activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: immigration and customs enforcement

year-end wrap-up: updates on 2013 posts

Natan Blanc: After petitions and demonstrations, Natan Blanc was released in June, after spending six months in jail for refusing to be inducted into the Israel Defense Forces.

Food Not Bombs: Although state health officials in New Mexico threatened in June to seek a court order to stop Food Not Bombs from serving free meals without a permit, Keith McHenry reports that “the state never returned and the meals continue without incident.”

Uriel Alberto: After beginning a hunger strike in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Charlotte on July 4, to protest his deportation, Uriel Alberto was approved within two weeks for a one-year stay of removal.

California Prisoner Hunger Strike: Following legislators’ announcement that they would hold joint public hearings on the conditions in California prisons that led to another prisoner hunger strike in July, hunger strikers suspended the strike in September, 60 days after it began.

Washington Ballot Initiative: The GE labeling initiative in Washington, which would have required retail food products and seed stocks that had been genetically engineered to be labeled, was defeated by a small margin in November. Corporations spent $22 million, more than in any prior campaign in the state’s history, to defeat the initiative. Monsanto was the largest single contributor. According to a Grist blog post by Nathanael Johnson, the money made a difference, just like it did in a similar attempt to pass a labeling bill in California last year:

In each case the labeling bills started out with big leads. In each case those leads shrank as the food industry and agribusiness paid for massive amounts of advertising. The moral of the story seems to be that money really can change the outcome of elections.

Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff: On November 6, Tyler Lang and Kevin Olliff had their second pretrial conference. Lang accepted a plea deal and was released. Olliff attempted to accept a plea deal, but the judge rejected it; so he remains in Woodford County Jail. He was in court again today in front of a different judge.

Jeremy Hammond: On November 15, anarchist hacker Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. In response to the sentence, WikiLeaks released all of the remaining Stratfor files.

Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett: At a court hearing on December 9, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office reduced the charges against Reverend Billy and Nehemiah Luckett, dropping the more serious charges and reducing the remaining offenses to misdemeanor criminal trespass, disorderly conduct, and unlawful assembly.

Kimberly Rivera: On December 12, Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera was released early for good behavior and performing extra work. She had been scheduled for release in early January 2014.

Jerry Koch: On December 20, attorneys for Jerry Koch filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge John Keenan to release the 24-year-old philosophy student, because Koch has shown he has no intention of cooperating with the grand jury to which he’s been subpoenaed.

Pussy Riot: On December 23, the two women from Pussy Riot nearing the end of their two-year prison terms were released under a new amnesty law. The law was also expected to bring about the release of many people arrested after an anti-government demonstration in May, and close the cases of the 28 Greenpeace activists and 2 journalists arrested in the Arctic Sea in September while occupying an oil rig to call attention to the threat of oil drilling and climate change. According to a December 19 New York Times editorial,

In pardoning these prisoners, Mr. Putin gave no indication that they may have been wrongfully tried and imprisoned, nor that more people will not be treated similarly in the future.

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protesters temporarily block deportation bus from leaving downtown san francisco

Yesterday more than 100 protesters, many of whom were undocumented immigrants, surrounded an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus carrying shackled detainees and deportees. Approximately 20 of the protesters blocked the bus despite threats from federal immigration officials that they could face felony charges. According to Rebecca Bowe’s San Francisco Bay Guardian article,

At one point, ICE officials told the activists that the protesters could be charged with felony false imprisonment if they did not get up and move. But in the end, federal officers merely escorted them away from the bus and released them on the sidewalk around the corner.

No one was arrested. Due to the Sanctuary Ordinance, which prohibits San Francisco employees from helping ICE with immigration investigations or arrests (unless such help is required by a warrant or by law), no one was handed over to federal agents either. The protesters promised to block more deportation buses in the future.

civil disobedient begins hunger strike, as pelican bay hunger strike resumes tomorrow

Uriel Alberto was born in Oaxaca, Mexico in 1987 and came to the U.S. at age 7. Approximately one year ago, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) rejected his request to stay in the U.S. following his February 2012 arrest for disrupting a meeting of the North Carolina House Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy. After ICE ordered Alberto to present himself to immigration authorities by July 17 of this year, he began a hunger strike last week in front of the ICE office in Charlotte to protest his deportation.

Another hunger strike, in California, will restart tomorrow. Due to broken promises and cruel conditions, prisoners will resume a July 2011 hunger strike that started in Pelican Bay’s isolation unit and spread to prisons across the state. According to a San Francisco Bay Guardian article,

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) counted 6,000 prisoners throughout the state who refused food over several weeks in July 2011. During a follow-up strike that September, the number of prisoners missing meals swelled to 12,000, according to the federal receiver who was appointed by the courts to oversee reforms in the system. At least one inmate starved to death.

At Guantánamo Bay, where a group of detainees began a hunger strike in February and more than 100 detainees are refusing food, the U.S. government says it will continue to force-feed 45 of the hunger strikers during the holy month of Ramadan. Observant Muslims fast daily from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan, which begins tomorrow. The Obama administration allegedly does not force-feed observant Muslims between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan, but lawyers for the detainees have criticized the government for failing to guarantee that no such force-feeding will occur.

immigrant activist who infiltrated detention center to be released

Approximately two weeks ago, Claudia Muñoz infiltrated the Calhoun County Jail, a detention facility in Michigan. Muñoz, who entered the U.S. at age 16, is an undocumented National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) organizer. She intentionally had herself detained to expose abuses and identify people who should be released according to President Obama’s immigration policies. In her words:

I used to be afraid … but I’m not anymore. I know there’s going to be people on the outside who have my back, and who have done this before, and they have given me the power as a community to be unafraid. And I will go in there and I will find every single person that’s in my situation that’s not supposed to be there in the first place.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said late yesterday that Muñoz would be released, like Viridiana Martinez and other NIYA organizers who infiltrated the Broward Transitional Center in Florida last year. Muñoz already proved, however, that the Michigan ICE office is ignoring federal directives. For example, they’ve failed to release other detainees with low-priority cases.

immigrant activist who infiltrated detention center is released after identifying people who should be free

On July 20, Viridiana Martinez successfully infiltrated Broward Transitional Center, a detention facility in Florida, to identify people who should be released according to President Obama’s immigration policies. Martinez, who entered the U.S. at age 15, is among 7 undocumented National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) organizers who intentionally put themselves in deportation proceedings to infiltrate the Broward facility. Despite their wish to remain in custody until all low-priority detainees are freed, Martinez was apparently released on Friday.

NIYA found that undocumented youth who come into contact with the legal system are no safer now than they were before Obama’s new policy, though that policy did not require full implementation until August 15. NIYA also identified more than 100 people who should be released for a variety of reasons. Although Martinez was recently expelled, NIYA renewed its challenge to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and GEO Group, Inc., which owns the facility:

NIYA will no longer allow GEO Group or other private prison corporations to profit off of shattered families and broken lives. We will continue to organize inside their jails until the president lives up to his promises.

new white house immigration policy does not protect civil disobedient with a prior conviction

President Obama announced three weeks ago that his administration would stop deporting some undocumented immigrants who were under 16 when they came to the U.S. The memorandum setting forth the policy, however, includes several criteria that “should be satisfied before an individual is considered” for a two-year reprieve from deportation. Most important for activists is the criterion that the immigrant

has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses [no] threat to national security or public safety.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used that provision earlier this week to reject Uriel Alberto’s request to stay in the U.S. following his arrest for civil disobedience. Alberto, who was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. at age 7, landed in jail on February 29 after disrupting a meeting of the North Carolina House Select Committee on the State’s Role in Immigration Policy. His immigration attorney suspects that ICE declined his request to stay in the U.S. based a prior ‘significant’ misdemeanor offense of registering a 0.04 percent blood alcohol content when he was under 21. North Carolina’s limit is 0.08 percent.

Alberto is a member of El Cambio, an immigrant rights organization. His son is a U.S. citizen. While Obama’s new immigration policy is a step in the right direction, the broad criterion above counteracts any guarantee of meaningful change for undocumented immigrants with prior convictions, or who allegedly pose a threat to national security (e.g., due to their political activities).