Honduran migrants bed down after pushing into Guatemala
By SONIA PEREZ D.
Tuesday, October 16
ESQUIPULAS, Guatemala (AP) — Hundreds of Hondurans hoping to reach the United States bedded down for the night in this Guatemalan town after that country’s authorities blinked first in attempts to halt their advance.
The group estimated at 1,600 to 2,000 people fleeing poverty and violence in Honduras marched into Guatemala in sweltering heat Monday, twice pushing past outnumbered police sent to stop them — first at the border and then at a roadblock just outside Esquipulas.
After those encounters, Mexico’s immigration authority sent out a fresh warning late Monday that the migrants would have to satisfy Mexican officials individually and that only those meeting requirements would be allowed to enter.
U.S. authorities were watching as well. Katie Waldman, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman, said in a statement that the caravan was “what we see day-in and day-out at the border as a result of well-advertised and well-known catch-and-release loopholes.”
“Until Congress acts, we will continue to have de-facto open borders that guarantees future ‘caravans’ and record numbers of family units entering the country illegally,” she said.
The exhausted migrants entered Esquipulas during the evening and sought out food and places to sleep, hobbling on blistered feet. Few carried food and some residents began to organize to help feed them. Some migrants asked for money, others passing a bakery were handed bread.
The migrants arrived at the Guatemalan border singing the Honduran national anthem, praying and chanting, “Yes, we can.” The group defied an order by the Guatemalan government that they not enter.
“We have rights,” the migrants shouted.
Keilin Umana, a 21-year-old who is two months pregnant, said she was moved to migrate to save herself and her unborn child after she was threatened with death.
Umana, a nurse, said she had been walking for four days. “We are not criminals — we are migrants,” she said.
Many in the caravan traveled light, with just backpacks and bottles of water. Some pushed toddlers in strollers or carried them on their shoulders.
Carlos Cortez, a 32-year-old farmer traveling on foot with his 7-year-old son, said poverty back home made it impossible to support a family.
“Every day I earn about $5,” Cortez said. “That isn’t enough to feed my family.”
The caravan was met at the border by about 100 Guatemalan police officers. After a standoff of about two hours, the migrants began walking again. Officers did nothing to stop them, but accompanied them several miles (kilometers) into Guatemalan territory.
Officers then set up the roadblock about a mile (2 kilometers) outside Esquipulas. About 250 police kept them from advancing for three hours, telling them they had to return to the border to go through immigration. The migrants refused to budge and eventually officers again let them pass.
The caravan began as about 160 people who first gathered early Friday to depart from San Pedro Sula, one of Honduras’ most dangerous places, figuring that traveling as a group would make them less vulnerable to robbery, assault and other dangers common on the migratory path through Central America and Mexico.
Local media coverage prompted hundreds more to join during the weekend as the group moved toward Guatemala.
A day before the caravan formed, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence had urged leaders in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to persuade their citizens to stay home and avoid the long, risky journey to the United States.
In April, President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw foreign aid from Honduras and countries that allowed transit for a similar caravan that set out from the Central American country. That caravan dwindled as the group approached the U.S. border, with some giving up along the way and others splitting off to try to cross on their own.
Historian Dana Frank, an expert on human rights and U.S. policy in Honduras, said Monday that the latest group could have political implications in the United States with the midterm elections coming up.
She said that “some in the United States will be quick to raise alarms about a supposed dangerous immigrant invasion” and that “others will view these migrants with compassion and as further evidence of the need for comprehensive immigration reform.”
Frank said the caravan’s rapid growth underscores “how desperate the Honduran people are — that they’d begin walking toward refuge in the United States with only a day pack full of belongings.”
Honduras is largely dominated by murderous gangs that prey on families and businesses, and routinely sees homicide rates that are among the highest in the world.
Associated Press writer Martha Mendoza in Santa Cruz, California, contributed to this report.
Akron Charity Sues for Right to Shelter the Homeless
City refuses to allow man to use his commercial property to host tent community; fears tents will be gone by Thanksgiving
Time and Location: The Homeless Charity
Akron, Ohio 44305
Summary: Since ancient times, good samaritans have used their land to shelter the neediest. That tradition continues today in Akron, Ohio, where Sage Lewis—a local entrepreneur—welcomed a group of homeless people to set up tents in the back lot of his business after the city forced them off public land.
That was more than a year ago. Since then, Sage’s shelter has evolved into a tight-knit community of 44 people helping each other reintegrate into society. Thanks to donations from his neighbors and others in Akron, Sage was able to convert the first floor of his building into an informal private shelter. His newly-established nonprofit, The Homeless Charity, now provides food, a community day center, showers, bathrooms, laundry, clothing, computers, and critical social-service resources. His goal is to support those most in need as they transition from the streets to permanent housing.
But if Akron has its way, the tents will be gone by Thanksgiving.
Last month the Akron city council voted 8-4 to deny a permit allowing Sage to operate the tent community in a commercial-zoned area. As a result, many residents will have nowhere else to go, except back to the streets. Sage is unwilling to let that happen. So to protect their right to shelter the homeless on private property, Sage and The Homeless Charity have teamed up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) to file a constitutional lawsuit.
“America has a long tradition of private charities using private property to help those in need,” said Jeff Rowes, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice. “Sage has brought new thinking to the table, and is helping dozens of vulnerable people get off the streets and get their lives back on track.”
Rowes continued: “Sage has a constitutional right to shelter the homeless on his private commercial property. Sheltering the neediest is a legitimate use of private property that the government cannot stop without good reason—and there’s no such reason here.”
The controversy erupted in January 2017, when government officials evicted a group of homeless men and women who had set up tents in a forested area of a public park. Sage, who had befriended some homeless individuals during a previous run for mayor, allowed them to set up tents in the backyard of his business. Sage’s property, which also houses his auctioneering business and other tenants on the upper floor, is located on a commercially zoned area of Akron known as Middlebury. Nearby is a tire store, mattress store, fire station, church and low-income apartments.
The city told Sage he could not allow homeless to sleep on his property without first obtaining a conditional-use permit to use his commercially zoned property to shelter the homeless. In the spring of 2018, Sage applied for a conditional-use permit, but the city denied it on September 17, 2018, concluding that tents are never adequate shelter and that the tent community is incompatible with its surroundings. This vote forced Sage and the charity to file an appeal in court within 30 days or lose their rights forever, so they appealed today. Meanwhile, Sage and the city are continuing to work together on alternatives for housing the residents; one possibility is the charity obtaining other buildings in Akron, and the city’s social service workers are trying to find acceptable housing for current residents.
“What we’ve created is a new way of providing homeless services, and it allows the residents to help their peers and integrate back into society,” said Sage Lewis. “We are providing a private sector alternative to homelessness. We are private citizens on private land spending private money through a private charity to take care of those most in need of help. This work needs to be done today but the city is trying to stop it, which is why we are joining with IJ to challenge this injustice.”
Sage and The Homeless Charity are suing the city of Akron in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas. The lawsuit seeks to protect three distinct rights under the Ohio Constitution: property rights, due-process rights and the right to seek and obtain safety. Sheltering the neediest members of society is a legitimate and ancient use of private property that the government cannot impede without a very good reason—and no such reason is present in this case. It is irrational for the city to cast the homeless back into the streets—doing them real harm—in order to advance the miniscule public benefits of prohibiting people from sleeping at a commercial property. Akron’s homeless have the right to seek and obtain refuge on private property with the express permission of the owner.
“The Ohio Constitution has among the strongest protections for property rights in the country,” said IJ attorney Diana Simpson. “Sage and The Homeless Charity are providing a low-cost, private-sector alternative to address homelessness that the city ought to encourage. Instead, the city is violating the Ohio Constitution and putting those in desperate need back onto the streets.”
Mattis: Trump says defense chief’s job is ‘100 percent’ safe
By ROBERT BURNS
AP National Security Writer
Tuesday, October 16
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (AP) — Amid speculation that he may soon be replaced, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said President Donald Trump told him he supports the retired Marine general “100 percent.”
The assertion comes just days after Trump mused on national television about Mattis leaving his post.
Mattis said Trump gave him this assurance during a phone call while Mattis was flying from Washington to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on Tuesday. A few hours earlier, Mattis told reporters traveling with him that he and Trump had never discussed the possibility of Mattis leaving the Pentagon job.
Mattis initially was responding to reporters’ questions about Trump’s comments on CBS’ “60 Minutes” Sunday that Mattis “may leave” his administration and that he thinks the retired Marine Corps general is “sort of a Democrat.”
Asked what he made of Trump’s comments, in which the president also said he likes Mattis and that eventually all appointees move on, Mattis said, “Nothing at all,” adding, “We have never talked about me leaving.”
Later, Mattis approached reporters traveling with him to say he’d just spoken to Trump. He said he called the president aboard Air Force One to discuss damage to military bases caused by Hurricane Michael. During that conversation, Trump asked Mattis whether he had seen the “60 Minutes” interview broadcast on Sunday. Mattis said he had not. Trump then expressed his full support for Mattis and suggested Mattis let the press know this.
By telling “60 Minutes” that he suspected Mattis is “sort of a Democrat,” Trump seemed to suggest that he thinks Mattis is too moderate in his politics, although he did not say so directly or cite any area of disagreement with Mattis.
Whereas Trump has made a hard-line policy on immigration a centerpiece of his agenda, Mattis has publicly cited the valuable contributions that non-citizen members of the military have made over the years. Mattis also is a staunch supporter of NATO, whereas Trump has questioned its value to America.
Mattis, who had never previously held a civilian position in government before he became defense secretary in January 2017, told reporters he has sought to carry out and reinforce Trump’s military and national security policies without regard to partisanship. Those policies, he said, are now “reaping significant bipartisan support.”
Asked directly whether he is a Democrat, Mattis said, “We’re all built on our formative experiences. When I was 18 I joined the Marine Corps, and in the U.S. military we are proudly apolitical.”
Asked if that meant he was not a registered member of either major political party, he replied, “I’ve never registered for any political party.”
Presidents in recent decades have sometimes picked a member of the opposite party to head the Pentagon. President Bill Clinton’s second-term defense secretary was William Cohen, a prominent Republican member of the Senate. And President Barack Obama’s first Pentagon chief was Robert Gates, a Republican who had served as CIA director and defense secretary in Republican administrations.
The post of defense secretary is typically the least political in a president’s Cabinet. That is because of the non-political tradition of the military and long-standing bipartisan support for U.S. military alliances such as NATO.
Mattis flew to Vietnam for his second visit this year to the country with which the U.S. fought a 10-year war. He told reporters the violent history between the two countries is a thing of the past.
“The legacy of the war has turned into actually a basis for defense cooperation,” he said.
An example of this is a U.S.-funded $390 million project to clean up war-era chemical contamination of the ground at an air base near Ho Chi Minh City.
Mattis planned to visit the base at Bien Hoa on Wednesday to see firsthand the area that is to be decontaminated in a 10-year project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. Barrels of Agent Orange had been staged at Bien Hoa for U.S. use as a defoliant elsewhere in Vietnam, and when the U.S. decided to stop spraying Agent Orange, the remaining barrels of toxic liquid were collected and stored at Bien Hoa before being flown out of the country.
Mattis also plans to attend a regional meeting of defense ministers in Singapore later this week. He said he may meet there with his Chinese counterpart, even though Beijing had recently told Mattis that if he came to China his counterpart would not be available to meet.
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
by Wim Laven
On October 15th, 2018 early voting in Georgia started. I arrived at my polling place at 1:56 p.m. and completed voting at 4:19 p.m. It is reportedthat county officials were not prepared for the turnout. That’s what I observed and experienced. There were not enough barriers to queue the long line, we broiled and steamed in the humid outdoor heat while waiting, and there weren’t enough parking spots either. I counted more than a dozen cars parked illegally while looking for a spot before, I confess, I went to a nearby McDonalds.
I’m in pretty good health, but I left dehydrated. I watched two people treated for symptoms of heat exhaustion. The first older gentleman collapsed while standing up. He was scary pale, and rescue workers were called to assist him. I cheered for him when they let him into the building to vote, it took about 20 minutes of supervised recovery, and I was worried he’d need to be hospitalized.
First responders also assisted a woman suffering from the heat. Her blood pressure of 74/48 brought several of my line neighbors to tears. We talked about how crazy it was that only people over 75 were being let into the air conditioning early, that the conditions were just not suitable for so many different medical conditions. Umbrellas were brought out to protect people from the sun. There was no water available until another line neighbor retrieved a case of water bottles from her car. They were consumed in a matter of minutes, and I saw the look of disappointment on the faces of people who missed out.
I reflected on the reports of waiting 6-8 hours in Florida in 2000. We imagined taking turns to fetch food, I fantasized ordering pizza to a polling line. It was broadly understood that if all the people who’d wanted to vote for Al Gore had been able to vote for him, that he’d have won the election. Along with many other irregularities, this means George W. Bush won the office of the President because of voter suppression. Election thieves must feel emboldened.
Once we were finally inside we were reminded of Georgia voting laws prohibiting the use of cell phones. We also saw the law requiring that people over 75 or with disabilities be advanced ahead of the line. One of my neighbors who identified her disability to a polling staffer asked, “How come it says that people with disabilities shouldn’t have to wait in line, but I was told I had to wait in line?” The worker’s response was that the person who told her that probably hadn’t had the training. I personally observed at least three individuals identify that they had disabilities told they could only receive accommodation if they were over 75 years old.
You might stop at questioning the degree to which the right to vote is protected when you hear stories about long wait times and medical hardships incurred in exercising the right to vote. But in Georgia, in 2018, Brian Kemp is the Republican candidate for Governor, and he also has official oversight over Georgia’s elections in his role of Secretary of State. He did not acknowledge any conflict of interest, but I find it hard to see it as anything but corrupt opportunism. Cobb county, where we were, voted for Hillary Clinton.Any reduction in voter turnout at my polling place would be good for his chances. If it is intentional, then it is criminal, he is directly responsible for protecting equal voting access, and he hasn’t. If it is accidental, then is demonstrative proof of his rote incompetence.
In 2018 we see many clear efforts to suppress voting demographics. In North Dakota P.O. boxes do not work as addresses for the purposes of voting. This is an effort to hand a Senate seat to a Republican candidate, because the population whose votes will be taken away—Native Americans living on reservations—favors the Democrat candidate. In Georgia we’d already watched Brian Kemp freeze 53,000 vote registrations, which were predominantly African American voters—who favor the Democrat candidate, and his political machine tried to slash black voter participation in a rural countybut was foiled this summer. In Florida the website for online registrations was down (and not repaired) for the last two days of signing up. Online registration favors those who have poor mobility, like disabilities or those who don’t own cars, which end up being predominately Democrats. Black students in Texaswere cut out and eventually only some allowed to vote because their struggle became a national story.
These are numbers games, this is dirty business, and it is figuratively and literally heart attack serious. Votes are regularly being decided by small margins; small manipulations have huge consequences. The vote is the most sacred feature of a democracy, but more and more it seems that winning by any means is everything. People are standing in long lines to get their voices heard, and I watched the scene turn into a potential matter of life and death for the most vulnerable—democracy is not only for the most physically fit. We must hold those responsible for these maleficent tactics accountable, and it is all clearly intentional. I waited in line for two hours today, I waited because someone didn’t want it to be easy for me to vote, and I told them “No!”
Now it’s your turn.
Wim Laven, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is an instructor of Political Science and International Relations at Kennesaw State University, and on the Governing Council of the International Peace Research Association.