Thursday, March 29, 2007

Raids Tear San Diego Communities Apart

Lives Shattered...

This week the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) struck the heart of San Diego communities separating families and leaving community members outraged. Christian Ramirez, national base building coordinator for AFSC's Project Voice immigrant rights program, and a resident of one of the communities in which raids took place shared that, "We have kids who are without their parents, wives without their husbands and entire families torn apart." The raids included the homes of U.S. citizens he said. (Photo courtesy of Gabriel Cardenas)

In a March 28th hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security Representative Sam Farr (D-CA) questioned ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Meyers on the methods used by the agency. "Broad-brush raids for undocumented immigrants that encroach on the daily lives of residents are an ineffective and inefficient use of ICE resources. They lead to mass chaos and confusion among our immigrant families, and that fear infects every member of our community," said Representative Farr.

Watch video footage of the raids shot by AFSC here (NBC 7/39).

Communities Speak Out...

Community residents organized in opposition to the raids and brought their concerns to a meeting with San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders on March 28th. "There are other cities around the country - through their city councils and mayoral proclamations, resolutions - that are taking a stand on this, because residents of their particular communities are being affected," said Pedro Rios, Director of AFSC's San Diego Office.

Watch news on the reaction of residents here (NBC 7/39).

Mayoral spokesperson Fred Sainz said that the city was not involved in the operations and maintains a policy against involvement in federal immigration issues. The raids are part of the ICE Outgoing Fugitives Program, which started in 2003, said ICE spokesperson Virginia Kise.

Community residents said that the agents who came to their homes identified themselves as police. The agents claimed to be looking for several suspects and presented photos of the alleged suspects. After the residents opened their doors the agents asked for the residents' documents. Residents said that they were never shown a warrant. (Photo courtesy of Gabriel Cardenas)

"Your home is this sacred area where you feel comfortable and at peace," said Rios. "For someone to violate that, it really plants fear."

Tools for Communities Affected by the Raids

AFSC San Diego will continue to monitor this situation and work with community members affected by the raids. For a toolkit for communities affected by raids from the Detention Watch Netork click here.

Action to Consider...

Contact Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) at (202) 224-3841 or by e-mail to inform her that:

1. You support her recent letter to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff expressing concern for the impact of the raids on families and children;
2. You are concerned about the impact of the recent ICE raids in San Diego on communities;
3. Congress should exercise appropriate oversight and hold a hearing on the conduct, purpose, and impact of the ICE raids.

Join AFSC's "End the Raids" Campaign by joining hundreds of individuals and organizations that have signed on. View the statement and sign on.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Substantial Gaps Remain in Proposed House Bill

The recently introduced STRIVE (Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy) Act of 2007, sponsored by Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) and Representative Jeff Flake (R-AZ), fails to protect the fundamental human rights of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers in this country, according to AFSC.

While Congress has sought to craft a bipartisan compromise bill, the STRIVE Act offers little to address the root causes of undocumented migration and contains several troubling provisions.

One such provision is "touchback," which requires an applicant to leave the U.S. and re-enter the country to receive legal immigration status. This is not a practical starting point for the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now living in the U.S.

AFSC urges lawmakers to develop legislation that produces a fair and humane immigration system, upholds the right of families to remain intact, does not militarize communities, eliminates unreasonable detention and deportation practices, toughens basic workers' rights, and strengthens the ability of immigrants to become equal members of the nation's economic and social landscape.

Earlier this month, AFSC brought more than 100 immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers from more than 40 states to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional members and staff. The delegation stressed the need for a new process that supports family reunification, ends workplace raids, creates alternatives beyond detention and deportation, demilitarizes the border region and eliminates the immigration backlog. We urge Congress to seriously consider the needs of immigrants during this congressional debate.

Laws must uphold our common humanity. The STRIVE Act fails to address how detention and deportation split families and complicate the immigration process.

Public policy should be not only fair, but also realistic. By increasing the militarization of the U.S. southern border, the Act continues a failed path that threatens the safety of all residents. In AFSC's history of work on the U.S.-Mexico border, we have documented ongoing civil and human rights abuses, including racial profiling and harassment. New immigration laws should hold higher standards of accountability for Border Patrol agents and increased oversight by Congress and the administration.

AFSC will monitor the unfolding of the congressional debate and continue to call for humane, fair, and effective legislative measures.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Immigrants lobby Congress for humane immigration laws

With immigration legislation likely to be introduced in March or early April, AFSC, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and other organizations are mobilizing immigrants nationwide to ensure that their voices are heard during this vital policy debate.

From March 11-13, immigrants from throughout the U.S. will converge in Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress and urge them to enact fair, rational, and humane immigration laws. Human Rights for All: Community Advocacy Days will enable immigrants to meet face-to-face with legislators and urge them to enact immigration policies that:

- respect the civil and human rights of immigrants
- support immigration status adjustment for undocumented workers
- eliminate current backlogs that delay the status adjustment of families, asylum seekers, and refugees
- support the reunification of immigrant families
- protect the labor and employment rights of every worker
- stop the militarization of the Mexico-U.S. border
- ensure that the nation's founding principles of justice, liberty, and the rights of all are respected

The schedule includes an orientation on March 11, training in legislative advocacy, team visits to Congressional leaders, and a Congressional briefing on March 13 titled "Voices of Experience: Community Perspectives on Immigration Reform."