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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)"

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The Wolf, The Wool and The 99%

November 14, 2011 ·

Who’s crying wolf and pulling the wool over our eyes when they should be hiring us to shear the sheep and make some wool hats for the young Occupyers facing a cold winter while fighting for the 99% of us? Is it the TEA Party? Is it the Republican Party? Is it the Democratic Party? Is it President Obama? Is it the Media?

Collectively, let’s stand with the Occupiers in at least 1400 communities nation-wide and make a few things clear to those who seek to mislead us:

There is no Deficit Crisis.
There is a Jobs Crisis.

There is no Budget Crisis.
There is a Priorities Crisis.

There is no Domestic Needs Spending Crisis.
There is a Defense and War Spending Crisis.

There is no Taxed Enough Already TEA Party Crisis.
There is a Corporate and Super-Rich barely-taxed-at-all Revenue Crisis.
There is no regulation crisis. There is a climate crisis.

Finally--There is no lack of federal funds.
There is a lack of political will to spend the funds on those things which matter most to the well-being of 99% of us.

These remarks and others were made at a recent Fund Our Communities Town Hall. Fund Our Communities is a growing coalition of community groups and concerned citizens who would like to see a reduction in military spending and a reprioritizing of federal dollars to our communities so that we may have good jobs and adequate access to vital human needs, such as quality healthcare, education, nutrition and transportation. IPS Fellow Karen Dolan and IPS Newman Fellow, Matias Ramos were speakers at a Fund Our Communities Town Hall in Prince George's County Maryland this month. Also joining them on the panel were: Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD), Prince George's County Executive, Rushern Baker, MD State Senator Paul Pinksy, former MD State Senator David Harrington, MD State Delegate, Aisha Braveboy, and Fund Our Communities organizer Alex Welsch.

Matias' remarks focused on the Occupy Movement and the MD DREAM Act. Please listen to him here.

Karen's remarks are centered on the aforementioned. Click here to hear her full presentation and please comment and engage in dialogue below.

Why Women? Why Now? Looking at Gender and Immigration

October 17, 2011 ·

One need only consider the story of Roxana Santos  mentioned in Break the Chain’s previous blog post to understand the very real implications of strict immigration enforcement laws in this country and what that looks like for a woman.  Roxana lives in Maryland.  She is the mother of a one-year old little boy and she was scheduled to be deported to her native El Salvador at the end of last month.  Her crime?  Eating her lunch outside her place of employment. On Thursday, September 29th, one day before the scheduled deportation, Ms. Santos was granted a one year stay while allegations of discrimination and overzealous enforcement of immigration laws are investigated.

Roxana Santos and other immigrant women demand justice. She is the victim of unjust laws that are determined to deport and dehumanize women (and men) who are contributing members of our society.

The debate around immigration reform in our nation right now is centered around nativist fears, ideological differences about what an American should look like, and the idea that immigrants are “taking” jobs from U.S. citizens who have been hit hard by the recent economic recession.  Immigrants are not taking our jobs but the fear and hate speak permeates everyday discussions.  There is, however, little talk about the relationship between gender, immigration and exploitation.  Immigration is no longer a male dominated phenomenom- women comprise 49% of the world’s 214 million international migrants.  This trend has been called the “feminization of migration.”  According to statistics compiled by Reuters for International Woman’s Day 2011, of the 1.2 billion people living in poverty worldwide, 70% are women.  If opportunities do not exist for women at home, they will leave. This is a basic survival instinct that has kept our species alive since the beginning of humankind.

Although access to paid work can definitely have very positive effects on a woman’s ability to provide for her own (and her family’s) physical and psychological needs, migration in search of such employment can also have equally devastating consequences.  It is no secret that undocumented workers are particularly prone to being exploited.  

Women are subjected to being targeted in transit and when they arrive in the host country.  According to the film The Invisibles, highlighted by this year’s Letelier-Moffit Human Rights Awards international honoree Padre Pedro Pantoja, six out of ten migrant women are sexually assaulted during their journey north through Mexico.  

A lack of a support system can make a woman more vulnerable to gender-based violence and intimidation upon arrival as well.  There is a triple threat of exploitation (based on gender, race, and legal status) that today’s state based deportation-focused laws are not addressing.  Being unable to access extended family through family reunification programs also prevents some women from accessing the public work sphere.  In this scenario a mother’s only option may be domestic work. 

A gendered analysis may determine that it would be beneficial for society if the legal definition of family was widened to include parents of adult children.  If a woman’s parents had a legal remedy to migrate to be with her this could mean the difference between her being able to work to support her family or not.  This is particularly true for cultures that highly value extended family kinship and/or have no other childcare options available.  Immigrants do not want to be a burden to existing social welfare mechanisms; they simply need legal mechanisms that respect their right to migrate, work, and live the life they want to live.

We have a habit of seeing things as gender neutral.  This means that we are taught to “be objective” and analyze information from this neutral perspective.  The only problem is the “neutral” most typically refers to the White, property owning, male’s perspective.  Immigration policy and reform is a great example of an area where a gender lens needs to be applied.  According to the International Organization for Migration “women and men migrate for different reasons, use different channels, and have different experiences.”  Women will continue to migrate to ensure their livelihood and the livelihood of their families, and they face different challenges and need laws that adequately respond to these challenges. Comprehensive, gender sensitive reform is needed to halt the trend of states targeting women and families for deportation.  We cannot “add and stir” gender into immigration reform legislation post enactment; now is the time to discuss and elevate these concerns.

Celia Garcia Perez is an advocacy intern for the Break the Chain Campaign.

Obama Announces Deportation Policy Reform

August 18, 2011 ·

The announcement today that the Obama administration will review the deportation cases of more than 300,000 undocumented immigrants is one positive step among many missteps in an administration that has failed to provide a coherent strategy on immigration.

On the White House blog, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz talks about the steps that will be taken by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create that review committee which will review those deportation cases:

DHS, along with the Department of Justice, will be reviewing the current deportation caseload to clear out low-priority cases on a case-by-case basis and make more room to deport people who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk. And they will take steps to keep low-priority cases out of the deportation pipeline in the first place. 

It remains to be seen if this latest announcement is the beginning of a pivotal moment where Obama begins shifting to a more liberal immigration policy, or if months from now we see it as the only moderately positive step among many negative ones.

Throughout his time in office, Obama has let immigration policies evolve on their own, providing little input other than periodic speeches in Latino-heavy areas. By making no comment on congressional increases in enforcement-related spending, while opting to ratchet up enforcement policies that raise the number of deportations, Obama created the need for political actions like today’s.

300,000 cases is a small fraction of the entire undocumented population, and much more reform will be needed at the congressional level to move the country forward. The question is whether Obama and his administration can recognize that their actions on beefing up the "deportation pipeline" that Muñoz talks about, i.e. their support for mandatory Secure Communities, are likely to do more damage than any cosmetic reforms to the prosecutorial process can undo.

Dragnet Nation

August 10, 2011 ·

The Secure Communities program was always an intended tool for the war in Eastasia. Or was it Eurasia?

There is no societal benefit to family separation. CC Photo by cfpereda.The Obama administration continues to use Orwellian language in its quest to take the over-reaching Secure Communities nationwide. This pilot fingerprinting program would create a deportation dragnet for undocumented immigrants around the country. After struggling to nail down memoranda of agreement in states like Illinois and New York, and counties like Arlington, Virginia, the administration is now saying that local governments can't demand to be exempt from this program. Rather than listening to mounting concerns from state and local officials, it has dropped the premise that states, counties, and cities can opt out of this program.

Secure Communities hit a roadblock recently, when a judge ordered it release documents detailing its relationship with the FBI. Now the government is making the ICE-FBI relationship official, and has canceled its previously signed agreements with state governors. From the New Mexico Independent:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement sent out letters to 39 governors Friday, terminating all existing memoranda of agreement between states and ICE for the Secure Communities program, which shares fingerprints collected by state and local law enforcement to deport criminals. The letters say simply that such MOAs are not necessary to enforce the program.

ICE's letters made the claim that it doesn't have to ask for the information if it can get it from another federal agency. Here's an excerpt from the letter sent to Delaware Governor Jack Markell [pdf]:

ICE has determined that an MOA is not required to activate or operate Secure Communities in any jurisdiction. Once a state or local law enforcement agency voluntarily submits fingerprint data to the federal government, no agreement with the state is legally necessary for one part of the federal government to share it with another part. For this reason, ICE has decided to terminate all existing Secure Communities MOAs.

This announcement, made last Friday, shows that ICE is being lazy in trying to justify its own powers. By claiming that it can simply share the information that the FBI gets, it avoids any obligation to meet the needs of the actual communities the agency says it wants to secure. Those communities have been calling for a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants for years, and have fought back this enforcement-only approach.

My fear is that President Obama's penchant for seeking the political center of every argument will render him unable to take a stand for humane immigration reform if and when such debate in Congress happens. As of now, it's hard to imagine it happening before 2013 at the least. Until then, there could be millions more deportations. And, millions more undocumented immigrants could wind up spending the rest of their lives on the underground economy. 

The Obama Administration's Attack on Immigrants' Civil Liberties Hits a Judicial Roadblock

July 20, 2011 ·

A powerful, nationwide electronic immigration sweep is slowly coming to a police force near you. And, the general public might be roped into giving away some of its civil liberties in the process.

That can be concluded from the recently exposed connection between the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

The Department of Homeland Security has championed technological programs like Secure Communities, an electronic fingerprint data-sharing program that's scheduled to be rolled out nationally by 2013. ICE and DHS, however, recently suffered a setback with Secure Communities.

From Courthouse News Service:

MANHATTAN (CN) - A federal judge ordered the federal government to hand over "embarrassing" information about its "Secure Communities" program. "There is ample evidence that ICE and DHS have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Secure Communities," U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote.

"In particular, these agencies have failed to acknowledge a shift in policy when it is patently obvious — from public documents and statements - that there has been one," the judge added in a scorching 81-page Opinion and Order in National Day Labor Organizing Network et al. v United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency et al.

Also on Monday, the DHS Office of Inspector General said it will investigate ICE's misrepresentations of the Secure Communities opt-out policy and whether the program fulfills its purported mandate.

The policy shift comes from a rhetorical maneuver by ICE over the last couple of years. Initially, programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities were branded as optional, and slowly brought into cities and counties where their introduction wouldn't be controversial.

Secure Communities was originally explained as a federal immigration fingerprinting database that localities could choose to use to identify gang and criminal activity. The vast majority of the undocumented population, however, is non-criminal.

Despite early signs that a lot of students and parents of U.S. citizens were getting detained under Secure Communities, the administration continued its pursuit of Secure Communities across the nation. At some point, the program stopped being branded as optional, and the courts are now saying that much was obvious.

But the question remains of what ICE is trying to hide while changing the way they talk about Secure Communities.

Recently released documents show that Secure Communities is simply the first step to a wide-reaching FBI program called the Next Generation Initiative that will also include iris scans, palm prints, and facial imaging.

The plaintiff in the case is the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), an organization that's suing ICE in this case. (It also won a 2010 Letelier-Moffit Human Rights Award). NDLON points out the political damage that Obama has caused to himself by running after the murky idea of a "secure border" and letting ICE play the national security game all the way to the bank:

"While the Obama administration boasts of the 'Secure Communities' program to win political points with Republicans, it has kept actual policy details nearly secret from Congress, state partners, and the American public. Thankfully, federal courts, not ICE, get the last word," said NDLON director Pablo Alvarado.

Obama needs to realize that he will take punches from Republicans no matter what he does, and that ICE lied to the public on his behalf. So far, he has chosen to stand with those liars, but they might be costing the U.S. governement too much in legal fees. In 2012, he may also pay heavily in lost votes from former supporters who expected him to champion just and humane immigration reform.

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