Thursday, September 11, 2008

Immigrant Rights news - Thursday, September 11, 2008

Immigrant Rights news – Thursday, September 11, 2008


IRN and other National Network posts are at


1. Rio Grande Guardian: Seifert: We are more afraid of ICE than of Ike


2. Two from The Arizona Republic:

A. ICE to conduct audit of Arpaio's office

B. Deputies raid candlemaker in Chandler; 65 are arrested


3. New York Times: Border Fence Is Not Likely to Be Done by Year’s End




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Rio Grande Guardian


Seifert: We are more afraid of ICE than of Ike


11 September 2008


Michael Seifert


BROWNSVILLE, September 11 - I have lived in the Rio Grande Valley's colonias for the past 15 years and have come to love the resilience and the energy that these communities contain and nurture.

The homes in the colonia neighborhoods are nearly all works in progress - visible testimonials to the Valley residents' tenacious hold on hope. Outsiders see poverty and misery; those of us who live here see the fruits of people working far harder than most other Americans to build something for their children and their children's children.

Works in progress, however, are often risky ventures. A working family doesn't always have the material resources to build the strongest homes and can't always locate their family's homestead in the best geographic space.

Many of our colonia neighborhoods are in flood plains, exposed to the whimsical wrath of storms such as Dolly. House blessings are particularly touching - some of my neighbors' homes are indeed depending upon some divine protection. Hurricanes are particular threats to our neighborhoods. All of us are all too aware that a storm like Gilbert would leave us but memories of what our neighborhoods once were.

We tenaciously hold on to hope, looking over our shoulders, every now and then, hoping that fate isn't creeping up on us unseen.

Hurricane Ike is being seen, and as it makes its way east and north, I have been speaking with my neighbors. They all vividly remember that day in May when Rio Grande Guardian reporter Joey Gomez discovered the Border Patrol checking for citizenship documents during a practice evacuation. The word spread quickly—during a hurricane evacuation, the Border Patrol will separate people according to their documentation. 

I asked my neighbors, in light of Border Patrols' recent claims that they wouldn't "necessarily" be checking for documents, that if an evacuation was ordered, would they leave? Those families composed of legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens all told me "Yes indeed! We aren't crazy people." Those families composed of people with mixed immigration status - a grandfather whose application for residency is in "process," or a niece who had submitted a request for a visa under the Violence Against Women Act, or a family with children who are U.S. citizens, but whose parents are Mexican nationals - they all told me, every last one of them, "No way are we leaving." When I asked those neighbors why wouldn't they leave, they said, again, every last one of them, "We don't trust the Border Patrol.  We would rather take our chances with Ike."

While I admire the bravado, it is clearly that - bluster bordering on foolishness. The families with small children are the ones whose eyes open wide as they consider their options - the tragedy of a catastrophic storm or the icy efficiency of our government's security apparatus.

This sort of worry would have seemed inconceivable 15 years ago - we lived in a different time, a time when someone's identity had to do with their character more than with their documentation. It seems to be that we have given in to terror, a terror so deep that as a nation we are willing to take actions which would place our poorest, most vulnerable families - yes, those with children - at risk.

Today’s memorial of September 11th will be another opportunity to reflect on what sort of national community we have created in the face of enemy attacks. Have we become a stronger people because of that experience - or have we become shrill in our fear? As this hurricane blows up the waters in the Gulf, it might well lift up the veil that covers some of the shameful realities of our national character - we have become a fearful people.

The hurricane will indeed be a tragedy and a disaster, wherever it makes landfall. And, as in all such events, heroes will emerge. People will share, generously, with those in need. Locally, and nationally, purses will open, helping communities rebuild. I pray that we are blessed with courage and wisdom - and much less fear. I put my own hope in that - tenaciously. 

Father Michael Seifert is pastor at San Felipe de Jesús Church in Cameron Park, next to Brownsville, the largest colonia in the United States.


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The Arizona Republic


ICE to conduct audit of Arpaio's office

Focus: Migrant-law enforcement


by Daniel González - Sept. 11, 2008 12:00 AM The Arizona Republic


Federal investigators will conduct an audit later this month of an 18-month-old agreement that gives the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office authority to enforce federal immigration laws.


The audit comes amid allegations that the Sheriff's Office is violating the agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement by targeting day laborers instead of violent criminals and trampling on the civil rights of Latinos.


Sheriff Joe Arpaio maintains his office abides by the agreement and does not violate anyone's rights.


Matthew Allen, special agent in charge of investigations for the Arizona office of ICE, said the audit will be conducted by the agency's internal-affairs unit.


Allen described the audit as a "due-diligence, good-faith effort" to make sure that Arpaio is operating within the confines of the agreement.


Allen said he did not know what had prompted the audit but said he believes Arpaio is in compliance.


Richard Rocha, an ICE spokesman in Washington, D.C., said the audit is part of a "routine inspection" of agreements throughout the country being carried out by ICE, beginning with the largest and oldest agreements.


The agency has already conducted audits of ICE agreements with the Collier County Sheriff's Office in Florida, the Mecklenberg County Sheriff's Office in North Carolina, and the Alabama State Police.


"These are routine. This is not something punitive," Rocha said.


He said ICE believes the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is "acting accordingly within (the agreement)."


Arpaio said he welcomes the inspection.


"We have nothing to worry about," he said. "If there was something wrong, we would fix it, but we haven't found anything wrong."


In February 2007, Arpaio signed an agreement with ICE that allowed 160 deputies and jail officers to receive training that gave them the authority to enforce immigration laws, usually the job of the federal government.


The agreement is the largest of 62 agreements ICE has with law-enforcement agencies across the country.


Since signing the agreement, Arpaio has come under increasing criticism from some elected officials and community leaders who accuse him of violating the agreement.


In July, four U.S. citizens joined a federal lawsuit that claims the Sheriff's Office is targeting Latinos to investigate immigration status by using unfounded traffic stops during a series of crime sweeps.


The suit was first filed in December, based on a legal immigrant's complaint that he was improperly detained by sheriff's deputies for nine hours.


In October, Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox wrote a letter to Rep. David Price, D-North Carolina, chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Committee, asking for federal oversight to curtail what she called numerous violations of the agreement.


The letter, signed by nine other local and state elected officials, accused the Sheriff's Office of overstepping the bounds of the agreement.


The letter said the agreement states that the Sheriff's Office is supposed to be using ICE-trained deputies to help ICE bolster immigration enforcement related to violent fugitives, organized crime, gang activity, drug traffickers and pervasive criminal activity in urban areas.


Instead, Arpaio was using the agreement to target day laborers and corn vendors, the letter said.


The letter also accused Arpaio of using racial profiling to question Latinos about their citizenship.


"Many people in the Hispanic community feel that if you are just driving in the neighborhood, he's going to stop you if he sees you are Hispanic by the color of your skin," Wilcox said.


Arpaio has vehemently denied that his deputies profile.


On Wednesday, he accused Wilcox of mischaracterizing ICE's impending review of the agreement.


"It's not an investigation," he said. "Mary Rose is sticking her nose in our business and doing everything she can to keep us from enforcing immigration laws."


Reach the reporter at or 602-444-8312.


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The Arizona Republic


Deputies raid candlemaker in Chandler; 65 are arrested


by Megan Boehnke and JJ Hensley - Sept. 11, 2008 12:00 AM

The Arizona Republic


For the third time in less than three months, Sheriff's deputies have raided a Valley business, this time a south Chandler candle-making company, and used the state's employer-sanctions law to round up suspected undocumented workers and investigate whether executives knowingly hired them.


The raid at Gold Canyon Candle Company on Wednesday resulted in 65 arrests, including 23 for identity theft, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office announced.


Deputies held 300 employees for about six hours inside the company headquarters on Arizona Avenue and Riggs Road, where its manufacturing plant and distribution centers are also housed, refusing to let anyone in or out of the building, company spokeswoman Rebecca Clyde said.


"Even the executives aren't being allowed to leave. They probably haven't even had lunch yet," Clyde said Wednesday afternoon outside the building.


She said when the company attorney tried to verify the names of the wanted or to see the arrests firsthand, authorities rejected him.


"That's a problem because obviously we'd like to know, and we've been denied a lot of information," Clyde said.


The series of raids continue to snare employees but have not resulted in the arrests of any business owners.


At a press conference, County Attorney Andrew Thomas said those other cases, involving a water park chain and a landscaping company, are continuing to move forward, even if there is no visible progress in prosecuting employers. "These things take time," Thomas said.

"Important things have happened behind the scenes."


Sheriff Joe Arpaio slapped back at critics who accuse his agency of using the employer-sanctions law as a means to raid businesses and round up employees on civil and criminal violations related to their immigration status.


"Wait a minute, we got 23 people, felons, going to jail," Arpaio said, referring to the employees arrested on suspicion of identity theft.


The additional 37 employees taken into custody were suspected of being in the U.S. illegally and will likely face deportation proceedings, the sheriff said.


Another five employees, described to be U.S. citizens, were picked up for outstanding warrants.


The Sheriff's Office got a tip in July that several plant employees were involved in identity theft. Arpaio said the employees stole Social Security numbers for documentation, including that of a White House staffer who had his identity stolen by a woman who had worked at the plant for seven to eight years.


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New York Times


September 11, 2008


Border Fence Is Not Likely to Be Done by Year’s End



The Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that cost overruns, legal obstacles and other problems were imperiling its goal of completing the 670 miles of fencing and technological improvements on the Southwest border that President Bush has promoted as vital to securing it.

Rising costs for construction and materials and delays in acquiring land from owners could foil the effort to build the fence by the end of the year, said officials, who are now seeking more money for the project.

The officials, speaking at a Congressional hearing and in interviews, brought to light the latest in a series of problems confronting the effort to more closely monitor the border and stop people from crossing it.

The department has 341 miles of new fencing in place along the 2,000-mile border. But completing the project, they said, hinges on redirecting $400 million in department funds, much of which requires Congressional approval, from other purposes. Even then, the department may have only agreed on contracts or partly built the rest of the fence by the end of the year.

Since 2005, Congress has appropriated $2.7 billion for the Secure Border Initiative, a combination of physical barriers and a so-called virtual fence, a highly promoted system of cameras and sensors.

The Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said in a report Wednesday that the Homeland Security Department had no projections for the total cost of building or maintaining the fencing.

The report said the average cost had risen this year to $7.5 million per mile for pedestrian barriers, typically large steel and mesh plates, and $2.8 million per mile for vehicle fencing, usually an array of short thick poles. February’s estimates were $4 million for pedestrian fencing and $2 million for vehicles.

W. Ralph Basham, the commissioner of the department’s Customs and Border Protection division, told lawmakers: “We are going to be out of business unless we get some relief. The operation will stop.”

At a hearing before the House Homeland Security Committee, officials also noted delays that have plagued the virtual fence, being developed with the Boeing Corporation. That project had already been bogged down by technical problems, but the accountability office report said that environmental reviews the department had not anticipated will now postpone the project.

The report said department lawyers had concluded that waivers used to bypass environmental laws to build the physical fence did not apply to the virtual one, meaning it will not be operational until early next year and only at limited parts of the border in Arizona. Jayson Ahern, the deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said in an interview, however, that the technical problems and a shift of money to the physical fence accounted for the recent delays.

Members of Congress questioned the planning and management of border security efforts.

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi, the committee chairman, took aim at the delays of the virtual fence.

“The partnership between D.H.S. and Boeing has produced more missed deadlines and excuses than results,” he said.

Mr. Basham acknowledged that the projects had encountered complications. The escalating price of steel, among other costs, has driven up the price of the physical fence, he said.

The delays in the virtual fence, he said, are in keeping with recommendations from the committee and the G.A.O. not to put pieces of the project in place until they have been tested.

“If we move too fast and don’t test enough we are criticized,” Mr. Basham said. “Yet when we slow down to test we are criticized for not meeting our own goals and timelines.”



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