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Responding to grassroots pressure from advocates, and mounting criticismfrom congressional leaders such as Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unveiled an 18-page memorandum for the care of transgender immigrants in detention this week.
While these guidelines are a step in the right direction and long overdue, it’s still not enough and here’s why:
1. Detention of vulnerable immigrants is inherently inhumane: The new guidance does nothing to move us away from the prolonged detention of transgender individuals, the vast majority of whom are asylum seekers who have already faced persecution in their home countries, only to be subjected to further pain and suffering at the hands of ICE. Detaining asylum seekers is inhumane, re-traumatizes some of the most vulnerable immigrants and it is contrary to our laws when detention is used as a form of deterrence to dissuade people from coming to the United States. Advocates have repeatedly called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to release such detainees once they have proven that their fear of persecution is credible. Officials should act to end the practice of detaining such individuals, as there is no mending it.
2. The new guidance provides inadequate care and housing options: The guidance continues to allow practices that have been denounced as inhumane, such as administrative segregation, ‘protective custody’ and isolated pods for transgender detainees. ICE detains 75 transgender immigrants on average, which is less than one percent of the detainee population, but over 20 percent of sexual assault cases in immigrant detention involve a transgender survivor. Alternative housing practices havefailed to protect transgender immigrants in detention from sexual assault and physical abuse in the past, and should not be used when releasing such detainees on bond or parole is a much more humane and cheaper alternative.
3. No guidelines for the treatment of vulnerable immigrants such as lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum seekers: Many individuals seeking asylum in the United States are detained upon arriving at a port of entry. Many of them, including lesbians, gays and bisexuals, have suffered severe persecution in their home countries. A recent Center for American Progress report shows that ICE routinely detains LGBT immigrants who it knows are at great risk and should not be behind bars. A disproportionate number of undocumented LGBT individuals are Asian American. The new guidelines do nothing to recognize that these individuals, who may have suffered sexual assault and torture in their home countries, remain vulnerable in immigrant detention and should be released.
4. No guidelines for dealing with sexual assault and abuse in detention:Transgender immigrants in ICE custody face extremely harsh conditions such as alarming rates of sexual assault, physical abuse and harassment. While housing them according to their gender identity may reduce some of the violence transgender detainees face, the guidelines provide no mechanism for reporting ongoing violence. Forty percent of sexual assault cases in detention are unreported, and the guidelines contain no mention of how transgender immigrants can report assault, or any measures to protect transgender immigrants from such assault.
5. No enforcement mechanism — The ICE ERO working group that crafted this guidance worked hard to meet with transgender detainees and try to ascertain best practices for the detention of transgender individuals in custody. However, without a grievance mechanism, the guidance may be tough to enforce at all facilities.
We strongly urge the ICE ERO working group to consider alternatives to detention for LGBT and other vulnerable immigrants in detention.
I’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!
Growing pressure on the Administration from immigration activists has led the President to announce yet another review of deportation policies with the aim to make them “more humane.” Following the announcement, there was a mad rush to get “administrative action” memos to the White House from various groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).
Parallel to the White House directive, former and currently undocumented immigrant leaders from across the country formed a Blue Ribbon Commission to perform an independent review and present its recommendations to the President, helping fill the noticeable lack of representation from those seeking legal status and citizenship in recently-convened White House meetings. The executive summary and full report is available here.
Labeled as ambitious by some media outlets, the myriad of recommendations, ranging from stopping deportations to curtailing the use of detention to scaling back on immigration enforcement and extending labor protections to undocumented workers, are certainly lofty, as described by MSNBC–but nothing short of ambitious and lofty would do at this point.
- Expand deferred action to the fullest extent of the law, to as many people as possible;
- End all programs involving ICE and local-law enforcement collaboration, including Secure Communities, 287(g) agreements and the Criminal Alien Program (CAP);
- Protect basic rights by granting deferred action to individuals filing civil, labor or human rights complaints, and adopting a formal non-retaliation policy prohibiting agents from targeting defenders of civil, labor and human rights for arrest, detention or deportation;
- Eliminate the bed quota and end or drastically curtail the use of detention;
- Revise ICE’s enforcement priorities and expand the low-priority criteria;
- Improve conditions in detention facilities and expand protections for vulnerable detainees including pregnant women, HIV+ and transgender individuals, and people with disabilities;
- Stop collaborating with rogue Sheriffs and terminate agreements with local law enforcement officials that undermine civil, labor, and human rights
- Expand use of humanitarian parole to ensure that people previously deported can return to the U.S.;
- End all ICE home and community raids programs including the Criminal Alien Removal Initiative (CARI), eliminate the use of mobile biometric devices, and ensure the protection of civil rights during all enforcement operations;
- End Operation Streamline;
- Terminate all federal contracts with private prison conglomerates such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and GEO Group Inc.
- End expedited removal of SIJS-Eligible Youth;
- Implement prosecutorial discretion policies for CBP, act to limit scope of CBP enforcement, including ending internal raids, and take action to end migrant deaths on the border;
- Renegotiate trade agreements to eliminate provisions that cause displacement of communities and increase economic pressure on people to migrate, and end negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership.
The Not 1 More Blue Ribbon Commission members include Jose Alvarado, Erika Andiola, Guadalupe Andiola, Hareth Andrade, Mario Andrade, Cecilia Sáenz Barrera, Eleazar Castellanos, Angelica Chazaro, Neidi Dominguez, Lourdes Hernandez, Angel Agustin Hernandez Gomez, Edgar Godoy Valladares, Ju Hong, Prerna Lal, Fanny Lopez, Yoselyn Madrid, Juan Jose Mangandi , Raymundo Mendoza, Maricela Muñoz, Jose Moreno, Shellion Parris, Jaime Reyes, Carlos Rojas Álvarez, Hector Ruiz, Erlin San Martin Gomez, Caesar Vargas, Rosa Ángela Velázquez, Maru Mora Villalpando, Tania Unzueta, Reyna Wences. Full bios with organizational affiliations are available here.
There has been big movement on the Not 1 More Deportation campaign front in the past few weeks. Key politicians have called on the White House to curtail deportations. The New York Times writes that President Obama is feeling the heat for his 2 million deportations. Janet Murgia jumped into the fray last week by calling the President “The Deporter In Chief” to which the President replied that he was “Champion-In-Chief of comprehensive immigration reform.” Of course, the the two are not mutually exclusive and in response to the growing pressure, the President called a meeting with various immigration reform organizations in D.C. and asked for 90 days of ‘unity’ while ICE finds more “humane” ways to carry out enforcement.
Honestly, I’m not sure how one can more humanely tear families apart. However, in a typical Friday news leak, Homeland Security disclosed that it is considering two measures to ease deportations: end or scale down Secure Communities, and stop deportations of people without criminal convictions. These are certainly welcome changes but there is a lot more that can be done. NDLON’s rule-making petition and NILC’s briefing on how how the President can use executive authority to stop deportations make it crystal clear that there are various things the President can do to ease deportations. It is no longer a question of legal authority but one of political will.
As the calls for Not One More deportation become more mainstream, it is important to continue escalating and not step off the gas just because the President is trying to pacify us with calls for unity. At this time, it is also important to solidify around a list of goals and recommendations as to how to ease deportations, and ensure that the negotiations are not limited to easing deportations on the lowest hanging fruit. As Marisa Franco writes:
At some point the calls for what the President should do will get more specific, and inevitably negotiations of some sort will begin. We must hold the line and try to win the most expansive relief possible. We should also take aim at the deportation programs that have been the driving force behind racial profiling, detention and deportation of migrants. This should not be a time for simply reaching for the lowest hanging fruit. Not one More, period.
To that end, immigrant leaders who have been directly impacted by U.S. immigration policies established the #Not1More Blue Ribbon Commission to the White House this past week. The goals of the Commission are to keep the pressure on the White House, release recommendations on how to ease deportations by April 5, 2014, and request that the leaders are allowed to present the recommendations to the President. I’m excited to see what the Commission can come up with in the next month to move us all forward.
It’s official — for the first time in history, hordes of mostly white people rioted for May Day outside the White House.
And most of them were The George Washington University students who heard the news about the gathering on Twitter, Facebook and through word of mouth. For me, this was a great moment in social media and I had to be there to capture this moment since I live a few blocks from the White House. Many of my law school friends joined to see the spectacle.
People ran through the streets of D.C. waving their American flags. Capital Bikeshare was instrumental in making sure that those who lived further away had some way of getting to and from the White House especially since the gathering took place close to midnight with the Metro not in operation. Drivers honked as they drove by Lafayette Park. Gathered directly outside the White House, people chanted U-S-A U-S-A and sang the national anthem more than a dozen times into the wee hours of the morning.
But unlike the projections by mainstream media, I don’t believe that all the young smiling faces were really out there celebrating the death of an insidious figure.
Some were definitely frat boys from my university. Many others joined their friends in celebration as a study break. Many were Obama supporters proud that he had just trumped Donald and secured his re-election. And for most of us gathered out there, it was less about nationalism and more about an end to an era. It’s a symbol of closure and hope for better times ahead.
But can the country finally recover from it’s rampant fear and suspicion of the Other?
While Bin Laden is finally dead, so are thousands of civilians and soldiers. Our rights and liberties are at an all-time low and our fear of everyone that is different from us at an all-time high. Thousands have been ripped from their families and deported in the past 10 years in the name of national security. It’s time to put an end to this.
I would like the President to bring our troops home, rescind the PATRIOT Act and end racial profiling at airports. He won’t do that. I would like to carry my shampoo and lotion on an airplane and keep my shoes on at airports. That’s unlikely to happen.
We’ve given up a lot in these past ten years: our respect around the world, our civil rights and liberties and our beacon as a country that welcomes the huddled masses. And we’ve gained little in return. Last night was a celebration with the hope that the coming years will be different.
But it is up to us to make it happen.