Posts Tagged 'civil rights'

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.


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

Book Review, The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919-1950

Three other important books are Michael Goldfield’s “The Color of Politics; Race and the Mainsprings of American Politics”, 1997, The New Press; Gerald Horne’s “Black Liberation/Red Scare, Ben Davis and the Communist Party,” 1994, University of Delaware Press; and Robin D.G. Kelley’s “Hammer and Hoe, Alabama Communists During the Great Depression,” 1990, University of North Carolina Press.

NY Times, January 4, 2008
Books of The Times

Early Warriors in the Fight for Racial Equality



The Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919-1950

By Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore

Illustrated. 642 pages. W. W. Norton & Company. $39.95.

“In the three decades that followed World War I, black Southerners and their allies relentlessly battled Jim Crow,” Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore writes at the outset of this rich but sprawling book. Ms. Gilmore, a professor of history at Yale, wants her “collective biography of activist black and white Southerners” from that era to illuminate how resistance to the South’s elaborate system of racial segregation, often nicknamed Jim Crow after a 19th-century minstrel song, long predated the onset of traditionally celebrated civil-rights initiatives in 1954-55.

Ms. Gilmore begins her story at the end of World War I, when “the virulence of discrimination during the war and the racial violence afterward transformed African-Americans’ political consciousness” and stimulated a new generation of activists. Southern officialdom was violently intolerant of such dissenters, and in most instances “those who openly protested white domination had to leave” the region.

“The South could remain the South only by chasing out some of its brightest minds and most bountiful spirits, generation after generation,” Ms. Gilmore writes.

The first focal figure in “Defying Dixie” is Lovett Fort-Whiteman, a widely traveled Texan who in 1919 became “the first American-born black Communist.” Ms. Gilmore devotes considerable attention to such early Soviet true-believers, few though they were, for “in the 1920s and 1930s the Communists alone argued for complete equality between the races,” she notes. “Their racial ideal eventually became America’s ideal.”

She also reports how Soviet loyalties led some crusaders to tragic ends: Fort-Whiteman died in a Siberian prison labor camp in 1939 after moving to Moscow and getting caught up in the Stalinist purges.

Ms. Gilmore rightly stresses that even as late as the 1940s, mainstream interracial groups like the Southern Regional Council “did not endorse desegregation.” Her indictment of “the bankruptcy of moderate organizations” and moderate white Southern academics is powerful and profound.

But “Defying Dixie” sometimes assumes that readers are already familiar with a panoply of otherwise unidentified groups and individuals: One page makes a passing reference to “the 1880s Knights of Labor Constitution,” and the next presumes knowledge of both Eugene V. Debs and Upton Sinclair. Ms. Gilmore also sometimes speeds past an event that cries out for more explanation, as when she devotes only a brief paragraph to what she calls “the first Southern interracial conference that dared endorse integration.”

By far the most compelling portions of “Defying Dixie” tell the life story of Pauli Murray, a black lesbian feminist whose lifelong activism began with an unsuccessful attempt to desegregate the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in early 1939 and culminated with her ordination as an Episcopal priest in 1977. Ms. Murray’s application to North Carolina’s graduate school came shortly after lawyers for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had won its first higher-education desegregation case in the United States Supreme Court. But Ms. Gilmore reveals how the N.A.A.C.P. counsel Thurgood Marshall was unwilling to pursue Ms. Murray’s challenge because of his disquiet over both her sexuality and her past membership in a communist splinter group that opposed the Communist Party itself.

Eleven years went by before Marshall won a pair of Supreme Court cases that mirrored Ms. Murray’s complaint, and Ms. Gilmore muses about how costly that delay was. “Had the N.A.A.C.P. been able to win desegregation decisions in World War II America, white Southerners would have had a more difficult time mounting massive resistance in the midst of a war against intolerance,” when claims of black inferiority “seemed to have more in common with the Führer than with the Founders.”

Instead the legal confrontation took place in the 1950s, when the Southern allegation “that integrationists were Communists” carried far greater resonance than it would have a decade earlier, and when “the power of the left to implement desegregation” — as Ms. Gilmore imagines it — no longer existed.

Ms. Gilmore’s speculation implausibly presumes that the Supreme Court would have invalidated school segregation earlier than it did. She rightly emphasizes, though, how the surprising Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939 destroyed the left-liberal Popular Front and upended the Southern left’s argument that Jim Crow represented American fascism. Instead segregationists could use American Communists’ subservience to Moscow to tar their liberal and socialist allies as fellow travelers. When evidence of Communist complicity in Soviet espionage began to emerge after the war’s end, it was leftists, not white supremacists, who could now be painted as downright un-American.

That postwar reversal, Ms. Gilmore argues, “removed white liberal forces from Southern politics at the very moment that they were crucial to the extension of meaningful political and civil rights to the vast majority of black Southerners.”

“Defying Dixie” should more pointedly blame Soviet behavior for the Southern left’s demise, and when Ms. Gilmore says that postwar conservatives, “masquerading as anti-communist … were actually antiliberal,” she errs, for there was no fakery: Opponents of racial equality and liberal programs were sincerely anti-Communist as well.

Ms. Gilmore forthrightly acknowledges that “Defying Dixie” “slights the local people who lived in the South and who started the civil rights movement in the 1950s.” However, she rashly claims that too much emphasis on the 1950s overstates the movement’s “religious, middle-class and male roots” and fosters the notion “that middle-class black men in ties radicalized the nation” — an extravagant straw man, given how women like Jo Ann Robinson and Ella Baker are now so widely heralded for their crucial roles in the upsurge that took wing between 1955 and 1960.

Yet Ms. Gilmore is certainly correct when she concludes that her book’s courageous radicals “may not have been able to take credit for that civil rights movement, but they knew in their hearts that they had helped pave the way for it.”

David J. Garrow, a senior fellow at Homerton College, University of Cambridge, is the author of “Bearing the Cross,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



RSS Gray Panthers in the News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 590 other followers

%d bloggers like this: