Se Communities Courtroom Battle Comes to a Head

New York, NY.
What: Courtroom Arguments in NDLON v. ICE FOIA litigation
Where: Manhattan, Federal District Court.
When: August 11th.
Next Thursday, August 11th, advocates will argue for the release of key documents the agency continues to withhold related to the Se Communities opt-out policies. Upon reviewing certain of the unredacted documents that are the subject of this challenge, Federal District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin concluded in a scathing opinion, “There is ample evidence that ICE and DHS have gone out of their way to mislead the public about Se Communities,” and ordered the agency to release certain documents that could not be withheld simply because they might embarrass DHS and ICE.

In the year and a half since the beginning of the FOIA litigation, the documents that have been released so far shed light on a secretive and over-reaching deportation program. As the dangerous scope and impact of the program has been uncovered, a consensus has grown calling for the program’s termination. Governors in Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts have sought to opt-out of the program.

In an attempt to preempt the embarrassing documents that the court has ordered released and the conclusive results of the OIG investigation to be completed this winter, ICE and DHS have rolled out a series of cosmetic tweaks and a taskforce to “study” the program. These announcements have been widely condemned as insufficient given the civil rights crisis created by the program.

“If what we’ve seen so far tells us anything, it’s that ICE is an agency that cannot be trusted. The court has ordered ICE to release documents that FOIA gives the public a right to access. But the agency continues to stonewall and delay turning them over. The constantly shifting policies and lack of transparency about those policies, truly make it difficult to take what ICE says at face value. ” explained, Bridget Kessler, lawyer for Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.
Chris Newman of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network added,”DHS has far more interest in the politics of SCOMM than it does in developing a lawful policy that actually serves local communities. While DHS has moved at breakneck speed to advance a dubious program with media spin, it’s strategy in this litigation has been characterized by one word: delay. Thankfully, federal courts- and not DHS- will have the last word and will ultimately compel disclosure of information owed to the public and required by federal law.”…

Dept of Justice Sues Alabama, Needs to do so in every state

BIRMINGHAM, AL – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today filed a federal challenge to Alabama’s draconian anti-immigrant law. Modeled on Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 but taking it to even greater extremes, the Alabama law is considered the most pernicious anti-immigrant state law to date.
The DOJ lawsuit follows on the heels of HICA v. Bentley, a class-action challenge asserting that the law is unconstitutional on multiple grounds, filed on July 8 by the National Immigration Law Center and a coalition of civil rights organizations. On July 21, the coalition filed a request that the court block the law from taking effect, pending a final ruling on the law’s constitutionality. The hearing to determine whether the court should enjoin the law has been set for August 24, 2011 in the civil rights coalition case.
The following statements can be attributed to various members of the coalition:
Pablo Alvarado, director, National Day Laborer Organizing Network:
“The suit filed by the DOJ is an acknowledgement of the civil rights crisis caused by the Arizonification of our country and deepened in states like Alabama and Georgia where they have built upon Arizona’s laws. We welcome the administration’s action but see it as treating the symptom rather than the . More easily than court proceedings, President Obama could bring relief to our communities with the stroke of a pen.”
Linton Joaquin, general counsel, National Immigration Law Center:

“Today, the federal government rightly asserted that states cannot lawfully ignore the U.S. Constitution and enact their own sweeping immigration laws. Alabama’s law – like its ideological predecessors in Arizona, Utah, Indiana, and Georgia – is an affront to our American and constitutional values. We welcome the federal government’s challenge, and we look forward to continuing our own legal battle to permanently remove this law from Alabama’s lawbooks.”
Sam Brooke, attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center:
“It has been clear from the start that this law is blatantly overreaching and seriously flawed. We welcome the federal government’s involvement in preventing this dangerous and costly law from going into effect.”
Cecilia Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project:
“We applaud the government for taking action to stop Alabama’s anti-immigrant law. Today’s lawsuit will help protect the civil rights of Alabamians against legislation that mandates unlawful police searches and seizures in the name of immigration enforcement.”
Olivia Turner, executive director, ACLU of Alabama:
“We welcome the federal government’s effort to block Alabama’s unconstitutional HB 56. We hope this law will be enjoined, just like the law in Arizona that inspired it.”
Erin Oshiro, senior staff attorney, Asian American Justice Center, a member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice:
“It is encouraging that the Department of Justice decided to challenge Alabama’s anti-immigrant bill. This move sends a strong signal to Alabama and other states that the federal government takes its immigration authority seriously and serves as a warning to states considering these types of unconstitutional laws.”
Victor Viramontes, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund National Senior Counsel
“It is appropriate that the Department of Justice has sued to block Alabama’s illegal and discriminatory law that unfairly targets Latinos.”
Attorneys on the case include Brooke , Mary Bauer , Andrew Turner, Michelle Lapointe, Dan Werner, and Naomi Tsu of the Southern Poverty Law Center; Cecillia D. Wang, Katherine Desormeau, Kenneth J. Sugarman, Andre Segura, Elora Mukherjee, Omar C. Jadwat, Lee Gelernt, Michael K. T. Tan of the American Civil Liberties Union and Freddy Rubio of the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama; Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin, Tanya Broder, Shiu-Ming Cheer, Melissa S. Keaney, and Vivek Mittal of the National Immigration Law Center; Sin Yen Ling of the Asian Law Caucus; Oshiro of the Asian American Justice Center; Foster Maer, Ghita Schwarz and Diana Sen of Latino Justice; Thomas Saenz, Nina Perales, Viramontes, Amy Pederson, and Martha Gomez of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund; Jessica Karp of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network; G. Brian Spears, Ben Bruner, Herman Watson, Jr., Eric J. Artrip and Rebekah Keith McKinney. …

Brewer’s 1070 Countersuit is Counterproductive for Arizona

Phoenix, AZ. In response to the Governor of Arizona pressing her countersuit to defend SB 1070, Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, a litigant in the injunction suit against SB 1070 issued the following statement:
“Like Governor Wallace before her, Governor Brewer is choosing to stand on the wrong side of history with her defense of unconstitutional, regressive, and immoral legislation.
Brewer will lose in court and in the court of public opinion. Any short term political gain by scapegoating Americans in waiting will be offset in droves by future generations in Arizona who will have been inspired to wipe away the stain on the state caused by her repugnant, unconstitutional, and anti-American nativist crusade.
Yet, like a driver who refuses to admit they’re lost, the Governor refuses to turn around.
Governor Brewer’s inability to govern and failure to provide real solutions to the state’s problems will no longer be shielded by the diversion created by her spectacle of scapegoating.”
The Governor’s countersuit today precedes another event in court. Tomorrow, on the anniversary of the implementation of SB 1070, local leader Salvador Reza of the Puente Movement as well as Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, will face trial for their act of conscience that prevented Sheriff Arpaio’s raids on last July 29th….

President Obama’s Credibility Gap On Display at NCLR Convention

Washington, DC.
In response to President Obama’s speech today at the annual convention of the National Council de la Raza, Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network issued this statement:
“Despite soaring rhetoric, the President’s unbridled enforcement of unjust and outdated immigration laws has contributed to an unprecedented civil rights crisis for our community. And his administration has deported over one million people, surpassing the total number of people removed during Operation Wetback. The President can now claim the title, deporter-in-chief.
We know ICE has gone rogue, but we’re starting to feel like the President is going rogue on immigration too. It is not enough for him to blame Congress or to bemoan the difficulty of his job. He can- and must- take action to protect members of our community who are under siege.
The President can use existing authority to move the country in the right direction. He should take swift action to prevent the Arizonification of the country by refusing to let local police act as agents of deportation. For example, the President should, as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has requested, immediately suspend the Se Communities program until the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General can complete her report. At this rate, President Obama’s S-Comm policy will go down in history with Eisenhower’s ‘Operation Wetback.’ Both have the same pernicious consequences, but one has a better speech writer.” …

Record Deportations Demonstrate Credibility Gap for President Obama

(Los Angeles) In response to the Associated Press article published today, Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network commented,
“The alarming deportation statistics released in the AP report are a matter for national concern. The arbitrary enforcement of unjust immigration laws will widen the President’s credibility gap among Latinos. The President should either hold ICE accountable for belying his campaign promises, or the President himself should be held accountable. As the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has requested, the Se Communities program should be immediately suspended until the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General can complete her report. At this rate, President Obama’s S-Comm policy will go down in history with Eisenhower’s “Operation Wetback.” Both have the same pernicious consequences, but one has a more clever name.”
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network has led efforts against the Se Communities program; litigating in federal court to uncover the truth under the Freedom of Information Act and coordinating the Turning the Tide campaign whose local participants have led to the states of Illinois, New York, and Massachusetts opting-out of the troubling programs because of the dragnet effect reported by the AP today.
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New Documents Reveal Behind-the-Scenes FBI Role in Controversial Se Communities Deportation Program

Opt-Out Policy for Se Communities Set by Obs FBI Panel, Not by Law
July 6, 2011, New York and Washington – Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic show that the controversial Se Communities deportation program (S-Comm), designed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to target people for deportation, is also a key component of a little-known FBI project to accumulate a massive store of personal biometric information on citizens and non-citizens alike.
According to the documents, S-Comm is “only the first of a number of biometric interoperability systems being brought online by the FBI ‘Next Generation Identification’ (NGI) project.” NGI will expand the FBI’s existing fingerprint database to add iris scans, palm prints, and facial recognition information for a wide range of people.
Jessica Karp of NDLON explained: “NGI is the next generation Big Brother. It’s a backdoor route to a national ID, to be carried not in a wallet, but within the body itself. The FBI’s biometric-based project is vulnerable to hackers and national security breaches and carries serious risks of identity theft. If your biometric identity is stolen or corrupted in NGI, it will be hard to fix. Unlike an identity card or pin code, biometrics are forever.”
The misrepresentations ICE used to sell S-Comm to states have been well documented and are currently the subject of a DHS Office of the Inspector General investigation. But to date, the FBI’s role in S-Comm has not been scrutinized, although the FBI has come under fire recently for adopting new, generalized policies that permit intrusive, suspicionlesssurveillance without adequate oversight.
Said Bridget Kessler of the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic: “These documents provide a fascinating glimpse into the FBI’s role in forcing S-Comm on states and localities. The FBI’s desire to pave the way for the rest of the NGI project seems to have been a driving force in the policy decision to make S-Comm mandatory. But the documents also confirm that, both technologically and legally, S-Comm could have been voluntary.”
Although the documents obtained raise many more questions than answers about the FBI’s involvement in S-Comm and S-Comm’s place in the broader NGI project, they do reveal the following key facts:
The CJIS Advisory Board, which oversees the FBI’s criminal databases, passed a motion in June 2009 to recommend that the FBI convert S-Comm from a voluntary to a mandatory program at the local level. At that time – and as much as one year later – ICE was still representing S-Comm as voluntary to state and local officials.
The FBI’s decision to support mandatory imposition of S-Comm was not driven by any legal mandate. In fact, the FBI considered making S-Comm voluntary, showing that it viewed opting out as both a technological possibility and a lawful option. The FBI chose the mandatory route not because of a statutory requirement, but for “record linking/maintenance purposes.” In focusing on mundane record-keeping issues, the agency failed to weigh any of the considerations that have driven states and localities across the country to withdraw from S-Comm, including the program’s impact on community policing, its association with an increased risk of racial profiling, and its failure to comply with its announced purpose of targeting dangerous criminals.
Both FBI and immigration officials have raised concerns internally that aspects of S-Comm may interfere with privacy and invade civil liberties. Notes from one meeting, for example, state that S-Comm “goes against privacy and civil liberties.” In another series of emails, FBI officials raised concerns that state and local users of the FBI databases would be surprised to learn that the FBI was using their data to perform searches that the users had neither requested nor authorized.
DHS may be using S-Comm to gather and store data about U.S. citizens, too. One of the newly obtained documents indicates that US-VISIT, a component of DHS may have considered storing certain information about individuals in violation of their own internal requirements and privacy laws. This may include the retention of data about the lawful activities of even natural-born U.S. citizens.
Said Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, “These revelations should disturb us on multiple levels: the lies, the shadowy role of the FBI, the threats to citizens and non-citizens alike, and the rampant potential violations of civil liberties. This goes far beyond the irreparable S-Comm program and opens a window onto the dystopian future our government has planned. With so much at stake, this process must at all costs be transparent going forward.”

To read our briefing guide and the related documents, please visit http://uncoverthetruth.org/foia-documents/foia-ngi/ngi-documents/. To read FOIA documents and information about the case NDLON v. ICE brought by CCR, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, visit CCR’s legal case page at www.ccrjustice.org/se-communities….

Advocates Decry DHS Advisory Committee As a “Sham”

Washington DC – Yesterday the Department of Homeland Security launched its advisory committee as part of the response to the growing controversy and resistance from states and law enforcement towards Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) “Se Communities” program.
When ICE announced cosmetic modifications earlier this month it promoted the advisory committee made up of law enforcement, ICE agents, and advocates as a body purported to issue recommendations in 45 days on how to “mitigate impacts on community policing,” “how to best focus on individuals who pose a true public safety and security threat,” as well as how to implement a post-conviction policy for traffic offenses.
Today advocates learned that in fact the commission is limited to recommendations about minor traffic offenses—a significant departure from ICE’s announcement. The commission also appears to be tangled in levels of bureaucracy —the advisory committee reports to another DHS committee.
Sarahi Uribe of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said: “The advisory commission launched by DHS is a sham like the rest of the ‘Se Communities’ program. The more we learn about the commission the more we smell a rat. A committee tasked on whether they should separate and detain families pre or post conviction for broken tail lights is another embarrassment for the Obama Administration and its disregard for human rights in this country.”
“Forty-five days and a few short meetings is not enough time to truly examine a vast program like S-Comm,“ said Bridget Kessler of Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, “ICE is once again spouting superficial talking points and band-aid solutions instead of confronting S-Comm’s fundamental flaws.”
ICE recently posted a document titled “Se Communities: Get the Facts” on its website. Advocates, questioning ICE’s “facts,” issued this response: http://tinyurl.com/4x7tnbn
“The Office of Inspector General of DHS is set to investigate the problems with Se Communities, including whether public officials were misled by the agency,” said Sunita Patel, Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “The advisory committee’s narrow scope ignores the concerns of public officials and civil rights groups. Advocates and community members have called for an end to Se Communities and the administration should listen.”
Last year ICE issued a document titled “Setting the Record Straight” in response to the release of data about S-Comm. The document, which outlined a procedure to opt-out of the program, was later taken down from the ICE website. “ICE’s ‘Get the Facts’ web posting is like ‘Setting the Record Straight,’ all spin without substance aimed at hiding the truth,” concluded Sunita Patel….

GLAHR Response to HB 87 Injunction

With parts of HB 87 temporarily blocked, community still threatened by Governor’s appeal and already existing 287(g) and the so-called ‘se communities’ program.
06.27.2011 Atlanta, GA. Today Judge Thrash announced a temporary and partial injunction on HB 87, enjoining sections 7 and 8 of the state law while allowing other sections to move forward. Governor Deal promptly declared his intention to appeal the decision.
Teodoro Maus of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), plaintiff in the injunction suit responded to today’s announcement saying,
“We know that the law is unconstitutional. We will continue organizing until it is erased from Georgia’s books and our community is respected in this state for all we contribute. We ask our neighbors to take this moment to correct the false image of our community that has been created for them by hate-mongering anti-immigrant efforts.”
Adelina Nicholls, executive director of GLAHR added, “The court decision is a positive step forward but our communities still face discrimination from police empowered by the Obama administration’s 287(g) and se communities programs.
The criminalization of migrants is the wrong direction for our country regardless of whether it is state laws or federal programs propagating it. We now need an injunction on the federal level to stop programs that separate families. We need to turn toward a pathway for legalization.”
Gwinnett and Cobb counties are two of the most egregious examples of the racial profiling and discriminatory policing that occurs under federal ICE Access programs such as 287(g). HB 87 would have been an escalation of the already existing violations of civil and human rights of migrant and Latino communities in Georgia. Advocates are calling for the federal government to take a more active role in preventing implementation of HB 87, ending its own initiatives that have resulted in racial profiling and discriminatory policing, and pursuing genuine immigration reform.
GLAHR continues to call for a Day without Immigrants on July 1st and a march in recognition of the migrant community’s role in Georgia at the capitol on July 2nd. The partial injunction marks a temporary victory but dangerous segments of HB 87 are still moving forward. In that the Governor has already pledged to appeal its decision, the struggle for immigration reform and against racial bias in the state continues.

Cosmetic Reforms to Dangerous Se Communities Program More Spin than Substance

Obama Administration dismisses evidence of Failed Deportation Program
(NYC, LA) In response to mounting criticism, the Obama Administration announced reforms to the “Se Communities” jail deportation program today. The reforms which acknowledges problematic and indiscriminate implementation fall short of the call for a moratorium on the program.
Revelations from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in which the National Day Laborer Organizing Network is a plaintiff represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law Immigration clinic, have described Se Communities as a deportation program in disarray, with deleterious effects on community safety, and potentially resulting in grave civil rights violations.
In recent weeks, the debate around S-Comm has reached a peak with Illinois and New York terminating the program and Massachusetts pledging not to join in. As a bill to regulate and reinforce the voluntary nature of S-Comm, the TRUST Act, is expected to pass the California Senate soon, Los Angeles and Oakland both passed resolutions seeking out of the program. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi recently denounced S-Comm as “a waste of taxpayer money.” The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus have both called for an outright moratorium on the program pending its review by an expedited Inspector General investigation set to begin in August, 2011.
The following is a statement from Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network:
“We are stunned by the inadequacy of this announcement. Reform before review not only puts the cart before the horse, it continues to take the country in the wrong direction. Given the inherent problems to the program and the continued secrecy in its implementation, S-Comm should be suspended immediately until the Office of the Inspector General can complete its report.
Any program meant to revolutionize our immigration systems should be implemented with deliberation, care, and consultation with impacted communities. The Se Communities program has failed to do that, and these so-called reforms are more of the same. One cannot name a program that makes us all less safe, “Se Communities.”
ICE has gotten into the snake oil business, and we’re not ing. You don’t put a collar on a snake and call it a pet. As long the federal government insists on inserting the fangs of ICE Access into local law enforcement, we’ll all be wounded by its poisonous effect.
ICE has become a rogue agency, and it cannot be tursted to reform itself. Do the reforms announced today protect the women who faced the double violation of being placed in deportation proceedings after calling for help when facing domestic violence? Do the reforms create an open and transparent government that corrects the dissembling and dishonest approach taken? Do the reforms set standards to prevent local prejudiced policing from resulting in racial profiling? What about Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona? Has his reign of terror- triggered by DHS- been brought to a halt? Hardly.
The Se Communities program is a Frankenstein. It doesn’t need make-up or cosmetic changes. It needs to be stopped immediately. The Latino community has come to view Se Communities as the symbol of President Obama’s broken promises on immigration reform. Cancellation of the program would help repair that trust and would be a step in the right direction. Anything less than suspension at this point is another symbol of the President’s approach to immigration: more spin than substance with disastrous consequences to our community.”
Chris Newman, Legal Director for NDLON, added, “Contrary to the administration’s claims, S-Comm undermines our shared goal of having a unified and reformed federal immigration policy. By delegating federal immigration authority into the hands of thousands of different state police, the federal government is gauranteeing the fragmentation of immigration enforcement. It is a force-muliplier for a broken status quo that has resulted in Arizona’s SB 1070 and copycat legislation. As a result of SCOMM, our immigration system begins to be shaped by potentially pernicious local policing patterns, and the long term unintended consequences to civil rights protections for immigrants are yet unknown.”
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) is a plaintiff in an on-going FOIA lawsuit against DHS/ICE for access to documents related to the Se Communities Program. NDLON plays a central role in California advocacy for the TRUST Act and coordinates the Turning the Tide campaign nationally.

Lamar Smith’s E-Verify Proposal Launches Backward Arizona Policies to National Level

Washington, DC. Rep. Lamar Smith added steam to the backward trend of Right-wing politics hijacking the political arena by introducing the overreaching e-verify bill that would mandate employer participation in the costly, inaccurate, and untested e-verify database.
The bill, a blend of Arizona’s anti-immigrant policies and Wisconsin’s anti-worker efforts, creates a toxic morass in Washington that would have devastating effects on the economy and is seen by many as a distraction to the real solutions Americans are seeking from Washington.
Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, stated, “It’s nearly criminal that Lamar Smith would hijack the cause of those suffering from joblessness for his extreme political ends when Washington has an actual opportunity to provide real solutions to the hardships everyday people are facing in America.
Smith has compiled the worst practices from Arizona’s immigration policy and Wisconsin’s recent approach to unions and somehow combined them into an immoral piece of legislative scapegoating.
The America I want to live is one that welcomes the newest members of our communities and creates opportunities for all of us to succeed. Lamar Smith would like to roll up the sentiments of welcome expressed by the Statue of Liberty and toss them and the unions along with them into the Hudson. E-verify’s result would be to sink the country into an even deeper economic crisis, one that none of us could afford.
In one fell swoop, Smith alienates immigrants, unions, and those with concerns over government programs encroaching on our privacy with his fortress USA style policy.
However, our efforts together will move the country forward toward a better America. Congress should be verifying that everyone has access to a dignified job and quality education, that those who immigrate here to provide for themselves and their families have a pathway to inclusion.
As a national network of day laborers, we’re proud of the partnership we made with the AFL-CIO in 2006 that recognized the humble workers, street corner day laborers, as key partners in the labor movement whose efforts make a rising tide to lift all boats in the country.
We will not allow Rep. Smith’s efforts divide us or turn us around.”…