Archive for the ‘Immigrant Rights’ Category

Commemorating Hispanic Heritage Month: A Personal Anecdote

Posted on October 7th, 2013 by

ERC Staff

ERC staff at our 30th anniversary event (from left to right—Snehee Khandeshi, Stephanie Gonzalez, former staffer Ian Watlington, and Maria Emma del Toro).

By Stephanie Gonzalez, ERC Immigrant Rights Program Manager

Heritage is a word that I’ve never quite fully understood. Perhaps this is because I come from an Ethnic Studies educational background, where the concepts of culture being “socially constructed” and in a constant state of “fluidity” have challenged any notion of something actually belonging to me by right of birth. As I sit here with several invitations for Hispanic Heritage events looming on my calendar, I can’t help but think of what my Hispanic heritage has meant to me. For many individuals born in the United States, whose parents left their country of origin to pursue a better life in America, a discussion of heritage would be amiss without acknowledgement of the challenges their parents faced to start a new life in the land of opportunity.  Heritage is not just colorful flags, finger-licking foods, boisterous music, and flashy costumes celebrating cultural traditions. Heritage is the journey.  Heritage is the strife, the sweat, and the tears. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Immigrant Rights
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Reflecting on 9/11: Freedom and Equality for All

Posted on September 11th, 2013 by

On a clear September morning twelve years ago, our lives were forever changed. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, some even began to look at other Americans as “the enemy,” based on their religion, national origin, or descent. Many began to second guess their neighbor, their local salesclerk, and even their friends. But, even beyond the devastation of the day, September 11, 2001, brought many unintended consequences – including increased discrimination.

The United States was founded on cultural differences, but at times this seems to be forgotten, and the stain of discrimination is allowed to grow. As evidenced by recent events such as the rise of anti-immigrant laws, shootings at Sikh temples, and the profiling of young black men like Trayvon Martin, discrimination occurs in every corner of the United States. Whether you live in urban, suburban or rural America, discrimination exists.

The Equal Rights Center (ERC) is committed to addressing this discrimination, and promoting equal opportunity for all.  Through an array of outreach events, informational materials available in seven languages, and published reports documenting our testing investigations, the ERC works to connect with all sectors of the community – and we assist individuals who encounter discrimination every day.

Today, as we reflect upon and honor those lost in the attacks–and the thousands more who continue to fight for our freedom – let us remember the American tenets of freedom and equality for all.

If you interested in learning how you can help to be the “change you want to see in this world” – learn more about how to get involved to help eradicate discrimination. 

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Immigrant Rights
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Chasing the Dream

Posted on August 28th, 2013 by

Lincoln MemorialBy Grant Beck, ERC Communications and Outreach Associate

It’s a cloudless, sweltering day in August. Washington, D.C., is buzzing. The concrete of the Lincoln Memorial glows in the blistering sunshine. The Reflecting Pool is transformed from the image of a solitary monolith into a diverse sea of faces. More than one hundred thousand people from all walks of life have gathered at the feet of The Great Emancipator. Some wear buttons and pins. Many carry signs. All have a message. The mass is frustrated. Frustrated at a distinct lack of equality in this “land of opportunity.” Frustrated at a lack of jobs in their neighborhoods and cities. Frustrated at violence within, and against, their communities. Frustrated at the seemingly endless economic gap that separates them from the wealthiest Americans. They have come here to find a voice. A unified voice that speaks to the issues they face every day. A voice that assures them that they too have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Except, the year is not 1963. The year is 2013, fifty years after Dr. King boldly told the country of his dream for America. A dream that, it seems for now, remains just that. A dream.

On August 24, the National Action Network (NAN) led a rally and march from the Lincoln Memorial in honor of the famous March on Washington that took place in the nation’s capital 50 years ago. NAN collaborated with a highly diverse selection of organizations and advocacy groups for the daylong event, which included high-profile speakers, performers and civil rights icons, and concluded in a mass exodus from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument.

More than 100,000 people traveled to the nation’s capital to commemorate the anniversary. From families with small children, to individuals who attended the original march in 1963, people came with hand-made signs, folding chairs, blankets and banners to celebrate one of the seminal events of the 20th century. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Disability Rights, Fair Employment, Fair Housing, Government Services, Immigrant Rights, LBGT Rights
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Investigation Uncovers Housing Discrimination against Latinos in Three Major Metropolitan Areas

Posted on July 19th, 2013 by

Report CoverAs congressional leaders in Washington debate legislation to reform the plagued U.S. immigration system, discrimination against immigrants and Latino citizens continues to prevail on the home front.

Today, the ERC and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) —the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—unveiled the results of a testing-based investigation documenting adverse and differential treatment against prospective Latino renters and homebuyers in Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia; and San Antonio, Texas.

The report, titled “Puertas Cerradas: Housing Barriers for Hispanics,” documents the results of 225 matched-pair tests conducted by the ERC in the three major U.S. metropolitan areas. In 95 of the 225 tests conducted (42 percent), the Latino tester experienced at least one form of adverse, differential treatment as compared to their counterpart white tester.

“While the FHA expressly prohibits discrimination based on national origin, this discrimination has not gone away, and in today’s highly charged political climate, it has gotten worse,” said Don Kahl, Executive Director of the ERC.  “This report and its underlying testing clearly show that the Latino community continues to be targeted. It is critical that the community is informed about how to identify and report incidents of discrimination, and that [the community] knows that there are advocates, like the ERC, to help them maneuver through the process.”

Some of the differential treatment experienced by Latino testers included: (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Fair Housing, Immigrant Rights
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Thank you.

Posted on May 3rd, 2013 by

Award presentation

Rabbi Bruce Kahn presents an award to retiring Board President James G. Macdonell. Both men were founding members of the ERC.

Thank you for making the Equal Rights Center’s 30th anniversary such a success. Thank you for being a valued partner. Thank you for being an advocate. Thank you for any role that you play in the daunting task of ending discrimination and advancing equality for ALL.

It is difficult to believe that a small local fair housing organization, founded by five inter-faith religious leaders from diverse backgrounds working out of a borrowed office, would become one of the most dynamic, multifaceted national civil rights organizations in the country.

Today, the ERC promotes equal opportunity in housing, employment, and access to public accommodations and government services while being an invaluable resource for many individuals, advocacy groups, government agencies, housing developers, architectural firms, restaurateurs, and other businesses and corporations. Reflecting the growth from the ERC’s founding,, our 30th anniversary brought together individuals and entities from all facets of the ERC’s current efforts.

The ERC’s success and our work are impossible without our members and our partners. You serve as the eyes and ears of the ERC, letting us know when and where discrimination is happening and being part of the proactive efforts to promote equal opportunity. With your help, the ERC now has 6,000 members in all 50 states, more than 300 civil rights testers, and programs dedicated to making a national impact advancing fair housing, fair employment, disability rights, immigrant rights, and LGBT rights. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Corporate Partnerships and Training, Disability Rights, Fair Employment, Fair Housing, Government Services, Immigrant Rights, LBGT Rights, Source of Income, Testing
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Immigration Reform—A Long Overdue Change

Posted on February 6th, 2013 by

Happy Latino FamilyLast week, the seemingly intractable problems in our immigration system finally received significant political attention. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators, unofficially titled the “gang of 8”, announced a framework for immigration reform. A day later, President Obama endorsed the Senators’ efforts and unveiled his administration’s similar framework for immigration reform. The broader framework of both plans reveals the same goals: (1) developing a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented individuals currently living in the U.S. and contributing to the economy and culture; (2) improving the process to enter the country legally for qualified people seeking work; (3) strengthening the employment verification process and cracking down on employers who hire undocumented workers; and (4) tightening border security.

The details of these proposed immigration reforms need to be ironed out, and any final legislation will undoubtedly not fully appease either side of the immigration debate. However, this starting point for discussion, and an apparent commitment from leaders in both political parties, is a positive first step towards providing stability for the 11 million individuals, and millions more family members directly impacted by the issue—and will also bring us a step closer toward equal opportunity for all. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Immigrant Rights
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Cashing Out

Posted on January 17th, 2013 by

by Grant Beck, Communications and Outreach Assistant 

We all eventually come to terms with the reality that living in America is expensive. Little did we realize how expensive it is to keep people from living in America.

A recent report released by the non-partisan Washington-based Migration Policy Institute reveals that in 2012 the U.S. government spent more money on federal immigration enforcement than any other federal enforcement activities. And the numbers aren’t even close. According to the report, the federal government spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement in 2012, 24 percent more that than it spent for the FBI, the DEA, the Secret Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the ATF combined.

The report provides an exhaustive insight into America’s immigration enforcement efforts. Since 1986, when Immigration Reform and Control Act’s passage marked the beginning of the modern immigration enforcement era, the U.S. has spent $186.8 billion ($219.1 billion adjusted to 2012 dollars) on immigration enforcement. In addition to the mind-baffling financial statistics surrounding immigration enforcement, the human toll of this enforcement is staggering. Since 1990, an estimated 4 million “noncitizens” have been removed from American soil. And less than half of those are “removed following hearings and pursuant to formal removal orders from immigration judges.” In 2011, the average daily population of noncitizens detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was 33,330. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Immigrant Rights
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Immigrant Rights Movement: A take on the fight for citizenship in America

Posted on January 11th, 2013 by

By Leah Danville, ERC Communications Intern

Happy Latino FamilyAs an African-American, with half of my family emigrating from Jamaica, my family has endured the struggle for civil rights all while trying to build a life in American society. Despite full citizenship, both sides of my family have struggled to be treated as “Americans.”  This leads me to ask the question; what defines an American?

More than 60 years ago, African-Americans rallied in this nation’s largest civil rights movement to be accepted as having equal rights as Americans. To this day, the struggle for equal rights continues, for people of color generally and even more so for people who want to become Americans but do not yet have citizenship.

In 2010, an estimated 11.2 million undocumented immigrants resided in the United States, accounting for approximately four percent of the nation’s population and five percent of its workforce. Yet many immigrants, regardless of legal status, face discrimination at every turn. Earlier this year, the state of Arizona began enforcing its controversial “show me your papers” law, which allows law enforcement officials to check the immigration status of individuals detained for misdemeanors or crimes. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott an effort purportedly intended to purge non-citizens from voter rolls targeted minority voters and led to American citizens being disenfranchised. This type of racial profiling and bigotry threatens the diverse framework that helped build America. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Immigrant Rights
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We Speak Your Language

Posted on December 12th, 2012 by

African American womanTeanaste’lle’n, amarenya techelallueh?

If someone asked you this question, would you know how to answer?  Would you even know what language the person was speaking?

According to the Migration Policy Institute, in 2010, more than 25 million people in the U.S. had limited English proficiency (LEP), accounting for nine percent of the nation’s population.  LEP individuals are among the most targeted for discrimination, in part because of their limited access to information and resources, and general biases against immigrants.

Federal agencies, and organizations that receive federal funds, are required to ensure that LEP and non-English proficient (NEP) individuals have meaningful access to their services, in order to comply with Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act.  Most federal agencies have a “LEP plan,” detailing their efforts to provide language access, as well as basic materials on their website in multiple languages.

Language access is a critical component of fair housing. No one should be denied housing, required to pay more rent, or otherwise be subject to different terms because they have limited English language skills.  Where feasible, housing providers and managers should have some way to communicate in the primary language of their tenants.  Translators and language line services are available to provide this service, and should be arranged at the cost of the housing provider. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Immigrant Rights
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A DREAM Act Deferred

Posted on October 22nd, 2012 by

Swearing In CeremonyBy Tara Schmitt, ERC Civil Rights Intern

Millions of individuals watched the first two presidential debates in hopes to become more informed about each candidate’s stance on many topics.  Yet, one topic that is critically important has been sidestepped so far in the debates: immigration reform.  For thousands of young people directly impacted by this issue, the DREAM Act, which was one vote shy of passage in Congress this year, provided a glimmer of hope. The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is a bipartisan bill that would provide an opportunity for people without documentation who were brought to the United States as children by their parents to gain citizenship. Candidates for the DREAM Act would need to complete at least two years in either the military or an institution of higher learning, and prove residency in order to qualify.

I have seen first-hand the positive impact that the DREAM Act could make.  During my work with the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, a labor union for migrant farmworkers in North Carolina, I visited numerous labor camps and spoke with both documented and undocumented workers. During one visit, I arrived to find the camp deserted; the workers had gone to the fields to get an early start on planting. The only people remaining were a young woman and her infant son. “Maria” was busy trying to cook a meal for all 20 of the workers, as well as comfort her crying baby. After chatting with her I discovered that she was my age, 21, and had spent almost all of her childhood in the United States.

Excelling in math in high school, Maria was accepted into a university and offered a scholarship.  When the university learned about her legal status, however, the scholarship was revoked.  She was deemed ineligible to receive any other type of financial aid and unable to afford tuition out of pocket.  Her college dreams ended. (more…)

Categorized as Advocacy, Civil Rights, Immigrant Rights
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