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President Obama's 2008 Immigration Promises

by: Manuel

Thu Sep 13, 2012 at 16:30:56 PM EST

It's been nearly four years to the day that The Sanctuary released its responses to the 36 item questionnaire that was sent out to numerous campaigns at the federal, state and local level in 2008.  

Only one candidate ever responded to us:  Barack Obama

The questions were developed through many conversations and emails among the editorial board of this site at the time; activists who I continue to admire for standing up for the basic principles of human rights and decency, cultivating a better future.

As now-President Obama stated in his renomination speech a couple of weeks ago in Charlotte:  "The times have changed and so have I".  This rings true for this site and the promigrant blogosphere of the 2008 era, but the constant thread woven through years of online activism on behalf of all peoples regardless of legal status is this:  politics is not a game.

For some, sure.  And they receive deserved mocking.  But to the families and young people that we advocate for and proudly follow when led, this fight is at its core a matter of life and death.  That's why its important to know where the candidates stand on issues important to promigrant communities.

Mitt Romney has already made his stance clear.  He favors self-deportation.

President Barack Obama?  His answers from 2008 are below the fold.  

How would you rate his first-term record based on his promises made in 2008?  And what must we do to hold him and his Administration accountable should they be granted a second term?

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Arizona DREAMers Get In-State Tuition Green Light

by: Manuel

Thu Sep 13, 2012 at 11:54:00 AM EST

Great news that will be sure to cause temper tantrums among the fools in charge of the Grand Canyon State:

Young undocumented immigrants who receive work permits through President Barack Obama's deferred-action program will be eligible to pay lower in-state tuition, Maricopa Community Colleges officials said Wednesday.

The decision goes against the wishes of Gov. Jan Brewer but could benefit potentially thousands of young undocumented immigrants in the Valley who under state law are now barred from paying in-state tuition.

Young undocumented immigrants who receive work permits through the program will be able to use those documents to prove they are lawfully residing in the state, the main requirement to receive in-state tuition, said Tom Gariepy, a spokesman for the Maricopa Community Colleges.

Arizona Republic

A final determination is still pending from the Board of Regents that oversees the three major public universities whether or not the deferred action documents will be usable for residency requirements.  According to the article, Arizona State University and the University of Arizona list federal documents as acceptable but there is a gray area regarding Northern Arizona University.  

Either way, it looks like new avenues of educational opportunity are opening up to migrant youth.  

Even in Arizona.

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Journalist Mario Guevara Faces Deportation to El Salvador

by: AmericasVoice

Fri Jul 06, 2012 at 15:58:27 PM EST

( - promoted by Manuel)

Cross-Posted at America's Voice, By Mariella Saavedra:

How does someone go from being perceived as an asset to this country to someone who is quickly disposable? This is the question I ask myself in light of journalist Mario Guevara’s case and following José Antonio Vargas’ coming out as undocumented last year.

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Latino Vote - Latino Voices 2012 Survey

by: Manuel

Fri Apr 13, 2012 at 16:41:19 PM EST

It's that time of the decade again when EEUU elects a President. As grassroots/netroots organizing kicks in to high gear, it's finally becoming evident to the PowersThatBe that latin@ voters are only going to grow our percentage of the electorate, so it's probably a good idea to figure out what's important to us.

While the trends will vary depending on region and ancestral homeland, these fact-finding missions can only bring about better communication between voters and elected congresscritters: a good thing. Here's one initiative that I'm supporting this cycle, brought to my attention by longtime blogmiga, Kety Esquivel, who's presenting at the Hispanicize 2012 conference right now in Miami, FL.

The Votifi platform is about connecting people based on the issues that matter to them. Our community is confronted with a number of issues and as we flex our collective muscles in the American political process I share the views of Votifi Founder Lou Aronson that as the people grow more connected to each other the elected officials will come to them.

Here is the link to Votifi's Latino Vote - Latino Voice 2012 Survey.

If you're of mocha/indigenous tendencies, please fill it out.

¡Gracias!

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DREAMers Booed by Marco Rubio Crowd at Hispanic Leadership Network Conference

by: AmericasVoice

Fri Jan 27, 2012 at 15:04:26 PM EST

We were in the room for Senator Marco Rubio’s speech today in Miami, Florida at the Hispanic Leadership Network Conference. During the speech, two brave DREAMers interrupted Senator Rubio asking why he doesn’t support undocumented immigrants. "Why do you not support undocumented immigrants?", one brave DREAMer asked. The crowd immediately booed the DREAMers as security approached them. Senator Rubio asked security to let them stay in the room to hear his response as he would approach that subject during his speech, but the DREAMers were already being escorted out of the room. Watch the video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfqUuv9XB9U&feature=player_embedded

Cross-posted at America's Voice. 

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Vargas Story Built on Foundation of DREAMs

by: Manuel

Fri Jun 24, 2011 at 13:29:30 PM EST

Earlier this week, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas announced to the world that he is an undocumented immigrant.

The full article is worth a read as it tells his story in a way that captures the complexity of the brokenness of the immigration system.  It's honest in describing his struggle to understand why identity is so tied to citizenship by mainstream thinking (it shouldn't be) as well as the help he's received from mentors to maintain his secret.  Vargas then channels all of it to pushing the political debate to a more sane and just conversation.

But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a  different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being  found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me,  with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox  rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don't ask  about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know  are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of  21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an  interest in my future and took risks for me.

Last year I read about four students who walked from Miami to Washington  to lobby for the Dream Act, a nearly decade-old immigration bill that  would provide a path to legal permanent residency for young people who  have been educated in this country. At the risk of deportation - the  Obama administration has deported almost 800,000 people in the last two  years - they are speaking out. Their courage has inspired me.

NYTimes.com

The students mentioned were the walkers involved with the Trail of Dreams project:  Felipe Matos, Gaby Pacheco, Carlos Roa and Juan Rodriguez.  They, along with countless other DREAMers across the country, have spent the past few years dragging the political establishment kicking and screaming toward justice for migrant youth through passage of the D.R.E.A.M. Act, which stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.

Watching and supporting the DREAMers in action has been a personal education for me as a migrant/human rights advocate because it has taught me the humbling lesson of privilege that I possess as a U.S.-born citizen.

When I started blogging in early 2005, there was little information (at least at the sites that I visited), with respect to the militarization of the U.S./Mexico border region and the racial profiling of Latinos.  I felt an obligation to share my experience as a mestizo who always conveniently got extra attention from law enforcement; plus it also allowed me to celebrate my indigenous culture that was & is under assault by a 21st Century Conquistador Mentality.

Last summer, the DREAMactivists began organizing a series of civil disobedience acts to raise the political stakes on lawmakers who deserved the heat.  Senator McCain, who has betrayed his former colleague and friend Senator Kennedy with lunacy, had his office taken over with a sit-in.  I attended the vigil outside of the Pima County Jail on the night of the students' arrest but was able to drive four minutes back to my comfortable home and life after it was over.

The DREAMers don't have that luxury; nor can they afford to wait for the political establishment to grudgingly toss them crumbs of justice.  

National migrant advocacy groups and allied lawmakers have resisted the leadership that the students have provided.  Rep. Luis Gutierrez called their tactics a waste of time as recently as last November, yet he is seen as their biggest advocate in the House.  On the Senate side, Majority Leader Harry Reid was pressured at Netroots Nation in 2010 by the scariest sight to any lawmaker afraid of a mustard seed-worth of political courage:  students in cap and gowns.

In the words of Matias Ramos, one of the silent protestors:

Yahaira, Lizbeth, Prerna and I understand the political gridlock that  causes not only the DREAM Act, but most legislative proposals to be  stuck in the current Congress. We have seen the obstructionism to all  parts of the agenda, and felt the heightened rhetoric against immigrants  seep into the national conversation. But regardless of all these  things, we wanted our silent presence to let Reid know that we expect  more from him at a time when the story of undocumented immigrants is so  often distorted.
The DREAM Act failed to pass in the lame duck session of Congress last winter despite the efforts of Senator Reid to push it through.  The President called it his "biggest disappointment" of the session; but for the DREAMers and their now most prominent face, Jose Antonio Vargas, a question remains:

Why the delay in relief while deportations increase?

Until that's answered and resolved, migrant communities and their allies are right to call out lawmakers, regardless of party affiliation.  This about their lives & livelihood and it's time for the Beltway to listen to their stories and ponder what it means to be American.


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Weekly Diaspora: What Homeland Security Looks Like After Bin Laden's Death

by: The Media Consortium

Thu May 05, 2011 at 18:38:06 PM EST

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Nearly a decade ago, America's War on Terror began as a manhunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But over the next nine years, that anti-terrorism effort evolved into a multi-faceted crusade: birthing a new national security agency, blossoming into two bloody wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, institutionalizing the racial profiling and surveillance of Muslim Americans and even redefining unauthorized Latin American immigration as-of all things-a national security issue. Now, in the wake of Osama Bin Laden's death, which elements of that crusade will persist or expand and which-if any-will dissolve?

 
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Weekly Diaspora: One Year After SB 1070, What's Changed?

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Apr 28, 2011 at 10:54:55 AM EST

by Catherine A. Traywick, Medica Consortium blogger

A year ago this month, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, effectively pushing an already vibrant anti-immigrant movement to a new extreme. Over the following months, immigrant rights advocates prepared for the worst, and grappled with multiple setbacks as other states threatened to follow Arizona's example.

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Weekly Diaspora: Texas Excludes Low-Income Latinos from Census, Expedites Visas for Wealthy Mexican

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Apr 07, 2011 at 19:11:42 PM EST

By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Newly released census figures show that the Latino population in the United States surged by 43 percent in the last 10 years, comprising 50 million people. According to New America Media's Nina Martin, this marks the first decade since the 1960s when the number of Latino births exceeded the number of immigrants. But, the increase notwithstanding, it seems that a sizable portion of the Latino population may not have been counted at all.

 
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Weekly Diaspora: AZ Lawmakers Try to Ban Undocumented Children from Public School

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Mar 17, 2011 at 14:12:15 PM EST

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Arizona lawmakers are considering two bills that would block undocumented immigrants' access to education to an even greater degree than current state law.

 
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Legislative Session: An Early Hurricane Season

by: Manuel

Tue Mar 15, 2011 at 12:54:33 PM EST

by felipe at Trail2010.org

Florida has always been known for its stunning beauty, year-round sunshine, and hurricanes. Over the last ten years, I've learned to be prepared for the hurricane season, by stocking up food, water, and other provisions , just in case one hits us.  This year, hurricane season has started early, and it's not mother nature that we have to worry about, it's Republicans and Democrats in our state legislature.

The legislative session has just begun, and already twelve anti-immigrant bills have been filed, including copycat legislation based on Arizona's controversial racial profiling bill, SB 1070. Thus far all of them have been filed by the the Republican leadership in the State Legislature but we are still hesitant on how Democrats might vote when it comes to the floor. If any of these bills were to pass, we'd experience a man-made, hurricane of hate and racism -- and that's only the front side of the hurricane.

Join me in this fight by signing this petition http://tinyurl.com/46bvkzz

The back side of the hurricane would be even more devastating.  Families would be torn apart, should a parent be racially profiled for "looking undocumented" and Latinos would have to suffer insulting questions about their immigration status.  I can already see  children being separated from their parents, because of a minor traffic violation and I can feel the pain of a young child, as she cries because the laws of the land treat her less than human.

As I see these bills moving through the committees in the state legislature, it's like watching a man-made disaster in the making. Some of our past champions such as Senator Anitere Flores have succumbed to the Republican party's pressure and introduced a bill disguised as good. Her bill seems to only target "criminals" when it has the potential to make any contact with the local police a ticket back to our countries' of origin. I will be severely hurt, as well as the other estimated 190,000 DREAM Act eligible students in Florida, because any minor traffic violation while we drive to school may result in deportation. Even worse, Republican opportunists, such as Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos is using these bills as a distraction to cut government services like education, health, and safety.

I won’t allow racist shadows to cast over the Sunshine State.  Even though I can see the storm clouds building, I will not evacuate. I'm staying to fight these bills, because Florida is my home and I'm not about to let opportunist politicians to cast a  permanent shadow over our Florida. 

I will stand up for my community and I will work endlessly to make sure that every politician in Florida understands that if they don't stand up for us in 2011, they won't be able to count on us in 2012. Immigrant voters are watching closely to see who are our true leaders that will courageously stand for the best interest of Florida rather than their own political aspirations.


Join me by signing this petition http://tinyurl.com/46bvkzz.

For more information on how to get involved go please visit www.weareflorida.com
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Weekly Diaspora: AZ Pushing Undocumented to Surrounding States

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Mar 10, 2011 at 13:29:43 PM EST

By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

A combination of stricter immigration enforcement and reduced economic opportunities in Arizona has pushed many undocumented immigrants out of the state to look for work. While this satisfies restrictionist lawmakers whose stated objective over the last year has been to drive attrition through enforcement, it's not exactly the outcome they've been waiting for. Rather than return to their home countries, most of these unauthorized Arizona emigrants are instead relocating to surrounding states - a trend that's prompting state legislators to approach immigration reform in radically different ways.

Oklahoma Absorbs Arizona Emigrants

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Weekly Diaspora: The 2012 Budget and Our Unsecured Border

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Mar 03, 2011 at 11:51:46 AM EST

By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

President Obama is taking heat from all sides this week for his 2012 budget proposal, which proposes increased funding for immigration enforcement and border militarization. While immigrant rights advocates are predictably up in arms over the proposal, House Republicans are (somewhat uncharacteristically) demanding significant cuts to border security funding - on the grounds that the Obama administration's efforts to secure the border have been ineffective and fiscally irresponsible.

 
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Arizona's Continued Downward Spiral

by: Manuel

Wed Feb 23, 2011 at 14:08:36 PM EST

When the AZGOP dropped SB1070 onto the heads of migrant and Latino communities, there were immediate calls for a boycott.  Rep. Raúl Grijalva bravely  joined the movement, putting his political future at risk but  ultimately won his reelection in November 2010.  Unfortunately, that  election also saw a huge wave of conservatism sweep a veto-proof GOP supermajority into both the state House & Senate chambers.  The agenda is now driven by the author of SB1070 himself, Russell Pearce (R-National Alliance), who was installed as Senate President in January.

When Pearce took the reins, he declared that Arizona would have the country's first Tea Party Senate.

A blog from Pearce picked up by the Sonoran Alliance website  is signed "Russell Pearce...Tea Party Senate President-Elect." He said in  the blog, "I consider this to be the Tea Party Senate and we intend to  take back America one state at a time."  - AZCentral.com

That threat - and it is a threat - is becoming reality.    Yesterday, the state's Senate Appropriations Committee became the first  in the nation to advance a repeal of birthright citizenship for a full  vote.

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Weekly Diaspora: Justice for Brisenia as Minutemen Leader Convicted of Murders

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Feb 17, 2011 at 11:36:57 AM EST

By Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Days after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Attorney General Tom Horne filed suit against the federal government for allegedly failing to protect the state from a Mexican "invasion," the high-profile murder conviction of a Minutemen border vigilante underscores the state's misguided border priorities.

 
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Minutemen Founder is Guilty of Murder

by: Manuel

Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 16:18:19 PM EST

When Jared Loughner opened fire in Tucson on January 8th at Rep. Gabrielle Gifford's Congress on Your Corner event, headlines understandably filled with the story and images of 9 year old victim Christina-Taylor Green. Her innocence and civic pride were rallying points in President Obama's speech to the nation in the days following the shooting, but I couldn't help but think about another 9 year old who lost her life in southern Arizona.

Her name was Brisenia Flores.

In 2009, she begged for her life before getting killed under orders by one of the founding members of the Minutemen Civil Defense Corp, just one of the many hydra-heads of border vigilante groups that roam the border region of Arizona. Today, justice was served:

A Pima County jury convicted Shawna Forde today of two counts of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009 deaths of Arivaca residents Raul Junior Flores and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia.

The jury also convicted Forde of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Flores' wife, Gina Gonzalez, as well as related aggravated assault and robbery counts.

Gonzalez started crying as soon as the first guilty verdict, the killing of her daughter, was read just before noon in a packed courtroom at Pima County Superior Court.

The jury deliberated for seven hours over two days. Jurors will now be asked if the death penalty ought to be considered.

AZStarnet.com

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Weekly Diaspora: Anti-Immigrant Bills Faltering, Even in Arizona

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Feb 10, 2011 at 12:11:31 PM EST

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

After orchestrating a divisive national campaign to deny citizenship to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants, Arizona legislators watched their own anti-birthright citizenship bill flounder in the state Senate this week.

ColorLines' Jamilah King reports that Senate bill 1309-introduced with considerable fanfare only two weeks ago-met significant opposition during its first Senate hearing on Monday and was subsequently withdrawn by one of its chief sponsors, state Sen. Ron Gould (R). The swift defeat comes as a surprise to both supporters and opponents of the bill, as Arizona's Republican-controlled legislature has managed to pass a number of controversial measures in the last year, without much difficulty.

What's more, Arizona legislators-headed by Senate president Russell Pearce (R)-have brazenly led the charge against birthright citizenship, with legislation being introduced at both state and federal levels. So while 14 states are attempting to restrict citizenship and force a Supreme Court review of the 14th Amendment, according to Doug Ramsey at the Public News Service, Arizona had appeared to be the most likely to pass the controversial measure.

The effort isn't completely dead, however. An identical measure introduced into the [STATE?] House may still stand a chance, as it has yet to reach committee. Meanwhile, Gould will keep trying to secure votes for SB 1309, while Pearce considers reassigning the bill to a friendlier committee. Nevertheless, the measure's easy defeat in a state notorious for embracing hard line immigration laws may bode ill for similar efforts elsewhere.

SB 1070 copycat measures provoke division in Colorado, New Mexico and Florida

Indeed, attempts to pass Arizona-style immigration laws in other states have been repeatedly slowed by myriad legislative roadblocks and growing division between and within political parties.

In Colorado, proponents of an immigration law modeled after Arizona's SB 1070 say they are planning to withdraw the measure after weeks of deliberation and indecision, reports Scot Kersgaard at the Colorado Independent. Just days after Arizona lawmakers withdrew their vaunted birthright citizenship bill, Colorado Rep. Randy Baumgardner (R) told reporters that legislators-who had hoped to avoid the kinds of costly legal challenges provoked by SB 1070- had failed to resolve the "possibly unconstitutional" elements of the measure.

In New Mexico, an executive order issued by Governor Susanna Martinez (R) that requires police to investigate the immigration statuses of all criminal suspects has sparked the ire of state Democrats. The American Independent's Matthew Reichbach reports that Democratic legislators held a press conference last week denouncing the order, which is similar to Arizona's SB 1070 and could lead to racial profiling.

While Martinez was careful to prohibit law enforcement from asking victims and witnesses about their immigration statuses (a practice that has, in Arizona, discouraged immigrant victims and witnesses from reporting violent crimes), Rep. Antonio Maestas (D) voiced concerns that the order could inhibit domestic violence victims from coming forward. Often, law enforcement responding to domestic disputes regard both parties as suspect (even fingerprinting and taking both into custody) until full statements can be taken and assessed-at which time, the victim is released.

But, as I've written before, in such cases victims run the risk of being questioned about their immigration status and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In response, Democratic lawmakers are pushing several bills that would overturn the governor's order.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Republicans are divided over the prospect of introducing their own SB 1070 copycat bill, reports Elena Shore at New America Media/La Prensa, Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) argues that such a measure would be bad for the state, but newly elected Republican Governor Rick Scott (who campaigned on an anti-immigration platform) maintains that "police should have the ability to ask people for immigration papers while they go about their jobs, even during routine stops."

Meanwhile, an SB 1070-type bill that was introduced last session may get a makeover as its author, Rep. William Snyder (R), tries to soften its provisions in advance of the upcoming legislative session, which opens March 8.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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Weekly Diaspora: Why Sexual Violence Against Latina Farmworkers is a Hate Crime

by: The Media Consortium

Tue Feb 08, 2011 at 12:38:47 PM EST

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

This week, two high-profile trials involving the racially motivated murders of Latinos in Pennsylvania and Arizona are exposing the unsettling implications of growing anti-immigrant sentiment. But while antagonistic political discourse and incendiary policy are shown to provoke ethnic violence-correlating with a 52 percent increase in hate crimes-they also indirectly drive sexual violence against immigrant women. The combination of stricter enforcement and increased cultural animosity toward immigrants renders undocumented women workers more susceptible to workplace rape and sexual exploitation-violent crimes that don't generally register as hate crimes but that nevertheless bespeak of racially charged motives.

 
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Weekly Diaspora: Lawless Judges, Immigrant Soldiers, and Deportee Pardons

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Oct 28, 2010 at 10:56:53 AM EST

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Here's the harsh truth about our immigration system: When 392,000 immigrants are detained per year and 33,000 more are detained everyday with limited staff and minimal federal oversight, institutional misconduct is inevitable.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is moving record-breaking numbers of immigrants through its ancillary agencies and, in the process, immigrant women are being raped by Border Patrol agents, LGBT detainees are being sexually assaulted at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities, and citizens and legal residents are certainly being deported.

How can such things come to pass? Simple: Both overworked and overzealous officials are enforcing overly broad immigration laws. It should be no wonder that people, inevitably, slip through the cracks-whether immigrant, citizen, or soldier.

Immigration judges subverting the law

Misconduct, corruption and a general inability to handle impossibly high caseloads aren't exclusive to DHS and its many agencies. On the contrary, organizational mismanagement plagues every aspect of the immigration process.

As Jacqueline Stevens reports at the Nation, immigration courts are rife with lawlessness and corruption. Charged with adjudicating the hundreds of thousands of immigrants thrown their way by DHS every year, judges are authorizing deportations without even seeing the defendants, issuing rulings at mass hearings (usually with no lawyers present), and abandoning due process for a quicker turn-around.

What's more: the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR)-a separate agency from DHS-is actively shielding this misconduct from the public and trying to avoid federal oversight:

The public's ignorance of the idiocies endemic to the EOIR's business as usual and the calamities these entail is no accident. The agency deliberately withholds basic information from the media and researchers, and its top officials routinely decline requests for interviews [...] Complaints about immigration judges fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), and people may file there directly, but the EOIR instructs immigration court stakeholders to lodge complaints with the EOIR itself. Instead of passing complaints on to the OPR, as the website promises, the EOIR top brass, to protect their cronies and avoid outside scrutiny, sweeps complaints under the rug.

Consequently, American citizens-as well as immigrants who could qualify to remain in the country-are being deported indiscriminately by judges whose decisions are rarely, if ever, questioned.

Immigrant soldiers deported after serving in the U.S. military

Immigrant soldiers serving in the U.S. military are among those routinely cheated by deportation-happy immigration judges.

Julianne Hing reports at Colorlines that 17,000 non-citizens are on active duty in the armed forces, and 4,000 immigrant veterans have already been deported or are facing deportation because of criminal convictions. Hing argues that, while some of those veterans are certainly guilty of violent crimes, many others have committed only minor crimes, like drug possession, and have already served time in jail. Deportation is a secondary, and wholly incommensurate, punishment.

There is certainly a double standard at play here. Veterans, regardless of immigration status, are more likely than the general population to abuse drugs and alcohol and to commit violent crimes. But while non-citizen soldiers are indiscriminately deported for minor offenses, thousands of American military rapists have deftly avoided punishment in the past 15 years.The U.S. government's prejudicial treatment of non-citizen soldiers isn't new (to date, Filipino veterans who fought alongside American soldiers in WWII are still waiting to receive the benefits promised to them), but it remains reprehensible.

The unique plight of immigrant veterans certainly puts into perspective the ongoing push for passage of the DREAM Act-proposed legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for immigrant youth who serve in the military.

New York governor to pardon deportees?

Fortunately, some government officials are working towards a fairer immigration system. Elise Foley at the Washington Independent reports that New York governor David Paterson (D) has created a panel to review thousands of pardon requests from immigrant detainees awaiting deportation:

The idea behind the panel is to allow relief from the "extremely inflexible" federal law for green card holders "who have contributed as New Yorkers and who deserve relief from deportation or indefinite detention," Paterson said when he announced its creation in May. [...] While Paterson's pardon panels would not change the way immigration courts are run, the effort is arguably a push to add a bit of discretion back into the system.

Paterson's laudable commitment to protecting the interests of immigrants, particularly when doing so is far from politically expedient, is proof positive that the rectifying our broken immigration system is entirely within the reach of our politicians. Misconduct and corruption within our immigration agencies are not merely the product of overcrowding and understaffing, but rather persistent inaction on the part of powerful lawmakers and government officials.

As Stevens wryly notes for The Nation: President Barack Obama, whose own citizenship is repeatedly questioned, ought to get on board.

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Weekly Diaspora: Why Detention Reform is Desperately Needed

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 10:29:49 AM EST

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Last October, the Obama administration's announced their intention to reform the detention system-to improve the management, medical care and accountability within detention centers, and make better use of low-cost alternatives to detention.

But one year later, a new report by the Detention Watch Network reveals that the "truly civil" detention system once promised by the administration has truly failed to materialize. And while the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been crowing over its record number of deportations, it's suspiciously mum when it comes to the record number of detainees that still languish in woefully mismanaged detention facilities.

DHS gets an "F"

Elise Foley at the Washington Independent notes that, despite DHS's assurances that "visible changes have been made" to the system, immigrant rights advocates are critical of the purported reforms.

The Detention Watch Network, which graded DHS on each of its proposed reform initiatives, concluded that the agency has achieved minimal progress and has not substantively improved conditions for the nearly 400,000 immigrants detained every year under "cruel and unusual," prison-like conditions. DHS received particularly low marks on its promise to utilize low-cost and humane alternatives to detention, such as ankle bracelets or bond release.

Underscoring the case for alternatives to detention, Foley details the story of Pedro Perez Guzman, a 30-year-old undocumented immigrant who came to the U.S. at the age of eight. Guzman, who is married to an American citizen and has a young son, has been in detention since last year, when he was picked up on a deportation order. As a father, breadwinner, and long-time (albeit undocumented) resident, Guzman should be a good candidate for bond release or some other alternative to detention. But because DHS has failed to broadly implement such alternatives, he's spending his last months in the U.S. behind bars instead of with his family.

Reform hasn't curbed sexual abuse in detention

The administration's failure to meaningfully reform the broken detention system has particularly pernicious consequences for women detainees. As I detailed in a special report for Campus Progress, women in detention are routinely subject to a variety of mistreatment that ranges from gender discrimination to rape.

The T. Don Hutto detention facility in Texas stands out as a prime example of how failed reforms have disproportionately impacted women. Four years ago, the facility came under fire after a guard was caught having sexual relations with a woman detainee-an act which, thanks to a loophole in federal law, wasn't technically a crime in privately-operated ICE facilities.

Last year, DHS overhauled the Hutto detention center, publicly touting it as model facility that embodied the administration's vision for "truly civil" detention reform. Then, this August, a Hutto guard was arrested for sexually assaulting several detainees while transporting them for deportation. To date, no one knows how many women he assaulted, or whether other guards have done the same.

Clearly, a DHS facelift wasn't enough to correct a long-standing pattern of mismanagement, poor oversight, and discrimination that ultimately resulted in the victimization of an unknown number of immigrant women.

Traffic violations = mandatory detention

The ills plaguing the immigration detention system are further exacerbated by the growing number of detainees, which has reached a record of 33,000 per day and nearly 400,000 per year.

As Monica Fabian points out at Feet in Two Worlds, a significant proportion of these detainees have been pulled into the system by Secure Communities, a program which targets undocumented immigrants by allowing law enforcement to share fingerprints with federal authorities. Though Secure Communities is purported to target dangerous criminals, it has actually resulted in the detentions and deportations of a number of immigrants who had no criminal record or who were guilty of minor violations:

According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) records obtained by the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network through a Freedom of Information Act request, 79% of individuals deported through the Secure Communities program from October 2008 through June 2010 had no criminal record or were arrested for minor offenses like traffic violations.

Consequently, the detention system is swollen with scores of non-dangerous, non-criminal immigrants whose mandatory detention is not only expensive but excessively punitive.

Maricopa County steps forward

Some of the worst detention conditions documented by immigrant rights advocates have been in Maricopa County, AZ-under the purview of the infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio. While Arpaio is notorious for treating his prisoners inhumanely, his deputies' treatment of pretrial immigrant detainees has ranged from racial discrimination and harassment to physical abuse and death.

Needless to say, federal reforms have not trickled down to Arpaio's jails, and they likely never will. A lack of legally enforceable baseline detention standards, as well as varying contracts between ICE and municipal jails, virtually ensure that reforms won't be comprehensively enacted or enforced.

Fortunately, the ACLU and other civil rights groups are stepping in where the government has failed to act.

Julianne Hing at Colorlines reports that the ACLU has received a favorable ruling in a lawsuit filed against Arpaio:

On Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling by a lower court that charged Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio with mistreatment of detainees in his jails for serving them spoiled food and neglecting their health.

Yesterday's ruling will set legal precedent, and help protect prisoners' rights who are in Arpaio's jails today. The order only applies to pre-trial detainees-those who cannot afford bail or are being held without bond, but have not been convicted of anything. According to the East Valley Tribune, that population is about 75 percent of the 8,000 people being held in Maricopa County jails.

While the ruling may be a step forward for detainee rights in Maricopa County jails, it's hardly progress for Arizona as a whole. Like most others states which house immigrant detainees, Arizona boasts a number of variously owned and operated detention facilities whose standards of care and confinement range widely (often to the detriment of detainees). Immediate and comprehensive detention reform is critical.

As Victoria Lopez, an immigration attorney for the ACLU of Arizona, explained to me: "Frankly, when you're dealing with the number of people that go through detention facilities in the U.S. and some of the life or death issues in these cases...I don't know how much longer folks can wait for reforms to trickle down from Washington, D.C., to Eloy, AZ."

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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