Sara is currently a staff attorney with the Center for Public Representation, a public interest law firm that focuses on systemic reform litigation for people with disabilities. From 2010 through 2011, she served as law clerk to the Honorable Alfred V. Covello in U.S. District Court, District of Connecticut. While in law school she was a research assistant for Professor Sudha Setty who writes in comparative law and national security, and was Symposium Editor for the Western New England Law Review. She is a graduate of Skidmore College and Western New England University School of Law.
Within the last few years awareness has grown regarding the business of private prisons, particularly private corrections, and its many flaws. More recently, attention has been paid to the now largest division of the private prison industry: immigration detention. In 2011, both Amnesty International and PBS’s Frontline brought light to the booming business of immigration detention.
The Sentencing Project’s 2012 report Dollars and Detainees: The Growth of For-Profit Detentionreveals shocking statistics on the number of immigration detainees in private detention centers, including that the total private detainee population increased by 259% between 2002 and 2010. While the number of privately held inmates has decreased due to state budget crises and policy changes, the number of federal detainees under the jurisdiction of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) has increased as a result of ”stepped up efforts to find, incarcerate, and deport people who violate immigration laws.” “There are indications that federal detention will remain a major market for private companies.”
The simple calculation that the higher the number of detainees results in higher profits is not hidden. To remain in business, private prisons must focus on the bottom line at the expense of safety, service, and the public good. The detention business often keeps communities financially afloat.
In May 2011, a man drowned near Forks, Washington, after being chased by U.S. Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) agents. The federal response to the incident reflects a rare bright spot in the struggle to end racial profiling by law enforcement.
The man who drowned in Washington state had been visiting the Olympic National Forest with his long-term female partner, when they were stopped by a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) officer. According to his companion (whose identity has not been disclosed for privacy concerns), the USFS officer was investigating whether they had a permit to harvest salal, a plant that grows in the Pacific Northwest Region. The couple needed an interpreter. But as the Seattle Weekly notes,
Who did [the Forest Service] call? Spanish-speaking locals like [a local] Sheriff’s Department uses? An agency offering interpreter services? No, the Forest Service called the Border Patrol.
In fact, the USFS officer had already called for Border Patrol agents before interacting with the couple, suggesting the interpretation request was mere pretext. When the CBP vehicle arrived, both the complainant and her partner fled on foot. CBP agents chased the driver, who ran into a nearby river and subsequently drowned.
Now the Department of Agriculture (USDA) (which oversees the Forest Service) is taking action to restore civil rights. In May 2012, the USDA’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) issued a federal administrative decision in which Assistant Secretary Joe Leonard, Jr. criticized the “discriminatory” practices of the USFS, including using CBP agents for interpreting and security backup during routine stops. More specifically, OASCR found that the Forest Service had discriminated based on race, national origin, and by failing to provide adequate access to an individual proficient in English.
It orders the USFS to locally announce the discriminatory finding and provide information on how to file civil rights complaints.
USFS must develop and implement a national meaningful language access policy.
The Forest Service agent and his supervisor must complete 40 hours of civil rights training within 60 days.
The Forest Service is required to develop and implement a national policy on law enforcement data collection to reduce instances of racial profiling. This would be similar to the regime envisioned under the proposed End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), which remains stalled in Congress after a decade of inaction in the face of a mounting crisis.
Susan Herman, President of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), discusses how our basic liberties are being violated in the name of preserving liberty in this edition of the Alternative Radio podcast. She covers the PATRIOT Act, state secret privileges, enemy combatants, and other topics while reminding us that “we’re the government.”
Herman was elected President of the ACLU in 2008 after serving on the ACLU National Board of Directors for twenty years, as an Executive Committee member for sixteen years, and as General Counsel for ten years. Her most recent book is Taking Liberties: The War on Terror and the Erosion of American Democracyin which she explains, among other things, the vast importance of the Fourth Amendment. The podcast is well-worth a listen as Herman describes various ACLU court cases and why we should care about the preservation of our liberty.
Last month, Patrick Fitzgerald announced his resignation as U.S. Attorney in Chicago, Illinois, a presidentially appointed post he has held since September 1, 2001. Known for his prosecutions of former Illinois Govenor Rod Blogojevich and former Chief of Staff to the Vice Presdient “Scooter” Libby, Fitzgerald also worked on several high profile terrorism cases. In 2011, he declared the most important advancement in fighting terrorism the communication between intelligence and law enforcement as a result of the PATRIOT Act. On May 23, 2012, the day of his announcement, he gave no reason for his departure.
The CRCL homepage states that it “integrates civil rights and civil liberties into all [DHS] activities, including “investigating and resolving civil rights and civil liberties complaints filed by the public regarding Department policies or activities, or actions taken by Department personnel.”
Yet, in a 2004 DHS management directive clarifying the role of the CRCL and its Chief Counsel, there is no mention of “redress” or “resolving” any complaints. The directive actually provides examples of situations where civil rights or liberties may have been violated along with a flow chart for processing allegations of abuses of civil rights and liberties. There is no reference to the above language and statute. Rather, it merely states that CRCL will “[d]evelop proactive initiatives that will demonstrate the Department’s commitment to civil rights and civil liberties.” Read the rest of this entry »
The FBI’s counterintelligence program COINTELPRO, which dates back to the 1950s, may have a new target and a new chapter in its long history of undermining political movements in America. Originally instituted to disrupt communist party activities in the US, COINTELPRO operations officially ceased in 1971. Between 1956 and 1971, however, COINTELPRO targeted many other domestic groups, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others associated with the civil rights movement, as well as groups protesting the Vietnam War. Recently, BORDC and its executive director Shahid Buttar have shed light on the emergence of a COINTELPRO 2.0. And, now, it seems the Occupy Wall Street movement is in its sights.
Alternet reports that the FBI has “launched a war of entrapment” against Occupy. A close examination of the “Cleveland 5″ and Chicago NATO arrests paints a frightening picture reminiscent of the original COINTELPRO. As Will Potter, author of Green is the New Red, a book analyzing FBI entrapment plots, explained, the two incidents are “a reflection of an ongoing pattern of behavior from the FBI of singling out political activities and having a direct influence in creating so-called terrorist plots for the purpose of proclaiming a victory in the war on terrorism.” In an op-ed for the New York Times, David Shipler writes that of the 22 most serious attacks planned against America after September 11, 2001, “14 were developed in sting operations.”
The mechanics of COINTELPRO remain the same. These tactics, beginning with infiltration, have been used against Leftists and Muslim Americans alike. The thousands of Occupy members or anyone with political agendas such as environmental or animal rights activists are at risk. In fact, Occupy is reportedly plagued by other infiltrators, in addition to the FBI.
While COINTELPRO may have formally ended in 1971, it is undoubtedly functioning in 2012.
Many people are familiar with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which provides the right to access information from executive branch government agencies. A related process is available to the public with respect to security-classified documents, such as secret documents from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) Program allows the public to request the declassification of and access to such documents.
However, unbeknownst to the public, making requests under MDR has now become far more burdensome. In September 2011, the CIA promulgated a regulation, without any notice for public comment, requiring that declassification reviews will cost requesters up to $72.00 per hour, even if no information is found or released. The public must also pay a minimum of $15.00 in duplication fees.
In February 2012, Open the Government.org, BORDC, the National Security Archive, and several other organizations joined a letter objecting to the implementation and content of the new regulation. Sent to the Directors of National Intelligence, the CIA, and the Information Security Oversight Office, the letter explains that the regulation is inconsistent with the Obama administration’s policy of unprecedented transparency and its declassification policy under Executive Order 13,526. Most importantly, the public will be priced out of submitting MDR requests, which is “a popular and successful tool for researchers, historians, public interest advocates, and others.”
As this significant limit is placed on access to information, reports reveal that the CIA has secretly increased its presence domestically, such as within the New York Police Department (NYPD) — a controversial, problematic, and potentially illegal move for an agency “prohibited from collecting intelligence” in the U.S.
The Unites States now incarcerates more people than any other country in the world. This month The Sentencing Project, an organization based in Washington, D.C. that works to address unjust racial disparities and practices, announced its newest publication: Trends in U.S. Corrections. The comprehensive data, presented in a convenient visual format, covers changes in the criminal justice system over several decades. Specifically, the publication reveals, among other things, an ongoing racial bias in the corrections system. Indeed, “more than 60% of people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day.” Moreover, of all persons in prison for drug offenses, two-thirds are people of color. The relationship between the “war on drugs” and these trends is clear.
Recently, Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, discussed the case of Trayvon Martin, which raises issues around race and the American justice system on public radio’s To the Point. While The Sentencing Project works to reform sentencing policy and advocate for alternatives to incarceration, other organizations raise awareness on racial bias in our criminal justice system by addressing the related practice of profiling. The NAACP, ACLU, and BORDC are all working to stop this flawed and discriminatory method of investigation that extends to people of all races and ethnicities, as well as religions.
As reported by BORDC, anti-profiling legislation has reached the halls of Congress. The End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), introduced in 2011, was the subject of a Senate hearing earlier this year and there is strong support from groups like the Rights Working Group and their end racial profiling campaign.
In 2009, the ACLU and the Rights Working Group documented racial and ethnic profiling in 22 states and under a variety of federal programs. Racial profiling reaches communities all over the country. BORDC and others urge an effective end to this practice or we risk even more shocking statistics than those revealed by The Sentencing Project.
In light of this week’s House votes on the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act and an alarming example of how life could look under the detention provisions, forums on the NDAA like the recent one organized by the Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition (MCCRC) in Montgomery County, Maryland are essential in a grassroots campaign to protect our civil rights and liberties.
MCCRC is comprised of individuals and organizations working together to protect civil rights and civil liberties everywhere by protecting them in Montgomery County. As part of their campaign, they are advocating for a local civil rights restoration act modeled on suggestions developed by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) and ACLU.
BORDC’s Shahid Buttar, one of two speakers at the April 26 forum, warned that “Under the NDAA it’s not even the case that the state could prosecute you [for broadly drawn "terror" charges such as eco-vandalism or animal rights protests]. You could just be detained. Period. And granted you’d still have habeas rights, but anyone who’s been watching the DC Circuit Court knows how tenuous habeas has become.” Listen and watch Mr. Buttar discuss the NDAA during this lively event.
With Eric Bond, editor of the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Voice moderating the event, the other speaker, National Security Network executive director Heather Hurlburt addressed, among other things, the motives behind the drafting of NDAA Sections 1021 and 1022. Visit the MCCRC blog for highlights from Ms. Hurlburt’s discussion and additional video of the well attended forum.
The MCCRC anticipates that the Takoma Park City Council will vote on its proposed resolution tonight, Monday May 21.
A new resource is available for communities looking to defeat US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE ) hold requests, also know as immigration detainers. The National Immigration Project, in conjunction with four other national immigration and defense organizations, have developed this useful and informative all-in-one guide to educate the public. As the guide explains, “The essential link between police and ICE is the ICE hold request . . . . On the basis of ICE hold requests, state and local police hold people in jail longer in order to hand them over to ICE.” As mentioned in BORDC Executive Director Shahid Buttar ‘s op-ed for Truthout, “internal government watchdogs [report that] Latino Americans have been preyed upon by local law enforcement in the context of enforcing federal immigration law under the controversial 287(g) program and the misnamed ‘Secure Communities’ initiative.”
While several communities have already been successful in preventing ICE hold requests, aiming to stop ICE detainers is only part of a coherent local civil rights reform platform. Buttar explained, “Proposed reforms developed by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC) create enforceable protections to stop and prevent future racial profiling as it impacts each of the several communities vulnerable to law enforcement excesses. BORDC’s reforms also restrict domestic intelligence collection (local spying) operations. By combining these seemingly disparate elements in their grassroots campaigns, organizers at the local level can build broad coalitions across not only African-American, Latino, Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities, but also libertarian allies who share concerns about the erosion of the Fourth Amendment.”
The guide is a three-part tool kit designed to help communities prevent deportations of their residents by keeping the local police separate from ICE. For people who want policy reform in their communities, an additional appendix with sample materials, templates, ordinances, and other campaign materials is available upon request from the National Immigration Project.