Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Wednesday, November 25, 2008

Immigrant Rights News – Wednesday, November 26, 2008


1. The Nation: Change Immigrants and Labor Can Believe In

2. State-Journal: Woman who died in jail held there too long

3. New York Times editorial: A Catastrophic Silence

4. Wall Street Journal: Larger Inmate Population Is Boon to Private Prisons

5. San Francisco Chronicle: End counterproductive racial profiling



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The Nation


Change Immigrants and Labor Can Believe In


By David Bacon

The Nation, web edition, November 26, 2008


Since 2001 the Bush administration has deported more than a million people--including 349,041 individuals in the fiscal year ending just prior to the election. It has resurrected the discredited community sweeps and factory raids of earlier eras, and started sending waves of migrants to privately run jails for crimes like inventing a Social Security number to get a job. Every day in Tucson 70 young people, including many teenagers, are brought before a federal judge in heavy chains and sentenced to prison because they walked across the border.


It's no wonder that Latinos, Asians and other communities with large immigrant populations voted for Barack Obama by huge margins. People want and expect a change. Ending the administration's failed program of raids, jail time and deportations is at the top of the list.


National demonstrations have called for a moratorium on raids since the summer, and one big reason why Los Angeles turned out so heavily for Obama was the anti-raid encampment and hunger strike in the Placita Olvera, which electrified the city.


But the raids program has been rejected by more than immigrants alone. The election took place as millions of people were losing their jobs and homes. Yet while Lou Dobbs and the talk show hysteria-mongers tried to scapegoat immigrants for this crisis ("What about illegal don't you understand?"), most voters did not drink the Kool-Aid. In fact, every poll shows that a big majority reject raids and want basic rights and fair treatment for everyone, immigrants included. The political coalition that put Obama into office--African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, women and union families, expects change.


The country needs not just an end to raids but a move away from the policies they've been intended to promote. From the beginning, the administration's enforcement program has been cynically designed to pressure Congress into re-establishing discredited guest worker schemes called "close to slavery" by the Southern Poverty Law Center, being reminiscent of the old bracero program. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff called these raids "closing the back door and opening the front door."


At least Chertoff was honest about his intentions. His underlings at Homeland Security, like Julie Myers, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), tried to pretend that the imprisonment and deportation of abused workers was a form of labor standards enforcement. Meanwhile, actual protection for US wages, working conditions and union rights has been in free fall for eight years.


Other Homeland Security officials mendaciously claimed immigrants were a threat to national security, as though imprisoning hungry teenagers or terrorized workers would help a fearful public to sleep at night.


No one whose eyes are open to the terrible human suffering caused by these draconian policies will be very sorry to see Chertoff go. But what policies will take their place, and who will enforce them? So far, the choice of Janet Napolitano is not encouraging. The Tucson "Operation Streamline" court convenes in her home state every day, and the situation of immigrants in Arizona is worse than almost anywhere else. Napolitano herself has publicly supported most of the worst ideas of the Bush administration, including guest worker programs with no amnesty for the currently undocumented, and brutal enforcement schemes like E-Verify and workplace raids.


But Obama does not have to be imprisoned by the failure of Napolitano to imagine a more progressive alternative. In fact, his new administration's need to respond to the economic crisis, and to strengthen the political coalition that won the election, can open new possibilities for a just and fair immigration policy.


Economic crisis does not have to pit working people against each other, or lead to the further demonization of immigrants. In fact, there is common ground between immigrants, communities of color, unions, churches, civil rights organizations, and working families.


Legalization and immigrant rights can be tied to guaranteeing jobs for anyone who wants to work, and unions to raise wages and win better conditions for everyone in the workplace.


These are not revolutionary demands. In fact, they're what the Democratic Party used to stand for. Nor is the idea of combining them into a common program just pie-in-the-sky. For two sessions of Congress, the Black Caucus and leaders like Sheila Jackson Lee and Barbara Lee have proposed legislation to create jobs, at the same time offering rights and legal status to immigrants without papers.


The AFL-CIO's campaign for the Employee Free Choice Act supports the surest means of ending the low-wage, second-class status of immigrant workers-- organizing unions. And repealing unfair trade agreements and ending structural adjustment policies would raise the standard of living and reduce the pressure for migration in Oaxaca or El Salvador, while making jobs more secure in working-class communities in the US.


Justice for immigrants does not have to be the third rail of US politics, as Rahm Emmanuel has called it. Instead, immigrant rights is the demand of one part of a broad coalition that seeks fundamental social change. Immigrants can't achieve justice on their own, but then no element of this coalition can win its demands in isolation.


Only a common-ground strategy can actually achieve the changes people hoped for when they went to the polls. Stopping the raids is the first step in a process that will help to end the nightmare of the past few years, and at the same time can help the administration begin to address the larger issues of immigration reform, jobs and workplace rights.


Something is clearly wrong with immigration enforcement. Desperate workers get fired and deported, families get terrorized and divided, while the government protects employers and seeks to turn a family-based immigration system into a managed labor supply for business. Even before presenting a reform plan to Congress, the Obama administration has the power to change some of the worst elements of the Bush program by administrative and executive action. What Bush put in place by fiat can be changed by the same process. In its first 100 days, a new administration could take simple steps to protect human and workplace rights, instead of allowing the abuse to continue:


* Stop ICE from seeking serious federal criminal charges, with incarceration in privately run prisons, when a worker lacks papers or has a bad Social Security numbers.


* Stop raiding workplaces, especially where workers are trying to organize unions or enforce wage and hour laws. This would help all workers, not just immigrants.


* Halt community sweeps, checkpoints and roadblocks, where agents use warrants for one or two people to detain and deport dozens of others. End the government's campaign to repeal local sanctuary ordinances and drag local law enforcement into immigration raids.


* Double the paltry 742 federal inspectors responsible for all US wage and hour violations and focus on industries where immigrants are concentrated. The National Labor Relations Board could target employers who use immigration threats to violate union rights.


* Allow all workers to apply for a Social Security number and pay legally into a system that benefits everyone. Social Security numbers should be used for their true purpose--paying retirement and disability benefits--not to fire immigrants from their jobs and send them to prison.


* Re-establish worker protections, ended under Bush, connected with existing guest worker programs; force employers to hire domestically first and decertify any contractor guilty of labor violations.


* Restore human rights in border communities, stop construction of the border wall between the US and Mexico, and disband the Operation Streamline federal court, where scores of young border crossers are sent to prison in chains every day.


Democrats still have to decide what reforms to bring before Congress, and when. Some would delay action for a year or more. But the US Chamber of Commerce and dozens of trade groups have been pushing for years for big guestworker programs. They are more than willing to accept raids and enforcement as a price, and are already working to bring back the "comprehensive" bills that would give them what they want. Instead of arguing over "what's politically possible" in Congress, immigrant and labor rights activists need a movement for a progressive alternative.


That alternative has to strengthen human rights on both sides of the global divide. In countries like Mexico and the Philippines, the families of migrants are fighting for real development instead of poverty, forced migration and a remittance-based economy. Here in the US movements in immigrant communities have brought millions of people into the streets on May Day, and continue to fight the raids and deportations. We need proposals that address both the situation of immigrants here and the conditions in their countries that force them to migrate.


To move towards equality and rights in the US:


* A law to give permanent residence (green-card) visas to the undocumented, and clear up the backlog of people already waiting for them abroad. If visas were more easily available, people wouldn't have to cross the border without them. Employer sanctions that make it a crime for immigrants to hold a job should be repealed.

Guestworker programs with a record of abuse should be ended, as they were in 1964.


To end the displacement at the root of most forced migration:


* A new approach to trade policy, including renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and rejection of potential new trade agreements with countries like Colombia.

Protecting corporate access to markets and low wages leads to rising poverty and the displacement of communities. We need to concentrate on the welfare of people at the bottom rather than the top, help grassroots communities of farmers stay on their land, and boost wages and employment for urban workers. Instead of subsidizing war and displacement, US tax dollars could expand rural credit, education and health care abroad, easing the pressure behind migration.


A new administration that has raised such high expectations should look for new ideas in the areas of immigration reform and trade policy, not recycle the bad ones of the last few years. The constituency that won the election will support a change in direction, and in fact is demanding it. The Obama administration owes its victory to that constituency, and its promises of change that brought it to the polls. Now it needs to deliver.



David Bacon, Photographs and Stories



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Woman who died in jail held there too long



November 21, 2008

Why was the woman found hanging in an isolated jail cell on Aug. 21 being held in custody 11 days longer at Franklin County Regional Jail than federal regulations allowed?

That's the key question behind the suicide of Ana Romero 44, who was in the local jail awaiting deportation back to El Salvador, her home.

Franklin County Jailer Billy Roberts said Thursday he didn't know why Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents hadn't come to get Romero.

"I just know I couldn't and wouldn't release someone in federal custody without authority from a federal judge," Roberts said. "I'd be in trouble myself."

He said the Romero case "is a tragedy, a no-win situation. I feel we did everything we possibly could for her " and then some. Our thoughts and prayers go out to her family."

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement official told the Lexington Herald-Leader that Romero was not in its custody when she died and therefore he cannot comment on the matter.

To bring attention to Romero's case, more than 100 friends and family are expected to attend a candlelight vigil from 7 to 10 p.m. today at the jail to mark the three-month anniversary of her death.

Roberts said he gave permission for the vigil "to give them time for mourning."

The state medical examiner's final autopsy report last month confirmed a preliminary finding that Romero committed suicide.

She died of asphyxiation within minutes after hanging herself by a bed sheet, the autopsy report said.

Freddy Peralta, a member of the Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, has said the Romero family is considering filing a lawsuit because she should have been released on Aug. 18.

Federal regulations as well as detainer forms from Immigration and Customs, known as ICE, say a person scheduled for deportation or being investigated for removal from the United States can be held by local jails only for 48 hours excluding weekends and holidays.

Detainers are used by ICE to hold people in jail for a few days so ICE agents can take them into custody. When agents didn't come to get Romero, she should have been released from custody, at the latest, four days later because of a weekend, according to the regulations.

Romero was held 11 more days.

David Leopold, an immigration law expert from Cleveland, Ohio, told The State Journal Thursday that if ICE had put a detainer on Romero she should have been released within 48 hours.

Leopold, vice president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said he "wasn't passing judgment on the local jailer" with that comment.

The question, he said, is under what authority was she being held?

When asked if it's unusual for people waiting for deportation such as Romero to be held longer than 48 hours before ICE agents come to take them into custody, Leopold said, "I am sure it happens all the time because local law enforcement doesn't necessarily understand the limits of an ICE detainer.

"However, most prisoners don't die so the issue is not raised."

Romero came to Kentucky three years ago and worked in Shelbyville cleaning houses to support her elderly mother and two sons in San Salvador.

Her mother and sons came to Kentucky several weeks ago and will stay a few more weeks, said Peralta. Peralta said he hopes Romero will be laid to rest in Kentucky soon.

Her funeral is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 3 in Shelbyville.

In October 2005, immigration officials ordered Romero to leave the country within 90 days, according to court records. But she did not leave.

She was arrested Jan. 14 by state police after giving federal immigration officials a false identification card. She was charged with criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Her brother-in-law, Mario Aguilar of Shelbyville, said officers were looking for another suspect when they knocked on Romero's door.

She was held in the Shelby County Jail for four months before being transferred to the Franklin County jail.

Federal prosecutors offered to sentence her to time already served for a guilty plea on possession of a false ID card. They also offered to drop the charge of remaining in the U.S. unlawfully in exchange for deportation.

Romero agreed.

On Aug. 7, she pleaded guilty and was sentenced. She seemed content with the decision and happy to go home and see family, her court-appointed attorney said.

While her case was still in federal court, she was held in the Franklin County jail, but she was technically in federal custody and the responsibility of the U.S. Marshals, officials said.

When she was sentenced on Aug. 7, the marshals e-mailed ICE agents notifying them it was time to pick up Romero, according to Tom Clay, the supervisory deputy for the U.S. Marshals in the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Franklin County Coroner Will Harrod has said he received this week a voluminous investigative report that Kentucky State Police compiled on Romero's death.

He is also reviewing records from the jail and Frankfort Fire and EMS, which transported Romero from the jail to Frankfort Regional Medical Center on Aug. 21.

Harrod has said he wants to look at all the reports and meet with Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland before signing the death certificate.

Cleveland said Thursday he has met with Romero's family and now has the state police investigative report. But he has been in a murder trial this week and hasn't had time to review the Romero case.

Cleveland said he would review it in the next few days to see if any crime was committed.

Romero was placed in isolation shortly before she died because jail officials said she refused to eat. She
lost about 30 pounds while incarcerated at the Franklin County Jail and suffered from high blood pressure, family members said.

Supporters of Romero's family have created a Web site and circulated a petition seeking answers to why and how she died. More than 1,600 have signed the petition, located online at


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In These Times


Features » November 12, 2008


The Selma of Immigration Rights

In Arizona, immigrants protest Sheriff Joe's nativist agenda


By Andrew Stelzer

The battle began in front of a furniture store.

Like hundreds of other street corners, the intersection at 36th Street and Thomas Road in Phoenix was where immigrant workers arrived before dawn, hoping that someone would pick them up for a day's work in construction. But last October, the parking lot of Pruitt's furniture became more than a pick-up spot. First, the store's owner hired off-duty sheriff's deputies to act as security guards, claiming that the laborers were causing a disturbance.

Later that month, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America," decided to act on a handful of complaints he had received. He made Pruitt's parking lot the centerpiece of a neighborhood sweep. Arpaio's deputies began arresting undocumented immigrants in the neighborhood and turning them over to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation proceedings.

In response, civil and immigrants' rights activists began gathering every Saturday outside the store, protesting what they believe were racially and ethnically motivated crackdowns. Soon, nativist groups from across the southwestern United States — with names like the Patriots Border Alliance and Mothers Against Illegal Aliens — arrived to counter-demonstrate. Waving American flags, the anti-immigrant crowd stood across the street, holding signs that declared support for the mass arrests, the closing of the Mexican border and the immediate deportation of all "illegal aliens."

The circus-like scene made for good TV, and Arpaio, a media hound by most accounts, seemed egged on by the protests. In a Dec. 5 sheriff's office press release, Arpaio said, "I will not give up. All the activists must stop their protest before I stop enforcing the law in that area."

Finally, in January, after more than 67 undocumented immigrants had been arrested, the owner of Pruitt's agreed to stop hiring off-duty officers.

Arpaio, however, wasn't done.

Modern-day Selma

The next few months saw several more sweeps — what Arpaio calls "crime suppressions" — in different parts of Maricopa County, netting about 240 arrests, according to a sheriff's department spokesperson. However, in a pattern of obfuscation that characterizes the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO), the department claims it wasn't keeping arrest logs for the first four sweeps, so it isn't sure how many of those arrested were in the country illegally.

On June 27, during a typical sweep in the town of Mesa — also in Maricopa County — only 28 of 72 people arrested were undocumented immigrants, according to the sheriff's office.

An April raid in the dusty town of Guadalupe has become one of the most controversial. The town of 5,732 people, mostly Latinos and Native Americans, has no police force, so it contracts out its policing needs to the MCSO.

The two-day sweep netted 47 arrests, including nine undocumented people. And like the other pre-announced operations, the action brought hundreds of protesters into the streets.

The increased police presence has also scared residents from leaving their homes. Santino Bernasconi, a pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, says that some women were afraid to bring their children to confirmation ceremonies. His parish's mental health agency, Centro de Amistad, has seen a rise in anxiety disorders in children — fearful for themselves or, if they were born in the United States, fear they will lose their parents.

"I don't compare it in terms of what the Jews went through in Nazi Germany," says Bernasconi. "But a lot of our people are beginning to feel that syndrome like Anne Frank, of 'Who knows when the next knock on the door is the sheriff to cart off everybody?' "

Meanwhile, he adds, real crime in Guadalupe has gone unaddressed.

"[Arpaio's] got time to be stopping people because you got a broken headlight," Bernasconi says, "but he doesn't have time to provide the services that are much more serious. … And when we call them they don't show up."

During the sweeps, Guadalupe Mayor Rebecca Jimenez told Arpaio that she believed the arrests were instances of racial profiling and that she would begin looking into getting out of the contract with the MCSO and find another source for the town's law enforcement needs.

At first, Arpaio refused to back down, announcing in an April 4 press release that, "Even if they do [cancel the contract], the Sheriff still has jurisdiction here and I will still enforce the illegal immigration laws in that town."

However, in September, he decided to cancel the contract with Guadalupe himself. The sudden move resulted in lawsuits that accuse him of retaliating against Jimenez's free speech.

This stark divide now defines Maricopa County, which local activist Rick Romero calls the "Selma, Ala., of the immigrant rights movement."

Anti-immigrant cowboy

"Sheriff Joe" first gained fame after he created a tent-city prison in 1993 to prove that he could always find room for criminals, rather than release them early because of a lack of space.

In 110-degree heat, prisoners wear county-issued pink underwear, are allowed only a handful of educational TV channels, and are denied access to coffee, cigarettes, salt and pepper, and other vices that cost taxpayer money.

In 1995, Arpaio started a male chain gang, and an all-female chain gang soon followed. Sheriff Joe's prison philosophy — "If you don't like it, don't come back" — made him a hero with the tough-on-crime crowd.

When Arpaio decided to make immigrants his new target in 2005, he adopted some of the more extreme views of the anti-immigrant movement. Press releases from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office refer to people smuggled into the country as "co-conspirators." It's a charge the office has levied on undocumented immigrants since 2005, when Arizona's human smuggling law, the toughest in the country, went into effect.

The MCSO has arrested more than 1,000 people under the law, which allows for Class 4 (two and a half years in prison for the first offense) felony charges to be filed against both the coyote — who smuggles people in — and those who are being transported.

In 2006, Arpaio had 160 of his deputies trained by ICE. The training, conducted under a federal agreement called 287-G, allowed deputies to arrest anyone they think is illegal and then refer them to ICE. If the deputy who pulls over a suspect isn't trained under 287-G, he or she can call for backup, so that a qualified officer comes to the scene.

Maricopa County isn't the only local U.S. agency training under 287-G — there are 63 active agreements with state and local agencies nationwide — but it's certainly the one most aggressively using it. Out of the 840 officers nationwide who have undergone 287-G training, nearly 20 percent are from Maricopa County.

Chief among Arpaio's enemies is Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, who wrote the FBI and Justice Department in April, asking them to investigate the sheriff for racial profiling and other civil rights abuses. (Arpaio told In These Times that the letter was "garbage.")

In response, anti-immigrant forces launched an effort in May to recall Gordon, but they failed to collect enough signatures to make the November ballot.

Gordon says Arpaio's consistent re-election over the past 16 years and high approval ratings are irrelevant.

"Whether the majority of the people support that individual is not the question with respect to whether the actions are legal," Gordon says. "The sheriff shouldn't be measuring what he's doing on the basis of polls."

Gordon says that a third of his community is Latino, and "if [the people are so] terrorized, legal or not legal, that they are afraid to come out and testify because the sheriff is going to arrest them, it is counterproductive to the safety of this community."

Magdalena Schwartz, assistant pastor at Iglesia Communidad de Vida church in Mesa, recounts stories about her parishners, many of whom are undocumented. There's the mother of six honor-roll students who was held in detention for three days, unable to call and tell her family where she was. There's the 17-year-old son of a permanent U.S. resident, ready to graduate high school, who was sent back to Guatemala, where he hadn't been since he was 3.

Worst of all was the girl who called the police to report that her boyfriend was abusing her. The police arrested her undocumented boyfriend — and also the girl.

"They asked [her] for ID, and she showed a Mexican ID, and they immediately said 'You are illegal here. OK, let's go,' " Schwartz recalls. "So what kind of confidence [can] we have now to call the police or the sheriff to report a crime?"

Operation Endgame

Compounding the sheriff's sweeps is that the MCSO hasn't collected any data about the detained. Sheriff's office spokesman Paul Chagalla told In These Times that the department doesn't keep data on the ethnicity of arrestees.

It wasn't until the fifth "crime suppression operation" that the MCSO began compiling arrest logs from each operation — a move that came only after repeated demands for information by the press and the public. That lack of hard numbers presents obstacles for legal tactics like a class-action lawsuit filed in July by the ACLU, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and others that charges the MCSO with racial profiling.

"We have to be really smart about collecting the data that we need in order to put a stop to this," says Lydia Guzman, who founded Respect/Respeto — an organization with a 24-hour hotline for immigrants. Since its founding in January, Guzman's group has been receiving up to 50 calls per day.

Rick Romero, the chief organizer of the Citizens Walk for Human Dignity, a weeklong protest march from Tucson to Phoenix, says he has been asked for proof of citizenship several times — including once at a hospital, as a condition of admission for treatment. He says his wife has also been stopped and questioned.

"I learned because I've been pulled over so many times for various reasons that the only thing that really settles the argument is if you have a Social Security card," says Romero, who was born and raised in Arizona.

Many who joined Romero on the 120-mile journey focused their daily press conference comments on Operation Endgame, a 2003 ICE directive to "remove all removable aliens" from the United States by 2012. Some fear the major ICE raids this past summer in Iowa and Mississippi — and an increasing number of smaller raids throughout the country — could be a step toward Endgame's unattainable goal.

One of Endgame's written objectives, according to documents obtained by the Massachusetts ACLU, is to "enhance partnerships with local law enforcement agencies to develop, implement, and maintain an integrated system to share information, intelligence and resources, and to coordinate enforcement actions."

Cooperation between the MCSO and ICE certainly meets this objective, and many Arizonans believe their home state is a test case for whether the removal strategy can work on a national level.

Anti-immigrant laws

Anti-immigrant fervor in Arizona began in earnest in the wake of 9/11, and increased over the next few years. In 2004, Arizona voters approved Proposition 200, a citizen's initiative that mandated people to show proof of citizenship at the polls on Election Day.

"That opened the floodgates to more anti-immigrant rhetoric by legislators, because they saw the overwhelming support that it had by voters," says Guzman. "So by the 2006 election, all of the candidates [who] were running … had something to say about immigration because it was a popular thing."

That same election also saw a flurry of ballot initiatives targeting the Spanish-speaking population:

• An amendment to the state constitution making English the official state language. (In 2000, voters had already made English the only language that could be taught in Arizona public schools.)

• A law that denied awarding punitive damages in civil court cases to persons who are in the United States illegally.

• Another law that denied bail to undocumented immigrants who are charged with serious felonies.

• And last but not least, Proposition 300, which denied all "state and local benefits" to those who could not provide proof of citizenship, including college scholarships and financial aid.

State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has been battling the anti-immigrant forces since she was elected in 2004.

"Many members of the legislature are placed in a very precarious position," Sinema says. "They personally don't agree with these pieces of legislation, but are facing a lot of intense pressure from fringe elements of their political party."

She estimates that about 25 percent of the people who enter the United States illegally live in Arizona. Compounded with a tough economy, she understand why that makes people upset. But Sinema, like Mayor Gordon, says the solution lies with the feds.

"If the federal government refuses to act … what you're seeing in Arizona will get worse," Sinema says, "and you'll see other states begin to take this kind of misguided and inappropriate action."

Bankrupting Maricopa County

Arpaio rejects all charges of racial profiling or scare tactics.

"The only people that should be fearing to go out are those that have violated the law … and that includes illegal immigrants," he says.

While prisons and chain gangs made Arpaio famous, so far no evidence exists that the measures have prevented crime. In fact, a 1998 study by Arizona State University Criminal Justice professor Marie L. Griffin — and commissioned by Arpaio himself — found no difference in the recidivism rate or the attitude of inmates who served time after Arpaio's new prison policies were implemented. Crime rates haven't decreased, and the prison population itself has continued to grow in correlation with the national average.

Meanwhile, the financial impact of Arpaio's policies has begun to draw fire, as well. A December 2007 investigation by the Phoenix New Times, a weekly paper, found that from 2004 until 2007, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has more than 50 times as many lawsuits filed against it than sheriffs' agencies in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and New York combined.

Losses in court, legal fees and out-of-court settlements (mostly for the mistreatment or neglect of prisoners) have cost county taxpayers more than $41 million since Arpaio took office in 1993. What's more, the deductible for the county's insurance policy that covers lawsuits against the sheriff has risen from $1 million to $5 million over the past decade.

At the same time, the number of undocumented immigrants in Arizona may be dwindling.

"They're leaving," says Bernasconi, who had trouble finding subcontractors to finish building his daughter's house in Guadalupe earlier this year. "They don't have the people for laying the tile, putting in the carpets, putting in the cabinets. … They are going to other states or they are returning to Mexico."

Annie Loyd, an independent candidate for a local congressional seat, points out that Arpaio's sweeps are the second recent hit to local business. The first came in January, when a new state law came into effect, fining employers for hiring undocumented workers, and eventually shutting down those businesses.

"Our employer sanctions law created an un-level playing field for us as a state in comparison to other states," Loyd says. "Immigration is a federal issue and needs to be resolved at a federal level … because it is supposed to be applied equally, across-the-board, throughout the country."

In the end, it may be the business community that determines if the Maricopa crackdown will continue unabated.

"I consider myself a conservative voter," says Bob Sitesburg, the owner of Golden Sky Construction in Phoenix. But he says laborers have become increasingly hard to find, and adds that the immigration issue could affect his vote in November. "I'm in an industry where we need those workers," Sitesburg says.

In January, Arizona became the first state to legally require employers to use E-verify, a Homeland Security system that verifies new employees legal status. President Bush followed suit in June, signing an executive order that mandates all government agencies to use E-verify.

But the system is widely criticized by government officials and business owners, for its 4.1 percent error rates, and for the fact that participating in E-verify doesn't protect a business that is caught employing illegal immigrants, even if those workers were cleared by the system. It's just the latest burden for Arizona businesses, which have put a proposition on the November ballot that would loosen the new employer sanctions law.

Local businesses in Phoenix have become increasingly concerned, as well. People moving away or hiding at home means fewer customers, and the bad press associated with nativist groups squaring off against immigrants in the streets doesn't help the local chamber of commerce attract new business to the area.

Nathan Newman, policy director for the Progressive States Network, who authored a September report titled "The Anti-Immigrant Movement That Failed," says workplace sanctions, in particular, have raised bipartisan opposition.

"It's probably the only [issue] I could see," he says, "where you end up with the chamber of commerce, the head of labor unions, religious groups and human rights groups, all so unanimous in saying 'This is the wrong approach.' "

Newman's study found that the majority of states haven't jumped on the anti-immigrant bandwagon. And because of business concerns, he doesn't believe they will.

"It's not like these waves of anti-immigrant legislation are new things in American history," Newman says. "This comes in waves, and states have gone through this sort of hysteria in the past. California went through this in the early '90s. And they looked at it and said 'Yeah, well, we don't think so.' "

But Arizona is not California, and there was no Sheriff Joe in Sacramento 15 years ago. Joan Koerber Walker, CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association, compares Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the United States, to Detroit, which held that rank in the '60s.

"Law enforcement [in Detroit], with the best intentions, went into heavily racially concentrated areas, specifically looking for felons and lawbreakers," she says. "The community became polarized, eventually violence broke out, and the businesses in the city of Detroit, many of them never reopened and never recovered."

She adds: "I would hate to see Phoenix go the same way."

[Editor's note: A radio version of this story—on the National Radio Project's nationally-syndicated international public affairs show "Making Contact"—can be heard here.]

Andrew Stelzer, a freelance journalist in Oakland, Calif., is a producer at "Making Contact," a weekly public affairs radio program. His reports have appeared on "The World," "Free Speech Radio News" and "Latino USA," among others. Stelzer has been a contributor to In These Times since 2005, and can be contacted at



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New York Times Editorial


November 26, 2008



A Catastrophic Silence

The killing of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, on Long Island this month brought with it a cruel blessing. From a shocking crime — an assault by a gang of boys accused of making a hobby of hunting Latinos — came a chance for a stricken, divided community to bind old wounds and to bury anger.

Instead, the moment is collapsing into the same old shouting. Advocates for immigrants are condemning the Suffolk County executive, Steve Levy, as somehow complicit in the killing for his rigid devotion to immigration enforcement. Mr. Levy is lashing back and trying to distribute blame fairly. He wonders, for example, how a gang out of "A Clockwork Orange" could have run free for so long, firing BB's and hateful slurs at random victims, jumping and punching them for sport.

Why, he asks, were their friends and acquaintances silent? It's a fair question, but there is another silence Mr. Levy should focus on.

The silence that echoes most painfully is that of the Latino victims of these and other hidden crimes. Mr. Lucero's death has set loose a flood of stories of abuse and harassment. A police precinct commander lost his job over his handling of two other attacks against Latino men that fatal day, an acknowledgment that in Suffolk, equal protection may not always apply to everyone.

Suffolk is not the only place with hate crimes or fearful immigrants. The same silence ruled in Postville, Iowa, where children worked brutal hours on a slaughterhouse killing floor. It hung over a factory in New Bedford, Mass., that systematically cheated workers of wages and the Louisiana shipyards where legal guest workers were held in modern-day indentured servitude.

The silence of undocumented immigrants is the catastrophic silence of people taught by legislative harassment and relentless stereotyping to live mute and afraid.

Mr. Levy sees no role for himself in this drama.

"Since when is enforcing the law seen as something negative and inflammatory?" he asked his critics this week. Here is an attempt to explain.

The fixation on uprooting and expelling immigrants is negative because it doesn't work. It's inflammatory because it tears communities and families apart.

When you turn the local police into la migra, as Mr. Levy once tried to do, you turn immigrants into the mute prey of criminals. When you relentlessly pick fights with advocates who criticize you, as Mr. Levy has, you are unable to stand with them when disaster strikes.

And when you tolerate the poisonous notion that "illegal" is a stain that can never be erased, with no path to atonement, then you turn the undocumented into a permanent class of presumed criminals who have no rights.

The undocumented do have rights. They have the right to be paid for their labor, to speak freely and to congregate in public places without fear.

Mr. Levy has an agile mind and a commitment to doing what he sees as right. There is a way for him to make Suffolk a better place. He can give the jobs of deportation and border control back to the federal government and concentrate on making things safer and more lawful in his community. He can stand up for the rights of the undocumented, like day laborers, to congregate safely and to be paid for their work, to prevent federal crimes like wage theft and to keep off-the-books businesses from eroding pay and conditions for all workers.

He can pursue common ground with his Latino constituents — even those who are angry at him but would jump at the chance to sit down and talk. He can listen to Marcelo Lucero's brother, Joselo, who has been a voice for peace. He can lead his county into the calm silence of reconciliation instead of silence based on fear.


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Wall Street Journal


NOVEMBER 18, 2008, 11:26 P.M. ET


Larger Inmate Population Is Boon to Private Prisons



Prison companies are preparing for a wave of new business as the economic downturn makes it increasingly difficult for federal and state government officials to build and operate their own jails.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons and several state governments have sent thousands of inmates in recent months to prisons and detention centers run by Corrections Corp. of America, Geo Group Inc. and other private operators, as a crackdown on illegal immigration, a lengthening of mandatory sentences for certain crimes and other factors have overcrowded many government facilities.

Prison-policy experts expect inmate populations in 10 states to have increased by 25% or more between 2006 and 2011, according to a report by the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts.

Private prisons housed 7.4% of the country's 1.59 million incarcerated adults in federal and state prisons as of the middle of 2007, up from 1.57 million in 2006, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a crime-data-gathering arm of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Corrections Corp., the largest private-prison operator in the U.S., with 64 facilities, has built two prisons this year and expanded nine facilities, and it plans to finish two more in 2009. The Nashville, Tenn., company put 1,680 new prison beds into service in its third quarter, helping boost net income 14% to $37.9 million. "There is going to be a larger opportunity for us in the future," said Damon Hininger, Corrections Corp.'s president and chief operations officer, in a recent interview.

California has shipped more than 5,100 inmates to private prisons run by Corrections Corp. in Arizona, Mississippi and other states since late 2006, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered emergency measures to control a ballooning state-prison population. Prisons were so overcrowded that hundreds of inmates were sleeping in gyms, according to one report. An additional 2,900 prisoners are scheduled to be transferred to private prisons outside the state by the end of next year, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

"Private prisons are a short-term solution while we work on long-term solutions, rehabilitation programs and recidivism strategies," said Terry Thornton, spokeswoman for the state's corrections department.

[* photo captions]

Prison overcrowding, partially due to a crackdown on illegal immigration and longer mandatory sentences for certain crimes, could spur state and federal officials to increase the use of private prisons like this one in Otay Mesa, Calif.

Geo Group, of Boca Raton, Fla., the second-largest prison company, has built or expanded eight facilities this year in Georgia, Texas, Mississippi and other states, and it plans seven more expansions or new prisons by 2010. Last month, Geo Group was awarded a contract by Florida's Department of Management Services to design and build a 2,000-bed special-needs prison in that state. Cornell Cos., the nation's third-largest prison company, recently broke ground on a 1,250-bed private prison for men in Hudson, Colo.


The Federal Bureau of Prisons, the government agency that operates all federal prisons and manages the handling of inmates convicted of federal crimes, has awarded 13 contracts since 1997 to prison companies to build prisons and detention centers that house low-security inmates, primarily "low security criminal aliens," says Felicia Ponce, a spokeswoman for the agency. The contracts give the bureau "flexibility to manage a rapidly growing inmate population and to help control overcrowding," Ms. Ponce says.

Outsourcing incarceration to prison companies can reduce a government's cost of housing those prisoners by as much as 15%, according to a study by the Reason Foundation, a research organization in Los Angeles. Private operators say they can build prisons more quickly and operate them less expensively than governments because their payroll costs are lower and they can consolidate prisoners from many far-flung jurisdictions into facilities located in areas where land and building costs are very low.

Some groups accuse the private prisons of neglecting inmates or of putting them in bad conditions. "Profit is still a motive and it's structured into the way these prisons are operated," says Judy Greene, a justice-policy analyst for Justice Strategies, a nonprofit studying prison-sentencing issues and problems. "Just because the system has expanded doesn't mean there is evidence that conditions have improved."

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed lawsuits involving several prison companies over the past decade alleging poor treatment of inmates. Last year, the organization and other parties filed a lawsuit against Corrections Corp. and the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm in federal court in San Diego, alleging that the company was operating an overcrowded, unsafe immigrant-detention center in that city. Detainees were routinely assigned in groups of three to sleep in two-room cells -- meaning one had to sleep on the floor near the toilet -- or to temporary beds in recreation rooms and other common spaces, according to the complaint. The suit also alleged that detainees had little access to mental-health care.

"We have serious concerns about for-profit prison companies because they are notorious for cutting essential costs that need to be provided to maintain a safe and constitutional environment for prisoners," says Jody Kent, a public-policy coordinator for the ACLU's National Prison Project.

The lawsuit was settled in June, with Corrections Corp. and Homeland Security agreeing to limit immigrant detainees to the number of inmates the facility was designed for. Louise Grant, a Corrections Corp. spokeswoman, says the company's prison practices complied with federal standards and that it regularly discloses capacity levels and other information in federal filings.

"Our government partners monitor us daily," Ms. Grant says. "There is no cutting corners."

Write to Stephanie Chen at


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San Francisco Chronicle


End counterproductive racial profiling


Yousef Munayyer

Sunday, November 23, 2008

This article appeared on page G - 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Racial or ethnic profiling is nothing new. In the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Arabs and Muslims in America are often the targets of ethnic profiling, despite the argument that racial and ethnic profiling runs contrary to American values. Counterterrorism strategists argue that targeting particular ethnicities or races during investigation is a more efficient way to catch perpetrators. They may also argue that while not all Arabs and Muslims are terrorists, all the terrorists who attacked us on Sept. 11 were Arabs or Muslims.

Yet the greatest damage done by this practice is not violation of civil liberties but this: Profiling doesn't work.

A recent study on a secret Department of Homeland Security operation code-named "Frontline" and spearheaded by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, revealed damning evidence against the use of ethnic or racial profiling in counterterror operations.

Operation Frontline was designed to "detect, deter and disrupt terror operations" among immigrants during the months leading up to the presidential election.

An analysis of data obtained from the Department of Homeland Security through a lawsuit showed that an astounding 79 percent of the targets investigated were immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.

This policy was exposed by the numbers, despite numerous reassurances from DHS that racial, ethnic and religious criteria were not the basis of its investigations.

The number of arrests made under national-security related charges? Zero.

To put this in context, immigrants from Muslim countries were 1,280 times more likely to be targeted for investigations than immigrants from other countries. Despite that, not one national security-related charge was levied, even though the investigation targeted hundreds of immigrants who "fit a terrorist profile."

One would think that such a massively inefficient policy would serve as a lesson for other law enforcement agencies. Yet the FBI is about to begin operating Dec. 1 under new attorney general guidelines that allow ethnic background, race and religion to be part of the criteria for launching investigations. This is a policy that flies in the face of everything we've come to know about the efficiency of racial profiling.

Racial and ethnic profiling is a genuine and important national security concern. Criticizing racial profiling can no longer be characterized by the right as the policy of dovish, immigrant-loving liberals. We know now that every dollar spent targeting innocent Arabs or Muslims could have been spent developing or following legitimate leads.

The Obama administration and the new Congress should make a legislative priority to ban racial profiling, without the loopholes that exist today, from all levels of law enforcement. The federal government should institute a system of data collection to ensure racial profiling is not being conducted illegally.

The End Racial Profiling Act would do just that, and is long overdue. As Operation Frontline and other operations have made clear, racial profiling is not aiding counterterrorism efforts but instead, unfortunately, impeding them.

Operation Frontline explained

To generate lists of individuals to target, ICE mined the databases of the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), the Student and Exchange Information System (SEVIS), and the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program (US-VISIT).

It took place from May 2004 through February 2005.

Of the approximately 2,400 investigations conducted, about 2,000 were of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.

National security-related arrests resulting: 0.

Source: FOIA request to Department of Homeland Security

Yousef Munayyer is a policy analyst for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington, D.C. For more information, go to


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NY Daily News


New York should give equal rights to the farmworkers RFK championed


Monday, November 24th 2008, 4:00 AM



New York should honor the values that Robert F. Kennedy fought for alongside César Chávez.


There is a far more fitting way for New York to honor Robert F. Kennedy than to name the Triborough Bridge in his memory, as happened last week.


Kennedy fought passionately for the rights and welfare of the downtrodden, including migrant farmworkers who lived in miserable conditions on substandard wages. He championed the fieldhands and their families in an alliance with legendary labor leader César Chávez, pictured with Kennedy in a 1968 photo.


But more remains to be done.


Shamefully, this is the case in New York, the state Kennedy represented in the Senate.


Here in New York, farmworkers are denied legal workplace protections that are taken for granted by virtually everyone else who earns a paycheck. They are not guaranteed overtime after a 40-hour week, nor are they guaranteed a day off per week, nor do they have the right to organize and bargain collectively.


Gov. Paterson and members of the Legislature, who were so ready to make the easy - and costly - gesture of renaming the Triborough Bridge, can redeem themselves by taking action that would improve tens of thousands of lives.


They must pass a farmworkers fair labor practices act - and call it the Robert F. Kennedy Law.


There is no doubt RFK would have supported such legislation, because he knew the plight of New York's farmworkers firsthand. In 1967, he held hearings in Rochester and toured farms upstate.


His guide was Jim Schmidt, then 28 and working for the Office of Economic Opportunity in President Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty.


"When the entourage came into one notorious camp in Wayne County, the grower came out of his trailer with a shotgun in his hands," Schmidt recalled in an interview last week. He also remembered:


"An older black man called over and beckoned RFK into his trailer, just the two of them for a private discussion. When Kennedy came out 20 minutes later, he kept saying how shocked he was that he could see rats under the hovel's floorboards.


"Later, we visited a labor camp on the shores of Lake Ontario and someone took a photo which I can see in my mind of RFK sitting there lakeside just talking with some of the children, who also worked in the fields."


The following year, Kennedy was assassinated, and the legal standing of New York farmworkers has never changed.


The Democratic-controlled Assembly has repeatedly passed a farmworkers bill, but the measure has always died - without a vote - in the Republican Senate. Which isn't to say there isn't GOP support.


The legislation has enough declared Republican backers that it would almost surely pass if the bosses permitted the bill to get to the floor. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos or his potential Democratic successor, Malcolm Smith, must make that happen.


Paterson is onboard. As he said of the growers in an interview a couple months back, "They are running a system up there that is analogous to what it was in 1880."


That's an abomination. Let's pass the Robert F. Kennedy Law and build a bridge to better lives.



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