Friday, March 20, 2009

News update: detention for immigrants an affront to justice, government spying and secrets update, and more

Voting Rights
Remember – you have until Monday to update your registration with the Statewide Voter Registration Database. With one of the biggest voter turnouts in recent history in November, this might not apply to you. But if you’ve moved since the last time you voted, contact your city clerk to make sure you’re ready to vote in the spring elections.

Immigration update: the other detainees
A recent AP article was written after a Freedom of Information Act letter was filed with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to get a snapshot of who was being detained in US immigrant jails.

The article points out that:
- the US has 32,000 people in detention for civil (not criminal) immigration violations
- 18,690 of those people have no other criminal conviction record; 400 of these people have been behind bars for more than a year. No convictions. Detained for over a year.
- 10,000 had been behind bars for over 31 days. Could you imagine being jailed for speeding and being behind bars for a month?
- 58% of immigrants went through their immigration hearings without an attorney
- electronic monitoring is cheaper than detention
- electronic monitoring is as effective as detention for people to show up to their hearings: 95-99%

The government is imprisoning immigrants without many of the rights criminals receive: no court-appointed attorney for indigent defendants, no standard habeas corpus, no protection from double jeopardy, no guarantee of a speedy trial. Anti-immigrant rhetoric says they are being detained because they broke the law. The bottom line is that we don’t even treat our citizen criminals this badly. On US soil, our laws and the Constitution should be for everyone. Read more about the ACLU's work on immigrant rights.

Prisoner’s Rights and Rachel Maddow
Did anyone notice that Rachel Maddow’s speech at the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Bill of Rights Celebration got a shout out on the national ACLU Blog of Rights? Her story about her work with the ACLU and human rights in the prison system was just one of the fun tidbits she shared at the event. See the full video of her speech on the ACLU of Wisconsin You Tube channel.

Safe and Free: Rolling back the Ashcroft Doctrine and the Patriot Act
For those who are exhausted with frustration over how often the Bush administration said “no comment” when asked about their policies regarding torture, Guantanamo detainees and other human rights issues in the past eight years, the “Ashcroft Doctrine” may finally be challenged. Congress has introduced a state’s secrets bill that would restore appropriate limits to what the federal government can say is to be kept under wraps. Keeping America both safe and free requires a balance between power and transparency in our government: the Ashcroft Doctrine put that out of balance. Take action to thank Wisconsin Rep. Petri for his leadership on this bill.

While you’re at it, you can give a “boo” to Rep. Sensenbrenner for his support to renew the Patriot Act. The ACLU continues to fight to roll back or reform the Patriot Act which has allowed greater government interference in individual privacy rights.

Death Penalty
Thanks Senator Russ Feingold for reintroducing the bill to abolish the federal death penalty. The ACLU has been involved in fighting the death penalty in Wisconsin and across the country due to its ineffectiveness and disproportionate racial impact.