Saturday, December 3, 2011

"Only the Beginning" - The C-U Immigration Forum Responds to Local Enforcement of the "Secure Communities" Act

 "We can end this tomorrow!"

Aaron Johnson-Ortiz, Josh Hoyt, Captain Jones,
and Lucia Maldonado were some of the speakers.
The C-U Immigration Forum has brought a major immigrant rights issue to public attention. A community dialog was held on December 1st at the Champaign Public Library to demonstrate that residents of Champaign County are concerned by the over-zealous enforment of the federal Secure Communities Act. 

It sounds a bit like defeat to say the InSecure Communities event is "only the beginning" of the changes that need to occur. Forum member Aaron Johnson-Ortiz reminded Captain Jones (from the Sheriff's office) that "We can end this tomorrow!" And it's true. The holds on local undocumented immigrants being arrested and imprisoned could end tomorrow.

However, "only the beginning" also holds a strong message of hope, intention, action, and relentlessness

"Only the beginning" means that a dialog started tonight in which an incredibly diverse group of over 175 people attended an informative event to learn more and let their voices be heard. Difficult questions were asked of Captain Jones, newly minted into his position. 

Answers were less frequent, and more often provided by the well-researched group comprising the C-U Immigration Forum who hosted the event along with an eclectic and impassioned group of co-sponsors. 

The answers to questions about Secure Communities were followed by a list of recommendations, displayed behind Captain Jones in the most expectant way possible as we all asked "What decisions will you make?" and "What is your personal stake in the Secure Communities Act?" 

See more photos here.
Transparency, first and foremost, was an outright demand. All residents of Champaign County deserve and require no less than forthright communication around this issue that truly affects us all. What happens to taxpayers when the exponential effect of unjust imprisonment causes children to be left without parents and parents to be imprisoned beyond the expectations of ICE? 

What happens to our community when trust is betrayed? Opinions may diverge on the issue of immigration itself, but converge around the political decision-making that happens behind closed doors. The voice of the C-U community was heard loud and clear tonight, asking "What is happening here?"

Illinois Governer Quinn rejected Secure Communities months ago. At the federal and executive levels, the failure of this program is being met with great lengths of damage control. At the local level, relationships between immigrants and police have become fearful instead of helpful. Racial profiling seems to have taken precedence over the rights of all immigrants, including people who are living under the letter of the law. 

Although the crowd of people that showed up at the Champaign Public Library stood up with important and tough questions, they were also amicable and supportive of the dialog taking place. There seemed to be a recognition that without open and honest conversations, change would be unlikely to happen. 

Captain Jones received applause for his honesty on several occasions, but was also begged for action, communication, and the presence of the Sheriff himself. Captain Jones was on the spot, in a difficult position, "like jumping in with sharks in your underwear," as one questioner phrased it. However, this acknowledgement did not diminish the communal need for response. 

To end the holds, to end Secure Communities, and to completely change the punitive approach to C-U immigrants... it would be best that these all happen right away, tomorrow morning, as soon as humanly possible. Barring that happening, the community stands up and says:

It's "only the beginning."

Btw, if you're concerned about immigrant rights in Champaign County and want to learn more, check out the C-U Immigration Forum's website where you can sign up for their email listserve and donate... Also, please like them on Facebook.

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