Immigrant Rights News - Wed, March 19, 2008
Immigrant Rights News – Wed, March 19, 2008
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IDs unequal across the board
Mar. 16, 2008 12:00 AM
If you're an underage drinker caught trying to get into a bar with a fake driver's license, you might get charged with a misdemeanor - if you get charged at all.
But if you're an illegal immigrant who presents a questionable Mexican driver's license to a
Defense attorneys want to know why there appears to be a different standard applied to non-U.S. citizens when the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law, regardless of immigration status.
Few law-enforcement or prosecutorial agencies would address the issue of the two-tier system, and it is next to impossible to gauge how widespread the practice is.
But the effects are clear: Many Mexican nationals arrested end up pleading guilty to a felony and agreeing to leave the country rather than spend more time in jail.
And the price they pay is high, effectively forfeiting the right ever to re-enter the country legally or become naturalized
Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who has championed tough sanctions against illegal immigrants, acknowledges that charging and convicting them of felonies is an effective de facto deportation tool, especially since illegal immigrants charged with felonies are held without bail under Proposition 100.
However there is no clear-cut line to define what constitutes charging someone with a misdemeanor vs. a felony for a fake driver's license. The decision is made at the discretion of prosecutors.
The felony charge hinges on the intent to commit fraud, but prosecutors and defense attorneys alike admit that it's difficult to prove what fraud is being committed.
"What's the fraud?" asked Lisa Posada, a defense attorney in private practice who has handled several of these cases.
She, like many defense attorneys, notes that most of the Mexicans arrested present documents that bear their true names, photos and dates of birth - even if the documents themselves may be illegitimate.
"How come a college girl in
Posada has had both types of clients. But the Mexicans, she said, usually enter into plea agreements and are removed from the country.
"A lot of them plead guilty because they just want to get out of jail," Posada said.
And in those cases, what constituted the fraud, or even whether the licenses were truly falsified, are never determined.
Whether intended or not, charging Mexican nationals with felony forgery instead of misdemeanor possession of a counterfeit driver's license allows officials to take advantage of Proposition 100, the law that passed overwhelmingly in 2006.
Proposition 100 was billed as a way to deny bond to illegal immigrants accused of "serious crimes." But the term "serious crimes" has no legal meaning, so the Legislature stepped in and defined them as Class 1-4 felonies, encompassing everything from murder and rape down to shoplifting. "Serious" now includes burglars, perjurers, and those who conspire to commit human smuggling, the charge in place for all people caught with coyotes. Forgery with intent to commit fraud is a Class-4 felony.
Coupled with the 2006 human smuggling law, the new Employer Sanctions Law, and the Maricopa County Sheriff's agreement with federal immigration authorities allowing deputies to verify immigration status of arrestees, Proposition 100 has become an effective tool to combat illegal immigration.
Thomas, who had a hand in passing those laws, admits as much.
"These laws, working in concert, are providing a backstop, at least here in
"The policy of requiring a felony conviction for any plea agreement is an important one," Thomas said. "That conviction will harm their ability to immigrate here legally and become a citizen.
"In a sense, it is this office's attempt to enforce a no-amnesty program. It's hard for somebody with a felony conviction to receive amnesty down the road for citizenship purposes, so it serves that additional purpose. All the better, as far as I'm concerned."
Officials mum on practice
There is no way of determining how many forgery cases were pleaded out because the Maricopa County Attorney's Office will not say how many have been prosecuted. Spokesman Barnett Lotstein says that the
But last year,
Phoenix Public Safety Manager Jack Harris, who has said he does not support his officers' conducting routine immigration enforcement, did not want to talk about Mexican driver's licenses, either.
In an official statement, Harris said, "
Feds' Program Targets Illegally Employed Immigrants
Database Screens Employee's Information
The Department of Homeland Security says its e-Verify program is not intended to be a method for catching illegal immigrants, but it is a way to ensure that they will not get jobs.
The program allows employers to use a federal database to make sure that potential employees have immigration status that makes it legal for them to work.
Employers use an Internet-based system to enter a potential employee's information and see if it matches the person who is applying for the job.
The verification can be completed in as little as a few seconds.
"The Department of Homeland Security believes that e-Verify is the best means available for verifying your new hires to help make sure you don't have an unauthorized workforce," Department of Homeland Security spokewoman Katherine Lotspeich said.
About two dozen employers and attorneys showed up for a seminar in downtown
Not all were convinced it will be a complete solution.
"There's multiple potential for error there, with training issues that you have to go through," staffing industry worker Mike Emanuele said.
A potential employee's information might not check out if there are typographical errors or a name changes that is not reflected in the database.
In the case of an incomplete check or a rejection, the system lets employers know if the problem lies with the Social Security Administration or with immigration.
An employee can be granted a temporary non-compliant authorization and then has eight days to contest the issue.
If it is not resolved, the employee can be fired.
The system helps employers make determination about the immigration status of potential workers, but does not shield them from potential legal action.
"It does not prevent lawsuits filed by workers who are inadvertently or wrongfully terminated," attorney Eileen Scofield said.
Lotspeich said that the system is not to be used for immigration enforcement, only to verify employment eligibility.
"That's not our role. Our role is employment verification," she said.
As of Tuesday, 463
"We don't want to refuse anyone the right to work, but we do want to find the best candidates," Carter and Crawley Human Resource Manager Martha Stewart said.
The company began using the e-Verify system in February as part of its hiring process.
"Sometimes you may take a look at a person's (records) and make a determination on whether they have a right to work or not," Stewart said. "But with e-Verify then all of that guesswork is gone out of it."
Day laborers say immigration, not safety, focus of operation
12:00 AM CDT on Wednesday, March 19, 2008
But the undercover operation – now in its sixth month – has caused anxiety among some workers who fear that the police effort may actually be an attempt to catch illegal immigrants.
"This is supposed to be a humanitarian country, a land of union and freedom," said José Rodríguez, who gathers with dozens of other laborers each day at
Police say they are simply concerned about safety, not illegal immigration. They say laborers block traffic at Interstate 35E and State Highway 121 when they rush out into the street to meet would-be employers.
"Some [laborers] are not happy with the operation,"
"We're not enforcing immigration, we're just contacting the ones that are breaking the city ordinance and the state law," he added. "Whenever they're in the plaza, we never have contact with them."
Authorities say looking for work in the streets is illegal, but laborers can request jobs on private property like the
Police have conducted three undercover operations in the past six months, the last on Feb. 28. Six people have been given citations, and 10 others have been arrested on charges of solicitation by a pedestrian, a Class C misdemeanor that carries a maximum $500 fine.
Those who can't provide identification are arrested, Capt. Deaver said. Of the 10 who have been arrested, seven claimed
Capt. Deaver said none of the people arrested or cited in the operations has been transferred to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
"It's obvious this is not an immigration issue since no one has been referred to ICE," Capt. Deaver said.
Capt. Deaver said an undercover operation is necessary "because they wouldn't come out in the street" if they saw marked police cars approaching, he said. "Our hope is to gain compliance, and we will not have to have the operations."
"That law is unconstitutional," Mr. García said.
He added that he is trying to forge an agreement with the city of
Migrants too scared to report crimes?
Daniel González, The Arizona Republic
Mar. 19, 2008 12:00 AM
When some local law-enforcement agencies became more involved in arresting illegal immigrants, victim advocates worried that the crackdowns would erode trust with immigrants.
Now, a year later, they say their fears are coming true, as undocumented residents avoid reporting crimes to police out of fear they could be deported.
Though no hard data exists - it's impossible for police to quantify the calls they aren't getting - victim advocates, immigrant activists, pastors and community leaders say they have seen an uptick in calls from undocumented residents seeking help.
"There has been a surge of folks who have been victimized in one way or another, and they are afraid to call police," said Lydia Guzman, spokeswoman for Respect/Respeto, a Phoenix-based human-rights organization.
The organization launched a Web site in January that allows people who think their rights have been violated to call a hotline to seek help. The hotline receives 30 to 40 calls a week. A woman called recently and said she had been raped but was too afraid to call police, Guzman said.
Some police agencies are concerned enough about the trend that they have increased efforts to assure crime victims and witnesses that they won't be questioned about their immigration status.
Police say they can't measure whether a fear of calling police has had any effect on crime statistics.
Robbery, up nearly 10 percent, was the only violent-crime category that increased from 2006 to 2007.
The department credits more effective crime-fighting strategies with the decrease in the violent-crime rate, Sgt. Joel Trantor said.
The dreaded question
Those who work closely with illegal immigrants cite two factors for the growing reluctance to report crimes: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's crackdown on illegal immigrants and a tougher immigration policy by the Phoenix Police Department.
Last March, Arpaio began using 100 deputies trained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws. Since then, deputies have arrested more than 780 illegal immigrants.
The Police Department, meanwhile, is preparing to implement a new immigration policy that will require officers to ask every person who is arrested about his or her citizenship. Those found to be in the country illegally could be turned over to federal authorities for deportation.
Magdalena Schwartz, a
One was a woman who was being battered by her husband. Schwartz said she convinced the woman, an undocumented immigrant, to report the crime.
Some immigrant advocates are concerned criminals may be preying on immigrants because they know they are less likely to call police. And they are worried that other people will be victimized if immigrants are not reporting crimes.
"This puts us all at risk; we cannot isolate ourselves. It impacts us all," said Connie Andersen of the Valley Interfaith Network.
Andersen said that by making immigrants afraid to report crimes, Arpaio is creating a "sanctuary city for criminals."
Arpaio doesn't think his crackdown on illegal immigrants has made undocumented residents less likely to report crimes. Immigrant advocates are raising those fears to try to make him back down from the crackdowns, he said.
"That's another example of trying to intimidate me and to try and have me do nothing," he said.
Arpaio said undocumented immigrants continue to cooperate with the Sheriff's Office.
In February, an undocumented immigrant helped deputies identify a man suspected of killing a co-worker on a ranch near Gila Bend.
This month, sheriff's deputies stopped a car loaded with undocumented immigrants near Wickenburg. Some of the immigrants found in the car led deputies to a drophouse in west
Trying to prevent fear
Other Valley police officials, however, believe immigration crackdowns have made undocumented immigrants more reluctant to report crime, though it's difficult to track.
"Is it fair to think that may possibly be the case? Sure," said Detective Dave Ramer of the Chandler Police Department.
In response, some agencies have stepped up efforts to assure undocumented residents that they won't be asked about their citizenship if they report a crime.
The Phoenix Police Department has been trying to assure immigrants that its new immigration policy does not apply to crime victims or witnesses, Trantor said.
"Our policy states that if you are a victim of a crime or a witness of a crime, we are not going to ask about immigration status,"
But the agency is concerned that fewer immigrants may be reporting crimes, he said, and therefore is reaching out more to immigrants.
One way is by having an officer go on Spanish radio each week and talk about recent crimes that have gone unsolved, then asking for help.
"We are not going to ask one single question about your immigration status," Icela Brown, a Phoenix police detective, assured a caller one recent Wednesday during her weekly segment on La Buena Onda, KNUV- AM (1190).
"If you are a victim, call police, if you are a witness, call Silent Witness."
Silent Witness offers rewards to people who report crimes and allows witnesses to remain anonymous.
He does not think, however, that the increase is due to more immigrants preferring to remain anonymous. Instead, he cited several high-profile cases and more publicity for the upswing.
Tips to the program resulted in 250 arrests in 2007, up from 160 in 2006.
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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