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Be a Champion for Justice – Oct 22 Fundraiser!

Join us on Sunday, October 22nd from 4-7 p.m. at the Two Brothers Roundhouse in Aurora for our 6th Annual NIJFON fundraiser.  Help us honor this year’s Champions for Justice Awardees:  Bishop Sally Dyck and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and celebrate JFON’s work from the last year.

Sunday, Oct. 22
4 – 7 pm
Two Brothers Roundhouse
205 N Broadway Ave
Aurora

For information on tickets and sponsorships, please click here

To download an order form to mail in, please click Sponsor-ticket order form

The Illusion of Inclusion: The many broken promises made to Haitian Refugees. By Mannis R. Wesley III (Co-Chair Communications)

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Per the United Nations Human High Commissioner for Refugee Rights  (UNHCR), there are 63.5 million people (1 out of 113 people) who are refugees worldwide.  While some refugees receive the aid and service they need to turn their lives around, other refugees are not so fortunate.  Some refugees get denied services based on racial ethnicity, political interests, and economic status. The Haitian refugee crisis depicts this unfortunate circumstance. Studies have shown that Haitian refugees have experienced systematic and physical abuse for years without many repercussions. Agencies have failed to abide the policies of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. This article will explore the plight of Haitian refugees in Brazil and in the United States and the many fallacies of their policies that are suppose to serve in the best interest of ALL Refugees but don’t.

 

In 2010, after a devastating earthquake impacted Haiti, over 76,000 Haitians migrated to Brazil in search of a better life for his/her families. Governmental leaders granted refugees “Humanitarian Status”. Although at first this was a good “gesture”, the Humanitarian visa limits refugees mostly to refugee camps and decreases their access to basic policies. Refugee camps are inhumane and are below satisfactory.  For example, in the refugee camp Brasileia, 830 immigrants were living inside of a warehouse built for just 200 people sharing 10 lavatories, 8 showers, with sewage leaks and no hygienic products. In the camp, refugees were complaining about diarrhea due to poor food and water. Even the refugees who were fortunate to get jobs were forced to suffer the unacceptable living conditions of “work camps”. Workers are being abused at the work place (meager pay, no benefits, slave labor). For instance, 100 Haitians were rescued from the mining company Anglo American. Some of the workers had stomach ulcers due to poor quality food and water. Another example; 21 Haitians were rescued from a work site with barely any beds and no water to drink at times. Even workers who are injured at the worksite are provided with very little medical attention. Example; A 26-year-old construction worker fractured his spine and arm. For compensation, he received 70 dollars. Currently, Brazil is experience an economic recession which has costs over 385,000 construction jobs. Conditions in Brazil have gotten so unbearable for Haitian refugees that some have decided to migrate back to Haiti and …. Some have decided to continue their migration to the United States.

 

Unfortunately, things are no better in the United States for Haitian refugees.  Since 2010, The United States has seen an influx of Haitian refugees. The United States government  granted refugees a humanitarian parole provision (Temporary Protected Status ) that allowed refugees to stay in the country for up to 3 years. Recently this year, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced that the government will resume deportations of Haitian Refugees. Johnson states “The situation in Haiti was improved sufficiently to permit the U.S. government to remove Haitian nationals on a more regular basis, consistent with the practice for nationals from other nations”.

          This point of view can be argued because Haiti isn’t improving due to these reasons. According to the annual report by the organization Amnesty International these disturbing traits were found:

  1. Between 2015-2016, the Haitian governmental elections resulted mass incidents of violence
  2. Haiti experienced a severe drought in the North-West and Southwest of the country which affected food security and nutrition for families living near the Dominican-Haitian border
  3. 60,000 Haitians who were homeless because of the earth quake of 2010 still lived in below average camps. Most of the humanitarian programs were stopped due to the lack of funding and the Haitian government still hasn’t found an efficient solution to address the thousands of displaced people
  4. Cholera is still a major issue as 9,013 people have died from this condition between October 2010 to August 2015

 

It is predicted that over 40,000 Haitian immigrants are currently in transit to the United States with most of the refugees migrating from Brazil after the summer Olympics and economic downturn. There is a dark reality that most of these refugees will be deported without a fair shot to prove why they should stay in the United States. Haitians are now subject to fast-track expedited removal process which allows refugees to be sent to detention centers. The plight of Haitian Refugees is not always respected by U.S Customs and Border Protection Officers and even unaccompanied minors are being sent to detention centers, which goes against the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. It can be said that customs officials do not classify Haitian immigrants as people worthy of refugee status.  For instance, in 2012, of the 23,000 Haitians who received green cards, most immigrants received it through only family sponsored petitions (87 percent).  Haitian immigrants who did not have family in the United States faced an uphill challenge to get a visa.

 

Experts have debated for decades about whether Haitian refugees are being discriminated against by U.S. governmental agencies. THERE ARE FACTS TO PROVE THIS NOTION about the United States questionable and inconsistent refugee policies relating to Haitian Refugees.  Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere with a long history of authoritarian rule. An estimated 40,000 people were jailed, tortured or killed between 1957-1986. Before 1991, an influx of refugees came to the United States seeking asylum. During the presidency of Ronald Reagan, Haitian refugees were only classified as “economic refugees” and were unqualified to remain in the United States. This course of action violates the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol which prohibits agencies from deporting refugees that demonstrate a “fear if returning back to his/her country”. I think that Authoritarian rule, torture and murder justifies a refugee being allowed refugee status. To further elaborate on the United States questionable policies, The Sale v. Haitian Council Inc. Supreme court ruling gave the U.S governmental agencies the authority to repatriate refugees WITHOUT A COURT HEARING and states that this action does not interfere with international law. Now fast forward to 2010; the year of the devastating earthquake which killed 230,000 people and made 1.5 million people homeless; over 31,000 people have been evacuated from Haiti to the United States. As of 2016 only 1700 people have received legal status to stay in the United States.

To prove more that Haitian immigrants are discriminated against, favoritism of Cuban migrants by the U.S. government is becoming more and more transparent. Cuba ranks as the fifth largest immigrant-sending country to the United States. In 2008 alone, 49,500 Cubans became lawful permanent residents in the United States. In 1966, The Cuban Adjustment Act was created and it permits Cuban immigrants who were living in the U.S. after January 1, 1959 for at least 1 year to adjust to permanent residence status. Further, the Statute was amended in 1996 and it implies that Cuban migrants found at the border (On land) can be inspected and often be exempt from deportation.  Haitian refugees never benefited from policies like this. As a matter of fact, The Humanitarian Parole provision provided Haitian immigrants with a “tourist visa” which prohibited immigrants from attaining employment which lead to the temptation of illegal residence and labor.  This placed Haitians at a higher risk of being placed in detention camps. U.S. immigration law places no time limit on how long immigrants in detention centers can be held.

Experts also argued that political interests, racial background plays a major role in the United States immigration preferences. For instance

  1. Due to the disdain of the Cuban Castro regime by US policymakers, experts state that the influx of Cuban refugees are welcomed heavily to the United States because in return, it would weakened the regime.
  2. The NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus argues that U.S interdiction policy is racially bias. (64 percent of population in Cuba is White, 9 percent Black) while the Haitian population is 95 percent Black and 5% percent White.
  3. Education and Literacy rates cannot be the sole reason why Haitian refugees are being deported at a higher rate. According to statistics education and literacy rates are nearly identical between Cuban and Haitian Refugees. 18 percent of Haitian immigrants have a bachelor’s degree or higher/21 percent for Cubans. 54 percent of Haitian immigrants has Limited English Proficiency/ 62 percent for Cubans.  Only 15% of Haitian Immigrants were classified as Refugees and asylum seekers/ 82 percent for Cubans.

 

All in all, much work needs to be done to provide fair and consistent policies for ALL REFUGEES.  For nations that claim to represent law and order, hypocrisy when it comes to the treatment of vulnerable refugee populations should never be tolerated. Everybody, deserves a chance at a stable and prosperous life and governmental interests, racism and bias needs to be halted. With the devastating impact of Hurricane Matthews on Haiti, and the massive deportations by U.S governmental agencies, unfortunately, the future of Haitian refugees is uncertain.

 

 

The African Refugee Crisis at a Glance, By Mannis Wesley III (NIJFON Board Chair of Communications)

                According to the Center for Preventive Actions (CPA), there are currently 28 ongoing global conflicts around the world.  It can be said that only a few of these conflicts are being showcased by media outlets whether it’s due to small westernized interests or propaganda reasons. To date, Africa is the most conflicted continent in the world with thousands of victims dying each year, which in return leaves thousands of refugees vulnerable without the basic social entities needed to survive. The most developed country in Africa; South Africa; has portrayed decades of xenophobia and systematic abuse against African refugees.  As the most liberal African democracy, South Africa is a mecca for refugees. It receives the most asylum applications in Africa and many are political refugees from countries where violence and anti US rhetoric is rampant. This has placed a strain on SA’s resources and there are credible fears that refugees fail to integrate socially, politically and economically. Worst, there are instances of violence, police bribery, and unfair and inhumane treatment of refugees at the governmental agencies that are supposed to assist them.
During an internship with the South African organization PASSOP (People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty) in 2013, I witnessed such treatment and unrest and wrote articles that shed light on the inequities experienced by refugees and asylum seekers in Cape Town. Refugees are often destitute, isolated, or returned to their home countries, where some are placed in refugee camps vulnerable to armed conflict and radical groups.   The expansion of radical groups poses a threat to US national security since most of them are resentful towards the US. Most are tied to and receive funds from Al-Qaeda and groups such as the Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab have terrorized communities and abducted young adults.
Although a model for democracy, discriminatory attitudes learned during the Apartheid era have not yet disappeared, and the South African government’s poor delivery of services have contributed to xenophobia. These issues destabilize the region and pose a threat to United States national security interests.  One such refugee crisis that posts a threat to the United States National Security is the Boko Haram conflict of Nigeria.
Boko Haram is an Islamic terrorist movement based in Northeast Nigeria with ties to Chad, Niger, and northern Cameroon. This group has up to 10,000 people and has been linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL. Between 2009 and 2014, Boko Haram has killed more than 5,000 civilians. The name “Boko Haram” constitutes, as “western influence is a sin” and refers to western education as “fake”. Any citizens supporting westernized culture are being condemned by Boko Haram through rape, torture, kidnappings, and murder. And worst, the refugee camps in Nigeria seem to be escalating the problem through below average services and inhumane treatment.
According to the medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF), 1,200 people have died from starvation and illness in the refugee aid camps of Northeastern Nigeria. This refugee camp contained over 24,000 people (15,000 were children). To say that this camp is “overcrowded” is an understatement. As the MSF team continued to examine this refugee camp, they have found 1,233 graves near the camp that have been dug within the past year with 480 of the graves belonging to children. Overall in Nigeria, according to statistics, five children per hour are dying of starvation.  Over 3.5 million Nigerians face food insecurity and there is over 1.5 million malnourished children under the age of 5.
As stated earlier in the write-up, not addressing refugee crises poses a national security threat to westernized nations. According to officials, European nations could suffer drastically from this notion. Intelligence officials report that Boko Haram soldiers are currently breaking into refugee camps and are in the process of transporting young children and women north towards the Mediterranean Sea to be suicide bombers and could be strategically planning to target European capitals. In general, radical groups love to recruit people who are “helpless”’ and “vulnerable” and who have nowhere else to go.
In 2015, The United States has provided more that $359 million to Nigeria to assist people affected by the Boko Haram crisis. These funds was intended to provide humanitarian assistance, including food, water, shelter, and services to address acute hygiene, protection, and nutritional needs. This is a very positive step… but could more be done by the United States to assists these victims? Could refugee Resettlement be a better and more reliable option?  In 2016, The President of the United States Barack Obama finalized the annual refugee presidential determination. The presidential determination in consultation with congress determines how many refugees can be admitted annually into the United States. In 1980 over 200,000 refugees were admitted in the United States. Now fast forward to 2016 which has more global conflicts throughout the world  and the United States has a much bigger budget than it did in the 80’s…. yet the presidential determination statute for 2016 is only at 85,000 refugees. Many factors play a role into the decreased number of refugee admittance but one thing is for certain,  MORE REFUGEES NEED TO BE ADMITTED INTO THE UNITED STATES TO PROVIDE THEM SAFE HAVEN AND PATHWAY TO A PRODUCTIVE LIFE.   The best way to combat terrorism is to have a sense of compassion for people who are most affected by these terrorist groups… refugees.
Pictures from a Refugee Reception Center in Cape Town, South Africa (Summer 2013)
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Celebrate our “Champions for Justice” at JFON’s 5th Annual Dinner

5th Annual Dinner

Sunday, Sept. 18

4:30 Gathering, 5:00 Dinner

Elgin Community College, Building E

1700 Spartan Drive

Click Here to Register: $50 per person

5th annual dinner flier 2016 Champions

Rev. Michael Mann & Rev. Lisl Heymans Paul will receive the “Champions for Justice” Founders Award for their key roles in establishing NorMichael & Lisl May Day Marchthern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors.  Join us in honoring them and others, hear from our attorneys and volunteers, and listen to music performed by former clients as we support the work of Northern Illinois JFON.  Would you like to write a special message to Lisl or Michael in our Program Book?  Honor your own personal “Champion for Justice?”  Promote your business or organization? Click on: Sponsor Specs 7-9-16 for information on sponsorship opportunities!