A Letter from Javier N. Maldonado, NIPNLG Board Chair
November 29, 2017
I too am an immigrant. I still remember life on the outskirts of the city when I came to the U.S. in 1974. The anxiety and fear was palpableâ€“even for folks like me who had no real reason to fear. Just the climate of checkpoints, airports, being questioned, everyone trying to speak perfectly, and not be suspect. My family felt afraid.
Today brings a new, urgent fear under Trump...â€œShould I report this crime to the police?â€� â€œAre my fingerprints going to be used against me when I apply for a U-visa ...â€� â€œAm I in danger if I show up to my biometrics appointment?â€�
Today brings a new, urgent fear under Trump. I recognize the anxiety in my clients: â€œShould I report this crime to the police?â€� â€œAre my fingerprints going to be used against me when I apply for a U-visa [immigrant crime victim visa]?â€� â€œAm I in danger if I show up to my biometrics appointment?â€�
No one should be made to live in this sort of fear.
So at a time when the current Administration stands against everything I care about, especially immigrantsâ€™ rights, I stepped up my investment in the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) as board chair.
Let me tell you what NIPNLG is doing for immigrants.
In Minnesota, NIPNLG provided technical support to defend 8 Cambodian-American men slated for deportationâ€”all of whom came to Minnesota as child refugeesâ€”as part of the vibrant grassroots campaign to #ReleaseMN8.
Chamroeun Phan reunited with his daughter.
Chamroeun Phan just won his release after 387 days in immigration detention, the result of intense community advocacy, protests, vigils, and persuasive legal arguments; including by NIPNLG member Bruce Nestor, who worked tirelessly on Mr. Phanâ€™s case.
Chamroeun was detained over a year at taxpayer expense and faced separation from his family because of a simple mistake made by his lawyers in 2009. Too many other immigrants are similarly detained and deported because of harsh and arbitrary immigration laws that make all the difference between deportation and freedom.
The key lies in community mobilization and effective legal advocacy. Even under Trump, community organizing with strong legal savvy still wins the day.
In Chicago, NIPNLG is representing Wilmer Catalan-Ramirez, a disabled man targeted by ICE in a raid that left him severely injured. Our civil rights lawsuit seeks to hold accountable both U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Chicago Police Department (CPD), for the nightmarish chain of events that left Wilmer imprisoned, in severe physical pain and mental anguish, and fighting deportation.
CPDâ€™s sharing of its error-riddled â€œGang Databaseâ€� with ICE triggered these horrific events. While detained, Wilmer was denied medical and mental health care, and faced harassment and retaliation when he tried to secure it. No one should have to live like this.
Wilmer Catalan- Ramirezâ€™s son at a protest in Chicago.
Wilmer is a devoted father and a mechanic who has never belonged to a Chicago street gang. His case illustrates the extreme abuse of power under Trump. What happened to him is but one story. Our lawsuit is part of the solution to ending rogue ICE raids.
On September 12th, NIPNLG and its partners filed FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests at every single ICE field office across the U.S., to prevent ICE from acting with impunity. We demand information about planned dragnet operations, like the nationwide sweep dubbed Operation Mega.
We demand transparency: To know the agencyâ€™s policies and procedures for targeting and capturing individual immigrants. Like you, and thanks to your commitment, NIPNLG will not stand idly by while immigrants, who have families and communities, are treated like statistics and fugitives, filling private prisons for profit. Bold and effective campaigns are the key.
NIPNLG is investing in local collaborations and campaigns, and strategies to protect organizers against government retaliation. With your backing, immigrants are fighting back against raids, anti-sanctuary federal actions, local police-federal collusion, and biometric surveillance.
We have immigrantsâ€™ backs.
Immigrants are under vicious attack. But with you as our partner, we will fight back fiercely together with communities who deserve justice and dignity. Immigrant groups can count on NIPNLGâ€™s expert legal know-how to build community strength in the era of Trump.
Can we count on you?
Please stand with me, with NIPNLG, with immigrants, and against what Trump is doing to our communities, with a gift today. Your partnership is key to this urgent struggle.
I humbly ask you to consider matching my fall pledge of $1,000â€”in installments if necessaryâ€”as we strive to raise $100,000 from our support base this fall. Your donation goes directly into buttressing grassroots immigrant resistance, while strengthening the legal opposition. Can you match me?
Thank you. Your partnership is vital. To know you have our back.
Javier N. Maldonado
p.s. You can donate at www.nipnlg.org/donate. Please give generously. People like Chamroeun and Wilmer depend on it. Thank you for having the NIPNLGâ€™s back.