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News and reports

April 6, 2007 | Pages 14 and 15

Immigrant rights in San Diego
Defending the undocumented
Houston protest against executions
Toledo anti-death penalty forum

Immigrant rights in San Diego
By Marcos Perez and Norma Villegas

SAN DIEGO--Approximately 80 activists from half a dozen immigrant rights and relief organizations rallied here October 28 in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters to demand an end to the military-style checkpoints set up outside neighborhoods affected by last week's wildfires.

According to the San Diego American Civil Liberties Union, the sheriff's department plans to ask for identification of evacuees returning home and to detain and hand over people suspected of being undocumented to the U.S. Border Patrol.

These checkpoints, expected to last up to three days, are further victimizing undocumented people, including Native Americans, most of whom may lack proper identification. At some evacuation sites, like Qualcomm Stadium, law enforcement officials also have been asking evacuees for identification.

Speakers denounced the racial profiling, detentions and deportations of immigrant evacuees and the discrimination in the distribution of services and aid. Fernando Suarez del Solar, who lost his son in the Iraq war, spoke out against the catastrophe in Iraq and the need to assess the commonalities of the wildfires and the war.

Estela de los Rios, from the Center for Social Advocacy, called on the sheriff and other local anti-immigrant politicians to "[e]nd the inhumane acts of discrimination in this state of emergency."

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Defending the undocumented
By Zach Mason and David Thurston

WASHINGTON--In the suburbs of the nation's capital, struggles are unfolding over the rights of undocumented immigrants. In Northern Virginia, the trend is towards restrictions on the rights of the undocumented, while Takoma Park, Md., recently voted to maintain its status as a sanctuary city.

In Virginia, the Prince William County board of supervisors voted unanimously October 17 to provide funding for the implementation of a resolution targeting undocumented immigrants.

The vote came after a 12-hour session of public testimony by nearly 400 people. Some speakers supported the resolution, but the vast majority of speakers opposed it. Outside, a crowd of 1,200 gathered, the largest crowd ever seen at a board of supervisors meeting.

The new ordinance, which still faces a challenge to its constitutionality in federal court, would turn local police officers into enforcers of federal immigration law and deny many public services to undocumented immigrants.

Though the law was passed despite lawsuits and a series of protests (including a boycott of businesses, a mass march and rally and a one-day strike), the county has been forced to concede some ground, such as pulling back from denying access to such services as schools and emergency medical care, which would have violated federal law.

Police enforcement of immigration law was also at issue in Takoma Park, Md. For weeks, a debate has been brewing over the city's sanctuary city law, passed in the 1980s to protect refugees from civil wars and right-wing dictatorships in Central America.

The law mandated that local police have no contact with federal immigration authorities. Yet in recent weeks, the city's police chief proposed amending the law to allow city police to arrest "previously deported felons" and to access the National Crime Information Database in order to do so.

Activists in Takoma Park were outraged at the plan. A city council meeting to decide on the proposed changes was flooded by supporters of the sanctuary law, including many immigrant families.

At the end of the day, the city council voted overwhelmingly to leave Takoma's sanctuary policy unchanged. Activists are now strategizing about how to use this victory to push other communities to provide sanctuaries for the undocumented.

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Houston protest against executions
By Dan Sharber and Laura Taylor

HOUSTON, Texas--"Break the needle, smash the chair! The death penalty is not fair!" These words were shouted by the 300 protesters who came out to the Eighth Annual Texas Statewide March to Stop Executions on October 27.

This year, the march was held in Houston for the first time--because, organizers say, Houston prosecutors put more people on death row than any other city in Texas, and most other states in the U.S. The march was organized by a coalition that includes the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, National Black United Front and International Socialist Organization.

The theme of this year's march was "Celebrating Our Victories, Remembering Our Losses, and Continuing the Fight for Abolition." Lee Greewood, the mother of Joseph Nichols, who was executed earlier this year, spoke about her son's case. There were messages of solidarity from many groups and individuals on death row, including Mumia Abu-Jamal and members of the DRIVE Movement.

Bryan McCann, a representative from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty noted how important such marches are. "Make no mistake--Kenneth Foster is alive today because of the people's movement," McCann said.

The march ended with a call to action to work together to fight for abolition of the death penalty.

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Toledo anti-death penalty forum
By Ted Reinhart

TOLEDO, Ohio--One hundred people turned out October 21 at the University of Toledo (UT) for a stop on the Campaign to End the Death Penalty's (CEDP) "A Broken System...Crying Out for Justice" fall tour.

Featured speakers included Yusef Salaam, who served seven years in prison in connection with the Central Park jogger case; Saadiqah Amatullah Hasan, the wife of Ohio death row inmate and political prisoner Siddique Abdullah Hasan; and Harold Wilson, the 122nd person to be exonerated from death row in the U.S. since capital punishment was reinstated.

Local organizations sponsoring the event included the CEDP, the International Socialist Organization, UT Black Student Union, CURE-Ohio, Muhammad's Mosque #91, St. Rose Peace and Justice, UT NAACP and the Millions More Movement.

The speakers told of their personal experiences with the criminal injustice system. In each case, convictions were based on questionable or manipulated evidence.

Audience members were encouraged to contribute whatever they could to the movement, be it time, money or other resources--and to get involved with one of the sponsoring organizations.

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