Archive for December 2012

December 2012 Patriot Award winner: Ana Aguayo & Jose Luis Aguayo-Herrera

Monday, December 31, 2012 at 9:58 am by

Every month, BORDC honors an individual who has done outstanding work in support of civil liberties and the rule of law in his or her community. This month, the Patriot Award goes to siblings Ana Aguayo & Jose Luis Aguayo-Herrera from Arkansas for their courageous work defending civil rights and civil liberties.

Born in Mexico to low-income working parents, Ana & Jose became acquainted with the plights of the immigrant community at a young age. They personally witnessed many injustices that immigrant communities have endured, which they observed contributing to a culture of fear. After beginning her advocacy work in high school, where she worked as a legal translator for her local community, Ana continued her work in college, where she worked on wage-theft cases.

Today, Ana & Jose work together at the non-profit Northwest Arkansas Workers’ Justice Center (NWAWJC), serving lower income workers in the surrounding area. The organization focuses largely on labor-related issues, specifically focusing on abuses within the workplace, including non-payments, underpayments, insecure working conditions, harassment, and health and safety training. Their work aspires to improve working conditions, educate the working community, and challenge the myth that immigrant workers are not entitled to constitutional rights.

The NWAWJC has focused on four central campaigns; one addresses mediation between workers and their employers in recovering unpaid wages; the second encourages workers to speak up about their circumstances at work, and to fight against the use of an individual’s immigration status as a tool for oppression; third relates to health and safety, primarily to promote health and safety training to prevent injuries in the workplace; and the fourth focuses on personal development of work crew members to cultivate workers’ skill-sets, from knowledge of their fundamental rights to English language training and computer education.

This summer, Ana represented NWAWJC in a convening facilitated by BORDC’s GeorgeFriday which brought together many local allies interested in a campaign to address profiling and other abuses by local and state police. To aspiring activists interested in developing their own advocacy, she suggests a simple first step: seek information to learn more about the issues. BORDC’s People’s Blog for the Constitution offers one great source for such information on civil liberties issues.

Efforts to champion constitutional rights in America’s heartland — like those of Ana, Jose and their colleagues at the NWAWJC –  offer an inspiring reminder of the vital role of immigrant communities in our nation’s history, and the transcendence of constitutional principles beyond political party, language, or culture. BORDC salutes Ana Aguayo & & Jose Luis Aguayo-Herrera for demonstrating, everyday, what it truly means to be American.

Senate extends FISA for another 5 years while sacrificing transparency and your 4th Amendment rights

Friday, December 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm by

BORDC is disappointed in the Senate’s failure to check and balance executive violations under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

In a 73-23 vote the Senate overwhelming approved the legislation for another 5 years—one of few notable showings of bipartisan support this term, coming at the expense of transparency and 4th amendment rights. Senator Wyden (D-Ore.) reflected on the extension and the importance of this week’s debate saying:

It is not real oversight when the United States Congress cannot get a yes or no answer to the question of whether an estimate currently exists as to whether law abiding Americans have had their phone calls and emails swept up under the FISA law.

The amendment I fought to include would have helped bring the constitutional principles of security and liberty back into balance and intend to work with my colleagues to see that the liberties of individual Americans are maintained.

This overreaching authorization of unwarranted and unprecedented domestic surveillance will now move to the President’s desk for his signature, expected tonight before the midnight expiration of the previous approval of FISA. Unfortunately, Senators have followed in the footsteps of the House, passing an identical bill, failing to heed the voices of Americans dem
anding answers
and the restoration of their Fourth Amendment rights.

With Congress failing to check the most pervasive dragnet surveillance program in the world, it is increasingly important for Americans to mobilize and take action locally. View the many resources BORDC provides for local organization and coalition building online, or contact us to find out
about new opportunities in your area.

New video showcases BORDC’s work across the nation

Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 11:32 am by

Whether you’ve been part of the network since BORDC was founded in 2002, or whether you joined us at an event this fall, like the Connecticut statewide conference that brought together over 200 diverse grassroots activists from across New England on December 8, watch this short video to celebrate the achievements we’ve accomplished together!

Please take a moment today to share this video with your family and friends. In addition to celebrating the end of BORDC’s 10th anniversary with us this holiday season, please also remember to invest in the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and our efforts standing for liberty when our government won’t. Every contribution—whether $10 or $10,000—is tax-deductible and helps build the movement, especially with a generous matching grant adding 50% to your contribution.

Changes to S-comm reveal the program’s flaws, don’t go far enough.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012 at 2:28 pm by

On Friday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released its year end deportation numbers alongside a new set of guidelines on the issuance of detainer requests to local law enforcement under the infamous Secure Communities (S-comm) program. The announcement reveals the depths of S-comm’s flaws, while leaving little doubt that real change at the federal level remains elusive.

In 2012, ICE removed 409,849 people, the most deportations in the agency’s history, and 12,943 more than last year’s record of 396,906. It’s no secret that ICE has severely misguided deportation priorities, and that S-comm has worsened them. One frequently repeated statistic from Department of Homeland Security is that 79% of deportees under Secure Communities had no criminal records or had been picked up for low-level offenses such as traffic violations. However, there are other statistics that outline the brutal impact of S-comm in more detail. A report from UC Berkeley researchers showed that:

Approximately 3,600 United States citizens have been arrested by ICE through the Secure Communities program; more than one-third (39%) of individuals arrested through Secure Communities report that they have a U.S. citizen spouse or child . . . ; Latinos comprise 93% of individuals arrested through Secure Communities though they only comprise 77% of the undocumented population in the United States; only 52% of individuals arrested through Secure Communities are slated to have a hearing before an immigration judge;  [and] only 24% of individuals arrested through Secure Communities and who had immigration hearings had an attorney compared to 41% of all immigration court respondents who have counsel.

The numbers are clear. S-comm is a broken program that destroys due process, tears families apart, and focuses on Latinos to a degree that can only be called racial profiling. So, what is ICE’s solution?  Minimal reform with maximum fanfare.

The new detainer guidance states that ICE officials should continue to issue detainers where they “have reason to believe” that an individual has three or more misdemeanor convictions; has a conviction for or has been charged with a felony; has a prior misdemeanor conviction or has been charged with a serious misdemeanor offense; has a prior order of deportation; has re-entered the country after a previous removal or return; has been found by an immigration officer or an immigration judge to have knowingly committed immigration fraud; or:

…the individual otherwise poses a significant risk to national security, border security, or public safety.

In effect, the new policy excludes only a tiny number of individuals. Even those exclusions are only theoretical, because the guidance leaves huge discretion to ICE officers to issue detainers.  Asian Law Caucus’ Angela Chan, a leader in the fight against S-comm in California, released a redlined copy of the new policy on Friday, explaining its fatal flaws. She notes that the policy completely excludes Customs and Border Patrol, and that the guidance would continue to:

…allow individuals to be detained and deported under S-Comm for purely civil immigration violations. S-Comm was supposed to focus on serious or violent felony convictions, not immigration violations.

The other flaws with the policy are obvious. It requires only “reason to believe,” not articulable facts. It does not provide an objective list of specific misdemeanor crimes, but rather a subjective list of categories. By citing a national security threat, it implicates similarly problematic counterterrorism standards.  Finally, it focuses on charges, not convictions, leaving in place the “guilty until proven innocent” standards that have defined S-comm since its inception. Unsurprisingly, although the guidance emphasizes the need for transparency and uniformity, it maintains ICE’s prerogative to police itself, even though this has failed at creating an accountable agency.

ICE is depicting its revisions as thoughtful steps towards sane immigration policy in this country, but these changes trail behind the more meaningful policies passed in cities, counties, and states that want truly secure communities. From the complete non-compliance with ICE detainer requests passed by Berkeley City Council in October of this year to the strict limitations on compliance with detainer requests such as those  passed by Santa Clara County, CA, and  Cook County, IL, grassroots advocacy at the local level has made it clear that communities are fighting S-comm. California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ recent memo clarifying that detainer requests are purely voluntary also demonstrates the sea change happening at the state level. These grudging and miniscule changes to a broken system are clearly ICE’s response, but it is not enough. It is time for S-comm to end entirely.

Torture and “Zero Dark Thirty”: A debate missing its point

Monday, December 24, 2012 at 11:06 am by

1134604 - Zero Dark ThirtyThe impending release of the Hollywood film Zero Dark Thirty has sparked a vigorous debate about torture, which has reinvigorated cries for accountability. A consensus among informed observers has emerged that torture was never actually helpful in securing useful intelligence information to support our nation’s wars abroad.

But the question of efficacy has obscured more important issues. Largely absent from the debate have been apparently forgotten concerns about human rights, accountability, and the rule of law.

Just to reiterate the consensus: torture did not help national security. The chairs of the Senate intelligence and armed services committees, in addition to a recent Republican presidential nominee and torture survivor, and the acting head of the CIA, have all publicly announced that the film’s depiction of torture exaggerates its usefulness.

In fact, as they have all confirmed, the information that led to the death of Osama bin Laden was gained through traditional intelligence methods, not the unconstitutional “enhanced interrogation” human rights abuses illegally concocted by former Vice President Dick Cheney, Ninth Circuit Judge Jay Bybee, and others.

Not only was torture unhelpful as an interrogation method, it was actively counterproductive: it fueled the recruitment of new terrorists by our nation’s enemies, and undermined our nation’s moral standing in the world, degrading the “smart power” that was responsible for our triumph over the Soviet bloc and the relative peace in the decades following WWII.

Yet in the wake of torture, our government has turned a blind eye to enforcing the law, ensuring that it will recur by endorsing a regime of unaccountability in direct violation of the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, the precedent from the Nuremberg trials, the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT), and our federal statute enforcing the CAT.

The Obama administration commits violations of human rights every day it fails to pursue accountability for the architects of the Bush administration’s torture program. The first term decision to “look forward, not backward” reflected a capitulation to political headwinds, but it also heralded a great deal more.

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Constitution in Crisis :: BORDC’s December Newsletter

Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm by

 

Senate readies to extend FISA, allowing the NSA to remain above the law

BORDC News

Grassroots News

  • Patriot Award: Ana Aguayo & Jose Luis Aguayo Herrera
  • Grassroots Updates
    • Bill of Rights Day prompts grassroots actions across the country
    • New Britain, CT: Diverse activists come together from across the Northeast
    • Albany, NY: Center for Law and Justice calls on Governor to appoint commission on mass incarceration of people of color
    • Cleveland, OH: Nearly 20 organizations convene in the aftermath of police killings
    • Chicago, IL: Proposed closure of “Supermax” prison moves forward on budget grounds, if not human rights
    • Dallas, TX: Bill of Rights Day luncheon prompts defiance of local anti-dissent measure
    • Michigan: State House unanimously approves bill to repudiate NDAA’s domestic detention provisions
    • Alameda County, CA:  Hearing on drone purchase to take place in coming months

Law and Policy

New Resources and Opportunities

News Digest 12/21/12

Friday, December 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

Amicus briefs in Hedges v. Obama inform indefinite detention lawsuit

Friday, December 21, 2012 at 10:05 am by

Law BooksThe Bill of Rights Defense Committee recently coordinated the filing of three amicus (friend of the court) briefs in Hedges v. Obama, a lawsuit in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals challenging domestic military detention under the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012.

The suit was brought by journalists and activists concerned about being subjected to indefinite military detention if they interview subjects hostile to the US, and secured a permanent injunction earlier this year from Judge Katherine Forrest of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The briefs coordinated by BORDC support the position of the plaintiffs and provide additional arguments to inform the court’s decision. One brief was filed on behalf of BORDC, arguing that when the government has previously used military domestic detention it has taken extreme steps to evade the oversight of the federal courts, and thus it is now especially important for the Second Circuit to decide the constitutionality of the NDAA, so that the government does not later avoid the courts’ oversight.

The other briefs were filed on behalf of the Government Accountability Project, which defends whistleblowers, and the the Korematsu Center, which seeks to combat discrimination and to support communities in advocating for themselves. Both of these briefs were recently highlighted by the Huffington Post, in an article that also points out “7 Ways to Get Yourself Indefinitely Detained.”

Oral argument in the case is anticipated to be before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City in January. Updates can be found on BORDC’s blog and at StopNDAA.org. You can also find others organizing across the country against the NDAA on BORDC’s national map of anti-NDAA movements. Read more about each brief after the jump.

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News Digest 12/20/2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm by

EyeSee you and the internet of things: Watching you while you shop

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 10:38 am by

This commentary was written by John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute. It was originally published on December 17, 2012.

“I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it’s the government.”—Woody Allen

Gifts have been bought. Presents wrapped. Now all that remains is the giving and receiving. Oh, and the tracking, of course. Little did you know that all the while you were searching out that perfect gift, you were unknowingly leaving a trail for others—namely, the government and its corporate cohorts—to follow.

Thanks to the wonders of technology, the indifference of the general public to the growing surveillance state, the inability of Congress to protect Americans’ privacy, and the profit-driven policies of the business sector, the corporate state could write a book about your holiday shopping habits: the websites you’ve visited when trying to decide what to buy, the storefronts you’ve browsed while wandering the mall, and the purchases you’ve made.

Even the store mannequins have gotten in on the gig. According to the Washington Post, mannequins in some high-end boutiques are now being outfitted with cameras that utilize facial recognition technology. A small camera embedded in the eye of an otherwise normal looking mannequin allows storekeepers to keep track of the age, gender and race of all their customers. This information is then used to personally tailor the shopping experience to those coming in and out of their stores. As the Washington Post report notes, “a clothier introduced a children’s line after the dummy showed that kids made up more than half its mid-afternoon traffic… Another store found that a third of visitors using one of its doors after 4 p.m. were Asian, prompting it to place Chinese-speaking staff members by that entrance.”

At $5,072 a pop, these EyeSee mannequins come with a steep price tag, but for storeowners who want to know more—a lot more—about their customers, they’re the perfect tool, able to sit innocently at store entrances and windows, leaving shoppers oblivious to their hidden cameras. Italian mannequin maker Almax SpA, manufacturer of the EyeSee mannequins, is currently working on adding ears to the mannequins, allowing them to record people’s comments in order to further tailor the shopping experience.

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