Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Story of Family Unity

From: http://itsourcommunity.blogspot.com/
by Alexandra W. Douglas, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Fighting for Family Unity: An Immigration Story from Denver

This story was shared with me by a Friend from Mountainview Friends Meeting in Colorado. The story told below is a moving individual account of a situation in which thousands of families in the United States find themselves.

The Friend has consented to the story being posted on the blog, but all names have been changed to protect their identity.


Guillermo Rodriguez is my daughter’s husband and father of my grandson. We discovered that he is ineligible to receive a visa under the current Immigration and Nationality Act. He was told that since he had unlawfully crossed the border more than once that he would have to wait 10 years outside the before applying for a waiver. The waiver is needed because he was unlawfully present in the United States. After 10 years, the Attorney General has the discretion to grant a waiver if Guillermo's spouse or son can show extreme hardship. If he had unlawfully crossed the border only once, he could have received a waiver.

Guillermo first entered the United States from Mexico in 1995, when he was 18 years old, to work in Oregon agriculture. Since he missed his parents and little brother, he went home for Christmas in 1997. He was intercepted at the border upon his return in 1998 and voluntarily departed. He then reentered and returned to work in Oregon. Shortly after coming to the Denver area in 1999, he met my daughter Elizabeth at work. They married and had a son. They applied for a change in status for Guillermo shortly after getting married. He was hoping to receive a visa, green card and social security number to better provide for his American family.

Guillermo and I traveled to Mexico to receive his visa at the American Consulate. We thought he would have to be gone 30 or 40 days in order to receive a visa. But we were shocked to learn that under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1996,* Guillermo is now classified inadmissible along with Nazi war criminals, terrorist and those who have committed serious criminal offenses such as murder, drug smuggling and child abduction. For going home for Christmas and returning to his job of helping to provide food for the American table, our family must now be torn apart. He is permanently barred from the United States, unless after 10 years someone is very sick or dying. Then maybe a waiver would be granted.

Many US lawmakers talk about family values, but do not apply these values to our real world. Guillermo is a devoted and loving father. The family is inseparable. Guillermo is devoted to his Mexican family of origin and his American family. He was looking forward to taking his family to his parents’ home for Christmas and legally returning to the United States. As the grandfather to Guillermo’s son, I am heartbroken. My daughter and grandson have to move to Mexico in order to preserve family unity. I was so looking forward to being with my grandson as he was growing up. My other daughter, Rebecca, was hoping that her baby son would have a cousin and good friend. Both sets of great-grandparents are having a hard time coping with this. We are all suffering the pain of separation caused by this Draconian law.

Everyone that hears this story cannot believe that such an anti-family law could be written in this country. This is cruel and unusual punishment not open to court review. The punishment is not for Guillermo alone. This punishment is for the whole family.

An American Consulate Officer told me that there are thousands of families in this situation. Please repeal Section 212 (a) (6) and related sections from the list of inadmissible aliens ineligible to receive visas. These sections refer to illegal entrants and immigration violators. Should they not receive visas if they otherwise meet all of the other qualifications for a visa? Unlawfully crossing the border more than once is just not in the same category as terrorism and serious criminal activity. Guillermo never misrepresented his status to an US official and admitted to his history. The law was made harsher in 1996. Elizabeth and Guillermo are young and knew nothing of this law change.

Please also allow applicants, who were previously found ineligible to receive a visa under these sections, the right to have their previous application for change in status reinstated with the American Consul with whom the application was filled. This repeal must have retroactive effect to help families caught in this unjust law.



Section 212(a)(9)(B)(II) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states that immigrants who have crossed the border undocumented only one time and have stayed for more than a year are subject to a 10 year bar of reentry from the date of the immigrant's removal from the United States. After 10 years, an immigrant under this section is eligible to apply for a visa as the spouse, son or daughter or child of a US citizen or Legal Permanent Resident.

Whereas, Section 212 (a)(9)(C)(I) states that immigrants who cross the border undocumented more than one time and have been present in the United States for an aggregate period of one year or more are barred from reentry for a period of ten years. After 10 years the immigrant may appeal to the Attorney General to issue a waiver of ineligibility IF the immigrant can prove that their citizen or permanent resident spouse or child is suffering from extreme hardship.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Immigration: It's Our Community Blog

This year AFSC's partner, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) launched Immigration: It’s our Community, a project to help shape and develop an equitable and just conversation on immigration.

Check out the latest post here.

For more information about It's Our Community click here.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Least of These

"The Least of These, which premieres at the South by Southwest Film Festival this month, explores one of the most controversial aspects of American immigration policy: family detention.

As part of the Bush administration policy to end what they termed the "catch and release" of undocumented immigrants, the U.S. government opened the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in May 2006 as a prototype family detention facility. The facility is a former medium-security prison in central Texas operated by CCA, the largest private prison operator in the country.

The facility houses immigrant children and their parents from all over the world who are awaiting asylum hearings or deportation proceedings. The facility was initially activated with little media attention or public knowledge...

The film leads viewers to consider how core American rights and values - due process, presumption of innocence, upholding the family structure as the basic unit of civil society, and America as a refuge of last resort - should apply to immigrants, particularly children. Written by Marcy Garriott." (The Least of These).

Watch the trailer: http://theleastofthese-film.com/

To take action visit: http://tdonhutto.blogspot.com/

Monday, March 02, 2009

Time to End Miscarriage of Justice

Yet another public humiliation of individuals detained in Maricopa County's prison has provoked community members and various organizations to urge for an investigation of the actions taken by County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In a February 4th display of media marketing and self-promotion, Arpaio had chained immigrant detainees march through the streets of Phoenix, Arizona to a prison tent.

AFSC’s Tucson-based program has written a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. expressing concern for the rights of all detainees and urging the Attorney General to conduct an investigation in this egregious travesty of justice. The letter in part reads:

We are writing to you today regarding our long-standing concerns about the conduct of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Across the nation, people have been shocked by his latest publicity stunt: a forced march of detained immigrants through the streets of Phoenix. This action has very rightly sparked an outcry among immigrant and civil rights advocates.

Behind the headlines, there is a long and disturbing history of well-documented incidents of prisoner abuse in Maricopa County Jails. These issues first came to light in 1995 with a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into reports of abuse in the jails. The allegations included:

· Physical abuse of inmates by staff
· Staff and administrative failure to address allegations of physical abuse
· Failure to discipline staff found to have abused detainees and inmates
· False reporting regarding use of force and allegations of abuse
· Denial of access to counsel
· Inadequate medical care

A year later, the Sheriff’s office was rocked by reports of a horrific death in the Madison Street Jail. Scott Norberg died of positional asphyxia after being strapped in a restraint chair by five officers with a towel over his face. Authorities initially denied but later acknowledged that the officers used taser guns, which carry 50,000 volts of electricity, on Norberg repeatedly during the incident... Arizona Daily Star reported that the medical examiner found twenty-one marks from the taser on Norberg’s body.

In 1997, the Department of Justice (DOJ) concluded its two-year investigation...[I]t concluded that unconstitutional conditions existed in the jails... DOJ’s findings were reported in a strongly worded sixteen-page letter...which recounted a litany of disturbing findings of abuse and neglect. The letter reported that “jail inmates are subject to use of excessive force and use of excessive and improper mechanical restraints by jail employees and Defendants fail to protect jail inmates from such actions...

Assistant Attorney General Patrick Deval found that jail staff was applying force without justification, including “use of a stun gun simply to see its effect.” Deval reported...that it was particularly shocking to find that some staff continued to use force against prisoners who were completely immobilized in restraints...conduct included “use of a stun gun on a prisoner’s testicles while in a restraint chair."

Unfortunately, these interventions did not eliminate the incidents of abuse and neglect in the jails. In 2001, another man, Charles Agster, was killed in the Madison Street Jail’s restraint chair. He was developmentally disabled and was high on methamphetamine at the time. During the struggle to secure him in the chair, a group of guards put a hood over his head and forced his body forward while his arms were handcuffed behind his back. At this point, he stopped breathing...

In August of 2006, after the department paid $17.25 million in response to two lawsuits filed by the families of prisoners who had died in the chair, MCSO announced it would discontinue using the device. It has been replaced with a “safe bed” to which inmates can be restrained while lying flat...

This conduct undermines public safety rather than preserving it. We...call for an immediate...investigation into Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Such an intervention is long overdue.


ACT NOW – GET INVOLVED! Join efforts that support due process and put an end to racial profiling; contact AFSC’s Tucson office at 520-623-9141 or cissacs@afsc.org

CALL, E-MAIL OR WRITE - U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and urge him to investigate the actions taken by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and to act swiftly to ensure that the civil liberties and human rights of all detainees are duly protected.

Call: 202-353-1555 or E-mail: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.

OR write a letter:
Eric H. Holder, Jr.,
U.S. Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001