Friday, December 12, 2008

Immigrant Rights News - Friday, December 12, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Friday, December 12, 2008


1. New America Media: Chicago Workers to Rest of County: “Don’t Let It Die!”


2. New York Times: Bush Unveils New Rules for Guest Worker Hiring


3. Phoenix New Times: FIRE Catches ICE with Pants Down, Delivers "Notice of Deportation" to Stunned Agents


4. Denver Post: Weld judge halts arrests in immigration cases



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New America Media


Chicago Workers to Rest of County: “Don’t Let It Die!”


By David Bacon

New America Media, 12/11/08


When the day finally comes that Raul Flores loses his job, he will face a bitter search for another one.   "I've got a family to support, so I've got to do whatever it takes," he says.  "It's going to be hard.  The economic situation is not good, but I can't just wait for something to happen to me."


That puts Flores in the same boat as millions of other U.S. workers.  Last month alone 533,000 workers lost their jobs, the highest figure in 34 years.  A week ago, the heads of the big three auto companies were in Washington DC, pleading for loans to keep their companies afloat.  As a price, lawmakers and pundits told them they had to become "leaner and meaner," and in response, General Motors announced it would close nine plants and put tens of thousands of workers in the street.  Ford and Chrysler described a similar job-elimination strategy.


What makes Flores special?  He didn't just accept the elimination of his job.  Instead, he sat in at the Chicago plant where he worked for six days, together with 240 other union members at Republic Windows and Doors.


Republic workers were not demanding the reopening of their closed factory.  They've been fighting for severance and benefits to help them survive the unemployment they know awaits them.  Yet their occupation can't help but raise deeper questions about the right of workers to their jobs.  Can a return to the militant tactics of direct action, that produced the greatest gains in union membership, wages and job security in U.S. history, overturn "the inescapable logic of the marketplace"?  Can employers, and the banks that hold their credit lines, be forced to keep plants open?


Unlike the auto giants, Republic was not threatening bankruptcy.  It makes a "green product," Energy-Star compliant doors and windows that should be one of the bedrock industries for a new, more environmentally sustainable economy.  But Bank of America, as it was receiving $25 billion in Federal bailout funds, pulled the company's credit line.  Perhaps that alone led President-elect Obama to support the workers.  The bank-enforced closure undermines his program for using environmentally sustainable jobs to replace those eliminated in the spiraling recession.  He called Republic workers "absolutely right.  What's happening to them is reflective of what's happening across this economy."


Federal law requires companies to give employees 60 days notice of a plant closure, or pay them 60 days severance pay, to give them breathing room to find other jobs.  Republic workers got three days, and no money.  "They knew they'd be out on the street penniless," says Leah Fried, organizer for Local 1110 of the United Electrical Workers.  "When the negotiating committee came back to the factory to report that the company didn't even show up to talk with them, the workers were so enraged they voted unanimously not to leave until they got their severance and vacation pay."


While the workers' acted to gain their legally-mandated rights, the plant occupation resurrects a tactic with a radical history.  In 1934, auto workers occupied the huge Fisher Body plants in Flint, Michigan, and when the battle was over, the United Auto Workers was born.  Sitdown strikes spread across the country like wildfire.  Occupying production lines in plant after plant, workers won unions, better wages, and real changes in their lives.


Seventy years later, the workers who have inherited that legacy of unionization and security are on the brink of losing everything.  Just since 2006 the United Auto Workers has lost 119,000 members.  The threat of plant closure has been used to cut the wages of new hires in half, to $14.50, the same wage paid on the window lines at Republic, where the union is only four years old.


Flores certainly hopes that those whose livelihoods are in peril will rediscover the tactic. "This is the start of something," he urges.  "Don't let it die.  Learn something from it."  And the sitdown was successful. After six days sitting-in, and a rally of 1000 people in front of the bank, JP Morgan, another beneficiary of Federal assistance that owns 40% of Republic, put up $400,000, and Bank of America  another $1.35 million.  That was enough to pay the legally-mandated severance, the workers' accrued vacation, and two months of health care.  Flores and his coworkers then voted to end the occupation.


Fran Tobin, midwest organizer for Jobs with Justice, a coalition of labor and community groups with chapters around the country, shares Flores' optimism.  "I think this is not the last time we're going to see American workers occupying American plants, as part of a move to save jobs and turn things around," he says.  Organizers for Jobs with Justice are fanning out with a program they call a "Peoples' Bailout."  "We need to ask, 'What kind of an economy and recovery do we want?'" Tobin emphasizes.  He lists funds for a jobs program, rather than huge loans to banks, a moratorium on home foreclosures, investment in infrastructure repair, and helping local and state governments (and public worker) survive the crisis without massive budget cuts.


Flores, Tobin and Fried all agree that none of those demands can be won without unions and workers willing to fight for them.  That makes the Republic plant occupation more than just a local confrontation.   "This might not be the right tactic in every situation, but people know we need to be fighting back," Fried says.


Will the unions in auto plants and other workplaces hit by layoffs take up the challenge of the Republic workers?   To Flores, they have to do something more than just watch the elimination of their jobs.  "We've got to fight for our rights," he emphasizes.  "It's not fair that they just kick us out on the street with nothing.  Somebody has to respond."



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New York Times


December 12, 2008


Bush Unveils New Rules for Guest Worker Hiring



LOS ANGELES — The Bush administration announced new rules on Thursday that it said would lessen the bureaucratic burden on employers seeking to hire foreign farm workers. Advocates for the workers, however, contended the changes would depress wages and working conditions.

The Labor Department released the changes in a document of more than 500 pages, the culmination of reviewing 11,000 comments since it proposed new regulations in February.

The changes apply to a guest worker program known as H-2A, after the visa that allows farmers to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis for field jobs they cannot fill with Americans.

Most farmers ignore the program because of red tape and delays that could cost them precious harvesting time. In California, the 5,000 H-2A workers are a fraction of the peak agriculture work force of 450,000, according to the California Farm Bureau.

But, after Congress failed to revamp immigration laws and come up with a new guest worker program in 2007, the administration, seeking to attract more farmers to the program, moved forward with revisions not requiring Congressional approval.

The changes, the first major ones in 20 years, include eliminating duplication among state and federal agencies in processing applications, putting in place a new wage formula the department said would be fairer to workers, and increasing fines for willfully displacing United States workers with foreign ones.

An assistant secretary of labor, Leon R. Sequeira, said in an interview that while the changes would make the program “more predictable and timely, the program is still far from simple and easy to comply with.”

Growers agreed, and suggested the new rules would fall prey to litigation and perhaps reversals by the new administration.

“This is a program everybody acknowledges needs an overhaul,” said Craig J. Regelbrugge, co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform, a trade group. “Even if regulatory reform were wildly successful and carried on to the next administration, it can’t even begin to solve the agricultural labor crisis. The bottom line is Congress is still on the hook.”

Farmer and worker groups have backed long-stalled legislation that would make more sweeping changes.

Anthony Coley, a spokesman for Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, a major proponent of that legislation, denounced the revisions and said the senator “feels strongly that they should be withdrawn.”

Worker advocates said the Bush administration was seeking to put its stamp on the guest worker program instead of more rationally waiting for the next president. The regulations will be published next Thursday in The Federal Register and would take effect on Jan. 18, two days before President-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated.

Bruce Goldstein, executive director of Farmworker Justice, an advocacy group based in Washington, said of the changes, “The intent is a massive expansion of the guest worker program by enticing employers into a program with low wages and poor working conditions.”


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Phoenix New Times


FIRE Catches ICE with Pants Down, Delivers "Notice of Deportation" to Stunned Agents


Thu Dec 11, 2008 at 04:40:12 PM

FIRE's video of its December 4 "ICE raid."Check the graphic at the end. FIRE melts ICE, get it?

Well, here's a man bites dog story, if there ever was one. Seems that on December 4, several orange jumpsuit-clad members of FIRE, which stands for "Flagstaff Immigrant Rights Enforcement," delivered a "notice of deportation" to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement management meeting taking place at the Flagstaff Radisson Hotel. Judging by the stony silence of the ICE honchos present, the FIRE raid was expertly executed and took the meeting's participants completely by surprise.

As you can see in the above YouTube video the activists shot, save for FIRE agent "Del Fuego" -- the professionally clad gal who reads the notice of deportation as she hands it out to the stunned ICE members -- the rest of the FIRE folks were dressed like DEVO used to back in the day. Minus those weird red hats. One of them carried a jumbo-size deportation order. Others hung back near the door, holding up a banner that read, "Stop ICE Terrorism."

After agent Del Furgo finishes with the reasons for deportation, which are repeated below in FIRE's press release, she asks for one of the ICE officials to sign the notice. Not surprisingly, no one takes her up on her offer, so she just leaves it on the table in front of one ICE guy.

Generally, the ICE people took the whole thing in stride, as if it had happened to them a thousand times before. You can tell that a couple of them are smirking as Del Fuego reads. However, one fat ICE dude in a referee shirt was not amused, and loudly crumpled a copy of the deportation order he has in front of him, just as the FIRE crew is exiting.  

Though the entire prank was over in a couple of minutes, was entirely nonviolent, and actually quite amusing, you've got to wonder about a federal law enforcement agency that fails to secure its own meetings, post-9/11? What if these FIRE activists had been less Monty Python and more Weather Underground, if you catch my drift?

The FIRE press release does make some excellent points about ICE's less savory activities --the breaking up of families, the racial profiling that occurs, especially under the 287(g) program, etc. In fact, I can almost hear John Lennon singing now, "Imagine there's no ICE...It's easy if you try." Actually, I can envision a much pared-down ICE, which focuses on the removal of actual criminals in the U.S. illegally, not just poor sods who've come here to feed themselves and their kids.

Asked to comment on the reverse raid, ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard didn't give any indication that ICE was troubled by its collective punking by FIRE. 

"We had a fugitive operation in Flagstaff a couple of weeks before that certainly got a lot of attention, especially from the activist groups up there," said Picard. "And there was no enforcement associated with this meeting, they were just having an off-site meeting, just kind of getting away from the office. So in that sense, it really wasn't an interruption of our operations, but it has provided for some ribbing, I'm sure, from their coworkers."

Still, the fact that more than one of the ICE agents cover up or turn over some of the paperwork before them gives one the inkling that some of that info must have been sensitive. In any case, all that's come of it is a little embarrassment for ICE. Embarrassment these ICE agents could have avoided if they'd, um, locked the door.

The FIRE communique follows. I dig the line about how some of the ICE agents "appeared to possibly be illegal immigrants themselves, as they were not Indigenous People." Heh. Fun-ny. 

Flagstaff Immigrant Rights Enforcement Communique

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

FIRE Raids ICE Management Meeting, Delivers Notice of Deportation of ICE from Flagstaff

Flagstaff. AZ -- At approximately 10AM on Thursday December 4th, Flagstaff Immigrant Rights Enforcement (FIRE) confronted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a daring raid, serving a notice of deportation to ICE representatives at an ICE Management meeting. FIRE agents pinpointed the location of the ICE management meeting at the Flagstaff Radisson Hotel in the Kaibab Meeting Room and staged the raid. FIRE agent Del Fuego read the notice of deportation to more than 15 ICE associated criminals, some of whom appeared to possibly be illegal immigrants themselves, as they were not Indigenous People. Agent Del Fuego called for the immediate withdrawal of ICE from the Flagstaff community and notified ICE of the cease and desist order for all future raids.

FIRE will continue supporting and enforcing immigrant rights where they are violated with the exception of established immigrant "settlers" or "colonizers" who have been benefitting from the exploitation of Indigenous People's lands. In addition, locations believed to be harboring ICE criminals, associates, and illegal settlers on indigenous lands can expect future FIRE raids. FIRE has credible intelligence that ICE absconders use condominiums, country clubs, law enforcement facilities, steakhouses, stretch limousines, luxury hotels, beach resorts, ski resorts, martini bars, intelligence facilities, etc., as bases of operation. These settlers will be brought to justice. No human is illegal.


Notice served on this, the 4th day of December, 2008 by Flagstaff Immigrant Rights Enforcement (FIRE) for the immediate deportation from the Flagstaff area of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and officials.

FIRE charges ICE with the following activities deemed criminal and in violation of human rights. These activities include but are not limited to:

Terrorizing entire communities resulting in the destruction of over 34,000 families within the last year alone, including most recently, 16 persons within the immediate Flagstaff area.

Causing fear that has extended into the hearts of our community's children, who, due to your presence, live in constant trauma of returning to an empty home.

Taking no meaningful measures to ensure the well-being of those impacted by family members' deportation.

Perpetuating institutionalized racism and practicing racial profiling.

Aiding and abetting border militarization on both sides of the US-Mexico border.

Creating and upholding the myth of "illegal human beings".

Enforcing and benefitting from a global economic system that criminalizes labor and creates deathly low wages.

Enforcing immigration policies on borders drawn on indigenous lands.

Misappropriation of taxpayer funds for aforementioned terrorist activity while education, health care, and housing services collapse.

About FIRE - Flagstaff Immigrant Rights Enforcement is established to take direct action in solidarity with communities impacted by ICE raids. We do not represent anyone or any groups other than ourselves and our actions. FIRE is an independent agency and can be made up of anyone fighting for human rights and the abolition of ICE terrorism. LET'S TURN UP THE HEAT ON ICE!


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Denver Post


Weld judge halts arrests in immigration cases


By Howard Pankratz

The Denver Post

Posted: 12/12/2008 04:48:30 PM MST

Updated: 12/12/2008 04:54:18 PM MST

Arrests in what Weld County officials claim is the largest identity theft case they've investigated have been halted by a judge who believes they may be based on an improper search warrant.

After obtaining the search warrant, the Weld County District Attorney's Office, the Weld County Sheriff's Department and the Greeley Police Department in mid-October seized 1,338 tax files from Amalia's Translation and Tax Service in Greeley.

At the time, investigators claimed many people using the tax service were using false names and Social Security numbers in a massive identity theft scam.

Authorities traced about $2.6 million in payments to illegal immigrants using phony Social Security numbers who used the tax service, said Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck.

As of Nov. 13, 26 arrest warrants had been issued and 11 people arrested as a result of the investigation, Buck said.

But Weld County District Judge James Hartmann has raised serious questions about the search warrant that authorized seizure of the tax files.

Hartmann has issued a show-cause order directing the Weld County district attorney to show why Hartmann — or any state court — has jurisdiction to issue a search warrant for federal tax files.

Hartmann said he believes the filing of a federal tax return and the receipt of a federal tax refund may be matters that fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States government, not a state court.

Federal tax return information in the possession of a tax preparer, Hartmann said, falls within the confidentiality mandates of federal statute.

The judge said arrest warrants that have led to arrests and prosecutions stemming from the raid — dubbed "Operation Numbers Game" — appear to be based solely on information obtained from the raid on Amalia's Tax Service on Oct. 17, and specifically from information contained in federal tax returns.

Hartmann said he will not issue any arrest warrants based on information from federal tax returns. He will consider issuing a warrant if the affidavit is based on information not related to the seized tax returns.

The Weld County district attorney's office maintains the state court has jurisdiction. It says those involved filed a federal tax return and obtained a tax refund unlawfully. Others, it alleges, were able to obtain employment through the use of a Social Security number belonging to someone else.

Hartmann has set a hearing on the matter for Dec. 18.

In the meantime, Judge Roger Klein, chief judge of the Weld County District Court, has issued an order sealing all arrest warrants and tax-related documents in the case.

Howard Pankratz: 303-954-1939 or


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