Immigrant Rights News - Wed, March 12, 2008
Immigrant Rights News – Wed, March 12, 2008
Visit: www.nnirr.blogspot.com for IRN and other postings.
1. Video: “Thru the Plexiglass”
2. The Nation: “The People vs. Michael Chertoff”
3. San Diego Union-Tribune: “The role of local police in immigration”
4. The Star-Ledger: “Mayor to seek use of county jail”
6. The New York Times: “Workers Sue Gulf Coast Company That Imported Them”
7. AARP Bulletin: Are You an American? Prove It. A citizenship rule costs states millions but nets few illegals.
Thru the Plexiglass
“Thru the Plexiglass” is a humorous video short that follows a documentary fillmmaker/reporter on a visit to a USCIS office where he encounters a world lost in time (the 1980s). The video is intended to illustrate that our outdated immigration laws are to blame for the current dysfunctional immigration system and not immigrants as many suggest. The writer/producer Will Coley hopes that viewers will like it enough to share it with their friends and make it truly viral.
The People vs. Michael Chertoff
by BRETT STORY
[posted online on March 11, 2008]
The circumstances were different the last time the federal government visited Dr. Eloise Tamez's family property in the Lower Rio Grande region of
The latest threat to Tamez's land comes in the form of a proposed eighteen-foot steel and concrete wall, to be built through her property as part of the controversial US-Mexico border fence. Determined to fight the seizure, the 72-year-old Apache elder launched a class action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Michael Chertoff. Last week, a federal judge ruled in favor of Tamez and her co-defendants, agreeing that Chertoff violated federal law in his rush to build several hundred miles of border wall along the Texas-Mexico border.
The Secure Fence Act of 2006 charged DHS with building 700 miles of double-layer fencing along the US-Mexico border, with at least half to be completed by the end of the 2008. Secretary Chertoff invoked eminent domain powers to seize land along the wall's path, and last August announced that property owners in southern
Over the past two months the Justice Department filed more than fifty condemnation lawsuits against resisting property owners, among them the city of
Just two miles down the road from Tamez's property sits the River Bend Resort and golf course, a popular luxury retreat that, as The Texas Observer reported recently, has yet to be asked to "volunteer" any of its landholdings. River
Eminent domain, the legal rationale DHS has offered for expropriating border land, is a controversial power that allows the state to seize a citizen's property in the name of public utility. The government defended the wall as a necessary bulwark against the twin threats of illegal immigration and terrorism, and Chertoff employed the Declaration of Taking Act, an unusual and expedited condemnation process that denies citizens access to a full trial. Compounded by intimidation tactics that include repeated visits by uniformed Border Patrol agents and US army personnel, landowners have found themselves, until now, relatively powerless.
Although eminent domain grants the government wide latitude and is notoriously difficult to contest, Tamez and seven other
"The law specifically provides that the secretary should explain to property owners what interest he seeks in their property and attempt to arrive at a 'fixed price' for that interest," explains Schey. "And then he may only proceed with normal condemnation proceedings in which a person is entitled to a full due-process trial."
In a thirty-two-page ruling, federal judge Andrew Hanen agreed--partially. While affirming the right of landowners to negotiate over terms and compensation in land seizures, the court also ruled that DHS can move to condemn the land if the parties are unable to negotiate a fixed price.
At the very least, Tamez's lawsuit has succeeded in delaying DHS's sprint to finish a significant portion of the wall by the end of the Bush presidency. In the meantime, it has provided traction for a growing resistance movement on the border, with an eclectic coalition of ranchers, wildlife protectors, civic leaders, local families and migrant justice activists rallying to the cause. On the UT-Brownsville campus, a group called Students for Peace and Change is joining the fight against border militarization, and has allied with others to organize a 126-mile, nine-day walk to protest the wall and raise awareness of their rights among landowners and residents. "The wall is a complete waste of taxpayers' money," says student activist Ryan Tabuer. "There is no imminent threat that 'terrorists' are going to cross."
Last week's ruling vindicated claims that DHS is riding roughshod over the rights of local residents, and provided some legal footing to those whose land is threatened by the wall's incursion. As Julio Noboa, assistant professor and faculty sponsor of Students for Peace and Change, points out, "When you alienate enough people, you push their hand." Dr. Tamez agrees, and has vowed to continue fighting a project she believes will destroy the culture and economy of border communities.
"The government is putting pen to paper and destroying lives," Tamez argues. "We applaud when walls are torn down in other parts of the world, and here we are putting one up--undemocratically."
San Diego Union-Tribune
The role of local police in immigration
March 5, 2008
You can't please everyone. But when it comes to immigration reform, you're not on the right track until you're not pleasing anyone.
The Phoenix Police Department has adopted a new immigration enforcement policy that is taking torpedoes from those who think it goes too far and from those who insist it doesn't go far enough. That's our first clue that the folks in the Valley of the Sun might have found the sweet spot.
The policy change, recommended by a panel of former government prosecutors and implemented by Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, allows officers to question anyone suspected of a crime about their immigration status and gives officers the discretion about whether to notify federal immigration officials. But it prohibits officers from posing such questions to crime victims, witnesses or anyone stopped for civil violations such as speeding.
Immigrant-rights activists, Latino lawyer associations and civil libertarians condemn the policy change, calling it a sop to xenophobia. They worry about racial profiling and prefer the previous policy, in effect for more than 10 years, which barred officers from asking about immigration status in most cases. The
So who is right and who is wrong? That's easy. The city is right and the critics are wrong.
I've long been opposed to local police officers playing Border Patrol agents. For me, the best argument is the one advanced by the hundreds of police chiefs who have resisted having their officers commandeered into the enforcement of immigration law – that, by making people afraid to go to the cops for help, you create ready-made victims to be preyed upon by bad guys and actually increase crime instead of curbing it.
But that doesn't mean local police should never cooperate with immigration authorities. That would only add credence to the myth that there are all these “sanctuary cities” in the
That is not the case. In most cities in
The point of demarcation is whether the illegal immigrant in question is accused of committing an additional crime aside from the civil offense of coming into the country unlawfully. Once they're in the criminal justice system, all bets are off. That's not a case of local cops working as immigration officers. It's a case of local officers working with immigration officers. Big difference.
What concerns me is a scenario where local police officers, who lack the more than 20 weeks of specialized training that Border Patrol agents receive, tell themselves they're Wyatt Earp and try to clean up Anytown USA by removing illegal immigrants or anyone they think is an illegal immigrant. Before long, you've got U.S.-born Hispanics caught up in that dragnet.
Think that couldn't happen? It already has, in – how's this for irony – a suburb about 20 miles southeast of
At the time, I was a reporter for The Arizona Republic. The attorney general was Grant Woods, one of the former prosecutors who wrote the new policy for the Phoenix Police Department. In Woods' report on the incident, a
Your tax dollars at work. There are those who say we have to evict illegal immigrants to preserve our civilization. But there's nothing civilized about comments like those.
Ruben Navarrette can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor to seek use of county jail
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
County Administrator John Bonanni said a small working group, including himself, Sheriff Edward Rochford and a couple of freeholders will sit down with Cresitello later this week in county offices in
Cresitello's efforts to deputize local police as immigration agents is a move that gained national attention last year, prompting a fierce local political debate. He made some informal inquiries last summer to the county, to gauge their interest in using the county jail to hold detainees.
The mayor said county participation would increase public safety in
However, a report submitted to the freeholders in October by Rochford outlined a host of po tential negatives for the county. Included were a need for additional jail staff, equipment, sup plies, vehicles, training, overtime and ancillary costs totaling $1.3 million, plus $250,000 annually in fringe benefits and undetermined medical and litigation costs.
"The report done by Sheriff Rochford was very thorough," said Bonanni. "But we will listen to the mayor and keep an open mind on what he says."
Cresitello has said he would consider looking outside the state for possible alternative jails if the county is not cooperative, but said he has not yet started negotiations with any other facilities. Board continues
master plan talks
After approving the proposal in January, the planning board will talk about the ordinances that would lay out how to put the ideas into practice.
The master plan proposes a pedestrian friendly village for the area around the Towaco train station, including 45 housing units and 52,000 square feet of storefronts and office space, as well as additional parking.
It also suggests reducing the speed limit from 35 mph to 25 mph through the area, and it lays out design standards to create a uniform architectural style.
The planning board needs to approve the ordinances before they are sent to the township committee for review and adoption.
The master plan is available at the township website: montvil lenj.org.
The planning board meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. at town hall.
Crackdown on Illegal Immigration Quiets Soccer Fields in Pr. William
By Karin Brulliard
Wednesday, March 12, 2008; A01
When Northern Virginia's Latino soccer leagues kick off the 2008 season early next month, fans of Honduras de Manassas will have to travel outside their base in Prince William County to see their team score goals. So will supporters used to watching Juventus SureÂ¿o crush the competition in Woodbridge. Devotees of longtime
As Prince William proceeds with its crackdown on illegal immigrants, one result is a shake-up and shrinking of the area's entrenched Hispanic soccer leagues. The reason is simple, organizers say: Players and fans, among them many illegal immigrants, are so worried about being detained by authorities en route to or at games that they are avoiding local fields. Legal immigrants are also wary, for themselves or their illegal relatives, organizers say.
"I have never felt as good as I felt in Manassas," said Hector Bardales, 26, a Sterling mechanic who plays in four of the region's leagues but most loved the crowds who cheered him on when he donned his Honduras de Manassas uniform. But he is in the country illegally, so
Officials have said the policy is not meant to intimidate but to remove illegal immigrants, particularly those who commit crimes. The imperiled leagues draw little sympathy from backers of the county's enforcement program.
"I would hope that the soccer leagues didn't depend on illegal aliens to make them viable," said Greg Letiecq, president of Help Save Manassas, an anti-illegal-immigration group. "It just doesn't seem like a valid reason for overturning the rule-of-law resolution: because without the illegal aliens, the soccer clubs will all fall apart."
Some teams are moving to counties they perceive as safer ground, and several are not playing. Owners of the four main Latino leagues that play in Prince William started last season with 80 teams among them; three weeks before this year's outset, fewer than 50 have signed up. The biggest and oldest league, the Liga de Manassas, is skipping the season because its list of teams dropped by more than half.
Organizers say the decline is a blow not just to soccer but also to Latino immigrants' community life. The weekend games, played at rented county and school fields from April to November, have evolved into events that attract crowds who come to hear bands perform, munch steaming pupusas and let their children play. Leagues hire security guards to curb rowdiness and crews to clean fields postgame. Matches are broadcast on Spanish-language radio.
"Imagine you work all week, Monday to Friday. You need entertainment. Something to distract your mind," drywaller and soccer enthusiast Francisco Carcamo, 31, said on a recent blustery Sunday as he watched two teams scrimmage in Woodbridge, where he lives. He pointed to a boy kicking a ball in the distance. "Look. If the parents don't come, how will the children have fun?"
To try to allay fears, league owners have hosted team meetings at which police have explained the county's policy, which took effect last week and requires officers to check the immigration status of crime suspects who they think might be in the country illegally. There are to be no immigration checkpoints, racial profiling or sidelines raids, the teams were told. The meetings have had little impact, league owners said.
The two hardest-hit leagues are in Manassas, a place organizers say Latino immigrants fear most because it is surrounded by the county and is home to Help Save Manassas.
Like league owners regionwide,
"I don't have the teams," he said. "This is what they have nicknamed this county: the Devil's County. They call it Condado del Diablo."
Jose Platero said most players on his team, Fiorentina, told him they will no longer go to
Organizers also cite fear among legal immigrants. The main concern, they say, is whether illegal immigrants who are driven to matches by legal immigrants will be asked for immigration papers if the driver is stopped. Legal fans and players also fear their illegal relatives could be detained on the sidelines.
First Sgt. Kim Chinn, a Prince William police spokeswoman, said passengers would be asked for legal documents only if the officer also suspected them of crimes and of being in the country illegally.
Walter Pereira, 30, a construction worker from
"I don't want anything to happen to them," said Walter Pereira, who lives in Alexandria. "I have to support them. I am Latino, too."
Leagues in other jurisdictions reported no similar declines, with one exception: A handful of the 14 teams that played in the Springfield Soccer League last year are moving to the District or Maryland, league owner Jose Bonilla said.
"They are afraid of being near" Prince William, said Saul Cardenas, who is moving his team, Atletico SureÂ¿o, to a District league after playing in Springfield for five years.
Leaders of teams staying in Prince William said they have mostly legal players or are recruiting younger Latinos who are
Last weekend in a sunny
Chatting turned to questions: Should people carry passports? Would immigration agents raid the soccer fields? They joked about placing newspaper ads: "Players wanted. Unpaid. With papers."
Rivera vowed to keep the league going, even with 10 teams, to "reactivate the people."
"It's like a tornado hit here, and there is dirt everywhere," Rivera said. "We're trying to rebuild."
The New York Times
March 11, 2008
Workers Sue Gulf Coast Company That Imported Them
NEW ORLEANS — A group of 500 foreign welders and pipefitters brought in to work at Gulf Coast oil rig yards after Hurricane Katrina said Monday that they had sued their employer, claiming they were lured with false promises of permanent-resident status, forced to live in inhumane conditions and then threatened when they protested.
The workers were recruited in
The company said it had brought them in to supplement a labor force depleted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
At a rally here Monday, workers and their lawyers said they had given up life savings, sold family jewelry and paid up to $20,000 in immigration and travel fees after being assured that the company would help them to become permanent residents of the
In a statement, the company called the workers’ charges “baseless and unfounded” and said it had spent “over $7 million constructing state-of-the-art housing complexes” for the workers. The company said that the “vast majority of the workers” recruited had been satisfied with their conditions and that the workers were being paid “in excess” of prevailing rates and in full compliance with the law.
Workers and their advocates disputed those assertions. Ignorant of American immigration law, advocates said, the workers were unaware that they had been brought in only temporarily.
“They didn’t know they were guest workers,” said Stephen Boykewich of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice. “They thought they were getting permanent status.”
The green cards enabling residency never materialized, according to the lawsuit, and the workers were forced to live in overcrowded guarded “bunkhouses” at Signal International, with inadequate toilets and unhygienic kitchens that frequently made them ill.
The class-action lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery, Ala., among other groups.
The workers’ assertions are the latest in a series of complaints about exploitation of foreign laborers on the
Previous complaints have involved Hispanic hotel and construction workers and farm laborers and have centered on low pay and harsh working conditions.
In the summer of 2006, Hispanic hotel workers sued a prominent
The Southern Poverty Law Center has also sued on behalf of immigrant workers involved in the reconstruction and cleanup of
Are You an American? Prove It
A citizenship rule costs states millions but nets few illegals.
Bernice Todd's Choctaw family roots are sunk deep in the soil of
While Todd's case is rich in irony, she is one of tens of thousands of Americans who are falling victim to a new federal rule—aimed at keeping illegal immigrants off the Medicaid rolls—requiring that recipients prove their citizenship and identity with documents many don't have.
In today's troubled economy, when more and more people find their jobs and thus their health coverage in jeopardy, access to Medicaid for those who are eligible is a key concern, experts say.
"Even though I'm eligible for Medicaid and my family has been here forever, they had to drop me," says Todd, who lives in
States have always been required to check a Medicaid applicant’s eligibility, which includes citizenship. But a July 2006 rule, enforced by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), now demands specific documents as proof, such as a passport or a birth certificate, driver's license or military record. States face fines if they don't comply.
The rule, which neither CMS nor the Bush administration requested, was adopted by the Republican-dominated Congress in 2005 despite the fact that there was no evidence that undocumented immigrants were falsely claiming U.S. citizenship to get Medicaid.
"This rule was the answer to a problem that really doesn’t exist," says Donna Cohen Ross, an analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in
In fact, the year the rule was passed, Mark McClellan, then the administrator for CMS, said that a report by the CMS inspector general did "not find particular problems regarding false allegations of citizenship, nor are we aware of any." Most states agreed with that assessment.
"In 2007 we added $1 million to our budget just to handle the cost of this new rule when we had absolutely no indication there was a problem with illegal immigrants getting Medicaid in Kansas," says Andrew Allison, Kansas Medicaid director and deputy director of the state Health Policy Authority.
There are no complete figures on how many recipients the rule has forced from Medicaid rolls because most states don’t track those numbers. And CMS staff experts say it's impossible to calculate the deterrent effect of the rule on potential applicants.
But many states do report that the rule is backfiring, forcing
In Oklahoma, for example, more than 20,000 of its 700,000 Medicaid recipients—almost 13 percent are American Indians—have been dropped from the program, "not because they aren't citizens, but because they're having a tough time coming up with the right pieces of paper at the right time," says Mike Fogarty, chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the agency overseeing Medicaid.
Fogarty says Oklahoma, like most states, has been doing aggressive outreach to help residents get the documents they need, diverting resources and effort that "could have been spent improving our program."
So far, he says,
"Before this rule took effect, we did our own audit, and we were very confident
A U.S. Government Accountability Office survey of the states last year found that that the requirement caused eligible
In fact, nationwide the rule has added millions of dollars in administrative costs.
"We've tracked this, and most of the people we're losing are adults who are parents of children," he says, "and the next highest number is children under age 16." He adds that 80 to 90 percent of the
"These people live tough, chaotic lives, and they can't take time out to track down documents, stand in line, come into an office and swear out affidavits," Jones says. "So their health care and the health care of their children are suffering."
Most states, says Allison, the Medicaid director in
"But if a state has a problem with citizenship," he says, "then give them a range of alternatives to fix that. What the feds need is a new state-specific approach, not a one-size-fits-all rule." What Congress did, he says, was "take the most draconian approach to fix a phantom problem."
And so Bernice Todd of
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National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Red Nacional Pro Derechos Inmigrantes y Refugiados
Tel (510) 465-1984 ext. 305
Fax (510) 465-1885