Immigrant Rights News - Friday, October 03, 2008
1. Two from the Texas Observer blog:
2. New York Times: Editorial: Legal Immigration? Anybody?
October 1st, 2008
by Melissa del Bosque
An international commission on human rights is in
For those of you unfamiliar with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the commission is appointed by the general assembly of the Organization of the American States. The OAS is an international body, similar to the United Nations, that is comprised of 35 members states from North, Central, South America and the
The commission examines and monitors allegations of human rights abuses by its member states, including the
Denise Gilman, a clinical professor at the University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic requested in August that the commission conduct a hearing on human rights abuses and the border wall. The hearing will be held in
The UT law clinic and other legal groups also asked the commission to hold a hearing on immigrant detainee rights. The hearing will be held in
Interestingly, Gilman says commissioners had planned to visit
While the commission may not force a change in Homeland Security’s policies toward the border wall and immigration detainee rights, Gilman hopes it can enrich the immigration debate in the
Ultimately, Gilman hopes that during an increasingly negative election season in which immigration reform has so far not been a major issue, the commission can help inform candidates about immigration and human rights concerns. “I’m hopeful that this might help frame the issue for the next presidential administration,” she says.
September 26th, 2008
by Melissa del Bosque
Even with Congress embroiled in the country’s financial meltdown this week, the Department of Homeland Security managed to get its $400 million to keep building the border wall.
This week, the department also awarded three contractors $37 million in contracts to build border fence in
Now the question is: when might construction begin? And can DHS build a fence on property whose owners have filed lawsuits against the department? As is its custom, the department didn’t respond to emails from the Observer seeking comment.
A phone call to Peter Schey, the lawyer representing Dr. Eloisa Tamez and the Benavidez Family in El Calaboz, helped answer some of the questions. Schey said that DHS could not build on his clients properties because they had filed a formal discovery document in federal court in
In layman’s terms, this means that Schey has asked Homeland Security to specifically explain to Dr. Tamez and the Benavidez Family what the department plans to do with their property. He’s also asked the court not to act until DHS responds. The agency has until October 5th to respond to the court on what it plans to do regarding Schey’s filing.
To date, Homeland Security has never specifically explained to landowners what it has in store for their land. Or whether the department could alter their properties in the future. The agency has also never explained how it came up with the monetary amounts it’s offering for landowners’ properties.
“Property owners are blindfolded. DHS won’t tell them the rules of negotiation and won’t tell them the extent of the use of the land. Are they going to build one road or two roads? Are they going to put in guard towers with machine guns? Landowners have no idea,” Schey said.
Schey said he had no doubt that the department had properties where it could start building.
He said that DHS’ negotiations were built on a foundation of lawlessness. “All these agreements they got, DHS never told landowners they had the right to negotiate a reasonable price under the law,” he said. “Most people are unaware of their rights.”
He also said that in most pending cases, judges haven’t issued orders that would prevent DHS from building. Schey said he plans to share his motion for discovery with other lawyers representing landowners in court. “To my knowledge I am the first one to do this,” he said.
Schey’s client, Dr. Eloisa Tamez will be honored in
It also appears that Congress may have put in some hurdles to building the border wall. In the spending package passed by the House, U.S. Customs and Border Protection received $775 million to spend on fencing. The text of the spending package, however, requires Chertoff to consult with communities , federal agencies and other stakeholders before building. It also requires the agency to seek approval by congressional committees and a review by the Government Accountabilty Office before it can spend its $400 million on the border wall.
It would seem that DHS has its own wall to overcome before it can start building one in
New York Times
October 3, 2008
Legal Immigration? Anybody?
One of the false pieties uttered by anti-immigration politicians is that they love immigrants. If that were true, Congress would not be having so much trouble passing a simple law to smooth out a serious kink in the legal immigration pipeline.
Every year Congress authorizes a certain number of permanent-resident visas, or green cards, for immigrants to come to work in the
The result? Every year thousands of potential green cards vanish, like unused cellphone minutes. The huge backlogs in legal immigration, which span years or even decades for applicants from some countries, continue to fester. The myth of
Teachers, nurses, engineers, researchers and other aspiring immigrants who follow the rules, file their paperwork, pay their fees and wait — and wait — get the chilly message that they are not wanted. Some of them feel great pressure to go illegally around the immigration system, instead of through it, as their wait to rejoin their loved ones becomes intolerable.
A House bill that could recapture an estimated 550,000 lost visas, sponsored by Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat, has been moving slowly through the committee process despite the best efforts of members like Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa, to sabotage it with ridiculously restrictive amendments. One would have granted green cards only to people younger than 40 with college degrees. Another would have eliminated an entire category of family visas, for siblings of citizens.
In the Senate, Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, is insisting that a visa-recapturing amendment be added to a bill reauthorizing E-Verify, the federal database program to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants. For this, he has endured an onslaught of criticism from nativist groups and colleagues, like Jeff Sessions of
That’s a false alarm. Congress has already authorized these green cards, and many would go to highly skilled workers who have already lived here for years on temporary visas. The bill is as much about keeping workers as gaining them.
It seems unlikely that a visa-recapture bill would make it through this year. But don’t blame Congress’s focus on the economic mess for that. Recapturing visas is a modest fix that should have been made a long time ago. The country needs to build a smoother path to legal entry and citizenship. The blame for its failure to do that lies squarely with the hard-liners who rage against illegal immigrants, but are strangely uninterested in helping people who “play by the rules” and “wait in line.”
Over 1,300 gang members arrested in past 4 months
By EILEEN SULLIVAN
The Associated Press
Wednesday, October 1, 2008; 7:31 PM
WASHINGTON -- Federal officials arrested more than 300 members of a previously lesser known criminal gang during a summer crackdown, twice as many as last year, and arrested nearly 1,400 gang members nationwide, immigration authorities said Wednesday.
The increase in arrests of alleged members of the gang Surenos 13 may represent the gang's increasing reach, or it may result from better classification of those arrested, authorities and academics said. The gang is distinct from the larger and better-known MS-13, but police or federal agents may have lumped them together during previous roundups.
Over the course of a four-month effort that ended Tuesday, officials arrested 1,759 people in 28 states, 33 percent more than they arrested during a similar campaign last year. Of those, 1,315 were gang members and gang associates, and 338 belonged to Surenos 13, according to figures released Wednesday by federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
The Surenos 13 members were far-flung, ranging into what might seem like unlikely places such as
A relatively small number of those picked up this summer, 86, were identified as members of MS-13. Federal authorities have said MS-13 is one of the nation's largest gangs, with 10,000 members in the
"In every area of the country, there are transnational gang problems," ICE assistant secretary Julie Myers said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Surenos 13 gangs, also known as SUR 13, may not be connected to gangs bearing the same name in other locations, she said. MS-13 continues to have a tighter affiliation across the country than those calling themselves Surenos 13, she said.
Another reason for the uptick in Surenos 13 arrests could be that for many years, law enforcement across the country had been misidentifying MS-13 members. There are about 1,000 gangs across the country with the same signifiers as MS-13, said Sgt. Andrew Eways, supervisor of the Criminal Investigation Section of the Maryland State Police.
Surenos means "southerner," Eways said. The term is often used in
MS-13 and Surenos 13 are equally lethal and dangerous, said gang psychology expert Jorja Leap, an associate adjunct professor of social welfare at the
Since 2005, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested more than 11,100 gang members and associates from about 890 gangs. The federal government has partnered with state and local law enforcement to rid the country of the spreading gang problem, arresting gang members on administrative violations that result in deportation. The summertime crackdown, now in its third year, increases those partnerships during the season when more members are outdoors, Myers said. Over the past three years, ICE has seized 388 firearms and arrested 145 gang leaders.
Officials also arrested more members of smaller gangs than they had in previous years, and
This summer's 1,759 arrests include Walter Garza-Morales, a 26-year-old Mexican and member of the
"That is an incredible number of arrests, and law enforcement is doing its job," said Leap, the gang psychology expert. "But this is an ongoing problem."
Guv criticizes 'tent cities' plan
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. criticized a proposal by Republican 3rd Congressional District candidate Jason Chaffetz to build tent cities to house undocumented immigrants, saying that "on its face it's an extreme idea."
As part of his immigration proposal, Chaffetz, who is Huntsman's former chief of staff, has advocated building prison camps to house those who are here illegally and commit crimes. He has said that his policy is based on a consensus stand by the Western Governors Association.
But Huntsman, who co-chaired the panel that crafted that policy, said it is "a fundamentally different approach." The WGA policy called for a regional detention facility for criminals who are here illegally.
"Nobody talked about a tent city with barbed wire fences around it," Huntsman said. Chaffetz said Monday that he added the part about the tent city.
"I think we agree on the need and the function for detention facilities if not the form," Chaffetz said.
The tent cities are only part of his plan, he said, which hinges on fixing legal immigration.
Those here illegally would be put on a guest worker status, but would have to return home and apply for visas to return to the
Huntsman said that, what many in the immigration debate lose sight of, is that "it is a human issue first and foremost," and immigrants are not being treated as human beings.
- Robert Gehrke
Wall Street Journal
OCTOBER 2, 2008
Latest Immigration Wave: Retreat
An Illegal Worker Realizes Dream, Briefly; Fewer Are Sneaking In
SAN JUAN ALOTENANGO, Guatemala -- In 2004, Ambrosio Carrillo made a perilous and illegal journey to the
Once a construction worker earning about $15 an hour in
Four Years in
So in January, Mr. Carrillo sliced open the green plastic piggy bank he'd bought at Wal-Mart and counted $3,100 in change and bills. "There was enough to buy a plane ticket home and ship my truck to
With his journey to the
It is difficult to track short-term changes in the population of the estimated 12 million immigrants who are in the
In part, the slowdown is a product of a Bush administration crackdown on illegal immigration, with factory raids that led to deportations and even criminal charges for thousands of undocumented workers. Meanwhile, the weakened economy has dealt a blow to these workers, many of them employed in the slumping construction sector.
The Census Bureau reported last month that the income of
As a result, flows of money to
Bigger Than Coffee
Some 1.35 million Guatemalan citizens -- 10% of the country's population -- live in the
Such income fuels everything from construction and appliance sales to spending on services. When the remittances shrink, "the first things to go out the window are education and health care -- things that determine a family's long-term earnings potential," says Robert Meins, a remittances specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank.
An immigrant exodus wouldn't be unprecedented. As many as one-third of the nearly 30 million foreigners who arrived in the U.S. between the Civil War and World War I returned to their native countries. Arrivals from Latin America also ebb and flow, with the influx to the
San Juan Alotenango, an agricultural town of about 20,000 people, sits in a green valley bounded by two volcanoes. The average daily wage for farmhands is less than $10. When a relative moves to the
Maria Felipa Cojolon said that her husband, Isidro, regularly sent home $2,000 a month two years ago from
A few blocks away, down a rutted road, Ambrosio Carrillo stood outside his family's one-room shack on a recent afternoon, recounting how he tried to make it in
He went, he said, to secure a better education for his kids and perhaps purchase land for them. With only three years of schooling and a job at a coffee-processing plant, he didn't see success in San Juan Alotenango. "We didn't go hungry," he says, but added: "I thought I could give my children a better future by going to
Two cousins were thriving in the
On April 26, 2004, Mr. Carrillo joined about 30 Guatemalans, as well as several El Salvadorans and Hondurans, for a harrowing journey to the
After six days in the desert, Mr. Carrillo and a dozen migrants crammed into a van that picked them up on the side of a country road. Once in
In 2004, construction was booming in
"I started as a 'laborer,' making $9 an hour," says Mr. Carrillo, using one of the English words that leavened an interview otherwise conducted in Spanish. After tax and Social Security deductions, Mr. Carrillo says his take-home pay was about $400 a week, more than a dozen times what he earned back home. He bought a 1998 Nissan Sentra for $425.
Mr. Carrillo gradually learned English and skills such as tiling and carpentry. His hourly wage climbed to $11, he says, then $12. For the first two years, he paid off his debt to the coyote and sent his family about $200 every two weeks. Later, he says, he was able to send $300 or $400.
About $40 each month went for secondary school for his two older kids. Guatemalans who want to continue their childrens' schooling beyond the primary level typically have to pay for private education.
Some weekends, Mr. Carrillo earned extra cash by doing landscaping on an 11-acre estate in affluent Howard County, Md. Reached by phone, the homeowner, Nura, asked that her last name be omitted. "We hired seven Americans who weren't up to the job," she said. "Then we found Ambrosio. He showed up on time and took his work seriously," pulling weeds, cutting fallen branches and spreading mulch. At lunchtime, she said, he was eager to practice his English.
On Sundays, Mr. Carrillo sometimes played soccer with other undocumented immigrants at a field near his apartment complex. In 2006 -- by now making $12 an hour and feeling confident about his job prospects -- he sold his Nissan and paid $2,000 for a green 2000 Ford Ranger.
Back home, Mr. Carrillo's family still lived in the shack with sugar-cane stick walls, tin roof, earth floor and no refrigerator. His wife, Josefina, washed clothes at a public tank a few blocks away.
But his family could afford more now. Mrs. Carrillo bought herself four gold-tooth implants. For their 17-year-old daughter, Miriam, she purchased two small gold hoops. Sons Byron, 15, and Jose Fernando, 11, received new shirts and dress shoes. "We could afford red meat," Mrs. Carrillo said on a recent Saturday. "Not just frijolitos [little beans]."
Mr. Carrillo phoned home several times a week. Sometimes he called in the wee hours of the night and sounded like he had been drinking, Mrs. Carrillo says. Mr. Carrillo doesn't dispute this. "It was the sadness of being away from the family," his wife said.
By 2007, fortunes were beginning to turn for Mr. Carrillo and other illegal immigrants.
That spring, the
At a construction site one Monday morning that summer, Mr. Carrillo and a dozen other workers were informed that Pat's Renovation had received notices -- known as "no match" letters -- indicating that the laborers' Social Security numbers weren't valid. At first, the contractor switched to cash payments. But about three weeks later, Mr. Carrillo says, the boss told them he would have to discontinue this practice.
Mr. Carrillo began applying for jobs at other companies. As he recalls it, they said: "No good Social Security number, no job. Sorry."
He began hustling for day jobs, standing outside a 7-Eleven store with dozens of other immigrants. He worked part-time two or three days a week. "There was too much competition," he recalls.
Back home the effects were immediate, Mrs. Carrillo says. Meat was off the menu. Mrs. Carrillo says she had to borrow to make monthly school payments. There were no new clothes for the children. In a tense phone exchange, Mrs. Carrillo accused her husband of sacrificing his family in exchange for a new woman in the
"It wasn't that I had another woman," Mr. Carrillo says. "I simply didn't have work."
Through the fall and winter of 2007, Mr. Carrillo said, he had no money at all to send to his family. On the worst days, the migrant says, he cried in despair. He said that finally, after two months without a day of work, he called his wife and told her: "Better to eat poverty in my family's company than alone." She told him to come home.
That's when he ripped into the piggy bank. Some of the $3,100 went toward a passport he obtained at the Guatemalan embassy. He bought a $330 one-way ticket home from
On Jan. 26, he landed in
He has hauled carrots, building materials, scrap metal. On a recent day, he got about $10 -- minus his costs for fuel -- to haul avocados to the nearby tourist center of
"With the truck, at least we can eat," he says.
Behind on Payments
Work has been sparse. Mrs. Carrillo says the family is about $200 in arrears on school payments for their daughter and older son. Their 17-year-old, Miriam, says she still hopes to graduate from high school this year and enter a vocational college to become a dental technician. Jose Fernando, the Carrillos's youngest son, doesn't have his school uniform, which costs about $8.
To pass the days without work, Mr. Carrillo watches TV or plays soccer. Some nights he drinks beer with his buddies.
Write to Miriam Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please reply to Will Coley, email@example.com:
Please check out these new videos I [Will Coley] made that show you how to support recent pro-immigrant family bills in Congress. Be sure to click "watch in high quality" at the bottom right hand corner of the video, under the video time length.
CALL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE (http://tinyurl.com/4o2bn9) to support "The Child Citizen Protection Act" (H.R. 1176)*. You can also express your support for the Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 2221)*.
CALL YOUR SENATORS (http://tinyurl.com/4afoe6) to support "The Protect Citizens and Residents from Unlawful Raids and Detention Act" (S. 3594)*.
You can also express your support for the Uniting American Families Act (S. 1328)*.
Be sure to call ASAP 9:00 am - 5:00pm Eastern Standard Time!
These videos could use some fine-tuning so please let us know what you think and/or leave a comment on YouTube.
Read more about these bills at http://www.congress.org/congressorg/issues/bills/
At the bottom of the center panel under "Bill Number", select "H.R." or "S" and type in either bill number.
H.R. 2221 and S.1328: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniting_American_Families_Act