FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

New Orleans’ New Civil Rights Leaders

by

Like many cities in the South, New Orleans has a proud history of civil rights leadership—along with an equally grim history of civil rights violations. That history is repeating itself today.  The African American community is again facing economic injustice and abuse from law enforcement.  But, this time, the immigrant workers who rebuilt New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina are also the targets of brutal civil rights violations. And those same workers are showing extraordinary bravery in fighting to end them.

In November 2013, I was proud to stand alongside immigrant workers and community leaders engaging in peaceful civil disobedience in New Orleans to expose a brutal program of stop and frisk racial profiling-based immigration raids called CARI (Criminal Alien Removal Initiative) which targets Latinos.

Squads from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), together with local police, have been conducting race-based immigration raids anywhere Latinos gather: stores, apartment buildings, churches, laundromats. The raids have led to constant terror for the immigrant workers and families who rebuilt the city we live in and love.

The blatantly unconstitutional nature of the raids led to a Congressional inquiry and front-page coverage in the New York Times. Yet ICE continues to rely on them to meet its massive deportation quotas.

This week I visited a worker named Yestel Velazquez, who is in the South Louisiana Correctional Center awaiting deportation after a recent CARI raid. Yestel was going about his daily life, getting his car repaired at a Latino auto shop in a heavily Latino suburb of New Orleans, when ICE and local police surrounded the shop and grabbed every Latino in sight.

After their arrests, Yestel and a fellow worker named Wilmer Irias-Palma filed civil rights complaints against ICE about the raid. While in detention last week, Yestel and Wilmer participated in a public briefing with D.C. civil rights leaders by phone. ICE immediately retaliated by fast-tracking Yestel and Wilmer for deportation, racing to hide the evidence of its own civil rights abuses by shipping the complainants out of the country. Wilmer was deported on Friday, and Yestel has been told he is to be deported this Friday.

This is the shape of New Orleans’ new civil rights crisis. It’s one that faces millions of immigrant workers around the United States. People with families and deep roots in our communities live in constant fear of unconstitutional, race-based, stop-and-frisk style raids. And when they speak up about the abuse, they face retaliation by the same rogue immigration agency that puts deportation quotas above all else, including basic constitutional protections. ICE can commit civil rights abuse with impunity, because when whistleblowers like Yestel and Wilmer are brave enough to speak up, ICE simply deports the evidence.

All this is taking place while the United States is under review this week by the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) for human and civil rights violations. The failure of the Obama administration to protect the rights of immigrant workers is one of the many ways the U.S. is falling behind on its obligations to CERD—and to its own basic principles.

When I met with Yestel this week, he said: “They are punishing me because I spoke the truth, but I get my strength from my love for my kids and my family. ICE must stop racially profiling Latinos and targeting honest people who are trying to make a living. And Obama must face this civil rights crisis head on.”

I couldn’t agree more. Yestel and immigrant civil rights leaders like him deserve freedom, not deportation. ICE’s race-based community immigration raids need to stop. And as President Obama prepares to take executive action on immigration, the stories of Yestel and Wilmer should demonstrate that what is at stake is a matter of civil rights. The immigrant workers and families who helped rebuild New Orleans show their bravery every day. The President needs to do the same by taking bold action to protect the immigrant civil rights leaders who are fighting for what we all hold dear.

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com

Bill Quigley teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail