Posts Tagged 'Maricopa'

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

Arizona Undocumented Immigrant Detainees on Lockdown Amid Hunger Strike

Arizona Undocumented Immigrant Detainees on Lockdown Amid Hunger Strike

MIGRATION-US: Arizona Prisoners on Lockdown Amid Hunger Strike
By Valeria Fernandez

Relatives of inmates and members of the community have been holding candlelight vigils in support of those on hunger strike.

Credit:Valeria Fernandez/IPS

PHOENIX, Arizona, May 20 (IPS) – Bad food is not the only reason thousands of mostly pre-trial detainees have been going on an intermittent two-week hunger strike in Arizona’s Maricopa County jails.

Alleged poor medical care and mistreatment by jailers are motivating the protest by at least 1,500 inmates in four jails, according to human rights activists who visited the detainees.

“They are treated worse than animals,” said Daisy Rios, 22, the wife of an immigrant prisoner who has participated in the protest.

Arizona is ground zero for the nation’s divisive immigration debate. The border state is the gateway for half of all human and drug smuggling into the rest of the United States.

The Maricopa County jail system, administered by Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, holds about 9,000 inmates, 70 percent of whom are pre-trial detainees.

The country’s self-proclaimed “toughest” sheriff is famous for housing prisoners in tents, giving them pink underwear and feeding them what he claims are 30-cent meals. But he’s recently been in the spotlight of a national uproar over his tactics to crack down on illegal immigration by conducting traffic stops and raiding businesses.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) is currently under investigation by the federal Justice Department over allegations of racial profiling and civil rights violations. MCSO is also the subject of a 30-year-old lawsuit over jail conditions, including the quality of the food.

Lydia Guzman, president of Respect/Respeto, a local organisation that documents civil and human rights abuses, has been visiting the prisoners.

“They’re tremendously organised,” she told IPS. Guzman met with mostly immigrant detainees who said the jailers intimidate them, they are not provided appropriate medical care and their food is rotten, stale and sometimes expired.

But immigrant advocates argue the issue at stake is more than just “nasty” food.

“It’s a whole series of dehumanising techniques by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and MCSO,” said Salvador Reza, organizer of the Puente pro-immigrant movement. “Especially now that a big number of the population is there because of their undocumented (immigrant) status.”

“They are not criminals, they are workers,” he added.

In a letter to a family member, one inmate wrote, “In the jails we have to tolerate bad food, put up with foul language used by the guards, and if we have something to say we stay silent for fear of reprisals.”

On Monday, Arpaio placed at least 4,200 prisoners in an indefinite security lockdown, alleging that Hispanic inmates were intimidating other detainees so they would refuse to eat. “I was concerned about inmates causing harm to other inmates,” said Arpaio. “We won’t tolerate violence in jails.”

The ongoing lockdown means detainees have to remain in their cells all day long, without being allowed to receive visitors – including their attorneys – or make any phone calls.

“It appears that they’re seeking to reduce any public, known complaints about the operations in the jails by locking people down and eliminating visitations,” said Dan Pochoda, lead attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Arizona.

The ACLU is one party in a lawsuit against MCSO related to jail conditions. Pochoda said the ACLU is looking into the situation and might take legal action if it’s proven this is a form of retaliation against the inmates for joining the strike.

The first hunger strike started on May 2 after a nine-kilometre march that ended outside the Durango jail complex to denounce alleged abuse of immigrant women in the county jails. At least 200 women participated in Estrella Jail, according to a recent report by MCSO.

The march organised by Puente focused on the case of an immigrant woman whose arm was allegedly broken by jailers and another who was the subject of excessive use of force during a raid conducted by MCSO.

Currently inmates in three separate jail facilities are participating: Lower Buckeye Jail, Towers and Fourth Avenue Jail.

“We don’t believe that we caused this, however, by us demonstrating in front of the jail we brought courage to them who were planning to do it,” said Reza. “It surprised us, we had no contact with them at all.”

Arpaio holds the organisers responsible for being catalysts of the strike.

“It’s been escalating ever since,” he said. He also argued that the elimination of salt in the food, recommended by a dietician, could be instigating the discontent. A judge recently ordered that the food must comply with national standards imposed by the Department of Agriculture.

“They happen to be in a jail,” said Arpaio. “What are you supposed to do with those who are innocent, put them in the Hilton Hotel?”

Yet some county officials are raising concerns about the inmates’ health.

“People have been on a hunger strike for about the last two weeks off and on, and it is being held very quiet. I have asked two days ago for a health and welfare check,” said Mary Rose Wilcox, Maricopa County District 5 supervisor.

Wilcox, who is part of an elected governmental board that administers the county, has met with Justice Department investigators and will provide evidence about this situation in the jails for their probe into patterns of practice.

“This is a horrible precedent for the county. Unfortunately, he’s [Arpaio] an elected official and can dictate policy, but when it comes to health, we can intervene,” she said.

Outside the jails, family and community members have been holding candlelight prayer vigils in support of the prisoners on strike.

“What goes on in there is unbearable,” said Florencia Gonzalez, the mother of an inmate from Mexico. She said her son told his family that prisoners are held in small rooms with rats and roaches as they wait for long periods of time to be transported to court.

Ruben Silva, a 20-year-old who was released Tuesday night from the Fourth Avenue Jail, attested to that. “They overcrowd rooms that are 20 by 10 feet with 30 people,” he said.

“Upstairs (referring to a section of the jail) nobody is eating. They have some nasty food,” he said.

He said during the three days he was there for an unpaid traffic ticket, he only ate oranges. He was fed twice a day, and the meal consisted of two stale loafs of bread, peanut butter and often expired juice.

Silva heard about the hunger strike as soon as he entered the jail by word of mouth, but said that those who are participating are housed in a different area.

Willie, a woman who was released at the same time, and asked that her last name be withheld, also complained that she had to wait up to 15 days to receive her medication for high blood pressure.

“It’s just horrible the way they treat people in there,” she said. “Guards are disrespectful, they curse at you.”


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