On November 8, the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition joined over 300 national and local civil and human rights groups in a letter (organized by the Rights Working Group) to Secretary of the Department Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, urging her not to help the state of Alabama implement its draconian “HB56” law. That law requires or allows public and private institutions to seek citizenship or immigration documents from clients under “reasonable suspicion” of being illegal immigrants before serving them — a recipe for racial profiling and hardship for immigrant families denied everything from schooling to library cards to water utilities.
A press release accompanying the letter quotes ACLU’s Legislative Counsel Joanne Lin:
“Sec. Napolitano has testified that DHS will not assist in implementing HB 56, but has not explained what this means,” Lin said. “Six weeks after HB 56 went into effect, civil rights groups in Alabama and around the country are still waiting to hear whether DHS is doing anything differently in Alabama today. DHS cannot continue its normal operations in Alabama without aiding in the enforcement of a state law that the Justice Department has challenged as unconstitutional. The Obama administration must take all necessary actions to ensure that DHS does not detain or deport anyone whose civil rights have been violated under HB 56.”
The September 28, 2011 district court and October 14, 2011 Court of Appeals rulings which allowed several portions of Alabama’s HB 56 to go into effect have resulted in the implementation of a law reminiscent of the Jim Crow era and a dark time in our country’s history. Though HB 56 is still being challenged by the Administration, civil rights organizations, and various faith groups, children have stopped attending schools, entire communities have vanished, and fear and isolation have taken hold. We ask that you take immediate action to address the current humanitarian crisis unfolding there. We welcome your recent statement to Congress that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will not help Alabama implement this draconian law, but the concrete steps outlined below are necessary to ensure that the Department does not do so. […]
The steps demanded include:
1) Immediately Suspend ICE ACCESS Programs in Alabama
ICE ACCESS programs allow DHS to invite and accept the assistance of state and local law enforcement agencies in federal immigration enforcement through formal and informal cooperation agreements. […] Because the constitutionality of Alabama’s policing is now called into question, DHS has no way of ensuring that immigrants referred to ICE by Alabama law enforcement are not apprehended as a result of racial profiling or unlawful policing practices. Suspending these programs today is the only way to ensure that the federal government is not acting as a conduit or incentivizing Alabama law enforcement to engage in discriminatory policing. […]
2) Widely Promote the DHS Guidance on State and Local Governments’ Assistance in Immigration Enforcement and Related Matters to the ICE New Orleans Field Office and Other Relevant DHS Personnel and Advance the Guidance with Alabama Law Enforcement Officials
[…] The Guidance emphasizes repeatedly, consistent with DOJ’s lawsuit, that the federal government has primacy in immigration enforcement.
3) DHS Should Exercise Favorable Discretion in Immigration Cases Arising Out of Alabama’s Enforcement of HB 56
HB 56 interferes with the ability of DHS to set its own enforcement priorities and allocate its limited enforcement resources, as set forth in the State and Local Government Guidance. DHS should therefore maximize its exercise of favorable prosecutorial discretion in all cases arising out of Alabama’s enforcement of HB 56. […] This must include decisions on whether to issue detainers, Notices to Appear, and assume custody of individuals detained by Alabama law enforcement.
(Links added.) In addition to the hundreds of national groups including the ACLU, CAIR, Human Rights Watch and others, the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition is proud to join a great number of local or locally based co-signers and/or MCCRC coalition members, including
- CAIR (Washington, DC)
- CASA de Maryland (Silver Spring, MD)
- Counselors Helping (South) Asians / Indians, Inc. (CHAI) (Ellicott City, MD)
- Critical Care Associates (Potomac, MD)
- Disciples Justice Action Network (Annapolis, MD)
- Eyes To See, Ears to Hear Peace Prayer Mission Group of Seekers Church (Silver Spring, MD)
- Sisters of Mercy of the Americas (Silver Spring, MD)
- South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) (Takoma Park, MD)