I’m deeply concerned with the City of San Francisco and the entire Country for the bad directions they are headed. I voted yesterday for the first time in my life and I’m disappointed that Chesa Boudin was recalled. There will be no accountability for the police actions or reforms that are needed for the people of SF.
I had spent voting day with Voices of Incarceration students from Urban Schools listening to their proposals for those incarcerated. They were all brilliant; from Reentry, voting in elections, helping people plan for how to be ready for society with better knowledge of banking and accessing better technological skills before release. I’m definitely passing this on to public officials who work for the better of those incarcerated.
We have rich white men in Washington DC trying to tell women what to do with their bodies which is insane because women don’t tell them how to keep their penises in their pants. We have these same people telling families of trans kids that their kids can’t be who they are. We have children being murdered in schools and blacks continually murdered by the police with no reason. People have to be 21 to buy liquor but only 18 to buy a gun. WHY? Because it’s about money and control by Republicans.
And then ICE detention is a double sentence because if you serve time in prison and you have changed your life why should you be deported. Nobody is deporting Trump for fraud. It is Pride Month and I believe Pride is every day. I’m hoping all are well inside and doing what needs to be done to be safe and get free. Laws change every day. I would not be free if that didn’t happen. NEVER STOP FIGHTING.
There are a lot of bad laws. And there are some good laws that contain bad exemptions. When California passed the state sanctuary law, SB54, it included carve outs (bad) that allows law enforcement agents to voluntarily turn some people over to ICE, based on convictions. It is voluntary. These types of laws allow bad people to do bad things to other people with impunity. Since 2017 the sheriff of San Mateo County has turned over 100 people to ICE. Every year a Truth Act Forum is held to review the practice of handing people over to ICE who imprisons them again and can deport them. Once a person is deported there is very little that can be done to reunite them with their people.
The 2021 Truth Act Forum for San Mateo County was held on November 3 over Zoom. SMC sheriff Bolanos turned more people over to ICE this year than any other county in the Bay Area. According to the department of justice, he turned over 26 people. The sheriff disputes this number and claims the feds are counting charges, not people and that he turned over 15, not 26. But even one is too many!
San Mateo County for Immigrant Rights (SMCCIR) held a rally outside the county offices in Redwood City before the Forum began. About 50 people participated and a lot of media showed up to interview and film the event.
The Truth Act Forum was organized by SMCCIR and presented by the SMC Board of Supervisors. For the first time the BOS allowed SMCCIR to have same amount of time as the sheriff in their presentations. The presenters included the sheriff, Melanie Kim from Asian Law Caucus and SMCCIR, Scott Sherman, an attorney from the private defenders (San Mateo is one of the only counties in California with no public defender’s office), and Angel Benito, a community leader who was deported to Mexico two years ago.
The sheriff gave the same talk he gives every year. He runs through the carve outs to show he is acting within the law, that his main concern is for the victims of the convicted person, public safety, and the very poor excuse that he is protecting the community from future crime. Scott Sherman explained, among other points, that when people who are undocumented are arrested for a minor crime, the police will often threaten to turn them over to ICE immediately to convince them to plead to a more serious crime so that they go to prison in California. Then that major crime makes them eligible to be turned over to ICE after they serve their sentence here.
Melanie Kim presented slides with statistics about the terrible conditions and treatment that people are subjected to in ICE detention, including racial injustices, physical and sexual violence and medical neglect. A poll by U.S. Immigration Policy Center at University of California San Diego, commissioned by Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus showed of that 80% of respondents — including 76% of self-described conservative voters and 54% of registered Republican voters — agree or strongly agree that regardless of what country a person was born in, they should be released from prison or jail after completing their sentences. Six of out of every ten respondents say that the statement “after an immigrant who is convicted of a crime serves their prison or jail time, they should be allowed to return to their community here in California and rebuild their life” aligns closest with their personal views.
Angel Benito spoke to us from Mexico. He was deported after spending three years in ICE detention. He told of the mistreatment by ICE, the lack of proper nourishment and extreme medical neglect. He also talked about his family and community left behind – his mother and child, who he hasn’t seen in more than three years and how hard it is to be an absent father.
The meeting was then opened for public comment. More than 60 people spoke in favor of ending the county’s collaboration with ICE. Many of them were immigrants who expressed how unsafe they feel in San Mateo County. Not a single person supported the sheriff’s policy of collaboration. Upon completion of the public comments the supervisors responded to the testimonies. Supervisors Pine, Slocum and Canepa all said that they wanted the end of transfers to ICE. Horsley did not agree. Groom said she would like to see a committee formed to discuss how this might happen. The County manager was asked if there was any way for the BOS to affect the sheriff’s policy but he did not have a good answer.
On November 9, a week after the forum, Bolanos announced that he was changing the policy and that the sheriff’s department would no longer be cooperating with ICE. We are still waiting for an official written statement of this change of policy. And we are still pressuring the BOS to pass an anti-collaboration with ICE ordinance to cement this change.
While we celebrate this victory, we also have to acknowledge the irreparable harm done to the people and their friends and families who were impacted by this cruel and devastating transfer practice that has been going on for four years. Bolanos has yet to acknowledge all the damage that has been done to the community and families of people who were held in ICE custody or deported due to his discriminatory practice of turning people over to ICE.
In 2022 the VISION Act will come before the state senate once again. This law will prevent any law enforcement agent from turning people over to ICE after they are released from prison. The state prisons are the worst offenders in this: 80% of people in ICE detention are there because local and state police and prison officials are working with ICE. The VISION Act will end this practice.
Phoeun You, a Cambodian refugee is due to be released from San Quentin State Prison in late December or early January. Phoeun is an incredible leader and has supported many folks in coming home from prison. He is one of the founding members of ROOTS, an ethnic studies based course, inside of San Quentin. Despite serving over 25 yrs, being found suitable for parole, & giving back to his community, Phoeun You, a Cambodian genocide survivor, and refugee is facing ICE arrest. Stop this double punishment against Phoeun. @GavinNewsom #ProtectPhoeun and #StopICETransfers now!
Excerpted from the ICE Out of California coalition
September 10, 2021
The VISION Act, a bill to end the prison-to-deportation pipeline will return next year
Late Friday night the CA State Senate made the VISION Act, AB 937 by Asm. Wendy Carrillo, a two-year bill. The broadly-supported bill is expected to resume moving through the legislative process in January of 2022, and advocates are planning sustained efforts across the state to continue building momentum for the proposal.
While the VISION Act maintained backing from a majority of Democratic Senators, a handful of legislators reneged on their commitment to support in the wake of a misleading attack from a small number of police lobby groups, sparking at least four community-led protests in Orange County, Vallejo, Los Angeles, and Riverside. Advocates will continue to educate members of the legislature on the urgent need to uphold equality under the law.
Unfortunately, the delay in passing the bill will give extra time for prison officials and the predatory practices of police like San Mateo County sheriff Bolanos who will continue to collaborate with ICE. A recent poll found that 80% agree that regardless of what country a person was born in, they should be released from prison into their community once their sentence is completed and not transferred to abusive and deadly ICE detention.
“Pretend that…” My niece had a favorite game when she was 4 that started with the words, “pretend that…” and usually ended up in some version of playing school or family. So let’s say you want to leave the Bay Area and go to another country. Pretend that in order to go you must present yourself to a government authority in that country. At the border you encounter untrained officers, tons of forms that need to be filled out, and eventually you will need to see a judge in order to get permission to stay. It can take a long time to complete all the steps. So in the meantime, with no due process, you are placed in a facility that operates very much like a prison. This prison is mismanaged in every way. Food, bedding, climate control, medical aid, space, anything you may need to function daily is scarce or not available at all. You may be housed here for weeks, months or even years.
This is the reality of more than 50,000 people a day seeking asylum in the US thanks to the policies of the department of Homeland Security which includes ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and CBP (Customs and Border Protection). The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) manages the largest immigration detention system in the world and spends more on immigration enforcement than on all other federal enforcement agencies combined. The detention system captures and holds up to 500,000 immigrants a year.
Immigrants in detention are undocumented or documented, including people whose immigration status is not current, is expired or is under review. The US locks up survivors of torture, people seeking asylum, visa holders, people who have been granted the permanent right to live here, people who have lived here for years and may have American citizen spouses and children, individuals with mental health and medical conditions and other vulnerable groups including LGBTQ people, pregnant women and children.
Detention is not necessary to the immigration process. But according to ICE, over 70 percent of immigrants in detention are mandatorily detained, meaning their incarceration is automatic, without any kind of individualized assessment. There over 200 detention facilities in the US contracted by ICE, including state and local government-run jails and for-profit, private prisons owned and operated by US corporations, the biggest being GEO Group and CORE Civic. Over 81% of immigrant detainees are housed in private prisons. It is a corrupt web of inhumane, arbitrary treatment of people and profiteering. ICE routinely fails to provide adequate oversight and exercise meaningful consequences for facility failures to even meet ICE’s minimal detention standards. Meanwhile, ICE has failed to invest in far more humane, effective, and cost-efficient community-based alternatives to detention.
California has 7 private, for-profit prisons that house more than 4000 immigrants. 95% are asylum seekers. GEO Group donates tons of money to candidates in local campaigns. In the southern California city of Adelanto, GEO convinced the city manager in a backroom deal to terminate a contract that allowed for local government to have oversight rights in the private prison. There were many inconsistencies in putting the new contract through. The planning commissioner who attempted to point out the problems and failures to follow procedures was removed from office. Only one city council member opposed the new contract.
California began doing business with private prison companies in the 1980’s. (The feds already had contracted with private prisons in southern California). It was a failed experiment. In an attempt to end the use of private, for-profit detention, the CA legislature passed AB32 in 2019. The law was due to go into effect in January, 2020. Its main purpose is to put extreme limits on contracting with private prisons or housing people in private, for-profit prisons. In December 2019, ICE entered long-term contracts worth billions to them, just days before AB 32 was set to be enacted. The 15-year contracts included Adelanto and Mesa Verde, run by GEO Group; the Otay Mesa Detention Center, run by CoreCivic; and the Imperial Regional Detention Center, run by Management and Training Corporation (MTC).
GEO Group and the previous federal administration sued the state of California over AB32 in October 2020. A judge was not sympathetic and dismissed most of the lawsuit but Geo Group and the DOJ (Department of Justice) appealed to the 9th Circuit court. So far, the Biden administration has not committed to dropping the DOJ lawsuit. If dropped, this would greatly weaken the strength of GEO Group’s appeal and ability to pursue the lawsuit. The appeal is scheduled to be heard on June 7, 2021. Meanwhile the private prisons are still in operation.
Under the state sanctuary law passed in 2017, police and sheriffs can voluntarily turn people over to ICE but it is not required. ICE depends on this collaboration for the majority of their arrests. In June of this year, the VISION Act passed the CA Assembly by a large majority. The VISION Act will make it illegal for local and state law enforcement to collaborate with ICE. It now needs to pass the senate.
People in detention are leading the fight to abolish ICE. Prisoners held 49 hunger strikes across the country and organized work stoppages. Closing detentions centers has been shown to decrease ICE arrests. The federal government has cut contracts with for profit facilities in Georgia and Massachusetts.
Dignity Not Detention is a coalition of multiple organizations working to abolish immigrant prisons to free criminalized communities from incarceration in the state of California. They are calling for closures and an end to contracts with ICE. They want to see an economic transition from a carceral economy to a support system that invests in helping people who want to immigrate or stay in the US.
The US has for far too long held the record for the most people incarcerated in the world. Efforts to end immigrant detention, abolish ICE and ban for profit prison are just a small piece of this problem. Ruthie Wilson Gilmore, professor of geology and longtime prison abolitionist reminds us that ninety-two percent of people locked inside American prisons are held in publicly run, publicly funded facilities, and 99 percent of those in jail are in public jails. Abolition is a long-term goal and a practical policy program, calling for jobs, education, housing, health care elements required for a productive and violence-free life. Abolition means not just the closing of prisons but the establishment of vital systems of support that many communities lack. Instead of asking how, in a future without prisons, we will deal with so-called violent people, abolitionists ask how can we resolve inequalities and get people the resources they need long before the hypothetical moment when, as Gilmore puts it, they “mess up.”
It’s been almost twenty years since I played “Pretend that…” with my niece. It’s a good game. Pretend that there are no public prisons , no private prisons, no borders, no ICE, and no police. And make it so.
Congratulations! And good job on all those Executive Orders (EO’s) the first day, particularly the ones designed to help the 11 million immigrants. Fixing the immigration system – what a task that will be. How do you fix something that isn’t really broken? After all, it is a well-oiled machine operating exactly as it is intended to run based in a racist system. And it is not just the rogue agency, ICE, that is the problem because there are collaborators all over the country. Plus there are “carve outs” in the laws that were supposedly enacted to protect our immigrant community which allow collaborators (like sheriffs) to turn people over to ICE even in sanctuary states.
You did try to stop deportations for a few months. Bet you didn’t even think the Trump-appointed judge in Texas would notice? Oh well, ICE was ahead of this game anyway. They deported 26,248 people in January of this year and thanks to that judge they are still at it.
And how about your EO to reform the asylum system? In January, the u.s. border patrol reported the expulsion of over 62,000 asylum seekers without due process under Title 42, a 1944 public health law re-enacted by the previous administration amid a rise in Covid-19 cases. Biden aides say there are no plans to end Title 42. On March 12th, 136 Haitians were expelled using this authority. 1300 Haitians have been sent back since the beginning of the year. Why aren’t Haitians allowed TPS (Temporary Protected Status)? ICE has continued to aggressively enforce Trump-era policies that target Black asylum seekers and immigrants for exclusion, detention and deportation. As deportation flights take off almost every day to countries like Cameroon, Mauritania, Angola, Congo, Haiti and Jamaica, the Biden-Harris Administration remains silent.
In reality, locking asylum seekers in immigration detention remains an unsafe and inhumane practice, particularly in the time of Covid-19. And detention continues to be especially dangerous for Trans and gender non-conforming people. The u.s. asylum system needs significant reforms in order to be safe for Trans asylum seekers.
Mr. President, you also promised to end the long-term detention of migrant families. ICE plans to discontinue the use of one such facility, but will continue to hold families for three days or less at two other for-profit facilities in Texas. Agencies and organizations dedicated to helping immigrants at the border and inside the US continue to document reports of abuse, cruelty and neglect perpetrated by ICE, border patrol officials, and contract workers in for-profit detention centers.
I hope you are just as disgusted as all of us by the existence of private-run, for-profit prisons and detention centers and their abysmal record of abuses. One of your EOs addresses this and directs the Department of Justice to not renew contracts with private prisons. So, why are you opening a new for-profit detention center in Florida for immigrant children who arrive unaccompanied by an adult? Yes, there are hundreds of unaccompanied children arriving all the time but there are agencies and organizations already helping to find homes and appropriate places for them. Locking anyone in detention is unsafe and inhumane.
Speaking of children, I was glad to see you are willing to help the Dreamers. There are 1,326,000 who have lived here most of their lives. Congress needs to pass permanent legislation to protect them including bringing home the Dreamers who were deported and releasing those who were captured during the last 4 years.
Good move on halting the construction of the border wall. That will save some money, so far about $14.97 billion since 2017. Maybe some of that money can be used to “increase resources for asylum seekers”, and support the farmworkers and other immigrant groups struggling to get by day to day.
Unfortunately the administration continues to surveil our immigrant communities. One method is the new use of Automated License Plate Readers, a form of surveillance that intrudes on the privacy and safety of everyone. ICE will use this technology to track, target, and deport immigrants. Just another part of the racist system that needs to end now.
And lastly, we don’t need to increase training and accountability for immigration agents. We need to abolish ICE, the u.s. border patrol and the dept. of homeland security. They are racist agencies that do nothing to make anyone safe and protected.
In 2018, the San
Mateo County Sheriff’s office (SO) transferred 51 people directly to ICE when
they were due to be released from jail, instead of letting them go home to
their families and communities. In contrast, in neighboring Santa Clara and San
Francisco counties, zero people were turned over to ICE. Zero! San Mateo County ranks #9 for highest
number of transfers to ICE out of the 58 counties in California. With
relentless attacks on immigrant communities coming from Washington, it is even
more important than ever to protest against the continued collaboration between
local law enforcement and ICE here in San Mateo County and everywhere.
The Truth Act (The Transparent Review of Unjust Transfers and
Holds Act) was approved by the governor in 2016. The law places a number of
steps that have to be followed when an ICE agent requests an interview with a person
in custody. It also makes records related to ICE accessible to the public under
the California Public Records Act (CPRA).
In 2017, SB 54, the Sanctuary State Law, repealed laws that
involved local law enforcement agencies notifying ICE about a potential
undocumented immigrant for specific crimes. It also prevents agencies from
using their resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest
people for immigration enforcement purposes. The law is said to be based on
establishing trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement for
effective policing and public safety. It does permit local law enforcement to transfer
people to ICE who have previously been convicted, or in some cases indicted,
for certain crimes.
The TRUTH act also required, starting in 2018, local governments
that provided ICE access to at least one individual during the year to hold at
least one public community forum and provide information about ICE’s access to
individuals. Most counties and some cities in CA therefore have to hold Truth
Act Forums. In early October, in Contra Costa County, protesters pleaded with
the Board of Supervisors and the sheriff to stop notifying ICE when
undocumented immigrants are released from jail. They also wanted the
supervisors to impose some form of community oversight of the Sheriff’s Office
(SO). Dozens of people spoke but the sheriff (David Livingston) insisted that he
intends to continue cooperating with ICE agents and the supervisors took no
The 2019 Truth Act Forum for San Mateo County will be
held on October 23rd. At that Forum, the sheriff will present the SO’s
latest policies concerning immigrants, there will be a statement on behalf of
immigrant rights advocates about the data, and then community members will
The SO has recently issued a new policy, which it claims
conforms to SB 54. Some of the highlights of the new policy are: the SO will
cooperate with ICE only if an inmate has been convicted of a serious or violent
felony in an adult court. However, the policy goes on to say that the SO will
provide information to ICE if the person has been acquitted or is granted bond
or is out on time served. Does that make
sense? No it does not. In addition, if
people who are charged with a felony take a plea deal down to a misdemeanor on the
same offense (called a “wobbler”), they could still be turned over to ICE when
released because the crime could be charged as a felony, even though the person
was convicted of a misdemeanor. The SO, in fact, has loosened the rules on
cooperating with ICE since last year’s Forum.
“They need medics in Tijuana” a friend called
to tell me. I’d already decided that the
long drive was too much for my body when thinking of going to the border
solidarity actions. But, somehow, I decided to go ahead anyway and show up. I
was so impressed I could get out of the car and walk a few steps when we
arrived in Tijuana that I was excited to see what help I could offer.
It is true that a lot of solidarity help is
needed in Tijuana. Most helpful are people who speak Spanish, have a vehicle,
and can stay for 5-7 days to integrate into the work. Flexibility is key. One
nurse I met was a specialized, experienced wound care person and ended up
happily doing translation. We met at a press conference for the hunger
strikers. Every day I did different things and had no idea at the beginning of
the day what I would be doing. One criticism I heard of North Americans is that
we want to be able to plan when we are coming and what we will be doing. This is a
humanitarian crisis and people on the ground are overwhelmed getting through
each day, usually don’t have time to answer the backlog of messages and emails
Conditions on the ground are always changing
and, if trusted, you will be doing many things…but perhaps not what you
initially thought. If you want to volunteer, go with an open mind. There is an
ebb and flow of volunteers so that weekends may have more folks and by mid-week
The central organizing hub in Tijuana is the
amazing autonomous space, Enclave Caracol, which is serious about feminism and
an alternative to binary genders, and even works to change the heavily gendered
Spanish language. Enclave is a community center with a plethora of posters
including Pride, decolonize, and “Todos con Marichuy” (the indigenous woman
backed by Zapatistas who ran for
President of Mexico*). Workshops and cultural presentation are offered of
everything from dance to self care to how to deal with the effects of tear gas.
I have rarely been in as gender fluid and inclusive a space where so many
struggles are respected.
I was honored to sit in a few of the daily
meetings and see how thoughtfully people approached the work, needs, and
resources. Enclave houses Comida no bombas / Food not Bombs and feeds homeless
Mexicans, deportees, and anyone else who shows up since 2011. They are a
community center which has integrated many caravan members. While I was there,
one of the community meetings discussed whether to increase the number of meals
provided daily to be able to support the Benito Juarez camp which now had no
food after Mexican authorities closed the stadium flooded by torrential rain
and moved thousands of people a 30
minute car ride away to el Barretal, a fenced space which had been a night club
and where some services are provided with long lines and military
control/”protection”. Some people decided to stay camped on the street in front
of the Benito Juarez stadium even though authorities tried to get them to leave
and took away the limited services previously provided. The camp residents I talked with felt el
Barretal was isolated and too far away, difficult to get work, and although
there were some services offered, they preferred to camp in the street in front
of Benito Juarez..
The collective decided to make more food and
bring it to the site of the Benito camp. This was doubling the number of meals
a day that were served at 2 separate sites. “We just have to start earlier”
people decided who already were working very long days. I ended up working in
the kitchen to support this change as there were not nearly enough volunteers.
Enclave has put out a call for more volunteers.
Enclave also has a tenant, the legal team, Al
Otro Lado, which is on the top floors. They help migrants understand the
process of seeking asylum in the US. I was never able to make it through their
morning orientation since I got pulled out after 5 minutes to do other things.
2 of the women I traveled with were volunteering with al Otro Lado and kept
very busy. Al Otro Lado also has an ongoing call out for volunteers.
As for medical care, I was able to do some, but it seems the most
helpful thing is to organize a fairly self-sufficient group to provide
everything needed for a mobile clinic. Enclave has a clinic space which I
cleaned out and organized. I understand that at times people pass through to
staff it. Anyone with a complicated problem goes to the General Hospital where
I’m told patients are seen without charge for up to 2 months, no documentation
Women from the caravan called for a hunger
strike on November 29 to demand the US implement a faster asylum process
& to the Mexican government to expedite humanitarian visas. It is so slow
now that people would be waiting many months to get a chance to present their
asylum claim. I was called to the hunger strike camp to check on a baby who had
been bitten by a rat in the night. I imagine this is happening to other
children as well.
I was able to connect with the LGBTQ caravans and able to provide some
health care in addition to translation and logistics support. Trans women who
apply for asylum are sent to Cibola Detention Facility which has a dedicated
wing for Trans women. The hope is that they can support each other being
together. However, Cibola is the Detention Center where Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez
was briefly housed, possibly where she was shackled and beaten, before she died
from lack of medical care. When Cibola was a private prison, it lost its
contract due to human rights violations
and months later reopened as a detention center.
I can say that Diversidad sin Fronteras and Santa Fe Dreamers Project has been doing a lot to support our family. Past issues of UV have talked about their work. Your donations to these groups are being well spent. In addition to money, there is a need for folks here in the US to step up for everything from providing housing to concretely helping folks navigate the complexities of this new life after getting out of detainment.
It’s a bad time to be a migrant. The fear of the stranger is nothing new though worldwide today xenophobia seems to be ever stronger. The Dutch are talking about housing migrants on an island 2 miles off their coast which previously had been used to quarantine sick animals. In 1913 the Dominican Republic stripped citizenship, retroactively to 1929 of any Dominican born of foreign parents (mainly Haitians). The last boat that saved the lives of 10,000s of refugees in the Mediterranean is being forced to close down. And the US just allowed a 7 year old girl to die in ICE custody rather than seek prompt medical care for her overheating and dehydration.
The recent caravans from Honduras and Central
America have left thousands of people camped out in Tijuana hoping for asylum
and entry into the US. Military has been called up, migrants are now called
terrorists, and the US refuses to follow our own laws granting asylum requests.
Central America has suffered from centuries of
colonialism and exploitation with harsh punishment for any resistance. This
continues today under neoliberal policies, repression of indigenous opposition
to mining, deforestation, and dams. The
2009 US supported coup of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras created an even
greater level of corruption and violence from gangs and drugs which have become
embedded in the state police forces. Also, there has been a number of years of
drought and crop failure in the “dry zone” of Central America causing food
scarcity for 2 million people. The cruelty of neoliberalism in partnership with
world banks and the elite is shown by the privatization of water in Choluteca,
Honduras for the last 5 years, restricting water usage for 200,000 residents
and farmers in a time of decreasing rainfall. Climate disruption and chaos is
another face of global imperialism. The pollution and carbon dioxide of the wealthy
developed countries disproportionately
affects poor and vulnerable people around the world. Mass migrations
which dwarf the current “immigration crisis” are in our earth’s future. This
was the point of the 2018 UN Climate report which details what a huge
difference to the lives of millions and millions of people around the world
hangs in the balance of the earth warming 1.5 degree C instead of 2 degrees C.
On the ground in Tijuana, I heard again and
again from mothers that they had to leave their homes. In addition to the
violence which killed family members, they had no food for their children.
Living on the streets with inadequate food, sanitation, and health services in
Mexico is not a new experience for many of them. What is new is collectively taking
their destiny into their own hands and trying to change it together. This was
the beauty of the caravans and inspired the amazing generosity people have
showed the caravans as they passed. Although much has been made of Mexicans who
are anti-immigrant, most of what I saw was solidarity. There are also camps of
homeless Mexicans that are indistinguishable from those of the migrants. In the
rain and cold, I thought of the many homeless encampments in Oakland, without
any services, that are constantly being evicted and harassed.
When I returned from Tijuana, I had the viral
crud so many I saw there had. I had bilingual, dystopian dreams while sweating
out my sickness. We are looking to make a new world where there is a place for
the generations to come. The horrors of
famine, floods, drought and air we cannot breathe that will cause most of us
who survive to become refugees is unacceptable. The struggle continues on many
fronts from the streets of Oakland to Palestine, Haiti, Tijuana, Honduras,
Bolivia, the Philippines, Nigeria, and on and on. La lucha sigue.
campaign was not interested in taking power or in winning the privilege to rule
over others but based on communal governance, a respect for the earth and
others, and a commitment to healing from centuries of colonial
domination. Centering the voices and values of indigenous communities –
women and girls, especially – Marichuy’s campaign tour featured all
women speakers who stressed the profound gender inequalities in
Mexican systems of governance, the history of violence against Mexican women,
and the culture of capitalism that extends impunity to those who
Last summer 16 people formed the 1st Trans-Gay Migrant Caravan fleeing from Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico to the US border to ask for political asylum. Four gay men and 12 transgender women arrived in Nogales, AZ on August 10, 2017. Kimberly, a transgender woman from Honduras made this statement at the border rally, “We have fled from our countries of origin because most people do not accept us as trans girls. The mistreatment against us begins in our families, when they run us from our homes. They take us out of our homes because we are trans girls. Many of us have been abused by gang members, even by the security forces. Even the police themselves have been mistreated us, raped us, beaten us.
“In our journey for dignity we have suffered tremendously. We do not want to relive this violence by being referred to detention centers for men where we are at high risk of being sexually assaulted.”
Some members of the Trans-Gay Migrant Caravan had sought political asylum in Mexico believing that the Mexican government would offer them shelter and improved living conditions as LGBT people. “We were wrong. Most of us were denied the right to refugee status. Even though a few of us were granted asylum, we found ourselves reliving the experiences of violence and discrimination that we had suffered in Central America. The Mexican authorities have physically and sexually abused us on several occasions. Employees of the National Institute of Migration of Mexico, for example, tortured many of us to have sex with them. “
ICE detention centers are not ever safe places for transgender, lesbian and gay people. According to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the Department of Homeland Security and from complaints of LGBT human rights advocates, it is documented that LGBTQI people in detention centers are 1.5 times more likely to be sexually violated. In retaliation, several facilities deal with sexual assaults on transgender and queer people by placing them in solitary confinement instead of protecting them from the assaults. Several gay men have been put in isolation by prison officials solely for being effeminate.
Organizations supporting the Caravan had worked really hard with local communities to arrange homes where the young immigrants could stay when they crossed the border. Instead they were immediately taken into custody by ICE, put into detention and held for several months. Information is sketchy but as of October, 2017 nine had been released, five were still being held and three had been deported to Honduras and El Salvador.
By May of this year the situation for transgender migrants and most other people had worsened. The lines of those seeking asylum at the border continue to grow longer and longer. People are waiting weeks before they are even seen. There are little to no facilities to house them while they wait. The shelter CARITAS, in Tijuana that at one time during the caravan received 35+ LGBTQI members of the community, was set on fire according to Diversidad Sin Fronteras.
On May 29th Diversidad Sin Fronteras reported the sad news that Roxana Hernandez was murdered while in US detention. This is her story. On March 25th, 2018, along with more than 1,300 other people, Roxana Hernández began her journey across Mexico as part of the 2018 Refugee Caravan with Pueblo Sin Fronteras. She also found support along the way from Diversidad Sin Fronteras. Roxana – or Roxy as her friends knew her – traveled over 2,000 miles through Mexican territory on foot, by train, by bus because her last aspiration and hope was to save her life. She fled the violence, hate, stigma and vulnerability that she suffered as a trans woman in her country, Honduras, and also in Mexico.
She saw in the United States the opportunity to start a new life free of abuse, risk, and threats, by seeking asylum. What she found in the United States, however, was death. Roxy exercised her legal right to seek asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on the morning of May 9th. She was processed and held for 5 days in the dreaded “icebox” – holding cells with extremely low temperatures – under the aegis of us Customs & Border Protection. She suffered cold and lack of adequate food or medical care, with the lights on 24 hours a day. During her first week in the United States Roxy’s body and spirit quickly deteriorated.
us immigration authorities finally recognized (despite her having been in government custody for over a week) that she needed medical attention once she was transferred to the immigrant prison in Cibola, New Mexico. According to a May 25th ICE press release, which explained the causes of her death in the most convenient way possible for the agency, Roxy was transported on May 17th to Lovelace Medical Center. She did not come out alive.
Roxy died due to medical negligence by us immigration authorities. In other words, she was murdered. Roxy died in the country she had sought to start a new life in, she died for being a transgender woman, a migrant who was treated neither with respect nor with dignity.
On June 6th Diversidad Sin Fronteras held a demonstration in Mexico City to honor Roxy’s life and demand justice for her.
In the usa, immigrant rights groups call for:
Dignified and humane treatment to all asylum-seekers and above all to those in an extreme state of vulnerability, like Roxana was.
An immigration system that respects people’s human rights, instead of criminalizing and killing them.
The closure of all immigration detention centers, which are prisons where us authorities and private guards unjustly punish immigrants, violate their rights and act arbitrarily with no transparency or accountability.
An end to US intervention in the immigration policies of other countries, which violate their sovereignty.
The abolition of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)
In Mexico, groups call for:
Freedom of transit for all migrants and additional protection for asylum seekers who cannot live safely in Mexico
Safety in the shelters that provide homes for members of the LGBTQI community
Recognizing cases of gender-based violence for asylum in Mexico when appropriate
For more information see #Justicefor Roxsana, #DismantleICE, #endtransdetention, #NiUnaMenos, #NotOneLess and on FaceBook @Diversidad Sin Fronteras, @Al Otro Lado, and @Pueblo Sin Fronteras
In January Black and Pink reported on a pending appeals court decision, Menocal, et.al. v. GEO Group, Inc. concerning the use of forced labor by private prison companies. The lawsuit was originally filed in 2014 by a group of immigrants who were being held at the Denver Contract Detention Facility in Aurora, CO. The private prison is run by GEO Group, Inc., a multi-billion dollar corporation that is notorious for horrible conditions for prisoners, labor violations and profiteering by lobbying for draconian laws that serve to boost their earnings.
The case claims that GEO violated the Trafficking and Victims Protection Act (TVPA), a law passed to stop human trafficking, for threatening prisoners with prolonged detention and isolation if they refused to work in the prison. The lawsuit also states that GEO, by paying prisoners $1 a day violated a state law against unjust enrichment. The prisoners are required to do most of the janitorial work in the prison. This is one of the common practices in all of the GEO owned prisons and not the only lawsuit against them. There are similar lawsuits against GEO in Washington, Florida, and California. They run the detention center in Adelanto, CA where many were taken in the recent ICE sweeps.
GEO tried to have the lawsuit dismissed as a class action suit and require each person to file suit individually. But the appeals court affirmed the case and divided the suit into two class action cases. The first, the TVPA class, will address all detainees housed at the Aurora Facility in the past ten years. The second, the unjust enrichment class, includes all detainees who participated in the Aurora Facility’s voluntary work program in the past three years. This case will impact around 60,000 current and former immigrants.
Obama announced in August, 2016 that the federal government would be phasing out contracts with private prisons. GEO donated $100,000 to 45’s campaign the next day according to Black and Pink. The president has continued to contract with private prisons and the company’s stock has risen 70% since his election. ICE contracts over 60% of the prison beds for immigrants from private prisons. That means that the government is paying for the beds, not per person, so it has a vested interest in keeping those beds filled.
It may be years before Menocal, et.al. v. GEO is settled. In the meantime ICE is arresting people all over and private prisons are thriving.
At the end of February, ICE, having announced at the beginning of the year that it would initiate sweeps to punish California for its sanctuary state status, arrested and detained 232 northern California immigrants. These raids followed the arrest of 212 immigrants in the LA area. Prior to the northern California arrests, ICE served “notices of inspection” on 122 workplaces in Southern California, and 77 workplaces in northern California.
Normally, immigrants arrested in the Bay Area would have been taken to the ICE headquarters at 630 Sansome in SF. On the morning following the raids, the ICE offices were ringed by demonstrators blocking all streets and driveways to the building. This emergency response blockade was joined by over 1000 people at a noon rally. It was rumored the demonstrators had intended to hold the building locked down until all the arrested immigrants had been released. Large demonstrations were also held in San Jose, and the following week in Sacramento.
But attorneys were told that immigrants had not been brought to the facility and were denied access, although the building remained open to people who had appointments. Later it turned out that many people had in fact been taken there. Other immigrants were brought to a previously unidentified ICE location in Stockton for initial “processing”, and then many were sent to Adelanto, a facility known for its abuse. People were pressured into signing “voluntary deportation” (VD) agreements. Some of them were told they wouldn’t be allowed to contact family until they signed.
Immigrants who are arrested/detained by the border patrol or ICE and who do not agree to VD are often held for months or years without bail. A recent decision by the supreme kkkourt overturned a 9th circuit court of appeals ruling that immigrants who were held over 6 months had a right to a bond hearing. Many observers have documented the terrible conditions in these facilities, often operated by private prison companies like geo, or local law enforcement. david livingston, the contra costa county sheriff, has banned Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) from visiting the west county detention facility in Richmond. Last November, CIVIC circulated a letter signed by 27 women at the jail, which stated there was “rampant mistreatment” that including prolonged lockdowns and failure to provide access to bathrooms.
Despite the repeated announcements by acting ICE director homan and attorney general sessions since the first of the year that ICE is coming to California, Oakland mayor libby schaaf’s vague tweet on February 25 that ICE is coming soon has become the battle cry of the trump administration, replacing the shooting of Kate Steinle by Pier 14, as the poster child for the evils of sanctuary cities. (Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was acquitted last year of all charges except gun possession in that case).
On March 7, sessions was the lead speaker at a state law enforcement association convention. He spoke against sanctuary, and said of libby, “How dare you needlessly endanger the lives of law enforcement just to promote your radical open borders agenda?” To which libby replied, “’How dare you vilify members of the community, distract people from a broken immigration system that breaks up families and distort the reality of declining violent crime in a ‘sanctuary city’,” like Oakland.
Libby’s warning tweet contained no specific information on date, time or place of the projected raids, leading some immigrant advocates, not to mention her rival for mayor rebecca kaplan to complain that non-specific threats increase fear in immigrant communities without creating any actual help. People become afraid to go to work or school, or to pick up children from childcare. Since the beginning of February, calls to the rapid response hotlines (which provide legal observers for ICE actions and help to connect people to lawyers) increased exponentially. In any case, starting on February 26-27, raids took place all over northern California, with many people arrested in Napa, the San Jose/Santa Clara area, and Merced. trump celebrated International Womens Day by condemning libby, and claimed that over 800 “dangerous criminals” had escaped capture because of her tweet. sessions accused libby of “obstructing justice” although he has so far not charged her with anything, and most lawyers think there is no credible case that can be made against her. Hopefully that’s true, since it’s hard imagining having to campaign to “free libby,” the number one gentrifier and displacer in Oakland.
On March 7, sessions announced that u.s. dept of justice had filed a lawsuit in Sacramento federal court trying to overturn three of California’s new sanctuary laws:
SB 54, the California Values Act, which limits cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE;
AB 450, the Immigrant Worker Protection Act, which limits employers’ cooperation with ICE to the cooperation required by law or judicial warrant;
AB 103 which prohibits local governments from contracting to imprison immigrants for civil immigration enforcement purpose and requires the state to conduct health and safety inspections of immigration detention facilities operated by local or county governments or private companies.
This is clearly jurisdiction shopping for a friendly federal judge who might either issue an injunction preventing implementation of these laws, or at least won’t throw the case out of court based on the clear tenth amendment right of states to determine their own law enforcement priorities and protect the health and safety of the public. Interestingly, national media is comparing the position sessions is taking to the position the Obama administration took on Medicaid expansion. But they don’t mention the Obama administration lost that case, based on the tenth amendment.
Meanwhile, the courts continue to prevent the administration from stopping the DACA program. Judges in both the 2nd and 9th circuit ruled that the administration had not acted properly in terminating the program. The trump administration appealed directly to the supreme kkkourt to hear the case, without waiting for consideration by the courts of appeal. The supreme kkkourt declined to hear the case out of order, and so it will work its way through normal process. For now, DACA continues, but many people who are eligible to apply or continue their status are not eager to provide the government with the detailed personal information required.