Friday, August 29, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Fri, Aug. 29, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Fri, Aug. 29, 2008


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Daily Caribbean Diaspora News


Immigration Reform Takes Back Seat In Obama`s Speech

Immigration Korner

By Felicia Persaud

CaribWorldNews, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Aug. 29, 2008: Immigrants may have tuned in in droves to cheer on Barack Obama, the Democratic Presidential nominee, but immigration reform took a back seat in the Illinois senator`s historic acceptance speech last night.

While Obama`s speech before some 85,000 people at Denver's Invesco Field and millions watching by television zoned in on many of the key points of interest and concern to Americans, immigration grabbed a mere two sentences.

As the first black man to accept the Democratic presidential nomination on the 45th anniversary of the `I Have A Dream` speech, Obama laid out his strategies to tackle most of America`s problems but provided none for immigration reform.

Instead, his only mention came towards the end, when he stressed that no one benefits from `an immigrant mother separated from a child` or an employer who cuts wages to hire undocumented workers.

But Obama stayed away from any discussion on his immigration reform plan, a move that came even as thousands of immigrants gathered in Denver to call for more attention to the issue yesterday.

Immigration raids have become more common in recent months, with some six hundred nabbed in Mississippi in the single largest workplace enforcement raid in the nation's history.

Gabriela Flora, a regional organizer for the American Friends Service Committee, said the lack of immigration reform and workplace raids amounts to a "crisis." And she called for `inclusion and solidarity in that vision Martin Luther King spoke of.`

Last night, however, the son of an immigrant stayed largely silent on the issue that affects some 12 million.


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Immigration: Too Hot for the Dems?


By Roberto Lovato, New America Media

Posted on August 27, 2008,


DENVER, Colo. -- On the eve of the official nomination of presidential candidate Barack Obama, the son of an immigrant, some of the leading voices shaping the Democratic Party's immigration reform platform reveal a mix of reserved optimism and pragmatism.

While the Blue Dog Democrats -- a group of 47 moderate and conservative Democratic Party members of the United States House of Representatives -- support a position on immigration that bears more than a passing resemblance to the "enforcement only" approach of many Republicans, other Democrats support a combination of legalization and major reforms as alternatives to the raids and detentions that defined the Bush era of immigration.

In between these two positions are a significant number of Democrats and their supporters, who want to focus primarily on legalization without including any significant changes to the policies that enable raids and massive detention like this week's raid in Mississippi.

Outside of the Pepsi Convention Center are hundreds of immigrant rights groups planning a major mobilization this Thursday -- the day of Obama's acceptance speech. They will protest what they believe is the unwillingness of Democrats and their Washington-based immigrant rights allies to seriously support what the press release of the March 25th Coalition calls "human legalization and a moratorium on raids and deportations."

As she anxiously awaits the end of Bush era, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., Chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, says she sees real change on the immigration horizon. "I'm confident that with an Obama presidency we will have comprehensive immigration reform in the first term -- but it's not going to be easy."

Lofgren, a former immigration attorney, and other panelists speaking at one of the few events on immigration among the hundreds at the convention, were cautiously optimistic. But they also expressed a number of different interpretations of what the types of policies define "comprehensive immigration reform."

For her part, Lofgren, who did not support the McCain-Kennedy bill -- which combined policies legalizing the more than 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States with policies increasing the number of ways to persecute, prosecute, jail and deport future undocumented immigrants -- believes that "an important part of the answer is not to have so many people who do not have legal status." But at the same time, she believes that something must be done to bring an end to a "whole (detention) system that is wrong and causing lots of suffering." Lofgren and a number of other Democrats in Congress cite the recent case of the Chinese immigrant Hui Lui Ng, who died in immigration detention just two weeks before the DNC.

Though he, too, decries the raids, detention and deportation cited by Lofgren and others as the "least humane part of the broken immigration system," Simon Rosenberg, President and Founder of the New Democrat Network (NDN), which sponsored the panel, is not optimistic that these issues will be included in whatever reform package gets introduced next.

"Although desirable, I think it would be difficult to include fixing the detention and (immigration) judicial system in comprehensive immigration reform, because it really wasn't a critical part of what came about last time," said Rosenberg. "It doesn't mean that it shouldn't get done. I'm just not sure if that's the best vehicle for it. If the goal is to include these issues in comprehensive immigration reform, then we have lots of work to do to make them front and center in this debate."

Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a Washington-based immigration reform group, admitted that he and other supporters of the McCain-Kennedy legislation failed because they "made concessions" on detention, enforcement and other issues in order to woo Republicans, who, Sharry said, "failed to bring any votes."


"We knew the Senate bill was deeply flawed, but we believed the legalization component for the 12 million immigrants was decent, and the family reunification provisions could be fixed before the final passage," Sharry said.


Sharry also stated that he and others were "hopeful" they could change some of the more than 700 pages of enforcement language in the McCain-Kennedy legislation.

For his part, Congressman Raul M. Grijalva, whose district in McCain's home state of Arizona was referred to during hallway talk at the DNC as "ground zero" for the immigration reform debate, said he has been pushing for his colleagues to place a priority not just on legalization, but on detention and raids as well. "We can't wait any more when it comes to demilitarizing and improving enforcement and detention," Grijalva said, as he received word of the ICE raid in Mississippi. "It's what I hear in my district all the time; all the time. And things have gotten better for us (Democrats) in the past five years. Our side has to get tougher. We can't afford to be as muted this time."

Roberto Lovato, a frequent Nation contributor, is a New York-based writer with New America Media



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Editorial: Immigration a key campaign issue

August 29, 2008

Immigration is a word that was seldom heard in Denver this week, as Democrats geared up for their run to Election Day. It was a curious omission.

There are plenty of big issues awaiting the next president: The economy, war, energy, climate change, health care and education have all commanded attention. But immigration needs to be on that list. Borders remain porous. About 12 million people are in the country illegally. Communities on Long Island and elsewhere are struggling with the problem of day laborers who gather on street corners in search of work. The nation's immigration system is broken.

Illegal immigration has roiled the nation and tied Washington in knots. Deaths in detention and aggressive workplace raids - hundreds of people were detained Monday at a factory in Laurel, Miss. - have kept the issue bubbling. And it's of particular interest to Hispanics, a key voting bloc up for grabs in November.

A comprehensive approach has to be found, one that would fortify borders, streamline the naturalization process and provide enough legal temporary workers to meet the needs of employers, such as those on Long Island's East End. And it should lay out a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants already in the country. That's just too many people to realistically detain or deport.

Republicans have an opportunity to showcase their views on immigration at their convention next week in Minnesota. It won't be easy to balance the interests of the party's conservative base, which doesn't much like the idea of a route to citizenship, with those of Hispanic voters, many of whom favor a path out of the shadows for the undocumented.

That's an uncomfortable straddle for presumptive Republican nominee John McCain. As a senator, he championed a path to citizenship, an approach that Democratic nominee Barack Obama embraced, but that most of McCain's Republican colleagues rejected. Campaigns are the time for candidates to forge a mandate for action on tough issues. It's an opportunity that shouldn't be missed on immigration.




Immigration Detention: The Case for Abolition


The obvious question isn't being asked: why are people detained at all? Why should we spend more than $1.2 billion a year to keep immigrants in prison? What purpose does immigration detention serve?


By Jane Guskin, Huffington Post

August 27, 2008


On August 6, 34-year-old immigration detainee Hiu Lui Ng died in Rhode Island, in severe pain from a fractured spine and terminal cancer which went undiagnosed and untreated over the year he spent in federal lockups. Valery Joseph, another immigration detainee, died of an apparent seizure at the Glades County Detention Center in Florida on June 20, just two weeks shy of his 24th birthday. Ng had been living in the US for half his life, since he was 17; Joseph had spent two thirds of his life here, having arrived at age 8. The two men joined a list of at least 80 people who have died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since January 1, 2004.

Since May of this year, investigative stories in the New York Times, Washington Post and CBS News have exposed a pattern of serious medical neglect in the immigration detention system which appears to have been a factor in many of these deaths. (ICE denies the charges, unsurprisingly.)

By focusing on these compelling stories of human suffering, the mainstream media coverage has brought needed attention to the issue of mass incarceration in our immigration system.

Many concerned citizens are now demanding reform, saying that even people facing deportation have a right to basic medical care and humane treatment while detained. Others are less sympathetic, arguing that we shouldn't spend taxpayer dollars on health care for immigrants.

The obvious question isn't being asked: why are people detained at all? Why should we spend more than $1.2 billion a year to keep immigrants in prison? What purpose does immigration detention serve?

Officially, immigration detention is not supposed to be used as punishment; the immigration agency can only detain immigrants in order to more easily deport them, so that they don't "abscond" and evade removal. In reality, the federal government uses immigration detention to punish people for fighting their deportation cases, to pressure them to give up and return to their country of nationality, and to discourage other people from coming to the US to seek asylum.

But these aren't legally or morally acceptable justifications for detention.

Does it even matter whether people "abscond"? Is it really a problem if immigrants who are supposed to be deported end up staying here with their families--living, working, shopping and paying taxes? When we add up the cost in dollars, and in human lives, is it worth it to ensure that immigrants really leave the US?

On the other side of the globe, Australia has confronted the same question and has decided that the answer is no. On July 29, the Australian government announced it will stop routinely detaining asylum seekers while their immigration cases are pending; under the new policy, only adults who are considered a security risk may be detained--and even then, only as a last resort, and for the briefest possible time.

Back in the US, we seem to be heading in the opposite direction. In 1994, there were an average of 6,785 people in immigration detention on any given day; in 2008, that number is around 32,000 and growing. That's an increase of more than 470% in less than 15 years.

Do you feel safer, knowing that 32,000 people are behind bars today for the sole reason that they were not born in this country and have been deemed "removable"? Are you satisfied to spend over $1.2 billion a year of your tax dollars keeping immigrants locked up while the prison industry's profits soar?

Why can't we just abolish immigration detention, the way debtor's prison was abolished in the 1800s?

The solution is not "alternatives to detention" like the electronic monitoring devices some immigrants are forced to wear on their ankles. As the Catholic Legal Immigration Network points out, such devices are "overly restrictive in nature and constitute other forms of detention, rather than meaningful alternatives to detention."

The alternative to detention is simple: no detention.

The government could end detention today by releasing the people who are fighting their cases, and letting everyone else--those who aren't trying to stay here--choose voluntary departure with a six-month period to make arrangements and leave on their own. (The incentive? Voluntary departure means they could later apply to return here legally.)

How much tragedy would be avoided this way? How much money would be saved?

Debtor's prison was considered normal once. So was slavery. But normal doesn't mean right. When slavery was normal (and legal), some reformers advocated for slaves to be treated decently, and not beaten, whipped or otherwise abused. And other people, denounced as radicals at the time, believed slavery was an abomination and organized to stop it.

In the end slavery was abolished, and so was debtor's prison. Immigration detention can also be stopped, if the voices of opposition become loud enough that Congress is forced to act.

Too many people have suffered for too long under our immigration detention system. How many deaths will it take before we end this abuse?


Jane Guskin is co-author of The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers, published by Monthly Review Press in July 2007. Guskin also edits Immigration News Briefs, a weekly newsletter covering immigration issues. She lives in New York City.


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