› Supreme Court rules immigrants cannot be deported for minor drug offenses
In a decision issued Tuesday, the United States Supreme Court ruled that immigrants living in the U.S. cannot be deported for minor drug crimes absent the presence of a large quantity of a controlled substance or direct evidence of a sale.
“We must decide whether this category includes a state criminal statute that extends to the social sharing of a small amount of marijuana,” Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote for the court’s 7-2 majority in Moncrieffe v. Holder (PDF), ruling in favor of a Jamaican man who was deported over possession of 1.3 grams of marijuana.
The ruling is aimed at clarifying that, under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the “aggravated felony” classification does not apply without evidence of distribution. The ruling could also influence judges’ thinking on cases in states where penalties for distributing a controlled substance are broadly applied by authorities even to offenders caught with small amounts.
In the case, Jamaican national Adrian Moncrieffe, who’d lived in the U.S. legally since age 3, was deported after accepting a plea deal on a minor marijuana offense that he believed would keep him out of prison.
He was pulled over in 2007 by police in Georgia and caught with 1.3 grams of marijuana, and charged as a drug dealer despite the lack of evidence that he sought to distribute the drug. However, Moncrieffe’s attorney did not inform him that a guilty plea would endanger his immigration status, because the law considers any “aggravated felony” to be a trigger for deportation. When he signed the plea, federal authorities immediately moved to deport him.
“This is the third time in seven years that we have considered whether the Government has properly characterized a low-level drug offense as ‘illicit trafficking in a controlled substance,’ and thus an ‘aggravated felony,’” Sotomayor added. “Once again we hold that the Government’s approach defies ‘the ‘commonsense conception” of these terms.”
› Anti-Immigrant Zealots Capitalize on Boston Bombings | Dispatches from the Underclass
Muslims, Arabs and more recently Chechens aren’t the only ones bearing the brunt of collective blame following the Boston Marathon bombing last week.
Since learning that bombing suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev immigrated to the United States as children, anti-immigrant zealots have capitilized on the moment to argue against immigration reform.
Right-wing talk radio host and frequent Fox News contributer Laura Ingraham insisted that the US block Muslim immigrants from entering the country, particularly from the ex-Soviet region of the world where the bombing suspects were born.
“I would submit that people shouldn’t be coming here as tourists from Chechnya after 9/11,” Ingraham said. “Dagistan, Checnya, Kergystan, uh-uh. As George Bush would say, ‘None of them stans.’”
You might be thinking: Who cares what Ingraham says? She’s nothing more than an inflammatory radio host with no power over actual public policy. But Ingraham isn’t alone.
For example, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tx.) has demanded that the US government investigate and deport all Chechen immigrants with violent leanings.
Because the Boston Marathon attack came as the Senate began debating an immigration reform bill, certain politicians wasted no time in using the tragedy to pile on additional fear and hatred of immigrants.
Today, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joined in the hatefest in a letter he wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) calling for the bill to be delayed in light of the Boston bombings.
“Why did the current system allow two individuals to immigrate to the United States from the Chechen Republic in Russia, an area known as a hotbed of Islamic extremism, who then committed acts of terrorism?”, wrote Paul, who is now apparently an expert on Chechnya and ex-Soviet Muslims.
But the notion that stricter immigration policies could have prevented the Boston bombings is ridiculous given that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsaraev were 15 and 8 when they came to this country with their parents as asylum-seekers. As The Atlantic‘s Elseph Reeve explains, “The two individuals were allowed to immigrate because we don’t expect children to become terrorists just because people of their ethnicity live in a violent place.”
Nevertheless, Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) used the bombings to denounce the immigration bill as well, expressing disgust to MSNBC host Martin Bashir that the bill bans law enforcement from racial profiling. In a creative mix of Islamophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric, Walsh said the following:
“We’re at war, and this country got a stark reminder last week again that we’re at war,” Walsh said to host Martin Bashir during an appearance on MSNBC. “And not only should we take a pause, Martin, when it comes to immigration, we need to begin profiling who our enemy is in this war: young muslim men,”
“The fact is, Martin, neither you or I or Jonathan knows of the 11 million, and it’s more than 11 million, how many are bad characters,” Walsh continued, addressing Bashir and fellow guest, columnist Jonathan Alter. “And what we’re going to do is replicate what we did in ’86, provide amnesty to all of them, which in essence is providing legal status to a lot of bad characters. You know, Martin, there’s also a piece of this legislation that bans our law enforcement officials of profiling. We need to profile even when it comes to our immigration policy.”
I wonder if these hate-mongerers know that Carlos Arredondo, the man in the cowboy hat being hailed as a hero for providing life-saving services immediately after the Boston bombings, was once an undocumented immigrant. Probably not. Facts don’t seem to be their forte.
› Immigration bill calls for 24/7 drone flights in Southwest border states
The new federal immigration reform plan calls for surveillance drones to operate 24/7 along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The immigration bill allocates $6.5 billion for border security, including the deployment of helicopters and horse patrols in remote areas along the Mexico border.
A provision in the bill also calls for the U.S. Border Patrol to “operate unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles along the southern border for 24 hours per day and seven days per week.”
“The Border Patrol already uses various types of aerial reconnaissance along the Mexico border. The new bill looks to increase drone use in border states such as Arizona and Texas.
“Arizona economic developers want to bring a federal research and development drone base to the state. Some defense contractors in Phoenix, Tucson and Sierra Vista also make and develop unmanned aerial systems.”
› The Minutemen and the Mainstream Media
Minutemen never actually caught many if any immigrants. What they caught, Neiwert shows, were journalists. Fox News journalists, of course; no surprise there, and not much to be done about that. (Sean Hannity hosted an entire show from the Arizona border with co-founders Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist beside him.) But it is CNN that is this book’s villain as much as the brutal murderers at the center of the true-crime subplot. “Over the years,” Neiwert counts, “Simcox would be featured over twenty-five times on CNN.” Fifteen of those were on the notorious Lou Dobbs show—which became the transmission belt for the invented claim that thousands of immigrants were carrying leprosy. But ten of those appearances were not. CNN’s news side treated the Minuteman as exactly what they claimed to be: a massive (it was tiny) movement, responsibly organized to weed out dangerous extremists (that never happened), successfully helping the Border Patrol by conscientiously calling in intelligence, a process no more threatening than—a favored Minutemen and media trope—one of those “neighborhood watch” organizations (this was before George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin). “Casey,” Dobbs said, “I had the opportunity to spend a little time down there with you along the border with the Minutemen. The success is remarkable.” In fact all they did was trip ground sensors and call in false alarms.
What did CNN, and many other mainstream media outlets besides, miss in their zealotry in making out Minutemen not to be zealots? Well, for example, the original 2004 Minutemen advertisement (“I invite you to join me in Tombstone, Arizona, in early spring of 2005 to protect our country from a 40-year-long invasion across our southern border with Mexico”) ran on the Aryan Nations website, trumpeted as “a call for action on part of ALL ARYAN SOLDIERS.” Among those gathered at the original encampment was a faction that called itself “Team 14”—a reference to the neo-Nazi fourteen-word slogan, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” A local news crew, more enterprising than the Most Trusted Name in News, recorded what these fine patriots said when they thought the cameras were off: “It should be legal to kill illegals. Just shoot ‘em on sight. That’s my immigration policy recommendation. You break into my country, you die.”
These are people who say things like, in the words of Chris Simcox, “The Mexican Army is driving American vehicles—but carrying Chinese weapons. I have personally seen what I can only believe to be Chinese troops.” And, in the words of the founders of one of the first border militias, addressing Mexican immigrants, “You stand around your entire lives, whining about how bad things are in your dog of a nation, waiting for the dog to stick its ass under our fence and shit each one of you into our backyards.” Who believe the government has begun to detain citizens with “don’t tread snake bumper stickers” on their cars. And that criminal El Salvador gangs were on their way to massacre Minutemen where they stood.
Here were the sort of people who ascended the ranks as leaders: a PTSD-stricken Marine involuntarily retired from the Postal Service after “[W]hat you call a post-traumatic-stress breakdown breakdown. Now I function pretty normal. They tell me it’s incurable and blah blah blah, but I function just fine in my opinion.” And a woman named Shawna Ford with a criminal record as long as Wilt Chamberlain’s arm, who constantly tells her comrades, “I’m the person that is willing to take it to the next level,” and who endeavors to prove it by—well, I’m not going to say. That, you’re going to have to read about yourself. It will have you on the edge of your seat.
› Media Was MIA As Hundreds of Undocumented Inmates Protested CCA Prison Conditions | Dispatches from the Underclass
On Wednesday, March 27, hundreds of inmates at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico, engaged in a peaceful demonstration against poor treatment. Somewhere between 250 to 500 prisoners refused to leave the recreation yard in a demonstration that lasted for over 12 hours.
The Center, which houses over 1,100 minimum-security federal prisoners (all male), is owned and operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest for profit system. CCA facilities are notorious for rampant human rights abuses, not exactly shocking for a company whose sole purpose is to profit from off of locking human beings in cages.
As of this writing, a Google News search of “Cibola County Correctional Center” results in just six news stories, all from local outlets. And all six of them read like a press release written by CCA.
Protesting is a risky endeavor for prisoners. It practically gaurantees retaliation from prison staff and more likely than not nothing will change. So it’s highly unlikely that prisoners went into this for no reason. Nevertheless, the authorities repeatedly claimed not to know why the prisoners were protesting and the local outlets shamefully trumpeted what was obviously CCA’s carefully crafted narrative.
“Public Information Officer Stephen Brown said they still were not able to found out why the inmates were protesting,” KOB Eyewitness News 4 reported. But as far as I can tell, News 4 made no attempt to speak with inmates or their advocates. Instead, they spoke with the parents of corrections officers inside the facility for added insight.
In an update, News 4 assured it’s readers that it was “still pressing for answers on why hundreds of inmates protested.” But don’t get too excited because the outlet spent the rest of the segment speaking with residents who live nearby the facility.
Action 7 News not only quoted the same couple that appeared in News 4‘s report, but also spoke with the mother of yet another prison guard. As for why there was a protest, Action 7 said the authorities were still investigating (move along, nothing else to see here).
The Cibola Beacon-News was the only outlet that spoke with anyone besides the prison authorities, but it had nothing to do with extra work on their part. “[T]he Beacon did receive an anonymous call early Wednesday about a possible demonstration because inmates claimed they were being treated unfairly. No specifics of mistreatment were provided by the caller,” the Beacon reported.
None of these outlets even bothered to mention that Cibola Correctional is one of 13 privately-owned prisons contracted out by the federal government to meet the prison system’s so-called ”criminal alien requirements.” It doesn’t take that much digging to figure it out. Even CCA notes that “All offenders at Cibola…are illegal immigrants.” This should immediately raise red flags given the laundry list of documented horrors that have taken place at privately-run immigrant detention centers. [++]
You’re going to have to have a program that assures those farms and those processing plants that there will be workers, because if you give them legal status, they can work anywhere in the United States — they’re not going to necessarily work at the hardest, toughest, dirtiest jobs.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte explaining why there should not be a path to citizenship for agricultural and meatpacking workers.
I actually heard this interview last night on NPR and was amazed by it. The original sin of this country is that it was built by an underclass (actually several underclasses) of laborers who were denied a just return on their efforts. This system in which some people are overseers and others are drudges — most of all, a system which is specifically designed to prevent people from moving from lower to higher position within the system — is inherently unjust. The existence of such a system warped our nation at its founding, and has constantly degraded our character as we have grown and developed. We have, over time, pulled down several versions of this system, including slavery, indentured servitude, sweatshops and sharecropping and the company store. But we have not moved beyond the impulse to be masters of people desperate enough to put themselves into serfdom. That this impulse still, in this new century, shapes the proposals of our Congress… makes me deeply ashamed.
› ACLU Obtains Emails That Prove ICE Officials Set Deportation Quotas
A set of e-mails obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina show U.S. immigration officials developed strategies to increase the number of deportations so they could surpass the previous year’s record deportation numbers.
Federal immigration authorities have claimed to target people who pose a threat to public safety but these email show officials targeted immigrants convicted of minor crimes.
“These recently reported documents suggest that ICE’s ‘targeted’ approach may have less to do with public safety or a focus on serious crimes, and more to do with the agency’s laser focus on meeting deportation levels,” said Seth Freed Wessler, Colorlines.com’s investigative reporter.
Wessler says the documents provide evidence to support what advocates have long argued: immigration enforcement as it’s currently practiced looks more like a dragnet than a harpoon.
USA Today analyzed the emails and point to some of the strategies used to increase the number of deportations:
Among those new tactics - detailed in interviews and internal e-mails - were trolling state driver’s license records for information about foreign-born applicants, dispatching U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to traffic safety checkpoints conducted by police departments, and processing more illegal immigrants who had been booked into jails for low-level offenses. Records show ICE officials in Washington approved some of those steps.
In April, officials told field office heads to map plans to increase removals, then instructed at least one field office that supervises enforcement throughout Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina to go ahead with efforts to mine DMV records and step up their efforts to deport people who had been booked into county jails, among other measures.
ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen told USA Today in a statement that “ICE does not have quotas.” She said the agency sets “annual performance goals” that “reflect the agency’s commitment to using the limited resources provided by Congress.”
Immigration advocates say this news doesn’t come as a surprise.
“The revelations about the Obama Administration’s deportation quotas are shocking, but not a suprise” said Arturo Carmona, Executive Director of Presente.org. “Anyone who knows the hard working people that the Administration is calling ‘criminals,’ who are being jailed by the thousands and deported by the millions, knows that government officials have such internal quotas. Other officials do an injustice to us all when they repeat false claims that there is some sort of legal mandate to deport 400,000 people a year. There’s not. And now everybody can see the ‘bonuses,’ deceit and dirty politics behind the immigrant tragedy.”
Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network says the findings are offensive.
“Setting immigration policy by a deportation quota runs counter to every talking point the Obama administration has used in the past five years. It has endangered public safety. It offends both constitutional values and has led to grave civil rights violations,” Newman said.
“It’s the exact reason why the first step in immigration reform must be a suspension of deportations,” Newman went on to say.
[H]uman beings matter little in the corporate state. We myopically serve the rapacious appetites of those dedicated to exploitation and maximizing profit. And our corporate masters view prisons—as they do education, health care and war—as a business. The 320-bed Elizabeth Detention Center, which houses only men, is run by one of the largest operators and owners of for-profit prisons in the country, Corrections Corporation of America. CCA, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, has annual revenues in excess of $1.7 billion. An average of 81,384 inmates are in its facilities on any one day. This is a greater number, the American Civil Liberties Union points out in a 2011 report, ‘Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration,’ than that held by the states of New York and New Jersey combined. The for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in Washington and state capitals have successfully blocked immigration reform, have prevented a challenge to our draconian drug laws and are pushing through tougher detention policies. Locking up more and more human beings is the bedrock of the industry’s profits. These corporations are the engines behind the explosion of our prison system. They are the reason we have spent $300 billion on new prisons since 1980. They are also the reason serious reform is impossible.
Chris Hedges, Profiting From Human Misery
› Sen. McCain: We need border drones to get a deal on immigration reforms | The Hill
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Monday that he would like to see the implementation of high-tech border solutions — including drone aircraft — as part of a comprehensive immigration reform deal.
“A pre-condition is secure borders, and we have not done that,” McCain told Fox News on Monday. “Now our borders are more secure, but they are by no means secure. In Arizona, the Sonora border is the major drug trafficking route for the drug cartels bringing drugs into the United States.”
McCain went on to say that securing the borders was a necessity before the country could “move on with this issue.”
“We have to use a lot of high-tech — we’ve got to use drones, we’ve got to do a lot of things to get that border secure, but that must be done,” McCain said.
The Senate immigration plan debuted by McCain and a bipartisan group of colleagues Monday calls for a commission of border state officials that would develop a standard for border security.
Under the legislation, those officials would be empowered to delay any pathway to citizenship for illegal immigratns if they were dissatisfied by federal efforts to protect the border.
[…] “To think somehow that we are going to have a situation where drugs can flow freely over our border is something that I don’t think most of our citizens would agree [with], particularly since we spent so many billions of dollars on surveillance and that kind of thing,” [McCain] added.
› Watch DREAMer’s Personal Plea Shortly After Mother Taken in ICE Raid | COLORLINES
Erika Andiola’s mother and brother were taken from her Arizona home in a raid last night. She recorded this video shortly after.
Maria Arreola, and her brother, Heriberto Andiola Arreola, were taken into immigration custody, and while Andiola’s brother was released, her mother faced imminent deportation. But Andiola herself is not just any young Latina. She’s a well-known undocumented immigrant activist from Arizona who has fought against SB 1070 and anti-immigrant state laws, and advocated for the DREAM Act and humane immigration policy. She is a co-founder of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and served on the board of United We Dream, a national network of immigrant youth organizations who have successfully defended undocumented immigrants from deportation with public campaigns.
Andiola’s family is but just one of the hundreds of thousands that have been affected by detention and deportation. Just last year alone, the Obama administration deported 409,846 immigrants in 2012, a new record even for Obama, who’s overseen the most aggressive deportation record of any administration.
The immigrant rights world has risen up swiftly to call for justice for Andiola’s family.
UPDATE: Within hours -
Release of DREAMer Erika Andiola’s Family Highlights Youth Movement’s Power
January 9, 2013
This past Sunday, Maria Sanchez, 26, died in her Houston home from the effects of an inoperable spinal tumor. Just four days earlier U.S. Customs and Border Protection denied a humanitarian parole to her parents, so they were unable to see their daughter on her death bed. The agency said humanitarian parole was an extraordinary measure granted only for a “very compelling emergency.”
I guess saying goodbye to your child isn’t a very compelling emergency in the eyes of the U.S. government? Disgusting.
Apparently this wasn’t the first time Sanchez suffered at the hands of “undocumented citizenship”:
Almost two years ago, the University of Texas Medical Branch ejected her from the hospital shortly before a scheduled surgery after discovering she was in the country illegally. Written on her discharge paper was the suggestion that she seek surgery in Mexico. The hospital at the time said federal privacy laws precluded comment on a specific case.
Sanchez’s husband will send his wife’s body to Mexico for burial.
Something very similar happened to me recently when my grandfather passed away in November. One of his sisters wasn’t allowed to cross the border into El Paso to attend the funeral.
These are the consequences of borders & immigration laws. Families are repeatedly torn apart for no reason at all.
We are the one country that orphans children who have parents.
Representative Luis Gutierrez (D) of Illinois on the deportation of undocumented parents
Related article: Nearly 205,000 Deportations of Parents With U.S. Citizen Kids in Just Over Two Years
› The Penalty is Exile: How Immigration and Criminalization Collide | Upside Down World
Tanya: Anyone who is not a citizen can be held in immigration detention. So, what is immigration detention? It’s basically where you await your immigration hearing, or you await your deportation.
So for example, a detention center could be at the local county jail, a detention center could also be at a place that used to be a prison, and has been converted into a detention center, or a detention center could be a newly-built privately-owned facility that is now an immigrant detention center.
Abraham: Forty nine percent of immigration detention is privatized. The enforcement that they ask for, i think, this fiscal year, is 2.5 Million dollars, and and half of that, or forty nine percent of that is going to go to private corporations for a profit.
Cory Fischer-Hoffman: The two corporations with the largest contracts with ICE are the Corrections Corporation of America or CCA, and the Geo Group.
Abraham: Then these corporations, such as CCA and GEo, what they do with some of these profits, is then pay lobbyest to lobby for for regressive immigration policies so that their facilities can, not only stay at the status quo, but then, also grow.
Cory Fischer-Hoffman: Wells Fargo invests millions of dollars in the Geo group, so Families for Freedom organized a picket outside of the bank’s Midtown Branch. At the protest, Jane explains why she is fighting against profiting from immigrant detention centers
Jane: Because the government, pays a lot of money to detain immigrants, One hundred and sixty six dollars a day, per person and they only spend, less than a dollar a day for the meals and they dont offer for healthcare, so they make a huge profit off of it. And that’s why they want as many immigrants to be detained as possible.
Ronald: Wells Fargo is a major investor, in private detention centers. Last year alone, two major companies that run these centers made 3 billion dollars off of immigrants who ought to be with their families.
Abraham: Conveniently, detaining immigrants around the world has become a lucrative business.
Michelle: And again, we are talking about a system, where there are huge profit motives and where programs like secure communities are being fueled by rising detention that is really backed by these huge companies that are really profiting off of the suffering of our communities.
President Obama really does have the ability, to stop this program and to stop this program dead in its tracks right now. And he can’t continue to promise immigrant communities that he is helping them, while he is carrying out these anti-immigrant policies through programs like secure communities. If he wants the support of low income of color and immigrant communities in the next election, he is really going to have to do something really quickly.
ICE claims that these are the unintended consequences of a program designed to capture criminals. And as the earlier news clip suggests, this tough on crime rhetoric around immigration becomes the justification for heavy-handed enforcement that affects communities across the United States. We must scratch below the surface to understand where the criminal justice and immigration system meet. One place that they converge is in the fact that both rely on locking people up. On any given day, about thirty three thousand people are in immigrant detention centers in the United States. … The difference between prison and detention, is that you are supposed to be in prison because you have been punished for a crime. Right, so people that are actually in prison are there because serving a sentence. People that are in immigrant detention are not serving any sentence, it’s not technically punishment. They are just there because they are waiting for their trial, or they are waiting for deportation. But the average time for detention is 30 days and many people spend years there.
The Penalty is Exile: How Immigration and Criminalization Collide
[TW: Xenophobia] What I’ve also said is if we’re going to go after folks who are here illegally, we should do it smartly and go after folks who are criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families. And that’s what we’ve done.
Julianne Hing, Who Are Those “Gangbangers” Obama’s So Proud of Deporting? via COLORLINES
The line was a curious one, given the reality of Obama’s deportation record, which has been marked by mass deportations to the tune of nearly 400,000 every year carried out at a clip unseen by any prior president. The Obama administration has defended its “smart” enforcement tactics by, as Obama did on Tuesday night, pointing out that it makes a point to deport those who have committed serious crimes and are a threat to their communities and national security. And yet, data collected over Obama’s tenure show that among the close to 400,000 people who are deported annually, far from being “gangbangers,” the vast majority have no criminal record whatsoever.
And as the Obama administration struggles to keep up with it do-they-or-don-they-have-it deportation quota, immigration officials seem to be tapping out the numbers of deportable immigrants with criminal records. In the last four years, the percent of those deported with any kind of criminal history has dropped from 17.5 to 14 percent, while those with “aggravated felonies” made up 5.2 percent of those deported in 2008. This year they’re 3.6 percent. That is, while the Obama administration continues to deport roughly the same record-breaking number of people annually, it’s grabbing up everyday people whose deportations the Obama administration has said it has protections in place to prevent, including those who would otherwise be eligible for the federal DREAM Act, parents with U.S. citizen kids in the country who have lived quiet lives, students and fathers who have communities and dreams in the U.S.—people who are hardly the “gangbangers” Obama wants you to think he’s kicking out of the country.