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

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail