Leading from the Left

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More ICE

The following is a memo that Marty Rosenbluth, an Orange County resident and staff attorney for Southern Coalition for Social Justice, sent to the County Commissioners. I post it here to help folks understand the underlying issues and the questions being raised by the Sheriff's decision to participate in the "Secure Communities" program.

Brief Analysis of the “Secure Communities”

"Secure Communities will create a constant ICE presence at
every local jail,” states Executive Director for ICE Secure Communities David Venturella.
[1] In FY 2008, ICE identified and charged more than 221,000 undocumented persons in jails for immigration violations – more than triple the number charged just two years ago.[2] “Secure Communities” is a new ICE program meant to further this endeavor.

One of the key components of the “Secure Communities” plan is the distribution of integration technology that will link local law enforcement agencies to both Homeland Security and FBI biometric databases.[3] According to ICE, without Secure Communities “as part of the routine booking process, local officers submit an arrested person’s fingerprints through FBI databases to access that individual’s criminal history.”[4] With Secure Communities, “those fingerprints will also automatically be checked against DHS databases to access immigration history information. The automated process would also notify ICE when fingerprints match those of an immigration violator. ICE officers would
conduct follow up interviews and take appropriate action.”

While participation in “Secure Communities” may look appealing because of its promise to speed up existing access to the FBI database, the effect of joining Secure Communities is to give ICE unfettered access to immigration information about members of the Orange County community.Once ICE has matched the fingerprints of a detainee in Orange County jail, it is up to ICE, not the sheriff, to decide whetheror
not ICE will take action against the person. According to ICE, once a person is identified through the Secure Communities program “[r]esponses may include such actions as: (a) placing the alien immediately in ICE custody to avoid release; (b) conducting personal interviews to gather additional information from the alien; (c) placing detainers
[6]; and (d) issuing charging documents.”[7]

As with 287(g), immigration rights groups are already receiving reports of individuals being detained by ICE under Secure Communities after being arrested for minor infractions such as misdemeanors and driving related offenses (driving without a license, etc.). Even if the arrested person is eventually found innocent on the state charges or the state charges are dropped, the ICE detainer would still be in effect and ICE
can still take custody.

In its January 2007 resolution opposing cooperation with ICE, the Orange County Board of Commissioners vowed “not to enter into a
memorandum of agreement with Homeland Security to enforce immigration laws or take any other action that might result in racial profiling or create a climate of fear and hostility for any community in the County.” Joining Secure Communities stands in stark juxtaposition to the 2007 resolution.

Submitted by:
Marty Rosenbluth, Staff Attorney,
Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Home address: 2737 Armfield Rd.,
Hillsborough, NC 27278
Home Phone: 919-732-5709
[1] http://www.buckscounty.org/news/2009/2009-01-07-CorrectionsICE.aspx
[2] ICE Secure Communities Fact Sheet, http://www.ice.gov/pi/news/factsheets/secure_communities.htm
[3] Id.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] An ICE detainer is when ICE flags an
undocumented immigrant in custody of another law enforcement agency because they
believe an immigration law has been violated. When the person finishes his or
her sentence, ICE agents pick him or her up to begin deportation proceedings.
[7] ICE Secure Communities Fact Sheet

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Slipping on ICE

You may have read about the Sheriff's decision to join a federal program called ICE.  There was an article in the News & Observer  over the weekend explaining Sheriff Pendergrass' position.  Since that article ran, I have received numerous emails from concerned citizens including members of the County's Human Relations Commission.  

Below is the text of an email from a member of the HRC.  He articulates as clearly as anyone has what the concerns with this program are.  Since there have been so many questions raised by the public, I thought it might be helpful to share what he had to say.  Read on....

Negative impact of the "Secure Communities" program

In its January 2007 resolution opposing cooperation with ICE, the Orange County Board of Commissioners commited, "not to enter into a memorandum of agreement with Homeland Security to enforce immigration laws or take any other action that might result in racial profiling or create a climate of fear and hostility for any community in the County."

Under the "Secure Communities" program, fingerprints of people arrested will automatically be checked against Department of Homeland Security databases to access immigration history information. The automated process notifies ICE when fingerprints match those of an unauthorized immigrant. ICE officers then follow up and take appropriate action.

The ICE "Secure Communities" program will produce negative impacts for Orange County residents and communities:

* Local law enforcement will provide immigration information about Orange County residents to ICE;
* Individuals with minor misdemeanors and driving-related offenses can be detained by ICE;
* Individuals that are arrested but not convicted of a crime can still be picked up by ICE agents;
* Informal racial and ethnic profiling will occur under the discretion of arresting officers;
* The program will produce a chilling effect in our immigrant communities - causing lack of trust of law enforcement, misunderstandings about the program, reluctance to report crime, and further marginalization of immigrant communities that results in a more tense and dangerous environment for everyone.

Surely the 2007 Resolution was intended to prevent this very situation.”

Sunday, January 18, 2009

An Economic Reality, Thinking Anew

Brian Russell has a good piece in the Carrboro Citizen about economic development and access to highspeed internet. Brian couches his point in a Carrboro context, but his argument applies as much to the broader community as it does to a thriving downtown.

As we know businesses today operate in a new world in which technology plays the key role. If your business doesn't keep up, you'll fall behind competitors. And the communities that invest in technology will be the communities that thrive in the future; those that don't, won't. Brian argues--and I whole-heartedly agree--that forward thinking governments should treat high-speed internet access like any other infrastructure.

Like sidewalks, roads, water and sewer, high speed internet access is imperative to create the kind of economic development that Orange County wants and needs. Our rural areas are particularly at a disadvantage as highspeed access is severely limited. To his credit, President-elect Obama is insisting that highspeed infrastructure be funded in the economic reinvestment plans currently being created in Congress. Bringing highspeed infrastructure to our urban, suburban and rural areas is key to future economic health. Orange County and our municipalities need to be doing everything in our power to ensure this infrastructure is in place.

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Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bush is a Crook

Krugman's got it right; check out his op-ed here.  Bush, Cheney and their army of evil-doers don't deserve to be let off the hook.  To protect the integrity of our Republic they should NOT be held above the law.  

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Los Jubans

I am looking forward to Obama keeping his promise to ease US relations with Cuba.  US policy towards Cuba needs to change.  It needed to change decades ago but has been held hostage by a loud, angry minority with clout--conservative Cuban's in Miami who've been major donors to Republican candidates.   It's time to change. 

The current US embargo only hurts our own interests.  Even though business rules have been loosened in recent years, our farmers and business people remain largely shut out of an important, if small, market at our doorstep.  

I've been to Cuba, about 10 years ago, and it's a beautiful country.  Great food, interesting Spanish colonial architecture (which unfortunately is crumbling under the heavy foot of neglect), lovely countryside, and a fantastic climate.  

It's like living next door to someone for years and whose last name you don't know.  There is so much knowledge, experience and rich history in Cuba; and we're losing out by shutting ourselves off from it.  

The N&O has an interesting story today about a Raleigh couple, who left Cuba in the early 60's, and their recent return visit to Havana.  Before Castro, there were an estimated 15,000 Jews living in Cuba; today, the number is likely around 1500.  

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Wanna Take a Midnight Train to Georgia?

This evening I dropped  by an open house sponsored by a committee of Orange County residents who are trying to secure a train station in Hillsborough.  They've done a great job developing the criteria for selecting a site and making the case for a local station.  I'm on board!

It's a shame Orange County isn't connected to the nation's passenger rail network.  I have friends, for example, who are taking the train to Washington for the inaugural festivities and they have to catch the train in Durham or Raleigh.  If we're serious about creating alternatives to the automobile, then we're going to have to do what it takes to get this station sited and built.

And if we're serious about regional commuter rail, then this might very well be the first step in that direction.  I for one would love to be able to take a train to Raleigh for work, or to Charlotte for a meeting, or to Asheville for the weekend.  

Monday, January 12, 2009

Chancellor Earns Praise

Chancellor Holden Thorp's decision to suspend the search for a new UNC-affiliated airport in Orange County has earned much-deserved kudos from the community.  Thorp showed prudence and wisdom in deciding to alter course.  As he accurately pointed out, the manner in which this search was initiated doomed it from the beginning.  

I admire Thorp's willingness to re-think the situation.  He showed the community that he listens and is willing to work collaboratively.  Thanks, Chancellor.  Looking forward to working with you.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Airport Saga to End

The Chancellor has called a press conference for 11am, under an hour from now.  I have been told that he will be announcing that UNC will NOT be pursuing an airport at this time!  Good news for the people of Bingham Township!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Speaking Frankly

Jeff Toobin has a great piece in the New Yorker about Barney Frank, one of the greatest political forces of our time.   


Tuesday, January 06, 2009

End of An Era

In the past few years we've lost Joe and Lucy Straley, Charlotte Adams, and Joe Herzenberg. And now we learn Rebecca Clark has died.  I was struck yesterday that our community, with Rebecca's passing, has closed a chapter in our history.  Our old civil rights & civil liberties fighters of 50's-80's are largely gone.  

They defined Chapel Hill progressivism and were our voice to the world.  They spoke of hope, of equality, of charity, of progressive values.  The spoke against war in Vietnam and American imperialism in Central America and Cuba.  They championed death penalty reform, voter registration reform, gay rights, desegregation, the ERA, freedom of speech and liberty in all her forms.  They were largely shaped by Roosevelt and the New Deal, Kennedy and King.  They, in turn, shaped us and shaped our community's reputation in the South.  

I thought I would be sad when I learned of Rebecca's death.  I am not.  Rather, I am grateful.  Grateful that she and so many others dedicated their lives to creating a 'new deal' for the those of us who make Orange County and North Carolina home. 

Monday, January 05, 2009

Al Gets the Nod!

Al Franken has been declared the winner in Minnesota, by 225 votes. I thought this race would never end, glad the good guy won.

It'll be interesting watching how Al operates in the US Senate. He's used to speaking his mind, often satirizing political events in a manner that makes conservatives heads explode. Moderating that a bit, so he can maximize his effectiveness, without losing his edge will be a challenge.

Even more important, Kay Hagan will shortly be sworn in as NC's newest Senator. What a change! We've waited 6 long years to return to reasonable, effective representation for our state. Finally a Senator we can be proud of.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Feedback on Schools Post

I received a great deal of feed back regarding my last post about the schools. The most common was along the lines of "How could our schools get to such a state?"

A school board member or the superintendent would be better placed to provide a complete answer to that question, but I believe there are several contributors. First, the Chapel Hill Carrboro system has been building a new school every 2 years or so for over a decade. Building new schools is extraordinarily expensive (the next elementary school is estimated to cost $35 million), and it's very easy to postpone roof repairs and the like when the system is bursting at the seams and needs to construct a new facility.

Second, their are repeated demands from parents and the community at large for new academic programs. Let's face it, roof repairs aren't sexy but adding chinese and spanish language classes for elementary school classes is. The reputation of the Chapel Hill Carrboro School system is built around offering a higher level of programs that other public school systems in North Carolina. When choices have to be made, maintaining that reputation may be more compelling that fixing a roof.

One retired school teacher emailed me to complain that the system administrators waste (his words, not mine) 'so much' money on trendy new programs and projects that they over look needed and necessary repairs and maintenance.

I'm not taking sides or criticizing school adminstrators or the school board; they have a tough job. But I am glad my post about conditions in our older schools captured the attention of folks in our community. While it may not be sexy, fixing these problems is important. Leaking roofs, mold, flooding classrooms and so forth definitely effect the quality of education our children get.