Immigration Reform at the National Level
“The Future of Immigration Reform in the United States”
The Needham Area Immigration Justice Task Force was recently privileged to hear a presentation by nationally-known immigration lawyer. In 2013 Ms. Stock was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Foundation “genius award. Her speach, with accompanying Power Point slides was titled “The Future of Immigration Reform in the United States. You can see it here:
Task Force analysis of the current status of immigration reform
Even though there is widespread agreement that our current immigration system is broken and that this country desperately needs comprehensive, humane immigration reform, there is no adequate legislative consensus in sight about what reform should include or how to achieve it.
President Obama has responded to this impasse by issuing executive orders that give certain categories of immigrants relief in the form of delayed consideration for deportation and providing them with work permits while they are still here. At this writing his orders have been judicially blocked temporarily, but that stay is being challenged in the courts.
Meanwhile, too many immigrant families continue to be torn apart as their members are apprehended and incarcerated in the deportation process, though a substantial proportion of them have credible cases for refugee status. See the “Actions related to this initiative” section below to learn steps the Immigration Justice Task Force has taken in efforts to challenge the detention of families.
Sentiment is rising across the country that this otherwise grim legislative prospect must give way to comprehensive immigration reform. A hopeful aspect in this struggle is the relentless effort of a nationwide social movement that is determined to bring about deep reforms no matter how long it takes. Their actions include hunger strikes, nonviolent civil disobedience and political pressure of all kinds. See the website of the Alliance for Citizenship to follow this struggle at http//allianceforcitizenship.org
Actions related to this initiative:
Members of the Immigration Justice Task Force have followed developments in immigration reform at the national level and are ready to make phone calls to support constructive legislation.
A New York Times Magazine article by Wil Hylton in early April 2015, brought family detention at the border to the attention of Bev Freeman who introduced the current issues to The Needham Area Immigration Justice Task Force. More than 1,000 families, who successfully applied for asylum are being held at prison camps in Karnes City and Kelley Texas, without any legal recourse. Applications for bail are being denied; families are frequently moved so that they lose touch with friends and family members who can support them. Legal advocates, volunteers and others have assembled there to help parents get services; children are suffering from malnourishment, depression, and behavior issues due to the their confinement in these stark accommodations. News reports say that the communities don’t want families released because they fear they are trouble. There is a strong belief that the courts have relinquished their responsibilities, and the victors are the for profit companies who own these camps and seek to keep beds filled. The nonprofit Grassroots Leadership published a report in Oct. 2014: “For-Profit Family Detention,” in which they describe contracts between the federal agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which empowers two large private companies, the Corrections Company of America (CCA) and the GEO Group to operate these detention centers. GEO has a long history of permitting abuse and poor accommodations. Sadly, some critics accuse President Obama of launching the largest family detention project in the US since Japanese internment. Combined, GEO and CCA have spent $32 million lobbying the federal government, including Homeland Security (DHS); many of the lobbyists are former high-ranking DHS officials.
To address this, Task Force members, Clark Taylor, Will Rico and Bev Freeman met with Emily Winterson, Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s senior staff person in Boston, in mid-March. She was admiring of the Governor’s effort to find placement for children in the Boston area during the crisis at the border in the summer of 2014; yet she knew less about the detention centers in Texas. Rachel Freed, from the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, had posted a blog about her visit to Karnes, and Bev got in touch with her to ask her to see Emily about her experience there. She met with Emily this past April 25. Emily accepted print materials from us and said she would pass this to the senator. We mentioned an amendment pending in the House to stop the quota system regarding beds to be filled in the detention centers nationwide – in which 34,000 filled beds daily is the mandate. Bev is on the listserv with organizer, Aura Martinez, of the Detention Watch Network (noted in the Hylton article) and keeps the group informed when there are calls, news reports, or new initiatives by the group. A recent article about the crisis for families in these facilities is found here: http://globalsistersreport.org/migration/living-prisoners-women-talk-about-us-detention-centers-23901
Opportunities to get involved:
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One of our programs in this area is to work for the end of family dention of immigrant mothers and their children. The administration is taking tentative steps in that regard, but problems persist. One of our members visited the Karnes detention center in Texas and spoke with the woman who is the subject of a GoFundMe appeal just below. She is in need of funds to ensure housing with her sister., If you can contribute the following information will be helpful and use the following link: http://www.gofundme.com/y5fbh4
We are trying to raise $3,500 for this family, all money raised will go towards helping them transition into normal life and making ends meet.Delmy and her 11 year old son, Alexis, were released from the DHS ICE Prison for mothers and children in Karnes City, Texas, on June 22. They had fled Honduras because of gangs threatening the life of her son. They entered the US in September 2014 and asked for asylum and then were sent to the Karnes City prison until their release in June.Both Delmy and Alexis were strong advocates for ending family detention while they were in prison and she participated in the Easter week fast/hunger strike. For that, Delmy and Alexis were placed in isolation in an attempt to break their spirit, but they continued to be vocal about the injustices being brought down on them and the other 500 mothers and children. It was because of Delmy’s and the mothers’ strong advocacy that DHS/ICE recently changed some of their methods of imprisonment although they did not end it.
Upon their release after 11 months, they went to live with family in California. But as happens, the family is financially stressed. In order to keep her family together, Delmy needs some financial help until she gets her work permit. She needs some support and I hope we can come through for a woman and child who carried this struggle for freedom for way too long.
Stay abreast of articles in the media regarding immigrant-related measures that prepare you to be a more informed and effective advocate for immigrant measures.
Join the Needham Area Immigration Justice Task Force