Activists Chain Themselves, Challenge Immigrant Crises

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Above photo: Action ends in victory! We #shutdownice today with no arrests & we will be back!! #Not1more (via @NPAction)

Immigration reform activists chained themselves outside a detention facility in Arizona on Monday continuing of a campaign of civil disobedience that calls for an end to inhumane incarceration and deportations that plague the current national immigration system.

The action targeted the Corrections Corporation of American (CCA)-owned Eloy Detention Center and was part of the NotOneMoreDeportation campaign, a collaborative project of theNational Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON).

The Obama administration has deported a record number of people, and Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the NDLON, says this is a “human rights crisis.”

“I know Republicans are blocking immigration reform but it’s President Obama who has the power to stop deportations,” Alvarado told NBC Latino. “If they did it with the students, now they can do it with the parents.”

Colorlines‘ Aura Bogado points out that

Although President Obama has insisted that his administration targets for deportation only people convicted of serious, violent crimes, the federal government’s own data reveals that people with minor convictions, for things like marijuana possession and shoplifting, often get caught in the dragnet. In fact, barely 10 percent of people detained meet the administration’s criteria, released in December 2012, of being a national security or public safety threat, according to a new study by TRAC Immigration. Even people who have never been accused, much less convicted of any crime are detained for deportation in communities across the country.

Campaigners say that the notorious Eloy Detention Center is symptomatic of the detainee quota U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is forced to meet.  The Washington Post reported that

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials say that they are not needlessly jailing immigrants to meet a quota and that they find plenty of candidates for detention and deportation by targeting criminals who pose a threat to public safety and border security.

But critics of the mandate note that the majority of ICE detainees are not violent offenders. Immigration judges eventually allow many to remain in the United States, but the detainees may spend months in costly federal custody, even when far cheaper alternatives are available, such as ankle bracelets and other forms of electronic monitoring.

“Behind these walls are thousands taken far away from their families and the better lives they came here for,” said Tomas Martinez of the Atlanta-based Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. “For Washington, detainees are just a number, but for us the people inside Eloy are our sisters and brothers.”

Protesters are keeping the momentum on Monday with another action slated to shut down the ICE office in Phoenix and stop deportations from the city for a day.

“The President has the legal authority and moral responsibility to stop deportations,” stated Veronica Castro of National People’s Action.  “But until he uses it, NPA, and our partners will use every tool at our disposal to stop them ourselves. We can not and will not sit by and watch the destruction of families all in the name of politics.”