Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Wednesday, November 05, 2008


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1. Daily Journal: “Detainee Tries To Prove He Is a U.S. Citizen”


2. Wall Street Journal: Labor Wants Obama to Take on Big Fight. After Working Hard to Elect Democrat, Unions Expect Help on Their Agenda


3. Rio Grande Guardian: UT students testify about border wall



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Daily Journal [requires subscription to access]




Detainee Tries To Prove He Is a U.S. Citizen


By Sandra Hernandez

Daily Journal Staff Writer


Jose Ledesma has spent two months locked up in a Lancaster immigration detention facility fighting a deportation order, even though his family has provided officials with a copy of his California birth certificate.

Since September, government attorneys have accused Ledesma of being an illegal immigrant and sought to deport him to Mexico.

Ledesma has repeatedly told government attorneys and a judge he is a U.S. citizen.

Twice, he has provided government lawyers with a copy of his birth and baptismal certificates showing he was born in Madera County on June 18, 1983, he said.

Ledesma said he understands little about the law but questions why prosecutors have told him his birth certificate is canceled.

"They tell me the birth certificate is no longer valid," Ledesma said during a recent interview. "They said it was revoked."

Madera County Documents

Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that oversees detention, did not respond to a request for comment. But in the past, ICE officials have publicly said agents move quickly to investigate such claims and would never knowingly deport a U.S. citizen.

Ledesma's family provided the Daily Journal with a copy of a birth certificate marked "certified copy" by the Madera County Clerk-Recorder's office.

Madera County officials confirmed to the Daily Journal that a birth certificate with Ledesma's name and birth date is on file.

The birth certificate states that Ledesma was born at 10 a.m., "delivered en route to the hospital" on a stretch of Highway 99. The document lists his mother and father as Reina and Jose Infante Ledesma.

St. Joachim Church officials in Madera also confirmed that a baptismal certificate is on file for Ledesma matching the information on his birth certificate.

Ledesma was transferred from a federal prison to ICE custody in September after serving nearly three years for a conviction on charges of drug possession with intent to distribute.

Unable to pay a lawyer, Ledesma is representing himself in immigration court.

Unlike criminal defendants, immigrants facing deportation orders do not have the right to a court-appointed attorney. In 2006, about 84 percent of immigrant detainees represented themselves in court, according to the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York-based nonprofit.

Ledesma has relied on his sister, Lidia Ledesma, for help proving his citizenship. A U.S. citizen, Lidia has scrambled to stop her younger brother's deportation.

Sitting in her Fresno home, Lidia said that efforts to contact immigration officials have been frustrating.

In August, she called immigration agents at the Lompoc prison.

"I told them he was born here," Lidia said. "I sent them a copy of his birth certificate. It doesn't make sense to me because I would think, if you tell them you are a citizen, the government would have ways of checking on it. But this time it seems immigration just wants to disprove he is a citizen."

Bruce Einhorn, a retired Los Angeles immigration judge, said a birth certificate is sufficient proof of citizenship.

"As an immigration judge, once I have a copy of a government-issued birth certificate, I don't need anything more," Einhorn said.

And the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' Web site also lists a certified birth certificate as accepted proof of citizenship.

Ledesma, however, remains locked up at the Mira Loma Detention Center, located about an hour north of Los Angeles.

"The government attorney keeps trying to get me to sign a paper saying I agree to be deported," Ledesma said. "The lawyer said if I don't sign, they will prosecute me for falsely saying I was a U.S. citizen."

Ledesma said ICE attorneys have repeatedly said he was born in Mexico.

Catherine Halliday-Roberts, the government attorney prosecuting the case, did not reply to the calls seeking comment.

Ledesma, 25, admits that as a juvenile, he told authorities he was born in Mexico, after his mother was deported to Tijuana and he was placed in foster care.

"I ran away [from foster care] and didn't want to go back, so I told them I was born in Mexico," he said.

Ledesma said he moved back and forth between Tijuana and San Diego, often getting stopped by border agents.

"After I turned 18, I never said I was Mexican," he said. "I'd tell them I was a U.S. citizen, but they didn't believe me."

He said agents often ignored the copy of a birth certificate he carried with him.

"They would check their computer and tell me I was lying, and then send me back to Mexico," he said. "Sometimes I didn't argue, because I thought it was easier to just turn around and cross the line," he said.

A San Diego immigration judge ordered Ledesma removed to Mexico in 2003 and again in November 2005.

Both times, Ledesma told the judge he was a U.S. citizen.

His statement resulted in immigration charges of falsely claiming to be an U.S. citizen.

"At the time, I had no way of proving I was born here," he said.

Legal experts said even amid false claims, immigration officials must allow U.S. citizens to stay in their country.

"If you tell me he claimed foreign nationality as a child or was deported several times, my response is that I will find that he is an idiot, but an American idiot," Einhorn said.

"A government-issued birth certificate is sufficient evidence and it trumps prior removals," Einhorn added.

Ledesma is not the first citizen to be detained or deported.

Since 2007, at least four other citizens, including a Georgia man, were detained and ordered deported.

Last month, federal immigration officials acknowledged a U.S. citizen was held in a San Diego detention facility for two weeks.

Guillermo Olivares Romero was mistakenly detained, even though his family provided officials with his birth certificate several times. Olivares was twice deported to Mexico. He was released after attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union became involved in his case.

And last year, immigration officials deported Pedro Guzman to Mexico. Guzman was born in California and is mentally disabled.

Immigration officials said Guzman told agents he was born in Mexico.

Guzman spent nearly three months eating out of trash cans and sleeping on the street before he was found trying to re-enter the United States from Mexico, his lawyers said.

Ledesma's case is raising concerns that Americans mistakenly detained by federal immigration officials are often not believed about their citizenship.

"It's quite common for U.S. citizens to have difficulty proving they are citizens, even when they present a document issued by their state's vital records department," said Kathleen Walker, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group that represents 10,000 immigration attorneys.

In the past year, Walker has represented six U.S. citizens whose claims have been questioned, even though, she said, authorities were provided government certified birth certificates and other records.

"And for people who are detained, they face more hurdles," Walker said. "When you are detained, it's difficult to communicate or get information to prove you are a U.S. citizen. It's not like he can go to the state's vital records office and obtain a certified copy of his birth certificate."

Ledesma is scheduled to appear today in the Mira Loma immigration court.

"This is my home country" Ledesma said. "I'm not naturalized. I was born here. Why can't I stay in the country I was born in?"

This article appears on Page 1


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Wall Street Journal

NOVEMBER 6, 2008


Labor Wants Obama to Take on Big Fight

After Working Hard to Elect Democrat, Unions Expect Help on Their Agenda




Organized labor sees a historic opportunity with Tuesday's election and is counting on the incoming Obama administration to back its agenda in what promises to be a landmark battle with business.

At the top of labor's wish list is passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it harder for companies to fight union-organizing drives. "It is the most important issue that we have," said John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO.

President-elect Barack Obama has promised to fight for the legislation, but whether it is introduced in the first 100 days of his administration could signal how strongly he is aligning himself with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, say political consultants. Moderate Democrats and those who have just won seats in traditionally Republican states are expected to argue against making the legislation an early priority.

Unions failed to get major labor legislation passed under the Carter and Clinton administrations, and union membership has declined to 7.5% of private-sector workers, from about 20% in 1980, according to U.S. Labor Department data.

After unions spent more than $400 million on the election and mounted massive voter-turnout efforts for Mr. Obama, they're inclined to push for bringing the Employee Free Choice Act up for a vote early next year, believing they have a narrow window to get it passed. They're worried other issues could emerge to eclipse the legislation, and that business would have more time to mount opposition the longer action is delayed.

"This is one the business community is united on," says Dan Yager, spokesman for HR Policy Association, a corporate lobbying group. "Now that it looks like it has a serious possibility of being enacted we think it will galvanize the community even more," he said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and large employers, especially those that have resisted union organizing like Wal-Mart Stores Inc., vehemently oppose the legislation. Business groups, including the Chamber, spent a combined $50 million this year on advertising against it and say they will ratchet up ads and lobbying.

Some Democrats worry the issue could produce a divisive fight early in the Obama administration, imperiling the new president's broader agenda.

Paul Blank, a consultant who ran the United Food and Commercial Workers campaign against Wal-Mart before leaving to work for the presidential campaign of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, said he expects "political World War III" between labor and business over the issue.

Both sides say the legislation would lead to increased unionization. Unions say that would lift wages and help the middle class, while businesses say it could increase costs and eventually lead to widespread layoffs.

The bill would give unions -- rather than companies under current law -- the choice of having workers vote for a union by signing cards instead of through a secret-ballot election. Card-signing is preferred by unions because it can be done without an employer's knowledge. With secret-ballot elections, companies typically have months to mount an opposition.

The bill also authorizes an arbitrator to impose a first contract if a union fails to reach agreement with a company by 120 days following the union's formation. Under current law, if the two sides don't reach a contract within a year, the union typically loses its right to be the exclusive bargaining agent for the workers.

"If we're going to build a stronger labor movement and have a stronger campaign on behalf of workers, we need the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act," Mr. Sweeney said.

With Democrats failing to win a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate, some say a compromise on the controversial card-signing provision is more likely now.

Hal Coxson, a management-side labor lawyer in Washington, said he expects the AFL-CIO to propose shortening the notice before elections to five days, which would give companies less time to campaign against a union, but allow Democrats to say they preserved secret-ballot elections. "If they overreach, they lose," Mr. Coxson said of the AFL-CIO.

Randel Johnson, vice president of labor policy for the Chamber, said he thinks unions proposed an "outrageous" bill in order to win a lesser compromise that would still be a big victory for labor. But he added, "any combination that still leaves the binding-arbitration in there would still be unacceptable to the business community."

Write to Kris Maher at


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Rio Grande Guardian


UT students testify about border wall


5 November 2008


Karla Vargas


WASHINGTON, November 5 - On Wednesday, October 22, 2008, members of the University of Texas Working Group on Human Rights and the Border Wall, along with collaborating environmental sciences faculty from the University of Texas at Brownsville, and an affected indigenous landowner, were in Washington DC for a hearing before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

The Working Group was granted a hearing during the 133rd period of sessions of the IACHR to discuss existing and potential human rights violations associated with the construction of the border fence on the southern US border.

Representatives of the Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Indian Affairs were also present at the hearing. They offered generalized concerns regarding post 9-11 national security and immigration issues, stating that pending litigation limited the ability to comment further on the concerns highlighted by the Working Group.

The Working Group raised a number of violations of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, including violations of the right to property, equality and non-discrimination, culture, freedom of investigation and expression, and indigenous rights.

The Working Group highlighted the violation of the right to private property, caused when small landowners lose their land to the wall’s construction. The Working Group also presented statistical analyses that show the wall disproportionately affects small landowners with Latino backgrounds and lower educational and income levels. Construction gaps highlighted during the hearing include the land on which a wealthy country club in Cameron County sits, as well as a 55,000 acre property owned by a wealthy, white landowner – even though this stretch of land was designated as a priority area by Congress.

Additionally, given that the wall will functionally divide the USMexico border, the Working Group highlighted its obstruction of the Declaration’s guarantee of the right to culture. Specifically affected will be the transnational nature of border life by residents on both sides of the border, as well as the cultural fluidity of the border. Furthermore, the Working Group pointed out that the construction plans could not meet the human rights rules requiring that any violation of rights be necessary and proportional since the proposed wall is not contiguous; and even government agents say that the purpose of the wall is to slow immigrants from crossing for only a few minutes.

The Working Group also brought to the Commission’s attention the government’s many procedural violations as construction of the wall proceeds. The lack of transparency with which the government continues its construction of the border wall violates the Declaration’s guarantee to freedom of investigation, opinion, expression and dissemination. In particular, the Working Group submitted a Freedom of Information Request in April of this year, and it is still awaiting a response. This lack of transparency also hinders the ability to critically assess the wall since there is no clear and definitive report on the ultimate location of the entire stretch of the wall, or the rationale dictating why the wall will be built in only certain areas.  

Lastly, the Working Group noted the lack of consultation with affected landowners along the border, as required by the American Declaration. Consultation requires the government to engage in an open dialogue with affected landowners to consider alternatives. Margo Tamez, a Lipan Apache and affected landowner, specifically commented about the lack of consultation with indigenous communities – a procedure required by the International Labor Organization Convention No. 169. The government’s noncompliance with this requirement is evident in its dealings with the University of Texas at Brownsville (UTB). Initially, the planned wall would have cut through the UTB campus, rendering the southern portion of the university unusable. However, after agreeing to negotiate with UTB, the government relocated the wall to an area befitting the interests of both parties.

Ultimately, the Working Group requested that the Commission urge the US government to reevaluate construction of the border wall and ensure the rights of rights of affected border residents are upheld.

Karla M. Vargas is a  Masters of Public Affairs/JD Candidate, 2009, at The University of Texas School of Law and UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. Vargas, along with other members of the University of Texas Working Group on Human Rights and the Border WAll, testified before the Inter American Commission on Human Rights Commission in October.



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