Weekly Diaspora: Why We Need a Deportation Moratorium Now

 

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

As a floundering Congress repeatedly impedes the passage of widely supported immigration measures like the DREAM Act, reform advocates are refocusing their efforts and calling on President Barack Obama to declare a moratorium on deportations.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), whose impassioned support of immigrant rights landed him in jail earlier this year, is at the forefront of that charge, reports Braden Goyette at Campus Progress. Joining a chorus of immigration reform groups, Gutierrez is asking for moratorium: “The President will tell us we need Republican votes in order to pass legislation, and he’s correct,” Gutierrez told a raucous crowd of New York immigrants last month. “But let me tell you something. With the executive stroke of that pen, he can stop the deportation and the destruction of our families.”

The deportation dragnet

The administration’s amped up efforts to detain and deport greater numbers of undocumented immigrants is understandably contentious among immigrant rights advocates. As Goyette notes, at least 6.6 million mixed-status families stand to be directly affected by increased immigration enforcement, and nearly 100,000 citizen children have already seen their parents—lawful permanent residents—deported by the government.

To make matters worse, individuals are being deported without demonstrable regard for clean records, mitigating circumstances or even legal residency, in spite of the administration’s assurances to the contrary. Alina Das, a fellow at NYU’s immigration law clinic who was interviewed by Goyette, sums it up this way:

“Once you’re in the system it often does not matter if you’ve lived here since childhood, if you worked and paid taxes your entire life, if you gave back to the community and served in the military. The laws are so draconian that immigration judges are not able to consider these factors in many cases.”

ICE under fire for netting innocents

The legal system’s rigidity is further exacerbated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s questionable practices, which have resulted in the unlawful detention and deportations of scores of immigrants. The consequences of ICE’s overreliance on local law enforcement and its apparently indiscriminate tagging of undocumented immigrants are making headlines and raising prominent eyebrows.

The Filipino Express, via New America Media, reports that immigration courts are rejecting 31 percent of deportation cases filed by ICE—a six-point increase since 2009. In larger cities, the rejection rate is as high as 70 percent, suggesting that ICE is increasingly detaining and processing people who have just cause to remain in the country.

ICE’s credibility on the matter has deteriorated so much that last week a federal judge ordered the agency to release previously withheld documents related to a controversial enforcement program called Secure Communities, which has netted a number of non-criminal immigrants, including domestic violence victims. Several localities have tried to opt out of participating in the contentious program—including Santa Clara and San Francisco Counties in California, Arlington, Va., and Washington D.C.—but ICE has waffled on allowing them to do so. The documents ordered for release should shed light on the issue.

ColorLines’ Seth Freed Wessler reports that last week’s ruling was the second of its kind made against ICE:

In July, a federal court ordered the release of all government documents related to Secure Communities, following a public information request by Uncover the Truth, a coalition of civil rights and immigrant rights groups. The government released only some documents, which revealed that the program had resulted in the deportation of tens of thousands of non-citizens with no criminal convictions at all, or with convictions for low-level things like traffic violations.

The dark side of detention

The indiscriminate roundup of undocumented immigrants can have grave consequences—particularly when the immigration enforcement system is overly outsourced and over capacity.

While we’ve highlighted several cases of detention centers run amok in the past, Forrest Wilder at the Texas Observer has been following the case of a particularly horrifying incident at the Reeves County Detention Center near Pecos, Texas.

Two years ago, when the facility’s remarkably poor conditions provoked immigrant detainees to demand a meeting with the Mexican consulate, 1,200 detainees rioted and commandeered the facility, costing more than $1 million in damages. The impetus: The arguably preventable death of Jesus Manuel Galindo, a 32-year-old epileptic Mexican citizen who had lived in the United States since he was 13 and was locked up for “illegal re-entry” into the country:

Galindo’s death set off a huge riot at the Reeves County Detention Center, the world’s largest privately-run prison. It was the first of two riots in protest of poor conditions, especially medical care that the prisoners claimed was literally killing people. At the time of his death from an epileptic seizure, Galindo had been locked up in the prison’s administrative segregation unit for a month, possibly as punishment for his persistent medical complaints.

Wilder further reports that, last week, the ACLU and two El Paso attorneys filed suit against officials and administrators of the ill-reputed facility, stating that “the utter disregard shown by RCDC prison and medical staff to Galindo’s repeated, beseeching, well-founded expressions of fear for his own personal safety bordered on sadistic.”

Galindo’s case is not unique among immigrant detainees in the United States. Immigrant detainees suffer myriad abuses and injustices while their cases are processed and the administration’s increasing emphasis on enforcement only exacerbates the problem.

With the DREAM Act stuck in sentatorial limbo, the dire circumstances of hundreds of thousands of immigrants should compel President Obama to take action where Congress will not.

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.

 

Weekly Diaspora: Thousands Protest SB1070; Arizona Gov. Braces for Lawsuits

by Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

Over Memorial Day weekend, tens of thousands of people marched in Phoenix, AZ to protest SB1070, a law that immigrants to carry papers at all times and makes it possible for any police officer to detain on suspicion of immigration status alone.

At RaceWire, Jorge Rivas reports that “an official crowd estimate was not available for Saturday’s SB1070 protest,” but that “officials overheard on the police scanner estimated the crowd at about 30,000.” Marchers also demanded that President Barack Obama nullify SB1070 by means of a legal challenge from the Justice Department.

Phoenix has become well-known for its anti-immigrant hysteria. The city is part of Maricopa County, home to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for racial profiling after targeting Latino neighborhoods and work sites for raids. The Sheriff has also garnered addition civil rights lawsuits and a pending investigation by the Justice Department relating to civil liberties violations in Arpaio’s “Tent City” jail.

Meanwhile, the fate of a comprehensive immigration reform bill is up in the air. The U.S. Senate is balking at the issue, even though reform proponents continue to participate in civil disobedience actions and marches.

Bring in the Justice Department

But there may be hope. Jessica Pieklo at Care2 writes that “It is becoming clearer and clearer that the only resolution to this issue will be a federal-state showdown, reminiscent of the ordered de-segretation of the South.” This week, unidentified Justice Department officials traveled to Phoenix to discuss SB1070, which be enforced on July 29th. They came to no consensus.

In response to the number of anticipated legal challenges against SB1070, not to mention mounting national pressure, Eric Lach reports for TPM Live Wire that Gov. Jan Brewer will “have outside counsel defend the state against legal challenges to the laws — not the state’s Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat and one of Brewer’s opponents in Arizona’s gubernatorial race.” The announcement came shortly after federal officials traveled to the state to discuss SB1070.

Cops against SB1070

Back at Care2, Pieklo also notes that SB1070 has polarized Arizona’s law enforcement community, with “Sheriff Joe Arpaio and some associations representing rank-and-file officers supporting it while a number of police chiefs have expressed growing unease with the law and see it as a means of driving a wedge between law enforcement and the Latino community, which represents approximately one in three legal Arizona residents.”

Where’s Congress?

The U.S. Senate has been notably absent from the immigration reform debate. Even though a reform proposal is already on the House floor, if the Senate doesn’t introduce a bill soon, immigration reform will likely fail this year. Despite two separate proposed drafts of plans for a bill in the Senate, nothing has been introduced officially. Even if a bill is introduced, the Senate still needs time to debate it, which makes for an uneasy race against the clock.

Immigration and elections

AlterNet reporter Michele Waslin examines the how the immigration issue has influenced recent electoral primaries. “For the last several years Congress has failed come up with a solution, despite the evidence that this is an important issue to their constituencies,” Waslin writes.

“Because Congress hasn’t acted and the problem isn’t resolving itself, some states and localities have taken action—some out of a genuine desire to fix the problem, and others to score political points. The newly passed law in Arizona and the various copycats are evidence that the states are not backing down.”

Currently, the chances that the Senate will have the gumption to take on a reform bill appear bleak, especially with a Congressional election in November.

‘We want common sense to rule’

Meanwhile, the White House’s decision to send 1,200 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border has drawn sharp criticism from border communities in Texas. Hidalgo Mayor John David Franz, who represents roughly 7,000 constituents along the Rio Grande,  lobbied against the troop deployment.

“Before Congress throws more money at the border, we’re asking them to take a step back and assess whether it’s working first,” Franz said in an interview with The Texas Observer. “We want common sense to rule. We don’t want wasteful spending, and we don’t need any more walls.”

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.

 

 

Weekly Diaspora: 200,000 March on DC, Call for Immigration Reform Now

By Erin Rosa, Media Consortium blogger

As the health care debate comes to a close, there’s no better time to introduce comprehensive immigration reform. Hundreds of thousands of immigrant rights supporters from all over the country congregated on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Sunday to demand immigration reform in 2010. It was the largest political rally to be held since President Barack Obama moved into the White House.

Dressed in white and carrying American flags, the crowd numbered between 200,000 to 500,000 people. The marchers spanned approximately 7 blocks, all the way from the Washington Monument to the steps of Congress. Although many media outlets and lawmakers were were occupied by the historic health care vote taking place in the House of Representatives on the same day, Obama took time from his busy schedule to record a video message to the marchers, in which he discussed the need for immigration reform “this year.”

Obama the guest speaker

“I pledge to do everything in my power to forge a bipartisan consensus, this year on this issue,” Obama said in the video, which was broadcast to the cheering crowd via giant TV screens on the Mall’s perimeter.

As RaceWire notes, Obama explained to reform supporters that “you know as well as I do that this won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but if we work together across ethnic, state and party lines, we can build a future worthy of our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.”

The message came hot on the heels of a proposed Senate outline of an immigration reform bill, written a few days beforehand by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). “For undocumented immigrants already here, the pathway to [a documented] status is basically this: pay a fine, pay back taxes, admit you broke the law, do some community service and then pass a back ground test,” RaceWire’s Seth Freed Wessler notes.

A similar immigration reform bill is in the House, sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), but it is unknown when Schumer and Graham will introduce their proposal to the Senate floor. Immigrant advocates want lawmakers to introduce a reform bill in the Senate this Spring so that there will be time to debate the issue in 2010. The Senate outline is just a rough draft and the proposal could change significantly after it goes through Congress.

Labor and immigration reform

An enormous coalition of religious organizations, businesses and human rights groups are behind the push for immigration reform and the march on Washington. The coalition also includes dozens of unions. Labor was noticeably split over the issue when it was debated in 2007, but now appears to be consolidating its support. Workers Independent News reports that the AFL-CIO, a union federation that represents around 12 million workers, is supporting reform so long as it “enforces workers’ rights.”

Union federation president Rich Trumka also supports legislation that “would give undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as minors and who graduate form U.S. high schools a chance to earn conditional permanent residency,” reports Workers Independent News correspondent Jesse Russell.

Change to Win, which represents 5 million workers, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the fasted growing union in America, were also present at the march. While certain issues, like a possible guest worker program, are likely to be sticking points for labor when reform is debated, union members that have years of organizing experience are supporting efforts to create a pathway to citizenship.

Broken system hits home

It’s important to remember that the fight to pass reform is fueled by the havoc that the broken immigration system wreaks on families and workers. Compound a broken national system with arcane laws on the state level and lives are ruined on a daily basis.

Inter Press Service reports on a Arizona bill that could lob “fines and criminal charges against family members and employers that harbor or transport undocumented immigrants.” This means that even a U.S. citizen that is married to an undocumented immigrant would likely be charged if stopped by police while driving his or her spouse around.

The Texas Observer also reports on the booming immigration detention industry, noting that “as the number of immigrant detainees continues to grow, the waits for hearings continue to lengthen, and immigration reform languishes in congress, the atmosphere in [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detention facilities has grown predictably volatile.”

According to the publication, there were riots at a private prison holding immigrants in Pecos, TX “After a man in solitary confinement died from epileptic seizures.” At another facility in Port Isabel, TX, hunger strikes protesting poor detainee treatment continue.

These stories are just a few examples of the countless daily abuses that happen due to a lack of immigration reform on the federal level. But now, for the first time in years, there’s a real opportunity to pass reform and provide citizenship to the millions of hard-working Americans who are already living in the country. There is an legislative opening to end the madness.

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.

 

 

 

Weekly Diaspora: Does Coakley’s Loss Spell Trouble for Immigration Reform?

By Nezua, Media Consortium Blogger

Professional pundits and Democratic politicians are in a frenzy over what Martha Coakley’s senate seat loss to Republican Scott Brown might mean for American politics.

Immigration reform in jeopardy

As Harold Meyerson of the American Prospect reports, the loss of one seat probably won’t derail heath care reform, but it does make the chances of passing immigration reform slimmer. Meyerson writes that immigration reform is “necessary to restore our economic vitality and political equality,” and actually passing reform would benefit the Democratic faction. Unfortunately, that means that immigration reform will require 60 votes in order to pass the senate.

The Texas Observer’s Melissa del Bosque writes about the slim chances of immigration reform passing in 2010. According to Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, a 2011 target date is “probably more realistic.” del Bosque refuses to lose hope, reminding us that Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) has assured the public that “the Obama administration promised to bring up the issue in 2010.” Of course, bringing up an issue and actually passing reform are two very different animals.

Holding on to hope for 2010

In her daily roundup of Spanish-language media, Erin Rosa of Campus Progress also urges a positive outlook “despite the reorganization of the Senate.” Rosa relays that Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) assured the media during a telephone conference that President Obama “remembers his promise well.” While “most latinos” interviewed are impatient, they hold on to hope that 2010 is the year for reform.

TPS for Haitians

Haitian undocumented that are currently within U.S. borders will be given Temporary Protected Status (TPS), as Julianne Hing reports for RaceWire. The decision only applies to Haitian immigrants in the U.S. prior to January 12, 2010. Hing observes that it is unfortunate that it took “a disaster of this magnitude” to inspire the White House to offer TPS to Haitian immigrants, though it is “a great relief.”

What will the recently granted TPS status mean for Haitians that are already in deportation proceedings? Such is the case of Haitian immigrant Jean Montrevil, as Aarti Shahani reports for New America Media. Montrevil came to the U.S. on a green card in 1986 to “make it big,” but in his efforts, “got stupid,” and caught up in selling drugs from his taxi cab. That was 20 years ago, and Montrevil has served 11 years in prison to pay for his errors. Montrevil is now a father of four and a community leader. The Department of Homeland Security considers his prison time proper cause to deport him. Many others feel he has done his time, and is a positively contributing member of our society. Democracy Now! also covered Montrevil’s story recently, as noted in the Jan. 7 Diaspora.

Invisible to the first world

Why are countries like Haiti mostly invisible to first world nations like the U.S. until catastrophe strikes? Leonardo Padura asks, before the earthquake, “Who talked about Haiti?” for IPS News. Haiti desperately needs the emergency aid so generously given today, but the country has needed help for a long time. “Let us hope that tomorrow, when the tragedy no longer dominates the headlines, and the dead are buried,” writes Padura, “we will not forget Haiti exists….”

Disappointingly, “U.S. corporations, private mercenaries, Washington and the International Monetary Fund” are remembering Haiti in a rather cruel and opportunist fashion, as Benjamin Dangl reports for AlterNet. At a time of crisis and great human need, Washington D.C. is “promoting unpopular economic policies and extending military and economic control over the Haitian people.” This is disturbing, as a long history of economic exploitation helped render the country vulnerable to disaster. The recent earthquake has claimed roughly 200,000 lives so far.

Haiti in context

While borders and border cities bear the brunt of blame when migrants move, the cure won’t be found in bigger bails of barbed wire, or harsh enforcement tactics that deny escape from economic desperation or dangerous conditions.

Jocelyn Barnes, reporting for The Nation, provides a much needed contextualization of Haiti. There are many related factors that weakened and harmed Haiti’s ability to thrive, not the least of which have been storms and earthquakes. But the privatization of Haiti’s infrastructure—which was “championed” by current envoy to Haiti in charge of “leading the quake assistance brigade” former president Bill Clinton—have definitely been instrumental in the country’s fate.

Marching against Arpaio

Finally, given the recent holiday celebrating the life and efforts of civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr., we would be remiss in overlooking the January 16 march in Arizona protesting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The event was organized by Salvador Reza, a respected Mexican American activist and community organizer in Arizona. Musician Linda Ronstadt, Co-Founder of United Farm Workers Dolores Huerta, and approximately 5,000 people marched from a park to Tent City, the name for the sheriff’s makeshift detention center.

Arpaio is reviled by many in the Latino and undocumented community for his methods of racial profiling and humiliating treatment of detainees. Recently, Arpaio was compared to Bull Connor by an ad published in in the Arizona Republic by 60 black leaders and the Center for New Community.

King’s vision was large and led to new horizons; it cannot possibly be contained to one era, or one day on a calendar. The struggle continues, every day, everywhere.

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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