Immigrant Rights News – Monday, December 15, 2008
1. NY Daily News:
A. Family of fatally beaten New York immigrant urges action
B. A rally cry for Latino immigrant killed in hate crime
2. Los Angeles Times: Settlement opens up amnesty for tens of thousands of immigrants
3. Arizona Republic: Hard job: Tracing missing immigrants
4. Sacramento Bee: Employers look to Obama to deliver on immigration promise
NY Daily News
Family of fatally beaten New York immigrant urges action
The Associated Press
Monday, December 15th 2008, 12:42 PM
NEW YORK — The brother of an Ecuadorean immigrant beaten to death in an apparent hate crime asked his neighbors Sunday for help finding the killers, saying he and his family were heartbroken.
Diego Sucuzhanay called the brutal attack "a wake-up call" to the public.
"It shows how far we must still come to address the devastating problem of hate crimes in our communities. Only by exposing these crimes and working together will we be able to make a difference," Sucuzhanay said at a news conference outside the Queens hospital where his brother, Jose, died late Friday.
He said a $27,000 reward was being offered for information that could solve the crime.
Jose Sucuzhanay, a 31-year-old real estate broker, was accosted on a Brooklyn street by men who yelled anti-Hispanic and anti-gay slurs at him and his brother, Rommel, early Dec. 7, according to police.
The two were walking arm in arm after attending a church party and then stopping at a bar.
Rommel Sucuzhanay was able to get away and call police, but Jose Sucuzhanay was attacked by three men who smashed a beer bottle over his head, hit him in the head with an aluminum baseball bat and kicked him, police said.
The New York Police Department's hate crime task force is seeking suspects. A police spokesman said Sunday he had no updates.
In remarks at Brooklyn's Christian Cultural Center and a Baptist church on Staten Island, Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the beating "a pointless and gutless crime."
He said that race relations in the city were generally better than in decades, but that "this atmosphere is occasionally shattered by dangerous acts of bigotry that undermine our fight to live in peace and security."
With about 50 friends and supporters standing in an arc behind him, Diego Sucuzhanay thanked city and Ecuadorean officials for their support.
Diego Sucuzhanay noted that their mother arrived from Ecuador on Saturday, too late to see Jose alive one last time. He said his brother's body would be returned to Ecuador for burial.
Hundreds of supporters gathered Sunday in Brooklyn to express their outrage at the attack. Some carried handwritten signs saying, "We are all immigrants" and "It could have been any of us."
In Ecuador's capital, Quito, the country's deputy secretary of migration policy said the government was keeping an eye on the police investigation.
In a telephone interview, Arturo Cabrera also said Ecuador was considering sending a special delegation to urge the U.S. Congress to support "a complete education campaign" aimed at changing what he called an "advanced level of ignorance that brings these groups to commit such brutalities."
The attack on Sucuzhanay came about a month after another Ecuadorean immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, was stabbed to death in Patchogue, on suburban Long Island.
Prosecutors said seven teenagers charged in that assault had set out to find a Hispanic person to attack.
NY Daily News
A rally cry for Latino immigrant killed in hate crime
[by] Albor Ruiz
Saturday, December 13th 2008, 9:25 PM
The despicable assault on Ecuadoran immigrant José Osvaldo Sucozhañay and his brother Romel last Sunday was swiftly condemned - as it should - by the Ecuadoran community and by New Yorkers of every race and national origin.
"We have had tremendous support from many different groups," said Walter Sinche, executive director of Alianza Ecuatoriana Internacional, a community group.
In an effort to send a message of unity and racial harmony in the aftermath of the vicious attack, a coalition of mostly Latino and African-American community, religious and labor groups will hold a vigil and march Sunday in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
"We are all united in our resolve to fight hate," said Sinche, a organizer of the event.
As has been widely reported, three African-American thugs yelling anti-Latino and anti-gay slogans repeatedly beat José, 31, a successful Bushwick real estate agent and landlord, with an aluminum baseball bat. While his brother Romel, 38, managed to escape unharmed, José was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital Center where he was declared brain-dead on Tuesday. He died there Saturday.
The cowardly attack was an assault on our city's proud tradition of welcoming diverse groups.
To hear friends of José Sucozhañay speak of him is to immediately realize the senselessness of this crime and how great a loss his death is, not only for his family, but for all New Yorkers.
This is part of an e-mail sent to us by Karleen, one of his tenants.
"José Osvaldo Sucozhañay was a humble and intelligent man. I remember when I lost my job and he was willing to pay for my schooling to get my real estate license so I could work at his office, because at that time I was in need. That was the nicest thing a landlord would do for me. I pray for his immediate and extended family. God bless you, José."
Yet, horrible as it was, the attack on the Sucozhañay brothers is only one more in a rapidly growing list of crimes against immigrants, especially Latinos.
Racism and prejudice appear to be thriving in the current irrational climate of hate as the immigration debate grinds on.
One month ago, Marcelo Lucero, also an Ecuadoran immigrant, was beaten and stabbed to death in Patchogue, L.I., by a mob of mostly white teenage thugs who wanted "to hunt a Mexican."
FBI statistics show an alarming increase in the number of hate crimes across the nation. Latinos, the numbers say, have become the racists' target of choice in the last four years.
Since 2003, hate crimes against Hispanics have increased by a shocking 40%. According to the FBI, almost 67% of crimes motivated by ethnic or national origin are committed against Latinos.
"We have to come together as one community against hate," said David Galarza, of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, a workers' group affiliated with the AFL-CIO that will be part of Sunday's march.
"We need to present a united front against hate. Crimes like these against José and Romel must not happen again."
Indeed, they must not. And that is why Mayor Bloomberg, City Council President Christine Quinn and the rest of our elected officials must clearly and forcefully speak out. They need to let the racists and criminals know that hate crimes will not be tolerated in our city.
The vigil against hate will take place at 2 p.m., in the community park at Grove St. and Myrtle Ave., in Bushwick. Take the L subway line to Myrtle-Wyckoff or the M to Knickerbocker Ave.
Los Angeles Times
Settlement opens up amnesty for tens of thousands of immigrants
Many who entered the United States on valid visas but fell out of legal status between 1982 and 1988 are eligible for the amnesty offered under the 1986 immigration reform law.
By Teresa Watanabe
December 15, 2008
For two decades, Anaheim businessman Erkan Aydin has taken on a task unimaginable for most immigrants like himself: trying to convince the U.S. government that he was here illegally.
Aydin, 50, arrived in the United States from his native Turkey with a valid student visa in 1981, but fell out of legal status when he failed to enroll in school, he said.
The customer service representative has a powerful reason why he wants to be considered an illegal immigrant. It would make him eligible for the amnesty offered to 2.7 million illegal immigrants under the 1986 immigration reform law.
Thanks to a recent legal settlement, the chance to apply for amnesty is finally open to Aydin and tens of thousands of others who entered the country on a valid visa but fell out of legal status between 1982 and 1988. The settlement, approved this fall by a U.S. district court in Washington state, stems from a class-action lawsuit filed by attorney Peter Schey originally on behalf of an immigrant assistance program of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.
"I have been born again, like a new baby," Aydin said last week in his Anaheim car dealership office. "I will start a beautiful life in this beautiful country."
The landmark reform law offered a one-time amnesty to immigrants who were in the United States unlawfully from before 1982 to about 1988.
But Congress was concerned that those who entered the country with a valid visa would argue that they fell out of legal status during that time simply to qualify for amnesty. As a result, Schey said, Congress created a rule requiring immigrants to show that their shift from legal to illegal status was "known to the government."
That rule, however, created a new problem: How to prove that the government knew about their violations?
Nigeria native Olaniyi Sofuluke, for instance, came to the United States in 1981 on a student visa to study banking and finance at Troy State University (now Troy University) in Alabama. But, lacking funds, he soon dropped out to work as a dishwasher in two Atlanta restaurants until he could earn enough for his tuition and living expenses.
That violated his visa conditions and threw him into illegal status. The university was required to send a notice to the U.S. government that Sofuluke had dropped out but was not able to provide him with a copy when he requested one five years later. So immigration officials rejected his amnesty application, saying his violations were not known to the government.
Schey, however, successfully argued that because schools were legally required to send the notices, it should be presumed that the government received them and therefore knew about the violations.
He also successfully argued that the government knew many immigrants had violated their status another way: by failing to furnish an address report every three months. The government's failure to produce the address reports showed that the immigrants had not filed them, violating the terms of their visa, he argued.
U.S. immigration officials accepted both arguments in the settlement. They have announced that immigrants whose cases involve violations known to the government may apply for amnesty between Feb. 1, 2009, and Jan. 31, 2010.
Although the settlement was announced in September, many immigrants are just learning about it. Sofuluke, now a Maryland administrator, just found out about it last week.
"I couldn't even eat dinner, I was so full of joy," he said. "I've been in the twilight zone all of this time."
As a banker in Nigeria, he said his colleagues would return from studying in the United States and regale him with stories about the land of opportunity.
He devoured news about the United States in Time and Newsweek, he said, and finally got his chance to study here in 1981.
He eventually earned an undergraduate degree in accounting and an MBA, started a dry cleaning business that employed 16 people, bought his own home and began doing volunteer work with the disabled. (He was given a work permit while his amnesty application was pending.)
"You can find the greatest opportunities here," he said in a phone interview. "That's why we call America 'the golden egg.' "
The settlement marks Schey's third and final class-action lawsuit over the 1986 amnesty law. The previous lawsuits, both settled in 2003, resulted in more than 150,000 immigrants being allowed to apply for amnesty.
In the first lawsuit, Schey successfully challenged U.S. policy that effectively barred from amnesty applicants who traveled outside the United States roughly between 1986 and 1988. Although Congress specifically allowed a "brief, innocent and casual absence" during that period for, say, holiday visits, immigration authorities at the time essentially declared that anyone who left and reentered illegally was not "innocent" and therefore became ineligible for amnesty.
In the second lawsuit, Schey argued against the rejection of amnesty applicants who had returned home and reentered with a valid visa. Immigration officials at the time held that the reentry was legal, breaking the continued illegal residency required for amnesty. Schey argued, however, that the reentry was illegal because the immigrants would have to have lied about themselves when they applied for the visa to return.
Schey said that amnesty will allow countless immigrants to report crime without fear of deportation, to visit ailing parents back home and to leave exploitative jobs.
"It will make an immeasurable difference in the lives of thousands of people," Schey said. "For many of them, it will be the first time since they entered the country 30 years ago that they will be able to move forward and end their underground existence."
For Aydin, the settlement will give him the chance to fulfill a long-held dream of serving his adopted country in law enforcement or the military.
Once he has his green card, he said, he plans to pursue a master's degree in criminal justice administration with an eye toward joining the Navy, Secret Service, FBI or CIA.
"For many years, I wanted to serve this country, but I haven't had the opportunity," Aydin said. "Now I'm happy I'll finally have the chance."
Watanabe is a Times staff writer.
Hard job: Tracing missing immigrants
Mexican official in Valley helps desperate people find their loved ones
by Daniel González - Dec. 15, 2008 12:00 AM
Jorge Solchaga has the grim job of locating missing Mexican immigrants and notifying families of their fate.
In a place like Arizona, that makes Solchaga a very busy man. Just about every day, ashen-faced relatives walk into his office at the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix asking for help finding a missing migrant in the desert, a family member picked up by immigration officials or a loved one held by smugglers.
As head of the consulate's protection department, Solchaga is supposed to look out for the rights and well-being of the estimated 600,000 Mexicans, legal and illegal, living in Arizona.
But searching for missing immigrants has become the dominant part of his work. That is due to Arizona's unique environment as a border state with the highest rates of illegal immigration, migrant deaths, human smuggling and stepped-up immigration enforcement.
This year, Solchaga has received requests to help find nearly 200 people who disappeared, up from about 150 for all of last year. Because many of the missing are in the country illegally, relatives often seek out Solchaga first rather than U.S. authorities.
"It's a humanitarian thing, and also to be a public servant to help my countrymen," said Solchaga, leaning over a desk in his office at the consulate on West Camelback Road. "The family needs to know what happened to their lovely ones."
But it's not only Mexican immigrants seeking help from Solchaga and his staff of eight investigators. Increasingly, U.S. authorities are turning to him to help find relatives of Mexican children discovered in drophouses or identifying accident victims brought to hospitals, or corpses at the morgue. As a result, Solchaga is filling a void that serves two countries at once, the U.S. and Mexico.
"We work very closely together. We help each other out," said Eduardo Preciado, assistant field-office director of detention and removal operations for the Phoenix office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Sifting for clues
The 40-year-old Mexico City native was thrown into his role as binational detective when migrant deaths soared in 2001 as heightened border security in California and Texas funneled more illegal-immigrant traffic through the deadly Arizona desert.
At the time, Solchaga was working at the Mexican Consulate in Tucson. He was among the consular personnel called in to help U.S. authorities identify 14 bodies of people who had died in May 2001 after smugglers abandoned a group of illegal immigrants in 100-degree heat near Yuma.
The deaths were among the most ever recorded in a single incident along the U.S.-Mexican border and foreshadowed a wave of migrant deaths that continues to this day. Since 2001, the bodies of about 1,300 dead immigrants have been found in Pima, Pinal and Santa Cruz counties, but only about 900 have been identified, said Bruce Anderson, forensic anthropologist for the Pima County medical examiner.
Solchaga began working regularly with Anderson's office, learning to sift through the clothing of the dead for evidence that might lead to relatives. Immigrants often sew money and phone numbers into the waistbands of their pants.
Like a forensic scientist on the television crime series CSI, Solchaga learned to examine corpses for scars, tattoos, dental fillings, moles, broken bones and other characteristics that could help relatives identify the bodies. His earlier training as a photographer came in handy. After taking photographs of a tattoo or scar, Solchaga would e-mail the images to relatives and sometimes the media to help bring the case to a close.
Solchaga's work helped ensure the medical examiner was releasing the "right body to the right family," Anderson said. "We can't use clothing as a basis of ID because clothing can be exchanged."
The work was often gruesome. In the desert, bodies left in the sun swell up, emit fluids and turn black and become mummified. Coyotes and other animals attack them.
Yet Solchaga never shied away from the work.
The missing ones
Four years ago, Solchaga was transferred to the consulate in Phoenix.
The back wall of his office is covered with photographs of him at work. In one photo, Solchaga has his arm around the waist of Claudia Molina, a blond model and host of the popular Univision TV show Sabado Gigante. She was in town for a soccer tournament. Below the photo is one of Solchaga probing the skeleton of a dead migrant, his hands wrapped in plastic gloves.
Solchaga's work in Phoenix has shifted from identifying dead immigrants to locating missing ones.
On a recent Tuesday morning, two women entered his office with urgent looks on their faces. One of them, Yolanda, told him that her husband had been deported after he was stopped by police and found to be driving without a license.
Yolanda said her husband had called from Nogales, Sonora, three weeks earlier and told her he was planning to sneak back into the United States by hopping a freight train from Mexico to Arizona. Yolanda feared he had fallen off and was injured or killed.
Solchaga launched into a series of questions about the man's physical description, followed by more questions about his bones and teeth.
"Do you know if he had any broken bones, say when he was little? . . . Has he had any dental work, any caps, or fillings, a bridge?"
Solchaga told the woman he would use the information to see if her husband had been picked up by the Border Patrol or immigration officials. He also would contact Mexican consulates in Tucson, Douglas and Nogales, Ariz., to see if any dead migrants had been found matching Yolanda's description. He told her to prepare for the worst.
"With all of my heart, I would like to have the opportunity to say your loved one has been detained," Solchaga said. "But, with this much time gone by, maybe he passed away." .
Yolanda called the next day, ecstatic. Her husband had shown up the night before.
It was a rare happy ending. More often, Solchaga deals with death. A few weeks later, two men from Mexico sat in Solchaga's office seeking help finding a sick cousin. It turned out he had died.
Solchaga said that, sometimes, he can't sleep at night thinking about all the death and despair he sees. Like the migrant couple found dying of dehydration in the desert. Solchaga translated as the husband gave doctors permission to disconnect his brain-dead wife from the machines keeping her alive.
Solchaga says he likes his occupation because it allows him to bring closure to those looking for missing relatives, no matter the outcome.
"The people, the only thing they want to know is what happened to the loved one they lost," he said. "This is an opportunity to help the people find out, and yes, it's very rewarding."
Reach the reporter at 602-444-8312.
Employers look to Obama to deliver on immigration promise
By Susan Ferriss
Published Monday, Dec. 15, 2008
In the green folds of the Capay Valley, the scene at Full Belly Farm isn't that different from countless other California businesses with immigrant workers on their payrolls.
Everybody is hunkered down, thankful to have work – in this case, growing organic vegetables – and praying the economy improves with the coming Barack Obama administration's stimulus plans.
Once a promised middle class recovery is under way, Full Belly co-owner Judith Redmond said, business owners hope Obama will turn to immigration overhaul, as he also promised. It's a lightning rod issue, but they contend the problem needs to be confronted if the California and the U.S. economies are to have enough legal workers to meet long-term needs.
"It's about recognizing that we need this work force. We're not going to make this all go away," Redmond said.
She employs about 50 year-round, mostly Mexican workers and is president of the Davis-based Community Alliance with Family Farmers.
Lori Wolf, a Modesto landscaper, added that immigration change "is just not something that can be swept under the rug again. It's very important to a lot of people, especially in California."
Jim Abram, president of the California Hotel and Lodging Association in Sacramento, said his members also are eager for bipartisan talk on immigration.
"This is really a critical, critical issue – to have a stable work force that's not always living underground," Abram said.
For now, he said, the recession has halted the hospitality industry's almost chronic search for employees. But "this country's economy, once it gets back on its feet, will not be able to function without immigrant labor," he said.
Abram's is a controversial view, but it is shared by some labor union leaders and a number of economists and policymakers in Washington, D.C.
Business leaders acknowledge, however, that a staggering rise in unemployment hurts the chances of changing federal immigration policies anytime soon.
Obama's position on immigration, however, and some of his choices for his Cabinet and White House staff give reform advocates reasons for optimism.
During his presidential campaign, Obama frequently said he believed opening an earned path to legal status – with some hurdles – seemed the only sensible way to address an accumulation of millions of undocumented workers and family members here.
Obama's choice for Homeland Security secretary, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, has agreed with that view.
She called for the National Guard to be deployed along the Mexican border in Arizona as an emergency measure. But she also shares businesses' position that foreign workers are needed to fill shortages and that federal policies need to be enacted to better provide for that.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Obama's pick for commerce secretary, is Latino, understands Mexico, where he spent part of his childhood, and has views on immigration similar to Napolitano's.
Businesses are also celebrating Obama's choice for White House director of intergovernmental affairs. Cecilia Muñoz, an activist with the National Council of La Raza, has been a leading voice urging labor, business and rights groups to join together in pressing for immigration change.
Muñoz has also been a vocal critic of recent workplace raids and other "enforcement only" measures the Bush administration initiated last year.
Numbers USA and other groups promise, however, to keep pressure on the Obama administration. They want to reduce immigration and they oppose legalizing undocumented workers. They've argued that even before the downturn, there were enough Americans to fill job vacancies.
Businesses and labor unions have said they want Obama to temper workplace crackdowns, for now. But they also support greater enforcement of work document requirements – once the system is "modernized" to include visas for migrants to fill proven labor shortages.
Congress failed to change the visa system in 1986, an omission reform advocates say set the stage for an increase in undocumented workers.
The voluntary E-Verify computer system now available to check documents is relatively new and still flawed, businesses also say. Moreover, federal regulations do not allow employers to use E-Verify to check the IDs of employees who were already on the payroll before employers signed up to use the database.
While some employers have exploited lax rules and enforcement to hire cheaper illegal immigrants, trade groups admit, others have followed the law to the letter, hiring people who had the necessary identification.
Redmond, who said she believes "employers do have to take responsibility for hiring a legal work force," said her workers have provided documents. Some have been with her for as long as 15 years and have established roots in local towns. Their pay starts above the minimum and includes bonuses.
"I don't think we can find an indigenous labor force for this work," she said. "And I don't think it's the pay."
Economist Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, said a need for immigrant labor is a sign of progress for native-born Americans.
"If you're a middle class African American family, is your dying dream that your daughter clean rooms at the Marriott?" Levy said. "I think many people are OK with immigrants in entry-level jobs."
In August, speaking before a state Senate subcommittee on immigration, Levy warned that California faces a "tidal wave" of baby boom retirements. The state needs to be able to count on immigrants as one of the sources for replacing a deficit of workers of all skill levels, he said.
In 2006, Levy noted, there were not enough unemployed Californians to fill all jobs that would be vacated if every illegal immigrant were fired, even if geographic location, skill levels and pay demands were matched.
Today, he said, even as unemployment rises, he wouldn't change his predictions for California's future labor needs and how immigration should help fill the gap.
"I haven't seen any Wall Street bank employees bumping out Mexican farmworkers yet," he said. "Right now, there is no demand in any part of the economy. But that doesn't mean that's going to be true tomorrow."
Call The Bee's Susan Ferriss, (916) 321-1267.