Monday, April 07, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Mon, April 7, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Mon, April 7, 2008


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1. New York Times:  “San Francisco Reaches Out to Immigrants”


2. Boston Globe: “A year after raid, immigration cases drag on for many”


3. CBS News: “Border Fence Built In Mexico By Mistake”



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New York Times


April 6, 2008


San Francisco Reaches Out to Immigrants



SAN FRANCISCO The city of San Francisco has started an advertising push with a very specific target market: illegal immigrants. And while the advertisements will come in a bundle of languages — English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese — they all carry the same message: you are safe here.

In what may be the first such campaign of its kind, the city plans to publish multilanguage brochures and fill the airwaves with advertisements relaying assurance that San Francisco will not report them to federal immigration authorities.

Mayor Gavin Newsom said the campaign was simply an amplification of a longstanding position of not cooperating with immigration raids or other enforcement. The city passed a so-called sanctuary ordinance in 1989.

Still, Mr. Newsom said, it never hurts to advertise. “It’s one thing to have a policy on paper,” he said. “It’s another to communicate it directly to people who could be impacted.”

The television and radio campaign will tell immigrants they have “safe access” to public services, including schools, health clinics and — perhaps most importantly — the police, something that local law enforcement officials say is a chronic problem in émigré communities.

“It is a trademark of a criminal predator to convince victims that because of the victims’ immigration status that they — not the predator — will be treated as the criminal,” said Kamala Harris, the city’s district attorney. “We want to remove that tool from the criminal’s tool belt.”

Ms. Harris said particular problems in immigrant communities include human trafficking, fraud and elder abuse, which she said was widely underreported.

San Francisco is not alone in its sanctuary status; New York, Detroit and Washington have policies that discourage the police from enforcing immigration law. Nevertheless, the campaign’s announcement prompted a round of eye-rolling among anti-immigration forces in California and Washington, many of whom are still galled by the city’s 2007 decision to grant identification cards to anyone who could prove residence, regardless of legal status.

“I guess it’s what you expect from San Francisco,” said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform in Washington, which lobbies for stronger immigration enforcement. “But now, not only are they helping people break the law of the federal government, they are advertising it. I don’t know of any other city actually looking for illegal immigrants.”

Rick Oltman, national media director for Californians for Population Stabilization in Santa Barbara, said the campaign could actually be a boon for other Bay Area cities if it drew illegal immigrants out of those communities and into San Francisco.

“The only people who are the losers here are the people of San Francisco who are going to hate the way the city looks in two or five years, when the illegal immigrant population grows massively,” said Mr. Oltman, who said such populations had a negative effect on crime, education, health and the environment.

But Mr. Newsom said his advertising campaign was less a hard sell than a hard look at the reality of immigration policy.

“We’re not arguing against common-sense reforms,” he said. “We’re not arguing against reforms at all. But in lieu of that, we’re doing the best we can to say if they see a crime report it, and if they have a child educate them.”


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Boston Globe


A year after raid, immigration cases drag on for many


By Maria Sacchetti, Globe Staff  |  March 6, 2008

Exactly one year after federal agents burst into a New Bedford factory and arrested 361 immigrant workers, about half of those arrested are still here, an outcome that is raising concerns on both sides of the heated immigration divide.

The raid whiplashed the city, drew criticism from state and federal authorities, and captured national attention for separating some parents from their children. Now, the plodding aftermath is prompting new questions about the effectiveness of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement's raid.

Advocates for immigrants say the raid on the Michael Bianco factory devastated a community, with little to show for it. Those who favor restrictions on immigration say the system should work faster to expel illegal immigrants from the country.

"I think the United States made a plan that didn't work," said Anibal Lucas, director of the Maya K'iche Organization, a group that advocates for Guatemalans of Mayan descent in New Bedford. "It was a loss and waste of money."

Jessica Vaughan - senior policy analyst with the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., which favors restrictions on immigration - also called the legal logjam a cause for concern. Vaughan, whose office is in Franklin, said she is unsure who deserves the blame: overwhelmed immigration courts or lawyers clogging up the system with hard-to-win claims.

"We should be concerned about that," she said. "If the outcome is in their favor, or not in their favor, it's way too long. We ought to be able to provide a swifter resolution to this."

By this month, 161 of the former Michael Bianco workers were still in the United States, the immigration agency said in a response to a Globe request under the Freedom of Information Act for a tally of the detainees and their status.

The number still in the United States is closer to 200, lawyers said. Federal officials could not account for 35 of the original detainees yesterday, but lawyers for the 35 - who were among the first released for humanitarian reasons - contend that most are still in the country, said John Willshire Carrera, a lawyer with Greater Boston Legal Services.

Most of those who remain are fighting deportation, but 10 have been allowed to stay for various reasons.

Federal officials said that they had sent 165 people back to their homelands, mainly Guatemala and El Salvador, and that 12 of those went voluntarily.

The nation's top immigration official, Julie Myers, defended the outcome of the raid during a press conference in Boston yesterday, saying it was "perfectly appropriate" for immigrants to fight their cases in court. She pointed out that the raid led to successful indictments of the factory's owner and managers, a deterrent to other employers who might consider hiring undocumented immigrants.

"I certainly understand the frustration, if there's frustration on the American public's part," Myers, assistant secretary of homeland security for immigration and customs enforcement, said at the Thomas P. O'Neill Jr. Federal Building. "But that's certainly the immigration court's process, and I think it's fair that it plays out."

Myers, in town to speak at Harvard about immigration and national security, added that she hoped that lawyers were not giving some immigrants false hope. She said a third of the detainees already had deportation orders.

"I'm confident that at the end of the day, once the immigration judges make their rulings . . . that those individuals will then be removed," Myers said.

But lawyers for immigrants say they believe dozens of people will qualify for asylum or other relief, some because they fear political violence or gangs in their homeland. Over the past year, lawyers said, they have interviewed the detainees, mostly women, and unearthed chilling stories of assaults, rapes, and killings that occurred during the decades-long conflicts in El Salvador and Guatemala.

Lawyers acknowledge that they are requesting extra time to build their cases, and they are grateful they could do so.

"It's a significant group of people who are going forward on their cases," said Willshire Carrera, who, with Nancy Kelly and Catholic Social Services, is leading teams of lawyers on the cases. "This crowd is not running."

Because hearings are being scheduled into next year, many former Bianco workers are struggling to scrape by as they wait. Some are living with friends or relatives.

Juana Ciprian, a 32-year-old mother from Guatemala who sewed at the factory, and a handful of other women who didn't want to return to working illegally have pooled their money and formed a small sewing cooperative in New Bedford, making handbags to sell at craft fairs.

"We wanted to try to make it on our own," said Ciprian.

One man, 37-year-old Sabino Garcia, is the only Bianco worker still in custody. He regularly calls relatives in New Bedford from his detention facility in Texas, begging them to keep trying to get him out, his brother-in-law said.

Some of those who were deported have slipped back into the United States illegally to rejoin their families. Ricardo Gomez Garcia, 40, died in October of a respiratory problem shortly after sneaking back in.

The raid quickly became a flashpoint in the national debate over illegal immigration, and the federal immigration agency faced criticism for its handling of the detainees. State officials slammed the agency's decision to swiftly send a huge group of immigrants, including parents, to detention centers in Texas. A federal appeals court later called the raid "ham-handed." A federal investigation of the raid is ongoing.

Yesterday, Myers again defended the agency's tactics. She said no children were stranded without a caregiver, and she acknowledged that the agency has since adopted guidelines designed to ensure that children have proper care and that detainees have access to healthcare, lawyers, and other services.

In August, the factory's former president and two managers were indicted, accused of recruiting illegal immigrants to fulfill multimillion-dollar military contracts. The defendants could not be reached yesterday, but they are expected to plead not guilty. The factory has been sold to Eagle Industries Inc.

Some immigrants caught at Bianco have simply gone back to work elsewhere.

A woman in her 30s from a village in El Salvador, a mother of three, said she started working again in New England a few months ago because she was struggling for money and still owed her smuggler part of a $6,000 fee. But the cleaning companies she worked for owes her at least $2,000, she said, and now she is pursuing a claim against them through a nonprofit group, Centro Presente.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she came to Massachusetts in 2005 because in El Salvador she earned only $3 a day as a waitress. At Bianco, she earned $8 an hour, a huge leap that helped her family back home.

A year later, she still misses that job. "We were just working," she said. "I don't know why they did that to us."


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CBS News


Border Fence Built In Mexico By Mistake


COLUMBUS, N.M., June 29, 2007


(AP) The 1.5-mile barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border was designed to keep cars from illegally crossing into the United States. There's just one problem: It was accidentally built on Mexican soil.

Now embarrassed border officials say the mistake could cost the federal government more than $3 million to fix.

The barrier was part of more than 15 miles of border fence built in 2000, stretching from the town of Columbus to an onion farm and cattle ranch.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman said the vertical metal tubes were sunk into the ground and filled with cement along what officials firmly believed was the border. But a routine aerial survey in March revealed that the barrier protrudes into Mexico by 1 to 6 feet.

James Johnson, whose onion farm is in the disputed area, said he thinks his forefathers may have started the confusion in the 19th century by placing a barbed-wire fence south of the border. No one discovered their error, and crews erecting the barrier may have used that fence as a guideline.

“It was a mistake made in the 1800s,” Johnson said. “It is very difficult to make a straight line between two points in rugged and mountainous areas that are about two miles apart.”

The Mexican government was notified and did what any landowner would do: They sent a note politely insisting that Mexico get its land back.

“Our country will continue insisting for the removal (of the fence) to be done as quickly as possible,” the Foreign Relations Department said in a diplomatic missive to Washington.

When the barrier was built in 2000, the project was believed to cost about $500,000 a mile. Estimates to uproot and replace it range from $2.5 million to $3.5 million.

Michael Friel, the spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said the barrier was “built on what was known to be the international boundary at the time.” He acknowledged the method used was “less precise than it is today.”

The International Boundary and Water Commission, a joint Mexican-American group that administers the 2,000-mile border, said the border has never changed and is marked every few miles by tall concrete or metal markers.

Sally Spener, a commission spokeswoman in El Paso, said the agency is generally consulted for construction projects to ensure that treaties are followed. The commission is working with the Department of Homeland Security “to develop a standardized protocol” for building fences and barriers.

“We just want to make sure those things are clear now,” Spener said.

New Mexico Sen. Jeff Bingaman asked Customs and Border Protection officials to build a new fence on U.S. soil before the old one is torn down.

Bingaman said he was concerned about security issues in Las Chepas, the small Mexican village where most area residents live. New Mexico once sought permission to raze the community because it was known as a popular staging area for illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.

Back at his farm, Johnson said he doesn't understand why the placement of the barriers has become an issue now since his family's fence went unquestioned for more than a century.

“The markers are in the right place, and the fence is crooked,” Johnson said. “But for 120-plus years it was agreed upon that that fence was the border.”


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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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