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Thursday, Jun 11, 2009, 9:35 am

Key Legal Battles in Fight for Immigrant Rights

By Nezua

While the United States' legal system is founded on grand ideals like all humans being equal, the law is rarely as benevolent or efficient in practice, especially for immigrants. Different classes of people receive different consideration, and the subsequent disparities are glaringly evident in the lives of immigrants. This week's Wire focuses on immigration-related legal battles, including unconstitutional raids by Immigrations Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and the rights to have competent representation in a court of law.

In 2007, ICE raided numerous residences in New Haven, Connecticut without arrest warrants, probable cause, or consent. The violent and "highly visible" raid was likely "retaliatory," as it came two days after New Haven approved "the issuance of identification cards for all residents irrespective of immigration status." The Department of Homeland Security was clearly sending their own message to the town, or so many perceive it. But good news: M. Junaid Levesque-Alam of Wiretap mag reports that a federal judge ruled the raid unconstitutional, stating that ICE officials violated the rights of four undocumented immigrants and called a halt to the deportation proceedings on Monday.

RaceWire's Michelle Chen reports on an important reversal in Bush-era immigration law made by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Previously, immigrants represented by counsel they claimed were "incompetent, unethical, fraudulent, or absent" could not halt deportation proceedings. The right to contest the quality of their counsel has been restored. It's a fair ruling, as the former law implied that, while immigrants members supposedly had “the privilege of being represented,” justice was little more than a show.

Unfortunately, even with this positive change in law, it's hard to assert that justice has been attained for more than a relative handful. As Chen writes, "current law does not guarantee government-appointed counsel" and so most detained immigrants will not even have state-appointed representation.

In Local (In)hospitality, Chen also provides a good roundup of issues around the country that touch on immigration legislation, such as Republican lawmaker Joe Carr's "vigorously slamming the door on undocumented workers" by advancing a bill to "block local governments from explicitly restricting police from enforcing federal immigration law."

RH Reality Check's Margo Kaplan reports on one Judge's ruling that "doubled the recommended sentence and exceeded federal sentencing guideline recommendations" for Quinta Layin Tuleh, a woman five months pregnant, "for the sole purpose of keeping Tuleh in prison until she gave birth." Whether or not such a ruling creates a double standard for women or women immigrants in the eyes of the law may be up for debate, but this interpretation of the law was cruel.

In other immigration news, Steve Benen of The Washington Monthly reports that approximately a million people cross into Mexico each year for medical care. Personalities or media outlets that seek to spread fear or maintain a particular view of Mexico often insist that violence is bubbling and spilling up over our southern border. It is difficult, however, to remember that many people are crossing the border into Mexico to reap the benefits offered there. And not only are the reported numbers thought to be low, but the trend shows no signs of slowing down.

"If America is the land of beckoning opportunity," writes Terray Sylvester for High Country News, "Mexico is the land of bargain operations -- and cheap dental care, and sensibly-priced treatments for chronic illness." Sylvester points out that, since approximately 500,000 of these people are Mexican immigrants returning for care, there's a new "twist in the refrain that Mexican immigrants stress social services" in the U.S.

Speaking of opportunity, Wiretap is featuring a video called Immigration: New York Voices, which puts today's hostile attitudes against immigrants in stark contrast. In the words of one interviewee, the U.S. has a legacy: It is where you go when you need to find safety or are "unhappy" with the land you live in.

Finally, we come to New America Media (NAM), which is featuring a bunch of content related to last week's Expo and Awards. In Women Immigrants Key to Family Unity, Viji Sundaram reports a panel focused on both a breakfast for women and ethnic media and the recent survey [pdf] that New America Media commissioned from pollster Sergio Bendixen.

"Women journalists navigate a greater range of threats than do their 'male counterparts,'" said Meredith Greene Megaw, communications director at the Committee to Protect Journalists, because women face the same threats, in addition to "cultural taboos, as well as the danger danger of being sexually assaulted and threatened." See the page to view a slideshow of that panel.

And in Coalition Vows to Press Congress and Obama for Immigration Reform, New America Media's Khalil Abdullah reports on the Reform Immigration for America campaign (RIFA), a coalition of groups like the Center for American Progress and AFL-CIO and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference that came together to "press Congress for comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year." It sounds like a very positive move overall, but time will tell how effective this coalition is.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration. Visit Immigration.NewsLadder.net for a complete list of articles on immigration, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy and health issues, check out Economy.NewsLadder.net and Healthcare.NewsLadder.net. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and was created by NewsLadder.

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