HEADLINES: Immigration

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The ACLU and other advocates say four citizens have been detained illegally in the last few months through the Secure Communities fingerprint-sharing program. The four citizens were initially detained after arrests for such things as shoplifting but were kept in custody for additional days because of requests by immigration authorities. The Secure Communities program was initially touted as a way to target serious convicts for deportation but has come under fire because a large percentage of immigrants caught up in the program were never convicted of a crime or are low-level offenders. There is also growing evidence that the program ensnares U.S. citizens. Although the exact number of U.S. citizens detained on immigration holds is not known, a study published earlier this year by researchers at UC Berkeley found that citizens made up 1.6% of Secure Communities cases analyzed. [LA Times]

The Justice Department on Thursday accused a controversial Arizona sheriff known for tough immigration enforcement of widespread discrimination against Hispanics, saying Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s department illegally detained Hispanic residents and denied them critical services in jail. Arpaio, the longtime sheriff in Maricopa County, oversaw a pattern of unconstitutional conduct that targeted Hispanics and retaliated against others who criticized the practices, the department said in an investigative report. Justice officials were unsparing in their criticism of Arpaio. Once seen as a quirky figure who has inmates dress in pink underwear and forces them to work on chain gangs, Arpaio has in recent years become a kind of folk hero to those who favor his heavily publicized “crime sweeps,” mostly in Hispanic neighborhoods. But civil rights groups have long accused America’s self-styled “toughest sheriff” of racial profiling, and the Justice Department agreed. Its investigation, which has lasted more than three years and is continuing, found civil violations which could lead to court-enforced reforms. Arpaio has also been under criminal investigation by a federal grand jury in Phoenix, sources familiar with the inquiry have said. [Washington Post]

After months of hassles in local government offices, Alabama Republican Governor Robert Bentley and lawmakers have promised to revisit the anti-immigration measure that Bentley signed on June 9 and empowered police to detain people lacking documents when stopped for a traffic violation. Alabama, which census data last year showed was 3.9 percent Hispanic, compared with 16.3 percent nationwide, is among five states that passed immigration laws modeled on Arizona’s tough 2010 statute.The decision testified to the influence of hometown politicians like Kim Hastie, the first-term Republican license commissioner, and demonstrated how interwoven America’s 10.2 million illegal immigrants have become in the larger society. [Business Week]

Catholic sisters in Iowa and other states are launching a campaign using billboards, posters and prayer to provoke discussion on immigration. (Sisters of Humility)

Catholic sisters from ten religious communities in Iowa and neighboring states kicked off a campaign on Monday that ties the words of Jesus to a more open view on immigration. Media for the campaign will come in the form of posters and billboards across the state featuring a Bible verse, or at least a modern take on one. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” reads Matthew 25:35. On the media, however, the words “a stranger” are crossed out with the words “an immigrant” scrawled in their place. The posters and billboards will be seen in Des Moines, Dubuque Cedar Rapids, Sioux City, Clinton and the Quad Cities. The sisters are also coordinating prayer services in those cities as part of the effort. [Des Moines Register]

More than 30 Latino bishops of the U.S. Roman Catholic church, including Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez, have released a joint letter directly addressing undocumented immigrants and renewing their pledge to work for immigration law reform. The letter, which acknowledged the suffering illegal immigrants face in coming to the U.S. and noted the difficult jobs, low wages and deportation of family members that the immigrants may face, called them a “revitalizing force” for the United States. [LA Times]

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