UW School of Law
Transcript - Civil Rights Post 9/11
Roxana Rezai: I wanted to thank you guys all so
much for coming. My name is Roxana Rezai. I'm a 2L here, and I'm the president
of the newly formed Middle Eastern Law Student's Association of Washington,
MELSAW. And we are very proud to present this for you in our first year of
existence as a student organization, and we hope to have many more interesting
and crucial events such as this one in the future. And we are very, very pleased
to have two fantastic speakers here with us today. We have Pramila Jayapal and
Pramila is the founder and executive director of OneAmerica. She has spent over
20 years working for social justice, both internationally and domestically.
Under her leadership, OneAmerica has achieved significant policy change in
Washington State by leading efforts to win numerous victories for immigrants,
including a New Americans Executive Order signed by Washington governor Chris
Gregoire, a comprehensive plan to address the needs of immigrant communities in
Seattle, an ordinance preventing any City of Seattle employers from inquiring
about immigration status, and numerous resolutions at the city and county level
upholding the human rights and dignity of immigrants and affirming the need for
comprehensive immigration reform.
Also under her leadership, OneAmerica has engaged in the first large-scale
immigrant voter-registration program in the state, registering tens of thousands
of new citizens to vote.
Nationally, Ms. Jayapal has helped to lead the fight for due process within the
comprehensive immigration reform struggle, co-chairing the Liberty and Justice
for All field campaign of the Rights Working Group national coalition. She is a
frequent featured speaker nationwide and a regular guest on local and national
television and radio shows, addressing diverse audiences on issues of immigrant
and human rights.
Prior to founding OneAmerica, Ms. Jayapal has served as director of the Fund for
Technology Transfer for the Program for Appropriate Technology in Health, also
known as PATH, operating across Asia, Africa, and Latin America, a fellow in
India for the Institute of Current World Affairs and a nonprofit consultant.
She has a master's in business administration from Northwest University's
Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor of arts in English and Economics
from Georgetown University. She is the author of numerous essays and articles,
and a memoir, 'Pilgrimage to India: A Woman Revisits Her Homeland.'
Our second speaker today, Banafsheh Akhlaghi, is the western regional director
of Amnesty International. Prior to joining Amnesty last year, Ms. Akhlaghi
founded the National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement, also known as
NLSCA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring the human rights and
dignity of Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian peoples, an organization that
emerged as one of the lead advocates of human rights for affected communities in
the post-9/11 era.
Prior to practicing law, Ms. Akhlaghi was a professor of constitutional law at
John F. Kennedy University in California. In 2001, she gave up her teaching
position at JFK to create Akhlaghi and Associates, a private practice
specializing in immigration and civil rights post-9/11, and in 2004 created
Ms. Akhlaghi is committed to fostering collaboration among partnering
organizations, governmental and non-governmental, and invested in securing civil
and human rights. She has served and represented over 3000 people; worked as a
consultant for UNIFEM, the United Nations Development Fund for Women; testified
before Congress, including the 2003 Amnesty International racial-profiling
hearings; and she regularly conducts cultural sensitivity trainings with
branches of the EEOC, which is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Throughout the years, Ms. Akhlaghi has been honored and recognized with numerous
awards, such as the 'Top 100 Most Influential Lawyers in California.' And in
2008, she was awarded the Public Service Contribution Award from the
Iranian-American Political Action Committee and Certificate of Special
Congressional Recognition from Congressman Mike Honda of the US House of
Ms. Akhlaghi was appointed to the post of western regional director of Amnesty
International in late 2008. She received her BA from the University of San
Francisco, with attendance at Cambridge and her J.D. from Tulane University. She
is a member of the California and San Francisco bar associations.
So, please join me in giving a warm welcome to our speakers.
Roxana: And now, Pramila Jayapal.
Pramila Jayapal: Thank you, Roxana. One thing she
didn't mention is that Banafsheh and I are sort of like sisters from the
beginning. So, right after 9/11 happened, we got in touch with each other very
quickly because we were doing very similar work in different places. So, it's an
honor to be back up here with you, have you here in our home state, and I'm
really happy to be with you today. I wanted to start by just showing you a
little piece of a video. This is actually a 25-minute documentary, called
'Justice for All,' that was made shortly after 9/11. 9/11 happened in 2001,
obviously. In 2002, a large coalition of groups came together.
We used to be called Hate Free Zone, by the way, for any of you who are
confused. We used to be Hate Free Zone. We changed our name last year to
OneAmerica. And for those of you who are curious, it really appeals to me to not
be starting every conversation talking about hate, which is obviously... But, it
was appropriate for the time.
Anyway, as Hate Free Zone, we had convened a whole group of organizations from a
variety of very different immigrant communities and communities that were
affected after 9/11, to figure out what we could do to really commemorate the
day of 9/11. Because we knew that there would be a lot of patriotic
commemoration, there would be a lot of showing of the same videos of the attacks
And we knew that for a lot of our communities, that was a problem. And we wanted
to figure out how the communities that had been affected, and those supporting
those communities and saying that these are also part of our community, how
could we have something that would really celebrate, or not celebrate but really
mark what had happened in those communities.
And so we came up with the idea of a hearing that was based on the Japanese
internment redress hearings. And we had over 1000 people attend this forum that
was held on September 22, 2002. And out of that, Sandy Cioffi, an incredible
filmmaker that's based here in Seattle who just made a film called 'Sweet Crude'
that you might have heard about, about oil exploration of the Niger Delta, which
I highly recommend you see if you haven't seen it. She produced this documentary
We're only going to show you, maybe, 10, 12, 15 minutes. I'm sure you'll be
hooked. But, you'll have to talk to me afterwards, and we'll figure out how we
can show you the rest of it. But, I just wanted you to get a sense of, really,
taking us back to that moment. And I think, from there, Banafsheh and I want to
take this sort of from there to the present day in terms of what's happening
post-9/11, and what happened and what does this new opportunity we have with the
new administration mean for us going forward.
So, let's go ahead and play just a little bit of that.
[documentary film starts]
Man 1: We are a nation of immigrants.
Woman 1: We all are human beings, and we should
be treated equally.
Man 2: Americans realize that it's very easy to
take civil rights away. It's much more difficult to get them back. [music]
Woman 3: We are not terrorists. We are not
murderers. But, we're your neighbors, your schoolmates, your friends.
Man 2: It makes you think, 'Wow, will I ever fit
Man 3: I did not come to America for a good life.
I came here to live, as a human. [music]
Man 4: As the Statue of Liberty says, 'welcome
persons from other lands.'
Man 2: I don't understand why I have to be set
apart. What have I done?
Woman 2: Most people are really good-hearted.
And when they find out what's happening, they can't believe it either, and they
don't want it to continue. [music]
Woman 1: We are here today to call attention to
the impact on the lives of families and communities across Washington state who
have not only been victims of hate crimes by other individuals, but have also
borne the disproportionate burden of the government's new policies and practices
that target and profile based on ethnicity and religion.
Man 1: We ask you today to listen to these
testimonies being presented by these people with open hearts and minds. Imagine
what it feels to be called Osama bin Laden because of the turban you wear, to be
constantly associated with terrorists, or to be socially isolated because of
your religion or culture or color.
Woman 2: When we say, justice for all, it must
be justice for all; it's not all but them. [applause]
Woman 3: After September 11, the Somali were
targeted. A few days after the attack, a 16 year-old Somali was attacked and
stabbed in a gas station in west Seattle. A few days later, six Somali women
were fired from their jobs. Our men have been harassed constantly for being
Muslim and Somali. We are targeted by the media, by the citizens of this country
and almost, we feel that we are back in Somalia with no voice and no rights.
Today, wearing a hijab, it has become a target of being a terrorist. Becoming a
Muslim, it was a sense of peace, but today it means we are killers. We are not.
We came here for the same reason a lot of your ancestors came to the United
Woman 3: Freedom of religion, freedom of speech.
But, after September 11, we feel those rights have been taken away from us. Our
girls, they cannot go out and shop because they are wearing the hijab. We are
here in America, our new home, and we would like to tell our story even though
it's so painful. And I am only one person, but we're here and we're here to
stay. We are not terrorists, we are not murderers, but we're your neighbors,
your schoolmates, your friends.
Man 2: We are all immigrants or descendants of
immigrants, except perhaps our Native Americans, who occupied this continent
20,000 years ago. [applause]
Man 3: It's this influx of individuals, this
salad bowl of cultures that make this country so great.
Man 4: It was a dream of mine just to live in a
society where I really can fight to the fullest for all my rights, and I will be
backed up by so many organizations. I was so happy to be here.
Woman 2: And they've come here because they have
nowhere else to go and because we asked. We asked for these people to come here
over 200 years ago. We asked so much so that we inscribed it on the Statue of
Woman 4: In this country equality, fairness
applies to all people, regardless of ancestry, nationality, or religion. The
Bill of Rights is the central compact between the federal government and the
people of this nation; rights which cannot be set aside without individual
review and due process.
Woman 1: Those founding fathers laid out some
very, very difficult principles to live up to.
Woman 4: That all men are created equal, that
they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That no
person shall be denied life, liberty, property, without due process of law.
Man 2: The reason that people wrote the
Constitution the way they wrote it, the reason people wrote the Bill of Rights
the way they wrote it, the reason the legislators in Washington state and the
council members and the city of Seattle passed civil rights laws is because they
had witnessed and experienced the abuses that occur without those laws.
Man 1: I think it's time for every American to
get a hold of their constitution and read it, and understand why people are
willing to sacrifice everything to come to a country who has such a
constitution, and work hard not to let that constitution be eroded. [music]
Man 3: We need to sit down real carefully and
redefine what patriotism means in this country to make sure that it encompasses
all of us.
Woman 3: American patriotism isn't just jumping
on bandwagons. American patriotism is to look a hard look at our ideals and our
practices and see that they're consistent. American patriotism says are we
courageous enough to ask the hard questions. Are we courageous enough to live to
our beautiful ideals.
Woman 4: I think that demanding the rights that
we know are fundamental to this country is patriotic. I think standing up and
saying, I'm scared but I don't want to destroy everything that makes us great in
the process, I think that's patriotic. [applause]
Woman 2: Sixty years ago I learned to put my
hand over my heart and pledge allegiance to the American flag with liberty and
justice for all. Isn't it ironic that I learned those beautiful, ideal American
words when I was a prisoner in America's concentration camp? [music]
Woman 1: Sixty years ago our nation turned its
back on nearly 120,000 people and put them in American concentration camps,
isolation centers and federal prisons, the sole basis of which was ancestry.
Woman 3: In 1942, people went along with a lot of
things in the name of national security, in the name of fear, in the name of
protecting America. And it took us 40 years to go back and say, we're never
going to let that happen again. And yet, here we are in similar situations.
Woman 2: My story is old, not recent, but 60
years ago the stories are about the same. The FBI and the Seattle Police came to
my father's house early in the morning, shoved my mother aside, stormed into the
house, ransacked the closets, made a mess. My mother yelled upstairs, 'Get
dressed, get dressed!' to my older sister. But, I guess the FBI did not know
what she was saying in Japanese and they rushed upstairs, drawing their guns.
Woman 5: My parents and my sister were stolen
away from us. About seven FBI and INS agents barged into our once wonderful home
and dragged them out of bed with guns and flashlights. [sound of typewriter]
Pramila: The rest of the video - and it's really
a wonderful documentary - goes through, actually, some of the things that
happened including secret detentions, including special registration, and it has
people... All the people, by the way, that are in this were people that were
affected, other than, like, Dale Tiffany who is at Office of Civil Rights, but
all the people who are of Arab and Muslim descent were people who were affected
by post 9/11 incidents that happened. And so really this is how Hate Free Zone,
now OneAmerica, started. We started right after 9/11, it was really an
individual response, frankly, to I think... As Banafsheh also probably... The
same thing happened in many places around the country, there were individual
responses to things that we saw that we could not sit by and say were OK. And if
we didn't stand up then who would?
And so I think out of that came some wonderful efforts that... We realized very
early on here that one of the keys to getting our message out and making sure
that we really have the support that we needed... Because this was post 9/11, I
had just become a citizen and I really wonder if I hadn't been a citizen, what
impact that would have had.
But honestly, I don't think I thought about it at the time, I only thought about
it much, much later, because it was not popular to stand up and talk about what
the government was doing and it certainly was not popular to stand up and say
that given this national security situation, and given the fact that America had
just seen these terrible attacks on American soil, that we needed to be thinking
about civil liberties, and so very shortly after 9/11 we end due process.
So, very shortly after 9/11, what we had thought was initially just individual
hate crimes against other individuals suddenly became very clear that it was not
just that, that we had 1300 men of Arab and Muslim descent who had disappeared
and who were held without adequate access to attorneys or due process. We had
special registration and we actually have a timeline somewhere - if anyone is
interested in I'm sure I can find it - that actually laid out all of the things
that happened after 9/11.
Because what that showed us is that this was not just a series of random
incidents, this was a fairly well planned out set of attacks on a certain set of
populations. And to us that was just intolerable, that was not America, that is
not why I became a citizen, that is not what we believed in.
But, it was very difficult in the moment to stand up and articulate that in a
way that still allowed you to be a patriot. Because of course if you started
criticizing the actions of the government... And you know, I've always believed
that the greatest, the most effective way to suppress dissent is to combine
patriotism and fear.
Any time you can combine patriotism and fear, it's what happened after the
internment, it makes it very, very difficult for somebody to then stand up and
dissent with the policies that are taking place. But, what we could see is that
there was an indiscriminate targeting of people simply based on race, national
origin, and that was not acceptable.
So, we started out with hate crimes against individuals, and we actually did
quite a bit around just public education around different communities that were
affected, we had a curriculum that we used in schools, but very quickly we also
moved to broader issues around policies of the government. And we did that
through a number of very highly reported on cases that some of you, if you were
in Seattle then, you may remember that there were some grocery stores that were
raided by the FBI in south Seattle.
And interestingly John McKay, who was the US Attorney at the time and now
teaches at SU Law, and I've actually gone in to lecture to his class a couple of
times on the issue of national security from the other side.
John and I rarely could agree in those meetings at the time because he was
representing the government, but what he has said since then, and actually what
he said at the time around the raid of the grocery stores, is that that should
not have happened, and he did say that at the time to his great credit.
And subsequently, now that he's not US Attorney anymore, he has told me how much
he advocated within the department for making sure that we were not alienating
the very constituencies that we needed to be building relationships with, this
was from the FBI's perspective.
And so it was an interesting... But, we took that up and then later we worked on
a very high profile case around the deportation of what ended up being about
5000 Somalis, and were able to file a class action lawsuit. So, all of those
things sort of continued.
So, if we take what that was at the time, I think the things that we learned
from that is that these communities that were affected post 9/11 really hadn't
engaged, for the most part, with the broader community.
So, that's on one side. And on the other side, I'm sorry to say, but the United
States does not tend to have a lot of information about other countries that's
provided in our schools and colleges. I know because I have a 12 year old and
I've been actively advocating, and I went in there and spent a couple of days
talking about India because I feel like it is so important.
If you go to any other part of the world, most kids will be able to tell you who
the major... Even in India, on the worst streets in India, the kids will be able
to tell you who the leaders of the major countries in the world are. We just
don't have that here.
And so the combination of that with the fact that many of these communities have
not made themselves known before 9/11, all of a sudden created this tremendous
fear, I think, and then combined with the fact that we had a government that was
sort of painting groups of people as terrorist countries, or terrorist
individuals if you happen to be from the country, made it very, very difficult
to be able to have a conversation between the two.
So, a lot of what we realized is that we needed to build a broader coalition and
our coalition needed to include not just these folks, but also people who were
not immigrants, who had progressive values, who had not necessarily progressive
values but who had seen the value of constitutional civil liberties.
So, I remember one panel I did and this guy came up to me at the end and he
said, 'I'm a Republican and I voted for President Bush, but I believe in
constitutional rights, and so here's a $5000 check.' So, it was really pretty
amazing. That didn't happen very often by the way [laughs], but it was one of
the beautiful moments of the dark days.
But, you know I think that we were able to say, 'This is not a partisan issue.'
Even though it was a government that was from a particular political party, we
were also able to say in the early days, 'Look, this is about the constitution,
this is about America, this is about American Values. This is not about right
versus left, and yes there happens to be a particular party in the White House
that is causing this, but any of us who don't do something about this have just
as much responsibility.' And I think that was a lot of our message.
And so we were able to build a fairly broad coalition of labor unions, faith
allies, progressive Caucasian allies, and then a diversity of immigrant
communities. Because the other thing that was happening is that each immigrant
community, post 9/11, that was targeted felt like their issue was the worst.
And we felt that there were lots of things in the history of America, going back
to Native Americans and African Americans, all the way through Chinese workers
who were marched down to the docks, there were similar undertones in the history
of America that actually brought us together, not separated us.
But, the question was how could we do that? How could each one talk about their
issue and understand that through coming together they were stronger? And so
that's the power of organizing. And so that's what we were able to do is build a
much broader coalition around these due process issues, constitutional issues,
that really was about America.
I mean, it really was about... And that has continued to today. So, as we sort
of jump through time and look at the work that we're doing now, what we realized
is that immigrant communities in Washington State and across the country lacked
voice, lacked representation, lacked formal ways of getting engaged that would
make sure that they were paid attention to and that people cared about their
So, that's part of when we really shifted our focus and realized that what we
wanted to be doing as an organization was not necessarily working on cases -
though we continued to sort of help in a lot of cases and publicized a lot of
cases; we were able to get a lot of media attention locally - but that what we
wanted to do was really work on organizing within our immigrant communities,
teaching people about democracy, how to engage, and helping people to really
realize that they had both rights and responsibilities.
And so we've really moved our focus and we do a lot of organizing in broader
immigrant communities, because we realized that the issues that the Arab and
Muslim communities were facing were exactly the same as the issues that other
communities were facing.
What we also realized very soon after 9/11 is that 9/11 provided the perfect
platform for anti-immigrants who never wanted immigrants to be here anyway. It
provided a platform for those folks to be able to say, look, this is why we
should never have immigrants.
So, the Patriot Act was not written when the Patriot Act was introduced. It was
written actually some time before that. I'm sure Banafsheh will probably talk
about that. But, it was essentially pulled off the shelf and sort of like this
is a great opportunity to introduce the Patriot Act.
And that was true of a lot of things that happened after 9/11. Many of them were
recycled because they hadn't been able to pass at a prior time and 9/11 sort of
provided this great opportunity to put them forward.
So, we expanded fairly quickly to working with all immigrant communities around
issues of rights, representation, engagement, democracy. And, that's essentially
what we've been doing to date.
Now obviously, one of the big things that has come up has been the issue of
immigration and immigration reform. And, I think that the 9/11 debate has really
been folded into this broader debate about immigration.
And one of the things that makes it very difficult is because even when we fight
for due process rights at the national coalition that I'm a part of, there are
always carve outs for national security. And those carve outs for national
security make it possible for basically anybody to be exempted from whatever
we've arranged or whatever we've agreed to around the provisions
constitutionally or other due process protections or civil rights protections
because of this carve out.
And so, part of what we're trying to do now is really limit that carve out. From
a policy angle, how do we limit that carve out so that the national security
carve out doesn't become just sort of a free for all for anybody who wants to
assert that national security is at the core?
That happened to us over and over again. With the Somali deportations case, it
became so high profile that they sent out somebody, the top attorney from the
Office of Immigration and Litigation in Washington D.C. to argue the case. And
the case that he actually put before Judge Marsha Pechman was that these
Somalians were a threat to society because Somalia is a country harbored
terrorists and therefore, Somalia was a terrorist country and therefore, we
needed to deport all these Somalians, to which Judge Pechman said, well, if
you're really worried about that, then don't you think that you should lock them
up here instead of deporting them back to Somalia? Because I mean if you really
think that it's such a terrible terrorist country, then why would you take all
these potential terrorists and throw them back into a terrorist country where
they could create more damage?
So, we won that case in district court. The government appealed it to the 9th
Oh, and one of the other things that the government lawyer said is we need to
use every tool in our toolbox to fight terrorism and to ensure national
security. And so, that's really how they thought about a lot of these things was
tools in a toolbox. And, we said, look, these are a) not the right tools, and b)
your toolbox is rusty. Like, you know, get another toolbox.
So, it was really I think the argument that was being made was very broad and
over arching. And it's been very difficult to go back now and try to roll back
some of the things that were negotiated during the Bush years. And I think you
can see that even with some of the things that continue with the Obama
So, we realized about three or four years after we started doing our work that,
maybe earlier than that, but we realized that this was really about all
immigrants. And it was really, as I said, it wasn't about the due process issue,
it was about America.
Well, in the same way, I say today, immigration is not an issue of immigration.
The debate about immigration is not about immigration. It's about who we want to
be as a country and what we're willing to stand up for. That's the reality of
the immigration debate is what are we willing to say about America in terms of
our immigration system and who we allow in and who we don't.
And how do we ensure that we protect our due process rights, our civil rights?
How do we make sure we're not engaging in racial profiling, which is what's
happening across the country, particularly with Latinos, in similar ways to what
happened after 9/11 with Arabs and Muslims?
And how do we get those communities to understand that these issues are actually
the same issues? One doesn't supersede another. They're all on the same plane
and they all have to do with fear of other people, of people that look
different, and they have to do with how do make sure that we prioritize our
values as a country?
And if our values really are those constitutional protections that we have and
the idea of democracy, then that is what we need to focus on and that has to be
our number one priority.
So, as we've continued, a lot of our work has also in the last couple of years
been on immigration reform. And we've seen how the outgrowth from kind of 9/11
to today has expanded and broadened our work, our advocacy work. So, we are now
the largest immigrant advocacy organization in the state doing policy research
and organizing and political actions.
So, we did release a detention conditions report that we did in collaboration
with the Seattle University Law School's Human Rights Clinic and that has gotten
major attention. And Dora Schriro, who is the new special advisor to Janet
Napolitano, Secretary Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security, I had
an opportunity to meet with her last week or the week before. And she's actually
going to be coming out to Seattle to look at our detention center.
So, we've been able to do a tremendous amount. And we know that DHS is in the
process and Amnesty has published a tremendous report on detention that I'm sure
you'll talk about. But, there has been a lot of work on the detention issue.
One of the problems, though, is conditions is one thing, but how do we actually
look at minimizing how many people we put into detention because it is the
fastest growing incarceration industry right now. And private contractors are
gaining a lot.
And do people know who like one of the main contractors for detention facilities
is? Any ideas on one of the major companies that builds detention facilities in
Audience Member: Geo?
Pramila: Geo is one of the contractors, but
Halliburton is actually one of the companies that gets tremendous dollars for
building detention facilities. So, this is again a big issue of what are the
root causes. And conditions is one issue, but how many people we put in
detention and how they're being put into detention and what rights are being
denied to them as they're being put into detention is really important.
The last thing I'll say before I turn this over to Banafsheh is that we had a
meeting after the Yamato. Has everyone here heard about the Yamato raid in
Bellingham? There was a raid on Yamato engines in Bellingham on February 24th.
It was the first large scale workplace raid that had taken place after the Obama
administration came into office.
And so, there were 28 mostly Latino people who were arrested, and three of them
were women who were released on humanitarian grounds. The raid happened on
Tuesday morning. We have a wonderful partner organization in Bellingham called
Community to Community Development lead by an incredible woman named Rosalinda
Guillen. And, Rosalinda and her team were able to respond almost immediately.
They called us almost immediately.
By that evening, we were able to notify our... Because we're part of a national
coalition, the main national coalition that's working on comprehensive
immigration reform, we were able to get word to our D.C. affiliates. They were
able to get word to Representative Lofgren from California who happened to have
a hearing scheduled with Janet Napolitano the next morning.
And so, Lofgren was able to - because we were able to kind of because all the
timing worked so beautifully - was able to ask a question of Secretary
Napolitano less than 24 hours after the raid happened. Oh, and we held a press
conference that next morning less than 24 hours after it happened. And, the
story got picked up. A reporter named Manuel Valdes, who's really terrific,
who's been working on our issues for some time, reported it. And that AP article
got picked up everywhere.
So, Napolitano's office was getting calls from immigrant groups that are our
partners in other states around the country, tons of calls going into the White
House. Zoe Lofgren asked Napolitano in the hearing about the Bellingham raid and
says, 'We understood that you were changing your practices around workplace
raids, what happened?' And Napolitano was clearly upset and said, 'We did not
know about this raid; it should not have happened this way, I am ordering a top
to bottom thorough review of the raid.'
This was the first time that most of us can remember that that has happened, and
certainly not in the last eight years, within 24 hours. And so, that was a huge,
huge turning point for the whole issue of raids and detention because what it
did is it clarified that the Obama Administration did want to change their
policies, but they hadn't necessarily given direction before that.
And so now, while Napolitano will not say that there's a moratorium on work
place raids, she can't. But, what she has said is that they are doing a thorough
review of all of their raids policies. And until they do, there's not going to
be workplace raids. That doesn't mean there are no raids; there's lot of raids
happening because it doesn't trickle down that quickly.
But, I think the issues that we're seeing with the Latino population really rest
on a lot of the same issues we saw after 9/11. People are afraid, the number one
thing that makes people angry in national polls about the whole immigration
issue is that you have to press one for English and two for Spanish. People do
not like that. They're upset because they feel like it's a threat. Culturally,
it's a threat to them.
I go on a lot of conservative talk shows because I like to know what my
competition thinks. And I like to be educated on what the other side is saying
so that I can be more articulate about expressing my perspective in a way that
might make it across to the other side. And what I see over and over again is,
fundamentally, people are afraid that they are not going to fit in anymore. That
this country is sort of going to be overtaken by these people that don't look
like them, don't talk the same language, and that they're not going to in the
That's underneath it, and a lot of that has to do with racism, but a lot of it
doesn't. A lot of it has to do with not understanding, not being exposed to. And
so it's hard to get to some of the stuff that's underneath, because they're are
some really hateful people out there. And then there are also a lot of people
who just have never had anyone talk to them in a way that makes them understand
why we actually are all the same. And we all want the same things for our
children, and we all want to live in a country that respects our due process
rights, that respects us a human beings, that treats us with dignity, and that
allows us to contribute our full potential and everything that we bring with our
backgrounds and our culture, that we want to have that be contributed back.
So, that's really where we are today. We're working hard on comprehensive
immigration reform. We see it as a nature outgrowth from post 9/11 because there
were a lot of things that were sort of taken after 9/11 and turned into
immigrant issues. And immigrant issues then became national security issues. And
so criminalizing of immigrants and whole bunch of things that we don't have time
to talk about today, really have all been part of that mix. And so our job now
is to untangle.
And we have information about OneAmerica and becoming a member, which we just
started a membership program if you're interested and you live in the state.
But, happy to... Looking forward to the question part as well, thank you.
Banafsheh Akhlaghi: Left with 'untangle.' I'm
left with two things actually 'untangle,' and 'in the early days.' Really, was
it that long ago does it feel like in the early days? Beautifully said, Pramila,
just bringing us through the course of it all. And I saw it from a different
prism. I saw it from the prism of being a legal advocate, as well as obviously
an advocate on the streets. In fact, I remember one of the joint terrorism task
force agents that I was standing in front of looking up at because they're all
so bloody tall. They're all Norwegian of Nordic. I don't know where they breed
them, but they're all six foot something. And I was looking for a client of
mine, and he said 'Aren't you the one who's out side with the bullhorn all the
time?' I am not a bullhorn gal, that's not the kind of gal I am. But, I was, I
was always outside the immigrant with some microphone or a bullhorn.
The way we did our work was however we could do our work. The way we did our
work was in the courtroom. And when we weren't able to do our work in the
courtroom, and those of you who were law student and lawyers in here you
understand that legal advocacy could only go so far. Literally, it's only one
tool in that tool chest, and on our tool belt. The other avenues of advocacy
were through the media.
So, we would take our client cases to the media, those that would come. Or we
would walk the streets and ask for support of those that would then support us.
And then of course legislative support and advocacy through that means and
Let me take it back to really at the beginning, and bring you to why is it that
we're now looking at it - I'm looking at it from a human rights prism. And I've
really always looked at it from a human rights prism. So, I got a phone call
that's literally hoe it began, I received a phone call late in September, early
October of 2001. And it was one of those first FBI interviews. But, this was
happening on the west coast, so it was one of the first ones that we were
starting to see out here on our side.
It was a chilling event. That entire event was a chilling event for me. And you
have to understand, for me to say that is really saying a lot. And why I say
that is because I'm Iranian, and I grew up in the United States. I grew up in
the United States pre-revolution. So, I grew up during Shaw's regime. So, every
weekend, my family and I were out side of the Los Angeles federal building -
that was weekend even, family event - demonstrating. It's just what we did. And
then they would have hunger strikes inside the detention facility. And when I
was coming up for bar ethics background checks, I was sure that I wasn't going
to pass the background checks because of the last name and constantly being in
detention facility after detention facility, my family members.
So, to be at that FBI interview, for me was chilling to have seen what I saw.
And I didn't walk in there with a Pollyanna view of what it's like to be around
government and what it's like to be around FBI and the like. You understand,
But, that afternoon, to have heard that my client was going to be questioned at
a zoo, and subsequent from there the clients had been questioned at BART
stations. Clients had been questioned on their way to work, picked up by FBI to
do a couple of rounds around the neighborhood asking question. And then they
would be released to then get into vehicle, maybe, to get into their vehicle to
go to work. Students would be pulled out of class rooms for questioning by the
So, it kept morphing. But, the first time I had heard it at the zoo, was
shocking. But, beyond that, what was really shocking was that when they new that
an attorney was present, which is really what had me continue doing the work,
when they knew that an attorney was present they decided that they weren't going
to question this individual any longer. Who was a Jordanian green card holder,
who had received his green card through an H visa, a specialty worker visa,
meaning he had come here as an international student, he had then converted to
this H visa, the H visa was then converted to a green card.
That only happens when a corporation says 'This individual is a need in our
country.' and the US government says 'Yes, we see that this individual's
expertise and skill sets are needed in this country.' In order to do all of
that, you must have gone through background check after background check. So,
there was nothing in his background that could have had the FBI meet up with
him, except for one thing, and that one thing happened to be that he was a
secretary of a mosque in Folsom California, northern part of California. That
one thing was the same thing that linked everyone together during that time
Pramila walked through and said 'There is that history of chain of event that
took place.' We actually did the same with NLSCA. We did it from the prism of
the laws and the acts that were being passed, because that's what we were
So then, what came next? So, we had the round ups, right? The FBI interviews.
But, what came after that was special registrations. And that was a time that I
don't know how many of you were physically impacted by it, or knew individuals
that we're impacted by it, but I don't know that many members of our community
that weren't. You understand?
It was that spread, and that wide. The numbers were I think 82,000 human beings
were registered. Those number, I will never believe those numbers. I think there
are at least five times that amount. And the reason I say that is because I had
gone into those detention facilities where the Department of Homeland Security
today, INS then, would say, 'We only have a handful, five, six individuals who
are here in detention as a result of special registrations. Here are their alien
Then I would push 25 to 30 alien numbers before them and say, 'Then who are
these individuals, because they're also here?'
'In our custody?'
'Yes, in your custody.'
'Ah, well, I guess we just didn't 'streamline' the process well enough to be
able to track everyone.'
So, for me, I don't believe in that 82,000. I've seen so many more in numbers
throughout the course of the time that we were representing individuals. We were
doing so on a pro bono basis. Well, actually I was doing so on a pro bono basis.
It didn't become 'we' until some time later. It was me and a handful of law
students, just like you all.
We would go into a detention facility. The students would become the guard, the
barrier, literally, between the INS agent, who was coming to pick them up to
take them in for interrogation, and my coming back to them, floor, after floor,
after floor, after floor, and in facility after facility, up and down the state.
If I happened to be in Los Angeles, that's what we were doing, in San Diego,
that's what we were doing, and in San Francisco, that's what we were doing.
What was happening was individuals were coming in. Do you all remember this
time? Who doesn't remember this time? It's OK. You could raise your hands. We're
old. I'm hearing we're old. I didn't realize we were old.
Audience Member: 2003.
Banafsheh: This was the end of 2002, and it was
suspended. Now, you all understand the beauty and the art of languaging in the
law. It was suspended in April of 2003. It wasn't terminated; it was suspended.
It's still in this mode of suspension, so it hasn't been lifted off the books.
It hasn't been repealed. It had been sitting there dormant, because it had been
created for the Japanese, who were then registered, and who were then detained,
and who were then interned. The Japanese-American community actually had the
foresight to say, 'We need this repealed because someday this may be used
against another group,' and it certainly was.
Do you remember Ashcroft? He did. He came to Congress, and he said, 'Listen. We
have this on the books. We don't need to pass anything. All we need to do is
revive it. It won't mean anything to you and your constituency, because you
don't have to go and try to push this and get their support. It's already on the
books. What we're going to do is we're going to register people who are 'aliens'
in the United States.'
I have a problem with that word. Being born in Iran, I don't find myself as an
alien, but OK.
''Aliens' in the United States. But, we're going to begin with those countries
that we are rendering suspect nations first. But, we will definitely get to
Congress said, 'You're going to get to everyone?'
'Everyone. The Canadians, the Swiss, the French, the Germans, all of them. But,
we're just going to first begin with the suspect nations first. That makes
sense, doesn't it?'
Congress said, 'It makes absolute sense.'
So, the first five countries were listed, the Axis of Evil. Those three
countries were handled. We don't forget what Gaddafi did and Syria. All of
these, the first five, were rounded up.
If you remember, during that time, the major population that was impacted in
December of '02 was the Iranian community, so many of them in Los Angeles,
particularly, that they came out in numbers. They came out to demonstrate. They
came out to call for their loved ones to be released.
A 16-year-old boy, I remember, he had gone in with his mother to be registered.
His documents hadn't gone through the system as fast as his mother's and the
rest of the family members' had, so they detained him.
Because there wasn't enough cell space, bed space, they had to place him with
the adult population, which was OK because most of the folks that were in the
adult cells were from the community as well. You understand? They were all just
packed in like sardines, there were so many that were detained at the time.
The mother, can you imagine? The mother would come and plead. I just remember
her calling my office, just pleading, 'You've got to do something for my son. He
can't go back to Iran. He doesn't even know the country of Iran. He can't speak
That's definitely the story of how many immigrants? We hear it in the Latino
community. We hear it in the South Asian community, in the Asian community.
He was ultimately deportable, meaning he had a date for deportation, and but for
the intervention of literally - and these things barely ever are done, but
Congress intervened. Someone on his behalf intervened and asked for a
humanitarian stay, so therefore, he was stayed until his case could go forward.
But, think about how many family members had their lives turned upside-down for
no reason, very similar to the Jordanian man that I had gone for his FBI
interview for. He and his wife were expecting their second child, and as a
result of all the pressure that was going on with the FBI interview, because
that was the third time that he had been called in, after I had called him and
told him that the FBI were no longer going to be pursuing and investigating him,
he said, 'Well, at what cost?'
I said, 'Well, what do you mean? This is great. The FBI's not going to come to
your place of work any longer. They're not going to question you any longer.'
He said, 'My wife has lost the second child.'
That become the running theme. I want you to really hear the running theme. The
running theme, and you all are future advocates, so I'm really speaking to you
from that prism - the running theme is that there were violations that took
place over, and over, and over again.
There were violations that took place that we cannot remedy just by turning back
the time, just with an apology, just with looking at finding new policies to put
in place of the policies that were passed.
As Pramila stated, you all know once that ink dries on the policy books, on the
law books, and it becomes legislation, it becomes almost impossible to repeal
it. It becomes almost impossible.
We can do all of those things, but we must also make sure - we must also make
sure - as the Japanese have taught us, that we collect the data. That's your
generation. We collect the data. We call for investigations. We call for an
We find out what happened; what happened not only in Abu Ghraib, not only what
happened in Guantanamo, but what also happened in the secret detention
facilities in this country called immigration detention facilities.
What happened to all the individuals who went disappeared, and how many of them
went disappeared? There were accounts after accounts of unmarked planes leaving
the United States filled to capacity with men from these communities dropped off
in third countries.
How do we know that? Because their loved ones would then call our office and
say, 'My husband, who is Pakistani, is calling me from where he thinks is Yemen.
He was last seen going to work over two and a half weeks ago.'
This is one after another. The individuals that we ultimately deported, and we
deported - I want you to hear this - we deported with files stamped 'National
Security Threat' back to countries that then utilize that stamp to show their
allegiance to the United States and the War on Terror.
Then they would be disappeared there, after finding out from their family
members that they never left the airport. They never actually got to Jordan.
They never actually got to Marrakech, Morocco. They never actually got to Syria.
But, they did, they had actually landed in those countries, they were picked up
by the officials, they were taken off-site, they were interrogated, they were
detained, they were tortured, and then subsequently released, 90 days, 120 days
later. We did that.
There's a distinction between someone who actually pulls the trigger, that we
hold that individual legally liable, yes? But, we also hold individuals liable
who could have prevented it, under the law, no? We also hold individuals liable
for their complacency in watching it occur, do we not? Every act has a
responsibility. The question now is where we are. My question, why I joined
Amnesty in leading their Western Region, my question is how do we bring all of
these issues, from our organization 3000-some cases alone and if we start to
accumulate those cases across the country, how many would we have, how many
would they be, what kind of remedies are we looking at?
But, we started to have the conversation beyond a civil rights framework. Are
you ready? We actually have the conversation in this country within the prism of
a human rights framework. Human rights violations took place. The government of
the United States is accountable for those human rights violations. And we must
start having that conversation now. And it may be a hard one to have, because we
don't have the bodies of law, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
If we actually had that document in place, during these last several years, if
we actually had that body of law, we had adopted it, we had become signatories
to it, do you know that I as an attorney would have had other bodies of law that
I could have gone to, that I could have argued from, but that my hands were
tied. And many like me, our hands are tied.
It's at this critical juncture that Amnesty is asking for an independent
commission, and I think we can have one, I think we need to have one. I don't
think it's just a few bad apples, right? We're realizing it's not a few bad
apples. We knew that. We knew the levels then and we know them even more so now.
It's really a call to this administration, it's really a call to ourselves. How
are we going to hold ourselves accountable, and responsible, by holding them,
all of those, who either through action or through complacency, through their
silence, allowed for the events to take place, and continue to take place.
The detention reports that Pramila spoke about, the detention reports that
Amnesty put together, it's quite remarkable, a year and a half two years ago,
they contacted my organization and other organizations. Most of the report, the
detention facilities that Amnesty went through were in San Francisco, and in a
handful of other locations.
But, listen to what Amnesty did domestically; this is what Amnesty does
internationally. Amnesty went into those detention facilities in the United
States to investigate for human rights violations, in those immigration
detention facilities, to locate and ascertain what kinds of human rights
violations are taking place on this land. Not in the Congo, not in Iran, or in
Saudi Arabia, not in China, but in San Francisco, California.
What we found, what Amnesty found through advocates and through the actual
individuals who're detained, what we found is that individuals were being
violated. Sensory deprivation was on the highest form.
Do you know what I mean by that? Twenty-four hours a day. These individuals
didn't know if it was daylight or night outside. Just to give you a day in the
life, and these were many of my clients actually. So, it's beyond just a day in
he life as we were watching this, Pramila, they say that there's the events that
happen to the individuals, and there's the events that happen to their families
that are impacted, there's another crew in that circle that are also impacted.
And there's those of us, who are their service providers.
And if you think that it doesn't impact you, and it just stays with you, because
they're not clients they're human beings. They're not an A number, they look
just like your own father, your brother, your uncle, or in many cases, a 16 year
old - your nephew, your son. It stays with you, you know what I mean, it stays
with you, and if you are a true advocate, advocado, like speaking for the
voiceless. It stays with you, and I think it should. Because it then taps into
our humanity and it makes sure that the heart is still moving and that we're not
becoming robots in all of this.
You all have a critical part to play. My invitation to you, my challenge to you.
Just as you have now taken the baton, the next generation baton, starting these
types of groups on campuses, coming and having these conversations some eight,
nine and a half years later, it's now time to take it to the next level, and the
next level is investigation, the next level is truth finding, the next level is
holding individuals to account.
As we do that, 'as we do that,' we might actually be able to heal all of those
circles. And remember, you're part of that circle, you can't not be, you're part
of this human family of ours. Thank you for listening.
Roxana: Thank you very much for those compelling
presentations. Now, we're going to start our question and answer period. So, if
any of you have any questions, you might need to ask them. [pause 1:04:12 -
Banafsheh: A day in the life of an immigrant. If
you're detained, you're detained in your home early in the morning, in the
classroom, at your worksite, on the street. You could be detained because you
have a flat tire, and the police officer comes to check on you, and then asks
for your driver's license, and you may not have one, because you're out of
status in the country. So, you're detained, you can understand, just in a
variety of ways. The population is actually living in this sub-society among us.
And I can give you the actuals, particularly in the Bay area, because that's
where I've done most of my work. You're taken into a building. It's pretty much
the same in most cities across the country. You're taken into a building, which
from the outside looks like any other building to the average individual walking
by. They would never know that on the inside what has just occurred is the
individual was shackled and handcuffed and picked up and taken in.
As you are detained, the process that begins is that you are questioned. You are
questioned by an immigration customs enforcement agent. You are questioned by,
depending on your national origin, by an FBI agent. And how FBI and ICE are
linked today is through another individual who comes out of the Department of
Homeland Security as well, and that's a Joint Terrorism Task Force agent. So,
you have this person who was just picked up, right, out of thin air and now they
have three individuals before them who are questioning them.
And the questions will begin around your ideology, again depending on what
nation, your ideology, your religion, your belief system regarding the Iraq war,
your belief system regarding the Afghani war, your belief system regarding the
Bush administration - without an attorney. And at no time do they say that you
have the right to an attorney because in the immigration system, it's under a
civil context, it's not under a criminal context. You understand that, yeah?
So in a criminal context, if you're detained, your Miranda rights are read to
you. 'You have the right to an attorney, you have a right to...' - these Miranda
rights are not given to an immigration detainee. Although, you heard that they
are brought in with shackles or handcuffs. And then from there, they are moved
to a detention facility depending upon where a bed will be available. So, what
does that mean?
They may have been detained in San Francisco, California, but if a bed is not
available in that jurisdiction, Yuba County, Sacramento, San Jose; they're
moved. And they may be moved out of state. They can be moved to anywhere from
Arizona to across the country to the South without their family members or if
they have, if they are lucky enough to have an attorney, their attorney being
notified of such move. So, now start to think, how do you begin to represent
The first thing you start to think of is, wait a minute, my witnesses are in
this jurisdiction, my evidence is in this jurisdiction, how the heck am I going
to... What am I going to do? I'm going to fly there every time there's a
hearing? Am I going to fly there and fly the witnesses? How are we going to do
And, each jurisdiction, though it's a Federal system doesn't necessarily mean
that each jurisdiction is following the same procedures, even though it is a
federal system and it should be uniformed.
So, each Judge will interpret the process in the same way so now you have to
contend with all of that as well. Now, what's happening to your client? What's
happening to your client is, they've now been fed through the system, depending
on which day they arrived to the detention facility. It could be that evening,
or it could be days from then or weeks from then. What do I mean by that?
They could literally be moved from jurisdiction to jurisdiction looking for bed
space, all the while not being placed within the immigration system, meaning
they go disappeared in the United States. Do you understand what I mean? So, if
you were to try to locate this individual, you wouldn't be able to find their A
number anywhere in the system. If you were to contact the officials, they
wouldn't be able to tell you exactly where they are because until they're
processed, which could be days later or weeks later, they're not, for security
reasons they're not brought up into the system.
So again, you as an attorney have no idea where your client is. You as an
attorney can't tell the family members where their loved one is, and your client
is completely in the dark. Remember how he or she was just detained as well, on
their way to school, on their way to work, flat tire. Can you imagine? Just
think about the chaos that they are undergoing.
Finally, when they are placed into a facility, generally depending on the
facility, breakfast is anytime between 4:00 and 4:30 in the morning. They are
awoken at about 3:00 to then be placed in line. The reason for it is because
most of these facilities are attached to criminal detention sites. So, one of
the ways in which to protect, and this is their safety, this is the safety
argument for the detainee. In order to protect the detainee, they have them
eating at, showering at different times away from the criminal detainees. So,
that means they're awoken at these hours.
Now, I've had clients who are, you know, suffering from diabetes, I have had
clients who were deaf, and so they couldn't hear the buzzer going off to let
them know to wake up for breakfast or for lunch or for dinner and had missed day
after day of being able to eat, I've had client after client after client after
client who couldn't eat the food that was given to them because they weren't
After they are complete with breakfast, lunch will probably be about 10:30,
11:00. They are fed again about 4:00-ish, 3:30 to 4:00. And then not again until
the next day. Again, if you suffer from diabetes, this could be really medically
just an impossibility to be able to survive.
There's account after account when the individual is put into detention, and
this also is in the report, they're not given access to a medical practitioner
right away. Their medicines and meds are taken from them, so they can again be
without their medication for two weeks or so until they are finally met by a
medical practitioner. Several of our clients were rushed to the emergency room
during those two weeks time. And again, the accounts and the report speak about
the health and the wellbeing of detainees.
And the sensory deprivation and the unbearable, unbearable temperature. They
keep the detention facilities primarily anywhere between 48 to 60 degrees. There
hasn't been a detention facility that I have gone into that I haven't come out
of ill, just a flu. And they are in thin scrubs, most of them. You understand,
like medical scrubs, most of them. They may, in the winter time be given sweats
to wear. And when they're moved about, they're moved about handcuffed and
shackled. They're either handcuffed to each other like so, or they're handcuffed
to their waist.
And the other aspect that I think needs to also be said, they're not treated
like the rest of the detainees, criminal detainees. There isn't a time to be
out, for example, in daylight, for exercise purposes. And we have individuals
who have been in detention for years and they are physically contained for that
period of time. That's just some of the day in the life.
And if they happen to be from a particular immigrant group, particularly during
the 9/11 era, the level of threats, the physical violence against them, the
'accidental' shattering of their hands, I can't... there have been many accounts
of the way in which that they are physically abused in the detention facilities,
all of which I'm happy to say have now been literally annotated by a human
rights organization the way in which we annotate other violations in other
And in terms of the accountability piece, that's going to be us. The only way in
which the Obama Administration is going to hold anyone accountable, it's going
to be we the people making certain that that occurs, or else this too will just
go as it has gone and we will then start to keep separating out who really are
the actors versus who shouldn't be held accountable dot dot dot.
And I believe, and many of us believe, due process. Bring everyone in who was
part and parcel of this and let the facts begin to speak for themselves. Let the
cases be heard. And let it be done in that format. And we've done it before. The
U.S. has supported independent commissions in the past. We can do it again.
But, it really is going to require we speaking for it, speaking out for it.
I hope I answered your questions.
Audience Member: Yes. [pause 1:16:06 - 1:16:38 ]
Pramila: I actually think that there is quite a
bit of political will now. But again, it is going to keep relying on us. Obama
is a community organizer and he has said you need to create the political space
for me to do the right thing. And that's similar to what other Presidents have
said in the past to get Civil Rights passed and all kinds of other things.
What makes me hopeful is that I attended a meeting with the head of the
department of Civil Rights, the acting head of the Department of Civil Rights,
the Department of Justice, at the same time as the Dora Schriro meeting. And it
really like people are being freed again to do their job.
Literally the person who is investigating the Sheriff Joe Arpaio racial
profiling case so proudly said... They bought all of the section heads to the
meeting, which is remarkable. There were more section heads than there were
advocates in the room, because they all wanted to engage with us. And the person
who is leading that investigation very proudly said, 'I'm leading the Sheriff
Joe Arpaio investigation.' Everyone burst out in cheers.
Then the person next to her said - well, since she said that I just wanted to
tell you - 'I'm leading the investigation around language access, that lawsuit,'
then everyone burst out in tears. And then acting head said I'm just here to
tell you that the Civil Rights Division is back in business.
Shortly after that we met with Dora Schriro who is Napolitano's special advisor
on detention and removal specifically. And we met with Esther Olavarria, who
used to be Senator Kennedy's chief judiciary aid who is now sort of the main
policy person on immigration issues within the Department of Homeland Security.
And I think that they're moving forward on a lot of things. We talked
specifically about the transfer of detainees. Because this was a huge issue, we
dealt with cases too. And we had this happen all the time where people were
And we are not the legal advocates. We would have to try to find another legal
advocate when they were moved to Arkansas. Literally, we had people moved all
We had to file foyer request to try to find out where they were, who they were.
And by the time we found out it was too late. Sometimes they were transferred to
two or three facilities. So, Schriro is actually looking at and raised a policy
with us that would be around sort of an automatic tracking.
One of the things we are wanting to make sure before we sign off and say we
think that's a good idea, is they would do it through some sort of a bracelet.
We want to make sure that that doesn't violate any civil liberties issues. But,
a way to the minute somebody is picked up and moved, you would actually be able
to track that. So, that's number one.
Number two, there're a lot of administrative changes within the detention system
that can be done quietly. And I think that detention for us as advocates is we
want things done publicly, because we want a public acknowledgment of what...
And there are many things that absolutely need a public acknowledgment. And a
commission, for example, is a way to get that public acknowledgment.
There are also some things that we can, we have to understand that the political
climate out there for immigrants is still not that great. It's just not. We and
the reason it's not, is because those of us who care about it are not nearly as
loud as we need to be. We do not call our congressmen.
How many of you get emails? If you're on our email list you know you get emails
all the time. Asking to write letters, asking to call. And many times good
people look at those emails and say; I don't have time. It takes two minutes.
Two minutes! You know what they're doing? They're sending in thousands of email.
Every time we go to talk to our senators about immigration, about 9/11 stuff,
about FBI profiling, they say, 'Not getting calls. Where are the calls, where
are the letters? Here's what I got from the other side. Here's what I got from
So, part of it is we have to ramp up what we demand both publicly. But, then
also they are many things that we can do under the radar administratively.
So, we've really sort of divided, I think, on the immigration side and on post
9/11 issues, divided what we see as administrative changes. And for example,
special registration which Banafsheh talked about, we're trying to get that
That's one of the things that we're looking at in the context of racial
profiling and civil rights that we raised at the civil rights meeting. How can
we get that taken off the table, right?
So some of these things, we can do administratively, some of them we have to do
legislatively. And we're trying to be smart about recognizing that while we may
want public acknowledgment around all of these things, maybe the best thing for
us is to get rid of some of it administratively. And then down the road look for
some public acknowledgment around why that needed to be done.
Because I'd rather get them off the books, frankly, and change the laws right
now if we can. And then push for the public piece, and again I'm not talking
For example, I think the torture piece - we've got to have public acknowledgment
around that. We need an independent commission into a lot of things. I'm not
saying anything contradictory. But, I'm saying that there're a lot of things we
can do quickly, quietly that will make an enormous difference.
The detention conditions is a huge piece of it. We're looking at alternatives to
detention, which Dora Schriro seems very open to. She ran the correction system
in Arizona and she's known as one of the more progressive corrections people.
So, I think that there is public will, or I think that there is a will within
the administration. I think what we're not sure about is whether there is a
Because anytime something sort of pro-immigrant comes forward, it's why
Napolitano can't say she's calling a moratorium on raids. She can't say that.
What she can say is I'm calling for a thorough review of all of the processes.
And until I have that review, which we hope will be stretched out as long as
possible, we're not conducting raids.
And we as advocates should recognize that sometimes that's not a bad thing,
because we are not prepared yet to actually ramp up our public voice on those
issues. We don't have enough people.
So, we're trying to build a national call list right now that you can actually
text justice to a certain number. And then you'll get text messages back anytime
we need calls in to the White House or to Congress.
When Obama said he was going to do immigration reform, we were able to get
31,000 calls around the country into the White House through this national call
So, the organizing piece has to go along with what we're demanding. Otherwise
we're not going to get it.
[pause 1:23:21 - 1:23:52]
Pramila: Well, we've been doing a lot of work
trying to build broader coalitions with people who don't think like us. And
what's interesting is that when people are affected is when they start to see.
So, I think, after 9/11 part of the problem was Banafsheh said, everyone in the
Iranian community, for example, was getting picked up, right? They didn't know
anybody that wasn't.
That wasn't the case with the majority of the people. So, people sort of said,
'Oh that's something that's out there.' And the case we had to make was; if you
erode constitution for this group of people, you're eroding them for everyone.
We've got to consistently make those arguments that frankly are a little bit
about self interest, in order to bring people in.
On the immigration issue, the interesting thing is, that we now have business
owners, farmers, growers, agricultural businesses, meat processing plants, you
name it, they wanted to speak up on immigration, because their businesses are
crippled without immigrant workers.
All of a sudden, we're getting them to be a little bit more vocal, not only on
the issue that they care about, which frankly, is just guest-worker visas, but
on detention. So, we're building a business roundtable, which is very dicey, let
me tell you, it's very tricky, because we're not going to agree on everything.
We just published a report on immigrant contributions to the Washington State
economy, and we had the Chamber of Commerce North-West regional person speak at
the press conference, and she described her vision of immigration reform. It's
not the way I would describe it.
But, that's OK; we don't have to agree on every single point. We've got to find
an entry point that is about self-interest. Self-interest can be broad, it can
be about America. Self-interest can be your vision of what you want your country
to be. That's normally what we appeal to is the values piece, the heart piece,
because you can talk a lot about statistics, you can say 1200 Muslim and Arab
men, you can say all those things, but what you'll remember is Banafsheh's
So, we try to find ways to integrate facts with story and reach out to people so
that you're appealing to where they are, which means that you've got to be
comfortable that they're not going to say everything you wanted to say. They may
only say a piece of it. That's OK, that's a doorway in.
We're doing a lot of that work, of trying to build a broader base and the
broader constituency, not just sectorally, religiously, ethnically; anyway that
you cut it, we need to have a lot of people. But, the biggest problem is
engagement. Our folks who agree with us on issues, they don't call. They don't
write letters. We, you, you and me. I do. Because I have to, because I have to
come and tell you that I do so that you do.
Really, that's what we need. We need you to speak up. That's what policymakers
listen to, that's what Obama listens to. We met with him before he actually came
in the office. He said, 'If you brought 5000 people out before, now you have to
bring 10,000, 15,000, 20,000. If you wrote 10,000 letters, now you need to write
50,000. Don't think that because I'm in office, I'm going to do everything you
want me to do. You have to make me do it. You have to make me do it.'
It's the same words that were said to Martin Luther King.
Banafsheh: This goes back to your question. The
events that we're speaking about, are not yesterday, they're today. As you said,
they're happening right now. The events in these detention facilities, these
raids, are all happening still. They're happening under this administration. How
can you start to tie all of this together? As we've been linking, the Japanese
experience, with the Middle Eastern experience, with the Latino experience,
these are communities that hadn't historically stood together before.
Now, there's a movement - there's a groundswell - there's a movement that's
brewing. How is it that we can have a conversation and bring in all of those
that you wouldn't naturally see as your base partners? Some of the base partners
that we're looking at is, we're looking at the executive office of immigration
review. Why? Because the immigration judges are up to here with detention
So, Steve Lang, who heads their liaison division - he's the liaison for the pro
bono attorneys division - is working, and working steadfastly with so many
organizations to be able to bring in that voice that, 'Listen, we can't keep
taking on more detention cases.' When you start to go through the country,
you'll see in many of the court rooms, one or two judges allocated for all of
They can't get through all of the dockets, so what's happening to them? They're
sitting and they're sitting and they're sitting. To appeal to the EOIR, we can
actually appeal to the EOIR, and have them then appeal to the Department of
Homeland Security and say there are alternatives to detention; we already have
them on the books.
That's the way we can do it a bit more quiet, without having to bring shame to
anyone. They're already on the books. There are ways in which that they can have
people come in and, 'be monitored,' so that they can still show up for their
master calendar hearings and their merits hearings. They don't need to be
detained to do that.
So, those are the ways that we do it.
[pause 1:29:44 - 1:30:20]
Banafsheh: Is this at the point of entry when
you're coming in from Canada in to the US? Yes, that's part of the... [pause
1:30:25 - 1:30:52]
Pramila: I think AACCS has done something. That
is, that's the national security entry exit registration system. That is the
special registration system. [pause 1:31:03 - 1:31:12]
Banafsheh: Here's how, what Pramila is saying,
this is where we need to link up together. You don't need to say - just from
your accent, I think you might be from my part of the world. [laughter]
Banafsheh: This is where being linked up to some
of the Iranian/American groups, domestically, and having them linking up with
the rights working group domestically and linking up then with the human rights
groups domestically. This is how all of these stories, and how all of these
groups can begin to move and effectuate change. But, without having particular
groups, putting the pressure on - I'm going to be very candid - at amnesty,
NSEARS is not on the forefront of their mind. But, ACT, for example, maybe PAYA,
or I don't know, the Iranian/American Bar Association, it may become the
forefront of their mind because so many of their loved ones are going through
Those groups linking up with other groups and then having that come to the
larger platform, the national groups, or the international groups, is how it
gets to the voices of those who can change the policies. Otherwise, it gets
lost. NSEARS has gotten lost at the port of entry, where you're talking about,
it's gotten lost.
Pramila: We're dealing with the issue, but
Banafsheh is absolutely right, we're dealing with it in large part because we
have members that are part of the rights-working group coalition, that care
deeply about NSEARS, specifically AACCS, the Arab American Community Coalition
for Services, or something like that, they're out of Dearborn. Because they're
on the northern border, they've had a lot of cases like this. They've brought
them up, and so, NSEARS is one of our critical pieces that were special
registration, NSEARS is part of what we have on our list of things that we're
working on for the rights working group. Specific examples that you have, it's
really important to send them to anyone of us so that we can at least forward
them on to the right places. Part of what we're trying to do now, too, we did
this Justice for All hearing that we did here, we did another one with Senator
Kennedy that Banafsheh brought several of her clients to, and we had people from
around the country.
We did another one here with Senator Murray in 2005, or 2006. So, we have
stories, the problem is there's never been a repository of where to put them.
All of us have these stories. Some of them are documented. We talk incessantly -
because we're very good at doing that, talking incessantly about how we need to
collect the stories, but it's a big process. So, nobody's really figured out how
to do that, how to take everything that we have and put it all in one place.
I think we contributed a little bit to the Amnesty report on detention came out
of our report. We've been trying to make sure that we're all putting our stuff
together. I think it is important to document it. Then at least let's try to get
it to one of the organizations that is pushing around the NSEARS issue.
[pause 1:34:42 - 1:35:06]
Pramila: I think that really, for you as
students, this is so great, this forum that you've put together. If you have
student organizations, I actually think that students in law schools, in
particular, are great places to start because you understand the implications of
what we're talking about. If you have affinity groups or organizations that we
could do these kinds of presentations to, that could be engaged or involved. We
have, for example, in this state, we lead an immigration round table around
immigrant issues that include detention. They include post-9/11 issues. They
include all kinds of stuff, so it can be unwieldy sometimes. Part of what that
does is it has people listen to each other and realize that we're all in the
If you have groups that you feel like you're close to in your community, you can
say look, here's the ways in which our community should care, and let's have a
forum. Let's have a discussion on these issues. That's one tangible way.
Another tangible way is to hook up with different groups that are trying to move
different things. For example, if Amnesty is trying to move the idea of a
commission, they may have a petition, or they may have something that you can
I know we have lots of those around detention, for example. If you're here, we
have tons of things locally you can do. But, there are any number of ways that
you can take materials that already exist.
We're doing a training around immigration reform on May 2nd that you could come
to. You could figure out how to make the connections, because you're the expert
for your community.
So, what is it that resonates with you, and then how do you make that connection
to other people? Why did you ask that question? You asked because something
moved you today to say I want to do something about this, so what can I do?
If we work together to figure out how you get the information you need, then you
can take that to your community. You're really the most effective advocate
within your community. That's how all of our relationships have started, with
one person or one organization saying I want to do something about this, and
let's figure out how.
Roxana: There is a question on it. [pause 1:37:18
Pramila: You. You're our plan. [laughs]
Audience Member: I'm only one person.
Pramila: Honestly, that's...
Audience Member: [inaudible 1:38:27] an example.
[pause 1:38:33 - 1:39:18]
Audience Member: I have something.
Pramila: Good. [pause 1:39:21 - 1:39:36]
Banafsheh: I know personally that I've been
speaking out loud about this since late 2001. Pramila and I, and there's a
handful of us that began the process back in 2001. This is my personal take on
it, so I'm taking my advocacy hat off. I'm taking my Amnesty hat off, the lawyer
hat off. This is my personal take on it.
I think as long as we continue to do a them and an us, we're going to continue
to have what we have. Don't believe this is a them-and-an-us conversation. I've
never believed it was a them and an us.
This is a human conversation. No human being, regardless of political ideology,
religion, national origin, gender, age, could witness an 87-year-old mother
throwing her body on a courtroom, pleading and saying, 'Please take my body, but
give me back my son's,' and not be moved by that.
There's something inherently wrong with what we're doing. I think if we can
actually have a conversation with people from that prism, it's not a problem to
then have individuals supporting the humanity of it all.
As an organization that I founded to represent individuals who were from these
24 countries that were placed on a special registration list, inherently, as an
attorney and particularly during that time when the law still stands on the
books - it came from McCarthy's era, and it still stands on the books - that I
as an attorney had been mandated.
I'm mandated to make sure that anyone that I represent isn't on the list. Well,
that list is seven, eight lists now. They're anywhere from 400 to 800 pages
long, four columns. I have to make sure they're not on the list. If they're on
the list, and I represent knowingly, I can be placed in federal detention for 10
years and $10 million fine, or, unknowingly, one year and $1 million fine.
Inherently, what we were doing representing these individuals during that time
was not smart, yet people were giving us money. Who were giving us money were
frankly mostly of the American community, not our own community, mostly the
American community, the Japanese community, other communities.
Because we didn't speak about it ever from the prism that it's this way or that
way. It's just the law, or it's just civil rights, or it's inherently wrong;
because we're human beings, it's inherently wrong.
In moving forward, I really think the manner in which we all need to be speaking
about these issues is the unified approach. I love the name of OneAmerica. That
could be really one globe, one humanity, one family. It could be anything you
can put that in there.
Then it dissolves the them and the us. As soon as you put that in, naturally
what happens is you have to create that battle. That conflict will then occur,
right? It's just natural that divisiveness will create that.
But, if you already walk in that we're not divided, we're all on the same page,
then it defuses it. I've been in many of those rooms with many of the 'thems.'
They didn't walk out of there feeling that they were the them and I was the us.
It's really, I think it's essential...