Archive | Press Coverage
By Grant Martin
HILTON HEAD ISLAND — The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is among several South Carolina immigrant-rights groups calling for the suspension of a federal program designed to curb illegal immigration.
In a letter this week, the coalition asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to stop enforcing a program called Secure Communities, which is in place in more than 3,000 jurisdictions nationwide, including Horry and Georgetown counties.
The program, operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, runs fingerprints of all people arrested by local officials through a federal database to determine their immigration status. If they are found to be living in the country illegally, they are subject to deportation, regardless of the severity of the crimes for which they were initially arrested.
The group also asked Napolitano to terminate four “287(g)” agreements in South Carolina delegating immigration-agent authority to state and local police.
“Under these racial profiling laws, citizens and non-citizens alike in South Carolina have reason to fear that they will be harassed and targeted because of how they look or speak, subjected to pre-textual arrest and prolonged detention, and separated from their families,” wrote Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “We urge the federal government to act to prevent a civil rights crisis in our state.”
One S.C. sheriff disagrees.
“It’s a great program and has been a huge benefit for public safety and law enforcement,” said Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner. “It gives us a way to get proper identification of foreign-born illegals.”
He said the county has used Secure Communities for about two years, adding he’s comfortable with the authority the program gives his deputies.
“If you boil it down, it’s all homeland security, what we do,” he said. “This is something we needed years ago.”
In addition to the ACLU, the letter was also submitted by the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center, Carolina Lutheran Outreach Centers, the Council of Mexicans in the Carolinas, the Hispanic Leadership Council, the League of Women Voters of South Carolina, the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition, S.C Immigration Coalition, and the SC Progressive Network.
Juana Reyes is a food vendor and mother of two who was arrested, and detained in immigration jail for two weeks (while her children were taken away and placed in foster care) – all because she was selling tamales in front of a Sacramento Walmart.
In fact, she had been a food vendor for years, with no incidents. The trouble only came when a new security guard tried to remove her from the premises, and local police filed trespassing and “interfering with business” charges at her. Just like that, Juana was locked away, even though the state criminal charges were minor and eventually dropped by the local prosecutor.
Juana’s story is just one of many stories that point to the civil rights and civil liberties problems created by the Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities program, also known as S-Comm. Last week, ACLU members joined other community members in Sacramento to support Juana and to urge the passage of California’s TRUST Act (AB 1081).
The TRUST Act, authored by California Assembly member Tom Ammiano, aims to counter the damage inflicted by S-Comm on the state of California. Under S-Comm, anytime an individual is arrested and booked into a local jail for any reason, his or her fingerprints are electronically run through DHS’s immigration database. Based on the results, DHS issues immigration detainer requests to local jails, which result in prolonged detention of Californians held in county jails. This prolonged detention occurs at the point of arrest, before any criminal hearing.
Although DHS claims that S-Comm targets dangerous and violent criminals, in fact the majority of people detained and deported through the program have either no criminal records or have been charged with or convicted of misdemeanors only, including traffic infractions.
S-Comm is fully operational in every California county. DHS is forcibly deploying S-Comm nationwide by 2013, over the vociferous objections of state or municipal leaders in California, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and the District of Columbia. These state and local leaders have rejected S-Comm because the program ensnares U.S. citizens, people with no criminal records and hard-working parents.
S-Comm has had an especially damaging impact on California. On the whole, S-Comm has resulted in the deportations of over 75,000 Californians – more than any other state. It has torn families apart, made entire communities afraid of reporting crime to the police and threatened public safety.
Other jurisdictions across the country have already or are currently attempting to pass measures to limit S-Comm’s harms to civil liberties and public safety. California’s TRUST Act does this by setting a clear, minimum standard for local governments to enforce immigration detainer requests from ICE. Under the TRUST Act, local jails will not undertake this burden unless the individual has a serious or violent felony conviction. That way, California local police and sheriffs will be able to focus on public safety without worrying about the unintended consequences for immigrant community members who pose no threat to public safety.
Earlier this month, the California Senate voted 21 to 13 to approve the Act. It already passed the California Assembly by a 47-26 vote and will go back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote following the summer recess before heading to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.
Many news reports are labeling the TRUST Act as the “anti-Arizona” immigration bill because it will lessen the chance of racial profiling of Latinos and other minorities, while Arizona’s SB 1070 does the opposite. On June 25, the U.S. Supreme Court failed to strike down the “show me your papers” provision of the Arizona law.
The TRUST Act, if it becomes law in California, could create a national model for states that want to reaffirm that state and localities – not DHS – know best how to protect their communities and to solve local crime. In doing this, states can help restore community trust in law enforcement, bolster the integrity of local police and make all our communities safer.
Joe Arpaio Racial-Profiling Trial Draws Protestors’ Calls for Justice on Opening Day (Phoenix New Times)
By Jason Lewis
Dozens of protestors converged on the Sandra Day O’Connor federal courthouse today to monitor the opening proceedings of the ACLU’s racial-profiling lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office.
Melendres v. Arpaio, filed about four years ago, is a class-action lawsuit that includes plaintiffs alleging civil-rights violations committed by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
“We do want to see that this justice system finds [Arpaio] guilty of abusing his powers as sheriff of Maricopa County,” Promise Arizona executive director Petra Falcon says.
Falcon doesn’t believe that Arpaio is untouchable.
She cited the disbarment of former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and the recall of former state Senate President Russell Pearce as proof that public officials who abuse their power can be removed one way or another.
“That’s why we’re here,” Falcon says. “I do think that justice will be served.”
Members of the human-rights group Puente Arizona brought two undocumented members of their group out to the forefront of their demonstration. They proudly revealed their names for all media in attendance.
“I’ve been living in fear for a couple of years now with Arpaio’s raids,” Puente member Natally Cruz says. “My family has suffered from it. I think it’s enough. You’re not going to scare us anymore. We’re tired of it, and we’re undocumented and unafraid.”
Less than a handful of pro-Arpaio protestors — three from what we saw — came out to support their beloved sheriff for a short time.
One pro-Arpaio protestor — hoisting a stopthebias.org picket sign — declined to speak with New Times.
There was a brief exchange of words between a couple of members of Puente and two of the three Arpaio protestors who showed up, but it quickly died down as the two Arpaio apologists left the area.
Puente Arizona and Promise for Arizona will be back in full-force on Tuesday, when Arpaio is set to take the witness stand.
Los Angeles, CA – Immigrant rights organizations staged a press conference here July 12, to demand that Sheriff Lee Baca stop cooperating with the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) ‘Secure Communities’ program. The Secure Communities program has resulted in the repression of thousands of immigrants. The press conference was organized by the National Day Labors Organizing Network. Participants included representatives from CARCEN Day Labor Center, ACLU, Pomona Day Labor Center, Southern California Immigration Coalition (SCIC) and CHIRLA.
Pablo Alvarado, with National Day Labors Organizing Network, said the L.A. County jail under Sheriff Baca deports more people per year than Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Alvarado also said that when President Obama was looking to push Secure Communities, he wanted Sheriff Baca’s support, because Los Angeles is trend-setting city.
Carlos Montes spoke on behalf of the Southern California Immigration Coalition, demanding that Sheriff Baca stop collaborating with ICE and that Baca support the Trust Act legislation. The Trust Act, which already passed in the California Senate, allows local police to not honor ICE detainer requests. This would prevent the deportation of thousands of mostly Mexican immigrants.
Montes also stated that SCIC has been organizing against the police department’s car checkpoints and car impounds, and in support of street vendors. “The police/ICE collaboration causes the detention and deportation of immigrants for minor infractions like traffic violations or street vending, not serious crimes. Many of these police actions are in poor Mexican/Chicano and Black communities – which led to more racial profiling. This leads to distrust of local police for fear of detention and deportation and separation from families,” says Montes.