East Harlem Against Deportation, at its roots, draws its strength from immigrants, their friends and loved ones, and local community organizations, all of whom daily live out the struggle against our country's broken immigration system. Our movement will include organizing events and a letter-writing campaign throughout Spring and Summer 2009, as well as the formulation of a specific policy agenda to protect undocumented immigrants in New York City and State.
Las raíces de El Barrio Contra La Deportación obtienen sus fuerzas de los inmigrantes, sus amigos y seres queridos, y de organizaciones comunitarias locales. Todos estos viven diariamente la lucha contra el sistema descompuesto de inmigración de este país. Nuestro movimiento incluirá la organización de eventos informativos y una campaña de cartas escritas, por toda la primavera y el verano del 2009. También se formulará una agenda política especifica que protegerá a los inmigrantes indocumentados de la ciudad y del estado de Nueva York.

EHAD Final Policy Report

Friday, July 31, 2009

Let Their Voices Be Heard

On June 23, 2009, youth from across the United States gathered in Washington D.C. in support of the Dream Act. Many were undocumented. A New York Times Editorial called the scene a mixture of "exhilaration and despair." It is not difficult to imagine the irony of the "American Dream" at the sight of eager young faces in caps and gowns, raised on values of "life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" and denied the basic rights of education for an immigration violation they did not choose to commit.

Featured in this post are the experiences of East Harlem residents Sonia and Sergio at the National Graduation Day Ceremony. Sonia writes eloquently of her devastation as an ambitious high school senior confronted with her undocumented status, hitting the issue from a personal angle; while Sergio emphasizes the importance of political engagement and reveals the symbolic importance of the June 23 event: An event at which undocumented students speak and fight directly for their rights to pursue higher education.

These two stories' publication here is made possible by Marisol Ramos of the New York State Youth Leadership Council, and East Harlem Against Deportation's own Ingrid Sotelo, who was in D.C. on June 23 to witness the event.
Click on the title of the stories for the full version of Sonia and Sergio's accounts on the NYSYLC website.

* * *

's story

A picture perfect journey was painted to me when I was young. I was told, “Nothin’ is impossible. Dream and work towards getting it accomplished.” That’s how I grew up, believing that my dreams counted as much any other kid. I was born in Ecuador, but raised in Harlem. All I knew was this country. My understanding of things was that I was as much a part of this country as any other person.

I took my education very seriously. As a high school student, I took AP courses, got involved in extra curricular activities, ran and got elected in student government and graduated I was in the top of my graduation class. Yet as the date got closer, I stopped looking forward to it.

It was bittersweet; I would be the first in my family to graduate from college, yet the chance of attending college became slim. Because of my immigration status, my grades, resume, SAT scores where all out the window. It didn’t matter, all that mattered was those 9 digits numbers I lacked.

I remember sitting in my college advising room helping my fellow classmates fill out their college applications and FAFSA papers while hearing my college adviser telling me that, “College is not an option for you.”

I share with you this story because it is a common story. Youth around the nation pursue an education, they have goals and dreams and yet because of their immigration status they are prohibited from even getting close to it. Every year 65,000 undocumented students graduate from high school. Because of their status, they are denied state and federal grants and scholarships. But with the Dream Act, these students will have an opportunity to pursue their education and dreams.

I still have my dreams of becoming a lawyer or a politician someday.

* * *

Sergio's Story

June 23 was a very memorable day for me as I witnessed immigrant youth standing up and willing to fight for the Dream Act. There were many students from around the country who united for one cause: To ask their congressmen to co-sponsor the Dream Act in 2009. Having students from all over the country uniting for this cause showed the sense of urgency that undocumented students cannot wait any longer.

The dreams of undocumented students are being put on hold and politicians must understand that that these very talented minds are going to waste. After undocumented students graduate from college, they are trapped with dead end jobs and that is something we cannot allow. When we see so many students coming out to speak with congressmen, it means something is wrong and they must address the issue as soon as possible.

The National Dream Act graduation magnified the problem that there are thousands of students who are in the same situation. I learned that when you want something you must go out there and get it. As my Public Administration professor William Allen said, “You must be Aggressive in your Education! You must get Active and Demand for a Change.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Struggle to Keep Families Together, While Another Battle Wages to Tear Them Apart

We are deporting U.S. citizens.
- Congressman Jose E. Serrano, East Harlem Against Deportation Press Conference

New American Media, a national collaboration and advocate of more than 2,000 ethnic news organizations, reports on the growing number and proportion of women in the world migrant population. The recent NAM poll interviewed 1,002 female immigrants from Latin American, Asian, African, and Arabic countries, finding that women tend to immigrate as wives and mothers and tirelessly devote their resources to keep family structures intact. As commentators Sandy Close and Richard Rodriguez write, "Today, as women have “left” the village, they have also brought the village with them. In their new city, they are the ones who are keeping the family intact – acting as the public voice and face of the family, ensuring the health and education of the children and their entrance into the new society."

The poll shows that 41% of Latin American interviewees are concerned that immigration authorities would tear apart their communities, and that an overwhelming majority of women (of all ethnic groups interviewed, with the exception of Filipino women) would bring their U.S.-born children with them if they were ever deported. These numbers and narratives speak to the fuzzy line between legal and illegal, and to the incredible sacrifices made by mothers that are sometimes swallowed up by the broken system of U.S. immigration.

For sixteen-year-old Ana Leiva of Palm Springs, this broken system had walked into her life as a living nightmare. Her mother and aunt were taken away in the middle of the night for being undocumented immigrants, thus forcing on her the responsibility of caring for her younger siblings while attending high school. Ana's story is but one of the many chilling instances of detained undocumented mothers and the children left behind:

No, it's not that simple... I might not understand about politics or everything that's going on, but it's not that simple. There [are] families that are being split up, little kids are being left without their parents, their mom.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Other Side of Undocumented Immigration: Abuse, Exploitation, and Naturalization of Suffering

The U.S. government and U.S. society gain much from migrant laborers and give little back beyond criminalization, stress, suffering and death. This dishonest relationship must change.
- Seth M. Holmes

Antonio Gutierrez was working at a local deli when the light fixture came crashing down on his arm, tearing open a bloody gash that remains to this day an unevenly-healed scar across his arm. The 17-year-old boy received no compensation for the injury, and displayed a certain pride when I asked him how long it took for him to recover. "It's nothing. Los mexicanos son muy duros (Mexicans are very strong)," he said.

The seemingly isolated incident connects to a disturbing national trend. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hispanic worker deaths have risen by more than 76% since 1992, while the overall number of worker deaths have actually declined. Although growth of the Hispanic population in the workforce partly accounts for the discrepancy, lack of training, poor communication skills, and exploitation of undocumented workers all exacerbate the situation.

According to Raj Nayak of the California-based National Employment Law Project, undocumented workers are less inclined to join a union, which helps protect workers, or protest when conditions seem dangerous. The statistics also correspond to anthropologist Seth M. Holmes' 2004 work, "Oxacans Like to Work Bent Over," on undocumented berry-pickers in California. Holmes' analysis discribes the naturalization of suffering among migrant workers, and its internalization as a form of ethnic pride. In an eloquent and piercing observation of Californian berry fields, Holmes writes: "The migrant labor camp looks like chains of rusted tin-roofed tool sheds lined up within a few feet of each other and have been mistaken for small chicken coops in long rows." Such abusive conditions must end, and it needs to begin with bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Experts on the Issue: ICE Home Raids and the Economics of Undocumented Immigrant Labor

The Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law released a report today on home raids by federal immigration agents. Supported by analysis of more than 700 arrest reports from New York and New Jersey, the study uncovers outrageous constitutional violations by ICE and outlines a series of policy recommendations for the agency. Instances of misconduct include failure to present search warrant and to obtain consent, operational patterns suggestive of racial profiling, and seizure of residents without legal basis.

From an economic perspective, Professor Gerald Jaynes of Yale Economic and African-American Studies writes, in an easy-to-read narrative format, that immigrants pay more taxes than they cost their states in welfare spending. He dispels the common misperception that undocumented immigrants drive down wages of African-American workers. This is something that Camp Vigilance, the California-based Minutemen activist group, should keep in mind before pushing for constitutionally absurd initiatives to end state benefits for U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Immigration Reform This Week

“He said America is very good. When it comes to the treatment of Muslims in the U.S., he had faith in the rule of law. He said, ‘In America, they don’t bother anyone just for no reason.’ ”
- Rafia Perveen, widow of Tanveer Ahmed, who died in immigration detention

The Council on Foreign Relations released a report on immigration reform on June 8, giving overall sound analysis of the efforts needed to mend the broken system and making the forceful statement that, "The United States has long been a country that believes in second chances. The alternative—to break up families and wrench people away from communities where they have lived for many years, and in some cases even decades—is morally unacceptable."

The CFR report emphasizes that it is important to reduce the undocumented population before encouraging cooperation between federal and local level law enforcement - a piece of advice contradicted by the Obama Administration's expansion of 287 (g) and E-Verify last week. New York Times editorials have criticized the broken detention system, the expansion of 287 (g) and the E-Verify program, calling recent moves by the Department of Homeland Security "immigration non-solutions." To be sure, new 287(g) provisions do promise a narrower focus on "dangerous criminal aliens."

Complementing the editorials, the NYT pieces together the life of Mr. Tanveer Ahmed, a Pakistani man who died in immigration detention in 2005. Mr. Ahmed's only offense was to have displayed the business' unlicensed gun to prevent a robbery while working at a Texas gas station. The death mysteriously disappeared from the Department of Homeland Security's 2007 report of deaths in immigration detention, reflecting just a drop in the bucket of the lives irresponsibly destroyed in the name of immigration enforcement.

News this week has focused on asylum. A study by the Georgetown University Law Journal shows immigration judges under strain of heavy caseloads. Many of the cases immigration judges hear are from people seeking asylum in the United States, claiming they would face life-threatening persecution if they returned home. The Department of Homeland Security's Annual Flow Report provides details on refugee and asylee statistics in 2008, and the NYT reports on the Obama Administration's move towards granting battered women refugee status in direct opposition to the stance held by the Bush Administration.

Over in California, activists have been pushing for a ballot that would end public benefits for the state's 100,000 U.S. citizen children (of undocumented parents) - an initiative, as Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times comments, that is almost certainly unconstitutional.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book of the Week: (In)justice at the Margins of the State

Keeping Out the Other: A Critical Introduction to Immigration Enforcement Today
Edited by David C. Brotherton and Philip Kretsedemas

A collection of essays that examines immigration enforcement in the United States, excavating a history of discrimination and exclusion that extends far beyond the reactions of 9/11. Particularly poignant in the collection is Mr. Brotherton's case study of Robert Delgado, a Dominican father under deportation. The middle-aged man had grown up in the United States as a young boy, lived through shattered dreams of becoming a baseball player, and was to be deported to a foreign country that he had never known - away from his parents, his siblings, his wife and children, in a trial that was doomed to be a lost cause in justice by the immigration laws of the state. As Mr. Brotherton astutely points out, "The marginality of [Robert]'s race and class, the cynical mass packaging of the American Dream, the shattered hopes of his parents' generation, the children left fatherless, resentful, traumatized; these are all the truths embedded in his final plea."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Battle for Sensible Laws and Safer Communities

“When you remove the emotion from the debate, no one can argue that it is in the best interest of public safety to keep [undocumented immigrants] living in the shadows.” Austin Police Department Chief Art Acevedo

"I'm confident if we enter into this with the notion that this is a nation of laws that have to be observed and this is a nation of immigrants, then we're going to create a stronger nation for our children and our grandchildren." President Barack Obama

The Obama Administration takes a sensible step in the direction of comprehensive immigration reform by targeting employers in cracking down on the practice of hiring undocumented workers. Workplace raids during the Bush Administration led to thousands of deportation cases that irresponsibly tore apart families without solving at all for the root of problem. As Kate Riley of the Seattle Times writes, "The U.S. government must take responsibility for conditions that led to, even fostered, a market for workers without legal resident status."

The Seattle Times reports study findings on potential losses to the U.S. economy if undocumented workers were removed. OneAmerica, a Seattle-based advocacy organization, asserts that $46 billion could be lost in expenditures for Washington State alone. Perryman Group estimates that removing these workers would wipe from the U.S. economy annually $1.8 trillion in spending and $652 billion in output.

Police chiefs from major U.S. cities have provided a timely impetus for immigration reform, calling for the overhaul of immigration policy. Chief John Timoney of Miami, Chief Art Acevedo of Austin, and former Chief Art Venegas of Sacramento argue that local law enforcement must be kept separate from immigration enforcement to build trust in communities and to most efficiently make use of local police departments' limited resources. The Chiefs emphasize once again that the violation of immigration law is a civil offense, stating at a news conference that those who call illegal immigrants “criminals" are misreading the law and hurting their own communities by scaring neighbors who could identify criminals.

Walter Lara, honors student and an undocumented Argentinian immigrant who moved to the United States with his parents when he was three, has become the focus of the national campaign in support of the Dream Act. His deportation, originally scheduled for July 6, has been postponed. Click here, for a glimpse of Walter Lara's story.