Monday, November 17, 2008

Immigrant Rights News -- Monday, November 17, 2008

Immigrant Rights News -- Monday, November 17, 2008


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1. AlterNet: Profligate Water Use in the U.S. Is Fueling the Flight of Mexicans Across the Border

2. New York Times: A Killing in a Town Where Latinos Sense Hate

3. Associated Press: Election spurs 'hundreds' of race threats, crimes

4. Washington Post: New Immigration Regulation Eased After Firms Complain.omeland Security Measure Requires Checks of New Hires

5. Houston Chronicle: An abuse of freedom:Many illegal immigrants out on bail commit another crime or vanish before trial



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Profligate Water Use in the U.S. Is Fueling the Flight of Mexicans Across the Border


By Jo-Shing Yang, AlterNet

Posted on November 11, 2008

On October 21, 2008, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne inaugurated the ground breaking of the new Imperial Valley water reservoir near the U.S.-Mexico border. The 500-acre $172.2-million reservoir, to be completed in August 2010, will store surplus Colorado River water for use by coastal Southern California, southern Nevada, and central Arizona; previously this water had been flowing to Mexico and used by its cities and thousands of Mexican farmers.

This reservoir, along with the $250 million project to line a 23-mile stretch of the All-American Canal, also in the Imperial Valley, with concrete to prevent water seepage to an underground aquifer, Mexicali Valley aquifer, which is used currently by Mexican cities and farmers, means that there will be substantially less water from the Colorado River and dire consequences for Mexico.

An estimated 67,000 acre-feet of water seeps from the canal annually. In 2006, the Mexican government and two California environmental groups filed a lawsuit to stop the canal-lining project-ultimately unsuccessful. This captured seepage water will be sent to San Diego for municipal use. Now, Mexico has even less water to use, although theoretically it will still get its share of water of 1.5 million acre-feet under the 1944 treaty. The new Imperial Valley reservoir and the All-American Canal lining are two nails in the coffin of Mexico's water future. The triumphant U.S. water and irrigation districts, the winners of the two latest battles in the U.S.-Mexico water wars, are gloating over their victory in capturing the last drops of water in the Colorado River before they reach Mexico. Now, in the drought-stricken southwest, they can continue to irrigate vast corporate farms planted with thirsty crops, hose millions of suburban lawns, sprinkle golf courses, and fill tens of thousands of private swimming pools.

The losers are, naturally, poor Mexican peasants and subsistence farmers. Drought-induced social strains are the hardest for the most vulnerable people in Mexico and will further fuel illegal migration to the United States.

The problem with U.S. water negotiators is that they do not see water as a basic human right: they see water as a commodity in this war over natural resources; this view is reinforced by a decade-long catastrophic drought in the Colorado River Basin and the entire region of southwestern United States and northern Mexico. There are other nails, of course, in the coffin of Mexico's water future: a mega-drought induced by global climate disruptions; chronic lack of funding for water infrastructure and utilities throughout the country; rapid development and population growth; increasing pollution; water privatization and inequality in water allocation (i.e., the wealthy-such as agribusiness, cattle ranchers, and mining corporations-get about 70 percent of water for virtually nothing, while the poor must buy costly water from trucks and often die of waterborne diseases); and in general, governmental corruption, incompetence, infighting, and mismanagement of water.

As more than 85 percent of Mexico is arid or semi-arid, Mexico's government considers deforestation and the lack of clean water two national security issues, and before he left office its former president Vicente Fox repeatedly said that water is a national security issue. In the past year, Mexico's poor have had to contend with skyrocketing food prices, general inflation (which also raised the price of water they must buy from water-delivery trucks driving long distances), a calamitous drought, rising unemployment, and increasing hunger and malnourishment.

The poor have staged street protests-the so-called tortilla riots-since January 2007 when tens of thousands of Mexicans marched to protest against a 50 percent price hike of corn tortillas. Now the subsistence farmers have even less water to irrigate their crops, which means decreased harvests and more expensive food staples further out of reach of the urban poor; but the livelihood of those living on subsistence farming will be affected as well by drought and water scarcity and higher food prices for the food they cannot grow and must buy themselves. Thus, this water scarcity and water insecurity is triggering food insecurity in Mexico, which has implications for its national security.

Global Climate Disruptions and Extreme Drought in Mexico and Southwestern United States

Like the southwestern United States, which has been suffering from a decade-long drought which began in 1998, northern Mexico also has been afflicted by a punishing drought since 1992. This year, the extreme drought in Mexico continues, unrelenting. Climate scientists have predicted that the entire region from southwestern United States to north-central Mexico will be hit especially hard by global climate change and its associated extreme weather disruptions and extreme droughts. For example, researchers from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography forecasted that Lake Mead will be empty by 2021 at the current rate of use. According to a United Nations-commissioned report published in August 2008, there will be more increased dry periods and significant drought hazards in most of Mexico and Central America due to global climate disruptions.

Mexico's largest freshwater lake, Lake Chapala, in the state of Jalisco, has been steadily shrinking since the 1970s. Scientists said that the lake has lost approximately 80 percent of its water due to rapid development in central Mexico. Researchers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have linked the mega-drought to the impacts of NAFTA and water privatization in Mexico in a February 2008 study:

The Mexican drought has coincided with major changes in the Mexican economy and agriculture triggered by the North American Free Trade Agreement and moves to privatize water supply in much of Mexico. The combination of drought and economic change has created serious social impacts in Mexico with impacts on internal and cross-border migration. Both the southwestern United States and Mexico are robustly projected by climate models to dry in the current century intensifying social impacts in Mexico where water resources are already stretched.

Scholars of climate and water resources have cited stories of poor farmers who find it more difficult to tap into groundwater to irrigate their subsistence crops using traditional, manual techniques due to a combination of factors: deforestation, drought, over-withdrawal of water by cities, and over-pumping of water by agribusiness and large ranchers. In Tamaulipas (the Mexican border state across from the Lower Rio Grande River Valley), there were news reports of farmers who have not been able to irrigate their crops since 1996 and have had to switch from the lucrative corn crop to sorghum. In other words, the drought and water scarcity have exacerbated Mexico's food crisis for the urban poor and for medium-size and small subsistence farmers. According to Los Angeles Times, Interior Secretary Kempthorne said he "remained hopeful that the two countries would find solutions to their common problem: drought."

Unfortunately, with the construction of the new Imperial Valley reservoir and the lining of All-American Canal, it is difficult to imagine how the United States would work with Mexico to find solutions to their common drought problem. Are any of the powerful water districts from Las Vegas to San Diego offering to send additional water to Mexico? Or has any of the seven states volunteered to help rebuild Mexico's crumbling water infrastructure or help its small and medium-size farmers invest in water-conserving irrigation equipment?

For the past eight years, the Bush administration has not placed climate change and finding solutions to cope with extreme climate disruptions on of its list of priorities, nor has upgrading its domestic infrastructure been a priority: instead, fighting the war on terror and the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were its priorities.

What Really Drove Mexico's Food Crisis

Several factors have contributed to Mexico's food crisis and led to food riots (the "tortilla riots"), although there were no food shortages and no decreases in food production in the country, including the following:

  • Neoliberal policies and NAFTA's destructive impacts on Mexico's agriculture
  • Biofuel and ethanol production leading to soaring corn prices
  • Commodities speculation by index funds and hedge funds
  • Hoarding, speculation, and market consolidation by multinational food corporations

NAFTA. Millions of Mexico's medium-size and small farmers went out of business when they couldn't compete with much cheaper, U.S. government-subsidized agricultural exports to Mexico at zero or low duty (in fact, U.S. taxpayers directly subsidized corn in the U.S. to the tune of $8.9 billion in 2005).

According to a 2003 Carnegie Endowment report, at least 1.3 million farmers were displaced by NAFTA and many of them eventually migrated (often illegally) to the United States in search of work. Farming accounts for approximately 23 percent of Mexico's 100 million people. The result is that Mexico could not supply its internal food markets by itself-it must rely on imports from the United States. When prices of grains and food staples soared in the international commodity markets, Mexicans became hostages to the skyrocketing imported-food prices. Walden Bello wrote an excellent analysis of Mexico's food crisis earlier this year.

Biofuels. A suppressed World Bank study completed in April 2008 revealed that at least 75 percent of recent escalating food prices can be attributed to biofuel production in the U.S. and Europe. Even the conservative think tank Council on Foreign Relations said that biofuels could starve the poor.

Speculation. Analysts have also attributed much of the sudden rise of food prices in the international market to Wall Street traders and speculators who speculated on oil and other commodities as a hedge against U.S. recession and a weak U.S. dollar.

Multinationals. Laura Carlsen wrote an in-depth analysis of Mexico's food crisis in the middle of this year and attributed the steep food price hikes to four corporations' hoarding and speculation to achieve consolidation (to drive out the small players) in the corn-flour market and to maximize speculative profiteering: the corn-tortilla cartel of Cargill, Maseca-ADM, Minsa-Arancia Corn Products International, and Agroinsa. But in most serious analyses of Mexico's food crisis, water has not been mentioned as a factor. With worsening global climate disruptions, scientists have already predicted a potential 30 percent reduction in Mexico's crop yield (UN's IPCC 2007 report, citing a 2004 study published in peer-reviewed journal Global Environmental Change).

As neoliberal policies and NAFTA have decimated many small farmers in Mexico, more intense droughts attributable to global climate disruptions are expected to worsen Mexico's food crisis and hunger among its chronically impoverished and most vulnerable groups. Mexico's internal governmental corruption, in addition to its chronic inability to maintain and upgrade its crumbling water infrastructure, in the midst of the extreme drought will not spell relief for its farmers and poor alike.

Mexico's Environmental Refugees and Water Refugees

California's legal entitlement to Colorado River is only 4.4 million acre-feet (MAF) plus 50 percent of any declared surplus, based on 1922 Colorado River Compact, but in recent years, the state has used as much as 5.37 MAF annually. (One acre-foot is 326,000 gallons.) This additional water usage above the 1922 compact occurs in the context of a historic, decade-long drought in California and elsewhere in the U.S. southwest.

The severe water shortages have intersected with soaring migration of Mexicans into the United States in the past decade and food crises in Mexico in the past two years. Among other critical issues such as NAFTA and biofuels production, Americans who seriously want to address the issue of undocumented immigration from Mexico into the United States must fundamentally address global climate disruptions which led to extreme drought in Mexico, the issue of water privatization in Mexico, and revisit water allocation and U.S.-Mexico water treaties to include how both countries will find common solutions to unrelenting drought in the face of climate disruptions affecting the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. Unfortunately, the anti-immigration groups in the United States see these "illegals" as taking over American jobs, rather than as refugees of environmental stresses (the global climate disruptions, which the U.S. is a major culprit of because of its CO2 pollution), refugees of NAFTA and refugees of IMF- and World Bank-imposed neoliberal policies, refugees of U.S.-based multinational food corporations and cartels, and refugees of agribusiness and U.S. corn lobby's biofuel-production mandate.

Underlying undocumented immigration is poverty and hunger, and one underlying factor of poverty is chronic and severe water shortages in Mexico. The new Imperial Valley reservoir and concrete-lining of All-American Canal will capture more river water and seepage water for California, Nevada, and Arizona, but they spell more water scarcity and further destruction for Mexico's peasant farmers and Mexico's northern cities. Battered by the decade-long drought, the small and medium-size Mexican farmers have had their water taken away by their own Mexican corporate agribusiness via water privatization, their domestic markets taken away by U.S. agribusiness via NAFTA, and now they have to contend with the powerful water districts in California, Nevada, and Arizona.

The next time Southern Californians water their lawns or central Arizonans fill their swimming pools or the Las Vegas casinos display their elaborate waterworks in those fancy fountains as if they are actually in Venice and not in a desert, they should think that they are taking water away from their neighbors across the border, those desperately poor peasant farmers in northern Mexico who rely on that water for their very survival and who now must depend on extremely costly water trucked over long distances. More children, elderly, and sick people-an untold number of Mexico's poor and frail-may die of waterborne diseases.

Many of our so-called illegal aliens may be, in fact, water refugees or environmental refugees. With intensifying global climate disruptions, there will be more of this category of people in Mexico. Water is a basic human right, not a commodity to be fought over in resource wars. Given the historic nature of the mega-drought in the Colorado River Basin, seven states and Mexico will be holding more talks over the allocation of Colorado River.

But will water negotiators and water lobbyists representing U.S. stakeholders have compassion for the plight of Mexico's poor and subsistence farmers? Or even have the foresight to see that it is in its long-term self-interest to help Mexico's poor? Water is not only a human rights issue-it is also a national security issue for Mexico. With increasing hunger and malnutrition, poverty, and political instability in Mexico, this water crisis will worsen Mexico's food crisis, leading to more food riots, which may just trigger a national security crisis for Mexico. Don't think for a minute that the United States can be insulated from Mexico's crises.

Jo-Shing Yang is the author of Ecological Planning, Design, & Engineering, Solving Global Water Crises: New Paradigms in Wastewater and Water Treatment, Small and On-Site Systems for Water Self-Sufficiency and Sustainability and can be reached at


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New York Times


November 14, 2008

A Killing in a Town Where Latinos Sense Hate


PATCHOGUE, N.Y. It was an occasional diversion among a certain crowd at Patchogue-Medford High School, students said: Drink a few beers, then go looking for people to mug, whether for money or just for kicks.

Friends of Jeffrey Conroy, a star athlete at the school, say he was known to do it, too. And last Saturday night, after drinking in a park in the Long Island hamlet of Medford, Mr. Conroy, 17, and six other teenagers declared that they were going to attack “a Mexican” and headed to the more ethnically diverse village of Patchogue to hunt, according to friends and the authorities.

They found their target in Marcelo Lucero, a serious-minded, 37-year-old immigrant from a poor village in Ecuador who had lived in the United States for 16 years, mostly in Patchogue, and worked in a dry cleaning store, sending savings home to support his mother, a cancer survivor.

After the boys surrounded, taunted and punched Mr. Lucero, the authorities say, Mr. Conroy plunged a knife into his victim’s chest, fatally wounding him.

The attack has horrified and puzzled many in this comfortable Suffolk County village of 11,700. Prosecutors have labeled it a hate crime and County Executive Steve Levy called the defendants, who have pleaded not guilty, “white supremacists.” And some immigrant advocates on Long Island have described the attack as a reflection of widespread anti-Latino sentiment and racial intolerance in Suffolk County.

Interviews with business owners, students, government officials and immigrants in the area suggest that illegal immigration has been a wellspring for anger and tension in the neighborhood, with day laborers drawing the greatest fire. Indeed, a number of people — adults and students alike — drew sharp distinctions between assimilated immigrants, who they said should be welcomed as friends and neighbors, and newly arrived illegal immigrants, who they said do not belong.

“No disrespect here, but I’m a firm believer that if you want to come to this country, you should have a job waiting for you,” said the co-owner of the Medford Shooting Range, who gave only his first name, Charlie, and is known by the nickname Charlie Range.

He said he was offended by the behavior of some day laborers — throwing trash in the street, urinating in the bushes, hooting at passing women — and complained that illegal immigrants were crowding rental apartments and swelling the ranks of criminal gangs.

“How do you stop the illegal alien influx?” he wondered aloud. “How do you stop the rain?”

Thousands of immigrants from Latin America have flowed into Long Island in the past two decades, attracted by employment opportunities, particularly in the construction industry, which until recently was booming. Patchogue’s Latino population has risen sharply during this time, village officials say, with Ecuadoreans now being the single largest Latino group.

According to the 2000 census, Latinos were 24 percent of Patchogue’s population, up from 14 percent in 1990, and government officials say the percentage has continued to grow. In just the past five years, the Latino student population of the Patchogue-Medford School District has risen to 24 percent from about 4 percent, said Michael H. Mostow, the district’s superintendent.

Anti-immigrant hostility has led to several highly publicized attacks in recent years in Suffolk County, including the near-death beating of two Mexican day laborers in 2001 and the burning of a Mexican family’s house in 2003, both in the nearby town of Farmingville.

Immigrant advocates have accused some local politicians, particularly Mr. Levy, of helping to fuel anti-immigrant sentiment by promoting tough policies against illegal immigration. But Mr. Levy said this week that the attack on Mr. Lucero “wasn’t a question of any county policy or legislation; it was a question of bad people doing horrific things.”

For all the parsing of motives and rationales in the case, many Latino immigrants here describe Suffolk County as a place where daily life can be a struggle for acceptance in a predominantly white population, particularly in this time of economic crisis. Rocio Ponce, a Brentwood resident and real-estate agent from Ecuador, said that many residents had developed a hatred against recent Latino immigrants “because they think they’re coming to take their jobs.”

Latinos say the attack against Mr. Lucero, if not his murder, was foretold. Some report being threatened and physically harassed in the streets, with bottles thrown at them and their car windows smashed during the night. Anti-immigrant epithets and racially motivated bullying are common in the hallways of the schools, children say.

“They tell us to go get a green card, ‘Go back to your community!’ ” said Pamela Guncay, 14, an Ecuadorean-American born in the United States.

Many Latinos, particularly those who are here illegally, say they would never report such incidents because they do not trust the police and fear deportation.

“We’re here to work, we’re not here to do any damage,” pleaded César Angamarca, 45, who rents a room in a small house where Mr. Lucero lived. “We’re working honorably.”

Friends of Mr. Conroy and the other suspects insisted that the defendants were not racist and said they were shocked that a frivolous escapade by bored, drunken teenagers had quickly turned tragic. They pointed out that one of the defendants, José Pacheco, 17, is the son of an African-American mother and a Puerto Rican father, and that Mr. Conroy counted Latino and black classmates among his closest buddies.

“They were good kids,” said Sean Ruga, 19, who graduated from the high school in 2006 and remained friends with the defendants. “It’s not something I could see them capable of doing.”

Mr. Pacheco’s uncle, Jerry Dumas, said his nephew was with the group because he was looking for a ride home and would not have knowingly joined an attack against a Latino, especially considering his ethnic heritage. He also said that Mr. Pacheco’s parents had themselves been apparent victims of violent racism: When they moved into the Patchogue area in the early 1990s, Mr. Dumas said, their house was burned down twice.

Mr. Conroy was the best known of the defendants and, according to prosecutors, the leader of the group. He was on the school’s lacrosse and wrestling teams, according to his friends, and his lawyer, William J. Keahon, said he had received “a number” of offers of college athletic scholarships.

Jeffrey Francis, 18, who is black, said Mr. Conroy befriended him soon after he transferred into the school this fall. They were on the wrestling team together, he said.

Acquaintances of the defendants said it was not unusual for groups of students from the high school to go out looking for people to mug. “It was just for fun, or for money,” said Taylor Fallica, 15, a student at the high school who said he was a friend of Mr. Conroy and the other defendants.

A friend who said he had been hanging out with the seven defendants in the park that night said there had not been much in the way of a plan before the group set out.

“We were just chilling, having a few beers,” said the friend, who requested anonymity because he had also been interviewed by the police and feared making contradictory statements.

Toward midnight, he recalled, “they said they were going to go jump a Mexican,” and they left.

Mr. Lucero had come to the United States to help support his family in Gualaceo, Ecuador, said his brother, Joselo, 34, in an interview this week in Patchogue, where he lives. Their father had died when they were young and Marcelo assumed the role of father figure in the family, Joselo said.

Marcelo Lucero was a hard worker and had little social life, according to his brother and a resident in a house where he rented a room. When Joselo joined Marcelo in Patchogue in the mid-1990s, the older brother frequently counseled him on how to take care of himself and be safe.

“He was a like a protector,” Joselo recalled. “He told me: ‘You have to be a man here. There’s no mom here anymore.’ ”

As the mob descended, Mr. Lucero’s friend managed to escape and contact the police, who rounded up the suspects minutes later.

Mr. Conroy was charged with first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime and first-degree gang assault; the others were charged with first-degree gang assault. They were arraigned on Monday and the case was sent to a grand jury, which began reviewing evidence on Thursday, according to a spokesman for the Suffolk County district attorney’s office.

Joselo Lucero said his priorities were now to get his brother’s body back to Ecuador for burial and to ensure that justice was served. But he said he felt no bitterness or vengefulness toward his brother’s attackers.

“I don’t really feel hate,” he said.

“I feel sorry for the families, in some way, because they have to be responsible for their kids.”

Since Mr. Lucero’s death, local officials have almost universally played down any suggestion that ethnic and racial tension had been prevalent in the community. Nonetheless, local, county and state officials have responded to the killing with various plans, including the introduction of sensitivity task forces, outreach programs in the Latino community and community forums.

“It is imperative that we bridge the divide,” Patchogue’s mayor, Paul V. Pontieri Jr., said on Thursday, “and realize that the things we have in common far outnumber those that divide us.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 15, 2008

An article on Friday about fear and anger in Patchogue, N.Y., after the stabbing death of an Ecuadorean immigrant in what prosecutors have called a hate crime, referred incorrectly to Jeffrey Conroy, 17, a high school athlete who has been arrested in the case. He has not been offered a lacrosse scholarship to the University of Maryland, as several of his classmates reported. (His lawyer, William J. Keahon, said on Friday that Mr. Conroy had been offered athletic scholarships to other colleges.)



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Associated Press


Election spurs 'hundreds' of race threats, crimes


By JESSE WASHINGTON, AP National Writer Jesse Washington, Ap National Writer Sat Nov 15, 5:18 pm ET

Cross burnings. Schoolchildren chanting “Assassinate Obama.” Black figures hung from nooses. Racial epithets scrawled on homes and cars.

Incidents around the country referring to President-elect Barack Obama are dampening the postelection glow of racial progress and harmony, highlighting the stubborn racism that remains in America.

From California to Maine, police have documented a range of alleged crimes, from vandalism and vague threats to at least one physical attack. Insults and taunts have been delivered by adults, college students and second-graders.

There have been “hundreds” of incidents since the election, many more than usual, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes.

One was in Snellville, Ga., where Denene Millner said a boy on the school bus told her 9-year-old daughter the day after the election: “I hope Obama gets assassinated.” That night, someone trashed her sister-in-law’s front lawn, mangled the Obama lawn signs, and left two pizza boxes filled with human feces outside the front door, Millner said.

She described her emotions as a combination of anger and fear.

“I can’t say that every white person in Snellville is evil and anti-Obama and willing to desecrate my property because one or two idiots did it,” said Millner, who is black. “But it definitely makes you look a little different at the people who you live with, and makes you wonder what they’re capable of and what they’re really thinking.”

Potok, who is white, said he believes there is “a large subset of white people in this country who feel that they are losing everything they know, that the country their forefathers built has somehow been stolen from them.”

Grant Griffin, a 46-year-old white Georgia native, expressed similar sentiments: “I believe our nation is ruined and has been for several decades and the election of Obama is merely the culmination of the change.

“If you had real change it would involve all the members of (Obama’s) church being deported,” he said.

Change in whatever form does not come easy, and a black president is “the most profound change in the field of race this country has experienced since the Civil War,” said William Ferris, senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina. “It’s shaking the foundations on which the country has existed for centuries.”

“Someone once said racism is like cancer,” Ferris said. “It’s never totally wiped out, it’s in remission.”

If so, America’s remission lasted until the morning of Nov. 5.

The day after the vote hailed as a sign of a nation changed, black high school student Barbara Tyler of Marietta, Ga., said she heard hateful Obama comments from white students, and that teachers cut off discussion about Obama’s victory.

Tyler spoke at a press conference by the Georgia chapter of the NAACP calling for a town hall meeting to address complaints from across the state about hostility and resentment. Another student, from a Covington middle school, said he was suspended for wearing an Obama shirt to school Nov. 5 after the principal told students not to wear political paraphernalia.

The student’s mother, Eshe Riviears, said the principal told her: “Whether you like it or not, we’re in the South, and there are a lot of people who are not happy with this decision.”

Other incidents include:

- Four North Carolina State University students admitted writing anti-Obama comments in a tunnel designated for free speech expression, including one that said: "Let's shoot that (N-word) in the head." Obama has received more threats than any other president-elect, authorities say.

- At Standish, Maine, a sign inside the Oak Hill General Store read: "Osama Obama Shotgun Pool." Customers could sign up to bet $1 on a date when Obama would be killed. "Stabbing, shooting, roadside bombs, they all count," the sign said. At the bottom of the marker board was written "Let's hope someone wins."

- Racist graffiti was found in places including New York's Long Island, where two dozen cars were spray-painted; Kilgore, Texas, where the local high school and skate park were defaced; and the Los Angeles area, where swastikas, racial slurs and "Go Back To Africa" were spray painted on sidewalks, houses and cars.

- Second- and third-grade students on a school bus in Rexburg, Idaho, chanted "assassinate Obama," a district official said.

- University of Alabama professor Marsha L. Houston said a poster of the Obama family was ripped off her office door. A replacement poster was defaced with a death threat and a racial slur. "It seems the election brought the racist rats out of the woodwork," Houston said.

- Black figures were hanged by nooses from trees on Mount Desert Island, Maine, the Bangor Daily News reported. The president of Baylor University in Waco, Texas said a rope found hanging from a campus tree was apparently an abandoned swing and not a noose.

- Crosses were burned in yards of Obama supporters in Hardwick, N.J., and Apolacan Township, Pa.

- A black teenager in New York City said he was attacked with a bat on election night by four white men who shouted 'Obama.'

- In the Pittsburgh suburb of Forest Hills, a black man said he found a note with a racial slur on his car windshield, saying "now that you voted for Obama, just watch out for your house."

Emotions are often raw after a hard-fought political campaign, but now those on the losing side have an easy target for their anger.

"The principle is very simple," said BJ Gallagher, a sociologist and co-author of the diversity book "A Peacock in the Land of Penguins." "If I can't hurt the person I'm angry at, then I'll vent my anger on a substitute, i.e., someone of the same race."

"We saw the same thing happen after the 9-11 attacks, as a wave of anti-Muslim violence swept the country. We saw it happen after the Rodney King verdict, when Los Angeles blacks erupted in rage at the injustice perpetrated by 'the white man.'"

"It's as stupid and ineffectual as kicking your dog when you've had a bad day at the office," Gallagher said. "But it happens a lot."


Associated Press writers Errin Haines, Jerry Harkavy, Jay Reeves, Johnny Taylor and researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.


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Washington Post


New Immigration Regulation Eased After Firms Complain

Homeland Security Measure Requires Checks of New Hires

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 15, 2008; A02

In a concession to business groups, the Homeland Security Department will significantly scale back its planned crackdown this winter on federal contractors that hire illegal immigrants.

Under a rule published yesterday, the agency said only contractors that do more than $100,000 in federal work will be required to use an electronic government system to check the work documents of new hires. Originally, officials had proposed that companies doing $3,000 in federal work must comply.

The agency also said it would require federal contractors to check only laborers used on specific contracts, instead of their entire workforce.

The revisions significantly reduce the number of companies that will be subject to the program, which will apply to federal contracts and solicitations issued after Jan. 15. The Bush administration had hoped to make the work eligibility system, called E-Verify, mandatory for nearly 200,000 government contractors, covering about 4 million U.S. workers over 10 years.

The government did not say how many companies would be exempted, but stated that it awarded 2.8 million new contracts last year at or below the $100,000 threshold. The contracts, mostly set-asides for small businesses, were worth $9 billion, or less than 3 percent of federal obligations.

In any case, the program will usher in a new degree of employee scrutiny in a wide swath of corporate America that does federal business, including industrial giants with household names such as General Electric, Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, as well as Beltway mainstays such as computer services firms CACI, ManTech International and SRA International.

The change came after months of intense lobbying by business groups, which argued that the requirement singled out contractors, was unduly burdensome and was so big that it would overwhelm the government system. Randel K. Johnson, vice president and spokesman for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that the Bush administration "had been responsive to a substantial amount of business concerns," particularly by limiting the rule to large contractors, but that the chamber is reviewing its legal options.

In a statement, the Bush administration said it took into account 1,600 comments and made changes "designed to lighten the burden on small businesses who decide to accept federal contracts, and to provide contractors with flexible means of complying with the basic requirement that all persons working on federal contracts be electronically verified."

Still, critics accused the lame-duck administration, which has made E-Verify a centerpiece of its immigration reform effort, of trying to force through the program before the new Democratic administration takes office.

The proposal "vastly understates the burden imposed on employers, and leaves unanswered a number of fundamental questions," said Eric Bord, a lawyer at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius who represents companies facing immigration investigations.

Mike Aitken, top lobbyist for the Society for Human Resource Management, a trade association for U.S. hiring managers, said DHS has repeatedly flouted congressional intent that E-Verify be voluntary, underestimated the program's costs and made business responsible for enforcing immigration law.

Congress created a worker-verification system in 1996, and participation has remained voluntary, although 13 state legislatures have passed similar measures for state contractors.

With E-Verify, human resources officials can use an Internet-based system to check federal Social Security and immigration databases and determine whether an employee is authorized to work.

The federal program was expanded nationwide in 2003, with enrollment growing from 3,000 to 92,000 companies. However, it still covers less than 2 percent of an estimated 6 million U.S. employers and about 11 percent of annual hiring.

In early June, President Bush proposed doubling the number of companies, mandating participation by 169,000 federal contractors and requiring them for the first time to verify the eligibility of existing employees, not just new hires.

Business groups mobilized in protest. The U.S. chamber said the rule would cost $10 billion to implement, 100 times the government's estimate.

The Professional Services Council, an Arlington-based trade group for 330 government services contractors, complained that the proposal singles out federal contractors for greater administrative headaches and potential liability for discrimination and other lawsuits by workers.

"It was the uncertain process, it was the uncertain liability, it was the uncertain scalability of the E-Verify system to handle the size and scope of what the president's executive order was demanding," said Alan Chvotkin, top lobbyist and counsel for the council. With the changes, "I think we're getting closer to a system that is executable in practice, rather than just in theory, but it will remain to be seen whether we will be able to implement this rule."

One concern is database errors. The government acknowledged that the system initially rejects about 5 percent of workers, which could threaten the jobs of 220,000 contractor employees in coming years. U.S. officials estimate that only 2 percent of legal workers, or about 4,000, who were erroneously rejected will choose to quit or give up their jobs, rather that correct mistakes.

Though the announced changes will slow E-Verify's expansion, federal officials stood by their prediction that the initiative will eventually cover more than 20 percent of U.S. hiring, DHS spokeswoman Laura Keehner said.

Grandfathered contracts will eventually expire, Keehner said, and big employers also may choose under the rule to verify the immigration status of all employees, not just those working on federal business.


<><><> 5


Houston Chronicle [series]


An abuse of freedom

Many illegal immigrants out on bail commit another crime or vanish before trial



Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

Nov. 17, 2008, 6:51AM

About this series

This three-day Houston Chronicle investigation examines how scores of illegal immigrants cycle through local jails and fall through the cracks of immigration enforcement.

Day 1: Revolving Door

Illegal immigrants, including convicted child molesters, drug dealers and suspected murderers, avoid deportation after being arrested in Harris County.

Day 2: Bail problem

Dozens of suspected criminals, who told jailers they were in the country illegally, are freed on bail, later abscond and are accused of more crimes, or even vanish.

Possible solutions for bail dilemma

Photo gallery: Family search for justice

Day 3: Second Chances

Illegal immigrants convicted of crimes from prostitution to sexual abuse avoid prison time by being sentenced to probation.

Case studies

Some Harris County Jail inmates who said they were in the country illegally were ordered deported decades ago, but never left. The worst escalated to commit more serious crimes. Their court files hold stories of squandered second chances. See where they are now.

The bailiff called the murder suspect's name for the second time, scanning the courtroom. "Juan Sanchez?"

It was June 30, the day Sanchez's trial was scheduled to start in Harris County District Court in the killing of Gregorio Diaz, a 25-year-old paramedic and U.S. Navy veteran.

Even though Sanchez told Harris County jailers he was in the country illegally when he was booked on the murder charge in July 2007, he was released on $35,000 bail, according to Harris County Sheriff's Office records.

Now, he was nowhere to be found.

Judge Joan Campbell called Sanchez's defense attorney and the prosecutor to the bench. "I am revoking bond on Juan Sanchez," she said. "Now."

Under her breath, the judge said, "So much for that murder case."

A Houston Chronicle investigation found dozens of cases in Harris County involving suspected illegal immigrants who posted bail and absconded on criminal charges, including murder, aggravated sexual assault of a child and drug trafficking.

The Chronicle examined arrest and immigration records for 3,500 inmates who told jailers that they were in the country illegally during a span of eight months starting in June 2007, the earliest immigration records available.

The review found at least 178 cases involving suspects who absconded, meaning they had their bails revoked for missing court dates or allegedly committing more crimes. Of those, 30 cases involved felony charges and two-thirds had initial bails set below $35,000 — the minimum recommended in the county's bail schedule for illegal immigrants accused of felonies.

Local officials said the problems stem from a shortage of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents dedicated to identifying illegal immigrants in the county's jails. When ICE doesn't file paperwork to detain illegal immigrants, prosecutors and pretrial services officers said, they have few tools to verify defendants' claims of legal status.

Lynne Parsons, Harris County district attorney central intake division chief, said the DA's Office runs criminal history checks on all defendants and sometimes gleans limited immigration information from an FBI database. But without word from ICE or other law enforcement, Parsons said, it generally must "rely on the person being charged to tell us the truth" when questioned about immigration status.

ICE officials have acknowledged difficulties screening all foreign-born inmates in the county's jails but said they have increased staffing and are identifying more criminals before they can post bail.

Campbell, the judge on the Sanchez case, did not return phone calls. Prosecutor Rifian Newaz took over the case in December from a colleague who said Sanchez had a Social Security number.

'No consistency at all'

The Chronicle review found a wide range of cases involving defendants who told jailers they were in the country illegally, posted bail and absconded.

The cases include:

•Jose Blanco, a 64-year-old accused of repeatedly sexually molesting a 6-year-old girl in southwest Houston, told jailers when he was arrested in June 2007 that he was in the country illegally. He was charged with indecency with a child and posted $10,000 bail. That charge was dismissed and replaced with more serious allegations: two counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child. Blanco absconded after missing a court date in October 2007 and remains a fugitive.
•Juan Fernando Villalon, 43, told Harris County jailers twice in 2007 he was an illegal immigrant from Mexico — both times after being arrested on suspicion of assaulting his ex-girlfriend. He posted $10,000 bail in December 2007 and was released from Harris County Jail. In January, while out on bail, he tracked her down and punched her, leading to another felony assault charge. He was arrested in June and is serving a two-year prison sentence.
•Arturo Munoz Osorio, 62, was charged in August 2007 with aggravated sexual assault of a child. He told jailers he was in the country illegally when he was booked into jail Aug. 2, 2007. He posted $10,000 bail four days later and missed a September court date. A warrant for his arrest was issued in January.

Debbie Mantooth Stricklin, administrative judge for the county's 20-plus criminal district courts, said she did not know why felony defendants believed to be in the country illegally had initial bails set below the $35,000 guideline. She said the criminal judges adopted the higher bails for illegal immigrants in December 2006 to reduce their flight risk.

"There is no consistency at all," when it comes to illegal immigrants and bail, said S. Bruce Hiran, a defense attorney and a licensed bail bondsman in Harris County. "It depends on which court you land in. ... It depends on the Sheriff's Office personnel who input the data" into the computer system.

Lost in the crowd

In addition to ICE manpower shortages, the number of defendants moving through the court system makes it difficult to identify illegal immigrants before bail is set, officials said. More than 100,000 people were arrested and charged with Class B misdemeanors or higher in Harris County last year.

The bail-setting process generally moves quickly after an arrest. An initial bail amount is set using guidelines that factor in the severity of the charge and the defendant's criminal history.

Pretrial services officers interview most defendants about their personal history and prepare reports designed to help magistrates set bail.

In October, Harris County jailers were given access to a Department of Homeland Security database that allows them to check suspects' immigration records automatically. But prosecutors and pretrial services officers do not have direct access to that database.

Carol Oeller, the county's pretrial services director, said her department has tried different methods to verify immigration status over the years, including testing an immigration database in 2007 and calling ICE about individual cases. She said pretrial services officers note in their reports whether ICE has placed a hold on a defendant.

Oeller said she has found that most defendants are honest about their legal status. "They own up to it" if they're undocumented, she said.

Constitutional concerns

States and counties across the country have tried to address the issue of bail for illegal immigrants, but many proposals stalled because of constitutional concerns. In 2006, Arizona voters passed Proposition 100, which denies bail to illegal immigrants charged with serious felonies. Civil rights groups filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court in April, charging the law is unconstitutional.

Defense attorneys and immigrant advocates have criticized Harris County's $35,000 minimum bail policy, saying the Texas Constitution grants equal rights to bail to everyone who is arrested, except for capital defendants.

There is no conclusive research to show whether illegal immigrants are more likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to abscond on state charges while out on bail.

Patrick McCann, a Houston defense attorney who has lobbied for eliminating the higher bails, said the inflated bails unfairly discriminate against immigrants and may cause some to plead guilty, even if they're not. The practice may also invite racial profiling of Hispanic defendants, he said.

"What possible business is this of the state courts?" McCann said. "I thought we had immigration courts."

Stricklin, the administrative judge, defended the policy, saying, ''The fact that someone is here illegally is relevant to whether they are going to be a flight risk."

For family, no closure

Gregorio Diaz was Maria Martinez and Hipolito Diaz's only son. Over the years, the Mexican immigrants had split time between a ranch in the hills of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, and the bustle of Houston. When Gregorio was 13, they moved the family to Houston with plans to stay permanently.

A U.S. citizen by birth, Gregorio joined the ROTC at Jefferson Davis Senior High School and signed up for the Navy, training as a paramedic. In 2004, Gregorio was stationed in Iraq, attached to a Marine unit: the 2nd Battalion 7th Marines.

On the night of June 10, 2007, Gregorio and some friends were in a southwest Houston bar when they got into an argument with two men police later identified as Juan and Adolfo Sanchez, records say.

The Sanchez brothers left the bar, returned with guns and shot Diaz at least five times, records say. As they tried to flee, the brothers were involved in a car accident and were stopped by police, records say. Juan Sanchez, 30, was taken to the hospital, and his younger brother was questioned and released.

Gregorio Diaz was pronounced dead at 1:48 a.m. That night, his mother said, she had a premonition of his death, awoke in the family's home in north Houston and reached for the prayer book on her nightstand. She opened it randomly and started reading, like she normally does when she can't sleep.

"Father," she read in Spanish, "receive the soul of our son."

Both Sanchez brothers were charged in Gregorio's slaying. Adolfo Sanchez disappeared the night Gregorio died. Juan Sanchez was arrested in July 2007 and skipped on his bail in late June.

After Juan Sanchez fled, Gregorio's mother and his two sisters, Elizabeth and Nora, printed up hundreds of Crime Stoppers fliers with photos of the Sanchez brothers. They posted them in the strip mall on South Post Oak where Gregorio was shot and in the neighborhood outside the Sam Houston Tollway where the Sanchez brothers used to live.

"They can't run away forever," said Nora, a college student.

"I think they can hide from us, and maybe from everyone else, but not the one up there," said Elizabeth, 25. "When it's their time, they'll answer for this."

Gregorio's white cowboy hat still hangs on a hook in the entrance to the family's home. A black mourning ribbon is tied to the front door.

On his birthday in April, Nora and her mother and sister baked a chocolate cake, his favorite, and brought it to the Houston National Cemetery, cutting it at his grave site in the cold rain.


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


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