Jailed Without Justice: Immigrants in Solitary Confinement

A guard locks a gate inside Homeland Security's Willacy Detention Center, a facility with 10 giant tents that can house up to 2000 detained illegal immigrants (Photo Credit: Amnesty International USA).

A guard locks a gate inside Homeland Security’s Willacy Detention Center, a facility with 10 giant tents that can house up to 2000 detained illegal immigrants (Photo Credit: Amnesty International USA).

On March 25, 2013, the New York Times published an article about the use, and overuse, of solitary confinement in immigration detention. It reported that 300 individuals are held in solitary confinement while awaiting resolution of their immigration cases, including one individual who was held for four months because of his sexual orientation.

Much like the issue raised by Congressman Spencer Bachus of Alabama at the House Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration detention on March 19th, the real question is why are these individuals even detained in the first place?

As Amnesty International documented in its report in 2009, Jailed Without Justice: Immigration Detention in the USA, individuals, including lawful permanent residents with long-standing ties to the U.S. and asylum seekers, are needlessly locked up in state and local jails and prisons for the sole purpose of appearing at immigration hearings, often without a hearing to determine whether they are a danger to the community or a flight risk.

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2012 Elections: Will The Candidates Bother To Address Human Rights?

It is debatable whether the term human rights has been heard more the 5 times in the course of the 2012 elections. When it has been uttered, the candidates who said it quickly moved on to other issues or submerged it in a list of foreign policy crises. One is left to wonder if human rights are still a priority, let alone a pillar of U.S. foreign or domestic policy.

The 2012 elections are taking place against the backdrop of unprecedented turmoil and challenges to the respect and promotion of human rights and arguably a vacuum of leadership in support of those principles domestically and internationally.

One need only look at the headlines in the news to see examples of where the human rights analysis is missing.

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Obama to DREAMers: You Can Stay…For Now

Immigration Activists Demonstrate In Los Angeles

Immigrant students demonstrate for an end to deportations on June 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

“They are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper,” President Obama stated today, in confirming that an order had been issued permitting some 800,000 DREAMers to remain in the country without fear of deportation and enabling them to seek employment. The President went on:

“Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people.”

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TIME to Make the DREAM a Reality

DREAM Act TIME Magazine CoverThis week’s TIME Magazine hits the newsstands today, taking us inside the lives of our fellow community members who happen to be undocumented immigrants.

In his “Not Legal Not Leaving” article, author Jose Antonio Vargas writes about how many undocumented individuals feel American. Like Vargas — an undocumented immigrant himself — these individuals may live an ostensibly American life. Yet these individuals all face the constant threat of deportation and other realities of a life lived with a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.

Today’s news that President Barack Obama intends to issue an executive order that will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to young undocumented immigrants who arrived as children is welcome. But it’s only a temporary measure. Immigrant children and their families need a permanent solution — and the DREAM Act, if passed, offers hope. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Immigrant Rape Survivors: The Target of Contempt

© Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images

As unemployment continues to worry Americans, and immigrants remain an easy scapegoat of frustration, we have heard some pretty outrageous and contemptible comments against immigrants lately.

However, about a week ago state GOP Representative Ryan Fattman of Massachusetts surpassed our expectations in his shocking announcement that he is willing to let rapists roam the streets with impunity—that is, as long as the victim is an undocumented woman.

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Immigration Detention: The Golden Goose for Private Prisons

An immigrant stands in a holding cell at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Florence, Arizona. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

For many months now, states all over the U.S. and the federal government have taken steps to “get tough” on undocumented immigrants of color without taking into account the fact that workers are crossing the border because U.S. employers are desperate for their labor and no visas exist to permit their entry.

Instead of spending their time tackling this reality, which if actually addressed might create a basis for the nondiscriminatory enforcement of immigration laws, legislators are instead continuing to introduce bills, such as Rep. Lamar Smith’s H.R. 1932.

These bills throw more money at detention centers and enforcement operations and ups the ante by making their imprisonment mandatory and indefinite, regardless of Supreme Court precedent finding that it’s unconstitutional.

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Congress: Stop Locking Up Immigrants and Throwing Away the Key

Update 6/3: The Judiciary Committee did not get to HR2932 bill today, but it’s still scheduled to come up as early as 10 days from now.  Keep calling!

Texas Detention Facility

Texas Detention Facility, ©Amnesty International

As early as tomorrow, the House Judiciary Committee may vote on H.R. 1932, a bill that will extend mandatory and indefinite detention of immigrants and strip them of their rights to due process.

Under the guise of a bill to protect U.S. citizens, the “Keep Our Communities Safe Act” is an attempt by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) to make new populations of immigrants — including asylum seekers and long-time lawful permanent residents — subject to mandatory detention during removal proceedings. It also imposes punitive and indefinite detention if a person with a removal order is unable to secure a travel document — despite the fact that this is a political and diplomatic issue in which she or he has no control.

Congress needs to hear from you that you respect human rights, due process and the constitution, and you don’t want H.R. 1932 to become law. Pick up the phone now and urge members of the House Judiciary Committee to vote no on H.R. 1932.

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We Will Not Be Silent: Governor Deal, Veto HB 87!

By Lisa Adler, Field Organizer for Amnesty International USA

Yesterday, March 3rd, the Georgia House voted 116-56 to pass HB 87, the anti-immigrant Arizona copycat law. The vote was down party lines, with only one Republican casting a “no” vote.  The debate on the bill lasted 3 hours, with Democratic Caucus members passionately testifying against the bill.  One Representative compared the bill with “slavery times”, when African Americans were forced to carry papers with them declaring who they “belonged to.”

Outside, over 200 people rallied for two hours.  The rally was organized by the Georgia Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, with Amnesty-SRO playing a lead organizing role.  Southern Regional Office director, Everette Harvey-Thomas spoke as did numerous allies.  Protestors held signs that declared HB 87 would return Georgia to a “show me your papers” state, and would be detrimental to the state’s economy by driving immigrant workers out.  As the speakers concluded, we entered the capitol with a large letter that the demonstrators signed during the rally.  The message was clear:  “Governor Deal, Commit to Veto.”

The struggle to stop HB 87 is not over!  First, the Senate has to consider the bill but then, most important, Governor Nathan Deal will decide whether to sign it or veto.  As the signs clearly read yesterday, we are calling on Governor Deal to commit NOW to veto the bill should it reach his desk.  It is critical he feel the pressure now, from Georgians but also from people and institutions all over the country.  Please call him at 404-656-1776. Urge him to veto the bill should it arrive at his desk.  Tell him that Georgia cannot afford this bill—neither economically nor morally.

Immigrants Are Welcome Here, Arizona Copycat Bills are Not!

By Lisa Adler, Field Organizer for Amnesty International USA

[UPDATE: Pick up the phone and call GA House Speaker David Ralston (404) 656-5020 and your GA Representatives now. When you reach the office, please be sure to make a statement along these lines:  "Vote 'no' on the Arizona Copycat HB 87 bill and all other anti-immigrant legislation. Any legislation that leads to racial profiling or pushes immigrant workers out of Georgia harms our state economically and morally."]

As they promised, Georgia state Republicans have introduced Arizona SB 1070 copy cat bills, HB 87 in the House and SB 40 in the Senate.  On Monday, February 28th, HB 87 passed out of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, which means a vote on the House Floor is imminent. We need your help in defeating this blatantly discriminatory bill.

If enacted, HB 87 would empower police officers to ask any individual to prove his/her lawful immigration status or citizenship during the course of a stop, including routine traffic stops, jaywalking or a variety of other commonplace actions.  This bill—and its Senate companion SB 40–has no safeguards against racial profiling.  Despite the claims by the bill’s author that race cannot be used, documentation of racial profiling related to immigration and criminal stops is widely available.

Furthermore, all Georgians—including citizens–will essentially be forced to carry their legal documents for fear of being arbitrarily stopped and detained.  For example, if these bills pass, and  I walk to the store, I must now carry my US passport? Because if I am stopped and do not carry any proof of my status, I may be detained.

While police officers may give some people the benefit of the doubt, a person of color with a Central American accent is not likely to receive the same benefit, even if s/he is a US citizen.  These portions of the bills raise serious due process, racial profiling and privacy concerns.

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