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Fair Day in Court

Arizona's harsh anti-immigrant bill gives racial profiling the green light

by: Restore Fairness

Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 17:05:04 PM EST

From the Restore Fairness blog.

The passage of SB 1070 by the House of Representatives in Arizona  will have chilling repercussions if signed into law by Governor Brewer.  The bill dramatically expands police powers to stop, question and detain  individuals for not having proper identification, a move that will  instigate racial  tension and fear and driving a wedge between groups.

SB 1070 effectively makes it a crime to be undocumented in   Arizona,  and will be one of the harshest anti-immigrant legislations in the U.S. if  it becomes law. The bill passed in Arizona’s House of Representatives  and is to be combined with a similar bill that passed in the  Senate,  after which it is expected to be signed into law Governor Brewer. Senator  Russell K. Pearce (R-AZ) who introduced the bill has publicly  stated that if it passes, 10 other states will follow suit with similar  legislation.

So what’s in it? The bill requires the police to  investigate the immigration  status of every person that they come  across, whom they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe is in the  country unlawfully. This implies that everyone has to carry their papers  with  them at all times in order to avoid being stopped, arrested, and   detained, effectively fashioning Arizona into nothing short of a police  state. Currently,  police officers can only inquire about a person’s immigration status if   the person is a suspect in a crime. In addition, the bill allows anyone  to sue a local, country or state agency if they   believe that the agency is not enforcing immigration law, expressly  forbids cities from adopting “sanctuary”  policies that prevent  police from carrying out immigration  enforcement, and makes  it illegal to solicit work or hire day laborers.

While opponents of immigration have been rooting for this measure for   a long time, immigrant rights advocates have unanimously condemned the   bill as an affront on the civil liberties of the residents of Arizona.  From business groups and faith leaders to municipal governments and  police chiefs, the bill has seen increasing opposition. Even within the  police, while police  unions support the bill, the state  police chief’s association has opposed the bill,  saying that it  will hamper the trust that immigrant communities place  in the their  services. Outraged by its potential passage, groups like the ACLU,  NDLON, Bordern  Action Network and  national networks have gone into  overdrive to  protest the bill. According to Alessandra Meetze,  President of the ACLU of Arizona,

Instead of working on real solutions to  the  immigration crisis, our  legislators have devised a proposal that  is full  of  shortcuts…Contrary to what proponents of SB1070 say, the  bill does   not prohibit officers from relying on race or ethnicity in  deciding who   to investigate…A lot of U.S. citizens are going to be  swept up in the application of  this law for something as simple as  having an accent and leaving their  wallet at home.

While Senator Pearce believes the bill simply  “takes   the handcuffs off of law enforcement and lets them do their  job”, in reality, it promotes racial profiling and cements  anti-immigrant sentiment already prevalent in Arizona. The grounds of  “reasonable suspicion” on  which police officers will  investigate  people about their immigration  status will in many cases be based on  racial and ethnic grounds. One immigration group, Somos America,  likens it to the  system operating under apartheid or pre-civil rights  America  with Jim Crow laws, where people of color were disallowed from   entering “white” land, yet were exploited for their labor by  the white  population. Given Arizona’s infamous Sheriff Arpaio whose dictatorial methods  favor neighborhood sweeps, tent city detentions, and racial stops the  fear of the misuse of the bill is not far fetched.

Sign a petition to tell Governor Brewer to stand up  for Arizona and stop  signing a bill into law that will terrorize communities and create  painful divisions.

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Nationwide vigils tell immigration agencies that they are "completely out of control"

by: Restore Fairness

Fri Apr 09, 2010 at 15:18:43 PM EST

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Between the discovery of Haitian earthquake survivors in immigration detention (later released), an agency memo showing support for larger amounts of immigrant deportations, and the agency’s own admission of mismanagement, an embarrassed Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) needs to be held accountable for its actions.

While civil rights groups have continued to be critical of ICE over the past year, the first protests against their recent misadventures has been spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Starting yesterday, the SEIU mobilized their members to participate in vigils outside ICE offices across the country to call on the agency to bring itself back to the enforcement goals it had set at the beginning of the Obama administration last year, goals that it seems to have lost sight of.

One of the country’s largest labor unions, the SEIU held prayer vigils outside USCIS offices in Oakland and Sacramento yesterday and outside ICE headquarters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Boston and Minneapolis today. Speaking on behalf of thousands of workers and human rights advocates across the country, Executive Vice-President of SEIU, Eliseo Medina said-

When DHS first announced its enforcement goals – including its increased focus on worksite I9 audits – SEIU was optimistic that the Obama Administration would clean up past wrongdoings…Instead, the agency has added flames to the fire by replacing worksite raids with electronic raids. Field officers are acting like cowboys, more interested in adding scalps to their belts than targeting criminals and abusive employers, which would actually help solve our immigration problems. As a result, communities lose, businesses lose, families lose, America loses.

President Obama has expressed his commitment to the need for immigration reform saying that tearing apart families, terrorizing communities through raids, and denying due process to those detained, were all indications of a broken immigration system that needed to be fixed. With the expansion of an unsuccessful 287(g) program and an increase in deportations in the past year, it is clear the the system is failing. SEIU activists are demanding-

Rather than wasting limited funds to chase hard-working, tax-paying cleaners, home-care providers and nannies, the activists will call on President Obama and Secretary Janet Napolitano to re-focus ICE enforcement on its original goals of targeting crooked employers and criminals.

The human repercussions of political decisions made behind closed doors cannot be under estimated. If the promises that the administration made are not upheld, retaliatory actions will continue to take place across the nation.

Watch the latest video from America’s Voice, telling us how the current state of immigration is “More Rouge Than Right.”

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200,000 marched for America this weekend. Now it's your turn...

by: Restore Fairness

Tue Mar 23, 2010 at 17:13:15 PM EST

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Do you know what it feels like to be a part of a  200,000  person-strong protest? In a word- amazing. But why scrimp on  words when  describing the largest demonstration for immigration reform since 2006!

On Sunday March 21st we joined tens of thousands  of people from every  corner of the country as they came together in  Washington D.C. to  demand humane immigration reform NOW. With thousands  of workers, faith based groups, young   people, LGBT  folks and African-Americans demonstrating, the atmosphere on   the National Mall was electric. Once we finished taking in the sheer   magnitude of the sea of people that stretched across five blocks of the   Mall, we held our signs up high and joined in the innovative and   energetic rallying. It was difficult to not be distracted by the variety   of colorful banners, signs, puppets and slogans that people creatively   designed, and we were inspired by chants of “Sí Se Puede”, “No Human   Being is Illegal,” and “Change Takes Courage.” The most prominent colors   of the day were red, white and blue as demonstrators proudly waved   American flags as they marched for justice.

Drawing on the  history of the civil rights movement, Reverend Jesse  Jackson was one of  the enigmatic speakers who spoke of immigration as a  civil rights  issue that impacted all Americans. Other speakers included  Rep. Luis  Gutierrez, the leader of the movement for immigration reform,  whose speech mirrored the spirit of urgency palpable in   the crowd.

We’ve been patient long enough. We’ve  listened quietly. We’ve  asked politely. We’ve turned the other cheek so  many times our heads  are spinning…It’s time to let immigrants come out  of the shadows into  the light and for America to embrace them and  protect them.

Cardinal  Roger Mahony from L.A. made a touching and inspirational speech reminding us of the pain visited upon immigrant families impacted by the broken   immigration system.

Consider what happened to little Gabby, a   U.S. citizen whose father  was taken from their home at 5 a.m. when  she  was nine.  Now 14, instead  of playing with her friends she takes  care  of her baby brothers while  her mother tries to make ends meet.  Gabby  prays that Congress and the President enact immigration reform,   so that  she can once again feel the warmth of her father’s embrace and   never  again have nightmares that she will be left alone.

The  surprise highlight of the “all star” line-up was President Obama’s video speech that was projected   on giant screens to the vast crowd.

If we work together, across ethnic,  state  and party lines, we can build a future worthy of our history as a   nation of immigrants and a nation of laws…I have always pledged to be   your partner as we work to fix our broken immigration system, and  that’s  a commitment that I reaffirm today.

As health  care reform passed by evening, the time for talk seemed  likely over.  Sunday showed us that the lack of forward movement on  reform and the  unending enforcement actions targeting innocent workers  and families  would be tolerated no further. The next day, we joined a national action organized by FIRM at the Republican   National Committee offices to call for stronger support and leadership   for immigration reform from Republican leaders. As we picketed  outside,  organizers marched into the RNC office and demanded a meeting  with RNC  Chair Michael Steele, who had rejected an earlier request. The  strategic  sit-in action met with success as a meeting was fixed for March 31st.

There will  be a lot of hard work in the upcoming weeks. For now, we  need you to  send a free fax and tell your Members of Congress that if   they “don’t choose courage over hate, we’ll elect people who will.” And   keep tuned for our video of this momentous event.

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Here's a chance for us to renew our commitment to protect human rights

by: Restore Fairness

Thu Mar 18, 2010 at 16:40:56 PM EST

From the Restore Fairness blog.

This week marks the thirtieth anniversary of the  monumental Refugee Protection Act of 1980 marking a historic   moment which created a legal status for asylum and a formal process for   the resettling of refugees from around the world, affirming that the   protection of all victims of persecution is an integral part of U.S.   policy. Senator Edward Kennedy, who worked tirelessly for over a decade   to secure the passage of this Act ensured an impartial and consistent   system of asylum and resettlement for anyone

who is unable or unwilling to  return to  his country of nationality because of persecution or a  well-founded fear  of persecution based on race, religion, nationality,  political opinion,  or membership in a particular social group.

In  the thirty years since the passage of the Refugee Protection Act,  the  U.S. has granted asylum to over half a million people and has been responsible for   the resettlement of nearly two and a half million refugees. But these   successes have been undermined by national security measures post 9/11   which have practically shut the resettlement system down, leading to   President Obama having to sign a Presidential Determination authorizing the   admission of 80,000 refugees in 2010 because of failures in the system.


In November 2009, a Human Rights First report reported that since 2001,   over 18,000 refugees have faced delays or been denied asylum because  of  the USA  Patriot Act of 2001 and the Real  ID  Act of  2005 that labeled them “terrorists”. Following 9/11,  these  acts expanded the scope of laws defining material support to  terrorist  activity so that thousands of men, women and children who had  faced  rebel armies and fought for democracy in their countries were  denied  asylum even while they had fought for causes supported by the  U.S.

But this isn’t the only way the system has faltered.  Increasing  numbers of asylum seekers are locked into detention for  months,  sometimes years, while pursuing their asylum case. Like Jean Pierre Kamwa, who fought for democracy in   Cameroon and facing severe mental and physical abuse came to seek   protection in the United States, only to be locked up for four months in   a windowless detention center in New Jersey, until he was granted   asylum. But Jean Pierre was lucky because he got pro-bono help from a   lawyer. Many are deported because they do not have enough access to   information in substandard detention centers and are unable to explain   their cases to an immigration judge adequately.

That’s what makes  Senator Patrick Leahy’s introduction of the Refugee Protection Act 2010 so momentous. If   passed, the legislation would strengthen legal protections for those   seeking asylum in the United States and ensure that more people who   deserve protection can benefit from it. Co-sponsored by Senators Carl Levin, Richard Durbin and  Daniel Akaka, the  bill addresses flaws in the current system including   ensuring a nation-wide alternatives to detention program, access to   counsel, medical care and family visits while in detention. The bill   also eliminates the requirement that asylum applicants file a claim   within one-year of arrival in the U.S. giving more leeway to those   needing protection, protects particularly vulnerable asylum seekers like   the LGBT community by ensuring they can pursue a claim even where  their  persecution is not socially visible, and modifies the material  support  and terrorism bars in the law.

While the bill rallies up  support to pass the Senate, the National  Immigrant Justice Center and  30 nongovernmental organizations, think  tanks, and academics are filing petitions with the Department of Homeland   Security and the Department of Justice requesting similar regulations   allowing the release of detained asylum seekers  who  pose no danger to   the community so that these can be implemented on an administrative   level as well while the bill is being debated.

The act would go a  long way to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the U.N. Refugee convention and provide a safe haven   for the persecuted so call on your senators to support it.

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Coming up to March 21st, raids undermine White House talk of immigration reform

by: Restore Fairness

Mon Mar 15, 2010 at 16:23:16 PM EST

From the Restore Fairness blog.

With less than a week to go, advocates across the  country are gearing  up to “March for America,” the massive mobilization for   immigration reform where 100,000 supporters are expected to descend on   the nation’s capital on March 21st. In anticipation of the march,   members of the National  Day Labor  Organizing Network (NDLON) have set off from  different  parts of the country to Washington D.C., with the aim of  building  support amongst local communities on the way and calling  attention to  the desperate need for reform of immigration laws that  tear families  apart and repress the immigrant community.

The Puente   Movement, and their “Human  Rights Caravan” of day laborers, advocates  and community members  left Phoenix on March 6th for a three-week,  awareness-raising journey  through Arizona that will culminate in  Washington D.C. on March 21st.  As part of their efforts, they have been  organizing events in small  towns and big cities to highlight the civil  and human rights crisis in  Arizona and other places where large  communities are impacted by  increased enforcement policies. On March  13th, the caravan was joined  by Rep. Luis   Gutierrez in Houston for a large rally that  called for immigration reform. On  the East Coast, several day laborers  from New York and New Jersey began a  300-mile “Walk for Human  Dignity” on Saturday, March 13th.  Inspired by the courageous “Trail of Dreams” walkers, they will be stopping at   various day labor corners, churches and worker centers on their way to   Washington D.C.

So is all this buzz around the “march” reaching  Washington D.C.? When  President Obama announced three meetings on the issue of   immigration reform last Thursday (March 11th), it seemed like the message that immigrant rights advocates across the   country were sending out was finally hitting home. After the President   had a “feisty” meeting with representatives from   immigrant rights groups on Thursday morning, Sen. Schumer and Sen. Graham  presented their legislative plans for the bill on comprehensive   immigration reform in the Oval office. The Senators requested the   President for his support in ensuring  bipartisan support for the bill,   and while the President committed his “unwavering support” to reforming   immigration laws, he gave no concrete plan of action or time-line for   moving forward. However, as summed up in a New York Times editorial about the meetings that President Obama had with immigrant    rights advocates, with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and with Sen.    Charles Schumer and Sen. Lindsey Graham, “What we’d rather know is  when   the bill is coming, what it will look like and what he is going  to do  to  get it passed. Enough with the talk.”

In a statement released by the White House after the   meetings-

Today I met with Senators Schumer and  Graham and was pleased to  learn of their progress in forging a proposal  to fix our broken  immigration system. I look forward to reviewing their  promising  framework, and every American should applaud their efforts to  reach  across party lines…I also heard from a diverse group of grassroots   leaders from around the country about the growing coalition that is   working to build momentum for this critical issue. I am optimistic that   their efforts will contribute to a favorable climate for moving  forward.  I told both the Senators and the community leaders that my  commitment  to comprehensive immigration reform is unwavering, and that I  will  continue to be their partner in this important effort.

As indicated  by White House press secretary Robert   Gibbs, it seems that while  immigration remains an important issue for   President Obama, it is not a  priority in this election year, thereby   making the concrete action that  the Obama administration had promised   within the first year of office,  seem like a distant dream. It is clear   that the meetings were a result of the mounting pressure for action on   immigration reform from the grassroots and community level. In spite  of  the build-up towards the nation-wide mobilization on March 21st, the   outcome of the meetings, beyond a reiteration of the promise of  support,  remains unclear.

As if to highlight just how pressing  the need for reform of the  broken immigration system is, while Obama  was meeting with advocates who were frustrated with increased enforcement and   deportations under the Obama administration and anxious to enlist his   support for moving reform forward, a series of raids in Maryland led to the arrest and   detention of 29 workers. Not far from D.C. on Thursday morning,   Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted simultaneous raids in Anne Arundel and   Baltimore counties at two restaurants, several residences and an office.   On Friday, advocates from the immigrant rights organization Casa de Maryland were back outside the White House,   but rather than meeting with the President, they had gathered to protest the raids and splitting of families as a   result of enforcement policies. Gustavo Torres, Executive Director of   Casa de Maryland denounced the raids-

Everyday,  tens of thousands of  hardworking immigrants in Maryland leave their  families to go to work,  and tonight twenty-nine of our brothers are  detained as their families  are left to grieve…This is not an acceptable  way to treat members of our  community who work hard every day to make  Maryland strong for us all.

In the face of the push for the  nation-wide push for reform, the  efforts of mobilization towards the  March for America, and the  Presidential meetings, it is not difficult  to wonder about the timing of  the ICE raids in Maryland. Either way,  the continuation of such unjust  and inhumane enforcement policies is  unacceptable. We can only hope that  the final push for support over the  next week bears fruit and the  impact of the march in Washington D.C.  is felt by everyone.

A New York Times op-ed states that the “March for America” could be the “game changer” in   the equation, so come to Washington D.C. and make it count! Like we said before, this is your march, so see   you at the National Mall in Washington D.C.!

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Does your race and income matter if you face the death penalty?

by: Restore Fairness

Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 17:00:35 PM EST

From the Restore Fairness blog.

It is no secret that the country’s criminal justice system has consistently proven to be biased against minority communities of color. Statistics published by the NAACP show that even amongst those found guilty of crimes, African-Americans continue to be disproportionately sentenced to life in prison, face higher drug sentences, and are executed at higher rates when compared to people of other races. Michelle Alexander speaks of a “color-coded caste  system” in The New Jim Crow that marginalized communities who encounter the criminal justice system.

Seasoned Texas attorney David R. Dow’s new book The Autobiography of an Execution provides an exploration of the death penalty, written through the eyes of a man who has spent 20 years defending over a hundred death-row inmates, most of whom died, and most of whom were guilty. As the head litigator for the Texas Defender  Service, a non profit legal aid organization in the state that boasts the highest number of executions since 1976, Dow presents a powerful argument against the death penalty system. Candidly exploring how he balances such a trying job with being a good father and husband, Dow’s extremely personal book only works to strengthen the argument that the broken criminal justice system operates on a vicious cycle based on racial and economic disparity.

In his book, Dow opposes the unequal basis on which  some criminals are sentenced to be executed while others aren’t, and deems the criminal justice system “racist, classist  (and) unprincipled.” He opposes the death penalty as a flawed and unjust facet of the criminal justice system. Based on his experience, he notes that while he believes that a majority of the clients he represented were, in fact, guilty, there was very little separating those criminals from others who were guilty of the same crime, other than “the operation of what I consider to be insidious types of prejudice.” Most unsettling is his severe mistrust of members of the justice system – police officers, prosecutors and judges – whom he believes would “violate their oaths of office” and put men and women on death row who they think “deserve to be there”.

In Dow’s exploration of the politics behind the death penalty, perhaps the most tenacious argument against it is the blatant way that the intersections of race and class influence the outcome of a criminal case. Dow says,

…if you’re going to commit murder, you want to be white, and you want to be wealthy — so that you can hire a first-class lawyer — and you want to kill a black person. And if [you are], the odds of your being sentenced to death are basically zero…It’s one thing to say that rich people should be able to drive Ferraris and poor people should have to take the bus. It’s very different to say that rich people should get treated one way by the state’s criminal-justice system and poor people should get treated another way. But that is the system that we have.

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Immigration court system takes away due process

by: Restore Fairness

Wed Feb 10, 2010 at 17:08:35 PM EST

From Restore Fairness Blog
Immigration courts must be fair. Especially since deportation is like life or death sentence for many. Watch Judge Dana Marks, President of the National Association of Immigration Judges, and the ABA take on the need for an independent court system.
There's More... :: (0 Comments, 338 words in story)

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