“Let the Children Come to Me”

26 Jun

immigrant children3 Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

There has been a lot of press as of late speaking of the influx of children coming into the United States from Central America. Since 2009, there has been an a dramatic rise of unaccompanied children coming from Central America.  Why?

Some believe that they are coming here because they are looking for a better life and have heard that the U.S. is easier on children than adults.

Why would children risk crossing deserts, going hungry, risking the possibility of being trafficked, etc.?  Why would parents allow this?

The United Nations has been asking these same questions.  Brian Resnick of the National Journal questioned Leslie Velez , senior protection officer at the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.  “The normal migration patterns in this region have changed,” Ms. Velez stated. They are not coming for economic opportunity.  They are fleeing for their lives.”  The U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees surveyed 404 children from Mexico and Central America.  The report states that “no less than 58 percent of the 404 children interviewed were forcibly displaced” to a degree that warranted international protection. If the U.S. refuses these children, it could be in breach of U.S. conventions.  These are refugees no more or less than we are seeing in the Middle East. This time we are the receiving country.

Why are they fleeing for their lives?  In 2009, the democratically elected President of Honduras was overthrown by a military coup ( some of whom are graduates of the School of the Americas).  The U.S. has provided support ever since in the form of arms and support for the corrupt government that emerged after dubious elections in 2009 and 2013.

“Since 2008, the U.S. has spent over $800 million in security aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador through ‘Central American Regional Security Initiative’ (CARSI) in addition to millions more in bilateral military and police aid to each country.” (SOA Watch 6/19/2014)

Violence in Honduras is so high that people are scared for their lives.  Children are being recruited by gangs and drug cartels in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  They are given little choice because of their vulnerability.  Adult gang members and drug pushers feel that children provide them with safe cover.  These children  don’t want to be in gangs or to be involved with the drug cartels so they flee.  This is similar to the child soldiers we heard about in Uganda.

It is easy to think that children are coming to the United States from Central America for a better economic life.  It appears that, at least for 60% of them, they are just coming for a chance to live.

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious just came out with a statement on this.  https://lcwr.org/media/lcwr-statement-children-crossing-borders-alone

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have had several testimonies given to Congress. http://www.usccb.org/about/migration-policy/

You can also give testimony to your congressperson.  Let them know that the humanitarian approach to this is to treat the children as refugees and increase funding for immigrant services.

 

No April Fools, It Has Happened Again

1 Apr

 

BP protestOn Monday, March 22, 2014, the British Petroleum Plant in Whiting, Indiana spilled over 1600 gallons of oil into Lake Michigan. BP in Whiting, Indiana is the largest refiner of tar sands in the United States.  It took hours before this was reported to the EPA, which requires that you immediately inform them of a spill.

If this was a crude oil spill, it is bad enough.  If the spill contained tar sands, it will go to the floor of the lake and continue to poison Lake Michigan.

Many are concentrating on stopping the Keystone XL pipeline from being approved. That is the right thing to do. What many may not realize is that Tar Sands is flowing through pipelines already approved in the U.S. One Enbridge pipeline spilled 877,000 gallons of tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River in July, 2010. The cleanup is not complete over three years later.

When I reported about the Kalamazoo spill and protest actions that occurred to make sure this never happens again, little did I know that just three months after that blog, I would be reporting about another blog.  This time in Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan is one of the largest sources of drinking water in the Midwest. We have been warned over and over again about the necessity of protecting our natural resources.  When will we learn.

British Petroleum was just taken off the no contract list. They were put on this list after the Gulf oil spill.  This shows they need to go back on the list.  They cannot be allowed access to our water resources.

On March 28, members of Global Climate Convergence Chicago held an emergency response demonstration at British Petroleum America’s Midwest Headquarters.  Letters and petitions will be sent to the Environmental Protection Agency and our representatives and senators.  Something needs to be done to put back protections that were removed from the Clean Water Act during the Bush administration.

The GCC, in conjunction with multiple environmental organizations, issues the following demands:

  • The EPA immediately begins testing our water to ensure that it is safe to drink, and publishes their findings.
  • BP is returned to the federal no contract list – which they were removed from only THIS month following their contamination of the Gulf Coast – so that public money does not fund their damage to the ecosystem.
  •  BP may no longer divert resources from the public – e.g. the use of contracted police officers to prevent citizens from entering the land that has been contaminated- to shield themselves from warranted investigation.
  • The city of Chicago becomes a green-energy leader by shifting our energy sources to 100% renewables-based.

Even though British Petroleum has reassured us that the cleanup was successful, based on past history, we have real concerns.

For more information about Global Climate Convergence actions in your area, go to http://www.globalclimateconvergence.org.

Earth Day to May Day – Global Climate Convergence

27 Feb

1gcc2

http://globalclimateconvergence.org/2014/02/19/video-tim-dechristopher-climate-change-is-the-context-of-our-times/

In the past, most activism has followed the following path.  Demonstration on Immigration Reform will be held and that is the only issue referred to.  Earth Day is about the environment and that is the only issue discussed on that day. May Day is about Labor and Immigration (due to the obvious connection with labor).

This year, a call is going out to have all issues relating to people, planet and peace connect over 10 days beginning with Earth Day and ending (?) with May Day.  The reason I put a question mark after ending, is that we hope that this will really be just the beginning of a worldwide movement of making connections.

We are very much at a tipping point in our world.  We have reached a critical CO2 mass in our atmosphere of 400 parts per million .  (The Guardian, November 6, 2013) There is a shortage of potable water in California and other locations in the world.  Meanwhile, fracking and the transportation of tar sands and Bakken oil threaten Mother Earth. (go to Tar Sands Free Midwest on Facebook)

The fight for a minimum wage in order for people to have the basic necessities of life is being blocked by the desire for more and more profit.  Labor is being cut, while the average CEO is making 273 times the average pay of their employees. (Washington Post, June 26, 2013).

The social safety net is being dramatically unravelled, while the call for tax cuts for the wealthiest is often heard.

Pope Francis recognized this when he stated in “The Joy of the Gospel”Paragraph 56 : “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.”

Individual groups cannot really make the impact that is needed.  Combined efforts can begin to shape a new future in which everyone has what they need and the earth and all that dwells upon it is secure. A new world is possible, if only we act.

To find out about events happening in your area, please go to http://globalclimateconvergence.org .

SOA/WHINSEC Name Change — Same Shame

23 Jan

004

“Stemming from our Franciscan values and the fact that all life is interconnected, members, vowed and non-vowed are encouraged to be engaged in ministry with those living on the margins of society and struggling to live with dignity.” 26th General Chapter Congregational Commitments 2013

“The 2013 November Vigil energized the movement. The weekend gathering was vibrant and featured creativity in many different facets. Many participated for the first time in the annual vigil. On Sunday, November 24, thousands walked in a solemn funeral procession and commemorated those who have been killed by SOA/ WHINSEC graduates and U.S. militarization. The procession transitioned into an upbeat celebration of life and resistance, after Oscar Romero’s last sermon was blasted through the stage speaker system, and a banner with our message, and thousands of soap bubbles crossed over the barb-wired fence. The vigil weekend included for the first time a Peoples Movement Assembly (PMA) on Saturday morning. As part of the PMA, hundreds of movement activists gathered in small groups and discussed questions about the role of nonviolent direct action in the context of an increasingly militarized prison system. SOA Watch activists are taking the discussion back to their communities. The questions that we are focusing on are: is there a need to shift to other creative ways of continuing the tradition of direct action? What are your thoughts on nonviolent direct action and prison witness considering both our movement’s history and today’s context? The other main question focused on our grassroots organizing strategies. The conversations continue and we are looking forward to everyone’s input.” SOA Watch

I went to the SOA Watch gathering and demonstration the weekend of November 22-24,2013.  It was amazing to see the diversity of age, gender, race represented by those present for this weekend.  Nonviolence was present throughout the weekend by the demonstrators.  Infiltration of movement by plain clothes police officers was readily apparent.  Some were the same officers who infiltrated the group last year and then testified at the trial.  We  counted about 10 officers, but the commander suggested there were quite a few more.  A police helicopter buzzed the group (flew at about 100 feet above) causing some to duck from fear of being hit and causing some of the vendors to run after t-shirts that were now flying around the concrete.

When does national security become a pretext for attacking freedom of speech?  SOA Watch has filed a Freedom of Information request with the Columbus Georgia police to get any files they might have on the demonstration/demonstrators.

Our message remains the same.  Shut Down the School of the Americas by any name.  It has caused the grief and torture of our brothers and sisters in Latin and Central America for too long.   This continues and so shall we continue to protest it.  Our faith demands this of us.

For more information go to soaw.org

Peace for Earth this Christmas and Always

18 Dec

“Praised be to You, my Lord, through our Sister Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.” The Canticle of Brother Sun by St. Francis of Assisi  line 9

While we call for peace on earth and peace to all people during this Christmas season, we should also look at what we are doing to Mother Earth.  A lot of discussion has been focussed on stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline from bringing tar sands from Canada to the United States, there are tar sands pipelines that have already begun pumping this heavy sludge into our country.

The tar sands are coming from northern Canada, home of the Arboreal Forest — one of the largest rain forests left on our earth.  In order to get to the tar sands, these trees must be removed.

There is a pipeline running through Michigan that has already created a spill in the Kalamazoo river.

“Oil spill amounts

Enbridge initially reported the pipeline break released 819,000 gallons of crude. The company later revised that amount to 843,000 gallons. At EPA’s direction, Enbridge has provided regular, updated estimates of how much oil it has recovered since the spill. These estimates are based on methods worked out with EPA technical experts to determine the amount of oil in all waste recovery categories: oil, contaminated water, soil, vegetation, debris, and cleanup materials. As of this May, Enbridge estimates the company has recovered 1.15 million gallons of oil from the Kalamazoo River.

Remaining oil and future recovery

EPA estimates about 180,000 gallons of Line 6B oil (plus or minus 100,000 gallons) remain in the river bottom sediment. EPA has ordered Enbridge to remove the recoverable oil (about 12,000-18,000 gallons) by dredging.
The 162,000-168,000 gallons of oil that will remain in the river after this dredging work is complete will not be able to be recovered right away without causing significant adverse impacts to the river. Instead, it must be carefully monitored and collected over time using traps that gather contaminated sediment. Future oil recovery will depend on whether the crude eventually moves to the areas with these sediment traps.”  EPA response to Enbridge Spill in Michigan, August 16, 2013

There are many frightening aspects of the impact of Tar Sands production on our environment.  In some cases, old oil pipelines are being used to push through the Tar Sands to refineries in the U.S.  Some have not been upgraded to account for the massive pressure needed to push this heavy tar through the pipes.  There have been a number of spills already.  The Kalamazoo river is only one.  They can dredge up the heavy tar, but the chemicals in the tar sands are mixed in the water.  Information is not forthcoming on the dangers of these chemicals on the  water supply.

The tar sands coming from Canada into Indiana and nearby are being refined by the British Petroleum Refinery in Whiting, Indiana. The waste product is called pet coke.  This product is transported by KCBX (Koch Brothers) into Chicago, Illinois and stored without cover on the Southeast Side.  On any windy day this product (which is like a fine ash) will fly around residential neighborhoods nearby.  Residents have to keep their windows closed, children cannot play outside, and everything is covered by this pet coke.  This product is then sold outside the U.S. for heating, especially to China.  If you have seen the latest pictures from Shanghai, you will see why China does not need anymore dirty fuel to add to their pollution.

On a positive note.  Pressure from the residents of the Southeast Side and activists have caused one storage place to remove the pet coke.  The Koch brothers still maintain another  open storage space nearby.

May we continue the struggle for Peace on Earth and Peace for Earth this Christmas and for the coming years.  Our children deserve a future filled with beauty.

For further information go to http://www.tarsandsfreemidwest.org or join Tar Sands Free Midwest on Facebook.

No human is illegal — the case for immigration reform

11 Nov

blog_country_immigrantsNow that the Government shutdown has been lifted and the debt ceiling crisis has been averted, President Obama has insisted that immigration reform become a priority for this Congress.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for the following elements to be included in any immigration reform law:

The reform

  • Provides a path to citizenship for undocumented persons in the country;
  • Preserves family unity as a cornerstone of our national immigration system;
  • Provides legal paths for low-skilled immigrant workers to come and work in the United States:
  • Restores due process to our immigrant enforcement policies;
  • Addresses the root causes of migration, such as persecution and economic disparity

There have been some myths that have been raised regarding undocumented immigration.

Immigrants cost the country billions of dollars in services.

According to the Cato Institute: the average immigrant pays $80,000 in their lifetime in taxes than they collect in government services.

http://cato.org/pubs/handbook/hb108/hb108-63.pdf

Undocumented immigrants bring crime into the country

In reality, while the undocumented population doubled between 1994 – 2005, violent crime dropped by 34%. Property crime dropped by 32%.  This is based on documentation gathered by the American Immigration Council.

There have been over 2 million deportations during the Obama Administration.  On November 6 and 7 people in major cities in the United States called for an end to these deportations and the passing of the Immigration Reform Bill.

November 13, 2013—Feast of St. Frances Cabrini

St. Frances Cabrini is the patron saint of immigrants. Honor her feast day by contacting Congress calling for Immigration Reform.

  • Join Justice for Immigrants’ national Call-to-Congress   855-589-5698 and tell them it’s time to fix our broken immigration system. Feel free to use this script:

I am from City, State, Congregation /Community and as a person of faith, I support genuine immigration reform. I urge the Representative to persuade House leadership to take up immediately  reform that creates a path to citizenship and reunites families. Give us reason to be grateful this Thanksgiving. Pass genuine  immigration reform before the Thanksgiving recess!

Through all of our efforts, let us remember Francis’ words in the Canticle of Brother Sun:

“Blessed are those who endure in peace for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.”

The measure of a civilization….

16 Oct

hands-holding-bowl-of-rice-thumb12974611Mahatma Ghandi stated that “the measure of a civilization is in how it treats its weakest members.”  What happens when a civilization (a government) ignores its weakest and most impoverished members.  As I write this blog, we are commemorating the United Nations’ designated “World Hunger Day.”  We are also watching  our government in total gridlock attempting to prevent the destruction of a world economy.  There are concerns about what will happen to the stock market?  Will we lose more jobs? What about the poor?

On Tuesday, September 17, the Census Bureau released the 2012 statistics.  (You could try to verify this data through http://www.census.gov, but when I went to the site today it was closed due to the government shutdown. This analysis is from Reuters http://www.reuters.com)  The number of U.S. residents in poverty rose slightly to 46.5 million in 2012.  This includes 16.1 million children and 3.9 million seniors aged 65 and older.  The national poverty rate of 15% remained unchanged.

Although many of the number of jobs lost since the recession have been recouped (8 million), many of those jobs are in service industries that usually don’t pay well.

While the poor and working poor have been struggling to maintain the basic necessities of life, Congress has been shrinking the social safety net to reduce the government’s budget deficit.  Those citizens least able to afford it are being forced to suffer to reduce the budget. Yet those who have actually benefitted since the recession are left alone or given stimulus packages. The food stamp program has been reduced, so that recipients will have a reduction in their food stamps in November.  Food pantries and soup kitchens are fearful of the impact this will have on their already overburdened programs.

Pope Francis has made it clear where he stands. “Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this. How can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?” …”

We know where Pope Francis stands.  We know where the original Francis of Assisi stood.  Let those in power know where we stand… with the impoverished members of our society… and we expect them to stand with us.

Amen.

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