Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Wednesday, November 12, 2008


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1. Clarion Ledger: Incidents reflect racial tension

2. Orlando Sentinel: Stabbing of immigrant in New York comes amid increase in hate crimes against Hispanics

3. The Dallas Morning News: Dallas County jails launch new system to check prisoners' immigration status

4. The Times News: Wake County widens immigration checks.New test program enhances 287(g)

5. Wall Street Journal: Economic Crises Will Take Precedence Over Near-Term Immigration Overhaul



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Clarion Ledger


November 8, 2008


Incidents reflect racial tension


Elizabeth Crisp


Barack Obama's election is being heralded as a milestone for U.S. race relations, but in the South - still haunted by the ghosts of the civil rights era - tension has flared over the nation's first black president.

For example, a school bus driver and a coach allegedly chastised students in Pearl not to say Obama's name. Four students at North Carolina State University spray-painted racist and threatening graffiti aimed at the president-elect.

"Given Mississippi's long history of race relations and the struggle we have had as a people, I'm not surprised," said Jackson State political science professor Leslie Burl McLemore.

Those reactions are sharply different from those of Americans surveyed after the election.

A recent USA Today/Gallup Poll showed Obama's election has sparked a wave of optimism about the future of race relations.

According to the poll, two-thirds of Americans predict relations "will eventually be worked out" in the United States, by far the highest number since Gallup first asked the question in 1963.

But allegations in Mississippi this week have shown tension between the two races is very much alive.

Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said she is worried students' free speech has been limited since the election.

"We've been hearing that students have been told they couldn't say the name Barack Obama," Lambright said.

An educator in Madison County has contacted the group but did not want to go forward with allegations for fear of retribution, she said. Lambright urged students and parents to come forward as well.

"This is a historic time for our country, and it's really unfortunate that students aren't able to talk about it," Lambright said.

The bus driver and the coach with the Pearl school district have been disciplined for allegedly telling students not to say the president-elect's name.

"It is unfortunate that some employees mishandled this situation, but they have been disciplined, and I have spent the day clarifying our policies," Superintendent Greg Ladner said in a written statement.

He did not say what form of discipline they received.

"The whole nation was excited, and in no way and at no time will children be disciplined for saying the name of the president-elect of the United States," Ladner said. "Any employee who would attempt to do that would be corrected and disciplined."

McLemore said he had tried to avoid worrying over what would happen with regard to racial altercations if Obama was elected.

"I think these incidents reflect the long history of race relations in Mississippi and in the American South," he said.

When the votes were tallied and Obama was declared the victor, profile updates on Facebook - a social networking site popular among college students - went into overdrive. Many of them exposed racial biases and fears.

"These attitudes often are passed on by the parents to young people," McLemore said.

Baylor University students reported a rope tied in the shape of a noose was spotted in a tree on campus, and Obama campaign signs were burned in a fire pit. Verbal altercations also arose.

At North Carolina State University, the U.S. Secret Service assisted in the investigation of the spray-painting incident because of the nature of the graffiti, which said "Shoot Obama" and "Kill that n-----."

Federal agents determined there was no actual threat to Obama, and the four students will not be charged.

At the University of Mississippi, sophomore Aaron Thomas said he was celebrating outside Kincannon Hall, yelling "Obama won, Obama won," when three students started yelling at him and calling him the n-word. Thomas and the three scuffled, he said. Campus police broke it up. No arrests were made.

Campus Police Chief Calvin Sellers said racial slurs were overheard from the fourth floor of the dorm and an investigation was under way to determine who made them. The results will go to the dean of student's office and the judicial council. "I don't know what laws were broken," he said.

McLemore said he thinks the best way to work through the racial divide will be to open the lines of communication.

"It's an ongoing struggle, and instances like this reflect a lack of dialogue and understanding," McLemore said. "We don't have enough people who are stepping up to be the bridge builders."


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Orlando Sentinel,0,5566413.story


Stabbing of immigrant in New York comes amid increase in hate crimes against Hispanics



Associated Press Writers

4:22 AM EST, November 12, 2008


NEW YORK (AP) _ It was meant to be a short jaunt to a friend's home to watch a movie.

Marcello Lucero never made it. His walk, and his life, came to a brutal end when the Ecuadorean native was allegedly beaten and stabbed by a group of teenagers who police said wanted "to beat up some Mexicans."

Lucero's death Saturday night on Long Island was quickly labeled a hate crime by authorities, and it's not an anomaly. Figures recently released by the FBI show hate crimes motivated by anti-Hispanic bias have been on the upswing since 2003.

Observers and Hispanic advocates blame a climate of harsh rhetoric surrounding the national immigration debate.

"I don't think it's merely coincidence that these hate crimes are going up at the same time there's a violent at times debate over immigration," said Kevin Brown, dean of the law school at the University of California-Davis.

"We talk about immigration, we're not particularly careful in the terminology," he said. "Inflammatory terminology is frequently used, that helps to sort of rile people up."

According to FBI statistics released last month, there were 595 incidents of anti-Hispanic bias in 2007, with 830 victims reported by law enforcement agencies. That's a 40 percent rise from 2003, when there were 426 incidents involving 595 victims.

The increase mirrors greater activity in the immigration debate, with mass rallies, attempts at reform legislation, increased government crackdowns and efforts by states and municipalities to pass their own immigration laws. Census estimates of the population of Hispanics in the United States have also increased, from 39.2 million to 45.4 million, a rise of 16 percent.

And the rhetoric around the topic, in the media and elsewhere, has been divisive, advocates say, sometimes portraying immigrants as stealing jobs and gobbling up resources.

"The debate about immigration has been damaged by anti-Latino, anti-immigrant sentiment that's been hijacked by extremists and that some politicians have seen fit to exploit for whatever reasons," said Luis Valenzuela, executive director of Long Island Immigrant Alliance.

"The point at which policy debate goes beyond what's appropriate in our public discourse is the point where you're demonizing an entire community," said Peter Zamora, Washington, D.C., counsel for the Los Angeles-based Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Not everyone agrees with the connection. Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, a co-founder of a national group called Mayors and Executives for Immigration Reform, rejected suggestions that the killing on Long Island was related in any way to the immigration debate.

"The beating, stabbing and killing of Marcello Lucero wasn't a question of any county policy or legislation; it was a question of bad people doing horrific things," Levy said.

Seven teens were arraigned Monday on gang assault charges and entered not guilty pleas in connection with Lucero's death. The teen believed to have wielded the knife was also charged with manslaughter as a hate crime.

Joselo Lucero spoke Tuesday near the scene of his brother's killing, where a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and a picture of the victim lay near bloodstains in the street.

He said his brother, who had been in the United States for 16 years, had been like a father to him.

"He had a good heart and he stayed out of trouble all the time. He took care of my mom in Ecuador and my sister," Joselo Lucero said. "I worry about my mother. She hasn't seen him in 16 years and now she has to receive him in a box."

Tensions over immigrants among longtime residents have been particularly sharp on Long Island. For more than a decade, immigrants from Mexico or Central America have been drawn there by the prospect of jobs. Many stand on street corners, waiting for contractors, landscapers and others to offer them a day's work.

Things got so bad in the summer of 2005 that the head of the Mexican Consulate in New York City said the hamlet of Farmingville — about 10 miles from where Lucero was killed — was "clearly a red zone after the Arizona border" in the abuse of immigrants.

The discourse surrounding immigration has to change, advocates say.

"We have to have a debate about immigration that's focused on workable solutions that uphold our national values," Valenzuela said. "The debate as it's currently entertained is very divisive."


On the Net:

Long Island Immigrant Alliance:



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The Dallas Morning News


Dallas County jails launch new system to check prisoners' immigration status


01:35 PM CST on Wednesday, November 12, 2008


By KEVIN KRAUSE / The Dallas Morning News

The Dallas County jails today became one of the first jail systems in the nation to use a new federal database to identify illegal immigrants during the book-in process.

Normally, when prisoners are booked into jails, their fingerprints are run through a national database to check their criminal history. Under the new initiative, prisoners’ fingerprints will also be run through a similar database to check their immigration status.

If the computer shows a prisoner is in the country illegally, he or she will be referred to the federal government for possible deportation.

Currently, a prisoner’s immigration status is checked in jails only if they are referred to federal immigration agents. For years, the Dallas County jail, for example, has had a small office for two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who randomly question prisoners in the jail to try to determine their status.

The new database link with the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department is a key part of ICE’s “Secure Communities” plan to identify and remove illegal immigrants from local communities.

The goal is to give all local jails in the country a link to the federal government’s databases. By next spring, ICE plans to make this database link available to more than 50 state and local law enforcement agencies.

The Dallas and Harris county sheriff’s departments were the only two Texas counties to take part in a pilot program to test the immigration database link. A total of seven areas nationwide participated.

The immigration status database is the work of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.


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The Times News


Wake County widens immigration checks

New test program enhances 287(g)


McClatchy News Service

November 12, 2008 - 9:15AM

RALEIGH -- Now everyone booked into the Wake County jail will have their immigration history and citizenship checked.

Wake County jailers will have access to a fingerprint-based database that includes data about visa applications, previous deportations and residency applications -- part of a pilot program starting today by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The purpose, says Wake Sheriff Donnie Harrison, is to find out whether someone arrested is in the country illegally. Fingerprint records will be used in addition to the resources the sheriff's detention officers already have to check inmates' immigration status. The Wake Sheriff's Office participates in the 287(g) program, named for a section of a federal law that allows local jailers to check the immigration status of inmates and begin deportation proceedings.

Only seven agencies in the country were selected for the pilot program, including jails in Wake, Gaston, Henderson and Buncombe counties. The other three are in jails in Boston, Houston and Dallas.

``The goal is to have a virtual ICE presence in every jail in the country,'' said Julie Myers, ICE's assistant secretary.

With a new presidential administration coming to Washington in January, Myers said she didn't know how, or if, plans to expand the program would be affected.

``I'm very hopeful that the new administration will see this program as a priority,'' Myers said.

Congress has designated $350 million for the program. Eventually, that cost is expected to rise to up to $3 billion a year nationwide and flag for deportation an estimated 300,000 to 450,000 people arrested on criminal charges each year, according to ICE figures.

But the expanded searches, done at the same time a person's criminal history is checked, are also being viewed warily by Latino advocacy and civil liberties groups. They cite instances in which illegal immigrants have faced deportation proceedings after arrests for traffic violations. The fingerprint checks mean that more of a person's personal information will be shared with law enforcement, said Rebecca Headen of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

``We're once again seeing criminal enforcement allied with immigration enforcement,'' Headen said. ``They're two totally separate systems in our country.''

Harrison cautioned that the database wouldn't be used by deputies patrolling the county. He hopes the access to more of the immigration records will take some of the guesswork out of detention officers' work. Jailers now have to rely on a person's admission that they're foreign-born before questioning them more.

``Even though they say that they might be born here, they'll still be checked,'' Harrison said. ``We won't have anybody slipping through the cracks.''

North Carolina has been a leading state in ICE's partnerships with local law enforcement with seven sheriff's offices and the Durham Police Department participating in the program. ICE officials estimate 4,000 people in North Carolina have been flagged for deportation since 2006.


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Wall Street Journal


NOVEMBER 12, 2008


Economic Crises Will Take Precedence Over Near-Term Immigration Overhaul



The next administration's preoccupation with economic crises will likely prevent immigration advocates from capitalizing on steep losses suffered by their foes in last week's election, delaying any attempt to ease entry for people in the U.S. illegally.

Of the 13 House Republicans who lost their seats on Nov. 4, nine were members of the Immigration Reform Caucus, which has opposed a path to citizenship for the country's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. A 10th member, Virginia's Virgil Goode, is trailing in a race still too close to call.

In addition, caucus founder Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado is retiring, as is Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, another voice for increased border security and crackdowns on illegal immigration.


Watch an ad from Sen. Elizabeth Dole on her work linking local sheriffs to a federal program targeting illegal immigrants.

Together, these losses shifted the political landscape on a problem that has defied solutions over the past two decades.

The camps break down roughly along these lines: Business and immigrant groups argue for a three-pronged approach that includes legalizing immigrants who overstayed visas or entered the U.S. illegally; enhancing border security; and admitting more workers as the economy needs them. Social conservatives and law-and-order Republicans have argued that the border should be secured before there is any plan to expand immigration.

Many Republican candidates' strong stand against illegal immigrants was read by voters as anti-Latino, and likely hurt incumbents in Florida, Virginia and Colorado. More than 100,000 newly naturalized citizens registered to vote in Florida, where Reps. Tom Feeney and Ric Keller, both members of the immigration-reform caucus, lost their seats.

Immigration wasn't the only issue in any of those races. But in a study to be released Wednesday, the pro-immigration group America's Voice found that of 20 races in which candidates drew sharp distinctions on immigration, hard-line "enforcement only" advocates lost in 18.

Day laborers crowd the sidewalk outside a Home Depot store in San Diego last month, hoping for work. The slumping U.S. economy may complicate attempts to resolve the nation's immigration debate.

Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina counted on support from law-and-order voters when she ran ads on her work linking local sheriffs to a federal program targeting illegal immigrants. The move backfired after Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell, who was campaigning with Sen. Dole, was quoted in a Charlotte newspaper characterizing Mexican immigrants as "trashy."

Sen. Dole's contest was one of five Senate races in which anti-immigrant candidates lost, America's Voice concluded.

Roy Beck, of the group Numbers USA, disagrees. "Voters didn't punish anybody for taking strong enforcement stands," Mr. Beck wrote. "In most cases, our allies were replaced by challengers who worked hard to convince voters that they were just as tough -- or tougher -- on illegal immigration as the incumbents."

But the defeat of so many caucus members has left immigrant groups optimistic that the Obama administration will reward Hispanic voters for their support with some sort of legalization program.

That doesn't mean a comprehensive immigration overhaul will be a legislative priority, or that its chances of passing are significantly better in Congress, though -- and the president-elect didn't make any promises during the campaign. Mr. Obama will be focused on the economy and tax policy and isn't likely to expend political capital on such a divisive issue, many immigration experts say.

There is also no leader to take up the immigration cause in place of Sen. Edward Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is fighting cancer. Sen. John McCain was the lead Republican advocate of revamping immigration laws, but he took intense heat from primary voters for his stand and largely dropped the issue during his presidential campaign.

[Immigration Overhaul Faces Delay]

"Conventional wisdom that amnesty is a done deal is incorrect," says Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington group opposed to increased immigration.

Immigrant groups have long feared that any stand-alone bill seeking legalization for millions of undocumented residents would fail, and have insisted on legalization being part of a broader immigration bill. "Illegals are so divisive [as a political issue] that the groups know there have to be sweeteners to get an overhaul passed," said Kara Calvert of the Information Technology Industry Council.

But various groups have their own reasons to avoid lumping every immigration issue into an omnibus bill.

High-tech employers may argue for a separate bill that would provide more temporary visas and permanent green cards to engineers, mathematicians and scientists whom they believe would help spur the economy, she added. Agriculture may make the same case, arguing that it needs field workers to prevent production from moving to Mexico.

That could fracture the business-union-immigrant coalition behind bills that failed in 2005 and 2007. Trade unions will likely oppose a temporary-worker plan that was part of both earlier bills -- and a must-have for employers -- because it would affect jobs during a recession.

A hint of Congress's and the administration's intentions could come in March when the E-Verify program, which lets employers electronically verify the status of new workers, expires. The program is a cornerstone of the Bush administration's enforcement policies, but has detractors among civil-libertarian and immigrant groups. The next administration could seek a five-year renewal, a brief extension or let it expire.

Another key will be whether the Obama administration continues workplace raids, which have resulted in the arrest of thousands of illegal workers and criminal prosecution of at least some managers. The Bush administration, after pushing Congress for a legalization program, stepped up the raids after legislation failed.

Write to Joel Millman at and June Kronholz at


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