Organizations urge Obama not to treat immigrants like common criminals

Undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas being  taken into custody by the Border Patrol in McAllen after attempting to board a flight to Los Angeles.

Undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas being
taken into custody by the Border Patrol in McAllen after attempting to board a flight to Los Angeles.

Two Washington D.C. organizations voiced their support for detained (now released) Jose Antonio Vargas as well as the minors who have sought refuge at the U.S. border as they fled the violence in their countries.

The Kaya: Filipino Americans for Progress said Vargas’s detention highlights the daily struggle undocumented immigrants go through in America. It also strikes at the urgency of a comprehensive immigration reform law that would provide a pathway to legal status for the millions of immigrants placed in limbo by our broken system.

“Sadly, what happened to Jose Antonio is an experience that is all too common among undocumented immigrants,” the Kaya statement said. “On a daily basis, countless immigrants—documented or otherwise—are subjected to being treated like common criminals, often being forced to unlawful searches and indefinite detentions. The conditions that immigrants are subjected to in lawless, constitution-free border zones are degrading.

“We as Americans must call on our government to implement humane policies concerning the treatment of immigrant in borders and international entry points. Kaya stands with Jose Antonio and other victims of these inhumane policies and calls for these rules to end.”

The Asian Americans Advancing Justice called on the Obama Administration to respond compassionately to this humanitarian crisis and to uphold due process for these children in compliance with existing law.

“We call on President Obama to enact bold and inclusive administrative relief that would start to turn back the tide of the 2 million deportations that have happened under his watch.

“As civil rights organizations serving Asian American and Pacific Islander immigrants, we stand with the Central American migrant children and families seeking safety at the border and the entire undocumented immigrant community.

“In order to live up to our American ideal of being a nation of immigrants, it is imperative that there be a fair and humane response to the crisis at the border, and to the larger crisis that we face with the broken immigration system. We need Congress and the Obama Administration to provide solutions that stop criminalizing undocumented families trapped at the border, protect the human and legal rights of refugee children fleeing violence in Central America and uphold critical due process protections for these children.”

Meanwhile, Filipinos in New York braved the July 15 downpour to gather at Union Square and voice their support for Vargas.

Vargas was in Texas where he stayed with the minors and other refugees for several days, interviewing them and taking their photos for publication in his organization’s website, Define American.

“It’s really surreal and scary, and to think I’m being arrested for boarding a plane in my own country,” he told ABC News.

“As an unaccompanied child migrant myself, I came to McAllen, Texas, to shed a light on children who parts of America and many in the news media are actively turning their backs on,” he said in a statement issued after he was released.

Despite the rains and reports that Vargas has been freed, more than 30 FilAms still came out to Union Square Park to express their support for Vargas and millions of undocumented immigrants.

“Although it’s raining and Vargas has been released, we’re not here just fighting for Jose. We’re here fighting for his values, his efforts and for everybody else who will benefit from this,” said Steven Raga of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations.

Anakbayan USA chair Yves Nibungco said the rally is for Jose as well as the 11 million undocumented immigrants awaiting a legal path to citizenship. “We’re here as a Filipino community to say we join the fight and we want immigration reform now.”

Lawyer Merit Salud of the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund said he admired Vargas’s courage. He said FALDEF was constantly in touch with Vargas throughout his ordeal at the border, and as his lawyers, they are ready to help him at any time.

His legal options appear murky at this point, but Define American spokesperson Maria Cruz Lee, who was at the rally, declined comment on whether Vargas is being processed for deportation proceedings.

The rally was hurriedly organized by John Jay College professor and community activist Kevin Nadal after news of Vargas’s arrest broke out.

“It’s important for us to vocalize our feelings for Jose because he is one person who stands up for us, for our community,” he said at the rally.

There is a stream of angry comments online from people who see Vargas as an “untouchable” immigrant who appears to be getting a special treatment because he is a Pulitzer awardee.

These people want him deported back to the Philippines. The comments, hashtagged #deportJose, have called him a “criminal” and a “crybaby,” among other hate-filled remarks.

A video of the rally is available here, courtesy of Kababayan TV.

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