MEDIA RELEASE Hundreds of groups in North Carolina and nationwide organize to stop abuses stemming from controversial 287(g) program

Hundreds of groups in North Carolina and nationwide organize to stop abuses stemming from controversial 287(g) program
A silent vigil on Friday in Hendersonville aims to raise awareness about human rights violations

RALEIGH (Aug. 27, 2009) -- A controversial policy that undermines human rights and promotes racial profiling faces growing opposition from hundreds of groups, nationwide and in North Carolina.

Last month, Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano expanded the embattled 287(g) agreements, which effectively give local law enforcement the power to act as immigration agents.

In response, more than 500 civil rights, community, and immigrant rights organizations have asked the program be immediately terminated. In a letter to President Obama, these organizations -- which included the NAACP, ACLU, MALDEF, and Anti-Defamation League -- cited the civil rights abuses, specifically the racial profiling, endemic to the program. Groups such as the Office of the Inspector General have also expressed opposition to the program.

North Carolina groups signing on to the letter represent all areas of the state, and are listed at the bottom of this release.

Abuses are well-documented and can be shocking. In Davidson County, Tennessee, the Sheriff's Office used its 287(g) power to apprehend undocumented immigrants driving to work, standing at day labor sites, or while fishing off piers. One pregnant woman---charged with driving without a license---was shackled to her bed during labor.

"It seems like every day a new horror story comes out of people being unfairly targeted," said Marty Rosenbluth of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice. "But it isn't just about the immigrant families being torn apart. This program expands police power in a supremely dangerous manner that threatens all our rights."

The demonstrated dangers of the 287(g) program, experts say, illustrate the urgency for the Obama administration to end the Bush-era policies and pass just and humane immigration reform.

"Preventing the expansion of 287(g) is a critical step toward preserving basic human rights for all Americans,":said Irene Godinez, advocacy director for El Pueblo. "The problems with the program also highlight the pressing need to pass comprehensive immigration reform which would create a fair and just path to citizenship."

Locals working against 287(g) are undertaking grassroots efforts, including a monthly silent vigil to call attention to these critically needed reforms.

The Justice Initiative in Hendersonville, a group of community members convened by the Latino Advocacy Coalition and the Henderson County Human Relations Council, hosts regular vigils to raise awareness about the need for comprehensive immigration reform and the damaging impact that local immigration enforcement efforts have on families.

"People in North Carolina are raising their voices -- and in this case, speaking out through silence -- to support human rights and immigrant families," said Dani Martinez-Moore, coordinator of the Network of Immigrant Advocates at the NC Justice Center. "A growing number of people are sending the clear message that the type of racial profiling 287(g) allows is simply wrong and unacceptable."

The next silent vigil is this Friday, Aug. 28. Vigils are held the last Friday of each month from 5:30 p.m.-6 p.m. in front of the Historic Courthouse in Hendersonville at 201 North Main Street Hendersonville, NC 28792.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Marty Rosenbluth, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, 919.323.3380, ext. 111; Irene Godinez, El Pueblo, 919.491.5627; Dani Martinez-Moore, NC Justice Center,, 919.856.2178.

North Carolina groups signing on to the letter include:

NC Justice Center, Raleigh
Latin American Coalition, Charlotte
La Vela Latino Center, Greensboro
El Vinculo Hispano, Siler City
FaithAction International House, Greensboro
ACLU of North Carolina, Raleigh
El Pueblo, Raleigh
El Centro Latino, Carrboro
Orange County Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Carrboro
Orange County Rape Crisis Center, throughout Orange County
COLA - Coalicion de Organizaciones Latino-Americanas, Western North Carolina
Center for Participatory Change, Western North Carolina
Justice Initiative, Hendersonville
Latino Advocacy Coalition, Hendersonville
Nuestro Centro, Asheville
Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Durham