Thursday, March 13, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Thurs, March 13, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Thurs, March 13, 2008


Visit for IRN and other posts from the National Network


1. Los Angeles Times: “Judge calls immigration officials' decision ‘beyond cruel’”,0,2053450.story


2. New York Times: “Editorial: The Road to Dystopia””


3. Two from Austin American-Statesman:

A. “Immigration enforcement bill petition gaining steam


B. “Both parties are pushing immigration crackdown”




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Los Angeles Times


Judge calls immigration officials' decision 'beyond cruel'

The ruling says a detainee who later died of penile cancer was denied a biopsy of a lesion though several doctors said the procedure was urgently needed. His family will be allowed to seek damages,0,2053450.story


By Henry Weinstein

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

March 13, 2008


In a stinging ruling, a Los Angeles federal judge said immigration officials' alleged decision to withhold a critical medical test and other treatment from a detainee who later died of cancer was "beyond cruel and unusual" punishment.

The decision from U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson allows the family of Francisco Castaneda to seek financial damages from the government.

Castaneda, who suffered from penile cancer, died Feb. 16. Before his release from custody last year, the government had refused for 11 months to authorize a biopsy for a growing lesion, even though voluminous government records showed that several doctors said the test was urgently needed, given Castaneda's condition and a family history of cancer, Pregerson said.

But rather than test and treat Castaneda, government officials told him to be patient and prescribed antihistamines, ibuprofen and extra boxer shorts, the judge wrote in a decision released late Tuesday. In summary, the judge wrote, the care provided to Castaneda "can be characterized by one word: nothing."

Pregerson blasted public health officials' "attempt to sidestep responsibility for what appears to be . . . one of the most, if not the most, egregious" violations of the constitutional prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment that "the court has ever encountered."

At this stage of the proceedings, "the only question is whether" the plaintiffs' allegations, if true, show that government officials "were deliberately indifferent to his condition. The court finds that they do," Pregerson said.

"Everyone knows that cancer is often deadly. Everyone knows that early diagnosis and treatment often saves lives," the judge wrote. The government's own records, he emphasized, "bespeak of conduct that transcends negligence by miles. It bespeaks of conduct that, if true, should be taught to every law student as conduct for which the moniker 'cruel' is inadequate," Pregerson concluded in permitting the case to move forward.

Conal Doyle, an Oakland attorney who is co-counsel for Castaneda's family members, said the Salvadoran immigrant spent eight months in custody on a charge of possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell, then was transferred to immigration custody because he did not have legal residency.

He first informed the Immigration and Customs Enforcement medical staff at the San Diego Correctional Facility on March 27, 2006, that "a lesion on his penis was becoming painful and growing," the judge wrote. The next day, a physician assistant at the facility examined Castaneda and issued a treatment plan calling for a consultation with a urologist "ASAP" and a request for a biopsy, according to government records cited by the judge.

Over the next 11 months, several doctors, with increasing urgency, made the same recommendations. For example, after conducting an examination June 7, 2006, Dr. John Wilkinson, an oncologist, wrote a report saying he strongly agreed that Castaneda had an urgent need for a biopsy and an assessment by a urologist because he might have "penile cancer. . . . In this extremely delicate area . . . there can be considerable morbidity from even benign lesions which are not promptly treated."

That same day, Pregerson said, Dr. Esther Hui of the Division of Immigration Health Services acknowledged Castaneda's condition but said the government would not admit him to a hospital because her agency considered a biopsy "an elective outpatient procedure."

Pregerson, who became a federal judge in 1996, said evidence presented by the plaintiffs suggested that Hui, one of the defendants, characterized the surgery as elective so the federal government would not to have to provide or pay for it.

In February 2007, after the American Civil Liberties Union intervened, a biopsy was finally scheduled. A few days before the procedure, however, Castaneda was abruptly released, the judge wrote. He went to the emergency room of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and was diagnosed with metastatic squamous cell carcinoma. His penis was eventually amputated, and chemotherapy ultimately proved unsuccessful.

Four months before he died, Castaneda testified at a hearing held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law, as his teenage daughter listened.

"Mr. Castaneda's case was just outrageous," Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose), chairwoman of the subcommittee, said in an interview Tuesday.

Lofgren said one of the things she found most troubling was that "bureaucrats" at Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington have the power to overrule recommendations of doctors who have actually seen the medical problems of detainees. "That is a recipe for disaster," she said.

Lori Haley, an ICE spokeswoman from Laguna Niguel, said in an e-mail that she could not comment on the Castaneda case but that the agency spent nearly $100 million on medical, dental and psychiatric care for detainees in fiscal 2007.

The government had argued that its employees were immune from this lawsuit. A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said the Justice Department might appeal Pregerson's ruling.

Last year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report on medical care at immigration detention facilities that said officials at some of the sites "cited difficulties in obtaining approval for outside medical and mental health care as . . . presenting problems in caring for detainees."

Doyle said Castaneda's death "would have been prevented by the exercise of basic human decency."

Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson said the decision was legally significant and factually compelling. "This was not a detainee with a hangnail," she said. "You should not have to have your penis fall off to get medical treatment from the government."


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New York Tinmes

March 13, 2008



The Road to Dystopia


The search for a silver bullet to slay illegal immigration continues. Hard-liners are turning the country upside down looking for it.

They are looking in Washington, where Senate Republicans last week offered more than a dozen bills to further enshrine mass deportation as the national immigration strategy. It is a grab bag of enforcement measures that will be useful for tough-talking campaign commercials, but will not actually solve anything.

Republicans and some Democrats in the House are trying to force a vote on a bad bill called the SAVE Act, which among other things would force all workers, including citizens, to prove they have a right to earn a living — a bad idea compounded by the notoriously bad state of federal government records.

The error rate in just one database, the Social Security Administration’s, is believed to be more than 4 percent, making it likely that many thousands of Americans would face unjust firings and discrimination, and waste a lot of time and effort trying to clear their names.

The harsh-enforcement virus has spread far beyond the Capitol. In states like Oklahoma, laws have been enacted to force illegal immigrants further underground, off official registries and into anonymity, by denying them identification like driver’s licenses. In a growing number of states and counties, politicians are offering up police officers to the federal government for immigration posses. From Prince William County, Va., to Maricopa County, Ariz., officers who pull people over for minor traffic infractions are checking immigration papers, too.

Many law-enforcement professionals say this is reckless and self-defeating, because it sends a deep, silencing chill into immigrant communities. Citizens and legal residents will inevitably be hassled for looking Latino. And it is expensive; Prince William’s new law is expected to cost $26 million over five years, plus a few million more to outfit police cars with cameras, as a hedge against lawsuits.

Maybe some people do not mind that immigration zealotry is sending the country down a path of far greater intrusion into citizens’ lives, into a world of ingrained suspicion, routine discrimination and economic disruption. Is that what we want — to make the immigration system tougher without fixing it? To make illegal immigrants suffer without any hope of ever becoming legal, because that is amnesty?

Could it be that tightening the screws relentlessly on illegal immigrants, even if some citizens suffer in the process, is all for the greater good?

Which is — what exactly? To drive a large cohort of workers out of a sputtering economy? To take more people off the books? To prop up the under-the-table businesses that inevitably evade such crackdowns? To worsen wages and working conditions for all Americans, since nobody works more cheaply and takes more abuse than a terrified, desperate immigrant?

This is a country that runs on routine amnesties. Where would the courts be without plea bargains, or state budgets without periodic tax forgiveness? Are illegal immigrants the one class of undesirables for whom common sense, proportionality, discernment, good judgment and compassion are unthinkable?

It is frightening to think that this country’s answer could be an emphatic yes.


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Austin American-Statesman


Immigration enforcement bill petition gaining steam


By Eunice Moscoso | Thursday, March 13, 2008, 12:05 PM

Lawmakers trying to bring an immigration enforcement bill to the floor have collected 163 signatures for a “discharge petition” that would allow the bill to move forward.

To see the list of House members who have signed, click here.

Supporters need 218 lawmakers to sign the petition in order to make the procedure work. The “discharge petition” would allow the bill to move to the House floor directly, without going through a committee.

Most of the House members pushing the bill are Republicans, however the author of the legislation is a Democrat, Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina.

Shuler and other conservative Democrats are also pushing their party leaders to take on the bill.

The legislation, dubbed the Secure America with Verification and Enforcement Act or SAVE Act, would increase the Border Patrol by 8,000, train more state and local police to enforce immigration law, and require that all businesses, within four years, use a government program to verify the legal status of their employees.

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Austin American-Statesman


Both parties are pushing immigration crackdown


Monday, March 10, 2008


Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are pushing bills that crack down on illegal immigration, keeping the issue alive in Congress during a volatile election year.

In the House, conservative Democrats are asking their party leaders to support an enforcement bill sponsored by freshman Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina.

The legislation, dubbed the Secure America with Verification and Enforcement Act or SAVE Act, would increase the Border Patrol by 8,000, train more state and local police to enforce immigration law, and require that all businesses, within four years, use a government program to verify the legal status of their employees.

The program, known as E-Verify, is currently voluntary. Businesses and civil-rights groups have argued that the poor quality of some government databases poses a major problem for the program.

Shuler said that his legislation is a bi-partisan solution to the pressing problem of illegal immigration that costs taxpayers millions in schooling, health care, and incarceration costs.

"We obviously have to secure our borders," he said, in an interview. "I'm just hoping that we can get off first base here and start getting a piece of legislation."

In addition, he said that he has met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., several times about the measure and is hopeful she will bring it to the floor. He is also searching for a committee to take on the bill and hold hearings.

The measure has 91 Republican co-sponsors, including some of the most vocal critics of illegal immigration such as Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo. In addition, 48 Democrats are co-sponsoring the bill, including many "Blue Dogs" from conservative districts.

The co-sponsors from Texas include Democratic Reps. Nicholas Lampson, Ciro Rodriguez and Pete Sessions, and GOP Reps. Michael McCaul, Lamar Smith, Kevin Brady, Michael Burgess, Micheal Conaway, Louie Gohmert, Ralph Hall, Jeb Hensarling, John Culberson, Kenny Marchant, Randy Neugebauer and William Thornberry.

Pelosi said on Thursday that the Democratic leadership is still in discussions about a possible immigration package and that Shuler's bill has some of the principles that they support.

She also said, however, that Democrats are looking for a "balanced" measure that also deals with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Republican supporters, meanwhile, are considering a procedural maneuver to force the bill to the floor.

Democratic leaders are facing a difficult decision on the issue. A strong vote on border security could help some freshman Democrats keep their seats, and therefore, help Democrats retain control of the House, but an enforcement-only bill could also anger liberal Democrats and Hispanics.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has been working on a separate measure — still in the draft stages — that could provide some legalization process for illegal immigrants.

Immigrant advocate groups and Hispanic organizations are closely monitoring the situation.

They warn that an enforcement-only measure that passed the House in 2006 sparked massive demonstrations by Latinos across the country. That measure, sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., was more extreme, making illegal presence in the United States a felony instead of a misdemeanor.

Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic civil rights organization, said that the Democratic leadership risks alienating millions of Hispanic voters in order to provide "political cover" to a few freshman Democrats.

She referred to the Shuler bill as the "grandchild of Sensenbrenner" or "Sensenbrenner lite."

"Democrats shouldn't tip-toe around the issue," she said. "They need to show some leadership."

Meanwhile, in the Senate, Republicans introduced 15 immigration enforcement bills this week.

They include measures to make English the nation's official language, to prevent illegal immigrants from getting driver's licenses, to deport immigrants convicted of drunk driving offenses, and to withhold federal money for cities that have so called "sanctuary" policies that direct police and local officials not to check the immigration status of residents using city services.

A bill by Georgia Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson would clarify the authority of state and local police to enforce immigration law and expand training in the area.

"There are so many cases that clearly show that state and local law enforcement are the front lines of combating crimes committed by illegal immigrants," said Chambliss, in a written statement. "They are critical force multipliers but they are currently under-utilized by their federal partners."

Another measure by Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania would impose sanctions on countries that refuse to take back illegal immigrants who have been convicted of crimes in the United States.

It is unlikely that most of the GOP measures will get a vote in the Democratically-controlled chamber. However, some may be offered as amendments to must-pass spending bills.

Democrats decried the Republican measures.

Sen. Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat and one of three Hispanic senators, said it was "a draconian approach" that would "demonize the Latino community."



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Arnoldo Garcia

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Red Nacional Pro Derechos Inmigrantes y Refugiados

310 8th Street Suite 303

Oakland, CA 94607

Tel (510) 465-1984 ext. 305

Fax (510) 465-1885


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