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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: 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fanfare only two weeks ago-met significant opposition during its first Senate hearing on Monday and was subsequently withdrawn by one of its chief sponsors, state Sen.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: 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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Weekly Diaspora: Hitting Immigrant Kids Where It Hurts

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Sep 09, 2010 at 12:24:47 PM EST

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

After a long summer of name-calling and absurd attempts to deny birthright citizenship to children of immigrants, immigration hawks are now bullying immigrant children on their own turf: Public schools.

California, New York, Iowa and Colorado are among the states that have cracked down on immigrant students by hiring ICE agents to investigate residency statuses or unlawfully barring students from enrolling. Such blatant discrimination flies in the face of the 14th amendment and Supreme Court precedent, both of which guarantee all children the right to a public education regardless of immigration status.

The latest assault on immigrant students comes not from over-zealous school districts, however, but from state lawmakers adamant about stripping immigrants of the few rights they possess.

Kicked out of school

As Matt Vasilogambros of the Iowa Independent reports, Iowa's lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Kim Reynolds recently came out in support of denying public education to undocumented children, a sentiment she shares with her running mate, former Gov. Terry Branstad. Branstad's position is even more extreme, however. He has argued that the Supreme Court decision in Plyer v. Doe-the 1982 case which guarantees immigrants the right to public education-should be overturned.

So far, only Colorado third party gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo has fully endorsed Branstad's extreme opinion. Tancredo has even gone so far as to say that, if elected, he would ignore the Supreme Court ruling altogether.

Branstad and Tancredo may be on their own for the moment. Bu, if this summer's birthright citizenship fiasco is any indication, anti-immigrant conservatives must be delighted to fall back on the age-old myth that immigrants are here to steal social services.

New York Stands Up

Last week, the New York Department of Education fired back at anti-immigrant activism in schools by issuing a memo directing schools not to investigate the immigration status of their students.

According to Braden Goyette of Campus Progress, the memo came in response to a New York Civil Liberties Union report charging that 139 New York school districts were collecting information about prospective students' immigration statuses-and barring or discouraging children from enrolling if they failed to provide proof of their citizenship.

Goyette notes that federal law only requires students to fulfill two simple requirements before enrolling: residency in the school district, and intent to remain in the school district. Immigration status is not a factor.

The memo is a victory for immigrant rights advocates, especially as it comes on the heels of reports that two California school districts are adopting even harsher anti-immigrant policies.

Negating Pylver v. Doe

As New America Media's Jacob Simas and Elena Shore translate from a La Opinión, a daily Spanish-language newspaper based in Los Angeles. Both the Unified School District of Calexico and the Mountain Empire School District near San Diego have hired staff exclusively to investigate the immigration statuses of their students. The school districts are attempting to get around Pyler v. Doe by arguing that their proximity to the border necessitates stricter enforcement of federal residency requirements.

In other words, they're worried that Mexican children are crossing the border to take advantage of our first-class, world-renowned public school offerings. The simple fact that student residency can be determined without revealing immigration status is obviously beside the point.

Cutting Social Services in New Jersey

Meanwhile, immigrants in New Jersey may be robbed of their own social services, as the state threatens to removes 12,000 non-citizens from the it's low-income family insurance plan.

As Change.org's Prerna Lal reports, several legal immigrants have joined a class action lawsuit against New Jersey's Department of Human Services, alleging that the state is violating "the equal protection guarantees of the United States and New Jersey Constitutions" by denying health care subsidies to legal permanent residents. Lal notes that legal permanent residents possess nearly all of the same rights as U.S. citizens, and pay taxes to both state and federal governments. They should, therefore, be safe from public policy discrimination.

But, while it's well documented that both legal and undocumented immigrants pay into our social services system through income taxes, that fact is persistently overlooked by the anti-immigrant zealots who want to keep immigrants off Medicaid and out of public schools.

Even former President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors agreed that immigrants have a positive fiscal impact Social Security and Medicaid, contributing $80,000 more in taxes than they receive in public services. Other studies put that figure much higher.

Given their immense contribution to the social services net, guaranteeing immigrants' access to those public services is more than a matter of justice-it's a matter of fiscal responsibility.

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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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.”

 Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

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A story a day should keep enforcement at bay

by: Restore Fairness

Wed Apr 07, 2010 at 17:04:09 PM EST

From the Restore Fairness blog.

No matter what the cause, it’s always the individual stories that resonate deeply. These stories really shed light on how broken the immigration system really, giving us deep insights into the immigrant experience.

Vozmob or “Mobile Voices” is an open-source platform that gives immigrant day laborers in L.A. access to the digital sphere by letting them use cellphones and MMS technology to create photographic, narrative slide-shows as a way to share stories about their lives and communities. In “Working Hands,” a seamstress uses photographs to illustrate the painstakingly detailed and skillful work done by immigrant workers across Los Angeles. The images tell the story of personal dignity and pride in the work done by hundreds of people across the nation.

Vozmob harnesses the power of personal stories to change the way immigrant communities are perceived. In an early Vozmob workshop, a Google search for the phrase “day laborer” revealed a disturbing stereotype, that many crimes are committed by illegal aliens who work as day laborers. By allowing immigrant workers to share their lives, both within their community and outside, the project launched by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and the Institute of Popular Education of Southern California is changing these false perceptions.

The power of storytelling has been embraced as dramatically by the DREAM Act movement, a movement led by undocumented youth to claim their right to live freely. A moving narrative by Matias Ramos, an immigrant rights advocate since high school describes what he went through while facing deportation. An excerpt from Chapter 1, “The Deported”-

Rush hour traffic in Downtown Minneapolis, and it’s snowing again. I look out the blurry window and can barely see the faces of the people in the van next to ours. I know for a fact, however, that nobody in that packed freeway can see me or any of the other six illegal immigrants on our way to be deported from the United States. The two ICE agents sitting in the front live in a different world, their radio muting any sounds from us: the illegals in the back. An unmarked van, owned by the Department of Homeland Security, is taking us to a county jail in Albert Lea, Minnesota, near the border with Iowa. There, we will wait for our deportation date when the paperwork clears….I try to get my mind somewhere else by going back to the church songs we sang as kids…

In Chapter 2, “We don’t have papers,”, Matias candidly writes about his lack of papers, and his involvement with the DREAM Act movement-

Way before being trapped in a van in Minneapolis, and because my papers expired, I started working for immigration reform in the United States. I work on immigration because I don’t have papers. There are a lot of people like me. They should really be doing something else, but they work on immigration. They have degrees in engineering, political science, and education. They have acting careers and business plans on hold – while they work on immigration…I did not go back to Argentina in 2008 because we had just helped Obama win and because we were going to work hard to pass the DREAM Act in the first 100 days.  The DREAM Act is an old but little-known proposal to start reforming immigration like you would start rescuing a sinking ship: with the kids…

Some days it is hard to be optimistic. But it’s stories like these, from the hundreds of day laborers whose work goes unnoticed on a daily basis and brave activists like Matias, that power the movement. So don’t stop reading, watching, learning, sharing and telling stories. And whatever you do, don’t stop dreaming.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org
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End it. Not mend it. Message to the administration over failed immigration program.

by: Restore Fairness

Mon Apr 05, 2010 at 15:41:00 PM EST

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency responsible for detention and deportations of immigrants, is on a roll. Haitian earthquake survivors and mentally ill detainees are amongst those locked up in inhumane detention centers. Memos leaked last week confirmed a desire for growing deportations of immigrants. And now, the government’s own agency, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General delivers a scathing critique of ICE’s 287(g) program that gives local police the power to enforce immigration law.

60 police forces across the country have signed agreements with ICE that allow their local officers to detain suspected immigrants for deportation. Various reports have documented racial profiling concerns, but the government has failed to listen. Even Members of Congress and police foundations have spoken out against the program, which diverts scarce resources from the police and endangers community safety as people are afraid to report crimes.

The OIG points out serious flaws in ICE’s 287(g) program for its lack of training, oversight and transparency, and its failure to protect against racial profiling and civil rights abuses. In one example, a victim of a traffic accident who was also an immigrant was taken straight to the local jail until federal officers arrived to check his legal status. And although the program is supposed to focus on “Level 1″ offenders or those who have committed serious crimes, almost half of those reviewed had no involvement in such crimes, revealing a misdirection of resources.

The issue around a lack of supervision is grave. “In the absence of consistent supervision over immigration enforcement activities, there is no assurance that the program is achieving its goals.”This has led to severe violations, with Sheriff Arpaio type neighborhood sweeps to locate undocumented immigrants. Other horrific examples – Juana Villegas, 9 months pregnant, was detained on a minor traffic stop and remained shackled while giving birth, while Pedro Guzman, a mentally ill U.S. citizen was mistakenly deported to Mexico.

And finally, the 287(g) training of police officers is very inadequate. In one example, two officers who were enrolled in the program had been defendants in past racial profiling lawsuits, indicating a flawed selection process. The performance records of local officers are not examined properly while many officers are given only a cursory training in immigration law.

While ICE claims that the report was researched before it has made radical changes to the program, the changes that have been made are largely superficial and problems continue unchecked. Many groups consider this report a wake up call and have demanded the 287(g) program be “ended, not mended.” Take action to “Reign in the Cowboys at ICE.”

Photo courtesy of thenation.com

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Weekly Diaspora: The Game Plan for Immigration Reform

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Apr 01, 2010 at 12:04:15 PM EST

By Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), started a hubbub among comprehensive immigration reform advocates last week when he expressed  to members of the Capitol press corps that  progressive immigration legislation was "dead" for 2010 due to the contentious passage of health care reform. But the battle isn't over yet. In an interview with Sandip Roy at New America Media, Frank Sharry, the executive director of DC-based immigration organization America's Voice, says, "I think we have a good chance of seeing a bipartisan bill being introduced in April."

Graham's declaration mirrors similar antics that happened around the health care debate-where insurance reform was pronounced dead countless times by a wide array of pundits and lawmakers.  In fact, Seth Freed Wessler of ColorLines reports that Graham, who has been working with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on an immigration reform bill for a year later changed his tune, stating that he would continue to craft a bipartisan bill.

The Battle in the Senate

Gabriel Arana with The America Prospect questions just how the GOP lawmakers will react to the upcoming immigration debate, arguing that, "Even for those Republicans who are willing to publicly  support immigration reform, partisan rancor all but ensures it won't go  anywhere."

And outside the Capitol? As Laura Flanders of GRITtv points out, the immigration debate, "has the potential to be far, far messier-and more violent-than the health care battle," and will likely galvanize those with xenophobic tendencies on the far Right to become even more unhinged.

On top of that, providing a pathway to citizenship for the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States will most likely be dead in 2010 if a bill isn't proposed in the Senate this Spring. There needs to be time to debate the issue before the end of the year, and more importantly, before election season kicks off in the Fall. While there's already an immigration bill in the House of Representatives, a timeline for when one will actually be introduced in the Senate is unknown.

Immigration agents go rogue

Combined with the uphill battle for immigration reform, AlterNet reports on a government memo revealing that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has set quotas to initiate more deportations of undocumented immigrants, targeting those who had committed no crimes. The memo was in stark contrast to the Obama administration's stated goal to focus on deporting criminal offenders with violent histories, and prompted immigration rights groups to question the White House agenda.

At the same time, anti-immigration activists are also trying to label all immigrants as criminals. As the Colorado Independent documents, the shooting death of an Arizona rancher near the Mexican border has influenced former Colorado lawmaker Tom Tancredo and his followers to demand that the National Guard be sent the border-even though the death has not even been tied to an undocumented immigrant at this time. (The Department doesn't have jurisdiction over the National Guard to begin with.)

The Inter Press Service also reports on the  results of such criminalization, as human rights abuses in immigration detention continue to increase each day. "More abuses in the U.S. immigration detention system came to light last week," notes the media outlet, writing that "It was revealed that two mentally disabled men continue to be held in detention while facing possible deportation for criminal assault convictions, despite having already served their time." The inmates were later released after the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California filed legal petitions against federal government.

For more links on immigration check out:

 
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Delaying immigration reform gets expensive

by: Restore Fairness

Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 16:46:14 PM EST

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Sirens, helicopters, immigration agents with guns  swarming into    factories and homes, this was standard game for  immigration raids during    the Bush administration. But all that was  supposed to change during    President Obama’s tenure. In a disturbing  turn of events, documents    procured by the Washington Post have exposed a senior-ranking     Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official explicitly  stating     that even while deportation of those with  criminal charges has  risen,    the overall number of deportations is “well  below the  agency’s goal”    and what is needed is a reversal of the   downward   trend of    deportations.

Rather than reflect the plans of the  Obama  administration that is   committed to an enforcement agenda  focused on  immigrants that commit   serious crimes, the exposed ICE  memo has laid  out a plan that will -

pump up  the numbers by  increasing  detention space to hold more  illegal  immigrants while they  await  deportation proceedings; sweep  prisons and  jails to find more   candidates for deportation and offering  early release  to those  willing  to go quickly; and, most  controversially, include a  “surge”  in efforts  to catch illegal  immigrants whose only violation was  lying  on  immigration or visa  applications or reentering the United  States  after  being deported.

In keeping with this plan, ICE field  offices in  Dallas, Chicago and   Northern California have set their  agents an  incentive system that  calls  for them to process 40-60 cases  in a month  in order to earn  “excellent”  ratings. Such a policy  encourages agents  to target “easy”  cases rather  than focus on high  risk, criminal cases  that take longer  to process.

ICE  immediately distanced themselves from Chaparro’s memo.

Our    longstanding focus remains on smart, effective immigration     enforcement  that places priority first on those dangerous criminal     aliens who  present risk to the security of our communities. This focus    has yielded  real results – between FY2008 and FY2009,  criminal    deportations  increased by 19%… Significant portions of the memo cited    in The  Washington Post did not reflect our policies, was sent without    my   authorization, and has since been withdrawn and corrected.

Mixed   signals from an agency known for its harsh implementation of    detention  and deportation policies. A report published by the Center for      American Progress weighs the fiscal damage that would result from     mass deportation of all immigrants, the alternative to     comprehensive reform that is championed by immigration hardliners, and     the results should worry us all.

Based on federal spending on   border enforcement and deportation for   2008, the report estimates the   cost of detention and deportation for   10.8 million undocumented   immigrants present in the U.S. at around 200   billion dollars.  Referring  to the option of mass deportation as the   “status-quo on   steriods”, it  points to this option as a highly   irresponsible one  that would require  “$922 in new taxes for every man,   woman, and child  in this country.”  The bad news, the National   Immigration Forum puts this number on the lower side.

 

The good news. Americans aren’t  buying  this option and are demanding   immigration reform in record  numbers.  The Public    Religion  Research Institute asked American voters (predominantly    white  Evangelicals, Catholics and Mainline Protestants) what they think     about immigration reform, and found-

Two-thirds  of Americans believe in a   comprehensive approach that  offers illegal  immigrants an earned path   to citizenship. Overwhelming  majorities of  those asked believed that   immigration reform should be  guided by values  of fairness, security,   dignity and keeping families  together.

On the other side is Public Agenda,    a non partisan group that decided  to find out what immigrants think about their lives     in the United States. What did they find?

The    overwhelming  majority of immigrants say they’re happy in the  United    States, and  would  do it all over again if they could.  Immigrants “buy   in” to  American  society, for themselves and their  children. They  rate  the  United States  as an  improvement over their  birthplace in  almost  all  dimensions, and most  say they expect their  children to  remain in  this  country. A  solid majority says that  illegal  immigrants become   productive citizens and an overwhelming 84   percent  support a “guest   worker” program

So what’s next? We’ve marched. We’ve rallied. We’ve practically     shouted from  rooftops demanding immigration reform. And now it’s time     to make sure  that we get some concrete action. With the current system     broken, expensive and inefficient, and with 10.8 million people eager to     contribute to the nation’s economy and society, everyone should be  on    board for finding a sustainable, just, and humane solution to the     current immigration system. We rest our case.

Photo courtesy  of  americanprogress.org

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org
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Racial profiling in Georgia a microcosm of what's happening all over the U.S.

by: Restore Fairness

Thu Mar 25, 2010 at 15:35:07 PM EST

From the Restore  Fairness blog.

As the dust settles around  the 200,000 March for America in D.C. this weekend, it is   important to remind ourselves why we need immigration reform. A new   report by the ACLU is one such reminder of racial profiling that is   alive and kicking in the United States. As one of the most   unconstitutional implications of our broken immigration system, racial profiling takes place when police stop,   interrogate, and detain people on the basis of their appearance, accent   or general perceived ethnicity, rather than on the basis of concrete   evidence of criminal activity.

Called “The Persistence of Racial Profiling in Gwinnett: Time   for Accountability, Transparency, and an End to 287(g),” the report   uses individual testimonies from the community to examine the   persistence of racial profiling in Gwinnett County, Georgia, before and   after the introduction of the 287(g) program that partners local law   enforcement with federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to   enforce immigration law. Dedicated to the brave undocumented students walking the Trail of Dreams who  marched into this “risky”  287(g) county, the report focuses on Sheriff  Conway known as the “Joe  Arpaio of the South”, who claimed that November 16th, 2009 or the day that   the 287(g) program officially took off in Gwinnett County “was a great   day for Gwinnett County citizens.”

Racial profiling has always  been prevalent in Gwinnett County. In a  case that took place before the  implementation of 287(g), a  woman named  Mary Babington witnessed two  police offers stop a white  Sedan and pull  out two Latino men at  gun-point, shouting at them the  entire time.  They were then cuffed and  made to lie on the ground,  shirtless. One of  the men was crying and  asked the officer for his  shirt, saying he felt  cold. The officer then  kicked him on his back and  yelled at him not to  move. Mary then heard  one ="padding-left: 30px">They  wouldn’t come out when I pulled my   gun, so I sprayed the whole can of  pepper spray. I emptied the whole   can on them…Dude, I emptied the can  in his face. I love my job.

According  to the witness, Mary, the officers did not tell the men why   they had  been stopped, and did not read the men their rights at any   point.  Finally the officers administered a breathalyzer test and gave   one of  them a ticket for driving under the influence.

The implementation  of the 287 (g) program has  only exacerbated  racial profiling. Many  people of color have been stopped, interrogated,  detained and even   abused based on minor traffic violations even though  287(g) is supposed  to be implemented to catch serious criminals. Some  were stopped  without any  probable cause and never given an explanation.

A  case in point is the testimony of Juan, a 48-year maintenance   technician who is a legal permanent resident, entitled to live and work   in the U.S. In the last year he has been stopped by local police on two   different occasions, both times without any legal basis. On the most   recent occasion, a Gwinnett police officer asked Juan to pull over as he   was driving home from work. Despite him asking the officer five times   why he was being stopped, he was given no answer. Instead the officer   continuously screamed at him for asking questions and asked him for his   driver’s license, which he handed over. Juan was eventually released   without a citation but never found out why he had been pulled over and   detained. He is now constantly worried about such an event recurring and   avoids driving in certain areas of Gwinnett County.

In a podcast interview, Azadeh   Shahshahani from the ACLU talks about the ways in which the 287(g)   program has been extremely harmful for the 70 jurisdictions in which it   operates. Local profiling has threatened public safety so that instead   of trusting the local police, people are increasingly afraid to  approach  them, creating a dangerous communication barrier between local  law  enforcement and the community. In addition to diverting resources,  the  287(g) program employs local police officers who are not trained  in  making immigration and status determinations, resulting in them   restoring to their perceived notions about people’s race, ethnicity and   accent.

While 50% of U.S. states have enacted legislation  against racial  profiling, legislation is still pending for Georgia. According   to Azadeh -

In Georgia the problem is compounded   because not only is there not any meaningful federal oversight, but   there is also no oversight at the local or county level that we have   seen…One of our main recommendations would be for law enforcement to   revert to a policy of having federal immigration laws enforced only by   federal immigration officials, and leave police to the job of protecting   our communities.

So what’s the best outcome? Lacking training and   oversight, stop 287(g) program all over the country. Document all the   stops that are being made in the name of the program to check for   patterns of racial profiling. And pass anti-racial profiling legislation   so everyone is protected.

Photo courtesy of acluga.org

Learn.  Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

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Weekly Diaspora: Protecting Haitian Refugees Through Immigration Reform

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 13:00:25 PM EST

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

On Tuesday, the worst earthquake in 200 years struck just off the coast of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, as The Nation reports. Bringing "catastrophic destruction" to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, the disaster has spurred relief efforts worldwide. Crises like this are important reminders of how the treatment and protection of refugees must be a part of immigration reform.

Temporary protected status for Haitian refugees

In September of 2009-just one year after Haiti was decimated by four successive hurricanes and tropical storms that affected at least 3 million people-New America Media (NAM) made a prescient call to halt all deportation to Haiti, and grant Haitians temporary protected status (TPS) status in the U.S. "before more Haitians die or are impacted by natural disasters."

Andrea Nill, writing for NAM's EthnoBlog, reminds us it was only ten months ago, in March of 2009 that the Obama administration indicated it would "continue deporting undocumented Haitians," in spite of the critical situation on the ground. Yesterday, Nill argued that not granting Haitian refugees TPS at this point would be "inconsistent with the promises the Obama administration has already made to the people of Haiti." Later in the day, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano responded by stating deportations to Haiti would, indeed, be temporarily halted.

[ED. NOTE: Stay tuned for more coverage of Haiti and relief efforts. The Media Consortium will release a special report compiling our member's coverage of the crisis and ways to help later today.]

Legalize the undocumented; boost the economy

It's a fortunate confluence of circumstance, when doing the right thing could also help our faltering economy. Jorge Rivas of RaceWire highlights a new study on the beneficial economic effects of legalizing undocumented workers through comprehensive immigration reform. The study came about through a partnership between the Center for American Progress and Dr. Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. The research suggests that legalization would yield $1.5 trillion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product over a 10-year period, generate billions of dollars in additional tax revenue, increase wages for all levels of workers in the U.S. (the "wage floor") and create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Detention center cover up continues

RaceWire also reveals new developments in the horrific tale of corrupt immigration officials "desperate to conceal" multiple incidents of abuse in Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers. Violations of law include "covering up evidence of gross mistreatment, undercounting the number of detention deaths, discharging patients right before they die, and major efforts to avoid scrutiny from the news media." Reportedly, ICE has made great efforts to cover up detention conditions and cruelty. (Video below).

'Draconian' anti-immigration legislation passed in Mississippi

Rev. Jeremy Tobin of American Forum reports on a piece of "draconian" anti-immigration legislation passed in Mississippi in March of 2008. SB 2988 makes it a felony for an undocumented immigrant to work in the state. The bill includes a waivable fine for employers that cooperate with the prosecution of undocumented workers. SB 2988 oppresses immigrants and weakens the power of organized labor. According to Tobin, one frustrated legislator said that the bill was "making it a crime to work an honest job."

Tobin calls out various organizations that backed the bill. These groups "started out anti-civil rights" and have since "reinvented themselves to be anti-immigrant rights." He also notes that a "disturbing" number of Mississippi Democrats voted for SB 2988.

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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A Christmas in Detention

by: DreamActivist

Sat Dec 26, 2009 at 00:15:51 AM EST

[This is a guest post from Carl McGinnis, a citizen of the United States, who has seen the horrors of immigrant detention after ICE detained his legal immigrant friend, Noureddine Feddane. Originally cross-posted at Change.org].

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/210/480146363_402cb2dc8e.jpg

I am a citizen of the United States and I have a friend that is from Paris, France here on a student visa to finish his degree. Noureddine Feddane has been here since 2005. His visa is valid until March of 2010, his passport is valid until 2014, and his I-20 is current. He is not what people call an 'illegal immigrant.' In 2008, he fell in love and married a U.S. citizen that just happens to be addicted to prescription medications. Noureddine knew nothing about this. But he was arrested due to her mistakes.

He was placed in detention and scheduled for deportation. My friend has been in detention center in Pompano Beach Florida for 5 months now. This couple has lost all there savings on lawyers, she lost her job, and they are in the process of losing their home. All this was caused because ICE has the wrong person in jail.

<!--more-->

I have written many letters to Janet Napolitano, Senator Bill Nelson, Representative Ginny Brown-Waite and even President Obama. But no one will listen. What is illegal in this case is the way DHS is treating this guy, who is 51 and has never had a traffic violation.  While in detention center, they have abused him, denied him food and proper medical treatment. Noureddine is diabetic and they will not give him the proper food or medical attention. The phone system is very poor and hardly works. I suspect that they plan it that way so the detainees cannot contact their lawyers and family. I fear he will be next on the long list of persons that have died while in detention.

 

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The Weekly Diaspora: We Can Prosper Together

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Oct 22, 2009 at 12:36:02 PM EST

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

For the most part, it's been a good week for immigration reform. The Senate approved a measure that will end the "Widow Penalty," which rescinded applications for U.S. residency if one's spouse of two years or less years dies, and on Tuesday, as RaceWire reports, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed legislation that restores the right of due process to immigrant youth.

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Members of Detention Watch Network prepare to raise their voices in DC

by: willcoley

Sat Aug 29, 2009 at 00:36:10 AM EST


The poor stepchild of the immigration reform debate is enforcement, particularly detention. It's what legislators mean when they say "comprehensive" within the phrase "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" (CIR). For those who push the C in "CIR", the rationale is, in order to get any type of legalization through Congress, there must be more enforcement as a trade off. Or at least this is what these folks seem to think...

Detention Watch Network (DWN) members think otherwise. DWN is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to educate the public and policy makers about the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for humane reform so that all who come to our shores receive fair and humane treatment.

In September, Detention Watch Network is convening its 8th National DWN Conference. It's where members will re-connect, re-energize and strengthen their collaboration. The need for community action, public education, coordinated advocacy and resource sharing has never been greater. For more information on how to become a member and participate in the conference check out further details here.

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Department of Homeland Security to Monitor Immigrant Detainee Treatment

by: MamitaMala

Thu Aug 06, 2009 at 14:25:28 PM EST

06detain02-600

Crossposted from VivirLatino

 The Department of Homeland Security is known far and wide for their excellent human rights record, especially ICE. So it makes perfect sense that President Obama would put 23 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials inside large immigrant detention centers to monitor management in light of growing complaints of abuse in the privately run institutions.

ICE, which is part of Homeland Security, intends to hire a medical expert to review the health care protocols for the detention centers and give an independent review of medical complaints, according to the people briefed on the plan. They spoke only on condition of anonymity ahead of an announcement expected Thursday [today].

Immigration and Customs Enforcement gave details of its plan to immigration advocates in a conference call Wednesday evening. One person on the call, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because ICE had not made a formal announcement, said the plan includes turning a detention center in Texas for parents and their children into a women's facility and no longer placing families there. However, a separate facility in Pennsylvania will continue housing families.

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Weekly Immigration Wire: White House Meeting a First Step to Reform

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Jul 02, 2009 at 10:46:30 AM EST

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

After postponing twice, President Obama finally met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on June 25 to discuss moving immigration reform legislation forward. The meeting was applauded by activists and advocates for immigration reform, as the issue seemed to have stalled, and the acrimonious tone of the debate has proven deadly.

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Weekly Immigration Wire: Reform Stagnates, Polarization Grows

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Jun 25, 2009 at 10:59:12 AM EST

 

by Nezua, TMC Mediawire Blogger

President Obama has often stated that immigration reform cannot be approached in a piecemeal fashion, and that his administration would tackle the issue in 2009. This week, Obama will be meeting with members of Congress to kick off a bi-partisan approach to reform. These meetings don't guarantee any legislative action will take place this year, but are at least an encouraging sign. In the meantime, the deportation industry shows no sign of slowing, hate crimes are rising and hate groups are being main streamed. As a result, the polarization between reform advocates and foes is getting worse.

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Your Papers, Señorita?

by: nezua

Wed Jun 24, 2009 at 10:55:19 AM EST

ICE-thislandwasmadeIS ICE ASHAMED of its tactics? No. A Department like ICE has no conscience, of course. Just directives (like "make 400,000 arrests this year") and a great concern for its public image. After all, ICE needs to keep functioning to funnel cash to the Corrections Corporation of America. That is why, obviously, they are so tight lipped, issuing only steel-plated machine-stamped public statements stinking of the PR room or flat, faceless (and sometimes false) phrases like "We did everything by the book."

Is it "by the book," I wonder, to hang out on train platforms or stations and interrogate brown high school girls? Ask for their papers and when they cannot produce any, to solicit confessions about legal status, have them sign a paper "agreeing to voluntarily return to Mexico without seeing an immigration judge" and then ship across the border?

Is that really "the book" the Obama/Napolitano administration is using?

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Weekly Immigration Wire: Key Legal Battles in Fight for Immigrant Rights

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Jun 11, 2009 at 11:28:23 AM EST

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

While the United States’ legal system is founded on grand ideals like all  humans being equal, the law is rarely as benevolent or efficient in practice,  especially for immigrants. Different classes of people receive different  consideration, and the subsequent disparities are glaringly evident in the lives  of immigrants. This week’s Wire focuses on immigration-related legal battles,  including unconstitutional raids by Immigrations Customs and Enforcement (ICE)  and the rights to have competent representation in a court of law.

 
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