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Immigrant Rights Activist
Update 4/28:Audio interview with hunger striker at Port Isabel - One of the detainees on hunger strike - Rama Carty - spoke to the Observer by phone on Friday about how he has been detained by ICE for more than 13 months.
At the time, Carty never imagined he'd be shipped to seven detention facilities around the country. or that he'd help organize hunger strikes in South Texas' Port Isabel Detention center, 2,000 miles from his Boston home.
Or that he would inspire an Amnesty International investigation into human rights abuses by the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But immigrant justice in the U.S. is full of surprises. Carty was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1970. His Haitianborn parents worked there as middle-school teachers. The following year, they moved to the United States, where they also taught. Carty's mother became a U.S. citizen. When he was 16, she petitioned for her son to become a citizen as well. The immigration agency, Carty says, did not process his paperwork before he turned 18. At that point, he needed to start his citizenship claim over as an adult. For one reason and another, like many legal residents, he never did. He didn't know how much it might matter someday. Like many legal residents, Carty assumed he had the same constitutional rights as a citizen by virtue of his legal status and longtime residence. When he left prison in Maine after serving two years for trafficking and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, he found out differently. Immigration-reform measures passed in 1996 made Carty subject to mandatory detention and deportation by ICE after he had served his criminal sentence. "I figured I could get bond and work to reverse the drug charges," says Carty, who claimed all along he was innocent. Under that policy, Carty probably would have been granted a bond and been given an immigration court date to determine whether he would be deported. But critics of "catch and release" had long complained that too many immigrants were skipping out on their court dates. As the 2006 debate over immigration reform grew toxic in congress, the Bush administration announced a new policy designed to placate reform opponents: "catch and detain." The number of detention beds across the country quickly multiplied as the Department of Homeland Security tripled its budget for detention and deportation to $1.9 billion in 2007. ICE began detaining and deporting more legal residents for misdemeanors and crimes of "moral turpitude," a long list of offenses that runs the gamut from shoplifting to murder. By 2008, the year ICE deemed Carty a criminal alien, the agency had become the largest jailer in the nation, housing more than 378,000 immigrants in more than 300 private or federally run facilities. The criminalization of immigration has become so prevalent that it has its own buzzword: "crimmigration." Like other legal residents swept up in the crack down, Carty found that once he landed in the immigrant detention system, he had no constitutional right to court-appointed counsel. He was herded into a small courtroom in Maine with five other men for his first deportation hearing: a videoconference with a judge that took a few minutes per detainee. "I didn't have an attorney," he says. "I had no documents on my immigration case history. I'd never been to Haiti in my life, and Congo didn't recognize me as a citizen." So Carty was put in leg irons, with handcuffs anchored to his waist, and marched onto a government-chartered plane with other immigrants-some undocumented, some legal residents like himself. They were flown to Massachusetts, where Carty was locked up in the second of seven detention facilities he'd experience. Carty's story is hardly unusual: on average, 52 percent of ICE detainees-whether legal residents or illegal immigrants-are transferred at least once before they are released or deported, according to a study by the nonprofit Transactional Records Access clearing House. Each time Carty was transferred to a new detention center, his fiancée and family were unaware of his whereabouts until he gained phone privileges. Each transfer also meant several additional weeks in detention while he waited for a new immigration judge to set a court hearing. "It was very dehumanizing," says Carty. "We have our lives invested here and have equity in this country, but there is no consideration for us at all." IN DECEmbER 2008, Carty was shipped to his fifth detention center: Port Isabel, 24 miles northeast of Brownsville. "It seemed like we were being set up," Carty says. Taking matters into his own hands, Carty started studying immigration law in Port Isabel's meager law library. An official in charge of the library noticed his abilities and hired Carty at $1 a day to work there. He began to help other immigrants with their cases, including a man from Eritrea who'd been denied political asylum and was about to be deported. "I saw his face the day he got the order," Carty remembers. "He had the look of imminent death on his face. He had been tortured for two years in Eritrea, and he really thought he was going to die." Carty helped him challenge the deportation; the man was later released on a parole bond. The more Carty studied immigration law, the more he realized that many people were stuck in detention because they were poor and had no access to a lawyer. A recent report by Amnesty International found that 84 percent of immigrants in U.S. detention have no legal representation-either because they can't afford a lawyer or because they can't find one in the remote areas where most detention centers are located. Carty remained at Port Isabel for seven months. The detainees there, he says, were unusually desperate. one man from El Salvador, he says, had been detained for eight years while fighting deportation. Carty and a few others tried to reach out to local attorneys to help such detainees. They attracted some media attention, but nothing changed. One day, Carty says he was approached by two detainees who wanted to start a hunger strike. "We felt we had no other recourse," he says. "We were ready to stop eating to let people know how serious things were." Last April, at least 100 men at Port Isabel participated in that initial hunger strike. Carty didn't eat for a week. He relented after officials threatened to take away his access to the law library. "I would have crawled to that library to work on my case," he says. After the hunger strike had been broken-with its "ringleaders" transferred to other detention centers by ICE-Carty contacted Amnesty International. The human rights nonprofit had just released a report, "Jailed Without Justice," which found, among other problems, that many immigrants and legal residents were being held unlawfully in mandatory detention. Carty persuaded Amnesty to come to Port Isabel and investigate. On the second day of the Amnesty investigators' visit, Carty was preparing for his interview with them when two guards told him he was being transferred to Louisiana. Carty says he tried to get to the phone to notify Amnesty, but was beaten by the guards. "They made an example of me," he says. "They sent a very clear message that this is what will happen if you do something like setting up a meeting with Amnesty International." Carty was transferred that day. The next month he was indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of "assaulting, resisting, opposing, impeding, intimidating or interfering with" the two Port Isabel guards "in the performance of their official duties." Carty used his self-taught legal training to petition for a writ of habeas corpus and force his accusers to justify their charges. He argued that because neither Haiti nor Congo would accept him as a citizen, he could not be deported. on Dec. 22, after 21 months in the immigrant detention system, Carty was released when a judge granted his claim. Carty returned briefly to Boston, where he was reunited with his family and fiancée. Now he is back in South Texas to stand trial for allegedly assaulting the Port Isabel guards. What it doesn't show, Hajjar says, is Carty assaulting the guards. While awaiting trial in February, Carty joined several Texas nonprofits in launching a "Dignity Not Detention" campaign to raise awareness about mandatory detention policies, lack of legal representation for detainees, and physical and verbal abuse in ICE facilities. Download EmbedEmbed this video on your site Former Port Isabel detainee and hunger striker, Rama Carty, speaks with N.Y.-based reporter Renee Feltz about his ongoing human rights activism.
3/22 Mistrial for Immigrant Rights Activist Rama Carty
by Austin Indymedia, published to the Open Publishing Newswire: The trial of immigrant rights activist Rama Carty ended in a mistrial Friday afternoon (March 19th, 2010). Carty, who led hunger strikes last summer at the Port Isabel Detention Center in south Texas, was being charged with assaulting immigrant detention guards while being forceably hand-cuffed during a transfer to another detention center. Carty has consistently claimed that it was he, and not the officers, that was the victim of the assault in the incident. The day before the alleged assault, Amnesty International visited Carty about the conditions at immigrant detention centers and the hunger strike in which Mr. Carty was participating with other detainees. Following this visit by Amnesty International, Immigration and Customs Enforcement transferred Rama Carty to another detention center in Jena, Louisiana. Rama Carty spoke with Austin Indymedia the night before the trial about why he believes the government has charges against him. The Federal Government has not announced yet if there will be a re-trial of Rama Carty for assault. Mr. Carty is currently fighting his deportation and speaking out against immigrant detention. [Read full story with video and audio] Rama Carty, Free to fight for Justice out of the confines of Detention. A27 6:02PM
Rama Carty, Free to fight for Justice out of the confines of Detention.
by Anayanse Garza of Southwest Worker' Union RGV Tuesday, Apr. 27, 2010 at 6:02 PM Rama Carty, Free to fight for Justice out of the confines of Detention. No one is free as long as racist bills like SB1070 are put into practice. The decision to dimiss the charges against Rama Carty were long over due and should never have been filed. But it was his punishment for publicly defending his rights and the rights of others. It is a victory for immigrants and families who have been retaliated against by ICE at detention facilities for hunger striking and denouncing and reporting abuses, the violation of human rights and civil liberties. Although some will say we do not have human or civil rights if we are immigrants, we will always find a way to have our rights recognized through awareness, change and building a community based social movement that empowers us to break the cycle of hate against marginalized sectors such as workers, immigrants, women, children, and all low wealth and people of color, etc. Rama Carty is a human rights/immigrant rights activist who was extremely vocal and was key to documenting various human rights abuse at the Port Isabel Detention Center for Immigrants. As a result he was targeted for retaliation and a quick deportation to Haiti (a country that does not claim him as a citizen) in the midst of a 2 day Amnesty International visit where detainees were interviewed. Rama Carty never wavered in his pursuit of justice and his struggle to denounce the abuse he and many others have faced by a system that has used its authority to discriminate, break and disappear people, separating them from their families and loved ones. As we look toward the state of hate in Arizona and the continued discrimination and militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border we know we are far from being free and that the struggle continues. Rama Carty was one of many immigrants who have carried on a hunger strike at the Port Isabel Detention Center and there are many others that continue that struggle who remain nameless.
Mistrial for Immigrant Rights Activist Rama Carty
Update on trials of immigrant rights activist Rama Carty. The trial of immigrant rights activist Rama Carty ended in a mistrial Friday afternoon (March 19th, 2010). Carty, who led hunger strikes last summer at the Port Isabel Detention Center in south Texas, was being charged with assaulting immigrant detention guards while being forceably hand-cuffed during a transfer to another detention center. Carty has consistently claimed that it was he, and not the officers, that was the victim of the assault in the incident. The day before the alleged assault, Amnesty International visited Carty about the conditions at immigrant detention centers and the hunger strike in which Mr. Carty was participating with other detainees. Following this visit by Amnesty International, Immigration and Customs Enforcement transferred Rama Carty to another detention center in Jena, Louisiana. Rama Carty spoke with Austin Imdymedia the night before the trial about why he believes the government has charges against him. View video clip posted on this article. (15 seconds) The Federal Government has not announced yet if there will be a re-trial of Rama Carty for assault. Mr. Carty is currently fighting his deportation and speaking out against immigrant detention. More information on the trial and Rama Carty from The Brownsville Herald and others: