Los Angeles dreamers, families, and community allies held an early-morning vigil this Friday in honor of all dreamers and to remember Joaquin Luna's life. The emotive gathering offered other students the opportunity to tell their stories of struggle and survival.
Francisco Cortez, father of three American-born children who attend Pasadena public schools, was arrested by federal immigration officers early on Nov. 15 and sent to Tijuana later that day.
Cortez, a native of Oaxaca who came to the United States illegally and lived in Pasadena for 19 years, had failed to comply with a voluntary deportation order issued in 1998 and was considered a fugitive, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Cortez has struggled to obtain dialysis treatments in Mexico, said Montrose-based attorney Meredith Brown, who petitioned ICE officials for a humanitarian parole order that would allow Cortez to return to Pasadena to complete his medical care.
“This is tragic. We’re hoping immigration shows some compassion,” Brown said.
Cortez, who worked as a handyman, was deported despite having two open dialysis catheters in his chest.
Teresa Chavez, Cortez’s life partner and mother of his children, said the two ICE agents who came to their door pretended to be seeking another man.
“They asked [Cortez] if he could show them his car, which was in the backyard. And that’s when they took him,” said Chavez, a part-time housecleaner who spoke in Spanish. “They didn’t care about his health. I’m just devastated.”
Chavez and Cortez have a 4-year-old son and two daughters, 16 and 6.
ICE, in a statement, said Cortez refused to accept an offer of a supervised release until he completed his kidney treatments.
But Chavez said Cortez was forcibly deported. Since arriving in Mexico he has been able to receive only one kidney treatment, she said.
“I just don’t understand. He never got into any trouble. Why him?” asked Chavez.
Brown said Cortez came to the attention of immigration officials after Cortez received fraudulent legal advice.
When Cortez tried to renew a temporary work permit in the 1990s, an immigration attorney advised him to apply for political asylum, which is rarely granted to Mexican nationals.
“That’s not a wise thing. You invariably lose and are put into deportation proceedings,” Brown said.
Unscrupulous attorneys frequently pressure undocumented Mexican immigrants to pay to file asylum petitions although they typically result in deportation orders, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles spokesman Jorge-Mario Cabrera said.
“Folks are so desperate that they fall for it,” Cabrera said. “This man is no criminal. He’s a loving father. To uproot him from his home of almost 20 years is not only inhumane, but, I think, criminal.”
Cortez’s case comes as President Obama considers a course change in immigration enforcement.
Faced with criticism from the left that its deportation policies are overly aggressive, the Obama administration has signaled that it would focus efforts on undocumented immigrants who pose a threat to public safety.
Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced reviews of some 300,000 current deportation proceedings to identify whether some of those undocumented immigrants, such as longtime residents and the elderly, would be allowed to stay.
The deportation of Cortez “doesn’t pass the smell test for the Obama administration’s assertion that things are changing,” Cabrera said.
According to ICE, Cortez qualified as a high-priority candidate for deportation.
“In determining which cases to prioritize for enforcement, ICE focuses its resources on aliens convicted of crimes, recent border crossers, fugitives and egregious immigration law violators,” the ICE statement reads, continuing that Cortez “became a fugitive when he failed to comply with a voluntary departure order.”
Chavez fears that Cortez may never return to Pasadena, and that his life is at risk if he can’t find proper treatment in Mexico.
“Our kids keep asking me when their dad is coming home, and I don’t know what to tell them,” she said.
Read more: Pasadena Sun
The immigrants rights crowd in Los Angeles may be about to hit a Sarah Palin-sized jackpot of possibly inane, possibly explosive correspondence between the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and immigration feds.
Sheriff Lee Baca, head of the department -- largest of its kind in the country -- initially blew off activists' requests for the documents. He also wouldn't let them see the amount of money the Sheriff's Department has spent on deportations, the number of immigrants deported (through various programs, including the notorious Secure Communities mandate, a favorite of Baca's) and the types of crimes for which immigrants were deported.
When slapped with a California Public Records Act lawsuit...
... Baca went so far as to file a motion blocking the CPA request. (A pretty good sign that there's some dirt in the stacks.) But as of today, the judge has thrown that bologna back in his face, and is allowing the trial to play out.
If the sheriff's correspondence with Immigration and Customs Enforcement is anywhere near as juicy as the Big Brothery crap recently uncovered in a similar national lawsuit, Baca's in for Part II of his shame campaign as top brass. (Part I being, of course, the horrific beatings that have gone on under his nose, at the hands of his hired jail supervisors.)
If the judge does eventually force Baca to turn over the goods, one especially hard-hitting discovery -- given the California prison system's broke-ass circumstances -- could be the cost of keeping undocumented immigrants in county jail while ICE gets around to deporting them.
Because if manslaughter-er Conrad Murray is allowed to limp around on house arrest while some ice cream vendor is locked behind bars, sucking up jail resources, even PR magic-maker Steve Whitmore can't tidy up that juxtaposition.
"The sheriff's current practice is that when they have a suspicion that someone might be undocumented, they keep them in jail until ICE can come to get them," says Jessica Karp, an attorney for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network . "As far as we've seen, they always honor that."
Back when Baca attempted to block the CPA request, sheriff's spokesman Whitmore told the Weekly that "a lot of times, things can't be publicly released because of personnel records."
He said the documents in question were "the propriety of ICE -- so it's up to them to release it."
One argument Baca made in his motion was that much of the requested information was confidential, because the sheriff's contracts with ICE stipulate that the inner workings of joint local-federal programs aren't for public viewing.
However, immigrant attorney Karp says the judge ruled today that "neither the sheriff nor ICE can contract away state law." (State law being the California Public Records Act, one of our personal faves.)
Reaction from Carl Bergquist, Secure Communities specialist for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles:
"As we have seen in similar cases, both locally and nationally, these attempts to withhold information from the public may be undemocratic but ultimately they prove to be futile. We have a right to know how and why our elected Sheriff -- in a time of declining crime -- is collaborating with the Federal Government to deport community members who in no way, shape or form are threats to public safety."
Hopefully the rest of this case won't take as many twists and turns as the never-ending Prop. 8 trial -- we're itching to see some more atrocious Obama-era immigration stats, to counter his administration's flimsy amnesty pledges.
We know they're in there somewhere, smothered by a tower of bloody personnel complaints at Sheriff's Department headquarters. And Baca's Muslim supporters won't be able to talk him out of this one, seeing as not racially profiling is precisely what they love him for.
Read more: LA Weekly
CHIRLA and the California Table has each sent opposition letters to the "Secure Communities" program addressed to the members of The Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement of The Committee on the Judiciary in the House of Representatives.
The California Table is a state-wide coalition that developed out of the nation-wide movement for immigration reform. As a member of the Reform Immigration for America, CHIRLA called upon many state-wide partners to meet on a periodic basis to discuss news, strategy, and organizing opportunities to support passage of immigration reform. The California Table meets twice a month by phone and once every three months in person.
Please find PDF versions of each letter in the attachment section of this post.
Carl Bergquist is a clear-eyed champion of immigrant rights.
Clad in a crisp salmon dress shirt and pressed beige dress pants, Bergquist naturally emanates the scholarly vibe of a solemn law student. Short dirty blond curls top off his tall, sturdy stature; a pair of glasses frames his light blue eyes.
Not only is he an expert in the social, economical and political issues facing immigrants, he is well versed in the firsthand experience of it as well.
“It’s my life experience, my own experience,” Bergquist, 41, said. “I moved in circles as a kid. I’ve grown up in a couple of different places, between here and Europe.”
Originally from Sweden, he attended elementary school in Washington, D.C. and finished his secondary education back in his homeland. He eventually returned to D.C. to earn a bachelor’s degree in politics at Georgetown University.
He continued his studies in Vancouver and Amsterdam, earning his master’s in immigration studies.
“Once in a while you’re out of the bubble and see that people react differently to immigration,” Bergquist acknowledged. “The hostility [toward immigrants] that I’ve seen in both the U.S. and in Europe is not something that I relate to in terms of what I’ve seen growing up. There was that contrast that just seemed a very oppressing political issue.”
In the following years, he worked for a think tank in D.C. while officially residing in Europe—“sort of commuting back and forth,” he explained.
Then several years ago, he defied his nomadic nature and settled down in Los Angeles with his wife, a doctoral candidate at UCLA.
After passing some time working at a wine store while searching for jobs, Bergquist two years ago found his place at last—as a policy advocate at the Coalition of Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
CHIRLA, founded in 1986, is a nonprofit organization that rallies for the rights of Los Angeles immigrants at all levels of government. With about a hundred fee-paying members and 20 full-time staff members, it spearheads a growing grassroots effort to educate and empower the vast and diverse immigrant community in Los Angeles. Funded by annual membership fees and grants from various foundations, CHIRLA does not ask members about their legal status, Bergquist said.
Bringing his broad expertise and knowledge of immigration policies to a metropolis notorious for its remarkable volume of both documented and undocumented immigrants was nothing short of fresh and fitting, he said.
“Los Angeles is one of the most diverse places on the planet, with half the population of the county made of immigrants,” Bergquist added.
The most pressing issue on his current agenda is a program called Secure Communities (S-Comm). A federal fingerprint program implemented in August, 2009, S-Comm automatically links the Los Angeles Police Department with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
When the LAPD arrests someone, his or her fingerprint would be automatically matched with federal records via S-Comm. If he or she turns out to be an undocumented immigrant, ICE could then ask the LAPD to detain the arrestee until an agent comes to pick him or her up for questioning.
Because of this program, undocumented immigrants arrested for breaking a law as trivial as street vending end up being deported even if they have clean records, Bergquist said.
“Deportations are definitely on the uptick,” he acknowledged. “Deportations of individuals who have no criminal background are also on the uptick.”
Though a very rare occurrence in the past, five to 10 such cases were recently brought to CHIRLA’s attention, he added.
The federal government allocates enough resources to deport about 400,000 individuals per year.
“They go after low-hanging fruit as well as serious criminals,” Bergquist says. “They won’t admit the first part,” he added.
Low-hanging fruit, he explains, is someone who just happens to have been arrested, whether it is for selling tacos on a sidewalk or speeding on the way to work.
Consequently, thousands of people with no criminal background in L.A. County have been deported per federal government statistics. However, it is difficult to find a more detailed breakdown of those numbers.
“They tend not to release a lot of those numbers,” Bergquist said. “They will highlight the murders or DUI convictions, but they won’t say, a thousand of them were on the way to work. When we hear about it, given that people are reluctant to report and our resources are finite, we infer that there are more.”
Bergquist devotes much of his time bringing to light these issues of what he calls injustice with community leaders, acting as something of an emissary for CHIRLA’s disgruntled members. After all, a dangerous program like S-Comm can easily dismantle the public safety initiatives of a community, he said.
“With Secure Communities, we can’t in good faith tell victims of crime to call 911,” he acknowledged. “Who wants to report crime when people are wary of the police now more than ever before?”
Read more: Neon Tommy (USC Annengberg Digital News)
For the past two months the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles has been actively involved in the crisis occurring in the state of Alabama caused by HB 56, the harshest and most anti-immigrant law ever passed and implemented in the united states. CHIRLA along with The Alabama Coalition For Immigrant Justice (ACIJ) helped develop a "Know Your Rights" curriculum that has been implemented and is currently being used in many communities around the state. The immigrant community of Alabama is rising and is organizing a powerful campaign to repeal HB 56 with the help of national allies like the NAACP, AFL-CIO, CCC and many others joining the struggle for a better Alabama. Please share this powerful video from a local leader Peggy. Your support allows CHIRLA to join with our brothers and sisters in Alabama, to Educate, Advocate and Organize.
In the eve of President Obama's sixth visit to the Golden State, immigrants and their allies staged a street theatre presentation of the "Wizard of Oz" reminding President Obama that making the American Dream reachable for immigrants will require heart, brains, and courage. Below, pictures from Monday's rally in front of Olive & Fig, the restaurant where President Obama will hold an evening fete at $32,000 a couple.
Join us or renew your membership with CHIRLA during our Fall Membership Drive. A $25 one-time donation will support the organizing, education, and advocacy we do year-round on behalf of those without a voice. Watch this home-made video and click on the link below to submit your donation via our safe online system. And THANK YOU.
Hágase nuevo miembro o renueve su membrecía con CHIRLA durante la Campaña de Membrecía de Otoño. Una donación de $25 nos ayuda a poder hacer trabajo de educación, abogacía, y mobilización de base en pro de aquellos que no tienen voz. Vea este video y por favor hágase miembro presionando el botón de abajo. Y, GRACIAS.
WiseUp! members went on their second day of college and university visits this Wednesday. Myrna Ortiz and Jacquie Amparo happily led a group of bright and promising high school students who were eager to visit six campuses, including UC Riverside and USC.
A pix of some of the participants today.
Today, the California State Assembly took some time off their busy and chaotic schedule to honor the women who make this state and frankly this nation GREAT!! The Women of the Year were each named and honored with a special certificate in the State Assembly floor. Amongst some of the honorees, Angelica Salas. Below, some pictures of today's event.
Assemblywoman Lowenthal (54-Long Beach) starts things off with a description of why women are honored during this month in the State of California.
State Attorney General, Kamala Harris, addresses the chamber before ceremony.
Women honorees wore a yellow rose in honor of the 100 years of women's suffrage.
Angelica Salas, led in the Chamber by Assemblyman Eng, was nominated by Assemblyman Cedillo.
Angelica Salas receives recognition plate from Speaker Perez and others.