Immigrants Rights

San Diego Sued for Destroying Property of Homeless People

December 2, 2009

The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties sued the city of San Diego for intentionally destroying homeless people's property--including family photos and medication--while individuals sought services at a local church and homeless shelter. The suit alleges that during three incidents in September and October police and city environmental service workers threw the homeless people's possessions into a garbage truck, even after the owners, who saw what was occuring, tried to stop the destruction of their property.

In a similar case in Fresno, a federal judge in July 2008 approved a $2.35 million class action settlement for homeless residents of Fresno.  The judge had earlier ruled that the city of Fresno and the state Department of Transportation had violated the homeless residents' constitutional rights by seizing and destroying their property.

California has a long history of criminalizing poverty. In 1855, for example, the legislature passed the so-called "Greaser Law," which allowed for up to 90 days of hard labor for "the issue of Spanish and Indian blood . . .  who can give no good account of themselves." In 1936, Los Angeles police chief James Davis sent 135 LAPD officers to California's borders to turn back migrants who had no money or jobs.

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And in other news from San Diego, human rights activists protested the lack of adequate safety features in a portion of the All-American Canal where immigrants frequently cross into the U.S.  According to one of the activists, about 600 people have drowned in the canal since it was built more than 40 years ago. In late 1994, the federal government instituted "Operation Gatekeeper," a program to beef up the border control infrastructure near San Diego and to push the flow of immigrants further east to more isolated and dangerous areas.  A report issued in late September 2009 by Mexico's Human Rights Commission and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties revealed that despite a 50% drop in the number of immigrants caught illegally entering the U.S. near the border with Mexico, the number of people who died while attempting to cross the border increased in 2009 to the highest level since 2006.  According to the report, since 1994, the rate of deaths along the 2,000 mile U.S-Mexico border has been one a day.

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The ACLU sued the city of San Diego for intentionally destroying the property of homeless people.

Apex Express

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Date: 
October 24, 2009

Listen to KPFA's Apex Express – Asian Pacific Islander Expressions broadcast Stan Yogi reading excerpts from Wherever There's a Fight at a program at Berkeley's Eastwind Bookstore.

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Governor Acts on Civil Liberties Bills

October 2, 2012

Facing a September 30 deadline to decide on proposed legislation, Governor Brown took action on several civil liberties-related bills impacting workers, immigrants, LGBT youth, clergy, and the criminal justice system.

Workers:  He vetoed a bill that would have provided labor protections like overtime pay and meal breaks for domestic workers.  He also vetoed proposals allowing farmworkers to sue employers who deprive them of water and shade.

Immigrants:  The governor vetoed a bill that would have prohibited local law enforcement agencies from detaining individuals for suspected immigration violations unless accused of a violent or serious crime. He approved legislation allowing undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children to obtain driver's licenses.

LGBT Youth: Governor Brown signed legislation prohibiting psychotherapists from discredited efforts designed to change a young person's sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Religion: He signed a bill clarifying that no clergy members would be forced to perform marriages that run contrary to their religous beliefs.

Criminal Justice:  The governor approved a bill allowing approximately 300 prisoners, issued life sentences as juveniles, the opportunity to appeal for shorter prison terms.

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In the final two days before a legislative deadline, Governor Brown signed and vetoed numerous bills impacting civil liberties

Hundreds of Immigrants Detained for Months in Southern California

May 20, 2010

More than 350 immigrants in Southern California fighting deportation have been held in detention for more than six months according to records released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials as part of a class action lawsuit.

The ACLU of Southern California sought the list of detainees in its efforts to secure hearings to determine whether immigrants held for six months or longer can be released from government custody while their cases are pending.

Many of the immigrants covered by the lawsuit are seeking political asylum, and some have been detained for years.

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During the early 20th century, federal officials detained thousands of Chinese immigrants in detention facilities (pictured here) on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay.

Between 1910 and 1940, more than 500,000 immigrants from China, Japan, India, Korea, the Philippines, Mexico, and Russia passed through Angel Island. 

Because of rabid anti-Chinese sentiment, federal immigration laws, most notably the 1882 Chinese Exculsion Act, severely restricted immigration from China. Thousands of Chinese defied the exclusion laws. 

The 1906 San Francisco earthquake created an unusual opportunity for Chinese immigrants. The temblor and subsequent fire destroyed many government documents, including birth certificates. Since the children of U.S. citizens were exempt from exclusion, many Chinese immigrants took advantage of the destruction of official records to enter the U.S. using false documents and claiming that they were the children of U.S. citizens.

Immigration officers detained more than 100,000 Chinese immigrants on Angel Island, where they were subject to interrogations to determine whether they were trying to enter the country illegally. 

Many Chinese immigrants were held for weeks or months while they awaited and underwent rigorous questioning. Some of them carved and wrote poems onto walls of the detention center.

The immigration station was closed after a 1940 fire, and Angel Island became a state park. In 1970, Alexander Weiss, a park ranger, discovered the poems on the walls of the abandoned detention center. The discovery led to the preservation of the immigration station, which is now a national historic landmark.

ACLU of Southern California obtains names of more than 350 immigrants detained for six months or longer while they challenge deportation. Many are seeking asylum.

Immigrants' Rights: 1790

Congress passes a law limiting naturalization to "free white persons."

Early California, Immigrants' Rights: 1850

Foreign Miners’ Tax of $20 a month is levied to discourage Latino miners. The tax is repealed in 1851.

Early California, Immigrants' Rights: 1852

Chinese MinersChinese MinersForeign Miners’ Tax revived with the clear intention that it be applied only to Chinese miners.

Early California, Immigrants' Rights: 1862

To discourage Chinese immigration and competition from Chinese workers, the legislature levies the “Chinese Police Tax” of $2.50 per month on almost all Chinese immigrants.

In Lin Sing v. Washburn, the California Supreme Court invalidates the “Chinese Police Tax,” ruling that the state had overstepped its authority and legislated in an area - foreign commerce - that is the exclusive sphere of the federal government. This was the first case in which a Chinese immigrant legally challenged a state law as a violation of a federal law or the United States Constitution.

Early California, Immigrants' Rights, Race: 1870

Congress passes the Civil Rights Act to protect freed slaves, but it includes provisions to ensure the right of Chinese immigrants to testify in court and prohibits state and local governments from imposing discriminatory taxes, licenses, or penalties on Chinese.

San Francisco passes the “Cubic Air” ordinance requiring every lodging house to provide at least 500 cubic feet of air per inhabitant. Though many overcrowded buildings exist in poor areas of San Francisco, this ordinance is enforced only in Chinatown. Many violators serve jail time rather than pay fines, so the city passes the “Queue” ordinance, requiring that male prisoners’ hair be cut to an inch of their scalps, as a means to force Chinese to pay fines.

Ho Ah Kow successfully sues to overturn the “queue” ordinance after his queue is cut off in jail. This was the first federal case to rule clearly that the Fourteenth Amendment applies to noncitizens.

San Francisco supervisors pass the “Sidewalk Ordinance of 1870,” imposing the highest laundry license fee (more than 7 times the lowest fee) on laundries that do not use horse-drawn vehicles. The law targets Chinese laundrymen, who carry finished laundry to their customers on poles as they walk through the streets. Over the next 14 years, San Francisco passes other ordinances restricting the operation of laundries.

Eary California, Criminal Justice, Immigrants Rights, Race: 1871

In the worst mass lynching in California history, a mob of white and Latino vigilantes murders 19 Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles after gunfire between two rival Chinese syndicates kills a white rancher.

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