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Congressman Luis Gutierrez’s Assault On Immigrant Rights

If you are reading this, you have probably heard that Congressman Luis Gutierrez officially cut ties with the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) and DreamActivist,  undocumented-led organizations dedicated to the defense of the human rights of immigrants facing deportation or for those who have already been deported.

In spirit with their goals as an organization, NIYA and DreamActivist have aggressively lobbied members of Congress to pressure the White House to grant humanitarian parole on behalf of members of the Dream 30. One of their campaign targets is Congressman Luis Gutierrez, a purported advocate of immigrant rights.

However, Gutierrez apparently did not want to  help. Instead of doing all in his power to secure the release of the remaining detained dreamers, he went off on a paternalistic tirade against the some of the parents of the Dream 30, saying that a radical gay racist Iranian had them in his thrall and that their kids were in grave danger.

Apparently, Luis Gutierrez does not want s to be held to his words. When he learned that a parent of the Dream 30 recorded his meeting with the parents, he issued a bizarre press release in which alleged a leader of the NIYA to be a criminal, racist, and child-abuser.  Here is a relevant excerpt:

The illicit tape recording of a confidential conversation was the latest chapter in a long and difficult relationship with NIYA and its leaders.  The NIYA leaders have expressed their strong opposition to immigration reform (LINK), have expressed disturbing racism (LINK), and have put young people in harm’s way.  In talking with the families, the Congressman and his staff believe that the parents and families were being manipulated by NIYA and its leaders and were not well informed about the law and the legal process.

Let’s break this defamatory paragraph down. Two common  definitions of “Illicit” are “not allowed by law” or “unlawful or illegal.” In the context of Gutierrez’s statement, it certainly looks like he is trying to say that the recording of his conversation was illegal.

Gutierrez also stated that the “meeting was also recorded surreptitiously by NIYA, without the knowledge of the parents, the Congressman or his staff.”

According to DreamActivist and the NIYA, the meeting was recorded by one of the parents of the Dream 30. Therefore, either Luis Gutierrez is misinformed, or he is lying. The difference is huge given the law regarding the recording of conversations in Washington D.C.

Federal law permits recording telephone calls and in-person conversations with the consent of at least one of the parties. See 18 U.S.C. 2511(2)(d).

According to Luis Gutierrez’s version of events, the NIYA and DreamActivist committed a felony criminal offense punishable up to 5 years in prison.

The Congressman must have forgotten that he is a public official having a meeting with members of the public regarding the welfare of their children. Instead of focusing on what he could do for the kids in detention, he tried to divide the parents from the organizers of the Dream 30 movement.

Clearly, Gutierrez never liked the idea of the Dream 30 or several of the movement’s leaders.

If he wanted to sever ties with the two organizations, why did he do it like a teenager breaking up with a significant other on Facebook? Why did he malign a movement by attacking its leaders at a time when dreamers are still detained and at risk of deportation?

Self-interest. He is embarrassed because of what he said in his meeting with parents of the Dream 30. He knows that maligning the character of an individual by referencing the fact that he is a gay person who would be killed or tortured if returned to his native country of Iran is wrong.

He also is embarrassed that he was caught refusing to help out detained dreamers:

He told them “No one tells me what to do, if i want to make a floor speech i’ll do it, if not i won’t.”

All that to answer why he isn’t supporting the #Dream30

Gutierrez issued a press release because he wanted to get out in front of the bad publicity that his own words to the parents of the Dream 30 will cause. He is  more interested in his own image than that of the rights of the detained dreamers.

One who cares for welfare of the detained dreamers would not try to torpedo the organizers mid-movement.  Instead, one would ratchet up the pressure on the human rights perpetrator, the Department of Homeland Security, which has caused the Dream 30 to be forcefully separated from their family without any justification but the dogma of deport because the law says so.

Lastly, the Congressman was the one trying to manipulate the parents of the Dream 30. In his statement, Gutierrez claimed that NIYA & DreamActivist put young people in harm’s way. That is ridiculous. Every one of the Dream 30 entered the United States because they were fearful of being harmed in their native country, Mexico, s land rife with high levels of violence.

Gutierrez has it backwards: By staying in Mexico, the Dream 30 were being placed in harm’s way on a daily basis.

Furthermore, the U.S. government is responsible for putting the Dream 30 in harm’s way because it relentlessly withheld their basic human rights when they were living in the United States. Instead of enacting DACA at the moment he became President,  Obama waited until a few months before his re-election to announce the program in a bid to woo the Latino vote.

Even after DACA, the U.S. government is still pursuing the deportation of dreamers who entered the U.S. after June 15, 2007.

Luis Gutierrez should be ashamed of himself for his press release. It is nothing more than a cynical and filthy attack on the lives of undocumented immigrants.

Do the right thing. Pick up the phone and ask Obama to release the rest of the Dream 30 and to allow those deported to return to their family and home here in the United States. Make a fiery speech on the floor of the House. Do whatever is necessary to stand up for the rights of immigrants.

San Antonio ICE aggressively pursues deportation of victims of domestic violence

ICE's decision to issue no bond to a victim of domestic violence.

ICE’s decision to issue no bond to a victim of domestic violence.

She was fleeing her country in terror. Her partner brutally beat her when she was pregnant in an attempt to kill her unborn baby. When she went to the police, her partner continued to follow her and threatened to kill her.  She had no choice but to escape to the only place she thought would be safe, the United States.

But when she came to the United States to beg for refuge, she learned that ICE was far more interested in sending her back to her native country than allowing her to apply for asylum.

Even after an asylum officer determined that she had established a significant possibility of obtaining asylum before an immigration judge, ICE did not issue a bond. Remember, this woman has suffered substantial physical and mental trauma.

ICE knows that the chances of her obtaining asylum while detained are significantly diminished. ICE intentionally decided to not issue a bond so that it would be easier to deport her.

When we sent ICE documentary proof of the violence she suffered at the hand of her ex-partner, ICE set a bond for $7500, which is still an unattainable sum for a woman who has no close family in the United States and who left her country in a rush to saver her life.

We tried a third time to convince ICE to lower the bond or release her on her own recognizance. Before considering this, ICE wants us to write a letter stating that we are representing the case pro bono.

If she could afford to pay the high bond set, she would not still be detained. The additional proof that ICE is requesting is yet another obstacle that this victim must overcome to be treated in a fair and humane way.

San Antonio ICE’s policy of aggressively pursuing the removal of victims of domestic violence must stop. It runs counter to well-established ICE prosecutorial discretion guidelines and is just wrong.

Government Shutdown Prolonging Detention of Immigrant Children

An official in the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (“ORR”) confirmed to me today that the government shutdown has caused a significant delay in the release of many unaccompanied immigrant children to their family in the United States.

I have been working on the reunification of one child with that of his relative in New York. Although all the necessary paperwork was completed for the child’s reunification, he has not been released from detention yet because certain post-release services required for his release are not available due to the lack of funds caused by the government shutdown.

The result is a substantial delay in the release from detention of the most vulnerable unaccompanied immigrant children.

Because of these extraordinary circumstances, it may be wise for ORR to release these children notwithstanding the availability of post-release services. Prolonged detention can have serious adverse consequences on an individual’s mental health, especially if it is a child fleeing violence or abuse.

ICE: Making Long Island Less Safe Since 2007

According to a recent report released by TRAC, ICE issues detainers or “holds” on mostly immigrants with no past criminal conviction.  A detainer is when ICE asks a local jail to detain someone when they would otherwise be released from custody.

For example, many individuals are arrested for minor traffic infractions, such as driving without a license or with a suspended registration. In the vast majority of these arrests, the invididual is released from jail within 24 hours of being taken into custody.

However, if one happens to be undocumented, ICE comes knocking, and frequently. The vast majority of detainers, as recent statistics show, are for immigrants who have not been convicted of a crime.

Most of our clients are residents of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The numbers don’t lie: these detainers do not make our community safer.

Cooperation between local Long Island government & ICE destroys families without enhancing public safety, as these numbers demonstrate.

Cooperation between local Long Island government & ICE destroys families without enhancing public safety, as these numbers demonstrate.

How does contributing to the deportation of 3,387 immigrants with no criminal conviction make Long Island safer? It does not.

What it does do is destroy families and undermine the public’s trust of local law enforcement.

Office of Refugee Resettlement Unlawfully Detaining and Endangering Unaccompanied Immigrant Children

The Office of Refugee Resettlement (“ORR”) , part of the Department of Health & Human Services, is illegally detaining my 14-year-old client as a material witness against the person who smuggled him into the United States.

The ORR is in charge of reuniting unaccompanied minor children with their closest relatives upon entering the United States.

When an unaccompanied minor enters the United States unlawfully, they are usually taken into custody by Customs and Border Protection or Border Patrol  (“DHS” for purposes herein) and then immediately transferred to the custody of the ORR,  as required under the Flores Settlement and under Section 462 of the Homeland Security Act.

When immigrant minors are placed in the custody of ORR, it is because of their immigration status. ORR is obligated, under Paragraph 14 of the Flores Settlement, to release the child within its custody without unnecessary delay, in the following order of preference, to:

A. a parent;

B. a legal guardian;

C. an adult relative (brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or grandparent);

D. an adult individual or entity designated by the parent or legal guardian as capable and willing to care for the minor’s well-being in (i) a declaration signed under penalty of perjury before an immigration or consular officer or (ii) such other document(s) that establish(es) to the satisfaction of the INS, in its discretion, the affiant’s paternity or guardianship;

E. a licensed program willing to accept legal custody; or

F. an adult individual or entity seeking custody, in the discretion of the INS, when it appears that there is no other likely alternative to long term detention and family reunification does not appear to be a reasonable possibility.

Section 462 of the Homeland Security Act, passed subsequently to the Flores Settlement, codifies much of what was included in Flores but also adds rules, such as 462(b)(2), which states that, when making custody determinations, ORR must ensure that unaccompanied immigrant children are likely to appear for all hearings or proceedings in which they are involved.

Additionally, Section (c)(1) of the TVPRA states that the ORR shall establish policies and programs to ensure that unaccompanied immigrantchildren in the United States are protected from traffickers and other persons seeking to victimize or otherwise engage such children in criminal, harmful, or exploitative activity, including policies and programs reflecting best practices in witness security programs.

Despite the ORR’s obligations to reunite immigrant minors with their closest relatives, they are violating the Flores agreement by detaining my client, who is only 14, as a material witness against the individual who smuggled him into the United States.

Toby Biswas, an attorney for ORR who sets its legal policy regarding unaccompanied minors, stated that ORR is required to continue to detain my minor client until the criminal proceedings against the alleged smuggler are complete.

This policy means that minor child can be detained for the months of even years it takes to complete the criminal proceedings against the defendant. A minor child should not be coerced into testifying against an alleged felon.

Biswas is clearly wrong as well as disingenuous in his legal argument because nothing in the statute states that ORR is required to detain my client as a material witness. The determination on whether to continue to detain a minor is based on whether ORR believes the minor is “likely to appear for all hearings or proceedings in which they are involved.” This does not mean that ORR is required to detain my client as a material witness. If indefinite detention was what Congress intended, it would have said that the minor could not be released until he or she appeared for all hearings or proceedings in which they are involved.

In the majority of cases with minor immigrant children in ORR’s custody, the minor is released to their closest relative in the United States prior to the completion, or even the initiation, of their immigration court proceedings. The question of whether minors are likely to appear for their immigration court proceedings is the same as whether they are likely to appear as a material witness, if required.

Biswas also claimed that my client’s continued detention is required under Sectoin (c)(1) of the TVPRA to protect him from criminal, harmful, or exploitative activity. This also is disingenuous. THe mere fact that the federal government is using a 14-year-old as a material witness enhances the risk that he will be harmed. As a material witness, the smuggler or his or her associates are given a motivation to harm my minor client.

The protection of minor children is more important than the goal of securing a conviction of a human smuggler, or of protecting the rights of the defendant. My client does not desire to press charges. He just wants to be with his mother, where he belongs.

But for the fact that ORR is detaining my client as a material witness, he would have already been with his mother two weeks ago. Because of ORR’s unlawful actions, my client has been detained for a month now.

The Flores agreement requires that ORR release my client from detention to be reunited with his mother. The laws passed subsequently to Flores do nothing to change ORR’s obligation.

Again, the ORR’s policy of indefinite detention of unaccompanied minor children as material witnesses is an intentional evasion of its responsibilities under the Flores Settlement. I have been told by several officials within ORR that there have been many cases in which minor immigrant children have been detained for long periods of time because they are being held as material witnesses in federal criminal proceedings.

This practice must cease immediately because it is unlawful.

An Indictment of the U.S. Department of State’s Systemic Deportation of U.S. Citizens

Blanca Maria Alfaro is a citizen of the United States of America. She was born in Houston, Texas on December 17, 1979. Despite this, she has been deported, detained, interrogated, tortured, and exiled by the Federal Government of the United States.

On September 5, 2013, Blanca applied for a U.S. passport. Below is the cover letter and a link to some supporting documents that were submitted in support of her U.S. passport application.
page 1 of cover letter

page 2

page 3

page 4

page 5 page 6 page 7 page 8 page 9 page 10 page 11 page 12 page 13 page 14 page 15 page 16 page 17 Toc1 TOC2 toc3 Toc 4

Islan Nettles: A victim of systemic persecution of trans women of color in the United States.

Update: 

Despite the fact that Paris Wilson’s brutal assault of Islan Nettles on August 17, 2013 resulted in her death on August 22, he is still only being charged with misdemeanor assault as of today, September 4, 2013.

A killer is out on the loose on $2000 bail while the NYPD is “investigating.” Persecution indeed.

20130828_114143

End Update. 

On August 17, 2013, a 20-year-old man brutally beat Islan Nettles, leaving her in a coma.

According to the criminal complaint, “Wilson punched Nettles in the head ‘with a closed fist,’ WPTV reports. Even after Nettles fell to the ground, Wilson continued to hit her in the face, and the police found her “unconscious…with a swollen shut eye and blood on her face.”

Despite the fact that Ms. Nettles had clearly suffered a serious injury, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office charged Mr. Wilson with misdemeanor assault and harassment, a non-criminal violation.

On August 22, 2013 Islan Nettles died due to “blunt impact head injuries” suffered as a result of being assaulted by Mr. Wilson.

Now that Islan has died, the mainstream media has taken an interest. There is substantial evidence being reported that the assault (murder) of  Islan was motivated by anti-trans bias.

At the scene of the crime, there was likely already evidence that Islan was brutalized because of the fact that she was a trans women. Where was the media on August 17 when Islan was struck so hard that she was left in a coma?  They did not care then, and still do not care to delve into how exponentially more frequent hate crimes are committed against trans women of color than gays or lesbians.

According to one report, acts of violence against trans women of color are on the rise. 

According to a 2012 report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, anti-trans violence rose 32.1% from 2011 to 2012, and trans women of color are most often the targets. This report only covers 18 states, though, so one can only imagine the disgraceful incidents that go unreported.

In order to try to minimize violent crimes, particularly against vulnerable populations, it is crucial that law enforcement authorities hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. That is the whole premise behind enhanced punishments for those who commit hate crimes.

In the case of Islan Nettles, the New York Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office laughed at Islan Nettles’ unconscious and bloodied body when they ignored the law and charged Mr. Wilson with third degree assault, a misdemeanor.

In New York, a person is guilty  of assault in the third degree when, with intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person.

A person is guilty of assault in the second degree when, with intent to cause serious physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person.

There is a huge difference between being charged with assault in the third or second degree. The former is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of one year of incarceration. The latter is a Class D Felony and can carry up to a 7 year sentence of incarceration.

As is fairly obvious, Mr. Wilson should at the very least have been charged with assault in the second degree when he was first arrested.

Punching someone in the face until they fall to the ground and then proceeding to repeatedly punch the fallen person in the face until they are unconscious clearly shows an intent to cause serious injury. He not only caused Islan serious injury at the scene by knocking her out cold, he actually ended up killing her.

As of today, the charges against Paris Wilson remain the same, even after Islan’s death:

Paris Wilson beat Islan Nettles to Death. He is still only being charged with misdemeanor assault.

Paris Wilson beat Islan Nettles to death. He is still only being charged with misdemeanor assault.

Hate crimes cannot be prevented if law enforcement is an accessory after the fact. There should be a thorough investigation into why the NYPD and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office laughed at the brutal beating of Islan Nettles until death forced them to act otherwise.

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