Archive for the ‘Border security’ Category:
By Adriana Pinon
The October 25th shooting of two Guatemalan immigrants by a DPS sharpshooter triggered a firestorm of criticism from various organizations and public officials. For the past month, the public has been trying to understand the details of this tragedy and whether the policy that allowed it should be revised. This piece, written by Geoffrey A. Hoffman, an Associate Professor at the University of Houston Law Center, analyzes the legality of the shooting astutely and accessibly.
By Vicki B. Gaubeca, ACLU of New Mexico and Krystal Gómez, ACLU of Texas
A year ago this week , a young woman working with the ACLU of New Mexico arrived at the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offices at the Ysleta-Zaragoza port of entry in El Paso/Ciudad Juárez. She was there to meet with a New Mexico State Police sergeant investigating her allegations of sexual assault by a Border Patrol agent that occurred while she was detained at a fixed checkpoint in NM. The meeting had been arranged in advance with CBP officials at the port of entry by the NM State Police, and CBP was made aware of the nature of the meeting.
What happened next frightened the young woman so much that she dropped the investigation. This story, along with other stories of CBP abuse, will be featured tonight in a PBS special report on the program Need to Know. (Please see local listings for air times.)
This case is only one of many stories of abuse and impunity at the hands of CBP officers. The ACLU recently documented eleven cases of abuse at official ports of entry in a letter to the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The cases come from ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border, and most involve U.S. citizens. The letter calls for an investigation into the cases and increased oversight of DHS Customs and Border Protection, an agency that has swelled in size to become the largest federal law enforcement agency in the country.
This PBS Need to Know documentary is the second installment in the series, “Crossing the Line,” that aired April 20 and focused on deaths and serious injuries caused by CBP officials. The April 20th segment told the story of Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas, a 42-year-old father of five who, in May 2010, died after a group of CBP officers beat him and shocked him with tasers at the San Ysidro port of entry near San Diego. Live videotape of the beating shows bystanders calling on the officers to stop beating Hernandez-Rojas, hogtied and lying prostrate on the ground, as he screamed in pain and pled for his life.
On July 24-26, 2012, a delegation that includes members from ACLU-San Diego and Imperial Counties, ACLU-New Mexico and ACLU-Texas will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with White House staff members, top officials at DHS and CBP, and congressional members to demand more accountability and oversight of Border Patrol agents.
Congress should create an external, independent oversight commission with investigatory, auditing, and subpoena power to respond to complaints from whistleblowers and the general public about CBP abuses, while protecting the identity and status of complainants. The oversight commission, which should include non-governmental organizations among its members, should be required to issue public reports on its activity and have the authority to make legislative, regulatory, or policy recommendations.
The time has come to create a mechanism for holding CBP accountable and to check the rising trend of abuse and deaths.
By Dione Friends
Online Media Coordinator
The ACLU of Texas Immigrants’ Rights campaign and the Southern Border Communities Coalition has worked to shed light on Border Patrol brutality and rights abuses—including the eight men and boys agents have shot and killed over the past two years. On April 20, we shocked the nation with the exposé “Crossing the Line,” which aired on the PBS show Need to Know.
Join the the ACLU of Texas community action network to help stop the abuse of power.
By Dione Friends
Online Media Coordinator
Deaths of Trayvon Martin and a beaten Iraqi mother in San Diego are extreme examples of the need for civil rights dialogue in America. We started that much needed dialogue at our day long Civil Right Conference last month. A civil rights coalition made up of civil rights organizations from around the state came together to discuss Civil rights post 9/11, immigrants’ rights, and Criminal Law Reform. Hundreds of concerned Texans gathered for an entire day to listen. The day was topped off with a moving speech from Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now!
Check out our full recap:
Oscar Chacon, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities, kicked off the conference with a civil rights overview.
Understanding Civil Rights Post 9/11
Mustafaa Carroll of CAIR Texas Houston Chapter moderated the Understanding Civil Rights Post 9/11 track.
Corey Saylor from CAIR spoke about islamaphobia and civil rights post 9/11.
Rick Halperin of SMU said, “Free speech in this country stops at the sidewalk of the supreme court” during his presentation on the right to protest and free speech. One Twitter follower wrote: “Rick Halperin of SMU killer speech on US history of oppression and free speech.”
Matt Simpson [Pictured middle] from the ACLU of Texas followed with a great speech about national security and privacy issues post 9/11.
Baldo Garza of LULAC moderated the immigrants rights panel.
Krystal Gomez [Pictured far left] from the ACLU of Texas presented on detention and deportation. Brent Wilkes [Pictured middle] from LULAC followed with a talk on immigration reform. Geoff Hoffman [Pictured far right] from the UH Law Center Immigration Clinic ended the discussion with a presentation about local, state, and federal enforcement.
Tribute to Cesar Chavez
Lunch was served during a tribute to César Chávez by Frank Curiel who was once Chávez’s bodyguard and close friend.
Our twitter followers wrote: “Things I didn’t know about Cesar Chavez: he was an environmentalist and vegetarian.”
And “Great perspective on Cesar Chavez life & struggle of farm workers by Frank Curiel.”
Criminal Justice Reform
Watch the Criminal Justice panel. Tarsha Jackson from Texas Families of Incarcerated Youth moderated. Ana Yanez-Correa [Pictured far right] from TCJC presented on over-incarceration. Gislaine Williams [Pictured middle right] from the ACLU of Texas discussed the school-to-prison pipeline and bullying in public schools. Gislaine said, “talking in class shouldn’t be a class c misdemeanor!”
Bob Libal [Pictured middle left] from Grassroots Leadership talked private prisons.
Dave Atwood [Pictured far left] from HPJC and TCADP closed the discussion with a speech about the death penalty in Texas. Dave stated, “The death penalty on its way out. Except in Ohio and Southern states.”
The room filled up for the keynote address by Amy Goodman, host and executive producer of Democracy Now!
Amy urged listeners to actively fight for civil rights by quoting Barack Obama, “I don’t disagree with anything you say but you’ll have to make me do it.” If you missed her speech watch it here now.
We addressed the important issues facing our community today. Check out the Houston Chronicle’s article about the civil rights conference.
Special thanks to all the coalition members that made the conference a success:
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas
Black Heritage Society
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Texas – Houston Chapter
Central American Resource Center (CARECEN)
Houston Interfaith Workers Justice Center
Houston Peace and Justice Center (HPJC)
Houston United – Houston Unido
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Shades of White
Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJP)
Texas Families of Incarcerated Youth
Think Peace International Inc.
Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (TCADP)
For more information visit http://civilrightscoalition.wordpress.com/.
By Kirsten Bokenkamp
The New York Times published an article today that explored yet another reason why the misnamed Secure Communities program is a bad idea – it has led to a number of American Citizens being detained and, in some cases, deported. The faulty Homeland Security database has somehow misidentified these U.S. citizens as being undocumented immigrants. I guess in Texas, the proper response is … oops.
For example, between 2006-2008, in just two immigration detention centers in Arizona, 82 people were wrongly held, some for periods up to a year, before an immigration judge determined they were U.S. Citizens. That’s in the so-called Land of the Free? The ACLU of Texas has long argued that a major problem with local police getting involved in monitoring immigration status is that it is discriminatory – people are often assumed to be an undocumented immigrant based solely on the color of their skin or the language they speak. If, by some mistake, a person’s name is in the homeland security database (which does happen), he or she will be wrongly accused of being in this country without permission. In Texas, with almost 38% of the population being from Hispanic or Latino origin, there is major concern about discrimination and abuse.
These incidences should cause local law enforcement to think twice about honoring federal immigration holds. As acknowledged by John Morton, director of ICE, ICE has no authority to detain American citizens. Additionally, ICE has stated that it will not recompense local law enforcement for costs associated with extended detention and it will not indemnify for any litigation that local law enforcement may be subject to due to an unlawful detention.
A low but persistent percentage of the nearly 400,000 people held for deportation each year are U.S. citizens. This is unacceptable and is just another example of our freedom being slowly chipped away at in the name of so-called security. And, it’s just another reason why the Secure Communities Program makes our communities anything but secure.
By Kirsten Bokenkamp
Imagine that you have been living the constant nightmare of being physically abused by your spouse. Fearful of being deported, you have never called to report this crime, but finally the day comes when you can’t take it anymore, and you make that fateful 911 call. The local police come to your aid – until they realize that you are living in the country without sufficient documentation. At that point, some communities require local police to detain you and turn you over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Your kids? They are picked up by Child Protective Services (CPS) and put into the foster care system. If you’re lucky, you might see them again.
A new report by the Applied Research Center shows that this practice happens altogether too often. According to the report, SHATTERED FAMILIES: The Perilous Intersection of Immigration Enforcement and the Child Welfare System, in the first six months of 2011 the federal government removed more than 46,000 mothers and fathers of US-citizen children. In the best case, once the legal proceedings are finished (which can take many months), the families are reunited. But, due to barriers to reunification, many parents experience the worst case: They are indefinitely detained or deported to their home country and may lose contact with their children. How does this happen?
As the report details, a parent, while detained in an immigration detention facility, may be prevented from complying with a CPS’ child welfare case plan for various reasons. In some instances, court-ordered attorneys may not be able to find them, so they miss their dependency court hearings. In other cases, ICE may refuse to transport them to a hearing. Often it is completely out of the immigrant parents’ control what happens to their children during their detention and a parent’s worst nightmare: They have no idea where her children are, and if they are okay.
If a parent is deported, CPS often has a hard time locating and contacting the mothers and fathers to apprise them of their children’s’ whereabouts. Assuming mothers and father are finally able to contact CPS from their home countries, they are told CPS will not consider reunification unless they can arrange for a home study, complete parenting classes, and find a job within a certain federal deadline – often difficult in many developing countries. If the parents fail to complete this plan, or if the child is out of their custody for 15 months out of any 22 month period, federal law requires CPS to petition the court to terminate parental rights.
Immigration policies and laws are based on the assumption that families should be united, but in practice this is not always the case. The report estimates that there are at least 5,100 children currently living in foster care whose parents have been detained or deported, and this number is projected to increase by 15,000 more children in the next five years.
Not surprisingly, the report found that areas where local law enforcement is more involved in immigration enforcement have a higher incidence of families being torn apart. Victims of domestic or gender-based violence face the unconscionable choice of continuing to live in an abusive relationship or risk losing their children. This is a decision no parent should ever have to make.
Breaking up families is detrimental to society and is not consistent with American values. According to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, children in foster care are more likely to wind up in the juvenile justice system, become pregnant as teenagers, and are less likely to hold a job. Tearing children away from their parents whose only crime is not having the right papers is a cruel practice, destroys families, serves no benefit to society, and underscores yet another reason why local enforcement of federal immigration law is the wrong policy.
By Frank Knaack, ACLU of Texas Legal Advocacy Coordinator
The next question: will Arizona, a state with a similar budget crisis to that of Texas, now cease its assault on the Constitution or continue to waste its scarce taxpayer dollars defending its unconstitutional and discriminatory racial profiling law (SB 1070)? We hope the former prevails … but as usual, hope will probably not be enough.
As Arizona’s government ponders its next move, some of our legislators continue to assert that Texas needs a similar law. Maybe their cable and Internet are down and their newspaper delivery person is on vacation? With a multi billion dollar budget crisis awaiting the 82nd Texas Legislature, there is no time for our legislators to engage in Arizona style shenanigans, especially shenanigans that make our communities less safe and violate our basic fundamental values.
In addition to troubling statements from some of our legislators, our Attorney General, as we wrote last week, officially dragged Texas into Arizona’s mess when he filed a legal brief in support of SB 1070.
On Wednesday, the values that make our country great prevailed. But, unless we continue this fight Wednesday may become the exception.
By Frank Knaack, ACLU of Texas Legal Advocacy Coordinator
Last Wednesday, our Attorney General filed a legal brief supporting Arizona’s new discriminatory racial profiling law (SB1070). Worse, he did so in Texas’ name.
It appears Attorney General Abbott may have missed a blog we wrote last month. The blog in question highlighted Texas law enforcement’s opposition to Arizona’s new discriminatory racial profiling law (SB1070). Had he read the blog, Attorney General Abbott would have saved our state both the embarrassment of being associated with Arizona’s discriminatory law as well as the time and expense (at taxpayers cost) of taking this legal action. In addition, he would have understood that in addition to being unconstitutional and a waste of our tax dollars, SB1070 makes communities less safe.
As our Executive Director, Terri Burke, stated:
“We are deeply disappointed that Attorney General Abbott has filed a brief supporting Arizona’s extreme ‘show me your papers’ law. Discriminatory laws have no place in Texas, or in America. By filing this brief in support of Arizona’s discriminatory racial profiling law, Attorney General Abbott has brought shame on my native state.”
As Texans, we are proud of our values … and supporting a discriminatory racial profiling law is certainly not one of them. Furthermore, we rely on law enforcement to keep us safe. Their input should not be ignored.
Shame on Attorney General Abbott for dragging Texas into Arizona’s mess. His action was plain un-Texan.
By Kathryn Olson, 2010 summer intern
Yesterday, invoking our history as a “nation of immigrants,” President Obama made an eloquent call for comprehensive immigration reform.
While Obama’s moving acceptance of diversity in this country is welcome, it is clear that the trend toward beefing up “border security” without concern for the consequences to border residents continues unabated.
Sad to say, but “border security” has become a euphemism for policies that erode Texans’ basic fundamental rights.
Unfortunately, the President failed to address what increased “border security” has meant for Texans living along the border. For many Texans, “border security” means: a wall snaking through family farms, an ever growing presence of federal law enforcement, border patrol shootings, and increasing complaints of racial profiling by local law enforcement.
As the ACLU of Texas has already shown, increased federal funding for local law enforcement increases racial profiling, not security.
By Renee Floyd, 2010 summer intern
When it comes to immigration legislation, many Texas law enforcement officers are hoping what happens in Arizona, stays in Arizona. Along with many residents, senior local law enforcement officials feel that the job of enforcing immigration laws undermines their core mission: keeping their communities safe.
City and county law enforcement from throughout the southwest border region held a panel discussion on local immigration enforcement earlier this month in El Paso. For two hours, participants answered questions from the public regarding proposed legislation similar to Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070. The controversial legislation would require local enforcement to confirm the immigration status of those suspected of being illegal immigrants during interactions with the public and imposes a penalty for failure to do so. In effect, Arizona will mandate law enforcement personnel to engage in racial profiling.
By the end of the panel discussion, these law enforcement officials had made one thing clear: enforcing federal immigration law is not the job of local law enforcement. El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles remarked that those fueling the national debate didn’t understand the local communities that would be affected. As Sheriff Wiles stated, “I get really disgusted when I hear the national debate on immigration … (Politicians) make these outrageous plans without understanding our community.” Las Cruces, N.M., Police Chief Richard Williams echoed Wiles’ position. Williams stated in the long term there must be immigration reform because immigration issues complicate the job of making communities safe. In addition to the concerns voiced by law enforcement officials on the border, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo recently wrote that the bill would only push law abiding immigrants further into the fringes of society and impose additional burdens on local law enforcement.
Beyond the concerns of law enforcement over the legislation’s potential negative impact on safety, such legislation would also serve to distract lawmakers from pressing issues at a time when Texas is facing a $17 billion shortfall. In a statement criticizing plans to introduce an Arizona-like anti-immigrant bill in Texas, ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke stated:
“(I)t is preposterous that an elected official would even consider throwing an unconstitutional racial profiling law into the legislative mix. … Arizona’s law is unconstitutional. It doesn’t make Arizonans safer. It is leading to national protests and perhaps an economic boycott of the state. Over time, enforcement will erode community confidence in police and reduce community cooperation in fighting crime. Texas doesn’t need any of these bad results from a bad law.”
In light of local law enforcement’s stated opposition to similar legislation in Texas and the waste of valuable legislative time and money needed for its enactment, the Texas Legislature should recognize that this is not in the best interest of Texans. Such legislation does nothing to address our country’s real and pressing immigration concerns and would likely lead to the erosion of local law enforcement’s community relations, and in doing so would make our communities less safe.