Voto Latino joins thirty-nine other national Latino organizations and allies in opposition to DHS’ systemic attack on Latino and immigrant communities

This morning, Voto Latino joined thirty-nine national organizations in protest of the Department of Homeland Security’s deliberate, relentless, and systemic attack on the community we represent. In a letter directed to Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen, Voto Latino and the country’s leading Latino organizations and allies enumerate the abuses carried out by DHS, and demand an immediate explanation as to how the department will remedy these clear violations of civil rights and basic American values.

The letter to Secretary Nielsen is included below.

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VIA EMAIL

June 11, 2018

The Honorable Kirstjen M. Nielsen

Secretary of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Secretary Nielsen:

As representatives of a cross-section of national Latino organizations and their allies, we are outraged with the deliberate, relentless, and systemic attack your agency is waging on the Latino community — citizens and non-citizens alike — as evidenced by a growing series of investigative reports and documented incidents. These grave injustices that are spreading across the country need to stop. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) needs to respond to how it intends to rectify course, and we expect those issues to be addressed in the upcoming Congressional hearing as well as in continued rigorous oversight and guidance.

Below is but a small list of recent examples that point to a disturbing pattern of DHS actions undermining the rights of the Latino and immigrant communities. Some of the issues below have existed under prior administrations, but rather than a commitment to address them, we are witnessing those and new disturbing practices being exacerbated under your leadership. These include:

  • Punitive Family Separation. DHS is condoning, promoting, and increasing the intentional separation of families that cross the border together, regardless of the harm inflicted on children of all ages. The New York Times has reported that 700 children were separated from their parents between October 2017 and April 2018, including 100 children under the age of 4. Additional reports indicate that another 658 have been separated from their parents between May 6th to May 19th.
  • Inhumane Detention. Immigration detention center conditions are becoming worse, not better, in violation of both United States and international law. What’s more, we are alarmed at the disregard by DHS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to meet its congressionally mandated obligations, to date, to provide specific detention reporting information as set forth under the recently passed Fiscal Year 2018 spending bill.
  • Determination of Juvenile Status. DHS and its agents are improperly removing children from the juvenile system and placing them into adult detention centers based on spurious data. This practice deprives children of judicial protection, violates certain statutory and constitutional protections, and endangers their welfare.
  • Reckless Immigration Enforcement. DHS is responsible for a widespread failure to hold ICE and CBP accountable for an alarming escalation of dangerous and deadly actions that disparately affect these communities. Only a few of the most recent reported examples include:
  • CBP agents targeting people simply because they speak Spanish.
  • ICE coordinating with private businesses to identify and detain people based on having Latino names.
  • ICE activity in the vicinity of sensitive spaces like schools and courthouses, an infliction of harm for students, parents, and targeted victims alike.
  • ICE manipulating and even fabricating information on gang affiliation to justify detentions, as evidenced by ICE falsely reporting a Dreamer as a gang member to get him deported.
  • CBP agent fatally shooting a young, undocumented female in the head close to the Texas border under suspicious circumstances.
  • Poor conditions, abuse and mistreatment in ICE facilities leading to the deaths of migrants, and abuse and mistreatment of children and transgender people.
  • Termination of TPS. In a series of decisions to uproot legal immigrants from the U.S., DHS terminated Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for individuals from Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador, Sudan and Nepal. DHS refused to exercise legitimate discretion with respect to TPS holders, and instead acted on a predetermined agenda to tear over 300,000 people from their families and return them to hostile environments.
  • Plans to punish immigrants and their family members that use essential public services. DHS informed the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that it intended to propose regulations to expand the list of programs or benefits that would weigh against an immigrant when determining if that immigrant is a “public charge,” and therefore can be denied admission to the U.S. or adjustment to lawful permanent resident status. This change would punish immigrants for the use of essential programs or benefits, like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, by either immigrants or by family members — such as a U.S. citizen child. DHS must disavow these proposed changes, which would have a devastating impact on Latino families across the country.

And more examples pile up weekly.

Therefore, the undersigned organizations demand an immediate explanation as to how your department will remedy these clear violations of civil rights and basic American values, and ensure DHS personnel follow those principles. Our organizations have a long history of working to strengthen the nation and ensure the contributions and dignity of all people are respected, which includes speaking out against injustices and unfair treatment. We demand greater accountability, transparency, and oversight, and will work with Congress and allies to ensure that DHS conducts itself in adherence with America’s ideals.

Sincerely,

Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers (AFT)

Reverend Leslie Watson-Malachi, National Director, African American Ministers In Action

Oscar Chacón, Executive Director, Alianza Americas

Ángel Zúñiga, National Commander, American GI Forum of the United States

Ronald Blackburn Moreno, President and CEO, ASPIRA Association

Rosie Hidalgo, JD, Senior Director of Public Policy, Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities

Rachel Micah-Jones, Founder and Executive Director, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc.

Angelica Salas, Executive Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA)

Domenika Lynch, President and CEO, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI)

Bruce Goldstein, President, Farmworker Justice

María Rodriguez, Executive Director, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Inc. (FLIC)

Jerry Gonzalez, Executive Director, Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO)

Mark Magaña, Founding President and CEO, GreenLatinos

Dr. Antonio R. Flores, President and CEO, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU)

José Calderón, President, Hispanic Federation

Mariana D. Bravo, Vice President of External Affairs, Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA)

Ana Marie Argilagos, President, Hispanics in Philanthropy (HIP)

Hector E. Sanchez Barba, Executive Director, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)

Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Sindy M. Benavides, Chief Operating Officer & Acting CEO, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)

Amy L. Hinojosa, President and CEO, MANA, A National Latina Organization

Thomas A Saenz, President and General Counsel, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)

Ben Monterroso, Executive Director, Mi Familia Vota

Al Gallegos, National President, National Association of Hispanic Federal Executives (NAHFE)

Fanny Miller, President, National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP)

Maria Lopez De Leon, President and CEO, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures (NALAC)

Arturo Vargas, Executive Director, National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO)

Kenneth Romero-Cruz, Executive Director, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL)

Elena Rios, MD, MSPH, President and CEO, National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA)

Fred Millán, PhD., ABPP, NCC, 2018 President, National Latina/o Psychological Association (NLPA)

Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Executive Director, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH)

María Yolisma García, President, North Texas Dream Team

Matt Nelson, Executive Director, Presente.Org

Ignacio Salazar, President, SER_National Inc.

Tomas Margain, President, Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN)

Janet Murguía, President and CEO, Unidos US

Dr. Juan Andrade Jr., President, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute

Cristina Jimenez, Executive Director and Co-Founder, United We Dream

Edgar Aranda-Yanoc, LLM, Executive Director, Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO)

María Teresa Kumar, President and CEO, Voto Latino