May 24, 2013
Atlantans alarmed by the proliferation of targeted assassinations, surveillance and spying by drones will hold apress conference and protest at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 28 outside the Grand HyattAtlantahotel,3300 Peachtree Road NE.
That will be the opening morning of the international convention of the drone industry at the Grand Hyatt. The convention promises to bring together “representatives from academia, industry, federal/state agencies, government, the private sector, users, practitioners and engineers” who are working to expand the use of drones, or “unmanned aerial vehicles” (http://www.uasconferences.com/).
“I oppose the use of drones and other forms of targeted assassinations because of the likelihood that they will cause proliferation, an arms race and increasing use of drones around the world,” said Professor Henry (Chip) Carey of Georgia State University. “I am also concerned about the lack of democratic accountability for targeting and civilian casualties, which has backfired as a counter-terrorism technique.”
“The CIA and the military are carrying out illegal ‘targeted killings’ of people far from any battlefield, without charge or trial,” adds Azadeh Shahshahani, director of the National Security/Immigrants' Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and president of the National Lawyers Guild. “The executive branch claims the unchecked authority to put the names of citizens and others on ‘kill lists’ on the basis of secret evidence. The government must be held to account when it carries out such illegal killings in violation of the Constitution and international law.”
Other speakers will include Joe Beasley, president of African Ascension and southeast regional director of Rainbow Push; Courtney Hanson, public outreach director, Georgia Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND); and Sobukwe Shukura of the All African People’s Revolutionary Party. Dawn Gibson, co-coordinator of the Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition, will moderate the press conference.
Rallies will continue from 9 to 10 a.m. each day of the convention, which ends Friday, May 31.
May 23, 2013
Earlier this month, we celebrated Mother's Day while thousands of immigrant women across the country were separated from their children and families. They were imprisoned in the more than 250 facilities nationwide including the two in Georgia which currently detain women.
Women in immigration detention facilities including the Irwin County Detention Center and the North Georgia Detention Center face particularly painful circumstances as the ACLU of Georgia documented in our report released last year, "Prisoners of Profit: Immigrants and Detention in Georgia."
Victims of Abuse
Women often end up in detention because they were victims of abuse. More than half of the women we interviewed had been victims of domestic violence. Veronica and Maria Francisco, two women detained at the North Georgia Detention Center, said they had never called the police when they were being beaten by their partners because they were afraid of being arrested and deported, which would hurt not only them but their children as well. Maria's husband actually threatened to call ICE and have her deported if she complained about the beatings. She believed him and never called for help. Her worst fears came true when she was finally arrested after police arrived at her home in response to a domestic violence call.
Separation From Families and Children
Many of the women we interviewed were worried for their children because they were no longer with any immediate relatives or living at their own homes. Dulce Bolanos Estrada, who fled to Georgia from New Orleans to escape an abusive husband, has never been convicted of a crime. When she was detained, her young children (ages two, five, and seven), all U.S. citizens, were staying with relatives because she was their only caregiver. Her detention, she said, had torn apart the home she kept together.
Clara, who had already received her final removal order, was terrified that her children, U.S. citizens, would be sent to their abusive father or put in state custody because she was told she would be deported regardless of the dates of her pending custody case. Because she could not afford an attorney, she had many questions about the future well-being and rights of her children, and she had no idea to whom she could turn.
Maria Francisco has four U.S. citizen children; two of them are still too young to attend school. They had been living with a relative since Maria's detainment. She did not know what she would do if she were deported. She wanted her children in good schools because as Americans, they deserved to attend American schools. She had not seen her children at all in the two months she had been detained.
Veronica's children, all three of whom are U.S. citizens, were back in Mexico because she had no family or friends who could provide a safe place for her children to live in the U.S. At the time we spoke with her, Veronica had been detained for almost four months, and the extent of her record was a ticket for driving without insurance or a license.
Women face particular obstacles pertaining to their reproductive health in detention. When Natalia Elzaurdia was detained at the North Georgia Detention Center in May 2011, she and her fiancé were expecting their first child. At intake, Natalia told the nurse at the medical unit that she was four months pregnant. The nurse then conducted a urine test, and told Natalia that she was not pregnant. Natalia asked her to call the Gwinnett County Detention Center where she had previously taken two pregnancy tests. The nurse refused to call and conducted a chest xray against Natalia's protestations. Natalia asked for a blood test instead. The next day a blood test confirmed she was pregnant.
Natalia had requested to see a gynecologist as soon as she entered NGDC. At the time of the interview, days after she put in her request, she had yet to see a gynecologist. "I put in requests to two nurses and my deportation officer and still my concerns have not been addressed. I experience cramps in my abdomen daily. I want an ultrasound; I haven't been given one yet and I'm four months pregnant." Although she requested to see a doctor, Natalia only saw nurses. Natalia's family wrote to the warden and other NGDC officials, as well as DHS regarding Natalia's treatment, but never received a response.
Women often face inadequate hygiene conditions in detention, jeopardizing their health. At Irwin, the underwear women receive upon arrival is often used, even showing stains or signs that it is not properly washed. Veronica was issued soiled undergarments at intake and she asked if she could have clean ones. She was refused and told to wear what she was given. As a result of wearing the soiled undergarments, Veronica developed a serious infection that ultimately left scars on her legs and genitals.
In the spring of 2011, a rash broke out among the women in one unit at Irwin, and most of them had painful bumps on their chests. In July 2011, another women's unit had a similar rash outbreak, and one woman had the rash spread across her back and side. None of the women interviewed ever found out why these outbreaks occurred, or what exactly they had contracted.
Daniela Esquivela told us that women detained at the North Georgia Detention Center are given a pack of sanitary napkins for when they are menstruating, but that they must ask for more once they run out. The guards only give out three or four at a time, and if the women need more, they have to keep going back to ask for more. Geraldine Ayala also added that they sometimes have to wait to get more sanitary napkins because "they run out."
The quality and quantity of the food in detention is often lacking, especially affecting pregnant women. The schedule of the meals at the North Georgia Detention Center posed particular concern for Natalia in light of her pregnancy. Natalia stated that "the feeding times are ridiculous; there are thirteen hours between dinner and breakfast." Although Natalia was eventually given increased portions due to her pregnancy, she was not given meals more frequently. In addition, it took two or three days once her request was approved for the portions to increase.
Need for Reform
It is past time to close down the worst immigration detention centers in the country and treat detention as the last resort rather than throw immigrants in jail-like conditions -- including individuals who have been here for years, those who have only committed minor violations, those who have U.S. citizens and relatives as spouses or children, and those who have strong claims to remain in the United States.
The immigration reform bill introduced recently in the Senate contains important detention reforms, such as prompt bond hearings, alternatives to detention in immigration jails, and oversight of detention facilities. The bill also recognizes the importance of appointed counsel for those with mental disabilities, unaccompanied children, and other vulnerable populations.
We must continue to fight every step of the way to ensure immigration reform achieves a roadmap to citizenship for immigrants and an immigration process that respects the civil rights and liberties of immigrants, including women in deportation proceedings. With the hope that next Mother's Day, all detained immigrant mothers will be reunited with their families.
May 21, 2013
The Georgia Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society presents:
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Bondurant Mixson & Elmore LLP
One Atlantic Center
1201 West Peachtree Street
To what extent does the United States Constitution and current federal law authorize the use of military drones in counter-terrorism operations? Come hear a panel discussion on the constitutionality of President Obama’s policy on the use of drones, including the limits to their use, whether and when they could be used on American citizens, and the merits of constitutional concerns raised on the political left and the political right.
April 07, 2013
It's insane, but friends at Wilcox County High School in Georgia are being divided by race. Parents and students are sponsoring separate proms for white and black students and the school is washing their hands of the whole thing.
A diverse group of friends—who want to attend one of the best nights of their young lives together—are fighting back. They're trying to organize an integrated prom where everyone's welcome, but they could use some support from the school.
March 27, 2013
The ACLU of Georgia National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project is celebrating its fifth anniversary! Founded in March 2008, the project works to bring Georgia into compliance with international human rights and U.S. constitutional standards in treatment of refugees and immigrant communities, including those in detention. This project engages ACLU of Georgia staff and volunteers in litigation, legislative advocacy, human rights documentation, coalition-building, public education, attorney training, and community organizing to address a range of issues. Here you can find a few of our accomplishments over the past five years.
March 27, 2013
Two years ago, Georgia passed one of the most stringent immigration laws in the country, House Bill 87. Both supporters and opponents of the bill now agree that it has a major flaw which needs to be fixed quickly. As written, the law subjects U.S. citizens renewing a professional license to months of delay, costing many of them their jobs and livelihood.
Legislators from both sides of the aisle wisely pledged to work together to do away with this unacceptable consequence. Straightforward, fix-it bills were introduced in the state House and Senate. Unfortunately, a few legislators have made last-minute changes to one of the bills, sending it in a completely different direction. Their amendments threaten to embroil Georgia into another protracted and rancorous debate over provisions similar to the one that prompted a fix in the first place.
The amended bill would make it a crime for state and local government officials to accept any foreign passport as proof of identification unless the passport is accompanied by proof of legal immigration status. This, even though a passport is the most secure form of ID issued by an individual's country of citizenship and one that's accepted by the federal TSA for airplane travel, where security is paramount. It defies common sense to make it a crime for government workers to accept foreign passports as proof that a person is who they say they are.
Although the consequences of this provision may not be readily apparent, it could bar immigrants from obtaining marriage certificates in counties such as Fulton where a foreign passport is readily accepted as ID for this transaction, and prevent children of immigrants from attending public schools to the extent that the schools require proof of ID for enrollment.
Another of the amendments could make it impossible for some lawfully present immigrants including young people granted deferred action from deportation and individuals granted reprieve from natural disasters and war to obtain driver's licenses.
Besides the harm to individuals, the amendments would impose an unfair burden on local governments across Georgia.
These changes inject chaos into an otherwise sensible proposal. Let's get back to making common sense, constructive change. Legislators and the governor can do that, by supporting the original fix-it bills that lawmakers crafted to address a problem they agreed needed attention.
You can read the article at the Daily Report here.
March 20, 2013
ATLANTA — On March 21, 2013 at 10:00 a.m., Georgia-based human rights and faith groups will host a press conference in front of the State Capitol to call on legislators to reject legislation that promises to embroil Georgia in further controversy and reputational harm. If passed in its current form, HB 125 will have a similar effect as some of the worst provisions in Alabama’s law by denying many immigrants access to utilities, marriage certificates, and municipal buildings requiring ID. The groups will call on the legislature to instead act on its original intent and pass sensible legislation to alleviate some of the burdens imposed by HB 87.
Press conference to announce human rights and faith groups’ unified opposition to anti-immigrant legislation pending at the Georgia legislature.
Nan Orrock, State Senator
Pedro Marin, State Representative
Rev. Gregory Williams, Lead Pastor, The Power Church
Adelina Nicholls, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights
Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU Foundation of Georgia
Miriam Zuniga, Freedom University
Everitt Howe, Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment
PJ Edwards, Travelers Together immigration education and advocacy ministry
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Outside the Georgia State Capitol, Washington Street side
March 18, 2013
Georgia Detention Watch presents
a panel discussion featuring special guest Jessica Colotl
Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 12:00 pm
4200 Perimeter Park South, Suite #205
Atlanta, GA 30341
co-host: ACLU of Georgia
March 14, 2013
Azadeh Shahshahani, 34
Human Rights Lawyer, Georgia
Azadeh Shahshahani has been a prominent human rights advocate in the South for eight years. Currently the director of national security and immigrant rights at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia chapter, Shahshahani, 34, remains at the forefront of several campaigns to help those who often do not have a voice within the state’s and nation’s legal framework.
Shahshahani was among those who led the fight against HB 87, a Georgia law that closely mirrors the Arizona immigration law, enabling local law enforcement to check the immigration status of anyone believed to have committed even a minor infraction. The law passed in 2011 but her work led to a federal court blocking other parts of the law, including a provision that makes it a crime for anyone to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant. In the last year, Shahshahani has run over 15 forums in rural Georgia, teaching immigrants about their rights if they get stopped by police.
Much of Shahshahani’s work has also focused on prisoner’s rights. She authored a report in May 2012 detailing poor conditions in the privately run prisons used to detain undocumented immigrants. Most of the problems revolved around abysmal medical care for sick or injured prisoners. Shahshahani has written prolifically in print media and given TV interviews on the need for immigration authorities to stop using private companies to run prisons. These private firms are “committed to generating money for their investors,” she said.
March 14, 2013
The ACLU of Georgia joined affiliates throughout the country by submitting open records requests to determine the extent to which local law enforcement agencies are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used in military operations overseas. The ACLU of Georgia submitted these requests to 11 of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state. We hope to receive responses in the coming weeks and we will continue to monitor this situation. You can find out more about this project at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/06/aclu-police-militarization-swat_n_2813334.html