Posts Tagged 'immigrant rights'

Undocumented Immigrants Reply to Obama’s SF Speech on Immigration

ASPIRE Press Statement, November 25, 2013
(ASPIRE is the first pan-Asian undocumented youth organization in the nation.)

Asian-Pacific-Islander Undocumented Immigrants
Respond to Obama’s SF Speech on Immigration Reform

(Read SF Chronicle article on Obama’s SF speech on immigration reform: http://tinyurl.com/m8lhtvk )

San Francisco – Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education (ASPIRE), the nation’s first undocumented Asian immigrant organization, asked President Obama today at his speech on immigration reform in San Francisco’s Chinatown to stop deportations.

Ju Hong, an ASPIRE member, spoke out during the President’s speech. He asked, “Mr. President, please use your executive authority to halt [deportations]. We agree that we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform, but at the same time, you have the power to stop deportations.” Members in the crowd joined ASPIRE and SF Dream Team members, who were next to Hong, in chanting, “Yes, you can. Stop the deportations!” Mr. Obama replied, “Actually, I don’t, and that’s why we’re here.”

As the Obama administration approaches almost 2 million deportations, ASPIRE requests the following from President Obama:

“Explain your legal analysis for why you, as the chief executive, do not have the authority to stop deportations today. An average of 1,100 immigrants are deported every day under your administration. How can you support immigration reform while at the same time brutally enforcing our broken immigration system at the rate and speed that you do? You referred to the holidays in your speech. Isn’t this the perfect time to finally exercise your executive powers to halt deportations and keep our families together? And won’t that put much needed pressure on the House to pass real immigration reform? We respectfully await your prompt response.”

The President has broad discretion in law enforcement in general and in immigration law enforcement in particular. This discretion includes: the power to choose whether to bring enforcement actions against specific individuals or categories of people, and the power to interpret existing laws and regulations. The President also has the authority to end or modify existing enforcement programs, including Operation Streamline and Secure Communities. Both are merely programs created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that are not required by law. Executive power made possible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which can be expanded more broadly to protect families.

“As an undocumented immigrant, my power comes through my voice. President Obama, you have the executive power to stop the pain in our communities. You said you are just following the law. But as you have acknowledged, our immigration laws are broken. The law also does not require you to deport 400,000 a year. You cannot support us while deporting thousands of our community members every day. We don’t need any more speeches. We need you to take real action,” says Ju Hong, ASPIRE member.

“An executive order from President Obama is the catalyst for immigration reform. As ASPIRE, we have organized countless lobby visits in Washington D.C. and throughout California to try and fix our broken immigration system. We also have hosted townhalls supporting just and humane reform, and put ourselves at risk engaging in civil disobedience. But the suffering of our communities who are facing deportation and languishing in detention centers continues unabated. So we are using our voices to tell you directly what our community needs and what you can do today,” May Liang, campaign organizer and member of ASPIRE.

# # #

ASPIRE is the first pan-Asian undocumented youth organization in the nation. We started with a few young people looking for help with their undocumented status at Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco. ASPIRE has grown to an organization of 50+ members in the last 5 years. We educate people about immigration reform, advocate for more just policies on immigration, and mobilize undocumented youth and allies for actions to push for fair and inclusive immigration.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aspiredreamers Twitter: @Aspiredreamers

Read about the Dignity Campaign, which advocates for real immigration reform: http://dignitycampaign.org/

Read the Dignity Campaign’s analysis of the failings of SB-744, the Senate’s “comprehensive immigration reform” that Obama advocates: http://tinyurl.com/lf69qta

“Everybody In! Nobody out!” Means No Exclusion of Undocumented Immigrants

Since its inception, Single-Payer healthcare’s most enduring rallying theme has been “Everybody In!  Nobody Out!”  This vision, which resonates with our most basic striving for equality, is being challenged now, as progressives and sections of labor rally behind Bernie Sanders’ new single-payer law, S.915, which contains the fatal flaw of excluding undocumented immigrants.  (Section 102, Universal Entitlement)  Single Payer has always been about EQUAL, comprehensive, accessible, affordable, economical healthcare for EVERYONE.  The damage the working class would suffer from passing this bill as is, and splitting us into “legal” and “not legal” groupings, would negate any advances that would be made by getting rid of  insurance companies.

I would like to present a resolution that was submitted to the American Public Health Association in response to the Obama Health Plan’s exclusion of undocumented immigrants.  In the year before the American Public Health Association (APHA) had its 2010 annual meeting on the theme of “Social Justice,” a massive health reform law had passed which totally excluded some 12 million undocumented immigrants. And while immigrants had been hoping for far-reaching reforms and a measure of long-delayed justice, harassment and deportation of undocumented immigrants had markedly increased.  In response, members of the Health-Not-War group at APHA proposed the following resolution to send an unequivocal message that this is intolerable to us as human beings and as public health workers.

Opposing the Exclusion of Undocumented Immigrants from Health Care Reform

November 5, 2010

The American Public Health Association,

Noting that this March, 2010, Congress passed and the President signed a massive Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which not only leaves at least 23 million uninsured1, but explicitly excludes ALL undocumented immigrants,1 and,

Noting that the PPACA even forbids undocumented immigrants from using their own money to buy health insurance at discounted prices through the exchanges,2 and,

Noting that, of all groups, undocumented immigrants have arguably the greatest need of having healthcare expanded to them because:

FIRST: Undocumented immigrants are twice as likely to be uninsured as documented immigrants,3 and,

SECOND: Undocumented immigrants are generally excluded from Medicaid and SCHIP by federal law, and state-funded exceptions to this pattern will become rarer as state budgets languish. Moreover, most undocumented immigrants must wait five years after gaining legal residency to apply for Medicaid and SCHIP.4

THIRD: Undocumented immigrants’ future access to healthcare will be more challenging because  (1) increasing raids5 and deportations6, Arizona’s SB 10707, and the Secure Communities Initiative8 are likely to make undocumented immigrants more fearful of registering at health facilities and traveling to them, (2) State and County budget cuts are eliminating health services for  undocumented immigrants9, (3) Anti-immigrant groups are pressing jurisdictions to withdraw health services from undocumented immigrants10, and (4) Legislators are considering withdrawing citizenship from US-born children of undocumented immigrants, compromising their children’s access to healthcare as well as overturning a 150-year old constitutional right,11 and,

FOURTH:  Many of the factors contributing to poor access to healthcare for immigrants in general are worse for undocumented immigrants, such as immigrants’ fears of presenting at health institutions, immigrants’ increasing unemployment rates combined with the higher cost of buying individual insurance, and health institutions’ fear of losing funding for treating immigrants.   Even among the insured, immigrants’ and their children’s access to ambulatory and emergency care is worse than that of citizens,12 and,

FIFTH: Future funds for hospitalization of the uninsured, including undocumented immigrants, will be reduced, as PPACA reduces Medicare and Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital payments to hospitals serving the uninsured. Though these hospitals’ burden of uninsured will drop over time, PPACA specifies DSH payments must drop faster13, and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services Chief Actuary estimated that the combined reductions at $64 billion over ten years.14

SIXTH: Reducing undocumented immigrants’ already poor access to healthcare is particularly dangerous and morally indefensible in light of their increased rates of injury, illness15, and death16 from hazardous  occupations17 and housing18, compounded with their vulnerability to deportation if they report dangerous conditions or seek treatment.

Noting that measures taken to deny healthcare to undocumented immigrants often result in citizens losing healthcare also, as exemplified by the 2004 cancellation of Colorado’s Presumptive (Medicaid) Eligibility program, which had allowed pregnant women to receive prenatal care while their Medicaid applications were being processed. The entire program was eliminated because about half of the women were found to be ineligible by immigration status. Citizen and immigrant women alike were put at risk, as well as their unborn children.19

Noting that  APHA has taken a clear positions against withholding medical care from undocumented immigrants in its resolution 2001-23, which “Urges the President and the Congress to oppose denial of eligibility for programs providing nutritional, prenatal, public health, medical care, and behavioral health benefits and services to any person residing in the United States on the basis of her or his immigration status”;20  its resolution 9501, which “Opposes any mandates and initiatives that would limit access to public health interventions and health services for undocumented and documented immigrants and their children;”21 and its resolution LB04-07, which “Deplores and warns against measures curtailing, eliminating, or disrupting health care to undocumented immigrants.”22

And finally, noting that the recent passage of this massive Health Reform law that explicitly and categorically excludes the grossly underserved undocumented immigrant population presents public health advocates with a grave challenge,

Therefore, the American Public Health Association

1.  Calls on the President, and Congress to end the exclusion of healthcare for undocumented immigrants from Health Reform, and

2.  Calls on the President and Congress to support health reform that provides equal, comprehensive, affordable, accessible healthcare for every person, regardless of their status of health, employment, income, or legalization,  and

3.  Calls on the President and Congress to assure that community health centers receiving $11 billion of dollars of federal aid over the next five years through the PPACA23 continue to give undocumented immigrants comprehensive health care, and

4.  Encourages public health advocates to attend future events on immigration reform (public rallies, demonstrations, press conferences and the like) with the demand of comprehensive, affordable, accessible medical care for all immigrants, regardless of legalization status.

References:

1.  Kaiser Health News. Some Will Remain Uninsured After Reform. Available at: http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2010/March/24/Some-Will-Remain-Uninsured.aspx.   Accessed October 3, 2010.

2.  Lewin Group.  Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA): Long Term Costs for Governments, Employers, Families and Providers.   Available at: http://www.lewin.com/content/publications/LewinGroupAnalysis-PatientProtectionandAffordableCareAct2010.pdf.  p. 22.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

3.    Pew Hispanic Center.  Hispanics, Health Insurance and Health Care Access.   Available at: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1356/hispanics-health-insurance-health-care-access.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

Working Immigrants.  Health uninsured rates among immigrants: far higher.  Available at: http://www.workingimmigrants.com/2009/08/health_uninsured_rates_among_i.html.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

4.   Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured,  Summary: Five Basic Facts on Immigrants and Their Health Care.   Available at: http://www.kff.org/medicaid/upload/7761.pdf.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

5.   Coalicion de Derechos Humanos.  Massive ICE sweep terrorizes Arizona communities following state passage of anti-immigrant profiling law.   Available at: http://www.derechoshumanosaz.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=166&Itemid=1.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

6.   Common Dreams.  Obama Administration Immigration Deportations Exceed Bush’s Record.   Available at: http://www.commondreams.org/print/56327.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

7.   Arizona Daily Star, National Physician Groups Condemn Arizona SB 1070.  Available at: http://azstarnet.com/news/blogs/health/article_ca3a8c46-62c6-11df-9a0a-001cc4c002e0.html.  Accessed November 3, 2010.

8.   San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network.   San Francisco Immigrant Legal And Education Network Opposes The Implementation Of The Dangerous Secure Communities Program In San Francisco.   Available at: http://www.sfimmigrantnetwork.org/comments/sfilen_opposes_implementation_of_secure_communities_program_in_san_francisc, Accessed October 3, 2010.

9.   New York Times.  Reprieve Eases Medical Crisis for Illegal Immigrants.   Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/us/06grady.html.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report.  Economic Recession Forcing Local Health Departments To Reduce Services to Undocumented Immigrants.   Available at: http://www.kaisernetwork.org/daily_reports/rep_index.cfm?DR_ID=57497.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

New York Times,   Immigrants Facing Deportation by U.S. Hospitals.   Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/us/03deport.html?_r=1&hp=&pagewanted=all.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

10.   Washington Independent.   Anti-Immigration Activists See Opportunity in Health Care Debate.  Available at: http://washingtonindependent.com/55044/anti-immigration-activists-see-opportunity-in-health-care-debate.   Accessed October 3, 2010.

11.   Newsweek Magazine.  The Next Front on Immigration.   Available at: http://www.newsweek.com/2010/08/01/the-next-front-on-immigration.html.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

Politico.  John McCain backs citizenship hearings.  Available at: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0810/40589.html.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

12.   Health Affairs.  Left Out: Immigrants’ Access to Health Care and Insurance January/February 2001.   Available at: http://www.projectshine.org/files/shared_images/Left_Out.pdf ,   Accessed October 20, 2010.

13.   The Hospital & Healthcare Association of Pennsylvania.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

(PPACA) of 2010 and the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act (HCEARA) of 2010. Available at: http://www.haponline.org/downloads/HAP_Summary_2010_PPACA_HCEARA_April2010.pdf.  Accessed November 4, 2010.

14.  Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Estimated Financial Effects of the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” as Amended.  Available at https://www.cms.gov/ActuarialStudies/Downloads/PPACA_2010-04-22.pdf.  Accessed November 4, 2010.

15.  Moure-Eraso R,  Friedman-Jimenez G.  (2004) Occupational health among Latino workers: a needs assessment and recommended interventions.  New Solutions. 14/4:319-47.  Available at: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10641&page=129.  Accessed November 4, 2010.

16.   Richardson, S. Fatal work injuries among foreign-born Hispanic Workers. Monthly Labor Review, October, 2005.   Available at:  http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2005/10/ressum.pdf.   Accessed on November 4, 2010.

17.   APHA Policy Statement 2005-4: Occupational Health and Safety Protections for Immigrant Workers.  December 14, 2005.  Especially see Richardson S, Ruser J, Suarez P. Hispanic Workers in the United States: An Analysis of Employment Distributions, Fatal Occupational Injuries, and Non-fatal Occupational Injuries and Illnesses in National Research Council: Safety is Seguridad. Washington, D.C., National Academies Press, 2003.  Available at: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10641&page=48  and http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10641&page=57.  Accessed November 4, 2010.

18.   Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  Living in America: Challenges Facing New Immigrants and Refugees.  Available at: http://www.rwjf.org/files/publications/other/Immigration_Report.pdf.  Accessed November 4, 2010.

19.   Wall Street Journal.   Prenatal Care Is Latest State Cut In Services for Illegal Immigrants.   Available at: http://www.uniset.ca/naty/maternity/wsj_imm_med.htm.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

20.   APHA Policy Statement 2001-23: Protection of the Health of Resident Immigrants in the United States.  Available at: http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=262.   Accessed October 3, 2010.

21.   APHA Policy Statement 9501: Opposition To Anti-Immigrant Statutes.   Available at: http://www.apha.org/advocacy/policy/policysearch/default.htm?id=96.   Accessed October3, 2010.

22.   APHA Policy Statement LB04-07: Responding to Threats to Health Care for Immigrants.  November 9, 2004.

23.   PPACA Health Care Reform Timeline.   Available at: http://stabenow.senate.gov/healthcare/Health_Care_Timeline.pdf.  Accessed October 3, 2010.

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Israel Grows Uneasy Over Reliance on Migrant Labor

New York Times, July 8, 2010

Israel Grows Uneasy Over Reliance on Migrant Labor

TEL AVIV — Perched 22 stories above an affluent suburb of this prosperous seaside city, three Chinese construction workers inched their way along the arm of a crane last autumn and refused to budge. Facing deportation because of expiring visas, theirs was an act of desperation aimed at getting thousands of dollars in wages they claimed their Israeli employer had illegally withheld.

The daredevil protest had the desired effect: after the men spent nine hours on the crane, the construction company agreed to pay each the equivalent of $1,000. Satisfied, they climbed down and voluntarily headed to the airport.

For Israelis, the crane standoff — the second in a matter of months — was an unwanted reminder of their country’s troubled economic experiment with foreign labor. Since the first intifada of the early 1990s, more than a million migrants from the developing world have come to Israel to replace the Palestinians, who were the country’s original source of cheap labor.

At least 250,000 foreign laborers, about half of them illegal, are living in the country, according to the Israeli government. They include Chinese construction workers, Filipino home health care aides and Thai farmhands, as well as other Asians, and Africans and Eastern Europeans, working as maids, cooks and nannies.

“Israelis won’t do this work, so they bring us,” said Wang Yingzhong, 40, a construction worker from Jiangsu Province in China who arrived in 2006.

But even as foreign workers have become a mainstay of the economy, their presence has increasingly clashed with Israel’s Zionist ideology, causing growing political unease over the future of the Jewish state and their place in it.

The government has lurched through a series of contradictory policies that encourage the temporary employment of migrants while seeking to impose tight visa and labor restrictions that can leave them vulnerable to abusive employers, advocates for the workers say.

Those who overstay their visas and try to remain in Israel live in fear of the Oz Unit, a recently created division of immigration police officers who hunt down illegal migrants and assist in their deportation.

The government insists it wants unskilled jobs to go to unemployed Israelis, especially Arab citizens and ultra-Orthodox Jews. Critics say the policies are hypocritical and racist because they treat foreign workers as undeserving of legal protection.

“All too often we have to fight to make Israelis see that these foreign workers are human beings,” said Dana Shaked, the coordinator for Chinese laborers at Kav LaOved, a workers’ rights group.

Although the Israeli government issued a record 120,000 foreign work permits in 2009, the country’s political leaders say they want to phase out migrant labor. “We have created a Jewish and democratic nation, and we cannot let it turn into a nation of foreign workers,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a conference of the Israel Manufacturers Association in January.

The No. 1 target is the Chinese, who in recent years have received nearly all of the construction work permits. Chinese accounted for a quarter of all deportations from 2003 to 2008, more than any other foreign group. The rate was expected to soar as 3,000 of those permits lapsed at the end of June.

The Chinese end up in the most desperate straits here partly because they are recruited through a murky network of manpower companies that rights groups say operate like human trafficking rings. Chinese pay up to $31,000 in illegal recruitment fees, the highest fees of all foreign workers, according to Kav LaOved, which says the money ends up in the pockets of go-betweens and government agencies in both countries.

The Chinese must work for an average of two years just to repay the money they borrow to afford those fees. Unaware of their rights and unable to speak Hebrew or English, many fall victim to a minefield of abuse like squalid living conditions, withheld wages and the early termination of work permits, which make them liable for deportation before they have repaid the recruitment fees or saved money for themselves.

Most Chinese endure the injustices more quietly than the workers who staged the dramatic crane protests last year. Some, like Liu Shiqi, 39, said he showed up to his job as a cook one March morning to find the restaurant closed and the owner gone without paying him. “They know we’re alone and don’t speak Hebrew, so they take advantage of us,” he said.

Worker advocates say the Chinese Embassy has long been indifferent or even hostile to the workers’ plight. When 170 construction workers went on strike in 2001 seeking back pay, embassy officials warned them that they would be imprisoned upon their return to China for breaching their contracts and breaking Chinese labor law. The men who protested on the crane did so after the embassy ignored their pleas, they told Kav LaOved.

Yang Jianchu, the Chinese consul for immigration affairs, says his staff does all it can to help those in trouble. He also dismissed accusations by worker advocates that the Chinese government profits from the exorbitant recruitment fees. “We don’t know where the money goes,” Mr. Yang said. “This is the truth.”

Laborers who become illegal after losing their jobs or overstaying their visas say they are easily exploited by Israeli bosses.

One 40-year-old Chinese worker from Jiangsu Province said he was once forced to sleep in a shipping crate. Fears of being arrested by the immigration police consume him. “When I sleep, they catch me in my dreams,” said the man, surnamed Jiang, who asked that his full name not be printed.

The government has quietly begun to replace Chinese with other non-Israelis, issuing 15,000 construction permits to Palestinians this year. This comes as right-wing politicians have heightened accusations that foreign workers are stealing Israeli jobs and threatening the nation’s Jewish character, an assertion many on the left dismiss.

“Saying foreign workers are diluting the Jewish state is racism,” said Nitzan Horowitz, a member of the Israeli Parliament and a critic of the foreign-worker policy. “On one hand, Israel is bringing them here and making money off their backs, and on other they face all sorts of harassment.”

Even if the law is changed, it will be too late for people like Lin Qingde, a Chinese construction worker who is one of 26 plaintiffs to sue an Israeli-Arab merchant accused of stealing $1.7 million from hundreds of workers, money that he was supposed to wire to their families in China. The police arrested the businessman, but, while waiting to testify at the trial, Mr. Lin’s work visa expired and he was also arrested.

Stuck behind bars for five months and afraid he might be killed in China for failing to repay a $40,000 debt, Mr. Lin was finally called into court in May to give his account. A few days later, he was deported.

Hay Haber, the lawyer for Mr. Lin and the other plaintiffs, said he was ashamed of Israel’s justice system. “These workers, unfortunately, have no place in Israel,” Mr. Haber said, surrounded by stacks of evidence files in his Tel Aviv office. “Here they are nothing but cheap slaves.”

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We don’t want just any immigration reform!

Renee Saucedo

We don’t want just any immigration reform!

Last week, we witnessed the powerful marches of immigrant communities in Washington D.C., and in other cities, in support of “immigration reform.” These righteous protests allowed those impacted by unfair immigration laws to remind lawmakers of what they are demanding: legalization for themselves and their families.

But some of the groups that organized the march in Washington, led by beltway advocates like the National Immigration Forum and the National Council of La Raza, are supporting policies beyond legalization which actually harm immigrant communities. Reform Immigration For America, or “RIFA,” the coalition spearheading a national immigration reform campaign, recently came out in support of the conservative, Senate proposal, authored by Senators Lindsey Graham (Republican-SC) and Chuck Schumer (Democrat-NY). In a recent email, RIFA celebrated President Obama’s support for this “bi-partisan blueprint for reform” and mentioned the rally in San Francisco as further support for a “bi-partisan bill.”

It is horrifying that immigrant rights groups would support a proposal that would have devastating impacts on immigrants. Among other things, the Graham-Schumer plan proposes an intensification of raids, detentions, deportations and militarism of the US-Mexico border. Over 350,000 undocumented migrants were incarcerated last year in private detention centers. This number will rise under the bi-partisan plan.

Graham-Schumer also propose creating a biometric national identity card that everyone, including US citizens, must carry to prove authorization to work. This means that people working without papers will be fired and even imprisoned. And they propose to expand guest worker programs that have been documented numerously to be highly exploitative. It will be harder for immigrant workers to defend their rights, organize unions and raise wages.

In the area of legalization, the Graham-Schumer proposal involves “going to the back of the line of prospective immigrants to earn the opportunity to work toward lawful permanent residence.” It offers no real alternative to the current system and makes it almost impossible for most to legalize their status.

As the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) states, “(the bi-partisan blueprint) sets a low bar for the debate, placing harsh and failed enforcement strategies at its heart in hopes of drawing conservative support, regardless of the human rights consequences of such policies.” (Press Release dated March 20, 2010). The “bi-partisan blueprint” outlined by Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and supported by President Obama, is a horrible starting point for legalization.

Many respectable advocates argue that, while Graham-Schumer may not be the ticket, we should support less onerous proposals such as the Luis Gutierrez bill, introduced by the Illionois Congressman in the House of Representatives. “It’s best to get at least residency for some, even if this means accepting provisions which would lead to further criminalization and exploitation for others,” they say. “It’s the best we’re going to get.” They make a strategy argument rather than a political or ideological one.

However, Luis Gutierrez’s bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009, offers benefits to some, but criminalizes the vast majority of undocumented immigrants. While it eliminates the program encouraging collaboration between local law enforcement and Immigration, provides an avenue for undocumented youth to apply for residency, and improves the oversight in the current detention system, it does little in the area of legalization. The Gutierrez bill creates a new “conditional non-immigrant visa status” (CNIS) and those who qualify could apply, with no guarantee, for residency. The only real difference between this proposal and the current system is that applicants’ biometrics would be registered witht he Department of Homeland Security and they would have to wait at least 6 years to gain their residency. Most undocumented immigrants I’ve spoken to about this proposal do not consider it to be beneficial.

Even if the Gutierrez bill was favorable in the area of legalization, it still does more damage than it does good. Among other things, it increases border militarization and enforcement, raids, and deprtations, instead of addressing the economic and social issues that fuel migration across the border. The bill also mandates the use of an “Employment Verification System (E-Verify), requiring all employers to fire employees whose names do not match their Social Security numbers. Finally , the bill creates a Commission with an anti-worker character, since its stated goal is to pursue “employment-based immigration policies that promote economic growth and competitiveness, while minimizing job displacement, wage depression, and unauthorized unemployment.” The establishment of this commission is the first step towards setting up an expanded guest worker program.

Of course, the human rights implications of both the Graham-Schumer and Gutierrez proposals are deadly and catastrophic. Under both, more families will be separated, more people will suffer and die while attempting to cross the US-Mexico border. More workers will be exploited and discriminated against. Employers will still be ble to exploit cheap immigrant labor while temporary workers would be barred from many of the benefits and rights of US citizenship, as well as from many of the labor protections guaranteed under US laws. And undocumented migration to the US will continue to conveniently mischarcterized as a “criminal,” or “illegal,” issue, rather than as a consequence of economic trade agreements and political repression which displaces millions. Employers want to keep it this way to ensure their supply of cheap, vulnerable, exploitable labor.

No immigrant, labor, or human rights organizaiton can in good conscience rationalize the support of the Graham-Schumer or Gutierrez proposals.

Instead, we must hold steadfast to what immigrant communities really want and deserve: Immediate legalization for the millions of undocumented and a reasonable legalization process for future immigrants; An end to the criminalization of immigrants, workplace enforcement, and raids; The repeal of Employer Sanctions; the Expansion of Family Visas to end the backlogs in family reunification; An end to the detention and deportation system; The end of border militarization and protection of human rights of border communities; An end to guest worker programs; The protection and expansion of civil rights, labor rights and due process for immigrants.

We must continue to organize around just immigration policies in terms of labor mobility and human rights, not as an issue of national security and enforcement.

In 1986, Employers Sanctions was traded in exchange for legalization for some. This proved to be disastrous in the long run for millions of workers who cannot get work legally, or who are discriminated against by employers.

Why are we chopping off our bargaining power away so early in the game? Why don’t we demand everything that we want from the start, knowing that we will probably have to compromise on some things as the process moves forward? I don’t understand why advocates believe we must begin negotiations with the lowest common denominator.

I believe that we should never fight for the rights of some at the expense of others. Legalization for some will be an empty victory if at the same time most undocumented immigrants are facing higher exploitation, suffering, and even deaths.

We must continue to support immigrant communites in their struggle to obtain a fair legalization law. We must not allow certain advocacy organizations to negotiate away rights on their behalf. By organizing, marching, etc. we must continue to demand just immigration laws and to work towards ending policies which criminalize and exploit members of our community. In the long run, the immigrant rights movement will be stronger for it.

Renee Saucedo is the Community Empowerment Coordinator at La Raza Centro Legal, in San Francisco.  Her email address is renee@lrcl.org.

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Meeting: Civil Liberties in the Time of Obama

“Civil Liberties in the Time of Obama”
Tuesday, March 16, 1 PM
Fireside Room, Unitarian Center
1187 Franklin St (betw. O’Farrell, Geary), SF
Free, Wheelchair OK
A SF Gray Panther Program, Public Invited

As with war, Obama has been disappointing on civil liberties issues, such as the extension of the Patriot Act, extraordinary renditions, military tribunals, detentions without charges, not charging the architects of torture, not closing Guantanamo, and failure to intervene in the cases of Mumia and Lynne Stewart.

Similarly, Obama has been disappointing on immigration issues, such as family separations, widespread ICE raids, mass firings, police checkpoints, continued immigrant detention and deportations, and a network of secret detention facilities violating basic rights and needs. Meanwhile an immigration reform bill is being introduced that promises to arouse more controversy.

Angela Chan, a lawyer from San Francisco’s Asian Law Caucus, a leading advocate for civil liberties, will describe the impact of some of these trends, especially for San Francisco’s Sanctuary City policy.

Ms. Chan has been active in fighting the deportation of immigrant youths arrested for felonies without any investigation of whether the arrests were based on facts or simply racial profiling by the police. Many of these charges were later dropped, but the youth are already deported to countries where they often have no family support.  In response to community outrage, Supervisors passed an ordinance that bars turning over juvenile immigrant arrestees to ICE unless subsequent hearings establish the arrestee was actually guilty, but Mayor Gavin Newsom has refused to implement this law.

Read more: http://tinyurl.com/y9c8t8w

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Pregnant Latina forced to give birth in shackles by Arpaio deputy

Phoenix New Times, October 20, 2009

Pregnant Latina Says She Was Forced to Give Birth in Shackles
After One of Arpaio’s Deputies Racially Profiled Her

Forced to give birth in shackles

The bleeding kept her up all night, drenching her black-and-white-striped jail uniform.

Alma Chacón feared her baby would arrive early. Her nightmare had started with a traffic stop a day earlier. She’d been weeping since. “What if the baby is born here, in the jail?” she thought.

In the afternoon, she was shackled and transported to Maricopa County Medical Center, where she gave birth in a “forensic restraint.” She couldn’t hold her baby daughter or kiss her. She could only watch as hospital personnel carried the infant out the door. She wouldn’t see the baby for 72 days.

Her case raises questions about the use of racial profiling by Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies during traffic stops, but, most importantly, sheds light on the mistreatment of unconvicted immigrants inside county jails.

Chacón retells her story inside her trailer home in Queen Creek. Outside, her children play in the shell of a home under construction. It’s Chacón’s dream townhome, and she’s been building it a block at a time.

She looks younger than 35; her long, black hair rains straight to the small of her back. The immigrant from Durango, Mexico, has quiet tears. She came to America when she was 16 on a tourist visa and never looked back.

No one promised it would be easy. Tamale sales and housecleaning have barely enabled her to feed her children. The father of the first four of her kids died six years ago in a car accident.

Fear of deportation was always a normal part of Chacón’s life in Queen Creek. The town, with a population of 23,000 on the outskirts of Maricopa County, has a contract with the Sheriff’s Office for police services. Like many immigrants, she drives slowly so she doesn’t attract suspicion.

But that didn’t help the afternoon of October 12, 2008, when she came head to head with a sheriff’s deputy. It was a Sunday and she was on her way to cash a check at the grocery store. Giselle, her 8-year-old, was along for the ride.

“He looked at me, did a U-turn, and got behind the car,” she said of the sheriff’s deputy. “There wasn’t time to check my plates.”

When he came to the driver’s-side window, she handed him her Mexican consular card.

“When are you due?” the deputy asked in English.

“October 21,” she answered.

Minutes later, he put her in handcuffs. There were two warrants for her arrest.

Turns out Chacón owed more than $1,000 in fines for driving without a license and had a misdemeanor shoplifting charge. She said that because she isn’t allowed to get a driver’s license because of her undocumented status, she wasn’t able to earn money to pay the fines. She had to drive, she said, to work and support her children. She said even the shoplifting charge came because, after her husband died, she was desperate and stole food to keep her children alive.

“If someone doesn’t come and pick up your daughter in 30 minutes, I’ll call CPS [Child Protective Services],’ the deputy told her.

A neighbor picked up a sobbing Giselle.

“That’s when the nightmare inside the nightmare began,” she said.

She spent her first night at the Fourth Avenue Jail on a cold cement bench. The following day she was taken to the Estrella jail.

During her second night behind bars, the bleeding started. On the morning of October 14, she felt contractions. Her hands and feet shackled, she was in labor and ushered into a paramedic’s van by a detention officer who restrained her to the stretcher.

“That’s not necessary,” the paramedic told the officer.

“It’s my job,” the officer responded. The guard was a Latina.

She thought she would be released from the shackles once she arrived at the hospital, but she wasn’t.

The officer chained her ankle to one leg of the hospital bed.

A nurse requested that she be freed to get a urine sample. But the officer suggested instead that her bed be dragged over to the bathroom.

Later she was changed from her jail uniform into a hospital gown.

“The officer chained me by the feet and the hands to the bed,” she said. “And that’s how my daughter was born.”

Baby Jaqueline was delivered at 9:25 p.m. and weighed 6.28 pounds. Chacón stared at her daughter as nurses cleaned her. It was a precious eight minutes, she said. But they didn’t allow her to hold the baby.

When questioned later about the incident, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said, “I wasn’t the one who kept her from holding the baby. Ask the hospital.”

Sheriff’s Office policy states that jail inmates be restrained for “security reasons in an unsecured facility,” said Jack MacIntyre, an MCSO deputy chief. McIntyre said a 12-foot chain link was attached to Chacón’s leg.

“Let’s assume someone is faking labor — that’s a hypothetical — and she then chose to escape and hit or assault the hospital staff,” McIntyre said. “She could do that easily because it’s an unsecured area.”

Sentenced, pregnant state prison inmates are treated better than un-sentenced ones in Maricopa County jails. Arizona Department of Corrections policies state: “A pregnant woman will not be restrained in any manner while in labor, while giving birth, or during the postpartum recovery period.”

Hospital records mentioned that Chacón had a forensic restraint on her ankle. Doctors turned down a request from New Times to talk about her case, even after Chacón gave consent for the release of her medical files.

Over the following weeks, after she was back in the county lock-up, her breasts swelled and hurt. Jail guards wouldn’t give her a breast pump. Nor would they give her enough medication to make the pain stop. She got one dose of pain medication a day, no matter how extreme her discomfort.

She worried about her four children, who were left alone in the care of her 17-year-old son, William. She said the baby’s father, her boyfriend, had left her after he found out she was pregnant.

“I felt so sad to see her children alone,” said Chacón’s mother, Maria Gómez, who arrived from Durango, Mexico, with a visa four days after her daughter was arrested.

Gómez took care of Chacón’s new baby, who had been picked up at the hospital by a family friend.

On October 29, a judge let her go but told Chacón she’d be on probation for two years, during which time she must pay all her remaining fines.

She waited 14 extra days in jail to be picked up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“[ICE officers] took me to the Florence Detention Center, where they treated me much better,” she said. “At least not like an animal.”

There, she refused to sign a document for her voluntary removal from the country.

The story of an immigrant mother’s struggle to care for her children was told repeatedly on Spanish-language radio. People in her community raised $3,000 needed to make the bond set by an immigration judge, and she was released from custody.

Chacón’s hopes are up these days. After almost 20 years in the country, she may have a strong case to stay with her five children — who are all U.S.-born and therefore American citizens. Her attorney filed a motion to cancel her deportation, and now she’s hoping to get a work permit.

It’s been a year since the arrest (baby Jacqueline just turned 1).

“I’m not afraid to come out with my story,” she said. “But I’m disappointed to see that not much has been done to stop [Joe Arpaio].”

Immigrant Rights Groups demand end to Homeland Security’s 287(g) program and racial profiling

Immigrant Rights Groups’  Letter to President Obama Demanding An End to
Homeland Security’s 287(g) Program and Racial Profiling in Immigration Enforcement

Also see press release  Obama Accused of Continuing Bush’s Racial Profiling of Immigrants, Democracy Now on racial profiling and abuse in the 287(g) program, and NY Times Firm Stance on Illegal Immigrants Remains Policy (sic),  Shackled While Giving Birth – Police Abuse 287(g), and Immigrant Groups Protest Napolitano’s Visit

A handful of protesters call on the Obama administration to follow through on immigration reform. (Christine Lin/The Epoch Times)

Protesters call on the Obama administration to follow through on immigration reform. (Christine Lin/The Epoch Times)

San Francisco Gray Panthers and the national Gray Panthers have endorsed this letter.

July 31, 2009

The President

The White House

Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We, the undersigned civil rights, community, and immigrant rights organizations, urge you to imme-diately terminate the 287(g) program operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The program has come under severe criticism this year because local law enforcement agencies that have been granted 287(g) powers are using the program to target communities of color, including disproportionate numbers of Latinos in particular places, for arrest. Racial profiling and other civil rights abuses by the local law enforcement agencies that have sought out 287(g) powers have compromised public safety, while doing nothing to solve the immigration crisis.

We applaud your recent remarks acknowledging, that “there is a long history in this country of Afri-can Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.” However, DHS’s continued use of the 287(g) program exacerbates exactly this type of racial profiling. In light of well-documented evidence that local law enforcement agencies are using 287(g) powers to justify and intensify racial profiling, Secretary Napolitano’s July 10, 2009 announcement that DHS has ex-panded the 287(g) program to include 11 new jurisdictions is deeply alarming.

Since its inception, the 287(g) program has drawn sharp criticism from federal officials, law enforce-ment, and local community groups. The program, largely recognized as a failed Bush experiment, relinquishes the power to enforce immigration law to local law enforcement and corrections agencies and has resulted in the widespread use of pretextual traffic stops, racially motivated questioning, and unconstitutional searches and seizures primarily in communities of color. In a country where racial profiling by law enforcement agents has led to massive arrests of people of color, these efforts to push immigrants into the criminal justice system is not surprising, but absolutely counterproductive to increasing public safety.

A March 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report criticized DHS for program misma-nagement and insufficient oversight of the controversial program. The DHS Inspector General is currently conducting an audit of the 287(g) program, and the Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation into the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, whose 287(g) program has been widely criticized for engaging in racial and ethnic profiling. The Police Foundation, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Major Cities Chiefs Association have expressed concerns that deputizing local law enforcement officers to enforce civil federal immigration law undermines their core public safety mission, diverts scarce resources, increases their exposure to liability and litigation, and exacerbates fear in communities.

Reports of abuse in local communities have been widespread. In Davidson County, Tennessee, the Sheriff’s Office used its 287(g) power to apprehend undocumented immigrants driving to work, standing at day labor sites, or while fishing off piers. One pregnant woman—charged with driving without a license—was shackled to her bed during labor. In Gwinnett County, Georgia, even without formal 287(g) powers, over 350 individuals were detained and deported from the jail this February after being arrested for driving without a license, a county ordinance violation, or on traffic or misdemeanor charges. The Gwinnett jail is triple-bunked, with one person in each cell sleeping on the floor, and the jail’s internal SWAT team is known for appearing in ski masks to subdue detainees it deems uncooperative. Yet, Gwinnett County is among the 11 jurisdictions granted new 287(g) approval by Secretary Napolitano earlier this month.

In a recent research report, Justice Strategies, a nonpartisan research firm, found evidence that links the expansion of the program to racial animus against communities of color. According to FBI and census data, sixty-one percent of ICE-deputized localities had violent and property crime indices lower than the national average, while eighty-seven percent of these localities had a rate of Latino population growth higher than the national average.

The abusive misuse of the 287(g) program by its current slate of agencies has rendered it not only ineffective, but dangerous to community safety. The program has worked counter to community po-licing goals by eroding the trust and cooperation of immigrant communities and diverted already reduced law enforcement resources from their core mission. DHS’s proposed changes to the program not only fail to correct its serious flaws, but also create new ones.

We know that you are committed to tackling our nation’s most complex issues, for these reasons we ask that you examine the damaging impact the 287(g) program is having on immigrant communities across the country and terminate the program. We would be pleased to provide additional information or recommendations regarding current programs and operations of DHS.

Thank you for your consideration. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Marielena Hincapié, executive director, National Immigration Law Center at (213) 639-3900 ext. 109.

Cc:

Janet Napolitano, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

Eric Holder, Attorney General, USDOJ

Loretta King, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, USDOJ

Congressional Black Caucus

Congressional Hispanic Caucus

Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus

Congressional Progressive Caucus

Mesa, AZ & Florence, AZ:

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, Rep. Jeff Flake, Sen. Jon Kyl, Sen. John McCain

Sussex, DE:

Rep. Michael N. Castle, Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Sen. Edward E. Kaufman

Gwinnett, GA:

Rep. David Scott, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Sen. Johnny Isakson

Mesquite, NV:

Rep. Dean Heller, Sen. John Ensign, Sen. Harry Reid

Monmouth, NJ & Morristown, NJ:

Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, Sen. Robert Menendez, Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg

Guilford, NC:

Rep. Brad Miller, Sen. Kay R. Hagan, Sen. Richard Burr,

Rhode Island

Sen. Jack Reed, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Charleston, SC:

Rep. Henry E. Brown, Jr., Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Jim DeMint

Houston, TX:

Rep. John Culberson, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Sen. John Cornyn


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