#Not1More Deportation

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The announcement today by the Department of Justice that it will not renew private prison contracts due to the disproportionate abuse and danger in those facilities, brings to light and should prompt further action within the criminal justice and immigrant detention systems.


It isn’t made immediately obvious that all but one private prison contracted by the Bureau of Prisons are facilities strictly dedicated to people serving time for immigration related offenses, a charge that now makes up almost 50% of federal prosecutions.


Jacinta Gonzalez of the #Not1More campaign, which has called for an end to immigration prosecutions and all detention, states, “The same Department of Justice that is closing these prison contracts is the one putting people into them by prosecuting them for re-entry or other immigration charges.” Taking issue with the Department’s claim that it cannot predict future prison populations, she states, “The solution is not to transfer these people from one facility to another, it’s to stop prosecuting them altogether.”

Willacy Prison rebellion

CAR Prison in Willacy, TX closed after prisoner rebellion over conditions and treatment

Jovana Rentería of Puente Arizona adds, “The cruelty the Department of Justice is acknowledging in private prisons is not an accident. Not only are they deporting us but they are caging us, assaulting us, and seeking to dehumanize us in the process. The abuse is part of an attrition and deterrent strategy. They want people to suffer. One way is to put them in private prisons where they face the abuse the DOJ admits to, another is to put them in private detention centers like Eloy where investigations never happen.”


Citing past experience like in Jena, Louisiana where a private youth facility was closed only to be reopened as an immigration detention center, advocates demand that other agencies, especially the Department of Homeland Security which oversees immigration detention follow suit. Gonzalez continues, “Until private incarceration and detention is ended all together, these facilities will just be recycled between agencies.  Private companies today will be looking for new customers and the Obama administration needs to make sure that no other government agency will be their clients.”


The DOJ decision should prompt the Department of Homeland Security, which is currently seeking to open a new private detention center in Texas for transgender detainees to follow suit and begin the process of dismantling its own detention apparatus. Isa Noyola of the Transgender Law Center adds, “Authorities’ statement that one center will be safer than another doesn’t address that the system of detention is an act of violence on transgender people who came to this country fleeing it. DHS should stop its plan to open a new private facility in Texas and stop its practice of detaining us altogether. We do not simply want the violence committed by a corporation to be inflicted on us by the state. We want transgender and LGBTQ to be free and for the systems that criminalize and cage us to be put to an end.”

The #Not1More Campaign has called for an end to all detention, public and private, citing abuses at the Santa Ana facility and the Berks Family Detention Center where mothers are in their second week of a hunger strike as evidence that the problem with detention goes beyond the profit motive and should be ended altogether.



AZ Chamber Kick Out CCA
Tell the Arizona Chamber of Commerce to Kick Out Prison Profiteers, CCA.

AZ Chamber Kick Out CCA

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As the Obama administration engages in a public relations campaign to convince local governments that deportation policies are more humane and narrowly targeted, in practice ICE continues to ignore its own set priorities and fails at exercising discretion, as deportation cases and new TRAC data on immigration detainer shows.

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By Tania A. Unzueta, Not1More

This month in the state of Georgia there are two immigrants who could be deported and separated from their families after being charged with nothing else but driving without a license.

The first is Irvin Pineda Mauricio, a Guatemalan man who has lived in the U.S. for 10 years. Three years ago was turned over to immigration authorities by local police solely on the basis of one old driving without a license charge. The second is Julio Hernandez Diaz, a construction worker and father of 2 who has lived in the country for over 18 years, and who also has nothing else in his record but driving without a license charges.

Both of these men are in immigration detention right now, and in both cases the Georgia ICE field office has failed to follow set priorities by DHS to “focus on people who pose a risk to public safety or national security,” failing to exercise prosecutorial discretion. (Update: Julio was released in October 2015 and continues to fight his deportation.)


Data Backs Story

In the case of Irvin, it was the Hall County police that called ICE under its own initiative and placed an immigration hold on him. The Georgia ICE Field office then made the decision to take him into custody and put him in removal proceedings.

As in every case, ICE had a choice to take all the factors into consideration, as it has a choice now to release him from detention and stop his deportation. Irvin was not a priority under the ICE memoranda in effect then, and he is not priority under current policies.

Coincidentally, Irvin’s case was made public this week, just a few days before TRAC released new data analysis showing that when it comes to immigration detainers ICE continues to fail at meeting its own priorities.

Although the report points out that less detainer have been issued than, for example, 3 years ago when Irvin was originally detained, there are troublesome patterns. According to this recent TRAC report, detainers issued by ICE in April 2015 included:

  • 68% of individuals who had never been convicted of a crime;
  • 81% of people without any felony convictions;
  • 82% of individuals who had never been deported or ordered deported in the past;
These numbers show that there is a glaring incongruence between the messaging being presented by the White House and high-level DHS officials to the public and the implementation of enforcement practices.

These numbers show that there is a glaring incongruence between the messaging being presented by the White House and high-level DHS officials to the public and the implementation of enforcement practices. It confirms what immigrants have been seeing in their communities: that ICE continues to raid homes and workplaces, that parents continue to be torn away from their children and that there is still little consequence when ICE doesn’t meet what should be minimum requirements to follow its own standards.

Cesar Hernandez DiazIn Georgia Julio is a Felon

But the problems with ICE and enforcement implementation go beyond adherence to criteria. Technically, Julio does indeed fit the new DHS guidelines to be priority for removal, because under Georgia state law SB 350 four charges of driving without a license within one year makes an individual into a felon.

Julio was charged for the fourth time in early August, sentenced to 3 months in jail and 5 years probation, and a ticket of over $1,300. According to the state law he could have been forced to pay fines up to $5,000 and serve up to five years in prison.

So although Julio has never been charged with anything but driving without a license, and although under state law is not able to get a driver’s license as an undocumented immigrant, ICE could report that he is one of the 98% of immigrants who “clearly met one or more of ICE’s stated priorities,” and one of the 19% of felons issued a detainer.

This Georgia law, SB 350, is part of a series of “attrition through enforcement” policies pushed forward by anti-immigrant and white supremacist groups with the explicit purpose of making life so difficult for immigrants that we would ‘self-deport.’ Organizations like the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) have fought hard against the policy, arguing that “the law ignores the economic reality and necessity to drive in order to work, take children to school, or make emergency trips to the hospital and instead repeats failed policies like those in Arizona that have proven to incentivize racial profiling and are susceptible to abuse.

Although ICE has no jurisdiction over state law or local charges, it does have discretion over whether to consider these felony charges priorities for deportation. As Julio’s case shows, ICE is actively making a choice to participate in the targeting of immigrants by state law, and in fact worsening the situation, by deporting these individuals.


ICE Has Discretion on Felonies

ICE collusion with local law enforcement agencies with questionable civil rights and human rights practices is not without precedent, the most famous, the most famous example being the case of Maricopa County, Arizona.

Using state laws, the Maricopa Sheriff spent years raiding workplaces and arresting working people. The County Prosecutor readily filed the maximum charge against Arpaio’s victims prompting ICE to initiate deportation proceedings against them.

However, after an intense campaign led by the local organization, Puente, targeting the County prosecutor and the Phoenix ICE office, ICE began to release immigrants who were victims of Arpaio’s raids, even though they were charged with felony convictions that technically placed them at the top of ICE’s priorities.

Although many of these immigrants are still in deportation proceedings and that this change would not have taken place without intense local organizing, it shows that ICE can use discretion even in the case of felony charges. It just usually won’t unless pressured.

Pressure on Local Governments

These contradictions are noteworthy right now since the federal government has been spending time and political capital to convince local governments, immigrant rights advocates, the media, and legal practitioners that the problems previously raised regarding troublesome and unconstitutional ICE enforcement practices have been resolved.

Six months after the November 20, 2014 announcement that the “Secure Communities” program was ending, Secretary Johnson and other high level DHS officials have been conducting closed door meetings with state governors, sheriffs, county commissioners and other elected officials to relate to them the message of change and urge them to share information with ICE by joining its replacement, the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP).

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…the analogy breaks downs when we realize it is not a good idea to ‘choose your own adventure’ in a book written by an author who you don’t really trust…

Localities that have passed laws separating ICE from local police enforcement have been specifically targeted by DHS for participation in PEP. The DHS message has been that ICE will work with these localities to make PEP whatever they want.

One DHS official during a recent meeting said that we should think of PEP as a “choose your own adventure book,” where local governments would get to pick how much communication to have with ICE and DHS. But the analogy breaks downs when we realize it is not a good idea to ‘choose your own adventure’ in a book written by an author who you don’t really trust, has no real supervision when they don’t follow their own rules, and whose main goal is to to deport your family.

DHS Needs to Get it Together

Lately the focus of immigrant rights advocates has been to go after flashy figures like Donald Trump for his inflammatory rhetoric and Republicans for their legislative attacks on immigrants. Although their xenophobic comments and actions should not go uncontested, DHS and ICE practices under the Obama administration continue to be extremely harmful to immigrant communities.

DHS and ICE should not be looking to expand enforcement programs when it continues to show that implementation of priorities are at best inconsistent throughout their field offices with few mechanisms for accountability and with problematic priorities. ICE headquarters and DHS need to review what the local field offices are doing, and in many cases change the leadership of the ICE Field Office. Many of the regional ICE Directors in charge now and are the same ones who have implemented racist and destructive enforcement practices in immigrant communities in recent years– and who, in some cases, continue problematic practices.

Finally, the cases of Irvin and Julio must be reviewed. ICE should change policy to stop deporting people whose charges stem from racist legislation designed to criminalize immigrants, such as Georgia’s SB 350, Arizona’s SB 1070.  DHS needs to figure out consistent exercise of its discretionary power, so that we can address not just the persisting dishonesty and deception carried out by the agency but the deeper issues with ICE’s priorities and enforcement as a whole.

Marichuy Leal Gamino is 23 years old and grew up in Phoenix, Arizona. She is transgender, and has been detained in immigration custody for over a year. A few weeks ago, she reported experiencing sexual harassment at the Eloy Detention Center, but was told by the guards to “deal with it.” Then just last week she was raped by her cellmate. When she told the guards, they pressured her into signing a statement saying the rape was consensual. 

If ICE can’t guarantee her safety, she should be released immediately. Please sign the petition demanding Marichuy is released.

Even though she is a transgender woman, Marichuy continues to be held in the male-section of the facility and is still in danger. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender detainees are 15 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees.

Marichuy’s story is one more example showing how the Eloy administration is not capable of guaranteeing a minimum level of safety and dignity for transgendender people. In fact, it is not a safe facility for anyone. Eloy detention center has a long history of conditions that have lead to nearly a dozen deaths in the last decade, including two suicides just last year.

Please sign the petition to makes sure that Marichuy is released immediately.

DC Civil Disobedience
February 17, 2014 – Washington, DC: On Presidents Day, some two dozen religious leaders, immigrants and supporters are being arrested while praying in front of the White House. They gather to protest an inhumane deportation policy that could become President Obama’s historical legacy. The Obama Administration is about to reach an unprecedented 2 million deportations under its immigration quota programs. The action includes Pilar Molina whose husband is on hunger strike at a detention center in Norristown, Pennsylvania and Hermina Gallegos from Phoenix, Arizona where families and detainees are refusing to eat until their loved ones are released from extended detention. Read more

Phoenix Shut Down
On Friday, protestors locked themselves to the wheels of buses carrying detainees destined for Operation Streamline, a federal court they cite as the worst example of the criminalization of immigrants. As a result of the protest, it's reported that those on the bus were immediately repatriated instead of facing felony convictions and months in private prisons before being deported. After two days of conferencing over the weekend, the Day of Action to Shut Down ICE began with six people, including Sandy Estrada who's brother has been in detention for nearly a year, chaining themselves together on the entry road to the notorious privately-run Eloy Detention Center. After bringing attention to the facility and disrupting its activities, protestors unchained and joined several hundred in Phoenix for a march and protest determined to prevent any deportations from being processed through the building today. Read more

Phoenix Daca for All

PHOENIX — President Barack Obama came to Phoenix on Tuesday to speak about the housing market, but dozens of activists showed up with their own agendas. Among them were critics of the President’s deportation policy.

More than 40 immigrant rights activists gathered outside of the high school where the President spoke, some holding signs that called Obama “Deporter in Chief” — a reference to the record-breaking deportation numbers during his presidency.

They also called for the release of nine young immigrant activists who were recently detained after they crossed into the country without documentation.

“We are here to ask president Obama to stop the deportations,” said Carlos Garcia of the Phoenix advocacy group, Puente. “You can’t come to a place like Arizona, that has been the epicenter of this issue with Sheriff Arpaio and 1070, and not address immigration.”

The President did manage to mention immigration — though only briefly.

In the plan he unveiled to improve the housing market, one step was fixing the nation’s broken immigration system.

That line got big applause.

“It’s pretty simple, when more people buy homes and play by the rules, home values go up for everybody,” Obama said. “And according to one recent study the average homeowner has already seen the value of their home boosted by thousands of dollars just because of immigration.”

He went on to urge the audience to encourage House Republicans to “stop dragging their feet” on passing immigration reform.

Nik Theodore Phoenix Forum

The same day that the Senate voted to pass immigration reform, hundreds in Phoenix, AZ attended a community forum to discuss and address the crisis of confidence in local police caused by their involvement in immigration enforcement.

Community members targeted by racial profiling and raids spoke out and heard from Dr. Nik Theodore of University Illinois Chicago who wrote the study: Insecure Communities: Latino Perceptions of Police Involvement in Immigration Enforcement  based on data from Phoenix and three other cities that shows nearly 1/2 of Latinos are less likely to call the police, even when victim of a crime, because of their fear of immigration consequences.