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Watch the new Restore Fairness documentary and “Face the Truth” about racial profiling

“I’ve seen a lot in my life but to be degraded…  not just stripped of my clothes, being stripped of my dignity, was what I had a problem with.”

Kurdish American Karwan Abdul Kader was stopped and stripped by local law enforcement for no reason other than driving around in the wrong neighborhood. This is one among many stories featured in a powerful new documentary “Face The Truth: Racial Profiling Across America”, produced by Breakthrough’s Restore Fairness campaign and the Rights Working Group, showcasing the devastating impact of racial profiling on communities around our country, including the African American, Latino, Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities.

The documentary brings to life a new report by the Rights Working Group released along with 350 local and national partners on the one year anniversary of the Face the Truth campaign to end racial profiling. Both the video and report urge Congress to pass the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA), and are featured in a Congressional briefing on Thursday, September 30th in Washington D.C. attended by advocates, police chiefs and community organizers.

Besides compelling personal stories, the documentary features interviews with notable law enforcement and civil society leaders such as Hilary O. Shelton (NAACP), Dr.Tracie Keesee (Division Chief, Denver Police Department) and Karen Narasaki (Asian American Justice Center), all of whom decry racial and religious profiling as a pervasive problem that is not only humiliating and degrading for the people subjected to it, but one that is unconstitutional, ineffective as a law enforcement practice, and ultimately damaging to community security.

Together, we can stop the erosion of our fundamental human rights. Watch the video and take action now.

POLL: Do you support the passage of the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA)?

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Join the week of actions to face the truth about racial profiling

Racial and religious profiling is a problem that affects many communities across the country. While traditionally thought of as targeting the African American community, profiling affects a broad range of communities, including Native American, African American, Latino, Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities. Not only is racial and religious profiling humiliating and degrading for the people subjected to it, it is unconstitutional, it is an ineffective law enforcement practice, and it damages community security.

This past summer, communities across America hosted hearings to raise their voices against racial and religious profiling by federal, state, and local law enforcement. The testimonies shared by people around the country illustrated the pervasiveness of the problem, and demonstrated how it impacts people from all walks of life. Out of the hearings came a resolve from communities to stop the ineffective and degrading practice of racial profiling.

In solidarity with Rights Working Group, we urge you to join the ‘Racial Profiling: Face the Truth’ campaign and participate in the ‘Face the Truth Week of Actions,’ taking place from September 26- October 2. Marking the one year anniversary of the launch of the campaign, the Rights Working Group will release a report highlighting testimonies from the hearings that told place over the summer. The report, entitled Faces of Racial Profiling: A Report from Communities Across America, will be released on Thursday, September 30th, at a Congressional briefing which will include a panel discussion involving advocates, police chiefs and community organizers from around the country.

Throughout the week, local partners around the country will be hosting events, echoing the campaign’s call for Federal legislation banning racial profiling. Join a local event near you and take a stand against racial profiling. If you cannot make it to one of these events, consider pulling together a few family members and friends for a conversation about the detrimental effects of racial profiling on your community, or start a letter writing campaign to your local newspaper editors and reporters about the problems with the merger of the criminal justice and immigration systems. You can find other great ideas to do individually or collectively here.

Do stay tuned for the release of “Face the Truth: Racial Profiling Across America,” a short documentary about racial profiling that we at Restore Fairness have produced in collaboration with the Rights Working Group. Also launching during the ‘Face the Truth Week of Actions,’ our powerful short film features stories told by individuals affected by racial profiling as well as educational interviews with notable law enforcement and  civil society leaders. The video includes interviews with Hilary O. Shelton (NAACP), Dr.Tracie Keesee (Division Chief, Denver Police Department) and Karen Narasaki (Asian American Justice Center). It also  contains the compelling personal stories of Karwan Abdul Kader, a U.S citizen driving in the “wrong part of town” who made to strip down, was interrogated and then let go without even a citation; Ronald Scott (Detroit Coalition Against Policy Brutality) who points out the numerous instances of innocent lives lost as law enforcement clashes with racial profiling; and Juana Villegas, a Latino immigrant detained for a traffic violation while 9 months pregnant. Watch for this at restorefairness.org

Photo courtesy of northbynorthwestern.com

Breaking news: Senate filibuster leaves DREAM Act in limbo

When Sen. Harry Reid announced last week that he would be adding the DREAM Act and a repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ as amendments to the Defense Authorization Bill that was being put before the Senate, it sent waves of excitement and hope through the immigration world and around the nation, especially with respect to the 800,000 youth that have a lot at stake with the passage of the DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act). The DREAM Act, which is a very crucial first step towards much needed immigration reform in the United States, would allow current, former and future undocumented high-school graduates a pathway to citizenship through college or the Armed Forces.

Today, as people waited to see how the Senate vote on the Defense Authorization Bill would proceed, the excitement mounted. Although Sen. Reid had put the DREAM Act up as an amendment, it could only come up for vote once the Democrats had the 60 votes needed to begin debate on the $726 billion Defense Authorization Bill. Unfortunately, at 2.15 pm today, the Republicans led a successful filibuster of the Defense Authorization Bill in the Senate, killing the chance of a vote and passage of the DREAM Act this time around. While all Democrats voted to bring the bill to the floor, they were unable to win the support of enough Republicans to move the bill forward. The Senate filibuster on the Defense Authorization Bill has also held up passage of a repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ policy of gays in the military.

Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, expressed his frustration at the Senate vote saying-

Today’s vote should have been a simple one. This wasn’t going to change any laws, but merely allow the DREAM Act a chance to be fully debated. The Republicans couldn’t even allow that. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising considering they’ve held steadfast to their adopted role as obstructionists. Their behavior today was appalling. They failed the youth of America; they failed the country. Many of these venerable senators will say they support the DREAM Act but opposed the procedure…The GOP shut down debate on the DREAM Act because they hope the incredible and unprecedented activism seen all across the U.S. this past week will disappear. It won’t. Activists showed how quickly a movement can coalesce and be a driving a force…The GOP can’t filibuster this energy and enthusiasm. We are a powerful movement, and our movement will be felt come November.

The story is far from over. While it is hugely disappointing that just a few Republican votes kept the DREAM Act from being brought to the floor, today’s vote signaled a momentous step in the progress of the “dream.” Over the last few weeks, hundreds of thousands of people around the nation have worked tirelessly to get the “dream” passed. They have signed petitions, held vigils and made countless calls to Senators, urging them to support the DREAM Act. Now more than ever, it is important that we keep the pressure on Senators and those in positions of leadership so that they show their support for the DREAM Act so that the next time that it is brought to the floor of the Senate, we have a very different outcome.

Photo courtesy of nytimes.com

Time to pass the DREAM Act

We are pleased to report that Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid recently announced that he would schedule a vote on the DREAM Act. This is a step forward in ensuring that young people that have worked tirelessly and built their lives in America have the rights they deserve.

The DREAM Act would allow current, former and future undocumented high-school graduates a pathway to citizenship through college or the Armed Forces. The DREAM Act allows young people who have grown up in the United States to fulfill their American dreams.

Millions of young adults across the country need your support so they can live the dream that they worked so hard for. Because when we deny fairness to any one group of people, we put all of our rights at risk.

Tell your Members of Congress to PASS THE DREAM Act and stand up for fairness.

Photo courtesy of dream activist

Arizona immigration law motivates Latino youth as DOJ sues Sheriff in civil rights probe

The U.S. Justice Department is suing Sheriff Joe Arpaio saying he has refused for more than a year to turn over records in an investigation into allegations his department discriminates against Latinos.  In partnership with federal immigration through a 287(g) agreement, Sheriff Arpaio is infamous for his “reign of terror” against immigrants in Arizona. His tactics have made him the undisputed poster boy for immigration enforcement through local police and an example of the dangers of racial profiling, triggering an investigation by the Justice Department over allegations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures.

Its the policies of Sheriff Arpaio’s and Arizona’s 287(g) agreement that target immigrants and their families that have left Latino youth feeling anxious and frustrated, yet motivated to defend fairness, freedom, and respect for diversity, according to a new National Council of La Raza report.

Federal inaction on comprehensive immigration reform has opened the door wide to a barrage of state and local measures (including Arizona’s SB1070) that target immigrants, generating anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment. As a result, many Latinos, whether they are recent immigrants or third-generation citizens of the United States, are feeling under attack.

The youth spoke about their worries for family and friends, their alarm over racial profiling and discrimination, and growing concern over the breakdown of the American values of equality and respect for diversity.  They also spoke about their resolve to overcome these challenges by taking action and getting more engaged in their communities.

Some of the comments in the report reflect their frustration with SB 1070 and the slow progress toward comprehensive immigration reform. “We were moving to find a solution with immigration and then [when] SB 1070 started we took 1,000 million steps back,” said one. “I hate the law, I feel it is inhumane, especially in a country where freedom is sought. It instills a common fear in immigrants no matter where they are because they are what police are looking for,” said another, feeling the impact of the law as a violation of justice.

Latino youth represent 22% of the U.S. population under the age of 18, and 92% are U.S. citizens and are a powerful voting bloc. They account for 22% of children under age 18, and by 2030 they are projected to make up nearly one-third (31%) of the child population.

Many expressed their resolve to overcome challenges presented through political activism. “The Latino community has to take action to move forward and overcome this barrier. Now we know that we need to stand up for ourselves and show others that we are the future leaders.”

It’s time to stop divisive politics and take action for immigration reform.

Photo courtesy nydailynews.com