Immigration Reform Advocates To Protest Against Napolitano in New York Wednesday

NEW YORK — Local immigration activists plan to demonstrate against U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano Wednesday morning when she comes to the city to deliver a speech on terrorism, in what may be the first significant protest by presumed Obama administration allies against a member of the president’s cabinet.  (Editor’s note: We previously reported incorrectly that the demonstration was scheduled for Thursday.  We regret the error.)

May Day rally at Madison Square Park in Manhattan.

A previous demonstration by New York immigration groups, on May Day. (Photo: Maibe Gonzalez Fuentes)

Several pro- immigration groups are organizing a demonstration and press conference at the Council on Foreign Relations, where Napolitano will deliver a speech titled “Common Threat, Collective Response: Protecting Against Terrorist Attacks in a Networked World,” which will be broadcast live on the web.

The groups plan to protest Homeland Security’s “backward policies such as the implementation of e-Verify and the expansion of 287(g)” (a program that deputizes local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws) said Norman Eng, a New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) spokesman. The demonstration comes on the heels of the release last week of a report that found Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a DHS agency, violated the Constitution by conducting home raids without warrants and appropriate documentation under the Bush administration.

The groups taking part include the American Friends Service Committee, La Unión de la Comunidad Latina, Make the Road New York, New Immigrant Community Empowerment, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrants’ Rights.

They will call on lawmakers to adopt recommendations made in the report released by the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.

The report says the majority of immigrants targeted by ICE were Hispanics, and concludes that the raids were “shockingly ineffective at capturing their purported targets.” [You can download the full report here.]

The protest is part of an escalated effort by New York groups to keep immigration reform on track and pressure legislators to discuss comprehensive changes in the next months.

Gabriella Villarreal, immigration advocacy policy coordinator at the NYIC, an umbrella organization for more than 200 pro-immigrant groups across the state, told FI2W that the coalition will increase community organizing and lobbying efforts in the next months.

Specifically, Villarreal said the coalition has increased meeting requests with members of Congress, scheduled more educational meetings, stepped up efforts to recruit volunteers, and increased collaboration with national groups such as FIRM.

The economic crisis, which has affected the budgets of grassroots organizations, will not impede this escalation, according to Villareal.

“Advocating for immigration reform is our priority, and the reason why the coalition was formed in 1987. The immigrant community is under siege, and people are feeling the need to act. It has not been difficult to mobilize,” Villarreal said.

The group “will use all tools available” to convey the urgency of passing comprehensive immigration reform, she added.

Advocates are not the only ones calling for changes to ICE policies. The New York Times ran an editorial Sunday calling on the administration to adopt the Cardozo report’s recommendations:

The Department of Homeland Security, under Secretary Napolitano, says it has been trying to undo the worst excesses of Bush-era immigration enforcement. But advocates want it to hasten the adoption of recommendations including no home raids except as a last resort to catch dangerous fugitives; no raids without judicial warrants; videotaping of agents in action; retraining agents on procedures; and starting an inspector general’s investigation to see how far the abuses have spread.

AboutMaibe Ponet
Maibe Ponet is a Venezuelan-American journalist. She is currently the Opinion Page Editor for El Diario La Prensa, the oldest Spanish-language daily in the United States. She has worked as a reporter for leading Venezuelan national publications and was a staff writer for the Spanish language newspaper Hoy, where she covered local politics and NYC City Hall from 2002 to 2005. Following her departure from Hoy, she served as a press person for candidates, elected officials and city agencies, including the 2005 Democratic mayoral nominee Fernando Ferrer, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and the New York City Department of Education. Maibe is a former Independent Press Association Ethnic Journalism Fellow. She holds a BA in Journalism from the Central University of Venezuela, and a master's degree in Urban Policy and Management from The New School University.