Friday, October 31, 2008

Immigrant Rights News: Friday, October 31, 2008

Immigrant Rights News: Friday, October 31, 2008


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1. Facing South: Georgia tells 4,770 voters their votes 'challenged,' encourages voters to contest citizenship of other voters on Election Day


2. Houston Chronicle: Sheriff puts immigration program on hold


3. Blog: Vaccine Required for Young Women Seeking Immigration to U.S.


4. December 18 Net: Radio 1812 is Back!



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Facing South


Georgia tells 4,770 voters their votes 'challenged,' encourages voters to contest citizenship of other voters on Election Day

NOTE: The following is part of the Institute's Voting Rights Watch coverage. For daily updates and in-depth investigations on key issues this historic election season, visit Facing South.

This week, Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) announced she was sending letters to 4,770 registered voters that they may have to cast "challenge" ballots that won't be automatically counted on election day.

In a striking announcement, she also declared that regular citizens could respond to the problem of non-citizen voting by contesting the citizenship of fellow voters at the polls -- forcing them to also cast challenged ballots that won't be included in election day tallies.

The controversial move is the latest in a winding saga between Handel, voters, the Department of Justice and a panel of federal judges over a new and aggressive Georgia policy to flag voters whose citizenship is in question.

Earlier this month, the ACLU sued the state of Georgia on behalf of Jose Morales, a Cherokee County voter who was wrongfully targeted to be purged from the roles despite having become a citizen in November 2007. Earlier, the Department of Justice had argued that Georgia's citizenship purge violated the Voting Rights Act because it had not be pre-cleared with the DOJ, something Georgia must do because it falls under the Act.

After the DOJ questioned the purges, many counties stopped mailing letters to flagged voters. A three-judge panel of federal judges said on Monday of this week that the state must notify those who have been flagged and find a way to allow them to vote.

But it's not at all clear that Handel's decision to do an end-run around the counties and directly mail letters to 4,770 flagged voters will in reality allow them to vote. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:

Those whose citizenship is in question can go to a county elections office before Election Day and produce documents proving their citizenship and resolve the issue, Carrothers said.

But if the letters were only mailed Wednesday, that means that many flagged voters will only be receiving the letters today -- giving them only 1-2 business days at crowded election offices to resolve the problem. If they're not able to, Handel has made it clear the votes might not count:


The letter from Handel's office tells the voters that if they appear at their polling place with the issue still unresolved, they will be given a "challenge" ballot -- a paper version of the ballot that appears on electronic voting machines. The ballot will not be included in the precinct's vote totals, Handel said.


Even more worrisome is that Handel made a point of stating that any voter's citizenship can be contested by any other voter, a policy which could be used to target the state's rapidly-growing Latino population and other racial groups. As the AJC reports:


Any voter can challenge another's qualifications to cast a ballot by notifying a precinct poll manager, Handel said. That voter then would be given a challenge ballot and would have to go before the election board.


And as Handel has made clear, "challenge ballots" will not be automatically counted, forcing those who are challenged to prove their citizenship later.


Handel seems to admit the approach opens the door for vigilante racially-targeted voter intimidation at the polls, but dismissed the threat:

If large numbers of challenges are made on Election Day, Handel said, her office will investigate whether they are part of an orchestrated effort to influence the election's outcome. But, she said, "I'm not anticipating any kind of huge issue there."


A few other states have similar laws allowing voters to contest other voters. For example, Republicans recently pushed through a similar law in Florida which provoked widespread controversy:


Challengers [in Florida] need not prove their accusations. Instead, the challenged voter has two days to justify his right to cast a ballot. State Republican lawmakers who pushed the law say it will help combat fraud. Democrats call it a vote-suppression measure.


What is unusual about Secretary of State Handel's announcement is her apparent encouragement to citizens that they use the controversial law as a way to deal with the perceived problem of non-citizens voting on election day.


Handel is no stranger to controversy. A leader in the largely Republican movement against so-called "voter fraud," Handel has drawn sharp criticism for her partisan approach to running Georgia's elections. In a scathing editorial today, the AJC editorial board looks at other controversies surrounding Handel:


No matter the outcome of Tuesday's election, a loser has emerged -- Secretary of State Karen Handel.


Her relentless crusade to bounce Democratic Public Service Commission candidate Jim Powell from the ballot, her posturing over yet-to-be-seen voter fraud and her flippant dismissal of voter delays this week have tarnished her and her office.



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Houston Chronicle


Sheriff puts immigration program on hold



Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle


Oct. 29, 2008, 10:32PM


The Harris County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday suspended a program that allowed some of its jailers to act as immigration officers after a county commissioner complained the agency had not gotten permission to implement the plan.

The sheriff's office first sought permission from Commissioners Court in July to participate in ICE's 287(g) program, which trains local law enforcement officers to help identify illegal immigrants. Commissioner Sylvia Garcia asked to postpone a vote on the county's agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and it never appeared on another agenda.

Jailers were trained

The court did approve plans to send nine jailers to South Carolina in August for special immigration training, and those officers began performing their immigration-related duties as soon as they returned, sheriff's spokesman Capt. John Martin said.

Garcia raised questions about the 287(g) program Monday after ICE announced the sheriff's office had become the first local law enforcement agency in the nation to test an automated fingerprint check system that gives jailers full access to suspects' immigration history. The sheriff did not need court approval to implement that new system and the department plans to continue to use it, Martin said.

Martin said the sheriff's department would put the 287(g) agreement on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting, and the trained jailers could resume their immigration-related duties immediately following an affirmative vote. Allowing the officers to begin that work before the agreement was approved by court was an oversight, he said.

No attempt at deception

"There was no willful attempt on the part of anyone at the sheriff's office to circumvent Commissioners Court approval," he said.

Gregory Palmore, an ICE spokesman, said Harris County's decision to temporarily halt participation in the 287 (g) program will not affect ICE's operation at the jail.

ICE agents still have access to the facility around the clock, he added.

Through the 287 (g) program, local jailers are given the authority to interrogate any person believed to be in the country illegally and to issue immigration detainers, essentially noting in their records that ICE should be notified when they are going to be released.

Garcia said she believes it is inappropriate for local detention officers to spend time doing the federal government's job while Harris County's jail system struggles with overcrowding and high recidivism rates among the mentally ill and other problems.

"I don't think that's the best use of our local taxpayer dollars," she said.

No cost to the county

The program cost nothing and did not divert any personnel or other resources from any jail function, Martin said. The trained jailers still are responsible for their normal duties booking inmates in and out of jail at the inmate processing center.

Commissioner Steve Radack said he thinks it is a great program and applauded Sheriff Tommy Thomas for pursuing it.

"There are (illegal immigrants) in jail who are being kept there at the cost of the taxpayers of Harris County, their medical is being paid for by the taxpayers of Harris County. And here the federal government actually wants to do something about it? And we're going to tell them no?" Radack said. "It's ridiculous not to do this."

County Judge Ed Emmett said he would need to hear more about the program on Tuesday before deciding whether to support it. Commissioner Jerry Eversole's office said he had not received any information about the program from the sheriff.


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Vaccine Required for Young Women Seeking Immigration to U.S.


Should immigrants to the U.S. be subjected to vaccines that aren't required of citizens?  This is the latest controversial question to enter the immigration debate, after the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) added Gardasil, a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that also protects against cervical cancer caused by HPV, to their list of required vaccinations for U.S. immigrants.


Young women between the ages of 11 and 26 seeking to become legal permanent U.S. residents must receive the vaccination to prevent contraction of human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that is a leading cause of cervical cancer. An estimated 130,000 women a year will be affected by the requirement, which went into effect August 1.


Yet the vaccine, manufactured by Merck & Company, remains a recommended not mandatory immunization for young women who are already U.S. citizens, leading some to question why it is being forced upon immigrants.


In its first full year of distribution, Gardasil, which protect against 4 of the 100 types of human papillomavirus (HPV): 2 types that cause 70% of cervical cancer cases, and 2 more types that cause 90% of genital warts cases, has been administered in whole or in part to 2.5 million girls.


An array of medical, financial and ethical concerns about the vaccine have kept the debate over Gardasil stirring since its FDA approval in 2006. Advocates for the vaccine say it has proven effective in preventing a very common STD that can lead to cancer, but critics cite its high cost and potential side effects, and question whether vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases should be mandatory.


The addition of Gardasil to the list of required vaccinations was due in part to the 2007 change in the Department of Health and Human Services’ recommended vaccination schedule for children 0-18 years of age. The Center for Disease Control suggested that 11-26 year old girls and women receive the HPV vaccination as part of their immunization schedule. But the backlash has stalled the CDC and FDA's push for making the HPV vaccine mandatory for young female U.S. citizens.


John Abramson, who chairs the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said in an October 6 Wall Street Journal article that had they known about the decision to require the vaccination for immigrant women, they would have told USCIS that it's not a good idea since cervical cancer is not a disease that is communicable like SARS or pandemic flu or even measles.  Adamson also added that their  vaccination policies are designed to protect the populace not individuals.


Judicial Watch, a Washington-based public interest group, raised concerns about adverse reactions to the drug, stating in a 2007 report that at least three deaths in more than 1600 adverse reactions have been connected to the Gardasil vaccination. According to Merck, known side effects include pain, swelling, itching, and redness at the injection site, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and fainting.


Last month, the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights claimed that the addition of the HPV vaccine is similar to a surcharge applied only to young immigrant women that will impede their efforts to immigrating to the U.S. or becoming U.S. Citizens. Priscilla Huang, project director of Reproductive Justice said that the vaccine cost adds approximately $375 to the U.S. immigration application fee of $1,410 for young immigrant women. It is not clear who will be responsible for paying for the vaccine.


Gardasil is thought to decrease the chances of cervical cancer especially for those who are vaccinated before becoming sexually active since HPV is sexually transmitted. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about 20 million people are infected with HPV in the United States and almost 3,700 women die of cervical cancer in the United States each year.


This past summer the New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial about why there should be reasons for caution' when it comes to the HPV vaccine and that the medical community still lacks sufficient evidence of an effective vaccine against cervical cancer.


Parents have also expressed concern about the Gardasil vaccine. Dr. Vincent Iannelli, a pediatrician who writes for says that parents 'may have problems thinking about vaccinating their child against a sexually-transmitted disease' which would imply that that their child may be at risk for contracting an STD.  Barbara Loe Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center, a nonprofit consumer organization that opposes HPV legislation asks "Why is this happening so fast? Why is there a mandate when this is such a different kind of disease?"


Many assumed that the conservative religious group would also express opposition to the HPV vaccine, but that opposition never really manifested. Major conservative groups such as the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family have supported the vaccine while encouraging a parent’s right to choose or forego the HPV vaccination for their child, even as the rest of the religious community debates the moral merits of the vaccine.


In 2007 Merck discontinued its lobbying of state legislatures to make the Gardasil vaccine mandatory for school-age girls due to the reaction from parents and religious groups about the vaccine. Richard Haupt, executive director of medical affairs for vaccines at Merck & Company, said the media publicity had become a "potential distraction" to promoting the use of Gardasil.


The HPV vaccination mandate for immigrant women is part of an ongoing immunization policy for U.S. immigrants that has been in effect for over a decade. Since 1996 the U.S. government has required all immigrants to receive the same recommended vaccinations as its citizens. The immigrant immunization policy is part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act of 1996 that was signed into law by President Clinton. The law primarily focused on combating illegal immigration to the United States via border patrol, penalties for hiring illegal immigrants, proper documentation, etc. Section 212 of the Act specifically addresses immigrant immunization requirements for such communicable diseases as influenza, rubella, tetanus, mumps and measles.


Over the years, the USCIS has generally taken their cue from the CDC immunization committee and Technical Instructions to Civil Surgeons for Vaccination Requirements in revising their vaccination requirements for potential U.S. immigrants. Along with the recent addition of the HPV vaccine, USCIS has also added rotavirus, hepatitis, and meningitis to their list of required vaccines for those seeking to become legal U.S. citizens.


Currently the United States Citizen and Immigration Services have no plans to remove the HPV vaccination from their list of required vaccinations for female immigrants applying for permanent U.S. residency.



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Radio 1812 is Back!


This year, Radio1812 does not wait until International Migrants Day to get started. We just launched our new site where you will find exciting content which you can use in your programming.


A team from December 18 is in Manila where the second edition of the Global Forum on Migration and Development is taking place. Two journalists from Germany and Italy will prepare interviews and reports from this international event. These audio reports are available from the new Radio 1812 site and can be downloaded and used for re-broadcasting.


We encourage all of you to visit the new site at and to take part in the third edition of Radio 1812 and celebrate International Migrants Day on the 18th of December.


For any further questions, please contact the Radio 1812 team at






Radio 1812 is a global event that brings together migrant groups and radios from around the world to produce, broadcast and share programmes celebrating the achievements and highlighting the concerns of migrants worldwide. The first edition of Radio 1812 took place in 2006 and brought together over 50 radio stations in more than 25 countries. Last year, the event was even more successful. In total 152 radio stations from 34 countries in 4 continents participated, ranging from community radio stations to national and international public broadcasters.


René Plaetevoet


December 18

164 rue Gaucheret

B-1030 Brussels

Tel: +32-2-2741435

Fax: +32-2-2741438

skype: reneplaetevoet


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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Thursday, October 30, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Thursday, October 30, 2008


NOTE: If this is the first time you receive IRN and would like to continue receiving it please reply and send your contact information.You don’t have to do nothing if you don’t want to receive this information update again. IRN and other NNIRR posts are at IRN is sent 1-5 times a week.


1. Brenda Norrell (blog): Audios/In Cold Blood/Border Agent murders youth


2. New York Times Editorial: “A War on Janitors”


3. Congressional Daily: Homeland Security launches program to find illegal immigrants in jails


4. New York Times: Immigration Cools as Campaign Issue




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Audios/In Cold Blood/Border Agent murders youth


By Brenda Norrell


TUCSON -- US Border Patrol agent Nicholas Corbett is on trial for the murder of Francisco Javier Dominguez Rivera, 22, from Morelia, Mexico. Eyewitnesses said the border agent shot the youth in cold blood, without provocation.


At a shrine in front of the courthouse, family members and supporters are gathered to remember the youth and speak of the impunity that US Border Agents are operating under, as they murder people of Mexico. On Wednesday, Roy Warden, who previously burned Mexican flags with the Minutemen at human rights marches here, gathered with others in front of the courthouse to harass and yell at the family and their supporters.


This is not the first time a person from Mexico has been murdered in cold blood by US Border Patrol agents at the US/Mexico border. This time, there were witnesses when Border Agent Corbett shot the youth in the chest at close range on Jan. 12, 2007, in the Sonoran Desert near Douglas, Arizona.


Family and supporters said there is a poisoned atmosphere of racism in the United States.


"We are talking about a poisoned atmosphere against immigrants," Isabel Garcia, cochair of Derechos Humanos, said during an interview outside the federal courthouse. Garcia compared today's racism toward migrants with the pre-Civil Rights era in the south.


Garcia said border agents are murdering and getting away with murder.


"We are living in really, really, dangerous times," Garcia said. "This case is about accountability, this case is about impunity. That is the bottom line."


Attorneys are presenting their final arguments today, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008. Corbett is charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide. His first trial ended in a mistrial after another jury deadlocked.


Listen online to today's interviews from the street at the shrine for Francisco Javier:



Brenda Norrell

Censored News

Listen at Earthcycles:



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New York Times

October 20, 2008



A War on Janitors

The Wild West weirdness of the nation’s immigration policy reached new extremes last week in Mesa, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb where the county sheriff, Joe Arpaio, has gone off the rails as the self-appointed scourge of people without papers.

About 2 a.m. on Thursday, Sheriff Arpaio sent out a strike force of 30 detectives and 30 members of his volunteer “posse,” with semiautomatic weapons and dogs, to look for illegal janitors. Acting on a tip to the sheriff’s immigration hotline, they raided Mesa’s City Hall. They raided the public library. They raided the local headquarters of Management Cleaning Controls, the company with the janitorial contract for city buildings.

Three janitors were arrested at the library. Thirteen other people were picked up at their homes. All are “illegals,” according to the sheriff’s office, which keeps a running total of its immigration arrests on its Web site.

In most other parts of the country this would be seen as a stunning misuse of firepower, a waste of resources and a bizarre intrusion by one government agency onto another’s turf. Neither the mayor nor Mesa’s Police Department had been warned about the raids. And the city had already been investigating the company’s hiring.

But this happened in Maricopa County, where for months Sheriff Arpaio’s deputies have been staging high-profile sweeps, stopping drivers and pedestrians and demanding their papers. The crackdowns have terrorized and infuriated Latino residents of Phoenix, America’s fifth-largest city, where citizens say they have been stopped and harassed for the crime of being brown-skinned. They have spurred lawsuits and led the Phoenix mayor and others to plead for a federal investigation.

Sheriff Arpaio’s crusade is unconstitutional and repugnant. But it is where the rest of the country could be headed. Immigration has vanished from the presidential race, but its problems are still with us, distorted by opportunists and poisoned by fear.

The system has too few visas, too many shadow workers and no way to bring a huge and vital undocumented labor force into compliance with the law.

The new president will not only have to stand up for something better; he will have to stand against the repulsive scapegoating that hard-liners like Sheriff Arpaio, who is up for re-election next month, have waged for short-term political gain.

He will, in short, have to reassure immigrants, Latinos especially, that America’s welcome is secure.


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Congressional Daily


Homeland Security launches program to find illegal immigrants in jails



The Homeland Security Department will launch a program Monday aimed at identifying illegal immigrants held in county and city jails across the country, but critics worry that nonthreatening individuals could be ensnarled in confusing deportation proceedings or denied legal protections.

With an infusion of funding from the Congress, the department's Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has started an aggressive effort to find illegal immigrants who are incarcerated and enter them into deportation proceedings. ICE says its initial focus is on finding and removing illegal immigrants who have been convicted of violent crimes or those convicted of major drug offenses.

The program will allow local law enforcement agencies to automatically compare the fingerprints of their prisoners against FBI criminal databases and Homeland Security immigration databases. When law enforcement officials run a check on fingerprints against the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, a check will automatically be done against Homeland Security's Automated Biometric Identification System.

The program will begin with the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Texas, with the goal of being expanded to about 50 other local law enforcement agencies by the spring.

"It sounds rather simple but it really changes the way we do business and the way we go about identifying individuals for immigration enforcement," said David Venturella, director of ICE's Secure Communities program.

"We're going to be measured and careful in our rollout but we're going to do it as aggressively as possible," he added.

ICE will first focus on having the program operational with county jails and then at city jails. Venturella said reaching all jail booking sites will take three and a half years. But he said doing so will require much more funding from Congress to cover additional costs, such as more detention capacity and transportation services.

ICE estimates the total cost could be $3 billion a year, which is more than half the total annual budget of the entire agency. The total number of criminal illegal immigrants in U.S. jails who were charged with deportable offenses surged to more than 220,000 in fiscal 2008, according to statistics released by ICE last week. This compares to about 164,000 in 2007 and 67,000 in 2006. ICE estimates that federal, state and local prisons and jails hold between 300,000 to 450,000 criminal illegal immigrants who are potentially removable.

Immigration advocates agree that illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes should be deported. But they fear noncitizens might not be given proper legal protections.

"Our concern is making sure that people have access to counsel or are advised of their rights," said Kerri Sherlock Talbot, associate director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. "Sometimes people are pressured into signing away their rights by basically stipulating that they are removable from the United States," she said.

Some illegal immigrants might qualify for visas, such as those who can legitimately claim asylum or those who have been victimized or trafficked, she said. Although ICE says it is only targeting illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes, immigration advocates worry that nonthreatening individuals might get swept up in the process.



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New York Times


October 29, 2008

Immigration Cools as Campaign Issue


On the stump, Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain rarely talk about immigration, and it was never raised in their three debates.

Yet as this thorny issue has receded from the presidential campaign, the two candidates continue to refine their approach to it — especially in regards to illegal immigration, the most politically sensitive piece of the equation.

Mr. Obama, the Democratic nominee, has hardened his tone on how to deal with illegal immigrants, while Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee, has made immigration enforcement a priority, a position in line with the Bush administration’s. Both candidates are responding to the anger many Americans feel about uncontrolled illegal immigration, including working-class voters whom Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama are trying to attract in the final days of the campaign.

Because of persisting political rifts and a crush of priorities related to reviving the economy and unwinding the Iraq war, advisers to the campaigns say it is increasingly unlikely that either candidate would propose to Congress an overhaul of the immigration system during the first year in office, something both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama had pledged to do.

On the assumption that immigration legislation “is not likely to be the first thing out of the box” for the new president, Doris Meissner, who was commissioner of the immigration service under President Bill Clinton, said she was working with a bipartisan group of experts to identify changes that the new president could make without Congress.

“The reforms we need to put in place are so sweeping and the political environment is so hostile to consensus, I think we will be in a phase of longer-term building of public understanding,” said Ms. Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a research group in Washington.

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain continue to support legislation that would include a path to legal status for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country.

As a result, groups that oppose legal status for illegal immigrants, who mobilized a wildfire movement of largely Republican voters against a comprehensive immigration bill last year, are sitting out the presidential race. Instead, they are focusing on Senate and House races, where they hope to stop the Democrats from winning large majorities.

“We’re going to have an incredibly bad White House, so we’re in for some tough defensive battles,” said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which favors reduced immigration. “We have to make sure we’ve got at least 41 senators so we can block any Obama or McCain amnesty.”

Seeking to broaden support for legalization, Mr. Obama embraces new law-and-order language adopted in the Democratic Party platform at the convention. Although Americans are “welcoming and generous,” the platform states, “those who enter our country’s borders illegally, and those who employ them, disrespect the rule of law.” Instead of the Democrats’ emphasis, as recently as last year, on integrating illegal immigrants into society, the platform says, “We must require them to come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”

Heather Higginbottom, the Obama campaign’s director for policy, said Mr. Obama had not altered his basic views. If elected, Mr. Obama would insist that illegal immigrants pay back taxes and fines, learn English and go to the back of the immigration line to become legal.

For Mr. McCain, there has been a sharper turn from the past. He was unable to stop the Republican Party from adopting a platform at the September convention that directly rejected his support for legalization. “We oppose amnesty,” the platform states, describing “the American people’s rejection of en masse legalizations” as “especially appropriate.”

Some Republicans have not forgiven Mr. McCain for joining Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, to write a bill, known as comprehensive immigration reform, which passed the Senate in 2006. Mr. McCain stayed on the sidelines last year as a version of that bill stalled in Congress. Then, under pressure from rivals in the Republican primaries, Mr. McCain said early this year that he would not vote for that bill if it came up again.

He has supported the Bush administration’s aggressive enforcement campaign against illegal immigration, calling it a necessary first step to persuading Americans to accept any legalization program. In recent weeks his campaign has avoided the term “path to citizenship” to describe the option Mr. McCain would offer illegal immigrants, saying only that he would deal with them in a humane way.

The McCain campaign is hoping that his differences with the Republican Party will help to reinforce his image as a maverick, especially among Hispanic voters. One of his television advertisements in Spanish shows Mr. McCain speaking of illegal immigrants as “God’s children,” as Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado, the Republicans’ most outspoken foe of illegal immigrants, looks on, scowling.

“Senator McCain risked his own political career to get a bill in the Senate that would benefit Latinos,” said César Martínez, a producer of the McCain advertisements in Spanish.

Obama supporters say they do not mind his campaign’s silences, since they are confident he remains committed to an overhaul including legalization, and debate has often proved polarizing.

“We feel very comfortable with where he stands,” said Eliseo Medina, international executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, who has been barnstorming for Mr. Obama. “We do not have to have it repeated to us over and over again.”

Ms. Higginbottom, the Obama policy adviser, acknowledged that high unemployment in coming months could make an immigration overhaul a harder sell but said Mr. Obama would argue that American workers would benefit if millions of unauthorized immigrant workers, currently vulnerable to exploitation, gained their labor rights.

While the candidates have skirted the immigration issue in speeches and town-hall-style- meetings, they are clashing head on over it in the Spanish language media, in negative advertisements that have played heavily in swing states with growing numbers of Hispanic voters like Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico.

In those advertisements, Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama each tries to show that the other was less consistent in supporting legislation to change the system, including provisions to legalize illegal immigrants.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

A call to support returning workers in Postville, Iowa

La solidaridad es la ternura de los pueblos.Solidarity is the ternderness of the people.

– Gioconda Belli


Please extend your generosity and the big heart of solidarity by making a donation to support Returning Workers in Postville. (See below for ways to send in your contribution.*)


* * * * *


Dear Friends:

As you may have already heard or read in today’s Des Moines Register, a number of people arrested in the raid in May are being returned to the community with a temporary work permit so that they can cooperate with labor violation investigations.  You can read some details at [inserted below this letter]:

We have been overwhelmed by trying to find housing for those who have already been released (18 people) and are now in desperate need of help in housing the additional 13 who are expected to come mid to late next week. In order to be released, they have to have a place to go. This means that we need people who are willing to house them. These are hard-working, decent people, whose only crime has been to try to provide for their families.

Additionally, as these and other needs arise, the local response being coordinated through St. Bridget's continues to be in desperate need of donations, and these folks being released will also have clothing needs (as again, they are being released with nothing but the clothes on their back).


Thank you.



David Vásquez, Campus Pastor

Office for College Ministries

Luther College

700 College Drive

Decorah, IA 52101


Off: 563-387-1040

Fax: 563-387-2153



* * * * *


Make your check out to St. Bridget’s Ministry, write in the memo “Postville Relief Fund” and mail to:


St. Bridget's Hispanic Ministry

ATTN:  Postville Relief Fund

P.O Box 369

Postville, IA 52162


You can also go online to donate at:


When the web page opens up, on the right hand bottom, click:

1-Select :Specific Disaster,

2-Then Designate a specific disaster: Postville Disaster



* * * * *

DesMoines Register


October 17, 2008

Illegal workers brought back to Postville


Eighteen illegal immigrants arrested during a meatpacking plant raid in Postville have returned to town and might receive work permits for as long as federal prosecutors need them, a U.S. immigration spokesman said Thursday.

But the workers still face deportation, and were shipped to town fresh out of prison with few belongings and scant job opportunities, said a local church pastor who cared for the workers.

The immigrants were tagged as witnesses this week in the case against two human resources managers at Agriprocessors Inc., a kosher meat plant that employed hundreds of illegal immigrants and was the site of one of the largest raids in U.S. history in May. All of the witnesses have completed five-month prison sentences at the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Tim Counts.

Less than a week after they completed their prison terms, federal agents obtained warrants to hold the immigrants as material witnesses in their case. A federal judge, however, ordered that the workers be released with supervision.

Court papers identify 16 workers as witnesses in the case against Laura Althouse, the plant's payroll supervisor, and two in the case of Karina Freund, a Spanish translator who helped process work papers. The release orders - written in English and Spanish - require the workers to wear GPS ankle-monitoring bracelets and stay within an area determined by a probation officer.

The Rev. Paul Ouderkirk, the pastor at St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville, said the witnesses were brought back to Postville Sunday with next to nothing.

One man had a check for $21 in prison wages, he said. Three others were sharing one toothbrush. Ouderkirk said the men did not yet have work permits, and would likely have to stay with relatives in town.

"We fed the ones who came here today, because they were hungry as all get-out," Ouderkirk said Thursday, adding that "the only jobs around here would be the occasional farm work or going back to the plant."

Ouderkirk and other religious leaders have complained in the past that federal agents in the raid's wake relied too heavily on local churches to shelter and feed the immigrant workers.

Althouse and Freund were charged with federal and state crimes in September, four months after federal agents raided Agriprocessors and detained 389 illegal immigrant workers. The raid sparked allegations that plant managers had violated labor laws and mistreated some workers.

Bob Teig, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said his office planned to call another 13 immigrants as witnesses.

Those immigrants have just finished federal prison sentences in Tallahassee and Miami.

The immigrants identified as witnesses still will be deported as part of their criminal plea deals, Counts said. A work authorization "is temporary by nature, and does not change the fact that they have a deportation order," Counts said.

ICE agents, he said, have asked U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to fast-track the immigrants' applications for work permits so they can find a job.

The plea deal for most of the immigrants arrested in May requires them to cooperate with the government's ongoing investigation of Agriprocessors. Immigrants who receive temporary work permits have to find jobs on their own, Teig said.

"The work authorization would allow them to work for as long as they are here," Teig said. "Since they are material witnesses in these cases, it would last at least as long as the process takes."

Althouse, of Postville, was charged with aiding and abetting document fraud, aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens. Freund, of Fayette, faces one count of aiding and abetting the harboring of undocumented aliens.

Representatives for the women have said they still work at Agriprocessors.

Althouse, if convicted, faces between two and 22 years in prison, a $750,000 fine, a $300 court surcharge and supervised release of up to seven years. Freund would face a maximum five-year sentence, a $250,000 fine, a $100 surcharge and three years of supervised release.

Althouse, Freund and three plant managers also are charged with 9,311 child labor violations filed by the Iowa attorney general's office.

Agriprocessors officials facing state misdemeanor charges are company owner Abraham Aaron Rubashkin; his son, longtime company leader Sholom Rubashkin; human resources manager Elizabeth Billmeyer; and Althouse and Freund.

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