Friday, October 23, 2009

Senate Leader Presented Policy Recommendations

This past Tuesday (October 20), a broad delegation comprised of representatives from civil liberties, human rights and immigrant rights advocacy organizations met with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Chair of the Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Several organizations including AFSC and the Rights Working Group worked to invite partners throughout the nation to join as signatories to the letter's concerns and recommendations.

The 17-member delegation delivered the letter signed by more than 300 organizations. Outlined in the letter were specific areas of concern, and the urging that future national U.S. immigration and border policy be carried out in a manner that is respectful of individuals’ constitutional rights and due process.

Senator Schumer has previously issued public comments about the need to reform and repair the present immigration system. Signatories of the letter were encouraged that Senator Schumer acknowledged that the current system is not working. Indeed, enforcement-only policies have done nothing to resolve the administrative, legal and procedural problems with the outdated and broken immigration system.

Delegates asked Senator Schumer to incorporate important principles that safeguard constitutional rights and due process of individuals who are detained. The delegation also called on the Senator to ensure that family reunification is one of the fundamental components of future policy. Key concerns discussesd during the meeting included:

* Enforceable Detention Standards
* Secure, Community-Based Alternatives to Detention
* Fair Day in Court
* Access to Counsel
* Review of Federal Enforcement of Immigration Laws
* Civil Rights
* Responsible and Accountable Border Policy

"There are serious concerns over racial profiling when state and local law enforcement agents are deputized to enforce civil immigration law. Any immigration reform bill should restrict immigration enforcement to the federal government,” said Margaret Huang, Executive Director of Rights Working Group.

"Too much is at stake for the nation. No one benefits from the bleak situation we now have before us. Families continue to be separated and detention is only a temporary escape valve that does not solve the structural flaws of the current immigration system. None of this is humane, practical or realistic. We believe that principled and sensible policy can be developed," added Esther Nieves director of American Friends Service Committee's Project Voice, a national immigrant and refugee rights initiative.

Afterwards, the delegation also met with the Senator's immigration policy staff.

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The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

Formed in the aftermath of 9/11, the Rights Working Group is a coalition of more than 250 community-based grassroots groups and national organizations working to restore civil liberties and human rights protections for all people living in the U.S.