Migrants moving again in Guatemala, Trump targets Democrats
By SONIA PEREZ D.
Wednesday, October 17
CHIQUIMULA, Guatemala (AP) — More than 2,000 Honduran migrants traveling en masse through Guatemala resumed their journey toward the United States on Wednesday as U.S. President Donald Trump sought to turn the caravan into a political issue three weeks before midterm elections.
A day after warning Central American governments they risk losing U.S. aid if they don’t do something and saying that anyone entering the country illegally would be arrested and deported, Trump turned his sights on Democrats and urged Republican allies to campaign on border security.
“Hard to believe that with thousands of people from South of the Border, walking unimpeded toward our country in the form of large Caravans, that the Democrats won’t approve legislation that will allow laws for the protection of our country. Great Midterm issue for Republicans!” Trump said in a Wednesday morning tweet.
“Republicans must make the horrendous, weak and outdated immigration laws, and the Border, a part of the Midterms!” he continued.
In Guatemala, the migrants rose early and many left without eating breakfast, bound for Zacapa, the next city on their route. Overcast skies and a light drizzle took the edge off the sweltering heat and humidity, making the trek more bearable.
Luis Navarreto, a 32-year-old migrant in the caravan, said he had read about Trump’s threats regarding aid to his country but was undeterred.
“We are going to continue,” Navareto said. “It is God who decides here, we have no other option but to move ahead.”
The migrants are fleeing widespread poverty and gangland violence in one of the world’s most murderous countries, and many blamed Honduran Juan Orlando Hernandez for what they called unlivable conditions back home.
“We are here because of Juan Orlando,” said Nelson Zavala, a 36-year-old laborer who added that the last three days had essentially been sleepless ones.
The previous day the migrants advanced about 30 miles (40 kilometers) from the Honduras-Guatemala border to arrive at the city of Chiquimula.
That’s a tiny portion of the almost 1,350 miles (2,200 kilometers) they’d have to travel to reach the closest U.S. border.
Some were able to hitch rides, and hundreds advanced farther and faster than the main group to reach the Guatemalan capital, according to the Casa del Migrante shelter there.
Late Tuesday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico to respect the rights and ensure the safety of the migrants traveling in the caravan.
The caravan has snowballed since about 160 migrants departed Friday from the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula, with many people joining spontaneously while carrying just a few belongings. Estimates of their numbers ranged up to 3,000.
Three weeks before the U.S. elections, the caravan was bound to draw Trump’s ire. But he did not follow through on a similar threat to cut aid to Honduras in April over an earlier caravan, which eventually petered out in Mexico.
On Tuesday, Honduras’ president accused unnamed “political groups” organizing the caravan based on lies in order to cause problems in Honduras.
“There are sectors that want to destabilize the country, but we will be decisive and we will not allow it,” Hernandez told reporters.
Earlier the Foreign Ministry alleged that people had been lured to join the migration with “false promises” of a transit visa through Mexico and the opportunity to seek asylum in the United States.
Mexico has said that only those who meet entry requirements will be allowed into the country. Hondurans need visas to visit Mexico in most cases.
Still, it remains unclear if there is political will in Mexico and other governments to physically block the mass caravan.
China says interning Muslims brings them into ‘modern’ world
By YANAN WANG
Tuesday, October 16
BEIJING (AP) — China on Tuesday characterized its mass internment of Muslims as a push to bring into the “modern, civilized” world a destitute people who are easily led astray — a depiction that analysts said bore troubling colonial overtones.
The report is the ruling Communist Party’s latest effort to defend its extrajudicial detention of Central Asian Muslim minorities against mounting criticism.
China’s resistance to Western pressure over the camps highlights its growing confidence under President Xi Jinping, who has offered Beijing’s authoritarian system as a model for other countries.
About 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other minorities have been arbitrarily detained in mass internment camps in China’s far west Xinjiang region, according to estimates by a U.N. panel. Former detainees say they were forced to disavow their Islamic beliefs in the camps, while children of detainees are being placed in dozens of orphanages across the region.
The report by the official Xinhua News Agency indicated that key to the party’s vision in Xinjiang is the assimilation of the indigenous Central Asian ethnic minorities into Han Chinese society — and in turn, a “modern” lifestyle.
Xinjiang Gov. Shohrat Zakir said the authorities were providing people with lessons on Mandarin, Chinese history and laws. Such training would steer them away from extremism and onto the path toward a “modern life” in which they would feel “confident about the future,” he said.
“It’s become a general trend for them to expect and pursue a modern, civilized life,” Zakir said, referring to the trainees. He said the measures are part of a broader policy to build a “foundation for completely solving the deeply-rooted problems” in the region.
China has long viewed the country’s ethnic minorities as backward, said James Leibold an expert on Chinese ethnic polices at Melbourne’s La Trobe University.
Leibold described Beijing’s perspective on minorities as: “They’re superstitious, they’re deviant, they’re potentially dangerous. The role of the party-state is to bring them into the light of civilization, to transform them.”
Despite growing alarm from the U.S. and the United Nations, China has maintained that Xinjiang’s vast dragnet of police surveillance is necessary for countering latent extremism and preserving stability.
The Turkic-speaking Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs) have long resented restrictions placed on their religious practices. They say they experience widespread discrimination in jobs and access to passports.
In the Xinhua report, Zakir said authorities provide free vocational training in skills geared toward manufacturing, food and service industries. Zakir said “trainees” are paid a basic income during the training, in which free food and accommodations are provided.
The report appeared aimed at disputing accounts provided by former detainees, who have said they were held in political indoctrination camps where they were forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the party.
Ethnic Uighurs and Kazakhs have told The Associated Press that ostensibly innocuous acts such as praying regularly, viewing a foreign website or taking phone calls from relatives abroad could land one in a camp.
Zakir said the training centers were for people “who are influenced by terrorism and extremism, and those suspected of minor criminal offenses” who could be exempted from criminal punishment.
Zakir did not say whether such individuals were ever formally charged with any crime or provided a chance to defend themselves against the allegations. The report also did not say if attendance was mandatory, though former detainees have said they were forcibly held in centers policed by armed guards.
Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said the system deprived detainees of basic legal protections such as access to lawyers.
The authorities’ attempts to justify the camps “illustrate what the ‘rule of law’ in China means — that the party bends it to its will and uses it as a weapon against perceived political enemies,” Wang said in an email.
Zakir did not say how many people were in such courses, but said some would be able to complete their courses this year.
Zakir seemed to try to counter reports of poor living conditions within the camps, saying that “trainees” were immersed in athletic and cultural activities. The centers’ cafeterias provide “nutritious, free diets,” and dormitories are fully equipped with TVs, air conditioning and showers, he said.
Omir Bekali, a Xinjiang-born Kazakh citizen, said he was kept in a cell with 40 people inside a heavily guarded facility.
Bekali said he was kept in a locked room with eight other internees. They shared beds and a wretched toilet. Baths were rare.
Before meals, they were told to chant “Thank the party! Thank the motherland!” During daily mandatory classes, they were told that their people were backward before being “liberated” by the party in the 1950s.
The idea that one’s beliefs can be transformed through indoctrination dates back to the Mao Zedong era, when self-criticisms and public humiliation were routinely employed to stir up ideological fervor.
The program’s philosophies can be traced even further back to the late imperial era, when Xinjiang’s “natives” were seen as requiring education in the Confucian way, according to Michael Clarke, a Xinjiang expert at Australian National University.
Amnesty International called the Xinhua report an insult to detainees and the families of people who have gone missing in the crackdown.
“No amount of spin can hide the fact that the Chinese authorities are undertaking a campaign of systematic repression,” the human rights group said.
In Oregon, a community responds to imprisonment of migrants
By ANDREW SELSKY
Monday, October 22
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — With the sun bearing down, Norm and Kathy Daviess stood in the shade of a prison wall topped with coiled razor wire, waiting for three immigrants to come out.
It’s become an oddly familiar routine for the Air Force veteran and his wife, part of an ad hoc group of volunteers that formed in recent months after the Trump administration transferred 124 immigrants to the federal prison in rural Oregon, a first for the facility.
The detainees were among approximately 1,600 immigrants apprehended along the U.S.-Mexico border and then transferred to federal prisons in five states after President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy left the usual facilities short of space.
Almost half of those sent to the prison outside Sheridan, an economically struggling town 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Portland, on May 31 are from India, many of them Sikhs — part of an influx of Indian nationals entering the U.S. in recent years. They also came from Nepal, Guatemala, Mexico and a dozen other countries.
“Zero tolerance” made Sheridan an unusual way station for migrants from around the world. Now, those who pass an initial screening and post bond are being released. And Norm and Kathy Daviess, along with more than 100 other volunteers — retirees, recent college graduates, lawyers, clergy — have lined up to help.
“The best part of this is seeing the big smile on their face, to be out, to have this burden done with,” said Kathy Daviess, 71, who wore a floppy white hat as she and her husband stood outside the prison on a recent afternoon. As drivers, the two are ready to go to the prison, a half-hour from their hometown of Dundee, at a moment’s notice and often wait there for hours as the detainees are processed.
The freed migrants generally travel onward in a day or two to other states where they have relatives or friends. The volunteers provide transportation, interpreter services, legal counseling, food, shelter and moral support. They raised more than $12,000 to pay bonds for migrants who couldn’t come up with the money themselves.
A Sikh temple in nearby Salem also offers the immigrants religious and other services, and a place to recover.
Many of the detainees made long, dangerous journeys to reach the U.S., and all either turned themselves in to seek asylum or were nabbed by border agents when they arrived. Since “zero tolerance” took effect in May, everyone who enters the country illegally is charged with a crime.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the crackdown is necessary to eliminate illegal immigration and because abuse of the asylum system has caused a surge in illegal border crossings.
“For those who crossed the border illegally, those were the consequences brought upon them,” said Sheridan Mayor Harry Cooley, who worked at the Oregon prison for 21 years and is not among the volunteers. He was less certain about migrants who request asylum at points of entry, noting it isn’t illegal.
“It would be unfathomable if they were detaining those people rather than just turning them away,” Cooley said, but then added it seemed justifiable to detain the immigrants while their stories are verified. “The previous policy was catch and release, which I definitely don’t agree with.”
The prison is Sheridan’s largest employer, though the town of 6,000 has paid little attention to the migrant issue, the mayor said.
The volunteers are mostly from other communities in the Willamette Valley, including Salem and Portland, Oregon’s largest city.
Kathy Daviess said she got involved because “we’ve got a legal system, and it’s supposed to apply to everyone.” Her husband, who spent his career with the Air Force in uniform and as a contractor, felt the immigrants were being denied due process.
The migrants were granted access to lawyers after the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon filed a lawsuit alleging they were held largely incommunicado. The detainees told federal public defenders they were initially confined to cells for up to 23 hours a day. “It’s not right. We don’t do that,” Norm Daviess said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
Kathleen Moss, from nearby Carlton, said it’s been rewarding to coordinate around 60 drivers and people offering respite centers.
“It’s kind of taken over my life,” the nutritionist and advocate for foster children said.
To help the immigrants seek asylum, making a case that they fled dangerous conditions back home, Innovation Law Lab has “plugged in” 80 volunteer attorneys, legal assistants and other specialists, said Victoria Bejarano Muirhead, development director of the Portland group.
Volunteers have watched detainees emerge from the prison, surveying the nearby forests, hills and fields for the first time since they arrived.
One man borrowed a phone to make a video call to his wife in Nepal as Katy Mitchell, who manages Innovation Law Lab’s operations in Sheridan, gave him a ride.
“I couldn’t understand their conversation in Nepali, but I could understand the love and excitement in their voices seeing each other’s faces and talking for the first time in many months,” Mitchell said. “He sat there clutching his heart with the biggest grin on his face and she couldn’t stop giggling with joy.”
On a recent day, Carlos Marroquin, from El Salvador, and Abdoulaye Camara, from Mauritania, watched the countryside, tinged in autumnal colors, flash by as volunteer Cynthia McCracken drove them from the prison.
“It’s been so long, waiting for this moment,” Marroquin, sporting a fresh haircut and wearing jeans and a plaid shirt, said in Spanish with a big grin. “I feel an enormous gratitude for all these people, because they helped us in an incredible way: the community, lawyers.”
McCracken, of Newberg, Oregon, took Marroquin and Camara to the Dasmesh Darbar Sikh temple in Salem, where they showered, ate and relaxed. She noted she’s driven 12 men from the prison gates.
Freed immigrants often sit outside on the temple grounds, taking in the fresh air near a driveway lined with red, white, yellow and pink flowers.
“It’s wonderful. I think it’s a dream,” Karandeep Singh, an immigrant from India, said inside the temple as music featuring the soft patter of tabla drums filtered from a speaker. An ornate Persian carpet lay at his feet.
For Mitchell, being involved in the team effort has been bittersweet.
“I feel lucky to be witness to this joy, but pained to know the suffering it’s rooted in,” she said.
Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky
Warren ancestry highlights how tribes decide membership
By FELICIA FONSECA
Sunday, October 21
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Jon Rios traces his ancestry to the Pima people of Arizona, but he has no tribal enrollment card and lives hundreds of miles away in Colorado.
He has no interest in meeting any federally imposed requirements to prove his connection to a tribe. If anyone asks, he says he’s Native American.
“I’m a little bit like Elizabeth Warren. I have my ancestral lineage,” Rios said, referring to his affiliation with the Pima, also known as Akimel O’odham.
The clash between the Massachusetts Democratic senator and President Donald Trump over her Native American heritage highlights the varying methods tribes use to determine who belongs — a decision that has wide-ranging consequences.
Some tribes rely on blood relationships, or “blood quantum,” to confer membership. Historically, they had a broader view that included non-biological connections and whether a person had a stake in the community.
The 573 federally recognized tribes have a unique political relationship with the United States as sovereign governments that must be consulted on issues that affect them, such as sacred sites, environmental rules and commercial development. Treaties guarantee access to health care and certain social services but they can be treated differently when involved in a federal crime on a reservation.
Within tribes, enrollment also means being able to seek office, vote in tribal elections and secure property rights.
For centuries, a person’s percentage of Native American blood had nothing to do with determining who was a tribal member. And for some tribes, it still doesn’t.
Membership was based on kinship and encompassed biological relatives, those who married into the tribe and even people captured by Native Americans during wars. Black slaves held by tribes during the 1800s and their descendants became members of tribes now in Oklahoma after slavery was abolished. The Navajo Nation contemplated ways Mexican slaves could become enrolled, according to Paul Spuhan, an attorney for the tribe.
Degree of blood became a widely used standard for tribal enrollment in the 1930s when the federal government encouraged tribes to have written constitutions. The blood quantum often was determined in crude ways such as sending anthropologists and federal agents to inspect Native Americans’ physical features, like hair, skin color and nose shape.
“It became this very biased, pseudo-science racial measurement,” said Danielle Lucero, a member of Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico and a doctoral student at Arizona State University.
Many tribes that adopted constitutions under the Indian Reorganization Act, and even those that did not, changed enrollment requirements. Blood quantum and lineal descent, or a person’s direct ancestors, remain dominant determinants.
A 1978 U.S. Supreme Court case, Santa Clara v. Martinez, upheld the authority of tribes to define their membership based on cultural values and norms. Some tribes also have used that authority to remove members.
“Historically, we have very fluid understandings of relatedness,” said David Wilkins, a University of Minnesota law professor who is a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. “It was more about your value, orientation and whether or not you acted like a good citizen and a good person, and if you fulfilled your responsibilities. It didn’t matter if you had one-half, one-quarter or 1/1,000th, whatever Elizabeth Warren had.”
The Navajo Nation, one of the largest tribes in the Southwest, has a one-fourth blood quantum requirement.
The Lumbee Tribe requires members to trace ancestry to a tribal roll, re-enroll every seven years and take a civics test about prominent tribal leaders and historical events, Wilkins said.
DNA alone is not used to prove a person’s Native American background. The tests assess broad genetic markers, not specific tribal affiliations or connectedness to a tribal community.
The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma uses a roster of names developed near the start of the 20th century to determine membership, regardless of the degree of Indian blood. In that era, federal agents also ascribed blood quantum to Native Americans for purposes of land ownership, Spruhan wrote.
Warren, who grew up in Norman, Oklahoma, and is seen as a presidential contender in 2020, recently released results of a DNA test that she said indicated she had a distant Native American ancestor. The test was intended to answer Trump, who has repeatedly mocked her and called her “Pocahontas.”
She has said her roots were part of “family lore,” and has never sought membership in any tribe.
Patty Ferguson-Bohnee works to protect sacred sites, culture camps and language immersion for her small Pointe-au-Chien Indian Tribe in southern Louisiana. The tribe also is seeking federal recognition.
“It’s not just about money, it’s about how do we protect our cultural heritage?” said Ferguson-Bohnee, who oversees the Indian Legal Program at Arizona State University.
Nicole Willis grew up hours away from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation in the Pacific Northwest, which she calls home. She traveled often from Seattle for cultural events and to spend summers with her grandmother.
To her, being Native American means her family is part of a distinct, interconnected community that has existed since ancient times. Her tribe requires citizens to be one-quarter Native American, with a grandparent or parent enrolled in the tribe, but she said “theoretically, it shouldn’t matter.”
“We should identify with the nation that we feel a part of,” she said. “Because of the way the government dealt with us, we don’t have the benefit of ignoring the numbers aspect.”
Back in Greeley, Colorado, Rios tries to maintain traditions passed down through his father’s side and his identity by gathering medicinal plants, giving thanks for food and to his creator, sitting with family around an open fire and passing knowledge on to his daughters.
“It’s important for me and especially our people, always being respectful and trying to maintain that balance,” he said.