Community Voices: Pretexts

Justice for Ayyub-aI’m thinking a lot about pretexts nowadays. In the U.S., when people demand to know where you are from, what they mean is that you couldn’t possibly belong here because of your skin-color or accent. When people inquire as to how your family took your coming out as gay, they are harboring false assumptions about how brown people deal with queerness. Pretext happens when you get pulled over for your skin-color but get charged with “driving without a license” and face deportation. Heck–not having papers is a pretext. The land of the free and home of the brave is full of these sorts of pretexts, and life here is about  learning and navigating them.

 

So Justice for Ayyub is a campaign to free a man, Ayyubb, from the prison-industrial complex who got caught up in it due to pretexts. Ayyub–a Muslim man and the son of a Black Panther–was targeted by the FBI to become an informant, and when he refused to serve as a snitch, the FBI reportedly fabricated a weapons charge against Ayyub, offering him exoneration only if he became an informant to spy on the Muslim community. The ongoing trial is a pretext–what the FBI really wants from Ayyub is his cooperation.

Another pretext-the White House arranged a news leak this week that more executive action is coming, but leaked the news in advance to gauge the reaction of both immigrant rights groups and rabid right wingers. The response: quite underwhelming from the left as the changes appear to be hollow, and a nasty letter from the GOP. Message the White House gained from this: If you can’t make either side happy, perhaps you are doing the right thing. Meanwhile, the hunger strikes at the White House continue, with a Congressional briefing on May Day next week featuring Not One More Blue Ribbon Commission members on how the President can act to stop deportations.

 

The other pretext, of course, is suggestions by advocates that acting to stop deportations would kill any chances of the long-dead CIR. We used to hear the same thing when pushing for a standalone DREAM Act, and then DACA. Real reason for inaction: Lack of political will.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is just a pretext for thug life. There’s nothing else I want to say about this rogue and miserable agency.

 

Arguments against affirmative action nowadays use Asian-Americans as pretexts telling us that if we don’t rise up against the use of race in college admissions, we are doomed as affirmative action hurts Asian-Americans. The real reason for opposing affirmative action is the maintenance of white privilege, and white supremacy. Plain and simple.

 

 

 

What’s not a pretext is that I’m signing off now because an island awaits me for the next month. It isn’t paradise, but it comes close. Hasta la vista!

Community Voices: “The Reality Is My Family Cannot Afford An All Or Nothing Hardline on Citizenship”

This week, Jose Patino of “The Dream is Now” fame wrote great article on “What the undocumented community needs out of immigration reform” which raised a lot of eyebrows.  Friend of this blog, Cesar Vargas, Founder of DRM Action, reiterated that undocumented youth leaders are loyal to their communities, and not beholden to either party. Around the same time, the National Immigration Law Center released an excellent report, outlining how the President can use his executive powers to stop deportations.

After having a public fallout with certain undocumented leaders, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, one of the strongest advocates for immigration reform, has actually adopted their views on deportation. In a Fusion interview, he states:

“Democrats think all they need to do is to simply blame Republicans. You know what? We control the White House and we control the deportation apparatus,” he said. “We have a responsibility to act.”

Certainly, we can do more. While we await immigration reform, Santiago Leco’s recent infiltration of El Paso Detention Center, combined with a Fusion investigation, has revealed that ICE had detained at least 13 pregnant women, contrary to its own policy:

The agency’s policy says that detaining pregnant or nursing women is low on their priority list. The directive states that resources should be spent on locking up people whose cases are top priority, like those who have formerly broken immigration laws, are threats to public safety, or have been convicted of crimes.

Similarly, contrary to its own policy, the U.S. continues to detain asylum seekers, even after they have been granted credible fear.This week, a law firm contacted me about helping out with one of their clients who is currently detained in Georgia after fleeing Honduras for his life. Homeland Security agents detained Mr. Paz and his wife after they crossed the Texan border in late October 2013. The two fled Honduras after being threatened by the gang members who killed two of their adult children in 2013. Mr. Paz, who is 60 years old, applied for asylum and passed the credible fear interview, but the Department of Homeland Security is refusing to release him from custody. Instead, they have him locked up at Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, hundreds of miles away from his family. Please sign his petition here.

The U.S. isn’t the only country dealing with immigration issues. Thousands of African refugees to Israel joined in a peaceful protest this week against Israel’s denial of their refugee status and their continued detention. The New Yorker has more background on this issue.

A very dear friend of this blog, Attorney Madeline Stano, showed up in federal court this week to prevent discriminatory pesticide practices that allow predominantly Latino children to be exposed to high levels of harmful chemicals in California. Thanks Stano!

The polar votex came for me so I am back in the Bay Area, California. On that note, the EBIYC – East Bay Immigrant Youth Coalition is now accepting scholarship applications. The due date is Monday, February 17. So check it out!

Photo Credit: greensefa

New Year ShoutOuts

Friends of this blog, Julio and Jesus, gave a shoutout to all the important work done by the immigrant rights community. Julio also released his much-awaited Las Visionaries set, in dedication of all the queer women he admires (mostly writers and artists, including yours truly). Speaking of art-work, check out 22 Powerful Images By DREAMers: A Window Into Life As An Undocumented Immigrant In America featuring a lot of work by Alberto Ledesma, and Julio Salgado. Much love and peace to all of you artists, writers, musicians and visionaries!

While we are busy doing shoutouts, I would like to make a shoutout to the federal district court judge who reaffirmed the Obama administration policy granting officials the authority to search our laptops, citing a controversial premise that makes people living or traveling within 100 miles of the border eligible for a suspicion-less police check. Here is a useful infographic about your rights when you interact with a police officer. It looks simple on paper, but lets be real, when approached by a police officer or ICE agent, some of us have more privilege to assert these rights than others.

Another shoutout to climate change, which new studies show is worse than we previously thought. Hopefully, the warning bells are loud and clear that this should be a top national and global priority, starting with compensation, and relocation policies for the victims.

Mandatory immigration readingThe Deported: Life on the Wrong Side of the Border for Repatriated MexicansIN 2013, THE DREAM 30 FOUGHT TO COME HOME by David Bennion, Fewer Crossing But More Deaths at the Mexico-U.S. Border, and Whatever Happened to Comprehensive Immigration Reform by Aura Bogado at Colorlines sums up the debacle, wins and defeats better than any list.

I love writing and reading year in reviews. My favorites from 2013 include: The Top 10 Most Racist/Privileged Things White Feminists Did in 2013, Top 10 Queer and Feminist Books of 2013, 10 Racial Justice Wins for 2013, 10 Best iPhone Apps of 2013 and the 50 Best Free iPhone Apps.

Community Voices: Stop the Deportations

I am a little late on this one, courtesy the holidays and a visit from my awesome in-laws. They treated us to some great dinners and then bought a nice gym membership for both of us. I get the message since I am not as dense as the immigration system in the U.S.

If you want to check out how convoluted and utterly ridiculous U.S. immigration can be, look no further than this story of a deported U.S. citizen, who finally has her passport back.

President Barack Obama said during a trip to New Orleans, “We should be fighting to make sure everybody who works hard in America, and hard right here in New Orleans, that they have a chance to get ahead.” So why is the Obama Administration piloting a new, unprecedented and extraordinarily harsh effort to hunt down and deport thousands of hardworking undocumented immigrants in New Orleans?

Ju Hong, an undocumented graduate of U.C. Berkeley, interrupted President Barack Obama during his stump speech on immigration reform in San Francisco earlier this week. His “yelling” echoed across the country, and has sparked a series of articles, mostly calling on the President to use his executive authority to stop deportations:

And there are many more. Ju also wrote an open letter to the President pointing out the many contradictions between Obama’s words and actions.

The National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON) unveiled various images for the holiday season that should resonate with families torn apart by deportations:

NOT1MORE

Almost half of all persons facing deportation lack access to counsel and cannot afford to get counsel. The figures are worse for those who are detained. But help is on the way.  In New York, a new pilot program is finally providing support for people who find themselves in removal proceedings. Deportations to Mexico are expected to spike in 2014, such that even the Mexican government is now pouring resources into deported adults and children. These efforts need our continued support and funding.

Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC) in the Bay Area has released a comprehensive guide containing 52 pages of up-to-date information about scholarships available for immigrant students who don’t have U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency as well as advice and tips for writing winning scholarship applications.

DRM Action, a political group for Dreamers, is working on breaking the current lock-jam in Congress over immigration reform, and suggests halting deportations and passing the GOP KIDS Act as alternatives to the Senate’s S.744 bill. Dreamers are also warming up to Rep. Joe Heck’s piecemeal proposal to direct the government to cancel the deportation of those who were in the United States as of Dec. 31, 2011, and who were 15 or younger when they arrived.

Immigration is not just a Latino issue. Thousands of American Muslims have been targeted for “voluntary interviews” since September 11, 2001–interviews unconnected to any specific criminal investigation. These interviews, predominantly by the FBI, have become increasingly coercive. In an effort to help attorneys deal with representing clients for these “voluntary interviews,” the Muslim Advocates will be hosting a webinar on December 11, 2013 at 12 PM PST / 3 PM EST.

The DREAM 9 ripple effects continue. DreamActivist has identified a long list of abuses and misappropriation of priorities at the Eloy Detention Center. These include:

  • Over 100 cases where detainees are granted Credible Fear, provide sponsorship documents, and ICE officials still refuse to release. This in direct violation of Immigration And Customs Enforcement (ICE) Directive No.: 11002.1;
  • 3 cases of pregnant women detained in conditions detrimental to the health of their unborn babies;
  • Several instances of harassment based on the individuals religious or sexual identities;
  • Documentation only being provided in English, without access to interpreters. A majority of detainees are primary, non-English speakers;
  • Over 20 cases of individuals being held despite clearly being eligible for discretion under the Morton Memo, issued in 2011;
  • A case of a male detainee being refused proper medication;
  • Arbitrary Credible Fear rulings; instances of two individuals with identical cases (detained together) with one granted and another failed;
  • Over a dozen instances of long-term, unjust, detention resulting in the deportation of discretion eligible individualss

As such, the organization is calling for a complete review of cases at Eloy Detention Center.