“Our message is blunt: migrants are dying who need not,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing, “It is time to do more than count the number of victims. It is time to engage the world to stop this violence against desperate migrants.” The research behind “Fatal Journeys,” which runs to over 200 pages, began with the October 2013 tragedy when over 400 migrants died in two shipwrecks near the Italian island of Lampedusa. The report, compiled under IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, indicates Europe is the world’s most dangerous destination for “irregular” migration, costing the lives of over 3,000 migrants this year.
Thousands of Palestinians have left the Gaza Strip for Europe using tunnels, traffickers and boats, testimonies obtained by Haaretz show. Gazans have been fleeing the Strip since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, but their escape was hardly covered in the media since they have been leaving clandestinely, with the help of paid smugglers. The sinking of two ships carrying Palestinians from Gaza — one off the coast of Malta last week, and the other off the coast of Egypt — and the drowning of hundreds of passengers have focused attention on the trend. The Palestinian Embassy in Greece reported yesterday that the ship that sank off the coast of Malta was carrying more than 450 passengers, most of them Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, and that it was rammed intentionally by another ship run by rival smugglers.
In its continued efforts around its Latinos United for Immigration Reform campaign, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA), a coalition of 39 of the nation’s preeminent Latino organizations, strongly encourages the President to listen to the perspectives of the Latino and undocumented community as he considers policy options on immigration matters. With 97 percent of the deportation population being Latino, the impact of separations due to the Administration’s deportation policy is hitting Latino families particularly hard. Underscoring NHLA’s commitment to an inclusive approach, the coalition decided at its quarterly board meeting last month to formally endorse the national boycott of meetings with the President on immigration matters if they do not include representatives of undocumented immigrants. Accordingly, NHLA will make every effort to include undocumented representatives in any meeting it has with President Obama on immigration matters. If the White House will not meet with undocumented immigrants, then NHLA members will decline to meet with the President. “NHLA stands with the hundreds of thousands of families that need President Obama to take swift action on deportation relief. Any delay of affirmative relief, as some have urged on the President, should not be contemplated before consulting directly with members of the Latino and undocumented communities as they would be the ones most seriously and irrevocably harmed,” said Hector Sanchez, NHLA Chair and Executive Director, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.
On July 1st, a group of ‘illegal immigrants’ were flown from Texas’ overcrowded immigrant detention centers to California and transported in three buses for processing in the city of Murrieta. The immigrants, mostly women and children, were greeted by city residents waving American flags, chanting “go back home,” and blocking the road – forcing Border Patrol agents to change course and transport the group to a facility in San Diego. The protests continued on July 4th when more buses were scheduled to arrive at Murrieta. Responding to Tuesday’s blockade, pro-immigration residents in Murrieta, along with supporters from the surrounding counties, held a counter protest to greet the incoming with sympathy and to pressure Murrieta authorities to not allow for another obstruction. While the buses never arrived, the tension of the situation turned violent when five pro-immigration protesters were aggressively arrested by Murrieta police. This past week, the district attorney chose to press charges against the five. One of the charges they now face is as bizarre as it is serious: “Lynching,” as defined by the California penal code. Introduced in 1933 to prevent mobs from kidnapping suspects in custody and executing them, the archaic law only defines lynching as the “taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer.” But the account of events given by Murrieta police–the same account that the media reported–and the charges the five now face are unsupported by the facts visible in video footage of the incident. In context, the incident parallels the sometimes deadly brutality exhibited by police in cities such as Ferguson, Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco.
Today’s news is a clear statement from Washington that once again, politics trumps the lives of people. Six years ago, President Obama was elected on a pledge to pass immigration reform in the first 100 days of his term. Instead, his administration has squandered the opportunity to move a bill under a majority Democratic Congress. They have chosen to continue the previous administration’s “endgame” enforcement policies to build and expand a deportation machinery that has torn families apart, criminalized working class people whose labor we benefit from, and only served to benefit private prisons and private military contractors on the border. Yet again the President asks the people for more time. Our families don’t have that time – not when ICE’s arbitrary quotas demand that 32,000 people be detained a day and 1,100 end up being deported daily. The major lesson for our movement now is to overcome the cruel partisan gamesmanship that dominates our culture
Federal officials are planning a new for-profit family detention lockup for immigrant children and their parents in South Texas. The 2,400-bed “South Texas Family Detention Center”—as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is referring to it—is slated for a 50-acre site just outside the town of Dilley, 70 miles southwest of San Antonio. The detention center is part of the Obama administration’s response to the surge in children and families from Central America crossing the Texas-Mexico border. In a statement to the Observer, ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said the facility was intended “to accommodate the influx of individuals arriving illegally on the Southwest border.” The property is part of Sendero Ranch, a “workforce housing community,” better known in the oil patch as a “man camp” for oilfield workers. Sendero Ranch is owned by Koontz McCombs, a commercial real estate firm connected to San Antonio mogul Red McCombs. Loren Gulley, vice president for Koontz McCombs, said the company is still negotiating the deal but Corrections Corporation of America—the world’s largest for-private prison company—is expected to run the detention center, and Koontz McCombs would lease the existing “man camp” to ICE. A detailed site map provided to Frio County shows a large fenced campus, including both residential housing as well as a gym, chapel and “community pavilions.” The “man camp” has enough space to temporarily house 680 detainees while new structures are being built, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said.
Call it irony or call it a nightmare, but the “crisis” of Central American children crossing the U.S.-Mexican border, which lasted for months amid fervent and angry debate, is now fading from the news. The media stories have been legion, the words expended many. And yet, as the “crisis” leaves town, as the sound and fury die down and attention shifts elsewhere (even though the children continue to arrive), the real factors that would have made sense of what’s been happening remain essentially untouched and largely unmentioned. It couldn’t be stranger — or sadder. Since late June 2014, the “surge” of those thousands of desperate children entering this country has been in the news. Sensational stories were followed by fervent demonstrations and counter-demonstrations with emotions running high. And it’s not a debate that stayed near the southern border either. In my home state, Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick tearfully offered to detain some of the children — and that was somehow turned into a humanitarian gesture that liberals applauded and anti-immigrant activists decried. Meanwhile the mayor of Lynn, a city north of Boston, echoed nativists on the border, announcing that her town didn’t want any more immigrants. The months of this sort of emotion, partisanship, and one-upmanship have, however, diverted attention from the real issues. As so often is the case, there is so much more to the story than what we’ve been hearing in the news.
National immigrants’ rights groups are suing the U.S. government over claims of lack of due process for “scores” of Central American women and children at the Artesia immigrant detention facility in New Mexico. The American Civil Liberties Union, American Immigration Council, National Immigration Law Center, and National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild announced their lawsuit in response to what they say is a failure of immigration laws. The national immigrants’ rights groups claimed the federal government has denied fair deportation processes for mothers and children, notably in Artesia. American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project Director Cecillia Wang said the purpose of the lawsuit is to “challenge” the U.S. government’s procedures on policing immigrants, saying they are trying to deport them “as soon as possible.” Wang said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’s message to immigrants was “We will send you back” to their native countries, despite the ongoing difficulties happening at home. Wang said their immigrant clients have “repeatedly” been told by border patrol that they will be deported. An immigratio
Police arrested dozens of people at a protest in the front of the White House Thursday for engaging in an act of large-scale civil disobedience. The demonstration, which was dubbed Fight for Families, denounced the deportations of undocumented immigrants that separate children, who are often born in the United States, from their undocumented parents. A protest organizer pegged the number of people arrested at somewhere between 200 and 300; however, U.S. Park Police said in a statement that 145 protesters were arrested. The demonstrators were taken into custody for sitting down on the sidewalk in front of the White House and refusing move when ordered to do so by police. Calling the protest an act of ‟civil disobedience,” the arrests were intentional on the part of the demonstrators. “The folks who sitting there today were willing to get arrested and spend the day in jail to say that the immigration system splitting up families is wrong,” said Chita Tanjabi, a vice president at the National Organization for Women, who participated in the protest, but was not arrested.
A Palestinian woman, Rasmea Odeh, was arrested at her home this morning, Oct. 22, by agents of the Department of Homeland Security. She is charged with immigration fraud. Allegedly, in her application for citizenship, she didn’t mention that she was arrested in Palestine 45 years ago by an Israeli military court that detains Palestinians without charge – a court that has over 200 children in prison today and does not recognize the rights of Palestinians to due process. Judge Paul D. Borman removed himself from the case of Palestinian community leader Rasmea Odeh. Earlier this month, the judge stridently denied a defense motion calling on him to step down. The motion claimed that his life-long support for the state of Israel—whose arrest, torture, and conviction of Odeh for alleged Jerusalem bombings in 1969 is at issue in this case—would not allow for a fair trial. Odeh has pleaded not guilty to the charge of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization, and vehemently refutes the Israeli convictions, which were based on a forced confession after extended periods of vicious physical and sexual torture.
During a book signing in Florida on Saturday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was confronted by a group of Dreamers over his vote against Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, also known as DACA. Earlier this month, House Republicans voted to end the Obama administration program that has helped more than 550,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents to remain and work in the U.S. for a renewable two-year period. Many Republicans have blamed the policy for the recent surge of unaccompanied minors entering the country illegally at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months, despite there being little evidence to support the talking point. “A couple weeks ago you voted for a defunding DACA,” one Dreamer asked Ryan, who was signing copies of his new book, The Way Forward. “It would put me and my sister up for deportation. We just had a question — do you want to deport me and my sister?” Ryan largely ignored the question, pressing the activists to “read the position in the book.” The activists were escorted away from the congressman.
Like many cities in the South, New Orleans has a proud history of civil rights leadership — along with an equally grim history of civil rights violations. That history is repeating itself today. The African American community is again facing economic injustice and abuse from law enforcement. But, this time, the immigrant workers who rebuilt New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina are also the targets of brutal civil rights violations. And those same workers are showing extraordinary bravery in fighting to end them. In November 2013, I was proud to stand alongside immigrant workers and community leaders engaging in peaceful civil disobedience in New Orleans to expose a brutal program of stop and frisk racial profiling-based immigration raids called CARI (Criminal Alien Removal Initiative), which targets Latinos. Squads from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), together with local police, have been conducting race-based immigration raids anywhere Latinos gather: stores, apartment buildings, churches, laundromats. The raids have led to constant terror for the immigrant workers and families who rebuilt the city we live in and love. The blatantly unconstitutional nature of the raids led to a Congressional inquiry and front-page coverage in the New York Times. Yet ICE continues to rely on them to meet its massive deportation quotas.
On a Saturday morning earlier this summer, I joined a group of immigrant rights activists under a canopy of tall trees in Lower Manhattan. We were preparing to form a human chain around a federal immigration courthouse to protest the unbridled deportations tearing immigrant families apart. Our action was held in tandem with coordinated efforts occurring that day around the nation. Hundreds of people began to amass: Latino families with their children, workers still in uniform from the night shift, Korean grandmothers with matching visors, youth activists known as “Dreamers,” and a church group. The organizers were from Palestine, Mexico and Sri Lanka. I saw many familiar faces. Together, members of this group had taken caravans of buses together to march with tens of thousands of supporters in Washington, D.C.; we had faced arrest at civil disobedience actions; we had canvassed New York’s five boroughs; and we had fasted for weeks in the shadow of the Capital. There were many members of the press and few police. We all understood what was at stake: It was June 28, one year and a day since the Senate had passed an immigration reform bill that Congress had since failed to act upon. The window for potential reform was growing narrower by the day.
Police said 112 demonstrators intentionally had themselves arrested outside the White House Thursday in protest against the Obama administration’s response to the sudden surge of illegal immigrants across the border with Mexico. The protest took place as Republican leaders withdrew legislation aimed at the immigration crisis from consideration in the U.S. House. The act of civil disobedience was organized mostly by religious groups, including the Catholic Sisters of Mercy and the United Methodist Church. Several hundred additional supporters looked on as the activists staged a sit-in on the sidewalk outside the White House grounds, prompting National Park Service police to remove and arrest them for obstructing foot traffic in a highly choreographed, but peaceful, demonstration. “We are gathered here to make our voices heard,” the Rev. John McCollough said in a prayer service before the arrests. “We are here to pray for this president, our President Obama, to ask him to lose the bonds of injustice and let the oppressed go free. Si se puede!” The demonstrators demanded the Obama administration cease the deportation of an estimated 1,100 of those illegal immigrants per day — a number expected to rise as the federal government grapples with the hundreds of thousands believed to have slipped through in the last nine months, and a 106 percent increase over the same period last year.
As the Department of Homeland Security tries to deliver busloads of Central American children and families to places of temporary safety, shrieking demonstrators in California, Arizona, and other states are barring the way and demanding these kids be dumped over the border. These outbursts resemble the ugly mentality that, in 1939, prompted our government to send a ship with more than 900 German Jews aboard back to Europe where many were eventually killed by the Nazis. Like them, many of the Central American children will be murdered if they are returned home. That’s what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees concluded after interviewing hundreds of these kids. “The M-18 gang told me if I returned to school, I wouldn’t make it home alive,” said a 17-year-old boy identified as Alfonso. “I was threatened by a gang. In El Salvador, they take young girls, rape them and throw them in plastic bags,” said 15-year-old Maritza. Like Alfonso, she fled to the United States. Our government has apprehended more than 50,000 children so far. Protestors objecting to their arrival call them “invaders,” but these kids are refugees. They travel here on their own out of desperation — to escape murder, rape and conscription into gangs. And the United States bears much responsibility for the violence they’re fleeing.