Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Tuesday, September 30, 2008



1. The Statesman: Life with the Fence: First border fence: fewer migrants, more violence


2. New York Times: Challenges to a Sheriff, Both Popular and Reviled



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The Statesman


Life with the Fence

First border fence: fewer migrants, more violence

Barrier near Tijuana has turned area into a battleground.


By Traci Carl

Associated Press

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Tijuana, Baja California - There is a moment each evening, as the sun melts into the Pacific, when Colonia Libertad is at peace.

The dimming light blurs the hilltop slum's rough edges, camouflaging piles
of trash in long shadows and making it difficult to tell that some of the
tightly packed homes clinging to vertical canyonsides are made of old
packing crates and cast-off plastic tarps.

The stadium lighting that towers over the corrugated metal wall marking the
U.S.-Mexico border is dark, permitting residents a bird's eye view of
Tijuana, where lights are blinking on, blanketing hills that lead toward the
ocean. Farther inland, the dark shadows of mountains are sketched across the

There are no helicopters reverberating overhead, no drone of all-terrain
vehicles. Even the guard dogs chained outside their homes respect the
silence. Fathers stroll lazily behind children who steer beat-up tricycles
along the rutted dirt paths that serve as streets.

For a moment, residents are reminded of what it was like before the wall,
when children ducked under a barbed wire fence to play soccer in U.S.
territory and returned home for dinner. When smuggling meant giving
directions to migrants who simply outran border agents and melted into the
crowds of tourists.

But it is only a moment.

The floodlights click on, bathing the neighborhood in light. The helicopters
return, clattering past. And the smugglers arrive with their ladders and
blow torches and groups of people desperate to escape a fate similar to the
one residents of Colonia Libertad long ago accepted.

As the U.S. government battles environmentalists and residents to build
hundreds more miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, both
sides might be well served to take a long look at Colonia Libertad - Freedom

In the early 1990s, Colonia Libertad became one of the first places to
coexist with the recycled, corrugated-iron barrier that has become a symbol
of the conflicted relationship between the superpower United States and the
developing nation that lives in its shadow.

The fence didn't stop the migrants. It didn't stop the drugs. It merely
pared down the crowds that used to flood San Diego hillsides, diverted the
drugs underground and into the mountains, and helped create a smuggling
industry dedicated to beating the U.S. Border Patrol at its own game.

But that's not to say the sections of fence that have been built haven't
been successful. The barriers, combined with high-tech security measures
such as surveillance cameras and ground sensors, have made getting into the
U.S. more difficult.

And as security has increased in recent years, the number of people trying
to cross has fallen dramatically.

The downside, residents on both sides say, is that the border has become a
battleground, shattering a shared American and Mexican history that is blind
to things such as fences and borders.

Once, the only barrier between Colonia Libertad and San Diego was a
barbed-wire fence.

Residents would squeeze between its rusty spikes, escaping the crowded
barrio for the open hillsides of U.S. territory. Adults roasted meat in
barbecue pits while children ran free.

"It used to be fun because we'd cross and play soccer or baseball or
volleyball," said Jaime Boites, 35, whose home is steps from the border.
"Nobody cared. When we were done, we'd just go back to our houses in

U.S. Border Patrol agents left the picnickers alone.

They were more concerned with the other side of Colonia Libertad, the
smugglers who used the neighborhood as a staging ground for vanloads of
people or drugs or some other kind of contraband that the gringos legally
didn't want but were always willing to pay for.

It wasn't hard to get to the United States, which had few agents and little
security. Sometimes migrants gathered at the border in large groups to rush
past outnumbered guards.

Others packed into vans that were used to bring drugs or people across the

"Back then, there used to be vans going through U.S. territory, just like
nothing," Boites says. "Vans full of people, any time of day."

That was the main reason the wall went up: to stop the vehicles.

The first stretch of wall was made of material recycled from landing strips
left over from Vietnam.

Little changed in Colonia Libertad. Smugglers cut holes in the fence and
drove their vans through. Migrants scrambled over the wall, using the
corrugated ridges like the steps of a ladder.

U.S. officials saw the fence as a necessity because millions of undocumented
workers and tons of illegal drugs were streaming into their cities.

But it had consequences they never intended: Seasonal workers unable to
easily go back and forth built permanent lives north of the border. Migrants
were pushed into the searing desert of Arizona, and more than 1,600 have
died, often of thirst and exposure.

In Tijuana, the United States kept increasing security, using the area to
test new anti-smuggling methods and expanding the ones that worked. It added
a second layer of fencing at some points, redesigning each barrier to make
it more difficult to overcome.

Smugglers responded by charging migrants more money and becoming more
violent. They used slingshots to launch rocks, bottles, nail-studded planks,
Molotov cocktails.

Sometimes they wanted to hurt border agents, but mostly they were trying to
create diversions while they moved people or drugs across at another point


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New York Times


September 28, 2008

Challenges to a Sheriff, Both Popular and Reviled


PHOENIXJoe Arpaio, a cherished figure in the movement against illegal immigration, is running for a fifth term as the Maricopa County sheriff. But a referendum on his contentious approach to law enforcement — and the growing challenges to it — is already under way in the public arena.

Sheriff Arpaio has raised more than $500,000, and he is mobbed by well-wishers at campaign events, at which he signs autographs and poses for photographs. A poll last month showed him with a comfortable lead over his challenger.

“It’s exciting, taking on an issue that’s really worldwide,” said Sheriff Arpaio, 76, whose deputies, often in the glare of television cameras, have been instructed to pick up illegal immigrants across the county, the nation’s fourth largest and among the fastest growing.

The question is whether Sheriff Arpaio, one of America’s most colorful law enforcement officials, has overstepped his bounds.

A federal lawsuit by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund accuses the sheriff’s department of racial profiling and detaining legal residents and American citizens for long periods while their status is checked. The Government Accountability Office, a watchdog arm of Congress, is re-evaluating a program under which federal officials trained the deputies here and elsewhere in immigration enforcement.

And the mayor of Phoenix, Phil Gordon, has asked the Justice Department to investigate the tactics employed by Sheriff Arpaio, who first gained national attention years ago for forcing inmates to wear pink underwear, housing them in tents and feeding them food of a green hue.

“The sheriff always did his pink underwear and other publicity stunts,” Mr. Gordon said in an interview, in which he expressed regret over not speaking out sooner. “While they were funny, they weren’t breaking the Constitution and they weren’t endangering lives.”

Mr. Gordon said he acted in April after meeting privately at a church with Hispanic constituents who complained that Sheriff Arpaio, in routine patrols and crime sweeps that included the arrest of large numbers of illegal immigrants, had sown a fear of all law enforcement officials, raising concerns that crimes were going unreported.

In addition, the mayor said, a Hispanic aide, who has since joined the racial profiling lawsuit, complained to him of a sheriff’s deputy singling her out to produce a Social Security card while other, non-Hispanic motorists stopped along with her for driving in a restricted area only had to show their licenses.

In the face of all this, Sheriff Arpaio, his voice a laconic baritone this side of John Wayne, remains unbowed.

“I don’t get any kicks because we locked up 30 guys, especially those coming here for jobs,” Sheriff Arpaio said. “What overrides the compassion, I took an oath of office to enforce that law. That’s the difference. What right does an official have to say, I will not defend the Constitution?”

For the better part of two years, it has not been uncommon for people in Maricopa County stopped for traffic infractions to be asked about their immigration status, particularly if they speak only Spanish and wear certain clothing, including jeans and shirts that officials consider characteristic of south of the border.

Most sheriff’s deputies “can make a quick recognition on somebody’s accent, how they’re dressed,” said Bruce Sands, chief of enforcement for the sheriff’s department, where deputies have received training from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The sheriff’s department says the crackdown has rid the county of hundreds of illegal immigrants, including many with felony offenses, and Sheriff Arpaio defends factoring in speech and dress as in line with the training of federal immigration agents; an ICE spokesman would say only that “we use a number of factors” to make such determinations.

Lately, Sheriff Arpaio’s deputies have raided local businesses in an effort to enforce a new state law that aims to punish employers for hiring workers in the country illegally. So far, however, no employers have been charged, though dozens of illegal immigrants have been arrested.

Sheriff Arpaio and his tactics have been closely watched by people on all sides of the immigration debate as they play out in this border state, an incubator for ideas on local enforcement of immigration law.

“What starts in Arizona spreads across the country,” said Chris Newman of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which has mounted protests of Wells Fargo in Chicago, El Paso, Phoenix and San Francisco because it leases space to the sheriff’s office here.

Displaying what even critics call an uncanny knack for reading the popular mood, nearly two years ago Sheriff Arpaio shifted much of his attention to the region’s illegal immigrant population, arresting scores of them during routine and saturation patrols of selected areas and turning them over to federal officials for deportation. He has arrested smugglers as well as the people they were transporting, following state court rulings in his favor.

The Government Accountability Office investigation is examining the federal program known as 287(g), which has provided training to 63 local law enforcement agencies, with Maricopa County having the largest number of participants, in detecting detainees’ immigration status. The inquiry arose through a request by the House Homeland Security Committee, whose members were approached by members of the Arizona delegation concerned about possible civil rights violations.

Separately, ICE officials said the agency was auditing its program with Maricopa, but they characterized that review as routine and not the result of complaints. Richard Rocha, a spokesman for the agency, said it believed the sheriff “is acting within the scope” of the agreement.

Already, however, Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat who had welcomed an endorsement from Sheriff Arpaio, a Republican, in her first race for governor, this spring took away state money for his office that had gone in part to immigration enforcement. But Ms. Napolitano, who declined to be interviewed, has remained largely silent on the civil rights concerns raised in the Hispanic community.

A new coalition of labor and community groups, Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability, has accused Sheriff Arpaio of retaliating against opponents.

After a night of saturation patrols in the small suburb of Guadalupe led to a televised confrontation with Rebecca Jimenez, who was then mayor, Sheriff Arpaio threatened to withdraw from a contract to provide policing for the community. The Board of Supervisors approved the move last week but on Monday is to have a revote after it excluded members of the public from its meeting because of protests, possibly violating state law.

Sheriff Arpaio and a close ally, Andrew Thomas, the county attorney and a Republican who has zealously prosecuted immigration law, have publicly sparred with the state attorney general, Terry Goddard, a Democrat, who won his seat over Mr. Thomas in 2002 in a heated campaign.

Sheriff Arpaio announced a corruption inquiry of Mr. Goddard’s office in April 2007, but no charges have resulted.

“We are now a year and a half from that initial press conference where he told the world that’s what he was doing, an unusual way to start an investigation, and we still don’t have a result,” Mr. Goddard said in an interview.

All the focus on immigration has shifted attention from one of Sheriff Arpaio’s primary duties, overseeing 10,000 inmates.

A federal judge is expected to rule soon on an effort by the American Civil Liberties Union to keep in place the federal oversight of the jails that was started in 1995, citing deteriorating conditions and lax medical care in five jails that the A.C.L.U. says pose a risk of serious injury or death to pretrial inmates.

But, despite the intense fire, which now includes daily protests accusing him of failing to process thousands of warrants and costing taxpayers excessive amounts in legal settlements, few here predict the sheriff will lose his job to the challenger, Dan Saban. He is the former police chief in Buckeye and a longtime nemesis who switched parties to run as a Democrat.

At a recent fund-raiser, Robert Marino, a Democrat from Glendale, asked Sheriff Arpaio to sign a copy of his book, “Joe’s Law.”

“Illegal immigrants are breaking the law, and he is enforcing it,” said Mr. Marino, echoing the mantra of his supporters. “He is taking them away from Arizona and back to Mexico. I just wish other people were behind him.”


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