Posts Tagged 'deportation'

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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Racist, Anti-Immigrant Web Posts Traced to Homeland Security

July 25, 2009

Racist Web Posts Traced to Homeland Security

After federal border agents detained several Mexican immigrants in western New York in June, an article about the incident in a local newspaper drew an onslaught of vitriolic postings on its Web site. Some were racist. Others attacked farmers in the region, an apple-growing area east of Rochester, accusing them of harboring illegal workers. Still others made personal attacks about the reporter who wrote the article.

Most of the posts were made anonymously. But in reviewing the logs of its Internet server, the paper, The Wayne County Star in Wolcott, traced three of them to Internet protocol addresses at the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border protection.

Homeland Security started an investigation into the posts this month, according to the reporter, Louise Hoffman-Broach, and Richard M. Healy, the Wayne County district attorney. A spokeswoman for the federal agency’s inspector general said she could neither confirm nor deny an investigation; department rules prohibit the use of office equipment for the personal transmission of material that could offend fellow employees or the public.

Coming on the eve of the apple harvest season, the Web posts and the investigation — first reported this week on The Star’s Web site — have ratcheted up longstanding tensions in Wayne County, where farmers and laborers have accused immigration officials of using heavy-handed tactics like racial profiling and arbitrary or unjustified detentions.

Such tactics, the farmers say, have scared Hispanic farmworkers from the region just as growers are preparing for the harvest.

Representative Dan Maffei, who represents the area in Congress, said the allegations of overaggressive immigration enforcement, coming from a wide range of constituents, were “of extreme concern.”

“I’m investigating these reports to make sure that people’s rights aren’t being harmed and that the economy of Wayne County is not being harmed,” said Mr. Maffei, a Democrat.

A. J. Price, a regional spokesman for United States Customs and Border Protection, defended the work of the area’s officers. “We are constantly criticized for doing our job, and that’s just part of our job,” Mr. Price said.

Local officials and residents say that beginning about 2006, federal officials stepped up their enforcement of immigration laws in western New York.

Farmers and other residents said the push created a climate of fear in communities whose economies depend on migrant laborers, many of them illegal immigrants.

The Obama administration has moved to a less confrontational policy at work sites, focusing on employers. But Customs and Border Protection, which does not conduct work-site inspections, had not changed its strategy in New York, Mr. Price said.

The latest flare-up began with a boat trip on June 12. A local farmer, Robert Norris, decided to take a Mexican employee and relatives of another worker for a spin on Lake Ontario, Ms. Hoffman-Broach said.

Federal agents stopped the boat because it had too many people on board, Mr. Price said. When some of the passengers were unable to produce documentation proving they were citizens or legal immigrants, he said, they were detained. All but one was eventually released, The Star reported.

The article about the arrests, posted on June 16, led to a torrent of angry Web postings. One, sent from a fake e-mail address, said, “watcha doing to mi wifey, no checky her papeles. she no legal, but she havey benifit card.”

A response, which carried a Homeland Security Internet protocol address, read: “That sounds like my boyfriend. Leave him alones and get your own. My boyfriend works sometimes but he is really good at getting FREE benefits from the Federal and State government.”

Another post, apparently sent from a separate computer linked to Homeland Security, read in part: “These farmers have a problem because the gravy train that they were riding for soooooo long is being brought to light.”

The newspaper removed the posts. It also reported that it had discovered others, dating to last year, that appeared to have come from computers affiliated with Homeland Security.

NY Times Shows Dismantling of Sanctuary City in San Francisco

New York Times, June 13, 2009

San Francisco at Crossroads Over Immigration

SAN FRANCISCO — In the debate over illegal immigration, San Francisco has proudly played the role of liberal enclave, a so-called sanctuary city where local officials have refused to cooperate with enforcement of federal immigration law and undocumented residents have mostly lived without fear of consequence.

But over the last year, buffeted by several high-profile crimes by illegal immigrants and revelations of mismanagement of the city’s sanctuary policy, San Francisco has become less like its self-image and more like many other cities in the United States: deeply conflicted over how to cope with the fallout of illegal immigration.

At the center of the turnaround is a new law enforcement policy focused on under-age offenders who are in this country illegally. Under the policy, minors brought to juvenile hall on felony charges are questioned about their immigration status. And if they are suspected of being here illegally, they are reported to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for deportation, regardless of whether they are eventually convicted of a crime.

“We went from being one of the more progressive counties in the country to probably one of the least, and the most draconian,” said Abigail Trillin, the managing attorney with Legal Services for Children, a nonprofit legal group. “It’s been a total turnaround.”

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who ordered the new policy, disputes that characterization and ticks off a list of policies that remain immigrant friendly: the issuing of identification cards to residents regardless of legal status, the promotion of low-cost banking and the city’s longstanding opposition to immigration raids.

“I’m balancing safety and rights,” Mr. Newsom said. “And I’m taking the arrows.”

The policy was put in place last summer amid a series of embarrassing revelations about the city’s handling of illegal minors and even as reports arose of several serious crimes committed by illegal residents. The policy has led not only to dozens of juveniles in deportation proceedings, but also to criticism from the city’s public defender and members of its Board of Supervisors, which is threatening to relax it next month.

“I think the point of sanctuary is that you protect people and treat people the same unless they engage in some felony crime,” said David Campos, a county supervisor who came illegally to the United States from his native Guatemala when he was 14.

The new approach has pitted a growing coalition of immigrants rights groups against Mr. Newsom, who is running for governor in a state where immigrants, particularly Latinos, can be vital to being elected.

Mr. Newsom defends the policy as an effort to bring the city’s juvenile protocol in line with that for adult illegal immigrants, who have always been reported to federal authorities if they are accused of a felony.

But immigration advocates say the policy has too often swept up juveniles who are in this country illegally but who are innocent or held on minor charges, a list that includes young men like Roberto, 14, who has lived in the United States since he was 2.

Roberto, whose last name is being withheld at the request of his parents who are also in the country illegally, was handed over to immigration authorities last fall after he took a BB gun to school to show off to friends. He spent Christmas at a juvenile facility in Washington State and is now facing deportation to Mexico, where he was born.

The experience left Roberto shaken. “I was feeling really scared,” he said in an interview here.

Supporters of the new crackdown say that Roberto’s case is unrepresentative and that the majority of youths turned over to the immigration authorities have engaged in serious crimes, including those associated with the practice by Honduran drug gangs in San Francisco of using minors as dealers.

“A lot of them have histories; a lot of them are second, third chances,” Mr. Newsom said. “This is not as touchy feely as some people may want to make it.”

Mr. Newsom says he still supports the sanctuary ordinance, which grew out of worries in the 1980s about the deportation of Central Americans to war-torn regions. Made city law in 1989, the policy forbids city agencies to use resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law or information gathering.

While proponents say such policies help the police by making immigrant communities — often suspicious of the authorities — more comfortable with reporting crimes, critics say San Francisco’s policy had been stretched to extremes, including the practice of occasionally flying some offenders back to their home countries rather than cooperating with immigration authorities.

Mr. Newsom says he discovered and stopped that practice in May 2008, and quickly ordered a review. Juvenile referrals began shortly thereafter and were formalized as policy in August.

In the interim, however, The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a group of teenage Honduran crack dealers who had been sent to a group home simply walked away from confinement.

A second event was more serious, when a father and two sons driving home from a picnic were killed in a case of mistaken identity in June 2008. The police later charged Edwin Ramos, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador and suspected gang member who had had run-ins with the San Francisco police as a juvenile but had not been turned over to the immigration authorities.

At the same time, San Francisco found itself under criminal investigation by the United States attorney for the Northern District of California, and city officials were eager to show that their city was not a lawless haven for illegal-immigrant criminals.

“If we start harboring criminals as a sanctuary city, this entire system is in peril,” Mr. Newsom said.

For their part, immigration advocates say they are not asking the city to shelter felonious youths from deportation. The problem, they say, is the point of contact: at arrest, rather than after any sort of legal adjudication.

“Even if you’re undocumented, you have the right to due process,” said Jeff Adachi, the city’s public defender.

The federal authorities, meanwhile, have been pleasantly surprised that the new policy has resulted in more than 100 referrals.

“We are now getting routine referrals,” said Virginia Kice, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency.

The most serious challenge to the policy is likely to come in July, when the Board of Supervisors is expected to take up a proposal that would apply the policy only to illegal juveniles found in court to have committed a felony. The measure’s sponsor, Mr. Campos, said he expected it to pass.

Such an ordinance would not help Roberto, who is still waiting to plead his case to an immigration judge. He said he had already learned a valuable lesson.

“I will never bring anything to school again,” he said.


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