Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Littering charge in western Ouachita may lead to deportation actions (The News Star)

Littering charge in western Ouachita may lead to deportation actions

Gustavo Hernandez Villarrergeal's problems started late Sunday with some bottles tossed from a window.

Minutes later, he was in the custody of Ouachita deputies, and now faces a charge of unlawful presence in the United States.

Ouachita deputies around 10:30 p.m. Sunday saw five men in a parked car on Louisiana 3033 tossing bottles from their windows. When they attempted to pull the vehicle over, the driver left at a slow rate of speed. Deputies followed, and the suspect pulled the car into a ditch.

Deputies charged driver Villarrergeal with littering, resisting flight and driving without a lawful presence in the U.S. No bond was set on the last charge.

Colombia becomes new hub for human smuggling into US (Christian Science Monitor)

Colombia becomes new hub for human smuggling into US
Long a starting point for cocaine smuggling, Colombia has now become a major hub for human smuggling from Africa and Asia to the US via Mexico.

By Sibylla Brodzinsky Correspondent / February 22, 2010

Sincelejo, Colombia

The boat was cramped and uncomfortable, with nowhere for its 71 passengers to sit during the three-day ride. But Abdullahi was excited. He was halfway to America from his native Somalia, which he had left more than a month before.

Pressed together with six other Somalis and 63 Eritreans, they had set off in the dark of night from the Colombian coastal city of Cartagena, headed for somewhere in Central America. But shortly after they set sail, the vessel's steering mechanism snapped, the engine failed, and the boat began to take on water.

For an entire day and night, they were adrift at sea. Many of the passengers fell ill from the rocking of the waves. All feared for their lives.

"Pray to your God," the captain told them. And they did.

The boat finally ran aground on the tiny island of El Latal. The passengers scrambled ashore and the captain fled. Soon the Colombian Navy arrived, ushering the East African immigrants to the mainland and housing them in a small basketball stadium in this steamy city near the coast. Once here, they requested refugee status.

The aborted voyage put a temporary hold on the Somalis' and Eritreans' plans to get to the United States, but Abdullahi says it hasn't dashed his dream. He fled Somalia after his eldest brother was shot dead by the radical Islamist group Al Shabab because he worked as a doctor for a Western aid group. In the US, he says, "I can be safe."

Colombia – long a starting point for much of the cocaine smuggled into the US – has now become a major hub for smuggling people from Africa and Asia to the US via Mexico. And, although this particular boatload of Africans may not have posed a security risk to the US, authorities are increasingly concerned that the Colombian human-trafficking hub could bring in terrorists.

Alarm bells start ringing

"About a year and a half ago, the alarm bells went off when we started detecting a growing number of illegal immigrants passing through [Colombia]," says Felipe Muñoz, director of Colombia's domestic intelligence and immigration agency, known as DAS. "It's become a hub because it [is in] a strategic position to reach Central America."

In 2009, Colombian authorities captured more than 480 illegal immigrants from China, Somalia, Eritrea, Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, and other countries in Asia and Africa. "We don't know how many actually got through undetected," says Mr. Muñoz.

Once in Central America, these immigrants join the thousands of Latin Americans who make the treacherous journey to the Mexican-US border.

In December, Colombian officials arrested Ethiopian national Yohannes Elfneh Neguissie, who they say was in charge of running the Colombian leg of an East African smuggling ring. Three Colombian nationals were also charged. Mr. Neguissie had been living in Colombia since 2006 when he requested, and was granted, refugee status.

After discovering small groups of East Africans on boats leaving the tiny Colombian island of San Andrés, near Nicaragua, Colombian authorities began tracking the movements of Neguissie in the capital, Bogotá. "He would go to travel agents looking for the best deals on flights to San Andrés for the immigrants, and we detected that he would receive money wires from South Africa and the US," says the lead investigator on the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Colombian officials say the US has expressed an interest in extraditing Neguissie, who is negotiating a plea bargain with Colombian prosecutors. "His was a major operation that may have moved as many as 1,000 people through Colombia in 2009," says Muñoz.

However, Muñoz acknowledges that Neguissie's capture won't end the smuggling. "It will slow them down for a while, but there will soon be someone to replace him," he says. "The arrest, more than stopping the traffic, helps us learn more about how the networks function."

It appears that Neguissie's operation has continued to work fine without him. Abdullahi and his travel companions were found 15 days after Neguissie's arrest and are believed to have been his "clients."

Huddled on mattresses covered with lime-green and pink sheets on the floor of Sincelejo's municipal basketball stadium, the Eritreans and Somalis spent six days fretting over their fate, after being picked up by the Colombian Navy. "We are happy to be alive, but we don't know what will happen now," said a tall, thin Eritrean with a broad smile who called himself Sami. Most of the immigrants interviewed would only give their first names.

Under a controversial program of the Eritrean dictatorship, Sami, like all of his countrymen, was forced into indefinite national service, assigned to be a soldier. Twice he had been caught trying to escape the country and twice he had been thrown into prison, he said. "The second time was worse," he said in halting English. "Like Guantánamo, but worse. There were many beatings." He asks his companions for the precise translation of a word in Tigrinya. "Torture," they tell him. "Yes, torture," he says.

He managed to escape what he described as an underground desert prison and, after saying goodbye to his mother, slipped into Sudan. There he met a man named Carlos who said he could get Sami to Colombia and from there to the US. Sami worked for 14 months as a cleaner at a hotel in Sudan to raise the money. By the time he'd made the Colombian leg, he'd already paid $6,500.

The immigrants' main fear is being deported to their homelands. "If that happens," says Sami, "everyone knows his fate: It's either prison for life or shooting."

Colombia is giving this group permission to remain in the country for 30 days, during which they can seek refugee status – or find a way to continue their journey.

Based on past experience, Colombian officials say, most will do both. Although they go through the paperwork to be recognized as refugees, by the time Colombia decides their cases, they are long gone.

Colombian and US authorities say they've detected a number of routes by which Asian and African immigrants reach Colombia.

South Africa's visa loophole

Ethiopians and Eritreans usually come to the continent via South Africa, where smugglers provide them with a false South African passport, which allows them to enter Brazil without visas. Once in Brazil, they travel to its porous border with Colombia. From Somalia, the route often passes through Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Moscow; and Cuba to Colombia.

The rescued Somalis and Eri treans had all arrived in Colombia individually or in small groups and were kept under lock and key until the large group was complete.

The smugglers whisked them onto the boat in the middle of the night only to end up back on the mainland two days later. One of the Eritrean immigrants who declined to give his name says that as soon as he can he will try to complete his journey to the US. "If you're going to die either way," he says, "it's better to die trying to live."

ICE official lavishes Collier Sheriff’s Office with praise (Marco Eagle)

ICE official lavishes Collier Sheriff’s Office with praise
Posted February 22, 2010 at 7:41 p.m.

A high-ranking official with a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Miami was in Collier County on Monday, and praised the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s 2-year partnership with ICE as not only a model for Florida, but for the country.

Sheriff Kevin Rambosk has previously called his agency’s version of the controversial 287(g) program — named for the section of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act which permits it — a model for other communities, linking it to a decreased jail population and crime rate. Since the program’s October 2007 inception in Collier, the Sheriff’s Office has placed more than 2,300 detainers for removal on suspected criminal aliens.

On Monday, David Bradley, the acting deputy field office director for ICE’s detention and removal office in Miami, echoed Rambosk’s claims.

“They have been named as a model 287(g) site here,” Bradley said. “Our partnership with them is as strong as it was a couple of years ago when we first started the program.”

On any given day, Bradley said he deals with about a dozen similar programs in Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The problems that some of the programs experience on an almost daily basis are rare in Collier, he said.

That success is due to strong internal communication, shared responsibility and Collier taking “ownership” of its program, he said.

“They’re one of the first 287(g) programs set up in the country, so the longer you’re on board, the better and better it’s going to be,” Bradley said.

Commander Mike Williams, who heads up Collier’s program, said he has been surprised how well his agency has worked with ICE, considering they have different computer systems and different cultures.

“We’ve had a great relationship with them from start to finish,” Williams said.

Bradley also addressed concerns raised by the Daily News about ICE not providing a list of names of suspected illegal immigrants who have been detained in Collier County since the program’s inception. The Sheriff’s Office provided such a list last summer, but denied a request in December saying ICE does not allow them to provide it.

Bradley said ICE is not allowed to release names due to Congressional mandate and the Department of Homeland Security’s privacy policy. That information is only provided to family members and attorneys.

“Nobody disappears when they come into ICE custody,” Bradley said. “We have so many different ways that family members and documented attorneys can find out the status, where they are, visitation times. We have a 24-hour command center in this field office alone.”

The Sheriff’s Office’s partnership with ICE permits trained deputies to act as immigration and deportation agents. Last year, the Sheriff’s Office also signed onto ICE’s new Secure Communities initiative, which screens fingerprints of people being booked into jail and attempts to match them to FBI and Homeland Security databases.

“It’s a smarter way of doing business,” Bradley said. “No profiling involved, like what was alleged with some 287(g) sites, because everybody’s prints get transmitted to the FBI’s ... system.”

Critics of the Sheriff’s Office’s partnership with ICE say the program has alienated a section of the community that is already afraid of law enforcement, and leads to racial profiling.

“I don’t believe that’s true,” Bradley said. “I think that ICE does a really good job nationally on focused enforcement, focusing on first those who pose the greatest threat to the community.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Jury acquits husband of assault charges (Lake County News-Sun)

Jury acquits husband of assault charges
Remains in custody on immigration hold

February 19, 2010
By BETH KRAMER ekramer@stmedianetwork.com

Even though a jury found the Buffalo Grove man accused of sexually assaulting his wife at knifepoint not guilty of all charges, he remains in custody at the Lake County Jail.

Kun Lee, 54, was found not guilty of aggravated criminal sexual assault and unlawful restraint following less than two hours of jury deliberation.

He remains in custody because immigration has placed a hold on the South Korean immigrant.

Thursday marked the conclusion of Lee's re-trial. A different jury found him guilty in July 2006, and in December that year he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. However, the state Appellate Court found that Lee had not been properly advised of his right to defend himself in court.

In the re-trial, Lee was represented by attorney Jed Stone.

Charges of residential arson were dropped from the first trial. When Assistant State's Attorney Brett Henne sought to include them in the re-trial, Associate Judge George Bridges dismissed the indictment, citing prosecution vindictiveness.

Henne has filed an appeal on that decision, which is making its way through Appellate Court.

Unless an order comes from the federal government, Lee will remain in jail because of the immigration hold.

He is scheduled for a status hearing on Aug. 24.

Rules for visa perplex family (St. Petersburg Times)

Rules for visa perplex family

By Marlene Sokol, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Sunday, February 21, 2010

LITHIA — Sarah Farnan used to dream of working the Shamu show at Sea World.

Now she just wants a way to stay in the United States, at least until her college graduation.

A Bright Futures scholar in her junior year at the University of South Florida, Sarah could be deported back to England when she turns 21 this summer.

Her parents, who own a Pinellas County pressure washing business, thought Sarah could remain with them as long as she was their dependent.

"My understanding was that she is my dependent until she finishes school," said Peter Farnan, 51. "It turns out I was wrong."

Their plight, and others like it, have advocacy groups pushing to reform the E-2 visa program, which rewards foreign business owners for investing and creating jobs in the United States.

They estimate there are more than 100,000 such businesses, with yearly revenue of $50 billion and a work force of 700,000 despite the visa's limitations.

Among them: An E-2 holder cannot get a homestead exemption or a job in a different business and has no path to permanent residency.

"This is not an immigration visa," said Sonja B. Stefanadis, a caseworker for U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis who is trying to help the Farnans. "You're supposed to just finish up and go home."

• • •

The Farnans were raising two children in Cambridge when Peter's employer laid him off, then rehired him in a job he didn't like, they said.

"If we were going to try something different, it was really then or never," said Alison, 46.

They had visited Florida on vacation, and knew someone who lived in Valrico. They bought a house in FishHawk Ranch, and, through a broker, they bought Grimebusters of Palm Harbor.

The business cost $150,000, they said. They put a $200,000 down payment on their $350,000 house, which was financed with an international mortgage.

Sarah got used to spicier food and schoolmates who giggled at her accent. The family joined community organizations such as the FishHawk Area Network Group. They took part in the Relay for Life for cancer research.

Sarah's grades and volunteer work at Newsome High School earned her a Bright Futures scholarship to the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, they said. She lived in a dormitory and chose anthropology as a major.

Unable to work under the E-2 restrictions, she moved back home so she could afford a car. She volunteers at Lowry Park Zoo when she isn't studying or driving to classes in St. Petersburg.

If not for the visa problem, she would be looking forward to traveling after graduation — perhaps a road trip through the United States or a visit to England and Ireland.

Instead, she said, thoughts of the future are giving her migraines and nightmares.

• • •

The Farnans say their interactions with government have been frustrating at every turn.

Their initial E-2 visa, awarded in 2006, was good for only two years, under the program rules. They were told they could not apply for a renewal — a process that involved a visit to the U.S. Embassy in London — until three months before the expiration, though it might take five months to process it.

They were able to take the trip because the family had attended a wedding in Australia, and in doing so had extended their travel documents.

The trip to London cost $15,000, Alison said. They stayed with her parents. "It would have bankrupted us if we had had to stay in a hotel."

Daniel, now a senior at Newsome High School, missed his final exams and had to make them up. They needed to have their visa documents sent to them by courier. The renewed visas, although approved, had varying expiration dates.

"By then you're worried that your business is going down the tubes because you're not here, and you just want to get back and deal with the mess," Alison said.

Back in Florida they called a lawyer, who said to contact Sarah's school. They didn't find the expertise they needed at USF St. Petersburg, they say.

Nor did they want to see Sarah reclassified as a foreign student or apply for a student visa. She'd have trouble getting one, they said, because she'd have no home or family when she returned to England.

Another lawyer suggested Peter find an employer who would sponsor him toward a green card — and quickly. He did find a sponsor, and submitted the paperwork.

But the family learned there is a backlog of at least nine months at the Labor Department, one of the agencies involved.

"They have to take these cases in order," Stefanadis said. "Otherwise, every representative would be pulling their constituents ahead of each other."

And once Sarah turns 21, it will be too late to include her on the green card.

Similar dilemmas exist in other E-2 families, said Steve Adams of Lakeland, who arrived in 2003 from England to open a pool service business. He and his wife Zoe, who are active in E2reform.org, say there are inconsistencies in which businesses are approved, and that often the visa holders' children face deportation or unemployment.

"America is paying for our children's education and at 21, they're throwing that money away," Adams said.

Their campaign has had a positive response from U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Bartow, who co-sponsored a bill to create a green card path for some E-2 visa holders.

But getting it passed is an uphill battle. "The minute anyone in Congress hears about immigration, they literally shut their ears," Adams said.

• • •

When Sarah weighs her options, none makes sense.

She could go back to England. But she would have an unfinished education, no circle of friends, no British driver's license, not even the documents she would need to get a job.

"I'd be moving back alone," she said. "Or my entire family would be following me, and we would be going back with no money."

Like so many Floridians, the Farnans also have seen their house value halved.

"People look at us and say, 'Oh you're here from England, you own a business, you must have lots of money,' " Alison said. "We did the day we got off the plane."

People have suggested that Sarah just get married. That would not be a bad idea, Stefanadis said, if Sarah were in a relationship headed towards marriage.

She isn't. But she has researched the rules, and some school friends have offered to marry her if that's what it takes, though Sarah isn't seriously considering it.

"If we sound a bit glib about it, it's because it's a common response and we've had it a lot," Alison said, adding, "It absolutely horrifies me."

9 arrested at Scottsdale restaurant in identity-theft case (The Arizona Republic)

9 arrested at Scottsdale restaurant in identity-theft case
by Ian Sullivan - Feb. 19, 2010 04:35 PM
The Arizona Republic

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office arrested nine employees of a Scottsdale Mexican restaurant Friday on suspicion of identity theft and forgery.

Sheriff's officers executed a search warrant at Arriba Mexican Grill, 15236 N. Pima Road, following a one-year investigation into suspected immigration-related violations.

Nine employees, including the store manager who was found hiding in the bathroom, were booked into jail at 11 a.m., Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.

The Sheriff's Office has been investigating the restaurant for more than a year after a former employee tipped the office, Arpaio said. The former employee told investigators that several employees admitted to living and working in the state illegally.

Sheriffs also executed a warrant at the company's corporate headquarters, 15025 N. 74th St., Scottsdale, and seized employee and payroll records. The deputies are continuing to investigate the nine detainees.

Arpaio's deputies have conducted 30 work-site raids armed with search warrants for employees who had allegedly committed crimes such as forgery, fraud and identity theft. Deputies arrested hundreds of workers on those allegations, but until recently, enforcement of the law seemed to avoid its intended targets: employers.

In November, County Attorney Andrew Thomas filed a complaint against a custom cabinet-and-furniture business, Scottsdale Art Factory, which continues to make its way through federal court.

One month later, Thomas announced sanctions against a water park that had already closed and re-opened under new management, making the sanctions void.

Community Watch - Illegal Immigrant (Mohave Daily News)

Community Watch [2nd item]
Sunday, February 21, 2010 1:07 AM CST
Daily News staff

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT, MOHAVE VALLEY — Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Armando Lopez-Gutierrez, 43, of Bullhead City, at approximately 7:20 a.m. Thursday following a traffic stop at Lagos Grande Place at Lagos Grande Drive. The driver identified himself as Lopez-Gutierrez of Mexico, Carter said. With the assistance of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Lopez-Gutierrez was determined to be an illegal immigrant. He was transported to Mohave County District II Substation where ICE later took him into custody.

Police Blogger - Fake ID Charges (The Courier News)

Police Blotter [2nd item]
February 22, 2010


Fake-ID charges: Police on Sunday morning arrested Rungthiwa Ratanatham, 32, of Hoffman Estates on charges of using a fictitious identification card at the Grand Victoria Casino, 250 S. Grove Ave. According to police, Ratanatham was stopped at the casino about 1:45 a.m. when she tried to enter there using a resident alien card that the casino regarded as suspicious. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were contacted, and that agency asked that a hold be placed on her, police said.

5 Suspected Illegal Immigrants Come Ashore In Martin County (WPBF-FL)

5 Suspected Illegal Immigrants Come Ashore In Martin County
4 Men Believed To Be Haitian, 1 Man Believed To Be Cuban Detained
POSTED: 9:17 am EST February 22, 2010

STUART, Fla. -- Five suspected illegal immigrants have been detained after coming ashore early Monday morning, the Martin County Sheriff's Office said.

Deputies were called to the area of Sewall's Point shortly after 6 a.m.

When deputies arrived, they found four men believed to be Haitian and one man believed to be Cuban.

Deputies said the men are believed to have come ashore on the north side of the Stuart causeway sometime between midnight and 1 a.m.

Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have taken custody of all five men.
Deputies said no vessel has been located. They were searching for any other individuals.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mission apartment used to stash immigrants (KGBT-AZ)

Mission apartment used to stash immigrants
Three smugglers arrested, 14 Central American immigrants in custody

Friday, February 19, 2010 at 11:38 a.m.

Three people are behind bars after Border Patrol agents found 14 Central American immigrants crammed into a bedroom of a squalid apartment in Mission.

U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested Raquel Mata-Hernandez, Edgar Ivan Hernandez-Valdez and Milton Bladimir Sola-Flores on immigrant smuggling charges Tuesday.

The three are accused of using an apartment at 6213 Charro Street as a stash house for illegal immigrants.

Court records show that a Border Patrol agents received a tip that the apartment was being used for illegal activity.

Authorities performed a stake out and saw 15 people getting out of a Ford Taurus around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Investigators later followed Hernandez-Valdez and Sola-Flores to a gas station off La Homa Road and 5 Mile Line.

Mata-Hernandez allegedly gave investigators consent to search the apartment.

Court records show that the two-bedroom apartment was messy and unclean. The 14 immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador were all crammed into one bedroom.

Mata-Hernandez said she and her husband had been renting the apartment for a year and that got paid $20 dollars per immigrant.

Court records show that Hernandez-Valdez and Sola-Flores were caretakers while Mata-Hernandez was a leader. Her husband was not identified in the court records.

Mata-Hernandez, Hernandez-Valdez and Sola-Flores appeared before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Peter Ormsby in McAllen on Thursday morning.

Court records show that Mata-Hernandez and Hernandez-Valdez are from Mexico while Sola-Flores is from El Salvador. All three of them are illegal immigrants.

Judge Ormsby denied bond for them until a Tuesday afternoon hearing.

Immigrant death leads to arrest of spouse (The Sierra Vista Herald)

Immigrant death leads to arrest of spouse
Sat, 02/20/2010 - 00:13

BISBEE — A Phoenix man is being held in jail on charges he choked his wife to death earlier this month and left her body near St. David, a spokeswoman for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office said.

Facing a first-degree murder charge and being held on a $2 million cash bond is 42-year-old Juan Pedro Leon, Carol Capas said Friday.

A resident alien, Leon is accused in the death of his wife, Maria Ramirez Orosco, 33, an illegal immigrant from Mexico City, Capas said.

Her body was one of three dead women’s remains found between Feb. 6 and 8 in the county. In the two other incidents, the deaths were due to exposure to the elements.

Orosco’s body was discovered on Feb. 8 hidden in some brush off Highway 80. It appeared the shoeless victim had been dragged to the site.

On Thursday, sheriff’s detectives contacted Leon in Phoenix and he came to Cochise County for an interview, Capas said.

While being interviewed, Leon said he reported his wife of 12 years missing on Feb. 4, Capas said, noting that at that time he told Phoenix police Orosco never came home on that day or thereafter, the sheriff’s spokeswoman said.

Leon then told county detectives he and his wife argued about a domestic matter as they drove from Phoenix on the night of Feb. 3 and ended up in Cochise County, Capas said.

As they traveled along Highway 80, an argument escalated and Leon said he stopped the car and pulled his wife out of the passenger side, Capas said. “Mr. Leon advised the detectives that he struggled with Orosco before getting her in a choke hold and she stopped breathing,” Capas said.

As for the other incidents involving the discovery of women’s bodies, suspected illegal immigrants whose identities are unknown:

• The remains of a woman found in Scheelite Canyon on Fort Huachuca on Feb. 6 by a soldier who was hiking in the area, while under continuing investigation by Army criminal investigators, appears to have been by natural causes. “We do not suspect foul play,” said Jeffrey Castro of the Army Criminal Investigation Command.

• The death of a woman found on Feb. 8 in an alley behind the Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center was due to exposure, Sgt. Lawrence Boutte said Thursday.

On Tuesday, another woman’s body was found by U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Willcox station, and the remains were turned over to the sheriff’s office.

Capas said the remains are of a 32-year-old woman from Puebla, Mexico, based on identification found with the remains.
The body was found off of Bennett Ranch Road east of Tombstone and the woman was found wearing a long-sleeve black shirt, blue jeans, white belt and white tennis shoes, she said. There were no signs the body had been moved or dragged and a full water bottle was found near her head, Capas said.

The Mexican Consulate in Douglas has been informed and the name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of kin.

Judge Keeps His Word to Immigrant Who Kept His (New York Times)

Judge Keeps His Word to Immigrant Who Kept His

Published: February 18, 2010

The judge and the juvenile had grown up on the same mean streets, 40 years apart. And in fall 1996, they faced each other in a New York court where children are prosecuted as adults, but sentenced like candidates for redemption.

The teenager, a gifted student, was pleading guilty to a string of muggings committed at 15 with an eclectic crew in Manhattan’s Chinatown. The judge, who remembered the pitfalls of Little Italy in the 1950s, urged him to use his sentence — three to nine years in a reformatory — as a chance to turn his life around.

“If you do that, I am here to stand behind you,” the judge, Michael A. Corriero, promised. The youth, Qing Hong Wu, vowed to change.

Mr. Wu kept his word. He was a model inmate, earning release after three years. He became the main support of his immigrant mother, studying and working his way up from data entry clerk to vice president for Internet technology at a national company.

But almost 15 years after his crimes, by applying for citizenship, Mr. Wu, 29, came to the attention of immigration authorities in a parallel law enforcement system that makes no allowances for rehabilitation. He was abruptly locked up in November as a “criminal alien,” subject to mandatory deportation to China — the nation he left at 5, when his family immigrated legally to the United States.

Now Judge Corriero, 67, retired from the bench, is trying to keep his side of the bargain.

“Mr. Wu earned his second chance,” the judge wrote in a letter supporting a petition to Gov. David A. Paterson for a pardon that would erase Mr. Wu’s criminal record and stop the deportation proceedings. “He should have the opportunity to remain in this country.”

The letter is one of dozens of testimonials, including appeals from Mr. Wu’s fiancée, mother and sisters, who are all citizens; from the Police Benevolent Association, where Mr. Wu used to work; and from his employers at the Centerline Capital Group, a real estate financial and management company, where his boss, Tom Pope, calls Mr. Wu “a shining star.”

But under laws enacted in 1996, the same year Mr. Wu was sentenced, the immigration judge hearing the deportation case has no discretion to consider any of it. For Mr. Wu, who remains in a cell in the Monmouth County Correctional Institute in Freehold, N.J., the best hope may be that the Manhattan district attorney will retroactively allow him the “youthful offender” status that would scrub his record clean.

“The law is so inflexible,” said Judge Corriero, now executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City and the author of “Judging Children as Children: A Proposal for a Juvenile Justice System.” The 2006 book calls for a justice system that reduces future crime rates by nurturing those who can learn from their mistakes, instead of turning them into career criminals.

That was his aim, he said, when he presided over the special court known as the Manhattan Youth Part, his views shaped by his own childhood. The son of a longshoreman and a factory seamstress, he grew up in a tenement across the street from the Tombs — the Manhattan House of Detention — and was schooled by both Roman Catholic missionaries in Chinatown and the Mulberry Street Boys. While he avoided serious trouble, he saw how easily a careless choice could lead to culpability instead of accomplishment.

The neighborhood pressures were not so different decades later, when Mr. Wu hung out at video arcades while his mother worked long hours in a garment factory and his father cooked at Chinese restaurants out of state. A friend from that period recalls seeing a shoe print on the teenager’s back from a street beating. He looked to his pals for self-defense that turned predatory.

In December 1995, he and two other teenagers, one of them pretending to have a gun, took a jacket from a young boy. In two episodes in April 1996, he and others robbed elderly men of money, knocking one down and punching another; he took part in a fourth mugging that June, records show.

“I’m sorry and I really hope that you will forgive me for all the pain and trouble I made them go through,” the teenager said when he was sentenced.

The judge called the case a tragedy, according to the court transcript. “But this is not the end,” he told the youth, who had scored in the 98th percentile in mathematics. “This is really the beginning of a new period for you. I want you to educate yourself. Continue to read, follow the rules.”

“You will want to get a job and become a meaningful, constructive member of society to help your family,” he added. “I will be there to make sure that you can.”

Long after Judge Corriero had forgotten the case, Mr. Wu remembered those words. In 2007, confident that he had redeemed himself, he applied for citizenship, disclosing his record. Later, learning he was not only ineligible but also deportable, he tried to withdraw his application. But immigration authorities summoned him to their headquarters at 26 Federal Plaza.
“He said, ‘If I don’t show up, I’m going to be labeled a fugitive,’ ” his sister Jenny Gong, 31, recalled.

So he went to the interview, and was led away in shackles.

“Being permanently banned from the U.S., that’s the biggest stress I’m under,” Mr. Wu said in a telephone interview from jail. “That’s the harshest penalty any person can ever receive.”

Under the 19th-century legal doctrine still at the heart of much of modern immigration law, however, neither detention nor deportation counts as punishment, just as administrative remedies for the failure to exclude an undesirable foreigner in the first place, experts say. The definition of undesirability has changed over time, but the 1996 laws eliminated most case-by-case judgment in favor of expanded categories of criminal convictions.

The shift was part of a national crackdown on crime, and the perception that immigration judges had been too lenient, allowing noncitizen felons to remain in the country and sometimes commit new offenses.

“This administration is committed to smart and effective immigration policies that place an emphasis on the deportation of criminal aliens,” Brian P. Hale, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Thursday. “While we are not able to discuss any individual cases, ICE will enforce the law, and if an individual has been convicted of a serious or dangerous crime, we will take the appropriate action, including deportation.”

But the policy is hard for Mr. Wu’s supporters to understand. “We’re losing a great guy — for nothing,” said Mr. Pope, director of Centerline’s Internet technology operations. “Qing Wu is somebody you’d interview two or three times in your entire career. Nobody works as hard and as well as Qing.”

Mr. Wu’s mother, Floren Wu-Li, 57, blames herself. Interviewed in the tiny sixth-floor walkup on Spring Street where Mr. Wu lived with his fiancée, she acknowledged that he would have derived citizenship if she had secured it for herself while he was still a minor. But she was naturalized only four years ago, when she was allowed to take the test in Chinese.

“We were very poor and worked very hard and had no time to look after Qing when he was a child,” she said, weeping as her daughter translated. “I had no time to learn English back then.”

Now widowed and ailing, she cleans at a casino in Connecticut but relies on her son’s financial help. His fiancée, Anna Ng, 27, a compliance officer for a hedge fund, said they had been scrimping to save for a place large enough for her parents and his mother to move in. Those savings are now going to legal fees.

Ms. Ng said she would want to follow Mr. Wu to China if he were deported, but speaks no Mandarin. “What if we end up homeless?” she asked.

His sister spoke up: “New York City is his home.”

To Judge Corriero, the case shows the long reach of laws that force judges to impose indelible convictions on adolescents — often, as in Mr. Wu’s case, based on guilty pleas made without knowledge of the dire immigration consequences to follow.

Efforts to free Mr. Wu, championed by the New York chapter of OCA, an Asian-American civil rights organization, now include a motion to vacate his 1996 guilty plea as legally defective because his lawyer wrongly advised him that it would not affect his green card. The group’s president, Elizabeth OuYang, also plans on Friday to meet with Peter Kiernan, counsel to the governor, to discuss the petition for a pardon, which Mr. Kiernan said was “being seriously considered.”

The heart of the case lies in a letter Mr. Wu wrote to the judge when he was detained in November, recalling their pledges to each other years ago. When Judge Corriero checked the old court transcript, he said, he felt a mix of pride and anger.

“Here was a young man who did everything we expected of him,” he said. “It really cries out for some kind of justice.”

Howard County restaurant owner arrested following worksite investigation (Media Newswire)

Howard County restaurant owner arrested following worksite investigation
The criminal complaint alleges that, between January 2009 and February 4, 2010, Cheng knowingly hired aliens who were not authorized to work in the United States, transported the aliens to their jobs, and harbored them in residences she provided. According to the criminal complaint, five aliens were specifically identified during the investigation as working at the restaurant and residing in a home Cheng owns in Columbia, Md.

BALTIMORE - The owner of a Hanover, Md., Chinese restaurant was arrested Feb. 16 for harboring illegal aliens after a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE ) investigation.

The charges were announced by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and ICE Special Agent in Charge William Winter.

Yen Wan Cheng, 54, was arrested on charges of transporting, employing and harboring illegal aliens. She was taken into custody without incident.

"Companies who knowingly hire illegal aliens are not only breaking the law, they are also creating a magnet that draws foreign nationals to enter the United States illegally," said William Winter, Special Agent in Charge for ICE in Baltimore. "ICE is committed to investigating employers who engage in illegal employment schemes that utilize illegal labor to make an unlawful profit."

The criminal complaint alleges that, between January 2009 and February 4, 2010, Cheng knowingly hired aliens who were not authorized to work in the United States, transported the aliens to their jobs, and harbored them in residences she provided. According to the criminal complaint, five aliens were specifically identified during the investigation as working at the restaurant and residing in a home Cheng owns in Columbia, Md.

Cheng faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison for employing illegal aliens and five years in prison each for transporting illegal aliens, harboring aliens and harboring aliens for financial gain.

A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

ICE's Office of Investigations area of investigative responsibilities includes a worksite enforcement unit that promotes national security, protects critical infrastructure and ensures fair labor standards.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Cunningham.

Whatcom County Jail report for Feb. 18 (The Bellingham Herald)

Whatcom County Jail report for Feb. 18
POSTED: Friday, Feb. 19, 2010

The Whatcom County Sheriff's Office lists the following people as being booked into the Whatcom County Jail. In many cases, charges have not yet been filed. Guilt is determined by the courts.

Feb. 18, 2010

Angel Gomez-Hernandez, booked by Immigration and Customs Enforcement on investigation of a fugitive warrant out of New Mexico and an ICE hold.

Area Arrests (Dalton Daily Citizen)

Area Arrests
Published: February 19, 2010 03:44 pm

• Josue David Aparicio-Ramirez, 24, 607 Virginia Ave., Dalton, was placed on an immigration hold on Thursday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

• Eduardo Favela-Mena, 39, 938 Williams Road, Dalton, was placed on an immigration hold on Thursday by ICE.

Group charged in deadly human smuggling attempt (The Monitor)

Group charged in deadly human smuggling attempt

February 19, 2010 9:09 PM

Jeremy Roebuck

McALLEN — Federal agents have arrested the alleged driver and four other men connected to a deadly human smuggling attempt that killed an undocumented immigrant earlier this month.

Prosecutors allege Jose Mario Salinas, 21, abandoned at least 12 injured migrants in the brush after wrecking the Toyota pickup truck he was driving near the Brooks-Hidalgo County Line. The collision ejected one of the immigrants, who later died, according to a criminal complaint filed in his case.

U.S. Border Patrol agents discovered the crash survivors later that day, who led them to a stash house in Pharr where they had been kept prior to their attempt to sneak into the U.S. interior.

There, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested three men — 21-year-old Jovany Calderon Vargas, 32-year-old Nestor Paul Flores Perez and 25-year-old Jesus Alejandro Amaya Arevalo — for allegedly running a human smuggling organization.

Those men pointed investigators to yet another home in Peñitas, where they said Salinas and his purported guide — Gabriel Dominguez Benitez, 24 — could be found.

All five men have been charged with harboring illegal immigrants and are being held without bond pending a detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Because an immigrant died in connection with their alleged smuggling operation, each could face up to life in prison if convicted.

Deputies arrest illegal immigrants (Springfield News-Leader)

Deputies arrest illegal immigrants
FEBRUARY 20, 2010

Pulaski County deputies stopped a 2004 Dodge truck Thursday for weaving across the center line, and found the driver and his passenger were both in the country illegally, according to a news release from Pulaski County Sheriff J.B. King.

The driver made statements that they were looking for a lost friend driving a black vehicle; the deputy connected the lost vehicle to a vehicle involved in a $10 million drug bust that took place Tuesday, said King.

"They were here to recover the load," said King. "You could call it a loose conspiracy."

Both men in the truck are believed to be from the Kansas City area. They were taken to the Pulaski County Jail and then turned over to Immigration Customs Enforcement office in Springfield; they will likely face deportation to Mexico.

The 2004 Dodge the men were driving was seized by the sheriff's office pending filing of formal civil forfeiture proceedings through the Pulaski County Prosecutor.

1 Arrested As Authorities Seize Vessel On Waterway (WPBF-FL)

1 Arrested As Authorities Seize Vessel On Waterway
Illegal Alien Also Found On Board 'Suspicious Vessel,' Police Say

POSTED: 10:48 am EST February 20, 2010

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Authorities stopped what they said was a suspicious vessel on the Intracoastal Waterway on Saturday, arresting one passenger and holding another.

A local officer working with a U.S. Customs agent intercepted the vessel Friday at about 11:54 a.m. after receiving a tip, police said.

On board they found a passenger carrying a loaded .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun. The passenger was identified as Rudys Orozco. Orozco was charged with carrying a concealed firearm and brought to Palm Beach County Jail, police said.

Officers said they also found an illegal alien on the vessel. The individual was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Border Patrol.

Authorities seized the vessel, a 26-foot-long Seahawk.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Judge clears the way for deportation (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)

Judge clears the way for deportation
Last update: February 17, 2010 - 8:06 PM

After a district judge's ruling Tuesday, there is nothing stopping federal immigration officials from deporting Assaf Mhanna, a Lebanese man who is married to a Minnesotan. But his wife, Tammy Mhanna, has no way of knowing when he will be put on a plane.

In his ruling, District Judge John Tunheim said he doesn't have the authority to stop federal officials from deporting Mhanna, but he argued it would be "particularly inappropriate" for the government to eject Mhanna while his asylum case is still pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mhanna came to the U.S. 11 years ago, but the government said he falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen when he crossed the border. When Mhanna applied to become a permanent resident last fall based on his marriage to Tammy, his application was denied.

Mhanna's lawyer, Phil Fishman, said he plans to ask Immigration and Customs Enforcement to allow Mhanna to stay in the country.

A.M. News: Alleged illegal immigrant accused of stealing identity to get job (Gaston Gazette)

A.M. News: Alleged illegal immigrant accused of stealing identity to get job
February 17, 2010 7:09 AM
Kevin Ellis

Police say a 26-year-old man living in Gastonia used the identity of a San Antonio, Texas, man in order to get a job at Pharr Yarns in McAdenville.

Nulbento Angeles Candenas of 1860 Keith Drive was booked into Gaston County Jail under a $10,000 bond for identity theft. He also has an Immigrations and Custom Enforcement hold on his release.

Candenas allegedly used the name of Juan Roberto Herreia to get a job at the textile mill in October 2005, according to arrest warrants.

Sheriff's deputies arrest 35 suspected illegal immigrants (Arizona Republic)

Sheriff's deputies arrest 35 suspected illegal immigrants
by Allison Hurtado - Feb. 17, 2010 03:27 PM
The Arizona Republic

Maricopa County sheriff's deputies arrested 35 suspected illegal immigrants Tuesday night in three separate cases.

Deputies pulled over three vehicles between 3 and 7 p.m. for traffic violations and found 11 immigrants in two of the vehicles and 13 crammed into another. The vehicles were found by the sheriff's Human Smuggling Unit.

The majority of those arrested were booked into the county jail on suspicion of violating a state human smuggling law. Sheriff Joe Arpaio would not disclose where the arrests were made.

Arpaio said his deputies will continue to enforce state and federal immigration laws.

Arpaio launched a new training program last week that will give nearly 900 sheriff's deputies Office training on their authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

Arpaio said the decision was necessary after the U.S. Department of Homeland Security removed the authority of 100 deputies to serve as ICE agents.

Critics say Arpaio's immigration-enforcement priorities are misguided.

Illegal Immigrant Arrested in Laredo (Laredo Sun)

Illegal Immigrant Arrested in Laredo
Mario Martínez Cruz, tried to fool Customs and Border Protection inspectors.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

LAREDO, Tx.- A man from Michoacan ran as fast as he could in his intention to cross into the United States but authorities were faster than he was.

Mario Martínez Cruz, 18, tried to fool Customs and Border Protection inspectors on the Gateway to the Americas international bridge.

According to reports, the subject took advantage when officers were not looking and began to run as fast as he could, he ran betweeen cars and jumped a fence but it was not enough.

Federal inspectors caught the subject and sent him to secondary. It was then that officials detected that Martínez Cruz had been deported on December 9th of 2009 from the United States.

Martínez Cruz identified himself as Ricardo Camarena from Houston, Tx.

Ex-Employee: Palm Beach Princess Crew Trapped On Ship (WPBF-FL)

Ex-Employee: Palm Beach Princess Crew Trapped On Ship
Former Employee Says Crew Members Just Want To Be Paid, Given Ticket Home
POSTED: 9:10 am EST February 17, 2010

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. -- Some crew members of the Palm Beach Princess are being held captive on the now-docked day-cruise casino ship, a former employee told WPBF 25 News on Tuesday.

The financially strapped ship has suspended service and remains docked at the Port of Palm Beach.

But former employee Heather Dahlberg said the crew members, comprised mostly of illegal immigrants, are trapped on the ship in fear of being deported.

"You have a group of people on the ship who cannot get off," Dahlberg said. "They are in shut down. They cannot leave. They cannot do anything -- cannot go shopping, buy anything -- and they're being treated unfairly. All they want is to be paid their money, to be given their plane ticket home and they will be very glad to leave."

Late Tuesday afternoon, 10 foreign workers were removed from the ship by immigration officers.

The owners of the Palm Beach Princess said cruises will resume upon arrival of a new ship.

Whatcom County Jail report for Feb. 12 to Feb. 15 (Bellingham Herald)

Whatcom County Jail report for Feb. 12 to Feb. 15
POSTED: Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010

Feb. 14, 2010

Alfredo Fabian Martinez, booked by the Lynden Police Department for an invalid operator's license, driving under the influence and an immigration hold.

Feb. 15, 2010

Aleksandr Sloboda, booked by the Whatcom County Sheriff's Office for failure to appear for forgery and an Immigration detainer.

Sheriff Forced to Release Illegal Immigrants (KTVI-MO)

Sheriff Forced to Release Illegal Immigrants
By Jeff BernthalFOX2now.com
February 16, 2010

ST. FRANCOIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI-FOX2now.com) - The St. Francois County Sheriff arrested 14 men he says are illegal immigrants who were working on a construction site in Farmington on Saturday. He thought the arrests would help restore work to legal citizens struggling to find jobs.

The shock came when he called a contact at the Office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"He said he did not want to talk to these people and that we had not authority to hold them and just turn them loose," said Bullock.

"They're taking jobs away from people that need jobs right now that are U.S. citizens," said Gerald Bowyer, an unemployed glass worker. "To me it seems like the illegals in this country got more rights than what the Americans do," he said.

A spokesperson for the Office of U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement said each case must be prioritized and the threat of terrorism is at the top of the list. Other priorities include illegals with a violent past or signs of document forging and smuggling rings.

In this case only one suspect was held because he had warrants for an arrest.

"Our unemployment rate right now is 11.1%," said Bob Meynell, Carpenters' District Council of Greater St. Louis and Vicinity. He believed the work site had been using illegal workers for some time.

"When the local police would drive by you would hear all the whistles on the job site and you'd turn around to look and 6 or 7 of them were hiding," he said.

The Sheriff promises he will continue to investigate any calls concerning undocumented workers but fears this problem will continue.

"I've been hearing stories of this for the last several months officers picking up illegals and then just turning them loose," he said. "Somewhere along the line our legislators need to change the way things are done."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

ICE declines to investigate illegal immigrants (KTRK-TX)

ICE declines to investigate illegal immigrants
Adela Uchida

PASADENA, TX (KTRK) -- Pasadena police investigating a disturbance arrested a half dozen alleged illegal immigrants, but the suspects had to be released.

Police were called to the Tropicana Motel on Red Bluff Road Friday night to investigate a report of two men fighting. When officers arrived, about a dozen people scattered into the surrounding neighborhood. After a foot chase, officers were able to detain five men and one woman.
Pasadena police spokesperson Vance Mitchell says the suspects admitted they had recently entered the country illegally. They told officers the "coyote" who had smuggled them into the US left them at the motel, and was expected to return to take them to other states.

Pasadena police contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to request an immigration investigation, Mitchell said, but ICE declined to investigate due to the low number of suspects. Since ICE was not pursuing immigration charges, police released them without charges.

Eyewitness News has contacted ICE officials for a comment. We'll have more on this story beginning on Eyewitness News Live at Five.

Homeland Security targets bus traffic in Tampa (WFTS-FL)

Homeland Security targets bus traffic in Tampa

Reported by: Bill Logan
Last Update: 12:41 pm

TAMPA, FL -- It's the sort of security we've seen a lot of since 9-11 at places like airports and seaports and major sporting events. Bomb sniffing dogs, pat-downs and metal detector wanding, gloved inspections of hand-held bags were all performed in the shadow of...Greyhound buses.

"We do this for a couple of reasons," stated Transportation Security Administration Federal Security Director Gary Milano. "To sort of invent the wheel in advance -- in case we have to if there is any specific intelligence requiring us to be here. This was to show that we and our partners are ready to move in at a moments notice."

Milano was joined at the bus station by Border Patrol agent Steve McDonald. "What we're looking for is threats to national security as well as immigration law violators," he said.

"We're also looking at one of our main initiatives," according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Michael Masto. "One of which is cash smuggling."

And so passengers ready to head toward Orlando, Jacksonville and points north had to go through a series of checks...a K-9 officer from the Tampa Airport Police department gave the bus his special "sniff test" in the baggage compartment. This is all a part of VIPR, which stands for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response.

"This is ongoing for us," said Tampa Police Department Assistant Chief Marc Hamlin. "We do this every day."

And for the folks who travel like this -- day in and day out -- it's a comfort in these troubled times.

"I feel safe knowing that I can get on the bus and I'm not going to blow up," said frequent rider Chuck Lawrence.

"That's why we'll be back," said the TSA's Milano. "We won't say when, but this way, the bad guys are on notice that we will be back."

The real 'Con Air' of Utah deports illegal immigrant criminals (ABC4-UT)

The real 'Con Air' of Utah deports illegal immigrant criminals

Last Update: 2/15 11:50 pm

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) Thousands of illegal or undocumented immigrants live in Utah. While most work and live among without much notice - there are also hundreds of illegal immigrants who also criminals - convicted of felony crimes here in the U.S. The shooting of sheriff's deputy Josie Fox in Millard County is an example of this. She was allegedly killed by an illegal immigrant named Roberto Miramontes Roman. He was convicted of drug dealing and carrying a gun ten years ago and deported not once, but two times.

But not all criminal aliens escape the law. ABC 4 News was recently granted exclusive access to the deportation process here in Salt Lake City. We watched several vans loads of criminal aliens from jails and state prisons throughout Utah, Idaho and Montana get unloaded and processed here in Salt Lake City. They were searched - finger printed and locked up in holding cells. Salt Lake City Immigration and Custom Enforcement Field Director Steven Branch says all of the detainees had a "final order of removal" and his agents were doing just that.

But these are not just illegal immigrants - they are illegal immigrants who have been convicted of felony crimes - I.C.E. calls them criminal aliens. And Branch says "Over 90 percent of those going out are criminals. They have convictions. Some are serious crimes." Crimes like assault, murder, and drug trafficking. 19 year old Kelvin Navarro was busted for selling crack six month after he came to Utah from Honduras. "Estuve dos meces y media en salt lake, en el carcel." He told me he spent two and half months in jail in Salt Lake. And back home in Honduras - he faces more trouble because he's wanted for rape.

All of these illegal immigrants have similar stories. They were busted by local law enforcement agencies then I.C.E. agents "stepped in to make the determination if they are aliens and if they're removable." If they are deportable, they get loaded on a bus for a short trip to Salt Lake International Airport.

ABC 4 News was granted exclusive and unfiltered access to the process. Back in early February we were allowed on the tarmac and video taped the criminal aliens go through another search and a shackle and hand cuff check. Then we watched as they took their seat on ICE AIR - a chartered, $80,000, one way flight to the U.S. Mexico border. On the day we were there 41 criminal illegal immigrants were put on a plane. 39 were headed to Mexico. Two of the criminal aliens, including Navarro, were going to Central America.

It's a process that is repeated every week of the year here at Salt Lake International. And every week, ICE AIR flights across the country take four thousand two hundred convicted illegal immigrants out of the country. And the total number of convicted illegal immigrants being deported is really amazing. Last year, 3,387criminal aliens were removed from the Salt Lake area of responsibility. Nationwide that number was 136,126. That's basically 380 every day. When you see those numbers and watch the airplane fly away, it feels like the end of the story, but its not.

Every day countless immigrants cross our borders illegally. In the mix, dozens of criminal aliens, who have been arrested and busted here in the past. Branch says, with the border the way it is, it's next to impossible to know they are back. "We have no knowledge when they make their entry back here. There's nothing that triggers it. There's no notification - until that subject is encountered." "It's not like the person is flying into the airport, on a visa and being allowed in - they have done everything to evade the law." The most prominent local example is accused cop killer Roberto Miramontes Roman. He is in jail charged with fatally shooting Millard County Sheriff Deputy Josie Fox. He's also an illegal immigrant who served time for dealing drugs and carrying a weapon and has been deported two times.

Local community activist and former Director of Latino Affairs for Utah, Tony Yapias says the Deputy Fox shooting was a tragedy. He says it also had an immediate impact on the Hispanic community. "It's a devastating blow to the community. All of sudden blogs and comments are being made. They say everybody is criminal we need to deport everybody."

But Roman is not the only criminal alien to come back to Utah. 125 suspects were busted during two recent gang crackdowns and I.C.E. agents say at least 15 were previously deported criminal aliens. And during our exclusive look at the deportation process, we encountered four re-entry cases, including Jose Zaragoza, who was busted for dealing drugs in Salt Lake City and was on his 3rd deportation. "Vas a volver a Utah? No." I asked if he was coming back to Utah. He said, not this time - we'll see.

Branch says even though it is not easy to find criminal aliens, when they commit another crime more and more are getting caught, serving jail time and then getting kicked out of the country. In fact, Branch says in fiscal 2010, which includes October, November, December and January, 1002 criminal aliens have been removed - just from his area of responsibility. Yapias says the illegal or undocumented community here is glad to see all of them go. "By getting an undocumented immigrant, who is a criminal, it makes our community safer. And that's what our families want - to live in safe communities."

Yapias also knows many criminal aliens will keep trying to come back because nothing is being done about the border and immigration reform. He says that needs to change. "We got to do something about our laws so we can prevent people like Miramontes from coming back." And Branch adds - while its easy to focus on the ones - they didn't find - he likes to remind people of all the ones they did find.

"What Utah needs to realize that were keeping these people out of the communities. How many crimes have been prevented by these hundreds or thousands plus subjects serving in federal prisons and not preying on the community?"

And even when I.C.E. agents find criminal aliens, they don't always get removed. Some judges will deny deportation. The Supreme Court has ruled that if the home country refuses to take them back - they must be released after they serve their sentences here. And then there is the issue of the price tag. Branch says I.C.E. spends about $69 per day to hold suspected or convicted aliens in county jails in Utah. And the average number they are holding is right around 300. That's more than $20,000 per day.

Community Watch (Mohave Daily News)

Community Watch
Tuesday, February 16, 2010 12:13 AM CST
Daily News staff

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT, BULLHEAD CITY — Mohave County Sheriff’s deputies arrested Mario Mendoza-Angel, 25, of Bullhead City, Wednesday evening. Approximately 9:50 p.m., deputies conducted a traffic stop on Highway 95 near Bullhead Parkway and contacted Mendoza-Angel, the driver. Mendoza-Angel identified himself with a Mexico voter’s card. With the assistance of Border Patrol, Mendoza-Angel was determined to be an illegal immigrant. Mendoza-Angel was taken into custody without incident. Mendoza-Angel was transported to Mohave County District II Substation where Border Patrol later took him into custody. Mendoza-Angel also was cited for expired registration, no vehicle insurance and no valid driver license.

Triumph undergoes eligibility audit (St. Joseph News-Press)

Triumph undergoes eligibility audit
By Ryan Davis
Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Triumph Foods is currently undergoing an I-9 audit, a process intended to verify the employment eligibility of its workers.

As part of that process, the company is gathering and then will provide I-9 forms to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We anticipate that we’ll be providing that information (to ICE) later this week,” said Patt Lilly, chief administrative officer for Triumph Foods.

All U.S. employers must complete and retain an I-9 form for each individual they hire for employment in the United States.

Mr. Lilly said the audit is routine and “nothing out of the ordinary.”

“We’ve done this every year the plant (has been) open,” Mr. Lilly said. “If (ICE) has a question, they will then ask for those people to bring documentation or information to prove that they are able to work in the United States.”

It is uncertain how long ICE will take to evaluate the I-9 forms and notify the company of any potential issues.

“In part, it’s kind of based on the workload of ICE,” Mr. Lilly said. “It could be several weeks. It could be several months. It could be over a year. We’ve seen it all lengths of time.”

Triumph Foods also puts its employees through the E-Verify system, another tool used to determine the eligibility of an employee to work in the United States. In addition, the company uses Social Security cards for verification purposes.

Mr. Lilly said he was unaware of any worker turnover directly resulting from the current I-9 audit, while still acknowledging the possibility.

“I think, historically, certainly there’s some indication of (employee turnover during I-9 audits),” he said.

These particular audits are now occurring all over the country, largely the result of backing from the Obama administration. ICE is the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr. Lilly also addressed rumors of an illegal immigrant crackdown at Triumph Foods Friday afternoon, saying he was unaware of any such action.

The ICE Chicago field office, which oversees Missouri, did not officially confirm or deny any such action.

“I’m not aware of any large-scale enforcement action occurring in that area,” said Gail Montenegro, spokeswoman for ICE’s Chicago office.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Accusations surface over illegal immigrants working on local base (Enid News and Eagle)

Accusations surface over illegal immigrants working on local base
By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
February 14, 2010

ENID — Dealing with illegal immigrants at Vance Air Force Base is a very complex problem, but security staff constantly are training to a better job, said Col. Chris Nowland, 71st Flying Training Wing commander.

“It’s a complex situation because we’re dealing with living, breathing, thinking people who are seeking employment. If they are here illegally, they are using identification cards and when we find one, they change cards,” he said.

Accusations of lax security at Vance regarding illegal immigrants recently were raised by a recently terminated civilian police officer Corey Spradlin. Spradlin told a state newspaper there is an attitude of “this is Vance – nothing ever happens here,” presence at the Air Force base. He told the newspaper he was terminated within days of denying access to the mother of the woman who cleans Nowland’s house. The housekeeper and her mother told police they were on their way to a Bible study with Nowland’s wife.

Security forces at Vance are trained constantly to better identify false ID cards. The future of the identification is a bar code im-planted in the cards that goes into a national database. Nowland said that is the way of the future.

Nowland said he cannot speak about day-to-day breaches; however, he said he only knows of three and the worse of those three is Victor Martinez-Ochoa. Martinez-Ochoa worked for a subcontractor of the U.S. Corps of Engineers who validated his paperwork, Nowland said. He was a sub-contractor to the Corps of Engineers and got on the base. Spradlin was trained to notice false identification and discovered Martinez-Ochoa had a false Texas driver’s license.

“He had a base pass but also had to show an ID card. Spradlin checked his ID card and found it was illegal. That’s how he (Martinez-Ochoa) was detected. In every one of these cases, when we detect them, everything is done right,” Nowland said.

The Air Force has no jurisdiction over these individuals, but they are held and Enid police are notified, Nowland said. The police come and remove the illegal immigrants from the base and start them through the legal process.

“We try to find them at the gate and detect them. As far as the accusation, are there a flurry of illegals working on the base? My gut tells me no,” Nowland said.

Subcontractors are required to verify employees, and they are presented with gate passes. All of the contractors know it is their responsibility to get people to work who are legal U.S. residents, but Nowland said that may be more difficult for smaller subcontractors.

“Our prime contractors realize it is in their best interest to see that all who work for them are legal. The U.S. government can take action,” Nowland said.

The base commander said Spradlin’s termination had nothing to do with his catching the mother of the woman who cleans Nowland’s house nor with his catching illegal aliens. Nowland said he had nothing to do with it. Spradlin’s termination came because of his behavior and inability to fit in and meet the standards of the Air Force and security forces. Nowland and Security Forces Comman-der Maj. Michelle Stringer looked at the due process procedures to make sure they were followed.

“You can’t just terminate a federal employee willy-nilly. He had due process, but he was terminated because of his behavior and not as retribution,” Nowland said. “We take these accusations very seriously and we want to make sure the base is safe.”

Spradlin could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Hawaii resident who aided federal investigation fights deportation (The Honolulu Advertiser)

Hawaii resident who aided federal investigation fights deportation
Jamaican citizen says he was promised assistance for helping catch a killer

By Rob Perez
Advertiser Staff Writer
Posted on: Monday, February 15, 2010

Dennis Rozetta says that as a confidential informant he risked his life to help the federal government nab a murderer.

Rozetta's assistance helped in capturing the killer in 2004, according to members of the task force involved. The assailant was convicted for his role in the execution-style shooting of a New York man in front of the victim's 7-year-old daughter.

But federal officials are now trying to deport the Hawai'i resident to his native Jamaica because he overstayed his visa and did not comply with a 2003 order to return to Jamaica.

Rozetta, 35, who is married to a U.S. citizen and has no criminal record, said he wonders why the government doesn't show him more consideration after he helped collar the killer, which he said exposed himself and his family to danger.

Rozetta said he believes authorities have reneged on a verbal agreement with him to help with his immigration problem in exchange for helping the task force in New York — something he said he only reluctantly agreed to do.

"This poor guy did everything asked of him," said Gary Singh, Rozetta's attorney. "He put his life on the line and helped the government."

A task force supervisor told The Advertiser last week that he did what he promised Rozetta: write a letter on his behalf.

The May 2009 letter said that Rozetta provided substantial assistance to the U.S. Marshals New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force throughout 2004 and that Rozetta's "diligence and efforts on our behalf were instrumental in the subject's capture."

Edward McMahon, the supervisory inspector, said he was only asked to write the letter, sent to Singh, last year.

"I really went out of my way to help (Rozetta) out," McMahon said. "I'm a man of my word."

It's not clear whether Rozetta's cooperation with the task force was brought to the attention of the immigration court at that time in an effort to resolve his visa problem. U.S. law permits law enforcement agencies to pursue a limited number of special visas for foreign nationals who are informants or witnesses crucial to solving major crimes.

Rozetta had hired a lawyer in New York while he was cooperating with the task force, but he said he wasn't certain what took place between the task force and the attorney.

In an e-mail to The Advertiser, the attorney, Jeffrey Gabel, said there was "no written confirmation of any discussions or promises made regarding (Rozetta's) cooperation."

That cooperation, however, is central to Rozetta's effort to fight the government's deportation order.

Rozetta said he's seeking asylum in the U.S. because he believes his life would be in danger if he's forced to return to Jamaica.

Singh is expected to file papers tomorrow formally requesting an immigration judge to grant Rozetta's request. Singh said he believes that will be the first time Rozetta's assistance to the task force will be brought before the court.


Rozetta said that a few years ago in New York a second suspect wanted in connection with the murder confronted him and warned him against cooperating with authorities. Rozetta said the suspect was armed with four pistols and was accompanied by two other armed men.

"You could see murder in his face," Rozetta said.

Rozetta's story was supported by his then-wife, Donna Rozetta, in a June 2009 affidavit that Singh plans to file as part of Rozetta's asylum request.

In the affidavit, Donna Rozetta said she was in New York for part of the time her then-husband was feeding information to the task force and saw him being threatened by the second suspect in the June 2002 murder in Queens, N.Y.

That second suspect is the person who authorities say actually shot the victim in the head. Rozetta said that the man, apparently suspecting that Rozetta was talking to authorities, was in Jamaica as recently as last year and threatened Rozetta's family there, including his mother.

The man who was convicted in the 2002 killing did not fire the gun, but he played a key role in the murder, prosecutors said.

He held the victim's arms behind his back and forced the victim to kneel outside the house they shared while the second suspect, also a roommate, fired the fatal shot, prosecutors said.

The captured man was convicted in 2006 in New York of second-degree murder and sentenced to 17 years to life in prison.

Rozetta, a top tennis player in Jamaica, said he knew both men in Jamaica, where they're also from, and occasionally saw them when he first went to New York around 2000 to play in professional tennis tournaments.


Rozetta's disclosure to The Advertiser that he was a confidential informant is the first time he has publicly revealed his role and is part of a last-ditch effort to stave off deportation. Rozetta said he told few people about his experience because the task force told him not to and because he feared for his and his family's safety, especially given that the alleged shooter is still at large.

Because of those safety concerns, The Advertiser, at the request of Rozetta and his current wife, Malia, is not naming the man convicted in the murder and the suspect still being sought by authorities.

Rozetta said he first began working for the task force in 2003, after arriving in New York from Hawai'i. He said he was headed to Jamaica to comply with the immigration judge's departure order, which required him to leave within 40 days.

During the New York stopover, Rozetta said, the task force contacted him and asked him to secretly gather information about the possible whereabouts of the two Jamaican men wanted for the 2002 murder.

Rozetta said he met with or spoke to each of the two suspects several times while working as an informant. Immediately after each contact, he said, he would report it to the task force.


Rozetta, who moved back to Hawai'i from New York in late 2005, has tried twice since the judge issued the deportation order to get court permission to stay in the country based on his marriages to U.S. citizens.

Both requests were denied.

"Mr. Rozetta's immigration case has undergone extensive review by an immigration judge and he has further exercised his right to appeal," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said in a statement.

"During those proceedings, the courts consistently held Mr. Rozetta did not have a legal basis to remain in the United States. In cases where an individual has been ordered removed from the United States, it is ICE's responsibility to ensure that the order imposed by the court is carried out."

Kice would not comment further, citing privacy restrictions.

Marci Weinstein, a New York resident who took tennis lessons from Rozetta and opened her family's home to him while he was in New York, says she is angry the government is trying to deport him..

"I think it's mean, and it's an injustice," Weinstein said. "He went out of his way to help. He risked his life. Yet they're treating him like he's the criminal."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Massive firings in Brewster, and a big debate about illegal immigration (Yakima Herald-Republic)

Massive firings in Brewster, and a big debate about illegal immigration
The firings of about 550 people at Gebbers Farms are raising worries about more audits and firings across Central Washington, including in Yakima, where much of the agricultural economy depends on an illegal work force.

By Melissa Sánchez
Yakima Herald-Republic

BREWSTER, Okanogan County — The letters came on a Wednesday, hand-delivered to hundreds of field and warehouse workers two days before Christmas.

Each contained a four-sentence explanation beneath the company's letterhead.

Federal immigration authorities had alerted Gebbers Farms that a number of its employees' hiring forms were suspect. Unless those employees could prove they were in this country legally, the company would let them go.

Many couldn't. Like the vast majority of America's agricultural work force, they were illegal immigrants who used fake documents to get jobs picking and packing fruit, in this case in and around this small town on the Columbia River north of Wenatchee.

Five days later, the company dismissed an estimated 550 workers — equal to about a quarter of Brewster's population. It was the biggest firing of its kind ever seen in Washington. And former workers say the letters and firings are still coming.

What's happened at Gebbers Farms has been felt far beyond this shaken community. It's raising worries about more audits and firings across Central Washington, where much of the agricultural economy depends on an illegal work force.

"If the entire industry was audited it'd be impossible to fill all of the jobs," says Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League.

With the firings, the complexity of illegal immigrants in the work force becomes starkly clear.

Other immigrants — some legal and some not — have learned of the sudden job openings and are arriving to fill the void. Some of the applicants may not be new at all.

"I was thinking about changing the Social Security number I use and reapplying," says Antonio Sanchez, a 51-year-old former Gebbers orchard worker. "I don't know what to do."

Five generations of the Gebbers family have farmed here along the Columbia River. The company runs more than 5,000 acres of apples and cherries, including one of the world's largest contiguous orchards. Its products are marketed internationally.

"This town exists because of them," says Esteban Camacho, who manages a local bakery and like most Mexican immigrants here has worked for Gebbers.

By most accounts, the company is well thought of. It built housing and soccer fields for its workers and, unlike many other growers, provides stable year-round work.

Rumors about the firings abound in Brewster, but details remain scarce.

Lorie Dankers, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Seattle, says she can't say anything about the incident at Gebbers or even confirm her agency conducted an audit.

Industry officials say ICE has audited a half-dozen smaller Washington growers in recent years. The only other known massive firing prompted by an ICE audit was last year at American Apparel, a Los Angeles-based garment company.

ICE first notified Gebbers in 2008 that it had been audited and that it needed to take action, according to industry officials. Gebbers acknowledged the audit in a brief statement dated the day of the firings. The statement closed with: "Gebbers Farms will continue to welcome workers of all backgrounds with proper work authorization."

Since then, company officials have declined to speak publicly about the situation. Even Brewster's mayor says he's had trouble finding out what happened.

Obama shift to audits

What happened at Gebbers reflects a change in strategy under President Obama's administration, which is shifting ICE's focus away from targeting illegal immigrants and instead focusing on those who hire them.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors tougher enforcement, sees Obama scaling back efforts to crack down on illegal immigration by emphasizing audits instead of workplace raids.

Immigrant-rights advocates call audits the more humane of the two approaches.

"This is not to say this new approach does not create hardship," says Matt Adams, legal adviser for the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle. "But I think if the government is going to enforce the laws that are on the books, they should be given credit for doing it in a way that is not tearing families apart."

Thirty-three Washington companies were audited last year, and ICE spokeswoman Dankers says employers can expect more to come.

"We know that changing the behavior of employers to ensure they hire a legal work force doesn't happen overnight," she says. "We want employers to know that regardless of size and industry or your location and the type of business you have, the federal government expects these businesses to comply with the law."

Few growers will speak openly about the issue. Bob Brody, who owns King Blossom Natural, a 344-acre organic apple orchard in Brewster, is one of them.

"What happened at Gebbers — it fries my brain sometimes," says Brody, adding that he shouldn't have to verify whether a worker's status is legitimate.

He says every one of his employees, except for his office manager, is Latino. "Americans don't stop by and ask for jobs right now," Brody says. "There is a 10 percent unemployment rate. And I've not had a single U.S. American stop by and ask for a job."

On many evenings, the conversation between Daniel and Angelica Aguilar turns to just that. The recently dismissed couple and their toddler daughter live in a tiny one-bedroom apartment near the center of Brewster.

"During the cherry-picking season, there's maybe 2,200 of us working in the orchards," says Daniel Aguilar, 26. "Of those, there wasn't a single white American.

"Why does it bother them that we're doing the work they don't want to do?"

In part, the Gebbers firings have produced the desired effect. Of the dozen or so families in Brewster interviewed by the Yakima Herald-Republic, about half say they plan to return to Mexico. And everybody knew someone who had already left.

"What's the point of staying? There are no jobs," says one woman, who identified herself only as Mariela in fear of being deported.

"Fight the good fight"

But for every illegal immigrant who leaves, there seems to be another one willing to risk his luck.

Before dawn one recent foggy Tuesday, groups of men waited in the cold for Gebbers vans to pick them up for work pruning apple trees.

"I just got a job here," says one young man who came from Los Angeles after learning about the sudden openings. He would not identify himself.

The others laughed nervously. "Are there supposed to be more audits?" one called out, before saying he needed to find a better Social Security number.

The presence of new workers who are here illegally has created some resentment among those who were laid off. But some have a hard time blaming their fellow countrymen.

"It's not their fault they're working," says Janeth Hernandez, who doesn't know how her family will make the rent this month. "They have to fight the good fight, too, just like us."

The December firings clearly disrupted the Gebbers operation, says Dan Fazio, the Washington State Farm Bureau's director of employment services.

"It's wrong for the administration to be doing raids or ... audits without investing time and energy into a functional guest-worker program," says Fazio, noting that growers can't compete with lower wages in Chile and China.

ICE encourages the companies it audits to use the federal E-Verify system, which allows employers to check whether new hires are legally authorized to work, Dankers says.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which operates E-Verify, says no companies in Brewster use it. Industry leaders say most growers are reluctant because the program won't give them an answer they like.

And in politically conservative Eastern Washington, that doesn't gain them many supporters. Some people, including the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and Grassroots on Fire, blame the growers for attracting illegal immigrants.

"They want the illegals to disappear and they want the employers that hire illegals to be put in jail," the farm bureau's Fazio says. "We want to assure these people that farmers don't want illegals more than any other citizen ...

"But when you ask these people, 'Do you want to have your apples from China?' they always respond, 'No, we'd like American apples.' "

U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, says it doesn't have to be an either-or issue.

"First we have to realize that we have to secure our borders," Hastings says. "The nature of our agriculture industry requires a migrant labor force, and ... the best way to address that is with a workable guest-worker program."

Few Washington growers use the current guest-worker program, which they consider expensive and cumbersome.

The Growers League, meanwhile, supports a bill that would create a path toward legal status for agricultural workers as well as revise the guest-worker program.

"Most difficult times"

In Brewster, the next six weeks will see a tense waiting game for former Gebbers employees. The company has given those who live in a series of camps deep inside its orchards until the end of March to vacate. School officials are bracing for the loss of state funding that comes with each of the children of the fired workers. Food-bank volunteers say they're seeing plenty of new faces.

Despite what happened, few former employees complain about the company. They just want their jobs back. The rumor these days is that in March they'll be rehired.

"Fifteen years I've worked for this company," says one man, who declined to give his name for fear of losing his housing. "I still have some hope that maybe by March everything will get sorted out. In the meantime, these are the most difficult times."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Boulder owner of Siamese Plate indicted on immigration violations (Boulder Daily Camera)

Boulder owner of Siamese Plate indicted on immigration violations
DA's Office: 'We were shocked at the conditions under which these individuals were working'
By Vanessa Miller Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 02/12/2010 07:34:55 PM MST

A 51-year-old man who owns several Siamese Plate restaurants in Boulder and Broomfield counties has been indicted by a federal grand jury on suspicion of harboring illegal aliens, making them work up to 32 hours of overtime a week without pay and committing other immigration and tax violations.

Opas Sinprasong, who was a citizen of Thailand and has been in the United States on a "non-immigrant principal investor" status since at least 1994, turned himself in on the indictment Thursday and made his initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Denver.

Sinprasong runs "Sumida's" and "Siamese Plate," Thai and Japanese restaurants in Boulder, and "Siamese Plate on the Go," which has locations in Boulder, Louisville and Broomfield. From 2001 to 2008, Sinprasong sponsored numerous Thai nationals' entry into the United States as "specialty workers" for his restaurants and claimed in immigration applications that they had specialized skills essential to his businesses' efficient operation, according to the indictment. The Thai workers were admitted into the country for two-year terms that could be extended.

Sinprasong required all his Thai employees to enter into a two-year employment contract with detailed terms about fees they owed him, their monthly salaries and lodging, which he provided, according to the indictment.

Among the terms, employees were required to pay Sinprasong a "bond" of about $1,500, and they had to pay him a penalty of about $18,000 if they violated the contract.

Each employee also had to have a personal guarantor in Thailand, who agreed to be financially liable to Sinprasong for the penalty if the employee violated a term of the contract. Employees had to pay Sinprasong a $3,000 "visa preparation fee" after arriving in the United States.

Sinprasong paid them "under the table" while deducting portions of the $3,000 visa fee and other fees from their paycheck, the indictment said. Once the fees were paid off -- it typically took between three and four months -- Sinprasong helped the employees obtain Social Security numbers and then started reporting only a portion of their wages, according to the indictment.

Sinprasong devised a scheme to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and the Thai employees by using a dual payroll system that hid the substantial amount of overtime he made the Thai employees work from his records, according to the indictment. Sinprasong typically made the Thai employees work 26 to 32 hours of overtime a week without paying the overtime rate, the document said.

"It was part of the scheme for Sinprasong to direct the Thai employees to clock out when they were still working," the indictment said.

Sinprasong also is accused of failing to report the wages he did pay the workers on quarterly federal tax returns.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the IRS Criminal Investigation's Denver office investigated the case, which started with a report to the Immigration Legal Center of Boulder County and the Consumer Protection Division of the Boulder County District Attorney's Office.

"The fact that this kind of alleged indentured employment was happening right here in Boulder is astonishing," said Cynthia Taylor, director of the District Attorney's Office consumer division. "We were shocked at the conditions under which these individuals were working."

Taylor said the Thai employees "essentially had their freedom to go back to their country taken away."

"We are gratified to see this indictment," she said. "This is so significant for the civil rights of individuals."

According to Boulder police, one of Sinprasong's Thai employees reported him to authorities in 2004 for refusing to return foreign employees' passports. Sinprasong, at the time, told police that he would return the passports. But he defended the practice to the Camera, saying employees have "run away" when their passports are returned, breaking their contracts and violating their work visas to stay in the country.

The two-year contracts are necessary, Sinprasong said then, because of the cost of hiring an employee from Thailand. Sinprasong said he paid employees "market" wages.

"They know how much they get, what they have to do, how long they have to work," he said at the time. "If they don't agree, then they don't have to take it."

Boulder police spokeswoman Sarah Huntley said Sinprasong also received a citation in 2001 for violation of occupancy of units.

Details of the living conditions of his employees were not made public Friday, but the indictment mentioned two apartments at 3180 29th St. and 3030 O'Neal Parkway and ordered forfeiture of any property involved in the alleged illegal activity.

Siamese Plate stores remained open Friday. An employee who answered the phone at Boulder's 3033 28th St. restaurant said, "We are not allowed to talk."

"Right now, we are still open," he said. "I don't know about next week."

If convicted, Sinprasong faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each of 10 counts of wire fraud against him; up to five years in prison for each of 40 counts of failure to pay employee federal payroll taxes; up to 10 years in federal prison for each of five counts of false swearing in an immigration matter; and up to 10 years in prison for each of four counts of harboring illegal aliens.

Sinprasong's next scheduled appearance in U.S. District Court in Denver is on Wednesday.

Austin man charged with forgery (Austin Post-Bulletin)

Austin man charged with forgery
2/13/2010 7:10:05 AM
By Tim Ruzek
The Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

A supervisor at Quality Pork Processors in Austin appeared in court Thursday on felony charges related to working under a false identity.

Juan Pablo Santiago-Estrada, 26, is charged in Mower District Court with three counts of aggravated forgery for allegedly using a false U.S. Social Security card and fraudulent state IDcards for Minnesota and Nebraska.

Santiago-Estrada, 2009 Second Ave. S.E., pleaded not guilty in his initial hearing and remains in jail under a detention order by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, records show.

A pretrial hearing was scheduled for March 26.

According to the criminal complaint, a QPPofficial contacted Austin police in summer because he suspected one of the plant's supervisors was working under the alias Rogelio Lopez. The official told police he believed Lopez was Juan Santiago-Estrada.

The QPPofficial told police the supervisor had a brother who also worked at QPP under the name Anthony Mehilic who was deported recently. Santiago-Estrada, however, denied he was working under an alias.

Police found the "Lopez" alias had a criminal record dating back to June 2002, including an arrest in 2004 for an assault in which the victim identified his assailant as Pablo Santiago-Estrada, whom he claimed was working at QPPunder an assumed name, the complaint says.

In 2006, Austin police arrested "Lopez" for possessing a small amount of cocaine during a traffic stop. During a presentence investigation for that case, "Lopez" told officials he was born in Texas, the complaint says.

In fall 2009, police obtained the QPP application for "Lopez" from 2002 in which he used a Nebraska ID card and Social Security card to get employment. Among his references in the application was a Michael Lee Spencer, the alias for Federico Guerrero-Hernandez, who was convicted in a 2008 felony forgery case in Mower County.

On Feb. 5, police arrested "Lopez" for assaulting a woman; both he and the woman used the Lopez name with police, the complaint says.

Authorities learned the Social Security number for "Lopez" was being used in Texas and Minnesota.

Austin police then went to QPP to speak with "Lopez" and confront him with his alleged alias.

Santiago-Estrada declined to speak with police but, when booked into the jail, he allegedly gave his true birthday and admitted he was born in Mexico and is not a U.S. citizen.

Police reported finding money order receipts in Santiago-Estrada's true name in his wallet along with his false IDs.