The Crescent Report

November 24, 2010

MASF Immigration Clinic and Coalition Sponsors Immigration “Story Night”

Filed under: From the Desk of Imam Mahdi Bray — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 2:55 pm

Introduction :

MAS Freedom Immigration legal clinic and immigration activist found a knight for immigrants to share their voice and their story. Check out the piece below.

Imam Mahdi Bray

Quote of Day:  “If walls could talk what a story they could tell.”

MASF Immigration Clinic and Coalition Sponsors Immigration “Story Night”

Immigrants Step Out of the Shadows to Share Their Stories of Fear and Abuse

The MAS Freedom Immigration Clinic (name) co-sponsored at the MAS center in Raleigh, NC. The program allowed immigrants to share their stories of mistreatment, fear, and abuse with other immigrants and community activist organizations.

Joining the MAS Immigration Clinic in co-sponsoring the event were the following organizations: NC ICE Watch, American Friends Service Committee, Coalicion de Organizaciones Latino Americanas, Latin American Coalition, Mulsim American Society-Freedom, NC Justice Center, and Southern Coalition for Social Justice.

Story Night was a public gathering of immigrants and non-immigrants to tell stories about how people are affected by immigration enforcement. The main goals were to share stories, to have their experience both validated and affirmed, and to bring awareness of the numerous human rights abuses of immigrants to the broader community.

One of the stories of immigrant abuse was told an individual whose name has been omitted in order to protect her safety:

The woman was just 19 when she caught a bus from a city suburb in El Salvador through Guatemala to the Mexican border. From there she took a train that carried her across Mexico to the U.S., where she boarded a bus that was heading to North Carolina and her final destination, Durham.

She made the journey mostly alone. She had friends who left El Salvador with her, but they scattered once they crossed into Mexico. She traveled a route rife with smugglers and sex traffickers and drug cartels, and says there were times she was afraid she would die. “I thought if something happens to me, I won’t be able to see my mother again.”

She avoided the dangers en route to America, but four years after she arrived, in 2009, she was blackmailed by a man who claimed to be an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent. Over several months, in dozens of ominous e-mails and text messages, he threatened to have her deported unless she had a sexual relationship with him.

Several participants detailed the incidents that they believed were related to their immigration status, religion, language, or national origin.

Although the 287(g) and Secure Communities programs have been promoted by the U.S. government as a way for local law enforcement to sweep U.S. streets of undocumented immigrants who are felons and violent criminals, this is not what actually happens.  A crowd of Latino immigrants gathered last Saturday evening to tell their personal stories and how 287(g) put them at risk. These stories were not unlike those offered by immigrants of the Arab and Middle Eastern communities.

“Many community members we serve tell us that they fear law enforcement and  distrust our public institutions, such as 911 services and police officers, for fear of deportation,” says Khalilah Sabra, program director of MAS Immigrant Justice and Legal Center, a Muslim advocacy group with offices in Raleigh, Charlotte and Kansas City. “Many immigrants in general experience social isolation, which makes them more vulnerable to abuse. Undocumented individuals are targets for predators who know that their victims will be reluctant to report crimes committed against them or instances of abuse.

Few citizens are aware that 87 percent of all individuals picked up in participating counties in North Carolina were booked on infractions of driving without a license, which they cannot legally obtain, according to the Latino Migration Project‘s latest report.

Instead of ridding America of foreign felons, the 287(g) and Secure Communities programs have actually allowed criminals to victimize undocumented immigrants, who confront a dilemma: Do they report the incidents to police and risk deportation? Or do they continue to be victimized?

In 1996, the Immigration and Nationality Act was amended to add Section 287(g), which allows local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws. In 2008, the Department of Homeland Security launched Secure Communities, which allows county jail officials to identify potential undocumented immigrants. Forty-eight law enforcement agencies in North Carolina participate in one or both programs, including the the Wake and Orange County sheriffs departments and the Durham Police Department.

Since local police departments have become de facto border agents, undocumented immigrants no longer feel that they can report crimes-those they witness or those that actually victimize them.

If you would like to sponsor an Immigrant Story Night in your community, please contact MASF:

MAS Freedom 1325 G Street NW, Washington, DC 20005

Phone: 1-888-627-8471 Fax: 757-299-9961

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