Archive for the 'Immigrants’ Rights' Category

Report: Protecting the Rights of Floridians in the Rick Scott Era

The ACLU of Florida has just issued a report entitled, “Protecting the Rights of Floridians in the Rick Scott Era: A Two-Year Report on Combatting Assaults by the Legislature and the Administration of Gov. Rick Scott on Civil Liberties,” which illustrates the work the ACLU and other organizations have undertaken to defend civil rights in Florida over  the last two years.

“In order to defend the rights of Floridians from their own state government, the ACLU of Florida was involved in nine lawsuits challenging Gov. Scott’s policies and legislative attacks on civil liberties[.]”

Among the issues listed in the report were:

  • the right to vote,
  • the right to be free from unreasonable searches,
  • religious freedom and the separation of church and state,
  • women’s rights and reproductive freedom,
  • an independent judiciary, and
  • freedom of speech.

The report was released at the halfway point of Governor Rick Scott’s term and before the new session of the Florida legislature gets under way.

“With the 2012 elections behind us and the 2014 gubernatorial election  already effectively begun,  it appears that the Governor is attempting to moderate his views to make them palatable,” said ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon.

“But no public relations campaign can paper over the picture described in our report,” continued Simon, “that for the last two years, whether it has been the right to vote, freedom from unreasonable searches by government officials, women’s rights, the protection of personal privacy, religious freedom or freedom of speech, the ACLU has had to protect Floridians from a wide-ranging assault on their rights by their own Legislature and Governor.”

Download the report. (PDF)

ACLU and Florida Immigrant Coalition host statewide Immigration Enforcement Summit – June 23, 2012 – University of Central Florida, Orlando

By Ron Bilbao, Advocacy Coordinator/Legislative Associate. ACLU of Florida.

Over 100 participants gathered at the University of Central Florida’s School of Business Administration on Saturday, June 23rd to get down to business on how to deal with the real problem with immigration in Florida these days – enforcement. On the eve of the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s infamous SB 1070 law, advocates from seventeen different counties throughout Florida joined together to prepare for the worst. Despite Florida not being one of the six states with Arizona-style anti-immigrant laws in place, all sixty-seven counties have agreements with the federal government to implement the nefarious “Secure Communities” program which, among other things, gives local police authority to check the immigration status of anyone who is detained for any offense. The result has been increased mistrust between communities of color and local police, in many cases, crimes going unreported for fear of retribution and potential deportation leading to the separation of families and a constant fear throughout Hispanic neighborhoods. We don’t need a Florida-style SB 1070 law, we are already feeling the terrorizing effects of its discriminatory enforcement.

The summit brought together national and local speakers to discuss the impact of the Supreme Court decision on Florida, how to respond, and most importantly how to fight back against enforcement right now in our local communities. Andre Segura, staff attorney at the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project in New York kicked off the day with a keynote discussing the questions before the Court in Arizona v. United States to be decided the following Monday, and how that ruling could affect Florida now and in the near future. An all-star panel followed the keynote where national and regional leaders discussed how they are fighting back against racial profiling and enforcement practices in their respective areas. Panelists included Sian ófaoláin of Rights Working Group that is organizing states to pass anti-racial profiling legislation; Héctor Cruz from WeCount! who is leading a campaign to take local control over ICE holds; Mayron Payes of the Center for Community Change describing his work on family commissions; and Paola Everett of the ACLU of Florida’s Tampa office detailing their documentation and data-collecting study on racial profiling in three Florida counties. The panel was moderated by Dr. Joyce Hamilton-Henry, director of the mid-Florida regional office of the ACLU of Florida.

A series of workshops followed which aimed at training participants in the details of fighting back against enforcement locally. From Know Your Rights 101, to Documenting Racial Profiling, to Legal Defense and Rapid Response, to Voter Engagement. The trainings were thorough and led by experts in the field. After the workshops, participants broke into groups by regions and set specific goals by which to implement the work they trained for in the workshops. The summit closed with a group report-back and some inspiring words from Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition and Board Member of the ACLU of Florida.

Watch a video of the summit: here

See photos from the summit: here 

Watch media response to the summit: WESH and FOX

Download materials from the summit: http://bit.ly/materialsforsummit

Report Card in Apopka

By Derek Newton
Communications Director

Apopka is a small community outside Orlando that is on the verge of being consumed by Central Florida sprawl and suburban planning but its agrarian roots and the impact of the Hispanic community are easy to see.

ACLU Policy and Advocacy Counsel Julie Ebenstein addresses the media in Apopka, FL on May 23, 2012

A stone’s throw from Apopka High School is the HOPE CommUnity Center which, “is dedicated to empowerment of Central Florida’s immigrant and working poor communities through Education, Advocacy and Spiritual Growth.”

As a landmark for immigrant families, it was a perfect setting for yesterday’s ACLU of Florida press conference at which we issued a report card on the unsettling practice of school districts not making clear that Social Security numbers (SSN) are not required for enrollment in public schools. In spite of federal law requiring it, many school districts, including several in Central Florida, are still asking for SSN on enrollment forms without stating the information is voluntary.

The result is that immigrant families may have to choose between sending kids to school and what they think could be in inquiry into the citizenship status of those children or other family members.

 It’s would be a tragic choice especially considering no such choice is necessary. Since schools don’t need a SSN to enroll, there is no reason to put parents and families through that difficulty.

After surveying all 67 Florida districts, the ACLU found nearly half of those districts – 30 in all – received a grade of “C” or lower in how they ask for and handle SSN on enrollment forms. Eleven districts, including a handful in Central Florida, failed outright by making no effort whatsoever to comply with federal law on the use of SSN.  

Based on our report card and press conference, several districts including Orange County (which received an “F”), said they would re-examine their enrollment form for next school year.

Vengo de un país de gente hermosa que es asesinada cada treinta minutos

When People Ask Me
by Carolina Gonzalez
Public Information Officer

ImageWhen people ask where I come from, I always say “I come from a country of beautiful people who are murdered every 30 minutes” (According to El Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia). That country is Venezuela. As many people in my country, I had been witness (an even victim) of violence due to common delinquency, and with the hope that things can change I started orienting my professional career towards social justice and humanitarian work.

 One of the biggest social artistic projects that I developed in Venezuela with a team of colleagues was “Esperanza” (Hope), which featured 52 mothers who had lost one or several children due to violence, and who wish to send out a message of peace. Our presentation included large installations of images of these mother’s faces blanketing Caracas as an outcry for peace. Our intention: to give a face to the hope for the end of violence.

I arrived in the United States three years ago as an International Student, following the dream of receiving artistic education that will allow me to continue using art to improve people’s lives. When I first came to this country I spoke very little English and it was very challenging for me to understand the classes. At the beginning I had to do the assignments at least four days in advance and then take money from my pocket (with a student budget) to take it to an editor that would correct it and make sure that what I had written was understandable. Studying took me twice as long as the average person because of the language barrier. Nevertheless and despite all the obstacles I got my degree Summa Cum Laude.

After having sat in a classroom being just a listener, I have now become part of the ACLU team as Public Information Officer. I think my testimony is an example of the strength and perseverance that immigrants have when they come to the United States, who not only overcome the cultural barriers and achieve their personal goals, but also contribute to American society. Therefore, to me it’s a real honor to have the privilege of being part of the ACLU and fight for the rights of these people. I consider that this organization has made an indelible line of social justice in the history of United States and even it has been an inspiration for other organizations around the world. 

I will always be grateful to ACLU for allowing me to be part of its fight.

Cuando las personas me preguntan de dónde vengo, siempre respondo “Vengo de un país de gente hermosa que es asesinada cada treinta minutos” (Según cifras del Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia). Ese país es Venezuela. Al igual que muchas personas en mi país, yo he sido testigo (e incluso víctima) de la violencia debido a la delincuencia común, y con la esperanza de que las cosas pueden cambiar, comencé a orientar mi carrera profesional hacia la justicia social y la labor humanitaria.

Uno de los proyectos artístico sociales más grandes que desarrollé en Venezuela con un grupo de colegas fue “Esperanza”, el cual retrató a 52 madres que han perdido a uno o varios hijos a causa de la violencia, para hacer un clamor de paz. Nuestra carta de presentación fueron las gigantografías de sus rostros que tapizaron la ciudad de Caracas. Nuestra intención: ponerle cara a la esperanza por el fin de la violencia. 

Yo llegué a los Estados Unidos hace tres años como Estudiante Internacional, siguiendo el sueño de recibir más formación artística que me permitiera continuar utilizando el arte para mejorar la vida de las personas. Al principio hablaba muy poco inglés y para mí era muy retador entender las clases. De hecho, al principio tenía que hacer los trabajos y tareas con al menos cuatro días de anticipación para poder enviarlas a un corrector de texto que se asegurara de que lo que yo había escrito se entendiera (incluso tomaba dinero de mi estrecho presupuesto de estudiante para poder pagar estas correcciones). Adicionalmente, estudiar me tomaba el doble de tiempo que a un estudiante promedio debido también a la barrera del idioma. Sin embargo, a pesar de todos estos obstáculos obtuve mi título Summa Cum Laude.

 Luego de haber estado sentada en el salón de clases, siendo solo una oyente, ahora he pasado a formar parte del equipo de La Unión Americana de Libertades Civiles de la Florida (ACLU). Creo firmemente que mi testimonio es un ejemplo de la fuerza y perseverancia que tienen las personas inmigrantes cuando vienen a Los Estados Unidos, quienes no sólo superan las barreras culturas y alcanzan sus metas personales, sino que también contribuyen con la sociedad americana. Por ello, para mí es un verdadero honor el tener el privilegio de formar parte del ACLU y luchar por los derechos de estas personas. Considero que esta organización ha marcado una línea imborrable de justicia social en la historia de los Estados Unidos, e incluso ha servido de inspiración a otras organizaciones alrededor del mundo. Siempre le estaré agradecida al ACLU por permitirme formar parte de su lucha.

Cartoon: Attorney General Pam Bondi Asks Supreme Court to Approve Racial Profiling

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Welcome to the ACLU of Florida Blog of Rights!

Baylor Johnson
Online Advocacy Coordinator, ACLU of Florida.

Hello and welcome to the ACLU of Florida Blog of Rights! This blog is a resource for friends of liberty to learn about civil liberties news in Florida and the work that the ACLU is doing to defend the constitutional rights of Floridians.

In case you’re not familiar with the ACLU of Florida, we are freedom’s watchdog, working daily in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend individual rights and personal freedoms guaranteed by the Florida Constitution, the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

On this blog, we will share news on civil liberties stories going on in Florida, projects that the ACLU of Florida is working on, and opportunities for you to get involved and help us protect civil liberties in our state!

If you have a story that you would like to have featured on the blog, feel free to send a message to bjohnson@aclufl.org with “Blog of Rights” in the subject line.

Thank you and once again, welcome to the ACLU of Florida Blog of Rights!



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