#DearObama: Prioritize Fair and Humane Immigration Reform in Your State of the Union

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

This blog is part of a series on human rights in the State of the Union address. The United States has an obligation to pursue policies that ensure respect for human rights at home and around the world. Follow along and join the conversation using #SOTUrights.

Mr. President,

if you really care about immigrants’ rights, in your State of the Union, can you explain why:

  • Since 2001, immigration detention in the United States has more than doubled from just over 200,000 annually under President Bush to 478,000 in 2012, an all-time high?[i]
  • Your administration has deported an average of 390,000 immigrants a year since 2009, with a record 409,000 deportations in 2012?[ii]
  • Your administration deported its 2 millionth immigrant in 2014, while hundreds of thousands of families have been separated during the past six years?

This is a pace of deportation and exposure to abuse that cannot continue.  SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

European governments forcibly return asylum seekers to Iraq

Today 60 Iraqis were forcibly removed from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands. They had applied for asylum and were denied. Ten Iraqis who were in the UK, 28 in Sweden and the rest of the Iraqis were flown today to Baghdad, and more are scheduled to be returned to Iraq next Wednesday.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said that the Iraqis who are forcibly returned to Iraq are at grave risk, but Matthew Coats, head of immigration at the UK Border Agency, said “We are determined to remove those with no right to be in the UK,” according to BBC News.

About 2.7 million Iraqis are internally displaced, 1.5 are refugees in neighboring countries, and more are scattered in Europe and other parts of the world where they face being forcibly returned to Iraq.

The human rights situation in Iraq remains precarious, with suicide bombings, kidnappings, violence by militias and other armed forces taking place in most parts of Iraq every month.

Please join Amnesty International in calling on the British, Swedish, Norwegian and Netherlands governments to stop the forcible return of Iraqis.

Qing Hong Wu Pardoned!

Qing Hong Wu, the individual spotlighted in my previous blog entry has been pardoned by Governor David Paterson of New York. It is hoped by Mr. Wu’s family and friends that the pardon will stop deportation proceedings against Mr. Wu, result in his release from immigration detention, and lead to his successful application for US citizenship. The fact that it took a governor’s pardon to prevent his inevitable deportation, despite Mr. Wu’s long ties and significant contributions to the US, is an important statement about the rigidity and arbitrariness of current immigration law.

Deportation Without Consideration

By almost any measure, Qing Hong Wu is an American.  He has lived in the US since the age of five, completed all of his schooling here and obtained a university degree, through hard work rose in prominence to the position of Vice-President of a national IT company, and he is engaged to be married.  He also takes care of his mother, an elderly naturalized US citizen, but when Mr. Wu applied for US citizenship at the age of 29, he was detained and placed in deportation. 

The reason?  His juvenile record.  Mr. Wu made some mistakes in his youth, but he listened to his juvenile sentencing judge, now-retired Judge Corriero of New York, who told him that he was young and could turn his life around, and he did.  Mr. Wu not only served time for his childhood crimes, but also worked hard to secure a successful education and career.  As US law now stands, however, criminal deportation proceedings will ignore entirely the myriad ways that Mr. Wu has demonstrated rehabilitation, including his positive contribution to his community and employer, and instead the proceedings will focus entirely on his juvenile bad behavior. 

Recognizing the immense strides taken by Mr. Wu in the past fifteen years, Judge Corriero supports his fight to remain in the US and is seeking a governor’s pardon for Wu’s juvenile record, the only way to avoid his mandatory deportation.   Mr. Wu’s employer has submitted a letter of support, and the Organization of Chinese Americans is seeking to have Mr. Wu’s 1996 guilty plea vacated because his criminal lawyer failed to explain to the teenager that by pleading to criminal conduct, he was also agreeing to his mandatory deportation.