Immigrant Rights News - Tues, Mar. 4, 2008
Immigrant Rights News – Tues, Mar. 4, 2008
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3. Frontera NorteSur: “Border Wall Draws More Heat, Praise”
Posted on Tue, Mar. 04, 2008
Law enforcement officials secretly profiling immigrants
Marisa Taylor | McClatchy Newspapers
last updated: March 04, 2008 10:56:44 AM
The profiling, described in a February 2006 Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo that McClatchy obtained, shows that the government has relied more heavily on nationality as an indicator of security risks than was previously known.
Federal agencies have created internal lists of countries that are of "special interest" for national security reasons, wrote the memo's author, Ted Stark, supervisory special agent with the Office of Intelligence at ICE.
So many federal agencies have created different lists that
The proposed list, which officials said had yet to be adopted, includes 35 countries, most with significant Muslim or Arab populations. Almost 20 percent of the world's countries — including some of the
The effort to come up with a uniform approach is another reflection of how the nation continues to grapple with finding effective ways to detect terrorists, and how those efforts sometimes collide with constitutional and legal rights.
In this case, with little or no oversight or public scrutiny, law enforcement officials have assumed flexible and expansive discretion to make screening decisions based on where an immigrant was born.
The group of agencies — which included ICE, the National Security Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection — not only recommended one list but also suggested an interagency definition of a "special interest alien."
Under the proposal, a special interest alien would be an immigrant with terrorist ties or an immigrant who by nationality, "ethnicity or other factors may have ties or sympathies" with the listed countries.
As a result, an immigrant who doesn't have any known terrorist links and who isn't from a country on the list conceivably could be considered a special interest alien, if his or her ethnic background included a listed country.
Stark described the proposed term as "generic enough to address all the functional issues" of federal law-enforcement agencies.
Critics charge that the screening technique not only appears to target Muslims but also is too broad to be effective.
"When you're targeting as 'special' 20 percent of the world, you're obviously sweeping far too broadly and you're going to waste a lot of resources on people who pose no threat," said David Cole, a professor at
"The second problem is that when you treat people from Muslim countries as suspect merely because they come from Muslim countries, you are very likely to alienate the people here and abroad we need to be working with if we're going to get helpful information on what the real threats are."
Federal authorities wouldn't discuss the memo or the screening methods in detail but denied singling out Muslims. When asked, some confirmed that such lists existed but wouldn't disclose the identities of the nations.
According to the memo, once a federal agency designates an immigrant a "special interest alien," officials run him or her through a "full court press" of interviews, inspections and database checks.
Depending on what agents discover, such foreigners might be cleared after lengthy background checks. Or they could be flagged for detention or deportation, or become the subjects of criminal investigations.
Cole, a leading critic of the administration's anti-terrorism initiatives, said the description of the special-interest designation confirmed his suspicions that federal law enforcement officials had gradually set up permanent profiling efforts throughout the government.
After the 9-11 attacks, federal agents detained 1,200 mainly Muslim men and separately required visa-holders from predominately Muslim or Arab countries to be fingerprinted and registered in a database.
"This sounds like a continuation and an institutionalization of what was essentially a failed initiative in the first couple of years after 9-11," Cole said. "It's a proxy for religious and ethnic profiling."
Courts have upheld immigration policies that discriminate based on nationality, but generally view law enforcement profiling of
Proponents of stricter immigration enforcement have pressed authorities to concentrate on Muslim or Middle Eastern immigrants, given that four of the 19 Sept. 11 terrorists overstayed their visas and almost all came from
Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, said agents had the prerogative to single out immigrants based not only on nationality but also on race, religion or ethnicity because of the federal government's broad authority in all immigration matters.
"This is not a constitutional issue," Krikorian said. "This is a question of the best law enforcement and security approach."
After the attacks, Americans expressed ambivalence about whether law enforcement should rely on profiling. While a majority thought that it was wrong to base profiling on race, religion or ethnicity, many also described it as "understandable" if Middle Easterners were singled out.
In practice, agents don't automatically scrutinize every immigrant from the listed countries, ICE and FBI officials said. Nor do agencies rely on the designation when deciding whether to pursue criminal charges or to grant
"It's not an automatic trigger," said Steve Kodak, an FBI spokesman, who confirmed that the bureau's criminal investigative, counterintelligence and counterterrorism division used such lists. "It's a tool that agents use at their own discretion."
Kelly Nantel, an ICE spokeswoman, said her agency didn't have one list or definition but used different approaches depending on the division or situation.
"In many cases, that includes reviewing the country of origin," she said. "But it's a single consideration in an overall decision."
Attorneys for immigrants said it was impossible to know whether authorities were singling people out for the wrong reasons when so little was disclosed.
Although the government hasn't launched other mass detentions, agents continue to detain or question Muslim immigrants without explanation.
"They never say why," said Melinda Basaran, a
Alicia Molina, a
The college-educated engineer, who asked to remain anonymous to protect his wife and children, who remain in
After he arrived in the
He permitted McClatchy to ask ICE and Citizenship and Immigration Services about his case, but officials with those agencies said they wouldn't comment.
Considering that he'd undergone a previous security check, he thought that he'd be granted asylum quickly when he filed his request in April 2004. Instead, government officials told his lawyer and him that he hadn't cleared yet another background check.
In late January, almost four years and nine court dates later, the government granted him asylum. He's now seeking to bring his wife and children to the
"This clearly happened because of the country he's from," Molina said. "To me, it's un-American. But all along, the government acted like it was completely normal and that it happens to everybody."
ON THE WEB
More about American sentiment on profiling: http://www.publicagenda.org/specials/terrorism/terror_pubopinion9.htm
(Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel contributed to this story.)
Posted on Tue, Mar. 04, 2008
Agencies' merger spawns tension, arrests
BY JAY WEAVER AND ALFONSO CHARDY
Bribery. Drug trafficking. Migrant smuggling.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is supposed to stop these types of crimes. But instead, so many of its officers have been charged with committing those crimes themselves that their boss in
Thomas S. Winkowski, assistant commissioner of field operations, wrote a memo to more than 20,000 officers nationwide noting that employees must behave professionally at all times -- even when they are not on the job.
''It is our responsibility to uphold the laws, not break the law,'' Winkowski wrote in the Nov. 16 memo obtained by The Miami Herald. Winkowski could not be reached for comment.
Winkowski's memo cites several employee arrests involving domestic violence, driving under the influence and drug possession. But court records show that CBP officers and other Department of Homeland Security employees from South Florida to the Mexican
Among them: A Customs and Border Protection officer at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport was charged in February with conspiring to assist a New York drug ring under investigation by tapping into sensitive federal databases.
Winkowski's warning signals an overwhelming preoccupation with public perception in the post-9/11 era. Two highly controversial issues, illegal immigration and national security, have thrust the Department of Homeland Security into the public eye as it labors to prevent another terrorist attack.
The bureaucratic behemoth grew out of a controversial consolidation five years ago this week of several federal agencies, including the U.S. Customs Service and Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Employees of both agencies joined either of two new agencies: Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known for their acronyms CBP and ICE.
CBP handles the border, airports and seaports, while ICE investigates immigration and customs law violators.
''We as an agency are constantly policing ourselves so that the public trust is not diminished as a result of inappropriate activity, whether it's on the job, off the job, criminal or not criminal,'' said Zachary Mann, a special agent and CBP spokesman in Miami.
Some ICE employees also have been caught up in episodes of alleged misconduct -- though a senior local official said he was not aware of any increase in criminal or administrative actions.
''I haven't noticed an uptick in misbehavior even though we have had a substantial increase in personnel since the merger,'' said Anthony Mangione, the ICE Miami special agent in charge.
Administrative incidents are normally kept quiet by federal authorities. But officials cannot control publicity when misconduct escalates to serious criminal behavior, such as the February case involving the CBP officer at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Elizabeth Moran-Toala, a six-year veteran, allegedly accessed an electronic database known as TECS, or Treasury Enforcement Communications System, which serves as a tool to stop illegal drug imports.
According to an indictment, she is accused of tapping into the system several times to pass along information to a Delta Airlines baggage handler who was conspiring with a drug ring to transport cocaine and heroin on flights from the
Other recent South Florida cases -- mirroring a pattern on the
CBP and ICE managers say these cases simply reflect individual criminal behavior, not the culture of the married agencies.
But some longtime employees said administrative incidents, such as hostile confrontations or heavy drinking, may reflect the low morale and intense rivalries following the merger of federal agencies under Homeland Security.
Some employees from the old INS are the most vocal in their complaints. They bitterly denounce employees who came from the old Customs Service for ''seizing control'' of both CBP and ICE, ''lording it over'' former INS employees and showing disdain toward immigration-related work.
Expected to improve efficiency, the merger has instead spawned tension. Both CBP and ICE scored near the bottom in a 2007 survey of employee satisfaction at 222 federal government agencies.
''It's become a cultural clash, tensions between officers from the merged agencies,'' said a Customs and Border Protection officer who asked not to be identified by name because he did not have authorization to speak publicly. ``There's low morale and tension. Some people drink, others take it out on their colleagues or supervisors. It's no fun anymore.''
Mangione dismissed the notion that employee misbehavior is a result of post-merger friction.
''An employee smuggling aliens has nothing to do with the merger,'' said Mangione. ``It's somebody being a criminal.''
Mangione, who came from Customs, noted that the second-in-command in the Miami ICE office -- Gabriel Garcia -- came from INS.
Although tension has generally not gone beyond arguments and insults, it may have been a factor behind a January brawl between two ICE employees at a Broward police association hall.
On Jan. 11, during a retirement party for a former INS officer, an ICE supervisor with a Customs background allegedly attacked an ICE agent with an INS background.
According to an internal document on the episode obtained by The Miami Herald, ICE group supervisor Mack Strong assaulted ICE senior special agent Francisco Meneses at the party held at the hall.
The altercation began when Strong used profanity to refer to another officer, also from INS, and Meneses asked Strong not to use such an expletive.
''Strong came at me again, grabbing me and throwing me down to the floor, where he continued to physically strike me with his fists,'' Meneses wrote in a memo that went to Mangione.
Neither Meneses nor Strong wanted to speak on the record.
Mangione said the case is being investigated: ``All I can say is that it was turned over to the Office of Professional Responsibility and there it lies.''
March 3, 2008
Border Wall Draws More Heat, Praise
The Bush administration's planned US-Mexico border wall continues inspiring growing international controversy, impassioned protest and intense political debate. In the
A former career FBI agent, Mayor Salinas said the wall was an affront to the close relations that exist between his city and
Mayor Salinas said. "Walls do not work, and not even the one in
Other protest leaders took aim at the North American Free Agreement (NAFTA). "They need to replace the "F" in NAFTA with fair trade," said rally organizer Fabiola Flores. "They could fix it so people weren't forced to leave their homes."
While Mayor Salinas and other local officials spent Saturday marching and speaking out against the wall, a celebrity entourage toured the
Huckabee, who has assumed a hard-line stance against illegal immigration, supported the wall and called for tighter border security.
"Doing it right is capturing criminals at the border, and then designing a system were people can come into the country for the purposes of work, doing it the legal, responsible way and not creating what we have now, which is an absolutely uncontrolled situation," Huckabee said.
In the coming months, the border wall project is certain to be the source of more controversy. At a meeting held late last month in
Rejecting calls for a "virtual secure border" of more police and surveillance, the network blasted the border wall as part of a "neo-liberal" attack on the rights of indigenous people and workers as outlined by the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo between the US and Mexico and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Citing environmental concerns over the construction of a border wall, network activists called for the restoration of the distressed
Additional sources: El Sur/Agencia Reforma, March 2, 2008. Article by Martha Cazares.
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border
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Advocates organize to thwart US immigration agents
Phone trees among tools used to thwart federal agents
By Michael Martinez
Tribune staff reporter
2:25 PM CST, March 1, 2008
When federal immigration officers visited over three days last October looking for an illegal Salvadoran immigrant, a neighborhood watch kicked into action each time.
Dozens of immigrants, legal and illegal, phoned one another, warning of a raid.
"I called my sister in the building next door and another sister in this building," said Maria, who said she is an illegal immigrant from
Angelita Pascacio, an organizer of Madres Contra Redadas (Mothers Against Raids) who has since moved from the 16-unit apartment building, described the surveillance by immigrants as clumsy at first, but effective. "Thanks to our being organized, they didn't take anyone away," she said.
As the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency beefs up home-visiting teams seeking illegal immigrants, doubling arrests in each of the past two years, migrants and advocates are initiating countermeasures to make legal and illegal immigrants aware of tactics such as not answering their door or remaining silent.
The grass-roots efforts try to help many immigrants who live in fear and ignorance of the law, but an ulterior goal is to stymie agents' door-to-door hunts and thwart "collateral" arrests--illegal immigrants who are discovered accidentally in a questioning for someone else who has absconded from a deportation order.
Immigrants and advocates say they are trying to save families from being cleaved when an illegal immigrant parent is caught and removed from the
Dual claims of success
Both sides claim success. While one Mothers Against Raids group in the
In addition to block watches and telephone trees, neighbors and activists are videotaping ICE's "fugitive ops" to hold officers accountable; distributing "Know your rights" T-shirts and cards; holding classes in churches; operating hot lines on enforcement actions; and, in one California case, following ICE officers from their office to a community to advise immigrants to reveal only their names.
These street-level activities have increased in the past year because Congress has been unable to pass significant immigration legislation--and apparently won't do so again this year because of the presidential election, experts say.
"When that crashed and burned, I think many communities throughout the country began to focus their attention more on protecting the limited rights that immigrants do have," said Peter Schey, president of the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, a non-profit legal foundation for immigrants.
While federal officials don't object to free speech, they expressed reservations about efforts to thwart officers and agents. "One assumes they have something to hide," ICE spokeswoman Pat Reilly said.
"They're threatening us that they're going to hamper our ability to enforce the law," she said of the neighborhood watches in particular. "You know, one has to be careful not to aid, abet or harbor people who are illegally in this country, because that's a violation of immigration law. That can be criminal."
The immigration agency's 75 fugitive operations teams --the ones assigned to visit residences--arrested 30,408 illegal immigrants in the fiscal year ending last September, a figure expected to grow with 28 additional teams this year, officials said.
60% caught are fugitives
Almost 40 percent of those arrests were collateral, and the remainder were deportation-fleeing, or fugitive, immigrants, including criminals, Reilly said. For the first time, the backlog of fugitive immigrants fell last fiscal year, to fewer than 595,000, officials said.
The "home raids" have prompted activists in
In Santa Ana,
Zavala said he didn't interfere with their operations, but he did approach immigrants to advise them not to open their door unless a warrant is slipped under it.
"I go around and create a little bit of a hard time for those that are terrorizing my people--that's what the ICE agents do," said Zavala, who is of Mexican descent. "Once they split a family--because a kid is from here and they deport the mother and the father--that's a violation of human rights, especially when the family is working every day just to survive. That's not a crime."
Immigration officials say they won't be deterred.
"We can wait people out," said Reilly of ICE. "Our folks do this every day. They're very good at figuring out how to find people."
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