Saturday, March 25, 2006

INB 3/25/06: Thousands Protest, Students Walk Out

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 11 - March 25, 2006
(Special Double Issue)

1. Immigrants Hit the Streets
2. California Students Walk Out
3. Judge Recommends Hamdan's Release
4. Family Sues Over Detainee Suicide
5. Group Sues For Detention Info

Immigration News Briefs is a weekly supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; INB is also distributed free via email; contact to subscribe or unsubscribe. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is posted at


Between Mar. 20 and 25, tens of thousands of immigrants
demonstrated in cities and towns across the US to protest anti-
immigrant legislation being considered by the Senate and to
demand legalization for out-of-status immigrants [see INB
3/18/06]. On Mar. 20, some 1,200 immigrants and supporters
rallied outside the statehouse in Trenton, New Jersey, to protest
a proposal being considered by the US Congress which would apply
tougher enforcement measures against out-of-status immigrants.
Southern New Jersey coordinator Ramon Hernandez said more than 25
local businesses and farmers helped pay for buses to take people
to the rally. [Home News Tribune Online (East Brunswick) 3/21/06;
Press of Atlantic City 3/21/06] On Mar. 22, more than 200
immigrants and supporters marched in Providence, Rhode Island, to
the office of Senator Lincoln Chafee, asking him to support
comprehensive immigration reform. [ (East
Providence) 3/22/06]

On Mar. 23, thousands of immigrants and supporters flooded the
streets of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in a march for immigrant rights,
part of what was billed as a "A Day Without Latinos." Milwaukee
police estimated the crowd at more than 10,000, but organizers
said some 30,000 people took part. About 90 Latino-owned
businesses on Milwaukee's south side were closed for all or part
of the day in support, according to Voces de la Frontera, which
organized the demonstration. Nearly 100 staffers and teachers
skipped work at the Milwaukee Technical College to attend the
rally. About a dozen businesses in the nearby communities of
Racine and Kenosha, south of Milwaukee, also closed, and several
hundred people protested in downtown Racine.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted 11-1 the same morning to
condemn the proposed punitive legislation and call on Congress to
approve a reform bill that would allow immigrants to gain legal
status. [Journal Sentinel Online (Milwaukee) 3/23/06; AP 3/23/06]
Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), sponsor of anti-immigrant bill
HR 4437, which passed the House last Dec. 16, issued a statement
criticizing the Milwaukee immigrant mobilization, while admitting
it was "an impressive show of force." [Sensenbrenner Statement on
Milwaukee Rally 3/23/06]

Latino immigrant communities in the Atlanta, Georgia area took
part in a "Day without Hispanics" civic strike on Mar. 24, a day
after the Georgia House voted 123-51 to approve a state bill that
would affect undocumented immigrants by denying state services,
imposing a 5% surcharge on wire transfers, punishing employers
and creating a worker verification program to be administered by
the state Department of Labor. The legislation must still be
approved by the state senate. [AP 3/23/06]

Teodoro Maus, one of the organizers of the protest, estimated
that as many as 80,000 Latinos failed to show up for work. About
200 people rallied on the steps of the state capitol in Atlanta,
some holding signs reading: "Don't panic, we're Hispanic" and "We
have a dream, too." [Arizona Republic (Phoenix) 3/24/06]

Some 2,000 people rallied in Kansas City, Kansas, on Mar. 24 to
protest the anti-immigrant legislation being considered by the US
Senate. [Kansas City Star (Kansas City, MO) 3/24/06]

In Phoenix on Mar. 24, thousands of people marched to the office
of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) to demand respect for immigrants. Phoenix
police estimated the crowd at between 15,000 and 20,000 people;
organizers had only expected about 3,000. The march filled a
solid mile of 24th Street, shutting down the street and causing
major traffic gridlock. "I've been involved in protests like this
for nearly 10 years, and I've never seen anything this big," said
state representative Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix). A group of
protesters delivered a letter to Kyl's office. A smaller
demonstration took place the same day in Tucson. [Arizona
Republic 3/24/06; East Valley Tribune (Phoenix suburbs) 3/25/06]

On Mar. 21, over 50 hunger strikers representing as many
community organizations began a seven-day protest in front of the
federal building in San Francisco to call for a fair and just
immigration reform. United Farm Workers of America co-founder
Dolores Huerta spoke at a noon press conference kicking off the
hunger strike, saying: "It's time for a new legalization
program." Later in the day, nearly 400 community members marched
from Dolores Park in the Mission District to the federal building
to support the hunger strikers. The hunger strike is to end on
Mar. 27 with a community march to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office.
Daily reports from the week of action are posted on [Contra Costa Times 3/22/06;
"SF Hunger Strike Report: Day 1" 3/22/06]


In the Los Angeles area on Mar. 24, school district officials
estimated that more than 2,700 students walked out of at least
eight schools to protest anti-immigrant bills being considered by
Congress. [New York Times 3/25/06] At least 500 students started
the walkout at Huntington Park High School; some 300 students
then walked to Bell High and 200 went to South Gate High. Those
schools were locked down--meaning no one can come in or leave--
before the protesters reached them, said Los Angeles Unified
School District (LAUSD) spokesperson Olga Quinones. At Bell,
teacher Joan Dooley said hundreds of students climbed the gates
to join the protesters in the streets. "Those kids had a right to
walk out," Dooley said. "When they saw this huge mob...they
should have opened the gate."

Students who were blocked from walking out at Bell, South Gate
and San Fernando high schools protested on campus. Walkouts also
took place at Garfield, Roosevelt and Montebello high schools. In
Riverside County, 400 students at two campuses in the Moreno
Valley Unified School District held rallies but did not leave
school grounds, officials said. [Los Angeles Times 3/25/06; AP
3/25/06; (San Diego) 3/24/06] Another 1,500 students
rallied in Evergreen Park in Boyle Heights for an hour after
walking out of classes at Garfield, Montebello and Roosevelt high
schools, according to LAUSD official Rafael Escobar. Some 73% of
the 877,010 students in the LAUSD this year are Latino. [LAT

In northern California, about 300 students at Ceres High School
near Modesto--deep in the central valley east of San Francisco--
staged a protest before school. Administrators allowed the
demonstration for two class periods. "We felt it was valuable for
them to experience democracy in action," said Ceres Unified
School District Superintendent Walt Hanline. "People need to
understand this legislation is creating a lot of fear for
people." About 100 students refused to go to classes after the
demonstration and were suspended for three days. Police cited
eight for trespassing after they refused to go to a gym with the
other suspended students. [AP 3/25/06]

Pro-immigrant groups are holding a massive demonstration in
downtown Los Angeles on Mar. 25 to express their opposition to
the bill. [ 3/24/06] The march is being organized by
several organizations, including the Coalition for Humane
Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), as part of a "Weekend
of Action" against the Sensenbrenner bill and related
legislation. [LAT 3/24/06, 3/25/06]


In a Mar. 21 decision filed on Mar. 22, federal judge Jeffrey
Johnson of US District Court in Los Angeles recommended that
authorities release Abdel-Jabbar Hamdan from immigration
detention. Johnson noted that Hamdan had not been criminally
charged and would not be deported anytime soon. The
recommendation must still be approved by another federal judge,
and the government has 20 days to raise objections before that
can happen. Apr. 11 is the earliest Hamdan might be released from
the Terminal Island detention facility where he is being held,
said San Francisco attorney Stacy Tolchin. [AP 3/22/06, 3/24/06]

The recommendation came in response to a habeas petition filed
last July 14 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of
Southern California. [LA Times 7/15/05] Some 150 people showed up
in solidarity with Hamdan at a hearing on the petition last Dec.
6; only 40 supporters were allowed into the courtroom for the
three-hour hearing. [Info from]

Born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan, Hamdan was a
respected resident of Orange County, California, when US
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested him on July
27, 2004. ICE charged him only with violating immigration law but
claimed he was linked to terror because of his work as a
fundraiser for an Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation for
Relief and Development. On Nov. 29, 2004, immigration judge D.D.
Sitgraves ordered Hamdan held without bond as a national security
risk; on Feb. 8, 2005, she ordered him deported but blocked his
return to Jordan because he could face torture there [see INB
12/18/04, 2/12/05].


The family of Algerian woman Hassiba Belbachir--who killed
herself on Mar. 17, 2005, while detained by ICE at the McHenry
County Jail, west of Chicago [see INB 3/26/05]--filed a federal
lawsuit on Mar. 14 in US District Court in Chicago. The suit
charges that jail officials knew Belbachir had health problems,
spoke no English, had severe depression and was suicidal, yet did
not do enough to prevent her from strangling herself with a pair
of jail-issue socks that had been knotted together.

The suit names the county; Sheriff Keith Nygren; Corrections
Chief Tom Svoboda; Centegra Health System, which at the time of
the incident had a contract with the county to provide medical
services at the jail; and several corrections officers, nurses
and a doctor. "We think that the woman's death, while tragic, was
not the result of any misconduct or failure to act on the part of
anyone involved in the operations of the McHenry County Jail,"
said First Assistant State's Atty. Thomas Carroll. Carroll said
the county switched its medical provider for the jail last year
for reasons unrelated to the death. Janine Hoft, the lawyer
representing Belbachir's family, said the lawsuit was filed on
behalf of Belbachir's father and a brother who live in Algeria, a
cousin in Chicago, a sister in Canada and two sisters and a
brother in France. The lawsuit does not seek a specific amount in
damages. [Chicago Tribune 3/16/06]


On Mar. 17, the Heartland Alliance's Midwest Immigrant & Human
Rights Center (MIHRC) filed a federal lawsuit against the US
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to obtain public
information about detained immigrants and asylum seekers. MIHRC
sued DHS after the government repeatedly failed to respond to
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for information on
compliance with detention standards, medical policies, and the
names and locations of detention facilities contracted by DHS.

MIHRC represents several detained asylum seekers who have
experienced substandard detention conditions and poor treatment
while in DHS custody. MIHRC director Mary Meg McCarthy noted that
the American Bar Association has produced several studies of
DHS's compliance with detention standards, but its members were
only allowed access to jails and detainees on condition of
secrecy. "We believe that the secrecy must end," said McCarthy.
[MIHRC Press Release 3/17/06]


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