Gov deports plaintiffs in lawsuit, Judge says no, threatens Sessions w/contempt

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, US District Court, ordered that a plane to El Salvador carrying a mother/daughter who are plaintiffs in an ACLU lawsuit be turned around or else Jeff Sessions could be placed in contempt of court.

The two are party to a lawsuit challenging Sessions’ exclusion of domestic violence and gang violence as objects of ‘credible fear’ in asylum cases. Despite government assurances, the two were put on a plane during a hearing in which attorneys were appealing their removal.

Judge Sullivan described the move as “outrageous,” saying: “That someone seeking justice in U.S. court is spirited away while her attorneys are arguing for justice for her? I’m not happy about this at all. This is not acceptable.”

After Judge Sullivan ordered the government to bring the plane back, threatening that Sessions and DHS Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen would otherwise “be ORDERED to appear in Court to SHOW CAUSE why they should not be held in CONTEMPT OF COURT,” DOJ agreed to put the mother and daughter on another plane to the U.S. as soon as the outbound flight landed.

I guess Sessions doesn’t want a taste of prison life – yet.

Additional coverage.  And here is the order:

Continue Reading

Lessons from Haiti: Another View on the Nicaraguan Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading

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

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

Government says reuniting deported parents not its problem – it’s the ACLU’s

Yesterday, ahead of today’s 1:00 p.m. PST conference call, the Department of Justice filed a status report (see pp.3-4) in the federal court of the Southern District of California, suggesting that the responsibility for finding deported parents for the purposes of reunification with their children rests on… the ACLU.

DOJ argues that the ACLU is better positioned to locate the parents because of its “considerable resources” and extensive networks of volunteers, attorneys, and like-minded organizations. Once they have been located, the DOJ is offering to facilitate communication between parents and their minor children who remain in federal custody. 

To repeat: The government of the United States of America is suggesting (a) that it does not bear responsibility for reuniting the families it separated through detention and deportation and (b) that it does not have the financial or administrative resources to so.

The ACLU is, to be sure, a well-funded organization. However, a quick perusal of public records shows a fund balance of $118 million for the ACLU while the Department of Justice has $29 or so billion in discretionary budget authority.

Here is a brief comparative breakdown:

In light of the above, the government’s claim seems dubious.

One might surmise that the government is admitting either to incompetence or to what many have charged all along – namely, that the Trump administration intended family separations to be permanent from the beginning and thus has no motivation to establish procedures and best practices for reunification.

Want to take action? Call the attorneys who authored this court filing:

Sarah Fabian, Senior Litigation Counsel
Nicole Murley, Trial Attorney
DOJ Office of Immigration Litigation
(202) 532-4824

Adam Braverman, US Attorney
Samuel Bettwy, AUSA
Office of the US Attorney, Southern District of California
(619) 546-7125

Continue Reading

Action Alert: End abuse of migrant children

On Tuesday, an employee of Southwest Key (a nonprofit contractor that operates shelters for migrant children, including the now infamous Casa Padre) was arrested for molestation, aggravated assault, and sexual abuse after confessing to touching and kissing a 14-year-old girl at one of Southwest Key’s Phoenix area facilities.

This comes just days after reports of sexual abuse in Southwest Key’s Casa Glendale facility near Phoenix.

Earlier this year, the ACLU uncovered documentary evidence of child abuse by Customs and Border Protection employees (the full May 2018 report by the ACLU and the University of Chicago can be found here). The following is from an ACLU press release.

Examples of the documented abuses include allegations that CBP officials:

  • Punched a child’s head three times
  • Kicked a child in the ribs
  • Used a stun gun on a boy, causing him to fall to the ground, shaking, with his eyes rolling back in his head
  • Ran over a 17-year-old with a patrol vehicle and then punched him several times
  • Verbally abused detained children, calling them dogs and “other ugly things”
  • Denied detained children permission to stand or move freely for days and threatened children who stood up with transfer to solitary confinement in a small, freezing room
  • Denied a pregnant minor medical attention when she reported pain, which preceded a stillbirth
  • Subjected a 16-year-old girl to a search in which they “forcefully spread her legs and touched her private parts so hard that she screamed”
  • Left a 4-pound premature baby and her minor mother in an overcrowded and dirty cell full of sick people, against medical advice
  • Threw out a child’s birth certificate and threatened him with sexual abuse by an adult male detainee.

The ACLU has started a petition addressed to CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan: “Stop subjecting children in your custody to physical, sexual, and verbal abuse. Hold the responsible agents accountable and make it impossible for any future abuse to occur.”

You can sign the petition here.

Continue Reading

The other Q

I first learned about QAnon a few months ago when Amazon suggested I buy a “Q” t-shirt.

QAnon is the conspiracy theory-of-everything that incorporates all of the classics (the Illuminati, the Elders of Zion, the Rothschilds, J.P. Morgan and the sinking of the Titanic, etc.) as well as the more recent (Birtherism, Pizzagate, etc.).

“Q” alleges him-or-her-but-probably-him-self to be a high-level government agent who has been moved to reveal details of a “deep state” conspiracy – though only in small, cryptic posts that followers must decode.

According to QAnon, Trump was recruited by the U.S. military to dismantle a decades-long occupation of the U.S. government by an elite cabal of globalists who kidnap children by the thousands as part of their international (indeed, interplanetary) pedophile ring (it should be noted here that the only one who has been kidnapping children by the thousands is Homeland Security, taking them from their parents at the U.S./Mexico border). This countercoup (“the Storm”) is led by none other Robert Mueller himself, whose Russia investigation is actually a front for his sting operation against the “deep state.”

Trump speaks to followers in code in order to prophesy the imminent purge of these politicians (e.g. the Clintons, John McCain) and the exposure of complicit celebrities (e.g. Tom Hanks, John Legend).1 “Q” then drops “breadcrumbs” to help “bakers” interpret this complex code. It’s like Pokémon Go for the alt-right, but rather than collecting Pokémon, they’re scouring the deserts of the southwest for pedophiles as part of the coming purge. After this “storm” is over, there will be a new Christian golden age.

Of course, like every eschatological prediction so far, Q’s dates have been wrong (November 2017 was expected to bring hundreds of arrests, staged riots, marshal law, and Emergency Broadcast System messages with instructions for followers) and, also like every eschatological prediction so far, Q’s believers have nevertheless grown more entrenched in their faith.

So, why concern ourselves with some dark, musty corner of crazy-town-banana-pants idolatry? Because of this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

QAnon is not a community that lives solely online, but is becoming increasingly active IRL. As Will Sommer noted last month:

In April, hundreds of QAnon believers staged a march in downtown Washington, D.C. with a vague demand for “transparency” from the Justice Department. “Q” shirts have become frequent sites at Trump rallies, with one QAnon believer scoring VIP access. In June, an armed man in an homemade armored truck shut down a highway near the Hoover Dam and held up signs referencing QAnon. And celebrities like comedian Roseanne Barr and former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling have signed on.

And the Southern Poverty Law Center has taken note, tracking use of the #qanon on their Hate Tracker, writing that “the surprising rapidity at which ‘The Storm’ has spread is testament to the extent to which such claims gain real life and become widely believed.”

The visibility of the Q crowd at last night’s rally in Tampa was accompanied by an increasingly vicious hostility toward journalists covering the event. CNN’s Jim Acosta, a favorite target of Trump crowds, posted the following warning along with a video of what reporters experienced last night. The video is disturbing and Costa’s fear is justified:

 

WaPo’s Jennifer Rubin reacted this morning to Acosta’s video with this:

… this is the behavior Trump incites and amplifies with his attacks on the free press. When he says the media is the “enemy of the people” or the worst people or the most dishonest people, his followers take it as license to treat members of the media as something less than human. Trump has defined the press as part of “the other,” and his cult responds with the kind of venom used to keep a foreign body at bay …

Rubin recommends that we stop “infantilizing” the “Trump cultists” and “treating them as hapless victims of forces beyond their control.” Indeed, treating them as such is just another form of other-ing – making them alien to us and removing their agency. The Quixote Center will soon be launching a new program aimed at countering these kinds of “othering” tactics – especially in relation to immigration, but the principle extends in both directions.

Last week, Trump said to a crowd of veterans, “just remember: what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” Such is the Orwellian fever-dream in which we now live. When our social media is infiltrated by foreign actors to spread disinformation and fan the flames on already divisive issues and is an outlet for the President’s frequent rants about “witch hunts” and “fake news,” the conditions are ripe for the proliferation and escalation of hate speech and dangerous conspiracy theories, whether they target politicians, the media, minorities, or immigrants.

We’ve been here before. We know that this is how fascism/totalitarianism/despotism (and the accompanying atrocities) begins. We have to be vigilant about what we believe, check our sources, do our research, and take responsibility for the ideas and information that we ourselves choose to share.

We don’t have to let history repeat itself.

 

Notes

Continue Reading

Trump Administration Misses Deadline to Reunite Families

This week, the Trump administration missed a court appointed deadline to reunite children separated from families as a result of the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy. This policy, which directed that all people engaged in irregular border crossings be prosecuted for violation of federal law, led to the separation of over 2,000 children during its peak implementation in May and June as parents were prosecuted and detained under the directive. Though the administration indicated a change in strategy, that would allow children to remain with parents in most cases (in detention) a few weeks ago, officials also indicated that there was little they could (or were willing to) do to reunite families. In June a federal judge ordered the administration to reunite all children under 5 years old with their families within two-weeks, and older children by July 27.

With the help of a host of volunteer lawyers and other advocates, many children have been reunited with their families. However, serious problems remain. The carelessness with which children have been tracked once handed off to Office of Refugee Resettlement by immigration officials, the fact that many parents agreed to deportation under the impression that their children would join them only to find out this was not true, and the administration’s decision to block reunification with parents’ who have criminal records – even those with minor offenses – all indicate the road to justice for many families caught up in this dragnet will indeed be a long one.

Adding to the injustice is that the treatment of children, especially at facilities along the border, has been horrendous. There have been multiple reports indicating systemic problems of sexual and other physical abuse, grossly inadequate nutrition, children sleeping on freezing concrete floors, and lack of access to health services. Many of the issues have been ongoing for years, but have surfaced in the national consciousness recently because of the large numbers of children affected and the attention the broader crisis has generated.

The system is a broken and inhumane one. The Trump administration’s effort to wage a literal war against migrants has employed existing institutions and policies, even as it reaches well beyond original intentions and the capacity of the system to retain even a semblance of due process. This week legislation was introduced to establish a commission to review and make recommendations for a complete overhaul of our immigration policies, including dismantling Immigration and Custom Enforcement. Here is a summary of the bill, HR 6361, from the National Immigrants Rights Network:

“Establishing a Humane Immigration Enforcement System Act”. Introduced by Congressional members Mark Pocan (WI), Pramila Jayapal (WA), and Adriano Espillat (NY), the bill would create a commission to recommend a “fair and humane system of immigration enforcement”, towards eliminating ICE and transfering some of its “essential functions” to other agencies. However, the proposal would not repeal current laws that, for example, criminalize unlawful entry and re-entry. Click here for a fact sheet on the bill.

Such legislation will face a tough road in the current congress, but it is nevertheless important to signal to representatives that there is a groundswell of support for a different, more humane approach to migration. You can contact your member of congress by call the Capitol Switchboard is (202) 224-3121.

Continue Reading

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from The Catholic Connection, October 1976.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maureen Fiedler

Continue Reading

Inspirational and Influential Women of the World: Dolly Pomerleau

Part VII of the Inspirational and Influential Women of the World Blog Series

“The only thing that has limited us in the past was our own fears.” – Dolly Pomerleau

We are ending the Inspirational and Influential Women of the World Blog Series with several installments honoring our fearless leader and co-founder, Dolly Pomerleau. I had the immense pleasure of working with and learning from Dolly this past year. I will forever admire her spunk, endless passion and conviction, as well as her ability to surround herself with people who want to make the world a better place.

In order to convey the inspiration and influence of Dolly Pomerleau, we must start with the story of the Quixote Center. In the mid 70’s, co-founder Bill Callahan worked at the Center of Concern, another justice-centered organization that took hold after Vatican II. Together, Dolly and Bill realized that none of the new and shiny nonprofits in promoting justice and social change in this vein were autonomous from the Church, which greatly limited their ability to work on the various problems within the Church and on issues that it opposed. It was then, in 1975, that these two radically progressive Catholics began hatching an idea to create their own social justice organization – the Quixote Center.

When discussing how the name ‘Quixote Center’ came to be, she recalls, “our goal was to work on issues of justice regardless of what people thought of us. Don Quixote did what he believed in and suffered the consequences. Quixote is someone with a lot of imagination, a little zaniness, sometimes not having good judgment in terms of societal standards, and willing to be called crazy. One of the hallmarks is laughter and a strong sense of community.”

In 1976, the Quixote Center officially opened with the goal of ruffling some feathers within the Catholic church, promoting equality, and fighting for the overlooked of society. Unsurprisingly, the Center sought out one of the most taboo issues they could find: women’s ordination. While working on women’s ordination Dolly became one of the founders of the Women’s Ordination Conference and a leader within the movement.

The Center continued to expand. As things began to erupt in Central America during the late 1970s, the Center turned its focus to the injustice and violence in the region. Dolly recalls, “We didn’t know what it would involve, but we knew it was a revolutionary time.” In 1980, the Center held a vigil for Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran Archbishop who was assassinated, and thus their work in Central America began. Dolly and Maureen Fiedler journeyed to Nicaragua, intrigued by Pope John Paul II’s disastrous visit, only to see the devastation and returned to the States thinking, “What can we do?”

In the hopes of educating the American public, Dolly and Maureen decided to publish a tabloid entitled Nicaragua: A Look at Reality, answering the basic questions about the Sandinista’s revolution and U.S. intervention. Within a year, the Center’s involvement grew and they began regularly shipping millions of dollars of humanitarian aid to the country, thanks in part to the fundraising work of Dolly.

Dolly transformed monotonous fundraising into community-building. She stated, “Turn people into constituents by giving them something to do – organize them politically, have them call legislators, organize cargo containers, etc. People were materially and physically invested in the Center’s programs.” Dolly invited people into the fold, creating not just supporters but friends – a Quixote family called by the Quixote spirit to enact radical social change and promote peace.

The Center has collected a wide array of issues and continues to pick up new ones up along the way. When speaking with Dolly she told me, “The Center hasn’t tended to rush to the popular issues,” instead taking on the passion of the employees, ranging from the elimination of the death penalty to inclusive citizenship.

As I sit and talk to Dolly she has a smile on her face. She reminiscences, “The most creative and productive time was in the ‘80s, and the work of Quest for Peace. There was national organizing, lobbying against Congress, aid sent to Nicaragua – just an incredible era. They were the best years of the Center for me.” Dolly’s hope for the Center is that it will continue to grow in size and allow the current programs to thrive.

After 42 years, Dolly is retiring (for real this time) next week. Without her we would not have the Quixote Center, and for that we are ever grateful.

 

Continue Reading

Haiti News Update: Prime Minister Resigns and Update on Cholera Campaign

On Saturday, Haiti’s Prime Minister, Jack Guy Lafontant, resigned to avoid a formal vote of no-confidence. His resignation followed a week of conflict over proposed increases in fuel prices that had led to widespread protests. The price increases, cancelled following a day of protest in which three people were killed, would have been the direct result of the government removing subsidies for gasoline, diesel and kerosine. This step had been demanded by the International Monetary Fund before additional funds would be released to the government of Haiti.

Initial protests had called for the President Moises to step down. However, early last week the Private Sector Economic Forum, a coalition of major business interests, issued a call for the prime minister to step down instead. Taking on the tone of friends of the people of Haiti (to which one might be forgiven an eye roll or two), or is it simply friends of those who own property (it is not clear) their statement reads (reproduced from Haiti Libre summary here):

“The Economic Forum wishes to express its sincere sympathies to the victims of these acts of barbarism, detrimental to the social climate, the national image and our ability to attract private investment generating sustainable employment and economic prosperity.”

The Forum wishes to underline its conviction that “these acts largely reflect the high degree of frustration, even disarray” of the majority of our fellow citizens, faced the deterioration of their living conditions for many years. While deploring the fact, he considers, however, “that such frustration, however justified, can not excuse such an increase of violence, destruction and violation of the fundamental rights of the entire population.”

In addition, the Economic Forum “is astonished at the inaction characterized of the forces of order face this new and unacceptable overflow of delinquency, contrary to their mission of maintaining order and protecting lives and property.” He estimates that “this situation results above all from a lack of leadership by the highest authorities of the Haitian State, including the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and his Government. This is evidenced, among other things, by the apparent lack of planning of security measures that would logically precede the adoption of the drastic price adjustment measure for petroleum products decreed by the Government on 6 July 2018.

While taking note of the recent decision to withdraw this measure taken by the Executive Authority, “the Economic Forum is of the opinion that the President of the Republic should draw the logical conclusions of this deplorable situation and ask the Prime Minister to submit without delay his resignation and that of his Government, in order to offer a way out to the current political impasse.”

The Economic Forum was not the only entity seeking to boost its moral standing by, well, standing on the backs of the people who protested. As we noted in an earlier article, the underlying frustrations that spilled out into the streets run deeper than fuel prices – some at least aimed at the International Monetary Fund. At the United Nations, Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur for Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, noted that the IMF demands were guaranteed to lead to conflict:

The fund has consistently underestimated the importance of calibrating their recommendations to the specific political context, not taking into account the extent to which recommendations are politically viable and socially sustainable.

Strong words, and very true (we have also been writing about the crisis in Nicaragua, which is very different in scope, but was also sparked by the government’s effort to implement fiscal reforms demanded by the IMF). We applaud Alston’s insights. But we also hope Mr. Alston will also walk down the hall to speak to some of his other colleagues.

The United Nations is itself struggling (or at least being made to struggle) to come to terms with its own responsibility for the costs and consequences of the cholera epidemic introduced by UN peacekeepers in 2010. The Quixote Center signed onto a letter this week demanding the UN abide by the commitments it has made. From the press release:

Cholera was introduced to Haiti in 2010 through reckless waste management on a UN peacekeeping base. In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence and immense public pressure, the UN finally acknowledged its role in the outbreak in 2016 and launched a $400-million-dollar plan – the “New Approach to Cholera in Haiti” – that aims to eradicate the epidemic and provide a victim assistance package. The UN pledged that its assistance package would represent “a concrete and sincere expression of the Organization’s regret” and presented two potential approaches to justice for victims: individual payments to affected households, and community projects, which would be decided upon through a process of victim consultation. Eighteen months on, under Secretary-General Guterres, the UN has increasingly retreated from these promises.

We are joining with the Institute of Justice and Democracy in Haiti, who has led this campaign in partnership with the Bureau of International Attorneys in Port au Prince, to raise awareness about the impact of the cholera epidemic and the UN’s obligation to make restitution.

 

Continue Reading

Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    7307 Baltimore Ave.
    Ste 214
    College Park, MD 20740
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Direction to office:

For driving: From Baltimore Ave (Route 1) towards University of Maryland, turn right onto Hartwick Rd. Turn immediate right in the office complex.

Look for building 7307. We are located on the 2nd floor.

For public transportation: We are located near the College Park metro station (green line)