Haiti Update: Vote on New Government?, PetroCaribe, and Immigrants Arrested in Bolivia

Update: Jean Henry Céant was confirmed as Haiti’s new Prime Minister following votes in both the Senate and Chamber of Deputies on Saturday, September 16. 

In July, widespread protests in Haiti following an announced cut in fuel subsidies led to the resignation of Prime Minister Guy Jack Lafontant and dissolution of the cabinet. Since the resignation, Haiti has been without a functioning government. President Moïse nominated Jean Henry Céant to the post of Prime Minister on August 7, but his confirmation in Parliament has been delayed. Last week, with a scheduled recess looming, Céant formally presented his list of proposed ministers to Parliament.

The slate of ministers has proved to be controversial. Of the 18 ministers proposed, 6 were part of Lafontant’s government, and 3 have had their eligibility challenged. One of the nominees, Osner Richard named Minister of the Environment, has already been forced to step down on the basis of his holding dual citizenship (with the United States). Additionally, of the 4 appointed Secretaries of State, 3 were part of the previous government. The selections have led to widespread criticism that Moïse is controlling the selection process in an effort to keep the government under the control of his Haitian Tèt Kale Party (PHTK), despite opposition concerns about the government that led to the resignation of Lafontant back in July.  The PHTK holds the largest bloc of seats in both houses, but is far from a majority in either, and thus must hold together a coalition to get the slate of ministers passed. At this point, the votes do not seem to be there.

Deputy Jerry Tardieu, who represents Pétion-Ville as a member of the Verité party, has been among the outspoken critics of Moïse role in the selection process. From Haiti Libre:

I…recommend that the Executive reconsider the formation of the Government as soon as possible, leaving the designated Prime Minister free to choose leading figures who can inspire confidence in society and give the government a serious image. This indiscriminate insistence on imposing personalities stamped PHTK, even when they are competent, is contrary to the wishes of the living forces of the nation who had opted for the establishment of a government of openness that soothes and builds confidence. It proves that President Jovenel Moïse has still not taken the right measure of the events of July 6 and 7, 2018, does not understand the stakes of the hour and even less the risks for tomorrow.

To the [designated] Prime Minister Céant, I hope that he has the courage to resign if he can not have the free hand, that is to say the freedom to choose credible and competent personalities to form a Government capable of providing solutions immediately.

There was no vote before deputies recessed Monday. However, President Moïse ordered a special session of parliament, calling members back to Port-au-Prince to hold a vote on the new government. We’ll update when we hear the results of the special session.

PetroCaribe

Hanging over the process of selecting a new government is ongoing outrage over embezzlement of money through the PetroCaribe fund. PetroCaribe was a regional effort put forth by the Venezuelan government in 2006, that allowed governments to purchase oil at a discount in order to use funds for development projects. Under PetroCaribe’s agreement, the government purchases oil from Venezuela, paying back 60% of the purchase price within 90 days. The extra funds are to be paid back over 25 years at 1% interest. In theory, the extra funds are to be used to develop infrastructure, at rates below what multilateral lenders would provide.

In October last year a senate committee led by Evallière Beauplan (Northwest Department) released a scathing audit that showed misappropriation of funds through the awarding of $1.7 billion in non-bid contracts for reconstruction projects between 2008 and 2016. The beneficiaries of the contracts included people closely associated with former president Martelly (also of the PHTK) and his prime minister Laurent Lamothe. Some of the accused are part of the current government, like Wilson Laleau, who is Moïse’s chief of staff. Public anger over the corruption, which has left Haiti with over $2 billion in debt to Venezuela with little to show for it, continues to grow and played a significant role in animating the protests in July.

Some examples of the waste include (via the Miami Herald):

[C]onstruction overages that include the ministry of public works paying for 10 miles of road that actually measured 6.5 miles; the signing of a contract between the ministry of public health and a deceased person; large disbursements by government ministers with no documents to support the expenditures, and tens of millions of dollars paid to Dominican and Haitian firms for post-earthquake roads, housing and government ministries that never materialized or weren’t completed.

One of the most blatant allegations involved the reconstruction of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, one of 40 government buildings that crumbled during the earthquake. The Dominican firm Hadom was awarded a $14.7 million contract, and paid $10 million up front, to construct the building that remains unbuilt. Hadom’s lucrative Haiti contract is among several given to Dominican firms after the quake that became the subject of separate probes in Haiti and in neighboring Dominican Republic, where Hadom owner and Dominican Senator Félix Bautista was accused of embezzlement. The Bautista case was eventually dropped by the Dominican Republic’s Supreme Court.

As the economic situation in Haiti continues to deteriorate – projected growth this year was lowered to 1.2% by the IMF – frustration with the government only increases. A campaign asking Kot Kòb Petwo Karibe a (“Where did the Petro Caribe money go?”) has launched on social media, and protests continue in the streets. The situation remains volatile. It is hard to know how much hinges on the new government, or what space it will have to operate within the confines of the neo-liberal policy constraints Haiti is forced to operate under, but if the new government returns many of the same players back to power, it will only fuel the opposition.

100 Haitians Arrested in Bolivia

Last week we reported on the increasing challenges faced by people who have migrated out of Haiti looking for new opportunities. Earlier this week, over 100 Haitians were arrested in Bolivia as they traveled through the country from Brazil and Chile – two countries where many Haitians have resettled since the earthquake in 2010.

The arrests also included two Haitians and five Bolivians (the four drivers of the buses and a woman who processed tickets), all charged with trafficking.

 

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The Brutality of Lies in the Age of Trump

— See below for action alert
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At a rally in Montana this summer, the President of the United States made 98 factual claims. 76% of these claims were false or misleading. 46% were in fact falsehoods.

One might even call them lies.

This is not a controversial statement. Members of his own cabinet have referred to him as “a professional liar.” Trump’s own attorney, who is genuinely convinced of his innocence with regard to ongoing federal inquiries, nevertheless told investigators that his client was “clearly disabled” when it comes to telling the truth, recognizing Trump to be, at his very essence, “a fucking liar.”

As of today (September 14, 2018), Trump has told 5,001 lies since taking office. 621 of those lies related to immigration – typically intended to vilify and dehumanize immigrants and to boast about false achievements – and this summer has seen an acceleration, with more than 100 lies about immigration in June alone.

Trump’s attacks on truth and facts represent an insidious form of violence with global impacts; and they betray an antipathy toward the institutions and norms of modern western democracy. Madeleine Albright observes that we have never had a President “whose statements and actions are so at odds with democratic ideals,” and who “speaks harshly about the institutions and principles that make up the foundation of an open government.” She continues:

In the process, he has systematically degraded political discourse in the United States, shown an astonishing disregard for facts, libeled his predecessors, threatened to “lock up” political rivals, referred to mainstream journalists as “the enemy of the American people,” spread falsehoods about the integrity of the US electoral process, touted mindlessly nationalistic economic and trade policies, vilified immigrants and the countries from which they come, and nurtured a paranoid bigotry toward the followers of one of the world’s foremost religions. (Fascism: A Warning, p. 5)

Trump’s animosity toward democratic institutions are having chilling effects, especially among his fellow-partisans.

This summer, a Quinnipiac poll found that, within the “party of law and order,” only 28% of registered Republicans now view the FBI in a favorable light, while 60% trust Trump more than the US intelligence agencies. Meanwhile, 76% view Trump as honest and 75% believe he “provides good moral leadership.” It is this unwavering faith that leads 51% to identify the mainstream news media as “the enemy of the people” – a question Quinnipiac and other pollsters have little “trend data” on because it simply isn’t a question anyone would have thought necessary before Trump.

But Trump has gained cult-leader status among his base, more of whom now trust Trump to provide them with accurate information (91%) than their family and friends (63%) or the media (11%). Through sheer repetition, he has usurped the term “fake news” (which originally denoted false stories knowingly spread as real news but which has been distorted to mean news that is unfavorable towards himself), thereby immunizing his base to factual presentation and leaving them with only their leader as their source of reality.

The Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, frequently cited the Bible and the newspaper together as crucial for understanding the world and our place in it – each, in its own way, a source of truth. Indeed, he saw the role of journalists as so “terribly important” that he told TIME magazine, “I always pray for the sick, the poor, journalists, authorities of the state and the church – in that order.” Trump, on the other hand, admits that his attacks on the media are intended “to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.” His persistent accusations inure his base to his own falsehoods.

Therefore, if you are a Trump supporter, this is your reality:

  • Trump is “a very stable genius.”
  • He has repealed the Johnson Amendment.
  • There will be violence in the streets if Democrats win in the midterms.
  • Millions and millions” of people voted illegally in California.
  • Google is rigging search results to only show bad news about Trump.
  • Kneeling during the national anthem is not a protest but an intentional insult to military veterans.
  • Only 6 or 18 people died in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria – reports to the contrary are a political conspiracy against the President.
  • Construction of the border wall is in full swing.
  • Democrats forced Trump to separate families at the border.
  • Terrorists from the Middle East are using children to get through the US-Mexico border.
  • MS-13 has taken control of US towns, requiring ICE to “liberate” those towns.
  • Immigrants are rapists and murderers who are invading and infesting our country by the tens of millions.

It’s a bleak view of America, an anemic view of the strength of our democracy, a distorted view of the first amendment, and a paranoid, xenophobic view of the “other.”

In a chilling “call and response” about immigrants, Trump asked thousands of attendees at a recent rally in Nashville, “what was the name?” “Animals!” the crowd roared. It is this fascist use of deceit, language, and repetition that leads to Charlottesville.

Nationalist, anti-immigrant movements around the world are following his lead – we’ve covered the rise of neo-Nazi and far-right movements in Europe and Australia in our Daily Dispatch, for example – as are dictators and autocrats who spout “fake news” as an excuse to shut down media outlets, jail reporters, and cut off access to internet and social media.

In the U.S., Trump’s verbal assaults on the media are inspiring his followers to threaten reporters with physical and sexual assault. Journalists are regularly receiving death threats from people who cite Trump and his rhetoric. Many have hired bodyguards. And security details now surround those tasked with covering his rallies, where crowds chant Lügenpresse (“lying press” – aka “fake news”) – a term used by the Nazi party to discredit the media.

As Timothy Snyder observes in On Tyranny: “Post-truth is pre-fascism.”

In addition to the inalienable rights with which we are endowed, we also have inalienable responsibilities. Just as we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we are summoned to promote peace, truth, and the pursuit of justice.

Snyder writes, “to abandon facts is to abandon freedom.”

To deprive another of facts is to deprive them of freedom – to take them hostage.

And that is a brutal act violence.

 

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Action alert:

Pace e Bene is organizing a Moment of Truth: Campaign Nonviolence National Convergence, which will take place in Washington, DC on September 21-22. They are hosting additional events around the country, which can be found on their website.

Now is the moment of truth for taking action – and for recommitting to the power of truth itself, in light of the many false or misleading statements made by the administration. On September 22, we will take action for peace, economic equality, racial justice and environmental healing – and for a new spirit of truth and nonviolence.

Now is the time. The Moment of Truth.

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Daily Dispatch 9/14/18

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A series in which we (aspire to) offer a sampling of today’s headlines on immigration, race, and related stories.

 

September 14, 2018

Update:

An emotional profile of the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. And a chilling, interactive database of the dead.

Florence and Maria:

Mandatory evacuation of Virginia and the Carolinas will not include inmates in at least three correctional facilities.

Immigration advocates encouraging evacuation despite fears of ICE.

Stephen Colbert fact-checks Trump’s self-centered conspiracy theory on Puerto Rico:

For shame:

Dalai Lama echoes rhetoric of far-right parties in Europe – “Europe belongs to the Europeans,” adding that Europe should help refugees when possible but ultimately refugees “should develop their own country.” (It’s really not as bad as Twitter would have you believe… but still…)

White evangelicals overlook Trump’s … flaws… because they support his immigration policy… (if this were a text, there would be an eye-roll emoji right here).

Acting ICE director attends annual hate-group jamboree.

Quebec seeks to reduce immigration and expel those who fail French language and values test, but Trudeau’s government is not keen on the idea. 

RUFR?:

Steve Bannon partners with conservative Catholic group to build “alt-right Catholic compound” in Rome, with focus on “Christendom” in Europe.

The Proposals:

Proposed court agreement would give separated parents a second chance at asylum.

Obrador’s government not interested in Trump’s offer of $20 million to speed up deportations of migrants detained in Mexico.

The Box Office:

Oscar buzz surrounding “Icebox,” which follows a 12 year old’s journey from Honduras to US detention center.

In other news:

Nike is fine.

 

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Daily Dispatch 9/13/18

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A series in which we (aspire to) offer a sampling of today’s headlines on immigration, race, and related stories.

 

September 13, 2018

Visit from Aunt Flo:

In addition to taking money FEMA, DHS moved $200 million from other departments to ICE, inflating its budget 29% to fund an additional 2,300 detention beds and increased deportations.

            Here’s the document Sen. Merkley released.

ICE claims that “there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations” related to hurricane Florence. (Careful, though. They’ve reneged on such promises before.)

Trump challenges death toll for hurricane Maria, while also claiming that Puerto Rico is “an inaccessible island” (following Tuesday’s mention of its “island nature” and earlier talk of its “big water, ocean water”). San Juan Mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, Twitter-shames him in response. But perhaps this congresswoman from California put it best.

 

Cruel and Unusual:

Report: ICE raids target rural communities where immigrants are less likely to be able to obtain legal counsel. Meanwhile, companies defraud workers with promises of visas.

Private detention center located alongside Texas wells that emit carcinogenic pollutants and other toxic emissions caused by fracking, leading to neurodevelopmental problems in children and respiratory illnesses in everyone else.

Southwest Key employee, Levian D. Pacheco, convicted of sexually abusing seven detained children in Arizona.

A Guatemalan mother’s “hellish journey” to reunite with her 8 year old.

Number of detained kids reaches 12,800 – that’s more than a 400% increase over last year.

Corporations get paid $750 a day to “take care” of immigrant children in detention, while also deciding when they get released.

A deeper look at Trump’s plan to hold incarcerate more kids, longer, with fewer quality standards.

Related: U.S. Schools now have more police officers than counselors.

 

Trumped:

Under Trump, number of Christian refugees admitted to US plummets while Iraqi Christians in the US see increased arrest/detention.

New USCIS policy took effect this week – when filling out green card applications, a mistake = deportation.

Trump to pay Mexico $20 million to deport 17,000 Central American migrants before they reach US border.

 

In a Pickle:

Congress facing tough choice: fund Trump’s immigration policies or shut down government – voters don’t like either.

 

Speaking Out:

Former DNI Clapper joins 17 other former intelligence and counterterrorism officials calling on DOJ and DHS to retract “misleading” report linking terrorism and immigration, written ahead of Trump’s “muslim ban.” (Coverage of the letter and the report in WaPo.)

Oregon based Nike and Columbia Sportswear speak out against the state’s Ballot Measure 105 to repeal sanctuary laws, saying Oregon needs to attract “diverse talent from across the globe.”

 

Behind the Paywalls:

Percent of migrants at the southwest border fleeing Guatemala increasing (NYT – with photos).

Fact-checking conservative rhetoric about citizens losing jobs to immigrants (WaPo).

 

And Finally:

Youngsters support Nike’s Kaepernick ad campaign. Oldsters don’t, but Nike doesn’t care since they aren’t exactly lining up to pay $230 for a pair of tennis shoes.

To wit: This Alabama preacher admits he owns a pair of Nike shoes, but when it came time to put his money where his mouth is, he decided to destroy a $10 Nike sweatband during the sermon instead.

Wait… what? … Apparently a growing number of evangelical Christian groups and schools are boycotting Nike because…

Oh, yeah! Because they’re toxic idolaters who confuse patriotism & conservatism with piety. That’s right, now I remember.

 

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Daily Dispatch 9/12/18

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A series in which we (will aspire to) offer a sampling of today’s headlines on immigration, race, and related stories.

 

September 12, 2018

 

Top Stories:

Hurricanes Schmurricanes: “They haven’t seen anything like what’s coming at us in 25, 30 years, maybe ever. It’s tremendously big and tremendously wet,” Trump says as he diverts $10 million from FEMA to ICE for increased immigrant detention. FEMA warns that Florence could be a far-reaching, devastating disaster with widespread road closures and power outages that could last for days, but assures reporters that it’s fine, they don’t need the extra $10 million.

After all, Trump reassured us that things went so well in Puerto Rico, despite its “island nature,” that it is truly an “unsung success,” adding this bite of word-salad: “it was one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about.”

(I’m sure ICE will volunteer to “shelter” any bilingual coastal residents.)

Tornillo tent city to triple capacity in order to warehouse up to 3800 kids on military base. (Recall the incident commander called the whole thing “an incredibly dumb, stupid decision made by our leadership.”)

More Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics:

Contrary to Trump’s dishonest rhetoric, 86% of families actually do show up for immigration hearings – 90%+ of asylum seekers.

Breaking News (jk):

This article on immigration, diversity, and the myth of the “melting pot” – from 1916.

At the Border:

Michael Avenatti among the lawyers gambling to reunite families in the US and get asylum granted.

Video of CBP agent who resigned after realizing undocumented immigrants “just want a better life.”

Around the World:

European Union strips Hungary of Parliamentary vote for violating democratic values with recent anti-immigration laws. (More coverage from WaPo.)

Italy is non contento about being investigated by UN human rights office after reports of anti-immigrant violence.

German Chancellor slams the far-right, reminding the Bundestag that neo-Nazi violence ist nicht so gut.

Meanwhile, Juncker tells EU Parliament genuch with the nationalism already.

Behind the Paywalls:

On the 100 migrants who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea and those who could have prevented the tragedy (from NYT).

Number of families crossing the US-Mexico border surges in August (from WaPo).

 

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Prison Strike Update: September 11, 2018

The last day called for the national prison strike was Sunday, September 9. As we’ve reported over the last couple of weeks, details on exact numbers and the kinds of actions that people incarcerated have participated in can be hard to verify. So, not a complete list, but organizers have confirmed 33 actions across 15 states and Nova Scotia, Canada. A list of verified actions can be found here.

There has also been some retaliations against strike leaders. Jailhouse Lawyers Speak’s (JLS) Amani Sawari:

Incarcerated leaders like Jason Walker continue to suffer from abusive treatment and staff harassment, Imam Hasan has been placed on a one year ban from outside communications and Kevin Rashid Johnson just went up for another transfer trial and is being sent for another out-of-state transfer. They are shipping organizers like cargo and JLS members are being hunted like animals as officials try to pluck them out of general population and tear them down due to the amazing work that they were able to to complete these past few weeks. 

The best way to keep up with news and solidarity actions in support of JLS organizers inside is to follow Amani Sawari, JLS’s communications leader at http://sawarimi.org.

The strike was a pretty huge success from a media standpoint. There was coverage of the strike in major media outlets, such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Guardian. It was covered in a variety of smaller presses and blogs as well. Compared to the prison strike in 2016, which garnered very little national press, this strike captured people’s attention and hopefully will help move forward the reform agenda.

James Kilgore had a great article in Truthout, detailing the success of the media campaign and providing details on the organizations coordinating the work of those incarcerated and allies. In this section Kilgore discusses potential impacts of the strike actions.

As with any mass action in a repressive setting like a prison, there will be backlash from prison authorities. From the 2016 strike, leaders like Kinetic Justice of the Free Alabama Movement and Malik Washington, founder of the End Prison Slavery Texas Movement, have suffered long periods in solitary confinement. Already, those identified as “instigators” in Texas, Ohio and South Carolina reportedly have been sent to isolation. No doubt there will be more efforts by authorities to punish, vilify and isolate those they identify as leaders

Optimistic outcomes of the 2018 actions would be the restoration of Pell Grants, a measure already partially in motion, and a repeal of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. As Darren Mack said, “It’s urgent that elected officials respond to the 10 policy demands in order to tackle the systemic problems of mass incarceration and racist criminal justice policies that have led to tragic events like the Attica massacre and devastated millions of lives.”

But regardless of actions by elected officials, as Heather Thompson observed, “No matter how many folks were actually able to sit in or stop working or not eat, on the outside, vital attention was drawn to the issue of how horrific prison conditions are and also the longer history of prisoners standing up to be heard at places like San Quentin and Attica.”

The action, called by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee and organized with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, was built around 10 demands. As a reminder (these need to be repeated over and over):

These are the NATIONAL DEMANDS of the men and women in federal, immigration, and state prisons:

[You can sign a petition here to send a statement of support of these demands to members of congress.]

  1. Immediate improvements to the conditions of prisons and prison policies that recognize the humanity of imprisoned men and women.
  2. An immediate end to prison slavery. All persons imprisoned in any place of detention under United States jurisdiction must be paid the prevailing wage in their state or territory for their labor.
  3. The Prison Litigation Reform Act must be rescinded, allowing imprisoned humans a proper channel to address grievances and violations of their rights.
  4. The Truth in Sentencing Act and the Sentencing Reform Act must be rescinded so that imprisoned humans have a possibility of rehabilitation and parole. No human shall be sentenced to Death by Incarceration or serve any sentence without the possibility of parole.
  5. An immediate end to the racial overcharging, over-sentencing, and parole denials of Black and brown humans. Black humans shall no longer be denied parole because the victim of the crime was white, which is a particular problem in southern states.
  6. An immediate end to racist gang enhancement laws targeting Black and brown humans.
  7. No imprisoned human shall be denied access to rehabilitation programs at their place of detention because of their label as a violent offender.
  8. State prisons must be funded specifically to offer more rehabilitation services.
  9. Pell grants must be reinstated in all US states and territories.
  10. The voting rights of all confined citizens serving prison sentences, pretrial detainees, and so-called “ex-felons” must be counted. Representation is demanded. All voices count!

Work will continue to make these demands a reality!! Stay connected with, and support these groups:

Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

Jailhouse Lawyers Speak 

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Daily Dispatch 9/11/18

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A series in which we (will aspire to) offer a sampling of today’s headlines on immigration, race, and related stories.

 

September 11, 2018

 

The Stakes:

“Desperate, hopeless, and alone”: Immigration attorney describes client’s experience in testimony against Brett Kavanaugh.

 

It’s Oregon:

Oregon lawmaker outed as VP of local anti-immigrant hate-group.

 

The New Judges and the AG:

Beleaguered” Attorney General Jeff Sessions welcomes 44 new immigration judges with rousing speech about embracing those who suffer and opening our hearts to all the nations of the world… just kidding, it was about quotas.

VERY weak” Attorney General Jeff Sessions urges new judges to “get imaginative” in order to maximize production in overextended court rooms.

DISGRACEFUL” Attorney General Jeff Sessions reassures 44 new immigration judges that zero-tolerance is “moral and decent,” adding, “asylum was never meant to provide escape from all the problems people face every day.”

Attorney General Jeff “Magoo” Sessions cautions a new class of immigration judges that sympathy towards immigrants “does violence to the rule of law.”

Dumb Southerner” Jeff Sessions warns new judges that those immigration lawyers are some silver tongued little devils, “like water seeping through an earthen dam… to advance their clients’ interests.” 

 

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics!

Trump comments on diversity lottery winners being mass murderers “misrepresented” the program (in other words, he lied).

 

And Finally…

An Infographic on the origins of New York City’s immigrant population.

 

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Daily Dispatch 9/10/18

A series in which we (will aspire to) offer a sampling of today’s headlines on immigration, race, and related stories.

 

September 10, 2018

 

The Gridiron:

NFL backing down from its national anthem protest policy – for now.

Will Trump’s use of NFL to stoke racial tensions succeed or backfire in midterm battlegrounds?

Miss America contestant wins preliminary round based on answer to NFL question: “Kneeling during the national anthem is absolutely a right that you have… It’s very important that we also have to take into consideration that it is not about kneeling: It is absolutely about police brutality.”

College of the Ozarks scraps its Nike gear as its President blasts the company’s new ad campaign: “If Nike is ashamed of America, we are ashamed of them.”

Louisiana Mayor send memo to Parks and Rec booster clubs: “under no circumstances will any Nike product or any product with the Nike logo be purchased for use or delivery at any City of Kenner Recreation Facility.”

Note: Nike remains the official apparel sponsor for the NFL through 2028 (LOL), so they can probably absorb the hit…

The Lawsuits:

Flores co-counsel to challenge DOJ efforts to withdraw from agreement and detain immigrant children indefinitely.

Class-action lawsuit against government officials and agency staff cites long-term trauma of family separation and multiple violations of due process, civil rights.

The lawsuit names the following as defendants:

  • Stephen Miller (White House)
  • John Kelly (White House)
  • Jeff Sessions (DOJ)
  • Kirstjen Nielsen (DHS)
  • Gene Hamilton (DOJ)
  • Thomas Homan (ICE)
  • Ronald Vitiello (ICE)
  • Frank Cissna (USCIS)
  • Kevin McAleenan (CBP)
  • Alex Azar (HHS)
  • Scott Lloyd (ORR)
  • ICE agents
  • CBP officers
  • ORR personnel

From earlier this summer: “Stephen [Miller] Actually Enjoys Seeing Those Pictures at the Border

The Policies:

Jeff Sessions announces plan to increase number of immigration judges by 50% by year’s end.

On the systematic dismantling of the government’s refugee infrastructure in the age of Trump.

“Why We Cross the Border in El Paso”: Families that straddle the border witness drastic changes through the decades.

The Fallout:

ACLU’s Lee Gelernt travels to Guatemala, where two-thirds of deported, separated families are refusing reunification, citing gang violence.

In first speech, new UN Human Rights Commissioner demands “redress” for Trump’s “unconscionable” family separation policy.

The Academics:

Study finds that two-thirds of America’s GDP expansion “directly attributable to migration.”

In light of the Trump administration’s questioning citizenship of Texas Latinos, a brief history of passports.

The World:

Swedish far-right party takes 17.6% of votes in parliamentary elections. German officials view it as an unfortunate turning point, noting that “the gap between facts and perceived reality is getting ever bigger.”

On the need to humanize migration in South Africa.

Despite recent anti-immigration protests, violence, labor shortage leaves Germany in need of 400,000 foreign workers.

The Paywalls:

“Deciding the fates of immigrants in a traffic-court setting”: Immigration judges buck DOJ’s restrictions of judicial independence (NYT).

A profile of new home construction and tombs in Guatemala paid through remittances from undocumented workers in the US and covered in American flags (NYT).

A profile of a reunified Guatemalan family starting a new life in Oregon, coping with a traumatic past and facing an uncertain future (NYT).

A timeline of the NFL protest controversy (WSJ).

 

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Church reform is a necessary, but insufficient response to abuse

As most know by now, a grand jury investigated allegations of abuse of children by priests in 5 dioceses in Pennsylvania. Their report was released last month. After years of repeated incidents and revelations about abuse in the church, the report was on one level not surprising. And yet, the details of incidents are very disturbing. The report contains an appendix that documents allegation against 300 priests and illuminates a pattern whereby the priests were shielded from public exposure, moved to new positions, rarely disciplined, and only in a handful of cases prosecuted. It is hard to draw any other conclusion than that church leadership put concern for the institution, both its reputation and material resources, above the people they are expected to serve. Because the instrumental view of parishioners exhibited by this response is so diametrically opposed to the servant leader notion that buttresses the idea of the church, many have simply had enough – once again – with the hypocrisy.

Calls for reform abound, many of which call upon the “culture” of the church to change: These include confronting the clericalism of the church, calling into question celibacy and the requirement that priests be unwed, and demanding transparency from an institution too often clouded in mystery. From the traditionalists in the church, there are accusations of a “cult of homosexuality” in the hierarchy, and, at least in Archbishop Vigano’s charges, an accusation that Pope Francis shields those priests. These latter calls mistakenly equate homosexuality with a tendency to pedophilia, a claim for which there is no empirical standing.  

In discussing the events that have occurred since the grand jury report was issued, it is important to re-center the victims of abuse in the conversation. And here we must also look outside the church itself. In the United States 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18. Nearly 60,000 children were sexually abused last year alone and we know that reporting of sexual abuse undercounts significantly it’s actual occurrence – indeed it is estimated that only 12% of childhood sexual abuse is ever reported. In almost every case, the perpetrator of sexual abuse is someone known to the child, and one in three is a family member. Boys are more likely to be abused at a younger age – 28% of male victims are abused for the first time before the age of 10, compared to 12.3% of girl victims. 96% of the people who sexually abuse children are male, 80% are adults.

Given the hidden nature of abuse it is hard to know definitively what the trends are. Certainly, as little as it is reported, it is reported more now than in the past. There is more of an effort to provide services to victims and to train caregivers about signals to watch for as indicators of possible abuse. Yet, it still occurs, is still not reported, and often, when reported to those closely connected, it may well be covered up by institutions and families.

With this in mind, it is important to point out that most of the reform ideas put forward have little to do with addressing underlying causes of abuse, or the victims themselves.  The reforms speak more to institutional incentives to cover up abuse. Certainly, on those grounds alone, demanding transparency, demanding that church officials be required to report suspected abuse to civil authorities, and challenging the clericalism that permeates church culture are all important things to do in response to the crisis. But we are still left with men who abuse children, and the reality is that there is nothing exceptional about the men in the Catholic Church on this count.

When I was 13 a male teacher offered me oral sex – not the first teacher to make such offers, but the most direct. I felt like I was marked. Another teacher at the same school had a sexual relationship with a close female friend of mine that lasted over a year – she was 14 when it ended he was 28. Yet another friend was raped by a football player in (a different) high school. She reported it. When she grew angry with the school administration that nothing was done, she was suspended. I could go on. Most of us could, either from personal experience or those of people close to us. Think about that.

And so, I am admittedly bemused by the reform agenda on the Church as a primary response to the abuse “scandal.” As a friend noted a couple of days ago, as we prepared for a demonstration, perhaps that first demand should not be “end patriarchy,” or “woman priests now,” or “down with the hierarchy” (all laudatory goals I would support), but just this:

Stop abusing children!!

And after the demonstration at the Cathedral, we can carry that sign to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility, local public and private schools, and the police department, with a stop at the Baptist Church along the way. Then maybe bring the sign home and hang it in living room.  

 

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Migration: From the Dominican Republic to Chile and the U.S., Haitians face increasing barriers

Haiti Update, September 10, 2018

Looming Crisis in the Dominican Republic

August 25 was the deadline for immigrants to present required documentation to regularize their status under the Dominican Republic’s controversial National Plan for the Regularization of Foreigners (PNRE). Close to 98% of the people impacted are from Haiti. Under the provisions of the PNRE, 230,000 people of Haitian descent had registered with the government of the Dominican Republic by an earlier deadline in 2015. However, formalizing their status requires them to present documents to the Dominican Republic’s government (birth certificates and passports being crucial). Very few Haitians have been able to secure these documents from the government of Haiti despite repeated promises that they would be issued.

To highlight the dilemma now faced by over 200,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic, cane cutters protested at Haiti’s embassy in Santo Domingo this week to demand that documents be produced. Over 4,000 cane cutters from Haiti had paid 1000 pesos each in 2015 to secure documentation from Haiti’s government, and these documents have not been provided.

Meanwhile, Sonia Vásquez, the National Representative of the United Nations Population Fund, implored the government of the Dominican Republic to not begin mass deportations in response to the crisis, arguing that doing so would have a dramatic impact on many sectors of the Dominican Republic’s economy and society.

Tensions along the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic remain high.  Back in March thousands of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic fled across the border at Anse-à-Pitres. A Dominican man had been killed and wife assaulted in Pedernales  – Dominican authorities accused three Haitian men for the crime. As a result, attacks and threats against Haitians increased. Such incidents happen periodically, with the government of the Dominican Republic stereotyping Haitians as criminals and using the tensions for political purposes.

The International Office of Migration has been monitoring the border at regular and irregular crossing points since the earlier 2015 deadline passed, and have documented a large number of border crossings – over 240,000 from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. The majority have been “voluntary” returns – but nearly a quarter have been official deportations.

Wave of Anti-Immigration Policies

Migration out of Haiti remains a high, but options of places to go have been reduced. Following the earthquake in 2010, Brazil opened immigration to Haitians. Close to 65,000 Haitians moved to Brazil looking for work in the years since, only to see the economy there collapse and their options narrowed. Many began a long trek to the United States – traversing 7,000 miles and 11 countries, a journey covered at length in an investigative report by the Miami Herald in 2016.

One of the danger spots for Haitians is Nicaragua, which has ramped up security along the border with Costa Rica since 2015, austensibly for reasons related to the drug war. Nicaragua’s recent political crisis has overtaken these issues – but as recently as February 2018 Haitian migrants and others were still routinely blocked from crossing through Nicaraguan territory.

Over the last several years, Over 100,000 Haitians have moved to Chile (equivalent to 1% of Haiti’s population). However, as was the case in Brazil, many have found work opportunities to be scant, and prospects further diminished by the increase in migration to Chile from people fleeing economic collapse in Venezuela. Then in April, newly elected right-wing President Sebastián Piñera eliminated the temporary visas that allowed Haitians to go from tourists to regular migrants once they obtained a job, a status that had allowed them to then bring their families from Haiti.

Here in the United States, the Trump administration refused to renew Temporary Protective Status for Haitians, put in place following the 2010 earthquake. Which means 59,000 Haitians in the United States face expulsion in July 2019.

Meanwhile, international banks and multilateral lenders continue to bleed Haiti’s economy, while corruption scandals among Haiti’s U.S. protected elite, most recently questions about former president Martelly’s “management” of $3.8 billion in PetroCaribe Funds (which must be paid back to Venezuela), are ongoing. All of which is a reminder that foreign policy is immigration policy – even though we refuse to acknowledge that. The people of Haiti, like many others from Central America, the Middle East and Africa, are caught in the middle: Dislocated by war and greed, and increasingly unable to find safe haven elsewhere.

 

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