For Immediate Release
Immigrant Rights Supporters Urge Obama to End Raids, Restore Rights
WASHINGTON - Immigrant rights supporters are calling on President Barack Obama and
his Administration to protect the rights of immigrant workers, families
and communities. An "Open Letter" to President Obama, signed by over
3,500 individuals and organizations from nearly all 50 states in the
union, urges Obama and his Administration to end immigration raids and
suspend all detentions and deportations in the first 100 days of his
The letter, which is also being shared with key policy-makers, also
calls on President Obama to restore immigrants' due process rights and
hold field hearings with immigrant communities to learn from them about
the impacts they suffer from immigration law enforcement.
"President Obama must stop the cycle of punishment and implement
humanitarian policies and practices to uphold the rights of immigrant
communities," declared Catherine Tactaquin, Executive Director of the
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), announcing
the delivery of the "Open Letter to President Barack Obama" during a a
telephonic media conference on Tuesday. [Click here to read the Open Letter to President Obama.]
NNIRR members and partners drafted the open letter as part of a
campaign to expose the massive immigration detention and deportation
system that the U.S. government has built over the last decade. NNIRR
is calling for accountability and other changes to end the abuses.
Ms Tactaquin said, "We are calling on President Obama to take decisive
action to end the criminalization of immigrants, de-linking immigration
policy from the politics of national security. President Obama moved
swiftly to close the notorious Guantanamo prison; we will urge him to
also act quickly to end the abuse and trauma that hundreds of thousands
of immigrant workers are experiencing in detention centers throughout
the United States."
Ending Raids Will Not Be Enough to End Abuses
In fiscal year 2008, the Department of Homeland Security deported
349,041 persons; almost 6,000, or less than two per cent, were detained
and deported through immigration work place and other types of raids.
However, ICE detains and deports the overwhelming majority of
immigrants through different strategies, including collaboration with
local police and other public agencies and employers.
"The result of raids and other types of immigration enforcement is the
same. ICE enforcement devastates families, undermines our rights and
traumatizes communities, disrupting the economy. Ending ICE raids will
not be enough; detentions and deportations must be put on hold while
the Obama Administration takes action to uphold our rights," Ms.
NNIRR presented several more speakers who shared their stories exposing
the grave injustices caused by immigration enforcement in the interior
and the border.
Criminalization of Immigrants, Militarization of Immigration and Border Control
During the media briefing on the open letter to President Obama, NNIRR
had several speakers share stories of the devastating effects detention
and deportation have on immigrant families.
Susan Gillis spoke about the case of Mr. Rebhy Abdel Malak, an Egyptian
man who was brutally beaten by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) agents in an Atlanta detention center to force him to sign away
his rights and deport him.
Ms. Gillis is an advocate working on behalf of Mr. Abdel Malak's family.
Rebhy Abdel Malak came legally to the U.S. ten years ago with his
family. He has three children, two who are U.S. citizens, and
petitioned for asylum after he and his wife fled religious persecution
Ms. Gillis emphasized, "Mr. Abdel Malak's case points to the
humanitarian crisis deepened by a lack of accountability in federal
detention centers across the country." Ms. Gillis told how Rebhy Abdel
Malak, after errors made by unscrupulous lawyers in his petition, was
taken into custody over a year ago and transferred to a remote jail in
Alabama, separated from his family in North Carolina. Mr. Abdel Malak
is the family's sole breadwinner; his wife and children have been
traumatized by his incarceration.
Ms. Gillis urged the immediate release of Mr. Abdel Malak and all
immigrants detained for status violations as part of the letter's call
to President Obama on immigrant's rights.
Betsy Dewitt with Families for Freedom, an organization in New York
advocating with families directly affected by the detention and
deportation regime, noted that "At least 15 percent of American
families are 'mixed status,' meaning that at least one or more family
member is an immigrant." Ms. DeWitt, whose husband was deported over a
year ago, echoed the urgency of ending raids and the cruel separation
of families caused by detention and deportation.
Ms. DeWitt said that the ongoing criminalization of immigrants -
deepened by the 1996 laws such as Illegal Immigration Reform and
Immigrant Responsibility Act and the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act - gives no respite to families whose loved ones are being
subject to deportation.
President Obama: End Raids, Restore the Rights of Immigrants
"In this era of change, it is vital that we work with the Obama
Administration to educate the public and return to American values of
family unity and the rule of law. If we can close Guantanamo, we can
also close Hutto," Ms. Dewitt emphasized.
"T. Don Hutto" is a federal detention facility in Taylor, Texas, used to jail immigrant families, including over 200 children.
Isabel Garcia from the Coalicion de Derechos Humanos in Tucson
denounced the criminalization of immigrants and spoke out against
"Operation Streamline," a strategy implemented at the U.S.-Mexico
border to automatically jail migrants.
Ms. Garcia said that Streamline has resulted in "criminal convictions
of up to 70 persons per day, essentially normalizing violations of the
U.S. Constitution en masse." In addition, she urged President Obama and
the new administration to "address immigration as a social,
humanitarian and economic issue and examine why last year 183 people
died a horrific and unnecessary death attempting to cross the
U.S.-Mexico border to reunite with families."
Ms. Garcia closed by saying, "Enforcement measures at the U.S.-Mexico
border and in the interior affect us all, immigrants or not. Current
immigration policies and laws continue to normalize the deprivation of
rights for immigrants."
Immigrant rights groups also announced plans for follow-up work with
the "Open Letter" to President Barack Obama and members of Congress
when they travel to Washington, D.C. in March. Signators and immigrant
rights groups will continue pressing elected officials to take action
to end the raids, suspend detentions and deportations, and restore due
process before the end of Administration's first 100 days.
TAKE ACTION FOR JUSTICE & HUMAN RIGHTS:
to read and share the Open Letter to President Barack Obama with your
Congressional delegation, local, county and state public officials and
The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR) is a national organization composed of local coalitions and immigrant, refugee, community, religious, civil rights and labor organizations and activists. It serves as a forum to share information and analysis, to educate communities and the general public, and to develop and coordinate plans of action on important immigrant and refugee issues. We work to promote a just immigration and refugee policy in the United States and to defend and expand the rights of all immigrants and refugees, regardless of immigration status.