To Those Who Were Ever Oppressed: Time to Pay it Forward



The time has come to pay it forward.

Those of us who were ever poor white, African American, Asian American, Middle Eastern American, German American, Irish American, indigenous from anywhere, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Pentecostal, atheist, LGBTQ, or a woman

and someone who was not poor white, African American, Asian American, Middle Eastern American, German American, Irish American, indigenous from anywhere, LGBTQ, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Mormon, Pentecostal, atheist, a day laborer, or a woman actively worked to change the system which was oppressing us:

it is time for us to try to change the system which is oppressing undocumented people and others today.

#Resist #JusticeNotDeals #Not1More

A Christian Border Patrol Agent’s Reflection on The Border Wall

Now that Donald Trump has been elected president, immigration as a topic of Christian concern has re-surfaced—or, in some cases, simply surfaced.

My mind often wanders to this encounter I had with a deeply reflective Border Patrol agent on an airplane between Tucson, Arizona and Guanajuato, Mexico in 2011. I had gone to the area on the US/Mexico border to shoot footage for my migrant justice documentary, The Second Cooler, narrated by Martin Sheen.

My cinematographer, Adam Valencia, and I had been in the Sonoran Desert with Mike Wilson, a tribal member of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Mike, a former Special Operations military officer in El Salvador and Presbyterian lay minister in Sells, Arizona, had long defied tribal elders’ prohibition on putting water in the desert for migrants attempting to cross through it into the United States. This despite the fact that the brutal desert had already taken the lives of at least 5,000 migrants.

Photo by Alejandra Platt. Used by permission.

Photo by Alejandra Platt. Used by permission.

Mike has four stations among the rattlesnakes and cacti where he sets out water: St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John. He arranges them in the shape of a cross so any passing migrant will feel confident the water has not been poisoned.

As we were heading back to Tucson after shooting, while still on the reservation, we encountered a young, indigenous migrant from Oaxaca in southern Mexico. He name, oddly enough in this deathtrap, was Eulogio—eulogy. He was eighteen years old and had been wandering with his party in the desert for ten days. The previous three days he had neither food nor water. He was weak and asked us to call Border Patrol so he could turn himself in. Eulogio did not want to die in a foreign desert. He wanted to return home to his wife and seven month old son.

After Adam and I boarded the plane to journey on to Guanajuato, I called my husband to tell him about our encounter with Eulogio. When the call was finished, the young man sitting next to me on the plane asked me, “What kind of work do you do?” “I’m a filmmaker,” I said. “What kind of film?” “Immigration.” “What kind of work do you do?” “Border Patrol.”  We were delighted at the coincidence and laughed.

The agent told me his name was Steve. We chatted a long time.

Originally from the Dominican Republic, Steve and his three brothers had been abandoned as young children by their parents in an orphanage where they languished for years. They had become so mentally disturbed that they used to urinate and defecate on one another. Eventually they were rescued by an American Mennonite couple. Over time, all recovered from the traumas of abandonment and abuse.

The brothers grew up on the principles of peace and non-involvement with the military. When Steve told his mother he was going to join the Border Patrol, holding to her faith principles, she objected to his decision.

Adam Valencia and Eulogio

Adam Valencia and Eulogio

When we met on the plane, Steve had been with Border Patrol for only about a year, but had turned in his resignation. He said he had decided to become a BP agent because he wanted to work outdoors and because he wanted to help stop drug trafficking. Steve learned, though, as he said, that being a Border Patrol agent really was about destroying people’s dreams. The dreams of people who were just like he had been earlier in his life. When he would find migrants wandering in the desert, they would beg him for their lives. He said they were as dependent on his mercy as he and his brothers had been on the mercy of strangers in that miserable orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

I asked Steve, “What is the youngest migrant you have ever captured in the desert?” He pointed to the baby daughter in his lap, dressed in pink frills and just beginning to stand. “About her age,” he said.

Painting by Guadalupe Serrano, used by permission.

Painting by Guadalupe Serrano, used by permission.

“I can’t do this any more”, Steve said. He reflected on the long, heavily militarized border wall called El Muro by many Latinos. “When we build border walls,” he said, “we act like we don’t believe in God at all. Our security is not in walls and Border Patrol agents. Our security is in God. We say we believe in God, but we act like we don’t believe in Him at all.”

Steve would not let me interview him on camera, although I asked him several times. I have no idea where he is now or what he is doing. His reflection on what it means to believe in God, however, will remain with me forever.

Break the Silence: Hillary Clinton’s Role in Decimating Black America


I will not ask you not to vote for Hillary Clinton.

In this most bizarre and troublesome of all American elections in which the stakes are both high and unpredictable, it would be foolish on my part. What I will ask Clinton supporters to do is look clearly at who she is. One can both vote for her and acknowledge the terrible damage she has inflicted on women and children both in the United States and abroad. Which is to say, she has inflicted terrible damage on human beings around the globe because, as she declared in Beijing in 1995, “human rights are women’s rights and women’s right are human rights, once and for all”.

It is contrary to the principles of better strains of feminism than Clinton has promoted to proclaim that breaking the glass ceiling is somehow a dazzling victory.

A strong strain of feminism in the 1960s, for example, included opposing war. In 1965, following the example of Vietnamese Buddhist monks, after the United States began its B52 bombing mission in Vietnam, Holocaust survivor and founding member of Women’s Strike for Peace, Alice Herz, set herself on fire on a street corner in Detroit. She left behind a letter in which she challenged Americans to “decide if this world shall be a good place to live for all human beings or if it should blow itself up into oblivion”. While the words of the two feminists, Herz and Clinton, may appear to reveal similar world views, they are miles apart.

In Haiti, Honduras, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, the United States and elsewhere, Clinton has undermined human rights which, as she said, necessarily are women’s rights.

Among the issues for which she needs to be held accountable in the United States are promoting the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Enforcement Act and the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act while she was First Lady.

Abroad, as Secretary of State, Clinton needs to be held accountable, to one degree or another, for promoting the sweatshop model of production in Haiti, working surreptitiously to ensure the 2009 coup of Honduras’s duly elected president, Manuel Zelaya, which threw the country into a downward spiral of poverty and violence including femicide, relentlessly supporting Saudi Arabia and Israel despite their well-documented human rights (which we remember are coterminous with women’s rights), and thereby the bloodbaths in Syria and Yemen, arguably becoming the “top salesperson for the military-industrial complex in US history”, practicing brinksmanship in foreign policy and regime changes which necessarily mean bloodbaths, proxy wars, and neoliberal economic policies.

During Bill Clinton’s bid for the presidency, Hillary Clinton famously claimed she would not stay home and bake cookies and host teas.

And she did not. She supported and lobbied for the very policies that damaged
Black people and poor people with the purpose of delivering political gain to Bill Clinton and the Democrat party.

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, 1994

Even the title is a dog whistle, i.e. coded language designed to appeal to white racial fears. But Hillary Clinton issued her own dog whistle when she depicted black children as vicious animals.

“They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” she said. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

The package was the largest crime bill in the history of the United States. Among other things, it greatly expanded the federal death penalty, creating 60 new death penalty offenses. It created new crimes in statutes related to immigration, gang related crime, and others. It eliminated higher education Pell Grants for inmates, instituted community oriented policing, and created “boot camps” for delinquent children. Prison overcrowding and plea bargaining became systemic.

It provided for 100,000 new police officers and $9.7 billion in funding for prisons in a $30 billion crime package. And we know who filled those prisons – primarily Black men and poor people.

How was it paid for? In part by slashing billions of dollars from public housing and child welfare budgets and transferring that money to the mass incarceration behemoth. According to the University of California, Berkley’s sociologist Loïc Wacquant, the bill succeeding in “effectively making the construction of prisons the nation’s main housing program for the urban poor.” As a result, he has written, African-Americans now live “in the first prison society in history”. It is difficult to argue that mass incarceration was an unintended consequence of the crime package.

Michelle Alexander, African American lawyer, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, and new member of the faculty at Union Theological Seminary wrote “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote” for The Nation. Bill Clinton, she wrote, “supported the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement”. The crime bill created dozens of new federal capital crimes, mandated life sentences for 3-time offenders, the so-called “3 strikes and you’re out” provision, mandatory minimums, and “truth in sentencing” i.e. severe restrictions on parole.

Among the consequences: the jobless rate among Black men in their 20s without a college degree rose to the highest level ever, at 42% when Clinton left office, according to Alexander, and was accompanied by a skyrocketing incarceration rate. Meaning, among the obvious consequences, that they were no longer counted among the poverty and unemployment statistics. You can watch a video suggesting what the consequences of her point of view in terms of police brutality have been here.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act [PRWORA], 1996

250px-clinton_prworaThis “reform” package savaged poor America by dismantling Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Liza Featherstone is a Nation contributor and editor of False Choices: The Faux Feminism Of Hillary Rodham Clinton. She concludes that Hillary Clinton was “no mere bystander” to welfare reform. She advocated “harsher policies like ending traditional welfare” even while others in the Bill Clinton administration including Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, were proposing alternatives. In 1997, according to Featherstone, she “took credit” for pushing a welfare bill that would “monitor and punish women’s ‘poor parenting behavior’.”

Clinton’s was a point of view, in my opinion, that is both racist, because of the supposed racial profile of women on welfare, and offensively sexist in its suggestion that poor women need disciplining and punishment.

Look, for example, at the dog whistle scene above taken as President Bill Clinton signed the “Welfare to Work” package as the banner proclaims. Note the two African American women “deadbeats” who are being disciplined into becoming workers. The racism and hostility to poor women of the visual message is palpable.

And, so seemed the package to three Clinton administration officials at the Department of Health and Human Services who resigned in protest – Mary Jo Bane, Wendell Primus, and Peter Edelman, who had been a longtime friend of the Clintons.

The PRWORA decimated Aid to Families With Dependent Children and instituted Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF]. Most states required those who received assistance to accept the first job they were offered, regardless of the pay or working conditions. Most were low-paying, dirty, and short-term jobs which, in essence, were being assigned to women and poor people of color. TANF, again according to Featherstone, also nullified the counting of pursuing a four year college degree as a work-related activity which could aid in making women and poor people of color eligible for benefits. Thus, while in 1995, 649,000 student parents were receiving cash assistance while enrolled full-time in education programs, only 35,000 full-time students received TANF aid in 2004.

If this is not both institutional racism and institutional sexism, I don’t know what is.

Moreover, as late as 2002, when Hillary Clinton was Senator, she continued to champion PRWORA, according to Alexander Marchevsky and Jeanne Theoharis in “Why It Matters That Hillary Clinton Championed Welfare Reform”.

In yet another dog whistle statement, she referred to people who had been on welfare as “deadbeats” and exclaimed that because of PRWORA “they’re actually out there being productive.”

Yet, in 2011, sociologists Kathryn Edin of Johns Hopkins University and H. Luke Shaefer of the University of Michigan concluded that data on Americans showed a “sharp spike in families living in extreme poverty” between 1996 and 2011. They reported that approximately 20% of poor households with children, or about 1.46 million, were having to survive on $2.00 or less per person. They concluded that the growth in poverty was concentrated among those most affected by the 1996 welfare reform, especially black families but also among Latino and white families. Black families experienced a 183 percent increase during this period while Latinos experienced a 132 percent increase and whites a 100 percent increase.

That is structural racism by almost any definition, in my opinion.

As Marchevsky and Theoharis put it, Clinton “betrayed” poor people and women many of whom are poorer than they were prior to PRWORA. The reformed welfare system “provides little safety net and no hand-up. Instead, it traps poor mothers into exploitative, poverty-wage jobs and dangerous personal situations, deters them from college, and contributes to the growing trend of poor mothers who can neither find a job nor access public assistance.”

Or, as Michelle Alexander concluded, “From the crime bill to welfare reform”, Bill and Hillary Clinton “decimated black America.” It is difficult, she writes,

to overstate the damage that’s been done. Generations have been lost to the prison system; countless families have been torn apart or rendered homeless; and a school-to-prison pipeline has been born that shuttles young people from their decrepit, underfunded schools to brand-new high-tech prisons.

I am not especially interested in whether Hillary Clinton was or is “racist in her heart.” What I am interested in is whether in their dog whistling, purposes, and consequences, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement and the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Acts are violent structural racism and that she actively supported it.

Dismantling welfare, criminalizing poverty, and creating a mass incarceration state for African Americans in particular and others generally is not something I can simply overlook nor feel is somehow equalized by Hillary Clinton’s shattering of political glass ceilings for middle class women.

Queer Christianity: Call For Submissions



Queer Christianity: How the Bible Is Helping LGBTQ Christians Come Out and Other Good Things

An anthology edited and with an introduction by Rev. Ellin Sterne Jimmerson, Ph. D.

What this anthology isQueer Christianity will consist of first person accounts of how specific parts of the Bible have aided gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and other non-straight or non-cisgender people as they came out to themselves or others and/or how it continues to encourage them in their faith journeys.

The title should not be taken as restrictive — if you are anywhere along the “gay” spectrum and have found specific texts from the Bible helpful to you as you came out or in dealing with a homophobic culture, issues of self-loathing, a punishing church or family environment, among other things, or, if you have experienced none of these things, but the Bible has always been an inspiration for you, you should submit.

What this anthology is not: an attempt to persuade anybody of anything

What to submit:

essays, homilies, meditations, poems, songs or other first person reflections

a personal biblical engagement is required

your submission will be something only you could write: we want to get in your head!

length: up to 1000 words

short bio (200 words)

Submit to

Write “Queer Christianity Submission” in the subject line

Deadline: December 31, 2016

Editor’s Bio


Ph. D., 20th Century US Cultural and Intellectual History, University of Houston, Texas

MTS [Masters in Theological Studies], with a concentration in liberation studies, primarily Latin American liberation theology, Vanderbilt Divinity School, Nashville, Tennessee

MA, Southern History, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama

BA, History and French, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama


Ordained Baptist minister, Weatherly Heights Baptist Church, Huntsville, Alabama, 2005

Officiated at the first same sex wedding in Madison County, Alabama, 2015

Filmmaker, The Second Cooler, narrated by Martin Sheen, a feature length documentary

Relevant Featured articles in Huffington Post

“Reflecting on Becoming the First Southern Baptist Minister to Marry a Same-Sex Couple,” 3/27/15

“When Did Biblical Marriage Get To Be a Thing?”, 3/17/15

“Crucifixion at Orlando: A Meditation on John 1:14and God’s Nature as Trans”, 6/14/16

“Dear Mr. Trump: You Do Not Represent Me”, 7/29/16

Relevant Articles in

“From ‘I Do’ to Disfellowship: Why the Southern Baptists Kicked This [My] Church Out Over a Same-Sex Wedding”, in David R. Henson’s channel, 2/23/15

“Connecting the Q in LGBTQ to the Bible’s ‘Q’ Source”, 3/25/15

“Two Conversations Christians Need to Have in 2015”, 1/14/15


Special Award for Social Justice Activism, Interfaith Mission Service, Inc., 2010

Nominee, Human Rights Award, Abraham Lincoln Brigade and Puffin Foundation, 2010

Award, Women Honoring Women, Huntsville, Alabama, 2014

Other Christian Publications

“They Come Smiling Out of the Morgue: Historical Resurrections in Ernesto Cardenal’s Nicaragua (1934-1970)” in Mother Tongue Theologies: Poets, Novelists, Non-Western Christianity, by Darren N. J. Middleton, Editor, Wipf and Stock, 2009

“In The Beginning: Big Bang: Violence in Ernesto Cardenal’s Cosmic Canticle” in Subverting Scriptures: Critical Reflections on the Use of the Bible, by Beth Hawkins Benedix, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009


Break the Silence: Hillary Clinton’s Role in the 2009 Military Coup in Honduras


Berta Cáceres

On June 28, 2009, when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, the democratically elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, was overthrown by a military coup. Under US law, all military aid to Honduras should have ceased immediately. Sec. Clinton was directly involved in continuing military aid to Honduras and in maneuvering behind the scenes to support the coup and thus the already beleaguered country’s downward spiral into greater poverty and violence, including rape and femicide, which it precipitated in Honduras.

If you consider Honduras, it becomes difficult to argue that Clinton is in any meaningful way a protector of women and children specifically or of human rights generally.

Manuel Zelaya took office as president of Honduras on January 27, 2006. A leftist, Zelaya put in place free education and meals for children, subsidies to small farmers, lower interest rates, and free electricity. Owners of American, Honduran, and multinational corporations disliked him immensely. He supported a 60% raise in the minimum wage – to $213 per month for rural workers and $290 for urban workers. He pledged rural, indigenous farmers he would help them recover land rights.

This “infuriated two U.S. companies, Chiquita Brands International (formerly United Fruit) and Dole Food Company,” said John Perkins in an interview with Truthout. Chiquita Brands is a California based producer and distributor of bananas. Dole Food Company is a multinational agricultural company also headquartered in California. Above all, they did not want a raise in Honduras’ minimum wage.

Writing two weeks after the coup, Nikolas Kozloff wrote that Colsiba, the Coordinating Body of Banana Plantation Workers in Latin America, compared the horrendous labor conditions on Chiquita plantations to “concentration camps”. While the comparison is inflated, it contains agonizing truth. Women and girls as young as 14 worked from 6:30 AM to 7:00 PM. Covered in rubber gloves, their hands burned. They had sued for damages against Chiquita for exposing them in the fields to DBCP, a pesticide which causes sterility, cancer, and birth defects in children.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for business interests was when Zelaya steered to an upcoming election ballot a non-binding resolution asking voters whether they wished to reform the constitution. The gist of this question was to ask those in rural communities whether they wanted to continue being subjected to foreign corporate mining practices.

The opinion poll was scheduled for June 28, 2009. In the early hours of that day, armed military forces carried out the coup. Still in his pajamas, they kidnapped Zelaya at gunpoint and took him to Costa Rica.

Fifteen US House Democrats, according to Adam Johnson for Foreign Policy in Focus, condemned the coup. Led by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, they sent a letter to President Obama insisting that Secretary of State Clinton and her State Department “fully acknowledge that a military coup has taken place” and “follow through with the total suspension of non-humanitarian aid, as required by law.” Clinton declined. This means that she made possible the condition that allowed aid to continue to flow to military forces.

In a cable to Clinton and other top US officials, US Ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, wrote that the coup was an “open and shut” case without any doubt whatsoever that the kidnapping “constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup.” You can read the cable here.

It seemed obvious to countries and organizations around the world that the overthrow of Zelaya was illegal, i.e.a violation of international law, and dangerous to the concepts of national sovereignty, democracy, and constitutional order.

The list includes Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Belarus, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada (equivocally), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guyana, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, whose president, Fernando Lugo, demanded those behind the coup be given prison sentences, Peru, Russia, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Many announced they would not recognize a replacement government.

Israel supported the coup; the United States backed it.

Organizations which condemned the coup included the Association of Caribbean States, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, the Caribbean Community, the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, the European Union, the Inter-American Bank Development Bank, Mercosur, the Organization of American States, the Union of South American Nations, and the United Nations.

An organization which financially supported the coup, on the other hand, was the Millennium Challenge Corporation [MCC], a US foreign aid agency established by the US Congress under the George W. Bush administration. One of its strongest supporters is the conservative Heritage Foundation. Among the criticisms MCC received about this period was that it disbursed some $17 million to support the coup. Hillary Clinton was chair of the board of directors.

An election was set to choose a new president. According to Lee Fang for The Intercept, “major international observers, including the United Nations and the Carter Center, as well as most major opposition candidates, boycotted the [2009] election.” Nonetheless, Porfirio Lobo became the country’s new president.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Clinton worked to avoid returning Zelaya to office. Clinton admitted she used the power of the State Department to support the coup: “In the subsequent days [after the coup] I spoke with my counterparts around the hemisphere” Clinton wrote in her book, Hard Choices. “We strategized on a plan to . . . render the question of Zelaya moot.” In other words, she actively connived to prohibit the return of Zelaya even though he was the democratically elected president of Honduras by delaying any action that might help force the illegally elected Lobo government to step down. If you look in the paperback version of Hard Choices, you won’t find these lines. They have been edited out.

The military coup which displaced Manuel Zelaya catapulted already impoverished and violent Honduras into a downward spiral into greater poverty and more violence.

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy, summarized the effects for Al Jazeera America. “The homicide rate in Honduras, already the highest in the world, increased by 50 percent from 2008 to 2011; political repression, the murder of opposition political candidates, peasant organizers and LGBT activists increased and continue to this day. Femicides skyrocketed. The violence and insecurity were exacerbated by a generalized institutional collapse. Drug-related violence has worsened amid allegations of rampant corruption in Honduras’ police and government. While the gangs are responsible for much of the violence, Honduran security forces have engaged in a wave of killings and other human rights crimes with impunity.”

To repeat, femicides skyrocketed as did rape.

According to Annie Kelly, writing from Tegucigalpa, women began to be murdered at the rate of one a day following the coup while the police “turned a blind eye”. In the month following the coup, according to a report by Oxfam Honduras and the Honduran Tribunal of Women against Femicide, there was a 60% rise in the number of femicides. In that month, the bodies of more than 50 women, in assassinations related to their gender, were found in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, Honduras’s largest cities. The report accused the Clinton backed Lobo government of complicity in the femicides. By 2011, there were reports of 1,110 femicides with only 4.2% resulting in convictions.

Some of the women’s lives were taken by the deadly Mara gangs in order to send a message to the women’s families. Others were raped and threatened with the deaths of their families if they resisted.

Many of these women, some with their children, fled to the US. Others fleeing were children without their mothers. American University professor, Adrienne Pine, concluded that “if it weren’t for Hillary Clinton,” there would not have been the refugee crisis from Honduras at the level that it is today. “Hondurans would be living a very different reality from the tragic one they are living right now.” Pine was quoted in an article by Marjorie Cone, professor emerita at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law, in “Hillary Clinton’s Link to a Nasty Piece of Work in Honduras”.

Clinton was unsympathetic. In 2014, at the height of the surge of Central American women and children crossing the United States’ southern border, after having survived Mexico’s treacherous 2,000 miles, Clinton told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that, “it may be safer for the children to remain in the US”, but they “should be sent back”. Dozens were returned to their deaths.

The most well-known of the women who were murdered in Honduras was Berta Cáceres. Her murder as well as anything else, according to Adam Johnson, an associate editor at AlterNet, exposes Clinton’s “grim legacy in Honduras”.

On June 28, 2009, the day of the coup, the Washington, DC based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [IACHR], placed Berta Cáceres’s name on a list of people whose lives were in danger because of the coup. The following day, it acknowledged that military forces had surrounded her home. Cáceres had a long history of activism including protesting illegal logging, plantation owners, and the presence of US military bases on indigenous Lenca land.

In 2014, Cáceres specifically singled out Sec. Hillary Clinton for her role in the Honduran coup. Here is an excerpt from a Democracy Now! interview and transcript.

We’re coming out of a coup that we can’t put behind us. We can’t reverse it. It just kept going. And after, there was the issue of the elections. The same Hillary Clinton, in her book, Hard Choices, practically said what was going to happen in Honduras. This demonstrates the meddling of North Americans in our country. The return of the president, Mel Zelaya, became a secondary issue. There were going to be elections in Honduras. And here, she, Clinton, recognized that they didn’t permit Mel Zelaya’s return to the presidency. There were going to be elections. And the international community—officials, the government, the grand majority—accepted this, even though we warned this was going to be very dangerous and that it would permit a barbarity, not only in Honduras but in the rest of the continent. And we’ve been witnesses to this.

On the morning of March 3, 2016, Cáceres was shot dead in her home by armed intruders. Under “precautionary measures” recommended by the IACHR, the Honduran government was supposed to have protected her. However, on that morning, they were nowhere to be found.

In the days following the murder, Amnesty International criticized President Hernández for his refusal to meet with Cáceres’ relatives, human rights defenders, and AI. It condemned “the Honduran government’s absolute lack of willingness to protect human rights defenders in the country” and noted that the Honduran authorities had failed “to follow the most basic lines of investigation, including the fact that Berta had been receiving serious death threats related to her human rights work for a very long time.”

A former soldier with the US-trained special forces units of the Honduran military reported that Cáceres’ name was included on a hit list distributed to them months before her assassination.

Did Hillary Clinton pull the trigger on Berta Cáceres? Did she single-handedly carry out the military coup which overthrew Manuel Zelaya? Did she herself rape any young girl or woman in Honduras or threaten the lives of their families? Did she make vulgar statements about the genitals of women and girls? The answer to all these questions is, of course, “no”.

Yet, it is beyond doubt that Hillary Clinton, while she was Secretary of State, actively supported and made possible the conditions which led to femicide, rape, and other human rights violations in Honduras. I contend that one may vote for her but commit to exposing and condemning her record. In particular, those who vote for her have a moral obligation to women and children, especially those in Honduras, to tell the truth about her. Moral outrage compels us to break the silence.

Render Unto Caesar: Would Jesus Salute the Flag? Would He Stand for the National Anthem?


With my questions, of course I am referencing Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand for the national anthem prior to San Francisco 49ers’ football games. As the quarterback has explained to NFL Media,

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. . . . To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

As an ordained Baptist minister, I applaud Kaepernick’s decision not to look the other way when minority Americans are suffering from police killings which are going unpunished and from other types of systemic abuse. His decision has also raised these Jesus questions in my mind. The answer, at least in part, to the Jesus questions turns on my understanding of who Jesus was. It also turns on my understanding of what the Roman Empire was. My overall conclusion is that Jesus, in the tradition of the Prophets, was at odds with the Roman Empire. His religious commitment could not be separated from his political and economic commitments – drawing a distinction between the Caesar who dealt in death for minorities within the Empire and God who dealt in life for them.

The Jesus questions raised by Kaepernick are rhetorical and the answers hypothetical. They also are anachronistic making it impossible to draw true parallels. For example, Niners’ coach, Chip Kelly, noted Kaepernick’s rights as a citizen of the United States. Kelly told reporters afterwards that Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem was “his right as a citizen”.

Jesus, by contrast, had no such right. He was not a citizen of the Roman Empire. He was not a Roman. He was a Jew and as such part of a religio licita, a permitted religion.

Jews, as were members of other ancient religions within the Empire, were allowed to exist as a people as long as they agreed to the Empire’s terms.

The primary expectation of the Empire was that Jews not be subversive and that they not offend the Emperor, the Roman people, or the Roman gods. The Temple, by the same token, was expected to maintain order among the Jews and, to some extent, aid in protecting Rome’s national security state from them.

When I posed the question recently of whether Jesus would have saluted the flag or stood for the national anthem, a number of people referenced Jesus having said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”. Does that not indicate that Jesus acknowledged separate realms over which Caesar was due commitment while God was due commitment in another realm? Does that not indicate that he would have saluted and would have stood?


Titian, The Tribute Money

This is what I think. Jesus said what he did in response to a question posed to him by some Pharisees and followers of Herod: “is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?” Asking them to bring him a denarius, Jesus responded by asking them, “whose face and whose title is on the coin?” The obvious answer is that they were Caesar’s. Then he remarked, in what I understand to have been a double entendre: “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are Gods.” By which I think He meant, “Of course it is not lawful! Mosaic code prohibits it! We do not owe taxes to Caesar! To pay them is blasphemy!”



The interpretations of that saying hinge, I think, on whether we believe Jesus to have been apolitical or whether we can acknowledge that there was no apolitical Jesus, no apolitical Galilee, no apolitical Rome.

For him, as for others of his day, there was no separation of religion, economics, and politics. Jesus’s mission involved preaching the reality that the Kingdom of God was dramatically different from the Empire of Rome.

Two stories vividly illustrate the degree to which Jewish leaders and Roman leaders understood this. Some 15-20 years before Jesus’s birth, Herod the Great demanded that all Jews swear an oath of loyalty to Caesar and to Herod as Caesar’s stand-in among the Jews. The Pharisees “over 6,000 in number, refused to take the oath”, according to Josephus, the ancient historian. I think these Pharisees, Jesus’s forebears, may well have understood Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem.

Even more dramatic was a singular act of Jewish rebellion and bravery. Herod had a giant golden eagle, a symbol of Rome, erected at the great gate to the Temple. It was a humiliating reminder that Judea and God were subject to Rome and Rome’s gods. While Herod lay dying, two of the most learned and gifted Jewish scholars encouraged some of their students to cut down the eagle in order “to avenge God’s honor”, as Josephus wrote it. Herod ordered the teachers and their students be burned alive. These acts of Jewish resistance were only a few of both ad hoc and organized acts and rebellions which formed much of Jesus’s thoroughly political religious heritage.

Jesus was subversive. One of the few things about which the Gospels agree is that Jesus’s disruption in the Temple was what led to his arrest, trial, and execution by crucifixion, a punishment reserved for non-citizens and used to intimidate marginalized peoples.

In his book, Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, Richard A. Horsley, writes that crucifixion was a punishment used to intimidate “provincial rebels”, often thought of by Romans as “thieves and bandits”. The Bible tells us that Jesus’s executioners, acting for the Empire, understood him to have been a rebel leader, thus mocked him as “King of the Jews” in several languages.

Jesus, to my mind, saw Rome and Caesar for what they were: dealers of humiliation, poverty, and death especially for Jews and others at the the margins. They demanded complete obedience and the forfeiture of complete obedience to God.

Would Jesus have saluted the flag? Would he have stood for the national anthem? Hard to say as the context is significantly but not completely different. Rome was an empire which dealt in death. The United States is an empire which deals in death. The penalty for challenging Caesar’s empire was dramatically different from the penalty for challenging the American empire. But, I think Jesus would have wholeheartedly approved Colin Kaepernick’s decisions not to be cowed and not to turn away from the realities of what America is for far too many people.

Taco Trucks on Every Corner

Jesus TacoTruck for Fig Revolution

This morning Marco Gutierrez, the founder of Latinos for Trump, issued a solemn promise to all Americans. If Hillary Clinton is elected president, he warned, there will be “taco trucks on every corner”.

Gutierrez went on to add, in a conversation he recorded while driving to an interview with MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid, “If you don’t do something about it, us as Hispanics, we’re going to have the White House full of taco trucks and we are going to be selling paletas on every corner around the White House. And, we are going to have piñatas and atole … I know my people guys … You need to defend your country, our country.”

Latinos for Trump has declared September, in which Hispanic Heritage Month falls, Taco Bowl Awareness Month.

You can’t make this stuff up.

In response, I created this meme: “Jesus wants to eat street tacos with us on the corner. And talk about stuff.” As we know, Jesus showed up at banquets and weddings and enjoyed eating with all sorts of people.

My guess is that if he were to return tomorrow, and landed in America, he would make a beeline for a taco truck and want to chew the fat about what the Sam Hill is going on?

The Emperor Has No Balls: Are the Trump Statues Body Shaming or Legitimate Political Commentary?

Last Thursday, something unusual happened in America. In a country uncomfortable with both political discussions and art which is not decorative, we heatedly discussed a statue. You know the one I’m referencing – the nude statue of presidential hopeful Donald Trump – depicting him as a pompous dictator with no clothes and no testicles and a very, very small penis.


Photo by James Michael Nichols via Twitter

Commissioned by the anarchist art collective, INDECLINE, statues of a salmon pink Trump simultaneously were erected (its hard to find another word) in public spaces in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Seattle. Named “The Emperor Has No Balls”, New York City’s Parks Department removed the statue. A spokesman said they removed it because the statue was unaccompanied and had been installed without a permit. A Parks employee quipped, “NYC Parks stands firmly against any unpermitted erection in city parks, no matter how small,” to the delight of many. I have to admit I thought the quip was pretty funny.

Others, however, were not laughing. They said the statue was an example of body shaming.

Mark Sandlin, a Presbyterian minister and highly regarded progressive Christian blogger, acknowledges the important role that art plays in society. He believes we need to be careful about “limiting and controlling the artist’s expression”. Yet, he feels INDECLINE crossed the line into body shaming for its own sake. He told me,

We also need to guard against people who want to hide behind the claim of “art” when all they are really doing is belittling, bullying, or embarrassing someone. While I appreciate the “emperor’s new clothes” angle of the Trump statues, I’m finding it very difficult to see them as much more than a case of body shaming, and that’s never OK with me. If they had been statues of a naked Hillary [Clinton], I feel certain we would have been incensed by them.

Similarly, Meghna Sridhar writing for Feministing, raised a fair point about the “smug liberalism” of American leftist culture in PSA: Your Transphobia and Body Shaming Isn’t Radical.

Nothing is being said by the piece that is difficult for one in the current political climate to say – that Trump is a joke, or that fat people must be shamed, or that male bodies that don’t conform to masculine notions of genitalia deserve scorn. Indeed, the real naked emperors seem to be the installation’s smug audience instead, parading around in seeming robes of progressive politics, which actually, upon closer inspection, are their own naked delusions of open minded, non-oppressive grandeur.

I, too, can see how the statues may reinforce Americans’ regrettable habits of body shaming and transphobia or anxieties around anyone who is not cisgendered or any man who does not have testicles or or who does have a very small penis. These are problems in American culture and work to harm more people than many of us realize. It is a problem when we associate genitalia with maturity or bravery or intelligence. I agree with Sandlin and Sridhar as far as that goes. 

In fact, INDECLINE says that is what they were doing — appropriating the association of testicles with being a man in American culture and using that against Trump. But they were doing something more. “We decided to depict Trump without his balls because we refuse to acknowledge that he is a man,” they said. “He is a small arrogant child and thus, has nothing in the way of testicles.” 


Painting by Illma Gore

By the same token, in a painting called “Make America Great Again”, genderfluid feminist artist, Illma Gore, painted a nude portrait of Trump which also featured a small penis. Gore readily admits her intention was to shame Trump and his politics by invoking American men’s anxiety over small penises. “if anyone is going to be threatened by a small penis, it’s Trump.”

Her painting was modeled after a real life, middle aged friend. As far as I can tell, no one seemed to take exception to the slight pot belly and sagging skin of her painting. Other than commentary of the small penis, the painting is a fairly straightforward depiction of a naked man.

Yet, “Make America Great Again” has provoked hysterical responses. Gore has been anonymously threatened with lawsuits if she sells the painting, has been punched in the face by a Trump supporter in her own Los Angeles neighborhood, and has received thousands of death threats.

She notes that her painting has been understood and well received “everywhere apart from America”. This has to raise the question, “What about this painting has triggered the anxieties of Americans in particular?”

The brouhaha over the INDECLINE statues is reminiscent of the controversy over Maurice Sendak’s children’s book, In The Night Kitchen, published in 1970.

7093296881_29003e966b_o-1The “before” picture here was how Sendak originally drew a 3 year old little boy who dreams, falls out of his pajamas and into the Night Kitchen where he bakes cakes. The “after” pictures show the diaper which was painted on him by librarians who fancied themselves the custodians of American morality and felt independently authorized to censor Sendak. The book remains on any list of the most analyzed, controversial, and banned books in America.

Americans have legitimate concerns about body shaming and transphobia. But Americans also are anxious about seeing penises in library books, on paintings, and on statues.

This aspect of body exaggeration is what other commentators about the INDECLINE statues were interested in. They were not worried about body shaming or transphobia. They saw the exaggeratedly small penises as essential to legitimate commentary about this particular politician. 

Journalist David Person is on the board of contributors for USA Today. INDECLINE is suggesting, he says, “that despite Trump’s bravado and bluster, he essentially is the emperor who has no clothes. Worse, he lacks the strength to provide true leadership. That is what the emasculated statue is about. They also seem to be suggesting that Trump’s allegiance is not to this nation but that he has a secret agenda — hence the Masonic ring on his finger.”

Los Angeles area filmmaker and artist Robin Rosenthal places the statue “in a long tradition among artists, notably Spain’s Francisco de Goya, of political cartoons.” INDECLINE’s statue is “pure political commentary”, insists Rosenthal. “It’s a political cartoon in the form of a sculpture. If it is body shaming, artists and cartoonists have license to body shame.”

Goya’s cartoons were hard hitting political commentaries. His Los Caprichos [Whims] published in 1799 and his Los desastres de la guerra [The Disasters of War] produced in the 1810s are sharp observations of his era. Goya skewered groups of people, such as the Catholic clergy, he believed to be largely responsible for many of the ills of Spanish society. A precursor to today’s political cartoonists, Goya excelled in an informal style, exaggerations, and pointed attacks on contemporary prejudices and superstitions. It also is worth noting that he withdrew his Caprichos in 1803, after having sold only 27 copies of the set. His reason: concerns about the repressions of the Spanish Inquisition


The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, from Caprichos, Francisco de Goya, 1799


The Same, from The Disasters of War, Goya, ca. 1810

If I were Trump and someone painted me with an exaggeratedly small penis for political reasons, I’d be offended. No doubt about that.

Yet, as Rosenthal suggests, there is a long history of exaggerating human bodies in order to make a political point. In fact, the exaggeration of political figures’ bodies is essential to American political commentary. If you google “political cartoon + Abraham Lincoln” or the name of any American politician, you will find exaggerations of their bodies.


Political Cartoon by Thomas Nast



Lincoln as long and thin as a string bean. William Howard Taft, said to have weighed in at 300 pounds, busting out of his impossibly ill-fitting clothes. Barack Obama with his inevitable big ears and, in this cartoon by Michael Ramirez, exposed bottom.

Body shaming? Sure it is. Is it intentional? Without doubt.

I’m under no illusion, however, that with these political cartoons of American presidents, I am looking at anywhere near accurate representations of their bodies. Obama is an extraordinarily good looking man whose ears do not proceed from his shoulders. Of that I am certain.

And with INDECLINE’s Trump statue, it does not occur to me that I am looking at an actual representation of Trump’s body. He is not, after all, salmon pink, nor is he fat. I assume he is not old enough to have the varicose veins given to him (although I could be wrong). I assume he has testicles. I have no way of knowing the size of his penis. Nor do I care to. 

What I do care about is Trump’s relationship to every petty demagogue who ever lived with their swagger and self importance and their erecting of expensive, grotesque statues of themselves in public squares. I care about Trump’s misogyny. I care about how he reflects and has tapped into a disturbing aspect of American culture — that horrid delight in making fun of anybody who is vulnerable, different from us, or presents any sort of real or imagined existential threat. And, yes, I get that is what the INDECLINE artists were doing — delighting in giving Trump a taste of  his own medicine. That, too, disturbs me. But only a little bit.

Mostly, I think, “Well done, INDECLINE!” With your guerrilla tactics and guerrilla art, you provoked a conversation among us about politics, art, and about our own culture. And for that, I thank you.


Plan Integral de Justicia para Migrantes

La orientación de la plataforma del Plan Integral de Justicia para Migrantes está dirigida hacia la justicia en lugar de cualquier conveniencia política.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Esta es la creencia de aquellos que planteamos en esta plataforma que la justicia puede hacerse únicamente cuando la injusticia del sistema actual es completamente y cuidadosamente expuesta. Nosotros enfatizamos que debemos trabajar en conjunto con metas claramente definidas. Estas metas están a continuación detalladas en un plan de rectificación.

La Declaración de Independencia de los Estados Unidos, la Constitución de los Estados Unidos, la Suprema Corte de los Estados Unidos y la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas nos guían en nuestra forma de pensar sobre los sistemas que van en contra de la marginación, separación y opresión de los pueblos.

La Declaración de Independencia de los Estados Unidos dice que parte de lo que significa ser libre es la capacidad de buscar “vida, libertad y felicidad.” La Declaración de Independencia pone en claro que los gobiernos solo existen para proteger los derechos inherentes otorgados por Dios a las personas. Esto además dice que la autoridad de los gobiernos únicamente deriva del consentimiento de aquellos que están siendo gobernados.

La 14ª Enmienda a la Constitución de los Estados Unidos establece “la igualdad de protección bajo la ley.” En la interpretación de este principio, la Suprema Corte de los Estados Unidos ha dicho que “la enmienda incapacita al Estado de privar inmerecidamente a un ciudadano de los Estados Unidos, a cualquier persona sin importar quien sea, de vida, libertad o propiedad sin un debido proceso legal, o de negarle a esta persona la igualdad de protección por las leyes del Estado… [Esto incumbe a] todas aquellas personas quienes pudieran estar dentro de esta jurisdicción.”

En 1948, la Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas, en su Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos, clarificó que esto significa hablar de libertad y derechos inherentes en el mundo moderno. En particular, las Naciones Unidas señalan que esto pudiera no pasar si nosotros viviéramos juntos “en un espíritu de hermandad.” Nadie, esto dice, “deberá ser sometido en esclavitud o servidumbre.” Nadie deberá ser “sometido a tratamiento de crueldad, inhumanidad, degradación o castigo.” Nadie deberá ser “sometido a arresto arbitrario, detención o exilio.” Nadie deberá ser “arbitrariamente privado de su propiedad.”


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

La Declaración de los Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas además enfatizó en qué consiste la libertad. Esta consiste en el derecho de una persona a “dejar cualquier país, incluido el propio y regresar a su país,” el “derecho a la nacionalidad,” “el derecho de no ser arbitrariamente privado de su nacionalidad o de negarle el derecho de cambiar su nacionalidad,” el derecho “a poseer su propiedad solo o en asociación con otras personas,” el “derecho de tomar parte en el gobierno de su país,” “el derecho a los derechos económicos, sociales y culturales indispensables para su dignidad y el libre desarrollo de su personalidad.”



Cada uno, las Naciones Unidas prosigue, tiene el derecho a “trabajar, a libre opción de empleo, a justas y favorables condiciones de trabajo y a protección contra desempleo,” el derecho a “pago equitativo por trabajo equitativo” y a una “justa y favorable remuneración para él y su familia.” Cada uno, tiene “el derecho a formar y unirse a sindicatos para la protección de sus intereses.”

En 2006, reconociendo “la urgente necesidad a respetar y promover los derechos inherentes de las personas indígenas los cuales derivan de… sus tierras, territorios y recursos,” las Naciones Unidas adoptaron una Declaración Especial de los Derechos de las Personas Indígenas. Esta estipuló que las personas indígenas tienen derechos “colectivos” como también individuales para el pleno disfrute de “la ley internacional de los derechos humanos” incluyendo el “derecho a la autodeterminación,” el individual “derecho a la nacionalidad,” y el derecho a “vivir en libertad, paz y seguridad como personas distintivas.”

Para que eso finalice, los miembros del Estado “proveerán de mecanismos efectivos para su prevención, y de arreglos para “cualquier acción la cual tenga el efecto de privarlos de su integridad como personas distintivas” o “despojarlos de sus tierras, territorios o recursos.” Más adelante, esta dice que “ninguna relocación tomará lugar sin el libre, previo e informado consentimiento de las personas indígenas involucradas y después de acordar en una justa y equitativa compensación y, donde sea posible con la opción de regresar.”

Esto además dice “que las personas indígenas tienen el derecho a participar en la toma de decisiones en cuestiones que pudieran afectar sus derechos” y que cuando ellos hayan sido “privados de sus conceptos de subsistencia y desarrollo [ellos] están titulados a un justo y equitativo arreglo.”

Ellos tienen el “derecho a mantener y a fortalecer su propia relación espiritual con sus propias costumbres y con las tierras, territorios, aguas, costas marinas y otros recursos que han usado y poseído y de defender sus responsabilidades para futuras generaciones en este ámbito.” Finalmente, esta Declaración establece que todas estas especificaciones no son más que los “estándares mínimos”.

Cuando nosotros consideramos migración no autorizada a través de las especificaciones de estas prescripciones para “vivir en hermandad,” nosotros vemos que los derechos humanos básicos están siendo totalmente negados en cada ocasión. Nosotros enfatizamos en que las negaciones de estos derechos son además contrarias a la acordada ley internacional.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Existe una conclusión entre historiadores quienes analizan las políticas económicas desde la perspectiva de la gente pobre que el Tratado Norteamericano de Libre Comercio (TLNC) ha sido el principal factor de empuje detrás de la migración no autorizada de gente pobre e indígenas de Latinoamérica a los Estados Unidos. Este acuerdo por sí mismo admite que pequeños y tradicionales agricultores en México, por ejemplo, tuvieron que ser sujetos a competencia por corporaciones de granjas fuertemente subsidiadas en los Estados Unidos. Este admite que alzando las tarifas que las corporaciones de Estados Unidos previamente habían pagado en orden de transportar sus productos a México por ejemplo, y quitando los apoyos que el gobierno mexicano había ofrecido por largo tiempo a los agricultores tradicionales cuando estos rechazaron el artículo 27 de la Constitución Mexicana, que un gran número de estos agricultores serían forzados a abandonar sus tierras para emigrar.

Posteriores tratados de libre comercio, incluyendo el Tratado de Libre Comercio de Centro América (CAFTA), el Libre Tratado de China, y otros han tenido efectos similares. En octubre del 2011, el Presidente Barack Obama firmó adicionales tratados de libre comercio con Perú, Colombia y Corea del Sur. Debemos anticipar que nuevos tratados de libre comercio tendrán las mismas consecuencias de los anteriores principalmente creando más desplazamientos de gente y empujandolos a emigrar. Además notamos que los desplazamientos causados por tratados de libre comercio en una escala más pequeña tomarán lugar dentro de los Estados Unidos. La devastación de la industria textil de Alabama es un ejemplo de esta situación.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Una consecuencia a la firma del Tratado Norteamericano de Libre Comercio (TNLC) en 1992 fue la militarización de la frontera Estados Unidos – México. A la fecha, aproximadamente 5000 hombres, mujeres, niños y bebés han muerto como resultado de intentar cruzar esta frontera.

La militarización dió lugar a la prioridad de bloquear las áreas urbanas a lo largo de la frontera las cuales eran los caminos más seguros por los cuales los migrantes tradicionalmente habían entrado a los Estados Unidos desde Latinoamérica. La teoría llevada a cabo en la frontera suroeste de los Estados Unidos fue que los migrantes evitarían áreas urbanas militarizadas, serían empujados a cruzar a través de aislados y peligrosos lugares de la frontera, especialmente a través del desierto de Sonora, algunos morirían y se pasaría la voz hasta llegar a las comunidades de Latinoamérica, y los migrantes pararían de intentar cruzar. Esto fue implementado como una parte de la política de “impedimento.” En adición, muchos migrantes reportaron rutinariamente ser sujetos a tratamiento cruel y humillante a manos de oficiales fronterizos. Notamos que más allá de la militarización de la frontera Estados Unidos – México ha sido parte de cada plan para las “reformas integrales de migración” que ha traído antes el Congreso de los Estados Unidos en años recientes.

La razón por la cual los migrantes cruzan ilegalmente arriesgando su dignidad, su propiedad y sus vidas es porque los Estados Unidos no les permite cruzar legalmente. Estados Unidos tiene dos sistemas de entrada legales. Uno para Canadienses y Europeos del Oeste quienes pudieran cruzar la frontera de Estados Unidos únicamente con un pasaporte, otro es para latinoamericanos, africanos y asiáticos quienes deben tener una visa adherida a su pasaporte. Esta gente debe calificar demostrando que ellos tienen ambos dinero y un título de propiedad para poder cruzar nuestra frontera legalmente.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

La excepción a la prohibición de los Estados Unidos a personas pobres e indígenas es la H2A o H2B visa para trabajadores temporales. Sin embargo el Centro Sureño de Leyes para la Pobreza (SPLC) ha aclarado que el Programa de los Trabajadores Temporales esta “cerca de la esclavitud” como su reporte en la visa fue titulado. La visa legalmente somete al trabajador al empleador que lo importa. El trabajador no puede legalmente dejar al empleador aún cuando el trabajador es abusado. El SPLC describe con precisión que el programa es como “servidumbre por contrato” y “trata de personas.”

Hemos notado que la mayor extensión de visas para trabajadores temporales ha sido parte de cada plan para la “reforma integral de migración” que ha traído antes el Congreso de los Estados Unidos en años recientes.

Los números desproporcionados de aquellos que son forzados a abandonar sus tierras a consecuencia de los tratados de libre comercio y sus políticas pertenecen a la gente indígena.

Muchos observadores señalan que pueblos enteros en las zonas indígenas son ahora ciudades fantasmas o ciudades pobladas solamente por mujeres jóvenes, niños y ancianos.
Los estudios indican que un número desproporcionado de los cuerpos de migrantes recuperados en el desierto de Sonora provienen de las zonas indígenas del sur de México y Guatemala, por ejemplo.

También notamos que el requisito de tener un título de propiedad no es válido para los indígenas que viven en tierras comunitarias siendo esto es un impedimento para venir a los Estados Unidos legalmente.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Millones de personas han sido desplazadas en América Latina, en particular debido a las políticas económicas de los Estados Unidos, especialmente el TLCAN. Los Estados Unidos y demás signatarios, Canadá y México, claramente sabían de esto cuando se firmó el tratado. Este conocimiento previo se indica tanto en el tratado como en la Estrategia Fronteriza del Suroeste. Ahora millones de estas personas desplazadas se encuentran en los Estados Unidos.

Ellos viven bajo la constante amenaza de deportación. Notamos que aproximadamente 1.5 millones de personas fueron deportadas durante la primera administración del Presidente Obama. El Congreso de los Estados Unidos ha autorizado un fondo monetario para deportar 400,000 personas al año, y para hacer esto ha incrementado el fondo monetario para el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional.

Los Estados Unidos también tienen un creciente interés de lucro en su sistema penitenciario con lo que está haciendo enormes sumas de dinero de las deportaciones. El fuertemente financiado sistema de deportación causa un gran sufrimiento a aquellos que son deportados. Además se están desintegrando familias Estadounidenses al ser deportados los cónyuges y los niños son separados de sus familiares que muchas veces son ciudadanos estadounidenses. Esto además ha forzado que miles de ciudadanos vayan al exilio, cónyuges e hijos que siguen a sus deportados o de otra forma esperar el regreso de sus seres queridos repatriados. Muchos de estos ciudadanos americanos en el exilio se convirtieron en aquellos que viven sin ningún estatus legal en el país natal de sus seres queridos. Las barreras legales que enfrentan cónyuges e hijos de aquellos que han sido deportados dejan a muchos sin ninguna esperanza de vivir en algún lugar legalmente como familias.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

En suma, a muchos les es negado el debido proceso garantizado por la 14ª Enmienda a la Constitución de los Estados Unidos y son sometidos a discriminación racial y étnica, detención por meses sin cargos, audiencias secretas y “racionalizados” procesos judiciales, de los cuales la Operación Streamline de Arizona es un ejemplo de ello.

Trabajadores en los Estados Unidos, México y otros lugares cada vez más están siendo sometidos a un nivel de presión que van desde el “derecho a trabajar” y leyes para criminales, lo cual hace más difícil para ellos negociar colectivamente afectando así otros medios para conseguir salarios justos, buenas condiciones de trabajo y beneficios.
Trabajadores no autorizados son victimizados por prácticas abusivas que incluyen redadas en los lugares de trabajo y sistemas electrónicos legales de verificación de empleo [e-verify].

Una importante amenaza a la vida de migrantes e inmigrantes incluyendo niños en los Estados Unidos es la aprobación de la Responsabilidad Personal y Oportunidad de Trabajo y Ley de Reconciliación (PRWORA) en 1996. Señalando que había “un urgente interés del gobierno para eliminar el incentivo para la migración ilegal proveído por la disponibilidad de beneficios públicos”, por primera vez, la ley de 1996 vinculó la elegibilidad de los inmigrantes legales para recibir Medicaid de acuerdo al tiempo de residencia en los Estados Unidos. Estas restricciones, además aplicaban los Programas Estatales de Aseguranza para Salud de los Niños (SCHIP), el cual fue establecido en 1997. PRWORA y SCHIP abarcaron la mayoría de los inmigrantes, incluyendo residentes permanentes legales y a otros migrantes los restringieron a cinco años para su elegibilidad.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Lo que nosotros vemos en esencia es el crecimiento del número de personas prácticamente sin nacionalidad, quienes no tienen el significado de ciudadanía en ningún lugar, los esfuerzos para protegerse ellos mismos, sus familias y sus maneras de vivir les están siendo arrancados sistemáticamente. Derechos humanos fundamentales incluyendo el derecho a vivir, libertad y la búsqueda de la felicidad, les son prácticamente arrebatados. Derechos humanos fundamentales incluyendo el más específico derecho al significado de nacionalidad, a cambiar de nacionalidad, a mantener una identidad étnica, a cruzar fronteras legalmente, a no ser tomados como esclavos, a no ser sujetos a tratos crueles, inhumanos o degradantes, a no ser sujetos a arrestos arbitrarios, detención o exilio, de no ser privado de propiedad, de tener una propiedad colectivamente o individualmente, de tener la libertad a tener un empleo y favorables condiciones de trabajo, el derecho a pago equitativo por trabajo equitativo, el derecho de formar y de unirse a sindicatos, y el derecho a procesos justos que están siendo negados por el sistema. Hemos notado también, que cuando esos derechos son rechazados por acuerdo internacional a personas que estaban tituladas a esos derechos, les fueron negados sus derechos a compensación.

Plan de Enmienda:
Nosotros proponemos el siguiente Plan Integral de Justicia para Migrantes.
En particular, pedimos que las muertes de migrantes a lo largo de la frontera Estados Unidos –México paren inmediatamente.

1.- Crear una económica y rápida obtención de visas que permita a la gente, incluyendo a las personas de bajos recursos, personas indígenas que vivan y posean tierras comunitarias sin importar sus conocimientos o perspectivas de salario, venir los Estados Unidos de Latinoamérica, África y Asia.

2.- Desmilitarizar la frontera de Estados Unidos-México.

3.- Detener las deportaciones hasta que estas puedan ser desligadas del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional, de la industria de prisiones con fines de lucro y de cuotas.

4.- Abolir el H2A/H2B Programa de Trabajadores Temporales.

5.- Detener la firma y aplicación de los tratados de libre comercio y retroceder en aquellas partes que están en vigor actualmente.

6.- Restaurar procesos justos.

7.- Crear un estatus legal para personas sin estatus legal en la actualidad en los Estados Unidos, incluyendo pero no limitando a su vez un camino a la ciudadanía.

8.- Ayudar a los indígenas a recuperar las tierras que tradicionalmente les han pertenecido en Latinoamérica y la repatriación a esas tierras a aquellos que lo deseen.

9.- Fortalecer el derecho al trabajador local, extranjero y transnacional para organizarse y negociar colectivamente (sindicalización).

10.- Levantar las barreras legales que han sido impuestas a los deportados y habilitar el regreso de repatriados a los Estados Unidos, barreras que seguido obstaculizan a cónyuges e hijos de ciudadanos americanos su derecho a regresar.

11.- Proveer de una remuneración a las familias con ciudadanía americana de deportados para cubrir los gastos relacionados al dejar los países a los cuales ellos hayan sido exiliados.

12.- Desbloquear las barreras para los migrantes e inmigrantes para la elegibilidad a Medicaid y SCHIP.

Elaborado por:
Ellin Jimmerson, Huntsville, AL, EE. UU. , 12 de Enero del 2013.
Traducico por Adryana Luna, Winnipeg, CAN

Firmado por:
Ellin Jimmerson, The Huntsville Immigration Initiative, Huntsville, Alabama.

Platform for Comprehensive Migrant Justice

The orientation of this platform for Comprehensive Migrant Justice is towards justice rather than political expediency.

It is my belief that justice can be done only when the injustice of the current system is exposed carefully and completely. The emphasis in this platform, which I wrote after numerous conversations with other advocates, is on working in concert towards clearly articulated goals.

The preamble sets out the rationale for the platform. The particular goals are listed below in a “plan for redress.”


Alfred Quíroz, Artist


The United States’ Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, US Supreme Court, and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights guide can guide us in our thinking about systems which tend toward the marginalization, dislocation, and oppression of peoples. The United States’ Declaration of Independence says that part of what it means to be free is to have the ability to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness.” The Declaration of Independence makes it clear that governments only exist in order to protect these God-given “unalienable” rights.


The US Declaration of Independence also says that governments derive their authority only from the consent of the ones being governed.

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution provides for “equal protection under the law.” In interpreting this principle, the US Supreme Court has said that “the amendment disable[s] a State from depriving not merely a citizen of the United States, but any person, whoever he may be, of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or from denying to him the equal protection of the laws of the State. . . . [This pertains to] all persons who may happen to be within their jurisdiction.”

In 1948, the United Nations’ General Assembly, in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, clarified what it means to speak of freedom and inalienable rights in the modern world. In particular, the UN addressed what may not happen if we are to live together “in a spirit of brotherhood.” No one, it says, “shall be held in slavery or servitude.” No one shall be “subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” No one shall be “subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” No one shall be “arbitrarily deprived of his property.”

The UN Declaration of Human Rights also articulated of what freedom consists. It consists of the right of a person to “leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country,” the “right to a nationality,” the right not to be “arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality,” the right “to own property alone as well as in association with others,” the “right to take part in the government of his country,” the right to “the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.”

Everyone, the UN goes on to say, has the right to “work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment,” the right to “equal pay for equal work” and to “just and favorable remuneration for himself and his family.” Everyone has “the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.”


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

In 2006, recognizing “the urgent need to respect and promote the inherent rights of indigenous peoples which derive from . . . their lands, territories and resources,” the United Nations adopted a special Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It stipulated that indigenous peoples have “collective” as well as individual rights to the full enjoyment of “international human rights law” including the “right to self-determination,” the individual “right to a nationality,” and the right to “live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples.”

To that end, the member States “shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for “any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples” or “dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources.” Further, it says that “no relocation shall take place without the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned and after agreement on just and fair compensation and, where possible, with the option of return.” It also says that “indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights” and that when they have been “deprived of their means of subsistence and development [they] are entitled to just and fair redress.”


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

They have the “right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.” Finally, this Declaration states that all these specifications are but “minimum standards.”

When I consider unauthorized migration through the lenses of these prescriptions for “living in brotherhood,” I see that basic human rights are willfully being denied at every turn. The denials of these rights also are contrary to agreed-upon tenets of international law.


There is consensus among historians who analyze economic policies from the perspective of poor people that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has been the primary “push” factor behind the unauthorized migration of poor and indigenous peoples from Latin America to the United States. The Agreement itself acknowledged that small, traditional farmers in Mexico, for example, were to be subjected to competition from heavily subsidized corporate farms in the United States. It acknowledged that by lifting the tariffs that US corporations previously had paid in order to export their products to Mexico, for example, and by removing the supports the Mexican government long had offered traditional farmers when it repealed Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, that large numbers of those farmers would be forced off their lands and into migration.

Subsequent Free Trade Agreements, including the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the China Trade Agreement, and others have had similar effects. In October, 2011, President Barack Obama signed additional Free Trade Agreements with Panama, Colombia, and South Korea. We must anticipate that new Free Trade Agreements will have the same consequences as previous ones, primarily creating more displacements of people and pushing them into migration.

Displacements caused by Free Trade Agreements on a smaller scale have take place within the United States. The devastation of Alabama’s textile industry is a case in point.

A corollary to the signing of NAFTA in 1992 was the militarization of the United States / Mexico border. To date, approximately 6,000 men, women, children, and babies have died as a result of attempting to cross this border. Militarization placed a priority on the sealing off of the urban areas along the border which were the safest paths by which migrants traditionally had entered the US from Latin America.

The theory, articulated in the US Southwest Border Strategy, was that migrants would avoid the militarized urban areas, be pushed into crossing through isolated and dangerous stretches of the border, especially through the Sonora Desert, some would die, word would get back to Latin American communities, and migrants would stop trying to cross. This was articulated as part of its policy of “deterrence.”

In addition, many migrants routinely report being subjected to cruel and humiliating treatment at the hands of border enforcement officials.

Further militarization of the US / MX border has been part of every plan for “comprehensive immigration reform” that has come before the United States Congress in recent years.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

The reason migrants cross illegally, risking their dignity, their property, and their lives is because the United States does not allow them to cross legally.

The United States has two legal entry systems.

One is for Canadians and Western Europeans who may cross US borders with only a passport. Another is for Latin Americans, Africans, and most Asians who must have a visa affixed to their passport. These people must qualify by demonstrating that they have both money and title to property in order to cross our borders legally.

The exception to the United States’ ban on poor and indigenous is the H2A or H2B Guest Worker Visa. However, as the Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] has made clear, the Guest Worker Program is “Close to Slavery” as its report on the visa was titled. The visa legally binds the worker to the employer who imports the worker. The worker may not legally leave a employer even when the worker is abused. The SPLC accurately describes the program as “indentured servitude” and “human trafficking.”

Major extensions of the Guest Worker Visa have been part of every plan for “comprehensive immigration reform” that has come before the United States Congress in recent years.

Disproportionate numbers of those forced off their lands by Free Trade Agreements and corollary policies and decisions have been indigenous peoples. Many observers note that entire towns in indigenous areas are now ghost towns or towns populated only by young women, children, and elderly people. Studies indicate that a disproportionate number of migrant bodies recovered from the Sonora Desert can be traced back to indigenous areas in southern Mexico and Guatemala, for example.

The requirement that people hold title to land automatically bars indigenous people who live on communally-held lands from coming to the United States legally. Millions of peoples have been displaced in Latin America in particular because of the United States’ own economic policies, especially NAFTA. That the United States and the other signatories, Canada and Mexico, knew this when they signed the Agreement is clear.

This prior knowledge is evident in both the Agreement and in the Southwest Border Strategy.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Now millions of these displaced people are in the United States. They live under the constant threat of deportation. Approximately 2.8 million people have been deported during President Obama’s administration.

The United States Congress has authorized funding to deport 400,000 people a year and to carry this out, has increased funding to the Department of Homeland Security.

The US also has a burgeoning for-profit prison system which is making enormous sums of money from deportations. The heavily-funded deportation system causes great hardship to the ones being deported. In addition, it is tearing apart US citizen families as deported spouses and children are taken from their US citizen family members.

Deportation also has created thousands of citizens in exile–spouses and children who follow their deported or otherwise repatriated loved ones to wait out the bars to returning. Many of these US citizens in exile then become the ones living without lawful status in their loved one’s home country. Bars on the lawful entry of their deported spouses and children, leave many without any hope of being able to live anywhere lawfully as families.
In addition, many are denied the due process guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution and are subjected to racial and ethnic profiling, detention for months without charges, secret hearings, and “streamlined” court trials of which Arizona’s Operation Streamline is a case in point.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Laborers in the United States, Mexico and elsewhere increasingly are being subjected to a range of pressure ranging from “right to work” laws to murder which make it hard for them to bargain collectively and in other ways act in concert for good wages, working conditions, and benefits.Unauthorized laborers in the US also are victimized by abusive practices including workplace raids and electronic legal employment verification systems [e-verify].

An important threat to life for immigrants and migrants, including immigrant and migrant children, in the US was passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity and Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) in 1996. Stating that there was “a compelling government interest to remove the incentive for illegal immigration provided by the availability of public benefits,” for the first time, the 1996 law tied legal immigrants’ eligibility for Medicaid to their length of residency in the US. These restrictions also applied to State Children’s Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP), which was established in 1997. PRWORA and SCHIP subject most immigrants, including legal permanent residents, and migrants to five year bars on eligibility.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist


What I see in essence is the burgeoning of people who essentially are stateless.

They have no meaningful citizenship anywhere. Their every effort to protect themselves, their families, and their ways of life are being systematically taken from them. Fundamental human rights including the general rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are being systematically taken away. Fundamental human rights including the more specific right to a meaningful nationality, to change nationality, the right to maintain nationality, to maintain ethnic identity, to cross borders legally, not to be held in slavery, not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, not to be deprived of property, to hold property collectively as well as individually, to free choice of employment and favorable conditions of work, the right to equal pay for equal work, the right to form and join trade unions, and the right to due process are being systematically denied.

I believe that when these rights are denied, according to international agreement, people whose rights have been denied are entitled to redress.


Alfred Quíroz, Artist

Plan for redress

I propose the following plan for Comprehensive Migrant Justice. In particular, I ask that the deaths of migrants along the United States / Mexico border be stopped immediately.

1. Create an inexpensive, quickly obtained visa that allows people, including poor people and indigenous people who live on communally-held lands, and without respect to their skill or wage earning prospects, to come to the United States from Latin America, Africa, and Asia

2. De-militarize the US / Mexico border

3. Halt deportations until they can be detached from the Department of Homeland Security, the for-profit prison industry, and quotas

4. Abolish the H2A / H2B Guest Worker Program

5. Stop the signing and implementation of Free Trade Agreements and roll back on those parts which now are in effect

6. Restore due process in removal proceedings

7. Create a lawful status for people without lawful status currently in the United States including, but not limited to, a path to citizenship

8. Aid indigenous people’s recovery of what traditionally have been communally-held lands in Latin America and the repatriation to those lands of those who wish it

9. Strengthen the right to organize and bargain collectively (unionize) by domestic, foreign, and transnational labor

10. Lift the legal bars that have been imposed on deportees’ and otherwise repatriated people’s ability to return to the US, bars which often act as practical bars to their US citizen spouses’ and children’s ability to return

11. Provide redress to the US citizen families of deportees by providing for expenses involved in leaving the countries to which they have entered into exile

12. Lift Medicaid and SCHIP bars to eligibility for immigrants and migrants
Finalized by Ellin Jimmerson, January 12, 2013; amended August 5, 2016

All photographs are of aluminum cutouts by artist, Alfred Quíroz, used by permission. ©Huntsville Immigration Initiative, LLC