Deportation: December 2010 Archives
In my inbox tonight:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 30, 2010
Michelle Fei, 917.881.2638
Angela Fernandez, 646.734.4932
(Spanish & English)
Advocates Disappointed by New "Secure Communities" Agreement and Vow to Continue to Push for Full Rescission
New York, NY (Dec. 30, 2010) - Representatives of a wide coalition of advocates responded to news of Governor Paterson's revisions to the State's "Secure Communities" agreement with dissatisfaction and frustration over its lack of meaningful changes. They also declared that they will continue to push incoming Governor Cuomo to fully rescind the agreement based on the program's fundamental flaws.
"While we greatly appreciate that the Governor has listened to our concerns, the new agreement does not narrow the class of targeted immigrants as the State appears to think it does," said Angela Fernandez of the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, one of the more than 75 groups that has advocated with the Governor and elected officials to end the agreement. "We remain as adamantly opposed to Secure Communities because it is a costly program that undermines trust with the police, encourages racial profiling, and funnels immigrants into an unjust deportation system."
Further, advocates assert, ICE has repeatedly demonstrated its lack of accountability and transparency, making it an agency for which New York should not subject itself to liability. Examples cited by advocates include ICE's changing position on its classification of those targeted for deportation, priorities for deportation, and conflicting statements about the ability of localities to opt out of Secure Communities.
"Sadly, this new agreement is simply a reformulation of the flawed original that dramatically widened ICE's deportation dragnet," stated Michelle Fei of the Immigrant Defense Project, another coalition group member. "New York officials are still letting themselves get hoodwinked by ICE if they think this version is any improvement. We hope Governor-Elect Cuomo will do more to recognize that immigrants who have gone through the criminal justice system should not face deportation as an unfair second punishment."
With no public input, the Division of Criminal Justice Services had signed an agreement with ICE in May this year to bring Secure Communities to New York. Under the controversial program, law enforcement agencies in the State would be required to automatically forward to federal immigration databases the fingerprints of US citizens, undocumented immigrants, and lawful permanent residents alike. Those suspected of being deportable would be transferred directly into the detention and deportation system, separating them from their families and communities.
The New York State Working Group Against Deportation is a broad coalition of domestic violence, criminal justice, immigrant rights, family services, labor, faith-based, civil rights, and community-based organizations that aims to stop Secure Communities and other deportation programs.
Governor Paterson's press release can be found here.
Before blogging and the news cycle picks up again after the holidays and the only message the mainstream media remembers about the politics of immigration is "Obama championed DREAM Act, GOP killed it," there is still some space for an alternative version of events. And if one Dreamer's version is any indication, Dreamers themselves may not be on board with Obama's story of how things happened.
I hope that President Obama will listen to Dreamers instead of using them as a campaign prop. Here is an excerpt from DREAMer to President Obama: Thanks but no thanks
While Obama in recent months has supported the DREAM Act and putting his whole cabinet to work in gaining the votes necessary to pass it, Obama was deporting DREAMers' families through his anti immigrant and hypocritical policies. Even after the DREAM Act was blocked by Republicans the administration stated that Dreamers will continue to be deported by Obama's administration. Was his support for Dreamers strictly a political move to gain approval among latino voters? Obama's anti immigration stance was very clear to us earlier this year when Arizona passed legislation that legalized racial profiling and funneled families into the private prisons who lobbied and funded the legislation. Obama also resisted in challenging Arizona's SB 1070 until he was pressured by civil rights organizations across the country.
One thing is very clear to DREAMers across the nation, that Obama is not a friend but another politician and a target for this movement. Obama we are undocumented and unafraid how about you? Will you tremble when we come in hundreds to your doorstep and see the lives you have helped destroy? will your guilt lead you to make amends for your violations against the families that walked and talked for you in your election?
Dreamer Hector Lopez was deported earlier this year to Mexico. He'd been brought to the U.S. as an infant and hadn't known he had no legal status until he was arrested this year by immigration agents. He came back across the border in an act of desperation and was detained upon reentry. He applied for asylum, but was only released recently through the efforts of advocate Ralph Isenberg. He was reunited with his family in Portland yesterday.
I keep watching for evidence of a policy shift from DHS on their current practice of locking up and deporting DREAM Act-eligible youth, and wondering when President Obama's actions will catch up to his words of support for Dreamers. Hector was arrested in August, after Julia Preston reported in the New York Times that the administration had stopped deporting Dreamers. John Morton, head of ICE, claimed in the article:
In a world of limited resources, our time is better spent on someone who is here unlawfully and is committing crimes in the neighborhood . . . As opposed to someone who came to this country as a juvenile and spent the vast majority of their life here.
Evidently ICE has decided that Morton's statement represented a vague aspirational observation that wasn't translatable into concrete policy or practice. Or, less charitably, it was a lie.
While it's true that, in limited cases, ICE has exercised favorable discretion to allow Dreamers to stay in the U.S., in the majority of cases, Dreamers in removal proceedings have been treated no differently than anyone else. Even in those few instances where the agency has chosen not to deport, ICE has only been swayed after intense organizing from supporters and activists has resulted in national media attention and support from politicians. It's unfortunate that Preston's story from this summer seems to have become the conventional wisdom--it was even cited in a recent decision (pdf, FN38) by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a legal argument--because it simply isn't the case that ICE has adopted a policy to stop deporting Dreamers.
Hector was a Dreamer and he was deported just like thousands of other undocumented youth this year who didn't have access to the network of Dreamers and allies that have held off ICE in a handful of cases. President Obama's words in support of Dreamers ring hollow in the face of his agencies' coordinated efforts to deport as many DREAM-eligible youth as possible. I hope that Hector's release from detention represents a change in policy in how DHS processes Dreamers, but I fear otherwise.
Hector's story as told in the Oregonian represents one happy (and possibly temporary) outcome out of thousands of stories of heartbreak and family separation this Christmas:
Hector Lopez of Milwaukie walked off a Southwest Airlines flight Christmas Eve into his mother's arms at Portland International Airport, returning from a four-month deportation odyssey to Mexico even though he did not know until he was arrested that he is not a U.S. citizen or legal resident.
His mother, Sara Flores, and his 15-year-old brother, Luis, grabbed Lopez and hugged him tightly as they cried together; still and video photographers captured the scene as dozens of arriving passengers swirled around the reunion. Friends brought signs and balloons.
President Obama publicly committed today to passing the DREAM Act in 2011. He called the recent vote blocking the bill in the Senate his "biggest disappointment." White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said that grassroots activism will be essential to getting the DREAM Act passed.
Hearing these comments, I had to scratch my head. I have seen a lot of grassroots activism around the DREAM Act over the last couple years. Some of the most intense organizing has come from communities fighting to keep individual Dreamers from being deported ... by President Obama's immigration enforcement agency, ICE.
I have consulted on several such cases, and represented Dreamers directly in a few. In nearly every case I've seen, ICE fought tooth and nail to keep Dreamers locked up and get them deported. ICE attorneys often took harsh litigating positions with the goal of moving Dreamers out of the country as quickly as possible. ICE deportation officers often shut down requests to release Dreamers to pursue removal defense outside of detention.
ICE wouldn't budge on Steve Li's case last month, refusing to release him from detention even after his case got national attention and support from Dreamers around the country. He would likely be in Peru right now if Senator Feinstein hadn't introduced a private bill in the Senate, which put an automatic hold on Li's deportation.
In other cases, ICE refused to back down until a case got national media attention and the support of Senators.
Mark Farrales is detained right now in California, waiting to be deported. He came to the U.S. when he was 10 after his father was shot by gunmen in the Philippines. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and was working on his doctoral dissertation when he was arrested by ICE.