Thursday, August 11, 2011

ICE Is Drawing the Line, Which Side are You On?

This is definitely the team I'm playing on! For more info, see:
Standing on the Side of Love: Harnessing Love’s Power to Stop Oppression

Today I was on a conference call with over 100 people from all over the country who are outraged with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and their “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) program. S-Comm is a fingerprint-sharing program that turns law enforcement officers into immigration officials. For example, a woman called the police for help. Rather than protecting her as a victim/survivor of domestic violence, the police turned her over to ICE as part of the S-Comm program and now she faces deportation. (For more info on this case, see Victim of “Secure Communities” Program Who is Now a Vocal Critic and Abused and Deported: Immigrant Women Face Double Disgrace.) However, this program is so much more than individual’s heart-breaking, unjust stories. The program fuels distrust of law enforcement officials, creates fear, and forces communities into silence. Victims and witnesses of crimes don’t feel safe stepping forward, and this in turn further endangers already-vulnerable community members and our communities as a whole.
For those interested in learning more about the multiple forms of trauma that results from deportations in our communities, please see "The Effects of U.S. Deportation Policies on Immigrant Families and Communities: Cross-Border Perspectives." Though ICE claims to be making our communities safer, it actually itself creates a huge threat to public safety. The program is separating families, perpetuating violence, and pushes forward the very racial profiling that communities have been organizing against for years.
While ICE and state governments like Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama actively push forward racist and anti-immigrant policies, others are standing up. Communities are organizing, politicians and religious leaders have been arrested for engaging in non-violent protest, and New York, Mass, and Illinois have all opted out of the S-Comm program. Two weeks ago, during the one-year anniversary of the passage of Arizona's anti-immigration law SB1070, I was heartened to hear interviews with Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Rev. Peter Morales about their separate arrests while protesting inhumane state and federal immigration laws. Individuals and organizations are taking a stand and calling on their elected officials to take a stand, especially those who were elected on a platform of progressive immigration reform. As President Obama feigns concern over the immigration policies that cause people to live in fear, tear families apart, and promote violence, he's deported over a million people during his two years in office, all while continuing to assert that his hands are tied.
This past Friday, amidst scheduled community forums organized to receive public feedback about the program, ICE announced that its program will now completely override agreements between its office and individual states, as it is now making its program mandatory. ICE is undermining local, democratic process and forcing all states to push forward its agenda, despite the program currently being under investigation by the Office of the Inspector General, as well as the subject of intense criticism. ICE claims that S-Comm targets dangerous criminals, but in actuality, it has created an enormous dragnet that’s separating families and imprisoning those who’s only crime is having crossed a border into a country with a broken immigration system.
ICE is drawing the line. Meanwhile, the people are organizing!
What can I do?
The Migrant Justice and the Vermont Worker’s Center have collaborated with community groups to create a petition calling for Vermont to officially opt-out of “S-Comm.” On today’s nation-wide conference call today organizers were happy to hear about Vermonters taking action to speak out against S-Comm, since VT is one of the last states where the program hasn’t been activated. Though this petition was created before last week’s announcement that states cannot opt out, a strong show of support will encourage the Governor and our other elected officials to speak out against S-Comm. Please sign the petition by clicking here.
Great, what else can I do?
*Tell your friends about this petition! Email/post the link. Print the petition out, carry it with you, and collect signatures.
*Speak up! Write a letter to the editor for your local paper. Talk with your friends, family, co-workers, and with others in community organizations, at your place of worship, and other groups you’re a part of. Join the National Day of Action against S-Comm by clicking here and contact your elected officials (for an example of a letter written by NY Rep. Serrano, click here.)
*Organize! Migrant Justice will be organizing actions in the coming weeks. You can join their email list by contacting them at info@
*For more info on actions happening nation-wide, including in Chicago, Boston, Providence, NY, NJ, CA, TX, AZ, KS, D.C., see the National Day Laborer Organizing Network’s website

For more information, please see:

(Im)migration and Lip Balms for Social Justice?! blog post
The organization Cuéntame has created a video, Immigrants for Sale, outlining how private prison corporations and politicians are locking people up for profit:

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