Monday, November 9, 2009

In Our Community: Immigration News

You've probably been steeped already in the news coverage of the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street. Tear yourself away for a moment (I know, it's hard to compete with the Cookie Monster) and take the time to read about the news on immigration from Monday, November 2 to Monday, November 9.

People from all over the country continue to speak out in unison, saying that the 287(g) program has got to go. This program, which deputizes local police officers to enforce immigration laws, has caused widespread racial and religious profiling. It terrorizes communities by allowing the police to arrest people they suspect of being undocumented immigrants, with little oversight or training. In Tennessee, Jan Snider has written an excellent op-ed on how the 287(g) program tears apart families. This program is broken beyond repair and must be terminated in order to restore trust between police officers and the communities they are charged to protect.

Five men from New York who were detained, abused, and deported just after the attacks of September 11, 2001 have just settled their case with the U.S. government to the tune of $1.26 million. These men were caught up in post-9/11 sweeps that relied primarily on racial and religious profiling and targeted Arab, Muslim, and South Asian men. They had no terrorist ties. They were then abused while in detention - they were beaten, strip-searched, deprived of sleep, and more - and then deported. We commend the Center for Constitutional Rights for assisting these men with a class action lawsuit to expose the human rights violations that the attacks of September 11, 2001 engendered.

Private prison corporations continue to profit off of detaining immigrants who are in deportation proceedings. More than 57% of the immigrants detained by the Department of Homeland Security are held in private prisons. The GEO Group is adding 1,100 beds to its immigration detention facility in Aurora, CO. CCA is trying to get a contract with ICE to build a new 2,200-bed detention center in Los Angeles. These corporations operate for profit, with little oversight of their prison guards and even less concern about the conditions in their detention centers. Privatizing the immigration detention system is not a workable solution to the immigration dilemma. The Department of Homeland Security should work to improve oversight and develop nationwide alternatives to detention for immigrants. Check out our blog series Stories from Detention for more information.

When I was scanning the blogs this week, I came across a valuable article offering four lessons that should encourage lawmakers to keep immigration reform on the Congressional agenda. As the House passes the health care reform bill and the Senate continues to debate, the political will to work on immigration reform may be dissipating. If comprehensive immigration reform is to become a reality during this Congress, it is important to encourage your Members of Congress to keep immigration reform on the agenda. This is not merely a question of fixing a broken immigration system - it is an issue of life and death for many of the immigrants waiting in long visa backlogs or detained in U.S. prisons.

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