17 December 2010

Grantee Report Documents Civil Rights Abuses in Immigration Policing

Saturday, December 18th is International Migrants Day -- a time when communities and nations pause to celebrate the rights of the more than 185 million people worldwide who live outside of their countries of origin as migrants or refugees. But according to a report newly released by Ms. Foundation grantee the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, we here in the United States have precious little to celebrate these days when it comes to our treatment of migrants and our respect for their rights.

The NNIRR report, Injustice for All: The Rise of the Immigration Policing Regime [pdf], argues that in the past decade, the US government has built a "brutal system of immigration control and policing that criminalizes immigration status, normalizes the forcible separation of families, destabilizes communities and workplaces, and fuels widespread civil rights violations." Furthermore, the report's authors point out, the system encourages "racial discrimination and hate violence against immigrants" -- as well as against individuals perceived to be foreign born or "illegal."

These conclusions aren't just conjecture on NNIRR's part -- the report is based on more than 100 stories of abuse documented by NNIRR’s initiative, HURRICANE: The Human Rights Immigrant Community Action Network. These stories provides vivid evidence of the increasingly complex and dangerous situations faced by migrants and their families in America, and show just how dysfunctional our current immigration system is in its real world applications. The report also pays particular attention to how the new and growing collaboration between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local and state agencies -- along with increased border security -- is wreaking havoc on communities in numerous states, and normalizing a culture of governmental abuses against migrants.

In light of the remarkable human rights abuses revealed by their report (including "prolonged and indefinite detention and the threat of loss of life and freedom," racial profiling and other illegal measures),  NNIRR is now demanding that the US government put an end to the current policing regime. “We are calling on the Obama Administration and Congress to suspend the policing operations, the detentions and deportations," said Laura Rivas, coordinator of the HURRICANE initiative. Among other prescriptions, the group is recommending that the government,
  • End the policy and practice of jailing persons solely for immigration status offenses, except in cases where there is a high risk to public safety;
  • Prohibit ICE and local, county, state and federal law enforcement from using all forms of racial, ethnic/nationality and religious profiling;
  • Place a moratorium on the expansion of detention centers and privately run prisons;
  • End all inter-agency and immigration-police collaboration programs; and
  • Prohibit local, county, and state governments from legislating immigration enforcement,
    such as Arizona’s SB 1070.
In addition, the group is calling for a thorough investigation of the civil rights violations now documented in immigrant detention centers and jails nationwide. "We want an aggressive investigation into the abuses," Rivas said. "They must hear from our communities.”

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