Immigrant detainees launch hunger strike over conditions

The Associated Press reports

A group of detainees at a Louisiana immigration detention center have begun three-day hunger strikes to protest poor conditions there, immigrant advocates said.

The news comes just days after Department of Homeland Security officials dismissed a report critical of conditions at its immigration holding centers nationwide.

About 100 detainees contributed to a report released Thursday by the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, claiming bleak conditions at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement lockup in Basile, La., 183 miles northwest of New Orleans.

The hunger strike comes in the same week that another report by the Immigration Law Center says the rights of immigrant detainees are violated in a routine and systematic fashion. The report, “A Broken System,” is based on 18,000 pages of previously confidential ICE, ABA, and UNHCR reviews of detention centers.

At the same time, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says that despite some positive recent adjustments to the immigration detention system in the U.S., many men, women and children detained in those facilities are held in unacceptable conditions, and the right of these persons to due process remains, in many cases, compromised.

Legislation to regulate immigration detention system introduced

Today in the Senate, two important pieces of legislation seeking to repair systemic flaws in the immigration detention system were introduced: the “Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Detention Act” sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and the “Strong STANDARDS Act (Safe Treatment, Avoiding Needless Deaths, and Abuse Reduction in the Detention System)” sponsored by Senators Menendez and Gillibrand.

The legislation would address some of the concerns raised by recent news articles and reports, over the deteriorating conditions and lack of due process protections for immigrants in detention. The following is a statement by Douglas Rivlin, Communications Director of the National Immigration Forum, a non-partisan, non-profit pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington.
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Dairy farmers: immigration reform vital to survival

Dairy farmers across the U.S. are speaking out about their dependence on immigrant labor and are pushing for immigration reform.

The Wall Street Journal says

Dairy farmers from Vermont and New York to Wisconsin and beyond have become increasingly dependent on immigrants, many of them Latin Americans who are in the U.S. illegally. Unlike other agricultural work where laborers are hired for short, seasonal stints, dairy-farm laborers often stick around for years, forging close ties with their employers.

But that has also left dairy farmers vulnerable, as rising unemployment in the U.S. heightens tensions over the hiring of illegal immigrants. Dairy farmers say that without immigrant workers, a labor shortage might force some to shutter their businesses, depriving rural communities in the U.S. of a key economic engine.

Click the link above to read the full story.

Farmworker shelter advocates begin work

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of San Diego has begun the process of building a shelter for migrant farm workers, using a $2 million grant from the city of San Diego.

The North County Times says:

“It’s in process,” Sister RayMonda Duvall, executive director of Catholic Charities, said Wednesday as she discussed the long-debated shelter project.

Last week, the nonprofit organization hired an architect, and it hopes to have initial concept plans and construction cost estimates within the next several weeks, Duvall added.

Catholic Charities is proposing to put the 50-bed facility on its existing La Posada de Guadalupe homeless shelter property, on Impala Drive in Carlsbad’s business park. The City Council OK’d the grant for the project in February.

On Capitol Hill, Haitian activists seek Temporary Protected Status

WHAT: Press Conference hosted by the office of Rep. Alcee Hasting (D.-Fla.) and members of United Haitian Association of USA, Inc., regarding the need to grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the United States.
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Hastings: 'immoral and irresponsible' to continue to deny Haitians TPS

The Miami Herald has more information on the boat capsizing which claimed the loves of dozens of Haitians Tuesday.

Survivors say more than 200 Haitian migrants were crammed aboard a wooden sloop when it began taking water over the weekend. By late Tuesday, 118 had been rescued, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Jennifer Johnson said.

The latest boat tragedy comes as Haiti shows signs of progress following a year of natural disasters and food riots. Despite the pockets of progress, many remain destitute as jobs are slow to come by and remittances dwindle in the wake of a global recession.

In Miami, Haitian community activist Marleine Bastien said the tragedy underscores the need for the Haitian government to do a better job at monitoring its porous borders.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, called the incident a “sad reminder of the hopelessness and desperation facing the Haitian people” and renewed his call for temporary protected status for Haitian migrants.

He said it was “immoral and irresponsible” to continue to deny TPS, noting that repeat hurricanes and an economic crisis have “practically dried up the remittances on which so many Haitian families rely.”

“Critics argue that granting TPS will compel Haitians to leave their country. Tragedies such as this make it clear that the opposite is true,” he said.

Lawmakers re-examine Violence Against Women Act

The Voice of America reports that

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are looking closely at the immigrant provisions in a domestic violence act.

“It doesn’t make any difference if it’s a family member, boyfriend or stranger. It’s a crime. It’s a crime,” Senator Patrick Leahy says, “It’s a crime.”

Congress first passed the violence against women act, known as VaWa in 1994. It’s up for reauthorization in the next two years. Advocates want more security for immigrants.

“So much more is needed. We must strengthen VAWA so that it works for all victims of sexual or domestic violence – whether they live in rural or urban areas, whether they speak English or another language,” Karen Tronsgard-Scott says. “Every victim deserves a chance to live a peace-filled life.”

But lawmakers are up against protectionists who don’t want taxpayer funds benefiting residents who don’t have permission to live in the U.S.