Immigrant Rights News -- Mon, Oct. 2, 2006
Immigrant Rights News -- Mon, Oct. 2, 2006
Please note: if this is the first you receive IRN -- or are receiving it sporadically -- and would like to continue receiving it, please reply with your address and contact info. IRN is sent 1 to 5 times per week.
1. New York Times: "Wait Ends for Father and Son Exiled by F.B.I. Terror Inquiry"
2. New York Times: "Senate Passes Bill on Building Border Fence"
3. Washington Post, Commentary by Ariel Dorfman: "Are We Really So Fearful?
4. Washington Post, Commentary by Tariq Ramadan: "Why I'm Banned in the USA"
5. Sun Herald: "Police mostly hands-off in immigration issues"
6. Houston Chronicle: "HPD revising its immigration policy. Changes taking effect this week will help feds nab criminals here illegally"
7. Belleville News Democrat: (On Elvira Arellano struggle against deportation) "Immigration activist responds to judge's denial"
New York Times
October 2, 2006
Wait Ends for Father and Son Exiled by F.B.I. Terror Inquiry
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 1 - Two American citizens of Pakistani descent returned to the United States on Sunday, five months after they were denied permission to fly home to California unless they submitted to an interrogation by F.B.I. terrorism investigators.
The men, Muhammad Ismail, 45, and his son, Jaber, 19, of the Northern California farming town of Lodi, returned from Pakistan on a flight that landed at Kennedy Airport in New York around 3:30 p.m. Eastern time. They were scheduled to arrive in California on Sunday night or early Monday on a connecting flight, their lawyer said Sunday.
The Ismails are an uncle and cousin of Hamid Hayat, a Lodi man who was convicted in April in federal court of providing material support to terrorists. Mr. Hayat told investigators he had attended a terrorism training camp during a long stay in Pakistan and intended to carry out unspecified attacks in the United States. Mr. Hayat's father, Umer, was convicted on a lesser charge of lying to investigators about the amount of cash he carried to Pakistan on a 2003 trip, but a jury deadlocked on terrorism charges.
The Ismails were not charged in the case. They attributed their predicament to being related to the Hayats, the only people to have been charged in what federal prosecutors have described as an investigation into possible terrorism links in Lodi.
Julia Harumi Mass of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, who is representing the Ismails, said the pair had no terrorism connections. In a complaint in August to the Department of Homeland Security, she urged the authorities to explain any accusations against them and why they had been denied permission to fly home.
Legal experts said the matter raised questions about balancing terrorism investigations against American citizens' right to travel freely without having been charged with a crime or detained as a suspect.
On Sept. 6, nearly a month after Ms. Mass's complaint, the Homeland Security Department notified her in a letter and telephone call that unspecified records had been modified "to address any delay or denial boarding" the pair had encountered. Ms. Mass said she took that to mean they were cleared to fly, and the Ismails arranged financing and bought tickets home.
"I never imagined that the country I was born in would stop me from coming home for five months and separate me from my family, especially when I was not charged with a crime," Jaber Ismail said in a statement released through the A.C.L.U.
Hamid Hayat had told investigators he believed that Jaber, who was born in Lodi, attended a terrorism camp, but he lacked details. Mr. Hayat's lawyers attacked the investigators' questioning of Mr. Hayat as vague and coerced. Muhammad Ismail, a naturalized citizen who was born in Pakistan, said in the statement that they had traveled to Pakistan so Jaber Ismail could pursue religious study there.
On April 21, as juries were weighing the Hayats' cases, the Ismails were not permitted to board a connecting flight to San Francisco from Hong Kong and returned to Pakistan, where Jaber Ismail was questioned by F.B.I. agents at the American embassy in Islamabad. The agents, Ms. Mass said, requested further interviews with him and his father and a polygraph, which the Ismails refused.
The United States attorney's office in Sacramento, which prosecuted the Hayats, has declined to comment on the investigation other than to acknowledge that agents wished to speak with the Ismails. A Homeland Security spokesman said he had no information about the case.
New York Times
September 30, 2006
Senate Passes Bill on Building Border Fence
By CARL HULSE and RACHEL L. SWARNS
WASHINGTON, Sept. 29 - The Senate on Friday approved the building of 700 miles of fence along the nation's southwestern border, fulfilling a demand by conservative Republicans to take steps to slow the flow of illegal immigrants before exploring broader changes to immigration law.
The Senate vote, 80 to 19, came as lawmakers finished a batch of legislation before heading home to campaign. It sent the fence measure to President Bush, who has promised to sign it despite his earlier push for a more comprehensive approach that could lead to citizenship for some who are in the country illegally.
House Republicans, fearing a voter backlash, had opposed any approach that smacked of amnesty and chose instead to focus on border security in advance of the elections, passing the fence bill earlier this month. With time running out, the Senate acquiesced despite its bipartisan passage of a broader bill in May.
Congress also passed a separate $34.8 billion homeland security spending bill that contained an estimated $21.3 billion for border security, including $1.2 billion for the fence and associated barriers and surveillance systems.
"This is something the American people have been wanting us to do for a long time," said Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, whose state would be the site of substantial fence construction.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff praised the money for border security. He said it would "enable the department to make substantial progress toward preventing terrorists and others from exploiting our borders and provides flexibility for smart deployment of physical infrastructure that needs to be built along the southwest border."
Some Democrats ridiculed the fence idea and said a broader approach was the only way to halt the influx. "You don't have to be a law enforcement or engineering expert to know that a 700-mile fence on a 2,000-mile border makes no sense," said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate. Nevertheless, more than 20 Democrats moved behind the measure.
The fence bill and homeland spending were among security-related measures the Republican leadership was pushing through in the closing hours to bolster their security credentials.
On a 100-to-0 vote, the Senate earlier sent a $447.6 billion bill for the Defense Department to the president. It included $70 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a sum that will bring the total spent on those wars and other military antiterrorism operations to more than $500 billion.
Lawmakers also sped through a port security bill that would institute new safeguards at the nation's 361 seaports, while a Pentagon policy measure stalled in a Senate dispute.
"Passage of this port security bill is a major leap ahead in our efforts to strengthen our national security," said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine and chairwoman of the Senate homeland security panel.
At the urging of conservative groups and the National Football League, among other interests, the port security measure carried legislation cracking down on Internet gambling by prohibiting credit card companies and other financial institutions from processing the exchange of money between bettors and Web sites. The prohibition, which exempts some horse-racing operations, has previously passed the House and Senate at different times but has never cleared Congress.
"Although we can't monitor every online gambler or regulate offshore gambling, we can police the financial institutions that disregard our laws," said Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, who lobbied to add the crackdown to the port bill.
Because Congress failed to finish nine other required spending bills before the Sept. 30 deadline, the Pentagon measure also contained a provision to maintain spending for other federal agencies through Nov. 17 to give lawmakers time to finish the bills in a post-election session.
In an end-of-session appeal to conservatives, Senate Republicans also brought up a measure that could lead to criminal charges against people who take under-age girls across state lines for abortions, but they were unable to get enough votes to overcome procedural obstacles, and the bill stalled.
The atmosphere in the Capitol was somewhat tense as lawmakers were set to head back to their districts for what is looming as a difficult election. And the sudden resignation of Representative Mark Foley, Republican of Florida, after the disclosure of sexually suggestive e-mail messages he reportedly sent to teenage pages, added to the turmoil.
The fence legislation was one of the chief elements to survive the broader comprehensive bill that President Bush and a Senate coalition had hoped would tighten border security, grant legal status to most illegal immigrants and create a vast guest worker program to supply the nation's industries.
Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia, said the vote would build credibility with conservative voters who have been skeptical of the government's commitment to border security.
"They have been under the impression that Congress has been a lot about conversations about securing the border and not about action," said Mr. Chambliss, who opposes the legalization of illegal immigrants and voted against the Senate immigration bill. "This is real action."
But Republicans and Democrats alike acknowledged they were leaving the country's immigration problems largely unresolved. The border security measures passed do not address the 11 million people living here illegally, the call for a guest worker program by businesses or the need for a verification program that would ensure that companies do not hire illegal workers.
And while Congress wants 700 miles of fencing, it was appropriating only enough money to complete about 370 miles of it, Congressional aides acknowledged, leaving it unclear as to whether the entire structure will be built. Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary, said Friday that Mr. Bush intended to keep pressing Congress for a broader fix. She said the White House was hopeful that Congress would return to the issue after the elections.
THE TORTURE DEBATE
Are We Really So Fearful?
By Ariel Dorfman
Sunday, September 24, 2006;
It still haunts me, the first time -- it was in Chile, in October of 1973 -- that I met someone who had been tortured. To save my life, I had sought refuge in the Argentine Embassy some weeks after the coup that had toppled the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende, a government for which I had worked. And then, suddenly, one afternoon, there he was. A large-boned man, gaunt and yet strangely flabby, with eyes like a child, eyes that could not stop blinking and a body that could not stop shivering.
That is what stays with me -- that he was cold under the balmy afternoon sun of Santiago de Chile, trembling as though he would never be warm again, as though the electric current was still coursing through him. Still possessed, somehow still inhabited by his captors, still imprisoned in that cell in the National Stadium, his hands disobeying the orders from his brain to quell the shuddering, his body unable to forget what had been done to it just as, nearly 33 years later, I, too, cannot banish that devastated life from my memory.
It was his image, in fact, that swirled up from the past as I pondered the current political debate in the United States about the practicality of torture. Something in me must have needed to resurrect that victim, force my fellow citizens here to spend a few minutes with the eternal iciness that had settled into that man's heart and flesh, and demand that they take a good hard look at him before anyone dare maintain that, to save lives, it might be necessary to inflict unbearable pain on a fellow human being. Perhaps the optimist in me hoped that this damaged Argentine man could, all these decades later, help shatter the perverse innocence of contemporary Americans, just as he had burst the bubble of ignorance protecting the young Chilean I used to be, someone who back then had encountered torture mainly through books and movies and newspaper reports.
That is not, however, the only lesson that today's ruthless world can learn from that distant man condemned to shiver forever.
All those years ago, that torture victim kept moving his lips, trying to articulate an explanation, muttering the same words over and over. "It was a mistake," he repeated, and in the next few days I pieced together his sad and foolish tale. He was an Argentine revolutionary who had fled his homeland and, as soon as he had crossed the mountains into Chile, had begun to boast about what he would do to the military there if it staged a coup, about his expertise with arms of every sort, about his colossal stash of weapons. Bluster and braggadocio -- and every word of it false.
But how could he convince those men who were beating him, hooking his penis to electric wires and waterboarding him? How could he prove to them that he had been lying, prancing in front of his Chilean comrades, just trying to impress the ladies with his fraudulent insurgent persona?
Of course, he couldn't. He confessed to anything and everything they wanted to drag from his hoarse, howling throat; he invented accomplices and addresses and culprits; and then, when it became apparent that all this was imaginary, he was subjected to further ordeals.
There was no escape.
That is the hideous predicament of the torture victim. It was always the same story, what I discovered in the ensuing years, as I became an unwilling expert on all manner of torments and degradations, my life and my writing overflowing with grief from every continent. Each of those mutilated spines and fractured lives -- Chinese, Guatemalan, Egyptian, Indonesian, Iranian, Uzbek, need I go on? -- all of them, men and women alike, surrendered the same story of essential asymmetry, where one man has all the power in the world and the other has nothing but pain, where one man can decree death at the flick of a wrist and the other can only pray that the wrist will be flicked soon.
It is a story that our species has listened to with mounting revulsion, a horror that has led almost every nation to sign treaties over the past decades declaring these abominations as crimes against humanity, transgressions interdicted all across the earth. That is the wisdom, national and international, that has taken us thousands of years of tribulation and shame to achieve. That is the wisdom we are being asked to throw away when we formulate the question -- Does torture work? -- when we allow ourselves to ask whether we can afford to outlaw torture if we want to defeat terrorism.
I will leave others to claim that torture, in fact, does not work, that confessions obtained under duress -- such as that extracted from the heaving body of that poor Argentine braggart in some Santiago cesspool in 1973 -- are useless. Or to contend that the United States had better not do that to anyone in our custody lest someday another nation or entity or group decides to treat our prisoners the same way.
I find these arguments -- and there are many more -- to be irrefutable. But I cannot bring myself to use them, for fear of honoring the debate by participating in it.
Can't the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and the perpetrator who are corrupted, not only the "intelligence" that is contaminated, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness?
Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain, that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of America? Have we so lost our bearings that we do not realize that each of us could be that hapless Argentine who sat under the Santiago sun, so possessed by the evil done to him that he could not stop shivering?
Ariel Dorfman, a Chilean American writer and professor at Duke University, is author of "Death and the Maiden."
Why I'm Banned in the USA
By Tariq Ramadan
Sunday, October 1, 2006; B01
For more than two years now, the U.S. government has barred me from entering the United States to pursue an academic career. The reasons have changed over time, and have evolved from defamatory to absurd, but the effect has remained the same: I've been kept out.
First, I was told that I could not enter the country because I had endorsed terrorism and violated the USA Patriot Act. It took a lawsuit for the government eventually to abandon this baseless accusation. Later, I reapplied for a visa, twice, only to hear nothing for more than a year. Finally, just 10 days ago, after a federal judge forced the State Department to reconsider my application, U.S. authorities offered a new rationale for turning me away: Between 1998 and 2002, I had contributed small sums of money to a French charity supporting humanitarian work in the Palestinian territories.
I am increasingly convinced that the Bush administration has barred me for a much simpler reason: It doesn't care for my political views. In recent years, I have publicly criticized U.S. policy in the Middle East, the war in Iraq, the use of torture, secret CIA prisons and other government actions that undermine fundamental civil liberties. And for many years, through my research and writing and speeches, I have called upon Muslims to better understand the principles of their own faith, and have sought to show that one can be Muslim and Western at the same time.
My experience reveals how U.S. authorities seek to suppress dissenting voices and -- by excluding people such as me from their country -- manipulate political debate in America. Unfortunately, the U.S. government's paranoia has evolved far beyond a fear of particular individuals and taken on a much more insidious form: the fear of ideas.
In January 2004, I was offered a job at the University of Notre Dame, as a professor of Islamic studies and as Luce professor of religion, conflict and peace-building. I accepted the tenured position enthusiastically and looked forward to joining the academic community in the United States. After the government granted me a work visa, I rented a home in South Bend, Ind., enrolled my children in school there and shipped all of my household belongings. Then, in July, the government notified me that my visa had been revoked. It did not offer a specific explanation, but pointed to a provision of the Patriot Act that applies to people who have "endorsed or espoused" terrorist activity.
The revocation shocked me. I had consistently opposed terrorism in all of its forms, and still do. And, before 2004, I had visited the United States frequently to lecture, attend conferences and meet with other scholars. I had been an invited speaker at conferences or lectures sponsored by Harvard University, Stanford, Princeton and the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Foundation. None of these institutions seemed to consider me a threat to national security.
The U.S. government invited me to apply for a new visa and, with Notre Dame's help, I did so in October 2004. But after three months passed without a response, I felt I had little choice but to give up my new position and resume my life in Europe. Even so, I never abandoned the effort to clear my name. At the urging of American academic and civic groups, I reapplied for a visa one last time in September 2005, hoping that the government would retract its accusation. Once again, I encountered only silence.
Finally, in January, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and PEN American Center filed a lawsuit on my behalf, challenging the government's actions. In court, the government's lawyers admitted that they could establish no connection between me and any terrorist group; the government had merely taken a "prudential" measure by revoking my visa. Even then, the government maintained that the process of reconsidering my visa could take years. The federal court -- which issued a ruling recognizing that I have been a vocal critic of terrorism -- rejected the indefinite delay. In June, it ordered the government to grant me a visa or explain why it would not do so.
On Sept. 21, the long-awaited explanation arrived. The letter from the U.S. Embassy informed me that my visa application had been denied, and it put an end to the rumors that had circulated since my original visa was revoked. After a lengthy investigation, the State Department cited no evidence of suspicious relationships, no meetings with terrorists, no encouraging or advocacy of terrorism. Instead, the department cited my donation of $940 to two humanitarian organizations (a French group and its Swiss chapter) serving the Palestinian people. I should note that the investigation did not reveal these contributions. As the department acknowledges, I had brought this information to their attention myself, two years earlier, when I had reapplied for a visa.
In its letter, the U.S. Embassy claims that I "reasonably should have known" that the charities in question provided money to Hamas. But my donations were made between December 1998 and July 2002, and the United States did not blacklist the charities until 2003. How should I reasonably have known of their activities before the U.S. government itself knew? I donated to these organizations for the same reason that countless Europeans -- and Americans, for that matter -- donate to Palestinian causes: not to help fund terrorism, but because I wanted to provide humanitarian aid to people who desperately need it. Yet after two years of investigation, this was the only explanation offered for the denial of my visa. I still find it hard to believe.
What words do I utter and what views do I hold that are dangerous to American ears, so dangerous, in fact, that I should not be allowed to express them on U.S. soil?
I have called upon Western societies to be more open toward Muslims and to regard them as a source of richness, not just of violence or conflict. I have called upon Muslims in the West to reconcile and embrace both their Islamic and Western identities. I have called for the creation of a "New We" based on common citizenship within which Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Muslims and people with no religion can build a pluralistic society. And yes, I believe we all have a right to dissent, to criticize governments and protest undemocratic decisions. It is certainly legitimate for European Muslims and American Muslims to criticize their governments if they find them unjust -- and I will continue to do so.
At the same time, I do not stop short of criticizing regimes from Muslim countries. Indeed, the United States is not the only country that rejects me; I am also barred from Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and even my native Egypt. Last month, after a few sentences in a speech by Pope Benedict XVI elicited protests and violence, I published an article noting how some governments in the Muslim world manipulate these imagined crises to suit their political agendas. "When the people are deprived of their basic rights and of their freedom of expression," I argued, "it costs nothing to allow them to vent their anger over Danish cartoons or the words of the Pontiff." I was immediately accused of appeasing the enemies of Islam, of being more Western than Muslim.
Today, I live and work in London. From my posts at Oxford University and the Lokahi Foundation, I try to promote cultural understanding and to prevent radicalization within Muslim communities here. Along with many British citizens, I have criticized the country's new security laws and its support for the war in Iraq. Yet I have never been asked to remain silent as a condition to live or work here. I can express myself freely.
I fear that the United States has grown fearful of ideas. I have learned firsthand that the Bush administration reacts to its critics not by engaging them, but by stigmatizing and excluding them. Will foreign scholars be permitted to enter the United States only if they promise to mute their criticisms of U.S. policy? It saddens me to think of the effect this will have on the free exchange of ideas, on political debate within America, and on our ability to bridge differences across cultures.
Tariq Ramadan, a fellow at Oxford University, is author of "Western Muslims and the Future of Islam."
Sun Herald (Mississippi)
Posted on Sun, Oct. 01, 2006
Police mostly hands-off in immigration issues
By JOSHUA NORMAN
Across the country, some local law enforcement agencies have recently gotten involved in the deportation of undocumented immigrants as the national debate over immigration has heated up.
Mississippi is no exception, although recent interviews with Coast law enforcement and immigrant-advocacy groups showed that it is not widespread and not an easy issue.
In Gulfport in mid-August, police officers assisted Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in the detention and eventual deportation of 37 undocumented immigrants at the Home Depot and Lowe's on U.S. 49 who were day laborers, according to several people with knowledge of the incident.
Gulfport Deputy Chief Alfred Sexton said the operation was planned, organized and largely executed by ICE.
"All we did was transport them from point A to point B," said Sexton, adding it is the normal level of involvement for Gulfport police when it comes to undocumented immigrants. "They (ICE) handle those. I can't take an immigrant that does not have proper paper work. They make the decisions. That's their jurisdiction."
Sgt. Jackie Rhodes, public information officer for the Biloxi Police Department, said police officers have the right to ask for proper identification as part of an investigation. Sometimes that means asking for a green card or work visa, too.
"If they don't have an American driver's license, we'll ask if they have a green card," said Rhodes, adding that if they turn out to be undocumented, ICE or border patrol does not necessarily get involved. "If it's a criminal act, yeah, we do (get ICE involved), every time. Usually if the person hasn't committed a crime, (ICE) or border patrol doesn't follow it up, they're so busy doing other stuff."
Although police do have the right to ask for someone's immigration status during any investigation, the danger of racial profiling is high because there are so many light-skinned and light-haired Latinos, said Andy Guerra, president of the Gulf Coast Latin American Association and a former law-enforcement officer himself.
"When these individuals are being stopped and asked for proper identification, license and insurance, some (police) are also saying, 'Let me see your immigration paperwork,' which is a violation of civil rights," Guerra said. "The state of Mississippi only requires two documents (to drive a car): proof of (insurance) and driver's license."
Otherwise, Guerra said, police ought to ask every person they stop for their proof of citizenship, regardless of their accent or skin color.
Bill Chandler, president of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, said if police start getting heavily involved in deportations, they risk having their own work impeded because immigrants will often not talk to police to report or admit witnessing crimes if they fear getting asked about their immigration status.
Chandler said there was an incident in Jackson County recently in which a shooting yielded no witnesses because those in the Latino community who witnessed it were afraid the police investigators would ask for their immigration papers.
"Trust is an issue," he said.
Oct. 1, 2006, 2:52AM
HPD revising its immigration policy
Changes taking effect this week will help feds nab criminals here illegally
By MATT STILES
Under fire in recent months over its policy toward illegal immigrants, the Houston Police Department is unveiling new procedures today to allow more cooperation with federal agents trying to catch criminals living in the country illegally.
Officers still will not inquire about the immigration status of people they haven't arrested, so the changes are unlikely to quiet critics who have labeled Houston a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants.
But the department is making several key revisions.
An announcement is expected today, less than two weeks after the shooting death of police officer Rodney Johnson caused simmering opposition to the department policy to flare anew. An illegal immigrant who previously had been deported is charged in the slaying.
Among the changes to take effect this week:
.The department will hold people detained or arrested for traffic violations or other minor crimes - Class C misdemeanors - if warrant checks show they are wanted by federal agents for defying an order to leave the country or for returning after being deported in connection with a criminal case. Under existing policy, police generally did not hold such people for federal authorities, even if officers were aware of the federal warrants.
.The department will allow immigration agents unfettered access to the city's two jails, as they have had in the Harris County jail, and officers will start asking all arrestees whether they are citizens.
.Fingerprints of anyone booked into the jails without proper identification will be checked against a national fingerprint database.
That could help officers identify wanted criminals, including people wanted for serious immigration violations, police say.
"There's a pretty solid process now between HPD and the federal authorities to identify and act on people who've been deported from this country because of their criminal behavior," said Executive Assistant Chief Timothy Oettmeier, among a group of police commanders who briefed the Houston Chronicle on the changes.
"We're now in a position to detect and get them back out of here."
Oettmeier and the others acknowledged they can't project how many immigration violators who previously might have been released will be snared under the new policy. Immigration officials say roughly 200,000 such cases are in their database, but only a few such people encounter authorities each year.
Police commanders, who dispute the "sanctuary" title, have been working on the revisions for months with federal prosecutors and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
Under the revised procedures, officers still won't attempt to determine the immigration status of people encountered routinely, and won't arrest anyone solely for being in the country illegally - as advocated by supporters of tougher immigration enforcement.
Local versus federal
But police and immigration officials say the immigration status of suspects charged with serious misdemeanors or felonies is routinely determined upon transfer to the county jail.
Mayor Bill White and Police Chief Harold Hurtt have said the department doesn't have legal authority in most immigration cases.
They also say the department shouldn't expend its limited manpower on a federal responsibility and that doing so would alienate officers from immigrant communities.
That could make it harder to get immigrants to report crimes or cooperate as witnesses.
"The administration supports giving law enforcement all tools to reduce the risk of crime within their resources," White said.
"Running more checks on the wanted status of people, and more use of the fingerprint database, will tighten up the procedures."
Critic not satisfied
One key department critic, Mary Williams of Protect Our Citizens, a local group trying to change the policy through a voter referendum, charged that the revisions don't go far enough.
She vowed to continue her fight to put a provision in the City Charter permitting police to enforce immigration laws.
"We want officers to have the discretion to ask them the first time," she said, referring to inquiries about citizenship status during routine encounters such as traffic stops.
Williams dismissed the new policies as political posturing.
"When you let the politicians decide, you get baby steps like this thing," she said.
Though the changes likely won't end criticism of the policy, police commanders said the new procedures will make it harder for criminal immigrants to elude detection but also allow the department to maintain its position that officers should have a limited role in immigration matters.
2003 incident resurfaces
The change involving criminal deportees - people forced out of the country because they violated laws here - would prevent incidents like one in October 2003, when officers were forced to release Moises Hernandez Galvan, a 37-year-old illegal immigrant detained after a traffic stop, even though they knew he had returned to the country after deportation.
The incident was not publicized at the time but sparked internal criticism about the department's policy, according to police memos obtained by the Houston Chronicle under the Texas Public Information Act.
"If this suspect had been a deported felon with terrorist ties, then the actions taken in this incident could seriously jeopardize homeland security," Lt. Tom Roman, who is now retired, wrote then-acting Police Chief Joe Breshears.
A reply memo stated that the department would continue its policy of not detaining people arrested on Class C misdemeanors simply because they had immigration warrants.
Under the new policy, police would hold for federal authorities a suspect such as Galvan if it's discovered the suspect is wanted on an immigration warrant.
Bob Rutt, special agent in charge of the Houston office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said his agents will take those suspects from police custody within 12 hours.
"This is very big," he said. "It shows the commitment by HPD to public safety and homeland security."
Belleville News Democrat
Posted on Sat, Sep. 30, 2006
Immigration activist responds to judge's denial
CHICAGO - Immigration activist Elvira Arellano said Saturday she will remain holed up in a church in an effort of avoid deportation even though a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against the government.
The lawsuit contended deporting Arellano would effectively deport her son Saul, who is a U.S. citizen, and would be a violation of his rights. U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve ruled Friday, that although the 7-year-old would face hardships, they weren't of constitutional magnitude.
Arellano, 31, and her son have been living at the Adalberto United Methodist Church since mid-August to avoid deportation.
"I want to stay here with my son," Arellano said in Spanish. "I'm not just fighting for my situation...you can't separate families."
Church pastor the Rev. Walter L. Coleman, who filed the lawsuit in August for Arellano, says she will continue working on all three branches of government to find a way to stay in the U.S. They are in contact with other families in similar situations and are considering filing a class action lawsuit, he said.
Coleman said he is not concerned federal officials will enter the church to remove Arellano.
"We fear God more than we fear Homeland Security," he said.
Arellano was to surrender to federal authorities for deportation Aug. 15, but instead sought refuge in the small church located in the city's heavily Puerto Rican Humboldt Park neighborhood.
Arellano first was arrested in 1997 soon after crossing into the United States and was back to Mexico.
She returned and was again arrested in 2002 and convicted of working as a cleaning woman at O'Hare International Airport under a false Social Security number.
After Arellano gave her statement Saturday, the church hosted an interfaith service with local Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders.
Emma Lozano, the executive director of the Chicago immigration-rights group Centro Sin Fronteras, asked the approximately 50 people in attendance to "prepare spiritually" and come together to work against hatred toward immigrants.
<><><> the end / el fin / tamat <><><>