Immigration officials arrest 46 gang members across N.J.
by The Star-Ledger Continuous News Desk
Wednesday June 24, 2009, 10:53 AM
Immigration authorities arrested 46 gang members and associates across New Jersey as part of a statewide sweep, officials said today.
Since the multiagency operation -- dubbed "Community Shield" -- began in February 2005, more than 12,698 gang members have been arrested, said Harold Ort, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
This latest sweep included 42 gang members and four associates from a range of countries, including the Philippines, Costa Rica and Guatemala, Ort said. Police said 33 members were in the country illegally and face deportation, while 15 face state charges, including aggravated assault and weapons charges.
Gang members from MS-13, Sureno 13 and the Bloods were among those arrested, Ort said.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Immigration officials arrest 46 gang members across N.J.
Lake sheriff defends detentions
Hispanics and their advocates confront Borders over what they call profiling
Anthony Colarossi Sentinel Staff Writer
9:55 PM EDT, June 23, 2009
SORRENTO - Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders heard from an emotional -- and often angry -- crowd Tuesday night about his department's detentions of suspected illegal immigrants.
The Rev. Gianni Agostinelli, a Roman Catholic priest, talked about the arrests of undocumented individuals by Borders' deputies for the U.S. Border Patrol. He and others attending a forum at First Baptist Church of Sorrento said individuals -- mostly Hispanics -- are being stopped and detained without criminal charges against them.
Agostinelli described a case of five people from Guatemala arrested and turned over to federal authorities this week.
"They were walking to work. None of them were charged with anything," Agostinelli said. "If this is not [racial] profiling, then what do we call that?"
Borders insisted -- as he has many times in the past -- that his deputies do not engage in racial or ethnic profiling. They do ask for proper identification when drivers are stopped for traffic violations. And if individuals cannot provide identification, federal authorities are sometimes contacted to check the individual's immigration status, Borders said.
If the Border Patrol issues a detainer for a person, Lake deputies take these individuals to the Lake County Jail. "He [the deputy] doesn't make that decision whether they're going to go to jail or not. Border Patrol makes that decision," Borders said.
Borders was asked if his deputies are putting a focus on crime fighting or immigration. He said crime-fighting is always a priority in his department. "If you're a victim of a crime, that's going to be our focus," Borders told the group of about 75 that crowded the church.
At one point during the questioning Borders stated, "I don't think all Latin people or Hispanic people are criminals."
At another point, Borders said, "I didn't have to come here. But I did want to hear the concerns. I am learning stuff tonight."
Sister Ann Kendrick, with Hope Community Center, also questioned whether deputies are profiling.
"It used to be driving while black. Now it's driving while Mexican or Latino," she said. "People are terrified. They're afraid to drive. Please change your policies. Please lead with compassion."
Borders said he will continue communications with the community and would consider having a citizens advisory panel look at the issue, but he gave no firm promises that deputies would stop contacting federal immigration officials if they question someone's citizenship status.
Authorities detain 30 immigrants found at Edinburg stash house
June 23, 2009 - 4:00 PM
EDINBURG — Authorities detained 30 undocumented immigrants late Tuesday morning after a raid on a stash house here, officials said.
U.S. Border Patrol spokesman John Lopez said law enforcement agencies searched the house at 717 Jade St. near Edinburg after neighbors reported suspicious activity at that address.
"They said something was going on there," Lopez said. "We weren't sure if we'd find narcotics or illegal aliens."
Someone inside the home gave officers consent to enter and search the home about 11 a.m., Lopez said.
Investigators found 30 undocumented immigrants inside the house - immigration officials detained 16 from Mexico, six from Guatemala, five from El Salvador and three from Honduras.
Officials with the Border Patrol, the Edinburg Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement took part in the raid.
Investigators are still following leads to identify the smugglers responsible for setting up the stash house.
"We haven't yet determined who is culpable," ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said. "We're trying to talk to (the detained immigrants)."
Lopez said everyone inside appeared to be in good health.
On Monday, the Brownsville Police Department's SWAT team defused a standoff at a home where 12 undocumented immigrants were being held captive by armed gunmen.
Officers negotiated with the three gunmen, who were later arrested.
Police Beat: Huntley
• A 22-year-old man was arrested and later turned over to immigration officials after police said he spit on two officers June 15 when they responded to a domestic disturbance in the 11800 block of East Main Street. Enrique Mena was charged with domestic battery, possession of 10 to 30 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. McHenry County authorities later turned him over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Immigration Raids Net Arrest in Rome
Several illegal aliens living in Rome, Dalton and Chatsworth have been arrested and put on Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds for deportation. The operation was part of a federal investigation. No specifics were given as to why the 10 individuals were arrested in northwest Georgia, but a release did say that fugitive operations teams `give top priority to cases involving aliens who pose a threat to national security and community safety, including members of transnational street gangs, child sex offenders and aliens with prior convictions for violet crimes.`
Pedro Francisco Alonzo, 55, Dalton, a native of Guatemala
Aracely Canales, 36, Dalton (El Salvador)
Francisco Javier Hurtado-Lazarin, 31, Dalton (Mexico)
Miguel Monzon, 514 Burnett Ferry Road, Rome (Guatemala)
Eliseo Perez Ramirez, Chatsworth (Guatemala)
Alfonso Torres, Dalton (original country unknown)
David Rey Sanchez Torres, Dalton (Mexico)
Maximiliano Hernandez Alvarado, 47, Dalton, formerly of El Salvador
Angel Santizo-Perez, 22, Dalton (El Salvador)
Mauricio Perez-Vincentes, 32, of 514 Burnett Ferry Road in Rome (Guatemala)
Monday, June 22, 2009
ICE won't detain non-U.S. drivers in Nashville
Davidson County sheriff says arrests will continue
By Kate Howard and Chris Echegaray • THE TENNESSEAN • The Gannett • June 22, 2009
The federal government will no longer detain illegal immigrants caught driving without a license in Nashville.
Instead, the federal system wants to use its bed space to house and deport the most dangerous offenders.
The change is good news to advocates who have complained from the beginning, in spring 2007, that the focus of the local immigration enforcement program is misplaced on people who are only committing traffic infractions.
In fact, one of the biggest criticism of the Davidson County Sheriff's Office has been that all offenders, from those driving without a license to those committing violent felonies, are treated to the same punishment once they are identified as illegal immigrants.
The sheriff, who has stood behind the efficacy of the program, says he will continue to screen every foreign-born person arrested, whether they go directly to federal custody or not.
"Just because the federal government is saying we need to prioritize who is detained, doesn't remove the fact they'll be held accountable in the courtroom," said Sheriff Daron Hall.
"There is no shift. We are still processing everyone for every crime."
Most of the 5,300 people sent toward deportation from Nashville's jail in the past two years spent weeks shuffled from one jail cell to another before being sent out of the country. About 75 percent of them were picked up on traffic offenses ranging from driving without a license to DUI; 25 percent were charged only with license offenses.
Those people will now be eligible to be released on their own recognizance, allowed to leave jail once they've resolved their local charges and have a court date to see an immigration judge in Memphis.
Overcrowding in the federal prison system coupled with an effort by the federal government to establish clearer priorities regarding deportation spurred the change.
Even though immigration advocates hail the federal decision, deportation is still likely for the illegal immigrants screened through the program — known as 287g.
Stephen Fotopulos, executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, says it's still punishing members of society for driving when they can't get legal permission to do so.
"Upwards of 95 percent of them, under a current broken system, have no chance for meaningful release (when they go before an immigration judge) in Memphis," Fotopulos said.
"It will allow people to have access to immigration counsel and make good decisions about their family. It's easier to do that when you're not in a holding cell in Alabama."
According to jail statistics, the number of people determined to be illegal immigrants in the jail has dropped by 4 percent over the program's first year.
Fotopulos is not convinced the numbers are as positive as Hall says. He believes the immigrant population in Nashville dropped by several thousand last year and the ratio should be dropping faster.
But Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas says there has been no change in the way his officers approach policing since the 287g program went into effect. The police department has no immigration enforcement powers, but they're indirectly related to the process because anyone police bring to booking at the jail is subject to the screening.
Citations not arrests
Anyone who can prove identity through passports, phone bills or otherwise will be issued a citation for a misdemeanor offense if they haven't skipped court appearances before, Serpas said. Those receiving citations in lieu of arrests are not screened for immigration status.
Matt Chandler, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, says the decision not to house traffic offenders is in keeping with the department's priorities in terms of whom to detain and remove from the country.
"It always has been and always will be criminal aliens who pose a public safety or national security threat who we're most concerned about," Chandler said.
It's up to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to shift their resources to where they're most needed, Chandler said.
Hall said the directive came early this month in an e-mail from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The change comes too late for Yadira Hernandez, who saw two neighbors vanish after a traffic stop. They didn't have driver's licenses and were sent back to Mexico.
Under the new policy, if her neighbors committed only traffic offenses, they would be able to return to their families and get their affairs in order before being deported.
Hernandez knows the danger she's in when she drives her children to school, church and doctor's appointments. Those trips are not a luxury.
"It's not like I'm cruising around. It's for a purpose,'' Hernandez said.
Hernandez was one of hundreds of people who went last week to the Iglesia de Dios Hispana (Hispanic Church of God) in East Nashville to get an identification card and passport from the Mexican government. The consulate has been coming to Nashville almost monthly now to meet the tremendous need for official IDs.
The "mobile consulates" are important for people who can't drive to the consulate in Atlanta but need to be able to prove who they are, said Abigail Calleja, who travels with the consulate program. The need in Nashville has outweighed what they've seen in other Southern cities.
"Every time we come, we open up 1,000 appointments, and they are full within hours," Calleja said. "You don't see that anywhere else."
Immigrants are quietly encouraged by advocates and their church leaders to carry as many forms of identification as they can in case they get stopped.
"When police don't have any ID, they take a person to jail," said pastor Jose Rodriguez Marin. "You need good ID."
Marin, a Spanish-language radio DJ with a rapidly growing congregation, presided over a constantly replenished line of people seeking passports.
Anita Vasquez came to get a passport and a Matricula, the Mexican ID, although she doesn't attempt to drive.
"It's better to be prepared," she said.
With more than 2,300 people held in jail last year waiting to be transferred to federal custody, Renata Soto's advocacy organization was busy.
They've spent many hours this year trying to help their clients with things they never expected to be worried about, such as powers of attorney in case they need to designate someone to care for their children. They also deal with dual citizenship requests for American-born children so they can go with their parents if they're deported.
"For me that is an indication of how people truly live in fear," said Soto, executive director of Conexion Americas. "People know it's a matter of chance often that they could be in that predicament."
It's been a controversial year for the fledgling 287g program. Last summer, the sheriff's office took national flak for the treatment of an illegal immigrant arrested for careless driving.
She was taken into custody over a holiday weekend and gave birth after her leg was shackled to the bed during portions of her labor.
Hall defended her classification as a medium-security inmate, saying she was a flight risk because she had been deported once before.
But he changed the policy on how they handle birth in custody two months later, vowing that pregnant inmates would no longer be restrained unless there was a credible threat.
In March, the federal government released a report highly critical of the way the 287g program has been implemented across the nation.
Hall said he would welcome more consistency, although he will be concerned if the government stops letting him screen everyone who is booked.
It's not his concern whether the person is detained or released with a court date, Hall said, so long as he's still allowed to identify them as illegal immigrants. But he expects that many people ordered to go to an immigration judge in Memphis won't show up.
"I just hope it's not a set-up for failure," he said.
Hall says he has made some changes to make things easier for the federal inmates kept in jail for roughly a week while they await pickup from Immigration and Customs Enforcement — and their families who need to see them.
He has put all the inmates with immigration holds in the same unit, so Spanish-language Mass and visits from the Mexican consulate are easier to arrange. Hall said the menu for the inmates has the same calorie content as that for the general population, but he has changed the options.
He has made visitation more flexible, so families wary of showing identification and signing their name on a list are allowed to skip those formalities. No appointments are necessary, and the hours are extended so families can come whenever they're able.
Still, fundamental arguments against the program remain. Though more people will be released while awaiting immigration charges and will have access to an attorney, it doesn't change the fact that people have not been proved guilty before they've been deemed a "criminal alien" by the government.
Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says if the program must continue, it should be moved to a different part of the justice process.
"For fairness and due process, the 287g program would best be implemented if it were used to screen after a conviction," Weinberg said.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
US citizen detained for 11 months
Everyday dozens of illegal immigrants are captured in southern Arizona and eventually sent back to mexico.A majority of the cases are pretty cut and dry, but a Phoenix man's family says the federal government detained their son for months. What makes this story different: He's a United States citizen.
When Brad Zazueta was 11 weeks old, he came to the US from Mexico.
His adoptive parents jumped through the all the legal hoops so they could adopt him.
They have the paper work to prove it.
"Our adoption was granted through the Superior Courts of California," mother Linda Zazueta says.
He got a California birth certificate. And in almost everyone's eyes he's an American.
But a traffic stop last fall created problems... When he was picked up for an outstanding warrant.
When asked where he was from he said 'Mexico' and questions of his citizenship arose.
According to court documents, because of some mistakes on the paperwork at the time of his adoption, the Department of Homeland Security now wants Brad deported.
"Thinking this is just a mistake, once they see everything they'll let him go and they didn't," Linda says.
He was imprisoned for seven months in a facility in Eloy.
In March an immigration judge ruled brad is a citizen.
In a statement immigrations and customs enforcement says it's appealing because "The ruling is not in conformity with the law or with applicable precedents. An adoptee of US Citizen parents does not, by itself, accord that person with US citizenship."
Brad has been released from prison while ICE appeals.
Paperwork snafu may seperate disabled Queens girl from her father
BY Lisa L. Colangelo
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Wednesday, June 17th 2009, 4:00 AM
Hayoung Lee is used to beating the odds.
When she was born 15 years ago in South Korea, doctors told her family the severely disabled girl wouldn't live to see her first birthday.
But she did. Seven years later, her parents moved to the United States so that little Hayoung could get better treatment. With the help of intensive therapy, the once-bedridden girl can now walk.
"It's a miracle," said her mother, Yoojung Choi Lee, 44.
Now Hayoung and her whole family need another miracle.
Hayoung, her mother and her 17-year-old sister, Haeun - an award-winning student at Townsend Harris High School - face deportation because of a paperwork snafu.
Their green card applications were mishandled by a broker to whom they paid more than $16,000. The broker assured them the filing would be handled properly, the family said.
Their deportation would leave Hayoung's father, Bong Chang Lee, alone in the U.S. with the couple's son, Jason, 5.
The 46-year-old dad said that's not an option.
"A man is responsible for his family," Lee said through a translator at the family's apartment in Bayside. "It's unthinkable for me to be separated from my family."
The family faced its first hearing Monday in immigration court. The next step is a legal conference at the end of next month.
Attorney Kerry Bretz, who specializes in immigration law, said he was so moved by the family's story that he has allowed his senior associate, David Kim, to work on the complicated, time-consuming case pro bono.
"Had the person they went to filed the papers correctly, they would already have their green cards," said Bretz.
The Lees have spent the past nine years building strong ties in their Queens community. Bong Chang Lee, who has a green card, works full time as a manager at a food plant in Tappan, Rockland County.
An essay written by Haeun, also known as Joanne, was chosen for publication in the Harvard Education Review. In an ironic twist, her topic was "The DREAM Act," the proposed law to make it easier for undocumented high school graduates already in the U.S. to become citizens.
"We've really established our lives," said Joanne, who will be a senior at Townsend Harris in September. "My dream is to stay [in the U.S.] and get educated."
She and her family also worry that Hayoung will deteriorate, because there are fewer services in South Korea for people with her severe neurological and developmental disabilities.
"This is the American Dream - a hardworking family, they go to church, the daughter is an excellent student," said Bretz. "If you don't want these people to live in the country, who do you want?"
127 immigrants arrested in past 30 days by MCSO
Reported by: Lan Smith
Last Update: 6/17 4:31 pm
PHOENIX -- Maricopa County Sheriff Office (MCSO) arrested 27 undocumented immigrants Tuesday night at four different traffic stops in a three-hour period, while working in the northwest part of the Valley.
In the past 30 days, sheriff's deputies have arrested 127 undocumented immigrants.
Of those suspects, 106 of them were booked into the 4th Avenue Jail on felony charges.
To date, MCSO has arrested 1,396 immigrants on felony state and human smuggling charges.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has vowed to continue enforcing all aspects of the state and federal immigration laws.
Arpaio has said that he will not be distracted nor deterred by civil rights activists or local and national politicians.
Probation sweep results in arrests of 12 people
By Debbi Baker, Union-Tribune Staff Writer
9:13 a.m. June 18, 2009
VISTA — A probation sweep resulted in the arrests of 12 people including seven who were charged with new felony charges, sheriff's officials said Thursday.
Sheriff's deputies, probation officers and state parole agents began the compliance check at 7 a.m. Tuesday, visiting 20 homes of people on probation, sheriff's officials said.
One 23-year-old man was found with 14 grams of mushrooms, packaging materials and almost $5,000 in cash, and was arrested and booked on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and possession for sales.
A 62-year-old man, who was not on probation or parole, was arrested after a packet of methamphetamine fell out of his wallet as he was handing his identification to deputies after they came upon him during the sweep.
He was booked on charges of possession of a controlled substance, officials said.
Another man was taken into custody on suspicion of being under the influence and two others were arrested, cited and released after agreeing to appear in court on possession of drug paraphernalia and syringes charges, officials said.
One person was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after it was determined that he had been deported previously.
The probationers were booked into Vista Jail.
Secret Courts Exploit Immigrants
By Jacqueline Stevens
June 16, 2009
You don't need to go to Iran or North Korea to find secret courts. They're alive and well right here in the United States. On March 26, 2009, I was denied access to immigration courts in Eloy and Florence, Arizona, even though a federal regulation states, "All hearings, other than exclusion hearings, shall be open to the public" with a narrow range of exceptions--none of which were cited as a reason for excluding me.
I'd heard horror stories about mass hearings and the humiliation of detainees by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys and judges, and I wanted to see for myself. But a guard told me only family members or attorneys could be admitted. An attorney in the lobby affirmed the legality of my request and invited me to attend his hearing. After waiting forty-five minutes and missing his hearing, I was told by the head of security to go to my car and call Eloy's ICE office. That's when I learned that detention centers across the country were restricting public access to immigration courts.
Mark Soukup, Eloy's supervisory detention and deportation officer, explained that ICE required anyone entering the immigration courts at Eloy to undergo a background check, for which one would need to submit in writing two weeks in advance one's name, date of birth, Social Security number, a home address and the particular hearing one wanted to attend. "The problem is that anyone with a felony or misdemeanor conviction in the last five years can be prohibited to come in for security reasons," Soukup explained.
The Eloy immigration courts are housed in a building behind two fences topped with barbed wire. You must be buzzed through two gates to enter the building. Access to the courts themselves requires going through a metal detector in a lobby with several guards and another locked door. Mentioning this, I asked Soukup how a background check enhanced security. He told me these were the rules that applied to everyone, including contractors. I replied that contractors did not have a right to work at a detention center, but the public has the right to attend immigration proceedings.
In 2002, the courts overturned a related policy closing immigration hearings to the public--the earlier rationale was that accused terrorists might disclose information prejudicial to "national security." Sixth Circuit Judge Damon J. Keith smacked down the Bush administration: "Today, the Executive Branch seeks to take this safeguard [open hearings] away from the public by placing its actions beyond public scrutiny.... The Executive Branch seeks to uproot people's lives, outside the public eye, and behind a closed door. Democracies die behind closed doors."
Lee Gelernt, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney whose arguments persuaded Judge Keith in the 2002 case that forced Attorney General John Ashcroft to rescind the exclusionary policy, finds the two-week prescreening policy unacceptable: "It is critical that the public and press have access to immigration proceedings to ensure that the proceedings are conducted fairly and consistent with due process principles. It is absolutely unlawful for the DHS to place unreasonable restrictions on access to immigration court."
Central Arizona is not lacking in immigration courts in detention centers, so I drove about thirty miles to the Florence Detention Center, which also had immigration court hearings scheduled that day. A judge at Florence had just deported a US citizen born in Colorado. I was curious about the courtroom demeanor of someone who would credit a 17-year-old's statement renouncing a claim to citizenship signed after a Border Patrol agent had torn up a copy of his birth certificate and threatened him with arrest, and would ignore his later freely made, sworn statement stating he was a US citizen.
The statement signed at the border is evidence of nothing except government misconduct. What kind of person ignores a birth certificate and extensive documentation of birth in a Denver hospital, including newborn infant reflex tests and an enlarged photo of the respondent holding the exact same birth certificate when he was about eight years old, and decides to permanently remove a US citizen from his country and render him stateless? How does he conduct his hearings? What was happening that day in his Florence courtroom?
I can't answer these questions because I was refused entry. After standing twenty minutes at the front gate--there's a sentry post regulating cars and foot traffic--the ICE guard said they would not allow me to enter, only attorneys and family members. I asked him if he was aware that immigration courts were supposed to be open to the public. He was affable, and said, "Yes, I know. I thought it was going to go good but then they called a supervisor and they said, 'No, we're not letting her in.'" He also gave me a phone number for ICE at Florence. The agent answering said that I needed to speak with someone else and then connected me to a woman's voicemail. No one returned my call that day or on subsequent occasions. The immigration courts at Florence are either closed to the entire public or are screening for ICE critics. Both actions are illegal.
In an interview, Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat and chair of the House subcommittee overseeing immigrant rights, expressed concern about the public's exclusion from immigration courts in detention centers. "A federal regulation requires proceedings to be open. The public has a right to attend these hearings under this regulation and any limit of this is in violation of this regulation," with the exceptions, Lofgren noted, of restrictions imposed at the discretion of the judges--for asylum claims, cases of sexual abuse or at the request of the respondent.
The Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), an agency in the Department of Justice charged with managing immigration courts, reports that in 2008 its judges decided 134,117 deportation cases, of which 48 percent were for detainees. The individuals facing deportation hearings in these remote sites--far from their families, indigent and without attorneys--are the most legally fragile population in the country. The least the government can do is follow the law and allow public access to the courts. ICE is physically barring entry into the immigration courts in detention centers, but the real culprit is the EOIR. If that agency, under the Department of Justice, cannot arrange to allow the public into immigration courts in detention centers, then the Justice Department should house the courts in other facilities.
Mary Naftzger, a member of the Chicago New Sanctuary Coalition who frequently attends immigration hearings, said, "We have feedback from lawyers who say the judges are more respectful when court watchers are there." She explained that most of the respondents do not have attorneys and that judges ask them questions en masse "rather than examine their cases individually, a practice that changes once the court watchers arrive."
ICE and EOIR spokespersons state that a screening requirement is consistent with public access. But unlike other courts, those in the detention centers had no court watchers from the public that I could locate.
When I asked Tracy Blagec of ABLE, an interfaith coalition of churches, grassroots groups and unions doing immigration court watching in Atlanta--where the hearings are open to the public--how a screening requirement would affect her willingness to attend hearings, she said, "I wouldn't feel good about that, especially with it being Homeland Security. You just wonder what's it going to lead to," and she speculated about one's name being on a list flagged for security checks in airports or other forms of government harassment. She concluded that pre-screening would be "detrimental for the immigrants because it would severely limit the people who are advocating for them."
Blagec pointed out that this policy also gives the DHS a handy list of immigrant rights activists. DHS has one of the largest surveillance operations in the world. Who wants to be on that list? ICE Spokesperson Kelly Nantel said she did not know if ICE retained the names of those it screened in any database.
Naftzger, the Chicago-based activist, said a screening requirement would reduce participation in their program "a lot. Some of [the court watchers] are students, or have very busy schedules, and would not be able to submit that information two weeks ahead of time. We would resent doing that because it's a public courtroom. It fits an image that ICE may not want to portray, that all citizens are suspect, that they lump everyone as a potential suspect and can't trust people to come to into a public courtroom and behave."
"The only thing I want a courtroom to do, for the detained or non-detained, is make sure no one's carrying a knife or gun," said Dan Kowalski, an Austin immigration attorney and expert on immigration court procedures. Beyond that they have no business knowing the identity of the people going into the courts."
Hannah August, spokesperson for Department of Justice, minimized the screening requirements. "You just need to go through security, like a metal detector. You also need to get rid of your cellphone," she said. How would one know how to obtain prescreening? I asked. "To find out the rules you have to contact the facility." I told her that no one had answered the phone at Florence. "You go there." I told her I was calling from the front gate, and I reminded her that it took two weeks at Eloy for a prescreening, to which she replied, "What I've heard is that it's more like a day turnaround." When I asked her where she heard this, August said, "I can't go into this further."
ICE spokespersons say that as a result of inquiries on court access by public radio reporter Claudine LoMonaco and myself, Dora Schriro, a special advisor to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, is including immigration court access under the policies she is evaluating. If the policy is not changed, Kowalksi says he and other civil liberties lawyers will file a lawsuit.
More than 100 kids sue over parents' deportations
Posted on Wednesday, 06.17.09
By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ
AP Hispanic Affairs Writer
MIAMI -- Ronald Soza celebrated his 10th birthday Wednesday with cake and a serenade by more than 100 other children and their parents.
His own family: absent. His mother was recently deported back to Nicaragua. His father rarely ventures out in public in fear of a similar fate. Now Soza and the other children - all U.S. citizens whose parents face deportation - are demanding a say in the immigration debate.
They are suing President Barack Obama, asking a court to halt the deportations of their parents until Congress overhauls U.S. immigration laws.
The children, who gathered Wednesday at the Miami nonprofit American Fraternity to draw attention to their cause, say their constitutional rights are being violated because they will likely have to leave the country if their parents are forced to go.
Some children said their families didn't have enough money to pay for school supplies because the breadwinning parent had been deported, and some are at risk of losing their homes. They also say they are suffering psychological and physical hardship.
"My grades went from A's to C's when my mom had to leave," said Ronald.
Nearby, 5-year-old Sara Bedoya Sanchez comforted her sister Salome, 3, who played with a paper sign pinned to her chest reading "Don't Leave me alone."
"I came today because I want to stay with my mommy here," said Sara, who was born in South Florida, but whose mother came from Medellin, Colombia, through Mexico, crossing the Rio Grande on foot nearly a decade ago.
Nora Sandigo, the head of the Fraternity, originally brought the case on behalf of the children against the Bush administration. She refiled it in January in Miami and a hearing is scheduled for August.
Sandigo said she is frustrated that the Obama administration hasn't done more to address immigration reform.
"Today these children's voices are not heard," Sandigo said as dozens of youngsters squirmed and twirled their flags on a rug before her, "but tomorrow these U.S. citizens will be voting."
Perhaps not literally, but many of the more than 100 children who gathered Wednesday are already in their teens and will be voting age by the next presidential election.
Also on Wednesday, religious leaders and supporters gathered in Washington for a prayer vigil in advance of Obama's proposed meeting on immigration next week with congressional leaders.
Sandigo says many of the children's parents came to the U.S. before 1996 immigration changes made it more difficult for them to become legal residents. When they came, they had a valid expectation that if they stayed out of trouble for seven years, they could eventually become legal residents, she has argued.
Immigration experts say the case has a tough road in the courts because Congress explicitly made the law retroactive.
And the plight of the children is not grounds for their parents to remain in the U.S., said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which seeks to limit immigration.
"These are deportable aliens, and they get whatever due process Congress grants them and nothing more," Krikorian said.
"There are going to be times when you're going to want to make exceptions in certain cases, but today the law is so riddled with exceptions that now is not the time."
Sandigo has championed seemingly hopeless causes before. She brought a lawsuit in the early 1990s to help fellow Nicaraguans avoid being deported back to their war-ravaged country. The case prompted Congress to pass an amnesty law for many Central Americans.
The current lawsuit could also advance the cause of immigrants in the political arena, said immigration Scholar Louis DeSipio of the University of California, Irvine.
"It's a very conscious decision of the immigrant advocates to focus on this issue," he added, "to disabuse Americans of the images we have of men in their twenties and thirties running across the border, showing instead that it's a family affair."
12 arrested in sting, 11 to be deportation
Posted: Wednesday, 17 June 2009 6:39PM
CHICAGO (STNG) -- In the latest local action in a national effort to target foreign-born gang members, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and local police made 12 arrests and lodged one detainer in a three-day operation targeting gangs in the west and northwest suburbs.
These arrests were part of an ongoing initiative of the National Gang Unit at ICE called Operation Community Shield, according to a release from ICE.
The multi-agency operation, which ended Tuesday, targeted foreign-born gang members and associates. Ten of the 12 were arrested on administrative immigration violations and are currently in ICE custody pending deportation. All are illegal aliens from Mexico who are members of the Imperial Gangsters, Sureños-13 or Latin Kings.
Two of the 12 arrests were made by Franklin Park police with ICE’s assistance. The first, a U.S. citizen with no gang affiliation, was arrested for having seven marijuana plants in his Northlake residence. He faces state felony charges for drug possession. The second, a 17-year-old illegal alien from Mexico, is an Imperial Gangsters member arrested on a misdemeanor drug charge.
ICE also placed a detainer on an Iraqi native and Latin King member who was located in Cook County Jail, where he faces unrelated felony drug charges. He is a U.S. permanent resident whose previous criminal convictions make him eligible for deportation upon release from local custody, the release said.
During the operation, ICE agents also seized a .40-caliber semi automatic handgun.
The 10 illegal alien gang members in custody all have criminal histories, including convictions and arrests for aggravated battery, criminal sexual assault, burglary, unlawful possession of drugs, domestic battery and mob action.
ICE was assisted in the operation by the Arlington Heights, Franklin Park, Melrose Park, Mt. Prospect, Northlake, Palatine, Stone Park and Wheeling police departments.
Since Operation Community Shield started in February 2005, more than 13,000 gang members belonging to more than 900 gangs have been arrested nationwide.
Teens Deported In Immigration Sweep Return Home
Immigrant Rights Activists, Families Speak Out Against Raid
POSTED: 5:21 pm PDT June 17, 2009
SAN DIEGO -- Nearly one month after the Department of Homeland Security conducted an immigration sweep in the Old Town Transit Center, three high school students detained and deported to Mexico are back home with their families.
10News learned that the students were granted humanitarian parole, which gave them the chance to go home but how long they can stay remains unanswered.
Stephanie Jimenez was greeted with warm words and hugs after spending the last 30 days away from her family.
Stephanie was in Tijuana with her boyfriend, Mauricio Villanueva, and the couple said border agents handcuffed them at the Old Town Transit Center while on their way to school.
"I told him I'm underage; they don't have the right to deport me, I'm a student," Mauricio said.
It happened during an immigration sweep conducted by the Transportation Safety Administration and the Border Patrol that led to 21 arrests.
Stephanie and Mauricio accused agents of bullying them into signing a voluntary departure form.
"They were trying to talk a good way with us, but their actions were racist," said Mauricio.
On Wednesday, immigration rights activists and the couple's families spoke out during a press conference.
"It was a miracle they were able to get back safe and quickly," said Mauricio's mother, Angelica Pacheco.
They credit community protests for the federal government's rare move to grant the kids humanitarian parole.
"We believe there is implied acknowledgment that perhaps the process the minors were removed from the country is incorrect," said Pedro Rios of the American Friends Services Committee.
Border officials maintain that they don't use racial profiling and did not break any laws -- a stance immigration rights activists question.
"Were they given the right to speak to a rep of the Mexican consulate? A lot of questions we don't have the answer to," said immigration attorney Lilia Velasquez.
Kevin Keenan of the American Civil Liberties Union said, "We need to know from our government that this isn't going to happen again. We need the reassurance their kids won't be targeted on the way to school."
A third teen was also granted humanitarian parole but wished to remain anonymous.
The three teenagers still have to present their case in front of an immigration judge, and a hearing could take place sometime in the next three months.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Plan will help to deport Lee County's jailed illegal immigrants
Already in SW Florida, plan to be in effect here by 2012
By Chris Umpierre • email@example.com • June 14, 2009
Illegal immigrants with criminal records booked into the Lee County Jail could be identified for deportation at a higher rate thanks to a new federal program being expanded by the Obama administration.
The program - which began as a pilot effort in October and operates in 50 U.S. counties, including Collier and Charlotte - will expand to Lee and all U.S. jails by 2012.
The Secure Communities program checks the immigration status of every person booked into local jails by matching inmates' fingerprints to federal immigration databases. While computerized immigration checks are run in federal and state prisons, local jails lack the time and resources to screen all inmates.
Based on the pilot program, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement estimates that if fingerprints from all 14 million bookings in local jails each year were screened, about 1.4 million criminal aliens would be found. That would be about 10 times the 117,000 criminal illegal immigrants ICE deported last year.
"Right now, when we book someone in jail we have no way to determine their immigration status unless they're a self-proclaimed alien," said Lee County Capt. Tom Eberhardt, whose agency recently met with ICE to discuss the Secure Communities program. "What (ICE) is finding out is that this is an extra tool to pick out (criminal illegal immigrants) in a quicker way."
Eberhardt, who oversees Lee's jail operations, said Lee sends ICE biographical information - not fingerprints - if an inmate admits to being foreign born during booking. ICE could take days to reply, by which time some detainees had been released.
Secure Communities' finger-print database, in contrast, notifies local jails of positive immigration matches with the Department of Homeland Security database within an hour, Navas said.
ICE estimates the number of incarcerated criminal aliens in the U.S. at between 300,000 and 450,000 people.
Eberhardt declined to estimate how many illegal immigrants are being housed in Lee's jail, but he did say that ICE typically places detainers on nine to 20 of its inmates each day.
ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said his agency will give priority to deporting the most dangerous offenders: national security risks or those convicted of violent crimes such kidnapping and murder.
"What people need to understand is this program is geared to helping ICE prioritize the most egregious alien criminals so those individuals are prosecuted first and not released back to our communities," Rocha said.
Supporters of the program say that Secure Communities would not only make communities safer but that it would save counties thousands of dollars in housing inmates that legally shouldn't be here.
"Anything we can do to get illegal aliens out of jails is for the better," said state Rep. Trudi Williams, a Fort Myers Republican who sponsored a bill similar to the Secure Communities program last year. The bill died in a committee on state affairs.
"Jails are so expensive to begin with. If you fill them with illegals who shouldn't be here in the first place, it gets even more expensive."
According to the Lee County Sheriff's Office, it costs $27,375 a year to house and feed an inmate.
Secure Communities flagged nearly 1,000 illegal immigrants being held by authorities from January to April, ICE said.
The illegal status of those people "would have otherwise remained undetected," ICE said.
Victor Valdes, the civil rights commissioner for the League of United Latin American Citizens Florida, is concerned that Secure Communities would lead to racial profiling.
"We are opposed to this because we can see (officers) stopping people riding bicycles or riding in the back of trucks to find if they are legal. They'll use any kind of excuse to arrest them," said Valdes, a Naples resident.
Valdes isn't alone. In April, a coalition of immigrant rights groups wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and told her that the program "creates an incentive for police to arrest people on pretextual or minor crimes so that their immigration status can be checked."
Immigration officials say universal checks will reduce allegations of bias.
"The fingerprints of all persons arrested and booked will be processed through the system, regardless of race, nationality or ethnicity," David Venturella, the executive director for Secure Communities, said.
Collier County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Michelle Batten said it was too early to say how successful Secure Communities has been for her agency. Collier started running the program in mid-February, Batten said.
Collier is one of nine test agencies in Florida doing the program. The other counties are St. Johns, Clay, Duval, Miami-Dade, Marion, Hillsborough, Charlotte and St. Lucie.
"Secure Communities is something every law enforcement agency should be doing," Batten said. "We're more than happy to be participating."
ICE didn't respond to a request for the number of illegal criminal immigrants who were detained for deportation hearings in Collier since the program began.
Fort Myers immigration attorney Ricardo Skerrett said Secure Communities will work well in Collier and other communities if the program is run like ICE indicates.
"It definitely should be the priority of the government to deport criminal aliens instead of wasting resources to do raids and deporting people who have been here for years who have no criminal record and are no threat to society," Skerrett said.
"But this is only a good idea if it's used in the right purpose and used to deport felons."
Why some immigrants are let go
On the beat, a person's immigration status may or may not become an issue
by Daniel González - Jun. 14, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
In a city with one of the largest undocumented populations in the nation, Phoenix police officers frequently encounter people who could be in the country illegally.
But a recent three-hour ride-along with a Phoenix police officer showed that deciding who should be questioned about their immigration status - and turned over to federal authorities for possible deportation - and who shouldn't isn't always so clear-cut.
That is where a year-old immigration policy is supposed to help out. The policy gives officers more discretion to question people about their immigration status. But the policy places emphasis on people involved with crime and requires officers to document contact with ICE to help prevent racial profiling.
One recent Tuesday evening, Sgt. Mario Leoni was cruising north on 35th Avenue when he came up on a Ford Taurus that was going much slower than the speed limit. That made Leoni suspicious. He decided to run a license-plate check on the car. The query showed the vehicle had no insurance. So Leoni pulled it over.
The stop took place in the Maryvale precinct on the city's west side. The area's residents are mostly Latinos, and a large proportion of them are immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala, both legal and illegal.
The driver and passenger, both wearing dusty clothes and ball caps, told Leoni they were construction workers driving home from a job.
As it turned out, the driver did have vehicle insurance. But several clues indicated the men might be in the country illegally. They spoke only Spanish and neither had an Arizona driver's license. The driver showed Leoni a matricula consular card, which many illegal immigrants from Mexico rely on for identification, and the passenger carried only a Mexican driver's license from Durango.
After a computer check revealed no criminal records or outstanding warrants, Leoni told the men to switch places so the one with the driver's license was behind the wheel. In this case, Leoni could have cited the driver for driving without a license, a misdemeanor.
But he let the men drive away, without a citation and without asking a single question about their immigration status.
"Those are just a couple of hard-working dudes," Leoni said, climbing back in his patrol vehicle.
That might shock anti-illegal immigration advocates, who want local police to arrest every illegal immigrant they encounter so they can be deported, usually the federal government's job.
But Leoni said he was just following the department's immigration policy. Officers may question people about their immigration status as part of a criminal investigation. But to Leoni this was just a routine traffic stop; he didn't believe the men were engaged in criminal activity. Leoni said the policy has other goals as well.
It's intended to prevent officers from questioning people about their immigration based on race or appearance, a practice known as profiling that could lead to civil-rights abuses.
And more importantly, it's aimed at keeping officers from being tied up for long periods of time attending to immigration violators when they could be needed for more serious crimes. That's why a supervisor must be the one to decide whether to contact ICE.
For all those reasons, officers frequently let suspected illegal immigrants go.
"We have that discretion," Leoni said. "Our main concern is whether a crime has been committed."
VINELAND: Afternoon police update includes numerous warrant arrests [Last item]
From staff reports • June 15, 2009
Jose M. Mercado, 22, of the 100 block of South Fourth Street, was charged Wednesday with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, having an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle, driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle without a license, and having fictitious plates. He was processed and released to his sister. Police notifed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement about Mercado’s immigration status.
Jail time cut for pregnant illegal alien
Judge had lengthened sentence due to HIV-positive diagnosis
By Judy Harrison
BANGOR, Maine — A pregnant, HIV-positive African woman will give birth in a Portland hospital rather than a federal prison after a U.S. District judge on Monday ordered that she be released on personal recognizance bail while her appeal to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is pending in Boston.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock last month sentenced Quinta Layin Tuleh, 28, of Cameroon to 238 days in prison — twice as long as the recommended sentence of 114 days — for having false documents.
Tuleh did not address Woodcock during the hour-long hearing. But she appeared to be elated as she left the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building with her attorney, Matthew Erickson of Bangor, and Jennifer Putnam, director of clinical services at the Frannie Peabody Center in Portland.
The mother-to-be declined to speak to a reporter and hid from a photographer behind a pillar after her picture was snapped.
“We’re delighted by the judge’s decision,” Erickson said outside the building. “It was very thoughtful and well thought out.”
Tuleh, whose due date is Aug. 29, agreed Monday to remain in Portland while on bail and receive treatment coordinated through the Frannie Peabody Center. The center offers support to people diagnosed with AIDS and the virus that causes the disease.
If the judge had denied the motion, Tuleh would have been transferred to the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, at the end of the week, according to the U.S. Marshal Service in Bangor. The facility provides specialized medical and mental health services to female offenders, according to information on the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ Web site.
In imposing the sentence on May 14, Woodcock rejected a 114-day, or time-served, sentence recommended by her attorney and the federal prosecutor, according to a transcript of the hearing. The judge also imposed a sentence that was longer than the zero to six months recommended in the federal sentencing guidelines.
The judge said that to ensure Tuleh received proper medical care through the birth of her child and to increase its chances of being born free of the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, he was sentencing her to remain in jail until two weeks past her due date. Woodcock also said he was concerned that Tuleh would be deported to Cameroon before giving birth if she were to be released earlier.
Testimony on Monday from Putnam and an agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement allayed those concerns, Woodcock said in granting the motion for bail.
“I recognize that the sentence turned out to be controversial,” he said. “I can certainly understand how some have misinterpreted what the court intended to do in this case.”
Woodcock said that what he had wanted to do was “to step in between the prison system and the social [safety] net” to ensure that Tuleh remained healthy and that the child was born healthy.
“At the time of the sentencing, I had no clear understanding of what the community could do,” Woodcock said. “I had no specifics.”
He got them Monday from Putnam, who testified that Tuleh would be put up in a Portland motel until housing in the city could be found for her. The pregnant woman already has been connected with an obstetrician, virologist and pediatrician for treatment, she said.
Her housing, food, medicine and treatment would be paid for by state and federal programs, Putnam said. Tuleh would be assigned a case manager at the center and would be eligible to be visited two or three times a week by a public health nurse. Used furniture and clothing are donated to the center and would be available to Tuleh, Putnam told the judge.
Patrick Mullen, an ICE agent in Portland, testified that removal proceedings against Tuleh would not begin until after her appeal was completed. Once that happened, she would not be taken into custody but would be given a date for a removal hearing in U.S. Immigration Court in Boston.
By staying in Portland, Tuleh also would be close to Zachary Heiden, the Maine Civil Liberties Union attorney who is handling her appeal, and the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, which is handling her application to remain in the U.S.
Tuleh is in the process of applying for asylum in the U.S., according to court documents, on the basis that she is the victim of a crime. She may have suffered abuse while working for her former employer, who has not been named, in Aroostook County, according to an affidavit filed by her immigration attorney.
The African woman arrived in the U.S. in September and lived in Maryland until early January, when she went to Presque Isle to work as a nanny for a family, according to court documents. She was arrested Jan. 21 at the Presque Isle Airport after false documents were discovered in her luggage. She told investigators that she had quit her job in a dispute with the woman for whom she worked.
Tuleh became pregnant before she came to Maine, Erickson has said, but did not confirm the pregnancy until after her arrest. Her HIV status was not known until a few days before her sentencing on May 14, according to Erickson.
A three-judge panel in Boston has agreed to hear the appeal on an expedited schedule, but oral arguments are not expected to be held until late July and early August. In addition to appeals filed by the prosecution and the defense, a group of 15 individuals and organizations have filed in Bangor and Boston a “friend of the court” brief in support of Tuleh.
Woodcock said Monday that he found the brief “articulate and helpful” in making his decision about whether to release Tuleh on bail.
Freeborn County jail to house immigration violators
by Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
June 16, 2009
St. Paul, Minn. — A southern Minnesota county jail has become the latest facility in the region to house federal inmates who are waiting to be deported from the U.S.
Ten inmates arrived at the Freeborn County Jail in Albert Lea Monday night as part of an agreement between the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and the county, officials said.
ICE and Freeborn County officials finalized the five-year agreement in March, and it was officially approved in Washington D.C. last week, according to Freeborn County Jail Administrator Marcellino Pena. The agreement is for as many as 80 detainees at any given time.
Under the agreement, the federal government will pay the county $77 for each inmate per day, Pena said.
"Like every other facility, we're looking to keep some funding in our jails because we're so low on just local detainees," Pena said. "It's a huge tax base for our county as far as the revenue."
Pena estimates the contract with ICE will generate as much as $2.5 million per year, if the jail receives 80 inmates.
"That's a lot of money for our county," he said.
The Freeborn jail will serve as a hub for ICE in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa, since ICE does not have its own detention facility in Minnesota, according to ICE spokesman Tim Counts.
ICE has worked out agreements with four other Minnesota jails in Sherburne, Carver, Ramsey and Nobles counties, to house inmates before they are deported, Counts said.
On any given day, there are between 200 and 300 ICE detainees in Minnesota, in addition to approximately 4,000 individuals who also face immigration removal proceedings but are not in custody, Counts said.
Those in jail can stay in federal custody as little as a week, or as long as a year or more.
"Each individual's case is unique," Counts said. "The length of stay depends on a variety of factors, including whether the detainee has been ordered deported; whether appeals are pending."
In 2008, the nationwide average length of stay for a detainee was approximately 31 days, according to Counts.
Pena said the 10 detainees at the Freeborn County jail represented a variety of countries, including Germany, Libya, Jamaica and Mexico. They were coming from ICE's regional headquarters in Bloomington, but had been arrested in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
In all, the Freeborn County jail has a capacity of 122 inmates. Aside from the ICE detainees, there were about 70 inmates in the jail Monday afternoon.
Sheriff: Phoenix car wash hit in immigration raid
by Sherry Anne Rubiano - Jun. 13, 2009 10:07 AM
The Arizona Republic
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has arrested 14 suspected illegal immigrants who worked at a car wash at 30th Street and Indian School Road in Phoenix.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said 12 employees at Lindstrom Family Auto Wash had phony IDs and will be booked into county jail.
Two others were arrested for being suspected illegal immigrants and will be turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Arpaio said.
The Sheriff's Office had been investigating the car wash for about a year. They received a tip from someone working at the car wash that the business had been employing illegal immigrants, Arpaio said.
Deputies served search warrants at the business and at employees' homes Saturday morning.
Arpaio said deputies and posse members surrounded the car wash. Several employees tried to get away by jumping on the roof, but no one was able to escape, he said.
The business owners are not being detained, and the Sheriff's Office is looking into whether the owners knowingly hired undocumented immigrants, Arpaio said.
Arpaio said this is the seventh business his office has investigated for breaking the state's employer-sanctions law. The Sheriff's Office has arrested 248 people for employer sanctions violations, he said.
Arpaio said his office will continue to enforce illegal immigration laws, regardless of what politicians, the Justice Department or Congress say about him.
"This is my answer to all of them," he said. "I'm not backing down."
Woman arrested for leaving child at home
June 17, 2009 - 8:17 AM
By ILDEFONSO ORTIZ, The Brownsville Herald
A Mexican woman has been arrested for leaving her 9-year-old home alone while she went grocery shopping.
Norma Maria Resendez, 35, an undocumented immigrant, was arrested Monday and then charged with abandoning and endangering a child with intent to return, said police spokesman Sgt. Jimmy Manrrique.
The 6:30 p.m. arrest took place at an apartment complex at 1005 Apollo Ave., after police received a call from a concerned resident about a child left alone inside an apartment, Manrrique said.
Officers spoke with the child who was by herself and only had rotten food in the refrigerator, the spokesman said.
"Officers tried to find out if she knew what to do in an emergency," he said. "She didn't."
Shortly after, Resendez arrived with her 3-yearold son and told police that she had gone shopping for groceries leaving behind the 9-year-old because she didn't behave, Manrrique said.
Police reduced the charge of child abandonment to a Class C misdemeanor and turned her over to the U.S. Border Patrol, who took her into custody based on her immigration status, police said.
The children were released to the custody of a family friend who lived at the same apartment, Manrrique said.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Police: Human smugglers abused 32 illegal immigrants
by Christopher Cash - Jun. 9, 2009 05:35 PM
The Arizona Republic
Police discover 32 undocumented immigrants who were held and apparently abused by nine suspected human smugglers at a Phoenix home Monday evening.
The group of 32, mostly men, but included women and at least one juvenile, police said.
Police responded to the 5900 block of West Indian School Road shortly after 5:15 p.m. Officials were alerted by an anonymous caller who said he was an illegal immigrant and had just paid his ransom from the house. As police arrived at the house, they could hear people inside banging on the windows and screaming to get the officers attention.
Most of the victims were held at the house for over a month and were barely given any food or water. The suspects had kicked many of the victims as they received extortion threats.
The identity of the suspected human smugglers discovered at the home have not yet been released. The suspects will be charged with human smuggling, misconduct involving weapons, kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault, and extortion, according to a press release by the Department of Public Safety.
The windows of the home had been fortified by wood. A loaded pistol was recovered. The majority of the victims were from Central America, said Phoenix police Det. James Holmes.
IIMPACT, an Illegal Immigration Prevention Apprehension Co-op Team composed of Phoenix police, DPS, and ICE officials, was also called to the scene. All victims were turned over to Immigration Customs Enforcement.