Protect Colombian Human Rights Defenders During COVID-19


Dear Colleague,


We invite you to join us in sending a letter to Secretary of State Pompeo on the urgent need to protect Colombia’s human rights defenders and to identify and prosecute those who carry out threats, assaults, disappearances and murder against them.


Colombia is the most dangerous country for human rights defenders The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia described as “staggering” the number of rights defenders murdered in 2019 Those targeted include Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders, environmentalists and land rights activists, local community and social leaders, campesinos and trade unionists, peace communities, women, journalists and human rights advocates.


The Duque Administration and Attorney General’s Office have failed to provide the level of protection needed to safeguard the lives of these defenders, prosecute the intellectual authors of these attacks, dismantle the structures that benefit from this violence, or fulfill their obligations under the peace accords to safeguard these individuals and communities and establish a state presence in conflict regions. As a result, violent actors continue to act with impunity.


The coronavirus pandemic and Colombia’s quarantine have only increased the vulnerability of these valuable civic leaders: 23 social leaders were killed between March 15 and April 24, the initial period of Colombia’s pandemic lockdown. At the same time, recent media investigations revealed that Colombian Army intelligence units compiled detailed dossiers on the personal lives and activities of at least 130 reporters (including U.S. journalists), human rights defenders, politicians, judges, union leaders, and possible military whistleblowers


To sign onto the letter, or for further information, please contact Cindy Buhl (Rep. McGovern) at or Leslie Zelenko (Rep. Pocan) at




James P. McGovern

Member of Congress


Mark Pocan

Member of Congress




Dear Secretary Pompeo,


As the coronavirus pandemic exposes and magnifies existing problems in each of the countries it ravages, we are particularly concerned that it is affecting the safety of Colombia’s brave human rights defenders and social leaders who are putting their lives on the line to build lasting peace.


We write to ask you to urge the Duque Administration to recommit to implementing the historic 2016 peace accords and protecting Colombia’s endangered human rights defenders whose vulnerability has only increased during the COVID-19 quarantine.


Colombia is now the most dangerous country in the world for human rights defenders. Over 400 human rights defenders have been murdered since the signing of the peace accords – a loss of committed and valiant civic leaders that Colombia cannot afford. The Colombian government’s slowness in implementing the peace accords, its failure to bring the civilian state into the conflict zones, and its ongoing inability to prevent and prosecute attacks against defenders have allowed this tragedy to go unchecked. This appears to have intensified as illegal armed groups take advantage of the pandemic while the government fails to respond, further increasing the vulnerability of targeted rights defenders and local leaders.


For example, on March 19, three armed men entered a meeting where farmers were discussing voluntary coca eradication agreements and killed community leader Marco Rivadeneira. He promoted peace and coca substitution efforts in his community, represented his region in the guarantees working group to protect human rights defenders, and was a member of the national human rights network Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos. Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and poor farming communities like the San José de Apartadó peace community continue to suffer and are even more vulnerable from the unchecked presence of illegal armed actors in their territories.


Marco Rivadeneira was one of 23 social leaders killed between March 15 and April 24, during the first weeks of Colombia’s pandemic lockdown. According to the Colombian NGO, Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz – INDEPAZ, in the first three months of 2020, 71 social leaders and defenders were killed in Colombia.


To stop this tragedy, we ask you to urge the Duque Administration to:


  • Improve protection of human rights defenders and social leaders, starting with effective investigations of attacks and threats against them, identifying those who ordered these crimes and publicly presenting the outcomes of these investigation.


  • Develop a road map for protection in consultation with defenders in the guarantees working group, including for pandemic-related challenges such as the need for personal protective equipment.


  • Fund and implement collective protection measures with differentiated ethnic and gender approaches in consultation with communities through the National Protection Unit. Collective measures agreed to with Afro-descendant and indigenous communities’ authorities must be guaranteed. The self-protection mechanisms of the San José de Apartadó peace community and similar humanitarian zones should be respected, including the support provided by international accompaniers, even during the pandemic.


  • Dismantle the paramilitary successor networks involved in drug trafficking, which fuel much of the violence against human rights defenders and social leaders. The government must honor its commitment to regularly convene the National Commission of Security Guarantees, which was established by the accords to develop and implement plans to dismantle illegal groups and protect communities, social leaders, and ex-combatants.


  • Effectively investigate, prosecute, and present results about these paramilitary and criminal networks through the Attorney General’s special investigative unit. We welcome the new agreement between the Colombian Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia to train prosecutors and investigators in aggressively addressing these human rights crimes. It is critical the State end impunity in the murders, disappearances, assaults and threats against human rights defenders, social leaders, land rights and environmental activists, journalists, trade unionists and other defenders.


  • Swiftly hold accountable Colombian Army intelligence members, including at the highest ranks, who ordered and carried out mass surveillance on 130 journalists (including U.S. reporters), human rights defenders, political leaders, and military whistleblowers. The U.S. should also ensure that U.S. security and intelligence assistance does not assist, aid or abet such illegal surveillance, now or in the future.


  • Vigorously implement the peace accords, including by adequately funding the transitional justice system, fully implementing the Ethnic Chapter, delivering on commitments for protection for ex-combatants and productive projects to reintegrate them into civilian life, and honoring commitments for truth, justice, reparations, and guarantees of non-repetition for victims of the conflict.


We urge you, Mr. Secretary, to ensure that all agencies of the United States speak with one clear voice to condemn these ever-escalating murders and to press the Duque Administration to take the necessary steps to identify and prosecute the intellectual authors of these crimes and dismantle the criminal structures that protect them.


Finally, we urge you to continue to provide valuable U.S. assistance to Colombia to implement the peace accords, provide humanitarian assistance for Venezuelan refugees and refugee receiving communities, and address the health and food security crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. should also take advantage of opportunities provided by the peace accords to carry out sustainable and lasting eradication of illegal crops by working with communities to replace coca with legal livelihoods and dismantling trafficking networks.


Thank you for your attention to these important concerns in this difficult time.



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How long, O Lord, must I call for help?

But you do not listen!

“Violence is everywhere!” I cry,

but you do not come to save.

Why do you make me look at injustice?

Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?

Destruction and violence are before me;

there is strife, and conflict abounds.

Therefore the law is paralyzed,

and justice never prevails.

The wicked hem in the righteous,

so that justice is perverted.


Habakkuk 1: 2-4


9 minutes. After 2 minutes without oxygen, the average adult human will lose consciousness, and after 3 to 4 minutes without blood flow, the brain begins to die. After 5 minutes without oxygen, the human brain enters the stage at which damage is likely unrepairable and death is imminent. For 9 long minutes George Floyd lay on the asphalt in Minneapolis with officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck. 9 minutes, some 6 of which George repeated over, and over, and over again, “I can’t breathe”.  9 minutes in which a dozen or so on lookers likewise repeatedly yelled at the police, “Let him up! He cannot breathe!”  9 minutes, during at least 2 of which it was obvious Mr. Floyd was unresponsive, but officer Chauvin’s knee remained on George’s neck regardless.  9 minutes that encapsulated 400 years of oppression.  9 minutes that launched a rebellion, an uprising, that says enough is enough.


CRLN mourns the murder of George Floyd and shares the righteous indignation of the millions who have had enough of the killing of people of color at the hands of law enforcement.  In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, protest signs remind us that “Racism is a pandemic, too.” CRLN stands in solidarity with the thousands who have decided to take to the streets to peacefully demonstrate their anger and demand justice over the last eleven days and counting.  This is an uprising against racial oppression that will not be silenced with simple platitudes or even the necessary and essential convictions of the four police officers responsible for Floyds death – that is only a start.  This is a movement that seeks to uproot the entire structure of systemic racism in this nation and beyond, and CRLN commits to playing our part in its dismantling.


Here in Chicago, we are painfully aware of the long, deep history of racial oppression and racialized police brutality.  It’s here in Chicago, which represented the “promised land” for so many African-Americans fleeing oppression in the Jim Crow South, that these refugees were met with housing segregation, job discrimination, urban ghettos and the bloody 1919 race riots.  This is the city that in 1966 handed MLK Jr. his first defeat with a hail of bricks and bottles in Marquette Park, that in ‘68 saw Mayor Daley order his police force to “shoot to kill” those “rioting” after MLK’s death, and whose police murdered Black Panthers Mark Clark and Fred Hampton in ‘69.  Even after the Civil Rights era’s so called “urban renewal,” white flight, redlining, inferior and underfunded public housing perpetuated that same old segregation.  A police force with the likes of Commander Jon Burge, torturing hundreds of innocent Black suspects, enforced and preserved the system.  Even the conviction of extreme examples like Burge, after decades of struggle, could not prevent the police murders of Rekia Boyd, Laquan McDonald, and Pedro Rios Jr. This historic and continuing pandemic of violence against people of color, along with our concerns over the criminalization of our immigrant youth, are the reasons why CRLN has worked in coalition with groups to eliminate Chicago’s gang database and other policies that criminalize communities of color.


The scenes of state violence against peaceful protesters we have all witnessed across the nation in the past two weeks are also all too familiar to us.  In our 30 years of solidarity work with the people of Latin America, we have seen the same forces of state repression used against those seeking justice, often, once again, to maintain a system of institutionalized racism, whether it be against African descended communities in Colombia, indigenous communities in Guatemala, or Garifuna communities in Honduras.  For decades U.S. imperialism has promoted, trained, and funded the militaries and later the police forces that have been responsible for the widespread violations of human rights against these communities across Latin America.  Violence was justified in the name of fighting “Communism”, later in the name of fighting the War on Drugs and against terrorism, regardless of the fact that the amount of drugs coming across our southern border never decreased and no terrorists were ever found crossing that border. Whatever the reasons given, U.S. trained and funded “security” forces only provided security for some—the elite groups who could share the wealth gained from U.S. economic policies that exploited Latin American labor and resources, the politicians who voted for U.S. positions in international forums or agreed to help keep people from migrating to the U.S. by force—never for communities of color.


In recent years, that violence has come home to roost as domestic police forces have been militarized, purchasing the equipment and adopting the tactics the U.S. military pioneered abroad.  Because of the pandemic of racism, the police have targeted black and brown people disproportionately. The outcome is unsurprisingly similar. But just like the uprisings this past year in Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, the repressive forces of the state cannot silence the righteous calls for justice.  CRLN stands in solidarity with those demanding justice here and across the Americas.


Unfortunately, we are also witnessing in our community another intended consequence of this racist state violence, the breeding of a divide and conquer strategy in which members of our own communities turn on one another and enact and reproduce the violence the state inflicts upon them against those who should be their natural allies.  The pandemic of racism can be internalized.  In Latinx communities in Chicago, Pilsen and especially La Villita over the past week, we have witnessed Latinx gangs claiming to “defend” their barrios by enacting violence against black youth in the neighborhood.  This is obviously deeply disturbing and unacceptable, and CRLN supports the call put out by a coalition of Latinx organizations calling for black and brown unity and a halt to such violence


Let 9 minutes be the start of a dismantling of white supremacy once and for all.  We must end the pandemic of racism, wherever it exists. Evidence that we are on the right path is certainly there with city after city–New York, Los Angeles, though sadly so far not Chicago–committing to significant “defunding” of their police forces and redirecting of those resources into areas that have faced regular funding cuts like community mental health, youth services and affordable housing.  Cities like Minneapolis are taking things a step further and looking at rethinking policing altogether.  CRLN supports Black Lives Matter’s position statement #Defund the Police, and we ask our members to sign on to their petition which can be found at  We also support the Black Lives Matter Chicago demands that you can find at    Let 9 minutes of suffering and death lead to a resurrection of our understanding of justice and conflict resolution that results in peace and life instead of more death and suffering.  CRLN will play our part in that resurrection.

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Prophetic Action is extremely difficult under the dividing circumstances the nation is facing. However, CRLN remains aware of the hard work to be done in educating our network and sharing resources towards unifying. Here a few highlights of the recent efforts we have made in our Immigration Program:

CRLN Sanctuary Working Group:  After joining an organizational sign-on letter calling on ICE and CBP to release people from immigrant detention to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in crowded and unsanitary detention centers, CRLN formed a Working Group to plan for temporary sanctuary spaces for those released.

While ICE has released very few people, some with preexisting health conditions, usually after legal battles, representatives to CRLN’s Organizing Committee from University Church, Wellington Avenue UCC, Su Casa Catholic Worker, Viatorian House of Hospitality, Bethany House of Hospitality, Congregation Tzedek, and the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants have been working to support those who may be released. We are accepting donations to support these efforts.

 ICIRR Everybody In Organizing Platform: As members of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights we helped organize around the rights of immigrants in the current crisis.  With allies from around the state, we helped form the Everybody In Platform.  The aim of this campaign has four main components:

  1. Health Access for All regardless of immigration status. We want to make sure that the communities with the most need receive the care they deserve with no fear.
  2. Economic Security for All regardless of immigration status. We want to ensure that all people in Illinois receive support from safety net programs.
  3. #FreeThemAll is a push to have all people in detention and incarceration released for their safety. About 70% of people in detention are predicted to catch COVID-19.
  4. Stop all ICE and local police collaboration, make renewal of DACA and TPS grants automatic, and end over-policing in our communities.

We achieved some key victories.

  • The largest appropriation to the Immigrant Service Line item in the line’s history at $30 million, with $20 million going to direct cash assistance that many grass roots, immigrant led organizations will oversee. 
  • Nearly $400 million in rental assistance funding accessible to the most vulnerable renters regardless of immigration status
  • An additional $30 million (at least) in other immigrant service supports in response to the pandemic.
  • An expansion of access to state health insurance to undocumented older adults, aged 65 and over.

Paid Emergency Sick Leave Ordinance: As states mandated many businesses to close, people without papers were the most deeply affected. No federal monies will be given to these individuals or their families. We are all in this together, but we are not all affected in the same way.

We are coordinating our coalition efforts with Arise Chicago, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law, Raise the Floor Alliance and AFIRE Chicago, on a Chicago ordinance that would require business owners to grant paid sick leave to ALL of their employees during an emergency if they need to quarantine for 14 days or take care of a family member with COVID-19, with the possibility of this being renewed for an additional 14 days for a total of 28 days. This ordinance would be retroactive.

Here is more information:

Chicago Emergency Paid Leave Ordinance – Arise ChicagoChicago Emergency Paid Sick Leave Ordinance. Protect All Chicago Working Families. The City of Chicago must act now to ensure all working people and their families can immediately care for their physical and financial health.. All working people in Chicago must be able to take a paid CDC-recommended 14-day quarantine if sick, care for a family member with


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Friday, June 12, 5PM      Stop the Murder, Stop the Torture:

 Free Them All – CPAC Now! 


Rally at 53rd Street and King Drive, sponsored by the

Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

Goals: 1) To release all remaining Burge torture victims from prison

2) To support a Chicago City Ordinance to create a

Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC)


RSVP for this event


CRLN supports the goals of this march, yet we also understand the continuing need to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Wear masks; distance yourself from others. If you do not attend the rally for health reasons, there are still ways you can support this campaign:


1)     Read this article by University of Chicago Law Professor Craig Futterman about the history of police reform attempts in Chicago and why CPAC is necessary.


2)     Check to see if your alderperson is on record to support CPAC, using this link. If they are, call and send an email to thank them. If they are not, call and send an email to ask them to publicly support the ordinance. The link above also has phone numbers and emails for alderpersons. If you don’t know who your alderperson is, it also will tell you how to find out.


3)     Read about the campaign, using this link, to free incarcerated survivors of police torture. Sign a petition to Governor Pritzker to urge him to release all remaining torture victims from prison.

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Please email your Representative (find your Representative hereand ask them to sign onto a “Dear Colleague” letter initiated by Representatives Jim McGovern and Mark Pocan. You can go to their website and click on the “Contact” tab and then on “Email me” in the dropdown list.

The letter calls on Secretary of State Pompeo to urge Colombian President Duque to protect Colombia’s human rights defenders; to identify and prosecute those who threaten and murder them; dismantle the paramilitary successor networks behind much of the killing; hold accountable Colombian military intelligence officers who conducted mass surveillance of journalists, human rights defenders, political leaders, judges and military whistleblowers with U.S.-supplied equipment; and fully implement the Peace Accords.

CRLN signed onto a letter to the State Department calling for systemic reform of Colombia’s military intelligence unit in response to the mass surveillance scandal referenced above. Click here for a copy of the letter.

Colombia is the most dangerous country for human rights defenders. At least 107 were killed in 2019. During the first month of Colombia’s coronavirus lockdown alone, 23 social leaders were killed. During this “stay at home” period, perpetrators knew exactly where to find social leaders, increasing the danger that they would be assassinated.

You can direct your Representative to contact Cindy Buhl (Rep. McGovern) at or Leslie Zelenko (Rep. Pocan) at for further information or to sign onto the letter. Ask your Representative to let you know if they sign on.

Please contact to let her know that you have sent your message so that we can track our network’s progress on getting signatures for this letter.

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Cuba has not failed to demonstrate global solidarity in light of COVID-19 and despite the US’ harmful blockade. Here is a list of resources on the Brigades, Cuba’s healthcare system’s readiness to act, and the measures being taken despite a comparative lack of medical supplies:

[Click on the subject for the link]

[Image provided by CRLN intern Daisy Hernandez from her visit to Cuba through a Delegation, December 2019]

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CRLN signed onto a letter to the State Department calling for systemic reform of Colombia’s military intelligence

May 22, 2020

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Ambassador Michael Kozak                                          U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg                                                                                              U.S. Department of State and U.S. Embassy to Colombia, Bogota


Dear Ambassador Kozak and Ambassador Goldberg,

We write out of deep concern, which we are confident you share, regarding the revelations that Colombian Army intelligence units compiled detailed dossiers on the personal lives and activities of at least 130 reporters, human rights defenders, politicians, judges, union leaders, and possible military whistleblowers. As you know, the group contained U.S. citizens, including several reporters and a Colombian senator.

This scandal is disturbing in itself and for what it says about Colombia’s inability to reform its military and intelligence services. In 1998, the 20th Military Intelligence Brigade was disbanded due to charges that it had been involved in the 1995 murder of Conservative Senator Álvaro Gómez Hurtado and his aide and, according to the 1997 State Department human rights report, targeted killings and forced disappearances. In 2011, the Administrative Security Department (DAS), Colombia’s main intelligence service, was disbanded due to the massive surveillance, as well as threats against, human rights defenders, opposition politicians, Supreme Court judges, and reporters. In 2014, Semana magazine revealed army intelligence was spying on peace accord negotiators in the so-called Operation Andromeda. In 2019, Semana exposed another surveillance campaign using “Invisible Man” and “Stingray” equipment against Supreme Court justices, opposition politicians, and U.S. and Colombian reporters, including its own journalists. In March 2020, a Twitter list compiled by the Colombian army identified the accounts of journalists, human rights advocates, and Colombia’s Truth Commission and Special Jurisdiction for Peace as “opposition” accounts.

The surveillance is far worse than a massive invasion of privacy. The targeting of political opposition, judicial personnel, human rights defenders, and journalists leads to threats, attacks, and killings. For example, during the 2019 surveillance operation, Semana reporters and their family members received funeral wreaths, prayer cards, and a tombstone. This surveillance and targeting has a chilling effect on the very people and institutions needed to maintain a vibrant democracy. It means that no amount of government protection programs can stop the targeted killing of human rights defenders and social leaders. The persistence of this kind of surveillance suggests that an important segment of Colombia’s military and intelligence services – and of the political class – fail to appreciate the fundamental role of a free press, human rights and other civil society organizations, and peaceful dissent in any vibrant democracy.

We are also deeply concerned to hear that some U.S. intelligence equipment may have been used for these illegal efforts. Semana “confirmed with U.S. embassy sources that the Americans recovered from several military units the tactical monitoring and location equipment that it had lent them.”

As we review this latest manifestation of Colombia’s deeply rooted problem of identifying as enemies and persecuting those who wish to defend human rights, uphold justice, and report the truth, we ask ourselves: What can ensure that this never happens again?

At a minimum, we recommend that the U.S. government:

• Support the creation of an independent group of experts under the auspices of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to investigate and recommend steps to achieve justice and non-repetition.

• Press for a thorough review of military doctrine and training to ensure that it promotes a proper understanding of the role of the military in a democratic society, including the role of human rights defenders, journalists, opposition politicians, and an independent judiciary. While the written doctrine was revised during the Santos Administration, clearly improvements to doctrine are not being followed. The review should seek an accounting for the too-frequent episodes of senior military behavior that contradicts this revised doctrine. Such a review must have input from Colombian human rights defenders and judicial experts, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

• Urge the Colombian government to provide all necessary protection measures, agreed upon with the targeted individuals and organizations, to ensure their physical and psychological integrity, as well as that of those around them. • Urge the Colombian government to purge all intelligence files, whether of state security forces or other organizations, collected on human rights organizations, finally addressing the long-standing demand by human rights organizations, unfulfilled for nearly a quarter century.

• Urge the Colombian government to reveal publicly the full extent of illegal intelligence operations targeting civil society activists, politicians, judges, and journalists, clarifying who was in charge, to whom they reported, what kind of intelligence was carried out, and with what objectives.

• The administration should direct DNI, CIA, NSA and DIA to inform congressional intelligence, armed services and foreign relations and foreign affairs committees of their conclusions on the full extent of illegal Colombian intelligence operations, clarifying who was in charge, to whom they reported, what kind of intelligence was carried out, and with what objectives. The administration should direct the same agencies to inform these congressional committees whether and when the U.S. government learned of these actions by the Colombian military and intelligence services and whether U.S. intelligence agencies cooperated with their counterparts even after learning of those actions.

• Investigate whether recipients of U.S. training and/or equipment participated in ordering or implementing these illegal activities and immediately suspend individuals and units involved from receiving U.S. training and equipment, per the Leahy Law.

• Suspend all U.S. support for Colombia’s military and intelligence services if the Colombian government does not immediately suspend and promptly investigate and prosecute officials who ordered and executed these illegal activities and conduct the thorough review and rewriting of military doctrine and training mentioned above.

If the nation is to realize the vision of so many Colombians to create a truly “post-conflict” society with shared prosperity under the rule of law, then intelligence targeting and surveillance of democratic actors must finally end. Thank you for your efforts to ensure Colombia turns the page for once and for all on these deadly, illegal, and anti-democratic activities.


Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)

Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)

Colombia Grassroots Support, New Jersey

Colombia Human Rights Committee, Washington DC

Colombian Studies Group, Graduate Center – College University of New York

Colombian Studies Group, The New School International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights

Latin America Working Group (LAWG)

Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)

Oxfam America

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

School of the Americas Watch

United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective

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We are excited to be part of an advocacy campaign organized by our friends at NISGUA (Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala) to stop the Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACAs) the U.S. has made with the Presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. These agreements enable the U.S. to deport asylum seekers arriving from any country to these Central American countries to seek asylum there instead. None of these countries provide for the safety of their own citizens adequately; they cannot protect asylum seekers, either. Under this program, the U.S. is knowingly sending asylum seekers into the same kinds of dangers they sought to escape, which violates international asylum law.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these agreements also have served to spread the virus to Central America. Asylum seekers reaching the U.S.- Mexico border are detained until they can be flown out to one of these three countries. Estimates now, based on the small number of tests that have been performed in ICE or CPB detention centers, are that at least 70% of those in detention have the coronavirus. Guatemala reports that 20% of its coronavirus cases are people who were deported from the U.S.

The first step in the campaign is to learn more about the ACAs. NISGUA has a wealth of information on its webpage.

The following articles are also helpful:

The second step is to sign onto a petition that can be sent to members of Congress after enough signatures are collected. It currently has 600 signatures, but we can do much better! Please sign it yourself and then forward to friends to ask them to sign on.

The third step is to email your member of Congress. Here is a sample email you can use:

Email template for congressional representatives

Subject: Constituent concerned about inhumane and illegal U.S. asylum agreements with Central America

Dear [Representative],

I am deeply concerned about the Asylum Cooperative Agreements (ACAs) that the Trump administration has signed with governments in Central America. As your constituent, I am calling on you to take action.

Under these agreements, the U.S. designated El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala as “safe third countries” to which to send asylum-seekers, rather than allowing them to pursue an asylum claim here, as is their right under international law.

These policies are immoral and, according to a U.S. lawsuit filed in November 2019 regarding the first agreement with Guatemala by the American Civil Liberties Union and others, illegal. None of these countries provide a full and fair asylum application procedure. More importantly, they themselves are so unsafe that their own citizens flee en masse to the United States.

Meanwhile, in the face of a deadly global pandemic, the Trump administration has continued to deport migrants and asylum-seekers to Mexico and Central America, including people who have already tested positive for covid-19, another demonstration of the Administration’s disregard for human life in the region.

Since November, more than 900 people, the majority women and children from Honduras and El Salvador who sought asylum in the U.S., have been sent to Guatemala to seek protection there instead. News outlets report that only twenty thus far have requested protection in Guatemala, where they may be vulnerable to many of the same sources of violence as in their home countries. The rest have made the life-threatening decision to return to the dangers from which they originally fled. For example, a February 2020 Human Rights Watch investigation found that, since 2013, at least 138 Salvadorans were murdered in acts of gang, police, or hate crime violence after being deported. A similar reality exists for Honduran migrants.

It’s clear that these Asylum Cooperative Agreements are a gross violation of the internationally-recognized right to asylum and of the core principle of non-refoulement, so much so that U.S. asylum officers have filed an amicus brief denouncing their illegality.

I call on you to:

1. Take action to defund the “Asylum Cooperative Agreements” by pushing for the inclusion of the following language in the upcoming appropriations process for both DHS and State and Foreign Operations: “None of these funds may be used for the implementation of the Asylum Cooperative Agreements between the U.S., Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.”
2. Demand more information regarding the signing and implementation of these agreements.
3. Take a public stand and declare opposition to these agreements as a threat to safety, human dignity, and international law.

Now, more than ever amid the deadly global threat posed by COVID-19, the Trump Administration’s assaults on immigrants and asylum seekers must be stopped. I call on you to take action to immediately halt all deportations as well as other inhumane policies, such as the “Remain in Mexico” program.

Your action is urgent. If your office has already issued statements or taken other action regarding the Asylum Cooperative Agreements, please let me know.


[Your name]


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CRLN signed the letter below to call on our Representatives to co-sponsor a bill that would lift some of the financial burdens on developing countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have sent it out to all Illinois Representatives. Please support this effort by copying the letter into an email to your Representative and adding a personal note, such as “I, too, support this bill and ask you to co-sponsor it. Please let me know if you will sign on in support of this lifesaving bill.”

Some changes since the letter was sent: there are now 23 co-sponsors. Also, the provisions in this bill did not make it into the HEROES Act, the “forthcoming coronavirus legislation” referred to in the letter. It is all the more important that this bill pass on its own, since there were NO international provisions in the HEROES Act.

We at CRLN are trying to evaluate the results of our efforts. Please email to let us know you have sent the letter, and also let us know if you receive a reply. That will help in our advocacy efforts going forward.

Here is the letter and list of current signers:

[put this into your email’s subject line] Co-Sponsor the Robust International Response to Pandemic Act (H.R.6581)

Dear Representative _______:

As COVID-19 triggers public health and economic crises in countries around the world, we, the undersigned organizations, urge you to co-sponsor the Robust International Response to Pandemic Act (H.R.6581), introduced by Representatives Jesus “Chuy” García, Jan Schakowsky, Mark Takano, and 13 other original co-sponsors. We believe Congress must enact H.R.6581 as part of forthcoming coronavirus legislation to ensure that developing countries will be supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international financial institutions with the resources they need to confront this unprecedented global crisis.


1. Debt Relief: Instructs U.S. representatives to the international financial institutions to support a suspension of debt payments to those institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic;
2. Protection of Public Health Spending: Instructs U.S. representatives to the international financial institutions to oppose programs that undermine countries’ ability to respond to COVID-19, such as those that encourage cuts to public health spending;
3. Needed Resources: Instructs the U.S. representative to the IMF to support issuing 3 trillion in “Special Drawing Rights.”

The United Nations World Food Program estimates that, as a result of the pandemic, 265 million people could face starvation by the end of the year. A report published by the United Nations University has found that half a billion people could be pushed into poverty. Bold, concerted international action is urgently needed.

One key measure that economists, development experts and humanitarian organizations from around the world are calling for is a major issuance of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs). A special international reserve asset created by the IMF, SDRs are distributed to central banks of countries in proportion to their IMF quotas. Countries can exchange SDRs for freely usable currencies when they are in weak financial positions. They are similar to the Federal Reserve’s swap arrangements, which have primarily benefited wealthy nations, whereas SDRs are distributed to all IMF member countries. Congress should support this costless and effective currency lifeline for the rest of the world.

The IMF last issued SDRs in 2009 in response to the global financial crisis and thereby helped ease the impact of the crisis on developing economies. Because SDRs are issued to each country roughly in proportion to the size of its economy, economists project that an issuance of three trillion SDRs will ensure that significant help can reach Latin America, sub-saharan Africa and other regions that face major economic and public health emergencies.

An issuance of SDRs for COVID-19 recovery has been endorsed by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, the Secretary General of the UN, most G20 countries, the New York Times and the Financial Times. Former World Bank Chief Economist Joseph Stiglitz asserts that in order to help developing economies, “Full use must be made of the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights.”

Another important measure to help developing countries during the pandemic is a moratorium on debt service payments to the IMF, World Bank and other international financial institutions. In 2020 and 2021 alone, low and middle income countries face between $666 billion and $1.06 billion in debt service repayments. Across 46 countries, debt payments for this year are currently projected to be 400% of their health budgets.

H.R. 6581 supports both a major issuance of SDRs and a moratorium on debt to international financial institutions, two vital measures that provide developing countries with critical financial support as they battle the pandemic.

We ask that you contact in Rep. García’s office to cosponsor H.R.6581 and urge House Leadership to adopt this lifesaving and urgently needed proposal in the next coronavirus spending package.

Thank you for your consideration,

Action Corps
Alianza Americas (Illinois)
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
Amnesty International USA
Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (USA)
Bread for the World
Center for Economic and Policy Research
Center for International Policy
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
Church World Service
Concerned Citizens for Change (New York)
Concerned Families of Westchester (New York)
Congregation of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Demand Progress
Faiths for Safe Water
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
Helping Hand for Survivors
Indivisible South Bay LA (California)
Just Foreign Policy
Justice Is Global
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
League of Women Voters of the United States
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
New Jersey Peace Action
Oxfam America
Pax Christi USA
Peace Action Maine
Peace Action New York State
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Project Blueprint
Public Citizen
Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture (New York)
Sisters of St. Dominic of Blauvel, New York
The Hunger Project
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Union for Reform Judaism
Washington Global Health Alliance
WESPAC Foundation (New York)
Win Without War
Women Against War
Women’s Refugee Care
WNY Peace Center (New York)
Yemeni Alliance Committee
Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation


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