11 CRLN staff, board and members will travel to DC April 20-23 for Ecumenical Advocacy Days and advocate for legislation that would improve the lives of Central Americans and other immigrants with Temporary Protected Status and would suspend U.S. military aid to Honduras. You can help us by giving your permission by Tuesday, April 17 to sign your name onto letters we will deliver to members of Congress or call your Representatives to support the following House bills:

 

American Promise Act of 2017 (H.R. 4253)

 

Background: Until the recent past, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for renewable periods of 6 to 18 months to immigrant applicants from countries in which civil unrest, violence, epidemic or natural disasters made it unsafe for them to return to their countries. In return, immigrants could get registration documents and authorization to work. Up through January 1, 2017, there were people from 13 countries eligible for TPS.

Under the Trump Administration, DHS is conducting a country by country review to assess whether or not to extend TPS. So far, DHS has ruled that TPS holders from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan will have to leave the U.S., despite continuing violence or lack of recovery from natural disasters in their countries of origin. TPS will continue for Syrians who came to the U.S. before August 2016, but those who came after that date cannot apply for TPS, despite the continuation of the war. The decision on whether or not to extend TPS for Hondurans has been delayed until June 2018.

 

Bill summary: H.R. 4253 would change the status of eligible immigrants from 13 countries with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) to a status of LPR, lawfully admitted for permanent residence. Immigrants would be eligible to apply if they were granted or were eligible for TPS status, or granted DED, on or before October 1, 2017. Immigrants must apply for this status change within 3 years of the bill’s date of enactment. After 5 years of LPR status, immigrants could apply to become U.S. citizens.

 

Status: Currently has 97 co-sponsors, is in the House Judiciary Committee, and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to be connected to the office of your U.S. Representative, and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 4253. Below are some talking points you can use:

  1. TPS holders have been in the U.S. for a long time and are well integrated into U.S. communities: Most TPS recipients have been in the U.S. for at least 15 years and many over a couple of decades. They have married U.S. citizens and/or have U.S. citizen children who were born here. It makes sense to naturalize TPS holders rather than deport them and separate them from their families and communities. In addition, 88.5% of TPS holders are in the labor force, higher than the national average. They have jobs that are essential to the economic health of the U.S.
  2. TPS holders contribute a great deal to the U.S. economy. Salvadoran, Honduran, and Haitian TPS recipients alone are projected to contribute an estimated $164 billion to America’s GDP over the next decade, according to the American Immigration Council. The AFSC cites the $6.9 billion the contribute to Social security and Medicare. They pay income taxes. Their work is integral to large industries such as construction, home health care, and hospitality.

 

The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (H.R. 1299)

 

Bill Summary: This bill prohibits U.S. funds from being made available to Honduras for the police or military (including for equipment and training), and directs the Department of the Treasury to instruct U.S. representatives at multilateral development banks to vote against any loans for the police or military of Honduras, until the Department of States certifies that the government of Honduras has:

  • prosecuted members of the military and police for human rights violations and ensured that such violations have ceased;
  • established the rule of law and guaranteed a judicial system capable of bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights abuses;
  • established that it protects the rights of trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders, government critics, and civil society activists to operate without interference;
  • withdrawn the military from domestic policing; and
    brought to trial and obtained verdicts against those who ordered and carried out the attack on Felix Molina and the killings of Berta Caceres, Joel Palacios Lino, Elvis Armando Garcia, and over 100 small-farmer activists in the Aguan Valley.

 

Status: Currently has 71 co-sponsors and is in the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It needs more co-sponsors, preferably some Republicans, to get out of Committee. Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, ask to be connected to the office of your U.S. Representative, and ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 1299. Below are some talking points you can use:

  1. The U.S. should not fund security forces that have committed such an alarming number of human rights abuses with a 97% impunity rate. Some argue that U.S. training for Honduran troops will professionalize them or that funding Honduran troops will give the U.S. influence over them, but there is no evidence of improvement since the 2009 military coup d’etat. Those who planned that coup are still in power. In fact, there is credible evidence that units of the Honduran military trained by the U.S. are operating as “death squads” and have hit lists of the leaders of various social movements. Berta Cáceres was one casualty. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/28/berta-caceres-honduras-military-intelligence-us-trained-special-forces
  2. The U.S should not entrust funds to an administration as corrupt as that of Juan Orlando Hernández’ in a country with such a weak judicial system. There is rampant institutional corruption in Honduras. High-level officials siphon off money from public institutions for their own gain or for political advantage. The looting of at least $350 million from the social security system by its chief administrator, part of which funded National Party efforts to elect current President Hernández in 2013, is an example. Officials also have been implicated in taking bribes from drug trafficking gangs in exchange for allowing gangs to operate without police interference. http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/corruption-honduras-result-of-functioning-system-report
  3. The U.S. should not fund security forces used by an illegally installed president to repress nonviolent dissent against his electoral fraud. President Hernández ran for a second term, forbidden by the Honduran Constitution, and the vote count was labeled “highly irregular” by the Organization of American States, whose initial call for new elections was rebuffed. The U.S. congratulated Hernández on his “victory.” Hondurans call this a “second coup.” Hernández uses the military in domestic policing, also forbidden by the Constitution, and has formed a Military Police Force in addition to the National Police. All security forces have been deployed against the many people who protested the election results, with 30 people killed, scores wounded, and many rounded up and thrown into prison since the November elections. https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/us-policy-perpetuates-violence-honduras

 

 

Read More

11 CRLN staff, board and members will travel to DC April 20-23 for Ecumenical Advocacy Days and advocate for legislation that would improve the lives of immigrants. You can help us by giving your permission by Tuesday, April 17 to sign your name onto letters we will deliver to members of Congress or call your Representatives to support the following:

 

At a very high level, the federal budget for FY18 provides big increases in funding for both ICE and CBP. It provides $14.018 billion for Customs and Border Protection (CBP), $1.831 billion more than last year. It also provides $7.076 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), $641 million more than last year. $370 million of this increase is for “Custody Operations”, the account that funds immigrant detention.

 

ICE has a lot of discretion over how those extra $370 million will be used. This means there’s little to guarantee that number of people held in immigrant detention won’t increase. Given this, and given that we’ve been raising concerns since last fall that ICE would use claims of increased per diem costs to get more money to fund expansion, we remain gravely concerned about the risk of large scale expansion despite the negotiated ADP numbers.

 

Although the appropriator added new language requiring ICE to submit weekly reports about the number of people it is holding in detention, we will be asking members of Congress to aggressively intervene if/when ICE begins using its funding to expand detention.

 

If your Representative or Senator voted against the bill (for the right reasons, of course), we will make sure to thank them. If they voted for the bill, especially if they had previously joined a DefundHate letter or otherwise expressed support for cutting funds, we hope to hold them accountable for their vote. We ask that members of Congress continue to push publicly for significant funding cuts to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) in the federal budget for FY19.

 

Resources:

Op-Ed – ‘We need a federal budget that values families, not one that destroys them’

Video Series – ICE lies, hides, and retaliates

Op-Ed – ‘These federal program incentivize policing. Why did Congress fund them?’

Read More

11 CRLN staff, board and members will travel to DC April 20-23 for Ecumenical Advocacy Days and advocate for legislation that would improve the lives of Cubans. You can help us by giving your permission by Tuesday, April 17 to sign your name onto letters we will deliver to members of Congress or call your Representatives to support House bills described below.

 

Background: In April of 1960, State Department officials wrote that the goal of the U.S. embargo of Cuba was “…to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of the government” (State Department, April 6, 1960). Today the Cuban people still experience shortages of many essentials including life-saving medicines and medical products.

 

When we meet with our legislators in DC or in district, we advocate for policies that benefit the people of our two countries. Even though polling shows that 96% of Cubans living on the island support lifting the trade embargo and have said that more tourism would benefit the local economy, President Trump announced in 2017 that “in solidarity with the Cuban people” the U.S. would add more barriers to trade and travel to Cuba. Since polling has also shown that 63% of Cuban-Americans in Miami-Dade County oppose the continuation of the embargo and 73% of people in the U.S. favor ending the embargo we have to ask who is in favor of these restrictions?

 

CRLN has worked with faith communities in Cuba and the U.S. for more than twenty years to end harmful U.S. policies, believing that the human rights of Cubans and the people of the US would best be served by lifting all travel restrictions and finally ending the embargo.

 

We are seeking co-sponsors for the following legislation – We are asking legislators to co-sponsor the following bills that will end restrictions to trade and travel:

 

The House Agriculture Exports Act (H.R. 525)
Introduced by Representative Eric A. Crawford (R-AR), the Crawford Bill, looks to repeal restrictions on export financing, allowing firms to offer credit to Cuba in connection with exports of U.S. agricultural goods. It also gives U.S. producers access to marketing programs that help them compete in foreign markets and eliminates restrictions to key federal funding used in financing exports to Cuba. Current Illinois representatives co-sponsoring are: Robin Kelly (D- IL 02), Rodney Davis (R-IL 13), Cheri Bustos (D- IL 17), Darin LaHood (R- IL 18), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL 08)

The Cuba Trade Act (H.R. 442)
Reintroduced by Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Kathy Castor (D-FL), this bill would allow businesses in the U.S. private sector to trade freely with Cuba, while restricting taxpayer funds from being used on the promotion or development of the new market. It would lift the outdated embargo and resume the normalization process between the U.S. and Cuban economies, promoting business opportunities that benefit both countries. The current Illinois representative co-sponsoring is Darin LaHood (R-IL 18).

The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act (H.R. 351)
Introduced by Representative Mark Sanford (R-SC), this bill, quite simply, removes travel restrictions to Cuba. This bill currently has no Illinois representatives co-sponsoring.

We are also asking legislators to urge the State Department to process visas for Cubans in the U.S. Embassy in Havana. The Trump Administration has ordered staff reductions at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba and at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC in response to health issues experienced by some personnel at the US Embassy in Havana. The FBI did not find any evidence linking the health issues to actions by the Cuban government during its three visits to the island. The investigation is continuing in both countries.

 

Since the US embassy has reduced staff, Cubans who want to get visas for tourist travel or permanent reunification with their families must travel to another country to get these visas. This has made it financially impossible for most Cubans to apply for a visa. While it is important to find out the cause of the health issues, there must be a way to assign personnel to the Embassy to process Cuban visas. Otherwise the U.S. has effectively created a travel ban against Cubans visiting the US for holiday or for family reunification.

 

For more information:

Statement by the Cuban Council of Churches regarding recent changes in US policy
https://nationalcouncilofchurches.us/statement-by-the-cuban-council-of-churches-regarding-recent-changes-in-us-policy/

A Cuban pastor’s response to President Trump’s Cuba policies
https://baptistnews.com/article/cuban-pastors-response-president-trumps-cuba-policies/#.Ws6LwC7wYnR

Church World Service Says New Restrictions on Cuban Travel Will Hurt the Cuban People and Churches https://cwsglobal.org/cws-statement-on-cuba-june-2017/

Catholic leaders: Dialogue between U.S. and Cuba must continue
https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2017/06/20/catholic-leaders-dialogue-between-us-and-cuba-must-continue

US Conference of Catholic Bishops Cuba Backgrounder
http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/latin-america-caribbean/cuba/backgrounder-on-cuba.cfm

U.S. Halt in Visa Services Leaves Cuban Families in Limbo https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/05/world/americas/cuba-us-visas.html

Cubans who want to visit the U.S. now face more difficult and expensive hurdles
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article177305716.html

 

Read More