Thursday, April 23, 2009

Black Immigration Network Lifts Voice for Human Rights

"Our refugee brothers and sisters are experiencing the same fear and harassment from law enforcement that we live with each day in the black community. The black community, immigrant and non-immigrant are beginning to act together...with an eye on migration policy that lifts up both the nation and the black community.”
Rev. Cheryl Green, African Methodist Episcopalian (AME) Church

A recent gathering reiterated the broad concern and commitment to human rights for immigrant and refugees in the United States. The historic meeting was attended by more than 50 representatives and advocates from the nation’s African-American communities, people of African descent who live in the United States, and allies from other communities of color, immigrant and refugees, and U.S. born Latinos and Arab-Americans.

The gathering concluded with the formation of the Black Immigration Network (BIN) and a celebratory group closing exercise from Kenya.

Organizations serving as primary conveners included the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI); Which Way Forward: African-Americans, Immigration and Race; and, the American Friends Service Committee’s Third World Coalition and Project Voice. “This was an important step toward a united dialogue. The issues of economic justice, human rights, and worker rights are concerns that stretch across every community. AFSC is ready to support this critical exchange of ideas and just solutions,” observed Esther Nieves, director of AFSC’s Project Voice initiative and an invited gathering participant.

BIN’s national agenda focuses on racial equity issues and immigration policy concerns that impact African Americans and immigrants of African descent. In the coming weeks, BIN will endeavor to met with policy leaders, bring attention to the urgent need for Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for Haitian, Liberian, Somali and Sudanese communities, and engage in efforts that bridge worker justice issues and future immigration policy.

For more information visit:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

We Are Families

"I need to find a job, but who will take care of our daughter?
I don't want her to grow up without her father.
Who can I call?"

AFSC's national immigrant and refugee rights network has responded to the widespread sense of increased fear and tension brought about by raids, detentions and deportations. From the east coast to the west coast, multi-status immigrant families face daily tasks that were once simple and daily rituals. Now, however, life has become a daily obstacle course. A recent call to AFSC's Philadelphia office is a case in point.

The first call was a voice mail message in which the caller sought assistance with an immigration matter. Hours before, her husband had telephoned from Florence, Arizona. He had been detained by Immigration Control and Enforcement and was now in a jail cell, waiting to appear before an immigration judge. AFSC staff returned her call and held a lengthy conversation with the caller.

The caller expressed concern for her husband's health. "He has high blood pressure and I'm worried that he doesn't have his medicine. I live in Utah and we have a four month old daughter. What am I going to do?" As a legal permanent resident of the United States, she had filed for citizenship and was waiting to be called for an interview. "I need to find a job but who will take care of our daughter? I don't want her to grow up without her father. Please, who can I call?" she cried. AFSC staff gathered information from the caller and proceeded to contact the Florence detention center.

Over the past year AFSC has experienced a steady increase in telephone calls and walk-ins from community members for information, resources, legal referral or assistance. AFSC has provided trainings on basic rights, worked with community delegations to visit legislators, and urged for ICE to show restraint and case-by-case humanitarian discretion. Additional partnerships have been forged with non-immigrant allies, and faith-based organizations while jointly held public actions urge for an end to raids, detentions and the persecution of undocumented immigrants.

There are approximately 12 million undocumented people residing in the United States. Of that number, eight to ten million are workers laboring in a variety of industries and services vital to the U.S. economy and to the survival of families both in the United States and in their countries of origin. AFSC's report on humane immigration policy calls on President Obama and members of the 111th Congress to develop a clear path to permanent residence and constructive rather than punitive policy solutions.

To join AFSC in its effort for fair and humane immigration policy, or to read specific recommendations visit

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Immigration System Overdue for Overhaul

Recent news coverage and public comments indicate that the Obama Administration is ready to jumpstart the immigration policy discourse. AFSC supports a bipartisan solution to an outdated immigration system that is unfair and long overdue for an overhaul. This newest of efforts is a critical step that needs to be grounded in the facts and not in misguided policies, fears or scapegoating.

Undocumented immigrants and multi-status families* have been forced to live a marginal existence. Many families have been torn apart, while an estimated 5,000 persons have perished in an increasingly militarized southern border.

Our nation would do better if we removed the vulnerable status of undocumented immigrants, which would raise wages and labor standards for everybody.

In the meantime, as many wait for new immigration policies that resolve their tenuous existence and immigration status, far-reaching contributions continue to be made to the nation. For example, in 2005, immigrant households and businesses paid approximately $300 billion in federal, state and local taxes. Undocumented immigrants pay nearly $1.5 billion into Medicare and $7 billion into the Social Security system every year, yet are ineligible for public benefits.

Economic vibrancy is only one way that immigrant and undocumented households contribute to the nation. Participation in school activities, in neighborhood watch clubs, involvement in civic and community-building efforts, and the arts and cultural enrichment are some examples of these rich contributions.

Humane and sensible immigration policy should be the focus of the Obama administration and the nation's legislative leaders.

The President can begin this effort by promoting policies that unite families, ensure the labor rights of every worker, and brings the current immigration structure in line with global political, demographic and social realities.

To learn more on how you can support humane immigration policy, visit

*Multi-status families Include those in which one member might be a United States permanent resident or United States citizen, a child(ren) born in the United States and a parent or sibling who is an undocumented immigrant.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Vigil to Support Immigrants' Right to Travel

Immigrant rights groups recognize that arrests and detentions of immigrants resulting from Amtrak and Greyhound’s cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security leads to devastation of families and communities.

April 9, 2009 – Immigrant rights groups will lead a Good Friday vigil at Newark’s Pennsylvania Station to raise awareness of the impact of immigration raids on Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses. They will call upon the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to end the raids.

Immigration raids are conducted on Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses within 100 miles of the U.S. border. People traveling through upstate New York to visit family or friends have been taken off of public transportation, arrested, and detained at county jails far from their loved ones or any access to attorneys.

Amtrak and Greyhound have failed to inform passengers that if they do not carry immigration documents they run the risk of arrest and detention, while DHS uses racial profiling to target immigrants. These arrests have led to separation and hardship for the family members and communities of the individuals arrested and have frightened other passengers on the trains and buses who witness the arrests.

This event, organized by The Interfaith Coalition for the Rights of Immigration Detainees and their Families, will include participation from sponsoring organizations including the American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program and concerned citizens. The program will include interfaith prayers, testimonies of affected individuals and comments from lawyers of the American Civil Liberty Union of New Jersey and American Friends Service Committee.

Vigil to Support Immigrants’ Right to Travel

Good Friday, April 10th 2009, 1pm to 3pm
Newark Penn Station, NJ
[Corner of Raymond Plaza West & Market Street]
Contact: Amy Gottlieb, Director, Immigrant Rights Program,, 973 - 854-0260

Film Festival to Feature Efforts to Help Immigrant Families

The Washington DC International Film Festival will feature a screening of "The Least of These," a documentary featuring the Women's Refugee Commission's efforts to improve and eliminate the detention of immigrant parents and their children.

Date & Time: April 20, 2009, 6:30 pm
Location: Landmark’s E St. Cinema 555 11th st NW, DC
For ticket information click here.

The Directors of the film and Michelle BranĂ©, Director of the Women’s Refugee Commission Detention and Asylum Program will be available after the film for a brief Q & A. By telling the poignant and powerful stories of detained families and their American advocates, the film draws attention to family detention one of the most controversial aspects of U.S. immigration policy.

Monday, April 06, 2009


Asylum granted in three cases

It took years – literally.

But on Monday, March 30, AFSC’s Newark, New Jersey, office received good news: several of the program’s immigrant clients received asylum.

A man from Guinea had been waiting since 2005. For a Guatemalan woman and her daughter, the decision took two years. In addition, just a few days earlier pro bono attorneys from Schulte Roth and Zabel, working with AFSC, won asylum for a Tibetan man detained at the Elizabeth Detention Center. The attorneys are now helping the man petition for his wife and children.

“Of course,” said Elissa Steiglich, “these wins are in addition to the daily victories that we often fail to recognize – the dozen plus new residents ushered in last month, the unemployed Cubans who now have the work permit to give them a hope of a job, the kids who have an advocate at their side, and the dozens of clients calmed by Myrna’s smile and good will.”

Steglich is managing attorney for the New York metropolitan region’s Immigrants’ Rights program.

What You Can Do: Economic Crisis

Thank you for your calls to the Senate to help pass President Obama’s budget!

AFSC activists made hundreds of calls, contributing to the effort to successfully pass a Senate budget resolution that invests in human needs.

This is a strong and fair budget that funds human needs programs that have long been starved for cash, but are needed now more than ever. It will:
  • Create jobs,
  • Fight poverty,
  • Create a path towards universal health care, and
  • Invest in priorities like education and low-income housing.

AFSC and hundreds of other organizations in the Campaign to Rebuild and Renew America Now called on Congress to pass President Obama’s budget outline for the coming fiscal year. This is the first step in a process to begin using our tax dollars, to reinvest our nation’s resources in health, education, housing and other programs that lift up the common good. Under President Bush, federal funding for dozens of vital programs that benefit children, youth, elders, and our communities were severely cut.

Now, in a time of global economic crisis, our nation must ensure that people are able to meet their basic needs and move forward. President Obama’s budget increases funding for vital U.S. social programs, foreign aid, and diplomacy. While we are disappointed that the budget does not cut military spending, AFSC will work to build on the President’s priorities as outlined in this budget, and to seek ways to decrease military spending.

What’s next:
The House and Senate each passed their own budget resolutions. In a couple of weeks, they will meet in a conference to work out the differences. Then, in mid-April, they’ll vote once again on a final budget resolution.

Watch the AFSC Economic Justice page for more details!