Immigrant Rights News – Fri, Feb. 29, 2008
IRN is posted at: www.nnirr.blogspot.com
1. New York Times: “Border Patrol Agent’s Trial in Killing of Illegal Immigrant Starts in Arizona”
2. Los Angeles Times: “Suit filed over disabled U.S. citizen's deportation ordeal: The man was left in Tijuana with $3 and wandered in Mexico for months while worried family members earched for him.”
3. Time magazine: “Immigration: No Correlation With Crime”
4. New York Times: “U.S. Imprisons One in 100 Adults, Report Finds”
5. Huffington Post: “Confidential Study Suggests Tougher Words For Dems On Immigration”
6. People’s Weekly World: “Necessity and law: getting past ‘illegality’”
New York Times
February 28, 2008
Border Patrol Agent’s Trial in Killing of Illegal Immigrant Starts in Arizona
By RANDAL C. ARCHIBOLD
TUCSON — In a patch of desert just north of Mexico, what began as a relatively routine interception a year ago ended when a Border Patrol agent shot and killed an illegal immigrant at close range.
Whether the agent’s action was murder or self-defense is being resolved at a trial that began this week in the heated atmosphere over illegal immigration.
The agent, Nicholas W. Corbett, 40, was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and negligent homicide for a shooting that prosecutors say was unprovoked as the immigrant, Francisco Javiér Domínguez, 22, was surrendering.
The prosecutor, Grant Woods, a former state attorney general, said Wednesday at the trial that Agent Corbett had lied to supervisors about what occurred. Scientific evidence, Mr. Woods said, overwhelmingly supported the accounts of Mr. Domínguez’s companions, all relatives.
“We all respect the Border Patrol and law enforcement, but you don’t kill somebody who is trying to surrender,” he told the jury.
Agent Corbett’s lawyer, Sean Chapman, said the agent, who has been assigned to administrative work, opened fire after Mr. Domínguez, angry and frustrated at the prospect of being arrested, had threatened to “crush his skull” with a stone.
The accounts by his companions are unreliable, Mr. Chapman said, because they were “corrupted and influenced” by Mexican consular officials who met them afterward. The Cochise County Sheriff’s Department, he added, “did a horrible investigation.”
Tensions along the border are increasing. Human rights groups on both sides accuse the Border Patrol of overly aggressive tactics. The agency says its officers face increasing violence from smugglers frustrated at tightened enforcement.
The Border Patrol would not comment on the trial, a rare criminal prosecution of an agent for on-duty action. The only other agent in a recent murder trial was acquitted in 1994, also in Arizona.
The agency recorded 987 assaults on agents in the last year, often with stones, almost three times the 2002 number.
In the last two years, officials said, agents have killed 12 people and injured 116. A spokesman for the patrol, Ramon Rivera, said other data was not available.
The patrol has said it tries to respond with nonlethal weapons when possible, but even that has caused friction. This month, Mexico demanded that the patrol stop firing tear gas into Tijuana neighborhoods to stop the throwing of stones at agents.
The case of two other agents, Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, continues to linger. They were convicted two years ago in federal court in Texas of assault, civil rights violations and other charges in the shooting of an unarmed drug smuggler. That case has been a cause célèbre for conservative commentators. They have argued in vain for a presidential pardon for the agents.
About a dozen supporters of Agent Corbett demonstrated on Tuesday at the courthouse, carrying American flags and signs reading “Free Corbett” and “Support the Border Patrol.”
Agent Corbett nodded and shook their hands as he walked in with his lawyers and then gave a quick glance at a shrine that human rights groups had set up in Mr. Domínguez’s honor.
The rights groups say this case is part and parcel for a patrol too quick to use deadly force. “If Agent Corbett is not found guilty, it will send a message to all members of the Border Patrol that they are free to do as they wish, including murdering migrants,” said a spectator at the trial, Cecile Lumer of Citizens for Border Solutions, a group in Bisbee.
Agent Corbett and Mr. Domínguez’s family members sat on opposite sides of the courtroom. Mr. Domínguez’s mother, María, sobbed when Mr. Woods displayed a photo of her son, who worked at a factory in New York.
The shooting was 100 yards from the border. Mr. Woods said Mr. Domínguez was trying to take relatives to the New York region to work. After the Border Patrol saw them and others in their group broke off, the Domínguez group tried to return to Mexico. Agent Corbett drove up, circled them in his truck and exited holding his gun, Mr. Woods said. He ordered group members to their knees and struck Mr. Domínguez as he struggled, to make him comply. Mr. Domínguez, Mr. Woods added, was shot from less than a foot away. The bullet entered under an armpit, pierced the heart and lodged in the abdomen. Mr. Domínguez died at the scene.
Mr. Chapman did not dispute that Mr. Domínguez had been shot at close range, saying it was in self-defense because he was about to strike Agent Corbett with a stone.
“Nicholas Corbett did not want to shoot this man,” Mr. Chapman said. “But if he hadn’t done it, he might be dead today.”
Los Angeles Times
Suit filed over disabled U.S. citizen's deportation ordeal
The man was left in Tijuana with $3 and wandered in Mexico for months while worried family members searched for him.
By Paloma Esquivel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
February 28, 2008
A U.S. citizen who was wrongly deported to Tijuana last year while in the custody of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against the county and the federal government, alleging that his constitutional rights were violated.
Pedro Guzman, 30, who is developmentally disabled, was missing for nearly three months before he was found in Mexico and released to his family, his attorneys said. Guzman had been dropped off in Tijuana with $3 in his pocket and spent much of his time wandering Baja California on foot, eating from dumpsters and bathing in rivers, they said.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Guzman and his mother, Maria Carbajal, in U.S. District Court and named the Sheriff's Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement among the defendants. The family is seeking unspecified damages.
Guzman's ordeal began when he was arrested last March after he entered a private airport in Lancaster and tried to board a plane, the lawsuit states. He pleaded guilty to trespassing and was sentenced to 120 days in county jail, but that was later cut to 40 days.
On May 11, before his sentence was up, Guzman called his family from Tijuana and told them he had been deported, according to the lawsuit. Sheriff's officials had turned Guzman over to federal immigration agents.
But Guzman and immigration officials differ over what happened.
ICE officials said Guzman was deported after he told agents he was born in Nayarit, Mexico, and was in the U.S. without authorization.
"Mr. Guzman repeatedly told ICE officers and Customs and Border Patrol officials and others that he was born in Mexico and signed a document agreeing to voluntarily return," said Lori Haley, ICE spokeswoman.
Guzman's lawyers dismissed ICE's claims as "unmitigated lies" during a news conference Wednesday attended by Carbajal and other family members.
"He never said that he was born in Mexico," said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU, which with a private law firm is representing the plaintiffs.
Rosenbaum also pointed out that several sheriff's documents, including the incident report filed after the arrest, showed that Guzman was a U.S. citizen. Sheriff's officials also knew that Guzman complained of hearing voices while in custody and was prescribed anti-psychotic medication, according to his lawsuit.
Rosenbaum also criticized Sandra Figueras, the sheriff's custody agent who interviewed him about his citizenship status, as "inadequately trained."
"Our government treated the color of Mr. Guzman's skin as conclusive, irrefutable evidence that Peter was not and could not be a U.S. citizen," Rosenbaum said.
Sheriff's officials declined to comment Wednesday.
Guzman's mother and two brothers, Michael Guzman and Juan Carlos Chabes, said they wanted the government to acknowledge its wrongdoing.
"I want them to see that what they did was not right," said Carbajal, who tearily described spending several days wandering through Tijuana looking for her son, leaving fliers with his photo at the morgue, hospitals, churches and shelters.
When her money ran out after three days, she slept in the closet-sized backroom of a banana warehouse, where she was allowed to stay in exchange for cooking for the warehouse workers, according to the suit.
Since returning from Mexico, Guzman, who did not attend the news conference, has been terrified of strangers and has been unable to return to work, Carbajal said.
"He had some of these problems before, but now he's worse," Carbajal said. "I have to accompany him when we go out. He doesn't talk. His mind wanders."
ICE officials called Guzman's deportation an isolated incident. "This is a one-of-a-kind case," ICE's Haley said.
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008
Immigration: No Correlation With Crime
By Kathleen Kingsbury
Correction Appended: February 29, 2008
Despite our melting-pot roots, Americans have often been quick to blame the influx of immigrants for rising crime rates. But new research released Monday shows that immigrants in California are, in fact, far less likely than U.S.-born Californians are to commit crime. While people born abroad make up about 35% of California's adult population, they account for only about 17% of the adult prison population, the report by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) showed. Indeed, among men ages 18 to 40 — the demographic most likely to be imprisoned — those born in the U.S. were 10 times more likely than foreign-born men to be incarcerated.
"From a public safety standpoint, there would be little reason to limit immigration," says Kristin Butcher, an economics professor at Wellesley College and one of the report's authors.
The new report even bolsters claims by some academics that increased immigration makes the United States safer. A second study, released earlier this month by Washington-based nonprofit Immigration Policy Center, found that on the national level, U.S.-born men ages 18-39 are five times more likely to be incarcerated than are their foreign-born peers. And, while the number of illegal immigrants in the country doubled between 1994 and 2005, violent crime declined by nearly 35% and property crimes by 26% over the same period. The PPIC even determined that on average, between 2000 and 2005, cities such as Los Angeles that took in a higher share of recent immigrants saw their crime rates fall further than cities with a lower influx of illegals.
Driving these statistics, researchers believe, are the same factors that drive immigration in the first place. "People who make the decision to come here from another country want to get ahead, establish a better life," says Harvard sociology professor Robert Sampson. "That dream is not something they're likely to risk by getting arrested."
Sampson and colleagues recently examined more than 3,000 violent acts committed in Chicago from 1995 to 2003, analyzing police records, census data and a survey of more than 8,000 residents. They discovered what Sampson calls the "Latino Paradox" — first-generation Mexican immigrants were 45% less likely to engage in violence than third-generation Americans. This pattern continued into the second generation, which was 22% less likely to be violent. Similar trends have been seen in New York and Miami, both of which have large immigrant enclaves. "Immigrant communities are often responsible for revitalizing the urban neighborhoods that they live in," Sampson says. The irony of people's popular misconceptions, he adds, is "that the longer one is exposed to American culture, the more likely you are to participate in violence."
Critics note that studies such as those mentioned above rarely distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants. Reliable data that separates the two groups is hard to find, but Indiana University economist Eric Rasmusen has culled figures from a 2005 GAO report on foreigners incarcerated in Federal and state prisons to calculate that illegal immigrants commit 21% of all crime in the United States, costing the country more than $84 billion. Rasmusen contends the distinction is important because immigrants with a green card or U.S. citizenship have already jumped through several legal hoops to live and work in the U.S., including a background check into any prior criminal record back home. "Legal immigrants are by definition unusually law-abiding," Rasmusen wrote last June. But Professor Daniel Mears, a Florida State University criminologist, argues that such reasoning can also be turned on its head. "If someone is here illegally," Mears asks, "why would they call attention to themselves by committing a crime?"
Steven Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors tighter immigration controls, warns that even if immigrants are less likely to commit crimes, their children and grandchildren may be more likely to end up on the wrong side of the law. He points out that U.S. Department of Justice statistics show that Hispanics make up 20% of state and Federal prison populations in 2005, a rise of 43% since 1990. At that rate, one in every six Hispanic males born in the U.S. today can expect to be imprisoned during his lifetime — more than double the rate for non-Hispanic whites, but lower than that of African-Americans of the same age. "That means the children and grandchildren of immigrants are committing a lot of crime, making this a long-term problem," Camarota says, before adding, "That's much worse news."
Whatever the findings of the latest PPIC research, it will do little to cool the passions on either side of the issue. When debating immigration, says Mears, "it doesn't matter what the empirical evidence shows; people react with their gut feelings first."
The original version of this article stated that Daniel Mears is a professor of criminology at the University of Florida. In fact, Daniel Mears is a professor of criminology at Florida State University.
New York Times
February 29, 2008
U.S. Imprisons One in 100 Adults, Report Finds
By ADAM LIPTAK
For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults are behind bars, according to a new report.
Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million, after three decades of growth that has seen the prison population nearly triple. Another 723,000 people are in local jails.
The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.
Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 adult Hispanic men is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 adult black men is, too, as is one in nine black men ages 20 to 34.
The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that one in 355 white women ages 35 to 39 is behind bars, compared with one in 100 black women.
The report’s methodology differed from that used by the Justice Department, which calculates the incarceration rate by using the total population rather than the adult population as the denominator. Using the department’s methodology, about one in 130 Americans is behind bars.
The increase in the number of prisoners over the last 18 months, the Pew report says, pushed the national adult incarceration rate to just over one in 100.
“We aren’t really getting the return in public safety from this level of incarceration,” said Susan Urahn, the center’s managing director.
But Paul Cassell, a law professor at the University of Utah and a former federal judge, said the Pew report considered only half of the cost-benefit equation and overlooked the “very tangible benefits: lower crime rates.”
In the past 20 years, according the Federal Bureau of Investigation, rates of violent crimes fell by 25 percent, to 464 per 100,000 people in 2007 from 612.5 in 1987.
“While we certainly want to be smart about who we put into prisons,” Professor Cassell said, “it would be a mistake to think that we can release any significant number of prisoners without increasing crime rates. One out of every 100 adults is behind bars because one out of every 100 adults has committed a serious criminal offense.”
The United States imprisons more people than any other nation in the world. China is second, with 1.5 million people behind bars. The gap is even wider in percentage terms.
Germany imprisons 93 out of every 100,000 people, according to the International Center for Prison Studies at King’s College in London. The comparable number for the United States is roughly eight times that, or 750 out of 100,000.
Ms. Urahn said the nation could not afford the incarceration rate documented in the report.
“We tend to be a country in which incarceration is an easy response to crime,” she said. “Being tough on crime is an easy position to take, particularly if you have the money. And we did have the money in the ’80s and ’90s.”
Now, with fewer resources available, the report said, “prison costs are blowing a hole in state budgets.”
On average, states spend almost 7 percent of their budgets on corrections, trailing only health care, education and transportation.
In 2007, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers, states spent $44 billion in tax dollars on corrections. That is up from $10.6 billion in 1987, a 127 percent increase when adjusted for inflation. With money from bonds and the federal government included, total state spending on corrections last year was $49 billion. By 2011, the Pew report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.
It cost an average of $23,876 dollars to imprison someone in 2005, the most recent year for which data were available. But state spending varies widely, from $45,000 a year in Rhode Island to $13,000 in Louisiana.
“Getting tough on crime has gotten tough on taxpayers,” said Adam Gelb, the director of the public safety performance project at the Pew center. “They don’t want to spend $23,000 on a prison cell for a minor violation any more than they want a bridge to nowhere.”
The cost of medical care is growing by 10 percent annually, the report said, and will accelerate as the prison population ages.
About one in nine state government employees works in corrections, and some states are finding it hard to fill those jobs. California spent more than $500 million on overtime alone in 2006.
The number of prisoners in California dropped by 4,000 last year, making Texas’ prison system the nation’s largest, at about 172,000. But the Texas Legislature last year approved broad changes to the state’s corrections system, including expansions of drug treatment programs and drug courts and revisions to parole practices.
“Our violent offenders, we lock them up for a very long time — rapists, murderers, child molesters,” said State Senator John Whitmire, Democrat of Houston and the chairman of the Senate’s Criminal Justice Committee. “The problem was that we weren’t smart about nonviolent offenders. The Legislature finally caught up with the public.”
Mr. Whitmire gave an example.
“We have 5,500 D.W.I offenders in prison,” he said, including people caught driving under the influence who had not been in an accident. “They’re in the general population. As serious as drinking and driving is, we should segregate them and give them treatment.”
The Pew report recommended diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and using punishments short of reincarceration for minor or technical violations of probation or parole. It also urged states to consider earlier release of some prisoners.
Before the recent changes in Texas, Mr. Whitmire said, “we were recycling nonviolent offenders.”
Confidential Study Suggests Tougher Words For Dems On Immigration
The Huffington Post
February 29, 2008 10:10 AM
Democrats may soon be taking a tougher public position on immigration, according to a confidential study put together by key think tanks close to the party leadership.
The study urges Democrats to adopt more rigid rhetoric when discussing immigration by encouraging office-holders to emphasize "requiring immigrants to become legal" rather than stressing border enforcement and the opening of a path to legalization for the undocumented already here.
Implicit in the report is the notion that Democrats can win wider public support for immigration reform by framing the issue in harsher-sound verbiage and, perhaps, policy.
This message places the focus where voters want it, on what's best for the United States, not what we can/should do for illegal immigrants.
Titled "Winning The Immigration Debate," the study was put together by the Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the Center for American Progress. Its findings, which have been sent to Capitol Hill and have been part of briefing sessions in both the House and the Senate, are based off of polling conducted by Peter Hart Research Associates.
Taken as a whole, the report presents a new prism through which the Democrats should approach the immigration debate. "It is unacceptable to have 12 million people in our country who are outside the system," it reads. "We must require illegal immigrants to become legal, and reform the laws so this can happen."
Polling for the study revealed that a larger swath of the public was supportive of "requiring" undocumented immigrants already in the country to normalize their status than there was for only offering them legalization as an option. In addition, the report pushes Democrats to argue that immigrants should be required to pay taxes, learn English, and pass criminal background checks to remain in the country. Those who have a criminal record should be deported. All of these policies were included in last year's immigration reform compromise legislation, which ultimately failed.
"Our view is that this argument threads the needle in favor of comprehensive reform in the most effective way," Jen Palmieri, communications chief for the Center for American Progress, told the Huffington Post.
Added Cecilia Muñoz, senior vice president of policy at the National Council of La Raza and chair of the board at CCIR: "We are not asking people to be for legalization out of altruism. It is perfectly okay for them to be for legalization because that is what fixes the problem... Rather than educate [the public], you can convince them to do the right thing if you call it a requirement as opposed to an effort."
And yet, for some, the new frame represents exactly the wrong direction that the Democrats should be taking, reinforcing the notion that immigrants were problematic and "the offenders."
"There has been no consensus around the Democratic rhetoric in regard to immigration," said one party official who had knowledge of the report. "But it has usually been framed around opportunity, and it was less framed around this punishment rhetoric. We are going to require these people to become legal or we are going to deport [them]? It doesn't challenge the immigrant scapegoating direction of the conversation. It plays right into it."
In support of their new message, the study notes that 88 percent of all voters as well as 84 percent of Hispanic voters had a favorable response to "requiring illegal immigrants to become legal, obey U.S. laws, pay taxes or face deportation." Those numbers changed to 66 percent and 87 percent, respectively, when it was merely "allowing" illegal immigrants to receive earned legal status.
"My sense is that the public is in a fairly tough mood about immigration though not as tough as Lou Dobbs is every night," said Guy Molyneux, who conducted research for the report.
On the campaign trail neither Democratic candidate has deployed the argument that immigrants should be "required" to obtain legal status. Both, in fact, have discussed immigration policy in a frame that the CCIR/CAP report discourages.
Sen. Hillary Clinton, her website reads, "believes comprehensive reform must have as essential ingredients a strengthening of our borders, greater cross-cooperation with our neighbors, strict but fair enforcement of our laws, federal assistance to our state and local governments, strict penalties for those who exploit undocumented workers, and a path to earned legal status for those who are here, working hard, paying taxes, respecting the law, and willing to meet a high bar."
And in the Democratic debate at Saint Anselm College on June 3, 2007, Sen. Barack Obama argued, "We want to have a situation in which those who are already here, are playing by the rules, are willing to pay a fine and go through a rigorous process should have a pathway to legalization. Most Americans will support that if they have some sense that the border is also being secured."
People’s Weekly World
Necessity and law: getting past ‘illegality’
People's Weekly World Newspaper, 02/21/08 16:17
The anti-immigrant movement sets great store by “legality.” One of their favorite taunts is “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?”
But we know that it is very easy for any government to create “illegals.” All it has to do is pass some new law forbidding people from doing something they have been doing out of necessity, maybe for centuries.
In medieval England, it was illegal for hungry peasants to hunt the king’s deer. Add this little law and you have the right to hang half the peasantry.
In Spain in the 1500s, it was illegal to be a Jew or a Muslim.
In the USA in the 19th century, it was illegal to teach slaves’ children to read. Until Rosa Parks made her stand, in many parts of the United States, it was illegal for Black people to sit in the front of the bus, or to use the “whites only” washroom.
In South Africa, until the fall of apartheid, it was illegal for African people to move about without a special government pass, to live in “whites only” neighborhoods, or to swim in the vast Indian Ocean at Durban except at special “Natives only” beaches. It had been illegal for them to drink wine or brandy also, until international boycotts began to harm the South African wine and brandy industry, at which point it conveniently became legal again.
All of the above “illegalities” (except the one about the royal deer) have been swept away by history, and not only has the sky not fallen, the world is far better for their disappearance. But at the time, many people might have yelled at people who violated these laws (Frederick Douglass surreptitiously teaching himself to read, for example): “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?”
So let’s not stand in awe of some little law that some mediocre politicians, out of opportunism, malice, lack of imagination or sheer boredom, choose to pass. Laws, and thus the distinction between “legal” and “illegal,” are political products. Laws passed by the U.S. Congress reflect the political struggles of the moment, and often have as much, or more, to do with posturing for various audiences as with protecting the public interest. Most often, they are passed to protect the interests of those with the most money and power. Such laws sail through the legislative process effortlessly. Laws are passed to protect the rest of us only when we organize and demand them, and then they are usually weak and inadequate (like our labor laws).
Necessity drives poor farmers and workers from Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean to cross our borders or land on our shores. They may bring their families with them, or come alone with the plan of earning money and sending it back home. They cannot get permanent resident visas because the laws of this country do not allow poor farmers and workers without higher education and without prosperous U.S. citizen relatives to get such visas. But, as a wise Englishman once said, “Necessity knows no law.”
The necessity that makes these poor farmers and workers do this is also the product of laws passed by political mediocrities at home and abroad. These laws have set up international trade rules to favor the rich and powerful.
If you are a peasant, you still can’t poach the royal deer, but if you are a billion-dollar U.S.-based agribusiness, you can dump your corn across the Mexican border well below the price it cost to produce it, and then make the U.S. taxpayers subsidize you not only to make up the difference but also to give you a handsome profit. This outrageous state of affairs ruins the Mexican farmer and robs the U.S. taxpayer, but there is nothing “illegal” about it.
So when a Mexican or Salvadoran or Guatemalan peasant chooses to flout our immigration laws — unilaterally imposed laws of a foreign power which has never given that peasant’s own country room to breathe — by crossing our border without a visa, let’s not be intimidated by those who shout, “What part of ‘illegal’ don’t you understand?” Instead let’s yell back, “What is it about basic fairness you don’t understand?”
Emile Schepers is an immigrant rights activist.
<><><> the end / el fin / tamat <><><>
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Red Nacional Pro Derechos Inmigrantes y Refugiados
310 8th Street Suite 303
Oakland, CA 94607
Tel (510) 465-1984 ext. 305
Fax (510) 465-1885