Tomorrow, September 2nd, join the Congress of Day Laborers in solidarity to stand up against the retaliatory incarceration of community members
Tomorrow, the Congress of Day Laborers will hold a 24-hour vigil in Lafayette Square, across from the U.S. Attorney’s office, starting with a press conference at 2:00 pm. VOTE members and other allies may join the vigil any time from Thursday, September 1st at 2:00 pm to Friday, September 2nd at 2:00 pm.
Three months ago, William Diaz-Castro, Jose Isaias Lara-Serrano, and Jonny Manzanares exposed flagrant civil rights abuses by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These abuses are now under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security. As a result, all three face felony reentry charges and permanent separation from their families. They have been incarcerated in St. Tammany Parish Jail for three months.
Over the past two decades the number of offenders sentenced in federal courts has increased dramatically with the enforcement of the immigration felony offense for unlawful reentry into the United States. An increase in such convictions accounts for nearly half of that growth from 1992 to 2012.
Nearly all immigrants sentenced for felony reentry receive a prison sentence, which benefits private prison corporations. With an increase in felony reentry sentences, immigration offenders have accounted for a 56% growth in the federal prison population. As immigration convictions have increased, so too has the private prison industry in the United States, which has grown by 1600% between 1990 and 2010. Government agencies, including ICE, provide private prison corporations millions of dollars annually in public-private contracts. Over half of the profit made by private prison corporations comes from facilities detaining undocumented immigrants. This is a primary reason why many people (including the corporations themselves) were unimpressed by last week’s announcement that the Bureau of Prisons would let such contracts slowly expire.
Felony re-entry is a victimless and non-violent offense. Immigrants charged with felony reentry have entered or attempted to enter the U.S. more than once, or have attempted to reenter after having been deported. Most previously deported individuals seek to return to the U.S. to escape violence and instability in their countries of origin, or to reunite with their families and communities in the United States. Mr. Diaz-Castro says: “I think and ask myself, ‘Should returning to this country for my family be a crime?’ The answer I have come up with is very simple. I love them so much, and I could never abandon them. My greatest wish has always been to raise a happy family and be the father that my son deserves. That is why people return.”
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Kenneth Polite, has the power to drop the charges against Diaz-Castro, Lara-Serrano, and Manzanares. He also has the power to stop further prosecutions of felony reentry charges. Instead, Polite has boosted his prosecution numbers by prosecuting 100% of the felony reentry cases referred to him by ICE, despite the agency’s track record of unconstitutional and racially based arrests.
By prioritizing the prosecution of felony reentry charges, the U.S. Attorney’s office criminalizes immigrant reconstruction workers, incarcerating and deporting family and community members.
On Thursday, September 1st, stand up against criminalization and incarceration of these community members: join the Congress of Day Laborers in telling local US Attorney Kenneth Polite to DROP THE CHARGES against these freedom fighters!
WHO: everyone (all ages welcome!)
WHERE: Lafayette Square (next to the US Attorney's office)
WHEN: Join us any time from Thursday Sep. 1st at 2 pm to Friday Sep. 2nd at 2 pm
PRESS CONFERENCE: Thursday, September 1st at 2 pm