Coercive practices lead to non-consensual ‘voluntary returns’
DUE PROCESS RIGHTS OF DETAINEES AND DEPORTEES AFFIRMED
Devon G. Peña | Seattle, WA | August 28, 2014
Can small victories lead to larger consequences? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with a group immigrant plaintiffs and other legal counsel, announced a victory today in a lawsuit against ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). The lawsuit, Lopez-Venegas v. Johnson, was filed in June 2013 on behalf of three Southern California immigrants’ rights organizations as well as eleven individuals deported by ICE under deceptive and unconstitutional tactics designed to coerce immigrants into agreeing to “voluntary returns.”
This is a significant victory that again reaffirms the basic legal principle that 14th Amendment protections apply to non-citizens and out-of-status individuals. The courts once again ruled that the basic rights of due process and equal protection apply to all persons within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States and not just citizens and legal immigrants.
At the heart of the lawsuit were allegations that ICE was using a variety of deceptive practices to get immigrants to unknowingly agree to ‘voluntary’ deportation without further due process. The consequences of agreeing to a voluntary return are also not shared with immigrants who will unknowingly later have to face the fact that this can trigger a ten-year bar against returning to the United States. Immigration officers used pressure and threats to force people to sign “voluntary return” orders.
The original ACLU complaint had noted that each “individual plaintiff has significant family ties in the United States and lacks any serious criminal history” and “each would have had a strong claim to stay here lawfully had immigration officers not misinformed or pressured them to accept ‘voluntary return’.” Plaintiffs may now return to the United States to exercise their due process rights to receive a fair immigration hearing.
The settlement appears to be limited to the plaintiffs in Southern California and the broader implications remain unclear. In this regard, the ACLU reports that the settlement “includes provisions that, if approved by the court, would allow some of the hundreds of thousands of Mexican nationals who have been expelled from the United States pursuant to unlawful ‘voluntary returns’ to reunite with their families here.” The activists and lawyers promise to monitor these agencies to make certain they “never again trick or coerce vulnerable individuals into signing away their fundamental rights.”
This ruling is politically significant. The courts have long upheld 14th amendment protections for all persons present within the borders of the U.S., so this ruling is in keeping with a very long judicial stance. However, I wonder and worry about the prospects for the Republican noise about voiding 14th Amendment protections for undocumented immigrants becoming a more serious legislative threat if an ever more extremist set of candidates manage to make the Senate ‘Red’ during the Fall 2014 elections. Obama may have to be compelled to veto attacks on our Constitution.
However, the original ACLU complaint is not just based on 14th Amendment arguments. The legal team also brilliantly invoked the Suspension Clause of Article I of the U.S. Constitution that requires a forum for judicial review where a non-citizen challenges the lawfulness of removal from the United States; in this regard, they invoked INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U.S. 289, 304 (2001). They also invoked the due process clause and Article III of the U.S. Constitution “which require some federal forum for judicial review of federal statutory and constitutional claims, at least where liberty is at stake.”
It would take an obscene amount of political chutzpah for a Republican majority in Congress to legislate such radical changes to several Articles and Amendments in the U.S. Constitution. This will surely not happen and so what I believe the #Not1More movement is focusing on is transforming the battle from the terrain of matters of procedural justice (quadue process) into the more challenging battle over substantive justice – which means extending formal recognition and integration of the 11 million undocumented and out-of-status individuals as persons who are no longer rendered as rightless and stateless people.
The language games associated with this policy problem are also quite revealing about the governmental rationality at work in these Unconstitutional immigration politics. The ACLU complaint explains, in footnote 4 (page 10,) how the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (“IIRIRA”) “replaced all references to ‘deportation’ with ‘removal.’” Deportation and exclusion proceedings were now lumped into the broader category of ‘removal’ proceedings.
These language games obscure the violence being perpetrated against people. The feds love subtext and appear to have gone from referencing “deportation” to using the word “removal” and now apparently the Disneyesque, “return”. This is devilishly misleading and even cartoonish language that seeks to justify and obscure the violence inflicted on families by making it appear as if the forcibly deported are voluntarily returning home, when indeed their immediate family and community are in the U.S. and not Mexico.
For the full report go to:
|Image credit: Evilvonscary|
Moderator’s Note: I had been working on a blog post comparing the struggles against police brutality in #Ferguson and Albuquerque when I received an email from my colleague, Jimmy Franco, Sr., with a link to an essay he just posted to his blog, Latino POV. This is a very insightful and well-written piece and it is our privilege to repost with the permission of the author.
I will follow up shortly with a historical analysis of the militarization of the U.S. in which I argue that, from the invasion and conquest of the Americas forward, what became the USA has always been a militaristic and war-like culture. The militarization of the police is neither surprising nor unexpected. Mr. Franco warns us: “We either take a stand to stop this march toward militarization or accept an eventual loss of personal liberties and rights to a regime that resembles ‘Big Brother’”.
Albuquerque to Ferguson: A need to Demilitarize our Society
Jimmy Franco Sr. | Albuquerque, NM | August 23, 2014
The present surge in the use of heavy weaponry and violence on the international front by the leaders of our government is beginning to penetrate all facets of our society. This increase in militarism and the use of aggressive tactics to resolve problems are now becoming the political norm in US foreign policy relations, responses to the surging anger of minority communities here at home, and the practice of spying and surveillance on the US public through the illegal collection of their personal information and activities by the NSA.
|Police with military weapons surround and arrest a reporter in Ferguson, MO.|
Culturally, this use of imagery portraying violence and weaponry has also penetrated the growing realm of video games, films, television programming and even sports events and fan behavior. The militant police tactics of stop-and-frisk in New York City have resulted in the continuing harassment of minority youth and to the recent killing of a young man who was choked to death by the police.
There has been a strong response by the community in Albuquerque, New Mexico to ongoing police misconduct and a pattern of civilian deaths at the hands of that city’s police. In addition, two men detained by the LA Police have recently died, one shot and the other from a lack of medical attention. Also, a court has just awarded five million dollars to the family of a mentally ill veteran who was shot and killed by the LAPD.
Meanwhile, the rogue L.A. County Sheriffs Department still remains out-of-control as a recent vote by the L.A. Board of Supervisors rejected a proposal to create a civilian review board to oversee that troubled department. The responsibility of this review board would have been to monitor the conduct of the sheriffs department and reduce their level of abuse and misconduct by making them accountable to civilian authority.
In the meantime, the continuing flow of heavy Albuquerque residents struggling to stop killings and abuse by police weaponry from the federal government to local law enforcement now includes armored vehicles, military assault rifles, tanks, tear gas and other lethal hardware. The possession of such an arsenal of deadly weapons will eventually be used against communities as this trend continues to transform local police departments from protect and serve civil servants into aggressive paramilitary forces.
Albuquerque residents struggling to stop killings
and abuse by police.
The increasing use of heavily-armed police who launch war-like operations such as discriminatory gang injunctions, drug busts by SWAT teams who resemble soldiers and police responses to incidents armed with deadly firepower often result in over reaction and injuries to innocent people. In many cases, the use of these weapons and aggressive tactics further inflames the existing anger within ethnic communities, which is what has occurred in Ferguson, Missouri and other communities that are already suffering from a lack of decent social services and heavy-handed tactics and racial profiling by the police.
Militarization and armed confrontation cannot resolve our social problems
The US public is the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs and this profitable market continues to expand. Attempting to repress the suppliers of this growing demand through a billion-dollar ‘War on Drugs’ only creates more heavily armed gangs, rampant violence and overflowing prisons, which have now become schools for crime. Also, the complex issue of immigration reform requires a logical political process and just resolution that is mutually acceptable to all concerned.
The militarization of our society uses funds for
bombs instead of books.
The government’s policy of declaring a ‘war on immigration’ which resorts to tactics of mass deportations, a heavily-armed blockade of the border and a rapid increase in the armed forces and weaponry to man this 2000 mile frontier is economically and politically unsustainable. The political decision to utilize a military solution to resolve this problem rather than using common sense, economics and principled negotiations will ultimately result in failure. The negative outcomes of this political madness are desperate immigrants who continue to die in the desert or are being killed after being deported to their homelands, an increase in violence and extortion at the hands of smuggling cartels, and the need to use valuable resources to fund overcrowded immigration detention centers filled with frightened refugee children.
Domestically, the ongoing ‘war on gangs’ ignores any concrete solutions to the underlying social problems that motivate these young people to choose and live this dangerous life style. The crusade of heavily-armed police being used against gangs targets this growing problem by utilizing racial profiling to stop suspects, mass gang injunctions and organizing combative sweeps and raids into minority communities. These aggressive anti-gang sweeps utilize deadly surplus weapons left over from numerous US conflicts abroad and are patterned after wartime operations. These operations, which are increasingly being carried out against minority communities, mainly result in filling up prisons with young people and antagonizing innocent civilians within the targeted communities. This use of repression has not eliminated the root problems of youth gangs as they continue to exist and grow.
Another group that is increasingly being victimized by these combative police responses are the mentally ill and homeless. As the number of mentally-ill people within the country increases and the level of medical care provided to them declines, their behavior on the streets is increasingly being viewed as a criminal threat by police who are trained to respond to emotional outbursts and abnormal behavior by immediately shooting to kill. All of these pressing social problems within our society, which range from drugs, immigration, gangs, the mentally ill and homeless have a cause and effect relationship.
The root causes of these problems are generally ignored by government officials who instead focus on the effects and then automatically respond to them in an irrational and belligerent manner that utilizes aggression and force to supposedly solve these problems. This dogmatic and superficial approach to solving social problems and maintaining the status quo is presently failing and is doomed to fail in the years ahead if continued.
Trying to keep people in line here and abroad through military means
US foreign policy and strategy presently consists of designating certain countries, governments and leaders as ‘enemies’ of US interests’. Being placed within this enemy category is then followed by antagonistic and punitive actions, which in a growing number of cases involves military intervention and bombing. This militaristic and aggressive foreign policy has become the behavioral norm for maintaining hegemony within certain regions such as the Middle East or for eliminating a leader or government that is perceived as a ‘threat’ to US power. The list of prospective enemies to American interests which essentially means economic interests now include the governments of China, North Korea, Russia, eastern Ukraine, Syria, Gaza, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and portions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq along with various groups within those countries. Bombings and drone attacks ordered by Obama have and are being inflicted upon eight of the above countries while US threats, which include economic and political pressure, are being exerted to change ‘uncooperative’ governments in other countries.
|750 billion dollar military budget and endless wars equals cuts to social needs.|
As a contrast in behavior, we should compare this growing US list of supposed enemies and continual warfare with the foreign policies of Germany and France who do not create adversaries due to minding their own business and utilizing their resources to take care of their own people’s social needs. The reaction to such warfare and constant military interventions is an increase in anti-US nationalism, resistance and even militant and extreme religious movements.
Latin America has experienced this type of US bullying and armed intervention in the past and a majority of countries in that region are now uniting economically and politically in order to fend off this American pressure to undermine their national sovereignty. The drastic rise in collateral damage due to ongoing American wars and armed conflicts is a nice euphemistic term for civilian deaths. Collateral damage that is inflicted by US forces is considered to simply be an unfortunate and trivial consequence of this militarism and its aggressive interventions in numerous countries which consistently violates international law and sovereign borders.
This strategy and heavy weaponry which comprise the dominant element of US foreign policy and which is designed to keep certain countries and governments in line through the use of force is now being applied to communities within our society. These communities comprised of lower-income residents, minority youth, immigrants, the mentally ill and the homeless are the sectors that are increasingly targeted by domestic authorities as those who need to be kept in their place and prevented from getting out of line. This belligerent governmental attitude and policy of ‘us versus them’ and ‘good guys versus bad guys’ has now been linked militarily for implementation both internationally and domestically.
The policy and practice of creating antagonistic relationships with foreign governments by resorting to violent solutions in order to resolve complex problems has created negative consequences for our society. This has resulted in viewing certain minority communities through a military perspective and treating them as enemy combatants who need to be periodically occupied with heavily armed police and order maintained through the use of force. In addition, the use of the military term collateral damage is now used by authorities within our society to refer to people ‘mistakenly’ killed by the police.
This linkage of foreign and domestic military actions simply reinforces the present and backward mindset of negating the causes of social problems by primarily focusing on their harmful effects and then irrationally attempting to use aggressive tactics and force as a quick solution. Treating certain communities as the enemy who need to be periodically repressed and kept in their subordinate position within our society will only backfire and eventually create more anger and resistance as shown by the residents of Ferguson, Missouri who refuse to be intimidated by the massive show of armed force arrayed against them.
|Chaos in US & violation of rights are being questioned by other countries.|
The increasing use of military-style campaigns by local police forces will not resolve any of our deeply-rooted social problems. A fresh and alternative approach is needed which requires a careful analysis of the causes of our pressing social problems and the formulation of logical and realistic policies that are practical, less costly and which will work in the real world.
For example, if we use our resources to fund and improve the educational level of people in our society, then poverty will be reduced as well as the lure of youth gangs and the eventual imprisonment of young people. If we legalize, regulate and tax drugs as was done with alcohol when Prohibition ended and combine this solution with prevention and rehabilitation, then, the present problem of addiction, violent cartels and overflowing prisons will recede.
Meanwhile, reaching a just political agreement on immigration will result in reducing the amount of weaponry and violence along the border and decreasing the number of people deported and locked up in immigration detention centers. The funds that are saved could be used to invest in the economies of Central American countries where new economic opportunities would encourage people to stay in their homelands instead of trekking through treacherous deserts. In addition, the creation of civilian review boards to oversee and monitor local police departments who are essentially independent paramilitary organizations will result in more accountability to the members of their respective communities and reduce the present level of police misconduct.
The militarization of our society is proceeding in an incremental manner and this process is contradictory to maintaining democratic rights within our society. A militaristic outlook, mentality and repressive methods are incompatible with that of a democratic ideology that condones diverse ideas, methods and free expression. We cannot have both which leaves us with two clear alternatives: either roll over and passively accept this growing totalitarian trend or stand firm, speak up and oppose it.
Some middle-class people take the attitude that this issue doesn’t affect them as they don’t live in a barrio or ghetto. Yet, this undemocratic trend of militarization affects all of us in regard to our quality of life, the use of our taxes, our political right to protest and having to endure continual violence and countless new enemies. So, we either take a stand to stop this march toward militarization or accept an eventual loss of personal liberties and rights to a regime that resembles ‘Big Brother’.
|Image by DrAfter123/Getty. Source: Wired|
Moderator’s Note:The FCC is getting ready to finalize new rules governing access to and management of traffic flows on the Internet. Concerned citizens and activists object to proposed rules that would allow a handful of telecom corporations to control the traffic flows, essentially determining which web sites get faster access. Some of us could end up in the gridlocked slow lanes.
It is not often that I post blog entries on issues that lay outside the realm of immigration and the politics of Chicana/o Studies. I am making an exception today because the issue of the structure of the Internet has profound implications for our democratic prospects and the future of independent inquiry and analysis. It is also very significant that the grassroots immigrant rights community considers the issue of “net neutrality” to be important enough that the #Not1More movement is urging people to protest the proposed policies.
The reasons for this involvement are many but two stand out in my mind: First, too often the larger, more established, and better-funded Latina/o advocacy organizations like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) feign to speak for all of us. They most surely do not and we need to let the world know. LULAC has endorsed the rules, which suggests it probably has received a little too much financial support from the telecom giants themselves. Second, net neutrality is important because social and political movements use the Web and social media technologies to organize and promote direct action campaigns. The grassroots immigrant rights movement, including organizations like #Not1More and Presente.org, have made effective use of the Internet in this manner. The proposed rules could hamper this type of organizing and mobilizing of our social movements.
I am therefore posting a press release and call for action I received from Presente.org and urge my readers and followers to use the links below to register your voice in support of net neutrality. Help the immigrant rights movement keep access to the Internet open and free.
LULAC among organizations
towing corporate line
towing corporate line
NET NEUTRALITY THREATENED BY PROPOSED FCC RULES
|Art by Favianna Rodriguez|
Presente.org | August 26, 2014
Prominent Latino civic organizations that work to represent our communities’ interests are now opposing a policy that could be critical for Latino communities to thrive in the 21st century. At the same time, their stance would benefit the telecommunications industry, which doles out millions of dollars to these groups — raising serious questions about conflict of interests.1,2
The FCC claims to be especially interested in expanding the promise of the Internet for minorities, so when Latino groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) speak out against policies that will protect an open Internet, it gives powerful cover to telecom efforts to boost their profits.3,4
The best way to discourage this behavior is to render it ineffective. If we let the FCC know that these groups don’t necessarily speak for their Latino constituents on Net Neutrality, their voices will become less influential and thus less valuable to the telecom industry.
Will you join us in telling the FCC that groups that oppose a free and open Internet don’t speak for us? Click here to sign the petition.
Why We Need an Open Internet
Newspapers, radio, television: all these media had the potential to empower Latinos and other minority communities by allowing us to represent ourselves and launch new business enterprises. But in each case, powerful business interests suppressed their incredible liberating potential.
This hasn’t yet happened with the Internet. Because the Internet operates as a level playing field, anyone can start a blog to report on important issues mainstream media outlets aren’t covering. Anyone can start a political movement that takes on giant corporations — and win. Anyone can start a business that competes on equal footing with well-established companies. The Internet provides an opportunity for your ideas to be heard despite the size of your bank account.
Net Neutrality is the principle that keeps the Internet operating as a level playing field — it basically says that broadband providers, like Comcast or AT&T, need to treat all data flowing over their networks the same. They can’t slow down or block the ideas you create online just because they don’t like what you have to say.
Most importantly, Net Neutrality also means that those same companies can’t give preferred access to their friends, allies, and business partners. Thanks to Net Neutrality, Verizon couldn’t create an Internet fast lane for one company to the detriment of its competitors. The problem is that broadband providers, like Verizon, see cutting those kinds of deals as an important source of revenue going forward, and they’re spending millions of dollars lobbying the FCC to allow them to do so. They don’t care that they’ll stifle innovation and keep new businesses started by less resourced people, especially Latinos and other minorities, from being able to compete on a level playing field.
Deploying Latino Dissent
Net Neutrality is unquestionably good for our communities. But recently, a number of Latino organizations have spoken out against the only way to keep broadband companies from creating Internet fast lanes and discriminating against content they don’t like — reclassifying high-speed Internet as a common carrier.5,6
These organizations argue — as do the telecoms — that if the telecoms could make more money by charging more for the highest quality network access, they’ll invest in more and cheaper Internet access for Latinos and other minority communities. The argument is patently false: telecoms already make a hefty profit on broadband, even seeing an increase in recent years, but investment simply has not kept pace.7 This fact doesn’t prevent these organizations from repeating debunked arguments.
LULAC, one of the organizations most vocally against reclassification, has received millions of dollars from the telecommunications industry in recent years. Its last conference was sponsored by AT&T, Comcast, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a cable industry lobbying group.8 The group is in a long-term corporate partnership with Comcast that began in 2006.9 And between 2004 and 2007, LULAC received at least $2.5 million from AT&T.10
Similarly, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) — established as a front group for the telecommunications industry in a scathing Center for Public Integrity report last year11 — has taken hundreds of thousands of dollars from broadband providers over the years, and has repeatedly organized opposition to Net Neutrality and reclassification.12,13And Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), another well-known front group, regularly gives voice to lobbyists for the telecommunications industry — its “Senior Advisor” Martin Chavez is on staff with one of Verizon’s D.C. lobbying firms, the Ibarra Strategy Group — even as it accepts millions of dollars in contributions from those companies.14
|Image Courtesy of HuffPost|
While taking corporate money is common practice with many national organizations, it represents a major conflict of interest when these organizations begin to take on positions that support telecommunications companies’ interests. We also know that telecoms and their lobbyists view these donations as an important investment. Verizon reportedly cut off support for the National Hispanic Media Coalition when the organization took a pro-Net Neutrality position in 2010.15 And one telecom lobbyist infamously said in 2008, “You go down the Latino people, the deaf people, the farmers, and choose them… You say, ‘I can’t use this one — I already used them last time….’ We had their letterhead. We’d just write the letter. We’d fax it to them and tell them, ‘You’re in favor of this.’”16
Net Neutrality is unquestionably good for our communities, but accountability is even more critical. Whether Black, Latino, or Asian, our communities count on organizations like Presente.org or LULAC to accurately represent their constituents’ interests, not those of their corporate donors. The sacred trust our members put in us leaves no room for questions about the integrity of our actions.
But the actions of some Latino organizations, including LULAC, MANA, The Latino Coalition, and others invite questions about conflict of interest and about whether these organizations are more accountable to their members or to their corporate funders. By taking action today, you’ll not only help secure Net Neutrality, but also strike a blow against the corrupting influence of corporate dollars in the organizations that claim to represent Latinos.
Will you join us in telling the FCC that groups that oppose a free and open Internet don’t speak for us? Click here to sign the petition.
Thanks and ¡adelante!
Mariana, Luis, Arturo, and the rest of the Presente.org Team
P.S. Can you donate $5 to support our work? We rely on contributions from people like you to see campaigns like this through.
1. Why Is The NAACP Siding With Verizon Over Net Neutrality, Huffington Post, July 31, 2014
2. Leading Civil Rights Groups Just Sold Out on Net Neutrality, Republic Report, July 24, 2014
3. See note 1
4. Civil rights group’s FCC positions reflect industry funding, critics say, Center for Public Integrity, June 6, 2013
5. Title II is the key to net neutrality—so what is it?, Daily Dot, May 20, 2014
6. Net Neutrality Astroturfing Stirs Up Conflict Between Latino/Minority Groups, TechDirt, July 24, 2014
7. Finding The Bottom Line: The Truth About Network Neutrality & Investment, Free Press, October, 2009
8. LULAC’s 17th Annual Legislative Conference and Awards Gala is a Huge Success, League of United Latin American Citizens, February, 27, 2014
9. LULAC Joins Comcst “Our Time To Vote,” a $5 Million National Multi-Cultural Voter Education And Registration Campaign, League of United Latin American Citizens, January 11, 2008
10. AT&T and League of United Latin American Citizens Empower Low-Income Hispanic Communities With Technology, League of United Latin American Citizens, April 17, 2007
11. See note 4
12. HTTP joins MMTC and 35 national minority and civil rights organizations in filing on the Open Internet, Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership, July 20, 2014
13. See note 6
14. Open Internet Panelists’ Ties to Industry Exposed, National Hispanic Media Coalition, July 9, 2014
15. See note 1
16. See note 6