Thursday, November 06, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Thursday, November 06, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Thursday, November 06, 2008


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1. Washington Post: Massive Overhaul of Immigration Services Planned


2. Associated Press: Record number of deportations


3. Arizona Republic: Downtown Arpaio protesters undeterred by win



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Washington Post


Massive Overhaul of Immigration Services Planned


By Spencer S. Hsu

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, November 6, 2008; 2:37 PM

The Bush administration has launched a massive overhaul of the nation's long-troubled immigration services agency, tapping an IBM-led industry consortium to re-invent the way government workers help immigrants obtain visas, seek citizenship and get approval to work in the United States.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service announced that it has asked IBM to be its "solutions architect" to change the technology and processes used by its 16,000 government and 6,000 contract workers at 280 locations nationwide.

The contract, awarded this week and the largest federal homeland security bid on the market, includes a $14.5 million, 90-day assessment period with options over five years worth $491.1 million, and a ceiling value of up to $3.5 billion if Congress approves a broad overhaul of the nation's immigration laws that unleashes a flood of applications for legal status or other actions.

"IBM is pleased to support the USCIS mission. We believe this project will serve as an important model for other agencies seeking to transform the delivery of important government services," said Charles L. Prow, managing partner of IBM Global Business Services for government. "Through this ambitious initiative USCIS will employ new tools to support benefits adjudication, and ultimately, improve their customers' experience navigating the immigration process."

The USCIS transformation effort is a long-awaited, much delayed undertaking that is years behind initial schedule yet considered a cornerstone of any broader effort to fix an immigration system all sides say is one of the most broken bureaucracies in the federal government.

The agency, which was spun off from the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services and merged into the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, receives about 6 million to 8 million applications from immigrants a year, but relies on a pre-computer age, paper-based system of 70 million files identified by immigrants' "A-numbers" or alien registration numbers.

The system costs tens of millions of dollars a year for to archive, store, retrieve and ship files; has led to the loss or misplacement of more than 100,000 files; and contributed to backlogs of hundreds of thousands of cases and delays of months and years, auditors have found.

Immigration officials say modernization efforts have been delayed since 1999 by funding problems, inertia, increased security demands, and the DHS reorganization. The USCIS transformation initiative itself was proposed in 2004, but has been delayed by bureaucratic infighting, indecision and caution as other major homeland security contracts have gone off track, such as SBInet, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection effort to build a "virtual" fence using surveillance technology on the border, and Deepwater, the Coast Guard's massive fleet replacement effort.

USCIS took a low-key approach in announcing the IBM project, mentioning it at the end of a press release and briefing to reporters about its achievements during the year.

The agency called the initial task order "just one of the building blocks of USCIS' overall transformation plan the agency is funding with the help of a summer 2007 fee increase on immigrant applicants that is bringing in about $1 billion a year.

"We're proud of 2008 and the milestones we've met," USCIS Acting Director Jonathan "Jock" Scharfen said in a statement. "But, much work remains. We are gearing up for 2009 with a forward-looking and robust agenda that will result in an even better immigration service for our customers and our great Nation."


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Associated Press


Record number of deportations


Nov. 6, 2008, 11:42AM


SAN ANTONIO Federal immigration enforcement officials have deported more than 53,000 illegal immigrants from South and Central Texas in the past 12 months.

The regional office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement released its annual figures Thursday, touting record results from a crackdown on immigrants already convicted of crimes and those dodging standing deportation orders.

Nationally, ICE deported more than 349,000 illegal immigrants, a 20 percent increase from the previous year.

The San Antonio region, which includes 58 counties in South and Central Texas, started deportation proceedings against 11,700 illegal immigrants already incarcerated. That was a 220 percent increase from a year earlier.

The San Antonio Office of Detention and Removal Operations had the second highest number of deportation and criminal arrests in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.


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Arizona Republic


Downtown Arpaio protesters undeterred by win


by JJ Hensley - Nov. 5, 2008 01:54 PM

The Arizona Republic


Maricopa County voters may have kept Sheriff Joe Arpaio in office for four more years, but a group of resilient protestors still want Arpaio out of his office space in the Wells Fargo Building.

About 10 protestors made their way to the corner of First Avenue and Washington Street about 11 a.m. Wednesday, undeterred by the results of Tuesday's election that saw Arpaio keep his office with 55 percent of the votes.

Arpaio took the results as a mandate from Maricopa County residents, but Salvador Reza, who organizes the daily protests outside the Wells Fargo Building said at least 45 percent of voters disagreed.

The cars that honked in support as they drove by the protestors indicated at least some people agree with Reza, but an immigration-rights activist and leader with Somos America, said his banner-waving bunch would have set up shop outside the Sheriff's Office regardless of Tuesday's results.


"This doesn't have to do with electoral politics," Reza said. "It has to do with human rights."


Reza noted allegations against Arpaio for racial profiling and the calls from politicians like Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon for a federal investigation into Arpaio's practices as reasons the protestors would continue to return for the foreseeable future- or at least until there are congressional hearings and a Department of Justice inquiry into the Sheriff's Office.


But instead of targeting county administrators or federal agencies that authorize Arpaio's tactics, Reza said the dissidents will keep up their daily vigil outside the bank building in the hopes of encouraging customers to boycott Wells Fargo and putting enough pressure on the financial institution that they remove the sheriff's offices from the building.


A Wells Fargo spokeswoman said the company would not comment on any of its clients who lease space, but added that the bank has a longstanding commitment to supporting the Hispanic community.


County administrators renewed the lease on Arpaio's office space in September.


Sheriff Joe Arpaio and dozens of his administrative staff since Oct. 1, 1998, have been based in the 18th and 19th floors of the bank's building. The agency occupies 31,250 square feet of space, at $19.20 per square foot, or about $600,000 yearly.


An additional $12,000 is tacked on each month -- $144,000 each year -- for utilities, property taxes, insurance, elevator and plumbing maintenance, roof repairs, pest control, landscaping, cleaning costs, and other services.


Workers who pass through the area everyday have become oblivious to the honking horns and chants called out from megaphones, but Eric Long, said the activity borders on harassment.


"It doesn't surprise me that they're back," he said. "If their opinion wasn't heard loud enough in the election last night, it's obvious they have work to do. They have four more years to continue on their agenda."



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