tags: , , , , Press Releases

Tech Employees and More City Leaders Stand Up for Immigrants

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A diverse mix of voices across the country continue to speak out in support of immigrants, and pledge to fight a Trump Administration mass deportation push. Among the new developments include a sign-on letter from technology company employees; continued leadership from city leaders in Houston and New Haven; and a burgeoning effort to increase immigrants’ access to legal services.

As Dustin Volz of Reuters highlightsseveral hundred employees of major technology companies have signed onto a letter pledging to not participate in any effort designed to facilitate mass deportations or the creation of a Muslim registry:

“More than 200 employees of technology companies including Alphabet Inc’s Google, Twitter Inc and Salesforce pledged on Tuesday to not help U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s administration build a data registry to track people based on their religion or assist in mass deportations.

… ‘We are choosing to stand in solidarity with Muslim Americans, immigrants, and all people whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by the incoming administration’s proposed data collection policies,’ reads the letter, signed by a mix of engineers, designers and business executives. It continues: ‘We refuse to build a database of people based on their Constitutionally-protected religious beliefs. We refuse to facilitate mass deportations of people the government believes to be undesirable.’

The letter vows to not participate in creating databases of identifying information for the U.S. government on the basis of race, religion or national origin, to minimize the collection or retention of data that could facilitate such targeting and to oppose any misuse of data at their respective organizations considered illegal or unethical.”

Meanwhile, cities across the country continue to speak out on behalf of immigrant communities. In Houston, leaders from local government, schools, and law enforcement are vocally pledging to support immigrants and refugees. As local NBCaffiliate KPRC highlights:

“Houston is known as the nation’s most diverse city, and leaders want to make sure people from all backgrounds who decide to call it home feel welcome.

‘On any given day, you can literally travel the globe right here in the city of Houston,’ said Mayor Sylvester Turner. Turner said he created the Office of New Americans to serve as a resource for immigrants and refugees and help them feel more comfortable when they relocate to Houston. Turner said the contentious 2016 election did not change Houston’s hospitality. ‘‘The city that existed prior to the election is the same city that exists today,’ Turner said. ‘I, along with mayors from other major U.S. cities, sent a letter to President-elect (Donald) Trump, asking the incoming administration to support the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.’

Houston Independent School District Superintendent Richard Carranza said everyone should feel secure while attending the city’s schools. ‘Our schools are safe, and they will not be places where immigration raids will take place,’ Carranza said. ‘Your students are safe.’

Houston’s new police chief, Art Acevedo, said that no matter their immigration status, people should also feel free to report crimes. ‘Immigrants who are victims of a crime or who have information regarding criminal activity should not feel afraid to contact the Houston Police Department,’ Acevedo said.”

The New Haven Register lifts up how city leaders and community activists in this Connecticut city are “pledging to protect undocumented immigrants from deportationunder the new White House administration.” As the article notes:

“The world is radically going to change. I know people are feeling a sense of calm, but I tell people this is the calm before the storm,” said Kica Matos, director of immigrant rights and racial justice for the Center for Community Change. “Let’s be clear: Under this new administration, undocumented immigrants and cities like New Haven are going to be under attack.”

Matos was just one of six speakers who joined state Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven, at a Unity Rally at City Hall Tuesday that advocated for New Haven becoming an official sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants. The rally drew more than 70 people to City Hall’s atrium to listen to local leaders speak about the increasing need to protect immigrant families. City leaders called on area churches to provide asylum to those who seek it, universities to offer sanctuary to its students and for community-based organizations to be ready to defend the city’s status as “immigrant-friendly.”

“The bull’s-eye is on us,” Matos said. “We cannot let President-elect Trump come into our cities. We have to do everything we can to protect ourselves and to protect our communities, especially our immigrant communities.”

… While immigration is within the purview of the federal government, state and local officials have the power to decide their level of cooperation with the country’s governing body, Mayor Toni Harp said during Tuesday’s Unity Rally. ‘In New Haven, we choose not to,’ she said. ‘Waves upon waves of residents have arrived in New Haven for centuries and each has made its mark on the city, each has made this city prosper as a result of the contributions made. New Haven has always been a welcoming, accepting place and is better, richer and wiser for its diversity.’

It’s this type of diversity that has allowed the city and country to succeed, Candelaria said. ‘The country does not reflect one ideology. This country reflects the philosophical ideas of a whole community. That is what makes America great,’ Candelaria said. ‘We will not support the separation of families. You are not alone in the pursuit of happiness to pursue the American dream.’”

And Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn of Mother Jones writes about innovative state and local efforts to increase access to legal representation for immigrants, recognizing that making legal counsel and services more widely available will be an essential means of pushing back on unfettered deportations by a President Trump:

“…Unlike defendants in criminal courts, immigrants facing deportation aren’t guaranteed a right to a court-appointed attorney. These immigrants have to bear the costs of securing a lawyer on their own, and this can be a costly and difficult process, especially for those held in detention centers. Nationally, only 37 percent of immigrants facing deportation proceedings have access to a lawyer, according to a study released by the American Immigration Council, a pro-immigration nonprofit. Immigrant detainees have it even worse: Only 14 percent receive legal representation. Studies have shown that one of the most important factors in determining an immigration case is whether immigrants had a lawyer—women and children, for instance, are up to 14 times more likely to win some form of relief from deportation or be released from detention when they have access to legal representation.

…Together, California’s Assembly Bill 3 and Senate Bill 6 would provide funding so immigrants facing deportation would have access to free legal assistance, as well as set up state-funded trainings in immigration law so defense attorneys and public defender’s offices can better assist immigrants. Nearly 70 percent of detained immigrants in the state do not have legal representation, according to a report by the California Coalition for Universal Representation, and without it, only 6 percent of immigrants have won their cases over the past three years.

…California could become the second state to help fund legal assistance for immigrants facing deportation, following an approach first implemented in New York: In 2013, nonprofit groups in New York City piloted a program that gave free representation to immigrants who couldn’t afford lawyers at one of the city’s immigration courts. Within a year, attorneys in the project won almost 70 percent of their cases, and the approach was so successful that the city fully funded the program. The model inspired similar programs in New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.”

An updated list of local leaders and cities voicing their support for their undocumented communities is available here.