Truck driver forced to show birth certificate claims racial-profiling
by Alicia E. Barrón
Posted on April 21, 2010 at 5:04 PM
PHOENIX – A Valley man says he was pulled over Wednesday morning and questioned when he arrived at a weigh station for his commercial vehicle along Val Vista and the 202 freeway.
Abdon, who did not want to use his last name, says he provided several key pieces of information but what he provided apparently was not what was needed.
He tells 3TV, “I don't think it's correct, if I have to take my birth certificate with me all the time.”
3TV caught up with Abdon after he was released from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in central Phoenix. He and his wife, Jackie, are still upset about what happened to him.
Jackie tells 3TV, “It's still something awful to be targeted. I can't even imagine what he felt, people watching like he was some type of criminal.”
Abdon was told he did not have enough paperwork on him when he pulled into a weigh station to have his commercial truck checked. He provided his commercial driver’s license and a social security number but ended up handcuffed.
An agent called his wife and she had to leave work to drive home and grab other documents like his birth certificate.
Jackie explains, “I have his social security card as well and mine. He's legit. It's the first time it's ever happened.”
Both were born in the United States and say they are now both infuriated that keeping important documents safely at home is no longer an option.
Jackie says, “It doesn't feel like it's a good way of life, to live with fear, even though we are okay, we are legal…still have to carry documents around.”
A representative at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) returned 3TV’s calls after researching the incident and she said this was standard operating procedure.
The agents needed to verify Abdon was in the country legally and it is not uncommon to ask for someone's birth certificate. She also said this has nothing to do with the proposed bill or racial profiling.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Truck driver forced to show birth certificate claims racial-profiling
Immigrant Workers Face Firings Even Without Arizona’s Laws
New America Media, News Report, David Bacon, Posted: Apr 30, 2010
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -- While the potential criminalization of undocumented people in Arizona continues to draw headlines, the actual punishment of workers because of their immigration status has become an increasingly bitter fact of life across the country.
In the latest move by the Department of Homeland Security, 475 immigrant janitors will soon be fired from their jobs in San Francisco. Weeks ago, DHS went through the employment records of their employer, ABM, one of the largest building service companies in the country. DHS’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement sifted through Social Security records and the I-9 immigration forms all workers have to fill out when they apply for jobs. They then told ABM that the company had to fire 475 workers who were accused of lacking legal immigration status.
ABM has been a union company for decades and many of the workers have been there for years. "They've been working in this industry for 15, 20, some as many as 27 years in the buildings downtown," says Olga Miranda, president of Service Employees Local 87. "They've built homes. They've provided for their families. They've sent their kids to college. They're not new workers. They didn't just get here a year ago."
Those workers are now faced with an agonizing dilemma. Should they turn themselves in to Homeland Security, who might charge them with providing a bad Social Security number to their employer, and even hold them for deportation? On the other hand, for workers with families, homes and deep roots in a community, it's not possible to just walk away and disappear. " I have a lot of members who are single mothers whose children were born here," Miranda says. "I have a member whose child has leukemia. What are they supposed to do? Leave their children here and go back to Mexico and wait? And wait for what?"
Miranda's question reflects not just the dilemma facing individual workers, but one facing the 12 million undocumented people living in the United States. Since 2005, successive congresspeople, senators and administrations have dangled the prospect of gaining legal status in front of those who lack it. In exchange, their various schemes for immigration reform have proposed huge new guest worker programs, and a big increase in exactly the kind of enforcement now directed at the 475 San Francisco janitors.
Pres. Barack Obama, condemning Arizona's law that would make being undocumented a state crime, said it would "undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans." But then he called for legislation with guest worker programs and increased enforcement.
While the country is no closer to legalization of the undocumented than it was 10 years ago, the enforcement provisions of the comprehensive immigration reform proposals have already been implemented on the ground. The Bush administration conducted a high-profile series of raids in which it sent heavily armed agents into meatpacking plants and factories, holding workers for deportation, and sending hundreds to federal prison for using bad Social Security numbers.
After Obama was elected president, immigration authorities said they'd follow a softer policy, using an electronic system to find undocumented people in workplaces. People working with bad Social Security numbers would be fired. As a result, last September, 2,000 seamstresses in the Los Angeles garment factory of American Apparel were fired, followed a month later by 1,200 janitors working for ABM in Minneapolis. In November, over 100 janitors working for Seattle Building Maintenance lost their jobs.
"Homeland Security is going after employers that are union," Miranda says. "They're going after employers that give benefits and are paying above the average." While American Apparel had no union, Minneapolis janitors belonged to SEIU Local 26, Seattle janitors to Local 6 and San Francisco janitors to Local 87.
Obama says sanctions enforcement targets employers "who are using illegal workers in order to drive down wages -- and oftentimes mistreat those workers." An ICE Worksite Enforcement Advisory claims "unscrupulous employers are likely to pay illegal workers substandard wages or force them to endure intolerable working conditions."
Curing intolerable conditions by firing or deporting workers who endure them doesn't help the workers or change the conditions, however. And despite Obama's notion that sanctions enforcement will punish those employers who exploit immigrants, at American Apparel and ABM the employers were rewarded for cooperation by being immunized from prosecution. Javier Murillo, president of Local 26, says, "The promise made during the audit is that if the company cooperates and complies, they won't be fined. So this kind of enforcement really only hurts workers."
ICE director John Morton says the agency is auditing the records of 1,654 companies nationwide. "What kind of economic recovery goes with firing thousands of workers?" Miranda asks. "Why don't they target employers who are not paying taxes, who are not obeying safety or labor laws?"
Union leaders like Miranda see a conflict between the rhetoric used by the president and other Washington, D.C. politicians and lobbyists in condemning the Arizona law, and the immigration proposals they're making in Congress. "There's a huge contradiction here," she says. "You can't tell one state that what they're doing is criminalizing people and at the same time go after employers paying more than a living wage and the workers who have fought for that wage."
Renee Saucedo, attorney for La Raza Centro Legal and former director of the San Francisco Day Labor Program, is even more critical. "Those bills in Congress, which are presented as ones that will help some people get legal status, will actually make things much worse," she says. "We'll see many more firings like the janitors here and more punishments for people who are just working and trying to support their families."
Increasingly, however, the Washington proposals have even less promise of legalization and more emphasis on punishment. The newest Democratic Party scheme virtually abandons the legalization program promised by the "bipartisan" Schumer/Graham proposal, saying that heavy enforcement must come before any consideration of giving 12 million people legal status.
"We have to look at the whole picture," Saucedo says. "So long as we have trade agreements like NAFTA that create poverty in countries like Mexico, people will continue to come here, no matter how many walls we build. Instead of turning people into guest workers, as these bills in Washington would do, while firing and even jailing those who don't have papers, we need to help people get legal status and repeal the laws that are making work a crime."
ICE makes arrests in Mount Vernon
By Samantha Scoles
April 30, 2010
MOUNT VERNON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was in Mount Vernon on Friday making arrests.
“I can just confirm that the arrests made were part of an ongoing enforcement effort,” said Khaalid Walls, public affairs officer for ICE.
Walls refused to comment further on Friday’s actions as to how many arrests were made and how ICE was directed to Mount Vernon, but, said when he can release more information he will contact the News.
According to its Web site, ICE is responsible for the enforcement of over 400 national security and public safety statues and is “the largest investigative agency in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
Immigration laws have been front and center since Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill into law on April 24 that allows law enforcement to ask for immigration papers.
Courtney Combs, an Ohio state representative from the Cincinnati area, has called for Ohio to create a similar law. Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said Thursday he believes an initiate should be placed on the November ballot allowing for enforcement similar to that of Arizona.
Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland told the Associated Press earlier this week he did not feel Ohio needs to enact a similar mandate because Ohio is not involved in the same immigration “difficulties” as Arizona.
'Operation Cross Check' Nets 596 Arrests
ICE: People Arrested Have Dangerous Criminal Records
By Mike Paluska, CBS Atlanta Reporter
POSTED: 5:43 pm EDT April 30, 2010
ATLANTA -- A nine-state operation led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement ended late Thursday night. In Georgia, agents said 124 illegal immigrants were taken into custody.
All of the foreign nationals served time in the past for convictions, including for murder, sexual assault, drugs and domestic abuse.
“These are not the people we want on the streets of Atlanta,” said Felicia Skinner , director of the ICE field office in Atlanta . “Aliens with criminal convictions who legally return after being convicted will be prosecuted and receive lengthy prison sentences if convicted, the maximum is 20 years."
Three of the people arrested are convicted murderers, she said. But after serving their prison terms, they were released back into the United States, forcing federal agents and local law enforcement to track them down again.
CBS Atlanta News had tough questions for the director about what needs to be done to keep that from happening again in the future. “ These convictions are usually state offenses, and once they serve their time, they are released through possibly probation after they've served their time,” said Skinner. “The fact of the matter is, ICE has limited resources and as we continue to expand our partnerships with county jails and local authorities, we recognize we need to do more.”
The operation included agents working with teams from the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and local law enforcement. Arrests in Florida and Puerto Rico accounted for the largest number of apprehensions during the operation . A total of 258 were taken into custody in those places.
The Atlanta Field Office , which includes neighboring states, that includes, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama recorded the next highest number of arrests with 232. ICE officials said they have removed a total of 136,126 criminal aliens from the United States in the last year, a record number.
Authorities arrest nearly 90 in South Florida in immigration sweep
By Sofia Santana, Sun Sentinel
9:26 p.m. EDT, April 30, 2010
Authorities this week arrested nearly 90 foreign nationals in South Florida they say were convicted criminals who now will be speedily deported, or convicts who were otherwise in the United States illegally.
The sweep, led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was part of the largest operation targeting illegal immigrants ever conducted in the southeastern United States, officials said.
Two dozen of the arrests were in Broward County, 11 were in Palm Beach County, 48 in Miami-Dade County and five in the Florida Keys, authorities said.
The arrests were among 258 made statewide and in Puerto Rico, with most of those arrested slated for immediate deporation or an appearance before a U.S. immigration judge.
Atlanta ICE Field Director Felicia Skinner said that "communities around the Southeast are safer than they were before" as a result. She said three of the people arrested had been previously convicted of murder and 144 of assault charges.
At least a dozen of the arrestees face additional federal charges because they had been convicted of a crime in the United States and deported, but then re-entered this country illegally, officials said.
One of them is Jose Oscar Avalo-Molina, of El Salvador, who authorities say was convicted of first-degree murder in the United States, served a 20-year sentence and was deported in 1997. Sometime afterward, he returned to this country illegally, authorities said.
He was arrested Wednesday in Pembroke Park.
The federal crime of felony re-entry into the United States carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
Joseph's saga continues to take unexpected turns
April 30, 2010 10:05 PM
BY JOEL A. ERICKSON
By the time eighth period started Friday at Permian High School, Jerry Joseph was back on the basketball court.
Launching jumpers from the perimeter and taking the ball to the hoop like he has throughout his sophomore year.
Trapped in a hailstorm of allegations the past few days, Joseph, a 6-foot-5 star who was named the District 2-5A Newcomer of the Year, had been told that he was playing basketball at Permian under an assumed 16-year-old identity, that his real name was Guerdwich Montimere, that he had already graduated from Fort Lauderdale’s Dillard High School in 2007 after playing for one of the nation’s perennial basketball powerhouses.
No matter how many times he was asked, Joseph adamantly denied that he and Montimere were one and the same person.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials cleared Joseph on Thursday, Permian principal Roy Garcia said. He and Montimere are not the same person. But ICE confirmed that Joseph, a native of Haiti, is in the United States illegally.
“I think my kid was in a stressful situation before he ever came to the country, trying to make a better life for himself,” Permian boys basketball coach Danny Wright said. Joseph has lived with Wright and his family since the end of the last school year.
But Joseph won’t have to wait for his immigration hearing at the ICE Processing Center in El Paso. Wright has been appointed Joseph’s legal guardian, a move that allows the Permian sophomore to continue living in Odessa pending the hearing.
“It was probably a matter of an hour and a half,” Wright said. “Judges, attorneys, everybody involved was wonderful. It took a lot of people to get this done in such a short time.”
Even faster than the swirling circumstances that started this firestorm in the first place.
Two weeks ago, Louis Vives, Cedric Smith and their South Florida Elite travel squad pulled up to the Southwest Community Center in Little Rock, Ark., to play their third game in the Real Deal in the Rock, a massive AAU tournament that drew teams from all over the nation.
His kids spotted the face first. A face Vives hadn’t seen in years, too many years to see the face on a basketball court playing for the New Mexico Force under the name Jerry Joseph. A face that looked exactly like Guerdwich Montimere.
“I had no doubt in my mind,” Vives said. “When you spend an entire summer with a kid, you get to know him inside and out.”
Vives confronted Joseph after the game. Called him Guerdwich.
“He looked at Lou like he was crazy,” Smith said.
Montimere originally elected to attend Highland Community College in Freeport, Ill., but former basketball coach Pete Norman said Montimere never made it to the court. According to Smith, a Dillard teammate and Terry Mills, a surrogate father who gave Montimere a place to stay in high school, Montimere headed back to Haiti at some point early in 2008.
But most of the people he knew in Florida haven’t seen Montimere since he graduated.
“He called me once, about a year ago, just to tell me he was doing all right,” Mills said.
Last spring, Joseph and former UTPB basketball player Jabari Caldwell walked into Permian to enroll Joseph in classes.
Joseph has a Haitian birth certificate that lists his birthdate as Jan. 1, 1994. Born in Haiti, Joseph escaped a nasty 2008 hurricane season by moving to Fort Myers, Fla. In both places, Joseph had been homeless. His parents died before he turned 5.
Caldwell signed an affidavit stating that he was Joseph’s half-brother. For the first time in his life — Joseph didn’t attend school in Fort Myers — he enrolled in public school at Nimitz Junior High.
When former UTPB basketball coach Randy Lee left to take a similar job at Tennessee Temple last season, Caldwell left campus to return to Florida. Joseph didn’t want to go back.
Knowing that Wright has a reputation for opening his doors to kids in need, Joseph asked Wright if he could stay with the coach and his family.
When Vives and Smith got back to the hotel room, the coaches typed Jerry Joseph into Google.
An Odessa American story popped up, a story about a 6-foot-5 kid from Haiti on the verge of becoming a star for the Permian basketball team. According to the story, former Dillard guard Jabari Caldwell was Joseph’s half-brother. Dillard teammate Alen Hardy played on the same team at UTPB.
Both coaches started calling people in Fort Lauderdale.
At least one call went to Ande Anderson, a Broward College assistant coach who had been a part of the Barton Ballas’ staff during Montimere’s time with the team.
Anderson found the same story. The pictures convinced him. Anderson called Joseph to confront him.
“The voice was the same,” Anderson said. “Same measurements, same build, same position, same facial expression.”
Joseph told Anderson he had no idea who the coach was talking about.
E-mails and calls hit Permian and the Odessa American early this week. Each call had the same story. A former Dillard High School basketball player by the name of Guerdwich Montimere was posing as a high school student in Texas.
Permian school officials began an investigation. Garcia had already put Joseph’s records through the wringer. Before the basketball season began, Permian school officials made sure he was eligible to play. Wright and Garcia double-checked Joseph’s records, asked ECISD administration to approve his eligibility and took his case to the District Executive Committee. At all levels, Joseph met the qualifications to play, Garcia said.
But now Garcia and Permian assistant principal Gregory Nelson had to check Joseph’s documentation against a new set of allegations.
“Any time we get an accusation that serious, we have to check it out,” Permian principal Roy Garcia said. “If the allegations are true, that means a 22-year-old is walking around the halls with high school kids.”
An internal investigation that began Tuesday prompted Permian officials to turn the allegations over to Ector County Independent School District police, who contacted ICE on Thursday.
ICE determined that Joseph and Montimere are not the same person, Garcia said.
But the government agency found a different problem in Joseph’s story. Caldwell was not his brother. According to Garcia, ICE officials said Joseph has no family in the United States.
“From talking to the supervisor at ICE, I have been told he is in the country illegally,” Garcia said.
Joseph called Wright’s wife, Jimmie, on Thursday to tell her Caldwell was not his half-brother.
According to Caldwell, a friend from the playground courts in Fort Lauderdale called Caldwell at UTPB last year, told him about Jerry, who wasn’t going to school in Fort Myers, and asked Caldwell for a favor.
“He asked me if it was possible for me to help him enroll in school,” Caldwell said. “I met him in Odessa. He came out here on a Greyhound.”
To avoid taking Joseph to the ICE Processing Center in El Paso, ICE officials needed somebody to take responsibility for Joseph’s care while he awaits an immigration hearing. Wright never hesitated.
“I’m going to try and see if I can get guardianship and adopt the kid,” Wright said Thursday night.
Joseph’s odyssey isn’t over.
“We have to go through an immigration hearing,” Wright said. “But there’s nothing wrong with that. Do things right, do everything up above-board, and it gives this kid a little security, a little stability.”
Joseph declined to comment for this story. But his day ended on the basketball court, the same place most of his days at Permian have ended, under the eye of the man who has opened up his home and treated Joseph like a son.
“I don’t think there was a loser in this thing at all,” Wright said. “When this broke, there was a panic to do the right thing. I think everyone was trying to do their job to the best of their ability.”
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Jade Garden restaurants back in business, with legal employees
By JULIANN VACHON
Published Thursday, April 22, 2010
Less than a month after the owner of Jade Garden in Bluffton and Beaufort and 14 of his employees were charged with being in the U.S. illegally, both restaurants have reopened.
Ming Wang, manager at the Bluffton location, said the restaurant on Fording Island Road reopened March 31, seven days after the arrests, with about five new employees hired from an agency in Chinatown in New York City.
The workers were hired from the same agency where the restaurants' owner, Zi Tong Wang, found employees in the past, including at least some of those charged last month, said Ming Wang, who said he is a friend of the owner but not related.
The manager said he could not immediately provide the name of the Chinatown agency.
"We call and they send people here," Ming Wang said. "That's what we did before, that is always what we do."
Before hiring the replacement wait staff, Ming Wang said, he checked to make sure each employee was authorized to be in the U.S.
"This time, I hired them, so I checked their green cards," Ming Wang said. "Last time, I didn't do the hiring."
The Jade Garden in Beaufort was closed for a slightly longer period, opening about 12 days ago. Ming Wang, who manages only the Bluffton restaurant, said he did not know how many new employees the Beaufort location hired or from where. Attempts to reach a supervisor at the Beaufort location were unsuccessful Wednesday and Thursday.
Beaufort County and Beaufort officials said Wednesday the restaurants are properly licensed and have paid applicable fees.
The charges against Zi Tong Wang and 14 of his employees on March 24 followed a yearlong investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and the sheriff's ICE Task Force into allegations that illegal immigrants had been hired at the restaurants, officials have said.
Zi Tong Wang, a 33-year-old Chinese national, was charged April 14 with hiring, harboring and transporting illegal aliens. If convicted, he could face a $250,000 fine and 10 years in federal prison.
Federal authorities say Zi Tong Wang negotiated to hire waitresses and dishwashers smuggled into the U.S. from China and Latin America, housed them in a trailer he owned in Burton and paid them little.
Zi Tong Wang already was considered an ICE fugitive after failing to comply with a 1998 voluntary-departure order issued by a federal judge.
Federal court records suggest authorities began investigating Zi Tong Wang and his restaurants after a tip from an unnamed local law-enforcement officer who frequented the Beaufort restaurant. The officer befriended Wang's sister, who told him the restaurant's Chinese waitresses were in the country illegally and paid only in tips left by customers, according to federal court records.
The woman told the officer the women were smuggled into New York City at a cost of more than $50,000, a debt she or her family would have to pay off in $3,000 monthly increments to the smuggler, the records said.
She told the officer that she or Wang would often call a business in New York to arrange for women to be brought to waitress at the restaurants, according to court documents. The workers were all housed in a trailer Wang owned on Miranda Circle in Burton and driven by the restaurant's head cook to and from work each day.
Wang made similar arrangements with smugglers in Atlanta to hire Hispanic male dishwashers, the woman said.
Ming Wang said the workers were not mistreated.
"They lived together," Ming Wang said. "It's not making sense. It sounds like we were enslaving them, but it's nothing like that. We really treat them good."
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Pro's Ranch Market fires 300 employees working illegally in the U.S.
by Catherine Holland
Posted on April 22, 2010 at 7:05 AM
PHOENIX -- Pro's Ranch Market has fired some 300 people -- about 20 percent of its employees -- in the wake of a federal audit that found them to be working in the U.S. illegally.
According to an attorney for the company, most of those workers provided forged documents when they were asked to prove their work eligibility. Non-citizens must have work authorization in order to get a job in this country.
The firings happened Tuesday and Wednesday.
The company could also face fines for employing people who are not permitted to work here.
The federal audit that spawned the firings has looked at more than 1,600 businesses across the U.S. since July 2009, including 84 here in Arizona.
Pro's Ranch Market employees about 1,500 people at its six stores in the Phoenix metro area.
ICE Investigates Restaurants
La Opinion, Claudia Nunez, Posted: Apr 23, 2010
Dozens of restaurant owners are facing charges of money laundering, human trafficking, Social Security fraud and identity theft, reports La Opinion. This is due to a new strategy of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Last month, ICE filed criminal charges against three food franchise owners. Juan Nuno Ramirez, owner of three restaurants, pleaded guilty to helping 15 immigrants obtain visas, work permits and fraudulent immigration documents and then hiring them. Ramirez faces six months in prison and a fine of $3,000 for each undocumented employee. Immigration attorney Michael Wildes said that authorities have focused inspections on the medium-scale restaurants who, in the economic crisis, choose to hire undocumented workers or don't have the resources to do proper paperwork.
According to an analysis by the College of Law at the University of Illinois, almost 25 percent of a random sample of work centers sanctioned by ICE in 2008 were restaurants. An ICE spokesperson in California said that audits of restaurants uncover other areas of serious crimes, such as money laundering and exploitation of undocumented workers. As part of ICE's new initiative, the inspections of workplaces have skyrocketed. So far this year, 164 companies have received administrative sanctions in California, and 62 face criminal charges.
Honduran man accused of having phony papers
North Country Briefs
SATURDAY, APRIL 24, 2010
A Honduran citizen faces a charge that he had fake immigration papers while trying to get onto Fort Drum to work.
Edwin Martinez-Sanchez was charged Monday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with fraud and misuse of visas or permits.
According to an affidavit filed by an agent Thursday in U.S. District Court, Mr. Martinez-Sanchez was a passenger in a vehicle with five other men who were heading to a construction site on post.
Suspecting that Mr. Martinez-Sanchez and his companions might be illegal aliens because they had little identification, Fort Drum police called Border Patrol agents.
The men were taken to the Wellesley Island port of entry, where Mr. Martinez-Sanchez allegedly admitted he was in the country illegally.
A search of his baggage reportedly revealed a counterfeit resident alien card bearing his name. A check of the alien registration number on the document showed it was assigned to a Mexican citizen. A fake Social Security card with a Social Security number that does not exist also was found, according to court documents.
He has been assigned a federal public defender and is being held in the custody of U.S. marshals.
Friday, April 23, 2010
67 Illegal Immigrants Found in U-Haul Truck
Updated: Friday, 23 Apr 2010, 2:03 PM MDT
ELFRIDA, Ariz. - Sixty-seven illegal immigrants were found crammed inside a U-Haul truck near Elfrida, Ariz. about 20 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border after deputies spotted it driving erratically.
Cochise County sheriff's spokeswoman Carol Capas said Friday that deputies pulled the U-Haul over Thursday evening, and the driver and front passenger ran out of the vehicle into the desert.
The two, believed to be smugglers, got away.
Meanwhile, deputies found 67 illegal immigrants in the back of the 26-foot truck.
Capas says the truck appeared to have been loaded in the last seven hours and that it was "cramped."
She could not speak to the conditions inside the truck and says the immigrants were turned over to the Border Patrol.
Border Patrol spokesman Mario Escalante did not immediately know where the immigrants were from, where they were headed or what the conditions in the truck were, although he says none had to be taken to a hospital.
Audit: 43 businesses have illegal staff
by Max Jarman - Apr. 23, 2010 05:33 PM
The Arizona Republic
More than one-half of the Arizona businesses that have had their workforces audited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents since July 2009 have been found to have illegal workers on their payrolls.
Immigration department spokeswoman Virginia Kice said that 43 of the 84 companies screened in two rounds of audits have been sent letters listing employees whose employment eligibility is suspect.
The agency's policy is not to name the companies with illegal employees unless they are disciplined with a fine or other measure.
Besides violation notices, two of the 43 companies with illegal workers were informed of pending fines.
In its investigation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents audited the I-9 forms of 17,194 Arizona employees.
Kice would not say how many were found to have suspect documentation, but nationally the number is running about 18 percent. That would indicate that about 3,000 of the screened workers had suspect documents.
Employers are required to verify their employee's eligibility to work via an I-9 form that they must keep and turn over to immigration officials for inspection on request.
Only citizens and non-citizens with employment-authorization documents are allowed to hold jobs in the United States. Employers are required to terminate those employees found to be working illegally.
"If you continue to employ these individuals without valid documentation, you may be subject to a civil money penalty ranging from $375 to $3,200 per unauthorized alien for a first violation," the letters read.
On April 13 and 14, Pro's Ranch Markets in Phoenix fired about 300 illegal workers, or 20 percent of its workforce, who were identified by an audit of its I-9 employment verification forms.
The company said the employees gave it forged or falsified work documents when they were hired.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents announced 650 audits, including 40 in Arizona in July and followed up with an additional 1,000, including about 44 in Arizona in November.
ICE attorney convicted of taking bribes from illegal aliens
April 21, 4:55 AMImmigration Reform ExaminerDave Gibson
On Tuesday, Constantine Peter Kallas, assistant chief counsel at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Los Angeles was found guilty in U.S. District Court of several federal corruption charges.
The government began investigating Kallas, 39, in 2007 when an immigrant reported Kallas to federal officials for accepting bribes. The FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service all took part in the investigation, which culminated in Kallas‘ arrest in 2008.
Kallas was taken into custody in June 2008, after taking a bribe at the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino in Highland.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Kallas took bribes from illegal aliens, in exchange for helping them get government benefits and dropping deportation cases against them.
Kallas even took a $7,000 bribe from his housekeeper to get a smuggling case against her daughter dropped. Kallas appeared in court on the daughter’s behalf and the case was dismissed.
When agents searched Kallas’ home, they found $177,000 in cash, hidden in a safe. and 24 official immigration files, prosecutors said. They also found documents with the names of illegal aliens and the amounts they paid Kallas.
Bank records showed that since 2000, Kallas had deposited more than $1million in addition to his salary. Kallas has been with ICE since 1998.
The jury found Kallas guilty of bribery, fraud, conspiracy, identity theft and obstruction of justice. He will be sentenced in August and faces up to 256 years in federal prison.
Kallas’ conviction brings to light the government corruption which many believe controls our immigration system.
In November 2009, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took Los Angeles family practice physician Levon Tebelekian, 72, into custody after an investigation revealed that he was charging immigrants a fee in exchange for disease-free medical reports.
Allegedly, Dr. Tebelekian was charging patients $150 each to fill-out a medical exam form with a favorable result. No examinations or tests were ever actually performed.
ICE claims that on one occasion, Dr. Tebelekian told an undercover agent that he would not "disturb his blood" and that he "did not look like he had AIDS.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Miguel Unzueta told the Associated Press: "Aspiring immigrants are required to undergo a medical exam as part of the application process to ensure they don't have any medical conditions or diseases that might pose a public health threat."
He continued: "By allegedly giving some of his patients a clean bill of health without even examining them, this physician potentially put our communities at risk.”
Dr. Tebelekian was charged with fraud and making false statements. In February 2010, he pleaded guilty to falsifying medical examinations as well as vaccinations for illegal aliens, he also surrendered his medical license.
Dr. Tebelekian will be sentenced on May 3, and could face up to 80 years in prison.
Lawmakers protest possible deportation of Langley Park mother
Rally planned Monday in support of woman arrested for misdemeanor
by Daniel Valentine and Elahe Izadi | Staff Writers
A protest is planned Monday to fight the possible deportation of a 26-year-old Langley Park mother who was arrested for selling phone cards without a license from her home.
"She's not a threat," said Del. Victor Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly. "Should you really be deporting a non-violent mother of three? There are much bigger problems we could be using our resources for."
Four county police officers arrested Florinda Faviola Lorenzo-Desimilian at her apartment in the Gables Residential complex Tuesday night for allegedly selling pre-paid phone cards out of her home. She was charged with doing business without a trader's license, which is a misdemeanor, according to court records.
Police took Lorenzo-Desimilian, who has a 13-month-old baby, a 5-year-old and a 10-year-old, to the county jail, where, under a new cooperation program with the federal government, she was flagged for deportation by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, who picked her up around 11:30 a.m., sources said.
It is unclear why she was flagged, and attempts to reach the ICE public affairs office in Washington, D.C., were not returned this morning.
Police and community activists familiar with the case say that she had overstayed two work visas, which allow residents of other countries to stay in the United States for an allotted period of time.
Police have held her for two days amid protests from several lawmakers and Casa De Maryland, a nonprofit that assists on immigrant issues, who are calling on her release. Casa members said they plan to protest Monday night at the county corrections center in Upper Marlboro.
Lorenzo-Desimilian's children are currently staying with visiting grandparents, Casa officials said. Family members declined a request for comment made through the nonprofit organization.
The case is raising new concerns about the county's Secure Communities initiative, which officials launched in December. Under the program, the county agrees to share fingerprints of charged suspects with the federal immigration department, which can screen for immigration violations. Opponents of the policy say cases like Lorenzo-Desimilian's will become more common.
"There are a lot of concerns from this case. First, we have police arresting people for something silly like this," said Kim Propeack, director of community relations for Casa. "Then, we have our county working to deport people like this."
Propeack and others warned that this incident could erode community goodwill that the county police have worked to establish with the county's north Latino community for years.
"This is going backward instead of forward," she said.
County police said they were unfamiliar with the case Friday and declined to comment immediately. Vernon Herron, the county's public safety director, said the county had no choice to turn her over to federal agents.
"[ICE] filed a detainer. They said they wanted her," Herron said. "We can't pick and choose who to charge with breaking the law."
Lorenzo-Desimilian is currently in ICE custody, officials said.
"Homeland security should be going after terrorists, not people who are making a living," Ramirez said.
As of April 1, Prince George's County's corrections department had turned over 109 foreign-born people to ICE for deportation proceedings. Though the program is supposed to target violent offenders, opponents say people facing minor charges, such as Lorenzo-Desimilian, will get caught up as well.
It is unclear why the woman was taken to the county detention center on the minor charge. Propeack alleges that two other people were charged during the Tuesday raid and were given written citations. Police were unable to give details on Lorenzo-Desimilian's detention by press time.
"This is exactly the kind of case that illustrates how ICE is pouring resources into its least important cases," said Propeack, who added she is concerned that Latinos may soon be profiled by police as potential illegal immigrants.
Opponents want the county to hold off screening for illegal immigrants until after they are convicted of a crime or unless they are charged with a violent offense.
"Go get a real criminal," said Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly, who said she also opposes the course of action taken against Lorenzo-Desimilian. "She's not hurting anybody."
San Diego Restaurant Charged With Hiring Undocumented Workers
BY SUSAN MURPHY
April 23, 2010
SAN DIEGO — A San Diego restaurant and catering company has been charged with hiring undocumented workers, according to the U.S Attorney's office. The 16-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed on Wednesday alleges The French Gourmet hired and retained undocumented workers, even after learning their names didn't match Social Security numbers.
Jeremy Warren, the attorney for restaurant manager Richard Kauffmann, said hiring laws are confusing because employers are told not to hire undocumented workers, but they’re also told it’s illegal to discriminate on the basis of race or national origin.
“And so you have people like my client who’s been a bakery chef for 40 years – he’s a master pastry chef," explained Warren. "He’s not a lawyer, he’s not an immigration specialist, he’s not an expert in the field. He’s trying to run a kitchen in a very high-paced environment.”
The indictment follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. In May 2008, officials arrested 18 restaurant employees on suspicion of working illegally in the U.S.
In May 2006, the Golden State Fence Company in San Diego was charged with illegally hiring undocumented workers. Company executives plead guilty in the case and agreed to pay a $5 million fine.
Road Construction Putting Penitas Police on Alert
Reported by: Camaron Abundes
Last Update: 6:40 pm 4/23/2010
PENITAS - Corporal R. Sanchez stands outside the Penitas Police Department, Friday. He said it's almost predictable. Pursuits, large loads of drugs, constant danger is an everyday concern.
"It's almost an everyday thing. Every other day we're having pursuits in reference to the same thing," Sanchez said.
CHANNEL 5 NEWS went to Penitas to interview Cpl. Sanchez about a pursuit Thursday. Twenty-four illegal immigrants were arrested, including the driver.
"Whether its drugs or people reporting undocumented aliens, stuff like that," he said it makes his job "very, very dangerous."
Halfway through the interview Sanchez is forced to leave. It's another pursuit coming in from Rio Grande City.
A Customs and Border Protection helicopter assisted in the sky. Police say smugglers and coyotes are using road construction on Expressway 83 to their advantage.
A vender selling watermelons said it's common to see helicopters flying low. He's only worked in the area for a month, but he has already noticed the trend.
Gustavo Avalos said his customers notice the police presence. He's not bothered by it. He likes seeing them patrol the area.
Friday afternoon, Cpl. Sanchez said he was too busy to complete the interview.
Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson Amy Rodriguez said the road repairs are expected to be finished by next Thursday.
Arizona governor signs immigration law; foes promise fight
by Alia Beard Rau - Apr. 23, 2010 02:38 PM
The Arizona Republic
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer today signed into law an immigration bill that gives the state toughest law in the nation, making it a state crime to be in the country illegally and requiring local police to enforce federal immigration laws.
Brewer said she signed the bill in response to "the crisis the federal government has refused to fix.''
Hispanic leaders addressing the hundreds of protesters at the Capitol immediately vowed to wage a legal fight, and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said he wants the city to sue.
The new immigration law will require anyone whom police suspect of being in the country illegally to produce "an alien registration document," such as a green card, or other proof of citizenship such as a passport or Arizona driver's license.
It also makes it illegal to impede the flow of traffic by picking up day laborers for work. A day laborer who gets picked up for work, thus impeding traffic, would also be committing a criminal act.
Gordon criticized Brewer's action.
"The governor clearly knows that her actions not only have split the state, but will now cause severe economic hardship to all our businesses at a time when we can't afford any losses. The executive order isn't worth the paper it's written on."
Gordon said the executive order to AZ POST would be unenforceable; called it "an attempt to solve this problem with smoke and mirrors."
"Officers throughout the state will be allowed to interpret it on their own since governments can't adopt any policies including interpretations or rules. Therefore her own executive order is in conflict with the statute."
Gordon continued: "I'm extremely disappointed at the governor's actions, that a governor with a caring heart has allowed individuals like Russell Pearce and Joe Arpaio to make her a puppet governor whose strings are controlled by them."
"I've scheduled an item on the agenda for Tuesday to ask the council to direct the city attorney to draft, to prepare a lawsuit asking for an injunction on this law and challenging it on constitutional grounds. It's real important to me that we all must remain peaceful and calm. Calls for economic boycotts by our residents, by our elected officials, are wrong, will hurt everyone, and we must now go to court as occurred in the 1950s and 1960s in the civil rights battles."
Pro-bill protesters at Capitol cheered loudly when Brewer made her announcement, one yelling out "God Bless Jan Brewer.''
Meanwhile, the anti-bill protesters began shouting in unison, "Shame on You! Shame on You!"
A handful of teenage girls was seen openly weeping after it was announced that Brewer had signed the bill.
After the chanting started, pro-bill forces began to sing "America the Beautiful."
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said afterwards that the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican-American Defense Fund have already promised to fight implementation of the law.
"This is only the first step of a long battle, and I don't lose,'" Wilcox said.
She also chastised Brewer, calling her cold-hearted.
"When the president says this is wrong, it's a shame she put herself above him,'' Wilcox said.
Alfredo Gutierrez, a Latino community leader and former state senator, said, "Obviously, this is a very bad thing for the state from our point of view." He predicted acts of civil disobedience and economic consequences for the state as a result.
"This is apartheid for us. This law is influenced by laws of South Africa. It's amazing to me that in 2010, we are dealing with acts of such overt hatred anywhere in this country,'' Gutierrez said.
Those leading the rally urged protesters to follow the lead of legendary civil rights leader Cesar Chavez, who in 1972 led the unionization of farm works in direct opposition to legislation that year.
But at about 2:15 p.m., police began to arrest a handful of protesters who threw water bottles at the police on the south side of the Capitol.
Other protesters urged the small group to stop.
At another site near the Capitol, meanwhile, a large group of protesters started chasing a supporter of the bill, prompting police to come to his rescue
The Arizona Senate and House limited access to the public all morning to keep the crowd away from lawmakers and legislative staff.
Terry Irish of Chandler, who favors the bill, was elated when Brewer announced her decision. He said he did not blame opposing protesters for asserting themselves, however. He said it is a symptom of federal policies of inaction not to close the border.
"This thing wouldn't be happening if they had sealed our borders,'' Irish said.
"They allowed this to happen to make these people slaves to business."
At the news conference, Brewer also issued an executive order Arizona Police Officer Standards and Training board to develop training that will help police agencies appropriately implement the legislation, including what does or does not constitute reasonable suspicion that somebody is an illegal immigrant. Brewer vowed to protect individual civil rights, saying, "I will not tolerate racial discrimination or racial profiling in Arizona.''
She said she believes the law itself will protect those rights, directing police not to consider solely race or color in deciding whether to stop someone suspected of being in the country illegally.
"People across America are watching Arizona," Brewer said, noting that critics nationally are "waiting for us to fail.''
However, she insisted the law will be consistent with federal immigration laws and she called concerned "alarmist.''
The law goes into effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends, which is expected to be sometime in early May.