flames from which Latin American migrants appear. “Trump,” the mural admonishes in Spanish, “You will be the one who lights the fire of resistance of the peoples.” In the bottom right corner, the declaration is in Spanglish, “20 enero 2021 got out!!! Mr. Trump Fuera JOH.” The first is a reference to the last day of Trump’s term in office. The second is a popular Honduran political chant meaning “Out with JOH,” initials of former (2014-2022) Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez.  

Trump’s pressure on Mexico to militarize the border created even more dangerous conditions for migrants especially in light of historic corruption among Mexican police—as in the case of the Tamaulipas massacre.  

As for Hernandez, in April, the US government ordered his arrest and extradition on charges of alleged drug-trafficking conspiracy. Last year Hernandez’s brother, “Tony,” a former Honduran congressman, was sentenced in US court to life in prison for drug trafficking and bribery. The US Department of Justice contends that the former president and US ally allegedly received millions of dollars from cartel leaders in exchange for protection from arrest. Juan Orlando Hernandez, they say, allegedly:  

leveraged the Government of Honduras’ law enforcement, military, and financial resources…to protect drug traffickers…including his brother…from investigation, arrest, and extradition; caused sensitive law enforcement and military information to be provided to drug traffickers to aid them in transporting tons of cocaine through Honduras, bound for the United States; directed heavily-armed members of the Honduran National Police and Honduran military to protect drug shipments as they transited Honduras; and sanctioned brutal violence.

 

Alejandra Conde stands aside a mural that documents both moments of violent tragedy and Franciscan accompaniment in the migration experience.

1995: The Franciscan Province initiates attention to migrants.  

8/23/2010: Massacre, San Fernando, Tam [Tamaulipas where 72 migrants were killed].  

4/2011: Mass graves in Northern Mexico 400 tortured bodies  

4/23/2011: La 72 shelter for migrants [opens]  

2011: CNDH [Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos—the National Commission for Human Rights in Mexico] reports that more than 20,000 migrants were kidnapped in Mexico  

5/2012: Mutilated bodies in Cadereyta, NL [Nuevo León] 

1/5/2013: Attack at the train in Barrancas, Ver. [Vera Cruz] 

8/25/2013: Deaths of 12 people from a train derailment in Tembladera 

The exterior wall of the migrant men’s barracks bears the image of a young migrant who once stayed at La 72 and was killed after leaving the shelter to head north. “Our demand is minimal: JUSTICE,” reads the inscription across his chest.  

The walls of La 72 tell the stories of tragedy and exploitation, but they also tell tales of hope, strength, resourcefulness and solidarity.  


 Most of the shelters we visited display such road maps offering valuable information for migrants trying to navigate the ecosystem of exploitation and aid that lies ahead. Map key symbols include: roads, fees (approx.. $100), danger zones, assaults & kidnappings, migrant houses, soup kitchens, rivers, border walls. 

“We are humans. We have dignity. We deserve respect.”

“When [a] youth migrates, hope migrates.”

“When the woman migrates, life migrates.”

“When the family migrates, the social fabric migrates.”

“When the indigenous migrate, history migrates.” / “When the children migrate, the roots of human tenderness migrate.”  

La 72 offers separate living quarters as a safe space option for vulnerable populations such as LGBT community members.

Tomorrow I return to school where teachers will be preparing for students. We will plaster our classroom walls with historic figures, helpful information and inspirational quotes. Much like the volunteer artists at La 72, we hope our efforts can inform, guide, and encourage those who walk the hallways to navigate their paths carefully and pursue their dreams. We will remember our colleagues in Uvalde who will be doing the same.

Hispanics make up over 80% of the population in Uvalde, where a large immigrant community resides. It is painfully ironic that many of those families, like the ones at La 72, may have migrated to escape violence.  

So many migrants at La 72 and the other shelters that we visited voiced their deepest hopes to make it to the US…not because of its wealth but because of their perception of the US as “a country where the law is enforced,” a country where they and their children might be safe from the violence in their own countries and the violence they face on their journey. 

I pray that they will one day be able to breathe the sweet relief of being safe. That they will one day be able to stop running and hiding in fear. I, like those at La 72, will continue to hope and to believe in the strength of community and solidarity. But like those at La 72, I will also continue to hold our leaders accountable for the systemic failure that strips our families of dignity and peace.  

Migrant families, like US school children and teachers, have the right to expect that their communities will be safe—whether in their native lands or in the US. Political leaders and law enforcement officers are paid to protect our communities. When they fail us through corruption, apathy, racism, or incompetence, we will not perpetuate a narrative that shifts blame and responsibility to us. We will continue to hold them accountable, and I will not be packing a gun to school. 

 

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The Quixote Center Family Mourns Death of Long-time Board Member, Brother Francis J. O’Donnell 

Brother Frank with a helper at a Quixote Center board meeting in 2017

With great sadness, we announce the passing of long-time Board Member and friend, Br. Francis O’Donnell. Br. Frank died July 22, 2022, at Stella Maris Hospice of complications from injuries sustained in a fall. Br. Frank has been a member of the Quixote Center board for 8 years. 

We are grateful for his wisdom, steady guidance, dedication, good humor, and friendship. During his time as a board member, he has played several key roles, including several terms as Secretary, charter membership on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, and revision of the employee handbook. It was easy for us to forget the many other demands on Br. Frank’s time because he was never “too busy” to take on an assignment, and his work for the Quixote Center always seemed to be at the top of his “to do” list. But Br. Frank was a remarkably busy man, serving on several boards as well as performing a full-time job as a staff attorney at the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings. In his 62 years as a member of the Marianist Community, he spent the first 20 years in education, then went to law school at UMd to be able to “create change from the inside.”  Over his career, he has championed the rights of students, inmates, tenants, immigrants, women, LGBTQ+ people, racial and ethnic minorities, and the poor. He has embodied the true Quixote spirit of dreaming impossible dreams, tilting against the windmills of oppression, and creating a world more justly loving.   

A viewing will be held Aug. 3 from 3-5 pm and 7-9 pm at the Church of the Annunciation in Rosedale (5212 McCormick Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21206) followed by a funeral August 4, 10:30 am, at the same site. There will be a storytelling session on August 3 at 7:30 pm as part of the viewing. Burial will be at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cemetery in Dundalk following the funeral Mass and lunch on August 4.

 

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Title 42’s discriminatory impact on Haitian migrants

Haitian migrants were expelled at much higher rates than the nationals of other countries similarly situated during the twenty-seven months since Title 42 policies were first implemented. Haitians were at least 3X more likely to be expelled compared to nationals of almost all other countries, except for those who could, by agreement between the United States and Mexico, be expelled directly into Mexico. This pattern changed in June of this year, with a significant drop in the percentage of Haitians encountered being expelled, a trend that seems to be continuing into July. We are still demanding that all removals be halted immediately. 

Title 42 refers to a section of the US code that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed gave the Trump and Biden administrations the authority to summarily expel, “persons traveling from Canada or Mexico (regardless of their country of origin) who would otherwise be introduced into a congregate setting in a land or coastal Port of Entry (POE) or Border Patrol station at or near the United States borders with Canada or Mexico.” Title 42 was issued as a means to contain COVID-19, but was immediately denounced by public health officials as a backdoor means to end asylum. It has utterly failed as a public health measure.

For Haitians, Title 42 has been the principal means of their expulsion from the United States over the last 27 months. There have been at least 27,500 Haitians removed from the United States since March of 2020; almost all of whom have been expelled since Biden took office. Of these, 22,832, or 83% were removed under Title 42. 

To understand the discriminatory impact of Title 42 on Haitian immigrants we have to first look at how Title 42 has been implemented overall. There are two sets of countries whose citizens are treated quite differently. The first set of countries (Group A) are those for whom the Trump administration negotiated an agreement with Mexico to accept those expelled. This group includes Mexican nationals, and people from Guatemala, El Salvador, or Honduras. Expulsions from just these four countries made up 93% of all Title 42 expulsions between March of 2020 and the end of May 2022.  [All of the figures in this article were derived using Customs and Border Protection’s Database of Nationwide Encounters here]

The citizens of other countries (Group B) could not simply be expelled back to Mexico, though some clearly have been. The main exception is Ecuador. Ecuadorans made up over 50,000 Title 42 expulsions in 2021, with at most 10,000 returned to Ecuador by plane that year. The rest seem to have been expelled back to Mexico, or simply denied admission to the United States at a port of entry.

For other countries, because of the cost and logistical challenges associated with detaining and flying them to their home countries, Border Patrol/DHS processed them under Title 8 authority, or “regular” immigation processing.

The difference between Group A and Group B is stark. For all of the countries in Group A, 74% of those encountered have been expelled under Title 42. For Group B, only 9.2% of those encountered have been expelled under Title 42. The two exceptions are Ecuador, a unique situation discussed above, and Haiti.

The percentage of Haitians expelled in relation to encounters between March of 2020 and May 2022 is 26.6%, the highest in Group B aside from Ecuador. Haitians represent only 5.8% of all Border Patrol encounters in Group B, but they make up 16% of the Group B expulsions under Title 42. 

Table 1: Encounters and Title 42 Expulsions All Countries March 2020 to May 2022

Further, while the ratio of expulsions to total encounters has declined overall since Biden took office, during the last year, the ratio has actually gone up for Haitians. During FY 2021 just over 20% of those Haitians encountered by US border patrol were expelled under Title 42. In the current fiscal year (2022) the ratio of Title 42 expulsions to encounters has reached 34.3%. 

If we use the debacle in Del Rio as a dividing line, the ratio of encounters to expulsions has basically doubled for Haitians since September of 2021. This is a clear indication of the Biden administration’s deterrence strategy, intended to discourage more people from Haiti from trying to enter the United States.

It is important to note that the figures above are all derived from Border Patrol official statistics. What is not known is how many Haitains have been expelled by the US Border Patrol to Mexico. We know this has happened, and until Del Rio, as far as such expulsions could be tracked, it was as a small number. However, during the Del Rio crisis, Mayorkas claimed that “about” 8,000 Haitians “voluntarily” returned to Mexico. These Haitians were not processed, and are not included in official counts. Was it actually 8,000, or more? We don’t know. The point, however, is that the number of Haitians expelled is likely considerably higher than these official statistics represent.

Turning the corner in June?

The data above was compiled for a report on discrimination against Haitains in US boder policy before June 2022 numbers were publicly available. The June numbers have now been released, and the trends identified above do not apply. There were 4,198 encounters of Haitian nationals by the US Border Patrol in June. Only twenty-nine (or 0.69%) of them were processed under Title 42. As far as we can tell, there have been no Title 42 expulsion flights to Haiti since June 3, though smaller “regular” deportation flights have occurred in the weeks since.   

There has been no official policy announcement from the Biden administration on Title 42 and Haiti. However, a federal court ruling now requires baseline screening be made available to those who express fear their lives may be in danger if returned to their home country, or expelled to a third country. The ruling went into effect at the end of May, and the number of Title 42 expulsions for Haitians has dropped radically since. There were still 95,000 Title 42 expulsions overall in June; 91,000 (96%) of them to the Group A countries noted above.

The apparent pause in Title 42 expulsions to Haiti is welcome news. However, we remain concerned that Title 42 expulsions will increase again absent a public commitment to end them. Any removal to Haiti right now is placing lives at risk. Though the number of removals has declined dramatically with the current decline in Title 42 expulsions, it is no less wrong to remove any of those currently being deported. 

You can join our petition to end ALL removals to Haiti here.



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Biden and the deadly stalemate in Haiti

Acting Prime Minister Ariel Henry and his “September 11th” coalition met with representatives of the Montana Accord last week to discuss how to end the country’s political stalemate. The Montana Accord is a civil society-led transition proposal negotiated last year at the Montana Hotel that hundreds of national and local organizations have endorsed. A coalition of political parties referred to as the PEN joined the Montana group earlier this year. Close allies of Henry quickly assembled his September 11th coalition last year after the Montana proposal was announced. This latest meeting between the two coalitions ended without agreement.

The main sticking point is the composition of the executive that would oversee a new electoral process. The Montana/PEN accord calls for a presidential committee to work alongside a prime minister, to be elected out of a National Transition Council. This modified dual executive would organize new elections, and provide interim governance. Henry’s coalition says there is no constitutional provision for such a move, and no practical means for selecting a president prior to new elections. The “September 11” position therefore leaves Henry, as acting prime minister, in charge of a new electoral process. This is exactly what the Montana/PEN folks do not want.

Henry’s appeal to constitutionality is interesting. The constitution has long been inoperative, at least in terms of giving form to a functioning government. Moïse was ruling by decree his last 18 months in office after repeatedly blocking parliamentary elections. Henry is in power now largely at the behest of the United States. There was no confirmation process, and no functioning parliament to conduct one. In place of constitutional processes, the “Core Group” (a group of diplomats from the US, Canada, France, Brazil, others, alongside representatives of the UN and OAS) invited Henry to form a government after the assassination of Jovenel Moïse, in a letter announced via Tweet from the US State Department.  

Cité Soleil

Outside the Hotel Karibe where the discussions are happening, Port au Prince is on fire. The latest conflict is in Cite Soleil, home to 300,000 people.  From the Miami Herald

The National Human Rights Defense Network said its investigation shows that the clash was triggered by a 3 a.m. Thursday [July 7] attack against the Brooklyn area of Cité Soleil by the G-9 gang federation with the objective of dislodging leader Jean Pierre, also known as Ti Gabriel or Gabo, and putting the area under G-9’s control. To achieve this, other gang members agreed to combine forces with Chérizier, and use heavy machinery to destroy homes on behalf of his federation.

OCHA’s July 14th update confirmed 99 people killed, 135 injured, and a minimum of 2,500 people displaced as a result of the fighting in Cite Soleil. Port-au-Prince has seen repeated gang warfare over the last few years. Nearly 1,000 people have been murdered in Port-au-Prince since January, with thousands displaced and 650 documented kidnappings. As gangs fight to control commerce into and out of Port-au-Prince, the results are periodic disruptions of trade, creating further shortages of fuel and other necessities around the country. 

Last week the police seized cargo containers at the port in La Saline that contained automatic weapons and ammunition destined for the streets. The gun trade between the United States and Haiti is supposed to be highly restricted. Clearly this has been a failure of enforcement. The guns fueling the violence in Haiti all come from the United States, either directly or through the Dominican Republic. The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution on July 15th that calls on all countries “to stop the transfer of small arms, light weapons and ammunition to any party in crisis-torn Haiti supporting gang violence and criminal activity.” The United States voted for the resolution. What steps will it take?  

Where is the United States? 

A political cartoon in La Nouvellist this week shows Henry sitting atop an ice cube while men with guns walk in the background and the streets are on fire. He says, “the country is not hot…the press, the church, the UN, [Doctors without Borders] all just give the bad news.” The ice cube (shielding Henry from the local heat) is stamped “Made in the USA.” 

With US patronage behind him, Henry has a virtual veto over any process that would marginalize him and his allies. At the same time, Henry does not seem to have a large enough political base inside Haiti to move forward on his own. The result is the ongoing stalemate, which is deadly for the majority of Haitians who are simply trying to survive.  

The Quixote Center has joined with other organizations in challenging the Biden administration to change course in Haiti. A current effort is an organizational sign on letter to the Biden administration in which, “We call on the US government to stop supporting de facto Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the PHTK party and its political affiliates, so that a Haitian solution to the crisis can emerge.” You can read and sign the letter here

There is also a petition for individuals to sign here.

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Bolton: Symptom of a “far deeper malady”

The United States is still the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. Just ask John Bolton.

John Bolton was interviewed by Jack Tapper of CNN on Tuesday concerning the ongoing hearings and investigation into the January 6, 2021 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. The exchange, as summarized by the Washington Post: John Bolton, [said the] attack on the Capitol was not a “carefully planned coup d’etat” — and that he would know. “As somebody who has helped plan coups d’etat — not here but, you know, other places — it takes a lot of work, and that’s not what [President Donald Trump] did.” 

Predictably there is much discussion about which coups Bolton may have been involved in; he only admitted to trying to oust Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela in 2019 when he was Trump’s National Security Advisor. Jacob Rosenberg of Mother Jones put an ironic spin on the story while curating a tour of US sponsored regime changes since 1953. Most coverage, however, has simply restated the obvious, e.g., no one is surprised by any of this, except, maybe, the casual tone with which Bolton made the claim. 

The Washington Post did give space to people concerned that Bolton’s admission gives fuel to our “opponents” overseas: “It’s damaging to our efforts to advance and support democracy,” Stanford University-Hoover Institution scholar Larry Diamond said. “We have enough trouble already countering Russian and Chinese propaganda.” 

On the other hand, one former CIA analyst quipped on Twitter that Bolton “never touched a coup.” 

Bolton has always been a bit played in a larger ensemble of neo-conservative foreign policy hawks. Debating Bolton’s role in any of the regime changes the US helped orchestrate seems of marginal importance viewed against the full weight of what the United States government has wrought around the world with its casual disrespect for sovereignty and democratic practice.

In response to Larry Diamond, I’d say the damage to the United States’ reputation is self-inflicted by the actual practice of serial interventions our government has engaged in. The United States is not wounded by “propaganda.” We are, however, deeply wounded by the blowback from the many regime changes our government has supported.

In 2016 Lindsay O’Rourke summarized a study he had conducted into US involvement in coups d’etat around the world during the cold war. His topline: “Between 1947 and 1989, the United States tried to change other nations’ governments 72 times.” Many regime changes and attempted regime changes have ensued in the years since. 

Fifty-five years ago Dr. King called the United States the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. In what is probably the most prophetic speech anyone has ever made about US foreign policy, Dr. King said,

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. 

Dr. King argued that there must be a “radical revolution of values,” if we are to avoid this fate of never-ending crises.

we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.   . 

We should have listened.

The United States remains the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. Our government shows no regard for human rights in discerning where to engage. The US does not support democracy, unless one assumes a “market economy” is a reasonable stand in. Certainly the “market” is what the coups, interventions, and saccharine appeals to “US standing” in the world seem to ultimately be about. Racism, materialism and militarism indeed!

The latest Pentagon budget proposed by the Biden administration for FY 2023 was the largest Pentagon budget ever at $813 billion; Congress promptly bumped it to $839 billion. In reality total national security spending actually tops $1.4 trillion. The United States currently has forces deployed in 85 countries around the globe for the purpose of buttressing counter insurgency operations. Biden has just greenlighted US re-engagement with forces in Somalia, while in Europe, we remain on the brink of war with Russia; Ukraine being the site of one of the many US supported coups in the post-cold war era, though Bolton was not around for this one (2014). Blowback has most certainly followed

One day, maybe, the John Boltons of this world will face justice. Today is not that day. In the meantime, we can only hope he packs up the Yosemite Sam mustache and returns to a closet at the American Enterprise Institute. 

The rest of us must continue to work for peace. Which means cleaning up the messes that Bolton and so many others like him have created.

 

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Take Action: One year since Moïse assassination

One year ago today Haiti’s acting president, Jovenal Moïse, was assassinated in his own home. A group of two-dozen mercernaries, most apparently hired from Colombia, were arrested in the days following Moïse’s murder, but the story of who was ultimately behind the plot to kill Moïse continues to unfold. The acting prime-minister, Ariel Henry, anointed to this role by the US State Department and allied members of the so called “Core-Group,” is among the people implicated in the plot. 

The Biden Administration continues to stand by Henry. Efforts to form a new transition government led by a coalition of civil society organizations and political parties continue to move forward, but with no support from the United States government. With US patronage behind him, Henry is given an effective veto over any other process, including the “Montana Process” (so-named after the Hotel Montana where the original transition plan was negotiated, prior to Moïse’s death).

In the year since the assassination of Moïse the security situation for Haitians has deteriorated. Heavily armed criminal groups control transportation routes into and out of Port au Prince. They are also a force to be reckoned with on highways throughout the country. In the capital, the violence has been intense as groups fight over control of key neighborhoods, especially in Martissant, Croix-des-Bouquet, sections of Delmas, and Cite Soleil. 

Insecurity, and a state that feels largely absent, has also deepened a socio-economic crisis impacting access to food and fuel, and has made many livelihoods difficult to sustain. Mix in a COVID-19 recession and a massive earthquake on the Grand Sud peninsula last August, and things are increasingly desperate.

One result is an increase in people leaving Haiti. The US Coast Guard has interdicted and returned nearly 6,000 people this fiscal year. How many others have made it through to other states in the Caribbean, or who have perished in the waters, is not known. 

Haitians continue to arrive seeking relief at the US/Mexico border. The Biden Administration has instead expelled thousands of them back into the humanitarian disaster unfolding in Haiti. The Biden Administration has expelled over 26,500 Haitians during the 18 months he has been in office, more than the last three presidents combined. 24,5000 of those expulsions have occurred just since mid-September 2021.

Take Action!!

To mark this day, we lift up a number of efforts to confront the United States government’s contributions to the instability unfolding in Haiti.

First, as an individual, you can sign this petition calling on the United States government to back down on its unconditional support for Henry

If you are a member of an organization, please seek that organization’s signature on this letter to the Biden administration with the same message.

If you have questions/concerns about the messaging in these statements, you can review a detailed memo that explains the positions here.

Finally, please join us in demanding that the Biden administration halt ALL removals to Haiti. Sign on here.

 

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Reflections from Tenosique

In June, I had the opportunity to visit migrant shelters operating under the Franciscan Network on Migration, a Quixote Center partner, in southern Mexico. No two shelters were alike. To walk across the threshold was to enter a new kind of haven, each beautiful and kinetic in its own way. La 72 in Tenosique seemed always to be bursting with energy, with some migrants entering and leaving the shelter in just a day, and others staying long-term as they worked to determine their next steps and heal.

“We try to make their stay here as pleasant as possible,” said Alejandra, a lawyer at La 72. A hundred people reside in La 72 on any given day. Despite the immense volume of people circulating in and out, the staff and volunteers were filled with unbridled compassion and energy to confront the needs of highly vulnerable populations.  

The Structural Change Program at La 72, as Alejandra explained, aims to both materially improve the quality of life in border communities and foster a more positive and nuanced view of migrants. La 72 staff regularly visits communities and hosts workshops on immigration law and human rights, empowering communities to defend migrants, as well as their own rights.  

Casa Belén, located just across the border in Guatemala, was deserted when we arrived, as most migrants stop there for a night and continue on their way in the morning. La 72 and Casa Belén work together closely to address cases of families separated on the journey, unaccompanied children, and people in a situation of violence; in cases like these, people can stay longer.

In contrast, Casa del Caminante in Palenque has a separate area for longer-term residents, usually families who are applying for refugee status in Chiapas. Their module, complete with a separate kitchen, houses individual dorms for each family. We saw children running around the courtyard’s playground, delighted to have the space to be children.  

In Santa Martha, Chiapas, we were warmly received by two Catholic sisters at Casa Betania. Despite the town’s sleepy appearance, the sisters noted that “every kind of trafficking”—from drugs to humans—is commonplace. But in the shelter’s courtyard, decorated in brightly-colored banners and a large pride flag, such dangers felt far away. 

Map of migratory route

Each shelter is located along the old route of La Bestia, a network of freight trains used by migrants to travel North. It no longer runs in the areas we visited, but in Santa Martha and Palenque, many migrants still undertake the same journey by walking along the tracks. 

We learned from COMAR, the Mexican government’s refugee office, that if applicants for refugee status in Mexico leave the state in which they applied initially, they forfeit their application. In southern Mexico, this was problematic for several reasons. In the South (especially in Chiapas, ranked Mexico’s most impoverished state) it is difficult for migrants to find work. Second, if a migrant in Tenosique needs to travel to Villahermosa for any reason, such as finding work or accessing specialized medical care, they first need to pass through Chiapas, a different state, to get there. This policy leaves migrants trapped in communities struggling to find work. The Franciscan Network was set up to respond to this crisis. 

 Looking to the Future 

As we reflect on everything that we experienced and learned, the Quixote Center team hopes to plan another delegation to southern Mexico before the end of this year! And, we work to ensure that our partners at the Franciscan Network on Migration receive as much from this partnership as we have.   

“The Franciscan Network for Migrants appreciates the support and constant collaboration of Quixote Center to our organization,” wrote Vianey, our RFM liaison at La 72. “This visit was the first and we are in the dialogue to plan more to the southern border of Mexico. We also thank the migrant shelters who received us despite their commitments. We admire the hard work they do every day to seek the defense of the human rights of migrants. It doesn’t matter if we are from different religions or secular, we are always willing to work together for our brothers and sisters. We hope to meet again soon!” 

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Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    P.O. Box 1950
    Greenbelt, MD 20768
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Directions to office:

6305 Ivy Lane, Suite 255. Greenbelt, MD 20770

For public transportation: We are located near the Green Belt metro station (green line)