Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
The tragic death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco, allegedly at the hands of an undocumented immigrant, has conservatives gleefully trying to vilify all immigrants as criminals, and liberal politicians scrambling for cover by trying to roll back hard-fought local sanctuary city protections that keep immigrant families together.
The mainstream media is leaving virtually no stone unturned in trying to turn Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the alleged shooter, into the new Willie Horton even while all facts suggest that the fatal shooting was unintentional, and that sanctuary city policies have little to do with why Juan Lopez was still living in the United States even after being deported five times.
ICE could have deported Juan Carlos while he was in federal custody without any sort of removal proceedings; instead the agency turned him over to San Francisco to senselessly prosecute a 20 year old drug offense.
No one seems to be talking about the fact that the zealous desire to prosecute individuals for decades old low-level drug offenses seems to have played a large part in how the alleged shooter was transferred from federal ICE custody to officials in San Francisco.
News reports indicate that Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez had been deported previously five times. That made it easy to reinstate a previous order of removal and deport him from the United States after he had served his last sentence, and as everyone knows, ICE deports mothers, fathers and children quite easily even when they have a right to stay in the United States. However, instead of removing him to Mexico after 46 months in federal custody, the Bureau of Prisons reportedly turned him over to San Francisco to prosecute him for a 1995 low-level drug offense.
At a time when most jurisdictions are increasingly moving away from prosecuting low-level drug offenses, and even the federal government has indicated a desire to bury the war on drugs, it is mind-boggling that Juan was handed over to San Francisco for a 1995 outstanding charge for marijuana. It comes as no surprise that a local court dismissed the outstanding charge against Sanchez, and he was released from custody.
The shooting seems to lack premeditation.
Juan Lopez does not have a record of violent behavior. At worst, his extensive list of felonies for low-level drug offenses means he seemed to have a problem with drug addiction and abuse. Juan Lopez professes to have found a gun, registered to a federal agent, and accidentally shooting at the victim in this case, probably while he was under the influence. There is absolutely no record of violent crimes, let alone gun-related crimes, in his record. So there is no reason to doubt what he has confessed thus far — that the fatal shooting was an accident.
Why are politicians so bent on using this tragedy as a way to punish all San Franciscans by blowing it out of proportion? It’s easier to vilify and lay blame for a tragedy than find compassion and closure to move forward. If the best case against sanctuary cities and no detainer policies is that people can accidentally find guns on public park benches and fire them just as easily, perhaps those decrying such policies should focus their efforts elsewhere.
Which leads me to my next point: Why is it so easy to find and shoot a gun?
While records are still hazy, we know for a fact that the gun used in the shooting did not belong to Juan Lopez. It is registered to a federal agent with the Bureau of Land Management. How did Juan Lopez manage to get his hands on the gun belonging to a federal agent, and pull the trigger?
If was an accident like he claims, anyone, legally here or not, could have committed it, and it is wholly irrelevant that San Francisco has a sanctuary city policy. Instead of asking why Juan Lopez is still in the country, perhaps we should be asking why it is so easy to own, and fire a gun?
Handing Juan Carlos to ICE without a warrant would have exposed San Francisco to civil liabilities
A federal government request to detain an individual is not a judicial warrant, and carries no mandatory legal authority. Federal judges have actually found such ICE detainers to be unconstitutional. San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has stated that he would have given Juan Carlos back to ICE if it had issued a warrant to detain him. The jurisdiction would be liable if it honored a faxed request or phone call to detain Sanchez for longer than necessary, rather than judicial warrant to hold him, so San Francisco was legally obligated to release him.
Given that Juan Carlos had no record of violent crime convictions, his subsequent release and implication in a fatal shooting was hardly foreseeable.
This policy of abiding by the spirit and letter of the law, has little to do with the fact that San Francisco is a sanctuary city where immigrant families can live safely. Many jurisdictions, conservative or liberal, are increasingly afraid to abide by ICE detainers, because it would subject them to lawsuits.
Quite often, when wrongly accused and likened to criminals in the mainstream media, our knee-jerk reaction is to show study after study that says immigrants commit less crimes than our U.S. born counterparts.
Now let me be clear that the numbers do seem to suggest that the number of immigrants and crime rates are inversely related. But this analysis throws incarcerated black men under the bus, rather than question the myriad of ways in which black and brown people are turned into criminals. The share of non-citizens who make up defendants in the federal criminal system has grown disproportionately in the past decade.
Many of the convictions levied against Juan Lopez were for low level drug offenses and illegal re-entry. Criminal convictions for re-entrying the country without authorization to be with our family members, or making a false claim to citizenship in order to provide a home for our children or loitering on public street corners in order to find a job, is turning immigrants into criminals faster than we can proclaim that not all immigrants are not criminals. Moreover, citizenship status is now the most salient factor in determining sentencing outcomes in criminal court. We may not be behind bars at the rates that black men are incarcerated, but we do get punished more harshly than our U.S.-born counterparts by virtue of our immigration status.
Perhaps advocacy efforts and resources should go towards reversing these troubling trends, and questioning how immigration enforcement continues to mine a questionable criminal justice system for people to deport, rather than making anti-black proclamations decrying immigrant criminality, and blowing a tragedy out of proportion in order to score cheap political points.
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:
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.
San Francisco looks like heaven from the skies.
I’m leaving my home for a new one.
Home has always been a site of violence and repression but also one where I’m loved and cared for the most. I’m going to do my hardest to make sure that this new home will be new start for us.
Here’s to laying some new roots while the benevolent pro-family, pro-immigrant, pro-queer Obama Administration tries to uproot me from my multiple homes.
Cafe La Taza on 20th and Mission is usually my first stop for the day for the Hot Mocha or Mexican Mocha. They are simply amazing and delicious.
I’m sad that Bombay Ice Creamery and Chaat closed down last year, which is a devastating loss to the community. So I usually indulge in “ice-cream” and crepes at La Copa Loca Gelato on Capp Street. The crepe in the morning and the ice-cream in the afternoon if it is a sunny day.
Mission has quite a handful of Indian restaurants. I think either there is no such thing as “Indian food” or “Indian food” refers to a large variety of foods. I am still trying to make up my mind. The Indian food you will eat at a typical restaurant is not what you will eat in my home though we would still call it “Indian food.” I love Pakwan, which I enjoyed courtesy Living Social’s $1 lunch days. They should have those at least once a week! For a $1, I got aloo mattar, chicken tikka masala and an extra large naan. I hope to go back soon. Additionally, I also spend a lot of time at Al Hamra (Indian-Pakistani) food right next to Estas Noches — a gay bar — on 16th. It’s a small, quaint place that feels like home, plays the soundtrack of Dil Se for me as I gorge down freshly-made vegetable samosas.
The Sandwich Place near 16th Mission makes the best sandwiches to go in San Francisco. They also make their own bread and the smell is divine. It is best if you call ahead of time and place your order since it is always busy. I chatted with the owner, Juan — a UC Berkeley alum — recently and we obviously ended up talking about immigration after he asked about my work. He told me that if he ever got placed in deportation, he would call me for help. He’s a U.S. citizen so that’s not about to happen but I am sure a lot of loyal customers have his back if anything else happens.
To fulfill my constant cheese pizza cravings, I head over to Serranos Pizza and Pasta that has huge slices on the cheap. Two slices look like a whole large pizza and costs a meager $5 I think. I’ll start looking like pizza and Coke Zero soon.
Frjtz is a tea-time, late afternoon hangout spot for me that has the most amazing flavors of dipping sauces for Belgian fries! Curry ketchup and creamy wasabi mayo are my favorite ones but they are all fantastic. I usually meet up with friends here. And a bonus is all the paintings of naked women up on the walls.
Boogaloos is a local favorite Sunday brunch place on Valencia. They say “whether you are in the mood for savory scramblers, sweet lemon-corn meal pancakes, or a spicy mexican style breakfast the heaping portions will leave your tummy full without breaking the bank.” That sounds about right.
I also recommend getting some local beer or ice-cream from Yotopia (organic froyos FTW) and hanging out at Dolores Park. Making out with someone special is a bonus but you can always people-watch and observe everyone else getting high and making out around you.
Life is good. And it is 11am.
My name is Prerna Lal. You may know me as one of the founders of DreamActivist or from the Immigrant Rights blog at Change.org where I have worked for the past two years to stop the deportations of several members of our community. I serve as a board member for Immigration Equality and I was the recipient of a Changemaker Award at the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) summit this year.
I am writing this because I am currently sitting for my first-year law school exams at The George Washington University, and already, I’m facing the trial of my life. The United States government has decided to prosecute and deport me away from my family, friends and community. They sent me a notice to appear for removal proceedings last week. And now I am being separated from my American family.
My only grandparent alive is a U.S. citizen. She voted for President Obama in the last elections, who promised immigration reform in the first year of his office, and she is now wondering why he is deporting her grand-daughter. My tax-paying legal resident parents brought me here when I was a minor. Even my older sibling is a U.S. citizen. I grew up in this country. This is my home.
So why am I in removal proceedings? The simple answer is that I aged-out. Due to the number of visas allocated to each category and the slow movement (and retrogression) of family visa categories, I turned 21 before my family could petition for a green card for me. As a result, I am being removed from the country that I call home and I cannot re-enter for any reason for the next 10 years. I cannot see the rest of my family for the next 10 years.
However, I would qualify for a green-card immediately if USCIS did not have a questionable (and much litigated) interpretation of the Child Status Protection Act, a legislation that was passed by Congress to prevent children of U.S. citizens and legal residents from aging-out of family, employer and diversity visa petitions. A nation-wide class action lawsuit is pending on this matter in the Ninth Circuit, but instead of holding petitions in abeyance till the lawsuit is resolved, USCIS cannot wait to deport qualifying, young people away from their homes.
I would have also benefited from the passage of the federal DREAM Act, a piece of legislation that would put certain immigrant youth on a pathway to citizenship. Just this week, 22 Senators called on President Obama to use his authority to stop deporting DREAM Act-eligible youth like myself. The letter read, “We would support a grant of deferred action to all young people who meet the rigorous requirements necessary to be eligible for cancellation of removal or a stay of removal under the DREAM Act, as requested on a bipartisan basis by Senators Durbin and Lugar last April.”
Even if one is in favor of the most stringent immigration policies, it makes no sense for the government to spend thousands of dollars and several years in litigation to remove productive and non-criminal immigrant youth like me from our homes. In response to this atrocity, my friends have created a petition to top immigration officials to stop this ridiculous prosecution. You can read more and sign the petition here.
My queer and law school friends are also outraged and are throwing together a fundraiser in support of me (and the DREAM Act) on May 6 in Washington D.C. Check here for more details.