Immigrant Rights News - Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Immigrant Rights News – Tuesday, September 02, 2008
NOTE: IRN and other NNIRR posts are available at www.nnirr.blogspot.com
4. Desmoines Register: Critics tie scant new charges to wariness after Postville raid
By David Bacon
Afterwards Barbara Gonzalez, spokesperson for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), stated the raid took place because of a tip by a "union member" two years before. Other media accounts focused on an incident in which plant workers allegedly cheered as their coworkers were led away by ICE agents. The articles claim the plant was torn by tension between immigrant and non-immigrant workers, and that unions in
Jim Evans, a national AFL-CIO staff member in
In the last two decades, the percentage of African Americans in the state's population has increased to over 35%, and immigrants, who were statistically insignificant until recently, are expected to reach 10% in the next decade.
Evans, other members of the Black Caucus, many of the state's labor organizations, and immigrant communities all see shifting demographics as the basis for changing the state's politics. Over the last seven years their growing coalition has proposed legislation to set up a Department of Labor (
Earlier this year, however, the legislature passed, and Governor Haley Barbour signed, a law making it a state felony for an undocumented worker to hold a job, punishable by 1-5 years in prison and $1,000-10,000 in fines. Employers are given immunity for employing workers without papers, so long as they vet new hires through an ICE database called E-Verify. It is still not known whether the people arrested at Howard Industries will be charged under the new state law. Evans says the law and the raid serve the same objectives. "They both just make it easier to exploit workers. The people who profit from
In the week before the raid, MIRA organizers received reports of a growing number of ICE agents in southern
Howard Industries, like most
As it grew the company hired many immigrant Mexican and Central American workers, diversifying a workforce that was originally primarily African American and white. The company has declined to comment, and released a press statement that said, "Howard Industries runs every check allowed to ascertain the immigration status of all applicants for jobs. It is company policy that it hires only
During the organizing drive the union filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging intimidation and violations of workers' rights. After the union and company agreed on a contract, more charges followed. NLRB Region 15 issued a complaint against the company for violating the union's bargaining rights. Roger Doolittle, attorney for IBEW Local 1317, says other charges allege that the company threatened a union steward for trying to represent workers in the plant. In June the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced it intended to fine the company $123,000 for 36 violations of health and safety regulations at the Pendorf plant, where the raid took place, and another $41,000 in fines for a second
Tension between the company and union increased after the collective bargaining agreement expired at the beginning of August. According to one immigrant worker, who was not detained because he worked on swing shift and did not want to be identified, the union was asking for a wage increase of $1.50/hour and better vacation benefits. Company medical benefits are also an issue among workers, he said, because family coverage costs over $100/week, putting it out of reach for most employees.
According to the swing shift worker, who did not belong to the union, there were just a few hundred members at the Pendorf plant, and in negotiations the company used that low membership as a reason not to sign a new agreement.
To increase its ability to negotiate a contract, Local 1317 began making greater efforts to sign up immigrant members. Spanish-speaking organizers were brought in, and they handed out leaflets in Spanish explaining the benefits of membership. They visited workers at home so they could talk about the union without being overheard or seen by company supervisors. According to the swing shift worker, many began to join, especially the immigrants who'd been hired most recently. IBEW's national newspaper, Electrical Worker, reported that over 200 had signed up last April, according to Local 1317's African-American business manager Clarence Larkin. "It's a constant process to keep the union alive and growing," he told the paper.
That's when the plant was raided. Local 1317 will now have to try to negotiate a contract after the loss of many of its members, who were among those detained. Those members, who joined the union in hopes of better wages and treatment, instead have been imprisoned for days in
The day after ICE agents stormed the factory MIRA began organizing meetings to provide legal advice, food and economic help. According to MIRA director
The swing shift worker was so frightened by the raid that he hadn't gone back to work after almost a week, and wasn't sure he'd have a job waiting if he did. "Everyone is still really scared," he said. Doolittle agreed, and said that fear would affect more than just the workers taken away. "Workers get apprehensive anytime something like this happens," he said. "That's just human nature."
Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the
Spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez claimed ICE waited two years after receiving a call from a "union member" before conducting the raid, because "we took the time needed for our investigation." She declined to say how that investigation was conducted, or what led ICE to believe their tip had come from a union member. The picture of a plant in which union members were hostile to immigrants was reinforced after the raid by media accounts of an incident in which workers "applauded" as their coworkers were taken away. But on August 29, when Cintra and the braceleted women sat in front of the plant for a second day, demanding more paychecks, African American workers came up to them as they left work, embraced the women, and told them they supported them.
"It's hard to believe that a two-year old phone call to ICE led to this raid, but whether or not the call ever took place, that possibility is a product of the poisonous atmosphere fostered by politicians of both parties in Mississippi," says MIRA director Chandler. "In the last election Barbour and Republicans campaigned against immigrants to get elected, but so did all the Democratic statewide candidates except Attorney General Jim Hood. The raid will make the climate even worse"
During the 2007 election campaign the Ku Klux Klan organized a 500-person rally in
Some state labor leaders have contributed to anti-immigrant hostility. After the Howard Industries workers, many of them union members, were arrested, state AFL-CIO President Robert Shaffer told the Associated Press that he doubted that immigrants could join unions if they were not in the country legally.
"This raid will just make us more determined," Evans declared. "We won't go back to the kind of racism
Los Angeles Times
Immigrant raid divides a
Many black and white residents of
By Miguel Bustillo and Richard Fausset
August 31, 2008
But helicopters were not what shocked Pena the most on her last, fateful day at Howard Industries, the largest employer in this small Southern town. It was the black co-workers who clapped and cheered, Pena said, as she and hundreds of other Latino immigrant laborers were arrested and hauled away.
"They said we took their jobs, but I was working from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.," said Pena, 21, a day after the raid last week that resulted in the arrest of nearly 600 suspected illegal immigrants. "I didn't see them working like us."
The raid at Howard Industries, a manufacturer of electrical distribution equipment, was the largest of its kind in many years,and it exposed some of the rawest emotions that fuel the illegal immigration debate.
It was also carried out during a period of political limbo: Polls suggest that for voters, the immigration issue has been eclipsed by the sputtering economy, and neither of the two major presidential candidates has made much of the topic during the election season.
As the Bush administration winds down its tenure in
But the raids might not have much of a future after the swearing-in of Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama, both of whom have staked out moderate-to-
If the next president decides to curtail or end raids similar to the one at the Howard Industries, it will not sit well with many residents of
"They need to go and do this in every little town," Tonya Jackson said.
Jackson, who is black, said that over the years she had applied numerous times for a job at the locally owned manufacturer, which employs about 4,000 workers.
"We've been here all our lives," she said. "And it seems like they have just arrived and are getting the nice cars and the good homes."
Her stance puts her at odds with Obama. The Democratic presidential nominee's website describes such raids as "ineffective" measures that have "placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant families."
It is unclear if raids would increase or decrease under a McCain administration. Like Obama, McCain wants to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and beef up border security. (McCain, of late, has emphasized that border security must come first).
But some illegal-immigration opponents worry that the raids and other enforcement efforts will decline once illegal residents are offered a path to citizenship, since the government will be focusing more on accommodating rather than punishing them.
Immigration advocacy groups, meanwhile, are just as worried that McCain, who has tinkered with his views on immigration, would choose to continue the raids.
The crackdown in
Their arrival created tension in the town, with black and white residents accusing the undocumented workers of taking the few available jobs and depressing wages.
Monday's raid, part of a two-year investigation of Howard Industries, was triggered by a complaint from a union member, said Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency conducting the inquiry.
Of the 595 people arrested, about 106 were released and fitted with monitoring devices until their trial date. Among them was Pena, who was freed so she could care for her 2-year-old daughter. A number of 17-year-old workers were put into the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, and the remaining workers were taken to a detention center in
Most of the workers were charged with noncriminal immigration violations and faced possible deportation; eight of them faced criminal charges of identity theft.
No managers were arrested in the raid, said Gonzalez, who noted the case remained open. Immigrant advocates often complain that workers bear a disproportionate brunt of the punishment from such raids, whereas the employers are sometimes overlooked.
Howard Industries released a statement the same day the raid took place, saying that the company performs "every check allowed" to determine the immigration status of all applicants.
After the raid, the company put up a billboard on
The raid, along with rumors of further enforcement actions, has sent a wave of fear through the Latino community. A number of workers have skipped their shifts at the poultry plants. Mexican restaurants refused to open their doors, with one citing an unexplained "plumbing problem" on a sign to customers.
"There ain't a Mexican place open in this town," said Mark Childress, 49, as he went to a taqueria, only to find it closed.
"It was long overdue,"
With both presidential candidates pledging to give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship,
At Peniel Christian Church one night last week, about two dozen Latino immigrants were milling around. Some held hands in a circle and prayed.
A few were waiting for lawyers; others were unaffected by the raid, but too scared to go home. Children ran through the pews, oblivious to their parents' grief.
"These people are not terrorists, communist or criminals," said pastor Roberto Valez, 58, a native of
Pena, the former Howard Industries worker, said that not everyone treated her poorly. Her supervisor, a black woman, consoled her during the raid, she said.
"She even called my mother to let her know what happened," Pena said. "But it was in English and my mother had no idea what she was trying to say."
Raid's Outcome May Signal a Retreat In Immigration Strategy, Critics Say
By Spencer S. Hsu
Tuesday, September 2, 2008; A13
The federal government's handling of a massive immigration raid at a
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency "continues to target egregious employers . . . to identify individuals engaging in identity theft, and we seek criminal charges where appropriate," spokeswoman Kelly A. Nantel said.
Nonetheless, it was a stark departure from the way authorities conducted the previous record-setting sweep 15 weeks earlier.
On May 12, immigration agents apprehended 389 illegal immigrants at an Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in
Criminal defense and immigration lawyers led criticism of the proceedings, saying the extraordinary speed with which pleas were obtained raised the risk of error. A federal court interpreter reported that many defendants were poor, uneducated Spanish speakers who did not understand the charges.
The American Civil Liberties Union said close coordination before the raid between the prosecutor and the chief judge to structure plea agreements that hastened the process was highly irregular, raising due-process concerns.
"I think Postville left a bitter taste for a lot of people," said Robert R. Rigg, director of the criminal defense program at
Charles H. Kuck, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, agreed, saying he thinks the Justice Department is changing course.
"They clearly did not enjoy the press they got after Postville. . . . It may be a shift in strategy from how bad Postville made them look as they eviscerated the Constitution, doing everything in one fell swoop with the involvement of the federal court."
But Nantel rejected such speculation. "It certainly is not an indication of a change in strategies," she said.
Investigators are working with prosecutors to determine if there is enough evidence to pursue additional criminal charges related to both raids, Nantel said. Prosecutors have not made public an affidavit or other documents laying out the case against suspects in the
She acknowledged, however, that "prosecutorial discretion is certainly a key issue." Individual
Carrie Nelson, a spokeswoman for Stan Harris, the acting
But several people familiar with interactions between the Justice Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement cite interagency disagreements over what one side views as overaggressive investigators and the other regards as balky prosecutors.
"There are some districts where they do not want to do these cases," one
Lawyers who have worked closely with Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey's office said federal prosecutors are generally very cautious about immigration raids. They have raised humanitarian concerns about rounding up hundreds of illegal immigrants and splitting families.
"Processing hundreds of illegals in the criminal court system like that in a cattle-call arena creates a huge burden on the system, and things tend to slip," said one former Justice Department official familiar with deliberations between ICE and the domestic security section of Justice's criminal division. "That's where they get criticism."
Whether illegal immigrants are charged criminally obviously means a great deal to the individuals involved. It raises the prospect of prison sentences and criminal records, as well as much harsher penalties if they are caught inside the
But for employers, the public and the immigration debate in general, any shift by immigration authorities may have relatively little impact. The same tough message can be sent whether illegal immigrants are simply caught and deported, or instead caught, criminally sentenced, imprisoned and then deported.
The roundup strategy is limited by resources and the
"I don't think it's a shift away from what they ultimately want to do, which is to punish and deter people from using fraudulent identities to obtain work. It's a different path to the same goal," Kuck said.
But he added: "They could do one of these raids a day for the next six years and still not deter people from doing it."
August 28, 2008
Critics tie scant new charges to wariness after Postville raid
By TONY LEYS
Critics of the way suspected illegal immigrant workers were handled after last May's raid in
Federal officials detained 595 workers at a
That's in marked contrast to what happened after the raid at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, where prosecutors filed criminal identity-theft charges within days against 305 of the 389 workers who were arrested. Most of those people quickly pleaded guilty during mass hearings held at the National Cattle Congress grounds in
Most of the workers arrested in
A spokeswoman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency would not specify why so few of the
But one of the most prominent critics of the legal process used in
"I think Postville was a huge embarrassment because of the criminalization of workers," said Erik Camayd-Freixas, a veteran federal courts interpreter who participated in the Cattle Congress hearings.
Camayd-Freixas, who is a Spanish language professor at
He said uneducated Guatemalans and Mexicans were pressured into pleading guilty to identity-theft charges, even though they didn't realize the Social Security cards they'd bought contained someone else's numbers. The vast majority had never been charged with other crimes, he said, and they had no intent to commit identity theft.
Camayd-Freixas said Wednesday that in his 20 years of working with the federal courts, he'd never seen mass, rushed hearings such as those held in
ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said more criminal charges could be filed against people seized in the
She said that too often, Americans believe raids indicate the end of investigations.
"They don't," Gonzalez said. "In fact, the investigation continues."
Federal prosecutors did not respond to requests for comment.
A national group calling for tougher immigration enforcement declined to speculate Wednesday on why the
The facts of individual cases could be much different, said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Among the Agriprocessors workers, he said, "there were a lot of things besides just working in the country illegally."
He said it's hard to tell why the government hasn't filed mass charges in the latest case. But lawyers around the country are aware of the
"It could be the
Both hopefuls keep quiet on divisive issue of immigration
Article Last Updated: 09/02/2008 09:08:08 AM MDT
As the political conventions continue, the long-simmering effort to fix the nation's broken immigration system has seemingly fizzled.
Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain willingly raises this controversial issue.
Yet beyond the secure perimeters of establishment politics, immigration looms as a major concern affecting workplace survival for millions of
More than a thousand pro-immigration activists marched through
Ten minutes from last week's festivities, in a north Denver industrial zone, U.S. citizen workers were puffing cigarettes on break at a plastics factory, where operations chief Scott Schreiber, in the back office, wondered how he'll manage to keep 60 jobs here in the face of Chinese competition.
"We'd never hire illegals to do the work," Schreiber said. But if taxes and competition increase, he said, "outsourcing to
Issue a top priority
After losing three fingers on his right hand in a welding accident in
Working illegally here brings $3.25 per yard of carpet installed, about $500 a week, five times what he'd make in
Polls show that voters, especially in Western battleground states that may determine who wins the presidency, regard immigration as a top priority.
Obama and McCain stay mum, analysts say, because the emerging solutions are deeply divisive.
A politician who utters "immigration" will "lose as many people as he wins," said Doris Meisner, former chief of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, now senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute think tank in
When pressed in an interview last week, Obama's domestic-policy director, Heather Higginbottom, said immigration hasn't been discussed because it isn't one of the "top three" issues but that Obama "absolutely" plans to fix what he sees as a broken system in the first year of his presidency.
Obama believes "it is critically important to revive immigration reform," Higginbottom said.
An essential step will be implementing "a very strong program so that employers can't hire undocumented immigrants," she said.
"It's a tough issue. But it's not one we are going to shy away from because it is tough," Higginbottom said.
McCain recently has focused on fortification of the southwestern U.S.-Mexico border by building more fences and deploying surveillance aircraft.
Once borders are secure, McCain campaign spokesman Tom Kise said, McCain would "prosecute bad-actor employers" and set up temporary foreign-worker programs for employers.
Obama also favors border security, but "the most important enforcement tool we can put into place is a simple but mandatory electronic verification system so that employers can make sure workers they hire are legal," Obama spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said.
Violators would face "much higher fines," Gilson said, and illegal workers currently in the country would have to "go to the back of the line" to seek citizenship.
"No job should go to a foreign worker without first being offered to Americans at a competitive wage with competitive benefits," she said.
"And foreign workers cannot be exceptionally vulnerable to abuse, or some employers will prefer them over Americans."
Bruce Finley: 303-954-1700 or email@example.com
Anti-Immigrant Republican Brian Bilbray's Bizarre Crusade on the 14th Amendment
By Rhonda Brownstein, Southern
Posted on September 1, 2008
In almost every session of congress he has been part of since 1995, U.S. Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) has unsuccessfully sponsored a law that aims to deny American citizenship to children born in the
Still, it seems strange that Rep. Bilbray would sponsor such a bill, given that his own mother was a non-citizen. But Bilbray carved out an exception that would conveniently apply to him -- that a child born in the
Even if Bilbray could manage to get his bill enacted into law, it would almost certainly be struck down as unconstitutional. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution states: "All persons born or naturalized in the
Bilbray claims that his bill is simply advancing an interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment -- as Congress is permitted to do under its power to enact laws to enforce the Constitution -- rather than proposing a change that would require the very difficult and extended process of amending the Constitution. The crux of his tortured argument is that the Fourteenth Amendment clause "subject to the jurisdiction thereof" denies citizenship to American-born children whose parents "owe allegiance to another country." Not surprisingly, Bilbray is not specific about what that phrase means.
But as the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found: "Although the primary aim of the Fourteenth Amendment was to secure citizenship for African Americans, the debates on the citizenship provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment indicate that they were intended to extend U.S. citizenship to all persons born in the U.S. and subject to its jurisdiction, regardless of race, ethnicity, or alienage of the parents" (emphasis added).
Though some senators raised concerns about the amendment creating a large influx of Chinese immigrants, they ultimately concluded that the children of immigrants from any country would be
More than a century of case law backs this reading of the amendment. In 1898, in the case of
Bilbray likes to cite the 1884 Supreme Court case of Elk v. Wilkins, which denied citizenship to a Native American. But the Court's analysis in Elk -- which was later overturned by statute -- was completely different. In Elk, the Court held that American Indians who had not been naturalized by treaty were not citizens because they were members of an independent political community to whom they still owed their immediate allegiance, and were therefore not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. American Indians later became citizens through various statutes and treaties, culminating in the Nationality Act of 1940, which declared all American Indians born in the
Most Americans agree that sensible immigration reform is needed. But Bilbray and the interest groups that support him -- members of the board of directors of FAIR, which also seeks to dismantle the Fourteenth Amendment, gave him some $10,000 in campaign contributions in 2006 -- are seeking to overturn a fundamental right long ago accorded to those born in our country. Reforming a broken immigration system does not require punishing innocent children for the infractions of their undocumented parents, most of whom came to this country merely to seek a better life.
Rhonda Brownstein is the director of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Legal Department.
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