Why Do They Come? A View from Honduras

I lived and ministered in San Pedro Sula, Honduras from 1998 to 2017 as a Dominican Sister of Peace missionary.

Sr. Doris Regan, OP, ministered in San Pedro Sula, Honduras from 1998 to 2017.

I am well aware of the political, economic and social realities there. Honduras is a country of fertile land, extreme poverty, and wealthy landowners. Migration is only one point of this volcano- the poverty, the inequity and lack of opportunities for employment are other components. Add to that a government that has become military rule with soldiers in the streets, in hospitals, in prisons.

The migrant caravan is composed of families, (adults and children, elderly, and youth) looking and hoping for a life of freedom. Hondurans, in general are family and community minded. These are not the “murderers, and rapists” that president Trump describes. They are poor families with no possible future in their own country- a country they love but in which they cannot continue to live because of the poverty, lack of opportunity and violence. Yes, there are “gangs” that the government wants to abolish by building new prisons. But the “gangs” have risen from the economic and social inequities that always affect the poor first.

No one asks “why do they come?” They have no alternative- their lives are in danger and constantly threatened by persons, circumstances or corporations.

Our government continues to send aid to Honduras, supposedly to establish programs that prevent violence. It becomes another way to consolidate President Juan Hernandez’ dictatorial control.

This is a humanitarian crisis and needs to be addressed in a humane manner by all those involved- governments, financial community, and social agencies- all recognizing the fundamental rights of each human being. Migratory policies need to be revised. The largest income in Honduras for some time has been the money sent by immigrants in USA to their families back home. There is every reason to ask for asylum in USA as a refugee.

Nelson Mandela says, “Poverty is not an accident- it is made by humans and can be removed by the actions of humans.”

Posted in News

Stories to Tell

Sr. Pat Thomas, OP
Blog by Sr. Pat Thomas, OP

As we draw near to the celebration of All Souls’ Day, I find myself reflecting on some of the souls that have crossed our path down here at the Peace Center over these four years. Their lives had all been impacted by Hurricane Katrina and they now lived in Section 8 housing in the Pine Street Apartments.

Miss Janet was a wonderful Grandmother who loved to read and hoped we would start a book club at the center. In the interim she borrowed from our library and when her grandchildren came to visit she would gather as many books as possible to read to them while they stayed with her. She always returned the books and when she couldn’t manage to walk over she would send them via another resident. She died in the hospital in 2016.

Ms. Al hated to be called “Ms. Al”. Alpharetta was beset with many infirmities but she had never let them get the better of her. She was bound and determined to come to bingo at the center but it took a lot out of her. After a time she began to wonder if it was all worth it and slowly did less and less. She ended up in the hospital in 2017 where she died with family and friends around her.

Dianne was quite a character, and to hear her tell it she had once advised Ellen Degeneris to get out of stand up comedy in the Quarter and head to Hollywood. Seems Ellen frequented the bar where Dianne took care of the drinks; it would seem that  the advice was well heeded. We were never quite sure if the bartending came before or after she was a surgical nurse, but Dianne claimed both as her careers before Katrina. Dianne had many facets to her life and personality, and the word irascible was well applied to her. She loved to talk and only cared that you listen, not agree or disagree, but beware if you did disagree. Then according to her, you were never listening in the first place.  We knew she was starting to become weaker on the day she came to ask us to make sure she could give us her dogs if something happened. She died alone in her apartment in 2017.

Clifford was a man who loved life and had to make changes after Katrina that left him in a wheelchair with one leg amputated. By the time of his death he was a double amputee, but not even that stopped him from coming to play Bingo, going on our field trips and being with his friends. He thought it was great when there were hats as bingo prizes now and then; you never saw him without one. He died in the hospital in late 2017.

Gilbert was a great afficionado of the French Quarter and had many friends in the trendy Bywater. He biked everywhere until he suffered a stroke a year or so ago. It didn’t exactly stop him but it meant more time in rehab than he wanted. He had a quick wit and snappy repartee but was always the gentleman. He too had been a bartender and knew lots of things about the Quarter. His friends and family held a Celebration of Life at Vaughn’s Lounge in the Bywater. It was quite a send off.

Quite the characters all five of these folks, but they all taught us many things about being ourselves with the folks around the center, accepting people as they are and learning the value of telling stories.

Posted in News, Weekly Word

Justice Updates

Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM)

The proposed rule, or Notice of Proposed Rule making (NPRM) is the official document that announces and explains the agency’s plan to address a problem or accomplish a goal.  All proposed rules must be published in the Federal Register to notify the public and to give them an opportunity to submit comments.  The proposed rule and the public comments received on it form the basis of the final rule.  Usually the public has 30-60 days to comment although an agency can petition for an extension.  There are two ways to make a comment: by mail or on-line.  Most agencies prefer to receive comments electronically so the comments are more easily available to the public. Electronic comments are submitted to the Federal Register that manages the process. Written comments to the agency.

The notice-and-comment process enables anyone to submit a comment on any part of a proposed rule. It is not a vote on the legislation and an agency cannot make its final rule based on how many supported or opposed the rule. At the end of the process, the agency must base its reasoning and conclusions on the rulemaking record, consisting of the comments, scientific data, expert opinions and facts accumulated during the pre-rule and proposed rule stages.  To move forward with a final rule, the agency must conclude that its proposed solution with help accomplish the goals or solve the problems identified. 

If the rule making record contains persuasive new data or policy arguments, or poses difficult questions or criticisms, the agency may decide to terminate the rule making. Or the agency may decide to continue the rule making but change aspects of the rule to reflect these new issues.  (Information from A Guide to the Rule making Process prepared by the Office of the Federal Register)

A comment can express simple support or dissent for a regulatory action. However, a constructive, information-rich comment that clearly communicates and supports its claims is more likely to have an impact on regulatory decision making. Some tips for good comments:

  • Be concise but support your claims
  • Base your justification on sound reasoning, scientific evidence, and/or how you will be impacted
  • Address trade-offs and opposing views in your comment
  • If a rule raises many issues, do not feel obligated to comment on every one – select those issues that concern and affect you the most and/or you understand the best.
  • If you disagree with a proposed action, suggest an alternative (including not regulating at all) and include an explanation and/or analysis of how the alternative might meet the same objective or be more effective.
  • Consider including examples of how the proposed rule would impact you negatively or positively.
  • Click here for more tips.

Proposed Undoing of the Flores Settlement Agreement 

The Trump administration has proposed changes in regulations that would allow the U.S. government to detain immigrant children and families indefinitely. The administration’s proposal would curtail minimum standards for how to care for children held in federal custody – standards set by a court agreement that has guided U.S. policy on the treatment of such children for more than two decades.  On September 6, 2018, the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services said in a joint notice of proposed rule making that the new policy would “satisfy the basic purpose” of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement by ensuring that migrant children “are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.”  But the proposed changes eliminate the 20-day limit on the detention of children, a limit the Trump administration has repeatedly mischaracterized as a “legal loophole” rather than a basic standard to ensure that children are treated with careTo learn more about the current regulations, read this Flores Settlement Agreement flyer produced by the Justice for Immigrants Campaign.  The proposed rule changes would allow the government to detain parents and children, or children who enter the country without adults, for the duration of their immigration court cases which, on average, take years to complete.  (From Maryknoll)

Please take action to protect immigrant children: 

SUBMIT A COMMENTClick here to register your opposition to the administration’s proposal and stand up for immigrant children’s safety. On the right-hand side, please adapt the template language in your comment. Identical comments will be counted as one comment.

CALL CONGRESSCall (866) 940-2439  three times to be connected to your 2 Senators and 1 Representative. Here is a sample script:  “I am your constituent from [CITY/TOWN], and [as a person of faith] I urge my Senator/Representative to reject family detention for immigrants. Incarcerating children with their parents is not a solution to family separation. Rather than detention, Congress and the administration should use and invest in community-based alternatives to detention such as the Family Case Management Program. Such an alternative is cost-effective and humane. My community welcomes and values immigrants, and we urge you to do the same.”

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Weekly Updates

How Will You Vote?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

One of the freedoms that I am most grateful for is freedom of speech. As citizens, we are able to disagree publically with our elected officials and each other without worrying about the police arresting us when we walk out the door. And most importantly, we can make our voice heard through our vote. 

When we vote, we look for the person who will best represent our values. This can be especially difficult in today’s climate and we might be tempted to vote only for our party, or for women…or Latinos…or liberals… or…..   You get my point.  

Some might vote only for a candidate who professes to be pro-life. Voting for a person who is anti-abortion is not necessarily the same as voting pro-life.  Life does not stop when a child is born.  There are so many other important life issues to be considered.  I would suggest that all the issues that the Dominican Sisters of Peace have included in our voting guide are pro-life including protection from violence in our own communities and welcoming people escaping from it in their countries…ensuring that our creation is protected and its resources are available for all…protecting adults and children from sex or labor trafficking. They address the sanctity of life from conception to natural death.

So what do you do when a candidate professes to be pro-life but addresses none of the life issues after birth? That’s where our consciences come into play.

A recent article in America called Catholic Teaching on Conscience is (Again) Topic of Discussion at Synod, states “Catholics believe that following one’s conscience is paramount—and that believers should do their best to form their consciences in the light of reason, experience, Scripture and spiritual formation, always with the help of church teaching.”  The Church’s Social Teaching is one source of formation and includes the rights to life, dignity, work, care for the poor and vulnerable, and care for creation. Perhaps we need to work together to end abortions by helping women to avoid them or supporting mothers when their children are born.

So, in the end, each person must make his or her decision on how to vote. That decision must be done with prayer, information, discussion.  Voting is an important action that cannot be taken lightly. It affects each of us personally and communally.  May you find peace in this important action. 

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

WHAT CAN EQUAL THE VALUE OF A HUMAN SOUL?

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I’m pretty sure that we have all heard “Everything has a price” – as in: for the right price, anything can be bought or sold.

As I pondered that idea, I was reminded of a dialogue between a professor and fellow student in one of my history courses in college (a few years ago, wink wink). It went something like this:

Professor: Anything can be bought.

Student: Well, you can’t buy love.

Professor: Maybe. But for the right price, you can buy a pretty good imitation of it.

The class erupted in laughter, as the student conceded that the professor had a good point.

I think that memory moved to the forefront of my mind because I needed a light moment before tackling the really serious question that started my deliberation: How much is a human life worth? – $10 million, the EPA’s value of statistical life for 2016? a billion? $18 billion, the amount that the U.S. reportedly cleared in new arms deals with Saudi Arabia in 2017? a trillion? Or is it invaluable?

I choose the latter. I believe that life is a sacred gift from God; therefore, it is not to be treated like a cheap commodity. I believe that it is a mistake to disregard the value of human life, no matter what the circumstances.

I choose to respect and value my life and the lives of others. I believe the dignity of a human soul is worth more than any economic gain.

I was horrified when I heard an Evangelical leader say “you don’t blow up an international alliance over one person” in response to the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

I am not willing to give up my commitment to championing human rights for economic benefit. I am not okay with jeopardizing America’s global reputation as a moral authority that advocates respect for human rights in exchange for money from arms sales.

Are you?

Posted in Associate Blog, News