Category Archives: Updates

White House Pledge to Immigrant Community Being Hindered by Bureaucracy, Lack of Leadership by DHS/ICE

Prosecutorial Discretion Not Being Applied to Law-Abiding Immigrants in Many Cases

Federal immigration officials have not evenly applied ‘prosecutorial discretion’ to deportation cases, and in some areas, have not implemented the Obama Administration’s plan to suspend deportation proceedings for law-abiding immigrants with strong ties to their communities.

During a national telephonic news conference today, members of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) stated that there have been numerous cases where prosecutorial discretion has not been applied since the Obama Administration announced its plan last summer.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) clarified their positions last fall on prosecutorial discretion. The agencies pledged to review more than 300,000 cases currently in deportation proceedings to identify low-priority individuals whose cases could be closed because they had strong ties to the United States and they posed no threat to society.

But this month in testimony before Congress, ICE Director John Morton said that as of March 5th, ICE had reviewed 142,000 non-detained cases and 23,000 detained cases, and that only 11,000 cases were determined to fall under ‘prosecutorial discretion.’ Only 1,583 cases have been closed.

“Immigrant and Latino communities across the nation are deeply disappointed, shocked and appalled at this dismal rate of case closure,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights for Los Angeles (CHIRLA). “Based on the numbers we have seen, we can only conclude that Secretary Napolitano and her staff are willfully disregarding the policy of prosecutorial discretion announced by President Obama last year.”

ICE continues to use a narrow “one-size fits all” analysis in its review of cases, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appears to be content with this approach, said Isabel Vinent, deputy director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

“Secretary Napolitano risks undermining yet another promise made by President Obama to Latino and immigrant communities, and in an election year,” Vinent added.

Two women, Sara Martinez and Jennifer Martinez (no relation), spoke of how prosecutorial discretion has not been applied in their cases. Sara Martinez, who lives in New York, is the sole caretaker of her 6-year-old daughter. Sara faces deportation back to her native Ecuador despite having no criminal record and strong ties to the U.S.

“Since I came to the U.S., I have paid my taxes on time, I’ve learned how to speak English and I have been involved in my community,” said Sara Martinez. “I have never committed a crime either in Ecuador or in the United States. I just want to give my daughter a better life than I have had.”

Jennifer Martinez’s husband, Jaime Martinez, was recently deported back to Mexico. Jaime was the sole provider for his family of four U.S.-born children, said his wife of 14 years. Jennifer Martinez and her children live in Wisconsin.

“Because of a broken immigration system, my family has been torn apart,” Jennifer Martinez said.

“FIRM members are calling on Secretary Napolitano to demonstrate real leadership in the implementation of this program,” said Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona. “ICE and DHS cannot continue to operate without accountability.”

FIRM is a national coalition of grassroots organizations fighting for immigrant rights at the local, state and federal level.

FIRM Applauds Obama Administration’s Proposal to Keep Families United

Rule Change Eases Prolonged Separations

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) today applauded the Obama Administration’s proposed rule change allowing spouses and children of U.S. citizens to stay together in the United States while family members work to gain permanent U.S. residency.

Under current law, undocumented immigrants have to leave the United States and apply for a waiver to lessen the 3-year to 10-year bar they face before they can re-enter the country. Often, the process to obtain a waiver can take months or even years, meaning families have to endure severe prolonged separations.

The rule change would allow spouses and children of U.S. citizens to file their waivers in the United States. The action does not require congressional approval.

“In focusing on keeping families together, the Obama administration is moving in a positive direction to significantly ease the hardship families are going through now to obtain these waivers,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change. The Center is a member of FIRM. “Families should not be torn apart because of their immigration status. The proposal cuts through unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape and focuses on family unity.”

The rule change would help families like Miguel and Lorena Reyes of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Miguel Reyes had to go back to Mexico in August 2011 to apply for his waiver. He is still waiting for it. Meanwhile, Lorena Reyes, a U.S. citizen, is working hard to maintain a normal family life for the couple’s two-year-old daughter, Ruth.

“This immigration process has been so stressful and devastating for me and my family,” said Lorena Reyes, who told her story to the Alliance for a Just Society and the Idaho Community Action Network, both members of FIRM. “Our life is on hold, our family’s future is on hold, as we wait for his visa to be approved. I am struggling financially and also suffering emotionally and so is our daughter. I want my husband to come back home now to wait for his waiver.”

FIRM hopes the policy is extended to immigrants with lawful permanent resident status. Families should not have to wait in other countries for prolonged periods of time to be reunited with their families in the United States.

Catching up: Arpaio, detention reform and veterans facing deportation

I have been in San Francisco (thus the picture) for the past few days at a training with the New Organizing Institute. The training was a wonderful experience and I met some amazing people doing very exciting and important work (more on this later). But being away from the blogosphere for even a few days always stresses me out. So much has happened while I’ve been gone. There are a couple of things I want to write full-length posts on, but in the mean time, I’m going to do a quick round up of updates and news.


First things first, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, long time Latino terrorize in Maricopa County, has lost some of his swagger! It was decided that Arpaio is to be stripped of his power to arrest undocumented immigrants in the county. What this actually means is that he can no longer racially profile and target people of a certain skin color. Though Arpaio says that he will continue to conduct raids, this is at least a step in the right direction coming from the Department of Homeland Security. Read more about it here and here.

Next up, this week the Department of Homeland Security announced its plans for reform of the nation’s immigrant detention system. DHS announced its outlines for reform this past Tuesday. And, like I’ve said before, they are certainly a step in the right direction. However, they will not be effective unless they are incorporated into a comprehensive reform of the full immigration system in this country. Kevin Johnson from NILC sums it up nicely here:

The DHS announcement today identifies several of the steps the agency must make to create a “truly civil system” and correctly notes that our current immigration enforcement programs “identify large volumes of aliens with low level convictions or no convictions” who should not be the focus of immigration enforcement efforts. The detention system can’t be viewed in isolation from how immigration enforcement is conducted.

Read more about proposed detention reform here and here.

In other news, Marisa Treviño from Latina Lista reports on the over 3,000 veterans who have fought for a country that won’t even make them citizens. And to repay them? They are now battling deportation. Read her full post here. And also check out the Reform Immigration FOR America blog’s write-up of  a new documentary on military families being torn apart of the broken immigration system. Those who risk their lives for our country deserve better – and as Marisa points out they even  “deserve extra kudos because their volunteerism runs much deeper than someone who is a citizen.”

Last on the list (which is by no means exhaustive) is a report that was released by the U.N. on Monday. The report’s main finding is simple: migrants contribute much more to their new countries than they take. For more on this check out CAUSA Oregon’s blog and listen to their podcast. So for all of the folks out there who continue to shout about immigrants who are “draining” our country, listen up!

Standing FIRM at Netroots Nation ’09


I have the privelege of attending Netroots Nation 2009 this year. In fact, I’m writing this from my hotel in Pittsburgh, where I’m prepping for the New Organizing Institute’s pre-Netroots Summit about the intersection between the LGBT movement and the immigration reform movement.

Needless to say, I’m very excited about this whole week and looking forward to writing up some of the more noteworthy experiences. If you’re around, be sure to check out some of the great panels happening.

Also, I’m here with FIRM parent organization, the Center for Community Change, so be sure to come check out our booth and get more information about how you can be involved in the fight for immigration reform, healthcare reform and low-wage worker rights.

UPDATE: Obama Meets with Congressional Hispanic Caucus


Earlier today I mentioned that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with President Obama to urge him to address comprehensive immigration reform this year. The President expressed a continued commitment to reforming immigration and also noted that his administration will be looking for ways to relieve the damage done to communities by current immigration enforcement measures.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a champion of comprhensive immigration reform, released statement about the meeting:

“We came to the President today as allies and supporters, and in return he showed us that he remains committed to immigration reform that stabilizes our economy, secures our borders and keeps our families together. “The President showed the CHC that, although it is very early in his administration, he understands that for the immigrant community it’s the 11th hour, and there is no time to waste. The Latino community supported President Obama overwhelmingly in the election, and they remain energized not only by his victory but also by his message of support for comprehensive immigration reform. I believe that a plan is forthcoming, and that we will see real change this year.”

This is an extremely important step toward immigration reform happening this year and an energizing message for all of us who are pushing for it. It seems like the demand for reform is going to hit a critical mass in the near future, with so many different voices joining to call on the administration and Congress to address the issue.


FIRM’s parent organization, the Center for Community Change, also released a statement from our Executive Director, Deepak Bhargava. He had this to say about today’s meeting:

Today, we welcome President Obama’s pledge during the CHC meeting to start a national conversation on just and humane immigration reform. The Center looks forward to bringing the voices of those most affected to the conversation.

Our country, now more than ever, needs comprehensive immigration reform that gives the hard working men and women already here an earned path to citizenship, keeps families together and provides legal avenues for future workers to seek out opportunities here and join the struggle to strengthen our economy.

Its so important to remember that during this time of crisis in our country, we have to come together to solve then nation’s problems. Continuing the politics of divisiveness and exclusion will not foster the type of community solutions that we need. We need everyone’s contribution, both to the economy and to our communities, if we want to right the course of the nation.

It’s looking like today’s meeting is the first step to getting back on course.

UPDATE: Record Numbers Turn out for CAUSA’s Immigrant Day of Action


This past Saturday, over 450 Latinos, immigrants and advocates gathered in Salem, Oregon to attend CAUSA Oregon’s immigrant day of Action – the highest attendance in the 12 years CAUSA has hosted the event. This record turnout sends a message to the White House and to Congress about the public support for comprehensive immigration reform.

Community members from as far away as Florida gathered to discuss important issues facing the immigrant community, such as: prospects for passing Just and Humane immigration reform, the impact of Oregon’s stricter Driver’s License rules, immigrant advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal level and know your rights information. Click here to view a photo slideshow from the event.

Last Saturday’s event also helped CAUSA gear up their push to turn out 10,000 people to the May 1st events this year.

UPDATE: Obama Reaffirms Commitment to Immigration Reform after Last Week’s Raid

Last Wednesday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided an engine remanufacturing plant in Bellingham, Washington, ignited a quick and fierce outcry from immigration rights advocates and communities across the country. We responded and the administration listened.

The day after the Raid, after thousands of calls into the White House and meetings on the Hill, Janet Napolitano called for an investigation into the raid.

Napolitano told lawmakers during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday that she did not know about the raid before it happened and was briefed on it early Wednesday morning. She has asked U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which arrested 28 illegal immigrants in the raid, for answers.

“I want to get to the bottom of this as well,” she said. She said work-site enforcement needs to be focused on the employers.


The White House has now also responded through spokesman Nick Shapiro:

“Secretary Napolitano is conducting a thorough review of ICE, including enforcement,” Mr. Shapiro said. “The president believes we must respect due process and our best values as we enforce the law. The real answer to our broken immigration system is to fix it. The president has said that we will start the immigration reform debate this year, and this continues to be the plan.”

There you have it folks. We yelled and the administration answered. It looks like immigration will be on the agenda this year. Lets hope Obama keeps his promise to get the ball rolling on Comprehensive Reform; because if he doesn’t, we will be here to keep up the pressure!