Writing in the Guardian, Rebecca Solnit has some bracing words for those who find Mother’s Day difficult, noting how many people and elements of the natural world can be our “mothers”: “May you locate the 10,000 mothers that brought you into being and keep you going, no matter who and where you are. May you be the mother of uncounted possibilities and loves.”
Mother’s Day reminds us of the many sorrows surrounding mothers as well. The press is starting to cover the reunions of those families who were separated at the border; the New Yorker has a strong piece on the reunion of one of the first families separated–in 2017. The New York Times sketches the story of a mother who had to leave her daughter behind–for seven years. The Washington Post reports that 20,000 children and teenagers are being held in Health and Human Services shelters and 2,200 are being detained in border facilities until there is room in shelters for them. 40% have a parent already in the United States, while others have other relatives waiting for them–but it takes the border services a month to release them.
To help the more than 10,000 mothers stranded along the Mexico border with their children and the thousands of children waiting in detention to reunite with their mothers, you can donate to Al Otro Lado, which provides legal and social services to families on both sides of the border. Every.Last.One also does advocacy work for detained children and families, as well as for children who have been deported.
1. Demanding action on murdered and missing Indigenous women
Indigenous communities in Canada held grieving ceremonies May 5 for the over 4,000 Indigenous women who have been murdered or have gone missing in Canada over the last 30 years, a phenomenon called genocide in a comprehensive report. May 5 is Red Dress day, which commemorates those losses and calls for action. Despite the release of the report a year and a half ago, no national action plan has been launched by the Trudeau government; its 231 recommendations have been somehow stalled by COVID considerations, according to the National Indigenous Times.
In the US, family members of missing Indigenous women are cautiously hopeful with the steps Secretary of the Interior Debra Haaland is taking. She has stated that the creation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ recently-announced Missing and Murdered Unit demonstrated that the federal government is finally addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Native American women and girls. At least 1500 Native American people are currently missing in the U.S., and thousands of homicides have been reported to a national database, the Guardian reports. In a press call reported on by The Hill, Haaland explained that “For too long this issue has been swept under the rug…. [however] I believe we are at an inflection point. We have a president who has promised to prioritize this issue and ensure that Native American leaders have a seat at the table…. for too long, Indian issues were relegated to tribal offices within federal agencies. Every federal agency is taking our commitment to strengthening tribal agency and self-government seriously. We’ll keep working until our people stop going missing without a trace.” S-HP/RLS
In the U.S, you can share your concern that this issue of missing and murdered Native American women and girls remain in the spotlight and that all branches of government be active in resolving this ongoing crisis. Canadians can find more information on this issue at the University of British Columbia library’s website, as well as a phone number for support; they can also let Prime Minister Justin Trudeau know that COVID should not stall the implementation of an action plan. @JustinTrudeau.
2. Protecting incarcerated and detained people against COVID
Incarcerated individuals were infected by COVID-19 at more than three times the national rate, and an estimated 27,000+ individuals in prisons, jails, and detention centers have been killed by COVID-19. Now, reporting by the New York Times estimates that among those numbers were dozens of individuals who had either been approved for parole or who had not yet been convicted of any crime. While some states—including California and New Jersey—sent selected inmates home early to avoid unnecessary infections and deaths, most states chose not to free inmates and also resisted calls to speed up parole processes.
One case discussed by the Times was that of a 62-year-old man who was paroled in 2019, but required to complete a six-month drug treatment program available only in prison. He would have finished that program in June or July of last year, but instead died as a result of COVID-19 on June 2. Another case involved a 76-year-old man, a diabetic with diabetes-associated amputations. According to his cellmate, he waited months to receive his insulin supplies, by which time he had lost so much weight and was so weakened, he could not administer injections to himself. He had planned to contest the charges against him on the grounds that a search of his auto was unlawful. He couldn’t afford bail, and because he requested materials like police body-cam footage, his trial date kept being pushed back. He died of COVID-19 complications on September 2.
Other federal prisoners who were released–those who were at high risk for COVID, low-risk for re-offending, and for the most part elderly–might have to return to prison under a policy established by the Trump administration, according to the Washington Post, which profiled a 75 year old woman serving a 24 year sentence for selling a kilogram of heroin. Those released–approximately 4,500 people–are closely supervised, some with ankle monitors.
Congress is considering some legislation that could address the problem of prisoner and detainee COVID-19 deaths and the lack of accurate data regarding the numbers of these individuals, as well as possible future epidemic threats within the prison system:
1) The COVID-19 Immigration Detention Data Transparency Act—S.681 in the Senate; H.R.1861 in the House—would require immigration detention facilities and local correctional facilities that contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to provide COVID-related data to the federal government. The Senate version of this legislation is with the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. The House version of this legislation is with three committees: Judiciary, Homeland Security, and Ways and Means.
2) The COVID-19 in Corrections Data Transparency Act—S.324 in the Senate; H.R.1072 in the House—would require the Bureau of Prisons, the U.S. Marshal Service, and state and local correctional facilities to publish COVID-19-related data, including numbers of cas vaccinations, and outcomes, on their websites, as well as reporting them to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Senate version of this legislation is with the Judiciary Committee. The House version of this legislation is with the Judiciary and the Energy and Commerce Committees.
3) H.R.831, the Health STATISTICS Act, would “encourage the rapid development of certain public health data standards, authorize epidemiological surveillance grants, and authorize a data linkage demonstration project.” This legislation is currently with the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health. S-HP
If you want to address these inequities, you can call for expedited parole releases, for release of those awaiting trial for non-violent offenses during the current pandemic and for the reversal of the Trump-era policy which would require those released during the pandemic to return to prison. You can also urge the relevant Senate and House committee members to act on pending legislation. Addresses are here.
3. Should the history curriculum focus on diversity and critical literacy?
The Department of Education’s (DoE) Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, has invited public comments on priorities for the teaching of American History and Civics. The DoE’s first proposed priority is projects that incorporate racially, ethnically, culturally, and linguistically diverse perspectives into teaching and learning and that “reflect the diversity, identities, histories, contributions, and experiences of all students [in order to] create inclusive, supportive, and identity-safe learning environments.” The second proposed priority is promoting information literacy skills, including standards of proof, individual biases, synthesis of information for communication, and “understanding how inaccurate information may be used to manipulate individuals, and developing strategies to recognize accurate and inaccurate information.” Conservatives, including Mitch McConnell have been weighing in on the priorities. A letter to the DoE—on which Senator McConnell is the first signatory and which is cosigned by 38 additional Republican Congressmembers—warns that including materials like the New York Times’ 1619 Project (which looks at the history of this nation from the arrival of the first slave ship to the American colonies) that put “ill-informed advocacy ahead of historical accuracy” to create a “a politicized and divisive agenda.” S-HP
You can comment on the content of U.S. history and civics education, particularly on the ways in which students’ many cultures have contributed to this nation’s history and identity and discuss what topics and approaches you feel would best serve our diverse student population [note that all comments must be received by Wednesday, May 19, and should include Docket ID Number ED-2021-OESE-0033]. Write to Mia Howerton, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, Room 3C152, Washington DC 20202 or use online comment submission button
4. An X-gender option for passports
While running for President, Joe Biden issued an LGBTQ+ policy document that included a proposal to add an X gender designation to passports, which would mean non-binary individuals would not have to declare themselves specifically male or female. Since President Biden took office, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been urging Biden to make that proposal a reality. According to the ACLU, many states already allow individuals to select an X gender identification and the ACLU has filed six cases on behalf of transgender individuals who want to see themselves accurately represented on IDs. Currently, 68% of transgender people report that none of their IDs accurately present both their name and their gender. As a result of this, they can find themselves, harassed, denied services, or attacked—by law enforcement as well as individuals and businesses. Life is also more complex for these individuals because of discrepancies among medical, financial, and personal records. President Biden has the power to issue an executive order adding an X designation to passports; the ACLU is asking for support in convincing Biden to take this action soon. S-HP
You can join the ACLU in asking President Biden to issue an executive order creating an X gender designation on passports. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. In addition, you can sign the ACLU’s petition: https://action.aclu.org/petition/they-people-access-accurate-ids-now.
5. Making it safe for Hondurans to stay home
Aid to Honduras has been seen as essential to enable Hondurans to stay home rather than fleeing the effects of climate change, along with gang and police violence, and arriving at the US/Mexico border. However, the Berta Cáceres Human Rights Act, would halt U.S. aid to Honduras “until such time as human rights violations by Honduran security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice,” as explained in the legislation’s opening. The legislation is named to honor Honduran indigenous rights and environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who cofounded the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Cáceres led campaigns in response to illegal logging, the plantation system, and the presence of U.S. military bases on indigenous land. After years of receiving death threats, Cáceres was assassinated in her own home. Those who killed her were linked to US-backed forces, according to the Guardian.
Under H.R.1574, conditions for resuming aid to Honduras would include trial and conviction of Cáceres’ killers, the killers of over 100 activist small farmers, those responsible for post-election killings and arrests in Honduras. It would also require the withdrawal of the military from domestic policing in Honduras; protection of trade unionists, journalists, human rights defenders, indigenous and Afro-indigenous Hondurans, LGBTI activists, and government critics; and the establishment of a justice system capable of investigating, prosecuting, and bringing to justice members of the police and military who have committed human rights violations. S-HP
If you support this move, you can urge swift, positive action on H.R.1574 by the appropriate committees. You can also insist to your Congressmembers and to Vice-President Harris, who has been charged with leading U.S. Central American policy, that justice in Central America must be a key component of U.S. policy in the region, particularly if we want to end pressure on individuals from the region to flee their home countries because of violence and lack of justice. Addresses are here.
6. Disappearing the opposition in Myanmar.
Thousands of people, primarily boys and young men, are being disappeared in Myanmar as the now three-month-long military coup there continues, the Associated Press (AP) reports. The AP reports at least 3,500 arrests—most without documentation, so that family members cannot be certain who has been taken, what charges they face, or where they are being held. According to UNICEF, there have been at least 1000 arbitrary detentions of children and young people. The AP quotes Matthew Smith, a cofounder of Fortify Rights, a human rights group, as saying that his organization has been gathering evidence of detainees being killed in custody: “We’ve definitely moved into a situation of mass enforced disappearances. We’re documenting and seeing widespread and systematic arbitrary arrests.” The military has been conducting sweeps both during night and also in daylight, often beating detainees in front of witnesses. The military is also using its own television channel to broadcast “photos of young people detained by security forces…. their faces bloodied, with clear markings of beatings and possible torture,” indicating that this is a campaign of deliberate intimidation. S-HP
If you want to intervene in this situation, you can insist that the Biden administration and Congress continue to pursue meaningful, effective responses to this violence—and not just resolutions that have little real-world impact. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State, Department of State, 2201 C St. NW, Washington DC 20520, (202) 647-4000. @SecBlinken. Find your senators here and your representatives here.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
7. Preventing drilling in the Arctic, reversing Trump’s environmental policies
The Hill reports on a decision by the Department of the Interior to withdraw Trump administration proposals that would have made it easier to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic. The Obama administration had placed a permanent prohibition on offshore Arctic Ocean oil and gas drilling, which the Trump administration sought to undo. In another significant move, the Environmental Protection Agency has asked that the Justice Department (DoJ) end any remaining cases in supporting Trump-era environmental rules. The Hill separately reported that Lawrence Starfield, the EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assistance, has ordered his staff to step up enforcement of environmental regulations in communities particularly hard hit by pollution—communities that are disproportionally low income and inhabited by people of color. S-HP
If you want to thank the Secretary of the Interior for protecting the Arctic,
thank the EPA Director for asking for an end to Department of Justice defense of Trump-era changes to environmental protections, tell the Attorney General that you’re looking forward to an end to DoJ defense of remaining Trump-era environmental rollbacks and thank Lawrence Starfield for defending the rights and health of communities threatened by pollution, addresses are here.
If you want to understand what is going on with the Republican attack on Liz Cheney and why Republicans continue to assert that Trump won the election, Heather Cox Richardson’s column for May 7 will explain. You’ll find it quite chilling, the way she adds it all up.
A trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.
The Moms Rising site this week focuses on the rights and needs of mothers. See their list of quick actions you can take.
The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. This week’s list will advise you how to help protect the mid-term elections in a few quick actions.
Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.
Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.
The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.
The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.