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FLIC and Miami-Dade Allies Address Urgent Need for Immigration Reform

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Yesterday FLIC members and pro-immigrant allies from across Miami-Dade county, with our partners at the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board (CRB) and City of Miami CRB, came together for a countywide immigration reform summit to “unite our diverse communities around agreed-upon priorities for legislative reform that will uphold our common commitment to equal treatment and due process for all immigrants,” in the words of CRB Chairman Harold Vieux. Issues discussed included enhancing safety and security, providing for legalization and a pathway to citizenship, protecting children, re-unifying families and protecting workers.

Speakers included Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of FAMN (and FLIC Board chair), Cheryl Little, Executive Director at Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Jonathan Fried, Executive Director of We Count!, as well as Felipe Matos of SWER and FLIC’s own Maria Rodriguez. Advocates like Police Chief John Timoney, himself an immigrant, spoke out against 287(g) agreements that deputize local police to act as immigration enforcement agents, taking precious resources away from fighting dangerous crime. There was incredible support in the room for immigration reform, and much unity around our priorities.

The overarching message was that we need immigration reform now–for our families and our communities. We cannot wait. “Under the current administration, comprehensive immigration reform is something that our president, the White House and Congress can deliver,'” said Jean-Robert Lafortune, chairman of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition. “Immigrants can’t live on hope alone.”

To make sure that this message is heard throughout the state, and in Washington, FLIC and our allies are planning a variety of public events throughout the fall. Please stay tuned for more information, and add your voice to the resounding majority in Florida calling for real change–NOW!

Obama Expands ICE Budget

obamaPresident Barack Obama has expanded the budget of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The 287(g) program and Secure Communities initiative, implemented by the Department of Homeland Security, authorizes local law enforcement to act as ICE federal agents–they can conduct raids, arrest, detain and deport undocumented immigrants, regardless of the severity of their alleged crime, and gives them permission to look into individuals’ immigration status  online and detain and deport them if they are undocumented.

President Obama’s expansion of ICE’s budget has only provided a greater opportunity for law enforcement to abuse their power. During raids, they often force entry into the homes of  undocumented individuals fully armed. Instead of improving our economy and our broken immigration system, our tax dollars are going to ICE, whose budget is now over $6 billion!

Enforcement of a civil issue–and the attempt to criminalize immigrant workers and families–is not the solution. The U.S. urgently needs immigration reform. Defending the status quo is not an option.

“I think the consensus is that despite our inability to get this (immigration reform) passed over the last several years, the American people still want to see a solution in which we are tightening up our borders, we’re cracking down on employers who are using illegal workers in order to drive down wages and often times, mistreat those workers. And we need an effective way to recognize and legalize the status of undocumented workers who are here. My administration is fully behind an effort to achieve comprehensive immigration reform” said President Obama.

It is incomprehensible why President Obama would allow DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to expand a failed program, when he insists that his administration is behind the effort for immigration reform. Real reform of our broken immigration system should address and end abuses committed by deputized police and ICE officers–along with enabling immigrants to adjust their status and become citizens.

“Secure Communties” and 287(g) agreements do not serve a public safety function–they do the opposite.

President Barack Obama must permanently terminate these programs for the safety and well-being of both citizens and undocumented residents.

Napolitano and DHS Expand 287(g) Program

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The Department of Homeland Security’s Secretary, Janet Napolitano, recently announced that ICE has expanded the 287 (g) program to 11 new jurisdictions.

This is horrible news.

“This new agreement supports local efforts to protect public safety by giving law enforcement the tools to identify and remove dangerous criminal aliens,” Napolitano said.

All agencies that actively participate in the 287(g) program are obligated to sign the new agreement and abide by the new requirements in order to continue as participating organizations. The new agreement officially emphasizes going after serious and violent criminals and expanded federal oversight in an effort  to prevent overzealous local implementation of the program.

These words on paper will not change the fact that the 287(g) program is a failure, and amounts to state-sanctioned racial profiling and wholesale intimidation of immigrant communities. Several studies have shown these facts. The program should be completely canceled–not sugar-coated to try to counteract its well-deserved bad reputation.

Realistically, there is no way that Napolitano and DHS can ensure that law enforcement officers will follow the rules and regulations. In fact, most of them receive inadequate training to do this work. We have seen what little respect infamous Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, has for the human rights of immigrants.

Despite claims that ICE agents are sworn to uphold the laws of our nation professionally, humanely and with acute awareness of the impact enforcement has on the individuals they encounter, they persistently disregard the law and commit offensive acts and inappropriate behavior against undocumented immigrants–pointing loaded guns at mothers, in front of their children, for example. This happened here in Florida during a raid last year.

The 287(g) program IS  racial profiling at its worst, and the fallout from keeping it around includes unjust detentions and deportations, false imprisonment and constitutional violations–or less visibly, immigrant communities living in fear–so much that they won’t even report crimes.

What could be worse for our communities?

Council on Foreign Relations Addresses Need to Overhaul U.S. Immigration System

The CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy has come out in favor of immigration reform in their report, which addresses concerns about U.S. immigration policy and national security. In their report which was released this month, they said the growing numbers of illegal immigration in the United States is causing continuous harm to our national interests.

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CFR urges Congress and the Obama Administration to move ahead with immigration reform legislation in order to achieve three critical goals:

  • Reform the legal immigration system for more efficient operation, respond to labor market necessities, and enhance U.S. competitiveness;
  • Restore immigration law’s integrity through an enforcement regime that strongly discourages employers and employees from operating outside the legal system, secure America’s borders, and levy significant penalties against those who violate the rules; and
  • Offer a fair, humane, and orderly way to allow many of the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to earn the right to remain here legally.

 

The Task Force’s recommendations for immigration policy reform show the immigration system’s potential to improve and better serve our country’s national interests. It is time to move forward—and fix our broken immigration system.

The CFR report states that “continued failure to devise and implement a sound and sustainable immigration policy threatens to weaken America’s economy, to jeopardize its diplomacy, and to imperil its national security.”

 

We can and must do better.

Police Press Conference Addresses Need for Immigration Reform

jtimoneyAs Congress and the President are poised to tackle immigration reform, Chief John Timoney, Miami’s Chief of Police, Chief Art Acevedo, the Police Chief of Austin TX, and former Sacramento Police Chief, Art Venegas, held a press conference at the Biltmore Hotel, in Miami, coordinated by America’s Voice, to address how the broken immigration system has a negative effect on law enforcement and public safety.

“It is crucial that the law enforcement perspective be considered in any debate on immigration,” Chief Timoney said. “All our citizens are directly affected, whether they are immigrants or not, by these policies.”

More police departments throughout the country are taking a stand in favor of immigration reform—and they are drawing these conclusions from their own experience. If an undocumented individual witnesses a crime, they often do not contact local law enforcement for fear of being detained and/or deported. Clearly this does not help our communities. Many are also in favor of issuing drivers licenses to all residents, including the undocumented, as this would provide useful data, encourage all drivers to get auto insurance, and diminish the incidence of hit and run accidents.

FLIC is pleased to see that leaders in law enforcement acknowledge the urgent—and practical—need for immigration reform—and we will count on their leadership and support as we move forward.

FLIC Update!

Since its incorporation in November 2003, FLIC has experienced tremendous growth. Below is a snapshot of what the members groups of the Florida Immigrant Coalition are working on throughout the state in 2009.

You can join the efforts by supporting the issue campaigns or by participating in the local coalitions:

ISSUE CAMPAIGNS:

LEGALIZATION: As part of a consultative process that included surveys, small group work and voting at the annual membership meeting, FLIC member groups endorsed legalization as the primary effort. This means we will be educating our members, allies and decisionmakers about the need for reform that values immigration as an opportunity and not a threat and that respects families and workers–both immigrant and U.S.-born.

  • How to plug in: contact Juan Pablo (juanpablo@floridaimmigrant.org) about organizing for legislative visits or building your organizing circle and reaching out to allies.

ENFORCEMENT: Misguided and heavy-handed enforcement of broken immigration laws, including police enforcement of immigration comes at a great cost to our coffers, public safety and civil liberties. FLIC member groups are working in six counties to dissuade local police to divert their public safety missions to immigration functions. FLIC member groups are educating immigrants, documenting abuses and beginning visitation programs to detention centers.

  • How to plug in: contact Subhash (subhash@floridaimmigrant.org) about meeting with your local sheriff and submitting records release requests, conducting “train the trainers” know your rights presentations or visiting detainees at the Broward Transitional Center.

ACCESS TO COLLEGE: Students Working for Equal Rights (S.W.E.R.) came out of FLIC’s commitment to youth leadership. This effort seeks to educate students, parents and educational professionals about access to college, incentivizing participation through an internship and scholarship fund, as well as organizing to reduce barriers at the academic institutional level at the state and federal legislative level.

  • How to plug in: contact Jose Luis (swer@floridaimmigrant.org) about joining the advisory body or supporting the upcoming statewide student tour.

WAGE THEFT: The South Florida Wage Theft Task Force is one of several coalitions statewide that seeks to support workers who do not get paid for their work. These efforts seek to create a systemic enforcement mechanism that bolsters the rights of all workers while recovering their lost wages.

  • How to plug in: contact Maria (maria@floridaimmigrant.org) about supporting a Miami-Dade ordinance to include worker rights so that a local human rights board can provide wage enforcement.

RELIEF FOR HAITIANS: Haitians deserve relief from deportation to miserable conditions by either a temporary protected status (TPS) or deferred enforced detention(DED).

  • How to plug in: contact Francesca (Francesca@floridaimmigrant.org) to help bring the reality of Haitian detainees to national attention by reaching out to national allies.

Join Our Local Coalitions Throughout Florida!

FLIC is proud to announce that we have kicked off our campaign to Stop the ICE raids and win just and humane immigration reform. This strategy includes legislative, community organizing and direct action components, which are being planned and implemented by regional coalitions in Orlando, Miami, Palm Beach and Manasota. Please join us!