Critical legislation challenges mass incarceration, racial profiling in the immigration system
Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), and others joined with immigrant community members facing deportation and advocates to introduce the New Way Forward Act. The measure would roll back harmful immigration laws that have led to racial profiling and disproportionately resulted in the incarceration, deportation, and destruction of families of color and immigrant communities.
The following is a statement from Oliver Merino, Coordinator of the Immigrant Justice Network, which is a partnership of the Immigrant Defense Project, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Just Futures Law, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG).
New legislation from Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García, Ayanna Pressley and more would decriminalize border crossings and limit the “prison-to-deportation” pipeline.
Democratic lawmakers announced broad legislation on Tuesday aiming to decriminalize migration and disrupt the “prison-to-deportation” pipeline.
The ”New Way Forward Act” from Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.) ― co-sponsored by Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and dozens more ― aims to “correct racial and anti-immigrant injustices embedded in our immigration laws,” per a release from García’s team. …read more
H.R. 2431 Aims to Strip Immigrants, Refugees and Asylees of Already Limited Legal Protections
Introduced yesterday by Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Vice Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-ID) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), H.R. 2431, also known as the Michael Davis, Jr. and Danny Oliver in Honor of State and Local Law Enforcement Act, is headed for markup in the House Judiciary Committee today.
Mizue Aizeki (Immigrant Defense Project), Angie Junck (Immigrant Legal Resource Center), and Paromita Shah (National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild) released the following statement on behalf of the Immigrant Justice Network:
New York, NY – On the heels of yesterday’s introduction of Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, which directs the federal government to further expand its multi-billion-dollar immigration enforcement budget, a new report by the Immigrant Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law and the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN) warns against increasing funding for the abusive deportation system, established by controversial Clinton-era legislation.
Immigrant Justice Network responds to President Trump’s regressive immigration executive orders.
Statement by Alisa Wellek (Immigrant Defense Project), Angie Junck (Immigrant Legal Resource Center), and Paromita Shah (National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild), on behalf of the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN):
President Trump’s executive orders on immigration exemplify contempt for the human rights and safety of millions of Americans of color – and if enacted by Congress, will have far-reaching societal consequences beyond their stated scope.
Deportations of immigrants and refugees spiked dramatically after 1996 when Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). These laws severely restricted the ability of an immigration judge to consider the individual circumstances of a person before ordering deportation, and greatly expanded the range of criminal convictions that result in mandatory deportation without judicial review. Even lawful permanent residents who have lived in the country for decades, came to the country as children, have advanced degrees or small businesses, or were adopted but didn’t naturalize can be deported automatically and permanently because of these laws. For twenty years, immigrant and refugee families have lived under the legacy of the 1996 laws.
IJN sent the following letter to Congress in opposition to the inclusion of detrimental immigration policies in FY 2016 appropriations legislation.
Dear Member of Congress:
We write on behalf of the Immigrant Justice Network (IJN), a collaboration between the Immigrant Defense Project in New York, the Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco, and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild in Boston, to urge Congress to pass Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 legislation free of immigration policy riders that restrict the exercise of prosecutorial discretion and undermine community trust policies. Currently, appropriators are debating provisions that would restrict the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) ability to exercise prosecutorial discretion for noncitizens who fall within the top two priorities of DHS’s civil enforcement priorities. Additionally, appropriators are also considering restricting federal funding to state and local jurisdictions that limit cooperation with federal law enforcement authorities through community trust policies, colloquially known as “sanctuary city” policies. Incorporating these ideological and partisan immigration riders into the appropriations process represent a direct attack on the immigrant community and serves as a painful reminder of Congress’s failure to modernize our immigration system through the enactment of a just and comprehensive immigration reform.
IJN has been working for years to convince localities to pass legislation protecting the human rights of immigrants, including ending collaboration with the federal government’s mass detention and deportation machine. Unfortunately, Donald Trump and others have used a senseless killing in San Francisco to demonize so-called “sanctuary cities” and roll back our hard-won gains. IDP Executive Director Alisa Wellek has reached national TV audiences with our message on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show and ABC’s Nightline, and has published op-eds on The Huffington Post and The Hill.
Watch Alisa’s appearance on Nightline, her comments begin at the 4:12 mark.
Ivon is a DREAMer who came to the United States from Mexico when she was 15 years old. She has lived in Arizona with her parents and sisters since that time. After graduating from high school in Phoenix, she got engaged and planned to marry in March 2011. Ivon has always been very active in her church, which is where she met her husband. She and her husband now have a nine month-old U.S. citizen daughter named Zurisadai.
The day before her wedding, Ivon was arrested at a worksite raid conducted by Sheriff Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Ivon was detained and charged with using false documents, which is a felony under Arizona law. She has no previous criminal convictions.
Because Ivon came to the United States as a child, she is eligible to temporarily remain in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. She was working at the restaurant to save up money to pay for her DACA fees.
Ivon is ineligible for DACA and legalization because of her felony conviction under Arizona law. She now faces deportation and permanent separation from her family.
Oscar Gutierrez came to the United States from Mexico about 15 years ago. He came as a young teenager to live with his brothers.
Oscar married his U.S. citizen wife 11 years ago, and they have 2 U.S. citizen children. After marrying, his wife applied for him to gain lawful status and the application was approved. Several years later, Oscar began to struggle with alcohol and received 3 convictions for Driving Under the Influence.
He had been sober for 2 years and was going to Alcoholics Anonymous when he was stopped for driving without a license. His license had been suspended due to the previous DUIs. He wasn’t able to get a ride to the AA meeting that day, so he drove himself and was subsequently stopped for driving without a license.
Meanwhile, Oscar’s wife suffers from severe diabetes. She has been repeatedly hospitalized, including for a stroke and a coma that required her to be on life support. Oscar has found her passed out several times in the floor after slipping into a coma. She is no longer able to work due to her medical problems.
Oscar is still in AA, and he received a stay of removal that will soon expire. But due to his old convictions, no judge can consider the individual circumstances of his case: his rehabilitation and participation in AA, his 2 U.S. citizen children, and being the breadwinner and primary caretaker for his ailing wife. Instead, he is subject to mandatory deportation. His wife needs depends on him for her very survival, and the family fears that if he is unable to remain in the U.S. she will not survive.
In 1989, Howard came to the United States from Jamaica at age 17 as a lawful permanent resident, with his mother who is a U.S. citizen. He joined the Navy after graduating high school and was soon deployed to the Persian Gulf to serve in Desert Storm.
In 1995, soon after he returned home after service, some acquaintances sent Howard a package containing marijuana. Federal agents had been tracking the package and arrested Howard. Howard had never before had any interaction with the criminal justice system. His lawyer recommended that he take the plea and serve 15 months.
Upon his release, Howard was determined to rebuild his life. He saved up money to start a business. He first owned and ran a small restaurant with two employees and later started a trucking business, employing up to five drivers. He was able to buy two homes. His wife and children were always the center of his life. He became a mentor for other returning veterans. In 2005, Howard applied for citizenship. He honestly reported his conviction from 10 years earlier and supplied all the records related to the case. After five years of delays, Howard’s application was denied. Immigration officers handcuffed him in front of his wife and children and he was placed in deportation proceedings.
Howard spent nearly two years in immigration jails far from his home. He tried to fight his case and ask a judge to consider his individual circumstances: an armed service veteran who defended the United States, a lawful permanent resident who owned a business and employed several people, a husband with a wife and two children who were dependent on him. But because, under current law, a judge has no ability to consider these circumstances, the judge had to mandate his detention and deportation based on Howard’s old criminal conviction from more than fifteen years before,
Howard was deported in May 2012 and is now in Jamaica, a country he hasn’t seen in 24 years. He can no longer support his family and lives in constant fear for his own life, as deportees are stigmatized in Jamaica and targets of violence. At the same time, his family in the United States is deteriorating. His 16 year-old daughter has gone from being an honor roll student to barely passing and is struggling emotionally. His 18 year-old son is struggling and starting to get into trouble. His home is in foreclosure, and his business has shut down.
The nation’s leading law enforcement agency has finally acknowledged that mandatory minimum sentences are not only unnecessary, but actually harm and undermine basic democratic principles of the American justice system. This signifies the beginning of a broad consensus that a “tough on crime” approach has failed. The proposed “Smart on Crime” reforms instead calls for modernizing the criminal justice system by rethinking the country’s reliance on mass imprisonment, which has led to the highest rate of incarceration in U.S. history and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. The reforms are meant to ensure …read more