The Restore Fairness campaign called on the U.S. government to support fair immigration and racial justice. In the aftermath of 9/11, there has been a steady decline in the human rights of all immigrants to the United States. Cruel anti-immigrant laws have been denying basic due process to thousands of people, with particular impact on immigrant women and their families. Many policies also discriminate against people on the basis of national origin, race, religion, or citizenship.
Restore Fairness used compelling video documentaries along with a blog for voicing opinion to draw attention to the ways in which cruel anti-immigrant policy and laws in the United States have denied basic due process to thousands of people, with particular impact on immigrant women and their families. And how these policies also discriminate against people on the basis of national origin, race, religion, or citizenship.
Immigrants bear the brunt of these unjust laws. The U.S. government allows sweeping enforcement practices, holding thousands in inhumane detention, and deporting people without a fair trial, while people of color face racial profiling. Many parents have been separated from their children while others live in fear of these threats, devastating their lives and communities.
We shouldn’t let the government treat anyone like this because denying human rights and due process to some puts all of our freedoms at risk.
Esmeralda was a transgender asylum seeker from Mexico who faced horrific circumstances in immigration detention. Kept in a segregated cell with other transgender detainees, Esmeralda never realized that her abuse in detention would match the trauma of discrimination she had faced back home. But her story is also one of hope for change.
Jean Pierre Kamwa was an Asylum Seeker who was seeking protection in America from a country in which he feared for his life and where many of his friends were killed. But he was shocked to find himself handcuffed at the airport and placed in a windowless, depressing immigration detention center, reliving the trauma of what he had left behind. “In detention” he said, “your humanity has been given away”.
Ali came to America to get free – being a gay man in Pakistan wasn’t an option. He found himself in New York City, living there for 30 years with a Green Card. But fate had something else in store for him when he was swept up into immigration detention, where he was fighting for his HIV medication to survive. “ There’s no benefit for HIV+ or AIDS people,” he learned. “If you die in your room they don’t care.”
Juana Villegas was 9 months pregnant when was taken in for a routine traffic violation that is normally taken care of by a simple citation. But the violation (of which she was later cleared) was handled by local police with the authority to enforce immigration law who didn’t let her go but kept her locked up in jail. When she went into labor, she was taken to the hospital in chains, giving birth with a sheriff’s officer standing guard in her hospital room where one of her feet was cuffed to the bed most of the time. See the damage our broken, inhumane immigration system causes to women, families and communities.
Ana Galindo and her husband Walter Chavez never expected to be faced with armed officers in their home. They were one of the many victims of a warrantless home raid, wrongfully accused of harboring undocumented immigrants even though they are legal permanent residents with a 10-year-old U.S. citizen child. Terrorized by the incident, their son now lives in fear of the police.
Sandra Kenley was a 52-year-old grandmother, who after living in the U.S. legally for 33 years, was subjected to degrading and grossly inhumane conditions in immigration detention, which led to her untimely death. Her sister June Everett remembers Sandy who “died trying to do the right thing, who died because the American system failed her, a system we believed in, a system that needs fixing now.”
“I’ve seen a lot in my life but to be degraded…not just stripped of my clothes, being stripped of my dignity, was what I had a problem with.” Kurdish American Karwan Abdul Kader was stopped and stripped by local law enforcement for no reason other than driving around in the wrong neighborhood. Watch stories like his showing the devastating impact of racial profiling on communities across our country, including the African American, Latino, Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities.
Roxana Orellana Santos was sitting by a pond and enjoying her lunch when two officers walked over to her and asked her for identification. They immediately took her into custody, detained her, and very soon she was handed over to government agents for possible deportation. For the month and a half that Roxana then spent federal custody, she was separated from her son, who was a 1 years old. She was released after 46 days. Why did the officers walk up to Roxana on that particular day? She had no criminal record and her information was not previously in the system. Immigrant advocates who later filed a civil rights lawsuit on her behalf challenging her arrest allege racial profiling, believing her arrest was based on her ethnic appearance.
Abe Dabdoub, a US Citizen, was detained at Michigan’s border over a dozen times by US Customs and Border protection. The first four times he was handcuffed. His wife had to plead with the agents not to handcuff him in front of their 5- and 7-year-old sons. Every time he was stopped he asked why and was told by Customs officers, “We can’t tell you for national security reasons.”
In our powerful short film inspired by a true story, Sonia’s crisis shows why we must all support the human rights of immigrant women today. Produced in collaboration with over 30 partner organizations, the multi-award-winning People’s Television and starring distinguished actors from stage and screen, “The Call” is the centerpiece of Breakthrough’s #ImHere campaign, an urgent and innovative call to action for the rights of immigrant women in the United States.
Sonia has worked so hard for this: a healthy family and a normal life in an average American town. But on a night that should have been like any other, she is forced to make an impossible choice that could shatter her family’s dreams forever. Keep your daughter safe — or keep your family together? What call would you make
Imagine dropping your child off at school everyday afraid that you won’t be back at pickup time.
Imagine staying with a violent partner because calling the cops could tear you away from your kids.
Imagine arranging for a neighbor to take care of your children in case your disappear, which could happen any time, any day.
Immigrant women, documented and otherwise, represent more than half of all immigrants to the United States. They are job creators, entrepreneurs, community leaders. They enrich America’s economy and diversity. But while America benefits from the women who move their families here, we deny them their human rights. Cruel U.S. laws deny immigrant women the right to protect themselves and raise healthy, safe families. Thousands of parents have been separated from their children by deportation or indefinite detention, often without due process. Other families – especially in states such as Arizona and Alabama, where police may check the immigration status of anyone inviting “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented — live in fear of these threats, rarely leaving home at all. Many women are also forced to choose between the threat of an abusive husband and — if they call the police — the risk of detention or deportation. Pregnant mothers give birth in shackles with federal agents by their side. Women and LGBTQ people suffer in immigrant detention centers under the constant danger of physical and sexual abuse.
This is not the America we stand for. We must work together to build an America in which everyone is safe in their homes, secure in their families, and limitless in their dreams.
The government has been denying due process and fairness in our communities by detaining immigrants who pose no danger and are not a flight risk to the community in inhumane and unregulated detention centers. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants are detained each year. Plans to expand an already crippled immigration system continue with the government spending $1.8 billion to hold an estimated 442,941 detainees in custody in 2009.
Transferred far away from their homes and families, detainees are often denied visitation, telephone calls, access to a lawyer, medical care, and they can be subject to physical and verbal abuse. Even with reported deaths of detained immigrants, detention conditions continue to decline. A Government Accountability Report found that there is no uniform policy for providing medical care to detainees, and a number of facilities have zero healthcare staff on site.
Detention should only be used as the last possible option and for the shortest amount of time. However many vulnerable people, including asylum seekers, pregnant women, children, lawful permanent residents and even U.S. citizens are among those detained, without knowing how long they will be held or why they are being held. Instead of placing thousands in detention centers that cost tax payers $99 per day, DHS should improve legislation around the cost-saving community-based alternatives to detention such as conditional release, requiring people to check in either in person or by phone, bonds or financial deposits.
The government has been denying due process and fairness in our communities by giving state and local law enforcement the authority to enforce immigration law. These sweeping enforcement practices have created a climate of fear in our communities, with the majority of individuals who are swept up posing no threat to public safety. These practices undermine human rights and do not make America safe.
A growing trend has been agreements between federal immigration and local law enforcement agencies that have sanctioned immigration enforcement at the local level without clear objectives or meaningful oversight. These agreements such as the well known and egregious 287(g) program and Secure Communities have in fact eroded public trust in law enforcement and have resulted in racial and ethnic profiling as well as the unlawful detention of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. In states such as Arizona and Alabama, police may even check the immigration status of anyone inviting “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented, leading to many living in fear of these threats because of racial profiling, devastating their lives and communities. Many local police chiefs have rejected these programs because they undermine the trust and cooperation of immigrant communities.
In the past, the government has also allowed home and worksite raids which have swept up countless individuals who have jobs, families here and contribute to society. Raids have frequently resulted in racial profiling and due process violations against entire communities. Arrests of U.S. citizens and legal residents have been commonplace, with people denied basic rights such as phone calls to lawyers and family, and arrests without warrants.
The government has been denying due process and fairness in our communities by enforcing laws that do not allow immigration judges to rule on a case-by-case basis. Laws passed in 1996 eliminate important legal rights that previously enabled immigrants to challenge their detention and deportation. And in a post 9/11 world, these legal rights have been reduced even more dramatically, taking away immigration judges’ ability to consider the circumstances of each individual’s case, leading to mandatory detention and deportation for many.
In terms of detention, immigration judges hands are tied by blanket laws that force them to automatically detain many immigrants, including asylum seekers and legal residents without an individualized determination regarding the person’s liberty. This denial of rights adds to an already overburdened detention system causing unnecessary suffering to families and communities.
In terms of deportation, if an immigrant, including a legal immigrant, commits a crime, in some cases as minor as shoplifting or having a fistfight, an immigration judge may be required to automatically deport him and cannot consider the circumstances of the case. There are no exceptions.
As racial profiling rises to the level of front page news with state initiatives like Arizona’s SB 1070, racial and religious profiling is being recognized as a pervasive problem that affects many communities across the country. While traditionally thought of as targeting African Americans, profiling affects a broad range of people in the U.S., including Native Americans, African Americans, Latinos, Arabs, Muslims and South Asians. Not only is racial and religious profiling humiliating and degrading for the people subjected to it, it is unconstitutional and violates fundamental human rights, it is an ineffective law enforcement practice, and it damages community security.
There are many ways to combat racial profiling including securing passage of federal legislation to ban racial profiling – the “End Racial Profiling Act”, revising the June 2003 Department of Justice Federal Guidance on Racial Profiling to eliminate the border and national security loophole, to include profiling based on religion and ethnic origin, and to ensure that the guidance is enforceable, and eliminating agreements between federal immigration and local law enforcement agencies that result in racial profiling in immigration enforcement.
Restore Fairness was one of Breakthrough’s longest campaigns, developing close and sustained collaboration with more than 20 partner organizations.