Don't neglect immigration reform!
our latest newsletter: http://www.immigrantsolidarity.org/Newsletter/Fall13.pdf
10/3 OPINION: Don't neglect immigration reform
ISELA CHÁVEZ-PORTUGAL - News Day
With the federal government embroiled in shutdown politics, some people are saying immigration reform is a long shot for 2013. But immigrants on Long Island like me simply won't accept that pessimism. Saturday we will be marching in Brentwood -- like others will in 130 or so demonstrations around the country -- to call for comprehensive immigration reform this year. And we will not be deterred by a government shutdown, because our representatives need to hear that they must get back to work and do what's right for immigrant families as soon as possible.
I've lived in Suffolk County with my husband and two children for 10 years. We came from Peru on a tourist visa and stayed to make a better life. We've worked hard to support our family, including working nights cleaning the local library. My son married an American and has become a legal resident, but my husband, daughter and I would qualify for the path to citizenship that is included in the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate in late June.
Throughout these years, we've always had to worry about keeping our family together, given the specter of deportation. A path to citizenship offers the best chance for making sure we can be together and thrive on Long Island. But to become reality and ensure that my family can stay together, we need the House of Representatives to pass a similar bill.
My family and my immigrant community work hard every day to contribute to Long Island with our love, our culture, our hard work and our taxes. We are willing to take the steps laid out in an earned path to citizenship, but we need the House to give us this chance. Now, we are saying, "Enough stalling already!"
Immigrant Long Islanders like me have worked very hard with our allies for comprehensive immigration reform. Thousands of Long Islanders have joined marches, rallies and forums supporting reform. Thousands more have called and written to their congressional representatives, all of whom have now publicly supported a comprehensive bill including a path to citizenship. This reflects what a poll conducted by Harstad Research this spring told us: As is true throughout the country, the vast majority -- eight in 10 registered voters surveyed on Long Island -- support an earned path to citizenship alongside border enforcement measures and clearing the visa backlog.
But in September, reform efforts in Congress stalled, and now they seem forgotten in the current partisan fighting. The Republican House leadership doesn't want to bring the bill to a vote, even though the votes appear to be there, with virtually all Democrats and at least 26 Republicans, including Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), expressing their support.
That's why immigrants around Long Island and across the country are joining together to urge the House to act this month. Our coalition has declared Saturday to be a National Day for Dignity and Respect for immigrants.
We are tired of false promises. We know that most Latinos and immigrants who voted last year -- and whose votes decided the presidential election -- are demanding this reform, like the 11 million of us who are here without the proper documentation.
* Isela Chávez-Portugal is a member of Make the Road New York, the state's largest participatory immigrant rights organization.
10/16 Rethink Immigration: A Homeless, Undocumented & Detained LGBT Teen’s Struggle for Due Process
Mary Georgevich - LGBT project coordinator for Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center
Earlier this year, Melissa* found herself locked up in immigration detention, awaiting a deportation flight to Mexico. U.S. immigration law said she did not have the right to see a judge, and most of her family and friends told her to give up and just let the deportation happen. Luckily, with the help of her U.S. citizen girlfriend Alicia*, Melissa decided to seek legal advice anyway.
As it turns out, Melissa had ample reason to continue fighting her case. But as one of an estimated 900,000 LGBT teens in America who are homeless or near homeless, she has had to overcome significant legal and financial hurdles to do so.
Melissa’s immigration troubles began when she had a non-violent misdemeanor arrest as a teenager and was turned over to immigration on a detainer. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released Melissa, a minor at the time, to her mother’s custody and sent all of her vital case documents—including notice of her hearing date—to her mother’s home. Like many LGBT teens, Melissa had a strained relationship with her family and mostly relied on friends for housing. She never received the documents from her family, and as a teenager who did not have a lawyer, Melissa did not understand their significance anyway.
When she did not appear for her hearing, the judge ordered her deported. A few months ago, at age 20, a traffic stop landed Melissa back in immigration custody and ICE tried to put that deportation order into effect. Because she had already received a deportation order, the law disqualifies her from the right to another hearing, but having a lawyer has given her a chance to challenge the order.
Alicia and Melissa first contacted a private lawyer recommended by other detainees. He filed a motion with the court to have the deportation order rescinded and requested that Melissa be allowed a chance to see a judge. However, with Melissa still detained and unable to work, the lawyer’s fees quickly became too costly for the young couple to pay. That is when they contacted Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC). The LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative took the case pro bono and discovered that Melissa was potentially eligible for three different types of relief from deportation: a visa for victims of crimes based on childhood sexual abuse, asylum as an LGBT youth fearing persecution in her native country of Mexico, and possibly President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
While NIJC worked to prove that Melissa should be given the opportunity to fight her case in front of a judge, Alicia struggled to survive with her girlfriend locked up. The two of them had lived together, and Melissa had been their sole source of income while Alicia finished college. After Melissa was detained, Alicia was forced to drop out—just one month short of graduation. She began working two jobs, but between the lawyer fees and expensive phone calls to Melissa in detention, she could not hold on to her apartment and moved into a homeless shelter. Recently, Melissa and Alicia got their first good news: The judge rescinded Melissa’s deportation order and gave her the lowest bond possible—$1,500. Melissa’s mother agreed to help pay the bond, and Alicia and Melissa are working to put their lives back together. But Melissa still has a long road ahead as she works with NIJC to fight her case in immigration court.
Melissa and Alicia could have avoided a lot of heartache and trouble if Melissa had been able to speak with a lawyer the first time she was detained. Their problems could have been further prevented had Melissa been given access to free or low-cost legal services as soon as she was detained the second time. Of the people who currently are detained, 84 percent will be deported without having access to legal representation. The immigration reform bill passed by the Senate earlier this year would improve access to lawyers for unaccompanied immigrant children, individuals with mental illness, and other vulnerable immigrants in deportation proceedings. No person should be deported without the opportunity to understand their rights and, at a minimum, speak with a judge. If Melissa had taken her family’s original advice not to fight her deportation, or had not found NIJC, that is exactly what would have happened. Melissa would be living in a place she had not seen since she was seven years old, where she would face a likelihood of persecution based on her sexual orientation, while Alicia struggled to get by in the United States without the support of her partner.
*Names have been changed to protect individuals’ privacy.
10/4: California gives immigrants driver's licenses
10/16: ICE Public Affairs: Rogue office in a rogue agency
10/9: How Domestic Workers Won Their Rights: Five Big Lessons
10/9: More than 200 arrested at immigration rights rally in D.C.
Please download our latest newsletter: http://www.immigrantsolidarity.org/Newsletter/Fall13.pdf
Thanks for GREAT works from Detention Watch Network (DWN) to compiled the following information, please visit DWN website: http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org
Raids to Deportation-A Community Resource Kit
Useful Handouts and Know Your Immigrant Rights When Marches
Immigrant Marches / Marchas de los Inmigrantes
Immigrants and their supporters are participating in marches all over the country to protest proposed national legislation and to seek justice for immigrants. The materials available here provide important information about the rights and risks involved for anyone who is planning to participate in the ongoing marches.
If government agents question you, it is important to understand your rights. You should be careful in the way you speak when approached by the police, FBI, or INS. If you give answers, they can be used against you in a criminal, immigration, or civil case.
The ACLU's publications below provide effective and useful guidance in several languages for many situations. The brochures apprise you of your legal rights, recommend how to preserve those rights, and provide guidance on how to interact with officials.
A Monthly Newsletter from National Immigrant Solidarity Network
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