MALDEF Vows to Fight Deportations

Taking Action Against Deportations

Maldefian, March 19

Sixty-five years ago President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, requiring Japanese Americans on the West Coast to abandon their jobs, lives, and homes and leave the region or enter relocation camps. A decade before, California and federal officials systematically rounded up and transported to Mexico 1.2 million Americans of Latino ancestry. Whether out of fear, indifference, lack of knowledge or implicit agreement, few outside the Japanese American or Mexican American communities spoke out against this deprivation of basic civil rights.
Today, fears of the separation of immigrant families and the destruction of immigrant communities permeate many cities and towns across the nation. Last December, immigration agents swept through meat packing plants in four states to arrest and detain unauthorized immigrant workers. MALDEF, joined by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO), and the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), called on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and top immigration officials to end the raids as ill-timed, poorly planned and devastating to family members, including United States citizens. Workers in Iowa were relocated and held in Georgia, one thousand miles away from loved ones and legal counsel. Since then, additional enforcement operations are “a stopgap solution that unfairly penalizes vulnerable workers in an already flawed system. that does not begin to solve the immigration issue,”as U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy noted referring to one in New Bedford, Massachusetts,

Later this week, we will renew our call to stop the raids and to start reforming our immigration laws to truly serve our national interest and values.

On the litigation front, progress continues to be made against anti-immigrant local ordinances. Requiring landlords to check immigration and citizenship documents of prospective tenants – even children – is a thinly veiled attempt to evict people from communities and children from schools. Twenty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe (a MALDEF case) that free, public education was to be available to all children, irrespective of their immigration status. We are fighting for that right again today. MALDEF, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), and the American Civil Liberties Uni*n (ACLU) are challenging the local ordinances in at least six states. Thus far, every judge who has examined the ordinances has kept them from being enforced.

We are winning some battles and not yet winning others. Many of us lacked the power or voice to do anything about the deportations and relocations of the 1930s and 1940s. We have that voice today and value your role in that fight.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF, the nation’s leading Latino legal organization, promotes and protects the rights of Latinos through litigation, advocacy, community education and outreach, leadership development, and higher education scholarships. MALDEF is party to the Unity Blueprint for Immigration Reform posted at the MAPA website and archived here. One deportation that we would like to see reversed is that of the Suleiman family. whose plight affects two 4-year-old American citizaens. Their story is also archived (so far, exclusively) in our database of articles.–gm

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