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Immigration-rights groups condemn federal program (MyrtleBeach)

Aug 1st, 2012No Comments

Immigration-rights groups condemn federal program | Effort in place in Horry, Georgetown counties

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.

TRUST Act: California Could Set National Model for Correcting the Damage Done by S-Comm (ACLU)

Jul 25th, 2012No Comments

TRUST Act: California Could Set National Model for Correcting the Damage Done by S-Comm

By Danielle Riendeau

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.

Bill Would Restrict ‘Secure Communities’ Enforcement (KQED News)

Jul 25th, 2012No Comments
 
By Amy Isackson
 
All eyes in the immigration debate are trained on California, where the state Legislature is poised to pass a bill that restricts how local and state law enforcement authorities cooperate with federal immigration agents. If approved, the Trust Act would make California the first state in the country to enact a law that limits police to holding only serious and violent criminals for review by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
 
San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano wrote the Trust Act to rein in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement program called Secure Communities. Under the program, ICE agents review the fingerprints of everyone that local police arrest. ICE then asks local authorities to place a 48-hour hold on the people federal agents find to be in violation of immigration laws so ICE can pick them up and, frequently, deport them.
 
Federal officials have said the Secure Communities program is a way to rid the country of what they call the “worst of the worst”: undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes.
 
But Ammiano says ICE agents have strayed far afield. “Basically, they were fingerprinting without due process, gathering people up and then deporting them. If you had a traffic violation, you were detained and deported. “
 
Since its inception in 2008, Secure Communities has led to the deportation of 198,000 people, only a quarter of whom are considered serious offenders. In 2011, the governors of New York, Massachusetts and Illinois were so concerned by the number of non-criminals and low-level offenders netted by the Secure Communities program, they told ICE that they would no longer participate. San Francisco’s Ammiano also wanted to get California out of the program and wrote the first version of the Trust Act to allow localities to opt out. However, ICE squashed the backlash by declaring that the Secure Communities program was mandatory.
 
Enter the Trust Act version 2.0. This version would shift the Secure Communities program’s focus back to the worst of the worst. Under the bill, instead of holding everyone arrested, local authorities would honor ICE’s requests only for those convicted of serious or violent felonies.
 
Not everyone agrees with this approach.
 
California State Senator Joel Anderson (R-San Diego)  is  vice chair of the Senate Pubic Safety Committee. He thinks that undocumented immigrants who commit any crime should be deported.
 
“My district is riddled with border crimes,” he says. “People come across the border all of the time to commit crimes. So our sensitivities are much greater, so when an assemblyman runs a bill that says its OK, we’re going to turn a blind eye to victimizing Californians, that just doesn’t pass mustard [sic].”
 
In fact, research shows that immigrants are not associated with higher rates of criminality. Crime rates have dropped dramatically in California and San Diego in recent years.
 
The Trust Act hinges on the belief that ICE’s immigration hold requests are not compulsory and that local law enforcement can choose to honor them or not.
 
Curtis Hill, the California Sheriff’s Association legislative analyst, says his understanding is that the holds are mandatory. He contends that the Trust Act would make local law enforcement choose between enforcing state law or federal law.
 
“Sheriffs, with this bill, are going to be in the middle of it. And they’re not only opening themselves but their taxpayers in their communities to litigation.”
 
However, in documents obtained by law schools and immigrants rights groups through the Freedom of Information Act, ICE officials have said that the holds are optional.
 
Angela Chan, who’s a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus, says a federal court in Indiana also held that honoring requests for detainment is optional. And then, she says, there’s the Tenth Amendment to the constitution, which” basically says the federal government can’t commandeer the localities and states to do their job for them,” says Chan.
 
ICE will not comment on California’s pending Trust Act. A spokeswoman sent a statement saying the federal government alone determines who is a priority for deportation. The federal agency recently tweaked Secure Communities to exclude people who commit minor traffic violations.
 
At least 15 municipalities and a handful of states are considering reigning in Secure Communities like the Trust Act would. Connecticut, Washington D.C., Santa Clara and Cook County, Illinois already have.
 
In addition to concern about the Secure Communities program’s mission stray, many lawmakers also worry about the program’s cost. For example, a recent study by the American Civil Liberties Union tabulates that on any given day, 2000 inmates in Los Angeles jails are there because of ICE immigration holds. According to the documents obtained recently via FOIA, ICE does not reimburse states and cities for Secure Communities.
 
Sarahi Uribe, with the National Day Labor Organizing Network, says California passing the Trust Act would be a game changer.
 
“It is a big state, and it has the highest number of deportations in the program. So, if California is willing to pass something, then it makes it easier for all of these other places across the country to do the same.”
 
Governor Jerry Brown’s office won’t say if he will sign the bill, but both proponents and opponents think he will. Another thing both sides agree on is that federal immigration reform would be a better solution.

Joe Arpaio Racial-Profiling Trial Draws Protestors’ Calls for Justice on Opening Day (Phoenix New Times)

Jul 23rd, 2012No Comments

Joe Arpaio Racial-Profiling Trial Draws Protestors’ Calls for Justice on Opening Day

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.

Sheriff Baca told to break ties with ‘Secure Communities’ (Fight Back!)

Jul 23rd, 2012No Comments

Sheriff Baca told to break ties with ‘Secure Communities’

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.

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