Categories
Coronavirus Español Essential Worker Feature Investigation

‘Solo queremos lo que nos merecemos’: Ex empleados de Strauss, una empacadora de carne, protestan por las condiciones de trabajo inseguras durante el COVID 

Arriba: Alrededor de 60 manifestantes se paran enfrente de la compañía de empaque de carne Strauss Brands, Inc. antes de marchar en Franklin, Wis. 7 de agosto de 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine 

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La planta empacadora de carne de Strauss Brands, Inc. se encuentra a 20 minutos en auto del centro de Milwaukee. El primer turno llega a la medianoche y el segundo comienza al mediodía durante el día. Los trabajadores generalmente conducen a la planta empacadora de carne que se encuentra en 5129 Franklin Drive en Franklin, Wisconsin en camionetas y SUVs de color azul y gris, llevando su almuerzo en bolsas de plástico. 

En abril, seis empleados probaron positivo por COVID-19 y ex trabajadores alegan que Strauss puso en riesgo a toda su fuerza laboral al ignorar las precauciones de seguridad exigidas por el estado para ayudar a frenar la propagación del virus. 

Veintinueve empleados llenaron anónimamente quejas ante la Administración de Seguridad y Salud Ocupacional sobre las laxas medidas de seguridad de Strauss el 22 de abril. Estos mismos empleados alegan que fueron despedidos por Strauss el 23 de julio como retaliación. 

La Directora Ejecutiva de Voces de la Frontera Christine Neumann-Ortiz y ex empleada de Strauss Brands, Inc. Maria Vasquez, se dirigen a una multitud de manifestantes durante la Marcha de la Justicia para los Trabajadores Esenciales en Franklin, Wis. 7 de agosto de 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

Strauss afirma que los 29 empleados fueron despedidos porque su información de seguridad social no coincidía con otra documentación fiscal que tenían registrada para ellos, para el Servicio de Impuestos Internos.  

Strauss notificó a uno de sus trabajadores el 23 de julio que si no podían dar documentación de que estaban autorizados a trabajar legalmente o recibir documentos de autorización de trabajo en los próximos 30 días la compañía los despediría, según The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Sin embargo, algunos de estos empleados habían estado trabajando en Strauss durante al menos una década sin problema antes de ser despedidos en julio. 

“OSHA estaba entrevistando a trabajadores. Es por eso que vimos esto como una retaliación por exigir protecciones en el trabajo,” dijo Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Directora Ejecutiva de Voces de la Frontera. OSHA comenzó una investigación sobre violaciones de salud y seguridad el 2 de junio, según los registros de OSHA. 

Strauss se negó a hacer comentarios cuando Borderless Magazine preguntó sobre el momento de los despidos masivos y las acusaciones de trabajadores de que los empleados fueron despedidos como venganza por las quejas que presentaron. 

Esta no es la primera vez que Strauss ha sido acusado de ser un lugar inseguro para trabajar.


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Strauss planeo mudarse al parque empresarial Century de Milwaukee, pero retiró la propuesta en octubre de 2019 después de que los vecinos y un miembro del Consejo Común de Milwaukee se opusieron al proyecto citando trabajos peligrosos que podrían provocar estrés postraumático entre sus preocupaciones, según The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Después de retirar la propuesta inicial del proyecto, la compañía revisó y volvió a presentar una nueva propuesta en abril de este año, con planes de iniciar construcción este otoño. 

En julio de 2017, OSHA multó a Strauss por $5,000 por una violación de salud y seguridad. Strauss se negó a comentar sobre esta violación. 

Danny Alvarado, uno de los 29 trabajadores que llenó quejas anónimas, se encuentra fuera de Strauss Brands, Inc. en Franklin, Wis. 7 de agosto de 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

Danny Alvardo, 36, había trabajado en Strauss por 17 años cuando la pandemia de coronavirus apareció. Él es uno de los 29 trabajadores que llenó las denuncias anónimas con la ayuda de Voces de la Frontera, un grupo de defensa comunitario que protege los derechos de los trabajadores, sobre la falta de medidas de seguridad para contener la propagación del COVID-19. 

Alvarado y sus compañeros de trabajo alegan que Strauss no siguió ninguna de las protecciones de los trabajadores recomendadas por el CDC y OSHA: como las llegadas y salidas de los trabajadores, la designación de los tiempos de descanso y sugiriendo que los trabajadores evitarán compartir coches para ir al trabajo y después de salir. 

Maria Vasquez, 41, es otra trabajadora que fue despedida por Strauss después de presentar quejas. Ella trabajó allí durante casi 13 años y fue la primera persona en probar positiva por el virus COVID-19 en la compañía en abril.  

Vasquez, una madre soltera de cuatro hijos, informó a la compañía que iba a hacerse la prueba el 21 de julio. La compañía, sin embargo, no le informó a sus compañeros de trabajo cuál que, los puso en riesgo de estar expuestos al virus. 

Vasquez explicó que su recuperación desde que contrajo el virus ha sido diferente y desafiante. Se ha recuperado lentamente en los últimos cuatro meses, pero todavía siente dolor del cuerpo y tiene dificultad para respirar. 

Maria Vasquez y su familia afuera de su casa en Milwaukee, Wis. 31 de agosto de 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

“Mi mayor temor eran mis hijos. ‘¿Qué iban hacer si yo moría?’ Estarían sin zapatos, sin comida y posiblemente peor,” ella dijo.

La compañía no le dio licencia para enfermedad pagada y ella continuó trabajando a pesar de que estaba infectada. La recuperación del virus se complica aún más por las lesiones de quemaduras, que sufrió en 2014 mientras empacaba carne de hamburguesa en una línea de montaje. 

Vasquez todavía tiene facturas acumuladas por las quemaduras anteriores y está luchando en contra de Strauss en un caso judicial, exigiendo que paguen sus facturas médicas.   

En Wisconsin, solo 8.8 por ciento de los casos confirmados de COVID-19 entre los trabajadores de cinco plantas de producción de carne fueron reportados en abril, según datos del CDC. Sin embargo, no está claro cuántos trabajadores en las compañías de procesamiento de carne y comida pueden haber sido infectados por el virus desde la última vez que se reportaron los datos en abril. 

En Milwaukee, los latinos hacen solo el 15.4 por ciento de la población pero tienen el mayor número de casos confirmados, con un estimado del 30 por ciento, según los datos dados por el tablero del COVID-19 en la página del Condado de Milwaukee, que se actualiza diariamente. 

Las órdenes del estado de Wisconsin han seguido de cerca la orden ejecutiva del presidente Donald Trump firmada en abril, que ordenó que las instalaciones de carne y aves de corral continuarán operando a pesar de las preocupaciones sobre el virus. 

Después de una protesta pública por los despidos, la unión negocio para que Strauss Brands ofreciera a los empleados despedidos un paquete de indemnización valorado en más de $264,000 el 6 de agosto.  

“Cuando [los empleados] se defienden, no es solo lo correcto, sino que es como si tu destino estuviera ligado unos a otros”, dijo Neumann-Ortiz. “Es por eso que animamos a la gente a hablar y poner una cara al movimiento. Cuando lo hacen, en realidad vemos el cambio.” 

Voces ha recibido 20 quejas de trabajadores de otras compañías de la planta en Briggs & Stratton y Echo Lakes Foods desde mediados de abril. Esas quejas incluyen preocupaciones físicas y de salud similares a las que se quejaron los empleados de Strauss. 

En Echo Lakes en Burlington, casi-abuelo, Juan Manuel Reyes Valdez había estado tratando activamente de obligar a la compañía a implementar estas guías cuando falleció.  

En Briggs & Stratton, Mike Jackson, de 45 años y padre de ocho hijos, había estado luchando activamente y dirigió una marcha con compañeros de trabajo antes de morir de COVID-19.

En ambos casos, la falta de días de enfermedad pagados los obligó a venir a trabajar mientras estaban enfermos. 

Racine Concejal Jennifer Levie durante la Marcha de la Justicia para Trabajadores Esenciales fuera de Strauss Brands, Inc. en Franklin, Wis. 7 de agosto de 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

Una protesta el 7 de agosto frente a la sede de Strauss también incluyó el apoyo de funcionarios electos y miembros de la junta escolar como los supervisores del condado de Milwaukee Steve Shea, Ryan Clancy, y Racine Concejal Jennifer Levie.

“Estoy aquí en solidaridad con estos trabajadores que están siendo tratados increíblemente injustamente. Nos llamó a todos a estar unidos en esta lucha para asegurar que sean justamente compensados,” dijo Levie, en la protesta. 


This story is a part of the Solving for Chicago collaborative effort by newsrooms to cover the workers deemed “essential” during COVID-19 and how the pandemic is reshaping work and employment.

It is a project of the Local Media Foundation with support from the Google News Initiative and the Solutions Journalism Network. The 19 partners span print, digital and broadcasting and include WBEZ, WTTW, the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Defender, La Raza, Shaw Media, Block Club Chicago, Borderless Magazine, the South Side Weekly, Injustice Watch, Austin Weekly News, Wednesday Journal, Forest Park Review, Riverside Brookfield Landmark, Windy City Times, the Hyde Park Herald, Inside Publications, Loop North News and Chicago Music Guide.


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Categories
Coronavirus Essential Worker Feature Investigation

‘We Just Want What We Deserve’: Former Strauss Meatpacking Employees Protest Unsafe Working Conditions During COVID 

Above: About 60 demonstrators stand in front of the Strauss Brands, Inc. meatpacking facility before marching in Franklin, Wis. Aug. 7, 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

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Strauss Brands, Inc.’s meatpacking facility is located a 20 minute drive from downtown Milwaukee. The first shift comes in at midnight and the second begins at noon during the day. Workers typically drive to the meatpacking plant at 5129 Franklin Drive in Franklin, Wisconsin in blue and grey colored trucks and SUVs, carrying their lunch in plastic bags.  

In April six employees tested positive for COVID-19 and former workers allege Strauss put its entire workforce at risk by ignoring state mandated safety precautions to help slow the spread of the virus.

Twenty-nine employees anonymously filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about Strauss’ lax safety measures on April 22. These same employees allege they were then fired by Strauss on July 23 as retaliation. 

Strauss claims the 29 employees were fired because their social security information did not match other tax documentation they had on file for them for the Internal Revenue Service. 

Strauss notified one of its workers on July 23 that if they could not provide documentation that they were authorized to work legally or receive work authorization documents in the next 30 days the company would fire them, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Yet some of these employees had been working at Strauss for at least a decade without issue before they were fired in July.

Executive Director of Voces de la Frontera Christine Neumann-Ortiz and former Strauss Brands, Inc. meatpacking employee Maria Vasquez address a crowd of protestors during the Justice March for Essential Workers in Franklin, Wis. Aug. 7, 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

“OSHA was interviewing workers. That’s why we saw this as retaliation for demanding protections on the job, ” said Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Voces de la Frontera’s executive director. OSHA began an investigation into health and safety violations on June 2, 2020, according to OSHA records.

Strauss declined to comment when Borderless Magazine asked about the timing of the mass firings and the worker allegations that employees were terminated as retribution for the complaints they filed. 

This isn’t the first time Strauss has been accused of being an unsafe place to work. 


Purchase here.

Strauss planned to move to Milwaukee’s Century Business park but withdrew the proposal in October 2019 after neighbors and a Milwaukee Common Council member opposed the project citing dangerous jobs that could lead to post-traumatic stress disorder among their concerns, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

After withdrawing the initial project proposal, the company revised and resubmitted a new proposal in April of this year, with plans of beginning construction this fall. 

In July 2017, OSHA fined Strauss for $5,000 for a health and safety violation. Strauss declined to comment on this violation. 

Danny Alvardo, one of the 29 workers who filed anonymous complaints, stands outside of Strauss Brands, Inc. in Franklin, Wis. Aug. 7, 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

Danny Alvarado, 36, had worked at Strauss for 17 years when the coronavirus pandemic struck. He’s one of the 29 workers who filed the anonymous complaints with the help of Voces de la Frontera, a community based advocacy group safeguarding worker’s rights, about the lack of safety measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Alvarado and his coworkers allege Strauss did not follow  any of the worker protections recommended by the CDC or OSHA: like staggering workers’ arrivals and departures, designating break times and encouraging workers to avoid carpooling to and from work.

Maria Vasquez, 41, is another worker fired by Strauss after filing complaints. She’d worked there for nearly 13 years and was the first person to test positive for the COVID-19 virus at the facility in April. 

Vasquez, a single-mother of four, informed the company that she went to get tested on July 21. The company, however, did not inform her coworkers which put them at risk of being exposed to the virus. 

Vasquez explained her recovery since contracting the virus has been different and challenging. She has slowly recovered over the past four months but still experiences body pain and has difficulty breathing. 

Maria Vasquez and her family outside of their home in Milwaukee, Wis. Aug. 31, 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

“My biggest fear was my kids. ‘What were they going to do if I died?’ They would be without shoes, without food and possibly worse,” she said. 

The company did not give her paid sick leave and she continued working though she was infected. Recovering from the virus is further complicated by burn injuries she suffered in 2014 while packing hamburger meat on an assembly line.

Vasquez still has bills piled up from the previous burn injuries and is fighting an ongoing court case against Strauss demanding that they pay her medical bills. 

In Wisconsin, only 8.8 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases among workers in five meatpacking plants were reported in April, according to CDC data. However, it is unclear how many workers at meat and food processing facilities may have been infected by the virus since data was last reported in April. 

In Milwaukee, Latinos make-up only 15.4 percent of the population but make-up the largest number of confirmed cases, with an estimated 30 percent, according to data provided by the Milwaukee County COVID-19 dashboard, which is updated daily. 

Wisconsin state orders have closely followed President Donald Trump’s executive order signed in April which ordered meat and poultry facilities to continue operating despite concerns about the virus. 

After a public outcry over the firings their union negotiated for Strauss Brands to offer the fired employees a severance package worth over $264,000 on Aug. 6.  

“When [employees are] fighting back, it’s not just the correct thing to do, but it’s like your fate is tied to one another,” Neumann-Ortiz said. “That’s why we encourage people to speak out, and to put a face to the movement. When they do, we actually see change.”  

Voces has received 20 complaints from workers at other plant facilities in Briggs & Stratton and Echo Lakes Foods since mid-April. Those complaints include similar health and physical concerns to what the employees at Strauss complained about. 

At Echo Lakes in Burlington, grandfather-to-be, Juan Manuel Reyes Valdez had been actively trying to force the company to implement these guidelines when he passed away. 

At Briggs & Stratton, Mike Jackson, 45 and a father of eight, had been actively fighting and staged a walkout with co-workers before dying of COVID-19. 

In both cases, the lack of paid sick days forced them to come to work while sick.  

Racine Alderwoman Jennifer Levie during the Justice March for Essential Workers outside of Strauss Brands, Inc. in Franklin, Wis. Aug. 7, 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

An Aug. 7 protest in front of the Strauss headquarters also included support from elected officials and school board members like Milwaukee County Supervisors Steve Shea, Ryan Clancy, and Racine Alderwoman Jennifer Levie.

“I stand here in solidarity with these workers who are being treated incredibly unjustly. I call us to all stand together in this struggle to ensure that they are justly compensated,”Levie said, at the protest


This story is a part of the Solving for Chicago collaborative effort by newsrooms to cover the workers deemed “essential” during COVID-19 and how the pandemic is reshaping work and employment.

It is a project of the Local Media Foundation with support from the Google News Initiative and the Solutions Journalism Network. The 19 partners span print, digital and broadcasting and include WBEZ, WTTW, the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Defender, La Raza, Shaw Media, Block Club Chicago, Borderless Magazine, the South Side Weekly, Injustice Watch, Austin Weekly News, Wednesday Journal, Forest Park Review, Riverside Brookfield Landmark, Windy City Times, the Hyde Park Herald, Inside Publications, Loop North News and Chicago Music Guide.

Our work is made possible thanks to donations from people like you. Support high-quality reporting by making a tax-deductible donation today.                                                                                                                        Donate

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Feature

Urban farm provides sense of community for refugees during COVID

Above: Radishes at Global Garden Refugee Training Farm in Albany Park July 18, 2020 in Chicago Ill. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

On a sunny Saturday morning in June, Beda Pradhan picked mint, green mustard and bok choy from her plot in the Global Garden Refugee Training Farm in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood. 

Pradhan is one of five refugee farmers who grow produce to both eat and sell on the one-acre urban farm on Chicago’s North Side. Farmers sell produce at local restaurants and farmer’s markets as well as through Global Garden’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. What Pradhan doesn’t sell, she keeps for her family, making dishes like gundruk — a classic Nepali fermented dish — with the leafy vegetables she harvests. 

For Pradhan, the farm is about more than just the food and extra income. It’s about a sense of belonging in a place far from home. The Bhutanese refugee came to Chicago in 2012 after living in a refugee camp in Nepal for most of her life. 

Manmaya Kalikoty chats with Beda Pradhan while picking their produce to sell at the farm stand across from the Global Garden Refugee Training Farm in Albany Park Aug. 8, 2020 in Chicago Ill. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

“I like that I get to meet other community members and people from Bhutan,” Pradhan said. 

Since 2012, Global Garden has been a community space and a source of food and income for Pradhan and over 100 refugee families in the Chicago area. But the farm and its farmers are facing challenges this year with new city fees for water access as well as the closure of local restaurants and farmer’s markets due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While farmers used to be able to tap into nearby fire hydrants for $5 per growing season, Chicago’s Department of Water Management is now requiring anyone who wants to open a hydrant to purchase a reduced pressure zone valve that prevents backflow into the water system. The new equipment is expensive: the valve plus installation and certification by a city inspector costs up to $1,700, or 340 times what water access cost to urban farms like Global Garden in past years.

“We are better situated to cover these new costs than many very small community gardens that operate without cash transactions,” says Global Garden’s executive director and founder Linda Seyler. “But it’s still a big financial burden for us.”

Moe Lan waters his family’s garden plot at Global Garden Refugee Training Farm in Albany Park July 18, 2020 in Chicago Ill. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

Like most community gardens and urban farms, Global Gardens cannot afford to install a permanent water line to the farm, which can cost up to $40,000. While rain barrels, which capture rainwater for later use, are a cheaper alternative, they do not provide enough water alone for crops to survive this year’s record heat.

“This is really frustrating that the city tried to bring such a big change amid the pandemic,” said Shivana Shrestha, a volunteer at Global Garden. “All we want to do is garden for the handful of good months we get in Chicago and improve the health and wellness of our communities.” 

The increased water access costs come at a challenging time for the farm as many of the restaurants and farmer’s markets where farmers used to sell produce are closed or have reduced operations due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Mu Ku picks carrots for the CSA Global Garden Refugee Training Farm in Albany Park July 18, 2020 in Chicago Ill. Ku works the plot with her husband, sister, and brother. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

In 2019, the farm’s five commercial farmers earned over $18,000 collectively in supplemental income through direct sales at a local farmer’s market, the farm’s CSA, and to the nearby Tre Kronor restaurant. Original plans for the farm’s 2020 season were to double or triple each farmer’s income over that of the previous year by selling at four weekly farmer’s markets, instead of just one, and by selling to more restaurants. 

Instead, the farm has shifted its focus to the CSA. At $375 a seasonal share, 58 community members, most living within walking distance of the farm, now receive paper grocery bags full of freshly picked produce weekly. Global Garden has also opened a farm stand across the street from the farm. Between the CSA and the farm stand, Seyler says that she expects the refugee farmers to be able to make at least the same amount of money as in 2019.

Shivana Shrestha (center) helps translate and bag produce for (from left) Beda Pradhan and Manmaya Kalikoty as they sell produce to Donna Schober and Beth Cole at the farm stand across from Global Garden Refugee Training Farm in Albany Park July 18, 2020 in Chicago Ill. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

Shrestha, an immigrant from Nepal herself, helps man the farm stand and acts as translator for the refugee farmers, who often speak little English when they arrive in Chicago. She got involved in the farm while working as a research assistant focused on community gardens at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Field Museum. She says she loves Global Garden because of how closely it mirrors the farms in Nepal. 

“This garden is a space built for improved access to food and nutrition but community is vital here,” said Shrestha. “The farmers are so generous to everyone. It’s very much like a family.”

Global Garden Refugee Training Farm was founded in 2012 by Seyler and 37 refugee Burmese and Bhutanese families. They built the farm on a lot that had been vacant for over a decade. The farm was initially funded by a grant from the Federal Office of Refugee Resettlement and today relies on a mix of grants, individual donations and produce sales to stay afloat. Global Garden now feeds refugee families from countries as far-reaching as Burma, Bhutan, Somalia, and the D. R. of Congo. 

Illinois is home to over 120,000 refugees, with the majority of them living in the Chicago area. Refugees come to the United States through a government resettlement program after fleeing violence or war in their home country.

For Bhutanese farmer Manmaya Kalikoty, Global Garden reminds her of her life before she became a refugee.

Manmaya Kalikoty picks produce to sell at the farmstand across from Global Garden Refugee Training Farm in Albany Park Aug. 8, 2020 in Chicago Ill. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

“I grew up in a village in Bhutan and always helped my mom farm. That’s why I always like to be with nature,” Kalikoty said.

Before coming to the United States, Kalikoty lived in the same Nepali refugee camp as Pradhan. While they didn’t know each other at the camp, the two have become close friends since coming to Chicago and working on the farm together. They live near each other on the city’s far North Side and sometimes take the bus down to the farm together. 

Like Pradhan, Kalikoty’s family — which now includes five children and four grandchildren — relies on the produce she grows in the farm to eat. Among her crops this year is amaranth, sweet peppers, eggplants and green beans. Over seven thousand miles away from Bhutan, Kalikoty is able to share with her family a taste of home.

“I have always been a farmer, I’ve always grown my own food,” said Kalikoty. This is what I know and what I like to do.”

Global Garden’s seasonal farm stand is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the corner of Lawrence and Manor. The farm accepts donations on their website.


This story is a part of the Solving for Chicago collaborative effort by newsrooms to cover the workers deemed “essential” during COVID-19 and how the pandemic is reshaping work and employment.

It is a project of the Local Media Foundation with support from the Google News Initiative and the Solutions Journalism Network. The 19 partners span print, digital and broadcasting and include WBEZ, WTTW, the Chicago Reader, the Chicago Defender, La Raza, Shaw Media, Block Club Chicago, Borderless Magazine, the South Side Weekly, Injustice Watch, Austin Weekly News, Wednesday Journal, Forest Park Review, Riverside Brookfield Landmark, Windy City Times, the Hyde Park Herald, Inside Publications, Loop North News and Chicago Music Guide.

Our work is made possible thanks to donations from people like you. Support high-quality reporting by making a tax-deductible donation today.                                                                                                                        Donate

Categories
Feature Visas

绿卡中签者集体起诉特朗普

上图:8月25日,塔尔·德罗在以色列阿塔伊姆市。德罗是一名同性恋,他说:“在美国,我不必不断隐藏自己的身份、文化根源、国籍和宗教信仰。”图片来自塔尔·德罗

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当塔尔·德罗(Tal Dror)抽中了2020年美国移民签时,他觉得自己是世界上最幸运的人。

德罗说:“在美国,我不必不断隐藏自己的身份、文化根源、国籍和宗教信仰。” 

德罗在以色列的一个小镇金纳多(Ginaton)长大,现在在阿塔伊姆市(Givatayim)做一名兽医。

德罗是一名同性恋,然而同性恋婚姻在以色列是非法的,对LGBTQ人民的歧视也很普遍。对于31岁的德罗来说,他鲜少公开表达自己的性倾向,也很难遇到公开出柜的同志。而美国移民签意味着一条开往新生活的通道,他可以在美国自由表达自己的性别认同。

然而特朗普发布的一系列移民禁令让今年的中签者无法移民美国。德罗的美国梦破碎了。他甚至已经认真规划好在美国的生活:办什么银行卡,买什么车,租什么样的房子。德罗想要定居德克萨斯州府奥斯丁,找一片农场,养上一群动物。 

8月23日,塔尔·德罗在以色列阿塔伊姆市一家诊所担任兽医助理。德罗抽中了2020年美国绿卡。他需要在9月30日前移民到美国,然而特朗普的移民禁令碎了他的梦。图片来自塔尔·德罗

“我甚至没有备选方案,” 德罗说。 “我曾经那么确定我能移民成功。” 

今天,由德罗和其他绿卡中签者提起的诉讼将在哥伦比亚特区联邦法院开庭审理。法官将听取原告提出的临时禁令的诉求,也许中签者们能够由此顺利获得签证。

***

多元化移民签证计划是美国前总统老布什(George HW Bush)在1990年颁布的《移民法》的一部分,旨在提高美国移民人口的多样性,吸引更多历史上移民率较低的国家的公民移民美国。也就是说,这个项目并不包含像中国印度这些在美国移民比例较高的国家。在2020年,中签人数最多的国家是埃及(5,568)、俄罗斯(5,118)、刚果民主共和国(4,743)和伊朗(4,101)。

今年的绿卡移民项目在超过1400万份的申请中随机抽取了83,900名中奖者。但中奖并不意味着拿到绿卡。中奖者需要及时提交绿卡申请,才能获得绿卡,在美国合法永久居留。每年最多有50,000名获奖者能够最终获得绿卡。

特朗普一直对绿卡抽签项目很不友好,声称该计划允许“一些非常糟糕的人抢走了美国公民的工作。”实际上,许多中奖者都受过高等教育,只是在自己的国家缺少发展机会。要获得绿卡抽签资格,申请人必须具备高中文凭,证明自己能够养活自己,没有犯罪记录并且身体健康。

今年4月,特朗普发布公告宣布暂停几乎所有移民计划,包括多元化移民签证,以期在新冠病毒疫情期间保护美国工人的利益。 

特朗普在4月时表示:“用从国外来的新移民代替在疫情期间被解雇的美国人是错误且不公正的,我们必须首先照顾美国工人。”

特朗普在6月时进一步将这一禁令延长至2020年底。这是绿卡抽签项目在其三十年的历史中第一次被中断

特朗普在宣言中援引了疫情期间的失业率,并声称: 一旦永久居民被许可进入美国,就会立刻在各个领域与美国人竞争工作。”

但是美国移民委员会American Immigration Council)的政策总监乔治·豪尔赫(Jorge Loweree)认为特朗普的禁令缺乏“任何经济依据。” 

许多经济学家认为移民并不会夺取美国人的就业机会,也不会降低美国人的工资。相反,移民的涌入有助于增加美国整体的就业机会。

一些人认为绿卡抽签移民起到了“拉动效应”,鼓励更多的高素质人才移民美国,尤其是来自于少有移民的国家。研究还发现,移民多样性的提高,实际提升了美国人的工资。 

今年绿卡中签的人必须在9月30日之前获得签证才能移民到美国。但是由于特朗普禁令和疫情原因,美国国务院暂不处理任何签证。 

根据我们对每月移民签证签发统计数据的分析调查,在今年原定要发出的50,000份绿卡中,大约有37,000人在特朗普禁令下无法获得绿卡。 尽管他们仍可以再次申请抽签,但未必能被抽中。德罗今年再次提交了申请,却没有入选2021年名单。 

***

今天即将开庭审理的诉讼声称,特朗普的移民禁令“任意且反复无常”。

“针对多元化移民签证已成为特朗普政策中,白人至上主义议程的一部分,正义行动中心(Justice Action Center)的合作律师拉博尼·霍克(Laboni Hoq)说。

霍克将在今天被审理的多明哥·戈麦斯(Domingo Arreguin Gomez)诉讼案中代表绿卡中签者。霍克认为,尽管移民法赋予了总统一定的限制移民的权力,但特朗普颁发移民禁令的行为远远超出了该权力范畴。

“国会才有权制定移民法,”霍克说。“国会在过去的几十年中创造了一整套法律系统,而总统如此越权是前所未有的。我们相信特朗普声明中的每个部分都经不起推敲。”

法官阿米特·梅塔(Amit P. Mehta)将在今日审理霍克代理的诉讼,以及另一场更大的官司穆罕默德博士诉特朗普这两场诉讼均在今天美中时间中午12点开庭,观众可以在法院官网在线旁听。 

本月初, 伊利诺伊州检察长夸梅·拉乌尔(Kwame Raoul)与其它22个州的检察长一起提交了“庭之友”意见,公开支持戈麦斯诉讼案的原告。 

“移民不仅在疫情期间,在任何时候都是支持各州经济发展不可或缺的力量,拉乌尔在声明中说。“我将继续反对联邦政府反移民政策,阻止政府伤害家庭、社区和各州经济。”

霍克希望法院今天至少会下令要求政府处理积压的签证。这些签证的有效期为六个月。 

霍克说:“这不是最理想的结果,但如果禁令不能立刻解除,推动签证办理至少可以让原告推迟到明年入境美国。”  

***

海蒂·梅尔曼德14岁的侄子本雅明在伊朗德黑兰。本雅明患有克罗恩氏病。图片来自海蒂·梅尔曼德

对于海蒂·梅尔曼德(Heidi Mehrmand)来说,推迟入境总比没有入境好。居住在加利福尼亚州的梅尔曼德今年45岁,是一名美国公民和呼吸治疗师。她本希望今年能够与妹妹莫日根(Mozhgan)一家人在美国团聚。 

莫日根一家人住在伊朗德黑兰。她14岁的儿子本雅明患有克罗恩氏病,如果治疗不当,可能会导致严重的并发症,甚至有生命危险。梅尔曼德相信本雅明在美国会有更好的生活,至少在美国,治疗克罗恩氏病的药物更容易获得。

在梅尔曼德的帮助下,莫日根申请并抽中了绿卡移民。然而原计划于4月1日在美国驻阿布扎比大使馆进行的面签却从未进行。由于疫情原因,使馆被关闭。 

当梅尔曼德得知特朗普的移民禁令时,她哭了好几天。

住在加利福尼亚州尔湾市的家中,梅尔曼德无法停止担心妹妹一家人。在他们团聚之前,她将无法安睡。 

“我完全不能工作,” 梅尔曼德含泪说道。“我的心都碎了。”

 

线上旁听今日庭审,美中时间中午12点,拨打877-848-7030, 访问密码3218747。详情请登录法院官网

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Categories
Feature Visas

Green Card Lottery Winners Challenge Trump’s Immigration Ban

Above: Tal Dror in Givatayim, Israel on Aug. 25, 2020. “The U.S. is one of the only places on earth where I don’t have to constantly hide my identity, my roots, my nationality and religion,” said Dror, who identifies as gay. Photo courtesy of Tal Dror

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UPDATE 9/4/20: A D.C. federal judge on Friday partially blocked the Trump administration from barring foreign citizens who won green cards in the Diversity Visa lottery.

When Tal Dror won the 2020 lottery for a U.S. green card, he felt like the luckiest person in the world.

“The U.S. is one of the only places on earth where I don’t have to constantly hide my identity, my roots, my nationality and religion,” said Dror, who identifies as gay. 

Dror grew up in Ginaton, a small town in Israel, and works as a veterinarian in Givatayim, close to Tel Aviv. Gay marriage is illegal in Israel and discrimination against LGBTQ people is common. For the 31-year-old Dror, winning a spot in the United States’ Diversity Immigrant Visa program meant that he could make a new home in a country where he could freely express his sexual identity.

But Dror’s American dreams were crushed this year when President Donald Trump issued a series of immigration bans effectively keeping green card lottery winners from immigrating to the United States. 

Tal Dror pictured Aug. 23, 2020 at the clinic where he works as an associate veterinarian in Givatayim, Israel. Dror won the 2020 Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery for a U.S. green card. He must get a visa by September 30 to immigrate to the United States, but Trump’s executive orders have kept him from doing so. Photo courtesy of Tal Dror

“I didn’t even have a Plan B,” Tal said. “I was so sure it’s going to work out.” 

Today, lawsuits filed by Dror and other U.S. permanent resident card lottery winners will go before a judge in the District Court for the District of Columbia. The judge will hear the plaintiff’s motions for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order, which could allow Dror and others to receive their visas despite the ban.

***

The Diversity Immigration Visa program was established as part of The Immigration Act of 1990 under President George H. W. Bush with the goal of diversifying the immigrant population in the United States. The program’s lottery received applications from more than 14 million applicants in 2020 and chose almost 83,900 winners from countries with historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Winners can apply for green cards, which provide permanent residency in the U.S and a pathway to citizenship. Ultimately, up to 50,000 of those winners will receive green cards in a given year.

In 2020, the largest number of visa winners came from Egypt (5,568), Russia (5,118), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (4,743), and Iran (4,101). 

President Trump has long criticized the visa program claiming that it let in some very bad people who take the jobs of US citizens. To qualify for a green card visa, applicants must have received at least a high school degree and prove they can support themselves, have no criminal background and are in good health. Many of the winners are highly educated but lack opportunities in their home countries.

In April, Trump issued a proclamation to temporarily pause almost all immigration, including the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, in a bid to protect American workers during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad,” Trump said in April. “We must first take care of the American worker.”

In June, Trump extended the April order through the end of 2020. The bans mark the first time the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program has been interrupted in its three-decade history.

The proclamation cites record unemployment level statistics and states that, “Lawful permanent residents, once admitted, are granted “open-market” employment authorization documents, allowing them immediate eligibility to compete for almost any job, in any sector of the economy.”

But Jorge Loweree, policy director at the American Immigration Council, says the ban lacks “any meaningful economic analysis to substantiate its claims.” 

Many economists suggest that immigrants do not take jobs from Americans, nor do they lower their wages. Rather, the influx of immigrants helps increase overall hiring for the U.S. economy.

Some argue that immigrants arriving through the green card lottery program act as a “pull factor,” encouraging more high-skilled immigrants especially from those underrepresented communities. Research also found that greater diversity among immigrants raises the wages of people who were born in the United States. 

Those who won the Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery in 2020 need to be granted visas by September 30 in order to immigrate to the United States. However, the State Department isn’t processing any visas, both due to the ban and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

About 37,000 out of the 50,000 lottery winners may not be able to finish the process before this year’s deadline of September 30, according to our analysis of the monthly immigrant visa issuance statistics. While this year’s winners could apply again, there is no guarantee that they would be selected in future years. Dror, who had reapplied for this year, didn’t make the 2021 list. 

***

The lawsuits going before the District Court today claim that Trump’s immigrant ban is “arbitrary and capricious.”

“Targeting the diversity visa has been a part of Trump’s larger white supremacist agenda in his policies,” said Laboni Hoq, cooperating attorney with Justice Action Center.

Hoq is representing green card lottery winners in Domingo Arreguin Gomez v. Donald J. Trump, one of the two lawsuits being heard today. She argues that Trump acted outside his authority as president in banning immigration to this extent. While the Immigration and Nationality Act gives some power to the president to limit immigration, Hoq says that the ban goes far beyond that power.

“Congress is the one to have the authority to create immigration laws,” Hoq said. “They created a complex system of laws over the course of decades, and the scale to which the president is trying to bypass them is unprecedented. We believe each piece of this proclamation is successfully challengeable.”

Judge Amit P. Mehta will hear plaintiffs’ motions for a preliminary injunction and a temporary restraining order for both Hoq’s lawsuit and a second, larger lawsuit, Dr. Mohammed v. Trump, today at noon CST. Viewers can access the court proceeding virtually on the D.C District Court website.

Earlier this month, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, along with the attorneys generals from 22 states, filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the plaintiffs in Gomez. 

“Immigrants work in roles that are essential to supporting states’ economies during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond,” Raoul said in a statement. “I will continue to oppose the federal government’s anti-immigrant policies that hurt families, our communities and states’ economies.”

Hoq hopes the court today will at least require the government to process the visas that are in limbo. Once issued, these visas are valid for six months. 

“It wouldn’t be ideal, but if the ban is not enjoined immediately, the alternative relief we are seeking to force visa processing could allow plaintiffs to wait until next year and come to the U.S. in a delayed fashion,” said Hoq. 

***

Heidi Mehrmand’s 14-year-old nephew, Benyamin, in Tehran, Iran. Benyamin has Crohn’s disease. Photo courtesy of Heidi Mehrmand

For Heidi Mehrmand, a delayed entry is better than no entry at all. The 45-year-old U.S. citizen and respiratory therapist lives in California and was hoping to be reunited with her sister, Mozhgan, and her brother-in-law and 14-year-old nephew in the United States this year. 

Her sister’s family live in Tehran, Iran and her nephew, Benyamin, has Crohn’s disease, which can have severe or fatal complications if not treated properly. Mehrmand believed he would have a better life in the United States where medications to treat Crohn’s disease are much easier to get than where he lives.

Mehrmand helped Mozhgan apply for the Diversity Immigrant Visa program and she won the green card lottery. She had an interview scheduled at the U.S. embassy in Abu Dhabi on April 1, but the government postponed the interview indefinitely. 

When Mehrmand learned of Trump’s immigration ban, she cried for days.

Mehrmand continues to worry about her sister’s family from her home in Irvine, California. Until she is reunited with them, she cannot sleep easy. 

“I can’t work,” Mehrmand said, through tears. “My heart is broken.”

To listen to the court hearing live today at noon CST, call 877-848-7030, access code: 3218747. Find more information here.

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Categories
Coronavirus Español Feature

Desde las fincas cafeteras de El Salvador hasta las tierras lecheras de Wisconsin 

Arriba: Diseños de azulejos de Fernando LLort, un artista salvadoreño y ex-miembro de la banda de los años 70 La Banda del Sol, en Finca Coffee el 4 de julio de 2020 en Madison, Wis. Según LLort, los azulejos reflejan representaciones coloridas e infantiles de El Salvador. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

Read in English.

Finca Coffee está ubicado en un nuevo complejo de apartamentos en el lado sur de Madison, Wisconsin. 

Las paredes bañadas por el sol de la cafeteria de un ano, están llenas de color y cubiertas con azulejos diseñados por Fernando LLort, un artista Salvadoreño y ex-miembro de la banda de los anos 70 La Banda del Sol. 

El café está diseñado para evocar la sensación moderna de una cafetería que se puede encontrar caminando por las calles de San Salvador, El Salvador. 

Sentado en la estantería cerca de un tocadiscos hay una escultura de vidrio del pájaro nacional de El Salvador, el torogoz, con sus plumas de doble cola. 

Pero un año después de la primera apertura del café, como muchos otros negocios, está luchando debido a la pandemia del coronavirus que continúa hoy. La copropietaria Marleni De Valle está detrás de la encimera índigo de la cocina haciendo una de sus famosas pupusas cuando Borderless visita para conversar. 

Co-propietarios Silas Valle y Marleni Valle 4 de julio en 2020 en Madison, Wis. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

“Son más que simples tortillas hechas a mano rellenas de ingredientes. Son la receta de mi madre,” dijo Marleni De Valle. “Me siento feliz de poder compartir ese auténtico sabor salvadoreño. Las recetas de cocina de mi madre son sagradas. Son secretos culinarios.” 

Las pupusas, que se consideran el plato nacional de El Salvador, son más que simples tortillas hechas a mano rellenas de ingredientes, dice Marleni De Valle. Son su plato estrella y los empaca con queso, frijoles o carne, o una mezcla de los tres. 

Marleni De Valle quiere expandir el café y abrir lugares en otras partes del Medio Oeste, incluyendo Chicago. También le gustaría traer a su madre a Wisconsin desde El Salvador para poder visitar el café y ver a los clientes disfrutando de sus famosas pupusas. Pero muchos de esos planes están suspendidos debido a la incertidumbre de cuando terminara la pandemia. 

Las quesadillas salvadoreñas se hacen frescas todos los días por la co-propietaria Marleni Valle en Finca Coffee del 5 de julio de 2020 en Madison, Wis.. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

Finca es uno de los pocos restaurantes salvadoreños en el área de Madison. Sus clientes son una mezcla de inmigrantes salvadoreños, así como personas que pueden no estar familiarizados con la cocina del país centroamericano. 

“Me alegra ver que las personas comen algo y dicen ‘Wow, me gusta,’” dijo Marleni De Valle. 

Marleni De Valle se enorgullece de la calidad de la comida y las bebidas de su café. Ella y su esposo, Silas De Valle, y su gerente general, Todd Allbaugh, obtienen cuidadosamente cada ingrediente. 

Por ejemplo, antes de la pandemia, los De Valle compraban granos de café directamente de los agricultores en El Salvador como una forma de ayudar a los medios de vida de los recolectores de café, que bastante veces son mujeres, dijo Allbaugh. Es un trabajo de labor intensivo que requiere que los cosechadores escalen los lados de las montañas para llegar a los pallos de café y luego llevando bolsas pesadas de granos de café sobre sus hombros.

Todd Allbaugh, gerente general de Finca Coffee, 5 de julio de 2020 en Madison, Wis. Allbaugh trabaja con agricultores directamente en El Salvador para supervisar la importación de granos de café. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

“Al [comprar de los agricultores], eliminados al comprador de en medio que la mayoría de las empresas usan,” dijo Allbaugh. “Pagamos un precio más alto por libra, de esta manera ayudamos a crear al menos cinco empleos allí.” 

Sin embargo, el negocio se ha visto afectado durante la actual pandemia de COVID-19. Finca Coffee estuvo completamente cerrado desde el 23 de marzo hasta el 27 de mayo y solo se ha vuelto a abrir a finales de mayo para recoger pedidos y comer al aire libre. Sin embargo, el negocio solo obtuvo la mitad de sus ganancias regulares a través de estas ventas. El café también ha tenido problemas para obtener sus granos de café de El Salvador ya que el virus se ha extendido por todo el mundo y la pareja ha tenido que buscar granos de café en otros lugares. 

El origen de Finca tiene sus raíces en una amistad iniciada hace casi 30 años después de que Silas De Valle recibió por primera vez una beca de USAID para asistir a la Universidad de Wisconsin en Richland. En 1989 dejó su hogar en Metapan, El Salvador — una ciudad fronteriza a 7.5 millas de Guatemala — y llegó a la casa de su primera familia anfitriona. Se quedó por seis meses. Después de que Silas De Valle conoció a Allbaugh, se hicieron amigos íntimos y el paso el resto de sus estudios viviendo con los padres de su futuro gerente general. 

Las quesadillas mexicanas hechas por Marleni Valle son uno de los cuatro artículos destacados en el menú de Finca Coffee, el 5 de julio de 2020 en Madison, Eis. La salsa verde y roja están elaboradas a partir de la receta de su familia. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

Cuando Silas De Valle fue a visitar El Salvador en el invierno de 1991, Allbaugh se unió a él. El país estaba en medio de una guerra civil de 12 años y Allbaugh describió el viaje como un “momento de despertar,” para él. 

“Baje durante Navidad y me di cuenta de que no necesitas un árbol de Navidad. No necesitas un gran espectáculo. Solo gente que te ama incondicionalmente y un clima hermoso,” dijo Allbaugh. Desde entonces ha regresado a El Salvador casi 40 veces.  

Silas De Valle regreso a El Salvador en 1993 y tuvo una carrera de 21 años en finanzas para organizaciones como Hanes y UW-Madison.

Durante ese tiempo, Marleni y Silas De Valle también abrió una pequeña empresa de publicidad que continúan operando. 

Cuando la pareja regresó a Wisconsin en 2017, querían abrir un café con Allbaugh. Para julio de 2019, Finca abrió sus puertas al público. 

“Las cosas fueron excelentes,” dijo Silas De Valle. “Vendimos más de lo que teníamos. El espacio estaba lleno y nuestros nuevos clientes nos recomendaban a sus amigos. Pensamos que el sueño era alcanzar el equilibrio, y lo hicimos.” 

Finca Coffee ubicada en el lado sur de Madison, Wis en el complejo de apartamentos Alexander Company, 4 de julio de 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

Ahora el café se está adaptando a la nueva normalidad de las cenas y las máscaras sociales distanciadas. Sin embargo, clientes como Denise Benitez agradecen que Finca Coffee siga abierto a pesar de los nuevos desafíos que enfrenta. 

“Es mi paz en estos tiempos agitados,” dijo Benitez.

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Categories
Coronavirus Feature

From the coffee farms of El Salvador to the dairy lands of Wisconsin

Above: Tile designs by Fernando LLort, a Salvadoran artist and former member of the ‘70s band La Banda del Sol, at Finca Coffee July 4, 2020 in Madison, Wis. According to LLort, the tiles reflect colorful, childlike representations of El Salvador. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

Leer en español.

Finca Coffee is tucked into a new apartment complex on the south side of Madison, Wisconsin. 

The one-year-old cafe’s sun-soaked walls are bursting with color and covered with tiles designed by Fernando LLort, a Salvadoran artist and former member of the ‘70s band La Banda del Sol.

Finca means “farm” in Spanish and the cafe is designed to evoke the hip feel of a cafetería that could be found walking the streets of San Salvador, El Salvador.

Sitting on the bookshelf near a record player is a glass sculpture of El Salvador’s national bird, the torogoz, with its double tail feathers. 

But a year after first opening the cafe, like so many other businesses, is struggling due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Co-owner Marleni De Valle is behind the kitchen’s indigo countertop making one of her famous pupusas when Borderless stops by to chat.

Co-owners Silas Valle and Marleni Valle July 4, 2020 in Madison, Wis. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

“They are more than just handmade tortillas stuffed with ingredients, “They are my mother’s recipe,” Marleni De Valle said. “I feel happy being able to share that authentic Salvadoran flavor. My mother’s kitchen recipes are sacred. They’re culinary secrets.”

Pupusas, which are considered El Salvador’s national dish, are more than just handmade tortillas stuffed with ingredients, Marleni De Valle says. They’re her signature dish and she packs them with cheese, beans, or meat, or a mix of the three. 

Marleni De Valle wants to expand the cafe and open locations elsewhere in the Midwest, including Chicago. She’d also like to bring her mother to Wisconsin from El Salvador so that she could visit the cafe and see customers enjoying her famous pupusas. But many of those plans are on hold due to the uncertainty of when the pandemic will be over. 

Salvadoran Quesadillas are made fresh every day by co-owner Marleni Valle at Finca Coffee July 5, 2020 in Madison, Wis. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

Finca is one of only a handful of Salvadoran restaurants in the Madison area. Its customers are a mix of Salvadoran immigrants as well as people who may be unfamiliar with the Central American country’s cuisine.

“It makes me happy to see that people eat something and they’re like ‘Wow, I like this,’” said Marleni De Valle. 

Marleni De Valle prides herself on the quality of her cafe’s food and drinks. She and her husband, Silas De Valle, and their general manager, Todd Allbaugh, carefully source each ingredient.

For instance,  before the pandemic the De Valles bought their cafe’s beans directly from farmers in El Salvador as a way to help support the livelihoods of coffee pickers, who are often women, said Allbaugh. It’s a labor intensive job requiring harvesters to climb steep hillsides to get to the coffee trees and then carrying heavy bags of beans over their shoulders.  

Todd Allbaugh, Finca Coffee’s general manager, July 5, 2020 in Madison, Wis. Allbaugh works with farmers directly in El Salvador to oversee the import of coffee beans. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

“By [buying from farmers], we cut out the middle person buyer that most companies use,” Allbaugh said. “We pay a higher price per pound, this way we help create at least five jobs down there.”

However the business has taken a hit during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Finca Coffee was completely closed from March 23 until May 27 and only reopened at the end of May for pick-up orders and outdoor dining. The business only made half their regular earnings via these sales. The cafe has also struggled to source its coffee beans from El Salvador since the virus has spread across the globe more and the couple have had to look elsewhere for coffee beans.

Finca’s origin has its roots in a friendship sparked nearly over 30 years ago after Silas De Valle first received a USAID scholarship to attend University of Wisconsin in Richland. In 1989 he left his home in Metapan, El Salvador — a border town 7.5 miles from Guatemala — and arrived at the home of his first host family. He stayed for six months. After Silas De Valle met Allbaugh they became close friends and he spent the remainder of his studies living with his future general manager’s parents. 

Mexican Quesadillas made by Marleni Valle are one of four featured items on the menu at Finca Coffee, July 5, 2020 in Madison Wis. The green and red sauce are crafted from her family’s recipe. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

When Silas De Valle went to visit El Salvador in the winter of 1991 Allbaugh joined him. The country was in the midst of a 12 year civil war and Allbaugh called the trip an “awakening moment” for himself. 

“I went down during Christmas and realized that you don’t need a Christmas tree. You don’t need a big deal. Just people that love you unconditionally and some beautiful weather,” Allbaugh said. He has since returned to El Salvador nearly 40 times.

Silas De Valle returned to El Salvador in 1993 and had a 21 year career in finance for organizations including Hanes and UW-Madison.   

During that time Marleni and Silas De Valle also launched a small advertising company which they continue to operate.

When the couple moved back to Wisconsin in 2017 they wanted to open a cafe with Allbaugh. By July 2019 Finca opened its doors to the public.

“Things were excellent,” said Silas De Valle. “We sold more than we had. The space was full and our new customers were recommending us to their friends. We thought the dream was to break even, and we did.”

Finca Coffee located on the southside of Madison, Wis. in the Alexander Company Apartment Complex July 4, 2020. Francisco Velazquez/Borderless Magazine

Now the cafe is adapting to the new normal of social distanced dining and face masks. Yet customers like Denise Benitez are thankful Finca Coffee remains open despite the new challenges it faces.

“It’s my bit of peace in these hectic times,” said Benitez.

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Feature Racism

A People’s Guide to Fighting Racism

Above: Illustration by Grae Rosa for Borderless Magazine

The murder of George Floyd by a white police officer May 25 has reignited a nationwide conversation about racism. People continue to march in support of Black Lives Matter and to demand an end to police brutality that has resulted in countless Black lives lost. 

Chicago, a historically segregated city, has long struggled with racial tensions and inequities. Latinx and Black neighborhoods have borne the brunt of disinvestment, and the recent social unrest has exacerbated racial tensions there. Black Chicagoans were harassed and attacked in some predominantly Latinx neighborhoods in recent weeks and community organizers responded with calls for unity and deeper conversations about how white supremacy is normalized in American society.

Borderless Magazine asked Black and Latinx community leaders in Chicago how we can address structural racism. Here’s what they said.

End Youth Incarceration 

Amber Farrell, member of Black Lives Matter

I’m going to lift up two of Black Lives Matter Chicago’s 10 demands: Close the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center. It’s the largest juvenile prison in the country. Also, remove police from schools. 

One way to address structural racism is to completely dismantle the systems fueled by the racist conflation of Blackness and criminality. Our current system of criminalization is less about individual “crimes” and more about treating Black adults and youth like fodder for the reimagined slavery project that is the prison system. This is evidenced by the outsized percentage of Black youth that are held in these prisons. 

I worked at Harlan Community Academy, a predominantly Black high school in Chicago, where I witnessed both minor infractions and normal high school behavior addressed with police. I once saw a Black student put into the back of a police car for throwing a snowball during a fire drill. So if we can eliminate these tools of violence — police and prisons — altogether we can end the pipelining of students from schools to prisons and detention centers. If we do that we’ll also be forced to reimagine public and school safety. Hopefully we learn to address it with care and support rather than punishment. 

We can address harm with restorative justice practices and by focusing on what a young person needs. Teachers, students, and youth activists in Chicago have long been demanding that resources like counselors, nurses and after school programs replace police and carceral systems. And to be honest nurses, counselors and after-school programs should be the bare minimum needs addressed.

Look Inward 

Oscar Chacon, Executive Director of Alianza Americas

The most important thing we can do is to take a hard look inward in our own communities. Most Latinos do not really understand white supremacy in the United States. Nor do we understand it as something that we have been injected with over centuries as the Europeans came in and claimed the Americas as the new land they wanted to own. 

We’ve all been infected by these ideas and we don’t even realize it. So unless we take a hard look at how white supremacist ideas have shaped us, it’s going to be very hard for people with Latin American origins to really understand Black Americans’ struggles are really our struggles too.

Latinos have benefited from every major shift in the United States that African Americans fought and died for. From the Voting Rights Act, to the right to be a citizen in the U.S. because you were born in the U.S., to labor rights. These are all deeply connected to struggles led by African Americans. They didn’t struggle and die for those rights just so that African Americans could have them. We all have those rights.

Seen from the dominant culture lenses, meaning white, a lot of people assume Latino communities are monolithic. We are not. There are 130 million people of African descent in Latin America, which makes up a quarter of the population. 

We must stand in solidarity with Black Americans. We must stand together and have Black people’s backs as a community. 

Fund Neglected Communities

Arielle Maldonado, Director & Co-founder of The Healing Corner

The city should budget to provide more access to mental health resources, public education, after-school programming and job training for neglected communities on the South and West Side of Chicago. These communities are predominantly Latino and Black. 

When you look at the numbers most of our city’s budget is allocated to the Chicago Police Department. If communities had more resources then a lot of problems would be prevented before anyone would feel the need to call 911. 

Police officers answer calls for mental health crises when they are not trained specifically for that. Mayor Rahm Emmanuel closed half of the city’s mental health centers and cut funding for mental health and substance abuse programs. 

The city also cut a lot of funding for violence prevention organizations. The people who were on the streets working to improve relationships and decrease violence are not able to be there anymore because they had to find another job.

Structural racism comes, in part, from the government choosing to fund the police over neglected communities. Our priorities need to be changed. If they did there would be less of a need for police to get involved in these issues.

Defund the Police

Xanat Sobrevilla, organizer with Organized Communities Against Deportation

It’s not a new idea for us. Black and brown and immigrant people need to address policing in this country to ensure our survival and ability to thrive. We continue to see the violence perpetrated by police.

We need to get rid of police surveillance tools like the gang database, which are used to harass and target Black and brown members of our community. Particularly young men who may or may not actually be affiliated with gangs. We know people who are in the gang database who have gotten pulled over by police and the person in the cop car immediately calls for backup.

Policing contributes to the cycle of violence that we live through as immigrants. We have people in immigration proceedings because of the gang database. Chicago calls itself a Sanctuary City but our Welcome City Ordinance has carve outs like the gang database that allow Chicago police officers to collaborate with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. We need to get rid of those carve outs and the gang database in order to address the racial profiling and structural racism in society. 

We need to defund the police. Close to $4 million a day is spent by the Chicago Police Department. That’s 40% of the city’s budget. Mayor Lori Lightfoot could get rid of the gang database right now and reduce the CPD’s budget. Instead she’s supporting more police surveillance and a new gang database to replace our current one.

It’s really important to support and protect Black lives and defunding the police is incredibly important for the immigrant rights movement too. 

Elect Representatives Who Listen

Byron Sigcho Lopez, alderman of the 25th Ward in Chicago

We need to make sure that we have candidates who really reflect the values of our communities. We need to organize on the ground, organize neighborhoods and organize especially electorally. We need representatives that are not working for Wall Street or for pharmaceutical companies or developers. We need representatives who will listen to their constituents and to people on the ground. 

To see people suffering in the middle of a pandemic, like we are seeing right now with the lack of resources, is just not acceptable. 

Rethink Capitalism

Kofi Ademola, abolitionist and adult mentor of GoodKids MadCity

Racism is interconnected with capitalism and patriarchy. It is very entrenched and very much a part of every institution in this country. We have to know historically we are on indigenous land and Europeans came as colonizers and imperialists. On top of that they used African labor to build up their material world. That was the foundation of capitalism in this country. There has to be a repair for the damage done to indigenous communities and for the generational trauma from 400 years of slavery and 100 years of Jim Crow. 

If we really want to get to a place of equity and reciprocity then we can’t pretend that this nation wasn’t founded on white supremacy. To address structural racism we have to abolish repressive systems that produce mass incarceration, poverty and the exploitation of labor.

Join Borderless Magazine’s Diane Bou Khalil for a conversation with Black Lives Matter’s Amanda Farrell on Instagram Live Friday June 12 at 2pm CST. Watch live here.

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Feature Racism

Black And Brown Food Pantry, Solidarity March Show Young Activists Are United For Justice: ‘We Are Family’

More than a hundred people marched on 26th Street to against police brutality of Black lives. MAURICIO PEÑA/ BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO

This story was produced by Block Club Chicago, a nonprofit newsroom focused on Chicago’s neighborhoods. Read more of Block Club’s Pilsen and Little Village coverage here. 

Under the Little Village arch in Chicago Wednesday, more than a hundred non-Black Latinos and Black demonstrators raised their fists to the sky, kneeling in silence for nine minutes in memory of George Floyd.

For organizers, the rally and march down the 26th Street business corridor in the predominately Mexican neighborhood aimed to send a clear message — we are in this together.

Laura Ramirez, an organizer with El Foro Del Pueblo, said it was time for Black and Latino leaders to unite and push back against the divisions created by systemic oppressions that have long impacted both Black and Brown communities.

“We will not allow them to divide us,” Ramirez said. “Enough is enough.” 

The Little Village march and back-to-back demonstrations in neighboring Pilsen were the latest display of unity with Black Lives Matter protests.  A coalition of Latino organizers also formed the Brown Squad For Black Lives, and a Black and Brown Unity pop up food pantry.

More than a hundred people marched on 26th Street to against police brutality of Black lives. MAURICIO PEÑA/ BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO

The peaceful rally in Little Village came a day after leaders and organizers condemned isolated incidents of violence between Black and Brown communities, and called on partnerships to bridge the hurt being seen in neighborhoods on the Southwest Side.

On Sunday, Little Village neighbors organized to protect businesses from looters. Some of the men who guarded businesses were members of the Latin Kings street gang, according to local leaders.

While most neighbors have organized to support “each other in unimaginable ways,” a few Latino men have indiscriminately targeted Black Chicagoans in the neighborhood, said Little Village Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd).

For hours Wednesday at the free Black and Brown Food Pantry organized by Increase the Peace and other groups, both non-black Latinos and Black residents lined the corner of 47th Street and Ashland Avenue to stock up on supplies from the pantry.

Berto Aguayo, director and co-founder of Increase the Peace, hosts a Black and Brown Food Pantry in Back of the Yards Wednesday afternoon. MAURICIO PEÑA/ BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO

Berto Aguayo, director and co-founder of Increase the Peace, said the food pantry was a metaphorical way of breaking bread, and getting people to unite.

“We face the same struggles, we face the same issues…with unemployment, affordable housing, incarceration,” Aguayo said. 

It’s time to channel those “frustrations into constructive organizing, acting and being the solution,” Aguayo said.

Berto Aguayo, director and co-founder of Increase the Peace, hosts a Black and Brown Food Pantry in Back of the Yards Wednesday afternoon. MAURICIO PEÑA/ BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO

In Little Village, Pastor Matt DeMateo of New Life Centers said street outreach workers are reinforcing relationships in multicultural communities of Little Village and North Lawndale on the West Side.

“We’re stronger together. Uniting our communities, standing against hate and division, standing in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

On Wednesday morning, demonstrators chanted Black Lives Matter, and “No puedo respirar” or “I can’t breathe” as they walked along a stretch of 26th Street.

More than a hundred people marched on 26th Street to against police brutality of Black lives. MAURICIO PEÑA/ BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO

Jai Simpson, member of Good Kid Mad City, echoed the calls for peace among Black and Brown communities.

“I’m here to stand firm in Black and Latinx solidarity,” Simpson said. “This is a new age, the age where our Black and Brown are one because of our similarities.”

“Both Black and Brown communities on the South and West Sides of Chicago are affected by environmental racism, racial discrimination and systematic discrimination.”

“We are stronger together then we are divided. Why? Because we are family,” Simpson said.

More than a hundred people marched on 26th Street to against police brutality of Black lives. MAURICIO PEÑA/ BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO

Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya said that was a lot of hurt that exist in the Black and Brown communities. But people need to unite in their call for leaders to address systemic problems and disinvestment in Black and Brown communities.

“We need to confront this together,” Anaya said. “We have the same types of pain, we have the same types of hurt and traumas and we need to make sure we aren’t attacking each other. We need to recognize that unity is more powerful now more than ever.”

More than a hundred people marched on 26th Street to against police brutality of Black lives. MAURICIO PEÑA/ BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO

In calls for unity, Fanny Diego, a member of El Foro del Pueblo, said neighbors were standing together because “we are tired of the continued disregard for Black lives. The life of Mr. George Floyd in Minnesota, the life of Brianna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky and the countless other lives of Black people through the US the last 400 years.”

Diego demanded citizen oversight for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability.

“Our lives as Brown people are connected to the lives of Black people… We have to be united if we want to see the change in our Black and Brown communities,” Diego said.

For Laura Ramirez, the peaceful protests in Little Village and Pilsen are only the beginning in creating lasting change for Black and Brown communities.

“This only the tip of the ice berg, we have a lot more work to do,” Ramirez said.

More than a hundred people marched on 26th Street to against police brutality of Black lives. MAURICIO PEÑA/ BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO
More than a hundred people marched on 26th Street to against police brutality of Black lives. MAURICIO PEÑA/ BLOCK CLUB CHICAGO

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Coronavirus Feature

Nonprofit motorcycle club raises money to help Assyrian elderly community

Above: Assyrian Knights, from right, Ashor Daniel, Sarkis Jandou, and Peter Abraham deliver groceries to Assyrian families May 20, 2020 around Skokie and Niles, Ill. The motorcycle club has been delivering groceries to the elderly since April 21. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

Sargon Gabriel plays over a loudspeaker outside while a group of men in their thirties clad in leather motorcycle vests assemble rice, eggs, ground beef, fruits and vegetables into twenty boxes. 

Jokes abound, burgers flip, and someone reminds Sarkis Jandou that the milk is still in the car.

This is no ordinary picnic. Since April 21 the nonprofit motorcycle club, the Assyrian Knights, has been meeting in their backyards to pack up food for elderly members of the Assyrian community who have limited access to food due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the stay-at-home order took effect the club has raised over $9,500 and helped 187 Assyrian families by delivering care packages.

President of the Assyrian Knights, Sarkis Jandou, organizes the delivery of groceries to 10 different Assyrian families May 20, 2020 around Skokie and Niles, Ill. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

“I call it a hybrid between the motorcycle world and the Assyrian community,” says Jandou, president of the Assyrian Knights.

Jandou co-founded the club with four other men in late August 2019 with the goal of bringing together Assyrians in the Chicago area and giving back to the community. Before the pandemic they occasionally gave out food and toys. But COVID-19 has provided a new urgency to their work. 

“We knew we needed to help the people that can’t afford it right now, that have no help,” Jandou said. 

The club saw people struggling and was unsure when government assistance like the stimulus checks would arrive. 

“So the plan was to help families, get them food, just get them to get by,” he said.

A Dire Need 

Bibi Sheeba lives with her daughter-in-law and three grandchildren in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood. She was filled with gratitude when the Assyrian Knights delivered a care package to her on April 25.

“I was happy to see them and grateful for the food they gave to help us,” Sheeba said in Assyrian. “I was even more happy for their visit and their kind words asking us how we are doing, smiling, very kind.”

Many older Assyrians in Chicago like Sheeba, speak Assyrian and very little English. That language barrier has been a challenge during the pandemic as health guidelines and rules are updated frequently. 

Daniel Alexander delivers groceries to William Oshana and his family May 20, 2020 in Skokie, Ill. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

The Chicago Mayor’s office has translated its guidelines into seven languages, including Spanish and two dialects of Chinese, but has no guidelines in Assyrian. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers COVID-19 prevention tip sheets in over 60 languages but Assyrian isn’t one of them.

Assyrian community leaders estimate there are close to 100,000 Assyrians in Illinois who mostly live in the Chicago area. 

They’re one of the indigenous, ethnolinguistic populations of modern-day Iraq. Thousands of Assyrians have migrated and settled across the world following persecution in their homeland during the Ba’ath Arabization campaign that began in the 1970s and then during more recent activities of the Iraq War and conflict with ISIS.

Organizations that would normally help take care of elderly community members and ease language challenges, like the Assyrian National Council of Illinois, have had to reduce some of their services during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

ANCI would regularly have home care aides visit seniors before the pandemic to assist with personal hygiene, meal preparation and doctor visits. But now a number of aides are scared to enter the homes and some elders are calling and asking ANCI not to send aides to their homes in fear of contracting the COVID-19 from them, said ANCI supervisor Steve Marano.

“A lot of them are not understanding what’s going on. We get a lot of questions when we call them,” said Marano. 

A Community Steps Up

Giving back to the community isn’t new to the club. Before the pandemic the Assyrian Knights had donated turkeys to the Assyrian Church of the East Youth Association’s annual soup kitchen held at St. John’s Assyrian Church of the East, 1421 W. Lawrence Ave., and worked with another organization to donate toys to patients at Shriners Hospital for Children.

Assyrian Knights and volunteers, Sarkis Jandou, Daniel Alexander, Ashor Daniel, Linda Zaia and Mark Adam deliver groceries to 10 different Assyrian families May 20, 2020 around Skokie and Niles, Ill. Assyrian community leaders estimate that there are close to 100,000 Assyrians in Illinois, most of whom live in the Chicago area. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

Jandou and another member, Peter Abraham, decided delivering food to the elderly would be a good idea while brainstorming ideas in a Skokie Dunkin’ Donuts in April. 

The problem was most of the club’s members had lost their jobs in the pandemic. Funding the project themselves was not an option and they started talking about how to raise money to pay for the food packages. While discussing their fundraising options, Daniel Alexander, another local Assyrian, overheard them and offered to help. Ultimately, Alexander would fund the group’s first trip to the grocery store because he believed the club could help the community.

“People are struggling to get by day-by-day, living paycheck-to-paycheck,” said Alexander.

On April 19 the group uploaded a video to their Instagram and Facebook accounts asking families who need help putting food on the table to reach out to them. 

At first the group had a hard time getting families to sign up for packages from the motorcycle club.  

“The cliche is you know, we’re the ‘bad guys.’ We’re the troublemakers,” said Abraham. 

Assyrian Knights, Ashor Daniel, Steven Abraham, and Peter Abraham dance to Careless Whisper by George Michael during a break between delivering groceries to Assyrian families May 20, 2020 around Skokie and Niles, Ill. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

But as the community learned more about the club’s members helping people out suddenly a bunch of men dressed in leather with beards riding loud motorcycles didn’t seem so intimidating, Abraham said.

“When we come delivering food, I definitely do believe it changes their mindset,” said Abraham.

The emblem of King Ashur can be found on every Assyrian flag. The club also has it on their jackets which helps as an icebreaker when introducing themselves to other Assyrians.  

“When they see that symbol, it’s like ‘Oh, they are Assyrian.’ We get that a lot, too. ‘We didn’t know you were Assyrian and then we saw King Ashur and knew you were,” Jandou said.

Assyrian Knights, Sarkis Jandou, Ashor Daniel, Mark Adam, and Steven Abraham hang out after delivering groceries to Assyrian families May 20, 2020 around Skokie and Niles, Ill. Michelle Kanaar/Borderless Magazine

On April 21, the Knights made their first run for six families thanks to Alexander’s funding. They posted pictures on their social media accounts afterwards of the club assembling the care packages and making the deliveries.

“It went wild. People left and right were messaging us and commenting, calling, ‘Hey, we want to donate. How can we help?’” Jandou said. 

The club decided to start a GoFundMe campaign that same night. By the next morning it had met its initial $5,000 goal.

As requests steadily poured in during the first few weeks of deliveries, the club continued to increase their fundraising goal to keep funding them. 

As of Thursday, the GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly $10,000 from 85 people.

Jandou receives most of the requests for help from families directly to his phone. The club has helped over 180 families and he hopes people keep donating to the GoFundMe so they can keep making deliveries to people who need food.

“We want to do this until there’s no more calls,” Jandou said.

 

Anyone interested in donating to the Assyrian Knights’ effort can do so through their GoFundMe campaign. Those interested in receiving a care package can reach the group by messaging them on their Facebook page. 

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