On Saturday October 5, immigrant rights organizations are planning more than 100 actions in 40 states across the country, defending the rights of immigrants. The actions include rallies, marches, forums and more. The immigrant rights organizations are being joined by unions, churches and various other community and rights organizations. They are demanding that Congress pass legislation that respects the rights of immigrants and defends the dignity of labor. Called the National Day of Dignity and Respect, broad opposition to Obama’s continuing deportations, separation of families and attacks on immigrant and workers’ rights is being developed.
Organizers bring out that they are demanding that the work of immigrants be honored, their many contributions to the nation respected and for their families and children to live in dignity and without fear. They reject the refusal of the federal government to pass legislation and the conditions they face of more families torn apart by deportations and detentions and more abusive employers and poverty wages. Many are putting forward the call, Legalization for All!
The October 5 actions include those in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, DC, Florida, Hawai’i, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington State and Wisconsin.
On Tuesday, October 8 a March and concert will take place in Washington, DC. If government is still shut down it will occur at the Capitol building, targeting Congress for attacking workers by locking them out without pay and closing services for the public, as well as their refusal to even bring immigration legislation to the floor for debate in the House. Many also oppose immigration legislation passed in the Senate as being anti-immigrant and anti-worker. They are demanding a law that respects rights.
Many participants mobilizing these actions were angered by recent statements by President Obama that he would not call on immigration officials to use their “prosecutorial discretion” to stop the massive numbers of deportations. Immigration officials can use their discretion in each case as to whether to deport an individual or not. They are not required to deport an individual simply because they are undocumented — the main reason for most deportations at this time.
It is estimated that more than 1,000 people, most guilty of no crime, are being deported daily. Immigrant rights groups brought out that Obama’s legacy already is to be the most anti-immigrant administration in history, deporting record numbers of people.
Actions were organized in response to Obama’s statements, including at the White House. Activists handcuffed themselves to the north gates of the White House, unfurling a sign with Obama’s image and the words, “Mr. President Stop Deportations.” They chanted, “Not one more!”
Organizations across the country said they would not let Obama off the hook. They also brought out that while Obama claims to be targeting people who have committed multiple violent crimes, in fact is the majority of those deported have not committed any crime, or at most are guilty of misdemeanors, like traffic violations.
Voice of Revolution salutes the many organizing efforts and joins all in demanding: Defend the Rights of Immigrants and Workers! Stop the Deportations Now!
Under Threat Of Deportations,
Any immigrant will tell you that, of all the indignities ravaging the more than 11 million undocumented people in the United States, there is no greater horror than that of watching your young son or daughter cry helplessly as heavily armed government officials chase you down, arrest and deport you while your child screams “Mama! Mama!” or “Papa! Papa!”
As immigrant communities and supporters of justice-driven immigration reform get ready to participate in national mobilizations around the country on October 5, we are inspired by a commitment to inject respect and dignity into our national debate about immigrant communities and immigration policy reform. But we also recognize a moral imperative to bring to the forefront of this effort the devastating impact of aggressive enforcement practices on nearly two million immigrant households over the past five years.
As we prepare to stand for “Dignity and Respect” for immigrants on October 5, we must take stock of the humanitarian crisis within immigrant communities resulting from the systematic detention, imprisonment and deportation of our fellow human beings who also happen to be hard-working immigrants. The vast majority of those affected by this enforcement mania are law-abiding individuals who work hard, pay taxes, and contribute in many ways to their communities. Most of those who have been deported, particularly during the past five years, had no criminal records whatsoever. Their only infraction to the law was residing in the U.S. without an immigrant visa. The ripple effects of so many people detained and deported over the past 15 years are deep and long lasting. For Latin American immigrant households, the past 25 years have been a period of systematic humiliation where respect and dignity towards our communities have been sorely missing.
The U.S. Congress bears much of the responsibility for this humanitarian crisis whose roots are found in mean-spirited laws dating back to 1996 that deliberately ignored the contributions made by immigrant communities to the well being of the nation. Here, much of the blame lies with Republican Party legislators, but we cannot ignore that significant numbers of Democratic members of Congress have also supported the ill-advised approach to immigration that has characterized federal policymaking since the early 1990’s. As we take part in the October 5 mobilizations, we must demand accountability from all our elected officials and demand an end, once and for all, to all immigration bills inspired by racist and xenophobic prejudices.
We have no intention of letting Congress off the hook. Now is not the time for partisan obstructionism. Truly wise immigration policy reform proposals must be considered and acted upon right away. At the same time, those of us who work with immigrant communities who grapple day in and day out with the humiliation and uncertainty produced by our current immigration policy, must also hold accountable President Obama for his unwillingness to exercise administrative discretion on how this deeply inhumane policy is enforced.
It is precisely because of President Obama’s refusal to make better use of his discretionary power that many immigrant rights organizations have kept a steady, active and visible campaign calling on him to put an end to the current practice of detention and deportation of immigrants. On the eve of the October 5 mobilizations across the nation, it is crucial to cry out as loudly as we can and to convey our messages in the strongest terms possible on both these issues.
One the one hand, we demand immediate action from Congress toward passing just and common-sense driven immigration reform. On the other hand, we must also demand an immediate halt of deportations from President Obama. Both demands are urgent and imperative.
From the perspective of immigrant communities, it is very obvious that Republican members of Congress are so far primarily responsible for impeding a rational debate and consideration of wise immigration policy reform proposals. But we are equally aware that it is President Obama who could make a difference right away, just as his deputies did in 2011 when Prosecutorial Discretion was announced, and again in 2012 when Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was granted.
Our commitment to the principles of respect and dignity requires us to speak truthfully on October 5 and denounce those who block consideration of much-needed reforms, and to hold President Obama accountable for the pain and agony being wrought on thousands of immigrant households every single day.
Let’s all be there on October 5, calling out for keeping families together, and for the respect and dignity that immigrants deserve.
Oscar Chacon is the Executive Director, National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC)
President Obama and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have said that federal efforts to detain and deport undocumented immigrants is geared toward individuals who pose a “serious threat.” As ICE states, “The removal of [undocumented immigrants] who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety shall be ICE’s highest immigration enforcement priority.” Commonly, the content given to “a threat to public safety” is criminal conviction for a serious crime. However, recent data gathered by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC)-Immigration, showed otherwise.
According to TRAC, ICE data covering 2012 and the first four months of 2013, almost half (47.7%) of the 347,691 people subject to an ICE detainer had no criminal conviction at all. Where there was a conviction, traffic violations like driving under the influence were the most frequent offense. The second most frequent was for a simple traffic violation (6%) and the third was for marijuana possession. Detainers for all these people combined accounted for fully two-thirds of all those detained by ICE. The large majority had no serious criminal convictions, not even non-violent felonies. And while these individuals pose no threat, their often brutal and unexpected removal from their families and communities does pose a serious threat to the safety of the communities and well being of all involved.
The use of detainers is an important part of Obama’s efforts to integrate local and state law enforcement into the federal machinery and put them under federal command. Under various federal programs, like “Secure Communities,” the federal government authorizes local police to profile anyone arrested who they think might be an immigrants. The information is forwarded to ICE who then can request a “detainer,” keeping the individual in jail for 48 hours until ICE arrives to remove them to a detention center, often far from their homes and families. This occurs regardless of whether they are actually convicted or even arrested for a serious crime. This reality is born out by the statistics, where almost half of those detained had no convictions.
The data also shows that less than 1% of those placed on detainers were for drug trafficking and less than 2% for assault.
Many of those detained are actual documented immigrants, who then have to stay in detention until their court cases can be heard — sometimes for a year or more.
Overall, the facts make clear that the aim of the detentions and deportations is not the safety or security of the people but rather to terrorize and humiliate immigrants and all those who resist these government attacks and engage local and state police in this process.