"Illegal alien" Halloween costume sets off firestorm

From Restore Fairness blog

On Friday, news started emerging about a racist and offensive 'illegal alien' costume being sold for Halloween on Target, Toys R Us, Walgreens, Amazon and a host of other retailers. Public pressure including pressure from immigration activists including CHIRLA, United Farm Workers and LULAC helped pull some of the costumes of the shelves - while Target and Toys R Us pulled the costume off their websites, Walgreens showed it as out of stock.

There has been no official announcement from Amazon but it appears that the costumes have been pulled.

The costume, described by CHIRLA as "distasteful, mean-spirited, and ignorant of social stigmas and current debate on immigration reform" consists of "orange prison-style jumpsuit with illegal alien printed on the front, an alien mask and a green card."

The mixed messages in the costume are mind boggling. A green card means legal status, therefore one isn't quite sure what that's doing as part of the costume - unless of course all immigrants are criminals. Being undocumented in the country is a civil offense - not a criminal offense - therefore why is a prison jumpsuit (which looks closely like uniforms worn by people held in Guantanamo) featured at all. Worst of all is the alien mask - clearly denoting how all outsiders are aliens. Maybe its even silly to try and break down such a costume but one can't help it when Fox news is asking where America's sense of humor is? And when William Gheen, president of anti-immigration group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC's President has offered to conduct interviews wearing the costume.

In an even more disturbing and offensive twist, Fox ends their depiction of the news with, "if you're here illegally, go to your local police station and tell them how outraged you are because you're an illegal alien and this costume offends you!"

Perpetuating racism and discrimination, this is only one in a line of costumes, designed to provoke fear and hostility towards outsiders. Here are two more costumes from Party City and Halloween Express that do just that.

Keep up with UFW's petition putting pressure on Amazon and other retailers to pull offensive costumes off their shelves.

Image courtesy of www.amazon.com

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Expanding immigration enforcement programs - more harm than good?

From Restore Fairness blog

Today as expected, the Department of Homeland Security has announced an expansion of programs that deputize state and local police to enforce immigration law. Even though immigration is a federal matter, in the post 9/11 world, many believe that immigration enforcement should spread to a local level as an effective tool against terrorism. But in actuality, the programs create an environment of fear that discourage immigrant communities from cooperating with the police for fear of deportation, risking community safety in the process.

To date, the performance of the 66 participating agencies in these programs has been controversial. While the programs are meant to catch violent offenders, the bulk of those who have been caught include undocumented immigrants caught for minor or no offenses, which for a citizen would mean a citation at most or being let off. What's been even more disturbing is the documented cases of racial profiling. As a Washington Post article reports,

Critics cited cases in which police conducted roadside stops and neighborhood sweeps aimed at Latinos and other ethnic groups, often arresting minorities for traffic and other minor offenses in pursuit of illegal immigrants.

The most controversial of the programs is the 287(g) program - notorious for its serious civil rights abuses and public safety concerns - but which according to the same article accounts for only a small fraction of the 135,389 illegal immigrants apprehended. The Department of Homeland Security made pledges to fix the program , leading to a new Memorandum of Understanding with participating agencies, that would ensure a focus on only serious and criminal offenders. But it "expects" rather than "requires" such a provision, thereby making cosmetic changes that would do nothing to stop local law enforcement committing illegal profiling under the cloak of federal immigration authority.

For the vast majority of immigrants that have been swept up into the programs, a whopping  94 percent were found by checks at local and state jails. Yesterday, we posted on the Secure Communities programs, a program that lets the police arrest someone on a traffic or other offense - even if the arrest is based on racial profiling - and then have their fingerprints checked against immigration databases during booking.  When the fingerprint scan gets a "hit," immigrants can end up getting carted off to an immigration detention center.  Again, nothing is being done to keep local police from using arrests on minor charges as an excuse to get immigrants into custody. And a new report from the Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity & Diversity proves just that - police in Irving, Texas began arresting Hispanics in far greater numbers for petty offenses once they had round the clock access to immigration agents to deport serious criminal offenders.

Judging from the poster child of these programs, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose department in Maricopa County, Arizona, accounts for 20% of the nationwide arrests, allegations of racial profiling are not just hearsay. In an interview with CNN, Arpaio admitted that he judges undocumented people by "their conduct, what type of clothes they're wearing, their speech, they admit it". And even though the administration has taken away his powers to enforce immigration laws on the streets, he is claiming he doesn't need permission from the federal government and is planning an immigration raid to prove it.

It's disappointing that the administration is not only pursuing programs that have proven to be unbeneficial, but is expanding these in a move that makes little sense for those who understand the underlying issues.

Image courtesy www.ice.gov

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Growing insecurity in immigrant communities

From Restore Fairness blog

Guest Blogger: Joan Friedland from the National Immigration Law Center

It was refreshing to hear the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) acknowledge something activists have been saying for years: the immigrant detention system operates like the punitive criminal incarceration system, even though the vast majority of detainees have committed no crime. Missing from their announcement, however, was its plan of newly-expanded enforcement programs that keep increasing the number of immigrants detained in this broken system.

Accountability and transparency are not hallmarks of Secure Communities.  Since the program's inception in 2008, ICE has reduced the public information about it on the agency website, adding graphics but eliminating details about enforcement priorities. ICE has given conflicting information about whether a community can opt out of the program or just use it to target people convicted of violent crimes.  And ICE doesn't appear to be collecting the kind of data that would prevent the program from being misused.

The government's admission that the immigrant detention system is flawed is a step in the right direction. They now need to keep this monstrous system from growing.  Secure Communities will only ensure that the opposite will happen.

"Secure Communities" is DHS's latest attempt to use local law enforcement to push people into the immigrant detention system. All local law enforcement has to do is arrest someone on a traffic or other offense - even if the arrest is based on racial profiling - and their fingerprints will be checked against immigration databases during booking.  When the fingerprint scan gets a "hit," immigrants can end up getting carted off by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to an immigration detention center.  If they get out on bond, ICE can take them into custody, leaving their criminal cases unresolved.  It doesn't matter if the person was innocent of a criminal charge or if the arrest was a pretext to check immigration status.

Sound scary? Consider this: ICE plans to have the program in every jail and prison in the country by 2013.

ICE isn't lifting a finger to keep local police from using arrests on minor charges as an excuse to get immigrants into custody.  The available evidence shows that only a small percentage of immigrants caught through Secure Communities were convicted of serious crimes.  But calling all of them "criminal aliens" masks what's really going on and lets ICE and Congress - which is allocating a whopping $200 million for Secure Communities - look tough on enforcement.

Accountability and transparency are not hallmarks of Secure Communities.  Since the program's inception in 2008, ICE has reduced the public information about it on the agency website, adding graphics but eliminating details about enforcement priorities. ICE has given conflicting information about whether a community can opt out of the program or just use it to target people convicted of violent crimes.  And ICE doesn't appear to be collecting the kind of data that would prevent the program from being misused.

The government's admission that the immigrant detention system is flawed is a step in the right direction. They now need to keep this monstrous system from growing.  Secure Communities will only ensure that the opposite will happen.

Image courtesy of www.ice.gov

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