A Natural Disaster and a Young Girl’s Dream

A Natural Disaster and a Young Girl’s Dream

By Alicia Argeñal 

ScanLittle did I know how a natural disaster would change my life, as I knew it.

My family and I were stranded in the United States after Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in 1998. I was 12 years old. Initially we had only come for a family vacation, but we soon found out how quickly our plans changed.

My parents decided to stay, not knowing the implications of this decision at the time. Because Honduras was designated as country for its citizens to receive legal relief, we were granted Temporary Protective Status (TPS) in 1999.

At the time, this was a blessing in disguise because it allowed us to live and survive in a new country. But now, more than 10 years since Honduras’ designation, I live a life in limbo. At any moment, the government could decide that Honduras no longer requires this special designation and TPS can be taken away not just for me, but for the hundreds of other Hondurans living like this. Since TPS itself does not confer legal status, there is no way for my family or I to apply for residency or even citizenship. We cannot leave the country to visit our relatives because this would make us deportable.

To me, it is becoming an unintended consequence of not only a catastrophe that took place in my home country, but the broken immigration laws that don’t permit legal movement of displaced individuals like myself.

I am now 26 years old and in the prime of my young adult life. Although I worked hard academically in high school to reach college, I was unable to pursue any type of degree because of the exorbitant amount being charged for “out of state” and “international” students. This came to me as a shock as I’ve lived in this country for 14 years. The fact that I would be the first in my family to attend college keeps my hopes alive.

I know that I can’t sit around waiting for something to happen. I need to MAKE it happen.

Being part of the Collier County Neighborhood Stories Project has made me realized this important difference for my life. I know that it will take many more people to step up and do something about the many injustices in our community. But at least I know that I currently belong to an initiative that believes in my personal and professional development and believes in me and my dreams.

 But we need your help.

Our growth is tied to our community’s investment and belief that we CAN make a difference. We are in the process of expanding our infrastructure to develop more strategies to combat criminalization and racial profiling, more informative trainings and workshops for the community to protect themselves and their families and more tactics to help people like me achieve their dreams.

 Will you help me? Consider becoming a monthly sustainer. 

Contribute to my development within this great initiative and to my dreams to continue pursuing my education. At a minimum, it can cost you as little as $20 a month to invest in us. You will have the satisfaction of bringing light to the lives of individuals still living in the shadows.

I’ll leave you with some photos of my mother, who like many mothers, try to do right by their children. Please consider investing in my community and me as my mother did.

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CCNSP’s reaction to Immigration Reform Blueprint

January 28th, 2013

In light of the recent announcement on an immigration framework by the Senate “gang of 8”, we believe that there is much more work to be done to provide relief to our communities.

While it’s encouraging to see bipartisanship on an issue that was one of the top priorities for Latino voters going into the polls in the November elections, the framework does little to quell questions around the “who” and the “how”. Beyond the DREAMers and farmworkers, who, according to the framework, will have preferential treatment, it is unknown how families with current deportation orders, with minor offenses (which constitutes a criminal record in some instances), and those who re-entered would fit into the mix. There’s no mention of putting a moratorium on current deportations while this process sees its end; an end that may benefit those very same individuals in proceedings as we speak.

The framework does nothing to discredit the idea that immigration enforcement is a billion dollar industry that has been invested on more than other government agencies like the FBI and CIA combined. Spending for the Border Patrol and ICE and its primary enforcement-technology initiative, the US VISIT program, surpassed $17.9 billion in fiscal year 2012. This amount is nearly 15 times the spending level of the INS when IRCA was enacted. It makes the case for yet more enforcement, adding drones to border security enhancements that already exist. This is their prophetic solution despite the fact that the net migration from Mexico fell to zero in 2012 and continues falling.

This attempt means nothing for the local families that we work with in Collier County who may not even qualify under this current framework. Plagued by the poli-migra vis-à-vis 287g and [in]Secure Communities, these mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, live  with the constant fear of an inevitable reality that they continue facing everyday It’s a constant terror of their family’s separation, unstable future and economic burden.

For Gloria*, a Fort Myers woman, this is reality. She’s US citizen, but her husband is undocumented. He was deported to Mexico after living in the country for 12 years and seeks to re-enter to be with his family. She’s burdened with the task of being the family’s only breadwinner and caring for 2 special needs children, who are constantly showing psychological distress due to their father’s absence.  Because her husband was previously deported before, there are no details within this current framework that will assure her that her husband may benefit from immigration reform.

Edith, a Naples woman, is suffering physical and emotional trauma in the absence of her husband of more than 8 years. He is currently detained after having been arrested for driving without a license in Collier County 2 months ago. Because of a DUI charge that took place in 1999 (a charge he served his sentence and time for and was rehabilitated through this process) and for re-entry after deportation (trying to get back to his family), deportation proceedings were initiated against him. He remains detained without medical attention for a stomach infection and gets worse by the day.

This is unacceptable and in no way, justifies more enforcement, more separation of families and more non-sensical policies that make our communities worse, not better.

We will continue to hold President Obama and Congress accountable for their actions. We will continue to fight to bring the stories of our communities with pride and dignity in hopes of changing this broken system as a whole.

In the meantime, this is another day, another battle and it begins with us.

View our principles for immigration reform here

*At the individual’s request, we changed names to preserve anonymity and respect the person’s wishes. 

CCNSP Immigration Reform Principles

With all this talk about immigration reform, we thought we’d share our take on what a real solution would mean to our communities.

There will be additions and modifications to this but this is the essence of what we fight for.

 CCNSP Immigration Reform Principles

  1. Address root causes of migration: Without an actual analysis of how different political and economic systems have played into immigration laws and foreign agreements, we will not achieve a systematic remedy to the displacement and exploitation that our communities continue to face both here and abroad.
  2. Family Unity is central to any legislation: If family unity is not an important element of any “blueprint” for immigration reform, we will stand to lose more than we will gain.
  3. Moratorium on Deportations NOW:  It makes no sense to push for a legalization effort that stands to benefit the 11 million undocumented individuals in this country, without stopping the mass deportation machine that has been working under the current administration.
  4. Terminate the current and future poli-migra systems in all its forms: Current enforcement programs that exist should be terminated completely. Additionally, predicating for more enforcement (Especially across an already militarized Southern border) is not “comprehensive” at all.
  5. Laws must be just and discrimination-free: We will not support a policy that throws our LGBTQ brothers and sisters under the bus. We hope that proposal is free of discriminatory and incendiary rhetoric and strives to mend what’s been broken for a long time.
  6. Impacted community members should be at the forefront of all conversation and should be in decision-making power: All legislation or policy should be reviewed the communities most impacted and they should have a say as to how to move forward. The President and Congress will be held accountable by them.

Meet 2012 Artivism Contest Winner: Alexis Meza!

The CCNSP team chose the winner for the 1st Annual Artivism Contest last year! The winner was chosen from anonymous cast ballots from team members of the Project. For her outstanding artwork, CCNSP awarded Alexis with $200 towards her creative endeavors. In return, Alexis gave us the rights to her artwork for future reproduction.

Here’s her beautiful masterpiece:

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Alexis had this to say:

As an undocumented artivist, I am happy to know that my art has no borders and is able to transmit the messages I personally put in them. Thank you for recognizing my art, and for choosing it to be the winner. I hope that more opportunities like this keep coming in the future, the uncodu-artists like myself appreciate them very much! ” 

CCNSP would like to thank all of our contest participants for submitting amazing art that lifts up our immigrant communities! Thank you for your creativity, passion and imagination!

Alexis Meza Picture

Small Victory! Task portion of 287g is eliminated!

Federal officials to eliminate Collier patrol deputies’ right to seek out illegal immigrants

By Victoria Macchi

see NDN version here

NAPLES — The federal government Friday whittled a controversial immigration enforcement policy in place in Collier County and around the country, after months of uncertainty about its future.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that part of the 287(g) program, which allows trained local police to question and detain undocumented immigrants – once strictly a federal initiative – will end Dec. 31.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office is one of 25 local or state police agencies in the U.S. that has that “task force” model, under which deputies make arrests while on patrol or as the result of an investigation.

What will remain in place is the jail model, in which Collier also participates, that allows for ICE-trained local deputies to review inmate intake files and question inmates following an arrest to assess their legal status.

Collier is one of four police agencies in Florida that still have some form of 287(g) program in place.

Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk, a stalwart supporter of 287(g), praised ICE’s decision to maintain the jail model while lambasting the cuts to the program.

“I am pleased that the Department of Homeland Security is extending the 287(g) Corrections program for the foreseeable future. At the same time, the decision not to renew the 287(g) operations task force comes as a disappointment,” Rambosk said in a written statement Friday, adding that he has no doubt the elimination of the task force “will make it more difficult to remove criminal aliens from the community.”

ICE didn’t elaborate on how long it will continue authorizing the jail model, which is also set to expire at the end of the year. There are 32 police agencies that have only a 287(g) jail enforcement model, in addition to eight others that used both.

The 287(g) program opened immigration enforcement to local and state agencies, allowing them to apply for participation and training starting in 2007, when then-Collier Sheriff Don Hunter signed the agency onto the program. It was subsequently renewed by the current sheriff, and there now are 18 Collier officers deputized to perform immigration enforcement.

The program’s critics, like Grey Torrico, a Collier activist who organized petitions and protests against 287(g) throughout the year, believe it foments racial and ethnic discrimination and should be eliminated. Court cases from North Carolina to Arizona have shown that the program can indeed cross those lines.

“This is not enough for our communities to continue being detained under this failed program and as a community member, I still contend that not only should the 287(g) agreement be ended, but we should have a bigger discussion regarding terminating police-ICE collaboration at the local level,” Torrico said.

The Department of Homeland Security now favors the Secure Communities program, which allows for database-sharing among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to cross-reference immigration status with inmate information.

ICE reported Friday that, from October 2011 to September 2012, the agency deported 409,849 individuals, a sharp increase from about 291,000 people five years ago.

Op-Ed: 287g Immigration enforcement program should be ended now

December 7, 2012

Ending the 287(g) Program

as seen on print edition of the Naples Daily News

Alexvernon profile pictureBy Alex Vernon

Acting Director, Asylum and Immigrant Rights Clinic, Ave Maria Law School

This past Sunday marked the beginning of Advent in churches around the country. As most people prepare for a season of visiting and celebrating with family and friends, more and more families are without someone dear to them, separated not by death, but by deportation. This is a stark reality in communities such as that of Immokalee’s Our Lady of Guadalupe church, where prayers for the deported are offered up fervently in the prayers of the faithful.

Most observers agree that the record numbers of deportations occurring in the United States are due in part to immigration enforcement partnerships between the Federal government and State and Local law enforcement. One such partnership program is the “287(g)” program currently in effect in Collier County. 287(g) delegates immigration enforcement authority to participating law enforcement agencies across the country, and the stated goal of the program is to target high priority criminals. Yet according to a nationwide study of 287(g) during the first ten months of 2010, fully one-half of the individuals caught up in the program are not serious criminals, but are instead arrested for misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and noncriminal immigration violations.

The stories I hear from immigrant advocates in Collier County are consistent with the stories I’ve heard from advocates around the country. More and more people are being picked up for minor offenses, or detained based on questioning with no charges laid at all, only to end up facing detention and deportation in removal proceedings. I have seen this in my own immigration practice, albeit in other jurisdictions

I have encountered crime victims who have had police report them and their families to immigration as the first order of business in investigating a crime. I have encountered people of color who were pulled over by law enforcement agents in paramilitary gear, questioned about their immigration status and handed over to immigration authorities with no charges being laid. I have heard of criminals continuing to victimize communities, because community members are fearful that contact with law enforcement may lead to deportation for themselves, or for ones dear to them. Based on what I have heard from local advocates, there is a danger this is happening in Collier County as well.

This is a concern because in Collier County and in other jurisdictions with 287(g) agreements, advocates are finding that there is a widening gulf between the police and the community they are pledged to protect. Since 287(g) was implemented in Collier County five years ago, they are finding that local immigrants and even their U.S. citizen loved ones are increasingly hesitant to call the police to report crimes or cooperate in criminal investigations. This may undercut the effectiveness of other excellent initiatives to assist immigrant victims of trafficking and crime.

The Department of Homeland Security has temporarily extended 287(g) program, which was set to expire in September 2012 in Collier County, until December 31, 2012. This is the current expiry date for all programs nationwide. In its budget justification for fiscal 2013, The Department of Homeland Security sought $17 million less in funding for the 287(g) program, and said that in light of the expansion of Secure Communities, (A Federally run program) “it will no longer be necessary to maintain the more costly and less effective 287(g) program.”

I stand with the coalitions of concerned community members in appealing to authorities in Collier County and in the federal government to discontinue the controversial 287(g) program now. When an entire segment of our community is afraid of talking to the police, this does not make us any safer. Our community deserves better.

Collier County at FLIC Congress!

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FLIC Congress took place from November 16-18th and 6 of our members attended! We thank all of you that donated to our registration fees and believed in our leadership! Above are some highlights from our team’s weekend! Enjoy!

Additionally, Congrats to the winner of our raffle to get us to there-Alejandra Padilla from Immokalee!