Tag Archives: ACLU

ACTION: View Screening of “The Least of These”, Documentary on Immigrant Detention

least-of-these“The Least of These”

A Documentary on Family Detention, American Values, and the Power of Community Activism

Monday April 20 6:30 PM

Landmark’s E Street Cinema

555 11th Street NW (entrance on E Street between 10th and 11th Street)

There will be a Q&A with the directors and Michelle Brané of the Women’s Refugee Commission after the screening.

The Least of These takes a penetrating look at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a former medium-security prison that re-opened in 2006 as a prototype family detention center. The facility houses immigrant children and their parents from all over the world who are awaiting asylum hearings or deportation proceedings.

As information about troubling conditions at the facility began to leak out, three activist attorneys (Vanita Gupta of the ACLU, Michelle Brané of the Women’s Refugee Commission, and Barbara Hines of the University of Texas School of Law) sought to investigate and address the issues. In telling the story of their quest, the film explores the role and limits of legal and community activism in bringing about change.

The film leads viewers to consider how core American rights and values – presumption of innocence, the protection of children, upholding the family structure as the basic unit of civil society, and America as a refuge of last resort – should apply to immigrants, particularly children.

For more information about the film: www.theleastofthese-film.com

For more information about the festival: www.filmfestdc.org

For ticket information: www.filmfestdc.org/tickets.cfm

Finally, Some Steps to Hold ICE Accountable

ICE RAIDOn Tuesday, the NY Times published an article about complaints that are being filed against ICE for excessive use of force and brutality during raids conducted in Florida in Novemeber.

“There is a way that these operations should be conducted,” said Jose Rodriguez, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Miami-Dade County. “And this is not it.”

At a news conference, Mr. Rodriguez and others said agents had relied on vaguely worded warrants to invade people’s homes and arrest nearly anyone who looked Hispanic. In all, according to the federal agency, 77 illegal immigrants were detained in the operation, and only a handful appear to have been charged with a crime.

In the case involving the accusations of beatings, none of the men have been charged with sex trafficking. Lawyers working with the men said the agents used excessive force: bursting into their home in Homestead about 8:30 p.m., pulling their guns in front of a 4-year-old girl, then forcing all 10 or 11 men inside onto the floor in handcuffs.

This scenario sound eerily familiar to anyone else? Not only are raids systematically denying due process and tearing apart families and communities, they are excessive displays of force and police brutality. Remember my posts about the raid in Annapolis, Maryland earlier this year? This excessive use of SWAT-style force is something that happens over and over when ICE is involved.

Its good to see ICE being held accountable for their actions. The Agency has gone unchecked for too long. Let’s hope this marks a beginning of the end of their absolute power and free reign to bend the rules.

Lawsuit Filed against ICE

As I’ve mentioned before, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (and the Department of Homeland Security), are currently enjoying an unprecented and unregulated amount of power. As ICE raids spiral out of control and their victims face more and more injustice, more must be done to reign in the agency’s politically-fueled power trip. So, its great to hear that advocates are pursuing legal ways to hold ICE accountable:

A coalition of civil rights lawyers is suing federal immigration officials who have illegally failed to release information about reported racial profiling, intimidation and denial of access to counsel by workers detained during a huge workplace raid in Los Angeles.

On Tuesday, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the ACLU of Southern California and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles filed a federal lawsuit asserting that the government’s lack of response violates the Freedom of Information Act. The three groups first requested basic information from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security nearly seven months ago. The government has failed to release a single document.

“The government has squandered an opportunity to allay community concerns about the manner in which it is conducting immigration raids. If the government truly believes that it is conducting these raids in a humane and lawful manner, it should release the documents this lawsuit seeks,” said NILC staff attorney Karen Tumlin.

We will be sure to keep you posted on any developments in this case.

VIDEO: Life (and Liberty?) on the Border

What Civil Rights? This is post 9-11!

In yet another example of the erosion of civil rights we are witnessing in this country, the Bush adminitration passed more legislation in the ongoing “war on terrorism”. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

The Bush administration has overturned a 22-year-old policy and now allows customs agents to seize, read and copy documents from travelers at airports and borders without suspicion of wrongdoing, civil rights lawyers in San Francisco said Tuesday in releasing records obtained in a lawsuit.

The records also indicate that the government gives customs agents unlimited authority to question travelers about their religious beliefs and political opinions, said lawyers from the Asian Law Caucus and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They said they had asked the Department of Homeland Security for details of any policy that would guide or limit such questioning and received no reply.

So, unregulated workplace ICE raids, where people are lined up by race and then arrested, warantless wiretapping and now indefinite power for customs agents to harass travelers without ANY suspicion of wrongdoing. Does anybody else feel like this is a burgeoning police state?

This makes me think of the Pew Hispanic Center study released last week: they found that 1 in 10 Latinos living in the United States had been asked about their immigration status by government officials. The majority of Latinos living in this country are citizens, legal permanent residents or were BORN here. But they continue to be targeted by authorities because of their skin color, under the guise of “counterterrorism”.

Come on, America, you can do better than this.

Denying Passports, the New way to Disenfranchise

There have been many reports recently of Americans living near the US-Mexico border who have been denied passports and had their citizenship questioned. The majority of these people were delivered by midwives (a tradition that is widespread in many cultures) and therefore do not have a birth certificate like they would if they had been born in a hospital.

The most recent instance is decorated war veteran, David Hernandez, who was denied a passport after years of service to his country.

A class action lawsuit has been filed by residents (including Hernandez) and the ACLU:

In a lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union alleges that the government is systematically discriminating against U.S.-born citizens on the basis of ethnicity and national origin. Attorneys for the plaintiff assert that such arbitrary bans disproportionately affect rural and poor people who have less access to doctors.

As Hernandez reports:

“This all started when I sent them (the U.S. State Department) my passport and they sent me a letter saying that it wasn’t sufficient. So, I sent them all kinds of documents -a baptismal certificate, military records, pictures of me in the pre-kindergarten, a copy of my grandmother’s birth certificate that showed that she was an American citizen,” he said, adding, “and that still wasn’t enough. I knew something was wrong when they even started asking me for things like Census documents from the 1930’s that don’t even exist.”

Hernandez and the other plaintiffs say that the U.S. government is denying them passports because they are persons of Mexican and Latino descent whose births were assisted by parteras, or midwives. “The law says that if you’re born in this country, have parents who are or who get naturalized, you are a citizen,” said Hernandez his voice cracking with anger and frustration. “We were all born here. We’re all citizens. The only difference is that we’re Hispanic, we grew up poor and we happened not to be born in a hospital. My mother had to pay a partera $40 instead.”

Officials Defend “How-to” Manual Uncovered by ACLU

From the Chicago Tribune

The U.S. attorneys office and a federal judge are defending the use of documents (including the “how-to” manual I discussed last week) that were given to attorneys as well as workers arrested in the larget immigration raid in history, in Postville, Iowa.

Chief Magistrate Judge Paul A. Zoss for the Northern District of Iowa defended the script, saying that it was standard procedure to provide attorneys with scripts for routine hearings and the practice was not only linked to immigration cases, but to criminal cases as well.

Bob Teig, assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa said, “”The documents helped ensure fairness, understanding, and constitutional rights were of paramount importance throughout the proceedings.  They did nothing to push people into pleading guilty; quite the opposite is true.”

However, among the documents are waivers — printed in English and Spanish — that bar workers from pursuing further legal claims or procedures. Others waive the legal right to a grand jury to determine criminal charges.

One waiver read, “I have been advised that I have the right to insist that any felony charge brought against me in federal court first be presented to a U.S. Grand Jury … I would like to waive that right, and agree to be prosecuted under information filed against me in this case by the United States Attorney.”

I’m not exactly sure how these waivers fit into Teig’s idea of ensuring fairness, understanding and constitutional rights.

Los Angeles: Judge Upholds Special Order 40

Yesterday a Los Angeles judge ruled to throw out a lawsuit against the law known as Special Order 40, which limits law enforcement officers from asking about immigration status.

The suit had been filed by a citizen who admitted he had:

“no personal experience with the order, but instead brought the lawsuit as a city taxpayer, who argued that his taxes were being used to further an illegal endeavor.”

The suit was thrown out, granting a motion from the ACLU and the City of Los Angeles. The judge claimed that the suit failed to prove that the Special Order was in conflict with federal and state laws.

“We’re very pleased,” said Hector Villagra, an ACLU director, after the ruling. For decades, “the Police Department has struck an important balance between public safety and the enforcement of federal immigration law. It has tried to maintain an equilibrium that would allow undocumented witnesses and victims of crime to feel confident that they can come to the police. . . . That balance has been upheld today.”

Click here to read the full LA Times article.