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Oakland group asks for migrants’ protection on International Migrants Day

on December 17, 2010

Twenty years ago the United Nations General Assembly accepted a new international agreement that sought the safety and security of migrants worldwide—the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. This weekend, thousands of people globally will celebrate International Migrants Day, December 18, and speak out for the rights of migrants.

The National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR), a non-profit based in Oakland that works on immigration and refugee policy issues, held its own celebration on Thursday. After hosting a lunch in the group’s downtown Oakland office, representatives from the organization released their new reportInjustice for All: The rise of the U.S. immigration policing regime—which they say documents the U.S. government’s abuses against immigrant families, workers and communities.

“The thing that distinguishes our report is what’s behind it,” said Arnoldo Garcia, the principal author of the report and a program director for NNIRR. “We are trying to raise the voices of community and where they’re at.”

The report documents 100 snapshot stories of immigrant’s interaction with U.S. government officials over the past two years, and chronicles accounts of human rights violations by law enforcement officials. These stories generally come from the collected case files of community groups and immigrant rights organizations.

One account claims, for example, that members of the Arizona Border Patrol shot and killed a young migrant after accusing him of loading contraband items into his vehicle. Another says Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials raided a Washington factory and arrested and jailed 28 workers for their immigration status—under the international convention, migrant workers cannot be individually or collectively subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. The report also contains several stories of racial and religious profiling, including a report that Nevada police detained seven Muslim men for praying in public, calling it “suspicious behavior.”

The goal for collecting all of these immigrants’ stories is for NNIRR to show that the U.S. government and law enforcement officials are systematically targeting immigrants. “We have documentary evidence here,” says Garcia. “If it happens once it’s an accident, if it happens twice it’s a coincidence, if it happens three times, it’s a pattern.”

The report suggests policy changes for the Obama administration and gives recommendations, such as stopping people from being jailed solely for their immigration status, prohibiting Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from racial, ethnic or religious profiling, and suspending arbitrary detentions, deportations and high-profile raids.

Injustice for All is the third human rights report documenting immigrants’ stories that NNIRR has released in the last three years. The organization now has close to 700 stories of human rights violations in their database says Garcia. “This is an attempt to put a human face on what’s happening and has enabled us to quantify what’s taking place,” said Catherine Tactaquin, the Executive Director of NNIRR. “This is information that talks.”

Image: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger greets California National Guard troops during a visit to the border in San Diego County on Aug. 18, 2010. About 250 California Guard members will work with Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents along the border for a year. Photo by The National Guard via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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