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Fall 2011 National Immigrant Solidarity Network Monthly News Digest and News Alert!

by Lee Siu Hin - Immigrant Solidarity Network Monday, Aug. 29, 2011 at 3:28 AM (213)403-0131 Los Angeles, CA; Washigton DC; New York, NY; Chicago, IL

In This Issue: Obama skewers the immigrant justice movement (Pg 1); Obama Puts Bandage on Broken Immigration System (Pg 2); Obama's new deportation policy is PR spin (Pg 3); Immigration Appeals (Pg 4); Immigration and Mass Incarceration in the Obama Era (Pg 4);

Please post your immigrant action calendar items

Fall 2011 National Immigrant Solidarity Network Monthly News Digest and News Alert!

National Immigrant Solidarity Network
No Immigrant Bashing! Support Immigrant Rights!


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Fall 2011 U.S. Immigrant Alert! Newsletter
Published by National Immigrant Solidarity Network

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Activist Says:



Obama skewers the immigrant justice movement!

In This Issue:

1) Obama skewers the immigrant justice movement (Pg 1)
2) Obama Puts Bandage on Broken Immigration System  
(Pg 2)
3) Obama's new deportation policy is PR spin  (Pg 3)

4) Immigration Appeals  (Pg 4) 
5) Immigration and Mass Incarceration in the Obama Era  (Pg 4)
9) Updates, Please Support NISN! Subscribe the Newsletter!
(Pg 6)


Please download our latest newsletter:


VOICES: Obama skewers the immigrant justice movement

Kung Li
August 28, 2011

The Obama administration announced last week it will be reviewing pending immigration deportation cases in order to prioritize people with criminal records for deportation over "low-priority" immigrants. Individuals eligible for the DREAM Act, veterans, and victims of crime who are currently in deportation proceedings will, if the reviews are done as promised, have their cases stayed.

The announcement was made in response to sustained, well-organized pressure by immigrants, Latinos and allies critical of the President's deportation policies in general and the controversial Secure Communities (S-Comm) program in particular. Three hundred people walked out of an S-Comm Task Force hearing in Los Angeles on Monday, Aug. 15. Two days later, in Chicago, Task Force members were again confronted by an audience angry at the President's use of S-Comm to ramp up deportations. As in Los Angeles, an undocumented youth leader asked the Task Force members to resign, and led a walk out from the hearing. Blocking an exit ramp from the I-94 freeway, six undocumented youths were arrested.

Apparently startled by the forcefulness of the protests, the Obama administration scrambled a conference call on Aug. 18 to announce the case-by-case reviews. Though modest, it is a concrete step to stopping the deportation of DREAM Act-eligible students and victims of crimes. Women like 20-year-old Isaura Garcia, who testified during the Los Angeles hearing about calling police for help and ending up in deportation proceedings, will have their cases stayed. A sweetener: some individuals whose cases are closed will be able to apply for work authorization.

Determined, direct action by courageous and creative organizers -- undocumented youth in particular -- has forced the Obama administration to make a real move.

And so the chess game begins.

How is Obama going to play this? This White House blog post by Cecilia Muñoz, uploaded in the hours between the L.A. and Chicago hearings, gives a clue. Muñoz boasts of "a dramatic increase in the number of criminals deported from the United States," and credits S-Comm for enhancing Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) ability to deport people who have committed crimes. The administration's strategy hinted at in this blog post is this: split immigrants into non-criminals and criminals, and insist that those being deported are criminals, not immigrants. Or mothers, or long time residents, or uncles, or co-workers, or neighbors, or friends. Labeling people "criminals" erases every other part of their being.

It is a cynical and aggressive strategy that bolsters ICE and de-legitimizes anyone who continues to oppose the President's deportation policies. Those policies will, Muñoz said during the Aug. 11 conference call, continue at the same frenzied pace as these past two years, with no change in the overall number of deportations.

If this is indeed Obama's overall strategy, it becomes clear that by responding as he did to criticisms over S-Comm, the President is setting up a skewer move. In chess, the skewer is an offensive move that is made possible when two pieces are lined up with a more valuable piece -- let's say the queen -- in front of a less valuable one, like the knight or rook. When the piece in front is threatened, the player must move it aside, sacrificing the other piece.

The only defense to a skewer move is to not put yourself in the position of being skewered in the first place. That can only be done by rejecting wholesale the premise that some people are less valuable than others because they have a criminal record.

Cristian is young, undocumented, and unfailingly polite. He has a criminal record. He was sleeping in a friend's car when he was woken up by a police officer and charged with underage drinking. He falls within the priority category of "criminal."

Jean Montrevil and his wife Jani are the parents of four beautiful children. Jean came to the U.S. in 1986 as a teenager, with a green card, from Haiti. Jean has a criminal record. When Jean was 20, he was busted on a cocaine charge. The judge sentenced him to 27 years -- an extraordinarily long sentence -- of which he served 10. Since his release, Jean has built up a van service in Brooklyn, became a member of Families for Freedom, and co-founded the New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC. Even though Jean is a legal resident, he is still considered a "criminal alien" and falls under the high priorities for deportation.

Aleida is a single mother of the three U.S. citizen children, the youngest being 6 months old. She has a criminal record. Aleida was arrested in New Orleans for domestic violence after defending herself from a woman visiting her cousin's home. Under the guidelines, Aleida is a "criminal" rather than a victim, and a priority for deportation.

How long is this list of people who are not protected by the promised stays? John Sandweg of the Department of Homeland Security said that over 94% of S-Comm deportations last year met their "priority" criteria. No complex math necessary here -- the reality is that the overwhelming majority of people who are facing deportation will still be deported. Only now, they will be deported to the sound of the Obama administration crowing about how they are "deporting criminals."

The resistance to S-Comm and the criminalization of immigrants has built both momentum and moral power over these past two years. Holding DHS to its word and insisting on a stay of proceedings for every eligible person will -- and should -- be the gratifying, immediate next move by the advocates and organizers that forced the administration to act.

But to then get drawn into an argument over what constitutes a "serious" crime and what does not, or whether certain types of crimes should be excluded or included, would be playing directly into Obama administration's strategy.

Every statistically-based analysis of the criminal justice system shows it is deeply racially biased at each stage, and more oriented towards policing and convicting people who are poor than those who are dangerous. Contact with such a criminal justice system is no way to decide who should or should not be deported.

Just as illegitimate is the Obama administration's insistence on enforcing immigration laws that it has acknowledged need to be changed. Change the laws first, to give immigrants who have been here more than five years and want to remain a reasonable way to do so legally. Halt deportations in the meantime. Enforcing laws that need to be changed before changing those laws makes no sense. Using a rapacious, racially-biased criminal justice system to carry out -- and justify -- that enforcement turns mere senselessness into cruelty.

Immigration and Mass Incarceration in the Obama Era: The New Operation Wetback

James Kilgore - Center for African Studies, The University of Illinois
August 4, 2011

Last week Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) joined a demonstration in Washington D.C. to protest the refusal of President Obama to use his executive powers to halt the deportations of the undocumented. Gutierrez’ arrest came only two days after Obama had addressed a conference of the National Council of La Raza. Conveniently forgetting the history of the civil right struggles that made his Presidency a possibility, Obama reminded those attending that he was bound to “uphold the laws on the books.”

With over 392,000 deportations in 2010, more than in any of the Bush years, many activists fear we are in the midst of a repeat of notorious episodes of the past such as the “Repatriation” campaign of the 1930s and the infamous Operation Wetback of 1954, both of which resulted in the deportation of hundreds of thousands of Latinos.

But several things are different this time around. A crucial distinction is that we are in the era of mass incarceration. Not only are the undocumented being deported, many are going to prison for years before being delivered across the border. While the writings of Michelle Alexander and others have highlighted the widespread targeting of young African-American males by the criminal justice system, few have noted that in the last decade the complexion of new faces behind bars has been dramatically changing. Since the turn of the century, the number of blacks in prisons has declined slightly, while the ranks of Latinos incarcerated has increased by nearly 50%, reaching just over 300,000 in 2009.

A second distinguishing feature of the current state of affairs is the presence of the private prison corporations. For the likes of the industry’s leading powers, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group, detaining immigrants has been the life blood for reviving their financial fortunes.

Just over a decade ago their bottom lines were flagging. Freshly built prisons sat with empty beds while share values plummeted. For financial year 1999 CCA reported losses of $53.4 million and laid off 40% of its workforce. Then came the windfall – 9/11.

In 2001 Steven Logan, then CEO of Cornell Industries, a private prison firm which has since merged with GEO, spelled out exactly what this meant for his sector :

“I think it’s clear that with the events of Sept. 11, there’s a heightened focus on detention, both on the borders and within the U.S. [and] more people are gonna get caught…So that’s a positive for our business. The federal business is the best business for us. It’s the most consistent business for us, and the events of Sept. 11 are increasing that level of business.”

Logan was right. The Patriot Act and other legislation led to a new wave of immigration detentions. By linking immigrants to terrorism, aggressive roundups supplied Latinos and other undocumented people to fill those empty private prison cells. Tougher immigration laws mandated felony convictions and prison time for cases which previously merited only deportation. Suddenly, the business of detaining immigrants was booming. PBS Commentator Maria Hinojosa went so far as to call this the new “Gold Rush” for private prisons.

The figures support Hinojosa’s assertion. While private prisons own or operate only 8% of general prison beds, they control 49% of the immigration detention market. CCA alone operates 14 facilities via contracts with ICE, providing 14, 556 beds. They have laid the groundwork for more business through the creation of a vast lobbying and advocacy network. From 1999-2009 the corporation spent more than $18 million on lobbying, mostly focusing on harsher sentencing, prison privatization and immigration.

One significant result of their lobbying efforts was the passage of SB 1070 in Arizona, a law which nearly provides police with a license to profile Latinos for stops and searches. The roots of SB 1070 lie in the halls of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a far right grouping that specializes in supplying template legislation to elected state officials. CCA and other private prison firms are key participants in ALEC and played a major role in the development of the template that ended up as SB 1070.

For its part, GEO Group has also been carving out its immigration market niche. Earlier this year they broke ground on a new 600 bed detention center in Karnes County, Texas. At about the same time the company bought a controlling interest in BI Corporation, the largest provider of electronic monitoring systems in the U.S. The primary motivation for this takeover was the five year, $372 million contract BI signed with ICE in 2009 to step up the Bush initiated Intense Supervision Appearance Program. (ISAP 11). Under this arrangement the Feds hired BI to provide ankle bracelets and a host of other surveillance for some 27,000 people awaiting deportation or asylum hearings.

Sadly, the Obama presidency has consistently provided encouragement for the likes of CCA and GEO to grow the market for detainees. While failing to pass immigration reform or the Dream Act, the current administration has kept the core of the previous administration’s immigration policy measures intact. These include the Operation Endgame, a 2003 measure that promised to purge the nation of all “illegals” by 2012 and the more vibrant Secure Communities (S-Comm). Under S-Comm the Federal government authorizes local authorities to share fingerprints with ICE of all those they arrest. Though supposedly intended to capture only people with serious criminal backgrounds, in reality S-Comm has led to the detention and deportation of thousands of people with no previous convictions.

At the National Council of La Raza’s Conference Obama tried to console the audience by saying that he knows “very well the pain and heartbreak deportation has caused.” His words failed to resonate. Instead Rep. Gutierrez and others took to the streets, demonstrating that “I feel your pain” statements and appeals to the audacity of hope carry little credibility these days. It is time for a serious change of direction on immigration issues or pretty soon, just as Michelle Alexander has referred to the mass incarceration of African-Americans as the New Jim Crow, we may hear people start to call the ongoing repression of Latinos a “New Operation Wetback.”

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Useful Immigrant Resources on Detention and Deportation

Face Sheet: Immigration Detention--Questions and Answers (Dec, 2008) by:

Thanks for GREAT works from Detention Watch Network (DWN) to compiled the following information, please visit DWN website:

Tracking ICE's Enforcement Agenda
Real Deal fact sheet on detention
Real Deal fact sheet on border

- From Raids to Deportation-A Community Resource Kit
- Know Your Rights in the Community (English, Spanish)
- Know Your Rights in Detention
- Pre-Raid Community Safety Plan
- Raids to Deportation Map
- Raids to Deportation Policy Map

More on Immigration Resource Page


Useful Handouts and Know Your Immigrant Rights When Marches
Immigrant Marches / Marchas de los Inmigrantes

Immigrants and their supporters are participating in marches all over the country to protest proposed national legislation and to seek justice for immigrants. The materials available here provide important information about the rights and risks involved for anyone who is planning to participate in the ongoing marches.

If government agents question you, it is important to understand your rights. You should be careful in the way you speak when approached by the police, FBI, or INS. If you give answers, they can be used against you in a criminal, immigration, or civil case.

The ACLU's publications below provide effective and useful guidance in several languages for many situations. The brochures apprise you of your legal rights, recommend how to preserve those rights, and provide guidance on how to interact with officials.

Know Your Rights When Encountering Law Enforcement
| Conozca Sus Derechos Frente A Los Agentes Del Orden Público

ACLU of Massachusetts - Your Rights And Responsibilities If You Are Contacted By The Authorities English | Spanish | Chinese

ACLU of Massachusetts - What to do if stopped and questioned about your immigration status on the street, the subway, or the bus
| Que hacer si Usted es interrogado en el tren o autobus acerca de su estatus inmigratorio

ACLU of South Carolina - How To Deal With A 287(g)
| Como Lidiar Con Una 287(g)

ACLU of Southern California - What to Do If Immigration Agents or Police Stop You While on Foot, in Your Car, or Come to Your Home
| Qué Hacer Si Agentes de Inmigración o la Policía lo Paran Mientras Va Caminando, lo Detienen en su Auto o Vienen a su Hogar

ACLU of Washington - Brochure for Iraqis: What to Do If the FBI or Police Contact You for Questioning English | Arabic

ACLU of Washington - Your Rights at Checkpoints at Ferry Terminals
| Sus Derechos en Puestos de Control en las Terminales de Transbordadores

Immigrant Protests - What Every Worker Should Know:
| Manifestaciones de los Inmigrantes - Lo Que Todo Trabajador Debe Saber

ACLU of Florida Brochure - The Rights of Protesters
| Los Derechos de los Manifestantes

Washington State - Student Walkouts and Political Speech at School
| Huelgas Estudiantiles y Expresión Política en las Escuelas

California Students: Public School Walk-outs and Free Speech
| Estudiantes de California: Marchas o Huelgas y La Libertad de Expresión en las Escuelas Públicas


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