Friday, July 15, 2011

Migrant Heartbreaks on the Border

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
July 13, 2011

Crossings and detentions of undocumented migrants might be sharply down on the US-Mexico border, but many people stuck on the international line face stark conditions. Despite the well-known dangers and difficulties in crossing the border without papers, migrants continue attempting almost Herculean feats to reach the US. And more than a few die on the journey to the Promised Land.

In Sonora, state police announced this month the discovery of eight people who presumably died of exposure to the elements in the inhospitable desert near the US border.

Alerted by ranch hands, state and federal law enforcement authorities recovered the remains of eight people at two ranches and in a mountainous zone located in the municipality of Sonoyta bordering Arizona. Found less than a mile from the US line, the deceased persons showed no “signs of violence,” according to Sonora officials.

Four victims were initially identified as Calixto Yagas Sil of Oaxaca, Adan Gomez Hernandez, Chiapas; Orben Heriberto Lopez Lopez, Chiapas; and Eliadin Vejar Galzviz, Ensenada, Baja California. Mexican authorities calculated that the men perished in a 3-12 month time frame prior to their discovery.

In Ciudad Juarez, meanwhile, a surge in deportations of Mexican nationals from the US is straining the capacity of local migrant service providers. Supported by the Roman Catholic Church, the city’s Migrant House has been forced to set up mattresses in hallways because of a lack of space.

The shelter houses migrants of both sexes and of all ages for average stays ranging from three to five days.

“They come here lacking everything, materially and spiritually,” said Leticia Perez, the center’s director. “Besides having a bed to rest upon, the majority of them here express appreciation for the food and the hot water for bathing.” According to Perez, many deported migrants suffer emotional traumas and require therapeutic care.

Cited in a local news publication, National Migration Institute (INM) statistics report that 3,987 people were deported from the US to Ciudad Juarez between January and the end of May of this year. The numbers jumped as the year wore on, growing from 359 deportees in January to 1,366 in April, the peak month reported so far this year.

In total, Mexico accepted 198,567 deportees from the US during the first five months of 2011. The number was down from the comparable period of last year, when 240,505 Mexican nationals were sent home from the US.

Alejandro Salas Dominguez, Sonora delegate for the INM, said the vast majority of Mexican citizens deported from the US are processed through ports of entry in Baja California and Sonora.

Still, some deportations continue to take place in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, regardless of the widely publicized violence jarring the border city. For example, just in the two-day period of July 12 and 13, at least 27 people were reported murdered in numerous incidents.

Sources:, July 13, 2011. El Diario de Juarez, July 10 and 13, 2011. Articles by EFE and editorial staff., July 11, 2011. La Jornada, July 8, 2011. Article by Fabiola Martinez., June 28, 2011. Article by Miguel Vargas. La Prensa de San Luis (Sonora), May 19, 2011.

Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

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Saturday, July 02, 2011

DHS Rejects Calls to End S-COMM

Immigrants' Rights News

July 1, 2011

...a digest of recent news and developments

Over the last couple weeks we have witnessed a number of immigration policy developments and proposals that likely foreshadow the continued challenges for fair and just immigration, especially leading into the November 2012 elections. And today, we have also experienced the energy and growing breadth of the movement for immigration justice. In cities around the country, activists have rallied against profiteering from the detention of immigrant men, women and children, and stood in solidarity with the Day of Non-Compliance in Georgia, where the much despised, anti-immigrant HB 87 came into effect.

1. DHS Rejects Calls to End S-Comm, Proposes Shallow 'Reforms'

Responding to mounting criticism, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced on June 17 a handful of changes to the mis-named “Secure Communities” program, the Obama Administration’s cornerstone deportation program.

Community and advocate groups rejected the Obama Administration's so-called reforms to the problematic S-Comm program, calling it "more spin than substance."

While local jurisdictions and states stand in line to "opt-out" of the dangerous deportation program, the ICE changes fail to address the real issue with S-Comm, which creates a parallel criminal justice system punishing non-citizens twice for the same offense: once under the already problematic criminal justice system and once under the expanding immigration enforcement regime.1

Click here for an analysis of S-Comm reforms offered by several immigration groups.

2. Mandatory E-Verify bill introduced in the House

On June 14, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the “Legal Workforce Act,” H.R. 2164, to mandate that every employer in the country use the problematic E-Verify program to verify every workers’ eligibility to be employed in the U.S.

While the current program, in more limited use, requires employers to use E-Verify after they hire someone, the new proposal would allow employers to use E-Verify before they hire a person. Without an opportunity to adjust their immigration status, undocumented immigrant workers will be driven deeper into the underground economy, subject to greater exploitation and economic instability. The Center for American Progress also predicted that:

  • An estimated 770,000 American workers could lose job offers due to E-Verify’s error-prone databases
  • The mandate would cost small business an estimated $2.6 billion
  • Based on a similar bill scored by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office in 2007, $17 billion in tax revenue would be lost over 10 years as more jobs move into the underground economy.

Click here for a brief summary of HR 2164 from National Immigration Law Center.

3. Senate Democrats introduce immigration reform bill

On June 22, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Harry Reid (D-NV), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) and John Kerry (D-MA) introduced the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2011." Apparently an attempt to keep the Republicans' enforcement-only agenda at bay, the proposal also includes the expansion of E-Verify (see above) and numerous other punitive enforcement provisions, including even more border militarization. It includes a lengthy "legalization" process as well as a "DREAM" provision, and calls for a commission "to study" expansion of the guestworker program.

President Obama recently stated that E-Verify would not be acceptable without a path to legal status -- reaffirming the potential "trade-off" of the dangerous E-Verify program for some form of legalization when immigration reform once more emerges on the legislative agenda.

The bill had no Republican sponsors when it was introduced, and in the lead up to the November 2012 elections, is not likely to see much legislative movement.

For a short, unofficial summary of CIR Act of 2011, click here.

4. Georgia Fights Back Anti-Immigrant State Law

On May 13, Georgia's governor signed into law HB 87, one of the most aggressive anti-immigrant bills modeled after Arizona's SB 1070, despite widespread opposition by key civil and immigrant rights leaders and communities. HB 87 requires the use of E-verify to check the legal status of every worker in Georgia, and empowers local police to check the immigration status of anyone they stop and to arrest people just for their immigration status. Earlier this week, a federal temporarily blocked two sections of HB 87 that would allow racial profiling. However, the bill goes into effect today (July 1), and community advocates and leaders called for a Day of Non-Compliance, spearheaded by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, to challenge the implementation of this dangerous law and to rollback the criminalization of immigrant communities. Organizers calling for divestment in the prison construction industry, which is reaping huge profits off of the incarceration of immigrants and others, joined hands with the Georgia-based opposition to HB 87 in mobilizations in several cities.

"Unless the components of the [immigration control regime] are halted and dismantled, the long-held promise of immigration reform - the lifting of millions of immigrant workers and their families out of a life of fear and exploitation- wil be severely undermined."

-- Guilty by Immigration Status (2009)



1. See NNIRR's reports Guilty by Immigration Status and Injustice for All to read more about the "immigration enforcement regime."

2. Injustice for All: The Rise of the U.S. Immigration Policing Regime, pp iv.

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