Barter is Alive and Well in Oaxaca, Mexico

~Sabith Khan, Ph.D.

Oaxaca Woman (2)

Here is a discovery I made, based on one interview in Oaxaca, Mexico. I know that for a scientifically reliable insight, a sample size of one is not considered reliable. However, indulge me as I share one remarkable insight into how artisans and crafts persons are surviving the pandemic in Oaxaca, Mexico.  The secret: through barter.

On a recent visit to one of the pueblos in the vicinity of Oaxaca de Juarez in Oaxaca, I encountered an artisan – a lady who works with red clay – and is someone part of a women’s cooperative formed about 20 years ago.

The potters who form the cooperative are all women who work with clay to form various types of products – plates for food, ornamental objects for decoration, and kitchen utensils, too. This has been a way of life for them for centuries, and though sometimes times are tough, these women have stuck it out. I was interested in learning more about how they are surviving the pandemic. One of the women said, “Well, we are not asking for money anymore. We are ok with barter. If a farmer pays us with onions or tomatoes instead of cash, we are ok with it.” Oaxaca Pottery

“So, barter is what you are doing,” a colleague of mine inquired.

“Yes, we don’t call it that; but yes, an exchange of somewhat equal value.”

The leader of the group, Doña Macarena, was not too happy with this setup. Though she didn’t speak to the is sue of barter directly, she pointed out that people sometimes don’t recognize the value and craft involved in making clay pots. “We are artisans making beautiful products, and sometimes we find people who don’t recognize our talents and work,” she said.

However, as I prepared to leave the workshop, after a lively demonstration during which Doña Macarena made a Comal for us, in no more than 10 minutes, an exquisite plate-like object, she added that this was the very first clay object that she learnt to make from her own mother. “I am happy to be keeping up the tradition and knowledge; that is how we survive,” she added. That, and a little bit of innovation and a little bit of pragmatism seem to be the trick to surviving the pandemic for these artisans.

How We Overcame the Fear of the COVID-19 Vaccine

~Leonard Casiple

The COVID-19 pandemic response has upended the very essence of humanity by constraining social interaction, mandating indoor seclusion, and making us flinch at the thought of outdoor bustle.

Even the elegance of the lingering waft of perfume and cologne has been supplanted by the shock of quickly-dissipating rubbing alcohol and sanitizers.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Every connection has become a long-distance relationship.

Gone are the days of bear hugs and high fives. Our need for social contact has been abbreviated into a momentary fist bump. Today, the essence of closeness and community is measured in 6-foot increments. The closeness that breaks the mandated “bubble” is frowned upon as a lack of civility.

How long will we tolerate to live this way?

Straitjacketed by social distancing, we are free but confined. We are shackled to a mark on the floor until safe to move to the next comfortable X. The mask suffocates at inhalation. At exhalation, the facial cloak inhibits the utterance of frustration.

Vaccinate or Vacillate?

At any given moment, we can find information either to support vaccination or to contradict the opposition. The ubiquity of conflicting information can confuse the finest of us. Perpetual analysis based on an unhealthy dose of doubt can lead to an endless cycle of posturing, blaming, and story-crafting.

If not careful, an intense but partial study can lead to the wrong rationalization. Groups can become comfortably befuddled by the mantra of their echo chambers.

Our Family’s Experience.

As a child, I grew up in a developing country where the disease was rampant. I was fortunate to get on the public health immunization schedule. The vaccines spared me from the devastation of diseases such as polio and tuberculosis that affected some of my neighbors.

As a soldier in the US Army, I was immunized to preserve my health while working in austere environments. The US military, as a matter of force preservation, requires its personnel to stay current on all vaccinations.  As a condition for being stationed overseas, my wife and children were also vaccinated.  With vaccination, my wife who is a nurse can continue the work that she loves with less apprehension.

The National Stance.

Since the late 1800s, the US has required medical examinations of immigrants, and much later added vaccination as a condition for entry. Applicants who are found to be carriers of diseases of public health significance are excluded from entry.

When done in combination – the vaccination of the majority and the exclusion of a few – the measures have protected this country from debilitating and life-altering diseases.

Because of the effectiveness of the control measures at entry points, we are oblivious to the screening process that silently protects us. Because we are generally healthy, we fail to appreciate the long-term positive results of inoculation.

The benefits of induced immunity have allowed this country to maintain its economic momentum, and in turn, we are able to keep our hopes and dreams on schedule.

How We Handle the Fear.

My wife and I worry about the virus as well as the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine.  We are also concerned about the long-term health of our college-age sons.

Although we instituted a few financial security measures, untimely death or disability during the pandemic will be a difficult ordeal.

To quell the fears, we discussed options and established contingency plans.

Our Tiered Approach.

We will live courageously with a bias towards positivity. We will not allow this virus to keep us at bay. To minimize the impact, my family will get vaccinated in stages.

As a front-line worker, my wife will be vaccinated first.  If she experiences a negative reaction, I will wait so I can take care of her until her condition improves. Our sons will be vaccinated last.

We envision our family thriving, socializing, and traveling (again) as the result of the COVID-19 vaccine program.

From my point of view, I am not taking a plunge into the unknown. Instead, vaccination is the forward lunge that will dislodge the consuming grip of the pandemic.

How about you? How do you plan to live the best parts of your life?

The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on Remittance Flow to Cuba: A Glance at the Use of Digital Platforms

Denisse Delgado

Public Policy Ph.D. student UMass Boston

During the COVID-19 crisis, Mexico and the Dominican Republic have been experiencing an unexpected increase in the remittance transactions. However, most of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean saw a sharp decline in their remittance receipts in April, before they began to rebound in June of this year. The remittance flow to Cuba has been decreasing this year, and it is still expected to continue to drop.

Remittance Flow to Cuba

The number of remittances to Cuba have been affected due to the COVID-19 impact on the countries of reception’s economy. Florida is home to the largest Cuban community of emigrants living abroad. As unemployment has increased in Florida, it has directly affected the Cuban community living there. Additionally, the number of remittances to Cuba have also been affected for two other reasons.  First, the current Donald Trump administration has imposed restrictions on remittances setting a limitation of $1,000 per calendar quarter to an immediate family member in Cuba. Second, the lower remittance flow is also aggravated by travel restrictions imposed by the Trump administration, as well as the limitation of international flights to Cuba by the Cuban government as a measure to control the spread of the pandemic on the island. A significant part of remittances —be it money or products— enters Cuba through informal channels or the so-called mulas —people who bring money and goods to the island. Travel limitations decrease the number of remittances that enter Cuba through these channels.

During the quarantine, however, Cubans are exploring new ways to send remittances. A source highlights that it has become trendy among Cubans living abroad to send cryptocurrencies to a trusted contact in Cuba. The contact in Cuba delivers the equivalent in the local currency, either in cash or through bank transfers to the recipient’s Cuban bank account. This method favors not only families that receive remittances, but also entrepreneurs and enthusiasts of the cryptocurrency community in Cuba who access cryptocurrencies regularly.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the impact of digital remittances is relevant, as the digital payment system is becoming popular among the entire immigrant population in the U.S. Digital remittances are now frequently used to pay bills for services such as electricity, water, gas, the home phone line, the monthly rent. Therefore, by sending digital remittances, family members living abroad from their home countries directly contribute to the payment of essential services necessary for their families. But the development of digital technology must go hand in hand with training in digital and financial education. Having a well-developed digital platform to send remittances to Cuba would help Cubans living abroad to keep supporting their families during this challenging time and fund businesses that foment development.

About the Author

Denisse Delgado is a Ph.D. student in the Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Her research focus has been on Cuban migration, remittances, and development. She is an active member of the International Organization for Remittances and Migration (IOREM) and a principal collaborator for Cuban Horizon at Columbia Law School. Denisse has been a visiting scholar at various universities, including the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University and the Cuban Research Institute, Florida International University, where she was a visiting fellow last summer. This summer, Denisse was an intern in the Migration, Remittances, and Development Program at the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank located in Washington DC. Before that, she was a researcher affiliated with the Havana think tank CIPS (the Research Center on Psychology and Sociology). Denisse earned a BA in Sociology from Universidad de la Habana and an MA in Social Development from Universidad Católica de Murcia. Delgado is currently exploring the impacts of COVID-19 on remittance flows to Cuba, exploring the significant contributions of digital remittances. She also studies Cuba’s diaspora economic and political participation in the process of change on the island.

Removing bottlenecks to flow of remittances should be a top priority during COVID-19: Policy Brief


With close to $500 billion of remittances flowing around the world, the phenomenon of remittances as a force for community development and individual empowerment cannot be ignored. Remittances impact the lives of almost a billion people, worldwide. While the flow of money during the best of times is constrained by various policy initiatives and the high cost of sending money, during the COVID-19 crisis, this problem has become acute. This policy brief is a call to action on how to ease the bottlenecks and help sustain this important lifeblood, for millions around the world. Remittances in the volume are three times as much as international aid, given by developing countries, to poorer nations and have a transformative impact on receiving communities, existing research has shown.

flow of remittances


The United States remains the largest contributor to remittances worldwide, recording $68 billion USD in remittance outflows. The rise in remittances could be attributed to a fairly stable economy, strong job prospects for migrants among other reasons. The growth in remittances to South Asia and southeast Asia was 12 percent in 2019, according to The World Bank. To further emphasize the number of monies recorded that flow from the U.S.A., the next highest contributors are the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, at $44 billion USD and $36 billion USD, respectively. With the shutdown of local economies in the U.S. and concomitant restrictions on travel, the phenomenon of remittances is likely to see a shift, as well. Analysts are already pointing out that there could be at least a 7 percent drop in remittances this year, due to COVID-19 related closures.

With COVID-19 and a dramatic change in the landscape of work and travel, the landscape of remittances is likely to shift, dramatically. If one were to consider the US-Mexico corridor, which sees about $65 billion flows per year, this is likely to be impacted negatively, thus hurting millions of recipients in Mexico. Due to a lack of insurance and costs of healthcare in the U.S., many of the migrant workers are likely to self-medicate rather than approach the formal healthcare system, which may have other implications for their health.

Who sends remittances and why?

Remittances are usually sent by well-meaning family members and friends to their relatives, to help. This money could be used for consumption – paying school fees, medical expenses, or expenses such as weddings, purchasing or constructing a house, etc. These are gifts or repayments of loans that these migrants have taken, to support their journey to the U.S.

As Dilip Ratha, head of Remittances research at The World Bank points out, there are over 270 million migrants around the world, and most of whom live in cities. The remittances they send have a huge poverty reduction impact and are a lifeline for almost a billion people, around the world.

Some programs have evolved to encourage migrants to invest in infrastructure development in the country of their origin.  Tres por Uno, a program initiated by the Mexican government is one such example. Several other countries such as the Philippines and India encourage their diaspora to invest in education, healthcare, and other sectors through NGOs and other organized entities that raise money in the U.S.

While migrants from around the world live and work in the U.S., the majority of remittances outflows are to China, India, and Mexico. It is estimated that 5.7% of U.S. households send money abroad & 2.4% send money on a monthly basis and the average remittance is in the range of $200-$300 per month, according to The World Bank. Researchers have pointed out that migrants of all income groups send money ‘back home’, however, there is empirical proof that those in the lower-income categories tend to remit more, as a proportion of their income than middle to high-income earners.

Remittances are sent via various channels, both formal and informal. For instance, there are reports of individuals collecting cash on behalf of their friends/relatives and handing this over to the recipients across the border. This is done either as a favor or in some cases, for a small fee. Such informal flows of money are obviously not recorded. Besides, there is also the traditional, centuries-old system called ‘hawala,’ which operates in the Middle East and Asia (and also parts of Africa) which evolved out of a need for conducting business and the need for cash liquidity over long-distances. As much as a third of Somalia’s GDP comes from remittances and several countries that are in the middle of a conflict or recovering from a war (Yemen, Syria, Congo, Afghanistan) receive a big portion of their GDP via remittances. This flow of money from high-income countries to developing or low-income countries is possible because of strong family ties, opportunities for migrants to earn more money in the U.S. than they could, in their home countries.

Policy implications

Remittances remain one of the most significant flows of foreign currency reserves to most developing countries. Besides providing support to families, remittances also have the potential to help with local community development, spur entrepreneurship, and sustain traditions and culture. Remittances also have a positive net impact on the American economy, if seen from a macro perspective.

As some American politicians have argued, remittances can be leveraged to further American foreign policy objectives. This has been tried in the past and can be further explored in the future, as the sheer amount of remittances makes it a significant tool and lever for both the countries, to base their relations. Facilitating the flow of remittances can demonstrate not only goodwill but also can be a smart policy decision, as it helps both countries and is a mutually beneficial transaction. As some scholars such as Kristin Johnson have pointed out, remittances benefit the U.S. as well. Some of the ways that this is true are

  1. Remittances help receiving countries spend more in U.S. dollars, thus facilitating trade and boosting the volume. This is particularly true in the case of Mexico-U.S., with a shared border and very strong trading ties, going back to centuries.
  2. States having large numbers of immigrants also export more.
  3. Remittances help build financial infrastructure, which can help people be part of the financial system. This ‘inclusion’ makes them potential customers and part of mainstream society.

Problem areas & Opportunities

There are three broad areas of concern when it comes to flow of remittances : cost of remittances, regulation of remittances (including Know your Customers (KYC) laws) and the emergence of new forms of technologies that can facilitate the flow of money. These existed before covid-19, but with the new emergency, these areas are further cause for concern.

Given the volume of remittances, there has been a lot of government interest in the phenomenon of remittances. As a Congressional Research Service report points out,  P.L. 111-203 of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, has provided federal consumer protections on remittance transactions. It further points out that remittances are also subject to federal regulation to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.  The banking regulations around KYC are crucial to address, as they are seen as one of the major reasons for the high cost of remittances as well as delays in sending money, abroad.

The discussion and debate around KYC and related efforts includes identity check and ensuring that the recipient and sender are traceable and they are indeed who they claim to be. There are also limits on how much money can be sent as well as documenting the relationship between the sender and receiver.

With the rise of technology and the use of crypto remittances and other newer technologies, analysts have pointed out that through the use of automated identification, real-time transaction scanning, data analytics, and artificial intelligence, the issue of compliance can be dealt with. Biometrics has also been proposed as a potential solution. The use of fingerprint IDs stored on phones can help authenticate parties involved.

Oklahoma is the only state in the U.S, that levies a tax on remittances. This proposal of taxing remittances has been put forth at the federal level as well, most recently by Donald Trump but has been widely seen as a bad idea. The motive behind this move is to raise revenues for the U.S. government, but analysts have argued this is not helpful and ultimately counterproductive.

Several thinkers and scholars such as Peter Singer, have made the argument that taxing remittances is normatively not a moral argument. Given that wealthy nations have not helped the poorer nations as much as they could have, it is not morally right to tax these self-help initiatives such as remittances (Peter Singer, Famine, Affluence, and Morality, 1971).

Regulation and government involvement in this space has created layers of regulation, bureaucracy and unwanted delays in a phenomenon which is driven by individual initiative and creativity.

Many of these problems arise because many of the recipients (and senders in some cases) are unbanked. Lack of literacy and access to financial institutions can cause many of the issues related to tracking them and ensuring that the purpose of sending this money is legitimate. However, at the same time, many observers and practitioners in this space argue that the amount of money sent is so small – often a few hundred dollars – that over-compliance and over-regulating this space does not make sense.


The following steps may be taken as a measure to prevent the drop-in remittances volumes due to COVID-19

  1. There has been some debate around whether everyone in the U.S., whether documented or undocumented should be able to send (or receive) remittances. There are a few restrictions around sending remittances, such as the need for identification, etc. this has been criticized by those who care for a freer regime of remittances flow. Easing the requirements for ID can be a first step in facilitating the transfer of remittances. Given that the average remittances are in the range of $200-$300, the risk for this money ending up in the wrong hands is minimal.
  2. While compliance of regulations is one of the main factors leading to a rise in the cost of remittances, there can be mechanisms to reduce this and hence, bring down the cost of sending money. As researchers have pointed out, there is a need to urgently bring down the cost of sending remittances, especially in conflict and post-conflict zones, to nonprofits and other social sector organizations, that cannot afford to spend huge amounts of money on just sending remittances, which often pay for salaries, etc.
  3. Create special provisions for nonprofits and social service sector organizations and individuals sending money to these types of organizations: Existing rules do not facilitate the flow of money for nonprofits and treat them equivalent to other for-profit and government organizations. This means that individuals making donations to nonprofits and similar organizations (and those receiving them) face the same amount of scrutiny as regular for-profit organizations. As a Charity & Securities Collaborative report pointed out, 37% of nonprofits that operate globally face delays in wire transfers.
  4. Leverage technology for the flow of money: Emerging technologies including blockchain promise very low – or no costs – to transfer remittances. Crypto remittances may not be fully operational in all parts of the world but are being experimented with. This may open a new frontier, which is very unregulated but seemingly safe, for those who know how to use it. Governments must move into this space, albeit as partners rather than the cop in town to make use of these emerging technologies to facilitate an exchange for its citizens. Biometrics, data analytics, and Artificial Intelligence can be used to track and monitor transactions for compliance.

Coronavirus: How can we keep remittances flowing?

The World Bank is projecting the largest decline in remittances in history, due to COVID-19. On April 23, 2020, The World Bank hosted a webinar with Dr. Dilip Ratha, Chief Economist Remittances unit at the bank on how we could keep remittances flowing. Here is an abridged version of the webinar.

remittances flowing

Q: Can you give a broad overview of what’s going on?

Dilip: Globally $554 bn were sent last year, in remittances and we are expected this to drop to $445  bn – reduction by 20—30%. Rupture to poor countries. The human aspect is not to be underestimated. FDI, companies are sending it. The amounts sent are $100-$200 being sent in remittances. Perhaps a billion people are being impacted.

The main impetus for decline comes from the COVID crisis. Lockdown and social distancing. The main impact is coming when people don’t get jobs. Their incomes will fall and the inability to send money is impacted. There are other spillover effects that come from the fact that as economic activity comes down, there are ripple effects.

Q: Why is this decline so significant?

Dilip: There are about 270 million migrants around the world and most of them are in cities. In some cities, they maybe 40% of the population – NY, London, Paris, etc. These people sending these billions, are sending it to their families. This is used for consumption – food, education, healthcare, etc. The migrants who are sending money are poor, migrants. It has a huge poverty reduction impact. Nepal, South Sudan, Haiti, etc. sometimes remittances are 40%-50% of the income of the country and they are the lifeline for many people.

Given the shortage of food etc. that is being felt the impact could be severe, for food security as well.

Q: How’s pandemic impacting migration and labor?

Dilip: I don’t think migration has shifted significantly. There are travel bans, new migration is going to fall, but those who are here will stay. The stock of international migrants wont change much. In terms of internal migration, they are not able to go home, perhaps they’ll walk home – like in India. Villages have barricaded people.

There will be an impact over 6 months to a year.

Q: How are certain sectors going to be hit?

Dilip: In different countries, it may play out differently. There are two kinds of migrants. We see just one kind and not the other. The ones who are visible are doctors, white-collared professionals. NHS has a lot of doctors etc. The health sector is doing a little better. The agriculture sector is also in the news as there is a shortage of farm workers. That has huge implications for food security as agriculture season can be disrupted. Food prices are going up. What we don’t notice is the hospitality, retail sector, etc. they have been impacted as well.

Directly related to us is the money transfer industry. This is not considered an essential sector and we forget is that most of the people in the world don’t have access to digital services to send money. Most of the money sent it cash-to-cash (80%). Informal migrants send money through a store. Both the sending and receiving side of the stores are closed. This is a big impact on them.

Q: What’s the regional impact?

Dilip: The impact is global and declines in remittances may be historic, since the 1980s. In 2009, there was a drop of remittances of 5% and flow was above the pre-crisis.

The 2008 recession impacted just parts of the world. This crisis is impacting everyone, even in remote villages. That’s the context in which everything is impacted. Some will be impacted more than others.

Also, oil prices have fallen. Gulf and Russia are key for remittances. South Asia and North Africa receive a lot of remittances. The oil price issue is true in Russia. Rouble, the currency in Russia is also weakening in comparison to the US dollar. We are expecting the largest decline and global by about 20%.

Q: The bank is making $160 bn available over the next 15 months. What are some of the solutions?

Dilip: The policy response can be to think that a large number of migrants are human beings and are concentrated in urban economic centers. Like humans, they need to be included in part of our healthcare, social transfer responses. Also, the most urgent. Also, remittance is a lifeline, and making them ‘essential services’ is key. Finally, we know that the only way for us to send money is digital, and yet, we know that poor people who work in the informal sector, are unbanked. Having access to a bank account is critical to use digital means to send money. Yet, there is an urgent need to bring them to the banking sector so they can use digital means. Some barriers include regulation: Know your customer, ID checks. And some suspicion that small amounts are money laundering etc. We need to decriminalize this.

Q: What about stranded migrants?

Dilip: Some of the migrants are in labor camps, etc. and there are refugee camps. They don’t receive the attention they deserve. Migrants are ignored or discriminated against. Countries of origin can play a big role in bringing them back to their home communities. When they are in different places, they need cash transfer programs.

Q: How can we help migrants who may be facing discrimination?

Dilip: Migrants are also being seen as vectors. We need to reduce discrimination against migrants too. Some education program is also key.

How do you reach out to folks without IDs is the problem. There needs to be a mindset that we need to help people.

Maintaining National Cohesion During A Drawn-out Pandemic

Leo Casiple

The localized crisis causes distressing discord to a community.  Widespread catastrophe creates agonizing chaos in any region. If not managed carefully, long-term chaos will knock the wind out of our sails and destroy national cohesion.

national cohesion

Noble response to the novel COVID-19. 

Public administrators, police officers, firefighters, paramedics, medical staff, sanitation workers, long-haul truckers, local delivery drivers, gas station attendants, food industry specialists, and other essential members of the industry are to be commended for their intrepid efforts. Despite the threat of infection and drawn-out absence from their families, they bravely serve their communities with intense focus and undying adherence to their professional oath. Most have been working for weeks without a break. At this pace, no human can effectively sustain quality outputs of labor.

Without a much-needed break, essential employees will become less effective. The more they toil without sleep, the more mistakes they will make. An increase in the number of mistakes will erode trust within teams and decrease organizational effectiveness. Observable missteps and miscommunication will ultimately lead to a loss of public confidence.

When at peace, build teams, cross-train, and practice often.

During tranquil periods, government agencies establish formal relationships amongst each other to deconflict procedural issues. Through periodic inter-agency training, the partners exercise their unique capabilities using familiar, short-duration scenarios.  The controlled environment is where operational maneuvers are tested and lines of authority are clarified. More importantly, the interaction is where bonds are strengthened, familiarity is increased, and commitment to the group is solidified. When a crisis develops, the government can quickly mobilize the ad hoc teams to confront any problem. If the issue is short-term and familiar, success is immediately attained, the provisional team is quickly disbanded, and everyone returns to the routine of everyday living.

Complications when in uncharted territory.

What happens when the situation is unfamiliar, novel, and long-term? What if ad hoc team members are lost to a pandemic, and new faces are thrust into the folds of the team? What will crop up when team members begin losing family members to the crisis? How will the potential loss of income, depletion of savings, forfeiture of a home, ungrieved loss of a loved one, and worry of infection affect team cohesion?

When in crisis, take frequent breaks and rotate personnel out of harm’s way.

The motto of the US Special Forces is “De Oppresso Liber” or “To Liberate the Oppressed.” In many countries, Green Berets advise allies in stabilizing their own government. However, exposure to frequent chaotic events leads to fatigue, disagreement, and soured relationships. Constant stress and protracted periods of little rest will diminish patience and sound judgment. To maintain cohesion, during tenuous periods Green Berets take frequent breaks and rotate members out of danger areas more frequently.  The induced periods of rest allow the individual to rebalance and increases his effectiveness on the battlefield.

When we are tired, it is difficult to trust our own thinking and the actions of others. To preserve the effectiveness of government, public administrators could implement a rotation schedule, take frequent breaks while at work, and decompress for an extended period every few weeks. Subordinates who fill the leadership positions when leaders are away on break will benefit from the real-world experience. The country will come out of this pandemic with an increased number of crisis-tested leaders.

Frontline troops can focus on the mission when the home front is well cared for.

In addition to rest periods, the military ensures that spouses and dependents are well cared for. This means that salaries and benefits are never disrupted, and morale-uplifting mail service continues.

To help essential employees focus on their mission, public administrators should ensure that there is an ample support mechanism to care for the family members of front-line workers so that they can focus on caring for our sick family members. To continue to uplift the resolve of essential employees, we should shower them with generous mail in the form of meaningful greetings, conspicuous banners, and heartfelt notes of gratitude.

What we need to do.

Today, we need to maintain a united, steadfast front to beat the unseen enemy. Well-rested public administrators and leaders will set a confident tone for the entire country. Conspicuous acknowledgment of essential employees will feed their soul as that keep us sustained. But ultimately, national cohesion starts with me and you.  Take plenty of rest breaks, express gratitude, and be kind to each other. The trust you build within your domain will echo throughout the entire national ecosystem, and the reverberations will fuse us into an indivisible and indomitable nation.

“Without trust, we don’t truly collaborate; we merely coordinate or, at best, cooperate. It is the trust that transforms a group of people into a team.” – Stephen Covey

Innovative solutions in travel policy

John Marroquin

The Republic of Canada is known for having some of the strictest laws for immigration and visitation for foreign nationals who have been convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), or equivalent misconduct in their respective countries. With the steadily rising number of tourists year by year and the number of foreign nationals being barred from entry rising exponentially in step, the amount of lost revenue cannot be ignored. At this point, a travel policy law that was initially created for the betterment and protection of the Canadian public is actually actively hindering international commerce.


The Travel Leniency Act (TLA) is meant to remedy this, by relaxing the stringent policy that defines “serious criminality”, more specifically regarding offenses that were not violent or felonious in nature. The introduction of this law as an addendum to the current immigration framework would further stimulate the tourist industry, create more jobs, and entice visitors to contribute to Canada’s flourishing GDP.

Canadian History and Status Quo 

The governing legislature that dictates current immigration procedures in Canada is the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) (S.C. 2001, c. 27). Passed in 2002, this act furnishes foreign nationals and immigrants with specific rights and limitations and details the minimum qualifications for admission, residency, and refugee status. In 2018, an amendment to the IRPA imposed tighter restrictions upon those who have been accused of acts that would be considered “Serious Criminality” under Canadian law. The Division 4 Inadmissibility section of the IPRA states that grounds for permanent residents or foreign nationals being denied admission include:

  1.  having been convicted of an offense outside Canada that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offense under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years; or
  2. committing an act outside Canada that is an offense in the place where it was committed and that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offense under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years.

Note that in Canadian law, a summary conviction and an indictable offense are equivalent to the United States Misdemeanor and Felony charges respectfully. Under Canadian criminal law, a DUI is a “hybrid” charge. No different from a US wobbler charge, a hybrid charge can be either a summary conviction or indictable offense in Canada, and therefore is treated at the highest level.

In Canadian Criminal law, the DUI equivalent is “Operation while Impaired”. The offense is described thusly:

320.14 (1) Everyone commits an offense who

(a) operates a conveyance while the person’s ability to operate it is impaired to any degree by alcohol or a drug or by a combination of alcohol and a drug;

320.19 (1) Every person who commits an offense under subsection

320.14(1) or 320.15(1) is guilty of(a) an indictable offense

The only remedy at this time is to prove that criminal rehabilitation has occurred. Rehabilitation applications can be filed 5 years after sentences have been completed, so long as no subsequent convictions have occurred.

Law Detail


Serious Criminality – Criminal behavior that resulted in the conviction of an indictable offense or equivalent. Includes summary convictions that were violent in nature.

Non-Violent Crime – Includes crimes of petty theft, burglary, driving under the influence. It does not include crimes that would constitute a threat to national security.

Tourist – Any foreign national who enters the Republic of Canada with no intention of being a permanent resident or citizen.

Pardon – A written, legal indemnification of prior crimes issued expressly by the Canadian Minister of travel for foreign nationals.


The Travel Leniency Act will serve as an addendum to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and shall address and reform the current travel inadmissibility standards.

WHEREAS the current definition of “serious criminality” is found wanting and hinders international tourism and travel to the Republic of Canada and

WHEREAS potentially non-violent summary convictions such as “Operation while impaired” or similar charges for foreign nationals are treated with equivalency to indictable offenses Therefore


SECTION I. The definition of “serious criminality” for the purposes of the Immigration and Refugee Act will no longer include summary convictions or equivalent changes when and if they are proven

  • To have been non-violent in nature;
  • To be offenses that are not a threat to national security;
  • To have been formally pardoned by the Canadian government under current law;

SECTION II. Shorten the term of any application to the Minister for a pardon term to 2 years after initial conviction or sentencing. This includes any offense that meets the above criteria. Any conviction that is older than 5 years will be considered rehabilitated by way of time passed. Applications will take no longer than 5 business days to be processed from the date of submittal.

SECTION III. Temporary Residency Permits will be issued with expediency to foreign nationals intending to stay for a term no fewer than 3 days, and no more than 10. Formal reporting is not required for tourists who provide

  1. Reasonable proof of a duration of stay not exceeding 3 days
  2. Obvious intent to vacate the nation within the next 24 hours

SECTION IV. Formally deputized officers of the Canadian Border Services Agency will prove the veracity of claims during an investigation, and records of the investigation will be held for a period not exceeding 3 years from the date of recording.

Adoption Procedures

The TLA will shorten the timeframe required between the year the offense occurred, and the execution of this change will result in a higher rate of applications. As a result, the Minister will be able to delegate signature authority to members of their staff to mitigate the higher volume.

Destination Canada, the Canadian Government’s official tourism website, will release a statement of the law in laymen’s terms to clarify the ramifications of this act on foreign nationals. This will be particularly good optics with the United States and China, both of which comprise the bulk of tourists visiting Canada.

Anticipated Response

Between 2018-2019 36,145,370 foreigners entered the county, and of this 8,781 were detained, which comprises .024% of the 2018-2019 year. From 2007-2016 a total of 267,449 foreigners were denied entry from Canada. In 2019 313,580 immigrants were entering Canada for various purposes and from a variety of countries.

Tourism represents a significant and lucrative source of revenue for Canada, bringing in $33.9 billion within the first nine months of 2019, and boosted Canada’s GDP by 5.9% from the previous year. Tourism accounted for 750,000 jobs in 2018, and a record-breaking 21.13 million tourists traveled to Canada from across the globe in this same period.

Based on these figures, over nine years (2007-2016) nearly $430 million in tourist revenue were not captured, and nearly 10,000 jobs in the tourist industry were not realized. Although this may seem like a small leakage, the steadily increasing numbers year by year present a unique opportunity for the people of Canada to stimulate local economies with travel. This will be a very positive outcome, and the provinces will reap the rewards, creating more jobs.

COVID 19 – The Impacts are Real: Paying Rent

Our country is in the midst of an international event that has impacted us all in some way; some more than others. Whether it is a significant change in lifestyle based on social distancing and quarantine protocols, or God forbid, you or a loved one impacted with the disease, the reaches of this virus knows no limit. 

The Impacts are Real: Paying Rent

The economic impacts are striking and the pain has been felt immediately. The beginning of April was marked with a frustratingly bad statistic: 1/3 of renters in the country did not pay their rent.1,2

I read that the same way you did; but yes, it says COUNTRY and not COUNTY. There is a caveat to the striking headline: 1/3rd of renters did not pay their rent on time, that doesn’t mean that it was not paid. Regardless, the figures are staggering and tell the tale of the fate of our friends and neighbors and the general state of our fiscal wellbeing.

The fact that these many Americans are so close to the brink of homelessness that missing one or two paychecks would cause them to lose the ability to pay their rent is representative of our society as a whole. Yes, this virus is devastating our economy, but from the same vein, how are we positioned as a society to provide care for all, if so many are constantly on the brink of disaster.

This could easily turn to a discussion regarding a Universal Basic Income, or the exacerbation of an already critical point homeless and housing crisis, but I think it is necessary to understand that there is some hope, albeit fleeting.

On April 1, 2020, the Corona Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act became effective. Known as the overall stimulus and rescue package for those impacted by the virus, whether physically or economically, this does provide protections for renters…to an extent.

The CARES provides that no evictions will take place and no late rent fees will be charged for 120 days from April 1, 2020, based solely on nonpayment of rents due to the impacts of COVID-19. This DOES NOT mean rent is not due or that evictions will not take place for not paying rent. Instead, what it means is that they will not take place during the 120 periods after April 1, 2020. Oh, and this only applies to housing either subsidized or financed by the Federal Government – either the department of Housing and Urban Development or the Internal Revenue Service by the tax credit affordable housing program.

For every other renter in California, relief has been provided by Governor Newsom.         

The Governor of the State of California has issued an executive order that provides protection like that of the CARES Act. The governor has proclaimed that if a resident had

  1. Paid rent on time for the March 2020 payment,
  2. They are unable to pay their April or May rent, 
  3. Because of verifiable and documented economic hardships associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, and 
  4. They advise their landlord of such within seven (7) days of the rent being due, that there will be no evictions for nonpayment of rent through May 31, 2020. Many cities have enacted similar statutes.

Concisely, rent must still be paid, but if there are reasons that rent cannot be paid, then there are certain protections in place to prevent evictions from happening in the immediate future. Note, however, that there are two separate protections. The CARES Act merely prevents evictions for nonpayment of rents due to the impacts of COVID-19 being filed for a 120-day period; if rent has not been paid by the expiration of that period or a repayment agreement has not been entered with your property manager by the expiration of that period, then a thirty-day notice could be issued to terminate your tenancy. From the California law, evictions will stay for a shorter period ONLY if you meet the four specified provisions identified above.

What do we not have? We do not have a subsidy program at the local, state or federal level to supplant the lost wages associated with COVID-19 that will, in turn, protect peoples’ homes. The CARES Act does provide a stimulus to be paid to most tax filers in the country, and that may be effective to allow other individuals to pay their rent, but it won’t be enough for Californians. A stimulus check of $1,200 for an individual would hardly be enough to pay rent for a studio apartment in Ventura County. With incredibly high rents and limited housing, we need a direct payment program that both 

  1. Stays eviction proceedings indefinitely and 
  2. Provides payments to landlords either directly or in the form of tax credits from the State of California. Note, I am focusing on California because the rest of the country, sans a few metros, do not deal with incredibly high rent costs in the same way as California so any other relief (see the CARES Act) would be ineffective. 

We need a solution and we needed it yesterday.

What can you do? If you cannot pay your rent, faith-based organizations have long been the social safety net to help renters. If you are in a situation where you cannot pay rent or your housing is unstable, please reach out to your local faith group, or other associated tenant rights groups like California Legal Rural Assistance in Oxnard, CA.

If you would like to spread the exigency of a California solution, please share the above with your local state senator or assemblyperson.

Stay healthy.

Christopher Beck


How can charity and philanthropy help during COVID-19 crisis

I accidentally came across a short video on twitter by Chef Jose Andres. Chef Andres shared a recipe of a simple lentil soup and also a message: feed others with what you have. Feed your own family, feed the people around you. This simple message resonated with me, both as an educator and as someone who cooks. I am not a great cook, but can feed myself and others around me with the ingredients around me. Spending a lot of time in the kitchen in my formative years has taught me a few skills.


Food as philanthropy is a powerful idea. One individual that is doing well is Chef Andres, one of the 100 most influential people in the world as identified by TIME and also a philanthropist. He is a spokesperson for issues related to migration, philanthropy in the U.S. And his work can give us some ideas on what everyone of us can support and get behind, especially when institutions around us either don’t exist, to deal with issues that ordinary human beings are facing, or if they exist, they are not living upto their promise. This situation calls for a powerful force in American (and global) civil society: that of philanthropy and voluntary action.

While it is true that charity in itself cannot replace the function of governments with their billion (or trillion dollar) deep purses, at the very least, charity can act as a temporary support mechanism, a band-aid that can stop the bleeding. A crutch that can help people get by, till they get actual support and help, that they need, to get back on their feet. Philanthropy has a key role to play in promoting human welfare. It not only involves donations of money but also donations of effort, through volunteering.

Chef Andre’s work with World Kitchen Central is based on a simple premise : “Feed anybody that is hungry and bring water to anyone that is thirsty.”  Another aspect of charity and philanthropy that is relevant is made clear by his statement “the urgency of now is now, not a week from now.” This profound statement, though somewhat simplistic at face value is key to understanding how charity and philanthropy during COVID-19 crisis can be useful : often it is driven by immediate needs. Immediate need to feed someone, to provide shelter, to donate Personal protective equipment etc.

By focusing on what drives a person, he/she can act immediately, whether by writing a check, donating masks or mobilizing people to volunteer. This need for ‘expressive giving,’ as scholar Peter Frumkin calls it, is central to the idea of philanthropy. And we are seeing this manifest now, during a pandemic. Some, for instance have raised questions about Huawei’s donations of masks to Europe and other parts of the world and questioned its intention.

While donor intent and passion are central to giving and voluntary action, they are not without problems. There can be corruption, hobnobbing with powerful elite and a million other ways that certain rich philanthropists can use their money and resources to gain advantage, by leveraging their philanthropy, during this time.

Regardless of how one feels about charity, there is no doubt that the humanitarian urge to contribute to a solution will exist. And that is a positive force that both communities and governments should leverage, to provide short-term and long-term solutions to people. At a time when governments are failing to provide what is needed, both in terms of resources and direction, to dealing with one of the biggest crises of this generation, it may well be that individual action and values may help bring us together, to address some challenging issues.

As Andres asks: “Coronavirus is facing us to ask ourselves, who are our leaders? Are they the ones who give speeches or the ones with boots on the ground to do things.” His charity is helping patients dealing with COVID-19 by feeding them.

Food may well be a starting point, but it doesn’t have to stop there!

If you wish to donate to World Central Kitchen, check out –!/donation/checkout

Frontline Workers & Stress: COVID-19 Reminds Us to Pay Attention to What Matters

Crawford Coates

A recent study out in the Journal of the American Medical Association surveyed 1,257 healthcare workers in China who worked on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic response. It finds a significant number of those surveyed experiencing symptoms of distress, including depression, anxiety, and insomnia.[1] The closer to the epicenter of the pandemic, the greater the degree of distress.


As someone who has worked with first responders here in the United States for nearly 15 years, this is not surprising. Symptoms of distress are overrepresented among this population as well. We know, for example, first responders experience higher rates of alcohol abuse.[2] We also know that the sort of shift work common to their work is inherently carcinogenic.[3] Far more law enforcement officers and firefighters take their own lives in a given year than are killed in the line of duty, and EMS personnel die from suicide at elevated rates.[4][5]

This isn’t to say that trauma experienced in the line of duty accounts for or explains each malady or individual experience. But there is no question that being on the frontlines—whether in the U.S. or Wuhan—takes a toll and, moreover, that the more stressful the environment, the more destructive that toll can potentially be. With COVID-19 spreading throughout the U.S. population and first responders out there on the front lines, that stress is undoubtedly heightened at this time among police, fire, EMS and dispatch personnel.

I recently spoke with an EMS captain at a major U.S. metropolitan agency who is at the heart of their response. “All I can do is wash my hands, wipe down surfaces and all the other stuff I typically due to ward off viruses and bacteria. Our policies are changing daily, to conserve the limited personal protective equipment we have, while at the same time keeping our staff and public safe,” she told me. “It’s very stressful for my people, especially those with families. They don’t want to bring this home and infect them. And there’s just so much uncertainty right now.”

The good news is those first responders and their agencies have been focusing on mental health and wellness in the last five years to a degree unprecedented in their histories. For example, through a labor-management partnership, LAFD now employs three full-time staff psychologists. The International Association of Fire Chiefs has made suicide prevention as its organizing principle at the annual conference. The National Association of Emergency Medicine Technicians has a wellness and resilience program.[6] Law enforcement now has at least three wellness- and resilience-focused conferences nationally—up from none at all in 2014. Emergency dispatch now has several programs and events aimed at alleviating telecommunicator stress. Peer support teams are seeing increasing interest and participation. Anecdotally, I see topics such as stress management, wellness, trauma, mindfulness, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) gaining interest across public safety.

But what about the stress of now? My cousin, a firefighter at one of New York City’s busiest stations, is under quarantine at home with serious coronavirus symptoms after responding to several calls with presumed and confirmed infections. Also at home with him are his wife and two children, doing all they can to avoid infection themselves. I know cops and EMS personnel with similar experiences. I know several more with milder symptoms—which might be cold or flu, we don’t know because of lack of testing capacity—who have been mandated to return to work because of staffing shortages. Many more are working without the protection of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and training just to keep our communities safe.

Dr. David Black, a clinical psychologist working with first responders, suggested to me that we keep things simple and focused. (These apply to MPPA students as well.)

  • Attend to proper hygiene and best practices for avoiding contamination;
  • Embrace healthy routines, such as eating, exercising, and sleeping well;
  • Avoid maladaptive responses, such as excessive alcohol consumption or screen time and poor eating;
  • Maintain social connections via phone and video calls;
  • Serve your mission professionally, in a way that reflects your core values;
  • Take care of your family; and
  • Consider pursuing a mindfulness practice.

As someone who has written a book on mindfulness and meditation for first responders, I can attest that these practices can help reduce stress.[7] The literature suggests as much.[8] But as Elton Mayo demonstrated in his Hawthorne studies, while modern and postmodern societies expend considerable resources in addressing the technical and managerial challenges of our time, we have failed at, and I believe continue to fail at, is addressing the emotional and psychological needs of those doing the actual work.[9] We are facing many challenges in public policy: housing, substance abuse, environmental degradation, healthcare, criminal justice, and political divisions that were, until recently, top of mind. They remain urgent. Frederick Taylor’s “Scientific Management” isn’t going to end, for example, California’s epidemic of homelessness. To do that we will need whole and healthy human beings, supported and empowered to make the difference.


Crawford Coates is an MPPA student, content marketing manager at Lexipol, which specializes in policy and information for public safety and local governments, and author of Mindful Responder. He maintains the site and can be reached at




[1]                Lai J, Ma S, Wang Y, et al. Factors Associated With Mental Health Outcomes Among Health Care Workers Exposed to Coronavirus Disease 2019. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(3):e203976. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.3976

[2]             Wojciechowska B, P., & A, P. (2016). Sources, consequences and methods of coping with stress in police officers. Journal of Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, 4(4). doi:10.4172/2329-6488.1000244

[3]             Carcinogenicity of night shift work. (2019). Lancet Oncology, 20(8), 1058-1059. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(19)30455-3


[5]             Neil H. Vigil, Andrew R. Grant, Octavio Perez, Robyn N. Blust, Vatsal Chikani, Tyler F. Vadeboncoeur, Daniel W. Spaite & Bentley J. Bobrow (2019) Death by Suicide—The EMS Profession Compared to the General Public, Prehospital Emergency Care, 23:3, 340-345, DOI: 10.1080/10903127.2018.1514090


[7]     Coates, Crawford. (2019) Mindful Responder: The first responder’s field guide to improved resilience, fulfillment, presence & fitness—on & off the job. Calibre Press.

[8]             Khoury, B., Sharma, M., Rush, S., & Fournier, C. (2015). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for healthy individuals: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 78(6), 519-528. doi:10.1016/j.jpsychores.2015.03.009

[9]            Kraft, Michael E, and Scott R. Furlong. Public PolicyPoliticsAnalysis, and Alternatives. Washington, D.C: CQ Press, 2010.