Immigrant Rights News - Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Today is César E. Chávez’s birthday; Celebrate & honor farm workers today!
César E. Chávez would have been 82 years old this year. To learn more about his work and legacy, visit:
1. Los Angeles Times: Homeland Security shifts focus to employers
2. The Monitor: Fence building in Brownsville leaves rough edges
5. PBS Now program on Maricopa County Sheriff's abuses. Please watch the interview and leave a comment. So far only Arpaio supporters have been leaving pro Joe comments on the message board:
Los Angeles Times
Homeland Security shifts focus to employers
A new policy will aim enforcement efforts at those who hire illegal workers. But immigration raids will continue, sources say.
By Josh Meyer and Anna Gorman
March 31, 2009
Reporting from Los Angeles and Washington — Stepping into the political minefield of immigration reform, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano soon will direct federal agents to focus more on arresting and prosecuting American employers than the illegal laborers who sneak into the country to work for them, department officials said Monday.
The shift in emphasis will be outlined in revamped field guidelines issued to agents of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, as early as this week, several officials familiar with the change said.
The policy is in line with comments that President Obama made during last year's campaign, when he said enforcement efforts had failed because they focused on illegal immigrants rather than on the companies that hired them.
"There is a supply side and a demand side," one Homeland Security official said. "Like other law enforcement philosophies, there is a belief that by focusing more on the demand side, you cut off the supply."
Another department official said the changes were the result of a broad review of all immigration and border security programs and policies that Napolitano began in her first days in office.
"She is focused on using our limited resources to the greatest effect, targeting criminal aliens and employers that flout our laws and deliberately cultivate an illegal workforce," the official said.
Homeland Security officials emphasized that the department would not stop conducting sweeps of businesses while more structural changes to
Agents, however, will be held to a higher standard of probable cause for conducting raids, the officials said, out of concern that at least one recent raid in
The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the coming policy changes.
The new guidelines would mark a fundamental shift away from what was happening at the end of the Bush administration, said Doris Meissner, who served as commissioner of ICE's predecessor -- the Immigration and Naturalization Service -- under President Clinton.
The law governing employer enforcement requires proof that a business knowingly hired illegal workers. So without an effective way for employers to verify workers' status, Meissner said, "It is very easy for that 'knowingly' to be a big loophole."
Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute think tank in
Advocates on both sides of the issue have been awaiting major changes in immigration policy since Obama's election -- particularly since he tapped Napolitano, a former border state governor and prosecutor, to head the Homeland Security Department.
Conservatives have warned that any easing of enforcement efforts will result in more arrivals of illegal workers, who will compete for jobs held by Americans.
And immigrant rights groups have complained that the lack of reform measures to date under Obama suggested the White House was backing down from campaign pledges to curb workplace enforcement efforts.
Those concerns ratcheted up dramatically when ICE agents swept into a manufacturing plant in
Napolitano suggested to Congress that she was unhappy with the raid and that she would "get to the bottom of this." But, she added: "In my view, we have to do workplace enforcement. It needs to be focused on employers who intentionally and knowingly exploit the illegal labor market."
Homeland Security officials confirmed that a planned raid in the
Michael W. Cutler, a retired senior special INS agent, said the Obama administration needed to go after workers and employers to send a message that it would not condone illegal immigration.
"Who is more responsible for prostitution, the hookers or the johns? It is a shared responsibility," said Cutler, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, a group opposed to illegal immigration.
He said it would be "dumb" to "go after employers and not the illegal aliens. That means they are going to make very few arrests. And the message that sends is that if you can make it across the border, you're home free. No one is going to be looking for you."
Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said the Obama administration also needed to target employers who did not pay minimum wage and who exposed workers to unsafe conditions. But she said she hoped the new guidelines would mark a good first step by halting mass raids.
"What happened during the Bush administration is unconscionable," she said. "At the end of the day, it really targeted a group of vulnerable workers who just were trying to bring the food to the table."
Antonio Olivo of the Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.
Fence building in
March 27, 2009 - 10:04PM
Then she saw the border fence's steel beams - 18 feet tall and rust-colored. She watched as they were erected one by one on her property.
"I was shocked," she said. "They pulled out the hurricane fence in our backyard. They messed everything up."
But Lambert's biggest surprise was that the federal government began construction without giving her her any compensation.
Unlike her neighbors, who were awarded more than $10,000 in exchange for their assent, Lambert was never asked to sign a contract allowing fencing on her property.
"But that didn't stop them from starting construction," she said Friday, pointing to the steel barrier in her backyard. "In the end, the government does what it wants."
DHS did not respond to calls for comment.
Since February, the federal government has completed construction on several miles of fencing in Lambert's El Calaboz community, part of the government's plan to construct a 700-mile barricade on the U.S.-Mexico border.
The Department of Homeland Security has run into numerous legal obstacles in its attempt to construct the barrier in the
In the last 18 months, DHS filed more than 230 land condemnation lawsuits in
"(Homeland Security Secretary Janet) Napolitano and (President Barack) Obama have totally betrayed us," Tamez said. "Their opposition to the fence was just words. They haven't done a darn thing."
When she was governor of
"In terms of the wall itself, we are going to complete the sections that had already been begun and for which there already were appropriations," Napolitano said in a press briefing on Tuesday. "To the extent we request any other sections it will be part and parcel of a system that includes technology and manpower."
According to DHS spokesman Claude R. Knighten, contracts for all remaining segments of the barrier have already been awarded, including about 35 miles of fencing in the Brownsville-Harlingen area.
Eva Lambert still recoils at the sight of the fence in her backyard.
"It changes everything," she said. "We used to walk and ride bikes out there. ... Now we go outside and there's just that ugly wall."
On Thursday, a government official came by Lambert's house to confirm that she will eventually be compensated for her land. She sighed. It was a conversation she'd expected to have several months earlier, before steel beams lined the perimeter of her property.
Arpaio migration holds draw fire
Data raise doubts about effectiveness
by JJ Hensley - Mar. 30, 2009 12:00 AM
The agreement between the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and federal immigration officials has become the focus of a national debate on immigration-enforcement efforts.
Complaints about the program, known as 287(g), which trains local police officers to enforce immigration laws, are at the heart of a Justice Department inquiry into allegations that sheriff's deputies discriminate against Hispanics and a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee to address similar allegations.
Many of the complaints center on two issues: The immigration-enforcement agreement doesn't come with enough guidance for local authorities to focus on serious criminal offenders - opening the door for racial profiling, critics say, and the agreement has led to the removal of illegal immigrants for relatively minor offenses.
One week's worth of data from the Sheriff's Office offers a glimpse at the latter argument and, one critic says, supports the disparity claim; Sheriff Joe Arpaio's officials are fighting the racial-profiling charge in federal court.
Of the 1,300 inmates booked into a county facility last week, 193 were tagged with holds after detention officers trained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement suspected them of being in the country illegally following a screening process.
The inmates were brought to the Fourth Avenue Jail from police agencies throughout the Valley. The data do not contain the identity of the inmates nor the arresting agency. None have been convicted of the crimes they were accused of when detention officers checked their immigration status.
The majority of the charges against inmates with ICE holds were for reported drug- and alcohol-related violations; failure to pay fines or appear in court; and allegations related to forgery and using false identification. One person was tagged with an immigration hold after being brought in, accused of fishing without a license.
"People are arrested every day for the initial violation of the law," Arpaio said. "If they come to the jail, we take one step further to determine if they are illegal."
This has been practice "for years and years," Arpaio said.
"The only difference is: Now we are the ones doing it (instead of ICE). Anybody booked into the jail who are illegal, they put a hold on them. It doesn't matter if it's for spitting on the sidewalk."
Arpaio's high-profile crime-suppression operations - when deputies flood neighborhoods using traffic stops to question drivers about their immigration status - have generated most of the outrage and allegations of racial profiling. But immigration-screening in the jails has resulted in the deportation of thousands more immigrants.
Through Friday, ICE-trained deputies and detention officers had placed immigration holds on nearly 23,000 inmates over two years, while the crime-suppression operations and work by the sheriff's human-smuggling unit resulted in the arrests of about 2,000 people suspected of being in the country illegally.
The data the Sheriff's Office released last week offer the first look at what types of reputed crimes landed the suspected illegal immigrants in jail in the first place.
Federal officials have said they will look at similar data from ICE as part the 287(g) program's review.
"I think that this data points to the wholesale failure of the to engage in oversight and monitoring of how these police departments are using and abusing their authority under these types of agreements," said Alessandra Soler Meetze, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.
The Department of Homeland Security announced plans this month to clarify language in the agreement with local police to re-enforce that 287(g) training is intended to aid in the removal of serious criminal aliens.
Immigration Courts Swamped With Cases Taking 2-10 Years to Reach Disposition
Posted Mar 30, 2009, 10:48 am CDT
The backlog of immigration cases is so dense that it took at least two years for 90,000 people accused of being in the U.S. illegally to get a judge to decide whether they needed to leave.
In a review of immigration cases since 2003, USA Today found 14,000 cases that took more than five years and some that took more than a decade to reach disposition. And getting calendared by one of the 224 immigration judges can take more than a year.
The immigration courts, the paper observes, are on the verge of being overwhelmed.
"You could have a case that would take an hour (to hear). But I can't give you that hour of time for 14 months," says Dana Marks, an immigration judge in
USA Today looked at immigration court cases between 2003 and mid-2008, using a copy of the court system's docket obtained from the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review. The information examined only included cases that have reached disposition.
Speeding up cases isn't necessarily a solution.
"Do you want to be expedient or do you want to be just?"
Hat tip Criminal Justice Journalists.
From the National Day Laborer Organizing Network:
Check out the PBS Now program that was aired on Friday night the Maricopa County Sheriff's abuses.
Please watch the interview and leave a comment. So far only Arpaio supporters have been leaving pro Joe comments on the message board.
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