December 9, 2020

Dear CRLN members and friends,

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah 43:1-3

The end of another year approaches, and what a year it has been.  Many public voices have expressed the view that 2020 will go down as one of the most difficult years in recent human history, certainly in the memory of the majority of us alive today.  We have indeed been through the waters and the fire this past year. 

In my opening comments at our 30th Anniversary Celebration in 2019, I expressed my view that at the heart of our work and mission was bringing hope amidst a world of suffering and death, oppression and denial of human rights, maintaining light in the darkness.  Perhaps for most of us, that light was never as necessary as it was this past year, as we struggled to maintain that hope in the face of a global pandemic and the rise of right-wing authoritarianism globally and right here at home. 

Those challenges even affected our Annual Gathering this year, as we had to meet through the medium of our computer screens rather than face to face.  But the fact that we refused to let these obstacles prevent us from gathering and celebrating our important work and the significant accomplishments of the last year demonstrates that the light and hope remains bright, unextinguished, even in these most difficult of times.

We refused to let the pandemic or right-wing authoritarian governments here and abroad stop us from pushing forward with our mission, as you can read in the enclosed insert that lists CRLN’s major activities in 2020. Both our sanctuary efforts and our solidarity with communities in Latin America, especially Cuba, grew and expanded this past year.  Our legislative activity was likewise robust, with several significant developments.  And we took several public actions, including helping to shut down the infamous plans to open an “ICE Citizens’ Academy” in Chicago. See details in:

So much of what we have been through this past year and the things we have accomplished were captured in the words of our guest speaker at this year’s Annual Gathering, Sister María Magdalena Silva Rentería. The founder and Director of CAFEMIN, a shelter for immigrants located in Mexico City, she joined our event from Mexico.  We turned the challenge of COVID, which limited our face-to-face interactions, into the advantage of a virtual gathering, making it easier to have our friends from abroad join us.  Sr. María Magdalena shared with us her stories of providing shelter and support for immigrants, as well as her analysis of the issues underlying the crisis of migration and action suggestions for how we can respond in this critical moment.  Her experiences were very relevant to our sanctuary efforts, our work with migrants’ rights and our solidarity work with communities in Central America and beyond. If you missed our Annual Gathering, you can watch it on YouTube in English at https://bit.ly/2020CRLNEnglish or in Spanish at https://bit.ly/CRLN2020Spanish

The year ended, as we all know, on a hopeful note.  The most authoritarian, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee president in our lifetime was defeated.  But regardless of the outcome of the presidential or Senate races, the election revealed something we cannot ignore. We must face the fact that there is a deep moral crisis we must address in our nation, when many of our fellow citizens are OK with racism, misogyny, xenophobia, calls to violence, attacks on democracy and flirtations with authoritarianism.  I do not mean this to be a condemnation. I must continue to hope that most human beings have the capacity for love and compassion and, when presented with the impact of their choices on their fellow human beings, will act humanely. But whether out of fear, greed, selfishness, or ignorance born out of the misinformation promoted by powerful interests that profit from the ignorance of the many, far too many of our neighbors have embraced a system of beliefs that is contrary to our values and the values of our faith traditions.

This moral crisis in our nation makes our work more important than ever.  It is left to us to build links of solidarity at home and abroad.  It is up to us to promote the values of peace and justice.  It is up to us to continue to lift up the voices of the oppressed and those struggling for liberation. This is our mission, our moral and material revolution, compassion in action, the only way to overcome the waters and fire that surround us.  Thank you for being a part of this work.  I am filled with great anticipation for working with all of you to build a new world in the coming year.

This work cannot be sustained without your help.  CRLN receives no corporate and/or government   funding.  We rely completely on our organizational, congregational and individual friends and members, along with some small grants from a few foundations.  We call on you to demonstrate your support by making a holiday contribution, an end of the year commitment to struggle for justice, peace, and human rights. With your support and solidarity, we will continue to walk through the fire and remain unburnt, as we enter what I believe will be a time of new beginnings and renewed hope.    

Sincerely,

Claudia Lucero

Executive Director

P.S. Please make your checks payable to CRLN. You may also make an online donation at www.crln.org/donate. Your contributions are tax-deductible. In addition, please consider remembering CRLN in your will. Our legal title is: Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America.

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This year we chose the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center, our partner in Cuba as one of the 2020 CRLN Honorees.  Their work to build bridges and connect communities internationally has inspired us for more than twenty years.  Despite the many barriers caused by U.S. policy, the Center has worked to welcome delegations from around the world to Cuba to learn from Cubans and to share in international visions for liberation. 

The Center is a macroecumenical association of Christian inspiration. It supports the Cuban people and their Churches in solidarity and prophetically through sociotheological reflection and training, popular education, communication, comprehensive service to the community and the promotion of international solidarity.

Part of their work on international solidarity is welcoming delegations from around the world and creating opportunities for delegates to hear directly from the Cuban people about their reality. 

They have welcomed many delegations from CRLN, Witness for Peace and other organizations. Most recently CRLN’s summer intern, Daisy Hernandez, participated in a delegation at the Center and created a three part webinar series available on our website.   The experiences delegates have on these visits strengthens their ability to advocate for an end to harmful U.S. policies toward Cuba.   

The Center was founded on April 25, 1987 as an initiative of the Ebenezer Baptist Church of Marianao (IBEM) and the work of Pastors Raúl Suárez Ramos and Clara Rodés, as well as other close collaborators.

Today the Center has a leadership team made up of Executive Director Joel Suárez, Reverend Izett Samá, Kirenia Criado Pérez and Marilín Peña and it continues to live out its values of:

  • an emancipatory ethic of Christian inspiration;
  • the conscious, rebellious and prophetic commitment to the Cuban people, the Revolution and socialism;
  • the defense of a full life for all human beings as a centrality, without exclusions or discrimination, linked to respect for the rights of nature.
  • generational diversity, gender, skin color, origin, sexual options, occupations, knowledge and beliefs, with an ecumenical sense of social justice.

While the pandemic has made delegations to the Center impossible, it continues to work in its many other areas and is connecting virtually through webinars such as the recent webinar organized by Cuban and US religious organizations. 

We are inspired by all the work of the Center and want to deeply thank them for welcoming us into their communities. 

To learn more about the work of the Center please visit their website at: https://cmlk.org/

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Nurse whistleblower Dawn Wooten has made a courageous complaint, along with Project South and Georgia Detention Watch, to the watchdog that oversees the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) against what amounts to medical neglect and inappropriate medical practices in the Irwin County Detention Center. For her efforts, she has been demoted.

Click here for more information from the BBC.

Click here for the complaint filed by Project South with the DHS Office of Inspector General.

Email your members of Congress and request that they contact the DHS Office of Inspector General to demand a full investigation of the Irwin County Detention Center. Further request that they call for the Center to be shut down and detainees be released because of the risks to their health in the Center.

You can type the name of your Representative and Senators into your web browser, find their website in the list that comes up, go to the website, and type your request there. Usually, there is a “Contact” section on the website.

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(Photo by George Prentzas on Unsplash)

The Department of Homeland Security has proposed a rule that would dramatically expand the collection of biometric data (DNA, iris scan, voice recording, face photo) from immigrants, asylum seekers, international religious workers, survivors of domestic abuse and sex trafficking, and U.S. citizens who sponsor or are in any way associated with an immigration benefit to or application from those listed above. This information would be collected from children as well as adults and stored in government databases indefinitely for unspecified purposes. CRLN is very concerned that it will be used for surveillance purposes.

We have until October 13 to submit written comments objecting to this rule change. You may submit comments on the entirety of this proposed rule package, identified by DHS Docket No. USCIS-2019-0007, through the Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the website instructions for submitting comments. Please write now!

Thanks to CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.) for making us aware of this.

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Find the Resources and Recap on our last part to the Webinar Series on Daisy Hernandez’s Report Back from the “Healing Our Land, Healing Ourselves” Delegation to Cuba with the Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective in December 2019:

Find the recap on Youtube:

 

Support the ACTION along with this part of the series by signing onto Cuban-American Cyclist Carlos Lazo’s Petition:

https://www.change.org/p/donald-j-trump-levantar-restricciones-econ%C3%B3micas-de-estados-unidos-a-cuba-mientras-dure-el-coronavirus

And keep an eye out for updates on the Chicago City Council Resolution!

Resources to Learn More:

Family Doctors (Slide #12) 

ELAM (Slide #14) 

Cuba’s International Solidarity (Slide #18) 

Cuba American Cyclist Carlos Lazo Action (Slide #20) 

Links to the other parts to the Webinar Series:

  1. US-Cuba Relations, Cooperatives, and Community: https://crln.org/uscubarelationscooperativescommunity/
  2. Urban Economics and Agriculture: https://crln.org/urbaneconomicsandagriculture

For additional resources contact Marilyn McKenna at mmckenna@crln.org or Daisy Hernandez at dhernandez@crln.org

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Find the recap on Youtube:

Take Action to Urge the Administration and Congress to Lift Sanctions! https://www.votervoice.net/PCUSA/Campaigns/73235/Respond

Thanks to the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness for creating this alert.

Resources to learn more:

Excerpt from the 2001 OXFAM report Going Against the Grain about the effects of the Special Period on food supply and agriculture

Read the entire Oxfam report here

Torricelli Act – (H.R.5323 – Cuban Democracy Act of 1992)

Helms Burton Act – (Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996)

Summary of changes to U.S. Policy during the Obama Administration created by the Latin American Working Group

2019 Cuba Advocacy Toolkit created by the Latin American Working Group has an excellent timeline from 2014 – 2019 showing the improvements to relations and the Trump rollback. Additional negative policy changes continue to occur.

Links to the next two webinars:

  1. July 30US-Cuba Relations, Cooperatives, and Community: https://crln.org/uscubarelationscooperativescommunity/
  2. August 6Healthcare System: Clients or Patients?: https://crln.org/healthcaresystemclientsorpatients/

For additional resources contact Marilyn McKenna at mmckenna@crln.org or Daisy Hernandez at dhernandez@crln.org

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CRLN’s 30th Anniversary Celebration speaker, Miriam Miranda, spoke of the retaliation against Garifuna communities for their struggle to protect their land from being taken by the government and given to palm oil plantations or tourist development corporations. Last year,16 members of Garifuna communities were assassinated.

Last Saturday, a group of Garifuna men were abducted by men wearing Honduran police investigative unit vests and driven away in unmarked cars. Click bit.ly/snidercenteno2 to learn more and contact your U.S. Representative and Senators to notify the State Department and Embassy to urge Honduran officials to find and return the men to their community.

For reporting on the incident: Nina Lakhani, “Fears growing for five Indigenous Garifuna men abducted in Honduras https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jul/23/garifuna-honduras-abducted-men-land-rights

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No ICE Citizens’ Academy Two Sign-On Letters: one to legislators & another to the ICE Field Office Director

Google Forms

I’ve invited you to fill out a form: CLICK THE LINK BELOW

No ICE Citizens’ Academy Two Sign-On Letters: one to legislators & another to the ICE Field Office Director

The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) & The St. Louis Interfaith Committee on Latin America (IFCLA) and Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) are circulating these organizational sign-on letters directed to local, state and federal authorities to put an immediate stop to the implementation of ICE’s ‘Citizens Academy’ set to start in Chicago on September 15, 2020.

Reach out at JCHernandez@crln.org if you have any questions.
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The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) and the St. Louis Interfaith Committee on Latin America (IFCLA) and Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD) are circulating these organizational sign-on letters directed to local, state and federal authorities to put an immediate stop to the implementation of ICE’s ‘Citizens Academy’ set to start in Chicago on September 15, 2020.

Reach out at JCHernandez@crln.org if you have any questions.
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To:

As you know, at a time when the nation is being forced to grapple with systemic police violence, ICE has invited civilians in Chicago to engage “in scenario-based training and exercises conducted in a safe and positive environment, including, but not limited to defensive tactics, firearms familiarization, and targeted arrests.” These actions by ICE are making the current environment even more frightening for immigrants and have raised alarm with local organizations and advocates across the country who see these types of training as potentially encouraging vigilantes to profile and target people in their communities.

The Trump administration’s power relies on the campaign of terror waged against migrants at the border and increased ICE raids at homes, on the street, at courthouses, and in workplaces. The administration has used escalated ICE presence in cities with policies that limit police collaboration with ICE, such as Chicago and New York, to threaten and intimidate these Cities. Of additional concern to the organizations is that ICE ERO is planning to hold this initial Academy in Chicago and include “scenario-based training and exercises” on firearms familiarization when just three years ago ICE agents shot an individual in Chicago during a raid.

We do not need citizens who feel empowered to further intimidate the most vulnerable in our communities. Additionally, we see this plan as an attempt by ICE to blur the public perception of the agency in order to get sympathy and erase the ways the agency has played into categorizing immigrants as dangerous criminals and justifying violent responses. These academies are part of strategies used by law enforcement to normalize violence and spread propaganda under the guise of improving community relations. Law enforcement agencies like ICE can’t improve community relations when they are part of the problem.

We believe that all people have inherent dignity and are deserving of basic human rights, including the freedom to live free from fear. The planned Citizens’ Academy will contribute to hostility towards immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the Chicago area.

We applaud the actions of Congressional representatives who are trying to cut off funding for this program. In recent days, the House Committee on Appropriations, successfully included an amendment to prohibit funding for this program in the Fiscal Year 2021 Homeland Security funding bill. Although these are positive moves in the right direction, the ‘Citizens Academy’ is still set to launch in Chicago this September. If allowed to move forward, the program would dangerously increase fear and discrimination against immigrant communities and lead to increased violence and racial profiling.

We call on the federal, state and local authorities to:

Prevent this academy: Private citizens should not feel empowered to fill in for police, ICE, or other authorities.

We, the undersigned, ask that you respond to our demand.

Letter 2

Letter to Robert Guadian

To: Robert Guadian, Field Office Director
Chicago.Outreach@ice.dhs.gov

Immigration and Customs Enforcement
101 W. Ida B. Wells Drive, Suite 400
Chicago, IL 60605

RE: Enforcement and Removal Operations Citizens Academy

Director Guadian:

We, the undersigned, write to you today to express our concerns and ask you to put an immediate stop to the implementation of the agency’s new Enforcement and Removal Operations Citizens Academy (ERO-ECA) in Chicago. As local and national organizations supporting immigrant communities across the region, we are deeply troubled at the agency’s plan to provide scenario-based training “including, but not limited to defensive tactics, firearms familiarization, and targeted arrests.” These actions by ICE are making the current environment even more frightening for immigrants, during a time when the nation is being forced to grapple with systemic police violence and racial injustice.

We are outraged by the prospect of ICE holding this training in Chicago and continue our commitment to protecting our undocumented neighbors. We denounce this plan to to recruit vigilantes in our communities. We do not need citizens who feel empowered to further intimidate undocumented people. Historically, Chicago ICE agents have used violence towards the people they target and use deceitful tactics to carry out raids in the area. The agency has also played into categorizing immigrants as dangerous criminals and justifying violent responses.

We believe that all people have inherent dignity and are deserving of basic human rights, including the freedom to live free from fear. The planned ‘ICE-ERO Academy’ will contribute to hostility towards immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. We call on you to stop the implementation of the ICE Enforcement Citizen Academy. Private citizens should not feel empowered to fill in for police, ICE, or other authorities. If allowed to move forward, the program would dangerously increase fear and discrimination against immigrant communities and lead to increased violence and racial profiling.

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