Even though you may not have heard much about immigration policy in this past week's news, the broken immigration system continues to negatively affect communities across the country. Take a look at the news on immigration from Monday, November 30 to Monday, December 7.
Immigration news made it to the front page of the New York Times! Human Rights Watch and the Constitution Project have released reports on how immigrant detainees are denied their fair day in court due, in part, to frequent and unnecessary transfers to remote detention facilities. Another new report finds that the number of immigrants in detention has more than doubled since 1999. In fiscal year 2009, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained 369, 483 immigrants. Most of these immigrants are non-criminal and do not pose a risk to society - they are only held for immigration violations. Still, immigrant detainees are held for months or even years in jail-like settings with limited contact with attorneys and families.
Here's a paradox: The Department of Homeland Security is detaining refugees for failing to apply for permanent residence within a year - but the law requires refugees to wait a year before applying! As AlterNet points out, "In essence, ICE detains refugees for not doing what the law bars them from doing." Back in September, President Obama authorized the entrance of 80,000 refugees annually. Refugees, fleeing persecution abroad, have historically been welcomed into the United States. The U.S. government should take immediate steps to stop DHS from manipulating the broken immigration system as a tool with which to punish vulnerable refugees.
A border activist in Arizona is threatened with jail time for not complying with his sentence on leaving water jugs on a wildlife reserve. Walt Staton was originally convicted of littering for placing water jugs out for migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. He has so far refused to comply with orders to do community service, saying that humanitarian aid is not a crime.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security continues to expand border militarization. This time it's through virtual fence technology. The project, known as SBInet, would place cameras, sensors, and radar along hundreds of miles of the border. Initially plagued by delays and unforeseen costs, the project currently only exists in small segments of the border with Arizona and would not be fully implemented until 2014.
The Boston Herald reports that Pedro Tavarez, a 49-year-old Dominican immigrant who died in October while in a Massachusetts detention center, had gone into cardiac arrest and therefore died of natural causes. Tavarez's loved ones remain skeptical and hope for further investigation into the cause of death. Most immigrants held in detention centers lack access to basic health care.
Think that immigration has nothing to do with you? Think again. All residents of New Mexico may soon be required to carry passports in order to fly on a plane. These requirements come as part of the Real ID Act, an identity verification bill left over from the Bush administration. Some states have passed laws exempting them from complying with Real ID but New Mexico isn't one of them - and all its residents, including U.S. citizens, may soon face the consequences.
In the Houston Chronicle, the Rev. Harvey Clemons Jr. calls on us to follow Martin Luther King Jr.'s guidance on immigration reform. He recognizes the value of justice for all, saying, "King's vision provides a helpful tool with which to view the immigration struggle today." He points out that today's broken immigration system makes it nearly impossible for immigrants to enter the United States legally. Rather than perpetuating a broken system driven by fear, he envisions a world in which each person's humanity is valued and immigrants are welcomed into U.S. communities.
Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, a known anti-immigrant group, has withdrawn its support for Lou Dobbs (who recently left CNN). ALIPAC says that it is concerned that Dobbs supports a pathway to legal status and eventual citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Dobbs has talked in the media about a possible run for president in 2012 and may be trying to soften his message and reach out to the Latino community for votes, but for the moment it looks as though neither side is interested in having him on board.
I'll leave you with an excellent video making the case for open borders, which I found on the blog I am a shadow. If you haven't read this blog yet, I recommend you do - the author is an undocumented university student sharing his daily lived experiences.