Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Tuesday, November 04, 2008


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1. Hartford Courant: Immigrants' Lawyers Challenge Government Tactics


2. El Mensajero: Operation Devil Horns: Salvadorans Targeted in Anti-Gang ICE Raids


3. New York Times: Detainee Convicted on Terrorism Charges


4. New America Media: Why We Shut ICE Down For A Day


5. New York Times: How Big an Immigrant Vote?



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Hartford Courant





Immigrants' Lawyers Challenge Government Tactics


The Hartford Courant

November 4, 2008

Lawyers representing a group of immigrants facing deportation are aggressively challenging the tactics used by federal immigration agents in raids last summer in New Haven.

The lawyers want the cases dismissed, claiming Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents violated the immigrants' constitutional rights by illegally entering their homes, arresting them without warrants and using racial profiling to target them.

Over the objections of ICE attorneys, Judge Michael W. Straus granted the hearings and heard six men testify Monday in federal immigration court in Hartford. Eleven more immigrants will have hearings during the coming weeks before Straus rules on the cases.

Lawyers defending immigrants are beginning to challenge arrests on constitutional grounds, arguments commonly heard in criminal courts.

Defendants in immigration court, governed by administrative law, more typically argue their status should be changed, if for example they are married to a U.S. citizen, or seek asylum or simply agree to leave the country voluntarily.

Immigration law experts say the new approach is in response to changing ICE tactics, including more arrests, at times involving large groups of immigrants in highly publicized raids.

"It is definitely a growing area because there has been more concern about illegal searches by ICE around the country," said Rex Chen, supervising attorney at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., who has written and lectured about the strategy.

The Connecticut immigrants are represented by lawyers and students from Yale Law School's Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization. The group made similar arguments in the Danbury 11 case, in which day laborers were arrested in a joint ICE and Danbury police raid in 2006, but Straus denied them a hearing.

Monday's hearing got off to a rocky start almost from the first question government attorney Leigh Mapplebeck asked Edinzon Yangua-Calva, the first immigrant to testify.

While the immigrants' lawyers wanted to keep questioning tightly focused on what happened during the raids on the morning of June 6, 2007, the ICE lawyers wanted broad latitude to question the witnesses, prompting another response more common to criminal proceedings.

Whether Mapplebeck asked about where they were from, where they were educated, what identification documents they had or even at times who lived with them, the immigrants and their attorneys repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

"I can't get through five sentences without getting some creative legal theory," Mapplebeck said in frustration after one objection from the immigrants' lawyers.

She said broad questions was essential to a "full and fair" picture of the case and the immigrants lawyers were trying to pick and choose what was presented.

But Christopher Lasch, a Yale clinical lecturer, said he could not allow his clients to say things that could later be used against them in a criminal case.

ICE once mainly focused on deporting illegal immigrants, but criminal prosecutions for criminal violations, such as document fraud, have become more common, changing the landscape for those defending them, legal experts said.

"What the government is doing is using this hearing to go on a fishing expedition," Lasch said.

Straus at times seemed incredulous at Yale's approach, at one point calling it "ridiculous."

Each immigrant who testified described mundane early morning routines — waiting for a ride to work, brushing their teeth, sleeping with a wife and children in a single, shared room — interrupted by loud and persistent knocking at the door.

Each man said four to six "police" came into their homes or bedrooms without permission, often waving the photo of a person they said had a deportation order and asking if the occupants knew him.

The men described being scared or nervous as they were handcuffed and taken away.

ICE attorneys, who may have agents testify at a later date, declined to comment after the hearing.

Jane Lewis, a Yale student legal intern, said the wrangling over the Fifth Amendment was dramatic and Straus was clearly frustrated.

"On the other hand, I do think he was listening carefully on the legally relevant issues," she said. "He was listening when they said, 'I didn't open the door.'"



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El Mensajero (New America Media)



Operation Devil Horns: Salvadorans Targeted in Anti-Gang ICE Raids

El Mensajero, News Report, Erika Cebreros, Translated by Elena Shore, Posted: Nov 01, 2008

Editor's Note: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)'s crackdown on the Salvadoran gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) has had a much broader effect on the Salvadoran community in the San Francisco Bay Area. A three-year investigation culminating in the Oct. 22 arrest of 29 indicted suspects -- 22 of whom were alleged members of MS-13 -- also resulted in the arrest of 11 undocumented immigrants who are now undergoing deportation proceedings, and affected numerous residents who were not affiliated with the gang. El Mensajero associate editor Erika Cebreros spoke with Eugenia García, a Salvadoran American mother of five, who awoke at 6:20 a.m. to find two ICE agents in her bedroom pointing guns at her.

SAN FRANCISCO Eugenia García was awakened by loud shouting at about 6:20 in the morning. She opened her eyes, a little dazed and frightened, and the first thing she saw was two guns pointed at her.

Two Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents were in her bedroom.

A three-year ICE investigation culminated in the arrest of 29 indicted suspects, 22 of whom were alleged members of MS-13.

Minutes earlier, ICE agents had knocked on the door of the house where Eugenia lives with her husband and three of her five children in the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. Eugenia’s husband, Alejandro Revelo, says he let the agents in after they showed him a court order. The order, however, did not specify a name or address, according to the family.

The raid was part of an investigation dubbed "Operation Devil Horns" that focused on finding “one of the most ruthless gang cliques currently operating in the Bay Area," according to Marcy M. Forman, director of the ICE office of investigations, in a press statement released by the agency. They were looking for members of the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13.

The agents who showed up at the Revelo-García house on the morning of Oct. 22 were looking for the Salvadoran immigrant couple’s son-in-law – the husband of one of their older daughters. Alejandro says that even though he told them the person they were looking for did not live with them and they had no information on his whereabouts, the agents did not suspend their operation.

They continued to inspect the house and paid particular attention to one of the couples’s sons, 22-year-old Alexander, who the agents kept handcuffed for 30 minutes on the street, shivering in the cold.

Like his 18-year-old sister, Laura, and his nine-year-old brother, Roberto, Alexander was born in the United States. His parents became U.S. citizens a couple of years ago.

Eugenia has several grievances. According to Eugenia, the agents told her, “‘I don’t understand why you don’t speak English if you’re a citizen.’”

She complains that they never gave her the glass of water she asked for when she felt faint. She suffers from diabetes.

Eugenia García and Alejandro Revelo with their sons Alexander and Roberto

She also didn’t like the fact that they left her house in a mess and took mail out of her mailbox. “They took a PG&E bill – I hope they pay it,” she jokes.

But what most infuriated her was that they treated her son Alexander “like a criminal,” she says.

Alexander, who has no criminal record and is not affiliated with any gangs, describes what happened. “They asked me if I was a gang member, if I knew what the Mara Salvatrucha was, and if I had any tattoos or a bad record,” Alexander says. The agents weren’t convinced by the young man’s answers and asked him to take his clothes off to prove that he didn’t have any tattoos.

When they left, the ICE agents took with them some of the young man’s belongings, including his computer, his iPod and his cell phone. They also took photos of him, his bedroom and his ID card.

The young man says that when the agent promised to remove his handcuffs, the agent asked him: “But you’re not going to run, right?”

“I’m not a criminal,” Alexander stresses.

“If he were a gang member he wouldn’t be here,” adds his mother, standing outside the ICE offices in downtown San Francisco, where demonstrators gathered on Oct. 23 to protest the agency’s recent actions in the city.

Eric Quezada, candidate for supervisor in San Francisco’s District 9, was among the demonstrators at the rally organized by the Alianza Latinoamericana por los Derechos de los Inmigrantes (Latin American Alliance for Immigrant Rights) and other immigrant rights groups.

The local politician believes arrests like those recently conducted by ICE should be left to the local police. He thinks these kinds of actions “put the whole comunity at risk” by making people reluctant to go to the police for fear of immigration authorities.

Quezada says Operation Devil Horns “connects immigration to crime and (San Francsco’s) Santuary City (status) in order to turn it into a political problem.”

Quezada and other activists believe ICE is targeting Mara Salvatrucha gang members in order to send a message to conservatives who oppose illegal immigration -- that the current administration is doing something about it.

The Revelo-García family protests outside the ICE offices in San Francisco.
It’s no coincidence, they say, that the operation is taking place right before the presidential elections when the Republican candidate is behind in the polls.

“It’s a tremendous political push for (John) McCain,” says Quezada.

“It isn’t fair that you come to this country to work hard and they treat you like this,” Eugenia, who works as a housecleaner, says on the verge of crying.

Her husband, Alejandro, was upset about the way ICE carried out the operation. He thinks that “they should do a really thorough investigation first” of the people they are looking for so they go to the right place and don’t affect people who have nothing to do with gangs.

Eugenia says she never imagined that she would experience a raid firsthand. “When I didn’t have papers, I never ran into (ICE),” she says with a smile.

“If they tell you once, they tell you a thousand times here in this country that a lot of other countries violate people’s human rights, but with this (the raids), they are doing the same thing in the United States,” adds Eugenia.

“No wonder they’re called ‘ICE’ –- they are frozen and have no heart,” she says, making her sons Alexander and Roberto laugh.


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New York Times



November 4, 2008

Detainee Convicted on Terrorism Charges


A military panel at the Guantánamo Bay naval base convicted a former propaganda chief for Al Qaeda of terrorism charges on Monday and sentenced him to life in prison, giving the Bush administration a second conviction in a war-crimes trial there.

But the conviction of the detainee, Ali Hamza al Bahlul, was a measured victory for the government, which has been struggling for seven years to prove the effectiveness of its military commission system for trying terrorism suspects at the American naval station at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The guilty verdict had been expected because Mr. Bahlul, a Yemeni who prosecutors said was a close aide to Osama bin Laden, did not offer any defense. Saying he did not accept the authority of the tribunal, he insisted that his lawyer remain mute in a weeklong trial that drew little attention.

The Pentagon’s response to the verdict was muted. “Al Bahlul received a full and fair trial,” said a spokesman, Cmdr. Jeffrey D. Gordon.

The conviction did not appear likely to affect the contentious debate about the use of military tribunals, said Glenn M. Sulmasy, a national security law specialist at the Coast Guard Academy. “This was a victory for the government,” Mr. Sulmasy said, “but it may not have positive impact because of the erosion of support and legitimacy for the commission process.”

Mr. Bahlul was convicted of conspiracy, solicitation to commit murder, providing material support for terrorism and other charges. Prosecutors said he made a recruiting film, “The Destruction of the American Destroyer U.S.S. Cole,” which described the 2000 attack that killed 17 sailors on the ship in the Yemeni port of Aden.

The panel of military officers deliberated for less than an hour on the sentence Monday afternoon, after announcing its guilty verdict in the morning. The only other detainee convicted after a Guantánamo trial, Salim Hamdan, a former driver for Mr. bin Laden, is set to complete his five-month sentence next month, after a military judge gave him credit for more than five years awaiting trial.

Last year, an Australian detainee, David Hicks, pleaded guilty to providing material support for terrorism in exchange for a nine-month sentence.

Mr. Bahlul’s trial came after a series of new challenges to the Pentagon’s prosecution efforts. Last week, a military judge undercut the case against another detainee, Mohammed Jawad, by barring the use of his confession to an attack on American soldiers. The judge ruled that it had been obtained through torture by Afghan officials.

Mr. Jawad’s case has drawn wide notice because he was a teenager when he was detained in Afghanistan in 2002. His trial, scheduled for Jan. 5, is the only other war-crimes trial expected before President Bush leaves office. The trial of Omar Khadr, a Canadian who was also detained as a teenager, is scheduled for Jan. 26, six days after the start of a new administration.

Pentagon officials have pressed to get the commission system moving quickly, filing charges against nearly two dozen detainees over the last year and expanding the staffs of military lawyers prosecuting and defending the cases. But some lawyers who work on the cases say the prosecution appears uncertain because of the possibility that the next president will close the Guantánamo detention center and stop the trials.

Even so, Pentagon officials have said they are moving ahead with the cases and anticipate bringing many of the detainees to trial.

In recent months, several disputes have stalled cases. In September, a prosecutor, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld of the Army Reserve, stepped down, asserting flaws in the fairness of the system. Last month, the Pentagon dropped charges against five detainees whose cases Colonel Vandeveld had handled. The prosecutors said they planned to file new charges.

The Pentagon official pushing hardest to accelerate the pace of the cases, Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, has himself been at the center of disputes that have slowed the prosecutions. Several defense lawyers filed motions seeking his disqualification, claiming he was too aligned with prosecutors.

Three military judges agreed, disqualifying General Hartmann from participation, and Pentagon officials said at least two separate investigations of his conduct were under way. A spokesman for the general declined to comment.

The history of the tribunals has been rocky since President Bush ordered military commission trials in November 2001. The plan has been stalled by court challenges and attacks from numerous military critics, including a former chief prosecutor.

Colonel Vandeveld is the latest former insider to criticize the system publicly. On Monday, he said from his home in Pennsylvania that he expected to be called as a witness by lawyers for numerous detainees. In the meantime, he said, “the commissions are in such disarray and continue to be in such chaos.”


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New America Media




Why We Shut ICE Down For A Day

Young Protesters See Activism Extending Past the Elections


YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Commentary//Photos//Video, Words: Sagnicthe Salazar//Photos: Florencia Garcia//Video: Min Lee, Posted: Nov 04, 2008

Editor's Note – Ahead of the Nov. 4 election, with all eyes on the presidential race, hundreds of young people amassed in front of the Homeland Security offices in downtown San Francisco in what some say is the first in a series of civil disobedience style protests to stop ICE raids against immigrants. Sagnicthe Salazar, 21, is a Bay Area based organizer , student, and educator. Florencia Garcia, is a San Francisco based photographer. Min Lee is an editor at YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.

SAN FRANCISCO – Last week hundreds of youth, families and organizers from over 10 different cities in the Bay Area gathered at the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in San Francisco to demand an end to ICE raids, to demand that all detention centers be shut down and to demand real sanctuary cities.

For that day the community prevented ICE from breaking into our homes, and terrorizing our people. Crowds of young and old, black, white, Asian and Raza gathered around the police blockade chanting, speaking and singing in the rain.

VIDEO: Sights and sounds from the ICE protest.

We sent a clear message that immigrant communities are powerful and we are no longer willing to allow ICE agents, police agents, city officials or any laws to intimidate us.

The day began with young people walking out of their local high schools and heading to BART stations to get to Ferry Park in San Francisco, where people began preparing for the march to the ICE building. People dressed in black, with their faces painted as skulls, representing the many people who have fallen victim to the attacks on immigrants both here in the Bay Area as well as on the border.

Many carried signs, some with the same message that hung from placards on Treasure Island: "If Capital Can Cross Borders, So Can We!" At ICE headquarters, the crowd formed a huge circle with speakers highlighting the connection between the diverse communities that are affected by deportations and raids. It was an amazingly powerful day on which youth disrupted business as usual at the ICE building, preventing ICE from disrupting the lives of entire communities.

After Nov. 4th, this issue cannot be forgotten. Whether Obama or McCain win, there is no guarantee that the raids will stop.

No matter who comes into office there is still a huge border wall being built between the United States and Mexico. Corporations are still being allowed to take their business freely across the border, while forcing families to either work as cheap labor in their home countries or to cross the border in search of better jobs.

The protest drew hundreds of protestors and might have attracted more had BART officials not shut down train stations and police arrested students.

Eleven young people chained themselves to barrels and lock boxes in drive ways near the building, preventing ICE vans from exiting or entering the premises.

One of the goals of the protest was to bring immigrant issues to light, at a time when few politicians are talking about the injustices that are being committed against immigrants.

As no politician is willing to talk about police check points targeting immigrants, or the raids at all hours of the day and night with no warrant and no due process followed, or about difficulties of trying to live in this country without a way to attain legal documentation, young people took the streets to talk about what no politician is willing to talk about.

Just last week, 20 families in San Francisco had their homes broken into during a raid at four in the morning by ICE agents, who violently arrested people in the homes, breaking windows and doors. They even shot tear gas into houses as children slept in their beds.

In early October in Oakland -- a so-called sanctuary city, a 15-year-old girl spoke about her fear of going to school after experiencing an ICE raid on an bus at 8 a.m. on her way to school. She escaped the raid by hopping out of the emergency exit after seeing ICE agents stop the bus and harassing anyone who looked Latino.

As she fled the scene, she saw people stepping out of the bus and being asked to stand in a line against the wall as agents went down the line to ask people their legal status. She saw the agents take people who were not able to show documentation onto another bus. Now she says she doesn't feel safe going to school, being on the streets or even being at home. Young people at the protest last week were there to say that enough is enough.

No matter who gets elected we need change, and not just in words, we need actions. We need to end free trade agreements that make immigration a forced migration, we need a clear process towards legalization of undocumented immigrants, we need an immediate end to the ICE raids and we need police that "protect and serve" rather than collaborate with ICE in their acts of domestic terrorism.

Most importantly, we need people to be treated as human beings. Until that happens young people and communities will continue to take to the streets and to shut down agencies that play a role in terrorizing our communities.


For more details and background on the October 31 youth mobilizations against ICE raids, visit:


Indy Media:


Halloween Protest to Stop ICE


San Francisco Chronicle:


“Protesting teens shut 3 BART stations”


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New York Times



October 31, 2008, 6:15 pm

How Big an Immigrant Vote?

By The Editorial Board

For all the attention that the presidential candidates have lavished on potentially useful voter subgroups — Iowans, Floridians, Christian conservatives, tax-averse plumbers — they have not done the same for immigrant and Latino voters, a rapidly growing constituency whose support could be decisive in various battlegrounds on Tuesday.

“Could be” is an important qualifier. Advocacy groups say they are working to turn out one million new immigrant and Latino voters this election, and with numbers like that, the bloc would be dangerous to underestimate.

But this tidal wave has been predicted before [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/11/us/11immig.html?sq= ]. The slogan during the huge immigrant rallies of 2005 was “Today we march, tomorrow we vote,’’ and despite energetic registration drives and a furious national debate over immigration reform, that tomorrow did not quite arrive in the 2006 elections.

Democrats did gain control of Congress, but the marchers’ big dream — comprehensive immigration reform — was killed by Republicans the following year.

Immigrant advocates say they have good reasons to expect an influential wave of new voters this year, not only in the presidential battleground states but in congressional districts across the country. A report from the Immigration Policy Center, “The New American Electorate,” (http://immigrationpolicy.org/images/File/specialreport/NewCitizenVotersWEBversion.pdf), tells why: The potential voter pool keeps getting bigger. There are about 3 million more naturalized citizens today than in the last presidential election.

Voter mobilization efforts by groups like the We Are America Alliance, a coalition of community and immigrant-rights organizations that emerged from the 2005 marches, have now had three years to ripen. And advocates see a hunger for civic engagement in immigrant communities, where the chill of xenophobia and the ongoing scandal of immigration raids and detention deaths remain urgent concerns, even if the rest of the country is paying little attention.

We have criticized Senators Barack Obama and John McCain for not paying even glancing attention to immigration in their campaigns, beyond pandering in a few repugnant Spanish-language commercials. [http://theboard.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/15/whats-spanish-for-lies/ ] The economy and Iraq have pride of place in this election, of course, but immigration should not be so far behind. The country still needs to repair its broken immigration system, to reassert control over an issue that has been foolishly left to languish or delegated to homegrown zealots in state and local governments.

If the clout of the new Americans does prove decisive, it will be in states like Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Florida, battlegrounds with large immigrant populations. It was a disservice to voters for Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain to have left immigration off the table; we’ll know by Wednesday whether it was bad politics as well.


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