Eva using a rag to wipe clean the table
Cautiously making everything shines like a pearl
When the boss gets home, she hopes there’ll be no complaints
Accusing her of being illegal
Jose tends to the yard, they look like Disneyland
He drives an old truck without a license
It doesn’t matter if he was a taxi driver in his home country
That doesn’t count for Uncle Sam
ICE is on the loose out on the streets
You never know when your number’s up
Cry, Children cry when they get out
They cry when mom’s not coming to pick them up
Some of us stay here
Others stay there
That happens for going out to find work.
Martha arrived as a child and dreams of studying
But it’s hard for her without papers
Those who were born here get the laurels
But she never gives up her fight
ICE is on the loose out on the streets
You never know when your number’s up
Cry, Children cry when they get out
They cry when mom’s not coming to pick them up
Some of us stay here
Others stay there
That happens for going out to find work.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tara Tidwell Cullen
100 ORGANIZATIONS TO SENATOR SCHUMER:
IMMIGRATION OVERHAUL MUST ADDRESS SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN THE IMMIGRATION DETENTION SYSTEM
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 5, 2013)—More than 100 organizations sent a letter to New York Senator Charles Schumer yesterday demanding that immigration reform legislation address the multiple human rights and due process abuses in the U.S. immigration detention system.
In the letter, immigrant and human rights advocates applaud Senator Schumer for speaking out against the use of solitary confinement last week after The New York Times reported that about 300 immigrants are held in solitary every day. But the groups, who represent a wide range of faith-based and academic institutions, human rights organizations, medical associations, and immigrant legal aid organizations, go on to explain that “solitary confinement is just one extreme example of the failures of our current immigration detention system.”
“The U.S. immigration system is experiencing a human rights crisis—including the use of solitary confinement in detention—and we have an opportunity to fix it in the new immigration law Congress is drafting right now,” said Royce Bernstein Murray, director of policy for Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center, whose 2012 joint investigation into solitary confinement with Physicians for Human Rights uncovered the data reported by The New York Times.
The letter outlines concrete steps Congress must take to improve accountability and oversight in the detention system and end due process violations that have resulted in egregious abuses like solitary confinement. Recommendations include eliminating detention bed quotas and expanding the use of alternative forms of custody, ensuring all immigrants detained by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) receive bond hearings, expanding access to counsel and legal information in detention, and strengthening compliance oversight among the more than 100 jails and prisons DHS contracts to detain immigrants.
Senator Schumer told DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano last week that if the department did address the overuse of solitary confinement in immigration detention, he would do so in legislation. Senator Schumer is a member of the “Gang of Eight” senators who are expected to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform bill this month.
Link to this statement and read the letter at http://www.immigrantjustice.org/press_releases/senator-schumer-letter-solitary-confinement
The following organizations and professors signed the letter to Senator Schumer:
Advocates for Basic Legal Equality
African American Ministers in Action
African Services Committee
All of Us or None
Alliance San Diego
American Civil Liberties Union
American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Massachusetts
American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa
American Friends Service Committee
American Immigration Lawyers Association
Americans for Immigrant Justice
Amnesty International USA
Asian American Justice Center, member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice
Asian Law Caucus
Brooklyn Defender Services
Casa de Esperanza
CASA de Maryland, Inc.
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America
Community Immigration Law Center
Cornell Law School Immigration Appellate
Law and Advocacy Clinic
Detention Watch Network
Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
Fahamu Refugee Programme
Family Equality Council
Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project
Florida Justice Institute, Inc.
Franciscan Action Network
Hofstra Law School Asylum Clinic, Maurice A.
Deane School of Law at Hofstra University
Human Rights Defense Center
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Immigrant and Refugee Rights Clinic, CUNY School of Law
Immigrant Defense Project
Immigrant Justice Clinic, University of Wisconsin Law School
Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
Immigrant Rights Clinic at Rutgers School of Law – Newark
Immigrant Rights Project, University of Tulsa College of Law
Immigration Clinic, University of Miami School of Law
Interfaith Coalition on Immigration
International Foundation for Gender Education
The John Marshall Law School Human Rights Clinic
Johnson & Brennan, PLLC
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Legal Aid Justice Center
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition of Chicago
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Maria Baldini-Potermin & Associates, P.C.
Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition
Monmouth County Coalition for Immigrant Rights
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council of La Raza
National Day Laborer Organizing Network
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund
National Guestworker Alliance
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Immigrant Solidarity Network
National Immigration Forum
National Immigration Law Center
National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
National Lawyers Guild Queer Caucus
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
NC Immigrant Rights Project
NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby
New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice
New York Immigration Coalition
Northwest Immigrant Rights Project
NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic at Washington Square Legal Services, Inc.
The Office of Immigration Issues, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Physicians for Human Rights
Political Asylum Immigration Representation Project
Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.
Public Law Center
Racial Justice Action Center
Reformed Church of Highland Park, NJ
Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network
San Diego Immigrant Youth Collective
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas
Survivors of Torture, International
Texas Civil Rights Project
Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition
Transgender Law Center
UC Davis King Hall Immigrant Detention Project
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United We Dream
We Belong Together: Women for Common Sense Immigration Reform
Who Is My Neighbor? Inc.
Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center
Women’s Refugee Commission
The Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights at the University of Chicago
F. Willis Caruso, Clinical Professor, Co-Executive Director of the Fair Housing Legal Support Center, & Director of Pro Bono Program, The John Marshall Law School
Katherine Fennelly, Professor, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
Susan R. Gzesh, Senior Lecturer & Executive Director, Human Rights Program, University of Chicago
Barbara Hines, Clinical Professor of Law, Immigration Clinic, University of Texas School of Law
Hiroko Kusuda, Assistant Clinic Professor, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice
Irene Scharf, Professor, UMass School of Law
Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Clinical Professor & Director, Center for Immigrants’ Rights, Pennsylvania State University
Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. For more information visit www.immigrantjustice.org.
via @latinojustice: $1 Million ICE Settlement with New York Families Requires National Changes to Agency Policy
April 4, 2013, New York – Twenty-two Latino victims of unlawful warrantless home raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) obtained a settlement today requiring new national policies for ICE agents conducting warrantless home operations and $1 million in damages and fees. In addition, eight men and women who were arrested during the raids have received either deferred action or termination of their immigration cases.
“Immigrants across the country can stand up and cheer for what has been accomplished by this settlement. No longer will ICE agents have free rein to invade the homes of immigrants, especially Latino immigrants, and be as abusive as they want without any worry that they might be reprimanded,” said Juan Cartagena, President of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, who, along with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Winston & Strawn, represented the plaintiffs. ”The message today is loud and clear. ICE agents have to follow the law.”
ICE’s warrantless home raid practices have typically involved a dozen armed ICE agents surrounding a home in the pre-dawn hours, pounding on the doors, shining flashlights through windows, and demanding or forcing entry. Once a door was opened, the agents would push their way in, enter private bedrooms without consent, and drag or order terrified, just-awakened residents – often only partially dressed in nightclothes – into central areas. Agents claimed these practices constituted “consent to enter.”Said Ghita Schwarz, a senior attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, “Sleeping while Latino is not a suspicious activity that justifies ICE’s forcing its way into homes and terrorizing families at gunpoint. Our brave clients have shown ICE agents that they are subject to the same constitutional restrictions as any other law enforcement officer: they need judicial warrants or valid consent to enter a home.” Said Aldo Badini, a partner at Winston & Strawn, which had a trial team that devoted significant time and resources to representing the plaintiffs pro bono in the months before the case settled, “This historic agreement imposes policy changes that apply to ICE agents throughout the nation. ICE’s policies and practices violated the Constitution and this agreement demonstrates that they are not above the law.” The policy changes require ICE agents to seek consent to enter or search a private residence in a language understood by the resident whenever feasible; they must have Spanish-speaking officers available to seek such consent when the target is from a Spanish-speaking country; they must seek consent to enter the outside areas of homes where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a backyard; and they must not conduct protective sweeps through the homes without an articulable suspicion of danger. The plaintiffs in the case, Adriana Aguilar et al. v. ICE, are 22 New York men, women and children — citizens, lawful permanent residents and others – who in 2006 and 2007 awoke in the pre-dawn hours to the shouts of as many as a dozen law enforcement officers pounding on their doors demanding entry. Said Adriana Leon (Aguilar), “My family will never forget that night. My son, who was just four years old, was crying in fear of gunmen in his home at four in the morning. We asked them to show a warrant or any other authority they had for being inside our home. They ignored us.” Seventeen-year-old Beatriz Velasquez was just 12 years old when agents surrounded her home, pounded on the doors and windows, and burst in after falsely telling her that “someone was dying upstairs.” She said, ”That was the scariest day of my life. My little sister and I were terrified. They wouldn’t explain to my mother what was going on, and they stormed through the house like an army.” Although ICE had deported the purported target of the raid on Beatriz’s home two years before, ICE surrounded and raided the Long Island home anyway in September, 2007. That series of raids resulted in the Nassau County Police Department withdrawing from participation in the raids and publicly denouncing ICE for its use of racial profiling and its flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment. Purportedly seeking specific targets, ICE did little to no background research to determine whether targets actually occupied the homes, even raiding the home of a family of Latino citizens twice in an effort to find a man unknown to the family, according to attorneys. “They just pushed past me when I opened the door to their pounding, and I fell against the stairs.,” said Christopher Jimenez, who was 17 when ICE agents forced their way into his family home for the second time in 13 months. ”They had done the same thing a year before, and we had told them we didn’t know the man they were looking for. They didn’t care.” In 2006, ICE officials in Washington created a policy called “Operation Return to Sender,” under teams of agents were ordered to increase their quota of arrests of so-called alien fugitives with outstanding deportation orders by 800 percent over the course of one year. The teams were permitted to count toward that quota so-called “collaterals”— aliens ICE happened to encounter during raids. According to activists and attorneys, the increase in warrantless intrusions into immigrants’ homes followed directly from the policy.
Para leer esto comunicado de prensa en español, haga clic aqui.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.
By Elizabeth Kalmbach, reposted from the National Immigrant Justice Center:
In 1996, new immigration laws dramatically expanded the categories of criminal convictions that make immigrants facing deportation ineligible for immigration bonds and therefore subject to mandatory custody. Prior to this time, there was some provision for mandatory custody but it only applied under very limited circumstances. Now a broad range of convictions, including what most Americans consider relatively minor infractions, can subject immigrants to mandatory custody.
When U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) determines that someone is subject to mandatory custody, under current law that person does not have a chance to have a judge review the decision and consider whether it is appropriate. I have seen countless cases in which a reasonable bond would have permitted good people to avoid unnecessary trauma and saved the government thousands of dollars. Comprehensive immigration reform gives Congress an opportunity to eliminate mandatory custody entirely, or at least limit it to people with the most serious violent crimes.
The story of Michael*, a recent NIJC client, illustrates well the problems with mandatory custody. Michael is a lawful permanent resident and has lived in the United States since childhood. When he was 17 he experimented with cocaine and tried the drug twice before being caught at a traffic stop with some in his possession. He was arrested and pled guilty to simple possession of a controlled substance and served several months in prison. Michael was never a drug addict and never used drugs again after his arrest.
Three years later, when Michael came into contact with ICE, the agency decided he was subject to mandatory custody due to his conviction. Michael had many positive factors in his case, including his lengthy lawful residence in the United States, strong educational and work history, numerous lawful family members whom he supported, and years of tax returns. He also qualified for a pardon under immigration law, and from the outset it was clear that he had a strong case. Indeed, the government eventually granted Michael relief and allowed him to stay in the United States. But because current immigration law prevented a judge from weighing the positives in Michael’s case against his one drug conviction and determining an appropriate bond amount, Michael was detained at taxpayer’s expense the full the two and a half months it took to fight his case.
It is absurd to think that a single conviction for possession made Michael such a threat to the community or significant flight risk that he absolutely had to be confined. Yet that is how he was treated.
Michael’s situation is not unique.
It is important to note that immigration detention is not supposed to be part of the punishment for a crime. It is the job of the criminal justice system to determine if it is appropriate or necessary for an individual to serve time in jail or prison because of an offense. Individuals coming into immigration custody have already served that time, if any. Many of them were never sentenced to jail at all and received probation or community service for their convictions. Because immigration detention is not a sentence, there is no limit to the amount of time someone can be detained if subject to mandatory custody. NIJC has had clients detained for years under these provisions, as their complex immigration cases moved through the courts, with no right to judicial review of their detention at any time.
Judges should be able to use bond amounts to mitigate any risks they see in allowing a detainee to be released from custody. When there are more serious risks, the amount of money charged for the bond is higher. If on a rare occasion the judge feels that the risks of letting a detainee out of custody cannot be moderated by any amount of bond, then bond might be denied – but only after a full hearing in which all the factors of the case are considered.
A Merciless System
I will never forget another client, Sara*, who suffered extraordinarily because she was deemed to be subject to mandatory custody. I still remember clearly the day I first met Sara at the detention center. She could barely meet my eyes as she told me about being repeatedly raped by a male relative at the age of 14. After looking into Sara’s case we were able to file an application for a U visa, which is available to immigrant crime victims who have cooperated with the authorities in the crime investigation. She had cooperated with the police and her abuser had been convicted on felony charges and spent time in jail.
Unfortunately for Sara, despite the strong facts of her U visa case she was considered to be subject to mandatory custody because of two misdemeanor convictions. The first was for a shoplifting charge for taking a sweater when she was 18 years old, a mistake for which she takes responsibility and feels thoroughly ashamed. The second conviction was for domestic battery, a charge that came about after she scratched an abusive boyfriend in self defense when he attacked her. When the police came, Sara was unable to adequately respond to her boyfriend’s allegations due language barriers and because she was upset and scared. Her public defender advised her to plead guilty to the charges.
Because these two convictions subjected her to mandatory custody, Sara was detained for the 10 months it took the government to grant her U visa. Sara’s abuser had often kept her locked in a room, and being confined in a jail cell forced her to relive that trauma. She had nightmares, gained weight, and could not get through a conversation with me without crying.
Sara ultimately was granted the visa and released from custody. Her detention cost taxpayers around $40,000 and was a major set back in Sara’s attempts to recover from her abuse.
How to Fix It
A conviction on someone’s record is only one of many factors that judges should be allowed to consider when deciding whether to keep someone in immigration detention. Individuals who can demonstrate rehabilitation and other positive factors should have a chance to have them considered.
Congress must change the mandatory custody laws to allow for bond hearings in the majority of cases. For Michael and Sarah, it would have saved months of heartache and thousands of dollars in government resources.
*Names have been changed
Elizabeth Kalmbach is the detention and due process coordinator for Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center, where she organizes Know Your Rights visits and provides legal consultations to immigrants detained at six county jails in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Kentucky.
Today we invite you to be part of the on-going struggle to stop the deportations through arts, organizing, and advocacy.
In recent weeks, we’ve been flooded with cases of people on the brink of being torn from their families and their homes because of unjust deportations. Our communities can no longer tolerate this colossal injustice. We are too strong to allow it to continue.
As Fernando, Hector, and Alejandro write, there is no stronger force than “the expression of a people in motion and the artists who accompany us… we need to combine our creativity with our cause.”
The new site is a central hub to:
- support people fighting their own deportations
- collect art that shows the pain of removal and the strength of our community
- share resources for you to exercise the right to remain and stop deportations yourself.
Please visit http://notonemoredeportation.com to get involved.
Pablo Alvarado, NDLON.
Human Rights Groups Call for Closure of Polk County Detention Center
For Immediate Release
Contact: Piper Madison or Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership, (512) 499-8111
Austin, TX – Today, a coalition of 37 national and Texas-based organizations released a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano calling for the closure of the IAH Secure Adult Detention Center in Polk County, Texas. The coalition represents a broad range of interests, including faith, civil rights, immigrant rights, and criminal justice reform organizations.
The Polk County Detention Center is run by for-profit private prison company Community Education Center and houses what immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The letter to Secretary Napolitano is part of an ongoing campaign to close the Polk County Detention Center, which has been highlighted for its record of civil and human rights violations.
In November 2012, the Polk County Detention Center was included as one of the ten detention centers highlighted as amongst the worst in the nation by the Detention Watch Network based on the findings of a tour of the facility.
At the time of the tour, conducted by Texans United for Families and Grassroots Leadership, conditions at the facility were extremely poor: men spent up to 21-23 hours a day in cramped cells without privacy or natural light; received inadequate food and medical care; and were isolated from their families and legal aid because of distance and high phone costs. In December 2012, over 100 community members from Houston and Austin held a vigil outside the facility protesting the inhumane treatment of undocumented immigrants.
Closing the Polk County Detention Center would represent a move towards a more humane immigration system. It would also be fiscally responsible. Last year, ICE spent $2 billion maintaining 34,000 beds at $160 a day; alternatives to detention can cost as little as $14 a day while allowing immigrants to remain with their families, rather than the far costlier maintenance in detention centers.
Bob Libal, Executive Director of Grassroots Leadership, says that “ICE should close the Polk County Detention Center today and prioritize release of immigrants into community support programs that are far less damaging to families and less costly.”
Signatories include Grassroots Leadership; Catholic Charities of Central Texas; Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association; the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church in Society; Detention Watch Network; and the Texas Civil Rights Project. View the letter and a complete list of signatories here.
The conversation focused on recent immigration detention hearings in Congress and the release of 2,200 detained migrants. You can listen to the 13min podcast from March 21 by clicking on the black arrow below [or download it here]:
Coming against a backdrop of congressional hearings, questions about the “overuse” of detention, and media interest in private-sector profits on detention, the interview included thoughtful inquiries from hosts Marcela Diaz and Elsa Lopez of Somos un Pueblo Unido.
Some of the important points our advocacy leader was able to raise:
- The release of these detainees was simply Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doing its job.
- The real question, and the one most media outlets missed, is: “Why are these people in detention in the first place?”
- The immigration detention system, with its mandatory quota of “beds” to fill, is “a creature of Congress” that lawmakers can still fix.
Many thanks to KSFR, Nuestra América, and the hosts for creating a public space to raise these important questions about how our country treats immigrants and refugees!
“Immigrants For Sale” is Cuéntame’s ground-breaking online short documentary that goes inside the private immigrant detention industry, through the lens of those most affected, the players behind the political game and the multi-billion dollar profits that that fuel it all.
To watch the documentary on Hulu, click here.
Call ICE & tell them not to deport Ruth! Call (202) 720-3000
Sample script: “I am calling in support of Ruth Montaño, Case No. A205 763 399 and ask that her deportation case be dropped. She is a low priority deportation, she has no criminal record. She has 3 U.S. citizen children.”
Once you are done calling you can tweet to have your friends call as well.
Where would you expect to find half-a-dozen patrol cars on New Year’s Eve? In Bakersfield, California, ranked in the highest ten percent of the most violent cities in America, you’d hope they’d be responding to incidents of violence and preventing murder, rape, and other violent crime. At the very least, you’d expect them to be patrolling for drunk drivers.
Not so. At least not when it comes to prioritizing such matters as “barking dogs.” On December 31, 2012, the Kern County Sheriff’s Department deployed six police cars and numerous officers at the behest of a resident who called for help from, well, the sounds of two small barking dogs. Her neighbor, Ruth Montaño, a Latina farm-worker, and her three American children owned the dogs.
As Ruth poignantly describes in her own words, when she and her children returned to their trailer around 10pm that night from the grocery store, officers approached her and began shouting and cursing at her. They said they were responding to a neighbor’s complaint that her two small dogs were being noisy. Her dogs, a Chihuahua and a Shih Tzu, were enclosed in a fenced-in area outside her trailer. But when Ruth asked the officers what the dogs had done, they refused to answer. When she offered to put the dogs inside, they ignored her.
Instead, the officers questioned her about how long she had been in the United States and insulted her for not speaking English well. They called her and her children garbage and threatened to arrest her. When she pled with them to tell her why they were interrogating her, they again refused to say, growing even more hostile and agitated, and aggressively placing her under arrest. As they walked her over to the patrol car, her children cried and pled for them not to take their mommy. One officer violently bashed Ruth’s head into the side of the patrol car, before forcing her into the vehicle.
The dogs, meanwhile, remained outside, untouched. Barking.
The officers claim that they arrested Ruth for “having animals making excessive noise” and for resisting arrest. But, under Kern County law, “having animals making excessive noise” is neither an arrestable offense, nor is it within the authority of the Sheriff’s Department to investigate – rather it is an issue for Animal Control.
Ruth believes she was arrested for one sole reason: racism. We think she’s right. If not, what’s one other plausible explanation for what happened to her? Anti-immigrant sentiment runs high in places like Bakersfield, and law enforcement officers often target Latino residents. Officers know that all they have to do is make an arrest – whether lawful or not – to turn any suspected “illegal immigrant” from today’s contributing resident into tomorrow’s deportee.
This is because under the federal government’s disastrous Secure Communities (“S-Comm”) program every person who is arrested is immediately screened and identified by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) for possible deportation, regardless of their charges.
Dragnet federal immigration enforcement programs, like S-Comm, increasingly are to blame for abusive and unlawful police conduct that target Latinos, violate their civil rights, and undermine public safety. The program encourages police to take action based on race, language, and perceived immigration status – knowing that any arrest could lead to deportation – rather than doing their jobs to ferret out threats to public safety.
Stories like Ruth’s only reinforce the urgent need for California to finally adopt the TRUST Act, a bill that would ensure that the police can no longer detain for ICE people like Ruth who have done no harm to our communities. And it demonstrates the need for Congress to pass common-sense immigration reform to ensure that residents like Ruth are put on a road to citizenship, not a highway to family separation.
Ruth still faces deportation. Do your part and tell ICE to take her out of deportation proceedings. Call (202) 732-3000. Her case number is A205 763 399.
Video via Colorlines:
via Andrea Black, DWN’s Executive Director released in a statement:
We are thrilled to hear that Rep. Bachus has come to the conclusion that in locking up 400,000 people a year ICE is wasting taxpayer dollars and causing needless suffering for immigrants and their families. It is encouraging to hear members of Congress concerned with fiscal responsibility draw the reasonable conclusion that we are over-relying and over-spending on immigration detention. We urge Congress to repeal policies such as mandatory detention, which is responsible for approximately 70% of all detention, and which prevents ICE from assessing risk when deciding who to detain.
More from Human Rights First: Bachus Asks Whether Government Overuses Immigration Detention
In response to the recent releases of immigrants from detention, Detention Watch Network members and staff had this to say. Featuring:
- Maria Rodriguez, Florida Immigration Coalition
- Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership
- Carly Perez, Detention Watch Network
- Catalina Nieto, Detention Watch Network
Please call DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano at 202-282-8495 and tell her to continue reuniting families by releasing people from detention.
Ivon Díaz had big plans for her wedding day. But instead of celebrating, she found herself in detention after being arrested at a work site raid by the Maricopa County Sheriffs Department in Phoenix, Arizona, one day before her ceremony.
She spent the next three months in jail, only for being at work. Ivon is 24 years old, came to the U.S. when she was 15, has a 7 month old U.S. citizen daughter, and is active in her community. Were it not for the felony charge imposed by the Sheriff’s department for working, she would be eligible for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program.Ivon is not ready to go.
She’s ready to fight for herself, her family, and her community. Will you join her? Please take action by sending an e-mail to ICE director John Morton and ICE regional field director Katrina Kane.
Sign the peition:
DWN members submitted the following statements to the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for the March 14 hearing on immigration enforcement oversight:
- American Civil Liberties Union: Statement for 3 14 House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee Hearing on Immigration Enforcement
- Human Rights First: Statement for House Hearing on ICE Enforcement
- Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Service: Statement for hearing on oversight of immigration enforcement
In recent months, however, ICE has quietly shifted to using a new instrument to make custody decisions.
4/8 in #DC: @HumanRights1st’s Final Dialogue on Detention – Applying Lessons from Criminal Justice Reform to the Immigration Detention System
Please join Human Rights First on Monday, April 8, 2013, in Washington, DC, at the law firm of Jones Day, for “Dialogues on Detention: Applying Lessons from Criminal Justice Reform to the Immigration Detention System.”
Speakers will include Ted Alden (Council on Foreign Relations), Wade Henderson (The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights), Richard Land (The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Southern Baptist Convention), Steve J. Martin (former General Counsel, Texas prison system), Alex Nowrasteh (Cato Institute), Juan Osuna (DOJ Executive Office for Immigration Review), Margo Schlanger (former DHS Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties), Dora Schriro (New York City Commissioner of Correction), Jim Silkenat (incoming President, American Bar Association), and Julie Myers Wood (former ICE Assistant Secretary).
This day-long event is the culmination of Human Rights First’s Dialogues on Detention series held in fall 2012 in partnership with The University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of California Irvine School of Law, Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law, and Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. The Dialogues have convened experts, academics, policymakers, practitioners, advocates, and the private bar working in the immigration detention and corrections/criminal justice fields, as well as formerly detained individuals, with an aim to help shift the national conversation on immigration detention, build alliances between stakeholders in both fields, and lay the groundwork for future improvements in policy and practice. The DC Dialogue is designed to bring lessons learned across the country to Washington.
We look forward to seeing you on April 8!
Monday, April 8, 2013 - 8:30am to 5:15pm (reception to follow)
via independent radio producer Kerstin Zilm
At 6 in the morning of October 12, 2011 ICE picked up Jose Luis in Los Angeles to bring him to a detention center in Orange County. Jose’s wife Norma was sitting next to him in the car getting ready to drop him off at work. Jose’s ten year old daughter Jessica watched from her bedroom window how officers dragged her father out of the car, pushed him to the dirt and took him away. Jose Luis had been deported before. Coming back without papers is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Listen to Norma and Jessica recounting the day he was picked up, describing their husband and father and talking about hopes for the future
Written by Anna Campbell, National Network Coordinator of LIRS’s Access to Justice unit, Reposted from LIRS blog.
The whole nation is beginning to feel the pain of deep spending cuts as the judgment day known as the “sequester” becomes a reality. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is not exempt. Last week, federal immigration officials announced the release of hundreds of detained immigrants from centers around the country in preemption of the pending budget cuts. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the DHS agency charged with enforcing immigration laws, is currently required by Congress to fill 34,000 detention beds each day with immigrants charged with being deportable, yet ICE has publicly stated that the sequester will hinder its ability to satisfy this detention mandate. This mandate and the nonsensical results it produces need to go.
ICE’s decision to release a small percentage of those in immigration custody incensed some lawmakers with reputations as staunch immigration foes and was mischaracterized by the media as an extreme measure. But for LIRS, and many other immigrants’ rights organizations, the move fundamentally validated the important role alternatives to detention can play within our immigrant justice system. Immigration detention is a civil authority that is not intended to be punitive, but rather is used solely to ensure compliance with immigration adjudications.ICE’s release of hundreds of immigration detainees last week confirms that the agency currently detains some people simply to meet a congressional quota rather than to better secure U.S. communities. DHS has said that they released “low-risk” and “non-criminal” detainees. This raises a number of questions. What does “low-risk” mean? Why are immigrants being locked up in the first place if their civil immigration case could be processed while they reside in the family and with their children? If there is a cheaper and more humane mechanism for enforcing immigration law while ensuring individual appearance during deportation proceedings, why wouldn’t it be utilized?
This country needs alternatives to detention to be a part of the immigration reform debate. More specifically, we need more community-based services as alternatives to continuing to unnecessarily infringe on individuals’ liberties. Alternatives are not only more humane, but also fiscally responsible, which is increasingly important as we repeatedly face austerity measures like the sequester. Alternatives to detention cost the government significantly less than physical detention and could reduce detention spending by nearly 80%. LIRS provides community-based services as an alternative to detention via its Community Support Network in seven different parts of the country. These services – legal representation, housing and case management – facilitate rehabilitation from past trauma, expedite long-term integration for individuals who remain in the United States, and encourage compliance with all legal processes.
Finally, while LIRS is pleased that DHS has decided to release individuals whom it in fact does not need to detain, we cannot forget that each of these migrants is still in deportation proceedings. Each individual faces an imminent threat of being torn away from family members and community, and could be forced to return to a country where they may face persecution and isolation. We also can’t forget that DHS is still required to fill 34,000 beds, with or without funding and with or without need, and this must change. If Washington solves the current budget crisis, will these individuals be re-detained? Will ICE arrest more “low-risk” immigrants just to fill bed space? Is that a responsible way to use federal dollars, if a cheaper if not free alternative is available? We here at LIRS believe it’s high time to utilize effective, more affordable, and more humane alternatives.
As the immigration reform debate heats up, an important argument has been surprisingly missing. By granting legal status to immigrants and ordering future flows, the government could save billions of dollars. A shift to focus border security on real crime, both local and cross-border, would increase public safety and render a huge dividend to cash-strapped public coffers.
This kind of common-sense immigration reform has the multibillion-dollar private prison industry shaking in its boots. Its lobbyists are actively targeting members of congressional budget and appropriations committees to not only maintain, but increase incarceration of migrants — with or without comprehensive immigration reform.
While a broad public consensus has formed around the need to legally integrate migrants into the communities where they live and work, private prison companies Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and The GEO Group, thrive off laws that criminalize migrants, including mandatory detention and the definition of immigration violations as felonies. They are using their money and clout to assure that even if immigration reform goes through, the practice of locking people up for immigration infractions will continue.
Their No. 1 goal: to assure that Operation Streamline — their goose of the golden eggs — survives, with more money than ever.
Operation Streamline began in 2005, and it imprisons men, women and children for immigration violations, sometimes up to 10 months or more, and it channels more than $1 billion a year in federal funds to private-run detention centers.
It would seem contradictory for a program that rounds up undocumented migrants to be funded alongside comprehensive immigration reform. Yet both President Obama’s plan and the plan put forward by the Gang of 8 senators call to increase Border Patrol enforcement programs.
Enlace, coordinator of the National Private Prison Detention Campaign, has compiled data on private prison industry money to pressure Congress for more enforcement business in any comprehensive immigration reform bill.
The Private Prison Lobby
First, a brief guide to the private prison lobby. Numbers are from their 2012 quarterly lobby disclosure reports filed with the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House. The Center for Responsive Politics has a useful site where much of this information is posted.
Among the gang of eight senators, all but Lindsay Graham and John McCain have received significant money from the private prison corporations. The transparency watchdog, Open Secrets, compiled the figures by adding contributions from members, employees, PACs or immediate family members of the organization.
* Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.): Chair of the Rules Committee, Member of Judiciary and Chair of Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Enforcement. In 2012, Schumer received at least $64,000 from lobbyists Akin Gump et al, and $2,500 from Mehlman Vogel. He also received $34,500 from FMR (Fidelity), which owns 5.09 percent of CCA and 8.67 percent of GEO.
* Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): Member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, and Foreign Relations, received $29,300 from the GEO Group. Wells Fargo (also heavily invested in private prisons) gave Rubio $16,150.
* Bob Menendez (D-N.J): Finance Committee, new chair of Foreign Relations, received more than $39,000 in documented money from private prison lobbyists, with $34,916 coming from Akin Gump, $6,300 from Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti Inc. and $1,000 from McBee Strategic Consulting.
* Michael Bennet (D-Colo.): Finance Committee, received at least $30,794 from
The prison lobby also targeted several key House members Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Budget committee and member of Appropriations, received $21,600 from Akin Gump; $74,700 from McBee Strategic Consulting.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who is on the House Budget and Judiciary committees, received money from: Akin, Gump et al ($19,600); and contributions from Mehlman Vogel associates totaling $2,500.
What these lobbyists want for their money is an immigration reform bill that tightens, rather than loosens the criminal net for undocumented workers and their families.
The inhumane and illogical step of pre-deportation detention was invented by the private prison industry. Last year, the Obama administration spent more money on immigration enforcement, including detention, than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined — a staggering $18 billion. The detention centers receive $166 per person, per day in government funds — an amount that would be a godsend to a homeless family or unemployed worker.
Peter Cervantes-Gautschi, director of Enlace, notes, “The private prison industry is swamping the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committees to try to buy them to keep Operation Streamline so they can incarcerate more immigrants in private prisons despite immigration reform.” There is nothing surprising about that, he adds, “That’s their business.”
The national movement made up of local organizations against private detention centers has a simple demand — stop funding private immigrant detention centers. They have blocked construction of new prisons and pressured investment funds and individuals to divest from private prison stock. They have also turned their sights on the politicians that feed federal money into the system.
Maria Rodriguez of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, a member of the divestment campaign, explains that her group is meeting with Florida Congressional representatives to counteract the influence of the private prison lobby.
“In the broadest sense, what we’re trying to do is to show the financial impact on policies and the conversation in the context of immigration reform,” she says.
Are members of Congress being bought off? Rodriguez replies, “I think that when people are being heavily lobbied and when there’s financial interests involved and when our representatives are benefiting from those financial interests directly through lobbying, it compromises their ability to do what’s right for taxpayers and immigrant families.”
There is a lot at stake for the private prison companies. CCA and GEO reported combined revenues of $3 billion dollars in 2011, with nearly half — $1.3 billion — coming directly from federal government, according to 2011 annual reports. They will fight hard for continued incarceration under immigration reform — whether it makes sense policy-wise or not.
The human rights issues involved in locking up migrants for profit, separating families and detaining individuals in poor and humiliating conditions rarely even make it into the debate. Instead, politicians are tempted to curry support among the prison industry and conservatives, with more talk of “enforcement” as the trading chip for citizenship and less talk of human rights.
Meanwhile, citizen groups are hoping that greater transparency and public awareness of the role of private prison corporations will lead to a more lasting and rights-based comprehensive immigration reform, one where for-profit immigrant detention centers become a relic of a crueler past.
Raúl Alcaráz Ochoa, Tucson day labor organizer and DWN member, was detained by Border Patrol as he tried to stop the separation of yet another family. Raul and Rene Meza Huertha, a father of five, were both taken into custody.
On February 17th, the Tucson Police Department (TPD) pulled over Meza Huertha, along with his expectant wife and six children. TPD, in direct contradiction of previous statements promising to be more “immigrant welcoming,” called Border Patrol to take Mr. Huertha into custody. Mr. Alcaráz Ochoa, a long time advocate against massive deportations in our community and country, placed himself underneath the vehicle in which Mr. Huertha was detained. At the time of his detainment, there were at least six Border Patrol Agents and four TPD officers on the scene. Border Patrol officials proceeded to repeatedly pepper spray Mr. Alcaráz Ochoa, who suffers from asthma, before dragging him out, handcuffing him, and taking him into custody. Corazón de Tucson and the Southside Worker Center organized a protest outside the Tucson Police Department.