Archive for April 14th, 2008

The Washington Post

SAN FRANCISCO — Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says he feels the pain of employers pinched by intensified efforts to control illegal immigration, but adds that until Congress enacts broad immigration reforms they shouldn’t expect any changes in enforcement.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Chertoff said this week that the rising complaints from businesses offer some evidence the Bush administration’s approach is working.

“This is harsh but accurate proof positive that, for the first time in decades, we’ve succeeded in changing the dynamic and (are) actually beginning to reduce illegal immigration,” Chertoff said. “Unfortunately, unless you counterbalance that with a robust system to allow people to come in temporarily and legally, you’re going to wind up with an economic problem.”

Chertoff defended the actions of his agency, which oversees Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We’re enforcing the law as it is, but Congress has not yet given us the authority to really expand the temporary worker program,” he said in the Tuesday interview. “If we could do that, then most of these businesses could find legal solutions.”

Chertoff sharply criticized businesses that complain the crackdowns on their hiring of illegal immigrants will cost them money. In a federal court case last year, groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce argued that the department had failed to account for the economic impact of new regulations on businesses.

The argument “basically suggests we can’t enforce the law because it will prevent people from making money illegally,” Chertoff said. “The business community loves it (hiring illegal immigrants) because you have illegals, you pay them less, they have no place to go to complain.”

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wrote Chertoff a letter last month asking federal officials to rethink their policy on workplace immigration crackdowns, saying they could have “severe and lasting effects on our local economy.”

Villaraigosa accused federal officials of targeting “established, responsible employers” and said ICE should spend its limited resources targeting employers who exploit wage and hour laws.

Asked about the mayor’s plea, Chertoff gave no indication that Villaraigosa would get the review and revision of ICE’s enforcement priorities he is seeking.

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The Washington Post

Fifty-nine foreign-born workers arrested last week at the Lansdowne Resort by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are being processed for deportation, although some might request hearings to plead their cases, an ICE spokeswoman said.

The employees — men and women from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina — were arrested Tuesday on charges of having used fraudulent or stolen documents to get jobs at the upscale resort on Woodridge Parkway near Leesburg.

Several calls to Lansdowne Resort officials last week were not returned. ICE spokeswoman Ernestine Fobbs declined to comment on whether ICE officials think the resort was aware of the document problems when it hired the workers. She said operators of the resort have cooperated with the federal agency since the investigation began in July.

“There’s no criminal charges on the organization at this time . . . but this is an ongoing investigation,” Fobbs said.

The probe was triggered by a “routine inspection of all I-9 employment forms at the resort,” according to a written statement from ICE. “Through expert analysis of the I-9 forms, ICE agents identified information that led them to suspect that many of the employees were using fraudulent documents or had stolen someone else’s identity to secure employment at the resort.”

Many workers remained in custody in various jails last week, said Fobbs, who would not elaborate on the jail locations, citing “privacy reasons.” ICE released two women Tuesday for medical reasons, but their cases continued to be processed, she said.

Fobbs said some of the workers will be deported immediately, and others might request a hearing with a judge, so the time it takes to process cases will vary.

“The removal process is just that: a process,” she said. “Some may be subject to be removed from the United States immediately. Some may choose to go before an immigration judge. . . . It’s like anything else. If you have a traffic violation, you can say, ‘Wait, look, I have a reason for this.’ ”

Workers could be released early if they have children to look after, among other reasons, although they would be electronically monitored, and their ultimate fate would be determined by a judge, Fobbs said.

A senior regional official with the agency said Tuesday that the raid was a signal to businesses that employing illegal immigrants will not be tolerated.

“Companies that use cheap, illegal alien labor as a business model should be on notice that ICE is dramatically enhancing its enforcement efforts against illegal employment schemes,” said Mark X. McGraw, deputy special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigations in Washington, in a written statement.

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Salem News

SALEM ? Some illegal immigrants facing serious criminal charges are avoiding prosecution ? with the help of the government ? thanks to what prosecutors say is a gaping hole in the state’s bail law.

A small but growing number of immigrants charged with crimes are being deported prior to their trials, avoiding any penalty for their actions while in the United States. And once deported, authorities fear, they can return under a new alias and continue their activities.

Until the law changes, however, there’s little to stop them.

“I think it’s become a strategic option for some defendants,” said Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett, who has lost a number of defendants to deportation before their cases could be tried. “It’s a game now, and I really think it affects public safety.”

Take the case of Carlos Enrique Lugo, also known as Albert Varga, who was charged with heroin trafficking on the North Shore. If convicted, he faced a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison.

A judge ordered him held on $50,000 bail, and he sat in Middleton Jail for several months.

Then, last November, a Dorchester woman walked into the jail with a bag of cash and posted Lugo’s bail ? even though Lugo was also wanted by immigration authorities for being in the country illegally, and would immediately be turned over to them.

That’s exactly what Lugo wanted, prosecutor Michael Patten told a judge earlier this year.

Once in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, Lugo was brought before an immigration judge. He immediately waived his right to challenge his deportation and asked for immediate removal ? something immigration officials were legally bound to carry out.

A week after Lugo was sent back to the Dominican Republic, the woman who posted his bail showed up at Salem Superior Court looking for the $50,000 she had posted.

And she got it back ? because even though by posting bail she had made a legal promise to ensure that Lugo would make all court appearances, the bail law allows someone to get his or her money back if a person cannot appear in court due to an act of God or the government.

Prosecutors believe the money may not have belonged to the woman, who is listed in court papers as a telemarketer, and that it will simply be used to help Lugo re-enter the country under a new identity.

Read more.

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LA Times

Ana Puente was an infant with a liver disorder when her aunt brought her illegally to the U.S. to seek medical care. She underwent two liver transplants at UCLA Medical Center as a child in 1989 and a third in 1998, each paid for by the state.

But when Puente turned 21 last June, she aged out of her state-funded health insurance and was unable to continue treatment at UCLA.

This year, her liver began failing again and she was hospitalized at County-USC Medical Center. In her Medi-Cal application, a USC doctor wrote, “Her current clinical course is irreversible, progressive and will lead to death without another liver transplant.” The application was denied.

The county gave her medication but does not have the resources to perform transplants.

Late last month Puente learned of another, little-known option for patients with certain healthcare needs. If she notified U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that she was in the country illegally, state health officials might grant her full Medi-Cal coverage. Puente did so, her benefits were restored and she is now awaiting a fourth transplant at UCLA.

Puente’s case highlights two controversial issues: Should illegal immigrants receive liver transplants in the U.S. and should taxpayers pick up the cost?

The average cost of a liver transplant and first-year follow-up is nearly $490,000, and anti-rejection medications can run more than $30,000 annually, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees transplantation nationwide.

Donor livers are also in scarce supply. In California, nearly 3,700 people are on a waiting list for livers, according to the network. Last year, 767 liver transplants were performed in the state. More than 90% of the organs were given to U.S. citizens.

Donor livers are generally allocated through a geographically based distribution system on the basis of how sick the patients are and how long they have been on the transplant waiting list.

Immigration status does not play a role in allocating organs.

But some say that it should and that illegal immigrants should return to their home countries for care rather than receive organs and costly transplants ahead of legal residents and U.S. citizens.

“All transplants are about rationing,” said Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, which favors stricter controls on immigration. “I just don’t think the public ought to be funding any kind of benefits for people who are breaking the law.”

Larry Gonzalez, a U.S. citizen who has hepatitis C, has known for a decade that he needs a new liver but was just placed on the transplant waiting list last week.

“Why do we have to get in line behind immigrants, foreigners, when we have enough people here to fill the hospitals?” asked Gonzalez, 54, who lives in Ventura. “It just seems obvious to me that we shouldn’t be taking a back seat.”

Read more.

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This woman needs to understand that NAFTA has hurt American workers as well Mexican workers. It only benefited wealthy corporations and her government is just as responsible for NAFTA as the US government. Calderon and Fox still praise this agreement. This foolish woman needs to go to back to Mexico and protest her government.

BBC

Flor Crisostomo’s story echoes that of many of the millions of Latin Americans who, faced with dim economic prospects, opt to leave everything and everyone they know back home to seek a better life in the United States.

Flor, an indigenous woman from Mexico, is among the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, the majority of them Mexican, currently in the US.

But having sought sanctuary in a Chicago church to evade capture, Flor is now also one of the figureheads of the campaign to get the US government to push through a comprehensive immigration reform to grant legal status to many illegal immigrants in the country.

Flor, 29, came to the US more than seven years ago, leaving behind three young children, two boys and a girl, who are looked after by her mother.

Their family’s small farming business had been ruined by the North American Free Trade Agreement, Nafta, Flor says.

“It’s the existing economic and free trade policies like Nafta which are forcing so many of us from our homes,” says Flor from inside the Chicago Protestant church where she has been living for nearly three months.

“This forced displacement,” says Flor, “is a direct result of Nafta. And the American people need to understand that millions of us were forced to abandon our homes. We came here through no choice of our own and didn’t just wantonly decide to abandon our families and our traditions.

“As long as our people are going hungry, as long as our children are going hungry this kind of migration will continue,” Flor says.

“I would like to challenge the authorities here to point out exactly which immigration clauses I violated when I came here through no choice of my own because my children were literally dying of hunger,” she says.

As for the American Immigration and Customs Enforcement department, ICE, its position is just as clear.

In a statement issued shortly after her decision to seek sanctuary inside the Chicago church rather than heed a voluntary deportation order, the ICE said that Flor was now an immigration fugitive who would be arrested at the appropriate time.

Flor says she will be prepared to accept such a detention when the moment comes but warns the US authorities that they could have as much to lose or more in the eyes of millions by arresting her.

“I think they’re the ones who are probably more afraid of how it would look to the entire world that they decided to knock down the doors of a peaceful neighbourhood church to arrest and remove a defenceless woman like myself from the premises,” she concludes.

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AZ Central

In the wake of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office crackdowns on illegal immigrants throughout the Valley, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon is calling on the FBI to investigate whether Sheriff Joe Arpaio has violated any civil-rights laws.

In an April 4 letter to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Gordon asked the Justice Department’s civil-rights division and the FBI to probe what Gordon calls a “pattern and practice of conduct that includes discriminatory harassment, improper stops, searches and arrests.”

Justice Department officials promised to review Gordon’s letter but declined further comment.

Arpaio said it was ironic that Gordon drafted the letter on the same day that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials from Washington observed his deputies arresting residents and illegal immigrants in Guadalupe and approved of the sheriff’s work.

“I think the mayor is disconnected from the people he represents and he doesn’t get the point. Now he’s going to Washington to confuse the issue and try to get the public against me,” Arpaio said Saturday. “It’s not going to work. I’ve done nothing wrong.”
(more…)

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