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Entries tagged "Letelier-Moffitt awards"

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Belen, Posada Del Migrante (Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter) and the Suffering of Central American Migrants

October 3, 2011 ·

This year, the Letelier-Moffitt international award will be presented to Belén, Posada Del Migrante (Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter), a migrant shelter based in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico that provides humanitarian assistance to migrants in transit and works to protect them from kidnapping, extortion, sexual abuse, and murder. As a voice for the human rights of migrants in transit, it has courageously worked to document abuses against migrants and denounce human rights violations of migrants by Mexican officials.

But no stranger had to spend the night in the street, for my door was always open to the traveler.
Job 31, 32

Eleven Years of Violence and Persecution, Against the Odds: The blood and deaths of migrants, and the seeds of hope.

The Year 2000
Migrants prepare for an orientation at Belen, Posada del Migrante. Photo by Humanidad sin Fronteras.The Mexican city of Saltillo and its community shuddered with the arrival of the first Central American migrants. They were fleeing Hurricane Mitch, as well as the poverty and violence they endured in their countries. For this aristocratic city's conservative majority, it was a threat, an invasion of their supposed harmony and traditional peace. After this fear came criminalization, rejection, disdain, and that xenophobic question: Why couldn't they go somewhere else?

Nevertheless, the migrants, beaten men and women — who were dirty and dispossessed when they entered the city's outskirts — just said; "We're hungry and we're tired and we have been beaten!" This underscored one of the most beautiful and evangelical traditions that prevails in our community: take our bread and share it! Whenever a migrant arrives, at midnight, in the early morning, at dawn, or in the heat of the day, there will always be a group who will take him or her in, that will say: "It doesn't matter what time it is, you're going to sit down at our table, share our bread, and then go rest."

2001: The Criminalization of Aiding Migrants Sets in and the Murders Begin
Criminal charges were increasingly brought against us for aiding migrants. "Conservative Christian" groups considered it "sinful" to give the refugees shelter, because they were supposedly arriving "illegally," which made them "illegal" too. There were even people who were happy when they died, saying "they deserved it for having come here."

The wave of migration gave way to murder and spilled blood. Delmer, Alexander, and David, all Hondurans, were murdered by bullets, as they slept. Ismael Cruz was stoned to death by security guards on the train.

We were bloodstained when we retrieved the bodies, but this act planted the seeds of hope. It gave us the courage to persevere.

With the strong backing of our Bishop, Raul Vera, I organized together with three religious women the Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter next to the train tracks.

Frontera con Justicia y Humanidad Sin Fronteras

(These are two non-profit organizations whose names translate as "Bordering Justice" and "Humanity without Borders." They provide the migrants who have sought shelter in Saltillo with legal and counseling support.)

Obstacles and Challenges

Mariano, a migrant from Honduras, watches television at Belen, Posada del Migrante. Photo by LatinDispatch.We pushed back against the fear of migrants and the terrifying discrimination against them. It was necessary to engage the broader community in a debate over migration.

We didn't want to only focus on organizing a shelter. Instead, we addressed the overall issue of migration as a social and historical phenomenon that today runs through history, society, the fabric of society and the Church itself.

We didn't want to treat migrants simply as victims, but instead as a new kind of emerging heroes, and beacons of hope.

This is why we formed two organizations: Frontera con Justicia and Humanidad sin Fronteras to assemble a team of professionals that could offer persecuted migrants not just lodging, food, and health care, but a comprehensive package of services, including legal representation, counseling, and advocacy for laws aimed at protecting their rights.

It was a radical humanitarian endeavor. The migrants who came to our shelter would feel upon arrival that they had left the evils of persecution and aggression behind. Once they'd reached us, they could belong to a movement to build a more humane and liberating society.

The Violence Has Never Ceased

We would have loved to have seen an end to the violence. But to the contrary, it has grown and so have our enemies: organized crime, and the complicity of security forces.

The consequences have been dire: murders, kidnapping, torture, disappearances, rape, and sexual abuse, even the paradigm of anti-migrant cruelty, the massacre of 72 migrants in San Fernando, Tamaulipas in August 2010, and the discovery of 47 other clandestine mass graves with mutilated bodies.

Our Achievements

  1. More than 50,000 Central American migrants have passed through our shelter.
  2. In the 11 years of our work, we have made the broader community recognize the pain and suffering that migrants endure.
  3. We have made progress in political and legal advocacy work in favor of migrants.
  4. We have traveled abroad to connect with organizations and international bodies in the defense of migrants' rights.
  5. We have inaugurated "New Wine in New Casks" with a new Church with new liturgy and ecclesiology that has a migration perspective.
  6. We have innovated therapeutic humanitarian counseling for migrants who were tortured when they were kidnapped.

The Letelier-Moffitt Award's Significance

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to the human rights and migrant policy organizations that chose to give us this award. Criminal charges are increasingly being brought against us and we are now under attack more than ever. The levels of risk and insecurity faced by the people defending migrants' rights are the same as what the migrants themselves experience.

This is an award for courage and a just fight on behalf of people who have to migrate. We are in solidarity with these people. They are our brothers. With that in mind, we receive this award, not as bosses or experts but as fighters in the struggle for human rights.

Father Pedro Pantoja Arreola is the director of Belén, Posada Del Migrante (Bethlehem, the Migrant's Shelter) and chief adviser for two organizations that provide legal services and other forms of humanitarian support to Central American migrants, Frontera con Justicia (Bordering Justice) and Humanidad sin Fronteras (Humanity without Borders).

Emily Schwartz Greco translated this blog post, which is also available in Spanish on the Institute for Policy Studies website.

Belen, Posada Del Migrante y la Dolorosa y Forzada Migracion Centroamericana

October 3, 2011 ·

Este año, el premio internacional Letelier-Moffitt será entragado a Belen, Posada del Migrante; un refugio de migrantes en la ciudad de Saltillo, en Coahuila, Mexico. La posada provee asistencia humanitaria a migrantes en camino al norte, y trabaja para protegerlos de secuestros, extoción, abuso sexual y asesinatos. Como una voz de los derechos humanos de los migrantes transitarios, ha trabajo con valor al documentar abusos contra migrantes y denunciar violaciones de derechos humanos de parte de oficiales Mexicanos.

"Mis puertas abrí al caminante, Y la noche no pasaba fuera"
Job 31, 32.

Escenario Social: "Sangre y muerte de Migrantes, semilla de esperanza"

 Migrantes se preparan para la orientacion en Belen, Posada del Migrante. Foto de Humanidad sin Fronteras.Once Años de Violencia y Persecución
"Colgados del Tren y con el Viento en Contra"

Año 2000
La ciudad mexicana y la sociedad de Saltillo se estremecieron con la llegada de los primeros migrantes Centroamericanos, huyendo del Huracán Mitch, de la violencia social y de la pobreza de sus países. Para la mayoría conservadora de esta aristócrata ciudad, era una amenaza, una invasión a la supuesta harmonía y paz tradicional. Al miedo siguió la criminalización, el rechazo, el desprecio y la pregunta xenofóbica: ¿Por qué no se fueron a otra parte?

Y, sin embargo los migrantes, hombres y mujeres golpeados, sucios, despojados, cuando entraban a la periferia de la ciudad sólo decían: "¡Tenemos hambre y estamos cansados y golpeados!". Esto fundamentó una de nuestras tradiciones más bellas y evangélicas que existe en nuestra casa: ¡La acogida y el pan que se comparte! Siempre que un migrante llega, a media noche, en la madrugada, al amanecer o con el calor del sol siempre habrá una comisión que le dirá: "No importa la hora, ven a sentarte a nuestra mesa, comparte nuestro pan y luego irás a descansar."

2001: Se Desborda la Criminalización y Comienzan los Asesinatos
Fue tan fuerte la criminalización, que hasta grupos "conservadores de cristianos" consideraban "pecado" recibir a los migrantes, porque siendo supuestamente "ilegales," eran considerados como "ilegales." Y hasta hubo gente que se alegró con sus muertes, diciendo: "se lo merecen, por haber venido."

La migración que llegó se convirtió en muerte y sangre derramada: Delmer, Alexander, y David (todos hondureños) fueron asesinados a balazos, mientras dormían. Ismael Cruz fue asesinado a pedradas por los guardias del tren.

Nos manchamos de sangre al recoger los cuerpos, pero esto fue semilla de esperanza y tuvimos más coraje para continuar.

Con el fuerte apoyo de nuestro Obispo Raúl Vera, tres religiosas y un servidor, organizamos "Belén, Posada del Migrante" junto a las vías del tren.

Frontera con Justicia y Humanidad Sin Fronteras

Obstaculos y Retos
Hicimos huir el miedo y el terror de los prejuicios sociales contra migrantes. Pero era necesario colocar en el centro del debate social el fenómeno migratorio.

No queríamos centrarnos tan sólo en la organización de una casa, sino en la total dimensión de la migración, con todos sus perfiles, como un fenómeno social, el más histórico hoy que reconstruye la historia, la sociedad, el tejido social y a la misma Iglesia.

No queríamos tratar al migrante, ya nunca más como una víctima, sino como un nuevo protagonista, un nuevo sujeto emergente, con su corazón y su alforja con plenitud de horizontes culturales y fuerte esperanza.

Asi brotaron nuestros dos asociaciones civiles: Frontera con Justicia y Humanidad sin Fronteras, para generar un equipo de profesionales, y así brindar al migrante perseguido, no sólo hospedaje, comida y salud, sino una protección integral, jurídica, psicológica, defensa y legislación en la defensa y protección de sus derechos.

Mariano, un migrante de Honduras, mira television en Belen, Posada del Migrante. Foto de LatinDispatch.Un proyecto humanizador radical, para que todo el migrante que entrara en nuestra casa, al entrar sintiera que, atrás quedaba la maldición de la persecución y la agresión, y que aquí comenzaba un nuevo proyecto de sociedad humanizadora y liberadora.

Nunca Se Fue la Violencia
Hubiéramos querido que terminara la violencia, pero todo lo contrario, se acrecentó y también nuestros enemigos: el crimen organizado y la complicidad de las fuerzas de seguridad.

Consecuencia: Asesinatos, secuestros, tortura, desaparecidos y la despiadada crueldad y vejación de las mujeres, hasta el paradigma de crueldad social antimigrante: La masacre de los 72 migrantes en San Fernando, Tamaulipas y las más de 47 fosas clandestinas con cadáveres mutilados.

Nuestros Logros

  1. Son ya más de 50,000 las personas migrantes centroamericanas que han pasado por nuestra casa.
  2. Con nuestro trabajo de 11 años hemos logrado guiar el rostro de toda la sociedad hacia el dolor de la migración.
  3. Hemos avanzado en la incidencia política y jurídica a favor de los migrantes.
  4. Hemos desbordado las fronteras internacionales para articular Organizaciones e Instrumentos internacionales en la defensa de las personas migrantes.
  5. Hemos inaugurado "vino nuevo en odres nuevos" con una nueva Iglesia con Liturgia y Eclesiología nueva con la perspectiva de la Migración.
  6. Hemos innovado la atención humanitaria terapéutica a las personas migrantes víctimas de tortura en la criminal experiencia del secuestro.

Significado del Premio Letelier-Moffitt

Un profundo agradecimiento a los Organizaciones de Derechos Humanos y Políticas Migratorias que nos conceden este premio: nos llega en el momento en que estamos más golpeados y criminalizados y cuando el nivel de riesgo e inseguridad de los defensores es el mismo que el de las víctimas migrantes.

Un Premio a la Valentía y Justa Rebelión de las Personas Migrantes.

Con estos migrantes somos compañeros, hermanos y con esta conciencia recibimos el premio, no como caudillos o caciques o expertos académicos en la lucha de los derechos humanos.

Pbro. Lic. Pedro Pantoja Arreola es el asesor general de Frontera con Justicia y Humanidad sin Fronteras.

Will Obama's Push for Jobs Lead to a New Economy?

September 9, 2011 ·

It is wonderful to be back full-time at IPS – 15 months is a long time to be away. I'm deeply indebted to the Institutes' staff, board, and supporters like you for keeping IPS vibrant.

I want to thank Joy Zarembka in particular for guiding IPS during my sabbatical. Joy brought wisdom beyond her years to the helm, and we're stronger because of it. We're also greatly pleased that Joy will stay at the Institute, moving into the position of Associate Director. You'll see both of us writing for Unconventional Wisdom and sharing leadership as IPS confronts the greatest social and political challenges of the day.

Tonight, President Obama will address one of those challenges in a critical speech on his plan to create jobs. IPS has argued that any plan must build a new economy by shifting resources from speculative Wall Street firms to green Main Street firms. Central to this are revenue-raising measures aimed at reducing our country's immense inequality. Last week, we deepened our analysis with the release of our report, Executive Excess 2011: The Massive CEO Rewards for Tax Dodging. It was perhaps our best media day ever, garnering coverage in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, The Hill, Politico, CNN, the Chicago Tribune, and hundreds of other outlets.

The report found that corporate tax dodging has gotten so out of control that 25 major U.S. corporations last year paid their chief executive more than they paid Uncle Sam in federal income taxes. And these people – the nation's CEOs – are reaping awesomely lavish rewards for the tax dodging they have their corporations do. Obama would do well to urge Congress in his address to pass the Stop Tax Havens Abuse Act as one small step to curb corporate tax dodgers. Tune in to our blog and twitter stream tonight to get our breaking reactions to the speech.

As our country reflects upon the 9/11 terrorist attacks, many commentators are focusing on the role of the United States. But the past decade of fighting apparently endless wars confirms that Washington lacks the power and responsibility to serve as the global cop. As IPS expert John Feffer explains, "The problem isn't out there. It's right here, in the minds of those who believe that the United States is essential to managing these conflicts."

Finally, I invite you to join IPS as we remember two of our colleagues killed in the first act of foreign terrorism on U.S. soil – the assassination of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Karpen Moffitt at Sheridan Circle on September 18 and at the Letelier-Moffit Human Rights Awards on October 12.

Unconventional Wisdom is a biweekly newsletter published by the Institute for Policy Studies. To receive Unconventional Wisdom or other IPS newsletters in your inbox, sign up here.

Unconventional Wisdom: A New Legacy

August 28, 2011 ·

There are few events in Washington that get me excited. But I'm relishing the opportunity to see the opening of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial this weekend. King's actions and words offer hope, inspiration, and a vision that, as an African-American and a practitioner of social justice, guide me daily.

King's legacy is also closely tied to IPS. In 1963, as King was giving his most famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, IPS was just opening its doors. Shortly thereafter, in 1964, several leading African-American activists joined the staff and turned IPS into a base of support for the civil rights movement in the nation’s capital.

Unable to avoid controversy even in his memorial, there have been heated debates over King’s statue — the choice of a non-African-American as the sculptor and the bold, cross-armed pose that was selected for the memorial. IPS board chair E. Ethelbert Miller took these critiques head on when he was quoted in The Washington Post, saying “I love that King is looking defiant …With so many of our rights (and money) being taken away we need some cold ‘Stone Leaders’ to stop the assault. Maybe the King monument will become a regular meeting place for the poor who can’t take no more.”

We like that King is looking defiant. CC Photo by absentmindedprof.Also honoring King's tradition of civil disobedience, IPS expert Janet Redman was arrested protesting a proposed oil pipeline from Canada that would carry oil rendered from tar sands. Before being detained, she said, "Martin Luther King, Jr. called civil disobedience 'the sword that heals.' Today I’m joining more than 2,000 ordinary folks from the United States and Canada who are doing something extraordinary — putting their bodies on the police line to say no to the expansion of the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast."

King often lent his support to unsung heroes. And in that spirit, IPS announced the recipients of our 35th annual Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Awards, the Wisconsin Progressive Movement and Bethlehem, The Migrant's Shelter from Mexico. I invite you to join IPS in celebrating these courageous organizations on October 12th at the National Press Club in Washington DC.

Finally, I want to welcome back our own hero, IPS's director John Cavanagh, as he returns from his sabbatical. It has been an honor and privilege to lead IPS over the past year and I look forward to my new role as associate director as IPS tackles many of the same challenges King faced: injustice, rampant war, and a divided country.

Unconventional Wisdom is a biweekly newsletter published by the Institute for Policy Studies. To receive Unconventional Wisdom or other IPS newsletters in your inbox, sign up here.

The Obama Administration's Attack on Immigrants' Civil Liberties Hits a Judicial Roadblock

July 20, 2011 ·

A powerful, nationwide electronic immigration sweep is slowly coming to a police force near you. And, the general public might be roped into giving away some of its civil liberties in the process.

That can be concluded from the recently exposed connection between the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The Department of Homeland Security has championed technological programs like Secure Communities, an electronic fingerprint data-sharing program that's scheduled to be rolled out nationally by 2013. ICE and DHS, however, recently suffered a setback with Secure Communities.

From Courthouse News Service:

MANHATTAN (CN) - A federal judge ordered the federal government to hand over "embarrassing" information about its "Secure Communities" program. "There is ample evidence that ICE and DHS have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Secure Communities," U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote.

"In particular, these agencies have failed to acknowledge a shift in policy when it is patently obvious — from public documents and statements - that there has been one," the judge added in a scorching 81-page Opinion and Order in National Day Labor Organizing Network et al. v United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency et al.

Also on Monday, the DHS Office of Inspector General said it will investigate ICE's misrepresentations of the Secure Communities opt-out policy and whether the program fulfills its purported mandate.

The policy shift comes from a rhetorical maneuver by ICE over the last couple of years. Initially, programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities were branded as optional, and slowly brought into cities and counties where their introduction wouldn't be controversial.

Secure Communities was originally explained as a federal immigration fingerprinting database that localities could choose to use to identify gang and criminal activity. The vast majority of the undocumented population, however, is non-criminal.

Despite early signs that a lot of students and parents of U.S. citizens were getting detained under Secure Communities, the administration continued its pursuit of Secure Communities across the nation. At some point, the program stopped being branded as optional, and the courts are now saying that much was obvious.

But the question remains of what ICE is trying to hide while changing the way they talk about Secure Communities.

Recently released documents show that Secure Communities is simply the first step to a wide-reaching FBI program called the Next Generation Initiative that will also include iris scans, palm prints, and facial imaging.

The plaintiff in the case is the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), an organization that's suing ICE in this case. (It also won a 2010 Letelier-Moffit Human Rights Award). NDLON points out the political damage that Obama has caused to himself by running after the murky idea of a "secure border" and letting ICE play the national security game all the way to the bank:

"While the Obama administration boasts of the 'Secure Communities' program to win political points with Republicans, it has kept actual policy details nearly secret from Congress, state partners, and the American public. Thankfully, federal courts, not ICE, get the last word," said NDLON director Pablo Alvarado.

Obama needs to realize that he will take punches from Republicans no matter what he does, and that ICE lied to the public on his behalf. So far, he has chosen to stand with those liars, but they might be costing the U.S. governement too much in legal fees. In 2012, he may also pay heavily in lost votes from former supporters who expected him to champion just and humane immigration reform.

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