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Archive for February, 2009|Monthly archive page

It’s Been a Busy Week on Immigration

In Uncategorized on February 27, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Hey everyone!

There is a lot to update you on today and so that all these posts don’t just get lost in cyberspace, I’m creating a content-guide post here to help you along the way.

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard Introduces Positive Immigration Legislation

In enforcement, legislation on February 27, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Yesterday, Congresswoman Roybal-Allard introduced the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act of 2009 (H.R. 1215) which works to “better ensure immigrant detainees receive fair and humane treatment while in detention.”

This bill comes in response to the numerous deaths and cases of abuse in immigrant detention centers that have garnered media attention in recent months. These cases are not isolated however; in fact, over 80 people have died while in DHS detention during a five-year period beginning in 2003. A large portion of these deaths, it appears, could have been avoided if adequate and timely medical attention had been provided.

Although the federal government established immigration detention standards in 2000, these standards are not enforceable by law and not consistently implemented. The Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act seeks to correct the failure to provide safe and humane conditions by setting binding, clear, and enforceable detention standards.

In particular, the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act:

  • Improves detainees’ access to telephones and medical care, including treatment for survivors of sexual abuse
  • Improves mental health care standards, which are critical for persons who have suffered persecution, torture, or other trauma
  • Promotes alternatives to detention which enable detainees to be released on their own recognizance, bond, or other non-custodial supervision programs
  • Provides protections for unaccompanied children taken into DHS custody

While providing water and food to children who are sometimes held for 72 hours or more at the border seems like common sense, reports show that children on the border are often held in deplorable conditions.

FCNL supports this effort by Congresswoman Roybal-Allard to implement clear and binding standards for the detention of immigrants. We have joined other national, regional, and local faith-based organizations in writing a letter of support for this bill. To view the letter, click HERE.

Cocktails and Criticism: Deepak Bhargava Responds to the Bellingham Raid

In enforcement on February 27, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Yesterday, Deepak Bhargava wrote a moving response to the Bellingham raid on the Center for Community Change’s blog.

Bhargava wrote first of his opportunity to meet with President Obama last week during a cocktail reception for progressive leaders at the Whitehouse. He was pleased at that time with the response he received from Obama regarding comprehensive immigration reform.

Like most of us, however, he was disappointed when he received a call 10 pm on Tuesday night–just as Obama’s address to the nation was finishing–that the first worksite raid under the Obama administration had taken place.

And also like most of us, he was pleased by the quick response of Secretary Napolitano and the Whitehouse to call for an investigation of the raid and publicly state that such enforcement tactics are not the Obama administration’s immigration strategy.

What I would most like to point to you all, however, is the part of the blog where Bhargava asks “What lessons might we draw from this whole experience?”

He responds:

First, we are not agents of the Obama Administration – or any other politician. Our highest commitment as progressives is to the most vulnerable people in our society, and being progressive means nothing at all if it doesn’t mean standing up for and with them. Second, we shouldn’t expect to get change that we don’t help to make happen. To paraphrase Frederick Douglas, there is not progress without agitation. Third, if we take the view that the Administration is potentially an ally – rather than reflexively assuming bad intent — and we are clear and specific about what we want to see happen, we can in fact make real progress by working together. I am heartened by what this Administration has gotten done for low-income people in an incredibly short period of time through the recovery bill and SCHIP legislation – and the speed of their response to our concerns about this tragic raid further confirms their sincere commitment to change.

I am also heartened that the President is leading a national conversation on shared responsibility and shared sacrifice – two critical elements of the community values that are at the center of all the work to which we community organizers are passionately committed.

So, maybe cocktails and criticism – in the context of a respectful and real relationship that grows and develops over time — can go together and deliver results.

I think these are important lessons for us all to consider as we move forward in our work for a more just and equitable society. The campaign is over and now it is time for us to create the change that we believe in.


More Posts on the Bellingham Raid

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Hopeful After Meeting with Napolitano

In Uncategorized on February 27, 2009 at 7:07 pm

After a meeting with DHS Secretary Napolitano, The Hill reports that Hispanic lawmakers are hopeful that she will end workplace raids by Immigration and Customs Enfocrement (ICE).

Yesterday, members of the Congressional Hispanic Congress (CHC) held a closed door meeting with Secretary Napolitano. According to members of the CHC, she raised the issue of the Bellingham riad on her own accord and said that she had “grave concerns” over what happened.

Congressman and CHC Immigration Task Force Chairman Luis Gutierrez said the meeting was “very, very constructive. We’re happy….We shared with her our concerns about the raid. She shared with us that she had grave concerns about the manner in which it was carried out and that it’s under evaluation. I think the most important words were that she had ‘grave concerns.'”

The CHC is made up of Hispanic members of Congress who work to advance national and international issues that have an impact on policies related to the Hispanic community. The CHC pushes for comprehensive immigration reform and, right now, they are also focused on scaling back intimidating and agressive enforcement tactics impletmented under the Bush administration.

More Posts on the Bellingham Raid

*UPDATE* While the President Addressed the Nation

In community impact, enforcement on February 26, 2009 at 5:28 pm

While testifying before Congress yesterday, Secretary Napolitano vowed that she would “get to the bottom” of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid in Bellingham, Washington. As the Washington Times reported, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official stated that “the secretary is not happy and this is not her policy.”

In further developments, Whitehouse spokesman Nick Shapiro told the Washington Times that “these raids are not a long term solution.” I was also pleased to hear him say that “The president believes we must respect due process and our best values as we enforce the law. The real answer to our broken immigration system is to fix it. The president has said that we will start the immigration reform debate this year, and this continues to be the plan.”

This is one of the first statements from the Whitehouse signaling that they plan to follow through with their campaign promise of pursuing comprehensive immigration reform during the first year in office.

It appears that Obama does still get it. But we need to make sure that his “getting it” turns into actual policy.

TAKE ACTION TODAY
Ask your Congressperson to contact President Obama and Secretary Napolitano and encourage them to stop the raids.

While the President Addressed the Nation

In community impact on February 25, 2009 at 5:32 pm
[POST UPDATED] For the latest update on the Bellingham raid, click HERE.

Last night President Obama addressed the joint chambers of Congress laying out his administration’s priorities for the next year. The entire speech focused on the economy, but emphasized energy, healthcare, and education as the top three areas of focus–all issues that I strongly support.

I was disappointed, however, that President Obama failed to mention immigration even once during his address.

I was even more disappointed that on a day when he calls for the U.S. to take responsibility for its future once more, for its people to join in rebuilding their country, the first worksite raid of the Obama administration took place in Bellingham, Washington.

In their usual militarized and heavy-handed fashion (including the helicopter), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided Yamato Engine Specialists arresting 28 undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America.

As it appears now, they are attempting to charge these individuals with identity fraud, which–unlike “unlawful presence” or “entry without inspection” –is a criminal offense. This is the same tactic ICE piloted in Postville, Iowa last summer, a tactic that’s legality is currently being reviewed by the U.S Supreme Court.

But the first worksite raid of the Obama administration is especially disappointing given that during the campaign last summer Obama said:

“When communities are terrorized by ICE immigration raids, when nursing mothers are torn from their babies, when children come home from school to find their parents missing, when people are detained without access to legal counsel, when all that is happening, the system just isn’t working, and we need to change it.”

At that moment back in July, he seemed to get it. Yet the raid that took place yesterday was no different, three mothers with young children were among those arrested.

And I can’t say that Obama doesn’t get it now. As I posted last week, when he was on the radio show El Piolín por la mañana, Obama clearly spoke of the need for immigration reform precisely in light of the current state of the economy.

I think he does get it. But as his address to the nation last night showed, it is not currently a priority of the Obama administration. This is problematic for two reasons:

  1. Without reform, raids like that the one that took place yesterday in Bellingham will continue to terrorize our communities, tearing mothers from their children, separating families, placing hardworking members of our communities in detention centers with inadequate standards, and even placing further strain on local economies.
  2. By not prioritizing humane immigration reform, immigration will continue to be a divisive issue used to derail critical initiatives of the administration like healthcare and education.

As we’ve seen in congressional debates over SCHIP and the Recovery Act, immigration has been an issue which almost causes their failure. What will happen in a debate over universal healthcare if we have not already rectified the status of undocumented immigratants? What about education when hardline anti-immigrant advocates say they don’t want money going to schools if it will fund ESL programs?

How will we move forward in what is best for our country without finding a way to include and recognize core members of our communities?

I wish Obama would answer that. Even President Bush left the Whitehouse saying one of his biggest regrets was that he did not push for immigration reform first, before social security reform. I don’t want the Obama administration to leave with such regrets. I want change.

But I can say that I am left hopeful by the continued and growing efforts of communities around the country to speak out on the issue of immigration. As we saw last week, over 150 communities nationwide held prayer vigils calling for Congress to act on humane immigration reform. And in April, another national grassroots effort will take place in the form of “Neighbor-to-Neighbor” in-district visits with Congresspeople.

May theirs be the winds of change that move us forward.

abUSed: The Postville Raid

In community impact, enforcement on February 23, 2009 at 8:35 pm
“…the desperate need for immigration reform needs a face, and that face might well be in Postville, Iowa.”

~One of the many articles written about Postville

On May 12, 2008, Postville, Iowa experienced one of the most heavily armed and militarized immigration raids in U.S. history. 389 undocumented meatpacking workers were arrested and chained while working at Agriprocessors, Inc by 900 armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
In less than 4 days, over 3/4 of those arrested were fast-tracked through the U.S. legal system where, as one of the certified interpreters brought in to translate these cases testified, “defendants whose words he translated…did not understand the criminal charges they were facing or the rights most of them had waived.” The defendants were allowed little time with their legal counsel–if any–and many did not understand why they were in criminal court.

Unlike previous raids were ICE apprehended undocumented immigrants to be deported, in Postville they were trying a new tactic: charging as many people as they could with criminal offenses. They then used these criminal charges–many of which carried a mandatory two-year sentencing–to persuade people to plead guilty to lesser immigration charges, spend 5 months in detention, and deportation.

While the legality of this ICE tactic is currently be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, the devastation the Postville raid has had on the community is still evident. Families have become dependent on churches and other social services for food and shelter. The economy is tanking. U.S. citizen children are left in the foster care system or exiled to a country they have never seen. Restaurants who served the Agriprocessors workers have been forced to shut down. The company itself cut the jobs of even more workers and filed bankruptcy.

As I heard many faith groups and individuals who went to Postville to offer humanitarian relief after the raids say, the Postville raid created a natural disaster zone, only it was manmade.

abUSED: The Postville Raid is a documentary by acclaimed director Luis Argueta capturing the stories and effects of the Postville Raid. Even this short, 8 minute trailer gives a face to current, unjust enforcement practices and the dire need for comprehensive immigration reform in our country.

I encourage everyone to watch it and use the full documentary once it comes out as a educational tool for your communities.

For more information on the continued devastation in Postville, see this Times article that I included in my February 2nd news update.

Last Week: In Our Community

In Uncategorized on February 23, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Immigration news and updates from February 16th- Monday February 23rd.

There was a lot of interesting coverage last week (not even including all of the great media coverage the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s prayer vigils received!), so I’ll highlight a few articles with annotations up top, and then just include a list of links after that.

TRAILER- AbUSed: The Postville Raid
While I’m going to create a separate post on this later today, I figured I’d go ahead and link to the trailer for a new documentary coming out about the immigration raid at Agroprocessors, Inc. in Postville, IA last year. This trailer is extremely powerful (I look forward to seeing the documentary in full) and demonstrates the continued devastation facing the community of Postville emotionally, economically, and spiritually.

NYT Editorial: Enforcement Gone Bad

This NY Times editorial outlines the failures of the federal government’s enforcement-only immigration strategy.

NY Times: In Lonliness, Immigrants Tend the Flock
This heartfelt article discusses the work of (legal) temporary migrant workers who come to the US to work as sheepherders in the U.S.-American West. The article notes how, in particular, the “harsh, solitary lives of foreign sheepherders in the American West have remained virtually unchanged for more than a century. And government oversight of their circumstances remains piecemeal.”

Immigrant Removed During Church Service Near Conroe, Jailed
This article tells the story of Jose Juan Hernandez who was arrested for re-entering the country after deportation while sitting in a church santurary during a church service near Conroe, TX. Hernandez had no prior record of violence. The arrest inside the church caused great controversy in the community, many of whom felt ICE’s tactics violated sacred worship.

THE HILL: Immigration Reform Advocates Push Forward in Tough Economy
This article discusses the continued push for comprehensive immigration reform in the coming year. The article provides a nice overview of the political climate on the Hill around immigration given the current state of the economy, unemployment, etc.

Conflicting Accounts of an ICE Raid in MD: Officers Portray Detention of 24 Latinos Differently in Internal Probe and in Court
This Washington Post article discusses the controversial arrests of 24 Latino men at a 7/11 in MD over two years ago. The arrests were caught on security camera footage and the footage was then obtained by the Washington Post. The footage demonstrates how ICE agents tended towards random sweeps for undocumented immigrants–which perpetuated racial profiling–rather than focusing on their stated goal of apprehending fugitive criminals.

100,000-plus Citizen Children Find Parents Deported: Serrano Releases DHS Study Showing Families Being Torn Apart
Congressman José Serrano released a study last week which he commissioned from the Department of Homeland Security showing that DHS has deported more than 100,000 parents of U.S. citizen children. DHS also admitted that this number could be higher if their records were more accurate. In response, Congressman Serrano has re-introduced the Child Citizen Protection Act which would take allow the courts to take family unity into account when considering the cases of parents with U.S. citizen children. For further coverage, see this Associated Press article.

Helping Workers in Hard Times
This NY Times editorial does a great job at linking protection of labor rights to undocumented immigration. Pointing out that undocumented immigrants most often fill the “most dangerous, dirty, and low-paying jobs,” the editorial argues that the best strategy to combat undocumented migration and protect U.S. workers is to “fight back against abuses that make wages and job conditions worse for everyone.”

Now for the list:

LA Times: Illegal Immigration Case Stemming from Van Nuys Work Site Raid Is Dismissed: ICE agents violated regulations in 2008 raid, judge says in ruling that could affect dozens of other cases

Washington Post: ICE Halts Detentions at Piedmont Facility After Death

Chicago Tribune: Law Allows Religious Workers More Time With Jailed Immigrants

NPR: Napolitano Outlines Immigration Priorities

Politico: Rahm’s Immigration Turnabout

NY Times: U.S. Military Will Offer Path to Citizenship

Associated Press: Supreme Court Hears Immigrant’s ID Theft Case

Texas Observer- Access Denied: Countless women are sexually assaulted as they attempt to immigrate into the United States. What happens to their reproductive rights when they wind up in U.S. custody?

Brownsville Herald: America’s Immigration Gulags Overflowing With Mentally Ill Prisoners

Guardian- America’s ‘Toughest Sheriff’ Faces Lawsuit Over Crime Crackdown: Call for Investigation into Alleged Anti-Hispanic Sweeps

Omaha World-Herald: Mom Worries as Woman Faces Deportation

NY Times: Facing Graduation, Not Deportation

Associated Press: In Enforcement Era, Communities Prepare for Raids

Prayer, Renewal, Action

In community impact on February 20, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Throughout this week, over 150 communities nationwide have joined together to pray for humane immigration reform in the 111th Congress.

In a campaign sponsored by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition (of which we–FCNL–are members), participants in these vigils are calling for:

1. Protection for immigrants and their families
2. Empowerment of the faith community to advocate on behalf of immigrants
3. Moral courage for Congress to take the necessary leadership to see that humane comprehensive immigration reform is passed

prayer-vigils-1

As my colleague with the United Methodist Church, Bill Mefford, said: “This tremendous response by people of faith is due to seeing the devastation of raids on immigrant families and local communities and the need for Congress to have the moral courage to enact just and humane comprehensive immigration reform.”

Bishop Carcaño, who was in town last week for the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s press conference launching the Interfaith Platform on Humane Immigration Reform, followed by saying that “prayer is a powerful, fundamental aspect of our faith. When nothing else has changed hearts and changed minds in the past, prayer has been that changing factor. I believe in the power of prayer.”

And seeing the impact and coverage these vigils have brought to the issue of comprehensive immigration reform in the last week, I’d be inclined to believe her. Not even 3/4 of the vigils have taken place, but here is a hint at what sort of impact they’re having:

TV Coverage
Good Morning Arizona Phoenix, AZ [Updated 2/23/2009]
ABC15 News at 5 am Phoenix, AZ [Updated 2/23/2009]
12 News at 10 pm Phoenix, AZ [Updated 2/23/2009]
ABC 15 News at 10 pm Phoenix, AZ [Updated 2/23/2009]
3 TV News at 9 Sunday Phoenix, AZ [Updated 2/23/2009]

News 10 NBC Today Rochester, NY
News 10 NBC Today at Eleven Rochester, NY
Fox 4 at 9 pm Kansas City, MO
NBC 17 News at 6 Raleigh- Durnam, NC
ABC 11 Eyewitness News at 5 Raleigh-Durnam, NC
Fox 4 at 12 Noon Kansas City, MO
WRAL TV News at Noon Raleigh-Durnam, NC
ABC 11 Eyewitness News at Noon Raleigh-Durnam, NC
News 8 Update Dallas, TX
Channel 2 Action News Atlanta, GA
CBS Atlanta News at 11 Atlanta, GA

News Coverage
Newsday: Prayer Vigil Focuses on Immigration Reform [Updated 2/23/2009]

Ashville Citizen Times: Immigration Vigil Focuses on Reform
[Updated 2/23/2009]

Jackson Clarion Ledger: Immigration Prayer Vigil Set for Carthage
[Updated 2/23/2009]

Waterloo Courier- A Prayer from Postville: Vigil Urges Reform of Immigration Laws
[Updated 2/23/2009]

Iowa Independent: Calls for Immigration Reform Continue in Postville [Updated 2/23/2009]

Decorah Journal: Renewed Hope [Updated 2/23/2009]

Bradenton Herald: Church to Hold Vigil for Migrants [Updated 2/23/2009]

Waco Tribune: Local News Briefs [Updated 2/23/2009]

El Diario La Prensa: Oran por reforma migratoria [Updated 2/23/2009]

Dallas Morning News: From Dallas church, people pray for ‘humane and just’ immigration reform

Idaho Press Tribune: Vigil will focus on immigration

Aurora Sentinel: Faith calls together crowd for immigration vigil

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Interfaith church vigil calls for immigration reform

WHEC News: Immigration reform prayer service

ABC 11 News: Immigration supporters pray for change

North Carolina News Network: Prayer For An End To Immigration Raids

Raleigh News & Observer: Prayer vigil focuses on immigration

WRAL News: Raleigh joins national vigil for immigration reform

Omaha World Herald: Bishops take on immigrant policies

Virginian Pilot: Religious group to host immigration talk in Va. Beach

Alter Net: Religious Leaders Help Shape Immigration Debate

Christian Post: Faith Leaders Re-Ignite Immigration Debate

The Hill: Immigration reform advocates push forward in tough economy

Decorah Journal: Postville prayer vigil Thursday

MSNBC: Immigration reform prayer service

Jersey Journal: Immigration vigil tonight

Catholic News Agency: Nebraska bishops use input from laity to tackle immigration reform

Columbus Telegram: Bishops urge care with immigrants

Cary News: Cary immigration reform group holds training session

Great Falls Tribune: Immigration bill targets illegal workers

San Diego Union Tribune: Bilingual workshop set to help with immigration

Annapolis Capital: Immigrants march to protest Va. county’s policies


The Obamas Talk Immigration

In Uncategorized on February 20, 2009 at 6:05 pm

Over the past few days, both of the Obamas–Barack and Michelle–have had something to say about immigration.

On Tuesday, President Obama interviewed with El Piolín, or Eddie Sotelo, the popular radio host of El Piolín por la mañana (which is THE top ranking radio show in Los Angeles–regardless of language–and its 50 syndicated markets).

Prior to that, Michelle responded to questions about immigration when she participated in a roundtable at the Mary’s Center Teen Program.

President Obama’s telephone appearance made a number of important statements (literal and political) about immigration and, in general, to the Spanish-speaking community:

  1. Obama is keeping his promise to the Latino and Spanish-speaking community by reaching out and making sure that the community stays involved and has access to the Whitehouse
  2. Obama’s response to El Piolín’s questions demonstrated his understanding that–as studies have shown–Latinos are being disproportionately affected in the current economic crisis.
  3. Obama spoke directly about the need for immigration reform when he said:

Well, as I’ve said every time I’ve been on the show, Piolín, we’re going to make sure that we begin the process of dealing with the immigration system that’s broken. We’re going to start by really trying to work on how to improve the current system so that people who want to be naturalized, who want to become citizens, like you did, that they are able to do it; that it’s cheaper, that it’s faster, that they have an easier time in terms of sponsoring family members.

And then we’ve got to have comprehensive immigration reform. Now, you know, we need to get started working on it now. It’s going to take some time to move that forward, but I’m very committed to making it happen. And we’re going to be convening leadership on this issue so that we can start getting that legislation drawn up over the next several months.”

Then, when Michelle visited the Mary’s Center Teen Program last week, one of her host asked her what she thought her husband and the new administration could do about the issue of family separation, that is, families being split up because one or both of the parents are deported.

She responded: “Well I think that’s something that the President has talked a lot about, in terms of immigration reform, which has to be tackled at some point, is keeping families together. So that definitely has to be a part of the conversation when we talk about any kind of immigration reform. And I think some of it is creating awareness through your own stories about, you know, the challenges that you’re facing, and, you know, what happens when you’ve got a parent who’s in one place and a parent in another, and kids who are here learning and contributing, and how important it is to make sure we keep families together. ”

Michelle also praised the passage and signing of SCHIP, a program which provides health insurance to children and last month was extended to cover legal immigrant children and pregnant women.

I think these interviews indicate that the Obamas know the effects our broken immigration system is having on our communities. And they believe in a community response to these effects rather than defering to hate and fear.

But, as Michelle said, we also have to do our part by creating awareness of what is going on and building the political space for President Obama to bring immigration reform to the forefront of U.S. politics.