Date: Nov 09, 2020
Authors: Lisa Haugaard, Daniella Burgi-Palomino
This article was first published in the Fall 2020 issue of The Advocate.
It’s been a tough time for all of us who dream of forging a just, compassionate foreign policy towards our Latin American neighbors—and even more so for all of us who dream of just, compassionate treatment of immigrants, migrants, and refugees. But we must not just dream, but also organize for the future.
That’s why Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWGEF) launched two major blueprints this year with our vision of a transformed policy towards Central America and Colombia. We’ve used these reports to start a conversation with movers and shakers in campaigns and foreign policy circles, and we’ve shared them with faith, human rights, humanitarian, labor, environmental, and immigrant rights groups, with Latin American civil society partners, with grassroots activists, with State Department officials, members of Congress, journalists, researchers, students, teachers—and with you.
If you or your local community organization are meeting with your member of Congress or their staff in the next few months, including with any members newly elected in November 2020, you may want to share with them these blueprints for change and ask them questions about how they will commit to forging a path forward for a more just, compassionate foreign and immigration policy towards our Latin American neighbors. Or, share the reports when you write a letter to your member of Congress on any relevant issue. Let us know how it goes and please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you find out there are any potentially great new allies headed to Congress in January 2021. And stay tuned for actions to push for these changes together with us in the next few months!
Protect Colombia’s Peace
LAWGEF brought together U.S. and Colombian civil society organizations to create Protect Colombia’s Peace, a report urging the U.S. government to adopt the full implementation of the peace accords as its principal diplomatic message for Colombia. It has been almost four years since the signing of the historic peace agreement that ended the Western Hemisphere’s longest running civil conflict, which claimed the lives of over 261,000 people and displaced almost 8 million Colombians. As the report cautions, “Despite an outpouring of civic action by Colombians, many of them victims of the conflict, to make the peace accords real, the Colombian government’s actions have been limited and have failed to protect those risking their lives for peace. The toll can be seen in the more than 500 human rights defenders killed since the accords were signed.” This joint U.S.-Colombian civil society initiative advocates for U.S. aid and stronger diplomacy to call on the Colombian government to implement the peace accord’s ethnic chapter and gender provisions, ensure justice for the victims of the armed conflict, protect human rights defenders, advance sustainable drug policy and rural reforms to reach Colombia’s small farmers and Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, end abuses by the Colombian armed forces, and dismantle the paramilitary successor networks. The international community must encourage full compliance with the peace accords before it is too late. We are proud to say this report was a transnational collective effort by
LAWGEF with the network of Colombian human rights organizations known as Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos (CCEEUU), Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), and Oxfam, with input from many other U.S., international, and Colombian organizations, including Afro-Colombian, LGBTQ, and Colombian-American organizations.
Serve Your People: A Roadmap for Transforming Relations between the United States and the Northern Countries of Central America
LAWGEF in summer 2020 launched Serve Your People, a report that provides a roadmap for transforming relations between the United States and the northern countries of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) under a new administration. The report was created by LAWGEF along with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Oxfam America, Climate Refugees, Church World Service (CWS), and WOLA.
Serve Your People calls for a dramatically new policy that goes far beyond undoing recent attacks on the rights of asylum seekers, immigrants, and migrants. It recommends starting with principled diplomacy against corruption and for human rights and standing, not with corrupt officials, but with civil society forces for change in Central America. This vision calls for supporting equitable development strategies and helping countries address the impact of climate change. It recommends, not aid to abusive security forces, but well-targeted humanitarian assistance to those in need. The report also outlines ways the United States can help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Americas. It maps out how to restore and advance access to protection for migrants and refugees at our border and throughout Mexico and Central America. These actions must be driven by a new vision that encourages Central American governments to serve their people, with equity and justice, and reverts away from enforcement-centric immigration policies and militarization to policies that are humane, inclusive, and just.
Above all, the report insists: The U.S. government’s message to the governments of northern countries of Central America should no longer be: Prevent your people from fleeing. Nor should the answer be: The United States will provide some aid to fix your problems. Rather, the message must be: Protect the rights and well-being of all your citizens so that they can make the choice to stay. And the United States’ message to the citizens working to build more democratic, inclusive, and just societies should be: We stand with you.
You can access the full report here.