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


<><><> the end / el fin / tamat <><><>


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