Native Women’s Rights Are in Danger: Tell Congress to Pass a Tribal-Inclusive VAWA that Provides Justice for All Women!

VAWA rally in washington dcThe following post is by Sarah Deer,  an Assistant Professor at William Mitchell College of Law and a member of Amnesty International USA’s Native American and Alaska Native Advisory Council.

As citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, I am extremely concerned that with only three weeks left until the end of the year, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has yet to be reauthorized. There are three new critical protections in the Senate-passed version of the bill that seek to protect particularly vulnerable communities – LGBT people, immigrant women, and Native American and Alaska Native women in particular – but Native American women are in danger of being left out.

Unfortunately, as efforts to push VAWA to the finish line have resumed, some House Members are attempting to remove protections for Native women from VAWA. This is unacceptable: all women deserve equal rights and protection under the law.


Arizona’s Immigration Law: 3 Sections Down, 1 to Go

Immigrant rights activists participate in the annual May Day rally. AFP PHOTO / Robyn Beck/Getty Images

This week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) delivered its ruling on four sections of SB 1070, more than two years after Arizona’s discriminatory immigration bill was signed into law.

In a 5-3 decision, the Court struck down provisions criminalizing the acts of failing to carry immigration papers, seeking or performing work as an undocumented migrant, and provisions allowing police to arrest without warrant anyone suspected of committing a crime that could lead to deportation.

The fact that these provisions will not be able to take effect is a victory for immigrants’ rights activists and those fighting the draconian immigration laws that have been popping up in various parts of the country. Unfortunately, the good news is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that for Latinos and visible migrant communities in Arizona, the chances of being racially profiled have been both increased and de facto legitimized by this decision. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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.”


Using Border Agents as Translators Has Tragic Consequences

Border Patrol Agent

© Getty Images

Guest post by Erica Schommer, border immigration attorney

This May, in a police stop gone wrong, Benjamin Roldan Salinas and a companion were detained by the U.S. Forest Service for picking salal (a plant used in floral arrangements), without a license.

Because Salinas did not speak English, the Forest Service called in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to translate. Events escalated rapidly when Salinas, in fear of being apprehended by immigration agents, ran from the agents to a nearby river.

After days of searching, Salinas’ body was found near the river on June 4. His companion remained with agents, but was subsequently arrested by the CBP for a suspected immigration violation and placed in removal proceedings.

Salinas’ fear was due to a phenomenon in which the CBP is called on by outside law enforcement agencies under the guise of translator. Once on the scene, however, the CBP does not limit itself to translating and will question a person about potential immigration violations if it suspects the person of an infraction. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

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.


Anti-Immigrant Bill Coming Down To The Wire

By Lisa Adler, Field Organizer for Amnesty International USA

This week – we need thousands of people to pressure Governor Nathan Deal to stop the anti-immigrant bill, HB 87.

The Georgia State Legislature will reconvene on Monday, April 11 for its final 3 days.  During this time, HB 87 – the anti-immigrant Arizona copycat – will be voted on.  It is urgent that we pressure Governor Nathan Deal NOW to kill this bill, even before it reaches his desk.

States around the country—including Georgia’s fellow Southern state Mississippi – are voting down copycat bills.  Even Arizona voted down several anti-immigrant bills.  Why?  Because such bills are morally and economically bankrupt, and violate fundamental principles of human rights and dignity.

At the March 24th more than 5,000 people—students, elders, mothers, fathers, immigrants and citizens—rallied at the state capitol to oppose anti-immigrant legislation. Civil rights icon Representative John Lewis passionately reminded the crowd that state lawmakers must not turn back the clock on progress.  Let’s spread this message to Governor Deal and beyond – No to HB 87, No to Hate, Yes to Immigrant Rights!

Migrants’ Rights: A Visual and Verbal Journey

By Amalia Greenberg Delgado, Immigrants’ Rights Coordinator

“You don’t imagine that your dreams can end in a moment on this journey… he [the soldier] pulled me by the hand and told me to walk further into the bushes. He took me far away from the train tracks until we were completely alone. He told me to take my clothes off so that he could see if I was carrying drugs. He said that if I did what he said he would let me go.”
Margarita (not her real name), a 27-year-old Salvadoran migrant, describing how she was sexually abused by a soldier, Amnesty International interview, June 2009.

Every year, tens of thousands of women, men and children travel without legal permission through Mexico to reach the United States. They flee poverty, war, environmental disasters and are enticed by a promise of freedom and a chance to join their families in the North. Some disappear on the journey without trace, kidnapped and killed, robbed and assaulted or sometimes falling or thrown off speeding trains. Some suffer arbitrary detention and extortion by public officials along the way. The litany of abuses and repeated attempts to reach the United States are testaments to the determination migrants have to build a better life.

At the Annual General Meeting (AGM) this past Saturday, March 19, 2011, Amnesty International USA heard from leaders in the movement about increased human rights abuses of migrants on both sides of the United States’ southern border. Father Solalinde, a human rights defender and director of a migrants’ shelter in Oaxaca, spoke of the “globalization of love” and the absolute right to dignity that must be afforded to all human beings. His soft spoken words did not lessen the blows of his words as he reminded us of the struggles that migrants face.


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.