A blog by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration about justice and peace issues

Posts tagged ‘Immigration Reform’

No Papers, No Fear

The question of immigration reform continues to be pushed to the side while a bumper crop of punitive state laws “handle” the questions while tearing families and communities apart.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights decided to hold a hearing examining the laws that have been passed on the state level in response to workers, families, folks without documentation.

They invited every one but the community most impacted, the immigrants. Check out the video below from  “No Papers, No Fear” and hear from those most impacted what it has meant to live under the laws, fear, and racism that has become the “solution” to broken economies and immigration laws.

No Papers, No Fear

Yesterday the United States Commission on Civil Right held a hearing on the impactof state immigration laws on communities. The only people they forgot to invite were undocumented immigrants.

We decide to go to Birmingham, Alabama, where the hearing was held, because they cannot talk about the impact of immigration law without our voices. And because there was no space allotted to hear our stories, we made one.

During the testimony of Kris Kobach, author and advocate of Arizona’s notorious SB 1070, four of our undocumented riders stood up and spoke out about their stories. All held high signs that read “undocumented,” and did not back down unil they were escorted out of the hotel by security.

The rest of the No Papers No Fear riders arrived that afternoon. We staged a performance with our bus decorated as a homeland security transport vehicle. We freed ourselves for the handcuffs and literally freed monarch butterflies, symbols of migration. Then a banner came down, turning the bus back once again into a vehicle for justice.

When the group surged into the hotel entrance we were blocked by hotel security. They pushed us out and threatened us with arrest when we knelt in the doorway. Since we didn’t back down, they did, and we were invited inside where the only people deeply qualified to speak to the impact of immigration laws, undocumented leaers, gave testimony from Arizona and Alabama.

The day’s events are a symbol of this tour. Alabama held a conversation about us and without us. When we made ourselves known they tried to exclude us. When we would not back down we won our inclusion for the day. We are no longer waiting. If space is not made for us, we will make it ourselves.

When we entered, one of the briefing members, Commissioner Yaki gave public comment that it would be people like us that would determine the future. He asked everyone to stand up, and raise their fists to cry out “si se puede” (“yes we can”).

With that, we packed our bags and headed to meet up with Somos Tuscaloosa, to train and exchange through the weekend in Alabama, this state of hate and hope.

No Paper No Fears Riders

SB1070: the path for immigration reform?

Rally for immigrant rights

The battle over SB1070 has gone all the way to the Supreme Court in an effort to untangle where federal rights meet state rights, what constitutes racial profiling, and who at the end of the day is responsible for creating immigration reform.

The government is arguing that the law promotes racial profiling and over steps into a policy area that belongs on a federal level. The states are arguing that they have both a right and an obligation to deal with people who are undocumented within their own contexts and that while the law could create circumstances of racial profiling that would only be if it was abused by law enforcement.

The list of questions presented to the court are all worthy and represent key facets of democracy, human rights, and balance of power. At the heart of these questions is how we understand citizenship. Is it a special status that restricts the distribution of legal rights? Or is it a legal reality that confers on each of us a special responsibility for how we welcome and integrate those who come into our borders?

Sojourners and many other faith leaders feel that it is the latter. In light of that they invite those who feel that SB1070 represents a failure of democracy, human rights, and the balance of powers to write letters to their editors. Check out the link below and join the call to never understand a human being as illegal.


an Immigrant Welcoming Community

Today, FSPA, together with nine other congregations of Catholic Sisters, declares itself an Immigrant Welcoming Community.

The sisters, based in the Upper Mississippi River Valley, call on President Obama and Congress to work together to enact comprehensive immigration reform.   To make their point, they have issued a statement on “Welcoming Communities” and are placing billboards in the QuadCities,Des Moines, Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, Sioux Cityand Clinton,Iowa, this month in advance of the Iowa caucuses to make sure delegates, potential candidates and voters remember this critical issue.

“We declare ourselves ‘Welcoming Communities’ in affirmation of our Catholic tradition that holds sacred the dignity of each person,” the Sisters said in the official statement, “and we invite other communities and people of faith to join us in becoming ‘Immigrant Welcoming Communities’ through prayer, reflection, education and action.”

“Our ‘Welcoming Communities’ stance is a direct response to the government’s ‘Secure Communities’ program which has transformed local police officers into a primary gateway for deportation,” explained the sisters.

“The results have been hundreds of thousands of detentions and deportations, serious civil and human rights concerns, due process violations and damaged trust between immigrant communities and local police.”

They further noted that “the ‘Secure Communities’ process was marketed to local law enforcement agencies as a way to deal with serious and dangerous criminals. In fact, low-priority, non-violent offenders or even lawful permanent residents are being funneled into this program which is breaking up families, promoting racial profiling, and fueling a fear-filled and hateful anti-immigrant atmosphere.”

National immigration reform organizations assert that the “Secure Communities” program has actually made communities less safe because many individuals are afraid to report crimes that they experience or witness for fear of being deported or having neighbors, family members or friends deported.  As a result, they state, crimes are going unreported and communities, rather than becoming “secure” are living in fear.

“Failure on the part of the federal government to reform the present unworkable immigration system has resulted in states passing legislation that is punitive and harmful to human rights,” noted the Sisters.

“We understand that enforcement of law is part of any immigration policy,” the Sisters emphasized.  “However, the present policy of involving state and local law enforcement agencies in the enforcement of federal immigration law, such as in the ‘Secure Communities’ program, is not achieving that goal.  True security lies in building relationships and respecting human rights and only true, comprehensive, compassionate immigration reform can deal with the crisis in our nation.  Therefore, we are declaring ourselves Immigrant Welcoming Communities.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/catholicsisters.

The people have spoken!

In another exciting round of recall elections, similar to those in Wisconsin, Arizona recalled Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce who was the author of S.B 1070- Arizona’s infamous “Show Me Your Papers” law.

This is a tremendous moment for immigrants, their families and supporters across the country. A moment of collective outcry that says we are not a nation built on fear and exclusion. A nation that relies on an abuse of power rather than examining our own role and responsibility in how folks come to live, work and be a part of our diverse land.

Read below and take a moment to celebrate with immigrants and advocates across the country!

Loss a stunning reversal for Pearce

Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services | Posted: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 12:01 am

MESA – Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce – architect of some of the nation’s toughest state laws against illegal immigration – was ousted by voters Tuesday in an unprecedented recall.

Results late Tuesday showed challenger Jerry Lewis, a political newcomer, with a 53-to-45 percent margin over Pearce in his east Mesa district. Both are Republicans. A small percentage also cast ballots for Olivia Cortes, although she withdrew from the race.

Pearce conceded defeat, saying he is disappointed and will spend some time “with my family and my God” before deciding what to do next. He has not ruled out another run – including to get his seat back.

Pearce is probably best known for proposing several immigration measures – often amid opposition from his own party – including a successful 2004 ballot measure to deny services to people living here illegally, and most recently, last year’s Senate Bill 1070 to give police more power to detain and arrest illegal immigrants.

“Obviously, it was a huge part of the recall,” said Lewis, who promised a more “civil dialogue and discussion” of the entire immigration issue.

U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a Tucson Democrat who called for a controversial boycott of Arizona over SB 1070, said Pearce’s loss “is a game changer for Arizona and a game changer for politicians who have used the immigration issue to divide people.”

Pearce, however, said he makes no apologies for his style, which can come across as confrontational. “Am I vigilant? Yes,” he said. “When you take tough positions, people get upset. That’s because somebody has to be a leader, and we wouldn’t have accomplished what we accomplished without leadership.”

He said polls have shown that most Arizonans support SB 1070, and he still believes that.

Pearce said one reason he lost was that this was an unusual race, with no primary. That allowed all voters, including the district’s Democrats and independents, to make the final decision.

“This is going around the primary process,” Pearce said.

“Jerry Lewis could not win in a (Republican) primary,” he added, saying Lewis was the choice of Democrats. “So it doesn’t take but 10 to 15 percent of the Republicans to vote for him to make the difference.”

Lewis disputed that description of the race, calling it dishonest. He sidestepped the question of whether he could have beaten Pearce in a head-to-head primary where only Republicans were allowed to vote. “That’s a hypothetical question,” Lewis said. “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Lewis, a charter school executive, said he never ran for office in a regular primary “because I never wanted to be a politician.”

He said one reason he probably won is he had support from Hispanic voters, many of whom are Democrats.

Despite being rejected by the voters in the district, Pearce said he would not have done anything any different since he was first elected to the Legislature in 2000.

“We’re Number One in the nation in Second Amendment liberties,” said Pearce, who helped push through laws allowing any adult to carry a concealed weapon. “We’re one of the top in the nation in laws that protect the unborn. So what else would I do differently? I’m pretty proud of that record.”

Pearce blamed his defeat in part on “heavy outside money” from liberal groups and unions, but at the same time boasted about the fact that he received donations from contributors in 40 states.

Lewis, for his part, said he waged a clean race, suggesting Pearce supporters had not done the same.

“I was told from the beginning it would be very hard hitting, below the belt. I just didn’t realize I’d have padlocks thrown below the belt as well,” he said, in a reference to a July incident where someone threw a lock at him. “That was a symbol of things to come,” he said.

But Lewis said he has no animosity for the man he beat.

“I still love him, he’s my brother,” he said of Pearce. “And I still consider him a friend, and I hope that we can work together in bringing about a fresh voice for Mesa.”

The recall election, forced by a petition drive, was the first for an Arizona legislator.

Tuesday’s vote has statewide implications in other ways. It means the 21 Senate Republicans – now including Lewis – will have to pick a replacement for Senate president.

That could shuffle the power within the chamber as would-be contenders try to line up support and promise plum committee assignments to supporters.

Arizona Daily Star reporter Carmen Duarte contributed to this report.

A small win

On Thursday, August 18th, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced it will begin a thorough review of the 300,000 pending deportation caseload to refocus enforcement efforts away from “low priority” immigrants and toward “high priority individuals,” such as those who have committed crimes.  DHS will now consider DREAM Act-eligible youths, relatives of veterans, and other individuals who are currently in the deportation process and who have no prior criminal convictions, non-threatening; they will move to dismiss their cases and, on a “case per case basis,” issue work permits.
This is a step in the right direction and could be crucial for so many facing deportation, yet we still need more comprehensive and compassionate immigration policies that move away from the current enforcement-only strategy and towards more humane and compassionate policies. Last week, August 17th, hundreds of student, community and faith leaders came out to call on DHS and the Obama Administration to stop the Secure Communities Program. Six undocumented students were arrested after participated in an act of civil disobedience, putting their lives on the line to stop the broken Secure Communities Program.  Read more from the Immigrant Youth Justice League
Please take a moment to thank the President Obama for this important administrative action.
“I’m calling to thank President Obama for taking a step in the right direction through more responsible enforcement strategies. We still need more permanent immigration policy solutions that keep families together and to stop the implementation of programs like Secure Communities that are harmful for our communities.” 

Help end Secure Communities

Join with Voces de la Frontera for Immigrant Rights this week!

National Week of Action Begins Against Controversial Program
In response to the recent decision by the Obama Administration to mandate state and local participation in the controversial Secure Communities (S-Comm) program, Executive Director, Christine Neumann-Ortiz made the following statement:

“The dramatic decision of the Obama Administration to preempt the growing chorus of opposition at a state and local level to the S-Comm program and pending litigation, is a shocking development and a slap in the face to Latinos and naturalized US immigrants who gave President Obama their vote and trust in the 2008 elections.
President Obama´s rhetoric about how this program only targets dangerous criminals is by the US government’s own data, untrue.  His rhetoric about blaming Republicans for not helping pass immigration reform is completely missing the point. His record of mass deportations and the expansion of these type of programs under his leadership are shameful.  President Obama and his advisors are wrong if they believe these actions do not come with a price in the upcoming November 2012 presidential elections.¨  
On Friday, August 6, the Obama Administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) notified 39 states who currently participate in S-Comm, many of whom signed voluntary opt-out clauses, that the program is now mandatory and that they cannot opt out as planned.  By 2013, DHS said, the program will be nationwide. S-Comm is a program in which fingerprints of people arrested and detained in a county jail–regardless if they are innocent of the charge or are charged with a minor infraction– are shared with immigration officials, resulting in the deportation of tens of thousands of immigrants each year.

There is now broad support across the country to end S-Comm. Law enforcement officials have determined that the program makes communities less safe and encourages racial profiling.  Community members, faith leaders, elected officials and members of Congress have all called for an investigation into S-Comm.

Contrary to DHS claims, S-Comm does not only target people charged or convicted of serious criminal offenses. In fact, according to DHS’s own data, 79 percent of individuals deported through Secure Communities between October 2008 and June 2010 were either non-criminal or were picked up for low-level offenses such as traffic violations.
The result of such a dragnet is the destruction of entire communities, as families are forced to witness their loved ones being detained and in many cases, deported. Families are separated and fall into greater poverty.  These are families that President Obama claims deserve the chance to legalize their status.
Pressure on the Obama administration to end these abuses is getting stronger each day.

This week (August 15-20th) marks a national week of action to urge Barack Obama and Congress to use their executive powers to stop the inhumane detentions and deportations.  Join in the action by sharing this alternative downloadable report with your Congress members. Click on the link below and print it out or copy and paste and send it as a link to your Reps and Senators!


SB 1070 comes to Wisconsin

A copy cat of Senate Bill 1070 has come to Wisconsin. Please read below the quote from Rep. Pridemore on his motivation for introducing it and the statement from immigrant justice group Voces about the deep concerns the bill raises. This is home for many of you that read this – so I know that makes it even harder to see a bill based on discrimination and fear labeled a way to make Wisconsin a “safe haven.”

I have included an antidote…a short video from Princeton Professor Cornel West who reminds us that Love is the answer. Stay tuned for actions on this bill from the FSPA Justice and Peace committee.

“This is an action that should have begun long ago when the federal government and the current administration stopped efforts to secure our borders,” Pridemore said in a statement. “Now that the illegal drug trade and human trafficking have put the lives and property of those along our borders in peril, we must do all we can to dissuade the criminal element from looking at Wisconsin as a safe haven.” Rep.  Don Pridemore

Voces de la Frontera Condemns Introduction of Arizona-Copycat Bill in Wisconsin

As the largest immigrant rights organization in the state, Voces de la Frontera unequivocally condemns the passage of any racist, anti-immigrant legislation in Wisconsin.

Yesterday Representative Don Pridemore (R-Hartford) introduced a bill requiring law enforcement officers in Wisconsin to interrogate people they detain about their immigration status if they have ‘reasonable suspicion” that the person is undocumented.  However, the vagueness of the term “reasonable suspicion” is exactly what gives cover to legalizing racial profiling.

“We will not tolerate this vicious bill, designed to lead directly to racial profiling and the criminalization of innocent people. Voces is prepared to mobilize widely in opposition.” says Primitivo Torres, president of Voces de la Frontera.

The bill is modeled after Arizona’s SB-1070, the controversial anti-immigrant law which prompted mass boycotts and cost that state hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost business revenue.  The Center for American Progress estimates that boycotts against Arizona in response to SB 1070 could cost the state more than $250 million in taxes, tourist spending and wages.  Pridemore’s bill is designed to do the same to Wisconsin, a state already facing economic challenges.

The bill also requires people to carry certain documents available to prove their immigration status or else risk being arrested, jailed, and deported.  People of color are more likely to be racially profiled and more likely to be interrogated; this also violates their rights to be treated as equals under the law.

This legislation also violates US Constitutional rules, including the denial of Fourteenth Amendment equal protection guarantees, because it encourages racial discrimination against Latinos and other people having foreign appearance or who sound foreign.  By interfering with the federal government’s authority to regulate and enforce immigration law, it also opposes the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution.

Pridemore’s legislation claims that it is designed to avoid racial profiling, but it clearly encourages police officers to base their actions on people’s appearance and characteristics as race, ethnicity, language, and social class.

This law would greatly harm the trust that authorities need from the public to protect Wisconsin residents.  The law would also compel law enforcement officers to assign scarce resources to investigate false threats instead of solving serious crimes.

Voces de la Frontera and our allies will fight to ensure that Wisconsin does not inherit the moral and economic burden that has devastated Arizona.

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