Archive for March 20th, 2008

MDJ Online

MARIETTA - Police have confirmed the driver involved in a fatal accident Sunday evening did not have a United States driver’s license and police have yet to locate records to indicate he was a legal immigrant, Officer Mark Bishop with the Marietta Police Department said.

Bishop said Kennesaw resident Nicasio Rodrigo Vicente-Hernandez, 29, was involved in two prior accidents Sunday evening before his third and fatal collision.

Vicente-Hernandez was allegedly fleeing an earlier fender-bender when he sideswiped a second car while heading the wrong way on the Canton Road Connector, Bishop said. Seconds later, Vicente-Hernandez, driving a 1999 Mercury Villager, collided head-on with a 1995 Ford Taurus carrying four people - two of whom died in the collision, Bishop said.

Braselton residents Rodney Godfrey, 47, and son Eric Godfrey, 17, died in the accident. Rodney Godfrey was driving.

Mary Godfrey, who was riding in the front passenger seat, remains in serious condition at Atlanta Medical Center. Ms. Godfrey is being held in the Intensive Care Unit, hospital spokeswoman Kendra Gerlach said.

A third passenger, the couple’s 12-year old son, was released yesterday from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The son, whose name is not being released to the public, suffered a broken collarbone and rib, along with a bruised lung. He is staying with his uncle, Bishop said.

The family of Vicente-Hernandez was contacted yesterday. They said they saw Vicente-Hernandez Sunday evening before the accident. He washed his car, they said, and then left the house to go to dinner. He had not been drinking, they said.

Pedro Vincente, who resides at Vicente-Hernandez’s address, said Vicente-Hernandez had been in the United States for nearly 12 years.

Bishop said the Marietta Police Department is awaiting toxicology results before they can possibly determine the cause of the accident. The toxicology report may take up to 30 days to process, he said.

Although he did not hold a Georgia driver’s license, Vicente-Hernandez had a valid Mexico driver’s license and obtained car insurance in Georgia through Infinity Insurance Company, said Marcella Sill, an insurance agent with Gordon Agency in Kennesaw. Gordon Agency sells Infinity insurance products. She said Vicente-Hernandez applied for the auto coverage at the Kennesaw location and provided valid information when the insurance was first issued in October 2007.

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LA Times

Civil rights groups said Thursday that they had reached a settlement with federal officials guaranteeing that workers nabbed in an immigration raid last month in Van Nuys can be accompanied by an attorney to all meetings and interrogations.

The settlement, finalized Wednesday, was reached after groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the National Lawyers Guild and the National Immigration Law Center, sought a restraining order in federal court last month against federal immigration officials who they alleged had repeatedly blocked attorneys from accompanying workers to interviews. The settlement applies to about 130 workers at Micro Solutions Enterprises detained Feb. 7 on immigration violations.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said the terms of the settlement were confidential but the agency was “very pleased with the result.”

“It should be emphasized that ICE conducts work site enforcement operations lawfully, professionally and with extreme consideration to humanitarian concerns,” said spokeswoman Lori Haley. Haley said the agency advises detainees of “their right to legal counsel and communication with consular officers by telephone or in person, after initial processing is completed.”

According to Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, ICE officials said the meetings to which lawyers were denied attendance were “administrative” and did not require the presence of legal counsel.

The organizations seeking the restraining order contended that the workers had a right to have an attorney present in those initial interviews, as well as any others.

“The government won’t pay for the attorneys, but if the worker has access to one, they are allowed to meet with them,” said Ahilan Arulanantham, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California and one of the attorneys representing the workers pro bono.

Arulanantham said the groups hoped that the case would set a legal precedent.

“The government would have a hard time explaining why the rights of these people are different from those of others” detained in similar raids, he said.

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Ruth from Illegal Protest has a good blog entry on Geno.

Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA - The owner of a famous cheesesteak shop did not discriminate when he posted signs asking customers to speak English, a city panel ruled Wednesday.

In a 2-1 vote, a Commission on Human Relations panel found that two signs at Geno’s Steaks telling customers, “This is America: WHEN ORDERING ‘PLEASE SPEAK ENGLISH,’” do not violate the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance.

Shop owner Joe Vento has said he posted the signs in October 2005 because of concerns over immigration reform and an increasing number of people in the area who could not order in English.

Vento has said he never refused service to anyone because they couldn’t speak English. But critics argued that the signs discourage customers of certain backgrounds from eating at the shop.

Commissioners Roxanne E. Covington and Burt Siegel voted to dismiss the complaint, finding that the sign does not communicate that business will be “refused, withheld or denied.”

In a dissenting opinion, Commissioner Joseph J. Centeno said he thought the signs did discourage some customers.

“The sign appeared immediately above another sign that had the following words: ‘Management Reserves the Right to Refuse Service,’” Centeno wrote.

Geno’s and its chief rival across the street, Pat’s King of Steaks, are two of the city’s best known cheesesteak venues. A growing number of Asian and Latin American immigrants have moved into the traditionally Italian neighborhood in recent years.

Vento had threatened to go to court if he lost. His attorney, Albert G. Weiss, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by Wednesday’s decision.

“We expected that this was not going to go our way,” Weiss said.

In February 2007, the commission found probable cause against Geno’s for discrimination, alleging that the policy discourages customers of certain backgrounds from eating there.

The case went to a public hearing, where an attorney for the commission argued that the sign was about intimidation, not political speech. The matter then went to the three-member panel for a ruling.

W. Nick Taliaferro, the commission’s executive director, said he would not appeal.

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A 22-year-old Golden Gate man who hit and severely injured a Collier County sheriff?s deputy as he tried to stop his speeding car in December 2006 pleaded no contest Monday to attempted premeditated murder.

But Jesus A. Moreno Lucio, a documented gang member and habitual felony offender, won?t face life in a state prison.

Under a plea bargain, Moreno faces a maximum of 22 years in a state prison when Circuit Judge Elizabeth Krier sentences him April 28. On Monday, Krier found him guilty of the first-degree felony and guilty of violating his probation on a domestic violence battery charge he was serving time for when he hit Cpl. Bill Pschigoda on Dec. 5, 2006.

She sentenced him to five years, the maximum, for the felony battery. He had agreed to that under the plea agreement.

Assistant State Attorney Mike Provost filed notice to have Moreno declared a habitual felony offender, which enhances the penalty to life in prison, but the maximum term was capped at 22 years as part of the plea agreement negotiated with Assistant Public Defender Dave Whiting.

Pschigoda, a 21-year veteran, was placing stop sticks on Collier Boulevard to stop Moreno and suffered severe head injuries, including a cracked skull. He?s expected to return to work in two weeks, although his assignment has not been announced.

Moreno racked up a string of arrests in the two years leading up to the crash, including aggravated battery, criminal mischief, violating an injunction, cocaine possession and violating probation. In 2003 and 2004, he was arrested five times for driving with a suspended or revoked driver?s license, a charge he was hit with the day of the crash.

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Dallas News

Lewisville, TX — Traffic problems caused by day laborers who go onto the street seeking employment have forced police officials to use plainclothes officers to try to halt the practice, authorities say.

But the undercover operation — now in its sixth month — has caused anxiety among some workers who fear that the police effort may actually be an attempt to catch illegal immigrants.

‘This is supposed to be a humanitarian country, a land of union and freedom,’ said Jose Rodriguez, who gathers with dozens of other laborers each day at Huffines Plaza in hopes of being hired by passing contractors. ‘But you go out in fear, and you don’t know if you’ll make it back home. That’s not freedom.’

Police say they are simply concerned about safety, not illegal immigration. They say laborers block traffic at Interstate 35E and State Highway 121 when they rush out into the street to meet would-be employers.

‘Some [laborers] are not happy with the operation,’ Lewisville police Capt. Kevin Deaver said Tuesday. ‘We would hope they would realize that we’re also doing this for their safety.

‘We’re not enforcing immigration, we’re just contacting the ones that are breaking the city ordinance and the state law,’ he added. ‘Whenever they’re in the plaza, we never have contact with them.’

Authorities say looking for work in the streets is illegal, but laborers can request jobs on private property like the Huffines Plaza parking lot with the owners’ permission — as long as they don’t block the roads.

Police have conducted three undercover operations in the past six months, the last on Feb. 28. Six people have been given citations, and 10 others have been arrested on charges of solicitation by a pedestrian, a Class C misdemeanor that carries a maximum $500 fine.

Those who can’t provide identification are arrested, Capt. Deaver said. Of the 10 who have been arrested, seven claimed Mexico and three claimed Guatemala as their countries of origin, he said.

Capt. Deaver said none of the people arrested or cited in the operations has been transferred to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

‘It’s obvious this is not an immigration issue since no one has been referred to ICE,’ Capt. Deaver said.

Capt. Deaver said an undercover operation is necessary ‘because they wouldn’t come out in the street’ if they saw marked police cars approaching, he said. ‘Our hope is to gain compliance, and we will not have to have the operations.’

Dallas lawyer Domingo Garcia said he and others are considering suing the city for racial profiling. He said they will find out if the law that prohibits job searching in the streets targets Hispanics.

‘That law is unconstitutional,’ Mr. Garcia said.

He added that he is trying to forge an agreement with the city of Lewisville similar to one with Garland and Denton, where there are laborer centers that allow workers to meet with potential employers.

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CQ Politics

The future of the technological component of the Secure Border Initiative could be in doubt as the ?virtual fence? loses support among those who have been the strongest backers of tough measures to secure the border.

Never popular among interest groups and members of Congress opposed to getting tough on illegal immigration, the combination of radar, cameras and electronic sensors envisioned for portions of the U.S.-Mexican border is now also coming under fire from their ideological opposites.

The latest controversy was fueled by a Government Accountability Office report on Project 28, a Boeing-contracted project to conduct surveillance on 28 miles of the Arizona border, which cited technical and management problems that would delay the project.

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff took exception to some of GAO?s conclusions, but he is increasingly on an island in defense of SBINet, the overall virtual fence program of which Project 28 is a pilot. When Chertoff and Bush leave office next January, it?s possible their vision of electronic surveillance technology on the border will go with them.

?According to the GAO, the virtual border fence is virtually useless and an actual waste of money,? said Ira Mehlman, national media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-illegal immigration advocacy organization which backs a stronger presence at the border.

?Chertoff has a stake in this. It looks bad if they?ve contracted with Boeing and they botched the job,? Mehlman said. ?Absent any compelling information to the contrary, you have to go with GAO.?

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NAVARRO COUNTY (AP) ? Nearly 200 people were charged with gambling after officers raided a cockfighting operation Saturday that included bleachers for spectators and even a concession stand, authorities said.

Officers seized $170,000 in cash, about 300 birds, several guns, drugs and enough alcohol to fill the back of a pickup, the Navarro County Sheriff’s Department said Sunday.

The owner of the property was charged with felony cruelty to farm animals, according to the sheriff’s department.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said it was the largest seizure of birds it had ever been involved with in Texas.

WATCH VIDEO - The usual suspects.

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