Steinberg, Corbett to lead trip to Central America

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Majority Leader Ellen Corbett will lead a delegation of state lawmakers to Central America next week, in part to explore the political, economic and social situation driving a flood of unaccompanied children to the U.S. border.

centralamerica-political-mapThe lawmakers will meet with an array of officials in El Salvador and Guatemala to probe the situation and find out what states like California can do to meet the humanitarian challenge presented by the undocumented immigrant tsunami. Dangerous conditions in those nations and Honduras have driven parents to send more than 52,000 children north to the U.S. border in recent months.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Corbett, D-Hayward, will be joined on the trip by Legislative Latino Caucus members Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside; Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno; Assemblyman V. Manuel Peréz, D-Coachella; and caucus vice-chair Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville.

The trip, from July 14 through 23, will include a stop in Panama to learn about the Canal Zone’s expansion. Some transportation, security and interpreting service costs are being borne by the host countries, and the remaining expenses – including airfare and hotels – will be paid by the lawmakers.

In El Salvador, the lawmakers are scheduled to meet with Salvadoran President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, Vice President Oscar Ortiz, Foreign Affairs Minister Hugo Martinez, Economy Minsiter Tharsis Salomon Lopez Guzman; Legislative Assembly President Sigfrido Reyes; and U.S. Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte. In Guatemala, they’re scheduled to meet with Vice-minister of Foreign Relations Oscar Padilla Lam; Paul Briere, President of the Congressional Committee for Migrants of Guatemala; and U.S. Charge d’Affaires Charisse Phillips. And in Panama, they’re scheduled to meet with the Panama Canal Authority and U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Farrar.


Barbara Lee becomes Sudan Caucus co-chair

Rep. Barbara Lee is the newest of four co-chairs of the Congressional Sudan Caucus, which is still trying to draw more attention to the ongoing humanitarian disaster in that African nation.

Lee, D-Oakland, succeeds the late Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., as a co-chair; the other three co-chairs are Michael Capuano, D-Mass., Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Michael McCaul, R-Tex. The caucus was founded in 2005.

In her news release Tuesday, Lee noted ongoing strife in the Sudanese border areas of South Kordofan, Blue Nile, Abyei, and Darfur, and in Yida and other refugee camps in South Sudan. Civilians are subject to the Sudanese government’s indiscriminate bombing and denial of humanitarian aid, leaving nearly half a million at risk of starvation.

Lee said she’ll work with the other co-chairs “to bring Khartoum, Juba, and all stakeholders together to ensure that peace prevails in the region. At this critical time with Sudan and South Sudan on the brink of war, it is critical that Congress and the United States use all tools at its disposal to bring the two sides to the negotiating table for peace talks.”

Lee will take part in a subcommittee hearing on Sudan this Thursday and will host U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice for a special briefing with members of Congress on international efforts to reach a peaceful resolution.

Lee has been active on the issue for some time, sponsoring legislation recognizing acts of genocide in the region and urging China as well as the Arab League to step up efforts to stop the genocide in Darfur. Her bill to allow divestment from companies doing business in the region was enacted into law in 2007.


Contribute to Haiti earthquake relief efforts

haiti_quake_02 - Eduardo Munoz - ReutersNo, it’s not politics. But the news out of Haiti is horrific, and every blog in the world should be reposting ways to contribute to the relief efforts:


Doctors Without Borders

Red Cross

Direct Relief International

Mercy Corps Haiti Donation Page

Oxfam America

Yele Haiti

Already the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, Haiti is now in ruins. This tragedy should remind us that as we complain about the economy, the state budget, health-care reform and what have you, we should be grateful to live in a land of plenty, mostly unaccustomed to this kind of devastation.

UPDATE @ 12:30 P.M.: More ways to donate —

The Salvation Army is accepting donations online; by phone at 1-800-SAL-ARMY or by postal mail at: The Salvation Army World Service Office, International Disaster Relief Fund, P.O. Box 630728, Baltimore, MD 21263-0728. Designate donations “Haiti Earthquake.”

The Rainbow World Fund is accepting donations online or by mail at: Rainbow World Fund, 4111 – 18th Street, Suite 5, San Francisco, CA 94114. Specify “Haiti” with your donation.


Bay Area House members urge action on Gaza

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland — along with Rep. John Olver, D-Mass., and Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara — helped lead the effort to send a letter yesterday urging U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to pursue immediate action by the United States to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“Given the extent of the suffering, destruction, and deprivation in Gaza, it is imperative that the United States lead the effort to ameliorate the growing humanitarian crisis,” Lee said in a news release. “I am optimistic that under the leadership of our new President and Secretary of State, concrete steps will be taken to bring much needed relief to the people of Gaza.”

In their letter, the Representatives noted the need for the opening of border crossings into Israel so supplies can enter Gaza, and for the critically ill to be transported out of Gaza for medical treatment. They also reminded the Administration that rebuilding Gaza will depend on the international community making significant financial contributions.

The lawmakers also asked that Clinton or her staff share with them the actions taken to date and the strategy that will be pursued to address the humanitarian crisis; they want this information before Congress recesses on Feb. 13.

The three co-authors were joined by 57 co-signers, including much of the Bay Area’s delegation: House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez; Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

Read the letter’s full text and list of signatories, after the jump… Continue Reading