Monday, November 24, 2008

Human rights concerns over Napolitano pick for Homeland Security

PRESS STATEMENT: Human Rights Concerns Regarding Prospective Appointment of Janet Napolitano as Secretary of DHS

Pedro Rios, Director, US/Mexico Border Program
(619) 233-4114; (619) 370-5908 (cell)

Caroline Isaacs, Director, Program Arizona Area Program
(520) 623-5901


AFSC border offices emphasize urgency to move away from failed border enforcement policies

SAN DIEGO, CA & TUCSON, AZ [NOVEMBER 21] – The border offices of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a human rights organization that advocates and works on behalf of migrant communities, urge President-elect Barak Obama and his advisors to prioritize a human rights agenda in selecting a new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). News reports that Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano could be selected as secretary of the DHS raises apprehensions that Governor Napolitano will prioritize failed border and immigration enforcement plans in place of offering real solutions for border and migrant communities.

“Governor Napolitano has pushed for an employment verification program in Arizona that is largely ineffective and relies on erroneous information,” stated Caroline Isaacs, director of Tucson-based AFSC’s Arizona Area Program. “If we can expect this type of program on a national level, as has been proposed by outgoing President Bush, there will be no real ‘change’ from the incoming Obama Administration, just further attempts to criminalize the right-to-work for migrant workers and their families.”

Governor Napolitano, as Secretary of the DHS, has an opportunity to address human rights concerns by rectifying failed policies with direct impacts to border communities. Policies and measures that should be repealed or eliminated include the following:

• Secure Fence Act of 2006 - calls for hundreds of miles of barriers along the US/Mexico border. Barriers along the San Diego and Texas border have pushed migrants into dangerous, inhospitable terrain, leading to enormous costs: billions of dollars spent and over 5200 men, women, and children dead since 1994.

• Real ID Act of 2005 - especially problematic in its entirety concerning the rights of refugees and migrants. Section 102 of the Act provides unprecedented power to the DHS Secretary to waive any and all laws deemed necessary to expedite construction of fencing along US borders. Over 35 laws have been waived already, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act.

• Operation Streamline – in use in Arizona and Texas. The program seeks criminal prosecution of migrants detained entering the US. It preys on the most vulnerable, and circumvents due process rights by fast-tracking prosecutions, overburdening the courts, and misdirecting valuable resources. In addition, the AFSC calls on the incoming DHS Secretary to open avenues of communication with migrant and border communities.

“Governor Napolitano’s controversial call for the National Guard to beef up patrols of the border was highly unpopular in border communities, and was largely seen as a capitulation to extremist groups with no common sense about public policy,” commented Pedro Rios, director of the San Diego AFSC office.

The State of Arizona has developed a terrible reputation under Governor Napolitano for its treatment of undocumented migrants. Although in the recent past Governor Napolitano has supported proposals to change immigration laws, these were laden with enforcement measures that would have further militarized border communities, increased home and worksite raids, and implemented structural changes to immigration laws that would have further eroded civil rights protections for refugee and migrant communities.

The AFSC San Diego and Arizona offices urge President-Elect Obama and his advisors, including Governor Napolitano, to demonstrate real change for border communities, by reversing ineffective border policies that have created a human rights disaster along the US/Mexico borderlands.

# # #

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social
justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to
overcome violence and injustice.
Photo: Human rights activists from the border, including those that search for the bodies of Indigenous women, protested Gov. Janet Napolitano in Tucson 2007, because of her anti-immigrant stance. Photo Brenda Norrell

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Censored News is published by censored journalist Brenda Norrell. A journalist for 27 years, Brenda lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, writing for Navajo Times, AP, USA Today, Lakota Times and other American Indian publications. After being censored and then terminated by Indian Country Today in 2006, she began the Censored Blog to document the most censored issues. She currently serves as human rights editor for the U.N. OBSERVER & International Report at the Hague and contributor to Sri Lanka Guardian, Narco News and CounterPunch. She was cohost of the 5-month Longest Walk Talk Radio across America, with Earthcycles Producer Govinda Dalton in 2008:
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