Welcome to the CRLN website

Welcome to the homepage of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN).  The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) stands in solidarity with those oppressed by poverty, violence and exclusion in this hemisphere working together for the respect of human dignity and empowerment of all peoples.  An interfaith network of individuals and communities, CRLN equips and mobilizes religious leaders, communities and individuals to advance peace, justice and human rights in our hemisphere.

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Call In Day against Venezuela Sanctions Bill & Solidarity Event for the Free Cuban 5!

Photo: SOA WatchJoin CRLN and thousands across the country for the National Day of Action against the Venezuela Sanctions bill!

(Photo: Courtesy of SOA Watch) On December 10th, Congress passed the "Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act," imposing sanctions on a number of Venezuelan leaders for human rights abuses committed against anti-government protesters earlier this year. As Laura Carlson says in her Al-Jazeera article yesterday, "Despite the widely accepted and facile media narrative about the government's culpability for the origins of the protests and the ensuing violence, there is convincing evidence that Venezuela's right-wing antagonists bear much of the blame."


Please participate in today's Day of Action by calling the White House hotline at 1-202-456-1111 and leaving the following message:


"My name is _________ from __________. I am calling to urge President Obama to veto the Venezuela sanctions bill. It is hypocritical to place sanctions on Venezuela when we continue to support right-wing governments who engage in far more serious and widespread human rights abuses. U.S. military aid flows freely to México, even in the wake of revelations of widespread gross human rights violations surrounding the disappearance of 43 student teachers by colluding government, police, and narcocartels. Military and police aid continue to flow to Honduras, in spite of hundreds of assassinations of non-violent civilians by armed forces since the 2009 coup d'etat. I urge President Obama to veto sanctions against Venezuela, especially as domestic debates on police brutality and the CIA's use of torture rage at home. Thank you."


Accountability is a Two-Way Street

In his national address on immigration on November 20, 2014, and in speaking engagements across the country, President Obama has been harshly critical of undocumented individuals who "broke immigration laws." He has said that those who "flout the rules"--who do not migrate the "right way" or who "cut line"--must be "held accountable." President Obama's persistent use of the word "accountability" in his speeches and even in the names assigned to the programs created under his "Immigration Accountability Executive Actions," is interesting. With a majority of undocumented individuals (nearly 7 million) excluded from the President's relief, it's not clear that there is a true understanding of what that powerful word means. Add to this the continued perpetuation of misguiding and erroneous rhetoric on immigration and this country's failure to accept responsibility for the migratory consequences of foreign policy abroad, and almost instantaneously any discourse on immigration and accountability is immediately problematic.

First, it's interesting that our President will acknowledge that our immigration system is broken and yet do nothing to dismantle the misconceptions which have contributed towards keeping it broken for so long. On the contrary, in 2014 our President and many other influential leaders are still talking about "waiting in line" and going to the "back of the line"as if legal migration were readily possible and average waiting periods were actually reasonable.

Equally confusing is to hear our President uplift the importance of accountability when he seems to take little issue with the use of misguiding rhetoric. Obama's rhetoric claims that "deportations of criminals are up 80 percent" and which stresses that priority is placed over "felons, not families, criminals, not children, gang members...not moms".  This is not only misleading and overly simplistic, but in fact just plain inaccurate and erroneous. Community groups working directly with undocumented communities will openly tell you that even though immigrant and communities of color aresubject to over-policing and over-criminalization, Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) still uproots families, deporting hard-working mothers and fathers, all the time. There's a disastrous gap between what the President says ICE should do and what ICE actually does. Case in point: Noe Adan, an undocumented father of a US citizen child, whose deportation the community had to actively work to stop, despite him being a "low-priority" for removal under the new enforcement priority guidelines which President Obama released alongside his executive actions.

Profits or prophets?

From November 21-23, thousands gathered at the gates of Ft. Benning to call for the closing of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC)-formerly known as the School of the Americas (SOA).  However, the gathering was also about much, much more-making common cause with other movements and making clear the underlying connections between them. 

Sunday, November 23, we commemorated in a solemn funeral procession the 25th anniversary of the murder of 6 Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter in El Salvador by graduates of the SOA. Vigil participants remembered them by name-Elba Ramos, Celina Ramos, Ignacio Ellacuria, Ignacio Martin Baró, Segundo Montes, Armano López, Joaquin López y López, Juan Ramón Moreno-along with the names of thousands of others killed by SOA graduates. We placed crosses with their names on the fence separating protesters from the school. We affirmed their presence with us still, chanting "Presente!" after each name, keeping alive their memory and the historical memory of what was done to them by recipients of US military training and aid.

The Best Holiday Gift Ever

The day before Thanksgiving, we received a call from one of our Immigrant Welcoming Congregations.  They needed help with releasing someone from detention- is there any way we could step in?  

The story was much more harrowing than what we could have imagined.  Laura* fled a situation of domestic violence in Honduras, which has become a land of near-total impunity and lawlessness.  Because her mother lives in Chicagoland, she was hoping to come this way, but fell into the hands of  a criminal gang in Mexico which held her captive for months.  When she finally escaped, and made it to the US border, she was placed in a private detention facility on a bond of $7500, even though the Department of Homeland Security has agreed that she is a likely candidate for asylum.  The practice of long-term detention for asylum candidates is commonplace now- and we even know of cases where asylum candidates have been deported before they can see a judge.

But through the miracle of a vast network of volunteers and partners, we were able to make contact with Laura as well as with legal service providers from Chicago to Texas.  With a CRLN letter of support in hand, Laura successfully petitioned for a bond reduction.  As of the writing of this report, we are expecting to get Laura reunited with her mother in time for the holidays.  If you would like to support Laura or others fighting for their human rights, you can keep us in your prayers, make a financial donation, or contact us to join our team of volunteers.  Thank you to everyone who has stepped in to help on this particular issue, and on the many human rights issues we confront.  You are the light that illuminates the path forward.  May you be richly blessed in this holiday season.

*Note: Names have been changed to protect identities

Globalizing the Struggle, From Ferguson to Colombia: State Violence and Racialized Oppression Know No Borders

Article by CRLN staff member, Celeste Larkin and Chicago organizer, Martin Macias, published on truthout about a mostly people of color delegation to Colombia to visit African descendant communities organizing for their autonomy, land and lives. Celeste and Martin report back from their trip and explore what it means to be in solidarity with the communities they met in Colombia. Click here to read the full article.

Globalizing the Struggle, From Ferguson to Colombia: State Violence and Racialized Oppression Know No Borders

Jumping Rope in Buenaventura: Children from the community of La Playita play across from the site of where paramilitaries would torture and brutally dismember residents. Residents tore it down and built a community center next door.Jumping Rope in Buenaventura: Children from the community of La Playita play across from the site of where paramilitaries would torture and brutally dismember residents. Residents tore it down and built a community center next door.For decades, Afro-descendant communities in Colombia have fought for autonomy and self-determination as a response to government policies that produce multiple forms of violence in their communities. Fully aware of, and in solidarity with, mobilizations in Ferguson, Afro-Colombians recognize the common dreams of movements for racial justice for people of color people across the hemisphere. Two members of a delegation that visited these communities in August 2014 reflect on their own solidarity process and explore the ways that transnational solidarity manifests (or doesn't) in movements. How can we move beyond allyship and towards a practice of co-struggling?

One week after Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson, nine US-based activists and artists of color and one white woman traveled to meet racial justice movement leaders in Colombia. Our delegation was led by Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN, Black Community Process), a collective of African-descendant Colombian groups focused on cultural and political power for Colombia's black population. The history of dispossession is a long one for African descendants in Colombia and across the diaspora i.e. European colonial conquests, subsequent violent and dehumanizing economies of enslavement, the state's denial of social services and reparations. With the energy of the #BlacksLivesMatter mobilizations flowing through our hearts and minds, we began our weeklong human rights delegation throughout the Southwest Valle de Cauca region of Colombia.

2014 CRLN luncheon singer melds personal and political

Over 200 people gathered on November 6 at CRLN's Annual Luncheon, "Un Pueblo Que No Calla: Voices from the Resistance Movement in Honduras," to hear Honduran singer Karla Lara perform some of her songs. Taken as a group, her songs wove together both personal and collective liberation struggles, from feminist reflections on male-female and mother-daughter relationships to indigenous communities' organizing efforts to keep control of their rivers and lands.  A particularly poignant song, "Manuel," commemorated a teacher who was a member of the nonviolent resistance against the 2009 military overthrow of the government and how his name and ideals live on and "germinate seeds."  He was assassinated for his visible role in the resistance movement.

Adding to the energy in the room was a visitor from Guatemala, Miriam Pixtún Monroy, on a speaking tour with the Guatemala Human Rights Commission USA about the struggle at La Puya to block a mining company from operating on indigenous lands without their consent.  Transnational corporations have started mining and hydroelectric operations all over Latin America to extract resources, often gaining permits and licenses from governments who do not insist that corporations get prior consent from indigenous communities, as stipulated in international law. CRLN introduced Miriam to Karla, who dedicated the song "Corre el Río" to Miriam and her community's struggle, pointing out the similar resistance mounted by Honduran indigenous communities against projects on their lands.

CRLN sent $2,500 in donations and pledges mailed in later from those attending the luncheon to support the work of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Honduras.  In addition, the luncheon netted $8,811 for the awareness, accompaniment, action and advocacy work of CRLN.


No Fast Track! Carolers deliver hundreds of signatures to Rep. Quigley

CRLN joined roughly twenty members of the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition (IFTC) and constituents of Illinois' 5th Congressional district at Congressman Mike Quigley's office to deliver a holiday package and sing altered holiday carols expressing frustration that the Congressman has failed to come out against Fast Track legislation for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP). Rep. Quigley was unable to receive the crowd but the group was met with several of the Congressman's staffers who, on the Congressman's behalf, accepted the holiday package filled with over 1,500 messages and signatures from voters urging that that he come out against Fast Track legislation, which many expect will come up for a vote in January.

Check out CRLN's Facebook page for pictures and video of the action!

Sung to the tune of Jingle Bells, the crowd filled up the Congressman's district office lobby, belting, "The TPP will let / Any corporation sue / Any government / For putting people first (no no no no!) / You can't let this pass / We want sovereignty / Oh please Mike Quigley just say no / don't Fast Track TPP!" "What does the Congressman say about Investor State Dispute Settlements which have allowed corporations to sue sovereign nations for protecting environmental and public health at the expense of corporate profits?" asked IFTC member Lyle Hyde of Quigley's staff. The staff wasn't able to answer the question due to its specificity. 

Interested in getting involved in this organizing work? Contact Celeste at clarkin@crln.org!

CRLN Response to President Obama's Executive Action Announcement

Last night, President Obama announced an executive action that will provide an estimated 4.4 million immigrants temporary relief from deportation.

Under the President’s actions, age-caps for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be expanded to cover for an additional 300,000 people, protections under DACA will be renewable every three years (previously two), Secure Communities will be discontinued, and Deferred Action will be extended to certain parents of United States Citizens and Legally Permanent Residents. For more detailed information on administrative action, please click here

Yesterday’s announcement is a testament to the hard work of pro-immigrant organizations across the country, particularly that of undocumented-led community groups which have fought for these gains through courageous, daring, and, oftentimes, unconventional tactics.

The Chicago Religious Leadership Network (CRLN), a network of over 50 congregations and religious communities across Chicagoland, is committed to participating in the “IL is Ready Campaign.” Through this campaign, member congregations will be providing information sessions on the President’s executive announcement and working to provide legal assistance sessions once applications become available. 

While we take a moment to celebrate this hard-earned victory, as people of faith, we also remember what our sacred texts have taught us: every person matters and is sacred. 

There are nearly 12 million undocumented peoples living in the United States. Yesterday, the president reminded us that we were all once strangers. Today, we remind him that principles of our faiths mandate us to love all of our neighbors, including those who do not meet the specified eligibility criteria. Minister Steve Van Kuiken, Senior Minister of Lake Street Church, a sanctuary congregation in Evanston, Illinois stated, "we celebrate the fact that millions of immigrants will no longer live in constant fear of detention and deportation. We will continue to offer sanctuary because there are still millions of other immigrants who live and work in this country still facing the threat of deportation, workplace exploitation, and the constant fear that their families will be uprooted or torn apart."

Faith calls us to be thankful for yesterday’s actions, but faith also requires us to continue to remain steadfast in our commitment with the undocumented community. While the protections offered by the President are long overdue, these actions are not enough. As people of faith we call on our elected officials, our President, and our Congress to take into account full human stories, to act with forgiveness and redemption, and to allow all undocumented immigrants who contribute to their communities to apply for temporary relief.  As we take a moment ourselves to recall this, today the CRLN reiterates its commitment to continue to apply pressure until the day comes when there is #Not1More.


For basic information on administrative relief and who is eleible, download our attached Executive Action Cheat Sheets. Available in English and Spanish. 

Join us! CRLN's 2014 Annual Luncheon with Karla Lara

Join CRLN & Honduran artist, feminist & journalist, Karla Lara for our 2014 Annual Luncheon, 

Un Pueblo Que No Calla: 

Voices from the Resistance Movement in Honduras

November 6th, 2014, 12:00PM-2:00PM

Old St. Pat's Church, 700 W Adams


ARTISTS: If you want to join the event but tickets are prohibitive, contact Sharon at SHunter-Smith@crln.org.


Karla Lara's tour will celebrate the resistance movement in Honduras since the 2009 U.S.-backed coup & create spiritual space that inspires social movement through art & song. Grounded in a feminist perspective, Karla will lift up la lucha - the struggle - against militarization, political violence & attacks against social movements. Gather with us to celebrate el pueblo que no calla, the people who will not be silenced!