Detention: January 2011 Archives

ICE is at it again. Even as Barack Obama asks the nation why we are deporting talented youth, his agencies lock up and deport college students like Jonathan Chavez.

Sign the petition asking ICE to halt the deportation of Jonathan Chavez.

If Obama wants the support of pro-migrant voters in 2012, he should place a moratorium on deportation of DREAM-eligible youth. This wouldn't constitute passing the DREAM Act on the sly, such a moratorium would only benefit Dreamers in removal proceedings. There would be no path to citizenship, only limbo for Dreamers who would otherwise be deported.

If pro-migrant voters want immigration reform to move forward, we should not accept anything less from President Obama than a written policy of granting deferred action to Dreamers in removal proceedings. His actions thus far demonstrate that he will only move on immigration policy when pushed. So far, conservatives have pushed him a lot harder than the pro-migrant community has, and he has responded by deporting record numbers of people. This represents a strategic failure by advocates, one which occurred in part because D.C. immigrant advocacy organizations have represented the interests of Democratic politicians instead of the interests of immigrant communities.

How many young people like Jonathan Chavez will be deported before groups like RI4A, AILA, SEIU, and the National Immigration Forum confront President Obama for destroying immigrant communities?

How long will supporters of these groups continue to allow organizational leadership to disrespect immigrant communities in this way? Only as long as we let them ...

Via Vivirlatino comes news that Dreamer Pedro Gutierrez, who was due to present himself to ICE today to be deported, was granted a 30-day extension. Pedro's statement:

I now realize that the only way for me to be able to stay in Arizona, my home, is for President Obama to allow for me to stay. It is his choice whether I am deported to a country I do not know or if I am allowed to stay in Arizona and give back to my community. I ask President Obama to please let me serve this nation.

This is exactly right. At this point, it is President Obama's choice whether to deport Pedro and other Dreamers in removal proceedings, or to stand with the immigrant community on the side of justice.

Which will he choose?

MLK march Broad Street

An interfaith, multiethnic group of Philadelphians rallied and marched today to protest the detention and deportation of Cambodian refugees who came to the U.S. as children escaping genocide in their homeland.

About 300 supporters rallied at the Arch Street United Methodist Church in Center City, Philadelphia, before marching to the ICE District Office several blocks away. Speakers throughout the event referenced the words and life of Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday was celebrated today.

Several Cambodian men now in their thirties were resettled as child refugees in some of Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods. Raised by traumatized parents, in families that had been decimated by the Khmer Rouge, some strayed in their youth and were convicted of crimes in their teens and early twenties. They served their time and reintegrated into their communities, raising families and starting businesses. Many had become permanent residents but not citizens, not understanding the distinction or the consequences of not naturalizing.

A pair of laws passed in 1996 with bipartisan support are now tearing apart Philadelphia's Cambodian community. The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) expanded the types of crimes which could result in permanent exile. They removed the ability of immigration judges to consider discretionary factors, such as length of time in the U.S. or family ties, in individual cases. Now, years after these men served their sentences, ICE has locked them up and begun deporting them. They will never be able to live with their U.S. citizen wives and children in this country again. They will be banished from their adopted country and sent back to the place where their families were slaughtered.

This article from Julie Shaw in the Philadelphia Daily News examines the heavy caseload that Philadelphia's immigration judges face, and ways that long court delays impact the people caught up in the immigration enforcement system.

The influx of cases into the court system is a direct result of escalated action by ICE under the Obama and Bush administrations. Obama's ICE is openly pursuing target deportation numbers, not for any coherent security or political goal, but simply because that is the logical endpoint of the enforcement-first narrative this government has embraced. This is reminiscent of the criminal justice system's turn in the 1970s towards locking people up en masse, abandoning crime prevention and rehabilitation for a more destructive, reactive, punitive approach. This response comes from fear, not from strength, and it feeds on itself, making what once would have been abhorrent seem commonplace.

The Obama administration announced last month its intention to resume deportations in mid-January of certain Haitian immigrants convicted of crimes in the U.S. Some of those likely to deported have lived in the U.S. for decades and will be permanently separated from U.S. citizen family members. Some had been permanent residents themselves. All will face indefinite imprisonment as criminal deportees by the Haitian government in jails where they may contract cholera or tuberculosis and where the government relies on family members to bring prisoners food and safe drinking water. Furthermore, prisoners in Haiti are at risk of being killed by their own prison guards. A week after the earthquake last year, prison guards in Les Cayes summarily executed prisoners and then tried to cover up the crime.

The U.S. government will be deporting people to their deaths in Haiti--some of these deportees will not survive under these harsh conditions.

Via Jaya Ramji-Nogales, I learned that a group of human rights advocates filed a petition (pdf) last week with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asking that it prevent the United States from resuming deportations to Haiti. The Commission is an organ of the Organization of American States that can be petitioned to make recommendations to member states to resolve cases of violations of human rights. While the Commission and the associated Inter-American Court of Human Rights lack significant enforcement authority, litigation in these bodies can be a way to pressure member states to more faithfully observe human rights.

For a country like the U.S. which has historically used the rhetoric of human rights both to define its national identity and as a foreign policy tool, being publicly called out for violating human rights should be a source of embarrassment. Ramji-Nogales outlines the specific human rights violations alleged in the petition:

The petition alleges violations of five provisions of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (sic). The deportation of these Haitians abrogates their right to life given the inhumane prison conditions they will face at home, particularly during the cholera epidemic, which has hit prisons particularly hard. Their removal also breaches their right to freedom from cruel, infamous, or unusual punishments due to the severe lack of medical care and social services in post-earthquake Haiti. The arbitrary detention these criminal deportees will face upon return violates their right to security of person. The petition also argues that the failure of the U.S. immigration system to offer a humanitarian defense to deportation, either by measuring the impact of removal on U.S. citizen family members or assessing the gravity of conditions in their home country violates the Haitians' right to family life and their right to due process and a fair trial.

Ramji-Nogales points out that U.S. petitioners to the Commission must reference the Declaration since the U.S. has refused to ratify the American Convention on Human Rights, a legally binding treaty. The U.S. is joined by Cuba and a handful of other states in refusing to ratify the treaty, again showing the U.S. to be an outlier in its faltering dedication to the protection of human rights. As demonstrated by its resumption of deportations to Haiti, the U.S.'s commitment to observing human rights in practice does not match its rhetoric.

If you disagree with the Obama administration's decision to send these Haitians to their death, please sign this petition at change.org asking ICE to suspend these deportations.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Detention category from January 2011.

Detention: December 2010 is the previous archive.

Detention: June 2011 is the next archive.

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