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Archive for the ‘enforcement’ Category

Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention as Bad as Gitmo

In enforcement on March 26, 2009 at 3:05 pm

Yesterday, Amnesty International released its new report “Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA.”

This report documents the horrific conditions of the United States’ immigrant detention centers. It reports that immigrants frequently do not have access to legal council, their cases are denied judicial review, they live in substandard conditions being denied basic hygiene, cleanliness, and medical attention, and on average are held in detention for at least 10 months.

The most horrific part, as Keith Olberman of MSNBC news says, is that no one at DHS or ICE denies any of it.

Check out Keith’s coverage on Amnesty’s new report (coverage begins 1 min 23 sec into the clip):

For more information, go to “Immigration Impact: Guilty Until Proven Innocent in Immigration Detention.”

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Obama May Send National Guard to the Border

In enforcement, legislation on March 17, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Last week, President Obama began contemplating sending National Guard troops to the border to help stem drug-related border violence.

In 2008, the death toll along the US-Mexican border due to drug violence was 5,800. This year, 1000 people have already been killed.

Drug-related violence has escalated in recent years due to a rise of drug cartels and a militarized crackdown by the Mexican government. Some of this violence has “spilled over” onto U.S. soil, a fact which is not entirely surprising given that 90% of the cocaine consumed in the United States at some point passes through Mexico and 150,000 people are directly involved in the narcotics trade in order to meet US market demand.

However, from FCNL’s perspective, a further militarization of the border is not the answer to the growing problem of drug-related violence.

There are already over ten thousand Border Patrol agents working along the southern border and–after sending an additional 3,200 soldiers to the border last week–Mexico currently has over 45,000 Mexican soldiers working against the drug cartels.

The increase in military and police troops along the border has so far done little to nothing to stem the violence. In fact, the most recent State Department Human Rights Report cites that there has been an increase in the number of arbitrary civilian killings by the armed forces. A fact which, as the Huffington Post writes, “only adds to the horrors committed by the drug cartels.”

While Obama has specifically stated that he is “not interested in militarizing the border,” sending the National Guard to the border would be exactly that.

We believe that a civilian, not military, response would be the best way to deal with the current violence. And one positive thing is that it seems that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does too.

She’s heading to Mexico at the end of March to address the issue of drug violence and is carrying with her Leoluca Orlando’s model of empowering civil society to address cartels. As Orlando described it to Hillary when he brought down the mafia, his strategy is like a two-wheel Sicilian cart. One wheel is effective state, police, and judiciary system. The second wheel is civil society.

“If only one wheel rolls, the cart goes around in circles. For the cart to move forward both wheels need to spin at the same pace.”

Militarization has been tried before. More troops won’t bring more peace. We hope Obama will look to alternative approaches like the one that Secretary Clinton is suggesting.

See The Huffington Post’s article “Hillary Clinton and the Drug Cartel Violence in Mexico.”

Keep the border patrol ON THE BORDER

In community impact, enforcement on March 16, 2009 at 5:12 pm

The Port Townsend Peace Movement (which includes many dedicated Quakers and FCNL supporters) has made a documentary about the activities of the Border Patrol on the Olympic Peninsula. The full documentary is a powerful representation about how immigration enforcement can tear apart and instill fear in our communities.

Check out the trailer:

For more information, see www.bpfree.org

In particular, if you live on the Olympic Peninsula and have had a direct personal experience with the Border Patrol, Border Patrol Free Zone is collecting information and facts on all Border Patrol activities to document abuse and other civil liberties violations. Please document your story here.

E-Verify Tabled in Omnibus Debate

In enforcement, legislation on March 11, 2009 at 7:44 pm

Last night, the Senate voted to table Senator Sessions amendment (attached to the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, S.Amdt. 604 to H.R. 1105) to extend the E-Verify program for six years with a vote of 50::47.

The E-Verify program, which I talked about extensively during debate of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (S. 1 and H.R. 1), is extremely problematic due to database errors, exorbitant costs, backlogs, and worker intimidation.

I was a bit disconcerted that the amendment was only tabled by a difference of 3 votes–seven democrats joined all the republicans in voting against the tabling motion–especially considering that if it had not been tabled, it likely could have derailed the entire Omnibus bill. I think this demonstrates that we still have a lot of work to do, as this is obviously not an issue divided strictly along party lines.

Despite the defeat of the Sessions amendment, the Omnibus still extends the E-Verify program until the end of FY2009.

Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Holds Hearing on Border: “Secure Border Initiative–Its Impact and Evolution”

In enforcement, legislation on March 11, 2009 at 7:43 pm

“$3.6 billion dollars. ”

That’s how Chairman David Price (NC) began his opening remarks at the hearing I attended to yesterday on the Secure Border Initiative.

“That’s what Congress provided in the past three years to the Border Security Fencing, Infrastructure, and Technology (BSFIT) account, targeted at securing around 6,000 miles of land border as part of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI)….Today we will take stock of this program. How is it progressing? Is it working? Are we spending enough or too much?”

The subcommittee members and those testifying seemed to measure the notion of progress with very different strides.

Some members, like Ranking Member Rogers, believe there are “unacceptable” delays in development of Border Patrol along both the northern and southern borders. Others–quite shockingly to me–believed we should look to Israel’s development of the Jericho Wall for technology and manning tips.

On the other side of the spectrum, members like Congressman Rotham (NJ) seemed dismayed that the Chief of U.S. Border Patrol could not report whether the border wall actually stemmed or deterred the flow of undocumented migration. The witnesses also could not tell Chairman Price what percentage or to what extent the increase in “effective control” over the last few years has related directly to the building of the border wall and physical barriers vs. increased number of agents, the economy and a downturn in immigration to the United States, etc.

Overall, I felt the hearing ended without any sort of conclusion as to the effectiveness or progress of the Secure Border Initiative. In many ways, I felt the witnesses were trying to defend the use of their increased funding by pointing out that effective enforcement has dramatically risen during this time. However, they were also repeatedly reiterating that the wall itself was not enough, so as to stay off the record as saying the wall was the solution.

The one ray of light in the hearing was when Congresswoman Roybal-Allard (who recently introduced the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act, H.R. 1215) asked a question about what is being done to ensure that children and others are being well treated at the Border Patrol stations. While she did not press the witnesses much on the multiple reports of abuse and human rights violations, it at least placed the issues on Congressional record.

What Makes Communities Safe? A Review of Local Police Enforcement of Immigration Laws Through the 287(g) Program

In enforcement, legislation on March 5, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Yesterday, the House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing (a recorded video of the hearing is now available) entitled ““Examining 287(g): The Role of State and Local Law Enforcement in Immigration Law.”

The highlight of the hearing was the release of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report “Immigration Enforcement: Controls over Program Authorizing State and Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws Should be Strengthened” which emphasizes the lack of oversight Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has over its locally deputized officers in the 287(g) program.

The 287(g) program was created by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRAIRA, pronouced ir-ah-ir-ah), forming agreements which would allow local police officers to enforce federal immigration laws. But while the program was formed in 1996, no local law enforcement agency had applied for the program until after September 11th. The first program was then finalized in 2002 and today there are 67 287(g) agreement programs operating in 23 states.

The intent of the program was to provide local officers with the power to go after high-level criminals. Given that immigration law is extremely complex–many people consider it a legal equivalent to tax law(!)–delegation of authority was statutorily limited to a select number of officials who underwent a five-week training in immigration law and were subject to ICE’s supervision.

However, the GAO report points out that:

  1. The program lacks key internal controls
  2. The program objectives have not been laid out or documented in program-related materials
  3. Oversight on how (and when) to use immigration authority has been inconsistent
  4. The structure of ICE’s supervision of 287(g) programs has not been developed or defined
  5. Consistent data collection, documentation, and reporting requirements have not been defined
  6. Performance meters used to evaluate program progress are virtually non-existent

And most importantly, over half of the 29 state and local law enforcement agencies reviewed and interviewed by GAO for this report had documented complaints and concerns about 287(g) authority being used to apprehend, detain, and deport immigrants who had committed minor violations like speeding or running traffic lights, and/or to apprehend and detain in a manner consistent with racial profiling.

Among the other witnesses at the hearing were Sheriff Chuck Jenkins from Frederick County, MD and Police Chief J. Thomas Manger of Montgomery County, MD.

Sheriff Jenkins testified that they had no problems with the 287(g) program, arguing that it is “a strong and effective tool in safeguarding our national security at our borders.” He also said that he believes “existing fear or distrust of law enforcement is generally cultural based, as most countries where immigrants originate from do have corrupt governments, corrupt and abusive law enforcement, which is all that they have been exposed to in their lives.”

Meanwhile, Police Chief Manger–who is also a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Major Cities Chiefs Association(MCCA)–believes that the 287(g) program undermines trust, confidence, and cooperation between police and immigrant communities. He testified that through his experience, he concurs with what the MCCA has written:

“…without assurances that contact with police would not result in purely civil immigration enforcement action, the hard won trust, communication and cooperation from the immigrant community would disappear. Such a divide between the local police and immigrant groups would result in increased crime against immigrants and the broader community, create a class of silent victims and eliminate the potential for assistance from immigrants in solving crimes or preventing future terroristic attacks.”

Police Chief Manger also noted Latinos are disproportionately targets of crime and in urban areas with large Latino or immigrant populations, programs like 287(g) would be destructive to community safety.

A similar report put out by Justice Strategies, a nonprofit research group, said thatcomprehensive immigration reform, which Congress has failed to pass, should be the goal of the Obama administration… The 287(g) program ‘amounts to a local and state bailout of the failed federal immigration enforcement business.'”

Links to media coverage of the GAO report and yesterday’s hearing:

NY Times- Report Questions Immigration Program

Wall Street Journal- Immigrant Busts Faulted

Associated Press- House Panel Scrutinizes Immigration Program

Gannett Washington Bureau- Federal Immigration Officials Chided for Lax Control Over Local Police

Last Week: In Our Community

In community impact, enforcement on March 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Immigration news and updates from Monday February 23- Monday March 2.

Given that I’ve posted a number of updates on the Bellingham raid (to access these updates click here, here, here, or here), I’ll just include a list of news articles without annotations.

Bellingham Raid
Immigration Officials Raid Bellingham Plant
28 Illegal Immigrants Arrested in Bellingham Raid
Obama Administration Conducts First Immigration Raid in Bellingham
Raid on Illegals Dismays Obama Backers

Officials, Advocates Question Immigration Raid
Bellingham Immigration Raid Raises Protests
Napolitano Orders Review of WA Raid

Concerns Arise Over Fast-Track Deportation Program
This article focuses on the federal government’s increasing practice of deporting immigrants without a hearing. Attorneys, advocates, and judges all have concerns about this practice because many immigrants are deported without knowing their rights or the future consequences of their deportation.

Obama Can’t Afford to Ignore Immigration
This International Herald Tribune article argues that even in the midst of recession, Obama can’t afford to set back immigration reform. The author argues that to come out of the recession, the U.S. needs to boost service, construction, and agricultural industries.

Haitians Look for Shift in Immigration Policy
Haitian immigrants are looking to the Obama administration for a reversal of the Bush administration’s resumed deportations to Haiti. After deadly mudslides and hurricanes hit Haiti last year, the Haitian government requested that the U.S. offer “temporary protected status” to Haitians living in the U.S. The Bush administration halted deportations while they reviewed the request, which they later denied. Many Haitians now fear being torn apart from their U.S. families. Protests against U.S. policy towards Haitians also took place last week.

Liberians in Limbo
Since they were granted temporary protected status (TPS) in 1991 after fleeing civil war, Liberian refugees have been making a life, and a community, in the United States. Now, eighteen years later, thousands of Liberian refugees are being forced to voluntarily leave the U.S. or face mass deportation on March 31. This article discusses the history and politics of the “TPS” category, which is in desparate need of reform.

U.S Immigration Policies Brings Global Shame on Us
This article discusses the global media attention–and shame–garnered by Sherriff Joe Arpaio’s tactics in handling immigration. Next to news articles abroad on President Obama’s speech before Congress were articles talking about the “inhumane,” “discriminatory,” and “humiliating” treatment of immigrant detainees in the United States.

ICE Program Shifts Immigration Costs, Abuses
“We can make a person disappear,” an ICE official said. This article discusses the problematic programs of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which has extraordinary powers under civil immigration law.

Immigration Not Local Police Duty
This editorial discusses how the 287(g) program–a program which gives grant funds to local law enforcement officers to enforce immigration laws–does little to reduce crime, the program’s orginial selling point.

Other news articles:
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee- ADC Requests DHS Civil Liberties Investigation of Operation Frontline

Atlanta Journal Constitution- Immigration Rally Focuses on Families

Immigration Impact- Obama Assures Mexican President He’s Committed to Immigration Reform

Associated Press- Calderon: US Should Fix Economy, Then Immigration

The Washington Post Magizine- A College Student Fights Deportation

Seattle PI- Washington Activists Fights Immigrant Detention Center

AP Texas News- Deported Infant Case Back in Court

San Francisco Chronicle- Court Takes Case on Rights of Immigrant Defendents

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

*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.