Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Visit to read IRN and other National Network posts.


1. GovExec.Com: “DHS presses ahead with plan to use Social Security records to enforce immigration laws”


2. AlterNet: “10 Reasons to Look Critically at Dissolving Mexico-U.S.-Canada Borders”


3. The Raw Story: “Investigation alleges 'cover-up' attempt by immigration chief in offensive costume flap”



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DHS presses ahead with plan to use Social Security records to enforce immigration laws


National Journal

Despite protests from businesses, organized labor, and immigrant-rights groups, the Homeland Security Department is pressing ahead with a controversial rule to use Social Security records to enforce immigration laws.

The department's bid, critics say, will harm legal workers and the U.S. economy without solving the problem of illegal immigration because it relies on inaccurate information. The rule, officially published on March 26, amounts to a politically motivated push by Republicans to crack down on employers who hire illegal workers, opponents contend.

"They've got to show their base that they're enforcing the immigration law even they say is flawed," said Laura Foote Reiff, a partner at Greenberg Traurig and counsel to the Essential Worker Immigration Coalition, a group of businesses and trade associations that lobbies for immigration reform.

DHS spokeswoman Veronica Nur Valdes said that the agency is just trying to do its job and help employers follow the law. "We have a responsibility to protect our nation and enforce our immigration laws. Since Congress didn't give us the tools we need, we're using the tools we have."

Since 1994, the Social Security Administration has sent "no-match" letters to most employers if the name and Social Security number on a worker's W-2 form do not agree with the agency's records. The letter asks the employer to correct the discrepancy within 60 days so Social Security can properly credit a worker's earnings. The letter explicitly states that the inquiry does not involve an employee's immigration status. There are no penalties if an employer does not respond.

Homeland Security wants to send employers its own letter giving them 90 days to correct the problem -- and outlining the steps they need to take -- or fire the worker. Businesses that show they took the appropriate action would be granted "safe harbor" from Immigration and Customs Enforcement using the no-match notification to prosecute them for illegal-hiring practices. Those that don't "place themselves at obvious risk and invite suspicion that they are knowingly employing workers who are here illegally," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in December.

Employers are subject to civil fines of as much as $16,000 per worker for knowingly employing illegal immigrants, and those who make a practice of it face criminal charges that carry a maximum prison term of five years.

Many illegal workers use fake Social Security numbers to get jobs, but opponents of DHS's plan point out that mismatches can occur for legitimate reasons, such as clerical errors, unreported name changes, and inaccurate employment records. Social Security's inspector general found that discrepancies in approximately 17.8 million (4 percent) of the 435 million records in the agency's database could result in mismatches, and that more than 70 percent of discrepancies -- 12.7 million people -- involve native-born U.S. citizens.

Even if the rule could accurately target illegal aliens, said Angela Kelley, director of the American Immigration Law Foundation's Immigration Policy Center, "we're kidding ourselves if we think these undocumented workers are going to quietly pack their bags and go home. What they're going to do is work in the [illegal] cash economy, go farther underground, or get another Social Security number, and the problem will only get worse."

AFL-CIO attorney Ana Avendano said that DHS's own estimates suggest that as many as 70,000 legal workers could lose their jobs because of the rule. "On balance, what does this letter accomplish?" Avendano asked. "By law, Social Security won't tell DHS who gets the letters, so [DHS] can't target employers who receive no-match letters."

Marielena Hincapie, director of programs for the National Immigration Law Center, predicted that "inaccuracies in the database will lead to discrimination primarily against people of color or people perceived to be immigrants," regardless of their immigration status. She said that the center has already received numerous reports of employers firing workers they suspect might be in the country illegally.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the House Judiciary Committee's ranking member, praised the rule as "an important step toward addressing illegal immigration by putting an end to the job magnet that encourages so many to come here illegally and stay. The sooner DHS can implement this rule, the sooner we can seriously begin to address the problems posed by the millions of illegal immigrants already in the country."

The department proposed the rule in June 2006, but it has been on hold since August 2007 because of a legal challenge by labor, business, and civil- and immigrant-rights groups.


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10 Reasons to Look Critically at Dissolving Mexico-U.S.-Canada Borders


By Manuel Pérez Rocha and Sarah Anderson, AlterNet

Posted on April 9, 2008, Printed on April 9, 2008


This month, President Bush will host the leaders of Canada and Mexico to advance the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), a project Lou Dobbs has predicted will "end the United States as we know it."


Lou sounds downright blasé, though, compared to all the online ranting and raving on this subject. And while there are plenty of reasons for progressives to be up in arms over this effort to expand the North American Free Trade Agreement, the xenophobes have clearly cornered the market.


In their paranoid fantasies, the three North American executive powers are secretly plotting to surrender everything they hold dear about the good ol' USA. The U.S. borders, the flag, and even the almighty American dollar would disappear as the country is submerged into a North American Union with Mexico and Canada.


Check out , whose creators are convinced that while the SPP hasn't replaced the dollar with a North American currency just yet, the switch is right around the corner. To raise alarm bells, these folks have gone ahead and designed our future money themselves. The cost of purchasing uno "amero": $10.


From the always imaginative John Birch Society, you can order a poster featuring our future North American Union flag, a collage of the three countries' current emblems with -- gasp! -- the socialist maple leaf dead center.


After an intro image of North America bursting into flames, offers screeds by anti-immigrant Minutemen about how the SPP will fling open U.S. borders to terrorists, drunken Mexican truck drivers and tens of millions more illegal immigrants who will infect us all with tuberculosis.


The video "North American Union and Vchip Truth" cranks things up another notch. Viewed more than 4.8 million times, it presents the SPP as a big step towards a single world government, with David Rockefeller preventing any resistance by implanting us all with Vchips. We can only hope this is satire, but the 10,000 comments by Youtubers suggest that many viewers aren't getting the joke.


All this would be simply entertaining if it weren't for the fact that the SPP truly is a dangerous initiative -- but not for the reasons cited by the xenophobes.


Launched in 2005, the SPP is an ongoing process of negotiation between the three countries' executive powers to change regulations and other policies to boost business and support the U.S. War on Terror. Twenty SPP working groups on everything from financial services to intelligence cooperation hammer out details in between the annual presidential summits.


In Mexico and Canada, progressive activists are already highly mobilized on the SPP. And while the far right has dominated the U.S. discourse, this is beginning to change. A half dozen U.S. progressive groups organized a strategy meeting in Washington, D.C., in March with activists and legislators from all three countries. Together with local activists in New Orleans, the site of the fourth SPP Presidential Summit on April 21-22, they are planning a Peoples Summit and a trinational meeting of energy sector workers.


Here are 10 reasons why progressives are paying attention to the SPP:

1. No democratic oversight. Although elected officials in all three countries have demanded transparency, they continue to be excluded from the SPP Presidential summits, ministerial meetings and working groups. Legislators have formed a trinational task force to stop the SPP.


2. Secrecy. The SPP excludes civil society organizations and the media from all meetings. During a peaceful demonstration outside the last summit in Canada, the government sent in undercover agents posing as rock-wielding protestors. After being confronted with video footage, authorities fessed up to the scheme.


3. Only big business has a voice. Wal-Mart, Lockheed Martin, and 28 other corporations and business associations are part of an official SPP advisory body called the North American Competitive Council. The council made 51 proposals to SPP negotiators in February 2007 on issues as varied as taxation and patent rights. Six months later, they boasted that "all three of our governments have committed themselves to taking action on many of our recommendations."


4. Expansion of failed NAFTA policies. Even though the lifting of trade and investment barriers under the trade pact has failed to create good jobs, the SPP is further chipping away at remaining economic regulations. For example, at the last SPP summit, the three leaders announced (PDF) a weakening of NAFTA's "rules of origin" to allow products with a lower level of national content to receive preferential tariff treatment. This will undermine domestic industries by making trade in products from third countries like China even more profitable.


5. Privatization. SPP agreements announced thus far show a clear bias in favor of an expanded role for corporations. Two examples: 1) a North American Plan for Avian and Pandemic Influenza intended as a model for private sector and military involvement in emergency management and preparedness and 2) a Trilateral Agreement for Cooperation in Energy, Science and Technology that reflects the NACC's recommendations (PDF) to promote energy privatization in Mexico, where there has been strong resistance to opening up to U.S. oil companies.


6. Energy grab. Progressive activists in Canada and Mexico are particularly concerned about the likelihood that the U.S. government will use the SPP negotiations to push for greater control over its neighbors' resources, under the guise of a "North American integrated energy market." Common Frontiers, the Council of Canadians, and other groups point to an SPP workshop that envisioned a fivefold increase in environmentally destructive oil production from tar sands, with most of the increase to be exported to the United States.


7. Pipeline proliferation. The Sierra Club and others have raised alarm bells about the SPP's Transportation Working Group, whose mandate includes facilitating "multimodal corridors" that could include massive water and oil pipelines, with serious costs to the environment and communities. The Alliance for Democracy is calling for public hearings on the issue.

8. More border baloney. The SPP is focusing on facilitating transit of "legitimate people" and expanding border surveillance infrastructure, rather than addressing the root causes of migration or the rights of undocumented workers. There are also worrisome implications for civil liberties, as Mexico and Canada have agreed to share vast amounts of information with the U.S. government, including the fingerprints of refugees and asylum seekers.


9. Militarization. Mexico and Canada are enlisting in the U.S. War on Terror by creating a North American security perimeter and joining forces against not only external but also "internal threats." Some fear a U.S. multibillion-dollar military aid package for Mexico, supposedly to combat drug cartels, may also end up being used to suppress political dissidence and immigration flows.


10. Polarization. The zany anti-SPP xenophobes may be amusing at times, but their hysteria shows how government secrecy and exclusion can fan the flames of a racist movement and push us further away from any rational response to migration.


Having the leaders of our three deeply interconnected nations getting together to talk is a positive thing. The problem is with what's on the agenda -- and what's not. Rather than a misguided NAFTA expansion, they should be addressing people's real needs and planning a sustainable future.


Manuel Pérez Rocha is an associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies, where he is leading an initiative on the Security and Prosperity Partnership. Sarah Anderson directs IPS's Global Economy Project.



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The Raw Story


Investigation alleges 'cover-up' attempt by immigration chief in offensive costume flap


04/09/2008 @ 9:43 am


Filed by Nick Juliano


The country's top immigration cop, Julie Myers, attempted to suppress photographs taken with a federal employee dressed in an offensive Halloween costume and oversaw a "coordinated effort to conceal" the extent of her involvement in praising the questionable garb until after her Senate confirmation, according to a new investigation.

The House Homeland Security Committee has been probing the circumstances of a Halloween party held last year for Department of Homeland Security Employees. Myers, a DHS assistant secretary, was one of three judges who awarded "most original costume" to an employee who was dressed in skin-darkening makeup, a dreadlocks wig and prison stripes. The Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement was photographed with the employee at the party, although it was more than three months until those photos would become public.

A 22-page report (.pdf) released Tuesday night by the Homeland Security Committee's majority staff reveals several new details about the party and the cover-up role played by Myers, who heads the Immigration and Customs Service. The committee's Democrats call for a full DHS investigation.

This examination indicates that Assistant Secretary Myers directed the destruction of photographs of the Halloween party, enlisted other DHS employees to destroy photographs and ordered the sanctioning and relocation of an employee in a coordinated effort to conceal the circumstances surrounding the party.

These activities were undertaken prior to the Assistant Secretary’s Senate Confirmation hearing and may have been carried out to preclude or delay the public release of photographs that could have adversely impacted her confirmation hearings.

Myers ordered photos of the man in the offensive costume deleted after the party, but the report reveals for the first time that ICE learned those photos could be restored just a week later. It took the agency two months to comply with a public records request for the photos -- more than three times longer than the law requires.

A DHS spokeswoman tells the New York Times that suggestions of a coordinated cover-up are "absolutely false."

The Committee's report made five recommendations:

1. The Department of Homeland Security conduct a full investigation into any and all actions taken by ICE officials that either led to or were meant to lead to the concealment of this incident.

2. An independent official be appointed to determine what, if any, laws may have been violated by ordering the destruction of photographs.

3. The U.S. Office of Special Counsel examine whether the disciplinary actions taken against the employee that wore the costume were in accord with Federal personnel rules and regulations.

4. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determine whether the award to the employee that wore the costume created or contributed to a hostile work environment at ICE.

5. The Department of Homeland Security publicly release the internal report commissioned by the Under Secretary for Management.

The DHS employee in the offensive costume apparently wore it to work that day prior to the Halloween party, which doubled as a charity fundraiser. The employee, who has not been identified, appeared before Myers and the other judges to describe his costume during the party's contest.

"I'm a Jamaican detainee from Krome, obviously, I've escaped," he said, according to the committee report, prompting laughter from the judges.

Krome is a ICE detention facility in Miami that houses detainees from Jamaica, Haiti and Latin America, according to a report footnote. It has been subject to allegations of "sexual abuse, overcrowding and mistreatment of detainees."

A few hours after laughing with her colleagues over the costume, Myers became concerned about her "bad judgement call," according to the report, and she ordered her chief of staff to have the photos of the man in the detainee costume destroyed.

The morning after the party, employees began to complain about the offensiveness of the costume Myers had dubbed most original. She decided to reprimand the employee and require him to undergo counseling. Myers also sent an e-mail to ICE employees on Nov. 2 apologizing for the costume award.

Three days later, Nov. 5, news outlets had received word of the Halloween party and several stories containing broad details about the costume began to appear. ICE leadership placed the employee on administrative leave, and the next day he was relocated to an ICE field office outside of Washington, according to the report.

CNN quickly filed a Freedom of Information Act Request for the photos from the Halloween party. The freelance photographer hired by the agency told them soon after that it would be possible to restore the photos he deleted, allowing quick compliance with the FOIA request. But ICE officials told him to wait for formal written confirmation.

It took the agency 60 days to comply with the request, a possible violation of federal open records laws, which require agencies to respond to requests within 20 days, according to the report.

Myers' appointment as ICE chief was controversial from the start. By the time of the Halloween party, she was nearing the end of her second year in the position after dual recess appointments from President Bush. Several senators, including Missouri's Claire McCaskill and Connecticut's Joseph Lieberman, raised questions about her fitness for the position, because of her complete lack of prior law enforcement experience and little management experience. Many conservatives have also been critical of her appointment.

Myers, who is the niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, was finally confirmed by the Senate on December 19, six weeks after the party. It would be another six weeks until the costume photos would be released.


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Arnoldo Garcia

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Red Nacional Pro Derechos Inmigrantes y Refugiados

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Oakland, CA 94607

Tel (510) 465-1984 ext. 305

Fax (510) 465-1885


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