Protesting doesn’t “DO” anything

The other day a colleague told me that he doesn’t understand why people block the streets and disrupt his commute to protest. According to him, protesting doesn’t “DO” anything.

Immigration Ban Protest at Chicago’s Federal Plaza | source: wikimedia

When I questioned him further he told me “no serious policy change” has come about as a result of protest action. After I cited the civil rights movement of the 1960s, I was told “well that was different.”


These protests sprung from the centuries-old, systemic oppression of people of color by whites. The entire movement can be attributed to a marginalized minority group with no other course of redress. A government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” consisted and served only the interests of white Americans. Folks of color, primarily black people, were so disenfranchised and downtrodden by the societal apparatus that they had no other way to express themselves, vent their frustration, or be heard.

In the days before the Internet and social media, taking to the streets was akin to sharing a status or posting to a trending hashtag. Standing up for what you believe in, disrupting a majority group’s privilege, being heard, and being seen is, quite frankly, DOING a lot.

Congressman John Lewis as a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is beaten by white police officers on March 7, 1965. | source: US Embassy The Hague

Being in the streets, eating up government resources, reminding the majority that America does not stand for tyranny, and disrupting a status quo that seeks to dehumanize and disenfranchise minority groups calls attention. It calls a lot of attention.

But what about “counter-protesters”? Don’t they call a lot of attention too?

Today: A Trump rally where a black woman is beaten and verbally abused. Is it so different from a crowd of white people beating, fire hosing, and turning dogs upon black people in the streets?

Today: “Counter-protesters” in Berkeley who beat victims senseless while the police look on with indifference, or are complicit themselves. Dallas. Ferguson. Detroit. Cleveland. Baton Rouge.

A 1942 sign in a Detroit suburb. Make America Great Again? | source: wikimedia

So “counter-protesting” is not a real thing. It’s a term coined by modern day oppressors to whitewash acts of intimidation. Extra-judicial killings of minorities are not new to America. The shame of lynching, abuse, and systematic violence as a form of oppression continues.

The extra-judicial killing, lynching, of Laura Nelson in May 1911. | source: wikimedia

Recently race-based violence has superseded justice and imposed death sentences upon Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, John Crawford III, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, Tanisha Anderson, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Rumain Brisbon, Jerame Reid, and Laquan McDonald. for being of color. And it keeps happening. Again. And again.

So the next time you hear someone speaking from a place blinded by a history of privilege, check them. Check yourself. And acknowledge that protesting is a legitimate way of DOING something. Anything. For some people, it’s the only option they have.

Free Maribel Trujillo Diaz

Photo courtesy the Trujillo Family.

CLINIC needs your help as we work to keep Maribel Trujillo Diaz, a mother of four from Hamilton, Ohio, from being deported back to Mexico, a country she has not called home in 15 years. Currently her deportation is scheduled for Tuesday, April 11.

Maribel is the primary financial provider for her family, which includes a three-year-old child who suffers from seizures and a husband who is unable to work full time. She was brought to Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s attention in 2007 during an immigration raid at a Koch Foods, Inc. chicken plant. She was not charged with a crime then, and has complied with her mandatory check-ins over the years.

During her April 3 check-in, she was told she was not a priority for deportation, and to come back in May. Nevertheless, she was picked up by ICE two days later, while on her way to work. Maribel is the latest victim of inconsistent immigration policies and practices by the current administration. We are told recent arrivals and people with criminal records are the priorities for deportation, but more often people like Maribel are being taken from their families.

We are including CLINIC’s press release expressing our outrage surrounding Maribel’s detainment and scheduled deportation, as well as a statement from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Here are a few news stories telling Maribel’s story:

·        Cincinnati.com

·         The Guardian:

·         WHIO:

·         The Hamilton Journal:

·         The Catholic Telegraph:

·         Fusion:

·         Univision:

We are generating support by collecting signatures with this petition, and amplifying our message to ICE (@ICEgov) and the Department of Homeland Security (@DHSgov) using the hashtags #FreeMaribel or #MaribelLibertad. Specifically, supporters are encouraged to contact their members of Congress to speak up for Maribel and work to have her released.

Ohio residents, especially, should to contact Sens. Rob Portman, R-OH, and Sherrad Brown, D-OH. Portman can be can be reached via fax at 614-469-7719, and his Twitter handle is @senrobportman. Brown’s twitter handle is @SenSherrodBrown.

Sample tweets include:

·         I support the release of Maribel Trujillo! Her family needs her. @ICEgov @DHSgov #FreeMaribel

·         Making immigrants like Maribel leave does not make the country safer. It only terrorizes vulnerable people. @ICEgov @DHSgov #FreeMaribel

·         @ICEgov @DHSgov Returning Maribel to Mexico would put her life at risk, and potentially the lives of her U.S. citizen children. #FreeMaribel

·         @ICEgov @DHSgov Separating young children from their mother will cause unnecessary harm. I am against #detention and #deportation. #FreeMaribel

Here are some message points on which we want the conversation to focus:

·         Maribel is the primary breadwinner for her family. Deporting her would leave four U.S. her children without their mother’s care, or potentially force these citizens to leave the only home they have ever known for a country they’ve never even visited.

·         Maribel fled her home state in Mexico because of the extreme violence and terror inflicted by gangs and cartels. Her father was a victim of that violence less than two years ago. It is irresponsible to send her, and potentially her U.S. citizen children, into such harsh conditions.

·         For years under previous administrations, the U.S. government was not concerned about Maribel because she was an upstanding member of her community. Now, the current administration is using her, and others like her, to “make a point” that they are being tough on immigration. Taking immigrants without properly notifying their families and attorneys is unacceptable. The U.S. government should not be in the business of making people disappear, or harming families to push a political agenda.

·         As a lay leader in her parish, Maribel is an important part of her community. Last year, when Maribel was close to deportation, thousands of her supporters throughout Butler County and Cincinnati sent letters, pleading for her to stay. A woman like Maribel, tied to her community and working hard to support her family, is no threat to public safety and is not a flight risk.

If you are in or near Cincinnati, Ohio, please encourage people to participate in the “Mercy for Maribel” prayer service at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 9, to pray that she will not be deported, but be allowed to remain with her loving family in Hamilton.

Participants will gather at St. Joseph Church, 171 Washington Street, Hamilton, Ohio 45011, which is at the corner of Second and Washington Streets.  From there, they will pray the rosary in a procession from the church to the Butler County jail, about a 10-minute walk away.

Please follow our social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter (@cliniclegal) to stay up-to-date on Maribel’s case. We are also working to reopen her asylum case in the meantime.

Family Detention Shames American Values

The phenomenon of family detention, taking place in facilities in southern Texas, indefinitely imprisons women and children, defying fundamental principles of our great nation which we celebrated this past 4th of July weekend.

Source: ABC News

Ordered by the Obama administration in response to the 2014 spike in undocumented migration from Central America, women and children are often denied timely access to medical attention, legal counsel, and basic nutrition. Idyllically named “family residential centers,” these facilities are not to be confused for what they really are: internment camps for victimized people fleeing out-of-control gang violence, violence against women, dysfunctional civil societies, and outrageously corrupt governments.

Source: Wall Street Journal

As a Peace Corps Volunteer living in Guatemala I can definitively affirm systematic corruption, convoluted bureaucracy, and wanton incompetence at every level of government. With impunity in the 90th percentile, Guatemalan people—especially women and children—have few legal rights or recourse in their home country. The Guatemalan government is unable, and even unwilling, to address crime. Flouting an oligarchic power structure, maintained by the top 20% of Guatemala’s wealthy ruling class, Guatemalan leaders make a mockery out of good governance.

The United States plays a historically significant role in destabilizing democracy in—from the bloody staged civil wars in Guatemala and El Salvador to the Banana Republics and Sandinistas, through Panama which was broken off from Colombia by the CIA in order to facilitate a 99-year deal for the construction of the Panama Canal. Detaining women and children who are fleeing the consequences of past US actions is not the answer to these contemporary issues.

Having just celebrated yet another anniversary of the longest-standing democracy in the modern world, family detention goes beyond unconstitutionality. It violates every fiber of what is America and what we stand for: liberty and justice for all. Rather than address the problem of massive northward migration at the source, the Obama administration has taken the easy route over the moral high ground upon which the President won two terms in office.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

Inscribed on our Statue of Liberty, the President seems to have forgotten his own roots and immigrant past. The man who now jails helpless children, forcing them to wait upwards of 8 hours for necessary medical care, seems so different from the freshman Senator Obama who traveled to sub-Saharan Africa and publically took an HIV test with his wife. Michelle Obama’s “Let Girls Learn” initiative through the US Peace Corps is overshadowed by the Obamas’ hypocrisy where the downtrodden, abused, and dejected women of Central America are denied interpreters and education for themselves and their children.

Source: Texas Tribune

The Department of Homeland Security will argue that medical services are available. Overcrowded medical trailers cannot accommodate the high volume of need in these brimming internment camps. Do detainees have access to lawyers? The attorney trailer, occupied mostly by pro-bono lawyers, can only fit 60 persons at any given time. And what about education? Schooling is available to Spanish-speaking children—but living in prison with limited access to medical care, crying and broken mothers fleeing abuse, and a diet of chicken nuggets, beans, and tortillas are not conducive to positive youth development. And what of non-Spanish speakers? Latin America is home to 37 language families and 448 distinct indigenous languages. With violence, impunity, and extreme poverty (often resulting from the aforementioned oligarchical power structure) arriving in rural communities, more monolingual indigenous people are making the trip north.

Family residential centers are simply under equipped and unqualified for the task they have been charged with. Gang violence and political instability are directly correlated to America’s drug habit and lopsided foreign policy in Latin America dating back to the Cold War. It is time to demand the President end this un-American and unjust practice. The real way towards curbing undocumented migration is to address the paradigm of failed governance that exists in Central America’s Northern Triangle. Family internment is a poorly-applied bandaid atop a festering wound.

Source: The New York Times

For more information about the week stint I’ll be doing in Dilley, TX at the Dilley Family Residential Center following my Peace Corps service:

Correction: The CIA did not exist until almost 50 years after the coup in Panama. The US Navy supported the Panamanian rebellion. Thanks to reader, friend, and RPCV Sammy B. for bringing this to my attention.


Cabal en Chimal is a series about my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer living and working in Guatemala’s department of Chimaltenango. Bi-weekly on Trabajo Thursday, this series highlights the triumphs and challenges of development work in the Guatemalan context.

My work in Guatemala as a Peace Corps Volunteer would not be possible without the folks working at the Coverdell Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington D.C. As a federal agency, the Corps are unquestionably impacted by the federal funding dilemma. While it’s shameful and cowardly what House and Senate Republicans are doing to delay the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), I would like to thank some truly admirable people of the Peace Corps/ Washington staff for their service to this country. In a recent email to PC posts worldwide Carrie Hessler-Radelet, PC’s current Acting Director, said the following to all staff and serving volunteers:

I want you to know that we have made a conscious decision to prioritize continuous operations in our host countries over headquarters activities.  In fact, over 90 percent of Peace Corps’ US-based staff – both in Washington and in our regional recruiting offices – have been furloughed.  This action, combined with good financial planning, has allowed us to keep Volunteers in the field throughout the government shutdown.

So hats off to the noble folks on the homefront who have taken a big hit for us in the field.

At that I would like to remind everyone that the PPACA was passed by the 111th Congress and signed into Law by President Obama on March 23, 2010. While debate surrounding this legislation was indeed extremely polarized and polemic, its passage unquestionably followed the course of due process outlined in our founding charter known as the United States Constitution. Furthermore, the constitutionality of the vast majority of the provisions contained therein were upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius last June 2012.

Further delay of PPACA’s implementation is a gross overstep of legislative authority and an egregious travesty of constitutional law. I woe the irony in that the Republicans and Tea Partiers leading the blackmail of the Senate, holding the fundamental right to a functioning government over the heads of the American people, got elected as self-proclaimed defenders of the constitution. I wonder how many of them have ever taken the time to read it- specifically the parts on how a bill becomes a law and the basis of judicial review.

Perhaps Hessler-Radelet for Congress wouldn’t be such a bad idea:

Thank you for your hard work, dedication, and patience throughout this process, and for your continued service to the Peace Corps, your country of service, and the American people.  I really appreciate the commitment, energy, ideas, and innovation you bring to your job.  Every day you are improving the lives of people across the globe.  As tough as this shutdown is for all of us, I am inspired every single day by the work that you do — and what I read in your blogs, email, videos and letters keeps me focused on what is really important.  We will persevere through this time of difficulty.  It is important to me that you know that you, as always, are our highest priority.

Thanks Peace Corps for having my back and the interests of the people we came to serve firmly at heart.