N.C. native wrongly deported to Mexico
Federal investigators ignored evidence the man is a U.S. citizen, documents show.
By Kristin Collins
Posted: Sunday, Aug. 30, 2009
The U.S. government admitted in April that it had wrongly deported an N.C. native, but newly released documents show that federal investigators ignored FBI records and other evidence showing that the man was a United States citizen.
At the time of Mark Lyttle's deportation, immigration officials had criminal record checks that said he was a U.S. citizen. They had his Social Security number and the names of his parents. They had Lyttle's own sworn statement that he had been born in Rowan County.
None of this stopped them from leaving Lyttle, a mentally ill American who speaks no Spanish, alone and penniless in Mexico, where he has no ties.
Lyttle's 350-page Department of Homeland Security file, released to The (Raleigh) News & Observer, shows that the government deported him based entirely on some of his own conflicting statements, even though agents knew that Lyttle is bipolar and has a learning disability.
“I tried to tell them I was a U.S. citizen born right here in Rowan County,” Lyttle says now. “But no one believed me.”
Lyttle is one of a growing number of people who have been swept up in the federal immigration detention system since 2001, when terrorist attacks prompted an unprecedented effort to find and deport illegal immigrants. The U.S. government deported 350,000 people in the fiscal year that ended in October 2008.
When The N&O first reported on Lyttle's case in April, officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said that Lyttle had caused the mistake by declaring that he was from Mexico. They maintain that position now.
“Individuals who misrepresent their true identity and make false statements to ICE officers create problems both for law enforcement and themselves,” ICE spokesman Ivan Ortiz-Delgado said in a written statement.
Lyttle swore to immigration agents on two occasions that he was Mexican, but he also swore that he was a U.S. citizen born in Rowan County. His Homeland Security file does not reflect any attempt by ICE officials to confirm Lyttle's citizenship claims.
The agent who took Lyttle's statement that he was born in North Carolina dismissed it, saying in a report that Lyttle “does not possess any documentation to support his claim.”
A few dozen pages were withheld from the file released by ICE. But the file provided to The N&O shows no search for a Rowan County birth certificate and no attempts to reach the family members Lyttle named before his initial deportation.
The ICE file states that Lyttle's Mexican citizenship “was established based on interview results and numerous background system checks.” But repeated background checks, from an FBI fingerprint database and the National Crime Information Center, showed he was an American citizen.
Asked by The N&O why they had not accepted the findings in these background checks, ICE officials said they were reviewing their information and could not provide a response after a week.
The inconsistencies in his case were not discussed when Lyttle appeared before an Atlanta immigration judge and was ordered deported on Dec.9. On Dec. 18, he was loaded onto a plane and left at an airport just across the border from Hidalgo, Texas.
On Dec. 29, he returned to the U.S. border threatening to hurt himself and the border patrol agents. “Subject appears to be mentally unstable,” the report notes.
Lyttle, who now lives with his mother in Georgia, says that during his travels he didn't take medications that treat his mental illness and was subject to cycles of manic activity and depression.
Lyttle again told immigration agents he had been born in Rowan County. This time the file shows that they checked for his birth certificate there. They didn't find it because Lyttle is adopted. In cases of adoption, birth certificates are stored in Raleigh, said Shirley Stiller, the deputy register of deeds in Rowan County.
Lyttle was deported a second time, within hours. With no documents to prove legal residency in any country, he soon found himself on an international odyssey.
Mexican authorities sent him to Honduras, where he was imprisoned before being sent to Guatemala.
In late April, he found the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City. Within a day, officials there contacted Lyttle's brother at the military base where Lyttle told them he was serving, got copies of his adoption papers and issued him a U.S. passport.
Three days after his arrival in Guatemala City, his brother had wired him money and Lyttle was on a flight to Atlanta.
U.S. Immigration officials worked Lyttle's case for 31/2 months and held him in immigration detention for more than six weeks.
“This is not rocket science,” said Jacqueline Stevens, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara who brought Lyttle's case to light on her blog and is now writing a book about it. “It took someone in Guatemala one day to prove he was a citizen.”
Lyttle, 32, has spent much of his adulthood bouncing among mental institutions, halfway houses and prisons. He has been convicted of more than a dozen crimes, including assault and sexual battery.
He also lost touch with his mother, who had moved during his time in prison, and did not have phone numbers for his two brothers, who are in the military. His father is deceased.
When he entered prison, his country of birth was listed as Mexico. Prison officials say Lyttle made that claim, but in an interview with The N&O, Lyttle said he never invented such a story. Regardless, he was flagged for a federal immigration check.
In September and November 2008, he met with immigration agents three times, each time signing a different sworn statement.
Lyttle says he claimed to be Mexican at the first interview because he thought it was pointless to argue with the agent, who was convinced that he was an illegal immigrant. His birth father was Puerto Rican, and Lyttle says he is often mistaken for Mexican.
He says he figured he would take a free trip to Mexico.
Monday, August 31, 2009
N.C. native wrongly deported to Mexico
Border Patrol agents find lost boy
By Susan McFarland
Monday, August 31, 2009
CORPUS CHRISTI — U.S. Border Patrol agents helped find a lost boy and reunite him with his mother Sunday after they were separated while trying to enter the country illegally.
On Friday, when the mother and other suspected illegal immigrants were stopped in Falfurrias, she informed agents that her 10-year-old son was missing, according to a news release.
Agents began searching but didn’t find the boy until early Sunday, when the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office forwarded information to agents from a 911 caller claiming to be lost with no water supply.
Within a few hours, nine suspected illegal immigrants were found, including the boy, who was reunited with his mother. All are awaiting deportation, officials said.
Three deported in Wheelersburg incident
By Staff Report | The Tribune
Published Saturday, August 29, 2009
WHEELERSBURG — Three illegal immigrants are being deported back to their native Mexico in connection with an incident that occurred on Aug. 22.
The incident, which grew in notoriety following a chain of e-mails by the supposed victim this past week, alleges four males followed and harassed him and his wife in the parking lot of the Wheelersburg Kroger following a minor accident between both parties on SR 552.
When Scioto County deputies arrived on the scene, two of the four males began to walk away from the vehicle. The deputy ordered both men to stop and while complying with the order, the deputy heard a “clunk” sound which was later revealed to be a semi-automatic gun being placed in the cubby hole of a beverage vending machine.
In the cubby, the deputy found a loaded gun. Additional ammunition matching the semi-automatic was found following a search of the vehicle.
Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini said in a press release Friday that there was no evidence that the weapon was fired and no alcohol was found in the suspect’s car.
Three of the four arrested; Samuel Diego, 18, Alberto Martinez, 22 and Olan Mendoza, 26 were charged with improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle. Sebastian Velasc, 24, was also charged with improper handling of a firearm along with DUI.
Diego, Martinez and Mendoza were picked up Aug. 25 for deportation by officials from the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Donini said in the release the incident has been resolved to the fullest extent of the law.
Man charged in incident outside IHOP
By Pat Reavy
Published: Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009 7:16 p.m. MDT
WEST VALLEY CITY — The man told police he was just being friendly. But prosecutors are calling his actions child kidnapping.
The bizarre incident outside an IHOP near 3100 South and 5600 West happened last week. A woman was walking to her car while holding the hands of her two children, ages 2 and 6, said West Valley Police Lt. Dalan Taylor.
As they were walking, a man, whom the woman did not know, approached the group, tickled the belly of the 2-year-old, commented on how cute he was and then picked up the child and began to walk away, he said.
"The mom is like, 'Give me back my child,' " Taylor said.
The man appeared to look for his friend, who was still walking toward the car, according to the woman.
"She felt he was trying to take him to the car. She felt because his friend wasn't at the car yet, he let (the boy) go," Taylor said.
The woman contacted police, and based on information collected from witnesses, investigators were able to track the man down and talk to him.
"They found enough probable cause to arrest him for attempted kidnapping," he said.
Octavio Arreola, 26, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of attempted kidnapping and an immigration detainer. After the case was screened by the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office, however, his charge was upgraded and prosecutors filed a first-degree felony child kidnapping charge in 3rd District Court on Friday.
Neighborhood Narcotics Patrol [3rd item]
Compiled by Chief Deputy Barry Welch
Aug. 31, 2009
* On Aug. 24 at midnight, Pct. 4 K-9 Deputy Sharp conducted a traffic stop on a speeding vehicle in the Porter Summer Hills neighborhood. The driver was identified as 35-year-old Jose Magdaleno from Porter. An odor of burnt marijuana was present. The K-9 was brought in and detected a narcotics alert on the vehicle. After a brief search of the vehicle a marijuana joint was located. After further investigation it was found that Jose had been deported from the USA for human trafficking and possession of a controlled substance. Jose was arrested for the marijuana charge. Immigration officials were contacted and Jose will once again be deported from the USA.
Southampton Town Police Close Two Houses of Prostitution; Five Arrests Made During Undercover Sting (Hamptons.com)
Southampton Town Police Close Two Houses of Prostitution; Five Arrests Made During Undercover Sting
Updated: August 31, 2009, 2:16 pm
Southampton - The Southampton Town Police Department's Street Crime Unit launched an undercover investigation into two reported houses of prostitution recently, one at 6 Glendale Street in Westhampton and the other at 218 North Magee Street in Southampton.
According to police reports, the investigation revealed that the houses were being operated by the same ring of offenders. Police say the prostitution ring appears to operate by bringing out prostitutes from as far as New Jersey to service a clientele of between 30 and 40 “Johns" per woman, each night of the week. Two women, working each evening and into the night, would get paid approximately $15 per customer, while the promoters were collecting between $30 and $40 from the clients.
Following the brief investigations, police officers arrested Carol Maria Lopez, 51, of Queens, Luis Fernando Torres Altimaro, 25, of Westhampton, Daniela Zuniga, 18, of New Brunswick, NJ, Juan Trujillo, 22, of Southampton and Delcin Omar Contreras, 30, of Southampton.
Lopez and Zuniga are both charged with prostitution, a class “B" misdemeanor. Altimaro is charged with promoting prostitution in the fourth degree, a class “A" misdemeanor. Trujillo is charged with patronizing a prostitute in the third degree, a class “A" misdemeanor, and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, a class “A" misdemeanor. Contreras is charged with obstructing governmental administration in the second degree, a class “A" misdemeanor.
Police also report that all of the subjects are in the United States illegally. They have been reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Police state that this is an ongoing investigation and that more arrests are expected. Anyone with information about this case or any crime is urged to contact the Southampton Town Police Street Crime Unit, 631-702-2245, or the Crime Hotline at 631-728-3454.
Bridgeton crime log includes many domestic-violence arrests [1st item]
by Sean C. McCullen, The News of Cumberland County
Monday August 31, 2009, 6:05 PM
* Osmar Lopez-Perez, 20, of North Pearl Street, was arrested Sunday night on the charges of simple assault and criminal mischief.
The assault charge stems from an alleged incident of domestic violence at his girlfriend's North Laurel Street home Sunday night, the vandalism charge from an incident at the woman's home on Aug. 21.
A suspected illegal immigrant, Lopez-Perez was lodged in Cumberland County Jail without bail on a detainer issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Bail on the two charges was set at a total of $17,500.
Friday, August 28, 2009
DPS: 12 immigrants, 3 coyotes found at Phoenix drop house
Reported by: ABC15.com staff
Last Update: 8/27 10:25 pm
PHOENIX – DPS' Illegal Immigration Prevention Apprehension Team (IIMPACT) has arrested three coyotes and rescued 12 suspected undocumented immigrants at a central Phoenix drop house Thursday night.
A DPS news release stated, "the Phoenix Police Department (PPD) notified the IIMPACT unit about a 9-1-1 call which reported numerous victims being held at a location in Phoenix against their will."
At about 5:50 p.m., IIMPACT investigators approached the home near 24th and Jefferson avenues.
The release sated, "as they did, two men (coyotes) fled on foot. The men were quickly captured by IIMPACT investigators with the assistance of PPD Patrol and PPD Firebird Air Support."
Investigators said one of the suspects tossed a loaded gun into a neighbors yard as he fled from police.
The third coyote was found inside the home along with the 12 victims. All were men and all are believed to be in the United States illegally, according to DPS.
Some of the suspected undocumented immigrants were reported to have been held inside the house since Monday.
The release stated, "Victims reported being beaten with a 2x4, punched and kicked by the coyotes. Additionally, they reported deplorable conditions and were deprived of food and water. The victims also reported being held against their will at gunpoint in a room fortified with plywood on the windows."
DPS said the three suspects will be charged with kidnapping, extortion, aggravated assault and human smuggling.
The release stated, "One of the victims was transported to a local hospital for foot and leg injuries. Violent treatment is evident on some of the victims."
Truck driver charged with alien smuggling
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 08.28.2009
A California man authorities said was caught last month driving a refrigerated truck that held 97 illegal immigrants was indicted Wednesday on six federal alien-smuggling charges.
Luis Antonio Mendoza, 26, is charged with five counts of transportation of illegal aliens for profit and one count of conspiracy to transport illegal aliens for profit, according to the indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Tucson.
Mendoza was arrested July 29 after an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer pulled over the truck he was driving north from Mexico near Rio Rico, court records show.
Mendoza told the officer his truck contained 17 pallets of mangoes, which were to be kept in a refrigerated area with a maintained temperature of 34 degrees, court records show.
When DPS officials opened up the truck they found 97 illegal immigrants.
Mendoza told authorities he thought there were only 15 people in the back of the truck, and that he'd been hired to drive to Eloy and would be paid $300 per person, court records show.
Mendoza is scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 10 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bernardo Velasco.
Nigeria: U.S. Deports 63 Citizens
Nahimah Ajikanle Nurudeen
28 August 2009
Lagos — Sixty-three Nigerians have been deported from the United States of America for being in possession of illegal fire arms and residing in the country illegally. The deportees who were brought into the country in a Boeing 737 aircraft with registration number N739 MI touched down at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos at exactly 11:15 am Wednesday.
They have been handed over to the Nigerian Immigration Services. They arrived the country from Miami, USA. They included seven females and 56 males. Most of the deportees had been residing in the US for between two and 10 years.
One of them who spoke with Daily Trust said he was arrested on his way to a super market.
He confirmed that his documents had since expired, adding that he also lost his job due to the global economic meltdown.
About a month ago, 23 Nigerians were deported from Spain for purportedly staying in the country illegally while Ireland and Spain in June equally deported 155 Nigerians, including infants from their country. Deportees from Ireland, who totalled 86, were made up of 45 males, 28 females and three infants while those from Spain totalled 6. Sources said the deportees from Spain included one who was deported for drug related offences.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Teen Arrested for Posing as INS Officer
Updated: Aug 26, 2009 07:42 PM
By Suzanne Hobbs
A sixteen year old Idaho Falls teen is in big trouble with the law after allegedly posing as an officer for the Immigration and Naturalization Service for holding a Hispanic teen against his will for four days.
According to the report, the teen faces multiple charges of kidnapping, grand theft by extortion and impersonating an officer.
The family of 19-year-old Juan Hernandez tells police that last week Juan was arrested by a young looking man claiming to be with I.N.S.
Juan was apparently being used to find other illegal immigrants, and was told if he didn't cooperate, he'd be deported. He later told police he was afraid that would happen and that's why he cooperated and never tried to escape.
By day four, his family felt something was wrong and contacted Idaho Falls Police who tracked down Juan and the teenager driving in Juan's car around town. The suspect confessed to the fraud and was taken to the 3-B Juvenile Detention Center.
He apparently has committed this crime before.
CRIME BEAT [2nd item]
August 26, 2009 12:06 am
By JUAN ESPINOSA and GAYLE PEREZ
THE PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN
Jose Martin-Rodriguez, 32, who was listed as homeless, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of criminal impersonation and possession of a forged instrument. He was in Pueblo County jail Tuesday on an immigration hold.
POLICE BLOTTER [4th item]
by Knight Newspapers Production | August 26, 2009
Walter Jier Bermudez, 38, of the 2900 block of Ashford Park, Oviedo, was booked into the John E. Polk Correctional Facility on Aug. 21 and charged with an immigration detainer and passing a forged document.
Woman Sentenced To Time Served, Ordered To Report To Immigration Officials (Tyler Morning Telegraph)
Woman Sentenced To Time Served, Ordered To Report To Immigration Officials
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
By CASEY KNAUPP
A 43-year-old Mexican national living in Longview was sentenced Tuesday to time already served in jail for producing fraudulent Social Security cards and immigration documents.
Margarita Martinez was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis to the 10 months she's already served in jail and ordered to surrender to immigration officials for deportation proceedings.
Defense attorney Bobby Mims said his client understands she will be deported to Mexico and that she is prepared and wants to go. He asked the judge to sentence her to time served and let immigration officials remove her from the country.
"I want to return to my family," Ms. Martinez said through a Spanish-speaking interpreter.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Middleton said the case involved numerous fraudulent documents. Ms. Martinez was charged with producing and transferring fraudulent Social Security cards and immigration documents between Sept. 11 and Oct. 16 in Gregg County.
A 35-year-old Mexican national living in Palestine was sentenced by Davis to 10 months in federal prison for illegally being in the United States.
Anselmo Espinoza-Gonzalez, 35, pleaded guilty to being an illegal alien after he was deported in 1998 after an offense of driving while intoxicated. He re-entered the country and was convicted in 2001 of injury to a child in Anderson County. He was found again in Anderson County in November and arrested.
U.S. Public Defender Ken Hawk said he worked and lived out his probation in Anderson County for eight years, although he's not supposed to be in the United States. He said he did not know how his client was on probation for so long without being deported.
"I'm ready to return to Mexico," Gonzalez told the judge through an interpreter.
"Are you ready to stay there?" the judge asked.
"Yes," the defendant replied.
Davis said if he comes back to the United States again, he'd receive a very high sentence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Hurst prosecuted the case.
33 Illegal Alien Arrests And 6 Seized Vehicles
Thursday, 27 August 2009 05:36
U.S. Border Patrol
Kingman, AZ. – U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to the Blythe station apprehend 33 illegal aliens and seized six vehicles and approximately four ounces of marijuana in during an interdiction operation near Kingman, Ariz.
Late Sunday evening, Border Patrol agents conducted an enforcement operation as part of a defense in depth strategy focused on reducing the illegal trafficking of humans and other contraband on Interstate 40. The highway is a known conduit use by criminal organizations to transport contraband and illegal aliens between the metropolitan areas of Phoenix and Los Angeles.
A total of nine vehicle stops were performed throughout the operation. One of the seized vehicles, a Dodge Neon, contained seven individuals, including two juveniles. Three of the occupants previously had been removed from the United States. Several sedans, pickup trucks and an SUV were seized during the operation. Those who were arrested are subject to prosecution or removal from the U.S.
Additionally, agents seized four ounces of marijuana from a United States citizen. The marijuana and the suspect were turned over to the Kingman Police Department.
Since October 1, 2008, agents from the Blythe Border Patrol Station have apprehended 1,522 illegal immigrants and seized more than 148 pounds of narcotics.
As immigration enforcement tightens, the detention system is overwhelmed
By Sharon Schmickle | Thursday, Aug. 27, 2009
"Deport me or set me free!" is Patua Wopea's plea after seven years spent caught in the trap that is America's immigration detention system.
The 27-year-old Brooklyn Park man knows what he would face if he were forced to return to Liberia: rampant violence and virtually hopeless job prospects.
But here in the United States, he is snared in a system that top immigration enforcement officials acknowledge is flawed. The Obama administration says it must be reformed, but there's no certainty when that will happen.
Meanwhile, immigration authorities have shuttled Wopea from lockup to lockup. He was set to be deported in June. But that fell through, for reasons that aren't clear to him, his family and attorneys who have tried to help him.
Now Wopea sits in a cell in North Dakota. He has no idea when, if ever, he could be free in this country or anywhere else.
"We are worse than animals in here," Wopea said in a telephone interview Tuesday from the Grand Forks County jail. "We have no rights."
Wopea is among some 400,000 immigrants who are incarcerated nationwide each year under allegations of immigration violations.
As immigration enforcement tightened during this decade, the system swelled into a patchwork of privately run prisons, federal centers and hundreds of county jails that never were intended for long-term lockups.
The 200 to 300 immigrants who are in detention on any given day in Minnesota are held in jails in Sherburne, Carver, Ramsey, Nobles and Freeborn counties, said the Bloomington office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Recent lawsuits and news reports have highlighted multiple problems in the system:
• Reports of inadequate health care have prompted investigations into detainee deaths in Minnesota and other states.
• Twenty-six children between the ages of 1 and 17 were released from the T. Don Hutto detention center in Texas in 2007 after lawsuits claimed they had been deprived of education, recreation, medical care and privacy.
• Detainees in Basile, Louisiana, staged hunger strikes last month — claiming, among other complaints, that their cells were infested with rats and insects.
The Obama administration said this month that it will overhaul the system. The rapid rise in detentions has "presented significant challenges to a system that was not fundamentally designed to address ICE's specific detention needs," said John Morton, assistant secretary for ICE.
Four bills recently introduced in Congress add to the reform momentum. Minnesota Democrats Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum are co-sponsors of one U.S. House bill that would strengthen regulations for treatment of detainees.
Still, it's not clear when detainees will see meaningful change. Major changes likely would come as part of broader immigration legislation which has been stalled in Congress.
'A real big mistake'
Patua Wopea's case provides a window into the troubled system. Keep in mind as you follow it that no one in Washington advocates releasing immigrants who should be deported under current law. Instead, they want to see a more open system with humane and fair treatment of those who are caught in it.
Further, Wopea is neither the most sympathetic nor the least sympathetic detainee. Most of them have committed no crimes. Some are hardened criminals.
Wopea, on the other hand, stood before a Hennepin County judge on Oct. 9, 2001, and said "I made a real big mistake."
Wopea was pleading guilty for his role in a robbery where he took $30 when he was 19 years old. He and two other youths barged into the Extended Stay Hotel in Brooklyn Center. One (Wopea knew him only as "Dee.") brandished a gun and grabbed a cash box. Court documents say that Wopea pulled a cord from the hotel lobby's phone, picked up change that Dee had dropped and fled.
He had other brushes with the law. Court records say that police found marijuana in a car where he was a passenger. He also fled police after running a stop sign in North Minneapolis.
After the robbery, Hennepin County Judge Lloyd Zimmerman departed downward from state guidelines in sentencing Wopea. The judge noted that Wopea had cooperated with police and had no history of serious crimes.
Torture and separation
Court records also note that Wopea has a supportive family.
The father, Miamen Wopea, was working as an English teacher when Liberia's civil war erupted in 1989. Government soldiers arrested him, beat him and forced him to sit on the blade of a knife. He was imprisoned and sentenced to death.
Rescue came from the United States where Miamen had been awarded a scholarship. The U.S. Embassy negotiated his release and escorted him to a plane.
But Miamen's sons — Patua, who was 4, and his brothers, ages 6 and 9 — were trapped with a nanny in Liberia. After soldiers burned their house, the boys joined a human river of Liberians walking out of the country.
Tales of the hardship everyone endured on that grim march have become epic. The Wopea boys hid among dead bodies to save themselves from roving bands of gunmen. They escaped Liberia alive, and joined their father in Philadelphia. But nightmares and flashbacks followed them for years.
When the family moved to Minnesota, Miamen resumed his education career — in jobs that included helping Twin Cities families with immigration problems. Now Miamen said it's "crazy" to find himself deep in his own such problems.
"I have dedicated my whole life to helping young people, but I cannot help my own son get out from the mistake that he made," Miamen said.
Paper trail ends
Back in 2002, the judge stayed execution of Patua Wopea's 48-month sentence. Instead, he was to serve a year in the county workhouse with releases to work and go to school. Once out, he would be on probation for three years.
Court records show that Wopea completed his sentence and was discharged from probation in early 2005.
Effectively, though, he would serve more time than the original 48-month sentence. Seven years later, he is in custody with no release in sight.
Wopea had been in the United States on a permanent resident card, commonly called a green card. Court files indicate that immigration authorities stepped into the case in March 2002.
Immigration's public paper trail ends at that point.
Even attorneys representing detainees do not have the full access to records that routinely would be available to defendants' lawyers in other legal proceedings. They must file Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and wait months to see their clients' records, said Michele Garnett McKenzie, an attorney with The Advocates for Human Rights in Minneapolis.
Secrecy surrounding the system is one focus of criticism. Affording privacy to individuals in detention is important. But so is holding immigration enforcement authorities accountable and ensuring that detainees are treated fairly and humanely.
Detainees' families, news organizations and human rights groups have fought for years to obtain confirmation of deaths in custody.
After repeated FOIA requests, the New York Times obtained a list of 90 people who had died in immigration detention between Oct. 7, 2003, and Feb. 7, 2009. But reports of more deaths continued to surface. And this month, ICE officials revealed that they had found 10 previously unreported deaths in their system.
"Getting details about those who die in custody is a difficult undertaking left to family members, advocacy groups and lawyers," the Times said.
Of course, people die in prison all the time from natural causes. What advocates for the detainees want is more openness so they can know why a death occurred and whether it could have been prevented.
Whether or not Maria Inamagua's life could have been saved remains a point of contention between the government and human rights advocates.
The Ecuadoran woman was arrested in Minnesota in February 2006 for failing to comply with an order of deportation. In Ramsey County jail, she complained of headaches and told the staff the Tylenol and aspirin she was given "don't do anything" to relieve the pain. Five weeks later, she reportedly struck her head in her cell and fainted. After four hours of observation, she was taken to a hospital where she died on April 3, 2006.
Her death set off an uproar in Minnesota. The Inspector General for ICE investigated the case and said the detainee had died of a pre-existing condition: an infection of the brain caused by larva of the pork tapeworm.
The Inspector General's report (PDF) noted that the detainee had not received a physical exam, which ICE standards require within 14 days of intake. It also said that ICE could have expedited her care had it taken greater efforts to recognize her condition.
But it concluded that "neither more timely medical attention for the head trauma nor a more timely initial medical exam would have ensured the detainee's recovery." It also commended ICE for notifying Inamagua's spouse of her death.
Years in detention
For Wopea, the most chafing issue is the time he has spent behind bars. He was not deported when immigration authorities stepped into his case. Instead, he was in and out of lockups — held for months at a time, released, confined under house arrest, then behind bars again.
While released, he fathered a boy who now is 6 years old.
One reason for delay may be that the family initially fought deportation. Miamen, the father, tried everything he could to save his son from going back to Liberia. Warlord Charles Taylor — now on trial for war crimes – was in power when Patua Wopea was first detained and Liberia was wracked by bloody conflict. The family argued that sending Wopea into that setting would violate U.S. law prohibiting removal where a person is likely to be tortured or killed.
Now that Liberia has a new government and U.N. peacekeepers in place, that argument holds less sway. Wopea said he received a new order of deportation in 2007, was apprehended last Sept. 2 and has been held in detention ever since.
In June, he was transferred to Louisiana where he expected to board a flight for Monrovia along with 30 other Liberian detainees. Instead, he was flown back to Minnesota, held in two different jails and then sent to Grand Forks.
Wopea said he has been told the deportation may have been aborted because of swine flu or a dispute over money the Liberian government had expected to receive.
"I don't know what the reason is," he said. "All I know is that I want to be set free. Deport me or let me out."
Questions at the heart of liberty
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that detainees cannot be held indefinitely.
In Zadvydas v. Davis, a 2001 case, it said that "permitting indefinite detention of an alien would raise a serious constitutional problem." Freedom from such imprisonment and government custody "lies at the heart of the liberty" protected by the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause, it said.
The court set six months as the limit of time for the government to hold an alien. But it also said confinement could continue "until it has been determined that there is no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future."
The upshot is a clear six-month limit for detainees from counties like Cuba and Vietnam, which flatly refuse to accept any deportees from the United States, said John Keller, executive director of the Immigration Law Center of Minnesota.
The limit is not at all clear for those from countries like Liberia and Somalia where chaos and instability may indefinitely delay but not absolutely bar deportees, said Keller, who is not involved in Wopea's case
"You sort of enter a grey area for countries where deportation is infrequent or very difficult but not impossible," Keller said.
According to ICE, detainees stay in the nationwide system for an average of 30 days. That average reflects the fact that tens of thousands are apprehended at border ports and turned around within a few hours.
But the average masks the reality that others like Wopea can be trapped for years.
A key point in the reform debate will be whether "Zadvydas means something," Keller said, "whether it means that someone cannot be locked up indefinitely.'
Wopea views the six-month rule as "a trick law." He has seen others held longer than six months, especially Somalis.
"They always say, 'You fit in the reasonable foreseeable future category,.'" he said. "I committed the crime when I was 19 years old. I served my time. Why am I still in jail?"
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Mexican farm workers detained following crash
By JUDY D.J. ELLICH
Daily American Staff Writer
Two men who authorities believe are illegal immigrants from Mexico were arraigned Tuesday afternoon on charges of stealing a vehicle and crashing it into a tree in Brothersvalley Township.
Feliciano Peres Alvarez, 22, and Eleazar Alvarez, 21, both of whom resided along Glades Pike, took the vehicle parked at the Hillegass Farm and drove into Berlin to purchase beer and pizza at about 11 p.m. Monday, according to state police.
While traveling through town, the men got lost and crashed the vehicle. There was severe damage to the front end of the 1996 Jeep Cherokee and the passenger’s side of the windshield was shattered, according to a report.
The two men walked to Coalfield Mini Market in Berlin to wait for a ride back to the farm where they work, police said. Berlin police arrived, noticed that one man had head injuries and called for Berlin ambulance to transport them to Somerset Hospital. They were treated for injuries and then arrested on the theft charges.
The men were obviously confused about the arraignment process. Somerset District Judge Arthur K. Cook obtained an interpreter by telephone at the hearing.
Feliciano Peres Alvarez said several times, “I want to go back to my people,” during the arraignment, according to the interpreter. When told they had the right to be represented by an attorney and they were allowed one telephone call each, he repeated several times, “I don’t know any lawyers.”
Feliciano Peres Alvarez is charged with theft, unauthorized use of an automobile and several related summary charges that include driving without a license, driving on the wrong side of the road and damaging the vehicle.
Eleazar Alvarez is charged with conspiracy to commit the same offenses.
They were placed in Somerset County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bond each. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Sept. 1 for both men.
According to the state police, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was notified and will take custody of the men once the case is finished.
Local police department helping ICE deport illegal immigrants
Updated: Aug 26, 2009 8:10 AM EDT
By Barbara Czura
MARSHALL COUNTY, AL (WAFF)- Illegal immigration is an ongoing issue across the United States, but the Albertville police department is doing their part, locally, to deport illegals.
Officers said four men were recently booked into the Albertville City Jail under various misdemeanor charges.
When they couldn't provide valid identification, all four were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement-- or ICE.
"It's one of those things on a local level to help out," said Albertville Police Sergeant Jamie Smith.
He said law enforcement frequently issues ICE detainers.
Officers aren't actively looking for illegal immigrants, but they are often found during patrol.
The Albertville police department averages about 5-12 detainers a week.
"Our purpose, with the undocumented people that are here, getting some type of information built on them, get them in the database that they're here," Sgt. Smith said.
He said processing illegal immigrants is an ongoing problem outside of Albertville, too.
Their department provides fingerprinting analysis, but trained ICE officers can provide a more detailed investigation.
"When they're turned over to ICE, they are taken locally from here to Gadsden, which is the closest holding facility, and to my understanding, most of them are set a court date with a magistrate," said Smith.
He said ICE removes some from the United States, while others get lucky, and remain in our court system with a red flag.
Husband's day-long drinking binge ends with battered wife, police say
Manuel Gamiz Jr.
August 26, 2009
A woman was taken to the hospital after she was severely assaulted by her husband Sunday in their Allentown home, according to court records.
Allentown police were called to 2005 Tilghman St. at 4:21 p.m. Sunday, where Alfonso P. Narvaes-Jimenez, 34, answered the door with blood on his hands and shirt, according to an arrest affidavit. Narvaes-Jimenez led police to his wife, Maria A. Garcia-Contreras, who was in the back of the basement, sitting on the floor and crying in the dark.
When police turned on the lights, she was holding her face. Her left eye was swollen shut, she was bleeding from her nose and had a tooth knocked out, according to court records.
Garcia-Contreras told police that her husband had been drinking all day with a friend and passed out in the kitchen and woke up when their baby started crying. Narvaes-Jimenez went into her room, where he grabbed the baby from her and they started to argue, police said. She took the baby back from him and then he started punching her in the face repeatedly, police said.
She tried defending herself with a broom, but he continued punching her.
Paramedics were called and she was treated and released from Lehigh Valley Hospital-Allentown.
He was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and harassment and arraigned before District Judge Patricia Engler who sent him to Lehigh County Prison under $25,000 bail. Immigration officials were also notified of the arrest.
24 Illegal Aliens Arrested
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 06:18
SHERIFF’S CONTINUED CRACKDOWN AND INVESTIGATIONS ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION NETS THE ARREST OF 24 MORE
161 Arrested in last 30 days
Phoenix, AZ. - Investigations conducted by Maricopa County Sheriff’s deputies last night led to the arrests of 24 more illegal aliens, 16 of whom will be charged with state felony human smuggling charges. The remaining eight were arrested under the controversial 287g agreement and have been turned over to federal authorities.
In the last 30 days, Sheriff’s deputies have arrested 78 illegal aliens on felony human smuggling and identification theft charges during the continued crackdown of illegal immigration enforcement.
Traffic stops related to the recent investigation occurred in the area of I-17 and Anthem Way. Occupants admitted to paying between $400 and $3,000.00 each for illegal access into the United States.
Sheriff Arpaio says, “This is yet another example of my promise to enforce all the illegal immigration laws in Maricopa County regardless of the ever changing policies emanating from Washington D.C.”
The 287g agreement, which has given Sheriff Arpaio the authority in the past to arrest illegal aliens under federal authority, has recently been modified by the new administration in Washington D.C. Sheriff Arpaio and his Office are currently reviewing the new agreement to determine whether or not they will continue to participate in the program.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
MSCO: Deputies raid Phoenix business, make 44 arrests
Reported by: Brent Roulier
Reported by: MaryEllen Resendez
Last Update: 8/14 2:40 pm
PHOENIX – The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office announced Friday that 10 to 15 employees called in sick for work Thursday morning, the same day their south Phoenix business was raided.
Deputies arrested 44 people during the raid at the Royal Paper Converting Company located near 17th Avenue and Fillmore Street.
According to Friday's MCSO news release, the employees who called in sick were scheduled to work later in the day at a second location on Lower Buckeye Road and that business was investigated hours after the initial search.
MCSO did not release any information about the second raid.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio said the managers at Royal Paper Converting Company knowingly hired undocumented immigrants who were using false identification documents to get hired.
But the Sheriff also admitted to reporters he has no evidence against the company.
The search warrant was granted on evidence gathered with social security numbers used by 39 of the workers.
Arpaio said this is the second time in two years his deputies received information that the company was hiring undocumented immigrants. The first raid occurred in March of 2008 and resulted in the arrest of four employees accused of identity theft, according to a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office news release.
"So they're still coming, they're still arrogant, they're still being hired and they're still working," Arpaio said during a news conference Thursday. "So, nothing has really changed since we cracked down on this situation."
But according to Virginia Reyna, who waited anxiously outside for her 19-year-old niece, many of the workers held were legal.
"I'm upset with the stuff they're doing with the innocent people inside, " said Reyna. He's (Arpaio) cruel. He should get other people who are doing harm, instead of innocent people like this."
During Thursday's incident, about 100 deputies and posse members surrounded the business. According to the news release, "Several employees attempted to flee but were found and detained by deputies."
MCSO stated that 102 people were targeted during the investigation. Of those, so far 44 have been arrested. Thirty-five of those arrested face state felony charges of identity theft.
Angela Aspericueta, whose family member is legally working at the paper plant, worried about the female workers being detained.
"They're doing everything wrong, cause the people who have kids in school," said Aspericueta. "What if they take their moms? What are they gonna do?"
According to the release, the remaining employees will be sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) where they'll face deportation.
During the raid, deputies removed computers, employment records, payroll records, and other documents from the premises.
Arpaio said deputies are still searching for 60 suspects involved with the Royal Paper Converting Company and the investigation into the company's alleged illegal practices will continue.
"This investigation is far from over," said Arpaio. I would hope that this Phoenix-based company concentrates on hiring people who are legal to work in the country in light of the current economic situation."
According to Friday's news release, "As information of the Sheriff's Office raid hit local news broadcasts, people began showing up at Royal Paper looking for jobs."
"This proves again that people in thie country legally are willing to do jobs that many politicians claim they will not do," said Arpaio. "President Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano feel that law enforcement should concentrate their enforcement efforts on employers, not employees. I feel that we need to enforce all immigration laws."
Of the employees who reportedly called in sick, one was arrested at her home near 75th Avenue and Camelback Road. She was booked into jail on forgery and identity theft charges, according to MCSO.
Thursday's arrests were the result of a yearlong investigation, according to Deputy Lindsey Smith with MCSO.
MCSO says Thursday's raid marked the 23rd investigation that has resulted in the arrests of 311 undocumented immigrants.
"We have potentially created over 300 jobs for legal residents of this country because of these types of investigations," said Arpaio. "Those are real numbers, not like the estimates that you get out of Washington D.C. when attempting to justify claims on the success of the recent stimulus bill."
During Thursday's news conference, Arpaio added that during the past two weeks alone deputies have arrested 168 undocumented immigrants during several investigations.
"I'm pleased to see that local ICE authorities apparently may have changed their position about accepting people for possible deportation who we determined during today's operation are in the country illegally but with no state violations of the law," said Arpaio.
Arpaio said that only three weeks ago, ICE officials ordered his office to release 10 undocumented immigrants from custody.
"Today, they are accepting our arrests with no apparent interference from the Department of Homeland Security. That's a good sign," said Arpaio.
By Staff Reports
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Arrests by Hallsville Police Department
Carlos Zacarias Mendez-Valle, 204 Enola Mae Drive, Marshall, driving while intoxicated, evading arrest/detention with vehicle, and immigration and customs enforcement, Friday.
Manuel Beltran, 1406 Poplar St., Marshall, evading arrest detention and immigration and customs enforcement, Friday.
Police: 13 Arrested In Morning Burglary
POSTED: 8:50 am MST August 25, 2009
PHOENIX -- Police took 13 people into custody after a possible burglary was reported in a Phoenix neighborhood Tuesday morning.
Police responded to a west Phoenix neighborhood around 5 a.m., but as officers arrived, a vehicle was apparently spotted speeding out of the area.
Police initiated a traffic stop and a group of people fled from the car.
After searching the area, officers took 13 people into custody, including a suspected human smuggler who was armed.
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents took him into custody, police said.
No injuries were reported.
An ICE raid on a Connecticut shell-fishing company raises questions about federal immigration policy under Obama
By Gregory B. Hladky
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Working aboard a Connecticut shell-fishing boat is no easy ride. We're talking hard physical labor, year round in all kinds of Long Island Sound weather, for not much more than minimum wage.
And the job seems to be getting tougher all the time thanks to federal immigration and customs authorities on the hunt for illegal aliens and U.S. Coast Guard efforts to enforce an antiquated and confusing maritime law about limits on immigrant crew.
The pattern of arrests and stricter inspections raises new questions about President Barack Obama's stance on immigration. Reformers claim federal enforcement tactics have begun to shift since Obama took office, sometimes in ways that don't always match his argument that immigration reform should be a top national priority.
The apparent federal crackdown in Connecticut appears to have hit one Norwalk shell-fishing company particularly hard.
Since February, two employees of Norm Bloom & Son have been arrested for illegally entering the U.S. and deported, according a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Norm Bloom insists only one of his workers has been deported this year, but acknowledges he was forced to dock a boat for several days because Coast Guard inspectors found it was captained by a non-U.S. citizen in violation of federal law.
Bloom claims his memory is fuzzy when it comes to many of these touchy immigration issues. Federal authorities are also somewhat reticent and/or bewildered about who was arrested when and by whom. ICE, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and the Coast Guard have all been involved and detailed information is hard to come by.
"We don't discuss investigative specifics," explained Paula Grenier, spokeswoman for the Boston ICE office. A Coast Guard spokesman said he can't talk about arrests made by other agencies, even if they occurred during a Coast Guard inspection. Federal officials say there's no effort targeting Connecticut shell-fishing operations, despite what the shell fishermen claim.
The pain and confusion surrounding these law enforcement actions haven't been limited to any single Connecticut shell-fishing operator and dark rumors about scores of arrests or dismissals at companies have spread like a chum trail in rough seas.
Some Connecticut shell-fishing companies have had to let go immigrant workers whose papers failed the federal sniff test. Officials at several firms say the Coast Guard sent out letters warning of the consequences of violating federal regulations covering the number of non-U.S. citizens in their crews.
Federal law requires that at least 75 percent of crews on U.S.-registered commercial-fishing vessels be American citizens — which can be a problem, especially if you have a two- or three-person boat.
The idea that the shell-fishing industry has lots of legal (and illegal) immigrant workers shouldn't be a shock.
Whether it's washing dishes, mowing lawns or picking tobacco, immigrants are often among the only people willing to take hard-labor, low-wage jobs.
"I always assumed there were a lot of [shell-fishing] outfits hiring illegal people," said Larry Williams, owner of a Milford-based company called Jessie D. Inc. Williams, who operates two boats, said he's been very wary of hiring undocumented immigrants because of the potential problems involved, but that it's difficult finding U.S. citizens to take these jobs.
Norm Bloom, owner of Bloom & Son in Norwalk, agrees. "It's hard to get people to do this kind of work. ... You get some Americans, you take 'em out on the boat for a week and they leave."
State officials say there are 114 licensed shell-fishing boats registered in Connecticut. According to a 2004 state report, this state's annual harvest has ranged from 36,000 to as high as 196,000 bushels of oysters and clams.
State Rep. Terry Backer of Stratford said the federal law about immigrant crew percentages is "being misapplied to Long Island Sound." He argues Connecticut farmers would never harvest a crop if they had the same labor requirement.
Backer is chairman of a legislative subcommittee with authority over state spending for the environment and aquaculture. He is also executive director of Soundkeeper Inc., a non-profit group set up to help preserve the Sound, and a long-time friend of Bloom's. Backer's Soundkeeper's office has rent-free space in Bloom's Norwalk headquarters.
"If you wanted to pay $15 an hour, you could fill your deck with U.S. citizens. But you wouldn't be in business long," Backer said, adding the recession could help "bring people back to this work."
Backer shrugs off the issue of illegal aliens working in Connecticut's shell-fishing industry as a non-problem. His friend Norm Bloom disputes the details of the ICE crackdown.
Bloom said he had "no idea" how long he had employed the 30-year-old Honduran who was arrested by ICE on Feb. 6 and has no knowledge of an alleged U.S. Customs and Border Patrol arrest of a 32-year-old Ecuadorian employee of Bloom's this spring. "They got something screwed up," Bloom insisted.
"I wasn't charged with anything," Bloom said about the enforcement actions. "It wasn't a legal thing to me. ... You're asking me things I don't really care or think about."
Bloom estimated he has "about six boats" operating in this state and "four or five down there" in New Jersey. (David Carey, head of this state's Bureau of Aquaculture, said Norm Bloom currently has 14 shell-fishing vessels licensed in Connecticut.)
One of Bloom's competitors in Norwalk, Leslie B. Miklovich, said her company hired an immigration lawyer to help avoid difficulties. Even so, Miklovich said she's had to let go eight foreign workers this year because ICE found problems with their documentation.
Miklovich is vice president of Hillard Bloom Shellfish Inc., which emerged (as did Norm Bloom & Son) from a bitter family and corporate split years ago. Miklovich said her company operates 12 boats and has 42-45 workers.
The federal enforcement effort concerning immigrant crews became "more aggressive" late in 2008, Miklovich said. "It's an old law that is probably outdated and probably needs to be revised."
Miklovich said they tell their workers, "If you're going to work here, you need to have the proper papers." At the same time, she believes the U.S. immigration system needs serious reform. "They [illegal immigrants without proper ID] should be able somehow to obtain it legally if they want to work and pay taxes like the rest of us."
Dustin W. Gold disagrees. "I think this is a perfect time to throw these people out and get Americans back to work," said Gold, an activist from North Branford who strongly opposes legalization of undocumented workers and New Haven's decision to issue city IDs to immigrants.
Gold claims solving the shell-fishing industry's labor problems is simple: "If you've got to pay Americans $15 an hour and the price of seafood goes up, that's the way it's got to be."
President Obama promised to make immigration reform a top priority, but recently backed away from plans to push it this year, citing the preoccupation of Congress over health care.
Yale Law professor Michael Wishnie argues that Obama doesn't need to wait for Congress to change the direction of immigration policy. He said enforcement programs such as the one apparently targeting Connecticut shell-fishing boats have "nothing to do with Congress" and are "entirely within the purview of the Obama administration."
Wishnie conducts a Worker and Immigrant Rights Clinic at Yale. His students represent many legal immigrants as well as people accused of being here illegally.
He said the Obama administration has in some ways changed federal enforcement practices but in other areas has continued the patterns of George W. Bush's regime.
A federal raid in Bellingham, Wash., reveals some of the uncertainty surrounding national enforcement policies under Obama. In February, ICE arrested 28 undocumented workers at an engine factory. After political protests erupted, almost all of those workers were granted temporary work permits and an investigation was begun into the decision to stage the raid. Two officers of the engine company pleaded guilty earlier this month to knowingly hiring illegal workers and federal officials said the case demonstrates Obama's commitment to targeting employers rather than the immigrants they hire.
But Wishnie said the shift in tactics doesn't necessarily translate into less trouble for undocumented aliens. "Overall numbers show the Obama administration is making as many or more" arrests as ICE did under Bush, he said.
"Our immigration laws were written 50 years ago for a post-World War II world," he said. "They are very much out of step with reality. ... It has resulted in untold misery for millions of people and families. There are 10-13 million people here, working, taking their children to school, but they are living in the shadows."
Including some of the folks hauling those pricey oysters and clams up from Long Island Sound.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Immigrant search at Mission nature park
By Sergio Chapa
Sunday, August 23, 2009 at 3:22 p.m.
Morning joggers and bicyclists got a surprise at the Mission Hike & Bike Trail early Sunday morning.
Authorities spent early Sunday morning searching for a group of illegal immigrants was spotted crossing through the area.
Border Patrol units and the Customs and Border Protection helicopter were on the popular trail and park looking for the immigrants.
The helicopter left the park around 8:30 a.m. Sunday.
The 5.5-mile Mission Hike & Bike Trail connect Conway Avenue to Rio Bentsen State Park.
The trail has thick brush and ponds that attract birds and other wildlife but also provides cover for illegal immigrants entering the United States from Mexico.
Border Patrol agents began their search as early as 6 a.m. Sunday.
Dozens of joggers and bicyclers arrived at the trail later that morning and continued to passed through the scene.
Traffic Stop Nets More Than 2,700 Pirated Movies
Man Charged With Possession Of Counterfeit Recordings
POSTED: 2:08 pm EDT August 24, 2009
ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. -- More than 2,700 pirated DVD movies were discovered in a car that had been stopped Sunday for speeding, Alamance County Sheriff's Department spokesman Maj. Randy Jones said.
Jones said the car had been observed traveling 74 mph in a 55 mph zone along Highway 87 south. During the stop, the deputy noticed a large number of DVDs inside the vehicle.
The deputy was able to determine that the passenger, Fredi Santana Ubaldo, 26, of Siler City, owned the movies.
Ubaldo was charged with possession of counterfeit audio recordings and delaying a government official by giving a false name.
He was being held on a $5,000 bond. Jones said he was also being processed under the 287g immigration program, which allows law enforcement to hold illegal immigrants arrested in their jurisdictions for deportation proceedings after their cases are adjudicated.
Jones said the case was being passed to federal and state authorities for follow-up concerning the counterfeiting of products.
Troopers detain nine immigrants after stop
News Journal staff report • August 23, 2009
MANSFIELD -- The Mansfield post of the Ohio Highway Patrol got a bit of a surprise Saturday afternoon when nine illegal immigrants were hauled into custody after a routine traffic stop in Mifflin Township.
"Trooper Jason Mur- field stopped the vehicle on Crider Road for a marked lanes violation and inside were a group of illegal immigrants from Mexico," Patrol Sgt. Mike Roth said.
Roth said they confirmed the immigrant's status through the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
They were searched and taken to the Richland County Jail, where they are being held pending a federal deportation hearing.
Roth said most of them spoke very little English.
No weapons or illegal contraband were found in the SUV.
No charges were filed by troopers and the names of the nine people who are being detained had not been released as of Saturday evening.
Police Beat [1st item]
By: Nathan Meacham
Published On: Monday, August 24, 2009
A 23-year-old Phoenix woman was arrested Wednesday on the 1200 block of West Baseline Road after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent asked for permission to search her purse for identification and found a bottle containing a small multi-colored pill believed to be ecstasy, police reported.
She also had four outstanding city of Phoenix warrants, according to the police report.
She was reportedly held on the warrants and released pending the charges of possessing dangerous drugs.
Mandeville man arrested for obscenity
Woman reported Cortez for alleged lewd acts
By Debbie Glover
St. Tammany News
Published on Monday, August 24, 2009 8:29 AM CDT
Victor Cortez, 23, of 2903 Monroe Street in Mandeville, apartment unknown, was arrested Aug. 18 at about 6:15 p.m. for allegedly committing a lewd act in a parked vehicle at a shopping complex in Mandeville, said Capt. Ron Ruple of the Mandeville Police Department.
Cortez was in his vehicle and allegedly got the attention of a woman passerby who then called the police. He was charged with obscenity and booked into the St. Tammany Parish Jail. By Friday morning, Cortez had been released to the U.S. Office of Immigration.
Ruple said that many times a perpetrator in this type of case needs an audience and wants to be seen.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Immigrant's story of hardship, love, deportation
Sunday, August 23, 2009
By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In a moment, the somber meeting became celebratory.
Sister Janice Vanderneck, Dianne Burnham and Anya Martin sat together at Panera Bread in Oakland in October, preparing to tell 18-year-old Stephany McMullen that they had failed to raise $10,000 to bail out her boyfriend, Milton Mejia, from an immigration detention center in El Paso, Texas.
Mr. Mejia, then 20, was awaiting deportation to his native Honduras.
Ms. Martin, a playwright who had met Ms. McMullen -- an immigrant from Venezuela -- and Mr. Mejia through a theater project with young Pittsburgh Latinos, wore waterproof mascara in anticipation of a tearful encounter.
But Ms. McMullen had her own announcement: Mr. Mejia's biology teacher from Pittsburgh Schenley High School had offered to put up the money. Mr. Mejia would soon be taking a 34-hour bus ride to Pittsburgh.
"It was like a 'Hallelujah moment' at a Pentecostal church," said Ms. Martin, 28.
Mr. Mejia still faces deportation, and he plans to return voluntarily to Honduras on Sept. 2.
But he will leave behind deep roots in Pittsburgh. He and Ms. McMullen -- now Mrs. Mejia -- married last month. He has a home-improvement job and dozens of close friends.
And Ms. Martin is working on a play based on his perilous journey in 2005, as a teenager, through Central America and Mexico into the United States.
A partial production of the play, called "El Camino," will take place Wednesday at the Grey Box Theatre in Lawrenceville. The invitation-only event is designed to solicit feedback, especially from Pittsburgh's small but growing Latino community.
It's also a chance to mark Mr. Mejia's contributions to his adopted home and to share the difficulties facing one of an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants who live in the United States.
"I think Milton has an incredible sense of responsibility to the power of stories, and the power of his story," Ms. Martin said.
From the beginning, life has been a series of obstacles and tragedies for Milton Mejia.
Born on Christmas Day 1988 in Siguatepeque, a small city in the central highlands of Honduras, Mr. Mejia lost a year when local officials accidentally recorded his birth date as Dec. 25, 1987.
His father died in a car crash a year later, and his mother, prompted by a series of nightmares, asked Mr. Mejia's grandmother to raise him.
When he was 11, Mr. Mejia would run with friends to catch a ride home on pickup trucks passing in front of his school. One day, he noticed his legs were losing strength and he couldn't keep pace. Someone helped pull him onto the back of a truck.
"The next day I couldn't make it to the truck," he said. "Then I couldn't go to school."
Mr. Mejia gradually lost the ability to walk.
His grandmother took him to a hospital in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, and he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder of the nervous system.
Eventually, the boy could move only his head. A doctor said his chances of survival were slim.
Through his hospital window, Mr. Mejia would catch a glimpse of a giant statue of Jesus that overlooks the city. It gave him strength.
He started receiving physical therapy. He learned how to roll, a process that made him feel like an infant again. Then he was on his knees. Within a month, he was walking.
When he returned to his hometown, Mr. Mejia went back to school and started building couches with his cousins.
But his grandmother had encountered financial problems. Her small coffee farm had helped pay for Mr. Mejia's medical bills, but she had to sell the farm because of a niece who defaulted on a loan.
Mr. Mejia and his cousins started talking about a 1,200-mile trip to the United States to find better jobs. Two cousins tried, but they were picked up in Mexico and deported back to Honduras.
Mr. Mejia was confident he could make it. His grandmother agreed to help raise the $5,000 to pay a "coyote," or smuggler, who would guide him north.
In June 2005, he set out with a group of 60 immigrants, and the coyote brought them as far as Mexico's border with Guatemala. When Mexican immigration authorities closed in on them, the group scattered, and Mr. Mejia was on his own, with just a backpack, a Bible and $1,000 in a hidden pocket on his belt.
Over the next several weeks, he crossed Mexico in buses, trucks and taxis. On the bus ride from Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo, a Mexican immigration official boarded to check documentation. A woman sitting next to him said Mr. Mejia was her nephew, even though the pair hadn't said a word to each other.
Mr. Mejia eventually found himself at the Rio Grande in Piedras Negras. He saw a U.S. flag on the other side. His 23-day journey was nearly over.
A few local men helped him cross the river. When he emerged on the other side, he was muddy, wet and standing on a golf course in Eagle Pass, Texas. Several golfers looked at him, and then went back to their game.
Mr. Mejia walked to a roadway. Within a few minutes, he was picked up by a border patrol agent.
A new life in Pittsburgh
Mr. Mejia spent his first three months in the United States in a Texas detention facility for juvenile immigrants. With the help of his grandmother, he discovered that he had a relative -- a woman whose sister was married to his uncle -- in Monroeville.
Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed to release Mr. Mejia into his relative's custody, and all his court documents would be sent to her.
Mr. Mejia arrived at Pittsburgh International Airport in September 2005, and he spent three hours searching for an exit. He couldn't read the signs. When he finally found his way out, his relative was furious about the delay.
In a short period, she and her husband, a Navy officer, left the Pittsburgh area to live in Virginia, and Mr. Mejia stayed behind, working restaurant jobs and attending classes at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School.
He soon dropped out to support himself, but Mr. Mejia started to feel comfortable in his new city. His English improved rapidly.
Through a friend, he met Stephany McMullen. They quickly became close, and she and her mother even moved into his Friendship apartment for a brief period. Within a year, Mr. Mejia and Ms. McMullen were dating.
In 2007, he enrolled at Schenley High to complete his studies.
His maturity and intelligence impressed Autumn Iwanonkiw, his biology teacher. She soon learned that Mr. Mejia was living on his own and going to a job right after school. She would allow him to put his head down in class and take short naps.
"He would just zip through the work," she said.
When Mr. Mejia and Ms. McMullen graduated last year, Ms. Iwanonkiw gave them her phone number and told them to call if they ever needed help.
They soon needed help.
In June 2008, Mr. Mejia was painting a house in West View with another man when two police officers showed up and asked what they were doing. Mr. Mejia's boss came to explain, which seemed to satisfy the officers.
But they returned a short while later -- a deportation order had been issued for Mr. Mejia. He had never responded to any court documents sent to the relative who had agreed to serve as his guardian.
Mr. Mejia was placed in handcuffs and taken to the Allegheny County Jail. Almost immediately, his growing support network in Pittsburgh started to act.
Ms. Iwanonkiw's husband went to visit Mr. Mejia, as did Ms. McMullen, who was devastated by the arrest.
"It was horrible," she said of their brief reunion at the jail. "I was crying the whole time."
The participants in Teatro Latino de Pittsburgh, the project organized by Ms. Martin for Hispanic teenagers, started a petition asking for Mr. Mejia's release. He had planned to appear in the group's final show.
Immigration authorities repeatedly transferred Mr. Mejia, taking him to Cambria and York counties, and then on to detention centers in New Mexico and Texas.
Jacqueline Martinez, a Pittsburgh immigration attorney, persuaded a judge to reopen Mr. Mejia's case and to set bond. The judge ordered Mr. Mejia to return to Honduras by next month, giving him and Ms. McMullen time to marry.
Ms. Iwanonkiw and her husband contacted a bail bond company that specializes in immigration cases. In October, Mr. Mejia came back to Pittsburgh.
Now, he and his new wife are trying to make the most of the short time they have together. They married July 17 in the Greenfield courtroom of District Judge James J. Hanley Jr., with Mr. Mejia wearing an oversized black suit while a dozen friends snapped pictures.
They also agreed to work with Ms. Martin on "El Camino," sitting for 10 hours of interviews with the playwright and her creative partner, Michelle Carello.
Ms. Martin hopes to have a full production of the show in the fall of next year.
"The play, it's helping people," Mr. Mejia said. "It shows Americans the [immigration] process."
That process could now be a long one for Mr. Mejia, who will face a 10-year ban on re-entry to the United States. But he and his wife hope to cut that down by applying for a hardship exception when Mrs. Mejia becomes a U.S. citizen.
In the meantime, she plans to go with him to Honduras next month and spend several weeks there.
Mr. Mejia's grandmother died during his time away, and he will live with his mother and study accounting.
"We're going to make it work," he said, looking at Mrs. Mejia with tired eyes.
"I'm going to see him at least once a year," she said.
"Two times," he said.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Queens family man in danger of being deported because of a youthful indiscretion (New York Daily News)
Queens family man in danger of being deported because of a youthful indiscretion
Thursday, August 20th 2009, 4:00 AM
Jorge Mesa, a loving father and successful businessman, is in imminent danger of being deported because of a youthful indiscretion he paid for years ago.
Expelling Mesa, a Woodside resident for the past 43 years, would be a grave injustice that is apparent to his many friends in the community.
Yet, since last Thursday, the native of Colombia has been imprisoned at the Monmouth Correctional Institute, in Freehold, N.J., hoping for a stay of a deportation order and deeply worried about his family's future.
"My life is here," he said in a telephone interview. "I have nothing in Colombia, I have lived here, on the same Woodside block, since I was 8."
Mesa, his parents and six siblings arrived in the U.S. in 1966 as permanent residents. His case is a further example of our absurd immigration laws.
This was made clear in an avalanche of e-mails sent to the Daily News from his friends who say they are willing to do whatever it takes to help Mesa return to his fiancée, Olga Lucía Celis, a U.S. citizen, and their 15-month old son, Christian Enrique.
"I am writing you on behalf of Jorge Mesa. He is in the process of being deported and needs help," reads one e-mail. "I am a former U.S. Marine with service in Vietnam. I am also a retired FDNY lieutenant. I have known Jorge for more than 20 years and I know him to be a man of character, a man I trust and a man I am proud to call 'Friend.'" Signed, Dan Finegan.
Celis vividly remembers the moment Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took him.
"It was 7 a.m. and Jorge was about to go to work. The baby and I were still in bed," said a distraught Celis. She recalled Mesa's voice calling from the living room saying three policemen were coming into the house.
"I thought they were friends of his. He has many friends and they come by all the time - policemen, firefighters, our neighbors," said Celis.
But the men were ICE agents and they had come to detain him for a 1991 deportation order he had appealed, but was never resolved.
"I have to go with them," Mesa, 53, told his wife.
Still in disbelief, Celis called Mesa's siblings and friends. The response was immediate and unanimous. Besides sending out e-mails, they contacted U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, Rep. Joseph Crowley and City Councilman Eric Gioia, who, according to Christina Hall, Mesa's attorney, are trying to help.
"Jorge is a good man," said another e-mail from Wyatt Gibbons, a childhood friend. "As an attorney in Queens County for 20 years, I have seen the worst humanity has to offer and so I have a frame of reference - Jorge is the best humanity has to offer and in addition to his family and many, many friends being devastated by his loss, this country will be diminished without his presence."
It is a fact that from 1981 to 1983 Mesa served a two-year sentence for drug-related felonies. But it is a much more relevant fact that in the 26 years that have gone by, Mesa has earned the love and respect of all who know him. In addition he has created his own business, J.E.M. Painting, and became a loving partner and father.
Hall said she had never seen so many people eager to testify in behalf of one of her clients.
It is clear that Mesa is a decent man who should be allowed to go home to his family and his community. Doing otherwise would be a grave injustice.
Man charged with human smuggling
Eight in vehicle at traffic stop on I-76
Thursday, August 20, 2009
A man suspected to be from Guatemala is in Weld County Jail last week after a traffic stop led to eight charges of human smuggling against him.
Gonzalo Martin-Rodas, 36, has been charged with eight felony counts after his arrest on Interstate 76.
Colorado State Patrol spokesman Sgt. John Hahn said a trooper stopped Martin-Rodas on Aug. 13 for a left lane violation as he was traveling east between Hudson and Keenesburg. Martin-Rodas was driving a 1990 Toyota Camry station wagon with eight passengers — six men and two women.
The trooper, a member of the agency's immigration enforcement unit, determined through questioning that Martin-Rodas had been driving the people through Colorado for money. Hahn did not reveal their destination or where the passengers were coming from. None was in the country legally.
Hahn said he did not know if the passengers were in the United States for work.
“Generally, when we stop them, many times the ultimate outcome is the individuals are put in positions — when they reach their destination — in situations that equate to modern-day slavery,” Hahn said. “In this case we have a situation where we had a total of nine people in a vehicle that's not equipped to handle that many people. Should there have been a crash ... there almost certainly would be fatalities.”
The immigration enforcement unit with CSP is now 3 years old. This is likely the first such smuggling case in Weld County since that enforcement unit was created, but Hahn said he could not confirm that.
The last big smuggling case in Colorado was in Jefferson County, where two men were convicted in 2008 of smuggling. The two were stopped in a van filled with 12 people from Mexico while en route to Chicago. The men both were sentenced to 90 days in jail and 20 years of probation. That was the second case in the state since the unit started.
Martin-Rodas is facing up to 12 years in prison for each offense. He also is being held without bond on hold for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
He is set to appear in court at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday for arraignment.
Chase Co. arrest leads to immigration charges
By Bobbi Mlynar
Thursday, August 20, 2009
A man held by the Chase County Sheriff’s Department on suspicion of bringing illegal aliens to the United States from Mexico has been indicted in federal court.
According to an announcement from Jim Cross of the U.S. Attorney’s office, Jorge Elizalde-Juarez, 23, is charged with knowingly transporting undocumented aliens from Mexico.
Elizalde-Juarez, a citizen of Mexico, was arrested in Chase County while he was driving a 1997 Ford Expedition carrying 14 undocumented aliens.
He also is charged with one count of unlawfully re-entering the United States after being deported, four counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of making a false statement to the U.S. government and one count of producing a false identification document. The crimes are alleged to have occurred during 2007 and 2009 in Chase County, Cross said in a news release.
Chase County Sheriff Richard Dorneker said that one of his officers was on patrol around Milepost 327 on U.S. Highway 50 at Strong City in a 45 miles-per-hour zone when he came upon the SUV loaded with people.
“I think he was just starting to check into and do a motorist assist,” Dorneker said.
Chase County contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Chase County currently has a contract to hold illegal aliens … until they’re processed and deported,” Dorneker said. “And normally on a deal like that, if ICE wants to put a hold on them, then we’ll put a hold.”
Dorneker said that U.S. 50 was a popular route for people bringing in undocumented workers.
“Actually Highway 50 is a very well-traveled highway for that type of thing,” Dorneker said.
The highway runs from coast to coast across the midlands and is a two-lane road that has no fee or toll booths that might cause others to become suspicious of a vehicle heavily loaded with passengers.
“Whereas on a turnpike, you’ve got to go through the (interchange), pay your toll,” Dorneker said.
Cross said that Elizalde-Juarez faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 on the charge of transporting illegal aliens. Aggravated identity theft holds a mandatory two-year sentence to run consecutively to other sentences, and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
Making a false statement to the U.S. government could bring a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison without parole and a fine up to $250,000. Producing a false identification carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years without parole and a fine up to $250,000 on each count.
Elizalde-Juarez also could be sentenced to a maximum of two years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 on the unlawful re-entry after deportation charge.
“There’s a very lengthy process on the deportation process,” Dorneker said, “and after they are actually deported, there’s nothing saying that they can’t make their way back across.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Anderson is prosecutor for the case.
ICE Searching for Smugglers Who Left Two to Die
Last Update: 1:17 pm (8/20/09)
STARR COUNTY - ICE officers are looking for the people who smuggled illegal immigrants into Starr County and left two of them to die.
An ICE spokesperson tells NEWSCHANNEL 5 they're following up on leads and hope to make an arrest soon.
The bodies of two were discovered yesterday in the Salineno area. That's along the river north of Starr County.
It's believed the two may have died from heat exposure.
Border Patrol agents took several other immigrants into custody and provided first aid.
County deportations on the rise
New rules send more inmates away
By ERIN MILLS
The East Oregonian
8/20/2009 11:37:00 AM
Immigration and Customs Enforcement took nine Umatilla County Jail inmates Wednesday to the correctional facility in The Dalles, their first stop on the deportation process. They were among a growing number of people deported from Eastern Oregon for myriad reasons.
So far this year, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly known as ICE, held 246 inmates at the jail in Pendleton and sent 125 to either a detention center or their country of origin. That is a sharp increase from 2007, when officers lodged 251 illegal inmates at the jail and transported 87.
Morrow County Sheriff Ken Matlack attributed the increase to a number of factors, including the economy and new Department of Motor Vehicle rules that make it harder for illegal immigrants to get a driver's license.
It is the Morrow County Sheriff's Office's policy to arrest any driver who is caught without a proof of identification, Matlack said, the result of which has been more arrests.
"A lot of those people, they (ICE) are deporting, which they've never done before, which is unusual," Matlack told the Morrow County Court on Wednesday.
Because it is difficult for immigrants to find work now, Matlack said, some of them are turning to crime to support themselves. Those with serious convictions, such as felonies, are more likely to be deported.
But the illegal immigrants are by no means the majority of those committing crimes in Eastern Oregon. The jail roster currently shows 139 inmates, five of which have ICE holds. The economy has led to a general increase of crime across the board, Matlack said.
The Morrow County Sheriff's Office use to reserve nine beds at the Umatilla County Jail. It now uses an average of 13 beds a day and is starting to evaluate inmates based on the seriousness of their crime, an everyday process for Umatilla County.
Matlack also said the federal government seems to have an increased will to deport illegal immigrants who engage in crminial activity now, in part because of concerns for homeland security.
ICE did not respond to the East Oregonian's requests for an interview.
Umatilla County Sheriff John Trumbo said he believed that only illegal immigrants with a criminal history end up deported.
"INS is making a point of taking all those people who are deserving of going back," he said.
Trumbo said there are more deportations now because there are more illegal immigrants in Umatilla and Morrow counties, and an increase in crime among illegal immigrants.
Both Umatilla and Morrow counties have received funds from the state criminal aliens assistance program, an effort by the federal government to offset the costs of housing illegal criminals. Funds for that program, however, are on the wane. In years past, Umatilla County got between $60,000 and $80,000 per year from the program; last year, the county got $24,000.
"And it's not because we don't have people who fit the criteria," Trumbo said. "It's because the money is not there for them to pay it."
Trumbo said he didn't think that crime in general is on the rise - the jail is just holding criminals longer.
One reason is that it as a new surveillance system that has made it possible to house more people. The county budgets for 135 inmates per day, but because of the surveillance system and a full staff of experienced, certified corrections officers, Trumbo said, they have recently held as many as 164 for several days.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Water for illegal aliens
Activist sentenced for littering
MONDAY, AUGUST 17, 2009
An Arizona man has been ordered to perform 300 hours of community service after his humanitarian gesture netted his arrest by Border Patrol agents for littering.
Walt Staton was convicted in a jury trial of a petty littering charge for leaving unopened gallon bottles of water in the federal Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge for illegal immigrants crossing from Mexico.
Mr. Staton is a member of No More Borders, which has drawn attention of federal authorities for providing humanitarian aid, including health care, to illegal immigrants.
According to Mr. Staton, Border Patrol agents broke off their pursuit of illegal immigrants to seize his water bottles meant to save lives in the desert.
Mr. Staton was ordered to pick up trash for his community service and placed on one-year unsupervised probation. He was also banned from the refuge for a year. He could have been sentenced to a year in prison and fined $10,000.
Federal authorities, of course, were within their rights. Littering is a crime, but it has to be put in perspective. In this instance the seriousness of Mr. Staton's compassionate act seemed exaggerated through its connection with illegal immigration. One wonders whether the thousands of dollars in time and resources prosecuting him might have been better spent on agents or other efforts to deter illegal immigration.
Broken taillights lead to chase, immigration hold
Tuesday, Aug 18 2009, 7:56 pm
A car and foot chase with Corning police through town landed a man in jail.
Jose Fernando Castillo-Alanis, also known as Fidel Mata, was driving a Toyota Camry northbound on Fifth Street when Corning police Officer Tiffany Hill attempted to make a stop on the car because it did not have tail-lights, said police.
Instead of stopping, the car kept driving up Fifth Street and then into an alleyway between Yolo and Butte streets on the 1200 block where it stopped, the driver got out and ran into the nearby duplex and locked the door, according to Hill.
Tehama County sheriff's deputies came to the duplex and were able to kick the door down at which time Alanis was arrested following a brief struggle, said Hill.
Alanis allegedly gave police false identification and a fictitious social security card and was found to be under the influence of alcohol.
He was booked into the Tehama County Jail on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol, evading a peace officer, obstructing a public officer, false identification, driving without a drivers license and use of false citizenship documents.
Hussein foe in immigration limbo in Denver
By Felisa Cardona
The Denver Post
Updated: 08/19/2009 07:51:17 AM MDT
An Iraqi man who spent years fighting Saddam Hussein's rule is now being delayed in his pursuit of U.S. residency while the federal government determines whether his opposition to Hussein amounted to terrorism.
Sami Al-Karim, 43, who was sent to Abu Ghraib prison in the 1980s by Hussein's regime for his "subversive" artwork criticizing government policies, has waited seven years in Denver while his application for a green card is processed.
The sculptor, painter and photographer was admitted into the U.S. in 2001 from a refugee camp.
While Al-Karim says he loves America and all of its freedoms, he is frustrated by the delay while U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services decides whether his "material support" of a Tier III terrorist organization disqualifies him from residency in the U.S.
In the 1980s, Al-Karim acted as a messenger, sending tapes and letters to families of members of the Islamic Dawa Party — a group opposed to Hussein — who were in exile.
The Islamic Dawa Party has been identified by the U.S. as a Tier III terrorist group, two levels under groups such as Hamas, which is categorized as Tier I.
Iraq's elected prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is a member of the IDP.
"This same party is the democratically elected party in Iraq that United States forces are militarily defending and keeping in power," said Al-Karim's attorney, Jeffrey Joseph.
Al-Karim was granted refugee status in the U.S. based on his application to the State Department, in which he wrote that he needed placement because he had provided support to the IDP. That admission on his refugee paperwork is what is holding up his citizenship.
Al-Karim says he understands the need for security, but he says he is not a threat.
"Terrorism affects everyone," Al-Karim said. "We were terrorized more than Americans. Saddam Hussein was the biggest terrorist. He tortured my family, so we have been affected by terrorists and are hurting the same as you."
A 2008 amendment to the Patriot Act allows the government to lift the ban on immigrants based on their associations with terrorist organizations, recognizing that there are different levels of support to those groups and that some organizations were fighting dictatorships.
But applications involving those exemptions have been put on hold by the Department of Homeland Security, and the delays have affected about 7,000 people seeking permanent residency, Joseph said.
Matthew Chandler, a Homeland Security spokesman, did not comment specifically about Al-Karim's case but said the agency is working on reducing the delays.
"Over 10,500 individuals have benefited from the exemptions to the terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility that have been issued to date," Chandler said. "While the department views this achievement as significant, we also understand that a more efficient exemption-authorization process than the one that has been in place would reach greater numbers of deserving aliens."
Last year, Al-Karim filed a federal lawsuit in Denver and asked U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn to force prompt processing of his application.
A decision is expected any day, but Blackburn can only order the agency to finish Al-Karim's application; he cannot force it to grant Al-Karim permanent residency.
Al-Karim says he knows pushing the issue could mean deportation, but waiting in limbo has become unbearable.
Now a father of four children — all U.S. citizens — Al-Karim says it is difficult to travel around the world to show his artwork with a refugee permit instead of a green card. Every time he leaves the U.S., he risks not being able to get back into the country.
"I can't work," he said. "I am an artist; I have to travel to galleries and show my work."
Joseph said his client is not a terrorist and if the government believes he is, authorities have allowed Al-Karim to be in the country for seven years.