Our Right to be Here: Deportations and Identifications

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License Checkpoint this Spring in Norristown
License Checkpoint this Spring in Norristown

Every year Juntos supports over 300 families through moments of crisis, including deportations.  Not having a valid local identification or a driver’s license, when encountering local police at a traffic stop or in the community, is where many of our deportation cases begin.  In the almost twelve years since the founding of Juntos our community has fought back against thousands of deportations in the state of Pennsylvania that have broken apart our families and have left many young people without one or both parents to support them. That is why Juntos community leaders have identified deportations as the number one issue to address and ultimately build power to ensure the end of policies and practices that separate our families.

Just this past year, through the dedicated involvement of Juntos leaders, we were able to secure a huge victory in Norristown, PA to end the practice of local police working with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) at traffic checkpoints for driver’s licenses.  It was here that the intersections of deportations and identification were made glaringly apparent when we heard story after story of families torn apart because a family member was pulled over and, because of not having a driver’s license, then entered into deportation proceedings.  We have also had similar instances in Philadelphia of individuals who entered into deportation proceedings because on traffic stops or accidents.  Many times we have been witness to deportations starting because of interaction with local police and lack of identification.  There have been numerous cases of individuals who have been booked into custody for either having no ID or for showing their country of origin’s ID, which leads to questions pertaining to immigration status, even though the city of Philadelphia has a directive for police to not ask these questions.

That is why in Juntos we see the issue of addressing lack of local identification and driver’s licenses directly connected to the work we do to stop deportations just as much as we see the need for immigration reform policies that prioritizes ending the deportation machine and the ending of policies like Secure Communities and the voluntary practice of ICE holds that decimate our communities’ right to due process.

Several years ago, when thousands of immigrant Pennsylvanians were illegally stripped of their legally obtained driver’s licenses by Penndot, Juntos was there with the leaders who fought back.  Six of these brave individuals made it to the PA Supreme Court and fought back in a landmark case to keep their licenses; and won. Just this year state legislation was introduced, due to the diligent work of hundreds of leaders from across the state of Pennsylvania (from Philadelphia, Norristown, Easton, and Allentown to name a few) to pass an unmarked driver’s license in Pennsylvania.  Many other states have already passed similar legislation targeted at building trust between immigrant communities and different municipalities.  At the same time, a Municipal ID Bill was introduced in the city of Philadelphia that, if passed, will help thousands of Philadelphians, including young people, the elderly and immigrants, to access necessary & vital resources.

For all of these reasons, we stand in solidarity with all of the leaders who see the need to fight for our human right to remain with our families and our right to be here, in the place we call home. Juntos will continue to fight, just as we encourage all of our community to do so, on issues that our community deems as vital and important and to ending deportations by addressing the root causes of our struggle so we may live the lives we are all meant to live; dignified ones.

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