Daily Dispatch 4/8/2019


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Daily Dispatch

April 8, 2019


Kirstjen Nielsen Out, What Next?

The top story over the last couple of days has been the forced resignation of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. The move has been anticipated for a while. Trump’s decision to push Nielsen out, however, comes after several weeks of news about increased border crossings. Nielsen was hardly a voice for sanity in this administration. She fully supported the child separation policy, and worked to turn Trump’s demagoguery into policy in other areas as well. Thus, her departure is not unwelcome on one hand. On the other, it likely signals that the administration may go even further down the nationalist road, raising the “border crisis” to an even more maniacal cry under the leadership of hardliner Stephen Miller, and fully appeasing the talking heads at Fox News.

The ousting of Nielsen came on the heels of Trump pulling the nomination of Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Ron Vitiello, as permanent head of the department – “a move seen as part of a larger effort by Miller, an immigration hardliner, and his allies at the White House to clean house at the department and bring in more people who share their views, the people said.”  

As Nielsen departs, Trump has appointed U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan as Acting Secretary of DHS. McAleenan is not likely to last long in this position.

If this cleaning house is an effort to set up his team for the 2020 presidential election, the dynamics at the border are likely to disintegrate even further. We have some evidence of this from Trump’s rhetoric, which was, in the words of a CNN story, “scorching even by the standards of Trump himself,” over the weekend:

“Can’t take you anymore. Can’t take you. Our country is full … Can’t take you anymore, I’m sorry. So turn around. That’s the way it is,” Trump said in a message to asylum seekers during a trip to the border on Friday.

A day later, Trump mocked those fleeing persecution seeking a better life in the United States, portraying asylum seekers as criminals and gang members, rather than the families Nielsen described in a CNN interview last week.

“‘I am very fearful for my life,'” Trump said mockingly during a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday. “I am very worried that I will be accosted if I am sent back home. No, no, he’ll do the accosting!”

“Asylum, oh give him asylum! He’s afraid!” Trump said.

Trump can only play one note on immigration: fear. While so many of us are continually shocked, offended, or simply angered by the fact-free and mean- spirited way he spins the issue, it is sobering to know this approach is part of what got him elected. Certainly, that is his understanding. There seems to be no rhetorical bar too low for him to crawl under.

18. More. Months.

Meanwhile…

While Trump instructed asylum seekers to return home because “the country is full,” the Department of Homeland Security and the Labor Department are expanding the number of visas available to non-farm workers (H-2B visas) by 50% (from 66,000 to 96,000).  From the New York Times:

Unions and immigration opponents argue that hiring H-2B workers suppresses wages and deprives Americans of jobs. Advocacy groups say foreign workers are often exploited, and employers say the cap encourages businesses to hire undocumented workers.

Andrea Palermo, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, did not directly answer questions about what was behind the plan for additional H-2B visas. She also did not address questions about the apparent contradiction in the administration’s positions.

“Congress — not D.H.S. — should be responsible for determining whether the annual numerical limitations for H-2B workers set by Congress need to be modified, and by how much, and for setting parameters to ensure that enough workers are available to meet employers’ temporary needs throughout the year,” she said.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

The lost children of U.S. Immigration Policy

Two years. It will take up to two years to track what happened to children seized at the border and/or  separated from families. Two years!! From USA Today:

The filing Friday outlined the government’s plan to use data analysis and manual reviews to sift through the cases of about 47,000 children who were apprehended by U.S. immigration officials from July 1, 2017, to June 25, 2018, to identify which children might have been taken from family members. It estimated the process “would take at least 12 months, and possibly up to 24 months.” 

Last month, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw expanded the number of migrant families that the government may be forced to reunite under his previous order after an inspector general report revealed that the administration had an undisclosed family separation pilot program in place starting in July of 2017. The ruling was made as part of a lawsuit led by the American Civil Liberties Union. 

 

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20th Anniversary Stories from Gros Morne: Father Chacha

(Above Drone Video of Forest on Tet Mon and Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center [Grepen Center])

This year we mark the 20th Anniversary of our work with Jean Marie Vincent Formation Center in Gros Morne, Haiti. Today we are launching a new blog series to celebrate the 20 year anniversary, which will focus on reflections from people who have worked on the program through the years.

One of the original visionaries of the program was Fr. Ronel Charelus (Father Chacha). Below he discusses the beginnings of the project back in 1999.

Fr. Ronel Charelus (Pere Chacha), former pastor of Notre Dame du La Chandeleur parish

Wi se avèk kè kontan  nou te pran inisyativ pou forè sa a nan Nan Gwomon.  Map sonje Sè Lise Brosseau, Barthelemy Garcon, Nesly Jean Jacques, Jean Desnor, père Cine syriaque, Sè pat Dillon, Sè Rose Gallagher avèk  lot moun anko ki te konprann valè plante pye bwa nan Gwomon.

It was with happy hearts that we took the initiative to start this forest in Gros Morne. I remember Sr. Lise Rosseau, Fr. Barthelemy Garcon, Fr. Nesly Jean Jacques, Jean Desinor, Fr. Cine Syriaque, Sr. Pat Dillon, & Sr. Rose Gallagher,  along with other people who understood the value of planting trees in Gros Morne.

Se te yon pwoje pilot pout tout peyi a.  Nou te gen konviksyon si nou rive plante bwa Gwomon si nou reyisi,  ap gen anpil lot kote nan peyi a kap enterese ak pwoje sa a. Se esperyans sa nou te fè apre kèk lane nou komanse ak pwojè a.

It was a pilot project for the whole country. We had a conviction that if we were able to make this tree planting in Gros Morne successful, there would come to be many other places in the country that would be interested in this project. This is the experience that we had and after some years we started with the project.

Pwojè a te demare  nan lane 1999 ak yon relijiez nan kongregasyon Sè Lise Brosseau ki rele Carol ??? mwen bliye siyati l.  Li tap travay nan Quixote center nan Washington ??. Sete Sè Rose Gallagher yon bon zanmi m ki te metem an relasyon avek li. Li te rive fe plizyè vwayaj  nan Gwomon. Se limenm ki te ede nou jwenn lajan pou nou komanse pwojè sa a.

The project kicked off in in 1999, with a religious sister in the congregation of Sr. Lise Brosseau [Holy Names of Jesus and Mary] who was named Carol [Reis]. She was working with the Quixote Center in Washington. It was Sr. Rose Gallagher, a good friend of mine, who put me in contact with her [Carol]. She came to make many trips to Gros Morne. She was the one who helped us find money so that we could start this project.

Nou te chwazi bay pwojè  a pote non Jean Marie Vincent , yon prêt monfoten  yo te asasine le 28 Aout 1994. Pou kisa nou te chwazi Jean Marie ? Nou te chwazi l paske li te gen yon rèv pou Ayiti. Rèv li se te pou tout peyizan yo gen  lavi, pou yo viv tankou moun. Rèv sa se pou peyi Dayiti kouvri ak Pye bwa yon Jou. Se te yon pwojè odasye. men li te gen Konviksyon nan Bondye, li te kwè nan moun tou… Pou  Jean Marie Espwa peyi a se plante pye bwa. Se mete konsyans sa nan lavi tout timoun lekol yo. Jean Marie mouri, men rèv li yo pa mouri. Nou kapab di li toujou la avèk nou. Grepen ap toujou rete yon referans pou tout Pè monfoten yo ki vle kontinye travay Jean Marie tap fè nan Peyi Dayiti.

We chose to give the project the name of Jean Marie Vincent, a Montfortain priest who was assassinated on 28 August 1994. Why did we choose Jean Marie? We chose him because he had a dream for Haiti. His dream was for all peasants to have life, to live like people. This dream is for the country of Haiti to be covered with trees one day. It was an audacious project. But he had conviction in God and he also believed in people. For Jean Marie, the hope of the country lay in planting trees. He put this awareness in the lives of all of the school children. Jean Marie died, but his dreams are not dead. We can say that he is still here with us. Grepen will always remain a reference for all of the Montfortain priests who want to continue the work that Jean Marie was doing in the country of Haiti.

Yon lot pwojè nou te gen pou Gomon se te pwoteje tet mon yo sitou Rivye Mansèl. Jodi a map mande si pwojè sa a toujou la ? Apre 20 tan jodi a nou kapab evalye ak moun yo, avèk jean Desnor pou nou we si rèv sa a Jean Marie te genyen an ap kontinye toujou.

Another project that we had for Gros Morne is to protect the mountain tops, especially in Rivyè Mansel. Today I ask if that project is still there. After 20 years, today we can evaluate with the people, with Jean Desinor, to see if this dream that Jean Marie had still continues.

 

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Daily Dispatch 4/5/2019


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Daily Dispatch

April 5, 2019


Walls and Bridges

Photo: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times

The Trump administration continues to reach new lows in its treatment of refugees from Central America. Last week, the situation of asylum seekers detained underneath a bridge in El Paso became a national story. It is worth taking a minute to watch this video from the Los Angeles Times to appreciate the conditions people were being held in.

The New Colossus, the poem by Emma Lazarus which adorns the Statue of Liberty, is worth reading in its entirety.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This notion of a nation of immigrants, in past times welcomed into a melting pot of culture, is an important part of the mythology of the United States. It constitutes the ideological sinews we flex under the banner of (U.S.) American exceptionalism. All are welcome!

The picture and video we have seen above, along with so many other stories we have shared and seen and heard, tell us this narrative is false. 

And yet, we actually want to be this country. Right? Not an imperial giant, “with conquering limbs astride from land to land;” but, rather, we can become the Mother of Exiles.

For now, it seems the United States remains a version of that very old Colossus, the one that seeks to dominate and exclude. A fading empire, holding onto power with sporadic explosions of extreme violence, visited upon the people of this earth.We lift no lamp. We offer walls to block passage, and bridges – usually understood as means of unifying two places – become pens under which we hold people like farm animals. Provisions are subcontracted out to companies that make millions on this immiseration.

The profits of pain grow. It is the endgame of empire, played with cruelty.

Yet those who resist, who welcome, who share, and work toward building a more world justly loving, are all around. The light snuffed out by official policy is reignited among us, among you.

Get connected. Make a difference. 

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Daily Dispatch 4/4/2019


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Daily Dispatch

April 4, 2019


Good news! Phone Company Merger Blocked 

Within the prison industrial complex, a particularly profitable business is managing phone services. In state and federal prisons, and amid the growing complex of immigrant detention centers, two companies, Securus Technologies and Global Tel*Link, dominate this particular service constituting 80% of the market, and are notorious for charging exorbitant rates. A fifteen minute call in Kentucky, for example, costs the incarcerated person $5.70!  

Beginning last year, discussions of a merger between Securus and Inmate Calling Services – the third largest call provider – began. A campaign was organized to push back against the merger. On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission announced that the merger had been withdrawn by the companies. From the Human Rights Defense Center press release:

The non-profit Human Rights Defense Center (HRDC), which co-founded the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice to advocate for reforms in the prison telecom industry, including lower phone rates, the elimination of ancillary fees and an end to “commission” kickback-based contracts with corrections agencies, had previously filed a comment with the FCC opposing the Securus merger.

In its July 13, 2018 comment, HRDC noted the proposed merger “would further increase the duopoly nature of the [inmate calling services] industry and thus result in even less competition within that market.” HRDC also called on Chairman Pai to recuse himself from all actions and decisions involving both Securus and the prison telecom industry, in part because prior to his appointment to the FCC he had represented Securus when he worked for the law firm of Jenner & Block. He also had dissented on all votes taken by the FCC during the Obama administration with respect to reforms and rate caps involving prison phone services.

Read the full press release here.

Breaking: 280 People arrested in ICE Workplace Raid in Texas

From USA Today:

More than 280 employees of a north Texas telecommunication repair company were arrested by federal immigration officials in the largest worksite operation in more than a decade, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit executed criminal search warrants Wednesday at CVE Technology Group and four related businesses. CVE is based in Allen, about 25 miles north of Dallas.

We reported earlier this year that workplace raids are up under Trump’s administration (as with most enforcement actions). But this raid is by far the largest raid in over 10 years! More details on how the raid was executed will be forthcoming. ICE is currently facing a lawsuit about its enforcement action in Morristown, Tennessee last year.

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Daily Dispatch 4/3/2019


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Daily Dispatch

April 3, 2019


More on Suspension of aid to Central America… 

The Chronicle of Philanthropy takes up issues related to Trump’s threat to suspend aid to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The focus in the article is on potential impacts for non-governmental organizations doing work in the region, but there are some good reflections here on the impact of U.S. policy, for example:

Sarah Hall Aguila, director of operations for the Central American Resource Center, said the recent history of migration from Central America is linked to events in the United States a few decades ago.

“People fleeing gang-related violence and extortion are unfortunately dealing with a phenomenon that began in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s and spread to Central America because of deportations after the region’s armed conflicts ended in the 1990s,” she said, citing news reports and other documents that say the United States has trained police in El Salvador to combat violence and migration but may be creating other issues.

There is  also further discussion of the impact of Trump’s policies on non-governmental organizations working on the U.S. side of the border to support immigrants. 

As we noted on Monday, it is not clear what Trump’s threat actually means in terms of real dollars suspended, and as Sarah Hall Aguila notes above, the impact of U.S. aid is not uniformly positive to begin with. Nevertheless, Trump’s announcement is just further evidence that, for him, immigration is not a problem to be solved, but a fear to be stoked for political gain.

Elections…

On this last point, it is worth reflecting on what the next 18 months might look like, as we begin the long process of slogging through primaries. The Nation ran another piece, this one by Jeff Faux, on what Democrats should be doing regarding immigration. I take issue with several of Faux’s points. While critical of Democrats for offering a “Trump-lite” approach to immigration, he also argues, “Democratic candidates must make clear that they are committed to limiting immigration to what is legal (currently over 1 million people per year).” It is hard to know how Democrats can be convincing on this matter in the current environment without caving to expanded border security measures – i.e, the very Trump-lite approach they are currently engaged in, which Faux critiques.

However, Faux’s overall points are worth considering, and he is one of the few pundits with a larger microphone on this issue that specifically hones in on the need to tackle U.S. foreign policy, and the U.S. government’s historic alliance with military institutions in Central America. For this alone, it is worth a read:

Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are de facto US colonies, places where oligarchs have long exploited their people in partnership with American capital. They are suffering the aftereffects of brutal civil wars stoked by Washington’s paranoia toward leftist political movements. The region has also become a major route for the shipment of drugs from South America to the United States. Attracted by the enormous profits, oligarchs have collaborated with narcotraffickers and other criminal gangs that terrorize citizens through robbery, extortion, rape, and murder.

Read full article here.

Unfortunately, for many liberal commentators, the strategic approach to the upcoming election is to suggest Democrats steal Trump’s thunder by being more aggressive on border security without losing their bleeding hearts/souls in the process. This could be a Faustian bargain. And even if they win back the White House, it could prove to be a disaster for immigrants. It is not as if Obama’s tenure was great for immigrants. Going back to that would seem to represent more of a lack of imagination, than actual progress. And yet this conversation is just beginning. 

18. More. Months.

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Daily Dispatch 4/2/2019


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Daily Dispatch

April 2, 2019


Support Hunger Strikers and Amplify the Call to Abolish Detention
(from Detention Watch Network)

We are forwarding this call to action from Detention Watch Network. The Congressional Briefing mentioned for today has already happened, but you can still retweet details and sign the petition linked below.

Just this year, there have been seven hunger strikes that we are aware of inside detention to protest the inhumane nature of immigrant incarceration. Hunger strikers’ demands often underscore well-documented issues endemic to the immigration detention system, including egregious conditions, abusive treatment, and fatally inadequate medical care. The ongoing and increasing number of hunger strikes at detention centers across the country indicate the urgent need to release people from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

Today, a coalition of immigrant justice groups are holding a Congressional Briefing to draw attention to the increasing number of hunger strikes, the conditions that led to these strikes, and the communities that are being impacted.

Support hunger strikers and amplify the call to abolish detention today by:

If you ever hear rumors of a hunger strike happening at a detention center near you, please report it to Gabriela Marquez-Benitez, DWN’s Membership Director for support: gbenitez@detentionwatchnetwork.org

The real crisis is in Central America

Interesting interview with John Carlos Frey of the PBS NewsHour on Democracy Now this morning about the Trump’s faux border crisis.

I don’t know if we’re at capacity; I don’t have access to that information. But this is a phenomenon that happens every year. There is a surge around this time of the year of migration. It’s not more people than we’re used to seeing, record numbers we used to see back in early 2000s, 1.6 million people in the year of 2000. We’re at about 600,000 people right now. So the fact that we’re at capacity doesn’t quite make sense, because we’re at about a million less apprehensions than we were about 20 years ago.

So, if you’re a Border Patrol agent or if you’re CBP, you’re going to know that there’s going to be a surge in the spring. That’s when most people come. They come before it gets too hot. And, you know, you put your personnel at the border accordingly, and you make room. This is their job, to manage the border, to manage migration. And the fact that they’re having to hold them under the bridge is either incompetence or it’s the administration trying to create some sort of false drama that there’s an emergency or that there’s a crisis. I really don’t understand the way that this administration is managing the border. It’s shameful.

Read/watch the full interview here.

 

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Daily Dispatch 4/1/2019


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Daily Dispatch

April 1, 2019


Trump is a child. But, U.S. Foreign Aid to Central America DOES need serious re-evaluation

Trump announced over the weekend that he was suspending aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador because those governments were not doing enough to stop emigration. Does it matter? The symbolic weight of the announcement is significant. By playing to the two greatest shibboleths of the right-wing when they think of other countries (foreign aid and immigration), Trump’s tantrum continues to lower the bar on rhetoric. However, what it will actually mean to people in Central America is probably not much.

The amount of money at stake, mentioned in several media accounts, is $700 million. Though exactly how they came to this figure is hard to know. U.S. foreign aid obligations to these three countries in fiscal year 2018 totals just $142 million (Guatemala $66 million, El Salvador $46 million, Honduras $30 million). These figures are already significantly cut from fiscal year 2017 when obligations totaled $556 million (Guatemala $257 million, El Salvador $118 million, Honduras $181 million). Combining fiscal years 2017 and 2018 gets one to $700 million, but certainly most of 2017 has been delivered already, and much of 2018 assistance has already been contracted. So, exactly what is going to be cut is far from clear. Indeed, embassy staff don’t even know what Trump means.

Cutting foreign aid does not reduce the flow of money to governments by much. Why? A lot of foreign aid never even leaves the U.S. It is transferred from the accounts of a U.S. government implementing agency to a U.S based non-governmental organization, or Department of Defense contractor. Some portion eventually makes it to the country in question when program expenditures are made on-site. However, the only money that governments in the region are likely to touch is security assistance. Of course, depending on the program they may not even get to control this (if the contract is for police training, for example, the government may have to expend its own resources to participate in the program – the actual trainers are paid through a contract with a U.S. entity). At the end of the day, World Vision and Catholic Relief Services (and the people they directly serve) will lose more money than the government of Guatemala, assuming anything is actually cut.

Which brings us to another irony of foreign “aid.” Receiving countries often expend more of their own resources to participate in these programs than the U.S. government does. In 2014, following a peak in unaccompanied children migrating to the United States, the governments of Central America and Mexico announced the “Alliance for Prosperity.” The idea was to increase public and private investment in southern Mexico and the “Northern Triangle” as a means to create jobs and thus offset pressure to migrate. The governments of the region pledged far more than the United States did. The U.S. government ultimately failed to live up to the commitment made by the Obama administration and, as we can see, prior to this weekend’s Trump tantrum, had already cut foreign assistance to Central America by nearly 67%.

Total investment over the five years of the plan was initially set at $22 billion, most of it coming from host governments. The United States promised to provide $1 billion per year over five years, but in 2016, total US funding for all of Central America was shy of $750 million. The US government counts funding for development, military assistance, and the continuation of the Central America Regional Security Initiative, which is Washington’s anti-narcotics strategy in the region, as part of the Alliance for Prosperity.

U.S. foreign “aid” is often little more than a subsidy to U.S. companies. In December, a $10 billion package of “aid” was announced, $4.8 billion for Mexico and $5.8 billion for Central America as part of the Alliance for Prosperity. None of it was aid in any traditional way of thinking about development assistance. It was all investment guarantees from OPIC:

The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation “is prepared to invest and mobilize $2 billion in additional funds for projects in southern Mexico that are viable and attract private sector investment,” according to the statement. “This amount is in addition to the $2.8 billion in projects for Mexico through OPIC’s current investment pipeline.”

To be clear, this is not money going to a country’s government, but an investment guarantee to a U.S. company or partner corporation, to alleviate any risk from investments in Mexico and Central America. Of course, the debt accumulated through OPIC loans, should anything go wrong, will become the public debt of the countries in the region. This is capitalism at its finest (socialize risk, privatize gain). As this money is going to U.S. companies and regional partners, none of it is likely to get cut.

Which brings us back to the questions, what did Trump cut exactly, and does it matter? The answers seem to be: No one really knows for sure, and probably not much.

When the Alliance for Prosperity was first announced, many saw it as a backdoor to revive the failed Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) investment corridor; a mammoth investment program to create transportation and energy networks in Central America to ease the entry of extractive industries. Seeing the PPP as a path to even more pillage, people of the region resoundingly rejected it in 2003-4. However, the implementation of the U.S.-Central American Free Trade Agreement, U.S. security regional initiative CARSI, and the more recent Alliance for Prosperity all add up to the same neo-liberalization at the point of a gun that the PPP represented. The same instantiation of capitalist relations that people are fleeing (poverty and violence). The same political configuration that keeps the wealthy in power in the Northern Triangle and keeps investment channels open. Trump is not touching this.

Rather, it appears Trump is cutting food aid and police training. Indeed, beyond virtue signaling to his base, he may not even be doing this. However, in criticizing this move, whatever it actually turns out to be, we must also be careful not to celebrate U.S. foreign aid as a solution to dealing with the “roots of migration.” As formulated over the years, it is often part of the problem.

 

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Homes of Hope Update

In 2014, the Quixote Center launched the “Homes of Hope” initiative in partnership with the Institute of John XXIII in Nicaragua. Since that time, we have delivered over $1 million to capitalize housing projects in Nicaragua and the campaign has raised nearly $1.6 million overall. 

The program is delivered through two inter-related initiatives managed by the Institute of John XXIII: The Community Housing Program and the Family Housing Program.

The Community Housing Program works with low-income families. Families are organized into housing cooperatives, typically with construction on larger plots of land serving multiple families. Quixote Center funds are used to cover construction costs. Repayment is based on concessional rates, and the money flows into a revolving loan fund that is used to cover costs of future housing projects.

To date 41 houses have been completed as part of the Community Housing Program: (20 in Leon, 21 in Sebeco) with another 12 nearly complete in San Marcos. Work on an additional 19 homes is underway and there are already plans for more in the pipeline.

The Family Housing Program works with middle-income families, a group often left out of local credit markets. This portion of the program is coordinated with a private bank (Banpro). Quixote Center contributions are used to secure mortgages: at least 20% of the value of homes is deposited with the bank. Banpro pays the full value of the housing construction, including indirect costs and administration up-front. As security for the mortgages is freed up with repayment, it also flows into the revolving loan fund.

To date, 53 houses have been built as part of the Family Housing Program. In 2018, however, this portion of the program has been in stasis, as banks in Nicaragua have ceased all mortgage lending, as a result of the economic crisis.

In March, we visited current construction sites in San Marcos, San Dionisio, and Terrabona.

San Marcos

The Community Housing Program in San Marcos (Department of Carazo) is organized with the Cooperative “Fuentes de Agua Viva.” With support from the municipality, the cooperative secured 1 manzana (1.7 acres) of land which will eventually include 20 houses. The first phase of construction for 12 houses is nearly complete.

View of Housing Site, San Marco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Dionisio

The Community Housing Program in San Dionisio (Department of Matagalpa) is being coordinated with the mayor’s office. The municipality was able to secure a large plot of land with support through the national government’s land initiative. The site will eventually hold 40 houses but the first phase includes plans for 12 homes. At the time of our visit, the entry to the property had been complete, with a communal space to house celebrations and a regular market for local producers. The rest of the site has yet to be cleared. In meeting with the mayor’s office, Institute staff discussed the path of the road through the property, and reached agreement on a modest re-routing. Clearing activities for the rest of the property will begin soon.

Market in San Dionisio

Future site of San Dionisio housing units

Terrabona

In Terrabona (Department of Matagalpa), the municipality has offered participation in the housing initiative to teachers as a benefit for their work. The Institute is coordinating construction of 7 homes for this program. During our time in Terrabona, the Institute began discussions with the mayor’s office about an additional site for a Community Housing Program that will hold 26 houses. As in San Dionisio, the property in Terabono was purchased by the mayor’s office with support from the national government. The mayor’s office is offering the land for sale at concessionary rates to families without permanent housing; repaid funds will then go to purchase additional land for future housing.

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Daily Dispatch 3/29/2109: The Wonderland Edition


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Daily Dispatch

March 29, 2019


The Wonderland Edition

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,” said the Cat, or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Our president is feeling vindicated. The Mueller report was released to the Justice Department last Friday. It was announced that there would be no more indictments from the Mueller investigation. From this one might conclude Mueller’s team found no direct evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia (though they did find evidence of other crimes). Mueller apparently punted on the obstruction of justice charges. Barr’s letter to Congress about the report this week quotes, “while this report does not conclude the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” Mueller is leaving it to the Justice Department to charge or not (and they won’t). It’s worth noting that part of Barr’s justification for not releasing the whole report to the public is that portions of it include information currently under review by grand juries, and thus he cannot release that information under federal law. Welcome to wonderland.

The Mueller investigation’s whimper of a conclusion, was followed by another whimper: A Democrat-led effort to override Trump’s veto of legislation aimed at overturning the executive order he issued to secure wall funding. The vote failed by 39 votes. Trump, in keeping with his well known frat-boy standards, Tweeted, “Thank you to the House Republicans for sticking together and the BIG WIN today on the Border…Today’s vote simply reaffirms Congressional Democrats are the party of Open Borders, Drugs and Crime!”

“I don’t think…” “then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.

In any event, Trump is now in full-on election mode – we have at least 18 more months of this – and this is bad, very bad, for immigration policy, which is already…..very bad. We now know that Trump only plays to “his base.” He has no interest in reaching out across any divides. He only tries to deepen them. Last night in Grand Rapids, Michigan Trump took a victory lap during which he lied about trade and General Motors, endorsed Fox News over the “fake news” and threatened to close the border with Mexico…again. He seemed pleased.  18. More. Months.

Border Security Expo 2019

Border Security is a business. A big business. A few weeks ago we posted about just how big a business it is in. From T.M. Brown, writing in Fast Company:

We’re currently in the middle of a golden era for border wall contractors. Companies are building everything from fences lined with concertina wire to military-grade drones to high-tech lidar sensors to monitor borderlands, and budgets for holistic frontier defenses are ballooning in tandem. The global market for border security technology is expected to grow to nearly $53 billion in the next few years, with major security companies like Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin leading the way.

As with most business “communities,” professionals from border security companies get together from time to time, put on name tags, and travel to convention centers to show off their wares to would-be buyers (usually government officials). This week we got an example of this at the Border Security Expo in San Antonio (complete with golf tournament, sharp shooter demonstration and “Margaritaville” reception).

In the exhibition hall, tech companies offered 15-minute demonstrations in the “Solution Theater.” Among the theater offerings were Verizon’s presentation (main corporate sponsor of the Expo), “Intelligent Edge Networking-Drive: Improved Operational Effectiveness and Agent Safety in Austere Environments,” and AT&T’s performance of “Leveraging Technology to Enhance Operations—From Calm to Crisis” (because one always wants to move from calm to crisis if making money off of border security contracts).

The exhibitors list is a who’s who in tech and defense contracting companies. Lockheed Martin was expected, of course. But Canon, Kawasaki, and MOOG seemed a bit out of place, and the Orwellian-sounding OWL (Observation Without Limit) is just creepy. It seems that everyone is getting in on the business of fear – and business is booming (see above, on election).

Among the reasons to attend the Expo promoted by organizers:

  • Meet face-to-face with local, state, federal, and international government decisions [sic] makers and senior-level officials
  • Tap into multi-billion-dollar budgets for security equipment, products, and services
  • Gain information on the latest border security RFPs
  • Raise your visibility and set your company apart in a very competitive market
  • Increase sales and expand market share

It would not be a conference without plenary speakers, and if you are trying to get a government contract to make some money off of border security, this was a good conference for you. Speakers included, Ronald D. Vitiello, Deputy Director, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement  and John P. Sanders, Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, both of whose plenary speeches became fodder for national news stories this week – creating the sense of crisis that is driving this market. The daisy chain meets on both ends.  

“Curiouser and curiouser” said Alice

 

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Daily Dispatch 3/28/2019


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Daily Dispatch

March 28, 2019


At the breaking point

Yesterday Kevin K. McAleenan, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, gave a press conference in El Paso, where he stated

Two weeks ago, I briefed the media and testified in Congress that our immigration system was at the breaking point. That breaking point has arrived this week at our border.

CBP is facing an unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis all along our Southwest border. And nowhere has that crisis manifested more acutely than here in El Paso. On Monday and Tuesday, CBP started the day with over 12,000 migrants in our custody. As of this morning, that number was 13,400. A high number for us is 4,000. A crisis level is 6,000. 13,000 is unprecedented.

On Monday, we saw the highest total of apprehensions and encounters in over a decade, with 4,000 migrants either apprehended or encountered at Ports of Entry in a single day. That was Monday. Yesterday, we broke the record again with 4,117. We are now on pace for over 100 thousand apprehensions and encounters with migrants in March, with 90 percent of those, 90 thousand people, crossing the border illegally between Ports of Entry. March will be the highest month since 2008. The arriving flows are made up primarily of Central American families and unaccompanied children.

McAleenan went on to claim that CBP’s “humanitarian” focus is deflecting resources from enforcement. So, while 55% of people apprehended at the border are families and unaccompanied children, the rest pose a security threat. Of course, he made no effort to break down those numbers. Surely, most of the single men crossing the border are also fleeing violence and/or migrating for work. Be that as it may, with border apprehensions increasing, a few points can clearly be made:

  1. Trump’s policy of deterrence is not only inhumane, it is a clear failure. Since Trump took office, his border approach has been geared toward scaring people away from attempting to come into the country. Family separation as a formal policy, was the clearest example of this. It has not worked.
  2. Border detentions are strained because Trump has refused to provide resources toward managing asylum claims expeditiously and fairly. One can simply look back to last year and the manic claims made about the migrant caravan from Central America. When the caravan left Honduras, the administration had weeks to prepare to handle asylum claims. Instead, Trump grandstanded, threatened to close the border, and ultimately denied entry to thousands, who have been stuck in Mexico waiting for appointments for credible fear interviews. There is a humanitarian crisis on the border. But it has been created by Trump’s policies.
  3. Trump still doesn’t get it. His budget request is demanding even more capacity for detentions, rather than looking for cheaper and more humane alternatives to detention. The administration is “reluctantly” releasing families to community sponsors because of crowding at border detention facilities – but this approach has been shown to be less expensive, and effective. People released to community sponsors do show up for their immigration hearings! This should be the default, not a “reluctant” response announced primarily as a justification for funding more beds. (Money that goes straight into the pockets of private incarceration companies, e.g., the GEO Group and CoreCivic).
  4. Finally, people are fleeing an enormous humanitarian crisis in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. It is a crisis years in the making, and is directly related to U.S. policy:   
    • The wars in Central America of the 1980s, in which the U.S. was the primary sponsor of right-wing political forces, death squads and militarization, led to enormous devastation.
    • Since then, years of neo-liberal reform enforced by D.C.-based multilateral financial institutions, whereby social services have been eliminated and/or privatized, while countries have been turned into platforms for extractive industries and maquilas, has deepened inequality and stolen livelihoods from millions.
    • The expansion of gangs (which, by and large, originated in the United States), have entered into this environment to offer (or demand) services from young men who see few options.
    • Finally, the U.S. government continues to step into every political contest in Central America in order to shore up support for political alliances committed to deepening foreign investment and maintaining the pillage, regardless of the social and political costs. U.S. support for the coup d’etat in Honduras is the clearest example of just how far the U.S. is still willing to go to make the world safe for mining companies.

The immigration system may well be at a breaking point. If it is, this is the result of bad policy overseas, bad policy at the border, and an the utter unwillingness of the U.S. political class to be self-reflective and self-critical about any of this. We promote the destruction of lives overseas, and when people flee the results, we turn them away or lock them up. Surely this is not sustainable nor is it morally justifiable. 



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