An ongoing battle to ensure due process and keep families together

From the Restore Fairness blog-

Last Friday, Emily Guzman spoke at a vigil outside the Stewart Detention Center in Southwest Georgia where her husband, Pedro Guzman, has been held for over a year. Pedro was brought by his mother from Guatemala to the United States at the age of 8, and they stayed on after being denied asylum. He was arrested a year ago after his mother was denied a request to stay on in the country legally. Despite being married to an American, he has been kept in detention while fighting his case, with limited access to medical care and to visits with his mother, his wife and his four-year-old son, Logan. His wife Emily, who is an American citizen, spoke about the traumatic experience that her family has been through while Pedro has been fighting deportation from prison-

I never knew that the immigration system in the United States was so outrageously flawed until I began to experience it through my husband, Pedro is one of the very few fighting his case in immigration detention. It is a daily emotional fight for him to continue without his freedom.

Pedro’s story is just one of the myriad of reasons why human rights organizations and supporters marched to the Stewart Detention Center last Friday. The groups, including the Georgia Detention Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia, were seeking to draw attention to the “traumatic effects” that detention has on immigrant families. The marchers carried lists with the names of over 110 people who have died in immigration detention since 2003, including 39-year-old Roberto Martinez-Medina and 50-year-old Pedro Gumayagay who were detained at Stewart. This protest followed the release of a report by the Georgia Detention Center about the lack of transparency, accountability and due process at the Stewart Detention Center, which, as one of the largest (and most remote) detention centers in the country, has a vast list of human rights violations including lack of waiting periods of 65 days for cases to be heard, lack adequate medical care, and the imposition of solitary confinement without a hearing.

In addition to calling for the release of Pedro and the closure of the detention center in favor of alternatives to detention that are cheaper and more humane, the groups also aimed to highlight the “collusion between government officials and for-profit corporations to place profits and politics over people.” The overt connections between the massive expansion of the detention system and the direct profit made by private prison companies such as the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA, which runs the Stewart Detention Center) were thrown into the spotlight when National Public Radio (NPR) did a story exposing the ties between CCA and the SB1070 immigration law in Arizona.

8 of the protesters, including Emily Guzman’s mother, Pamela Alberda, were arrested as they crossed over a ‘Do Not Enter’ tape at the entrance to the detention center. They were released on bond later the same day. Speaking about the impending protest and vigil, an ICE spokesperson said-

ICE fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference. We recognize that our nation’s broken immigration system requires serious solutions, and we fully support comprehensive immigration reform efforts.

It is a relief to know that in the midst of this glaring lack of due process and fairness, a modicum of justice also exists. In what is a significant victory for immigrant rights activists, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled yesterday that all defendants with limited English proficiency have a right to an interpreter for criminal trials. Speaking about the case filed by the ACLU of Georgia and the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, Azadeh Shahshahani, Director of the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia said that the court ruling upheld a basic tenet of the U.S. Constitution-

The court acknowledged that we don’t have two systems of justice in this country – one for English-speakers and another for everyone else. The constitutional guarantee of due process applies to everyone in this country, not just fluent English-speakers.

In keeping with the spirit of the Constitution practiced by the Georgia Supreme Court, let us hope that these same principles are upheld in all aspects of life, ensuring that everyone is treated equally with respect to dignity, justice, due process and fairness.

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Arizona Church Dome: Why Hate When You Can Outsource?

Not so long ago, much of the nation looked at Texas as the Loon Star State – a place so weird that  Texans think of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity as dangerous far lefties in league with that socialist Kenyan pretender in the White House.

But, every Empire of Imbeciles must come to an end.

America, meet the new goobs on the block – Arizonans. As Hunter Thompson used to say, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro”…and there’s no place more professional than Arizona.

It surely takes professional crazies to protest a Christian church because it looks too much like a mosque. Damn Mexican Mooslims!

Broken Light of the World
The point of contention for the good Christian folk of Phoenix seems to be that the Light of the World church topped their God garage with a dome. To Arizonans, domes are the illegal aliens of the religious world. Presumably the many Catholic missions doting the cactusophere are equally condemned for featuring domes in their designs too, but somehow I doubt that.

Tonya Somander of Think Progress asked, “…with so many high-profile figures selling unfounded, anti-Muslim fear to the public, is it any wonder that all many Americans can see in Islam is a phantom menace?”  Well Tonya, no, but it does make perfect sense in Arizona. They’re so jelly-kneed they don’t even have to have real Muslims to hate. All they need is a bold, but unsuspecting, church architect and some followers of the same faith most of them adhere to.

It’s odd that Christians – who are somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of the American population – are always worrying about atheists and Muslims trying to kill Christendom with a combination of dastardly Wars on Christmas and autographed baseball cards featuring Madalyn Murray O’Hair. This is especially true in Arizona where there are fewer Muslims than black people -  currently numbering about 6 people who must carry their papers at all times. But, there’s not a racist among them, so who’s counting?

However, maybe this does make sense. Clearly there are too few actual Muslims in Arizona to absorb all the fear Arizonans have for those tricky Islamists. It’s hard to get worked up over a bunch of New Yorkers who prefer titty bars to houses of worship in Lower Manhattan. After all, the titty baristas don’t get too exercised over Mexicans leaving piles of dead bodies at the Tuscon city limits, no do they?

A state as proud as The Grand Canyon Crackpot State must have it’s own Muslims to persecute. Period. Doing it vicariously through castoffs from Jersey Shore is just no fun at all.

So why not outsource Islamic fear?

It’s a Win-Win for Arizona
Arizona already has a surplus of Christians on hand. They represent a trained workforce that could easily make the transition from law abiding Jeezlets to evil burka wearers with little trouble. They have the religious training. Christian churches always need money to Save the Children in all those countries they’d never be caught dead in. It’s a win-win and best of all, Americans could corner the market on faux Muslims before the Indians or Chinese could get a foothold.

So it’s settled. Light of the Worlders, stop by Home Depot and hire a few illegal immigrants to get that dome up as fast as possible. Maybe even add a minaret here and there, nothing too ostentatious. And you can find someone who yodels to simulate the calls to prayer can’t you?

As for pay, $2 an hours seems fair – and no benefits, because they’re a socialist plot. We’d like to pay more, but we just can’t pay minimum wage because, well, we could get the Mexicans to work cheaper if we wanted and we don’t want to create a monetary imbalance in the Arizona economy. There’s no way strings of varnished chillies could make up the shortfall.

Muslims, our people will call your people. We’d like to talk outsourcing Christians to Yemen.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!



Prison companies' profit motive sheds new light on Arizona's immigration law

From the Restore Fairness blog-

For months after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed off on the draconian immigration law, SB1070, protestors raged about the repercussions of a law that made it mandatory for police to stop and check the papers of anyone that they deemed “reasonably suspicious” of being undocumented. Human rights activists protested the inevitable implication of racial profiling that the law brought with it, while supporters of the law argued that it would be an effective solution to the immigration issue. When analyzing how the law came to be, the progressive media went to great lengths to highlight the direct links between those who drafted the law and “hate” groups the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FIRM) and white supremacist organizations. In all this, little was said about how the law came about in the first place.

A breaking investigation conducted by NPR and released today reveals that there is a more insidious motive behind the drafting of the Arizona law; one that leaves passionate rhetoric behind and focuses purely on profit. Based on the analysis of hundreds of thousands of campaign finance reports of people like Senator Russell Pearce, the legislator that was responsible for introducing SB1070 before the House of Representatives, as well as the corporate records of numerous prison companies, NPR has found deep financial ties between the drafting and introduction of the bill, and the private prison industry, that stands to benefit millions of dollars from increased immigrant detention.

The NPR investigation found that the seeds of the immigration bill were sown at a meeting of a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a semi-secret group that comprises of state legislators like Pearce, as well as the heads of big private corporations such as ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association, and billion dollar companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States. All of the 50 members present for the meeting in December, 2009 where Pearce first presented his idea for SB1070, voted to support it, and the exact “model bill” that he presented at the meeting became the law that Jan Brewer passed in April, 2010.

Once SB1070 was introduced in the House in January by Senator Pearce, it was backed by thirty six sponsors, most of whom had been present at the December meeting of ALEC. Almost immediately, thirty of the thirty-six sponsors received generous donations from all the big private prison companies, GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and Management and Training Corporation. Further, it was clear that, if executed, this law would be hugely profitable for the prison companies. The records of CCA showed that prison executives were relying on immigration detention as their next big market.

Ties between the massive expansion of immigrant detention and the subsequent growth and profit for the largely privately run prison system are not new. What is even more disturbing is the concrete evidence that points to the lack of accountability that comes with this prison system that is increasingly dysfunctional, as well as a detention system that denies due process and fairness to hundreds of men, women and children.

Advocate groups such as the NDLON have called for a further investigation into the collaboration between private corporations and conservative politicians. Pablo Alvarado, the Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network released a statement today saying-

We have done much to confront the hate within the recent immigration debate…but what this report brings to light is that behind the odious rhetoric there are corporations cashing in…These corporations and the politicians they fund are less concerned with borders than they are profit margins. We call on Russell Pearce to fully disclose his ties with those who may benefit financially from his initiatives and we ask that a deeper investigation be launched into the private interests gaining from the human rights crisis in Arizona.

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Help us KNOCK OUT Republicans in Arizona!

UPDATE! October 27, 2010: We have already raised $15,760 thanks to your hard work and support! Keep us going strong towards our huge $25,000 grassroots goal!

On October 23, just ten days before the November 2 election, the Arizona Democratic Party launched a new online effort and issued a challenge to our grassroots supporters—“10 in 10 for 2010.” We challenged our friends and allies to donate $10 or more and recruit 10 friends to do the same so that we can KNOCK OUT the Republicans in 2010!

We’ve set a huge goal of raising $25,000 online from our grassroots supporters in the last few days before the election. It’s our most ambitious online fundraising push yet—and we can’t do it without you. Our Republican opposition will be watching closely to see if we can make it.

This $25,000 in the final few days of the election will make a crucial difference in our Get-Out-the-Vote campaign so that we can expand the electorate, reach out to voters, and combat the Republican attack machine.

Supported by million dollar checks from their anonymous corporate donors--and parroting RNC talking points on immigration, Obama and Nancy Pelosi--the likes of Joe “Pink Underwear” Arpaio, “Repeal the 14th Amendment” Russell Pearce, and debate-dodging Jan Brewer are counting on deceiving, confusing or scaring Arizona votes into staying home on Nov. 2.

We cannot let that happen.

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Restrictive Voter Registration Law Struck Down in Arizona

A notoriously restrictive voter registration law was struck down in Arizona today after the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit issued its long-awaited decision in Gonzales v. Arizona. And it was worth the wait.

By a 2-1 vote (the majority included retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor), the court struck down Arizona’s documentary proof of citizenship requirement for all new voter registrants because it is superseded by the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). Project Vote is a plaintiff in this case.

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