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Univision: “We will work until there is Immigration Reform”

On the 3rd day of our South Florida Throwdown, a Community Meeting on Immigration Reform was held to discuss the current state of immigration reform, the context of immigration in the U.S., and the work community organizations are doing to ensure a reform that works for our families.


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Univision: Canvassing for Immigration Reform

Univision broadcasts a Spanish-language video of our canvassing action at homes and small businesses in Mario-Diaz Balart’s district of Sweetwater on Day 2 of our South Florida Throwdown.

FLIC and our allies took to Sweetwater to demand the Mario Diaz Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen take concrete actions to move Immigration Reform with a path to citizenship forward.

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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!

FLIC Board Member and SWER Leader Selected for Social Justice Scholarship

matosBreaking News! One of our own, Felipe Matos, has been selected for the National Davis-Putter Scholarship based on his commitment and hard work for social justice. We cannot think of a more deserving recipient!

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Felipe was elected President of the Student Government Association and student representative to the college-wide Board of Trustees at Miami Dade Honors College. There he was active in anti-oppression causes, particularly promoting the DREAM Act.

During this time Felipe was also awarded a position on the ALL USA Academic First Team, which represents the top 20 community college students in the nation and was certified as a New Century Scholar. In 2007, he became a leader in Students Working for Equal Rights (SWER) and started advocating for the rights of undocumented youth throughout the country with the support of the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC). Currently, Felipe is a SWER core leader, as well as an elected member of the FLIC Board of Directors.

An Environmental Justice major at St. Thomas University, Matos is one of only 20 students to receive this prestigious scholarship, which will enable him to fulfill his dream of completing his Environmental Justice Law degree.

The Davis-Putter Scholarship, launched in 1961, grants scholarships to student activists who organize against oppression and discrimination, and for peace and justice. “I am very grateful, but I feel this is truly a communal victory. I could never have accomplished much if it wasn’t for my family and the support that FLIC and my peers from SWER give me,” Matos said.

Thanks to you, Felipe, for all that you do–and congratulations!

matos

St. Thomas University Junior

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?

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.

Victory! Justice For A Hardworking DREAMer!

walterlara Last Wednesday, July 1st, Walter Lara held a press conference in Washington D.C. hoping to persuade Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, to stop his pending deportation.

Thanks to SWER, SEIU, First Focus, and FLIC’s much appreciated efforts—including planning a fast for Walter’s cause—Florida Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson asked a top Homeland Security official to postpone Lara’s deportation because “he has earned the chance to live and work here and call America home.” Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL) introduced a private bill for the same thing. On July 2nd,  The Department of Homeland Security moved to defer Walter Lara’s scheduled deportation that was set for July 6th, 2009 to July 3rd, 2010—providing him with a one year stay in the U.S. “As I look to celebrate Independence Day with family and friends this weekend, I have once again seen what makes America the best country in the world. Americans are fair, just, and kind” Walter said.

At this point, Lara is allowed to apply for a job legally. Unfortunately he cannot apply for citizenship. Although his case has been deferred, he may be deported at any time. “Walter Lara’s deferred action is a major step towards the passage of the DREAM Act and a symbol for youth power in Miami. As we celebrate this victory, we must remember that are 2 million students in the USA who are going through a very similar situation,” said SWER’s Felipe Matos. Hopefully the DREAM Act will be passed in the next year so that undocumented students like Walter can have hope for brighter futures.

FLIC’s interns go on a road trip! Check out what the Social Justice Scholars were up to in NYC!

SJS NYC Group PicOn behalf of the Civic Opportunities Initiative Network (COIN), the New World Foundation, and Marga Incorporated, our fellow interns made their way to the “Big Apple!” All ten interns, along with Siria, Naftalie, Francesca and Danna, spent 25 hours together, driving and getting to know each other better. The FLIC and WeCount! interns, along with 50 others from Community Coalition (South L.A.), CHIRLA- Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of L.A., Make the Road New York, Southwest Organizing Project (New Mexico), and Tenants & Workers United (Northern Virginia) came together on Friday June 26th for COINS’s three-day kickoff retreat.

The retreat included discussions about race, class, gender, prejudice, discrimination, institutional power, privileges, and systems of oppression in the U.S. Activities addressed cross-cultural communication, teamwork-building, social justice, political leadership, academics and a “no-talent show.” We started by watching an introductory video explaining COINS’s main objective: to strengthen community leadership, establish intergenerational and interethnic collaboration, and stabilize community-based organizations as strong anchors for development in low-income communities. By creating strong relationships with organizations in their communities, youth will have an opportunity to incorporate active citizenship into their education— learning about service, advocacy, organizing, and what it takes to build effective community organizations. Before each workshop or activity we did an ice-breaker to make everyone feel comfortable.

We were divided into groups of five—each teammate from a different organization. We discussed academic empowerment and its goals. One goal was to understand the history of inequality in the U.S. and its education system. Another was to access where you are academically and practice tracking your progress. During one activity we learned how prejudice + discrimination + privilege + institutional power = oppression. We defined discrimination, privilege, and prejudice and differentiated one from the other. We wrote each other “fuzzies”—basically compliments for one another on sticky notes that we put up on a wall. It made us all feel positive and empowered.

And on the final day of the retreat, we took them off and read them. The interns went out for evening excursions at Times Square, and meals throughout the city. The entire trip was an exceptionally motivating and unforgettable hands-on experience for all the Miami/Homestead scholars. As our summer internships continue, we are bonding and connecting with one another, becoming more involved and building on our knowledge and awareness as we discuss pressing social issues in our communities.