Looking at Migration from Honduras Up, Rather than US Down

London   Draft rules being prepared by the US Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency for ICE, Immigration and Custom Enforcement, would provide for expedited procedures for anyone in the US over two weeks, rather than two years, immediate deportation at the border, and potential legal action against parents sending unaccompanied minors. Honduras, where ACORN works in San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa, the two largest cities, was frequently leading the list of countries sending children. We were fortunate to have an intern from Tulane University, Jordan Sticklin, do some research to help our organizers in Honduras understand what many of our members and their families are facing. Looking deeply at the situation in Honduras reveals a more complicated story than many might want to understand.

The crisis of insecurity and violence in many lower income communities forcing families to flee for safety is a real issue, which we confront in our neighborhoods daily, and there is little debate that the government of Honduras has not been able to develop sufficient capacity to protect families. The child migration problem though dates back before this time though to the destruction of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and its continued aftermath. Many families were displaced then, and a US program allowing temporary stay permits facilitated the migration of many Hondurans during the emergency. Families were often separated then with children left with relatives as migrants hoped to reclaim them once they stabilized in the US and legalized their migratory status. The failure of the US to provide a policy solution there has exacerbated the problem.

A Honduran agency found that between 2013-2016, more than 9,000 Honduran children were detained upon trying to enter the US, and in 276 cases they were unaccompanied minors. Inarguably, the issue in Honduras is not unaccompanied children, but entire families fleeing their communities, and frankly running for their lives. Given this fear-to-flight situation, it is easier to understand the harsh reality that negates much of the US policy discussion. Polls in Honduras indicate that 80% surveyed believed that policies under President Trump for migrants would worsen, yet 40% still believed that they had no choice and would still be forced to migrate.

Meanwhile Mexico is caught in the middle with US pressure to tighten up its borders to prevent transit of migrants from Honduras and other Central America countries to the US. In 2015, 91% of the migrants returned to Central America were from Mexico and only 8% were from the USA. The draft Trump deportation rules, if implemented, will increase the pressure – and cost – to Mexico in handling increased numbers of migrants at the border who are now being housed in the US while waiting on deportation or other adjudication, who will now just be pushed back across the border. We can expect to see the nightmarish pictures coming on television similar to the squatters’ camps in France where African migrants try to figure out how to get across the English Channel to England.

We can keep blaming and shaming, but none of this is a solution, nor is it humanitarian or show any respect for human rights or the basic reality of the situation. At best it looks like a way to make Mexico pay for migrants, whether they pay for the wall or not. None of this will end well.

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Blockadia May Not Be a Place, but Could be a Tactic Everywhere

action to block Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos from being deported

New Orleans   I read Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, in November 2014, but had forgotten her notion of “blockadia” until I was listening recently to the Bioneers broadcast on KABF following our new public affairs show last week. She was giving a speech to their convention along with other Canadian activists. She was trying to coin a phrase to brand what she hoped would be a movement. Going back to her book, she offered a definition:

Blockadia is not a specific location on a map but rather a roving transnational conflict zone that is cropping up with increasing frequency and intensity wherever extractive projects are attempting to dig and drill, whether for open-pit mines, or gas fracking, or tar sands oil pipelines.

Given what we have seen in the fight over the Keystone Pipeline and other pipelines in Canada and the dramatic and temporarily successful fight by the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies over the Dakota Access Pipeline, Klein seems prescient on the effectiveness of this tactics around environmental issues. Certainly, we have seen it elsewhere around Shell Oil’s Artic drilling plans, which we can expect to see soon once again.

The story of the deportation of a more than twenty year resident of Arizona and mother of two children from Arizona recently, after she dutifully reported to immigration authorities for her annual visit for the terrible crime in 2008 of having been caught using a fake social security number was also the story of a different call for an application of “blockadia.” Puente Arizona, the well-known and effective immigrant advocacy organization in Phoenix, and many of her family and friends from long experience knew the way ICE used decoy buses to thwart protests, so while one group engaged the decoy, other protests ran around the back of the ICE facility and managed to surround the van that contained the woman and others being driven to Mexico. They didn’t ultimately stop it, but their actions and this one woman’s story was a national event, publicized in newspapers, television, and radio everywhere. In that way, it stood out in a time when we know in our hearts and minds, and this same story is being repeated hundreds, and probably thousands of times throughout the country today.

Just as all of the spinning stories and alternative facts, could not disguise the conflation of anguish, heartache, and then joy as refugee families and others with green cards and visas arrived at airports around the country during the respite in the Trump travel ban, thereby creating a political and public relations disaster for the White House, a blockade movement might have the same impact from community to community to raise the status of resident immigrants without status, but with friends, family, and positions in the community. If the resistance, blockades, and protests of such deportations can be public acts, rather than private moments, the price of the policy may also prove more than the White House can handle. Even immigration lawyers are no longer advising their clients to report for these interviews, so the forcible extraction of law abiding men and women who have spent their whole lives here needs to be met with the same kind of preparation, protest, and civil disobedience that in fact makes Blockadia a place where all of us live, until we win.

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Report from Behind the Bunker, that What We’re Doing is Working

New Orleans   There’s no reason to get the big head. It’ll be a long four years. Or longer. Eventually, they’ll get this right or at least righter. Nonetheless, there’s some evidence that we, the big WE, the collective we of all progressive Americans and maybe more, including those who are not progressive but at least aren’t haters, anti-immigrants, anti-women, anti-Muslim, are having some real impact, and that Trump is even semi-getting it, as well as others.

An article, obviously fueled by leaks from the White House, to Wall Street Journal reporters Carol Lee and Peter Nicholas, quotes the President telling his top aides last weekend, while protests were blossoming like wild flowers at airports all over the country, that, “This has to go better.” Supposedly he tried to straighten out his chaotic staff structure where chaos has prevailed for most of the last two weeks. The always wacky, wild-eyed editorial writers for the Journal were even quoted in a story in their competitor, The New York Times, calling the travel ban rollout “incompetent,” though that seems a kindness. Karl Rove, George W. Bush’s Rasputin, writing in the op-ed page of the Journal spared no words in his criticism and included a grade-school level primer in his column on how quasi-normal governments would have gotten away with such an order.

And then in the most interesting bonbon to come our way, here’s former Reagan speechwriter and hardcore Republican stalwart, Peggy Noonan, calling out a very clear warning that allows us to count coup even while a long way from winning the battle or the war. Here she goes:

The handling of the order allowed the organized left to show its might, igniting big demonstrations throughout major cities. And not only downtown – they had to make it out to the airport to give the media the pictures, and they did. In Washington I witnessed a demonstration of many thousands of people carrying individualized, hand-letter signs.

If all this was spontaneous, the left is strong indeed. If was a matter of superior organization, that’s impressive too.

You should never let your enemy know its own strength. They discovered it in the Women’s March, know it more deeply now, and demonstrated it to Democrats on the Hill. It was after the demonstrations that Democratic senators started boycotting the confirmation hearings. They now have their own tea party to push them around.

The handling of the order further legitimized the desire of many congressional Republicans to distance themselves from the president, something they feel they’ll eventually have to do anyway because they know how to evaluate political horse flesh, and when they look at them they see Chief Crazy Horse.

Sorry about Noonan’s Crazy Horse reference, she went cheap there, but she’s going deep the rest of the way. There is no Facebook fawning here. No Twitter triumphalism. She’s a veteran, and she knows effective political organization when she sees it, and says so.

Can we be our own “tea party?” That might be something to be proud of right now, but we have to be careful. Our strength is showing, but it can’t dissolve into arrogance and can be frittered away without tactical and strategic care. We also have the Times poking us about “black” teams and anarchist growth that no one controls, but they will try to make us own. A Times columnist even tried to lecture all of its readers, and all of us, about the proper way to target and conduct a boycott, while whitewashing Uber. Both of good reminders of how quickly the worm will turn.

We’re not winning, but we’re holding our own. At least for now. We live and work in interesting times, and we’re adding our spice to the stew. Nothing but good can come of this.

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Trump’s Plan to Stop Muslims at Passport Control

New Orleans   Hey, good news Muslim brothers and sisters. President-elect Trump’s tweet about Germany claiming how right he was all along to argue for refusing to allow any more Muslims in the country was rephrased by his team at the southern White House in Florida. They claim, oh, no, not everyone, just the Muslims from countries which are hotbeds of terrorism. Ok, I hope that’s clear to everybody.

But, we have to wonder just how many countries that might exclude?

Take the fact that his latest outburst was prompted by an incident in Germany by someone originally from Tunisia. Does that mean Tunisians who are Muslims are all barred or does that mean Germans who are also Muslims are barred?

Take France and Belgium where there have been terrorist incidents over recent years triggered by individuals with roots in the Middle East, but citizenship in these countries. Does Trump mean to exclude all French Muslims or only those from all of the North African countries like Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, and the like? Or, what the heck, all the French! Add Great Britain to the list, we’ve had Muslims involved in terrorist incidents even in the United States with connections there, and of course remember 9/11, Saudi Arabians surely will trigger separate screening and a rough road towards entering the United States, no matter how much money they spend here.

Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world. Are they good? Now, Turkey has had one incident after another including a recent assassination of a Russian ambassador, are we barring all of them as well?

Russia has been involved in an internal civil war with its ethnic and Muslim population, and there have been numerous terrorist acts. Are Russian Muslims also going to be barred? How about China, they have some internal issues along the same lines? Ivanka, bar the gate, right?

Syria, Jordan, and the like can forget about visiting the United States, and I’m not sure what Trump would have passport control do about Palestinians from whatever country is willing to claim them. Cross them off the list, right?

And, what about Americans? If any US Muslims visit family or friends in any of these countries in Europe, Africa, or Asia, will they be able to come back, and if so, at what cost.

What template is the Trump team following? Are they reviewing the playbook for handling the comings and goings of Japanese during War World II? That worked out well for everyone didn’t it. Or maybe North Korea is the model that appeals: just don’t let anyone in or out.

Trump team, let the rest of us know when anything even remotely sounds like a plan, rather than more hot air triggering climate change every time the President-elect speaks or tweets.

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USA Election: A Movement Can Always Beat A Machine

socmvmtcollage1New Orleans   The election was over early, just not the way many had expected. I had always argued that regardless of the polls and pundits the election was going to be close, but I had also argued that I thought Clinton would win. Now, I will have to substitute the word “thought” for “hoped.” I had always argued that I hoped Trump would be the Republican nominee because he might be the only candidate Clinton could beat. I now may have to rethink that and revise my analysis, because Trump and his unique campaign may have been the only candidate that Clinton could NOT beat.

The bottom line is pretty clear: a real movement can always beat a machine. When you have almost vastly unpopular candidates in the contest, making everything relatively equal in that regard, a genuine movement can always beat even the best financed and well-oiled machine.

As progressives, we have to understand the simple facts. With courage, this could have been us. In fact given the closeness of the contest between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, it almost was us.

As organizers, we have to give Trump credit for his willingness to unabashedly embrace a movement and his place in it. He argued a case for the abandoned and left behind by the economy. He railed against the adverse impacts of trade and globalization. He argued for jobs for the jobless. He made a better case against Wall Street and the Washington establishment. These are all our issues. A populist is someone who puts the people first, and as unlikely as Trump was as the bearer of that message, this was our message.

The contest in coming months on the right and throughout the establishment will be to see who can best capture Trump’s heart and soul to make him fit the usual mold better. We actually need to push him on the claims he has made to deliver change to our constituency, if we want to reclaim it. We need to push the demands of huge blocks of those who will feel suddenly disenfranchised by this counterattack by the white and rural and too much of the working class: women, Latinos, and African-Americans. These are also our constituencies and Trump is vulnerable to all of them in trying to convert his movement to governance.

We know these problems and their fragility, because we have faced it repeatedly. We saw how rapidly the movement behind Obama dissipated. Trump may be a horse less easily broken to the bit, and in that space the effort is being made to corral him, we have huge opportunities, if we are able to seize them. Make no mistake this new world order in America will hurt millions if allowed to settle and concretize or be usurped by the far right, so we really don’t have much choice. This is ride-or-die time.

Disruption forces realignments. Chaos provides opportunities, but only to those moving hard and fast to take them and create change out of the turmoil. We have to engage the struggle where we find it, and Trump has now created the new conditions for engagement, and we now have to adapt quickly and organize the alternative paths for new movements to take hold and win, before the door closes and the opportunities are once again lost.

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Looking for the Kindness of Strangers – Think France!

business-aviation-operations-for-france-customs-immigration-agricultureNew Orleans   Over the last two years with an emerging affiliate in France, I’ve now been on the ground working in Grenoble or Paris there a bunch of times, well for me a bunch anyway, like five or six times over two years approximately. My comrades and colleagues there are wonderful people of course, but that’s true of all the people with whom I organize, but on the train the other night from Paris to Amsterdam to fly home, I found myself reflecting on the reputation the French have for being unfriendly to strangers. It’s a bum rap!

I’ll pass over the common courtesy and generosity of our organizers and their friends when I’m passing through who are constantly offering tea or coffee or in many cases surrendering their beds and bunks to an unexpected American squatter. Within the organizing culture that’s pretty standard and to the degree “birds of a feather flock together,” it shouldn’t be a surprise that it rubs off on their friends and supporters.

My brief for a new and friendlier France is not because this has been a big push from the tourism industry or the government, both of which are true, and both of which are undoubtedly totally ignored by the French people, but is based on my experience in the endlessly confusing Metro and train stations, particularly in Paris. On several trips, I’ve been flummoxed by the problems of getting Metro tickets from the machines. Several times I’ve been helped through a tough spot when someone employed by the metro system or the state railway came to save the day, but I started counting the times it was just random situations where I was bailed out by complete strangers passing by when it was obvious I was clueless who wordlessly stepped in to save me.

In the giant Paris Nord on this very trip, I had jumped off a bus and had gone in the first door to the station with the crowd to catch my train and somehow had ended up in the Metro complex rather than the city to city train station. I followed folks through the turnstiles, but then I was caught going through successfully, but not getting my bags through that were stuck on the other side. While wrestling with the situation a man coming through the other way saw me, and without saying a word, walked over and waved his pass across the scanner so the gates opened allowing me to go through. Having found out from an information officer how to get to the train station, the ticket from the bus, which should have worked, but didn’t, I was stranded in between another set of turnstiles unable to move forward or backwards. A woman, her baby in a carriage and a friend saved me there. I wish I could say these were isolated examples, but I’m afraid they weren’t. I could easily cite another three or four times when total strangers have stepped forward and gotten me on my way, as I thanked them profusely in English, as they politely waved me off and walked away.

The one common denominator in all of these situations has been that virtually every one of the folks. epitomizing the kindness of strangers, have almost all originally been strangers themselves at one time. They have almost all uniformly been Afro-Caribbean or Afro-French or possibly just Africans and presumably as foreign to all of this in the past as I often am now.

I don’t want to extrapolate past the point of all reason, but just maybe this kind of empathy with the lost, confused, and foreign by others who have been in the same boat will be one of the saving graces of not only French civility and manners, but also the same in the United States and other countries. Utah will invariably not end up in the Clinton column, but the fact that many citizens there thought about it because their foreign experience was such that they were unwilling to join the Trump anti-immigrant call, might offer us hope here as well. The French like the English, Americans, and other countries are all dealing with waves of anti-immigrant feeling, but it may be the empathy of those who choose our countries, rather than many of the natives who want to return to some foggy, archaic times in the past by forgetting about their own experience in order to adopt a bankrupt and false ideology, that end up saving all of us at the end of the day.

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