Immigrant activists and community groups delivered an open letter to Felicia Escobar, President Obama’s top immigration policy advisor, during an event this afternoon, 4 to 7 pm, at Fair Haven School in New Haven, Connecticut. We hope to shine a light on the many questions surrounding the “discontinuation” of Secure Communities (“S-Comm”), the failed deportation dragnet program.
“For too long, the immigration reform debate has excluded immigrant workers and the people directly affected by these policies,” said John Lugo of Unidad Latina en Accion (ULA). “We are delivering an open letter to Ms. Escobar with questions from the families who have been torn apart by deportations and the immigrant workers who have been fighting for equality.”
Open Letter to Felicia Escobar and President Obama
March 9, 2015
From Unidad Latina en Accion, Comunidad Inmigrante de East Haven, Ecuadorean Civic Committee, and members of the Connecticut immigrant rights community
We address you today to seek answers about federal policies that are undermining our human and civil rights for which we have fought so hard, and won, in Connecticut.
ICE has a history of retaliating against Connecticut’s pro-immigrant policies and deporting our community members in violation of DHS directives. We are concerned about recent reports that ICE officials refuse to comply with Obama’s new DHS mandates. We need to know the truth about ICE, given that President Obama’s budget request will not scale back ICE operations, and ICE will continue to target over 7 million undocumented immigrants in our community who are excluded from the President’s November 20th immigration relief.
We hope you will respond promptly to the Freedom of Information Request delivered on Friday March 6, 2015 at ICE Headquarters in Washington, DC, to “uncover the truth about PEP-COMM”, and more immediately, provide public answers to the questions included below.
- Secure Communities (“S-Comm”) and now its successor Priority Enforcement Program (“PEP-COMM”) are undermining our public safety and our equal rights by forcing local police and local agencies into the business of immigration enforcement. In November, DHS Secretary Johnson issued a memo that S-Comm was being “discontinued” because of widespread opposition by civil rights groups, government agencies and courts. Yet the Secretary also said that this was a “re-branding.” If police continue to share fingerprints with ICE at the moment of arrest, which was the core element of S-Comm, has the program really ended? The President’s own Task Force on Policing called for a firewall between police and immigration enforcement. Will the President take the advice of his own advisors?
- New Haven is proud to be the first city in the nation to create a municipal ID card for all residents regardless of immigrant status. We created policies in New Haven (2006), Hartford (2008), and East Haven (2014) to keep our police separate from ICE, to prevent police from engaging in racial profiling and warrantless detentions. Will there be an “opt out” for PEP-COMM if communities like New Haven want to opt out? Will there be an “off switch” if we see terrible police abuse and civil rights violations, like we saw in East Haven, Connecticut?
- Since November 20, the President has stated repeatedly that his new policy focuses on deporting “felons and not families.” Does he believe that deportation should be used as a form of punishment? What if immigrants have paid their debt to society? What about places where convictions were based on unlawful or biased policing? This was the case of Edgar Marin who was almost deported because of an abusive East Haven Police officer. Many members of our community have criminal charges in their past, but we don’t believe that anything is achieved by tearing apart their families. The President’s rhetoric and actions contradict Governor Malloy’s “Second Chance Society” initiative.
- There have been reports across the country that local ICE offices are disregarding ALL of Secretary Johnson’s memos although the injunction issued in the Texas case only applies to DAPA and DACA 2.0. What are the consequences for ICE officials that refuse to implement the Secretary’s priorities?
- With so many of us left out of President Obama’s immigration action and news of heightened ICE raids, we need answers. If nearly 80% of Americans favor a pathway to citizenship or permanent legal residence for undocumented immigrants, and only 18% favor deportations, will you continue to target and detain our community? Some of us have lived and worked here for decades. Just because we don’t have children, do we not have human rights? Do we not have workers rights? Will the President meet with those of us who have been left out to make clear that we all deserve equality?
- Some of our community members are suffering because their mom or dad was deported. Suidy and Jesslyn Jimenez, US citizens who have lived their whole lives in Connecticut, are devastated since their mom was deported. She was deported a second time when she tried to reunite with her family in the United States. Will DHS continue to press criminal charges against people who come to this country to reunite with family or flee difficult conditions, even if they may qualify for humanitarian parole or asylum? Will President Obama close down the immigration prisons, starting with the new “family detention centers” that deprive women and children of a chance to seek asylum?
- Will President Obama meet with immigrant workers to discuss the root causes of migration? Why is the President pushing for trade policies like the Trans Pacific Partnership that keep wages low and destroy jobs in our countries, forcing displaced workers to migrate?
We are confident that immigration reform will be possible when the United States reckons with the causes of migration and the harm of ICE operations in our communities.