ACLU Honors NW Immigrant Rights Project, Pasco Activists, Student Poet

Thursday, November 5, 2015
The ACLU-WA is honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to civil liberties: the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project for its long history of defending civil liberties; Consejo Latino and Tri-Cities Community Solutions, two organizations that have mobilized community response to the police killing of a Mexican man in Pasco; and student activist Acacia Salisbury, who has used poetry to speak out against injustice. The awards will be presented at the ACLU’s Bill of Rights Dinner being held on Saturday night, November 7 at Union Station.

The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) is receiving the William O. Douglas Award, the ACLU’s lifetime achievement award, for its three decades of work to ensure that our legal system enforces the guarantees of the Bill of Rights to all people in America, citizens and non-citizens alike. NWIRP provides direct legal assistance in immigration matters to over 10,000 low-income people from 150 countries each year. Without this assistance, many of their clients would face deportation back to countries where they could be tortured or killed. In addition, NWIRP pushes for systemic change through impact litigation, public policy advocacy, and community education.

“NWIRP’s work has not only had a profound impact on the lives of tens of thousands of individuals but also has affected immigration law at the national and regional level,” said ACLU-WA board president Jean Robinson.

Over the years, NWIRP has won many important legal victories for just treatment of immigrants, Notable recent examples include our joint 2012 case Sanchez v. Homeland Security, a class action lawsuit challenging the Border Patrol’s practice of stopping vehicles on the Olympic Peninsula and interrogating occupants about their immigration status without legal justification. The Border Patrol agreed to provide training on the Constitution to agents in Port Angeles, provide reports documenting vehicle stops for 18 months, and affirm its commitment to comply with the Fourth Amendment. And in 2013, NWIRP and the ACLU-WA gained a favorable ruling in Ramirez-Rangel v. Kitsap County, in which the Court found that the Washington Constitution forbids local law enforcement officers from prolonging a detention to investigate or question an individual’s immigration status, citizenship status, and/or national origin.

Receiving the Civil Libertarian Award for recent contributions to the cause of civil liberties and justice are two organizations that have been driving forces in respond to the fatal police shooting of a Mexican man who was throwing rocks in Pasco last February: Consejo Latino and Tri-Cities Community Solutions.

Consejo Latino was founded in 2014 to champion economic development for Hispanic-owned businesses, promote cross-cultural understanding, and advocate politically on issues of concern in multi-cultural Pasco. The group has worked to bridge the cultural and language gap between the Pasco police and the largely Hispanic community they serve.

In the wake of the killing of Antonio Zambrano-Montes, Consejo took a leading role in organizing the community response, coordinating peaceful street protests with other groups and reaching out to state and federal officials as well as the media to keep the spotlight on the local police force and investigation. They’ve pushed for a credible, independent investigation into the shooting, and aim to establish a commission to pursue meaningful reforms to the way the police deal with mental health, language barriers and culture. Consejo leadership has met with Washington’s senators and representatives of the Dept. of Justice, and has spoken before a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights forum on police use of force.

Tri-Cities Community Solutions (TCCS) grew out of Occupy Tri-Cities, adopting a new name as they organized in response to the Zambrano-Montes shooting. They advocate for accountability with regard to civil rights violations; focus on implementing reforms to resolve the root causes of violence; and work to build a community safety net so people have access to the necessities of life. TCCS organized multiple peaceful protests and marches to protest the shooting, including a 14-mile march across the Tri-Cities; requested 911 recordings and video of the shooting, which were subsequently released; and regularly has spoken out against the injustices of the criminal justice system in Eastern Washington.

Acacia Salisbury, an 18-year-old activist and artist who has shown a deep commitment to civil rights and has been eloquent in speaking out against injustice, is receiving the Youth Activist Award. She has a long history of participating in the civil rights and justice movement, having attended rallies from a young age and performed her poetry at Black Lives Matter events. Throughout high school she worked as an intern with Youth Speaks Seattle, hosting open mic events. Acacia graduated from Forest Ridge Academy in Bellevue this year and is now attending Agnes Scott College in Atlanta.

Acacia is an accomplished poet who addresses complex social issues, including women’s rights and oppression, rape, the struggle of black youth to succeed, and stereotyped ideals of beauty. She represented Seattle in the International Youth Poetry Slam Festival. This past year she served as co-president of the Seattle Young People’s Project (SYPP), a youth-led social justice organization that empowers youth to express themselves and take action on the issues that affect their lives. Under her leadership, SYPP produced and participated in a young women’s conference as well as political education workshops dealing with issues of racism, homophobia, and youth organizing.