Fall membership letter
September 4, 2015
Dear members and friends of CRLN,
It’s been a busy spring and summer! We’ve been responding to the many challenges that are being experienced by our brothers and sisters in Latin America and in immigrant families across our own nation. Thanks to those of you who have already renewed your membership. If you have not, we invite you to renew your membership or become a CRLN member for the first time to support the kind of work we do in response to requests for justice and accompaniment. You may donate online here.
Here are just some examples of the work we’ve been engaged in since our last membership letter:
The fight against deportation and detention continues. Although President Obama announced an executive action last November which would shield certain immigrants from deportation, those protections have been challenged in court and have yet to be implemented. Meanwhile, deportations continue. Every day, the government deports 1,100 immigrants and maintains a Congressionally mandated 34,000 immigrants, (children, mothers, and fathers included) in detention. Since December the CRLN has provided support to five individuals and their families, calling on folks like YOU to sign petitions, make calls to ICE, and to rally in defense of members of our community and undocumented mothers and fathers. The valiant struggles of these individuals have illustrated many things to us, among them the deep disconnect between ICE’s priorities for enforcement, their so-called focus on “felons, not families,” and their actual detention and deportation practices out in the field.
In line with our commitment to #StopDeportations, the CRLN has also been proactive around the defense of the rights of those most vulnerable amongst us: unaccompanied children. Around this time last year, the number of unaccompanied children arriving at our borders in search of refuge and safety reached unprecedented peaks. Rather than respond with mercy and compassion, many of our leaders responded with fear and deep misunderstanding. Almost immediately, uncontroversial laws and policies like the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), which protects the due process rights of unaccompanied children, were attacked. Thanks to your efforts, we were able to coordinate with national efforts aimed at preventing rollbacks to these essential protections. In addition to engaging with elected officials in the House, YOU responded by calling on Senator Mark Kirk, who has met some of these children himself, to publically come out in support of the TVPRA. Over 1,000 folks signed our petition calling on Senator Kirk to be the champion unaccompanied children need. Hundreds helped us amplify our message over our social media Thunderclap campaign, and some of YOU, leaders with the CRLN and even volunteers at children’s centers, met with Kirk’s office on the topic.
As you receive this letter, the CRLN is also participating in a series of local efforts aimed at making the city of Chicago more immigrant-friendly. Among them, the CRLN is proud to form part of the Chicago Policy Immigration Working Group, which is spearheaded by progressive aldermen like Carlos Ramirez-Rosa. Goals include providing more low-cost legal services, assuring access to city services for non-English speakers, and the creation of a municipal ID card.
The CRLN staff continues to track events in Latin America, analyze how U.S. policies and practices might be related to those events, and hold our government accountable when it sends military and police aid to support those in the upper echelons who abuse their power. Many of you are no doubt aware of the mass uprisings of tens of thousands of people in all social classes during the past several months in Honduras and Guatemala protesting widespread corruption in their governments. They follow years of sustained protests by indigenous groups, women, small farmers, African-descended people, journalists, those who identify as LGBT, and others who have organized against oppression by government and corporate interests and against the criminalization of their efforts to bring positive change to their communities. You can read background articles and analyses of the current situation here.
One thing is clear: U.S. military and police funding for governments that have a history of human rights abuses and corruption, like those of Guatemala and Honduras, only fuels more violence and more corruption. For that reason, CRLN worked with the Honduras Solidarity Network to obtain targeted Congressional sign-ons to a Dear Colleague letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, co-sponsored by Rep. Hank Johnson and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (see enclosed letter). It calls for the U.S. to re-evaluate and suspend training and support for Honduran police and military until the Honduran government adequately addresses human rights abuses and requests that the U.S. fully implement the Leahy Law, which prohibits the U.S.Department of State and Department of Defense from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. This is the first “cut the aid” Dear Colleague letter in over two years, and it could not come at a better time.
The issues we face today are immense, but together we are making a real impact in the lives of our Latin American brothers and sisters, including those who are living among us as immigrants. We urge you to support CRLN’s work by renewing your membership or becoming a member for the first time. Invite your friends and family to become members. You may donate online here.
CRLN staff: Sara Wohlleb, Lissette Castillo, Celeste Larkin, Sharon Hunter-Smith, Marilyn McKenna, María Isabel León Gómez Sonet
P.S. Gary Cozette, founder and long-time director of CRLN, announced his retirement from CRLN effective May 31, 2015. You can see photos from the event honoring him here.. Thanks to the many of you who came out to celebrate his 30 years of human rights work!
CRLN also welcomes a new staff member, Administrative Assistant María Isabel León Gómez Sonet. You can read about Marisa, as she likes to be called, here.