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Will Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bring an End to Operation Streamline?

6:40 pm in Uncategorized by Marybeth Onyeukwu

The Detention Watch Network is launching a campaign urging Congress to bring an end to Operation Streamline.  Started in 2005 under the Bush administration, Operation Streamline funnels migrants that cross the border into the criminal justice system to be prosecuted for immigration related “crimes.” Those apprehended at the border for the first time are prosecuted for the misdemeanor offense of unauthorized entry punishable up to 6 months in prison and those re-entering the country after a prior deportation order are prosecuted for felony re-entry punishable up to 20 years in prison.

According to the Detention Watch Network:

In 2011, unauthorized entry and re-entry were the two most prosecuted crimes in the federal judicial system – more than murder, robbery or financial fraud. These prosecutions are fueling the explosive growth in numbers of Latinos in prison. Latinos now make up more than 50 percent of all those sentenced to federal prison despite making up only 16 percent of the US population.

The federal government has spent an estimated $5.5 billion incarcerating undocumented immigrants in the criminal justice system for unauthorized entry and re-entry since 2005, above and beyond the $2 billion per year it has spent on the civil immigration detention system. Much of the aforementioned $5.5 billion has been channeled to private prison corporations to confine people in “CAR” prisons with deplorable conditions for merely trying to reunite with their families.

Last night, the President delivered his State of the Union address where he gave immigration reform a grand total of 210 words. Of course, a number of DREAMers were invited attend. As for the speech itself, there were the usual talking points of border security and earned citizenship, all of which was nothing more than a dog and pony show created to distract from the real  issues plaguing our immigration system. There is real human suffering happening right now as we speak, most of which can be alleviated by simply suspending punitive enforcement policies such as Operation Streamline. If Congress or the President wants to have any credibility regarding immigration reform then they need to start shifting the narrative towards ending the criminalization of immigrants.

The Congressional Black Caucus Lends Its Voice to the Immigration Debate

10:38 am in Uncategorized by Marybeth Onyeukwu

Sheila Jackson Lee

Sheila Jackson Lee: “The Congressional Black Caucus will be pivotal” in immigration reform.

On February 4, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) held its first meeting on comprehensive immigration reform. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) made critical points in the meeting that are oftentimes missing from the debate.

On these points about the issue of where we can come together and where there are distinctions is to raise the factor of how serious and difficult this process may be, the Congressional Black Caucus will be pivotal in its role. One, because it is the conscience of this Congress. Two, because we have the uncanny ability of seeing from a broader perspective with what we have gone through in our lifetime, what our communities go through. We’ve seen discrimination and we are sympathetic and sensitive to how we can help others.

The support from the CBC should not surprise anyone. More African Americans who voted in the last presidential election support a process for legalizing undocumented immigrants than Latino voters do. In a November Gallup Exit poll, 81% of African Americans support immigration reform compared to 77% of Latino voters. An interesting piece of information that is constantly overlooked by the media and especially by our politicians.

In a press release, Caucus Chair Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) outlined key concerns for comprehensive immigration reform:

  • Advancing legislation and policies that lead to comprehensive immigration reform.
  • Providing a voice for undocumented immigrants of African descent within the comprehensive immigration reform debate.
  • Addressing issues of mass detention and unjust criminality of immigrant populations.
  • Ensuring policies that are aimed at improving conditions within low-income and vulnerable communities are not averted by comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

The most striking piece is the issue of mass detention. Oftentimes, under the guise of the “rule of law” immigrants are racially profiled, unconstitutionally placed in detention centers for extended periods of time and denied access to legal counsel. While private prison corporations are allowed to profit from human suffering, many families are unjustly separated in the meantime. Rarely if ever do we hear these issues addressed. Instead, we hear the same predictable rhetoric that places emphasis creating a “pathway to citizenship” for undocumented immigrants in exchange for increased funding for border security. It will be interesting to see what level of involvement the CBC will have in the next few weeks on immigration reform. It will be even more interesting to see if the CBC can garner enough attention to these critical issues that have beleaguered the immigrant community for far too long.

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