Haitians face hurdles after protected status renewal delays

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By PHILIP MARCELO and ADRIANA GOMEZ LICON

www.apnews.com

Haitians face hurdles after protected status renewal delays

BOSTON (AP) — Thousands of Haitian immigrants living in the U.S. legally will face employment and travel hurdles because President Donald Trump’s administration delayed the process of re-registering those with temporary protected status, Haitian community leaders and immigrant activists say.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will release details Thursday about the next steps for the 60,000 Haitians with the special status, an agency spokeswoman told The Associated Press.

But the information comes too late to help the thousands of Haitians who hold immigration documents that show their legal and work status expiring Monday, said immigrants and advocates, some of whom wondered — in light of the president’s recent remarks about Haiti — if the bureaucratic slowdown was deliberate.

“They told me that if I don’t bring the work papers, they will send me home because it is the law. You have to have work papers. I am under pressure,” said Edelyne Jean, a 35-year-old nursing assistant in Coral Springs, Florida, who supports four younger siblings still in Haiti. “They say that if I don’t bring anything new by Jan. 22 or the 23rd at the most, I am jobless.”

Haitian workers like Jean will be left at the mercy of employers, who could simply choose to let them go or hire someone else rather than wait for a process that could take months, says Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint, chairman of Haitian Americans United, a Boston-based community group.

“They’re putting a lot of people in a very, very difficult situation,” he said of federal officials. “Employers are not going to take time to understand this. People will be in limbo come Monday.”

Haitians were granted temporary protected status to live and work in the U.S. after a devastating earthquake struck their Caribbean homeland in 2010. The status has been renewed a number of times over the past seven years, to the chagrin of critics who say the humanitarian measure was never meant to allow immigrants to establish roots in the U.S.

The Trump administration announced in November that Haitians living under the temporary status would have until July 2019 to get their affairs in order and return home.

The problem is that officials haven’t told people with that status how to go about renewing it. Other groups eligible for similar status have received more lead time to re-register; the administration announced extensions for Nicaraguans and Hondurans last month and has already issued renewal guidelines for them.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wasn’t able to release details about the re-registration process for Haitians sooner because officials had to work out the work authorization language, among other things.

But Thursday’s announcement will automatically extend the work permits for Haitians on temporary protected status through July, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokeswoman Sharon Scheidhauer said.

And Haitian workers will be able to simply show employers the agency’s Thursday notice as proof their work status is still valid until their new employment documents arrive, she added.

Nevertheless, the bureaucratic slowdown “reinforces the message” that Haitians aren’t welcome in America, says Geralde Gabeau, a Haitian immigrant who heads the Immigrant Family Services Institute, a Boston-based nonprofit that provide academic support to immigrant youths.

“It goes hand-in-hand with what the president said last week,” she said, referring to the closed-door meeting Trump held with U.S. senators during which he profanely disparaged African countries and asked why the U.S. would want more Haitians. “It’s not just words. It’s actions. They don’t want Haitians here, so they’re doing whatever they can to discourage them so that they go back to their country.”

At least in Boston, which has the nation’s third-largest Haitian community after Miami and New York, the delays have already led to job losses, Fleurissaint said. Some Haitians working as porters, janitors and food service workers at Boston’s Logan International Airport were let go this summer because they didn’t receive new work permits before the most recent expiration date for temporary protected status, which was in July, he said.

And a woman in Massachusetts was warned by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services this week that she wouldn’t be able to re-enter the country if she attempted to attend her father’s funeral in Haiti this weekend, Gabeau said.

Haitians on temporary protected status could encounter other hurdles, like renewing their driver’s licenses, says Sarang Sekhavat, director of federal policy at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, or MIRA.

Haitian community leaders are gathering lawyers to assist families as problems arise.

“We’re going to be fighting back,” Gabeau said. “We will not stay silent. This is not acceptable.”

Follow Philip Marcelo at twitter.com/philmarcelo. His work can be found at https://www.apnews.com/search/philip_marcelo

Gomez Licon reported from Miami.

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Help Puerto Rico rebuild in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria:

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 Help Puerto Rico rebuild in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria:

 

www.ourrevolution.com

Maria was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in almost a century, and has severed communications and crushed its aging electricity infrastructure. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz has indicated it may take up to six months just to restore power to the island's 3.5 million residents.

These hurricanes are not accidents. They are a direct result of climate change. As is the case throughout the world, low income communities and people of color face the challenges not only of storms such as Irma and Maria, but of pollution, water contamination, and a degraded natural environment that exposes them to disease at a far higher rate. This record breaking Atlantic hurricane season, as well as record breaking climate trends across the world, must be our impetus to take aggressive action to preserve our planet now before it is too late.

Please consider contributing to the organizations below to help Puerto Rico rebuild in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria:

Help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. Contributions made to this crowd-funding effort will go to several Puerto Rico-based organizations. Donate: https://www.youcaring.com/variouspuertoricannonprofits-956765

Friends of Puerto Rico. A DC-based nonprofit run by people of the Puerto Rican diaspora that funds arts, education and culture. They have launched a campaign to send money to Puerto Rico.  Donate: https://www.facebook.com/donate/1661202080577649/

ConPRmetidos. An organization that aims to connect Puerto Ricans from across the world to build Puerto Rico as a global economy.  Donate: http://www.conprmetidos.org/

Taller Salud. A feminist grassroots organization that supports health in frontline communities, specifically focused on the communities in Loiza. This town has a high population of low income people of color who suffer the most during natural disasters. Donate: https://www.facebook.com/taller.salud/

Vulture funds have exploited Puerto Rico's economic woes and forced millions of people to suffer: 45% of Puerto Ricans live in poverty, including 56% of the children. Thousands of people are fleeing the island for the mainland United States every week, where threadbare social safety nets are still better than what can be provided locally under the cruel policies of austerity. Puerto Ricans are Americans, but are not always treated as such. It is a cruel reminder of our colonial history.

The local Our Revolution group is dedicated to rectifying these injustices and more, but they need your help.

I have no doubt that Puerto Rico will weather this storm and come back stronger than ever, to fight with us for a future of racial, economic, social, and environmental justice.

In solidarity,

Robert Becker

Former Iowa Director, Bernie 2016

Our Revolution member

PAID FOR BY OUR REVOLUTION

603 2ND ST, NE

WASHINGTON, DC, 20002

Not authorized by any candidate or candidate committee. Our Revolution is a 501(c)(4) organization. Donations to Our Revolution are not deductible as charitable contributions for Federal income tax purposes. All donations are made to support Our Revolution’s general mission and are not designated for any specific activity.

603 2nd St NE, Washington, DC 20002 

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HERF - HAITI EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND

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HERF - HAITI EMERGENCY RELIEF FUND

DONATE HERE: http://www.haitiemergencyrelief.org/Haiti_Emergency_Relief_Fund/donate.html

As we write this, Hurricane Matthew slammed into Haiti, killing at least 900 people and leaving thousands without shelter or food. The hurricane has devastated the city of Les Cayes and many villages in the Southwestern part of the country, destroying crops and livestock and reversing the gains in food production made by women’s agricultural cooperatives and other local farmers. The torrential rains and winds have also hit the capital, Port-au-Prince. With massive flooding comes the increased danger of water-borne diseases, particularly cholera (brought to Haiti by UN troops), which has already reached epidemic proportions.

We ask that all friends of Haiti donate as much as they can to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund. Your donations will go directly to grassroots organizations in Haiti which are saving lives by helping people on the ground access water, food and shelter, and reconstructing their lives. Unlike the big NGOs which were accused of profiteering from the billions donated by a generous public after the earthquake, HERF pays no wages and takes no cut. All our work is done by volunteers and all the money we collect goes directly to those who need it, starting with women – the primary caregivers in every community.

The hurricane hit Haiti just days before the recalled October 9th elections were due to take place. People had worked very hard for over a year, risking their lives to demand free and fair elections after the 2015 electoral results were declared fraudulent. Elections have now been postponed. Popular organizations in Haiti are hard at work trying to ensure that families and communities can survive and rebuild, and that when a new election date is set every vote counts and is counted.

This is a critical time for all friends of Haiti to step up our solidarity. Please donate on line at: http://www.haitiemergencyrelief.org/Haiti_Emergency_Relief_Fund/home.html

Or to:

Haiti Emergency Relief Fund

c/o East Bay Sanctuary Covenant

2362 Bancroft Way

Berkeley, California 94704

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

All donations are tax-deductible.

Thank you so much for your generous support, Haiti Emergency Relief Fund Board of Directors: Walter Riley, Maureen Duignan, O.S.F., Pierre Labossiere, Marilyn Langlois, Robert Roth

East Bay Sanctuary Covenant is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, tax ID# 94-3249753

Tel: +510-595-4650

 

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Op-Ed What if L.A.'s homeless population were a city?

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Adam Murray Januray 16, 2018

www.latimes.com

 Op-Ed What if L.A.'s homeless population were a city?

Homelessness

Fifty-seven thousand eight hundred. That’s approximately how many people are homeless in Los Angeles County on any given night. If they all came together, they would constitute a city the size of Arcadia.

What would such a city look like? What can we say about its residents, its health, its future?

If we walked through Homeless City, we would see that more than two-thirds of its residents are male. Four of every 10 people we meet would be African American — many more than in the surrounding areas, where only 9% of residents and 12% of those living in poverty are African American.

We wouldn’t get very far before being struck by the children of Homeless City. One of every 10 city residents is a child. We ought to be particularly worried for these 5,370 youths because experiencing homelessness as a child powerfully predicts later homelessness.

The average homeless woman in the city experiences as much major violence in a single year as the average American woman experiences in her lifetime.

Homeless City’s elderly population is also visible, vulnerable and growing. Nearly one-quarter of its residents are 55 or older. Over the last five years, average rents in Los Angeles County have increased two times faster than the median income of senior households. Squeezed by soaring rents and fixed incomes, more seniors move in to Homeless City all the time.

People on our tour will be surprised if we smile or offer a kind word. They are used to being ignored by those who sleep in beds at night. We will see weariness and heartache on their faces. But we will also be struck by residents’ hope and resiliency. People sweep the sidewalks in front of their tents and share food with their neighbors. Even in the midst of dire poverty, community and kindness are common.

Homeless City’s population is exploding. Though many people find housing and leave the city, about 400 others arrive daily. Homeless City is growing far faster than Conroe, Texas, which is the fastest-growing U.S. city with a population of more than 50,000. In 2016, Conroe grew by 7.8%. Homeless City grew by 23%. Though Homeless City’s growth comes predominantly from the return of former residents, around 8,000 of this year's arrivals never experienced homelessness before.

Most residents rest uneasily in Homeless City. Only 26% sleep in shelters. The other 42,000 or so sleep in places not meant for human habitation. Day and night, we’ll find people sleeping in one of the 15,000 vehicles, tents or makeshift shelters spread throughout the city.

It’s unhealthy and unsafe to live in Homeless City. People who are homeless use the emergency room four times more often than other low-income residents. These visits are particularly challenging because 30% of the city’s residents have a serious mental illness, 18% have a substance abuse disorder, and 2% are HIV-positive. The violence in Homeless City disproportionately affects female residents. The average homeless woman in the city experiences as much major violence in a single year as the average American woman experiences in her lifetime.

Death is ever present. Last year, 805 people died in the city. Whereas Californians, on average, can expect to live to 80, the average age of death in Homeless City is just 48.

Perhaps most striking, we know that our quick walk through Homeless City at a particular point in time dramatically understates its population. Over the course of a year, more than 200,000 people experience homelessness in Los Angeles. That's enough to fill Dodger Stadium four times over.

There are many reasons why so many people end up in Homeless City. To name just a few: poverty, institutional failures, racism, greed, indifference and an inadequate safety net. As we walk through Homeless City, we can be overwhelmed by manifestations of these injustices. But if we stop for a moment and consider what is around us, we see what will make Homeless City a smaller and healthier place: more affordable housing, higher incomes, more healthcare and social services and earlier interventions.

We know that many of these interventions are cost-effective. Just last month, a Rand Corp. study of 890 homeless individuals with complex health issues who received housing and services through L.A.’s Housing for Health program found that the county saved $1.20 for every $1.00 invested in the program.

Statistics alone can’t capture the heartbreak and horror of homelessness. Every one of these numbers reflects a human being — someone's son or daughter. Even though 14% of likely voters in Los Angeles report having been homeless at some point in their lives, it is too easy to see Homeless City as a place where someone else's children reside. Until we all start treating it as a place where our children live, Homeless City will be with us.

Adam Murray is executive director of Inner City Law Center, which serves homeless and working-poor clients from its offices on skid row.

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Plan Colombia, Permanent War, and the NO Vote

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by Laura Carlsen

www.commondreams.org

Plan Colombia, Permanent War, and the NO Vote

The Colombian people voted NO to peace. Or to be exact, 50.2% of 37% of the eligible population voted no. In the referendum held Oct. 2, the majority of voters decided to scuttle four years of peace talks dedicated to ending 52 years of bloodshed.

The vote came just days after the celebratory signing of the agreement, considered exemplary for achieving a bridge between historic enemies and dealing broadly with the root causes of the conflict. The rest of the world was stunned.

Most pundits have begun the post-mortem analysis of the referendum saying something like “Colombians did not vote against peace.” They go on to discuss factors including people’s ignorance of the accords, or their mistaken belief that after four years it could simply be renegotiated.

But the fact of the matter is that the NO voters voted clearly and unambiguously to continue the war. The words on the ballot read: “Do you accept the final agreement to terminate the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace?” It’s almost inconceivable that any population would vote no on this proposition, but they did.

So why?

Although even former president Alvaro Uribe, the nation’s lead warmonger, now makes the politically correct statement that the ultimate goal is peace, the macho sentiments of total domination and punishment (of one side), along with a strong dose of Cold War hysteria (yes, in the 21st century) won the day.

The NO promoters knew what they were doing. They were not promoting an alternative peace. As a 32-year old NO voter quoted in the New York Times put it, “If ‘no’ wins, we won’t have peace, but at least we won’t give the country away to the guerrillas.”

His statement reflects the patriarchal logic that has started and perpetuated wars since time immemorial–the only good enemy is a dead enemy, and if I don’t win, nobody wins.

At least some NO voters and many of the leaders are betting on continuing war until they gain by force their entire military and political agenda–a prospect that, given the war’s longevity to date could easily be another half century. Or never.

The Perks of Permanent War

For many NO promoters, including Uribe himself, “never” could be the best-case scenario. Basking in the limelight of a political career rebuilt on the ruins of one of the most complex and progressive peace agreements in history, Uribe released proposals for revamping the peace agreement designed to throw a monkey wrench into any process to salvage peace in Colombia.

Analysts stated that Uribe’s wish list is aimed at “torpedoing the peace accords”. No one expects the FARC to accept Uribe’s terms, which include being banned from politics; serving 5-8 year sentences in confinement for crimes, including drug trafficking; pardoning Colombia’s security forces for serious crimes, and eliminating the meticulously negotiated Tribunal for Transitional Justice.

Huge sectors of the population reject them as well, since the proposals also would wipe out the parts of the Peace Accord that regulate the return of stolen lands to peasant and indigenous communities and seriously hamper if not strike plans for reparations to victims.

To pretend that everyone wants peace and the only issue is, how is to ignore the fact that the war benefits many powerful interests. Those interests will fight to keep fighting.

On the political front, war assures military control over a population and justifies authoritarianism and repression through fear. In general, the most militarized parts of the country are areas where peasant, Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples are defending their lands and resources from the incursions of transnational corporations and mega development projects. Fear and murder are powerful repressive tools.

War is also a huge business. Thanks to U.S. Plan Colombia and policies that fanned the conflict, Colombia became the third largest recipient of US aid in the world during the war, behind Israel and Egypt. The budget for security forces skyrocketed; between 2001 and 2005, it grew more than 30% and by 2006 it was double 1990—some $4.48 billion for military and police.

U.S. Interests

The U.S. government also has a vested interest in continuing the war. The conflict justified Plan Colombia, the $10 billion dollar counterinsurgency, counternarcotics plan that allowed the Pentagon to establish military presence in Colombia, both physically and by proxy. With the pretext of the internal conflict, the U.S. government built up a platform not only for control in Colombia, but also with regional strike capacity, as leaked in the proposed agreement to establish seven US military bases.

Plan Colombia and its later incarnations kept U.S. contracts for weapons, espionage and intelligence equipment and military and police training flowing to the most powerful lobbying industries in the nation. Billions of dollars have been poured into Plan Colombia and national security investment that ended up in the pockets of political elite and defense companies. In the 2010-2017 budgets, the United States has allocated $2.13 billion in military and police aid–most of that during the peace talks.

The country was converted into a testing ground for the latest in counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare techniques and equipment from the United States. The blood spilled on its soil feeds the global war machine, to such an extent that Colombia has been groomed as an exporter of counterinsurgency and “security” training, despite its reputation as a gross violator of human rights and the disastrous humanitarian impact of its prolonged war. So very powerful interests saw the peace agreement as a threat. In addition to Uribe followers who viewed it as soft on the FARC, the war economy of the nation and its ally, the United States, was at stake.

In this context, the US government reacted tepidly when peace was voted down. Bernard Aronson, the special envoy to the peace talks, expressed no regret in a press interview after the vote, stating, “We believe Colombians want peace, but clearly they are divided about terms of settlement…” The State Department limited its statement to support for Colombian democracy and further dialogue. After four years of ostensibly supporting the peace talks, neither mentioned the vote as a setback.

An analysis published by the US Army War College, although it is not an official document, openly expresses relief at the continuation of indefinite war in Colombia. Through a mixture of hawkish arguments and lies, the analysis recognizes that the country now enters into a “period of uncertainty”, but notes that this “presents a strategic situation less grave and more manageable, than had the accords been approved.”

It goes on to predict that the FARC will likely break the ceasefire, despite its explicit and public commitment to respect it even in the absence of the guarantees provided in the peace agreement. This position, coming from sources close to the US military, which has in many senses called the shots in Colombia’s war since Plan Colombia began in 2000, indicates that there is a dangerous possibility of a provocation to further undermine the peace process that has now been thrown into crisis by the NO vote.

The writers also advise President Santos to retract his commitment to the ceasefire following the vote. They note that Santos promised to “not authorize military operations in the areas where FARC units are located in order to avoid an incident which breaks the fragile truce. Yet, not doing so will allow FARC dissidents to operate with almost complete impunity in these areas.  Indeed, within the new background of uncertainty, such impunity will increase incentives for FARC units to continue illicit activity, such as drug trafficking, since doing so will pose relatively low risks.”

War Engenders More War, Not Peace

Before the NO vote, the U.S. press hailed Plan Colombia for making peace possible. President Obama, in his self-congratulatory last speech to the UN stated we “helped Colombia end Latin America’s longest war.” The logic of this bizarre argument went that were it not for the military debilitation of the guerrilla thanks to the US-Colombian military alliance, the FARC could never have been brought to the negotiating table.

The NO vote is the classic example of the fallacy of that logic. The war fomented by Plan Colombia built up a mentality that made peace an unacceptable solution for many. It revealed the fundamental clash of perspectives between diplomacy and annihilation.

The lesson couldn’t be clearer: War is a terrible preparation for peace. Peace depends on much more than a favorable correlation of forces. Peace, at its core, is a rejection of force as the way to confront differences, and a search for non-violent solutions to conflict and conflict prevention.

With U.S. military theorists openly calling for reopening hostilities, it is a dangerous myth to assume that at this juncture everyone wants peace and the only open question is how to do it. Plan Colombia, the U.S.-sponsored war on drugs and Uribe’s Democratic Security posit continued militarization. Those who promote peace and reconciliation in the country must deal with that mentality head on. To second-guess or justify NO voters with “they-know-not-what-they-do” arguments reflects the kind of complacency and misreading of the public that created this dangerous debacle in the first place.

There is no doubt that a massive campaign of misinformation and scaremongering played a role. Voters were bombarded with alarmist messages that spun out wild scenarios, from a legislative takeover by the former FARC to a “Chavez-Castro style dictatorship”. CNN’s footage of the NO celebration showed the crowd chanting “The NO won, now we won’t have a Cuban dictatorship”. It didn’t seem to matter that there was no logical relationship between voting for the peace agreement and the nation becoming a dictatorship. For followers of Uribe, who led the massive campaign against the negotiations and the acceptance of the agreement, the vote was ideological and personal. It represented the right against the left, and Uribe against Santos. For many people stuck in bitter partisan politics, to vote for peace was to vote in favor of the latter.

It is also likely that many people did not have a clear understanding of the accords or their implications, which is a failing of the negotiators and SI (yes) promoters that left a fatal opening for NO propaganda. Some voters also apparently believed that four years of arduous negotiations with the technical support of scores of international experts and mediators could simply be reopened and “fixed” to their liking, despite that the president made it clear there was “no Plan B”. Some NO voters quoted in the press even expressed dismay that they had won, believing they were merely casting a protest vote.

Despite these factors, the NO vote reveals a major obstacle: Society has been trained over years of conflict—one of the longest-running internal conflicts in the world–to acquiesce to war as the only response, to dehumanize the enemy and overlook the obvious fact that it takes two sides to sustain hostilities. A society that believes that the only solution is to drive the enemy into the ground–even when they are men and women from your own country and a reflection of serious social problems, into the ground.

This is the patriarchal mentality that the war industry thrives on. Plan Colombia has fomented this mentality since it began. It conflated a war on drugs with a counterinsurgency war to justify foreign intervention and broaden the war. The U.S. government knew that military funding was going directly to paramilitary groups. A 2010 empirical study demonstrated a measurable relationship between increases in US security funding and paramilitary homicides. War propaganda presented the FARC as the sole culprit, when terrible atrocities were being committed on both sides.

With the exceptions of Arauca and Norte de Santander, the departments on Colombia’s borders that have suffered most in the war voted to end it. They know what it’s like to feel their houses shaken by bombs, to risk life and limb walking through minefields, to lose their loved ones in crossfire. They know that to stop the violence in their day-to-day lives is far more important than the political games of how punishment and power are dished out.

War as a policy is almost always favored by those farthest from the battlefields.

The Road to Peace

Understanding the very real and perilous obstacles is not the same as being pessimistic or defeatist at this point in the Colombian peace—it’s a process. It’s important not to minimize the enormity of this setback–President Santos’ Nobel Peace Prize may be deserved but it’s a sorry consolation prize for having gotten so close only to be slapped down. But it’s also important to acknowledge that there is still room to move forward.

The peace accords opened up a dialogue and allowed the nation to envision peace. Grassroots organizations are mobilizing in defense of this vision and the possibility of a new reality.

This is the hope on the horizon. Since the NO vote, thousands have marched to support the peace process in Bogota and also in Cali and cities across the country. The marches have awakened and united groups of indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, victims, students, human rights defenders, peasants, women and the LGBT community in defense of peace.

The international community should openly and actively support the call for a broad grassroots dialogue for peace. It must continue to be firm and vigilant, because there will be a serious attempt to force a return to the model of military annihilation of the left-wing guerrillas while leaving in tact rightwing paramilitaries and other militarist structures.

International organizations committed millions of dollars to support peace implementation and it must be clear that those funds will only be released when the process is back on track. Part of creating adequate conditions is to deny any new funding to militarism– including the war on drugs, which acts as a thinly veiled excuse for militarization.

The NO vote unexpectedly flipped the political situation back in favor of the rightwing hawks. This uprising could not only flip it back in favor of peace, but also create a social movement capable of going beyond the accords in terms of establishing social justice and human rights and addressing the enormous backlog of demands from below.

Laura Carlsen

Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(at)ciponline.org) is director of the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org) in Mexico City, where she has been an analyst and writer for two decades. She is also a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.

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