A project of the Center for Community Change

immigrant detention

A glimpse into the future?

by Dennis Chin, guest blogger

Have you heard of this case?  Eduardo Caraballo, a U.S. citizen born in the U.S., spent last weekend in the custody of federal immigration agents in Chicago.  At the time of his arrest (for allegedly stealing a car) he presented them with ID and his birth certificate.  But, he says officials were skeptical.  From Caraballo, “Because of the way I look, I have Mexican features, they pretty much assumed that my papers were fake.”

Is this our crystal ball moment?

This is what racial profiling looks likes.  And this is the mechanism by which Arizona’s SB 1070 will work.

Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) says:

“In Arizona, they want everybody to be able to prove they’re legally in the country. They want everybody to prove that they’re an American citizen. Here we had an American citizen, that the federal government… could not determine, for more than three days, his status as an American citizen. It’s very, very, very dangerous ground to tread.”

Police officers will be wasting time and resources detaining people like Caraballo instead of actually keeping communities safe.  Local police know this and they have spoken out against this lawSome police chiefs say that the new immigration law would boost crime since the law would “intimidate crime victims and witnesses who are illegal immigrants and divert police from investigating more serious crimes.”

“This is not a law that increases public safety. This is a bill that makes it much harder for us to do our jobs,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said. “Crime will go up if this becomes law in Arizona or in any other state.”

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DWN Conference: Write-up and video summary

DWN 2

On Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend the Detention Watch Network member conference. I was guest-speaking on a panel about storytelling and social media. I arrived at the conference early and was lucky enough to observe the attendees debriefing after their lobby day spent talking to elected officials on the Hill.

Here is a rough video of the final day of the conference [full disclosure: yours truly appears ever-so-briefly…]

These activists and advocates spoke thoughtfully and powerfully about their meetings. Not only were they aware of the political realities of the situation, but they were engaged in thinking deeply about how to move their issue forward and how to connect it to the broader fight for social justice.

For those of you who don’t know what the Detention Watch Network is:

The Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to educate the public and policy makers about the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for humane reform so that all who come to our shores receive fair and humane treatment.

The conference itself was for members to meet and strategize about how to create a successful campaign for immigration detention and deportation reform. This is a topic that often gets overlooked in the broader fight for reform and immigrant rights, but the truth about the immigration detention system is shocking.

By the end of 2009, the U.S. government will hold over 440,000 people in immigration custody – more than triple the number of people in detention just ten years ago – in a hodgepodge of approximately 400 facilities at an annual cost of more than $1.7 billion.

The prison-industrial complex is alive and well in the immigrant detention “industry”, with many facilities opting for more expensive procedures rather than less costly alternatives. Don’t be fooled, it does take taxpayer money to run these facilities, but many of the corporations contracted out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement are for-profit multi-billion dollar operations. The more beds they fill, the more profit they make. Not to mention the inhumane standards and lack of access to adequate medical care facing many immigrant detainees.

To find out more about this issue, visit the Detention Watch Network’s website. And to check out videos from the other two days of the DWN conference, click here and here.

Also, check out a new post from Becca Sheff at Immigration: It’s our community, titled “400,000 reasons to care about detention reform”.

Special thanks to Will Coley of Aquifer Media for the invite to speak at the conference and for his great work on these videos!

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DWN Conference: Detention Reform advocates gather in DC

Today the Detention Watch Network’s national member conference is kicking off in DC. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend the full conference, but if you want to keep up with the happenings, you can follow @willcoley or @DetentionWatch and keep track via the #DWN hashtag on Twitter. Here are a few of the updates that have come in so far today.

DWN updates

Looks like the priorities of the conference are all about restoring fairness and due process to the system – something we can all get behind.

Also, if you’re going to be around, come check out our panel on Saturday morning at 9am. I will be speaking along with Will Coley from Aquifer Media and Matias Ramos from the United We Dream Coalition. Our panel will discuss the use of social media and storytelling in recent successful campaigns.

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