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immigration reform

Detention Watch Network Launches "Expose and Close" Campaign to Close 10 Immigrant Detention Sites

by: Expose and Close

Thu Nov 15, 2012 at 16:10:56 PM EST

The immigration detention system in the United States has grown drastically over the last 15 years and the appalling conditions in the detention centers that house immigrants have reached a tipping point.  Today, national and local leaders responded by saying, "enough is enough!"

On a press call today, Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02) and Bishop Minerva Carcaño joined national and local leaders from the Detention Watch Network to release a series of reports titled, "Expose and Close," to reveal the widespread pattern of mistreatment at ten of the worst immigrant prisons across the country.  Today, speakers called on President Obama to do what's right and close these detention centers as well as issued a list of reforms to ensure the safety, dignity and well-being of immigrants held in detention.

According to Andrea Black, Executive Director, Detention Watch Network, "We hope that the Administration will act. ICE claims it has taken steps to reform the detention system, but the people actually in detention are suffering as much as ever. In his second term, the president has the power to bring about change that will uplift immigrants instead of lock them up."

Among the report's findings:

  • Roberto Medina-Martinez, a 39-year-old immigrant, died at Stewart in March 2009 of a treatable heart infection. An investigation conducted following his death revealed that the nursing staff failed to refer Mr. Medina for timely medical treatment and the facility physician failed to follow internal oversight procedures.
  • A man with serious emotional health problems in the Houston Processing Center in Texas was placed in solitary confinement for months at a time, a practice which the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has deemed torture.
  • At Baker, Etowah and Pinal County Detention Centers and Jails, families are only able to visit with their loved ones in detention through video monitors after having driven hundreds of miles to see them.
  • At the Pinal County Jail complaints regarding sanitation include receiving food on dirty trays, worms found in food, bugs and worms found in the faucets, receiving dirty laundry, and being overcrowded with ten other men in one cell and only one toilet.

President Obama made promises to reform this inhumane system in 2009, and while there were some efforts to improve the system, the reality on the ground has not changed.  Pedro Guzman, formerly detained at the Stewart Detention Center, shared his firsthand experience: "We were treated like animals-- held in pod with 64 people, no privacy, eating food that was inedible and constant yelling and disrespect from the officers.  We rarely had court dates even after they were already scheduled, and they made it impossible to adjust your status in a legal and efficient way. There is absolutely no justice in the detention system."

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (CO-02) also joined today's call for justice: "It needn't take the passage of comprehensive immigration reform for us to work together to reform the immigration detention system and close the most egregious centers highlighted in these reports. Taxpayers shouldn't be asked to continue to support this waste of money and resources."

Conditions at 10 of the worst jails and prisons that house immigrants have gotten so bad, the only option is to begin shutting them down.  Azadeh N. Shahshahani, National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project Director and American Civil Liberties Union Foundation  of Georgia and President of National Lawyers Guild, said, "The human rights abuses at the Irwin County Detention Center and the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia in many ways exemplify the problems with using remote, highly restrictive facilities to hold immigrants.

These conditions are unacceptable and not in the spirit of the Administration's promised reforms."

"While immigrants suffer under prolonged detention at Polk County and the Houston Processing Center, private prison corporations are getting rich," said Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership. "It doesn't have to be this way.  ICE should prioritize release of immigrants in community support programs that are far more humane, less costly, and are effective at ensuring immigrants are able to appear at their hearings."

Said Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Resident Bishop of the Los Angeles Area of the United Methodist Church, "The detention of hundreds of thousands of immigrants in this country for profit and political gain is a moral outrage.  Detention centers are not the answer to our broken immigration policies."

In conjunction with today's national launch, Detention Watch Network members around the country will be releasing their local reports in a coordinated effort to call for closure of these ten jails and prisons across the nation that exemplify some of the most appalling conditions of immigrant detention.  These facilities include Etowah County Detention Center (AL), Pinal County Jail (AZ), Houston Processing Center (TX), Polk County Detention Facility (TX), Stewart Detention Center (GA), Irwin County Jail (GA), Hudson County Jail (NJ), Theo Lacy Detention Center (CA), Tri-County Detention Center (IL), and Baker County Jail (FL).

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Detention Watch Network to Release "Expose and Close," Reports on Immigrant Detention

by: Expose and Close

Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 18:00:03 PM EST

"Jordana was brought to the U.S. when she was twelve years old. At the age of 23 she was arrested by ICE officials after they came to her home looking for her brother. Jordana had no criminal history and no deportation order. ICE alleged that she had entered the U.S. on the visa waiver program and was thus not entitled to a removal hearing before an immigration judge. When ICE initially tried to remove Jordana, she refused to board the plane and requested a hearing before a judge. As a result, ICE placed her in segregation at the Elizabeth Detention Center for three weeks, and then transferred her for four months to Hudson County.

Despite being eligible for the DREAM Act and meeting the requirements for prosecutorial discretion under the recent memo from ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton, ICE refused all initial requests to have Jordana released. Jordana was ultimately moved to Delaney Hall and released after interventions by U.S. Senators Menendez, Gillibrand, and Durbin. She spent nine months total in ICE detention. A month after her release, ICE admitted in Court filings that it erred in stating that she had entered on the visa waiver program and that Jordana had been entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge all along."

The immigration detention system in the United States has grown drastically over the last 15 years and the appalling conditions in the detention centers that house immigrants have reached a tipping point.

President Obama made promises to reform this inhumane system in 2009, and while there were some efforts to improve the system, the reality on the ground has not changed.  Now, conditions at 10 of the worst jails and prisons that house immigrants have gotten so bad, the only option is to begin shutting them down.

Tomorrow, Thursday November 15th, national and local leaders from the Detention Watch Network (http://detentionwatchnetwork.org/) will release a series of reports titled, "Expose and Close," to reveal the widespread pattern of mistreatment at ten of the worst immigrant prisons across the country.  Speakers will call on President Obama to close these detention centers and issue a list of reforms to ensure the safety, dignity and well-being of immigrants held in detention.

Among the report's findings:

  • Roberto Medina-Martinez, a 39-year-old immigrant, died at Stewart in March 2009 of a treatable heart infection. An investigation conducted following his death revealed that the nursing staff failed to refer Mr. Medina for timely medical treatment and the facility physician failed to follow internal oversight procedures.
  • A man with serious emotional health problems in the Houston Processing Center in Texas was placed in solitary confinement for months at a time, a practice which the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has deemed torture.
  • At Baker, Etowah and Pinal County Detention Centers and Jails, families are only able to visit with their loved ones in detention through video monitors after having driven hundreds of miles to see them.
  • At the Pinal County Jail complaints regarding sanitation include receiving food on dirty trays, worms found in food, bugs and worms found in the faucets, receiving dirty laundry, and being overcrowded with ten other men in one cell and only one toilet.

In conjunction with Thursday's national launch, Detention Watch Network members around the country will be releasing their local reports in a coordinated effort to call for closure of these ten jails and prisons across the nation that exemplify some of the most appalling conditions of immigrant detention.  These facilities include Etowah County Detention Center (AL), Pinal County Jail (AZ), Houston Processing Center (TX), Polk County Detention Facility (TX), Stewart Detention Center (GA), Irwin County Jail (GA), Hudson County Jail (NJ), Theo Lacy Detention Center (CA), Tri-County Detention Center (IL), and Baker County Jail (FL).

Please stay tuned.

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Undocubus Tour: No Papers, No Fear

by: AmericasVoice

Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 15:45:52 PM EST

"No papers, no fear." That is the slogan that is driving (so to speak) a group of undocumented immigrants and allies of different ages from Arizona to cities where there is heated anti-immigrant sentiment.

The group is calling out the injustices toward immigrants that have been taking place throughout the country, especially in states where there is anti-immigrant legislation, like Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama.  They're also sharing their stories so that others in a similar situation will feel empowered to tell their own stories.

The group left last night for Denver, Colorado, their first stop on the Undocubus tour. They will travel for the next month to different parts of the country and will end up in Charlotte, North Carolina -- their final destination -- in time for the Democratic National Convention.  Along the way, they plan to engage in civil disobedience actions to alert the community about the inhumane ways in which immigrants are treated.

The group is strategically passing through states that have passed copycat anti-immigrant laws in order to educate and empower people to take action. They know that they are running the risk of getting arrested and even deported, which is why they are fundraising bail money along the way.

Daniela Cruz, an undocumented youth and activist from Arizona, got involved with the Undocubus Tour through Puente, an immigrant rights organization from Arizona. She feels excited about embarking on this journey.

"We're excited to show people that we are not afraid. It feels different this time. We are painting the bus with the words: No papers, no fear. It's going to strengthen our community," she told me in an interview.

She recalled someone saying at their send-off party from the night before:  "Normally buses separate families and deport them. This bus is strengthening our community."

In Denver, they will speak to different organizations to learn about what is going on in their state, and they will also share what is going on in Arizona. On Wednesday night, they leave for New Mexico. The current plan is that every two to three days, the Undocubus will go to a different state.

A lot of this trip will be story sharing, and Cruz looks forward to meeting new people.

"It is so powerful to meet someone not from my home state [of Arizona]. It's nice to know that they know what you're going through. You can build relationships."

Cruz also discusses how going on this tour is more than just fighting for undocumented youth, which is something she is used to as a DREAM activist.

"It's bigger and deeper than that. It's about all of the immigrant community."

When asked if President Obama's announcement changed anything for her, she said,

"It has pumped me up to keep going. We want more. Obama won the Latino vote with his announcement but he could have done more. He's deported more people than anyone in history."

On the positive results she's seen after the announcement, she said,

"I've seen more people come out. That's the only way we're going to be safe."

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From New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo, A Determination to Protect DREAMers from Notario Fraud

by: AmericasVoice

Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 12:27:16 PM EST

Cross-Posted at America's Voice:

President Obama's June announcement (that DREAM Act-eligible youth would be spared from deportation and granted work permits) was widely applauded as a move that would finally grant relief to young immigrants and allow them to move toward legal status.  But a shady, cynical cadre of fraudulent lawyers and notarios has already sprung up, prepared to take advantage of DREAMers confused about the process and desperate to apply.  These scammers are charging thousands of dollars in fees and disappearing with their clients' money, having provided no legal help or aid.

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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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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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The Immigration Hall of Shame

by: Immigrants' List

Tue Apr 19, 2011 at 12:45:29 PM EST

This week, it's the 104th anniversary of Ellis Island's one-day peak - the day when more immigrants were welcomed than any other in American history. On April 17, 1907, 11,747 immigrants became Americans - and that was just at Ellis Island.

Today, 104 years later, America is stuck in the mud with a broken immigration system. Americans want reform that unites families, promotes fair employment practices, and restores America's place as a nation that welcomes those seeking freedom from persecution and a better way of life.

This week, Immigrants' List -- a bipartisan political action committee dedicated to electing pro-immigration lawmakers - unveiled the 2011 inductees into the Immigration Hall of Shame.

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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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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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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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Immigration Insider: 5 Weeks to Election... CA, FL, and DREAM

by: AmericasVoice

Wed Sep 29, 2010 at 13:28:50 PM EST

Check out America's Voice new weekly resource, "Immigration Insider," which takes an in-depth look at immigration politics, leading up to the November election. SUBSCRIBE to receive Immigration Insider in your inbox every Tuesday-- absolutely gratis.

Immigration Insider | Election 2010

A vote on the DREAM Act is delayed, but the debate itself could boost Dems' chances this fall. CA candidates attempt extreme makeovers to woo Latino voters. Rep. Bilbray blasts DREAM supporters as "accomplices to murder." FOX News is furious... with Stephen Colbert. Marco Rubio speaks Spanish. America's Voice teams up on Spanish ad blitz to show who's blocking immigration reform.

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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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Weekly Diaspora: Local Laws Target Immigrants; Activists Take to the Streets

by: The Media Consortium

Thu Apr 15, 2010 at 12:18:32 PM EST

By Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

While immigrant rights groups pressure the federal government via high-profile marches and rallies, anti-immigration forces are pushing punitive laws on the state and local levels. Thousands of immigration reform proponents rallied last week to push federal lawmakers to pass reform this year, but the Arizona House of Representatives passed one of the toughest immigration laws in the country, which enables racial profiling of Latinos.

If the Senate fails to propose a reform bill this Spring, immigration reform won't be on the agenda for 2010. With elections at the end of the year, it's uncertain if reform will pass after that, as the resulting Congress could be more conservative.

More rallies from the grassroots

As Seth Freed Wessler reports at RaceWire, "Rallies for immigration reform were held in at least seven cities on Saturday, including Las Vegas, Seattle and Chicago, and were meant to maintain momentum from the massive march in Washington last month." The rallies were part of a sustained effort by reform supporters to pressure the Senate to take up reform this year.

In Las Vegas, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) made an appearance and told supporters that the Senate would start work on reform soon after legislators came back from a brief recess this week.

"Speaking before a crowd of more than 6,000, Reid, a vulnerable incumbent, assured his audience of his commitment," Steve Benen wrote for the Washington Monthly.

"We're going to come back, we're going to have comprehensive immigration reform now," Reid was quoted as saying. "We need to do this this year. We cannot wait."

New America Media cites a report from Univision, writing that "Reid, fresh from the fight for health system reform and with a difficult re-election campaign ahead, told demonstrators that there is some urgency to passing legislation to reform the immigration system, including improving border security and creating a guest worker program for seasonal workers."

New America Media also reports on a surprising conservative-evangelical alliance that supports comprehensive immigration reform that protects children and families. "While not entirely new, the involvement of conservative Latino and evangelical leaders in the immigration debate puts additional pressure on Congress and the president to take up the issue this year."

In Seattle, AlterNet reports  on the large presence of Asian immigrants at the local rally, quoting Diane Narasaki, executive director of the Asian Counseling and Referral Service:  "There are about 1 million Asians living in this country who are undocumented, so comprehensive immigration reform is really key to our community," Narasaki said.

Local laws target immigrants

Meanwhile, the GOP-controlled Arizona House of Representatives voted along party lines this week to pass a state law that would, as RaceWire's Freed Wessler reports, "make it a criminal offense simply to be an undocumented immigrant on Arizona soil and to require local cops to determine a person's immigration status if there is any 'reasonable suspicion' the person is undocumented."

"The law would essentially require police to racially profile Latinos and threatens to terrorize immigrant communities already trying to survive in what is arguably the country's most anti-immigrant state," writes Freed Wessler.

In Colorado, where a similar state law passed despite wide criticism of civil rights abuses, there are reports on an effort in Denver to push back against a a local city-wide anti-immigrant  law that encourages police to impound vehicles of undocumented immigrants.

"Members of the city council here are considering eliminating a controversial vehicle impound law that has raised financial and constitutional questions," Joseph Boven reports for the Colorado Independent. "It's unconstitutional, for example, to require Denver police to judge whether someone driving in Denver without a license might be an illegal alien."

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Linking national concerns with local issues, the National Radio Project reports on a panel called "Race, Immigration and the Fight for an Open Internet," which focused on how telecommunications corporations' moves to restrict internet access could affect immigrant communities.

"Right now, telecommunications companies are pursuing a restrictive pay-for-play business model for online access that many say will only further the digital divide, discriminating between those who have Internet access and those who do not," the news outlet notes.

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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How many more hate crimes against immigrants will it take?

by: Restore Fairness

Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 17:12:52 PM EST

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Quintessentially ‘New York,’ Port Richmond is a diverse and vibrant neighborhood that has been home to most of Staten Island’s Latino community for many years. In incidents that often go unreported, in the past few years this neighborhood has seen more hate crimes against Latino immigrants than one can bear to count. The latest one took place early morning on April 5th when 26 year-old Mexican immigrant Rodulfo Olmedo was attacked by four young men outside his apartment. In this horrifyingly vicious assault, the attackers yelled racial slurs at him, beat him with wooden planks, metal chains and a baseball bat, and took his money, leaving him with a fractured skull.

Although Olmedo is home from the hospital and recovering from his injuries, the entire community is reeling from the psychological and emotional trauma caused by yet another episode of race-based violence in their midst. Last night, there was a combination of sadness and outrage as 150 community members gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the bakery where Olmedo was employed. Led by a local priest, they prayed for an end to the violence that has plagued the immigrant community for years. Speaking about the frequency of hate crimes in the area, Gonzalo Mercado, the director of the Center for Immigrant Families in Port Richmond, said that “the community is living in fear, because these types of situations are not new to this area.”

Rodulfo’s mother, Margarita Olmedo, said that the family is traumatized by the violent attack and is determined to make sure that it does not go unnoticed. She spoke to local press on Rodulfo’s behalf-

He’s under a lot of medication, so he’s resting sleeping…He just wants to make sure that everybody says something about it, that nobody should keep quiet. He does not want this to happen to anybody else.

The attack was captured by two surveillance cameras, and was broadcast on the local television channel (NY1). Following the broadcast the police received a tip, and, after searching their “stop-and-frisk” database, they arrested four suspects on Friday, the 9th of April.  The arrested youth face assault and hate crime charges, and if convicted, could received up to 25 years in prison. The arrest of the suspected perpetrators has given rise to a controversy around the NYPD database that contains information of all the people they stop, question or frisk on grounds of “reasonable suspicion,” as a part of their “stop-and-frisk” policy.

Begun in 2001, the database was started as a safeguard that recorded information of all police stops, thereby ensuring against racially disproportionate action on the part of the police. This case has brought to light the fact that a database that was initiated to prevent against racial profiling, is being used by the police to track down suspects, raising concerns amongst civil liberties advocates like the New York Civil Liberties Union. Speaking about the potential of the database to allow for racial profiling, Chris Dunn, associate legal director of the ACLU said-

The prospect of occasionally finding additional information about suspects already known to the police does not come close to justifying a police database of millions of innocent black and Latino New Yorkers.

While this case received coverage in the press, most of these cases go unreported. On Friday, community leaders in Staten Island gathered to tell people that the only way for concrete action towards putting an end to such violence is if people who are victims or witnesses of hate crimes come forward and report them. The “April 5 bias crime,”as the press has named it, drives home the fact that race-based violence against immigrants has seen a dangerous surge in the past few years.

As the momentum is growing towards just and humane immigration reform, it is important to keep in mind the horrific reality of individual stories like Rodulfo’s, unfolding in our own neighborhoods, right before our eyes.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

How many more hate crimes against immigrants will it take?

by: Restore Fairness

Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 17:12:26 PM EST

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Quintessentially ‘New York,’ Port Richmond is a  diverse and vibrant  neighborhood that has been home to most of Staten  Island’s Latino  community for many years. In incidents that often go  unreported, in the  past few years this neighborhood has seen more hate crimes against Latino immigrants than one can   bear to count. The latest one took place early morning on April 5th   when 26 year-old Mexican immigrant Rodulfo Olmedo was attacked by four   young men outside his apartment. In this horrifyingly vicious assault,   the attackers yelled racial slurs at him, beat him with wooden planks,   metal chains and a baseball bat, and took his money, leaving him with a   fractured skull.

Although Olmedo is home from the hospital and  recovering from his  injuries, the entire community is reeling from the  psychological and  emotional trauma caused by yet another episode of  race-based violence in  their midst. Last night, there was a combination  of sadness and outrage  as 150 community members gathered for a candlelight vigil outside the bakery where Olmedo   was employed. Led by a local priest, they prayed for an end to the   violence that has plagued the immigrant community for years. Speaking   about the frequency of hate crimes in the area, Gonzalo Mercado, the   director of the Center  for Immigrant  Families in Port Richmond, said that “the community is living in fear, because   these types of situations are  not new to this area.”

Rodulfo’s  mother, Margarita Olmedo, said that the family is  traumatized by the  violent attack and is determined to make sure that it  does not go  unnoticed. She spoke to local press on Rodulfo’s behalf-

He’s under a  lot of medication, so he’s  resting sleeping…He just wants to make sure  that everybody says  something about it, that nobody should keep quiet.  He does not want this  to happen to anybody else.

The attack was  captured by two surveillance cameras, and was broadcast on the local television channel (NY1).   Following the broadcast the police received a tip, and, after searching their “stop-and-frisk”   database, they arrested four suspects on Friday, the 9th of April.  The   arrested youth face assault and hate crime charges, and if convicted,   could received up to 25 years in prison. The arrest of the suspected   perpetrators has given rise to a controversy around the NYPD database that contains   information of all the people they stop, question or frisk on grounds    of “reasonable suspicion,” as a part of their “stop-and-frisk” policy.

 

Begun in 2001, the database was started as a   safeguard that recorded information of all police stops, thereby   ensuring against racially disproportionate action on the part of the   police. This case has brought to light the fact that a database that was   initiated to prevent against racial profiling, is being used by the   police to track down suspects, raising concerns amongst civil liberties   advocates like the New  York Civil  Liberties Union. Speaking about the potential of the  database to  allow for racial profiling, Chris Dunn, associate legal   director of the ACLU said-

The prospect of occasionally finding   additional information about suspects already known to the police does   not come close to justifying a police database of millions of innocent   black and Latino New Yorkers.

While this case received coverage  in the press, most of these cases  go unreported. On Friday, community  leaders in Staten Island gathered   to tell people that the only way for concrete action towards   putting an end to such violence is if people who are victims or   witnesses of hate crimes come forward and report them. The “April 5 bias crime,”as the press has named it,    drives home the fact that race-based violence against immigrants has    seen a dangerous surge in the past few years.

As  the momentum is growing towards just and humane   immigration reform, it is important to keep in mind the horrific reality   of individual stories like Rodulfo’s, unfolding in our own   neighborhoods, right before our eyes.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org
Discuss :: (0 Comments)
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