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Partner News

Immigrants Stand with Trayvon Martin

Nothing is worse than injustice being silenced and ignored. As we stand together to lift up a fair and equal Florida for all, it behooves all of us to learn from and share the story of Trayvon Martin.

For those who may not have seen the announcements on the news or radio, last week 17-year-old Trayvon was shot in the chest and killed by a man named George Zimmerman, who claims that he was acting in self-defense to the “threatening” appearance of the black young boy dressed in a sweatshirt hoodie. The boy only carried an iced tea and some skittles in his possession. To this day, Zimmerman hasn’t been arrested and no files have been charged against him.
We all share our grief with Trayvon’s family who are calling for justice. You can sign the petition started by his parents by clicking here.

Since this incident, young people and communities of color nationwide have risen in outrage to the injustice of this type of racial profiling that is so dominant in our society. Together, we are seeking justice for the life of this child and for justice in our country against this culture of violence that continues with impunity. The authorities, as of yet, have still not determined whether or not George Zimmerman will be prosecuted for the murder charges. Every day, new information revealed in the media clearly exposes it was an unprovoked homicide.

Beyond that, Trayvon’s death exposes how racism and violence are so institutionalized in our society, that laws like “Stand Your Ground” are helping George Zimmerman cover up the facts of his crime. Last week it was Trayvon, next week it can be any one of us if we don’t seek justice and real change.

We urge all FLIC members and friends to follow and support the local events for racial justice that this young man’s passing is inspiring.

Saturday March 31st : 8am-2pm at Crooms Academy 2200 W 13 Street Sanford, FL advocates and community members will be gathering to articulate the larger systemic malady connected to this murder. The mobilization calls for government accountability in the continuous violence based on appearance that is experienced by African Americans, Muslims, Latinos, women and other minorities. To reserve a seat on the bus from Miami: RSVP to Miami-Dade NAACP for $35 roundtrip by calling: 305-685-8694.
Thursday March 29th : Belafonte Talcocy Center: 6161 NW 9th Ave, Miami, FL 33127-1013 6PM-8PM: Join the Miami Worker’s Center for a dialogue “Circle of Consciousness” on the case of Trayvon Martin, the impact of his murder on our communities, and what is the appropriate response for those of us seeking justice. RSVP to hashim@theworkerscenter.org – 305.759.8717 ext 1019.
Sunday April 1st : Bayfront Park Amphiteather at 4:00 PM (gates open at 1:00 PM) Downtown Miami 301 N. Biscayne Blvd. Join the parents of Trayvon Martin: Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton.
Wednesday April 4th: Miami Dade College North Campus: 11380 NW 27th Ave Bldg 4 Bookstore, Miami, FL 33167-3495 11AM-2PM Students organize Teach-In for social and racial justice.
Friday March 30th at 8PM LIVE from CNN studios in New York, Soledad O’Brien is hosting a town hall meeting called “Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America.”

These are only a few of the community dialogues and actions that have been raised in response to Trayvon’s story. We encourage you to join any of these or to begin a dialogue of your own on racial justice in your community and how we can all keep our legislators accoutable for the changes that Florida needs. If there are other related forums in your local community we may not be aware of, share them on our Facebook page.

Advocates and Elected Officials Applaud as City’s New Immigration Law Comes Into Effect

Today, advocates in New York City celebrate a new immigration law coming into effect, which will protect thousands of immigrant New Yorkers from being transferred into federal deportation proceedings.

As of today, New York City will no longer hand over its residents to federal immigration authorities if they meet certain criteria: they have not been convicted of a crime; they have no criminal cases, criminal warrants, or outstanding deportation warrants or orders pending against them; and they are not listed on federal gang and terrorism databases. In other words, New York City will not hand over immigrants to ICE who are found not guilty, have their charges dropped, or obtain a non-criminal outcome (such as a violation or “youthful offender” conviction) in their case.

The new law, Local Law 2011/62, was introduced by Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito last summer with the support of Make the Road New York, the New Sanctuary Coalition, and a coalition of advocacy groups. It was signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on November 22. The City’s Department of Corrections, which administers the local jails, spent the last four months working with immigration advocacy groups to ensure proper implementation.

With today’s news, New York City joins other localities such as Cook County, Illinois, and Santa Clara, California, in refusing to honor federal requests (“detainers”) that are contrary to many of our values as New Yorkers: family unity; trust between the immigrant community and the police; and the conservation of local law enforcement and financial resources.

“All of our faith traditions place special importance on the family. I am happy that today the city will begin to protect many immigrant families from deportation. This law is a step towards fully honoring the contributions immigrants make to this city and country, and I am proud to stand with other religious leaders, elected officials and community members to mark the day it takes effect,” said Rev Dr. Omar Almonte, Pastor Central Baptist Church in Bushwick and member congregation of Make the Road New York.

“Beginning today, thousands of New Yorkers who find themselves in City jails but are not convicted will be protected from deportation,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This new law, which I was proud to sponsor in the City Council, takes a major step forward in keeping New York City’s families united. I look forward to working with my partners in government and the advocacy community to ensure that immigrant New Yorkers are aware of this new law and know their rights”

“With this law going into effect, this is sending a strong and unified message that this city will no longer allow innocent immigrants, who pose no threat, to be unfairly detained and deported due to an antiquated immigration system. I want to thank everyone that was involved in making this law happen, especially our partners in government,” said Christine Quinn, Speaker of the New York City Council.

“Too many immigrants have been unfairly detained and deported because of our broken immigration system,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Committee on Immigration. “The implementation of this legislation will begin to put an end to these unnecessary deportations and send a clear message that New York City is not a place where immigrant lives are destroyed but rather a place where they can thrive and continue to give back to our great country. I commend Make the Road NY for taking the necessary steps of informing our immigrant community of this important new law and I encourage all immigrant New Yorkers to learn about their rights and these new protections that will keep their families united.”

“The implementation of Local Law 2011/062 on Wednesday, March 20, 2012, is a welcome reality in the immigrant communities of New York City. The Riverside Church has for decades advocated for the fair and just treatment of all who come to our shores and seek asylum, family connections, freedom from oppression, and the chance to provide for their families. Our faith history and sacred writings implore us to practice a radical hospitality and care for the sojourner, the widow and the orphan. Unjust practices in arrests, detentions, and deportations have been decimating immigrant families, separating parents from children and husbands and wives who are non-criminals. We celebrate this first step and seek to free our immigrant sisters and brothers from further abuse from the injustice of flawed immigration law and enforcement,” said Rev. Robert B. Coleman, from The Riverside Church and member of the New Sanctuary Coalition.

“As cities across the country are standing up to federal immigration policies that co-opt local police and resources to funnel people into an unjust deportation system, we applaud New York City for taking this important first step and encourage our elected officials to expand this legislation to protect more immigrants in the future,” said Alisa Wellek of the Immigrant Defense Project.

“The hard work of immigration advocates over a period of more than three years has finally come to fruition in a law that protects some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said José León, a legal intern at the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “New York City once again takes the lead in pressing social issues and leads the country through example on how we should treat our immigrants in the United States. This law makes me feel proud to call New York City my home.”

To commemorate the new law going into effect, Make the Road New York will distribute a new Know Your Rights Manual for immigrants about the new law.(Click here to download a copy in Spanish:http://maketheroad.org/pix_reports/Discrecionalidad_De_Inmigracion_2011.pdf. English version will be available this afternoon.)

“As an immigrant I have fought for this law because of what it means for our community. I am proud today to have been a part of the effort to make New York a more welcoming, humane, and just city,” said Lucy Tzunum, a Guatemalan immigrant and member of Make the Road New York.  “We have been spreading the information of the new law, and will use all the tools available to me to teach my community about the new protections for immigrants in Department of Correction Facilities,” concluded Tzunum.

Text of the law is available to download here:http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/View.ashx?M=F&ID=1818073&GUID=1A9C4E0A-0DDC-4038-AC64-AB8BB3BA177A.

In Support of In-State Tuition for Undocumented Youth, Active Service Members and Veterans

In 2010, the AFL-CIO expressed its strong support for the DREAM Act—a piece of federal legislation that would provide hard-working immigrant students a path to legal status.  We noted then that the bill is about children who have grown up in the United States, attended local schools and have demonstrated a sustained commitment to succeed in the educational system, but immigration laws provide no avenue for these students to become legal residents.  We also recognized that access to higher education will allow these immigrants to make even stronger contributions to our society, and decrease the number of those forced to live in poverty.  Unfortunately, that bill remains stalled in the United States Congress.

Meanwhile, some states have found a way to help these deserving young people, by adopting their own versions of the DREAM Act.  Those state laws do not provide a path to legal status because that is an area of authority reserved to the federal government, and therefore they do not conflict with the federal DREAM Act; they simply provide access to an affordable education by allowing qualifying undocumented students to attend college at in-state tuition rates.  Thirteen states have adopted such laws.  Maryland’s version is particularly important because it also allows active duty service members and veterans to qualify for in-state college tuition.

Not surprisingly, these laws have become a target of right-wing extremists connected to groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—the very same organizations that are leading the nationwide attack on collective bargaining and voting rights.  Maryland is currently their bull’s-eye. An organization called “Help Save Maryland,” which links itself to FAIR and Numbers USA—organizations that have been designated “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center—successfully placed the law on the ballot for repeal this fall.

Protecting the Maryland DREAM Act is Important to Working Families

  • Repeal would put the other state DREAM Acts at risk. The extremist forces behind the repeal effort are using Maryland as a testing ground.  If they are successful in Maryland, they are likely to target the other 12 states that have adopted similar laws.
  • Repeal would weaken support for the federal DREAM Act—the only immigration-related legislation that has attracted bipartisan support. The growing number of states that have adopted DREAM legislation sends a powerful message to legislators: There is growing public support for common-sense solutions. Repeal of the Maryland law would accomplish the opposite and may scare away legislators.
  • The state DREAM Acts are the best sign of hope that hard-working undocumented youth currently have. In-state tuition bills are balanced measures that benefit immigrant children who were brought to the United States by their parents through no fault of their own, and who are making the right choices in order to lead productive lives.  These young people live in our communities, attend our schools and pray in our worship centers.  All of us live with the consequences of whether they are provided with hope for the future.
  • A growing number of civil society organizations oppose repeal, in part because purveyors of hate are fueling the effort. The Maryland Catholic Conference is among many civil society organizations opposing repeal of the law, and has urged that “we must be wary of an anti-immigration movement afoot in our country, including right here in Maryland, that is fueled in large part by a man who has spent much of his life, albeit at a great distance, playing on people’s fears and prejudices to advance his own racist and classist agenda,” citing the founder of FAIR and Numbers USA.
  • Repeal would further empower the ALEC and others whose goals is to reduce the number of people who vote.  Every time the labor movement beats back ALEC-inspired initiatives—whether it’s Ohio’s SB 5 or Maryland’s DREAM Act repeal—working people diminish ALEC’s strength.  It is in our collective interest to protect the progress we make on the ground and show ALEC just how strong we are.

The failure of the U.S. Congress to act has left a dangerous policy void which the states, reflecting the desperation of the American people, are attempting to fill.  Some states—Alabama and Arizona, to name just two—are implementing mean-spirited and punitive bills that make the situation worse, and which the labor movement has strongly opposed. Others, like Maryland, have adopted in-state tuition bills that bring hope and modest relief for a small segment of the population.  We will support state-level efforts like the Maryland DREAM Act, but make no mistake: These are not complete solutions.  Congress must pass comprehensive immigration reform.

We need to focus on creating jobs and repairing our economy so it works for the 99%—not on tearing down real solutions and engaging in even more partisan payback.  We will continue to fight back against political games and hold all of our elected officials accountable for their commitment to do what’s right for our veterans, service members, talented young new Americans and all working people.

This was originally published by the AFL-CIO on March 14, 2012.

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