Latino Organization Slams Obama Administration's Detention and Deportation Policy in Open Letter
The following is an open letter from Presente.org, "a national organization that exists to amplify the political voice of Latino communities."
The organization and its allies have "called on President Obama's top advisor on immigration, Cecilia Muñoz to set the record straight about the fact that the majority of people being deported by the Administration are not the 'criminals' that she repeatedly claims, most recently on PBS' 'Lost in Detention.' The campaign has stirred up a bit of controversy, and they have redoubled their efforts and written an open letter in response.
Read more about their campaign at their website. Here is their letter:
OPEN LETTER FROM PRESENTE.ORG REGARDING THE ONGOING CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING CECILIA MUÑOZ
A few weeks ago, and after much deliberation, Presente.org made a very vocal and public demand to President Obama's top immigration aide, Cecilia Muñoz: Stop being the voice of misinformation about policies that devastate our communities. Our decision to publicly demand that Muñoz set the record straight was a difficult one. But standing by and doing nothing while Ms. Muñoz defended the indefensible immigration policies of the Obama Administration was even more difficult.
In response, several immigrant advocacy organizations signed a letter that mischaracterized our position and missed the essence of our argument and of the moment. Our goal in this open letter is to restate and clarify our position, and to invite any other groups or individuals who seek to advance the cause of immigrant justice to join us in holding accountable any official whose rhetoric damages the cause of dignity and justice for our communities.
Our demand to Ms. Muñoz is that she stop mischaracterizing the actions of the Obama Administration and set the record straight about the SCOMM program. We have not called for Ms. Muñoz to resign or be fired.
Presente.org was moved to action following Ms. Muñoz's widely-criticized appearance in the PBS documentary Lost in Detention, in which she repeated the falsehood that most of the people that the Administration prioritizes through the SCOMM racial profiling program are serious “criminals.”
The falsehood perpetuated by Muñoz has been thoroughly discredited by numerous studies like the one conducted last month by the Cardozo and Warren law schools, as well as by the Administration's own Department of Homeland Security records. Most importantly, Ms. Muñoz's statements are disproven daily by the endless stream of tragic stories from the families of the “criminals” she says the Administration is deporting: men caught driving without a license or a broken tail light, women who call the police to report a domestic violence incident, and the rest of the non-criminal majority of people picked up, jailed and deported for non-violent offenses.
Neither the widely-circulated letter defending Ms. Muñoz nor its signatories have contested the facts that Presente.org and others have cited as the basis for demanding that Ms. Muñoz set the record straight. In fact, some of these same defenders of Ms. Muñoz have made statements against other Obama Administration officials and departments, including the following examples:
“It is clear that DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been misleading the public and state and local officials about this program from the start”
"People feel betrayed...The president never said he was going end immigration enforcement, but he sent a clear signal that he would redirect it to a focus on people with criminal records who are a threat to the country. That hasn't happened"
or this statement Tweeted by one of the signatory organizations just last week:
We deeply respect Ms. Muñoz's previous work in defense of immigrants. That said, Presente.org wholly rejects the notion, suggested in the open letter defending her, that Ms. Muñoz’s past work and perceived moral compass means that she should not be held accountable for her current misstatements, and that doing so is somehow “personal.” This isn't about personalities. It's about leadership. When a Latina leader who has fought for immigrants then misrepresents and defends the Administration's failed and profoundly destructive immigration policies, she sends a dangerous message to immigrant communities and to those who would continue to hurt immigrants: that Latinos believe the status quo is acceptable.
Silence in the face of Muñoz’s statements is dangerous; Silence is not an option.
Failure to demand from Muñoz what we would from any other elected or appointed official, in our opinion, means abdicating our responsibility as defenders of immigrants rights. So while it is difficult to criticize a longtime Latina leader, we have an obligation to step into the discomfort, and to do so boldly. Not doing so undermines our constituents, our mission and our very integrity. For this reason, we will continue calling on Muñoz to answer our demands and we invite others to join us and do the same.
PRESENTE.ORG DEMANDS THAT CECILIA MUÑOZ SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT ABOUT THE FOLLOWING MISREPRESENTATIONS
MISREPRESENTATION: Ms. Munoz has said that half of the almost 400,000 immigrants deported this year were criminals.3
FACT: According to statistics released this week, only 22% of people deported last year were convicted of serious offenses.4 That means that 78% of the "criminals" being deported by the Obama administration for "serious" offenses are people with traffic and immigration violations and other non-violent offenses. Furthermore, legal experts and journalists have questioned Muñoz and the Obama Administration's definitions of “criminal” immigrants.
According to the administration's statistics, one person's petty marijuana charge would be considered the same as someone else's armed robbery. What's worse, in the 2011 fiscal year, the Obama administration changed the way it defined "criminal" to include people never convicted of any crime under previous definitions.5
Journalist Adam Serwer recently said that the Administration's definition of its “criminal removals” category “raises the question of just how many people in this category actually fit the description of someone who has committed a serious crime or poses a threat to public safety.6” It's outrageous and only further criminalizes immigrants who want to give back to this country.
MISREPRESENTATION: Ms. Muñoz defended S-COMM by saying that the Obama administration modified it after listening to community input.
FACT: The S-COMM task force the Obama administration set up to listen to community concerns ended in resignations of key task force members and made no significant changes to the program.7
MISREPRESENTATION: Ms. Muñoz stated that the cases of the 300,000 people currently in deportation proceedings would be reviewed, and that low-priority cases like those of DREAM Act students and those with strong ties to the U.S. would be dismissed.8
FACT: The Obama administration has not begun its review of these 300,000 cases. DREAM Act students are in deportation proceeding as you read this. Reports from the ground suggest that not only is the Obama administration not using discretion with the people it deports, but that immigration agents are actually pursuing enforcement even more aggressively.9 The United We Dream Network, an undocumented youth-led organization, reported that even after the announcement, they are aware of at least 100 DREAM eligible youth who are still in deportation proceedings.10
Ms. Muñoz's defense of Obama Administration policies that place massive numbers of immigrants in that system is inexcusable.
1. "Lost in Detention" on PBS' Frontline website
2. "Report: Secure Communities Encourages Racial Profiling, Lack of Due Process", Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, 10/20/11
3. "In the Debate Over Immigration and Deportations, the Facts Matter," White House blog, 8/16/11
4. "FY 2011: ICE announces year-end removal numbers, highlights focus on key priorities including threats to public safety and national security," Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 10/18/11
5. "Yes, Mr. President, the Facts do Matter," National Immigrant Justice Center, 8/18/11
6."Open-Borders Obama Sets New Deportation Record," Mother Jones, 10/18/11
7. "Secure Communities Task Force Releases Recommendations, Five;Members Resign In Disagreement," Huffington Post, 9/16/11
8. "Immigration Update: Maximizing Public Safety and Better Focusing Resources," White House blog, 8/18/11;
9. "MIA: Obama's New Common-Sense Immigration Policy," 7/27/11