Tag Archives: La-migra

Las Notis: The National Guard Rescues Dozens of Puerto Ricans After Tropical Storm Isaias & More

Las Notis is a daily news column that gets you up to speed on the political, media + other going ons in Latin America and the diaspora—all in one quick digest.  Here’s your glimpse at what’s going on today. Dozens of people had to be rescued by the National Guard in Puerto Rico as Tropical[…..]

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Eva Longoria & Cecile Richards Partner With Latino Victory Fund to Raise Awareness of Latina Candidates

In 2018, Latino Victory Fund launched the Year of the Latina initiative to increase Latina representation across government. Now, it’s bolstering its efforts with First Latinas—a program announced on Wednesday. The joint partnership with actress Eva Longoria and women’s rights activist Cecile Richards is designed to endorse and raise awareness of Latina candidates running for[…..]

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France: Children Face Abusive, Racist Police Stops

Boy in boxing gym with back towards camera

(Paris) – French police use overly broad stop-and-frisk powers to conduct discriminatory and abusive checks on Black and Arab boys and men, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Curbing these powers is key to addressing biased policing, including racial or ethnic profiling, and repairing police-community relations.

The 44-page report, “‘They Talk to Us Like We’re Dogs’: Abusive Police Stops in France,” documents repetitive, baseless police stops targeting minorities including children as young as 10, older children, and adults. These stops often involve invasive, humiliating body pat-downs and searches of personal belongings. Most stops are never recorded, the police don’t provide written documentation or usually tell people why they were stopped, and measures to improve accountability have been ineffective. Several of the children and adults interviewed said police used racial slurs.

“There is ample evidence that identity checks in France, in particular because they have a discriminatory impact, drive a deep and sharp wedge between communities and the police, while doing virtually nothing to deter or detect crime,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities shouldn’t keep ignoring the calls for change.”

Human Rights Watch interviewed 90 French men and boys belonging to minority groups, including 48 children, between April 2019 and May 2020 in Paris, Grenoble, Strasbourg, and Lille. Many said they were stopped because of what they look like and where they live, not their behavior. Ethnic profiling – stopping people based on appearance, including race and ethnicity, rather than the person’s behavior or a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing – is unlawful and harmful to individuals and society at large.

Human Rights Watch found that police often target minority youth, including young children, for the stops. Children as young as 12 described being forced to put their hands against a wall or car, spread their legs, and submit to invasive pat-downs, including buttocks and genitalia. These stops can take place in front of or near schools, and on school field trips.

Koffi, 12, said he and his entire class were subjected to a police identity check in front of their middle school in Bobigny, outside Paris, as they were leaving on a field trip to the Louvre. He said three police officers searched all of their bags. “They put their hands in my pockets. They spread my legs and touched my genitals,” Koffi said, adding that his teacher objected but the police said they could do whatever they wanted.

Des policiers effectuent un contrôle pendant le confinement dû au Covid-19 à Nice, France, le 8 avril 2020
© 2020 Eric Gaillard/Reuters

Sekou, a 14-year-old living in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, said he’d been stopped at least 6 times. “We never see white kids getting checked,” he said. “When I’m with my white friends, the police don’t even look at them…. They say ‘freedom, equality, fraternity,’ but there’s no equality when it comes to this kind of thing.”

Children, parents, and educators described the negative impact of these experiences. Research in the United States found that boys who experienced abusive police stops also had higher rates of post-traumatic stress.

Abusive and discriminatory identity checks are a longstanding problem in France and are at the heart of concerns around institutional racism and discrimination, Human Rights Watch said. Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated in France in the wake of the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by a white policeman in Minneapolis on May 25. Many have drawn parallels to the 2016 death in police custody in a Paris suburb of 24-year-old Adama Traoré, which began with an identity check.

In response to these protests, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced on June 8 a “zero tolerance” approach and measures to hold individual officers accountable for racist behavior. On identity checks, Castaner simply reminded officers of their duty to display their tag numbers and called for reinforcing the use of body cams. In a speech to the nation on June 14, President Emmanuel Macron condemned all forms of racism but did not specifically address police abuse, saying only that law enforcement deserve “the support of public authorities and the gratitude of the nation.”

While the authorities have consistently rejected calls to collect and publish statistics about police stops, data released about stops to enforce lockdown measures amid the Covid-19 pandemic showed a bias involving minorities in poor neighborhoods. In late April, government statistics showed that police had conducted more than double the national average of stops in Seine-Saint-Denis, the poorest area of metropolitan France. Numerous videos have circulated showing police stops that appear abusive, violent, and discriminatory.

Human Rights Watch documented abusive and discriminatory police stops targeting minorities in a 2012 report. In 2014 and again in 2017, the Defender of Rights, the national human rights institution, criticized these abusive practices and called for reforms. In 2016, the Court of Cassation ruled that police stops of three young men constituted ethnic profiling and a “gross misconduct that engages the responsibility of the state.” In 2014, the authorities amended the police code of ethics to explicitly prohibit basing police identity checks on “any physical feature or distinctive mark … unless there is a specific alert” and to avoid “harming the dignity” of the person.

International and French law prohibit discrimination, unjustified interference with the right to privacy, degrading treatment, and violations of the right to physical integrity. International and national standards require respectful treatment by the police.

Despite increased awareness and modest advances, the law and practice of identity checks in France remain deeply problematic, Human Rights Watch said. The law gives the police overly broad discretion to carry out stops without any suspicion of wrongdoing, leaving too much room for arbitrary and biased decisions. The police appear to use these powers as a means to exert authority, particularly in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The lack of written documentation and systematic data collection about identity checks makes it very difficult to assess their effectiveness or lawfulness.

While the June 8 announcements represent a step forward, they are insufficient to end and redress abusive and discriminatory police stops, Human Rights Watch said. The French government should adopt legal and policy reforms to prevent ethnic profiling and abusive treatment during stops. All identity checks and pat-downs should be based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion. Anyone stopped should receive a written record, including the legal basis for the stop. The authorities should develop specific guidelines for stops involving children.

“Cleavages between communities and law enforcement make neighborhoods less safe and the police less effective, and discrimination is damaging to individuals and to entire societies,” Jeannerod said. “The French government should urgently reform police powers to stop, search, and frisk.”

Voices from the Report:

Paul, 17, from Argenteuil, said:

Yesterday a friend of mine [also 17, also Black] was downtown [Argenteuil] and got stopped. At first he was alone, he got stopped by the national police. Then me and my friends joined him, there were four of us. Another police team came and did an identity check on us. My friend asked, “Why are you stopping us?” and one of the officers said, “It’s profiling.” And they teased him, saying “Negro” and things like that. And then again, later, another team came and they check us again. Every time, the police frisked us, they asked us for our identity documents, and they searched our bags.

Dabir, 15, from Paris, said:

It was after school, it was a group of 10 of us, there were Blacks and Arabs, and 1 white [kid]. We were walking to the Franprix [a supermarket]. A police car came, the officers got out and came toward us. They touched everyone’s pockets except the white guy. They checked all of us except him. They checked to see if our phones were stolen. They asked us to turn them on and put the code. They asked our ages.

Abdul, 18, from Lille, said:

I had a hoodie, it was winter and it was cold. I was training for the karate France championships. When I was about to cross the road, a car blocked my way…. Four colossal men got out, I knew immediately they were police. It was a stop. When I asked why they wanted to stop me, they told me it was their job to ask the questions. They told me to open my bag so I did, but then one of them just took it and emptied it onto the ground. I was really angry, I asked him, “Why are you doing this?” I got down on all fours to pick up my things. When I stood up, an officer pushed me against the car, he spread my legs and touched me everywhere. He touched my testicles. I can still feel the tears in my eyes.

Amad, 15, from Strasbourg, said:

They put us against the wall, in front of the school’s football area. They frisked me and took my bag to search it. I told them my name, they checked it. They asked me a lot of questions: are you already known to the police, do you have anything on you, what are you doing here? It took time, recess had ended, so I had to get a late note. I didn’t say I had been stopped by the police, I said I’d gone to the bathroom. Otherwise, they would have told my parents and that wouldn’t have been good.

Annick Bousba, a mother in Grenoble whose son was stopped for the first time when he was 14, said:

He said they’d done it “in front of all my friends like I’m some kind of thug.” My son doesn’t think the police are there to protect him. What my son has experienced has made me question a lot the actions of the police and their training.

Hasnia Djerbi, a mother in Grenoble, said:

It’s hard for him [her son] to talk about it. Everything is fine until one day, and you don’t know why, you become suspect. It makes you feel like you’re not part of this society. I could see how affected he was. And I was revolted. I understand why young people hate the police. I find them racist now. I used to think differently.

US: Stop Using Untrained, Abusive Agencies at Protests

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers conduct a targeted enforcement operation in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. on February 9, 2017. 

© 2017 Reuters

(Washington, DC) – The United States federal government should immediately stop deploying federal agents without relevant training or those from abusive agencies to protests across the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The protests have focused on deadly police violence against Black people and structural racism in the United States.

On June 2, 2020, the US government deployed officers from nearly a dozen federal agencies to control protests in Washington, DC, and other cities. Many of these agencies were unlikely to provide training in crowd control, increasing the risk of abuse. The deployment of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raised particular concerns due to their histories of human rights violations and lack of accountability.

“Border Patrol agents have a disturbing record of killing people, including US citizens, with impunity, and ICE has a history of violating detainees’ rights,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, US program director at Human Rights Watch. “As people protest police brutality and encounter new police abuses, these agents risk infusing more danger into volatile situations.”

The Customs and Border Control acting commissioner, Mark Morgan, announced on June 4 in a tweet that his agency was deploying agents and aircraft across the country to work with local law enforcement. ICE confirmed to Roll Call that it had also deployed agents to work with local law enforcement agencies in response to “civil unrest.”

A 2014 independent review of 67 incidents in which Border Patrol agents used deadly force found that “Agents have deliberately stepped in the path of cars, apparently to justify shooting at the drivers and have fired in frustration at people throwing rocks from the Mexican side of the border.”

One policy organization found that of 809 complaints of alleged abuse lodged against Border Patrol agents between January 2009 and January 2012, 97 percent resulted in “no action taken” by the agency. A June 2015 interim report of the Customs and Border Protection Integrity Advisory Panel similarly found that “CBP did not have sufficient IA [internal affairs] investigators to investigate these incidents, nor until recently did its IA investigators have authority to conduct investigations involving potential criminal misconduct in the exercise of use of force by CBP’s LEOs [Law Enforcement Officers.]” 

A 2011 study by the Homeland Security Studies and Analysis Institute on CBP workforce integrity found that its disciplinary system fails to “foster timely discipline or exoneration .” Five years later, the Homeland Security Integrity Advisory Council’s 2016 Integrity Advisory Panel found that the agency’s disciplinary system remained “broken” and its “disciplinary process takes far too long to be an effective deterrent.” 

Incidents involving use of force by firearm have declined in recent years, but there has been an increase in dangerous and sometimes lethal car pursuits by Border Patrol agents, even as police agencies have placed more restrictions on when to pursue fleeing suspects. The agency has not updated its use-of-force statistics since fiscal year 2018.

Residents of border communities have complained repeatedly about racial profiling by Border Patrol agents. A Justice Department “guidance” limiting the use of race, national origin, and other factors in making routine or spontaneous law enforcement decisions, such as traffic stops, has a broad exception for interdiction activities at the border.

In Washington State, the agency settled a 2012 lawsuit that accused the Border Patrol of failing to establish reasonable suspicion before stopping drivers in the Olympic Peninsula and seemingly making decisions to stop people “based on nothing other than the ethnic and/or racial appearance of a vehicle’s occupants.” In 2019, two women, both US citizens, filed a lawsuit alleging racial profiling after Border Patrol agents held them for 40 minutes in a parking lot in Montana after hearing them speak Spanish.

In 2019, ProPublica revealed a secret Facebook group in which current and former Border Patrol agents joked about migrant deaths and made racist and sexist jokes about migrants and US elected officials. In 2019, agents were revealed to have harassed, surveilled, interrogated, and detained journalists, lawyers, and activists at the US-Mexico border, interfering with their freedom of speech and movement.

Border Patrol agents have also failed to uphold and enforce US asylum laws, in their repeated failures to properly identify people who are seeking asylum. Asylum officers within the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and their union have repeatedly provided internal reports on multiple cases of intimidation, verbal, and even physical abuse against migrants by Border Patrol officers.

ICE also has a long record of rights violations against migrants in custody. ICE is responsible for maintaining a sprawling detention system in which the United States holds many people, with no individualized consideration of whether detention is necessary, and in which systemic failures in medical care have led to preventable deaths. People in detention, including transgender women, have long reported sexual harassment and abuse that has gone unaddressed. ICE has arrested or attempted to arrest people at courthouses, affecting domestic violence survivors’ safety and due process rights in general.

“The US government should be setting an example at this crucial moment by holding its law enforcement officers, including Border Patrol and ICE agents, accountable for abuses,” Austin-Hillery said. “Deploying abusive agencies to police protests instead sends a message of utter contempt for protesters’ rights and well-being.”


The US Deported Them, Ignoring Their Pleas. Then They Were Killed.

Asylum seekers in the United States face dangerous, even deadly, consequences when their claims are not taken seriously.

Those at risk are people like Santos Amaya, a Salvadoran police officer who had received death threats from gang members. He was deported from the United States in April 2018 and was shot dead, allegedly by gangs, that same month. People like a young Salvadoran woman who fled domestic violence and rape and was deported to El Salvador in July 2018. She now lives in fear, hiding from her abusers.

February 5, 2020Report

Deported to Danger

United States Deportation Policies Expose Salvadorans to Death and Abuse

These lives hang in the balance while the Trump administration attacks every legal means of protecting them in the United States.

On Feb. 5, Human Rights Watch released a report that identified 138 cases of Salvadorans who had been killed since 2013 after being deported from the United States; more than 70 others were beaten, sexually assaulted, extorted or tortured. These numbers are shocking but certainly an undercount, because no government or entity tracks what happens to deportees.

The Trump administration has put pressure on immigration judges to use overly narrow readings of the definition of a refugee. This approach may result in judges denying asylum to people like Amaya and the young Salvadoran woman — survivors of domestic violence, people who fear violence at the hands of gangs, or people who fear being targeted based on their family relationships. The administration has further proposed several new obstacles to gain asylum, including barring people convicted of illegal reentry into the United States, an offense often committed by people desperate to seek safety.

The Trump administration has tried to destroy the US asylum process in other ways — among them by forcing people to remain in dangerous and inhumane conditions in Mexican border towns while their claims are processed under its Migrant Protection Protocols. A Syracuse University analysis of government data revealed that as of December, 7,668 Salvadorans have been forced to wait in Mexico for their asylum claims to be processed. We have documented cases, included in a tally maintained by Human Rights First, of Salvadorans who have been kidnapped and attacked while waiting.

The United States is also returning asylum seekers to Guatemala, after pressing its government to sign an “asylum cooperation agreement,” despite the fact that many Guatemalans are fleeing for the same reasons as their Salvadoran neighbors.

Salvadorans in the United States are at risk for reasons other than the Trump administration’s attempt to eviscerate the right to seek asylum. More than 220,000 Salvadorans are affected by the administration’s decision to end temporary protected status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections. The administration also decided to end work authorization for Salvadorans with TPS, which allowed many Salvadorans to come to the United States in 2001 after a series of natural disasters.

These policies cover people who have worked, raised families, educated themselves and built their lives in the United States. This alone should be reason to value their relationship to the United States and regularize their legal status. But the killings and abuse that many Salvadorans will face if they are returned makes the need for Congress to enact legislation to protect recipients of these programs even more acute.

Former long-term residents of the United States face unique risks. Salvadorans who have lived in the United States are often extorted by gangs, as two cases we investigated in detail illustrate. In each, the person’s long-term residence meant that they were seen as having more wealth than most Salvadorans. They were repeatedly extorted by gangs and ultimately killed for their refusal to pay bribes.

But the Trump administration is not solely at fault here. Existing law, passed long before President Trump took office, has largely barred people with criminal convictions from seeking asylum, even when they face harm. They include a young man whose case we investigated, who at age 17, in 2010, fled gang recruitment and violence for the United States. After serving a sentence for two counts related to burglaries in the United States, he was denied protection, deported in 2017 and killed about three months later.

There is a simple way to prevent the murders and abuse we spent the past year and a half investigating: Give all noncitizens a full and fair opportunity to explain what abuses they fear before deporting them. As Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said in a statement after we released our report, the United States must stop “knowingly signing a death sentence by forcibly returning vulnerable people to the very place they fled.”

The right to a fair hearing on claims for protection should apply to everyone — including the more than 59,000 people waiting in dangerous and inhumane conditions in Mexican border towns, people who had been living under the TPS or DACA programs, or those who have paid their debt to society after serving criminal sentences.

Now US authorities are on notice about what is likely to happen when they deport Salvadorans without adequately considering their cases. This shameful and illegal practice should stop.

Pueblo leaders voice opposition to massive nuclear waste transport project

The All Pueblo Council of Governors, representing the collective voice of the member 20 sovereign Pueblo nations of New Mexico and Texas, convened Thursday affirming commitment to protect Pueblo natural and cultural resources from risks associated with transport of the nation’s growing inventory of high level nuclear waste from sites across the country to proposed […]

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South Dakota Governor drops anti-protest laws in settlement agreement with ACLU

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg yesterday backed down from their unconstitutional attempts to silence protesters. Under a settlement agreement, which was submitted for court approval yesterday, the state agreed to never enforce current state laws that prohibit protected speech and are aimed at suppressing protests against the Keystone XL […]

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Cuban Man Dies in US Immigration Custody

Undated photograph of Richwood Correctional Center, Louisiana, United States. 

© LaSalle Corrections

A second death this month in United States immigration custody raises disturbing questions about a system we know has failed to protect asylum seekers and other immigrants in its care over and over again. On Tuesday, Roylán Hernández-Díaz, a 43-year-old Cuban man, died in a detention center in Richwood, Louisiana, according to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and multiple news sources. His death came just nine days after the death of Nabene Abienwi, an asylum seeker from Cameroon, in ICE custody in California.

According to ICE, Hernández-Díaz came to a US port of entry on May 20 and entered ICE custody two days later. His wife told Buzzfeed News that Hernández-Díaz had applied for asylum because he had spoken out against the Cuban government and tried to leave the country multiple times. She said as a result, he had served nine years in prison.

After passing the “credible fear interview,” the initial stage for asylum screening, he requested “parole,” or release, while his case was pending. But – like the overwhelming majority of asylum seekers held in the South – he was denied. As a result, Hernández-Díaz stayed detained for months in one of three privately run jails that only began holding immigration detainees this year, in a state where there are few immigration attorneys and where immigration judges deny nearly all asylum cases.

A federal judge in September issued a preliminary injunction against denying parole without an individualized determination. It’s unclear if Hernández-Díaz received an individualized determination as required.

In response to his continued detention, Hernández-Díaz began a hunger strike just a few days ago, one of dozens of immigrants in detention in recent years who have taken this desperate step to draw attention to their continued detention, isolation, and poor treatment.

Other immigrants in detention reported ICE put Hernández-Díaz into segregation or “solitary confinement” in response. Under the most recent detention standards, people on hunger strike are to be put under medical observation, and only moved to isolation for medical reasons. Disciplinary segregation for a hunger strike would be unwarranted, but unsurprising. ICE has a history of misusing segregation, particularly for people with mental health conditions, and a corresponding track record of people dying by suicide after abysmal mental health care.

Hernández-Díaz came to the US seeking protection. Instead, he found an administration determined to make an already broken system even more indifferent toward human rights.

Navajo, Hopi will have objects, human remains repatriated by Finland

WASHINGTON – The Hopi and Navajo are among 26 tribes that will see the return of ancestral remains from Finland, where the items have been held in a museum after being taken from Colorado almost 130 years ago. The repatriation, announced Wednesday during Finnish President Sauli Niinistö’s visit to the White House, follows years of […]

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“It’s not the forest that is in danger, it is life itself”

As regional leaders gather for a summit on protecting the Amazon, where fires are raging, Indigenous leaders say they have forest knowledge politicians cannot afford to overlook. LETICIA, Colombia – Sitting in a circle in a wooden shack on the outskirts of Leticia, the capital of Colombia’s Amazonas province, Indigenous leaders savoured powdered coca leaves […]

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