Tag Archives: racial profiling

Today Obama meets with Brewer. Will leadership ensue?

By guest blogger, Elisabeth Lesser.

Today, Governor Jan Brewer will meet with President Obama regarding border security and Arizona’s SB 1070. This will be the first meeting between Governor Brewer and the President since the Governor signed SB 1070 into law in April, and the tone set tomorrow by the President will send a clear message about his priorities and agenda in the face of such blatant disregard for social justice and basic civil rights.

Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, released the following statement regarding the meeting:

“We don’t expect much from a governor who’s clearly more interested in winning a primary election than she is in protecting her state. She’s firmly dug her partisan heels into the Arizona sand, and will only use the meeting with the President as a platform for even more political grandstanding.”

I’d like to add that there are plenty of good reasons why Governor Brewer doesn’t inspire confidence. She stands beside Sarah Palin in the ranks of smug, uber-conservative female politicians. Asked by CNN how she would respond if the Department of Justice attempted to challenge SB 1070, Brewer responded firmly:

“We’ll meet you in court… I have a pretty good record of winning in court.”

And even when confronted with proof that her reasons for enacting SB 1070, namely increased crime, are not true, she dismisses the facts and sticks to her misrepresentations.

Back to Bhargava’s statement:

“But from the President we do expect action. He should immediately cancel the 287 g and Secure Communities programs that opened the door to the racist, divisive law Brewer signed last month. By ending local law enforcement’s role in immigration law, the President will leave no doubt that immigration law is solely the federal government’s purview.  The President must also call for an immediate moratorium on deportations until comprehensive immigration is enacted, thus making a statement that hardworking men and women will not be separated from their families simply because Republicans have chosen to continue obstructing progress.”

Fortunately, the fight against the startlingly discriminatory Arizona law has been flooding national headlines. Yesterday, nonviolent civil disobedience in New York reached a pinnacle as 56 protesters were arrested, the latest in a campaign of civil disobedience that has led to the arrests of people in DC, LA, Chicago and Seattle. And in Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to join the Arizona boycott. CCC pledged to join this boycott on May 6th, and you can learn more about why you too should join us here.

As we watch the immigration debate rekindle in full force and Arizona strips its residents of  adequate civil liberties, it is clear that the people of this country are up in arms, and that the federal government needs to act. Let’s hope the President has heard the united voices against SB 1070 and will finally deliver on his campaign promise to actively reform our nation’s broken immigration system, once and for all.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Can we shut this guy down yet?

Though I caught wind of this story last week, I just sat down to do some research this morning and all I can say is “Are you KIDDING me?!?!”. Last week Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has made a name for himself by hunting down the “illegals” of Maricopa County, Arizona, admitted that clothing, conduct and speech are the characteristics that help him determine the immigration status of potential targets. He may as well have said “Well, I racially profile people. That’s how I know”. Incredible. Check out the clip below:

Arpaio is facing ever-increasing scrutiny over his immigration enforcement practices and is currently under a Department of Justice investigation for the countless allegations of racial profiling leveled at his agency. Apparently, Arpaio’s biggest defense was the Federal law he mentioned in the video above. The irony is, the Federal law that Arpaio cites as giving him the power to use these characteristics in his enforcement practices isn’t a law at all. In fact, its a legal analysis that was published by none other than FAIR, the anti-immigrant organization designated a hate group by the SPLC.

However, Matt Bunk of the Arizona Capitol Times points out that no such language exists in any federal immigration law and that the document that Arpaio continuously referenced and passed out at a press conference is actually a legal analysis published by a designated hate group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

When questioned about this, Arpaio admitted that it “might not be a law” but that there was “definitely a law out there” that gave him the power to do this. Basically, Arpaio is admitting that he is operating OUTSIDE of the law and has pledged that he will continue to do so, regardless of how far the administration goes in reigning in his powers.

In fact, even though the government has stripped Arpaio’s authority to conduct immigration raids in Maricopa County, he has promised that today he will be conducting one of his famous sweeps. No word yet on if that’s happened, but it’s clear that this man’s power needs to be taken away. Senator Jose M. Serrano had a letter to the editor published in today’s New York Times, where he gets to the heart of the issue:

…Extremists like Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, are just part of the problem; federal policies that empower these men represent the underlying threat to immigrant communities.

The system is broken. And the longer it waits to be fixed, the more dangerous this threat will become.

[via Andrea Nill at Think Progress]

The Cure for Racial Intolerance

Here is the latest from our guest-blogger, Robert Gittelson:

The power of the Presidency to shape debate in this country is not to be underestimated. In the midst of attempting to forge ahead with his reform of our nation’s healthcare industry, President Obama answered one question that touched on the issue of racism, and that’s all that the mainstream media of this country has been talking about for the past 48 hours. When the President implied that the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Gates at his home was “stupid,” it set off a maelstrom of social commentary about the state of racism in America.

Well, the way that events unfolded at the home of Professor Gates may very well have been stupid, and it was certainly avoidable. However, I can’t help but wonder, where has all of this mainstream media coverage and mass social commentary been, in the face of the real and true racism that has both subtlety and overtly been associated with the issue of Comprehensive Immigration Reform over the past several weeks?

Continue reading

State and Local Roundup

states

CA: Group: Detained Immigrants Kept in Squalid Basement: Immigrants held by the federal government are being detained in a squalid basement where conditions are foul-smelling and dirty, a civil rights group said in a lawsuit.

WA: Seattle Raid Raises Questions About Shift in Enforcement: The disclosure Wednesday that illegal immigrants in Seattle were given permission to work in the country has triggered alarms on Capitol Hill that the Obama administration is making a fundamental shift in the enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.

NM: Roswell Hispanics Claim Police Racial Profiling: Roswell residents’ complaints about racial profiling of Hispanics by police officers have prompted a state advocacy group to request intervention from the U.S. Justice Department and the state attorney general’s office.

GA: Senate Bill Links Road Money to Immigration Status: Local governments that don’t check to make sure they are not hiring illegal immigrants could lose state money for building roads, under legislation that passed the Senate on Wednesday.

ACTION: Justice for Joe – What do you want to see?

We all remember America’s favorite sheriff, Mr. Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. How could we forget the time he marched hundreds of inmates through the streets in chains to a tent city surrounded by electric fences? Or the time he said he was “honored” to be compared to the KKK? Or his many (MANY) accusations of racial profiling?

Lots of  you helped by petitioning the Department of Justice to investigate good old Joe and we need your help again. Tomorrow there will be a hearing in Congress to investigate the violations of civil rights under 287(g) (the law that allows Joe and others to locally enforce immigration laws). We want to know – what do you want to ask folks like Sheriff Joe?

20090331askjoeWhat issues do you think are most important for Members of Congress to investigate at the hearing? Is it ending racial profiling? Is it finding the best ways to ensure community safety?

Now is your chance to speak up. Visit http://americasvoiceonline.org/FIRMtoCongress to submit your questions and tell Members of Congress what you think the priority of the investigation should be.

Our partners at America’s Voice will be delivering your suggestions directly to Congress – so make your voice heard! This hearing is an important first step towards leaving behind the Bush enforcement-only era and pushing towards comprehensive immigration reform.

Visit http://americasvoiceonline.org/FIRMtoCongress to make sure Members of Congress are on the right track!

And be sure to tune into the hearing – you can watch live at http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/calendar.html – tomorrow, April 2nd at 10AM EST.

When the Extreme Becomes Mainstream

Last week, I mentioned a recent Pew Hispanic Center Study which found that 1 in 10 Latinos has been stopped and asked about their immigration status by police or other authorities.

While this is certainly the most shocking statistic to come out of the study, it is only the tip of the iceberg for Latinos living in this country.

From the Huffington post:

One in seven Latinos are reporting ethnic discrimination in finding or keeping a job and 10% said the same thing about housing. But the most stunning finding is that nearly one-in-ten Hispanic adults–native-born US citizens and immigrants alike–report that, in the past year, the police or other authorities have stopped them and asked them about their immigration status. One in ten Latinos were stopped and asked for “papers.” What can that statistic represent other than a gross abuse of power by federal and local authorities?

Vicious public denunciations of undocumented, brown-skinned immigrants — once limited to hard-core white supremacists and a handful of border-state extremists — are increasingly common among supposedly mainstream anti-immigration activists, media pundits, and politicians and are surely fueling the problems that Latinos are facing.

While their dehumanizing rhetoric typically stops short of openly sanctioning bloodshed, much of it implicitly encourages or even endorses violence by characterizing immigrants from Mexico and Central America as ‘invaders,’ ‘criminal aliens,’ and ‘cockroaches.’

The hate speech that is fueling the current anti-migrant fervor has somehow left the area of “hard core” or “extremist” thought and trickled into the mainstream, becoming pervasive on shows like Lou Dobbs Tonight or Bill O’Reilly and pushed by hate groups like FAIR.

We must stand up to the powers that want to dehumanize and entire portion of the population.

Living in fear of deportation and discrimination and worrying about your livelihood and safety is no way to live and it’s certainly not how Americans expect to live. In fact, it’s the sort of life that our forefathers sought to protect us from. Debate, discussion, and disagreement around the pressing immigration issue are natural, legitimate, and necessary. Hate, fear and vitriol rhetoric are not.

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.

Italian Army Takes to Rome’s Streets in Anti-Immigrant Fervor

Last month, I posted on the chilling story of two Gipsy (also called Roma) children who drowned on an Italian beach and the onlookers who continued to sunbathe in indifference beside the bodies.

Well, this week, the anti-Gipsy fervor in Italy has reached new heights. Troops have descended on the streets of Rome, in order to enforce the breakup of a camp of Gipsy immigrants. An article in the UK’s Telegraph newspaper provides a great analysis of the situation.

I am posting on this because it is a parallel to our own current anti-immigrant scapegoating here in the United States. This is a truly complex issue, with many sides, points and arguments. However, the bottom line here is the humanity of immigrants and the basic rights of all people.

In Italy, similarities are being drawn between Berlusconi’s new administration and Mussolini.

Mr Berlusconi declared a “Roma emergency”, produced a disputed dossier of alleged immigrant muggings, robberies and murders, and promised to dismantle illegal gipsy camps. So far 700 have been identified. Even more controversial in a nation whose Fascist rulers helped the Nazis deport Jews and gipsies during the Second World War, fingerprinting of gipsies has started, despite the European Union saying the programme encourages xenophobia, and a Roman Catholic group describing it as racist.

On the streets of northern Rome such reservations are hard to find. “All our problems come from foreigners getting drunk, smashing windows and stealing,” said Anna Maria Mercure, who at 80 is old enough to remember an earlier era of Italian discipline. “Mussolini had his positive side. The streets were safe in his day.”

We must all remember that violating basic rights is a slippery slope. For those of you who continue to shout that unauthorized immigrants have no legal rights, you are wrong, they are afforded the same basic due process of the law. If we stand by and continue to allow their rights to be eroded (and the rights of many people under our current counter-terrorism efforts – i.e. warrantless wiretapping, automatic seizure of laptops at customs, racial profiling etc), we risk the erosion of our own rights.

An injustice to one is an injustice to all. Just something to think about.

Sherriff Joe Arpaio Honored to be called KKK

Sherriff Joe Arpaio has employed tough tactics to combat undocumented migrants in Maricopa County, Arizona. In fact, Arpaio’s tactics are seen by many as blatant racial profiling.

Last week, a class action lawsuit was filed against Arpaio and the local police department. The claims of racials profiling include the case of two American citizens, a brother and sister, who were taken from their car at gunpoint, handcuffed and verbally attacked by deputies who seemed to be basing their assault on the fact that the pair were listening to music on a Spanish-language radio station.

Arpaio, a self-proclaimed tough guy, denies any racial profiling. However, check out the video below. Its a brief clip of Arpaio’s appearance on Lou Dobbs Tonight and I think its pretty indicative of the real situation in Arizona.

Immigrant Beaten to Death in PA

In Shenandoah, PA – a town already brewing with anit-migrant sentiment – an undocumented migrant was beaten to death by a group of teenagers last week. Luis Ramirez had been living and working in the United States for five years. He was a father of two and had spent his time in the states working in a factory and picking cherries and strawberries.

Despite witness accounts of the assailants yelling racial slurs and shouting that Ramirez get out of their town, police are denying that there was any racial motivation behind the fatal beating.

On top of this, it is believed that members of a local high school football team are among the group who killed Ramirez. It seems like the town is trying to protect its hometown heroes – even if that means denying the truth and denying justice.

From AP:

Arielle Garcia and her husband, who were with Ramirez when he was beaten late Saturday, said they had dropped their friend off at a park but returned when he called to say he had gotten into a fight.

She saw someone kick Ramirez in the head, she said, and “that’s when he started shaking and foaming out of the mouth.”

The Garcias said they heard the youths call Ramirez “stupid Mexican” and an ethnic slur.

Eileen Burke, [a] former Philadelphia officer, said she saw shirtless youths swarming around Ramirez, called 911 and went outside, when she heard a youth yell obscenities and make the get-out-of-Shenandoah remark.

Despite the witness statements, Borough Manager Joseph Palubinsky said he doesn’t believe Ramirez’s ethnicity was what prompted the fight: “I have reason to know the kids who were involved, the families who were involved, and I’ve never known them to harbor this type of feeling.”

So the gut feeling of the police officer trumps the eye-witness account of the crime? America will look back in shame on events like this.