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FACT: More people have been deported under President Obama than under any other president. 

19684_491113740936910_1397952706_nimage by Victoria Bouloubasis

Despite the hype about comprehensive immigration reform, we can smell the horse manure from miles away. We continue to get calls from people in our community who are getting deported. Mothers like Lorena and Maria Juana, fathers like Isaias, grandfathers like Miguel, and dreamers like Flavio, are the gangbangers President Obama has tried to deport.

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This was taken at McLeansville Elementary School. It is a note Maria Juana Perez dropped off at the front desk explaining why her daughters, 9 year-old Nayely and 7 year-old Blanca, missed school the previous day. They were at Senator Hagan’s office asking her to help stop their mother’s deportation. Maria Juana was set to be deported 6 days from the day this note was written. 

You see, as undocumented youth who belong to undocumented families, we cannot afford to wait around for comprehensive immigration reform to happen. We at the North Carolina Dream Team have decided to take matters into our own hands. We are securing our own families and in doing so, we plan to secure our own community.

382285_491114054270212_490066599_nimage by V. Bouloubasis

On Sunday, February 17th, NCDT members and our families gathered for an afternoon of information and preparation. We shared with our parents and aunts and uncles and cousins the work we have been doing in the past year. Our families had heard about our work but there’s nothing like bringing them all together. Everyone left with an emergency packet ready to go in case of an arrest by the police or ICE. You see, it is not only us – undocumented youth – who want to no longer remain in the shadows. Our entire families want to no longer remain in the shadows. And it’s our responsibility as undocumented youth to inform and prepare our families for whatever may come. We are our own voice. We are our own power!

14771_491113110936973_348925104_nimage by Victoria B.

If you are interested in having a Secure Your Own Community training, get in touch with Cinthia Marroquin. That’s her in the picture above. You can email her at cinthia@thencdreamteam.org.

image by S. Pavey

Since June 2010, the Department of Justice announced its investigation on “allegations of discriminatory policing and unconstitutional searches and seizures.” Today, September 18th, 2012 this very investigation has reached its climax by publishing its findings. Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson has in his part repeatedly denied such claims.

Among these findings, these practices are found:

  • ACSO deputies target Latino drivers for traffic stops;
  • A study of ACSO’s traffic stops on three major county roadways found that deputies were between four and 10 times more likely to stop Latino drivers than non-Latino drivers;
  • ACSO deputies routinely locate checkpoints just outside Latino neighborhoods, forcing residents to endure police checks when entering or leaving their communities;
  • ACSO practices at vehicle checkpoints often vary based on a driver’s ethnicity.   Deputies insist on examining identification of Latino drivers, while allowing drivers of other ethnicities to pass through without showing identification;
  • ACSO deputies arrest Latinos for minor traffic violations while issuing citations or warnings to non-Latinos for the same violations;
  • ACSO uses jail booking and detention practices, including practices related to immigration status checks, that discriminate against Latinos;
  • The sheriff and ACSO’s leadership explicitly instruct deputies to target Latinos with discriminatory traffic stops and other enforcement activities;
  • The sheriff and ACSO leadership foster a culture of bias by using anti-Latino epithets; and
  • ACSO engages in substandard reporting and monitoring practices that mask its discriminatory conduct.

We, the NC Dream Team, have been approached by many community members in Alamance County because of these practices, and most of the time we found ourselves working on individual cases of family members detained in this county by checkpoints, driving without a license, or simply driving while brown. Alamance County is one of seven counties in North Carolina that have 287(g) programs. This program is one of several ICE ACCESS (Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security) programs, “which provides local law enforcement agencies an opportunity to team with ICE to combat specific challenges in their communities.” However, as we can see in the case of Alamance County, these programs do far from “combating the challenges in our communities;” in fact, they do quiet the opposite by separating our families from their loved ones, subjecting them to mistreatment in violation of their civil rights, and in many cases having them locked up in detention centers for long periods of times before deporting them. Members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, our umbrella organization, have some findings on this very topic after infiltrating an immigration detention facility.

Furthermore, the Department of Homeland Security released today a statement terminating its 287(g) program in Alamance County:

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is troubled by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) findings of discriminatory policing practices within the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO).   Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust.  DHS will not be a party to such practices. Accordingly, and effective immediately, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is terminating ACSO’s 287(g) jail model agreement and is restricting their access to the Secure Communities program.  ICE will utilize federal resources for the purpose of identifying and detaining those individuals who meet ICE immigration enforcement priorities.  The Department will continue to enforce federal immigration laws in Alamance County in smart, effective ways that focus our resources on criminal aliens, recent border crossers, repeat and egregious immigration law violators and employers who knowingly hire illegal labor.

We are pleased to see the release of these findings by the DOJ and the decision taken by DHS in terminating 287 (g), but we are unimpressed. We still have 6 other counties in North Carolina that have this program and ALL COUNTIES in our state have Secure Communities, which is another type of ICE ACCESS program. Meanwhile, we still keep receiving word from families being detained for minor traffic violations; such as having a broken tail-light or being encountered by check-points organized by local police.

The Obama administration needs to come forth and terminate 287(g) in ALL COUNTIES in North Carolina and take policies like Secure Communities away. It is completely unacceptable for the Obama administration to keep empowering agencies and agents, like Alamance County’s Sheriff  Terry Johnson, that keep our communities insecure.

For the full report from DOJ visit: http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/resources/171201291812462488198.pdf

One of the most prominent features of the “Secure” Communities program is the fear that it spreads in our communities. Last Thursday night, Griselda (Javier’s sister) stood up to that fear, and the head of those responsible for it. She stood up before the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, to plead her brother Javier’s case and call for his release.

She sat as Secretary Napolitano spoke about the the challenges of running the department trying to deport her brother. From the complexities of national security, to protecting against racial/religious profiling at airports and the difficulty of enforcing a set of horribly broken immigration laws. During the Q&A portion of the night- Secretary Napolitano heard the reality of what those same policies do to real people.

Here, Alicia interprets Griselda’s question to Secretary Napolitano:

Under the much-hyped Morton Memo. Javier, a father of 3, husband, sole provider, with a clean criminal record and a long-time member of the community shouldn’t be part of DHS/ICE’s ‘high-priority’ list. Except, he’s still facing ICE’s deportation machine. Secretary Napolitano’s response to why there is such a discrepancy between the memo’s suggestion of discretion and ICE’s continued attempt to remove Javier from his sick wife and newborn? Getting local offices to follow our lead is hard.

As we watch ICE proudly boast over nearly 400,000 deportations this year, those numbers and a clear explanation of their power deserves to a look. ICE reports that about 55% of those nearly 400,000 people had felony or misdemeanor convictions. So, 178,608 people (at least) had no felony or misdemeanor convictions…. For the others, the conflation of felony and misdemeanor helps to bolster their numbers but confuses the perceived ‘threat’ that they are create in their narrative of enforcement. Keep in mind, misdemeanor includes such infractions as jaywalking.

While we understand that the Morton Memo is not law, and not to be confused with a law- we are left to wonder what good is a policy or suggestion from a national office that local offices can ignore? How many more families need to be separated because of such superfluous things as broken license plate lights?

To her credit, Secretary Napolitano did collect the 2,000+ signatures that you all have signed in support of Javier (if you haven’t signed, you still can) and promised that Javier’s case would be looked into. The real question will be whether it is the national DHS office or the local ones who really hold power over whether Javier becomes 1 of 400,000 other people deported or returns to his wife and children.

By Justin Valas

One thing that we have [sadly] gotten used to as organizers is that sometimes, the voices of the undocumented are overlooked, ignored or misrepresented. That’s part of why we, as the NC Dream Team exist. Take, for example, September 6th, 2011.

Seven undocumented youth from across the state came out of the shadows, dropped the fear and disclosed their immigration status in a very public way. Listening to their stories and their reasons for taking this brave action painted a complex picture of the harsh reality that faces undocumented immigrants in North Carolina and around the country. They came out decrying a community college system that throws undocumented youth to the back of the bus- if not under it. Charging them four times the tuition rate [regardless of their ability to show high school diplomas or tax records that would provide in-state tuition for their documented and citizen peers] while demanding that they scavenge through the post-registration leftovers. They also called out policies and programs that blur the line between local police officers and federal immigration agents- 287g and “Secure” Communities.

It’s a shame that the complexity of the reality that they tried to expose proved too complex. Many in the media referred to the act of civil disobedience as a “DREAM Act Rally”. Potential allies looked at what happened and saw it as a chance to express their solidarity with the passage of the DREAM Act.

Don’t get me wrong- we’re not opposing the DREAM Act. Believe me, we’re not. But the reason I bring this up is because listening – really listening – to the voices of these brave youth is important. They are trying to expose their reality, the reality that we all live in- consciously or not. It is a reality that our government pursues most intensely when no one is watching.

I bring this up now because the same day that these youth undertook this action, they met another undocumented person who was caught up by the same policies they were fighting against. Javier Santos was not surrounded by hundreds of supporters at the time of his arrest. He was unceremoniously picked up by the police dragnet and received very different treatment from the youth arrested that day. While they are free today, Javier continues to sit in a detention center awaiting deportation. ICE kept him separate from his wife and children while his wife brought their third daughter into the world. He has been unable to provide for his family for the past month because of these community destroying policies. All this while President Obama claims that “low priority” cases [like Javier's] would not face deportation.

It is this reality that the undocumented youth were calling your attention to. It is Javier who needs your support and attention as much as they needed it on September 6th. Please, take action today to help bring Javier home to his family. Signing this petition is important. Making the phone calls is important. Combined, they will take less than 5 minutes of your day. You can help this father see his newborn daughter for the first time- will you?

Photo via Charlotte Observer

UNDOCUMENTED YOUTH DROP THE FEAR IN NORTH CAROLINA

PRESS CONFERENCE ALERT

For Immediate Release
Contacts:
Domenic Powell (704) 281 – 9911
Jose Torres-Don (512) 659-1829

The NC DREAM Team will hold a press conference today in Charlotte

When: Thurs., Sept. 8, 2011 at 12:30pm
Where: Mecklenburg County Courthouse
832 East 4th Street, Charlotte, NC

We invite the immigrant community and the community of North Carolina to join us  today. Three of the #NC7  undocumented youth arrested at the immigrant rights rally Tuesday have been released. They will speak directly about their experiences.  Please spread the word and join us.

And please help us take action in stopping “Secure Communities” throughout our country. Sign our petition here and spread the word.

**UPDATE** See full release below.

Contact:
Domenic Powell (704) 281 – 9911
Jose Torres-Don (512) 659-1829
domenic@theniya.org

Three of ten undocumented youth released, will hold press conference today
ICE begins deportation proceedings, futures remain unclear

CHARLOTTE—Three of the ten undocumented youth arrested in Charlotte, North Carolina this Tuesday for protesting against both the discriminatory practices at public colleges in North Carolina and the devastating effects of 287g and Secure Communities have been released.

Santiago Garcia, Martin Rodriguez and Manuel Vazquez were released late last night. The other four participants, Cynthia Martinez, Marco Saavedra, Alicia Torres-Don and Angelica Velazquillo will appear in court at 1PM today. The other three undocumented activists who were arrested, Mohammad Abdollahi, Isabel Castillo and Viridiana Martinez also remain in jail.

By releasing three of the ten undocumented arrested at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, undocumented youth have proven that they can stand up to an administration eager to deport them.

“We stood up for what we believe in,” said Manuel Vazquez. “But more importantly, we stood up for ourselves and our communities.”

The action marked exactly one year before the Democratic National Convention. Until this point, Democrats have been the assumed allies of immigrants, in the face of Republican governors supporting anti-immigrant laws like Arizona’s SB1070. However, anti-immigrant policies such as 287(g) and Secure Communities have flourished under this Democratic president. Undocumented youth should not be expected to support a president who has deported more people than President Eisenhower during Operation Wetback.

Garcia was issued an Alien Number and issued paperwork stating that he was going to be transferred to Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. Several other participants were issued Alien Numbers or placed in immigration holds. The future of their deportation cases is unclear. However, this action shows that the Obama Administration either still actively deports undocumented youth or has absolutely no control of its local offices.

“I thought I was on my way to Georgia,” said Garcia. “I sat in jail for hours not knowing when and if I would see my family soon.

The seven participants are now calling upon undocumented youth across the country to harness the power of being public about their status and challenge this administration’s 287(g) and Secure Communities programs. A press conference will be held today at 12:30PM in front of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse, where the three released participants will discuss the protest, their time in jail and their plans for the immediate future.

###

WHO: Manuel Vasquez, 21, of Raleigh
Martin Rodriguez, 20, of Hamptonville
Santiago Garcia, 20, of Asheville
WHAT: Participants in the civil disobedience action at Central Piedmont Community College, three of whom have been released, call on undocumented youth to shed their fears and commit t holding Democratic party leaders accountable for the injustices they perpetuate against immigrant communities.
WHERE: Mecklenburg County Courthouse; 832 East 4th Street, Charlotte, NC
WHEN: Thurs. September 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm.

If you have heard of the ‘Morton Memo’, you have probably heard it as something to be happy about. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton has urged his agency to utilize “prosecutorial discretion”, meaning that it may not pursue deportations as vigorously as it has. Unfortunately, this memo isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. There aren’t any guarantees that undocumented youth are now safe from deportation–it shouldn’t be thought of as anything remotely reassuring. In fact, President Obama just deported asylum-seeker Andy Mathe the day after personally finding out about the case.

Here’s a brief overview of this much talked about memo and what it means for you.

The Memo, ICE and Obama

On June 17, John Morton put into writing what President Obama and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano have been saying for months: that DREAM Act-eligible youth are not a deportation priority. Despite that, as you’ve seen from the continued need for petitions, undocumented youth are still winding up in proceedings (and deported, as mentioned above).

Overall, ICE has been taking heat for two of its programs under the ICE ACCESS umbrella of law enforcement partnerships, 287(g) and Secure Communities, making the Morton Memo appear to be a concession to satisfy critics who have rightly accused ICE of rounding up immigrants without respect their civil rights and civil liberties or the due process of law, let alone the nuances of their cases. As the National Day Laborers Organizing Network pointed out, President Obama has now deported more immigrants than President Eisenhower under Operation Wetback in the early 1950s.

A Brief History of Prosecutorial Discretion

The Morton Memo is another development in a history of prosecutorial discretion that goes back to the Clinton Administration and changes to immigration law in the past two decades.

Long before the Morton Memo, a previous memorandum on prosecutorial discretion written by INS Commissioner Doris Meissner in 2000 established significant authority for prosecutorial discretion in immigration cases. After Congress amended the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1996, judges in immigration court lost a lot of their ability to use, well, judgment on individual cases. INS was forced to make better decisions about where it allocated its resources now that immigration judges would no longer be able to grant as much relief from removal as they once had. Meissner’s memo places a greater emphasis on “substantial Federal interest,” meaning that prosecutorial discretion permits ICE not to pursue cases–even “legally sufficient” ones–which don’t benefit the federal government in any way. Meissner’s memo also lists cases in which discretion should be used and categories of people that should “trigger” favorable discretion. Some of those triggers should sound familiar: “Juveniles;” “Aliens with lengthy presence in United States (i.e., 10 years or more); and “aliens present in the United States since childhood.” The memo also notes that “community attention” is a factor to consider when discretion might be possible.

The Morton Memo and today’s politics

In 2011, what does the Morton memo say? Nothing too different from the previous policy directive. It doesn’t say anything about the DREAM Act. However, many of the factors ICE should use to consider backing off would apply to undocumented youth:

the circumstances of the person’s arrival in the United States and the manner of his or her entry, particularly if the alien came to the United States as a young child;
[...]
the person’s pursuit of education in the United States, with particular consideration given to those who have graduated from a U.S. high school or have successfully pursued or are pursuing a college or advanced degrees at a legitimate institution of higher education in the United States;
[...]
whether the person, or the person’s immediate relative,has served in the U.S. military, reserves, or national guard, with particular consideration given to those who served in combat;
[...]
the person’s criminal history, including arrests, prior convictions, or outstanding arrest warrants;
[...]
the person’s ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships;

But as previously noted, there are no guarantees that undocumented youth will not be deported. In fact, Meissner’s memo was far more rooted in looking at the merits of individual cases and the radical idea that law enforcement officials ought to do more than round people up and ship people out. The Morton Memo is based more in budgetary concerns rather than humanitarian ones.

Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama and several other senators have claimed that the Morton Memo was an attempt to “grant administrative amnesty“, but this is the same Jeff Sessions that lied on the Senate floor when he said that undocumented immigrants could already join the military during the December DREAM Act vote. There’s no reason to take him seriously on this. As a member of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Citizenship, Sessions is supposed to be an expert on immigration, so the only explanations are that he’s a liar or that he is completely undeserving of his position.

The history of prosecutorial discretion and its present reiteration reveal the root of the problem: a system that is too narrowly focused on deportations. Such a narrow focus is ill-fit for the present reality, and one that we wouldn’t tolerate from any other law enforcement agency. Police have to do more than make arrests–immigration officers have to do more than raids and deportations. Prosecutorial discretion isn’t a solution, or even really a benefit. One way or another, it shouldn’t be thought of as a pro-migrant accomplishment by the Obama Administration.

What would you do if your brother or sister were facing deportation? Would you stand with them? Would you encourage them to fight it? The following essay was written by Angelica Velazquillo, the sister of Erick Velazquillo, who is currently in deportation proceedings. His next court date is July 19, and we need you to sign this petition to keep him home.

By Angelica Velazquillo

I have kept a low profile for years. I have felt ashamed, frustrated, and limited by a secret I have only shared with a few close friends and faculty- I am undocumented. This has caused me and my family fear of being judged, criminalized, and deported.

The weight of this secret has become unbearable, as anti-immigrant legislation has increased throughout the country. This fear became a reality when on October 11, 2010 my brother was pulled over for having his high beams on. I remember the fear on my mother’s face because we both knew what this could mean for my brother and my family.

It was a nightmare coming from the police department to my brother’s empty room, knowing he was spending the night in a jail cell. This was the first of three sleepless nights I spent wondering when I would see my brother again, and praying he would not be transferred to a detention center in Georgia.

While I have lived with fear most of my life it was not until the evening of June 9th that I realized how debilitating it was to succumb to fear. I was at the Bank of America Stadium where Costa Rica was playing soccer against El Salvador, and soon after Mexico would be playing against Cuba. I approached a lady and asked her if she would sign my brother’s petition to stop his deportation. For a fleeting moment there was panic and fear on her face.

This was the moment I realized that if I gave in to fear nothing would change. If I did not speak out against what was happening to my brother, my family, and other fellow immigrants, our struggle would be ignored. Silence would be an agreement, an approval of the injustices being committed against youth, like my brother, who would qualify for and benefit from the Dream Act passing. These young adults are being treated as criminals for a decision they did not make.

The fear that I allowed to rule me began to dissipate. I would no longer remain silent. I would no longer encourage my brother to take a voluntary departure. It was time to share our story; it was time to speak out, to break the shackles of fear we allowed to enslave us. Only with courage will we have an opportunity to help our community, to ask for accountability, and to point out the discrepancy between politicians’ words and the actions of local governments against undocumented youth.

This is why I am coming out- to share my brother’s story, to share my story, and to be a voice who encourages others to come out of the shadows.

Are you in Charlotte, NC and want to get involved? Are you undocumented and tired of being afraid? Contact dreamteamnc@gmail.com and we’ll help you get started.

Secure Communities, also known as S-Comm or SeCom has been promoted by the Department of Homeland Security as a tool by which local law enforcement can assist ICE in prioritizing who it deports. However, even DHS figures show that the program has been used for anything but. It has been abused–especially in the Southeast–as a dragnet used against the immigrant community.

Illinois has stood up and said enough is enough and pulled out of the program. The state is also moving forward with an Illinois DREAM Act, which is looking likely to pass. A private fund would provide financial aid to undocumented college students.

Check out the Immigrant Youth Justice League for more details.

Rep. David Price talks about S-Comm, its place as a ‘reform measure’ and potential abuses of the program. Read why it’s not a reform measure at all here.

Watch as Karina, a student at Southern High School in Durham, raises tough questions about Secure Communities with David Price:

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