16 March 2010

Tell DHS: Suspend Immigration Enforcement Activities for Census 2010

With Census 2010 forms arriving next week, and as Census workers begin to make their way through neighborhoods nationwide, immigrants' rights and social justice advocates are cautioning that immigrants will be discouraged from being counted by the climate of fear and distrust perpetuated by immigration raids and other enforcement tactics.

In response, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (a Ms. Foundation grantee) is leading an effort to call on President Obama and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to "suspend all enforcement activities and operations engaged in by the DHS and impacting non-citizens be completely and immediately suspended for the rest of the year in order to encourage a more inclusive count of this country's population." [Read NNIRR's press release.]

This week, NNIRR submitted a letter [PDF] to Obama and Napolitano signed by over 200 organizations, including the Ms. Foundation for Women and a number of our grantee partners, requesting the suspension of raids and other enforcement activities -- already known to be abusive and harmful to immigrant workers and families. [Individuals can sign on here.]

This is not a radical idea. To a certain extent, the Obama Administration is being asked to follow precedent -- some enforcement activities were suspended in 2000 and 1990, and it looked like that would be the case in 2010. In 2007, in preparation for the 2010 Census, the Census Bureau urged that immigration enforcement raids be suspended. But under the Obama Administration the Census Bureau reversed course, stating last October "that they have declined to ask the DHS to suspend raids during the 2010 Census."

This is unacceptable in its own right, and a troubling indicator of current and future immigration policy. Already, according to NNIRR, "enforcement activities have reached an unprecedented breadth and depth, resulting in higher numbers of detentions and deportations than even the past Administration, and utilizing strategies that are less visible than raids but well known and feared in immigrant communities throughout the country." [Last fall, the Obama Administration itself released a report that was critical of its detention policies.]

We urge the Obama Administration to answer the call to suspend raids and other harmful enforcement tactics. And, of course, it should go further: the administration should also stand up for immigrants' rights in critical policy debates -- including comprehensive immigration reform -- to come.

Join NNIRR, the Ms. Foundation and our grantee partners by adding your name to the letter. Individuals have until March 27 to sign on.

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