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FLOC, CMWJ voice concerns of recent raids by ICE/Border Patrol

 

At an Oct. 29, 2009 press conference, Toledo-based FLOC (Farm Labor Organizing Committee) stressed that recent “raids” by ICE have been counterproductive, if not illegal.

 

FLOC has partnered with the Campaign for Migrant Worker Justice (CMWJ) to respond to migrant farmworker families and other Latinos harassed by recent activities of Border Patrol agents in rural Ohio.


Velásquez and Avina at recent FLOC march

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With the Border Patrol’s recent opening of an office in Sandusky, Ohio, FLOC and CMWJ are concerned that Border Patrol agents will focus on patrolling rural areas instead of focusing on the Canadian border. “Farm workers are here doing a work no domestic workers want to do anymore,” says FLOC President Baldemar Velásquez.

 

“We are concerned that focusing on workers who put food on our tables may be distracting the Border Patrol from more pressing activities, such as catching undocumented Canadians or potential terrorist activities along the Canadian border, or illegal drug trafficking from Canada.”

 

The CMWJ is launching an Immigration Services Program to provide expert and affordable legal immigration services to individuals residing in NW Ohio and SE Michigan. This program will primarily focus on providing naturalization and citizenship services, family based petitions, applications for permanent residency, and adjustment of status services and consular processing. 

 

The program seeks to increase community awareness and education on immigration issues, and to effectively advocate for immigrant rights.  The program is funded by the Toledo Community Foundation.

 

FLOC has partnered with the CMWJ to specifically orient families on what to do in case of raids or when they are detained by Border Patrol agents. “There have been an unprecedented number of apprehensions this summer.

 

Many of these workers have “mixed” families and when they are being deported they may leave children who are [U.S.-]American citizens behind,” says Wendy Avina, Immigration Specialist in charge of the new program.

  

NE Ohio leaders and families decry heavy-handed actions by ICE
At a press conference last week at People’s Missionary Baptist Church in Ashtabula, Ohio, African-American faith leaders and other residents joined members of the Latino community in decrying “heavy-handed immigration enforcement tactics that are terrorizing and dividing local families.” 

They described the toll that civil immigration law enforcement by state and local police has had on hard-working families, including legal residents and U.S. citizens.  Speakers described the damage such enforcement has done to the community’s relationship with local law enforcement and public safety, and called on the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama to pass comprehensive immigration reform as soon as possible.  

According to organizers, for the past year, untold numbers of men, women and even children in Ashtabula and Lake Counties have been turned over to the Border Patrol by police and highway patrol officers, leaving scores of families—including U.S. citizen children—in distress.  The actions have not just affected undocumented workers, but legal residents and U.S. citizens of Latino origin have been profiled, detained, and forced to prove their legal status.     

Joanne Dautartas, a resident of Geauga County whose future son-in-law is facing deportation, described the heartbreak her family is facing today.  “Our daughter’s fiancé, Rubén, was arrested three weeks ago and is being held for deportation.  His only ‘crime’ was that his visa had expired. 

“Our government won’t let my daughter marry her fiancé, and they won’t let him be by her side during her high risk pregnancy and delivery, despite the strong recommendation of her doctor.  I can’t understand how our government can be so unfeeling.  Rubén is a hard-working man who only wants to keep his job, pay his taxes, and be there for his family, and our government is closing the door on him and our family.”

Peter Dautartas, Joanne’s husband, continued: “Our country spends billions of dollars advancing human rights in other countries, but we turn our heads when it comes to families right here in Ohio.  We need to restore some humanity to our immigration laws.” 

Other families gave testimony about their experiences being targeted by police for minor traffic violations—or even no violation at all—and then interrogated about their immigration status.  Over the past several months, the increase in deportations has created a crisis in the community and left scores of families without their primary breadwinners. 

According to Veronica Dahlberg, Executive Director of HOLA (Organization of Hispanic Women in Lake and Ashtabula) and the organizer of the press conference: “It hurts me to stand here today and share these stories with you because these people are not criminals.  They just want to live here in peace and raise their families.” 

 

ICE should end, not expand, agreements with local and state law enforcement, says ACLU

 

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 29, 2009: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced new Section 287 (g) Memoranda of Agreement (MOAs) with 67 state and local law enforcement agencies. These agreements expand the existing 287 (g) program, which delegates some federal immigration enforcement authority to certain state and local agencies.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union has long called for an end to the 287 (g) program and continues to strongly oppose ICE’s use of the agreements, which have led to increased racial profiling and due process violations across the country. 

 

In recent years, the 287 (g) program has come under intense scrutiny. Over 500 organizations have called on the government to end the program. Several agencies that participate in the program have been accused of profiling and other civil rights abuses, including the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office headed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which is currently being investigated by the federal Justice Department and has been sued by the ACLU for profiling. ICE’s announcement also acknowledged that six agencies that previously participated in 287 (g) have decided to drop the program.

 

The Obama administration first announced that it would press forward with the 287(g) program, which was strongly supported by the Bush administration, in July. At that time, ICE claimed that it had developed a new “standardized” MOA that would guard against program abuses, but examination of the actual standardized agreement revealed that it did not contain significant safeguards or oversight provisions and, in fact, introduced new areas of concern, particularly relating to transparency.

 

The ACLU urges ICE to release the newly signed agreements for public review immediately so that they can be compared to the MOA announced in July and so that everyone can understand the rules under which 287 (g) agencies operate.

 

The following can be attributed to Joanne Lin, ACLU Legislative Counsel:

 

“ICE’s announcement on 287 (g) makes no mention of any oversight, monitoring, or accountability mechanisms to address racial profiling and other civil rights violations – and no commitment to address these very real problems. 

 

“Instead, ICE has actually re-authorized agencies that have abused their authority, including the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Disregarding civil rights, breaking bonds between immigrant communities and the police and failing to intelligently prioritize enforcement will only make all of us worse off. ICE should terminate the program immediately.”

  

Last month, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) called on the U.S. government to “reconsider its policy under 287 (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act” and “strengthen training and awareness raising in order to avoid racial profiling in the migration context.”

 

The letter from CERD to the U.S. government can be found online at: www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/racialjustice/41258res20090928.html

 

 

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