Network News - September and October 2013

An insert in this newsletter included the proposed budget and Board slate for 2014, both of which will be voted on at our October 5th member assembly.  Please click here for the budget and Board slate proposals; and click here for proposed changes to WNPJ's Bylaws, which will also be considered at the assembly.


 

Compromised Immigration Reform: Why I Can't Support S.744

by Karma Chavez

 

Local immigrant rights and justice organizations, coordinated through the Wisconsin Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (WNIRR, of which WNPJ is a member), have largely decided to support S.744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” which was passed by the U.S. Senate in June.

The coordinated effort that Voces de la Frontera and WNIRR have put into contacting elected officials and organizing local allies is laudable. Prior to the release of the first version of the Senate’s bill, I was a part of those efforts. But not all immigrant rights and justice activists are offering their support. The Union de Trabajadores Inmigrantes (UTI) in Madison will not support a bill that criminalizes more undocumented people and will lead to more deportations. UTI’s Alex Gillis suggests that real immigration reform must address free trade agreements and the global economic situation. On the UTI Facebook page, Gillis questioned whether groups should advocate against the bad parts while pushing for something better, or take a “wait and see” approach to see how the process unfolds in the House of Representatives. These are difficult questions. There is important reason for those of us like me, U.S. citizens not living on the U.S.-Mexico border, to think carefully through them.

I have had difficulty actively opposing this bill given that I am a U.S. citizen, when some immigrants, with whom I consider myself an ally, support it. Why do they support it? This bill provides a pathway to citizenship for an estimated seven million of the 11 million undocumented people living in the United States. Some would be eligible for what is called “Registered Provisional Immigrant” (RPI) status. Young people who qualify for the DREAM Act, and some agricultural workers, will be able to access a somewhat accelerated pathway toward citizenship (at least 5-10 years after applying for RPI status). These two groups would not have to wait for the so-called “triggers” that must be in place before other people with RPI status can begin the naturalization process.

That’s the catch — most people cannot even begin applying for naturalization until several militarization (“security”) measures have been implemented and evaluated, particularly on the U.S.-Mexico border. If, and it is a very big if, those measures meet an ambiguous standard for success, then those who qualify for the regular pathway could start to naturalize — assuming they haven’t found themselves unemployed or for some other reason disqualified from proceeding. By most estimates, the lucky ones are looking at a 20-year process to become U.S. citizens. And the unlucky ones?

Even if I could accept these meager crumbs that have been tossed to immigrants and advocates, those crumbs are only a very small part of this militarization bill. I am also an ally to people who live on the already heavily militarized U.S.-Mexico border. I have watched as programs like Secure Communities and E-verify, along with business audits and other local law enforcement and immigration enforcement arrangements, have brought militarization and a “security first” mentality to communities far away from the border. This is bad for immigrants, migrant crossers and citizens alike.

While the original bill spent $5 billion on further militarizing the U.S.-Mexico border, the bill passed, thanks to the Corker- Hoeven amendment, with an estimated $46 billion for such efforts! As my friends at the Coalición de Derechos Humanos in Tucson put it, “Make no mistake: this bill will lead to more deaths on the border. It is bad public policy, and it is a giant step backward for our communities and for many immigrant families. Our communities and families deserve better.” We do deserve better, and that is why I am standing with border communities, as well as radical antimilitarization and immigrant justice groups against this militarization bill.

I understand that people are desperate and want to accept anything that will seemingly provide some opportunities. People deserve opportunities! People deserve legalization! But what we have to give up in order for a very select few to maybe have access isn’t worth it—including for those who might get that access. And anything that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is going to put forward will only be worse than S.744. So many of us have pushed for comprehensive immigration reform for so long that we are tired, and we know what a difference real immigration reform, including a simple pathway to citizenship and more opportunities for future immigration, would make. Now is not the time to settle. We need to hold to our principles, push the conversation further to the left, and educate our communities. Those of us in Wisconsin know all too well that an injury to one is an injury to all. I believe this bill will injure all of us.

For more information on the problems with S. 744, see some great videos in English and Spanish, as well as other educational materials produced by the Moratoriums on Deportation Campaign, at moratoriumondeportations.org and whoseimmigrationreform.com.

 


 

The Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin

by Huda Alkaff

 

The Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin, a state-wide volunteer group formed in 2005, intends to educate its members, the Muslim community and the general public about the Islamic environmental teachings, to apply these teachings in daily life, and to form coalitions with others working toward a just, peaceful and sustainable future. Its primary two Islamic sources are the Qur’an (the holy book for Muslims) and the Hadith (Reports on the sayings and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad –peace be upon him).

We organize environmental workshops for Muslim families, households and individuals. Participants learn and explore ways to apply the Islamic environmental and stewardship teachings in their daily lives, reduce waste, conserve energy and water, eat healthier foods, and together build a stronger sense of community. We have activities throughout the year, designating a theme for each month: January is Networking; February Global Warming/Climate Change; March Water; April Wisconsin Interfaith Earth Month; May Certified Organic Fair Trade; June through August Community Vegetable Garden, as well as Green Ramadan; September Peace; October Wisconsin Interfaith Energy Awareness Month; November Recycling; and December Environmental Justice.

IEG collaborates with Wisconsin Interfaith Power and Light on the Interfaith TelePrayer for Earth / Climate Change (the fifth Interfaith TelePrayer took place on July 29, 2013); Preach-In on Climate Change (February-April); Interfaith Earth Month Poster Contest; (April in which more than 650 K-12 students have participated since 2005); and Interfaith Energy Awareness Month (October). Since 2007 we have prevented 1,468,962 pounds (734 tons) of greenhouse gas emissions. Our main activity has been: “Combating Global Warming and Poverty by Distributing Free Energy Star LED Lights to the Poor and Needy.”

Recycling Month in November is one of our popular programs. Since 2008, the Muslim community has recycled more than 4,000 plastic shopping and grocery bags and over 2,000 newspapers and office paper! IEG distributed hundreds of reusable shopping bags made of recycled and recyclable materials, hundreds of pencils made of recycled newspaper, and hundreds of pens made of recycled plastic bottles to the community.

Another successful activity is the community vegetable gardens at different locations and in collaboration with several Mosques in Wisconsin. A large amount of fresh produce is donated to the local food pantries.

In the Qur’an (2:183), God says, “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) God-consciousness (Taqwa).” As this is written (in July), Muslims are celebrating Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, during which Muslims who are able abstain from food and drink (including water) from dawn till sunset. The main purpose of the fasting is to become more aware of and sensitive to the plight of the poor, hungry and thirsty. Ramadan is the month in which the Qur’an, the holy book for Muslims, was revealed to Prophet Mohamed (PBUH). It is a month of reflection, contemplation, repentance, renewal, spiritual purification and rejuvenation.

In July 2013, IEG organized two community conversation events: “Communities of Peace, Justice and Sustainability” with the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice’s outreach team. The first was held at the Urban Ecology Center-Riverside Park in Milwaukee in collaboration with the Interfaith Earth Network, and the second at the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. Both events were part of “Power Down” and “Green Ramadan.”

We consider environmental justice, the right for clean air, pure water, healthy food, good sanitation, etc., as a human rights issue. Our major goal is to work with others to make environmental justice a reality for all.

Justice is the basis of all human relations and a foundation of Islamic rule. There is one word that captures the essence of all Islamic laws and all Islamic teachings; one word that describes the overriding value that permeates all Islamic values - Justice. God says in the Qur’an (57:25): “We sent aforetime our messengers with clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance that humans may stand forth in Justice.”

In the Qur’an (15:19), God says, “And the earth we have spread out; set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance.” In the Qur’an (55:7-9), “…and God has set up the Balance (of Justice), in order that ye may not transgress (due) balance. So establish weight with justice and fall not short in the balance.” And another verse from the Qur’an (3:108), “These are the Signs of God: We rehearse them to thee in Truth: And God means no injustice to any of His creatures.”

Ramadan is a powerful, transformative experience. During the holy month of Ramadan, we can transform our lives and move away from a consumption-focused life to a life of moderation. It is the time to reflect on our wants and what we really need to live a peaceful, simple life on this earth.

I pray that we reduce our ecological footprint and use Ramadan’s spiritual experience as an opportunity to reflect on our own lives and move away from materialistic culture and the waste it leaves behind. It is the ideal time to put into practice the Islamic environmental teachings to care for Earth and all its inhabitants and to stand up for environmental justice, climate justice, clean air, clean water, healthy food, and sanitation for all as a basic human rights and creation rights issue. Help us, God, to do good work to keep Earth balanced, just, peaceful and sustainable for all. Amen.

Huda Alkaff is the Founder and Director of the Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin, islamicenvironmentalgroup.org, and President of Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light, wisconsinipl.org, and Vice Chair of the Interfaith Earth Network, a program of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.

 


 

Why I Believe War Is Not the Answer

by Nicole Jo May

 

Nicole May graduated from Parker H.S. in Janesville as valedictorian. She heads to Carroll University to study nursing. She submitted the following essay on why war is not the answer, winning a $600 scholarship from the Rock Valley Fellowship of Reconciliation, a WNPJ member group.

 

As children and adults people are told that bottling up their feelings will do no good. They are reminded that “violence is not the answer.” All our lives we are told not to fight, but to discuss. The concept of talking through our problems is drilled into our brains, and with good reason. Just as Martin Luther King Junior once said, “War is not the answer for carving out peaceful tomorrows,” I believe that war is not the answer for the world’s problems. Although war releases pent up animosity, it does not solve the underlying issues between nations.

War, “a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary), a state of chaos, armed fighting between enraged nations or states; nearly everyone, even the smallest child, has some concept of what the word war means, but the real issue lies with the reasons for war. Normally, the conflict begins with an offensive attack, such as an assassination or a bombing; however, one must wonder what caused these problems in the first place. The answer is: a smaller conflict. The path to war is paved with the pent-up feelings of nations, groups, and individuals. War is like a bag that finally rips from the weight of a country’s baggage. Just as a child’s frustrations, for example not getting more juice, getting called a name, or not understanding a homework assignment, can build up, a nation’s issues with another country can do the same. A simple slight at an international event could lead to antagonism between the two country’s leaders. When word of the slight is leaked to the press, the fire is fueled, a prejudice may be established. Soon, a hate is developed between two nations, animosity is present not only in the media, but in the minds of a country’s people.

It may take years, or even months, but eventually this conflict may grow larger. That single slight may expand; perhaps, one country will raise the tariff on imports from the other country or openly disagree with its leader’s decisions. These seem like minor scuffles, but they add weight to both countries’ existing issues. Before long, these lesser trifles may add up to a weight so immense that they rip the bag of one country, initiating an attack. In the wake of a vast war, the holes in each country’s bag leaves a trail of dead and wounded people, if not in body, then in spirit. And to what end? No issue is resolved. The petty remarks and accusations have morphed into the blood of a nation lying wasted in the dirt. At the end of a war, all nations involved are tired of the taxing charade and mourn their lost soldiers. They realize they have not fixed anything, merely exhausted their countries for the sake of violence.

Now, rewind the alleged conflict. Suppose the nation’s leaders communicated, one leader saying to the other: “I’m sorry. I meant no slight.” Surmise nations calmly discussing their concerns and negotiating until they reach a reasonable compromise. A problem solved with no blood shed on the floor. I admit, there are times when war seems inevitable, but these could be prevented through cautious debate and deliberation.

In short, although war appears unavoidable at times, due to the need to relinquish the pressures of international hate, it is not the answer to the world’s conflicts. War cannot resolve the underlying hostility between nations because it involves no discussion, only violence. War is not the solution to animosity; it is an excuse for bloodshed and aggression. True reconciliation of nations can only be achieved through the discussion of the issues between them.

 


 

WNPJ News: Comments from the Chair

by Tom McGrath

 

I’ve been on the WNPJ Board since our sixteenth annual assembly, in LaCrosse in October 2006. After serving two years as Board Co-chair, I recently became Chair when Dena Eakles stepped down as Co-chair.

Dena remains an active at-large Board member. She’s working with WNPJ’s outreach committee and helping plan the White Privilege Conference (a national meeting that’s coming to Madison next spring), which WNPJ is co-sponsoring. I personally want to thank Dena for the great effort she put in as Board Co-chair.

WNPJ is working towards organizational sustainability. We cut our budget and our staff time last year, and both remain down from previous levels. Our Executive Director, Diane Farsetta, does a remarkable job of keeping WNPJ functioning, and does so with a very pleasant and efficient demeanor. She is trying to do 40 hours of work in 20 hours, so among other things she has to rely on a lot of volunteer help. I want to thank Diane for all she does for WNPJ.

Speaking of volunteers, one of WNPJ’s best volunteers is Judy Miner. She maintained WNPJ’s events listings for over a year after leaving staff. Recently she decided to “retire” from this position. I want to wish Judy good luck in her future endeavors, and thank her for all she has done for WNPJ over the years.

Looking forward, I want to stress two priorities for WNPJ: fundraising and participation. WNPJ runs on a very tight budget, as you can see from the cuts in staff hours. We have a great fundraising opportunity that you can help with — a $2,000 new member matching grant. That is, if we raise $2,000 in dues from new individual or organizational members, an anonymous donor will give $2,000 more to WNPJ! We’ve already raised $1,300 in new member dues. Please encourage your friends, family and colleagues to join WNPJ — tell them their donation towards peace and justice will be doubled!

As for participation, WNPJ has about 170 member groups, and several hundred individual members. Yet our work group or committee calls usually involve 5 to 10 people. Please let us know if you want to help with outreach, events or fundraising, or join our change team (which addresses racism and other systems of oppression), or our environment, immigrant rights or anti-militarism work groups.

A great way to get more involved is to attend WNPJ’s fall member assembly, October 5th in LaCrosse — see wnpj.org for details. I hope to see you there. Meanwhile, have a good rest of the summer!

 


 

A Larger Piece of Pie - Bring Our War Dollars Home

by Z! Haukeness

 

If you had a trillion dollars, what would you do with it? I’m sure many of us have imagined the ways our communities could be strengthened if we could bring home some of the trillions of dollars that are wasted on war and aggression.

The cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined is well over $1 trillion. Here are some examples of how much these wars and major weapons programs have cost communities across Wisconsin.

  • Eau Claire, Eau Claire County - $340,000,000
  • Juneau, Dodge County - $13,000,000
  • Washburn, Bayfield County - $10,000,000
  • Rhinelander, Oneida County - $37,000,000
  • Ashwabenon, Brown County - $141,000,000

These resources could have instead supported our schools, hospitals, small businesses, retrofitting homes, veterans benefits, and job training programs — all of which are in need of increased funding. Although major U.S. wars are winding down in some respects, new weapons programs, hidden wars and drone strikes are growing, and the military budget is not shrinking.*

It is staggering to see the proportion of the budget that goes towards the military, when we know the dire needs our communities face - especially those most vulnerable: senior citizens, children, low-income and poor families, people of color, and immigrants.

For the next 10 years, the Federal Sequestration Initiative will make across-the- board cuts to each area of the federal budget, affecting social programs across the country. It is easy to imagine a more just approach evening out the slices of the pie, rather than making them all smaller. So, taking a large chunk of the 57% of the pie for military spending to decrease the deficit while increasing funding to vital social programs and community infrastructure.

Sequestration’s effects on Wisconsin include:

  • Wisconsin seniors will receive fewer Meals on Wheels;
  • Close to 1,000 Wisconsin children and families will lose access to Head Start services;
  • Wisconsin will lose approximately $10.1 million for teachers, aides, and staff who help children with disabilities; and
  • Nationwide, 424,000 fewer HIV tests will be provided, and more than 7,000 people could lose access to life-saving HIV medications. (Source: Capital Times)

What can we do?

WNPJ has been working to avoid cuts like these to important social programs, to shift the unbalanced federal budget and to bring our war dollars home for several years. Thanks to WNPJ and member groups, three BOW$H resolutions have passed in Wisconsin already. Our goal is to pass 10 more around the state, at the city, village and county level, as well as smaller institutions such as congregations and labor unions.

Through this campaign we will educate people and take creative steps to re-direct military funds to create sustainable jobs and bolster social safety net resources. We will use the resolutions and the people power gained to put pressure on federal elected officials to lead the way in moving the money.

We also plan to use the resolutions to create a “Futures Commission,” modeled after an effort in Connecticut. This Commission brings together state representatives, union leaders, defense contractors, environmental groups and others to discuss how to transition from military jobs to new economic opportunities. For example, in Oshkosh there have been nearly 1,000 layoffs in the past year at the Oshkosh Corporation, one of Wisconsin’s largest military contractors. This is a result of the military drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan - in some ways a victory for the peace movement. But rather than lose local factory and administrative jobs, let’s work on converting our economy to support alternative sectors, such as green jobs and other innovative industries to move away from a military-based economy.

If you are interested in helping bring our war dollars home, please let us know.

* To find out how much your village, town or city has wasted on wars and weapons, visit wnpj.org/BOW$H.

About Z!: I am excited to be the new Bring Our War Dollars Home parttime organizer. I have collaborated with WNPJ over the years and have worked for various racial and social justice organizations in Madison and nationally. I was born in a small town, Strum, close to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and look forward to connecting with people around the state so we can move the money and Bring Our War Dollars Home! zh@wnpj.org or 608-250-9240

 


 

No More Victims

by Mike Helbick

Throughout this past spring, thirty U.S. states participated in actions to raise awareness of the need to reform our nation’s drone strike policy, and on April 23, the first-ever Senate hearing was held on President Obama’s targeted killing program. In Milwaukee, a coalition of grassroots activists has formed to address the civilian injuries caused by U.S. drone strikes in a groundbreaking way: they aim to provide medical support to innocent Pakistani victims.

Members of the coalition include representatives of the legal, medical, faith, and grassroots activist communities. Cole Miller, Co-Director of No More Victims who spoke in Milwaukee in March, is playing a leading role in guiding this Milwaukee initiative.

No More Victims (NMV) is an organization that connects American communities with war-injured children and their families. Participants band together to learn how the child was injured, assess the child’s current situation, and work to meet some of the child’s most pressing needs.

Through these community projects, children have received life-changing medical treatment in multiple cities across the U.S. NMV has proven that Americans in ordinary circumstances can directly intervene to provide some small measure of restorative justice to victims of military violence.

“As citizens and taxpayers of the United States, we bear a direct responsibility for the violence and harm caused by the weapons and policies of our government,” says Miller. “Currently, over 175 children — that we know of — have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, and there is a lot of pressure on President Obama from both inside and outside the government to seriously address our nation’s drone strike policy. By allowing the living victims of drone strikes to tell their stories, we can work to stop the continual killing of innocent people.”

Three things are needed for the project’s success: 1) the specific identification of a child victim of U.S. drone strikes and obtainment of that child’s medical records; 2) physicians willing to provide pro-bono medical support based on the needs of the child; and 3) donations to transport and host the child and a family member in the United States for the duration of the treatment.

“We’re in the beginning stages of working with folks that may have contacts that can identify a child that we can help,” says Mitchell Sandquist, the new Program Director of Peace Action Wisconsin. “We are also looking for local physicians who may be interested in providing pro-bono care for that child when the time comes.”

Although it remains to be seen if the Obama administration will react with any meaningful policy change any time soon, one thing is certain: bringing the human cost of drone strike policy home to our communities is important, now more than ever.

If you are interested in helping with this initiative in any capacity, or for more information, please contact Mitchell Sandquist at 414-964-5158, or email Info@PeaceActionWI.org.

Mike Helbick is a member, former Director and now volunteer at Peace Action Wisconsin.

 


 

News from the WNPJ Office

by Diane Farsetta

 

While summer is usually a more relaxed time in the WNPJ office, we’ve kept hopping so far this season!

In early June, we welcomed Z! Haukeness to WNPJ’s staff, as grassroots organizer for Bring Our War Dollars Home, a part-time, year-long position funded by a grant from Ben and Jerry’s Foundation. Z! brings considerable organizing experience, having built coalitions among homeless residents, service providers, advocates and local officials to pass Food Is a Human Right and Housing Is a Human Right resolutions in Madison and Dane County. Z! also works with diverse community groups like Freedom Inc and Operation Welcome Home, and is a member of Groundwork, a white anti-racist collective and WNPJ member group. For more on how you can connect with Z! and Bring Our War Dollars Home, please see the article on page 4.

In mid-June, WNPJ traveled to the MREA Energy Fair in central Wisconsin. It was a dark and stormy fair, but a great opportunity nonetheless to reconnect with many of our members, share information and learn a few things! WNPJ staffed an info table, served up our annual Pancakes for Peace fundraiser, held a Board meeting, moderated two workshops and promoted others by member groups.

Renewably-powered thanks for Energy Fair help to volunteers Joseph Koob, Carlos Miranda and Tom McGrath for tabling help. Whole-grain thanks with fresh fruit to Pancakes for Peace volunteer organizer Cham Nusz, grill master Chris Kuehnel, and helpers Judy Miner, Nadja and Stefan Nordstrom, Louise Pease, Mary Sanderson, John Peck, Tom McGrath, Carlos Miranda and Joseph Koob. Thanks also to Family Farm Defenders, Organic Valley, Emy J’s and Great Harvest Bread Company for breakfast food donations. Congratulations to Carl Sack, Philomena Kebec, Rob Danielson, Pat Popple and Huda Alkaff for their great and well-attended workshops on empowering grassroots environmental activism.

Many other volunteers have come together to make the Network work, over the past few months. Sheila Spear, Ilana Caplan, Fred Brancel, Karma Chavez, Kathy Walsh, Judy Miner and Karen Stier helped produce and assemble our last newsletter. Thanks to Julia Gutierrez, Carlos Miranda and Jeff Pritchard for making phone calls to remind our member groups to fill out our update and brief survey (still online at wnpj.org/info if you haven’t yet filled it out!). Thanks also to Kathy Walsh for posting updates to the WNPJ website and other office help, and to Judy Miner for maintaining the WNPJ calendar and events bulletins for over a year, after leaving staff!

Please join us in welcoming the six new member groups who joined WNPJ since our last newsletter: the Wisconsin Alliance for Tenants’ Rights, which has been watchdogging the state legislature in its attempts to rollback tenant protections; Friends of Palestine in Germantown, which advocates for human rights in the Middle East; the Peace, Justice and Sustainability Group of James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Madison, which organizes educational and community-building events; the Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin, based in West Bend, which shares a faith perspective on sustainability issues; Northwoods Peace and Justice in Hayward, a regrouping of some members of the former Peace North; and the Midwest Coalition Against Lethal Mining, with contacts in La Crosse, Milwaukee, Madison and El Salvador, which builds international solidarity on mining issues.

Lastly, WNPJ is your Network! Please take a few minutes to review the proposed Board slate and organizational budget for 2014 on the insert in this newsletter. We need and want your input on WNPJ’s future! Both will be voted on at our member assembly in October, but questions and feedback are very welcome before then, at 608-250-9240 or diane@wnpj.org. Also, please read the Chair’s report and see below, to see how you can help ensure WNPJ’s financial sustainability. Thank you!

 


Please tell your co-workers, friends and family:

You can support peace and justice at work!

WNPJ is a proud member of Community Shares of Wisconsin.

Please support us, and other social change groups, by taking part in the Community Shares fall workplace campaign.

For details, and to see if your workplace already participates, visit www.communityshares.com.