Four arrested trying to smuggle immigrants in Sarita
by Sergio Chapa
Posted: 10.27.2010 at 8:51 AM
Four Houston area residents are behind bars in the Rio Grande Valley after they allegedly tried to smuggle nine illegal immigrants through the Sarita checkpoint.
U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested the four during a botched smuggling attempt on Sunday morning.
Court records released on Wednesday morning show that 33-year-old Pasadena resident Rusty Dwayne Plante and 39-year-old Baytown resident Tonya Lyn Avery pulled up to the Sarita checkpoint in a white Chylser Voyager around 9:20 a.m. Sunday.
Border Patrol agents found five illegal immigrants hiding under blankets in the rear of the mini-van.
About three hours later, 49-year-old Houston resident Michael Charles Kirsch and 36-year-old Houston resident Dana Linkinhoker Shows pulled up in a grey Dodge Caravan.
Border Patrol agents found four illegal immigrants hiding underneath blankets.
Court records show that the group had planned the immigrant smuggling trip just a few days earlier in Houston.
The four appeared before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Ronald Morgan in Brownsville on Monday morning.
Court records show that Plante, Avery, Kirsch and Shows are all American citizens.
Plante, Avery and Kirsch have mixed criminal records ranging from drugs to DWI to forgery.
Judge Morgan denied bond for all four of them until a Friday morning hearing.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Four arrested trying to smuggle immigrants in Sarita
Denville: Police Blotter, Oct. 27
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Neighbor News (Denville Edition)
DWI - Police conducted a motor vehicle stop on Route 46 west on Oct. 16 on a speeding violation and determined that the driver, Alejandro Islas, 38, of Parsippany, was intoxicated. He was arrested, processed and issued summonses for driving while intoxicated, reckless and careless driving, speeding, unlicensed driver, unregistered and uninsured vehicle, and fictitious plates. Islas was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for possible deportation.
A charge is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. All of the information is provided by the police department.
DHS files 18 new removal cases
By Ferdie de la Torre
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement has filed 18 new removal cases before the Saipan U.S. Immigration Court.
David C. Anderson, a federal immigration judge from Los Angeles, California, heard the 18 new cases plus 14 others that were earlier filed in the last three days.
Anderson was also on Saipan in January 2010 and heard 13 removal cases.
On Tuesday, the judge heard the new removal cases filed against Noel Bautista, Le Xiang Chen, Min Jin, Hilario Angui, Etumai Felix Mtoched, Dianne Marie Redor Sablan, Catherine Aldan Torculas, Wen Nai Wu, and Zhe Liu.
Anderson is expected to hear today, Thursday, the new cases against Zhizhong Guan, Rumei Huang, Guo Rong Chen, Dong Hyen Kim, Edwin Ochona Belgica, Hongyan Shi, Wenqing Zhu, Jianli Tan, and Leandro Mercado Medrano.
Saipan Tribune noted that many of the respondents in the new cases have criminal convictions.
Many cases that were filed earlier were heard yesterday.
At least three persons failed to show up at the hearing in the last two days, Saipan Tribune learned.
With the filing of 18 new cases, Saipan Tribune counted over 80 removal cases that have been filed with the Saipan Immigration Court since the federalization law took effect on Nov. 28, 2009. Many had already been declared removable but were allowed to voluntarily depart the CNMI.
Surveillance system credited in St. Clair River smuggling arrests
Charles E. Ramirez / The Detroit News
Last Updated: October 27. 2010 12:12PM
Harrison Township— Immigration and customs enforcement agents are investigating three separate incidents of illegal alien smuggling on the St. Clair River this month, officials said today.
The agency said it was able to detect the activities with its $20 million high-tech surveillance system, which went into operation along the St. Clair River this year.
In the most recent case, agents using the system tracked a small boat entering U.S. waters in Algonac at about 11 p.m. on Tuesday. The vessel docked in the city's downtown area and three people got off and ran across M-29, according to Andrew Patterson, a Border Patrol agent spokesman.
Agents responded and were able to arrest all three subjects, he said.
In the second case, which happened this past Saturday, agents watched a subject being dropped off by a boat near a restaurant in Algonac.
Officers arrived on the scene and arrested the man, who turned out to be an illegal alien who had been previously deported. Agents in nearby Clay Township stopped the vehicle suspected of being involved in the smuggling attempt and found several thousand dollars in Canadian currency on the driver, Patterson said.
And the first incident occurred on Oct. 16 when agents spotted a suspicious vessel traversing U.S. waters in Clay Township in St. Clair County, he said.
Agents also received information about a vehicle that appeared to be waiting for the vessel in the area.
The officers found the vehicle, pulled it over and discovered one of the men in the car was an illegal alien. They also recovered $56,000 in U.S. currency, four stolen handguns and an assortment of jewelry after a search of the vehicle, Patterson said.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency calls the technology it uses to monitor the U.S. border along the St. Clair River its Remote Video Surveillance System.
The system consists of a network of cameras and 11 towers along the river and was designed to help the agency fight terrorism, combat drug trafficking and keep illegal immigrants and contraband out of the country. Each tower has four cameras, two for monitoring the border during the day and two for nighttime hours.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Immigration officials to deport American Fork family who fled anti-Mormon threats
Published: Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010 8:10 p.m. MDT
By Dennis Romboy, Deseret News
AMERICAN FORK — Artistic glass adorning LDS Church temples and other buildings around the world bear the creative handiwork of Debora Zalazar and her husband Claudio Correa.
The Argentine couple moved to Utah to work on projects that reflect their deeply held religious beliefs. Zalazar is meticulous about creating scriptural scenes on stained glass. Correa painstakingly etched each flower and scroll to the last detail, including all the glass in the Draper Temple.
"Everything they do is filled with real spiritual energy," said Cathy Torlina, director of Holdman Studios in Lehi where Zalazar and Correa are contract workers. "They bring their faith to their work, be it secular or religious."
But since a knock at their door about 6 a.m. last Friday, they've had to steer that faith in a different direction.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took Correa into custody and he now sits in the Utah County Jail awaiting deportation. They left Argentina in the face of anti-Mormon and anti-American harassment. And after a decade of trying, he and his wife and two teenage children have not been able to gain asylum or legal status in the United States.
They could be on a plane to their homeland in a week.
"I was trying to be a good civilian, a good citizen," Correa, 46, said in a telephone interview from jail. "I don't even have a traffic ticket in 10 years and now I'm in the maximum security area."
The couple works hard, contributes to the community and pays taxes. Their children, 17-year-old Kevin and 14-year-old Magali, are honor students.
"We love the people here. We are not against anyone. We love all the people. We love the culture. We came with that spirit. We want to be part of this," Zalazar, 40, said with tears welling in her eyes.
Correa and Zalazar harbor no bitterness. They know they must leave. All they're asking for is six months. Correa is in the middle of painful treatment for hepatitis C, possibly contracted at a dentist's office. (The family has limited health care options due to lack of medical insurance.) Kevin wants to earn his high school diploma, and he's willing to cram his senior year into the rest of his junior year to do it. He also has rheumatoid arthritis.
"Since we have a good history, if they can give us an opportunity for my son to finish high school and my husband to finish his treatment, then we can go in peace," Zalazar said.
The family's attorney German Flores intends to file a petition, bolstered with dozens of character letters from doctors, friends and neighbors, with ICE seeking a deportation deferral. Beyond that, he says, there's not much he can do.
"The family knows that they don't have very much of a chance to stay in the country legally. They have had their day in court already," he said. "They're a good family but, again, the law is so stringent."
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said those petitions are not uncommon and are considered on an individual basis.
The family left Buenos Aires in December 2000 when anti-American sentiment was at a crescendo. Correa said he was harassed for working for an American company and being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He received threatening phone calls and his house was vandalized with graffiti such as "Go away Yankee Mormon." A bomb threat at his company was the last straw.
"We went to the USA because we wanted to find a better place to live," Correa said.
They came under a visa waiver, which is very limited in scope and allows only 90 days in the country, settling in Iowa where they had friends. Correa understood his employer would file a labor certification petition on his behalf that would pave the way for legal residency. But that didn't happen. He then learned his family could obtain temporary protected status due to heightened political, social and economic unrest in Argentina. But that legislation was not enacted. Finally, he said he heard about the possibility of asylum based on the persecution that caused them to leave their home country.
By that time, though, they had been in the country more than two years and asylum petition must be filed within 12 months of arrival unless extraordinary circumstances exist. An immigration judge ultimately denied their petition and subsequent appeal in 2006.
Kice said privacy law limits what immigration officials can say in asylum cases, but she issued a general statement about the Correa family.
"Foreign nationals, like the Correas, who choose to exercise the privilege of entering the United States under the visa waiver program are prohibited from seeking to change their status after arriving here and are not entitled to a formal deportation hearing. Nevertheless, over the course of four years, the Correas' immigration case underwent a comprehensive review by judges at several levels of our legal system and the courts held that he and his family did not have a legal basis to remain in the United States."
During those years, Correa and Zalazar received advice from various attorneys and others, some good and some bad. They were under the impression that immigration officials would re-open their case after 10 years from their arrival, so they never left. They say they never received a written deportation order.
"We never tried to take advantage of being here," Correa said.
Flores said re-opening the case is not likely because the family does not meet all of the criteria, primarily that they have no U.S. citizen relatives that would be burdened by their removal.
The couple decided to move from Iowa to Utah after learning Holdman Studios did the glass work at the Nauvoo Temple. "You're using your talent to do other churches, why not our church?" Zalazar recalled her husband telling her. She works as a designer and trained her husband, who was a professional photographer in Argentina, to do etching and other duties.
Their co-workers are "outraged" about what happened to the family, Torlina said. "I'm not sure why or how (this happened). All I know is it's unjust." They're contacting law professors to see if anything can be done.
Neighbors in American Fork have also rallied around them.
"We've got most of the neighborhood writing letters," said Bishop Brent Sharp of their LDS Church ward. "This case just doesn't seem right. … They brought their family here in the first place to find a better life for their kids just like our ancestors did."
Zalazar is preparing to sell off the family's possessions in anticipation of leaving. But there are things she and her family will always have.
"Knowledge, experience, the life lived here, friends. Nobody can take that away from you."
Police raid three alleged sex shops in West Windsor; six women arrested
Published: Tuesday, October 26, 2010, 9:48 PM
WEST WINDSOR — Six alleged prostitutes were taken into custody during raids on three massage parlors Tuesday afternoon amid an FBI investigation into possible human trafficking, police said.
Though police have no concrete evidence the women were brought to the township against their will, federal agents are involved because the prostitution trade has often relied on human traffickers for sex workers in the past, police said.
“There’s always the concern with these situations that these people are involved in human trafficking,” Lt. Robert Garafolo said.
At 1 p.m., members of the West Windsor Police Tactical Team made entry to Bodyworks Massage on Princeton-Hightstown Road, Oriental Moon Massage on Alexander Road, and Min’s Health Center on Washington Road. They were followed inside by township police, FBI agents, detectives from the county prosecutor’s office, and agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), police said.
Inside, the officers found computers, financial documents, and surveillance equipment along with $15,000 cash spread between the three locations. The six women were brought back to headquarters, where translators and immigration officials processed and interviewed them, police said.
One of the females is facing deportation, police said. She would be sent back to China, according to a law enforcement source.
The women are all Asian, in their 20s and 30s, the source said. Interviewers will be looking for similarities in what the women say in order to build a possible trafficking case.
Police do not believe the three businesses were operated by the same group, but could be using the same trader if human slavery is involved, he said.
Township police will be analyzing the computer hard drives, video, and financial records to obtain evidence.
The businesses are all located on residential streets and have minimal signage, Garafolo said. Most were within half a mile of a school or child care center.
Township police began investigating the shops four months ago following several complaints to township police by family members of customers, including upset spouses, police said. Investigators believe both legitimate and illegitimate business was conducted at the locations.
No charges had been filed as of Tuesday night. Police did not indicate if any customers were present during the raids.
ARRESTS AND SUMMONSES
Columbia Daily Tribune
Monday, October 25, 2010
Authorities made the following arrests and issued summonses from 7 a.m. Oct. 22 to 7 a.m. Oct. 23.
COLUMBIA POLICE DEPARTMENT
Hector Hugo Cervantes-Ramirez, 19, of 712 E. Demaret Drive, Apt. 1, immigration detainer, no bond set.
Jose Anri Cervantes-Ramirez, 17, of 712 Demaret Drive, immigration detainer, no bond set.
BOONE COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Isidro Osbeli Cruz-Diaz, 26, of 714 E. Demaret Drive, immigration detainer, no bond set.
Veteran Fighting His Own Country
Reported by: Polo Sandoval
Last Update: 10/26/2010
MERCEDES – A Valley veteran is fighting against the country he defended.
Pedro Tovar lacks a U.S. passport.
The 64-year-old retired soldier was born in Edcouch to American parents, but says his birth was registered in Mexico.
When Tovar applied for a passport, state investigators red-flagged his application and even threatened to report him to the office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement because his birth was registered in Mexico.
State investigators have since had a change of heart.
Tovar’s attorney showed CHANNEL 5 NEWS a memo in which that state says it plans to now consider approving his passport request.
Immigrant smuggling attempt foiled in Armstrong
by Sergio Chapa
A Mexican woman is behind bars after Border Patrol agents foiled an immigrant smuggling attempt outside a ranch in Kenedy County.
It happened at a highway turnaround in front of the main gate of the Armstrong Ranch around 5 a.m. Saturday.
Court records released late Monday show that Border Patrol agents spotted a maroon Ford Windstar reversing and trying to avoid detection.
Border Patrol agents reported that 11 people bailed out of the van and into the brush.
The agents arrested driver Josefina Contreras-Tinajero as she allegedly tried to head back south in the van.
Two of the immigrants are being held as witnesses in the case against her. They told investigators they were trying to get around the Sarita checkpoint.
Contreras-Tinajero appeared before U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Ronald Morgan in Brownsville on Monday morning.
Court records show that Contreras-Tinajero is an illegal immigrant from Mexico.
Judge Morgan issued a $50,000 cash bond for Contreras-Tinajero. She is expected to appear back in court on Thursday afternoon.
Monday, October 25, 2010
Subcontractor taken off Pickens school job
By Nikie Mayo
Posted October 25, 2010 at 10:03 p.m.
LIBERTY — A subcontractor for the Pickens County school system has been evicted from a construction site for refusing to cooperate with a state investigation that is aimed at finding illegal-immigrant workers.
Land Construction of Seneca, which has been doing masonry for the school system’s new career and technology center, will not be allowed back on the site in Liberty until officials are satisfied that the company has complied with requests from the S.C. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
Superintendent Henry Hunt said school system officials have been told that Land Construction has, “on at least one occasion, failed to provide access” to the state investigators.
“If Land will not let LLR investigate Land’s forces at the project site,” Hunt wrote in a letter, “then Land’s forces will not be at the project site.”
Hunt sent that letter, dated Friday, to H.G. Reynolds Company Inc. of Aiken. Land Construction is a subcontractor for H.G. Reynolds, according to project manager Larry Heim.
Heim said Monday that Land Construction “has been asked to stand by” until he and his company have a better grasp of the alleged violations.
“There seems to be a terrible difference of opinion here,” Heim said. “We are committed to providing cooperation at H.G. Reynolds, and we are unclear as to why investigators believe Land Construction, our subcontractor, is not cooperating.”
Officials with Land Construction could not be reached late Monday after the school system’s letter was released. Heim said a Land Construction crew was told Friday to leave the job site on Chastain Road in Liberty.
The state labor department’s Office of Immigrant Worker Compliance has been investigating work sites in the Pickens County school district since November 2009, after receiving numerous complaints that illegal workers were being hired for construction projects.
The law requires a company to complete a federal employment eligibility verification form for each worker hired. Within five days of hiring a worker, a company must verify the person’s work authorization through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or verify that the worker has a valid South Carolina driver’s license or identification card.
A report issued by the state on Aug. 27 said that since July 1, the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation had found 32 illegal workers employed by four subcontractors on the Pickens County sites. Land Construction of Seneca employed five of those illegal workers, all of whom were fired and reported to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
H.G. Reynolds was found to be compliant, according to the state’s report.
“The school district … has worked very hard to press the importance of compliance with immigration laws in this building program,” Hunt said. “While these efforts have largely been successful, … it is apparent that the seriousness of the district’s intentions in this regard has not been fully appreciated by some of the subcontracting community.”
Sudbury Police Log - Oct. 7, 2010
By Staff reports
GateHouse News Service
Posted Oct 07, 2010 @ 10:35 AM
Sunday, Oct. 3
1:07 a.m. As a result of a motor vehicle stop police arrested Lucas Ferrera, 25, of 42 Oliver St., Apt. 2, in Somerville, and charged him with OUI liquor, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and marked lane violation. During processing at the station, his fingerprints were taken and checked through FBI and State Police AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System).
“It was discovered that he had an INS detainer for an individual by the name Ramalho Desouza,” said Nix. “He had provided us with a false name and immigration services wanted him detained.”
On Oct. 4, he was taken, along with the detainer document to Framingham District Court.
BLOTTER: 10/21/10 issue
The information below is compiled from local police blotters, as that information is made available, and is not in
EAST RUTHERFORD — Jose Flores, 36, of Newark, was arrested and his vehicle impounded Sunday, Oct. 17 at approximately 12:45 p.m. after a police officer conducted a random check of the registration on the car Flores was driving. The computer system indicated that the vehicle owner’s license was expired, and Flores was pulled over. As police investigated Flores, they determined that he had an extradition warrant from California and a federal immigration warrant. The Department of Homeland Security was contacted and an agent confirmed the warrants. Flores was transported to Bergen County Jail with an immigration detainer.
Police Log: Incident in Starbucks
Incidents responded by the Belmont Police Department
By Franklin Tucker | Email the author | October 15, 2010
Oct. 9 – At 8:20 a.m., police arrived at a Chandler Street home where they found a man standing outside his home with a suitcase by his side ready to leave for places unknown. Police talked to the girlfriend who said while they were arguing the night before, he pushed her against a wall. After that information was brought forth, the man was arrested. The man proceeded to incriminate himself further by using a false man at the booking. And it was discovered that he was in the country illegally. Federal immigration was called to help with Hector Amaya Sanchez, 28, of Chandler Street.
Parked car matches description of getaway auto in break-in case: Independence Police Blotter
Published: Thursday, October 21, 2010, 12:02 PM
Sun News staff
FALSIFICATION, INTERSTATE 77: A passenger in a car that police stopped on I-77 on Oct. 10 was being held for investigation by federal immigration authorities. The man, who gave a Cleveland address, showed a passport from Guatemala but gave a name police could not confirm. Police had stopped the car for illegally changing lanes.
Girl Assaulted By Fake 'Immigration' Doctor
Aurora Police Release Composite Sketch Of Man
Posted by Wayne Harrison, Web Editor
POSTED: 3:53 pm MDT October 21, 2010
AURORA, Colo. -- Aurora police are looking for a man they say approached a child near Lansing Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon and posed as a doctor to gain access to the child's home.
Police said the man told the 9-year-old girl that he was a doctor associated with "immigration" and that he needed to examine the child. Both parents were working at the time.
During the "examination," the child was sexually assaulted, police said.
The brother of the girl told 7NEWS the man showed up on their doorstep around 3 p.m.
"He said he was a doctor from immigration services," said the boy, whom 7NEWS is not identifying.
The man then asked to give his younger sister a checkup behind closed doors.
"My sister ran out and said he pulled down her pants," the boy said.
Shocked, the girl's brother showed the man out.
Speaking through an interpreter, the girl's father said he wants the man found before anyone else is subjected to another assault.
"I really want to catch this guy, not just for our family, but for the sake of other families as well," the girl's father said.
"He did it once and he could do it again," said Aurora police spokeswoman Shannon Lucy.
The man police are searching for is described as white, 40 to 50 years old, at least 6 feet tall, with a thin build. He has white or light-blond "curly" or "fluffy" hair, blue eyes and a mustache. Authorities said the man smelled strongly of cigarette smoke.
Neighbor Annie King called the police after seeing a man matching that description idling his car near the neighborhood school.
"It's really unnerving because it's a dead ringer for the guy that I saw this morning sitting in that car," King said.
Prostitution raids shut down massage parlors in Bucks County
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said eight spas were raided over the weekend.
By Tracy Jordan, OF THE MORNING CALL
3:48 p.m. EDT, October 25, 2010
Ten women working at massage parlors throughout Bucks County were rounded up and taken into custody Friday night on prostitution-related charges.
Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler said the women, all of South Korean or Asian descent, were operating out of eight massage parlors or "spas" in several communities, including Quakertown and Springfield, Nockamixon and Doylestown townships.
Heckler said the women were arraigned early Saturday morning, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency placed detainers against five of them after determining they entered the country illegally.
All of the businesses operated in a low-key manner, without generating complaints or nuisance calls to police, Heckler said. But the activities that police suspected went on behind closed doors needed to be investigated, Heckler said.
"I suspect many of the people who patronize these places aren't complaining," Heckler said. "The most troubling aspect of this whole endeavor is that many of the women live on site."
Heckler said the women are basically indentured servants, working as sex slaves to pay for their passage to the United States. Of the women arrested, five served as the madams or "momma-sans" of the establishments while the other five worked as prostitutes, Heckler said.
Heckler said the owners generally are based in New York City, and they sometimes monitor activities at their spas with streaming video over the internet. Heckler said he doesn't know if any camera or surveillance equipment was found during these most raids. Regardless, he said he doubts the investigation will lead to arrests further up the chain because the owners insulate themselves against prosecution.
The goal of the raids, Heckler said, was to show them that they can't operate freely in Bucks County.
"I'd like to make Bucks County an inhospitable and expensive place for them to do business," Heckler said.
Heckler said the detectives from his office began investigating the spas with local police agencies after a Springfield Township official approached him about the inability of local municipalities to conduct their own investigations because of limited manpower and resources.
Authorities raided two spas in Springfield Township, the Hilltop Spa and Wellness Center Spa, just south of Coopersburg on Route 309. The West End Spa on Route 309 in Quakertown also was raided.
Route 309 from Coopersburg south to Montgomeryville has over the years become a gauntlet of sex-oriented businesses, including at least three adult book stores and two female dance clubs..
The raid Friday night also targeted two massage parlors on Route 611, the Sun Acupressure massage parlor in Doylestown Township and the Pine Tree Spa in Nockamixon Township near Ottsville. Other spas in lower Bucks County also were raided, Heckler said.
The raids followed visits to the establishments by local police and county detectives who went undercover to get evidence of the women soliciting money for sex, but the investigators did not engage in the illegal activities, Heckler said.
The women were arraigned before District Judge Maggie Snow in Buckingham Saturday and sent to Bucks County jail. Heckler said five of them are eligible to post bail, but the five being held on immigration detainers will remain in jail until their cases are prosecuted.
Battered wife faces deportation to El Salvador
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, October 25, 2010
A Mountain View woman who fled a violent husband and entered the United States illegally in 1995 faces imminent deportation to El Salvador, where her husband has been looking for her, her lawyer said Monday.
Irma Medrano, 44, is being held by immigration authorities at a jail in Yuba City and could be deported as soon as Tuesday, said attorney Aubra Fletcher. She said the government has refused to delay Medrano's case to let her apply for political asylum and has disputed her claim that her life would be in danger in El Salvador.
Medrano's relatives in San Salvador have reported that her husband has come to look for her after he learned that she was on the verge of being deported, Fletcher said. She said police protection has improved little since the early 1990s, when Medrano's husband tried to strangle her with a belt and a police officer allegedly told her, "We can't do anything because it's your husband."
But lawyers for the Department of Homeland Security said conditions for women have improved in El Salvador. The number of female legislators and Supreme Court justices has increased, the government said, and police nationwide have undergone training in preventing rape and child abuse.
"The government and police of El Salvador are far more willing and far better able to address (Medrano's) concerns regarding her husband," government lawyers told the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is considering her case.
Medrano's case "has undergone exhaustive review by judges at all levels of our legal system," said Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Federal courts have ruled that victims of domestic violence who enter the United States illegally can qualify for asylum by showing that their homeland government is unable or unwilling to protect them.
Medrano's lawyers have cited a State Department report in March that found rape remained widespread in El Salvador, rape laws were not effectively enforced, and domestic violence "was considered socially acceptable by a large portion of the population."
Medrano said she left her homeland after years of abuse and settled in the Bay Area, where her sister, who had left El Salvador under similar circumstances, is now a U.S. citizen. Medrano left her two children with relatives in El Salvador and now has two more children, both U.S. citizens, with another man who was later deported.
She gained temporary legal status in 2001 when the United States granted refuge to Salvadorans because of an earthquake in their country. But her status was revoked because of two misdemeanor traffic convictions, for a hit-and-run causing property damage and driving without a license, and authorities moved to deport her in 2006.
Immigration courts rejected her claim for legal residence, saying she had not shown that her children would suffer extraordinary hardship if she were deported.
After learning that Medrano's husband has been looking for her, her new lawyers urged the immigration board to consider her application for asylum.
Medrano, who works at a supermarket in Mountain View, reported to a San Francisco immigration office Thursday for a routine weekly check-in and was taken into custody and transported to Yuba City to await deportation, Fletcher said.
Her sister, Paula Cano of Hayward, sobbed Monday while describing how she took Medrano's 12-year-old daughter to see her mother in jail over the weekend, leaving her 9-year-old son at home.
"These two kids, they need their mom," Cano said. "We're scared for her. ... I don't know why they want to do this to her."
Bulgarian who took name of dead boy to work for Oregon's liquor control commission will plead guilty to federal charges (The Oregonian)
Bulgarian who took name of dead boy to work for Oregon's liquor control commission will plead guilty to federal charges
Published: Monday, October 25, 2010, 2:57 PM
Bryan Denson, The Oregonian
The Bulgarian national accused of using a stolen name to take a job with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission will plead guilty next week to at least one federal crime, according to court records.
Doitchin Krastev is scheduled to change his plea before U.S. District Judge James A. Redden in Portland on Nov. 3.
Government prosecutors accuse Krastev of two felony crimes: making a false statement on a passport, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and aggravated identity theft, which carries a two-year mandatory minimum sentence.
Krastev came to the United States as a student in the late 1990s and later attended college before vanishing. He eventually surfaced in Colorado using the name Daniel Kaiser.
Fourteen years ago, the computer-savvy Bulgarian began going as Jason Robert Evers, according to the government. The real Jason Evers was 3 years old in 1982, when he was kidnapped and murdered near his Ohio home.
Krastev solidified his new name by obtaining a birth certificate, Social Security number, Oregon driver's license, voter registration and passport in the name of Jason Robert Evers, according to public records and government accounts.
Using the name Evers, Krastev went to work eight years ago for the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. He became a rising star as an inspector and investigator for the state agency that regulates alcohol sales.
His ruse was undone last spring, when the U.S. Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service ran the identifications of dead Americans with a database of new passport applications. Agents soon arrested Krastev, who for a time refused to provide his real name out of what he described as "safety issues."
After his arrest, Krastev resigned from the liquor control commission.
Last summer, a federal granted Krastev's request to be married while he awaited trial in the Inverness Jail in Portland. But it appears Krastev hasn't yet filed the paperwork that would allow a member of the clergy to preside over the marriage inside the jail, according to Lt. Mary Lindstrand, a spokeswoman for the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office.
Krastev's immigration status remains in question, too. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement declined comment on the case Monday. But the agency typically waits until after a foreigner pleads guilty to a crime before deciding whether to begin deportation proceedings.
Sheriff: Deputy shoots illegal immigrant after knife attack near Edinburg
October 25, 2010 11:23 AM
NEAR EDINBURG — Sheriff's deputies said they shot a man who allegedly attacked them with a knife late Sunday night.
The incident occurred about 11:58 p.m. Sunday at 6609 Valero Lane near Edinburg, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said in a statement. Deputies shot Ubaldo Martinez, 41, once in the lower leg after he allegedly tried to stab another deputy about 20 minutes before at the intersection of Tower and Richardson roads.
That attempted stabbing prompted deputies to chase Martinez when he fled the scene to his residence on Valero Drive.
There, Martinez was found hiding beneath his mobile home. Deputies ordered him to come out.
Martinez crawled out from beneath the home armed with a knife and a piece of wood, deputies said. Deputies told him to drop his weapons. Martinez refused, lunging at the deputies, with one firing two gunshots. One hit Martinez in the leg.
Despite the gunshot, deputies said Martinez continued to attack deputies, tossing rocks and dirt-filled 5-gallon buckets, shattering the windshield of a sheriff's office vehicle during the confrontation.
Deputies eventually subdued Martinez and arrested him.
Investigators said Martinez is an illegal immigrant previously arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in April 2001 and April 2002. Texas Department of Public Safety troopers arrested him for driving while intoxicated in February 2006 and July 2007.
During both DWI arrests, Martinez bonded out of jail before federal authorities flagged him as an illegal immigrant, sheriff's investigators said.
Federal authorities have flagged Martinez as an illegal immigrant, placing a detainer on him for deportation after he faces state criminal charges.
The deputy who shot Martinez has been placed on administrative leave pending a criminal investigation by the sheriff's office officer-involved shooting team and a review by the internal affairs unit, Treviño said.
Treviño refused to identify the deputies involved in the incident "until it is ascertained that their lives are not in danger from retaliation attacks," he said in a statement.
"Family members have stated that Martinez has deep hatred for police officer(s) and had threatened to kill them," the sheriff said.
Man Held on Immigration Charge
by John Lupton
Two Stamford men were arrested on drug charges Saturday night after they were spotted drinking in their car in Veterans Park after curfew. One of the pair was also held on immigration charges. When Josue Contreras-Raymundo, 23, of 22 Anthony St. and Oscar Robert Noguera-Gomez, 26, of 25 Hazel St. were questioned by police, the officers detected the smell of marijuana.
Police searched both men and found a plastic bag of marijuana on Contreras-Raymundo in addition to a 9-inch steak knife. A 4½-inch marijuana cigar was found in Noguera-Gomez’s back pocket.
When the men were not able to produce identification, they were told to contact relatives for proof. The Resident Alien Card produced for Contreras-Raymundo was forged and listed an address in the Bronx.
Video shows raid of Kansas City night club that end in dozens of citations
Posted: 10/25/2010 4:43 AM
By: Lindsay Shively and Aaron Heintzelman
KANSAS CITY, Missouri - Federal agents raided a Kansas City night club Sunday night and issued citations to dozens of people witnesses say may now face deportation.
An NBC Action News crew was at Club Oasis, 2805 Southwest Blvd., around 12:30 a.m. Monday as dozens of people exited the club with citations.
Cell phone video from a patron inside the club shows the raid in progress.
People inside the club say they thought authorities were issuing tickets for underage drinkers until they saw immigration and customs enforcement agents
One woman we talked with says people without proper identification and a criminal record were arrested and those without proper ID and no criminal record were given citations. She estimated about 20 people were taken into custody and as many as 200 more cited.
Investigators would only say early Monday there was a police presence at the club overnight, but no further information was released about the citations and reported arrests.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Illegal immigrant's case motivates advocates in Kalamazoo
Published: Saturday, October 23, 2010, 6:58 PM
Chris Killian | Special to the Kalamazoo Gazette
KALAMAZOO — Just moments after a jury declared Sergio Vargas-Rodriguez guilty of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, the 44-year-old victim of the crime stood outside the courtroom, trembling with nerves.
“Justice was done,” she said through an interpreter. “That’s what I was looking for. I did this not for just myself, but for any woman who might go through this in the future. I did it so that others can have justice, too.”
In many ways, the woman, who the Kalamazoo Gazette is not naming because she is the victim of a sex crime, is unique in her reporting of the assault, according to area law-enforcement and immigrant-advocacy agencies.
The reason: She is an undocumented immigrant, and in coming forward to authorities in March to report the crime, which Vargas-Rodriguez — a former co-worker of hers at Elzinga & Hoeksema Greenhouse in Portage — committed at her Kalamazoo home in July 2008, she made her illegal immigration status known, opening herself to potential deportation back to her native Mexico.
Suffering in silence
It’s rare for undocumented immigrants to step out of the shadows and report crimes against them, immigrant advocates say. It’s even more rare for them to get a conviction.
The woman, a mother of three who has lived in Kalamazoo for about five years, did both.
Now the woman’s story has prompted several area worker and civil rights advocacy groups to band together to form a coalition to provide resources and assistance to other undocumented immigrants who have been harassed at work or have had crimes committed against them.
“We are going to stand united,” said Lori Mercedes, interim director of the Hispanic American Council, at a meeting last Tuesday of participating groups. “We are standing and saying that we are not going to stand for these violations of human rights.”
Mercedes said it was the responsibility of the groups that comprise the fledgling coalition, which includes the council, YWCA, Kalamazoo chapter of the NAACP, Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy & Action in the Community (ISAAC), Michigan Organizing Project and others, to follow their “duty to advocate for those who can’t. This woman’s case just scratches the surface.”
Members of the groups were to head to local churches today to let those in the undocumented immigrant community know of a meeting scheduled for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the council, where they will be educated about their rights and given information about the resources that are available to them.
The local push to advocate for undocumented immigrants’ civil rights comes as a majority of Americans favor the deportation of all those in the country illegally.
A nationwide survey performed earlier this year by polling firm Zogby International that sought opinions on illegal immigration found that 60 percent of respondents support “cracking down on illegal immigration by toughening the enforcement of existing laws, deporting illegal immigrants and prosecuting the employers who illegally employ workers,” according to the survey.
There were 10.8 million undocumented immigrants in the United States as of January 2009, 300,000 more than in 2005, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Overcoming the fear
The woman who was assaulted said she waited years to report it because she feared being deported.
In the time between the assault and when she filed a report with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office, she said she endured frequent harassment from Vargas-Rodriguez while on the job.
In July 2008, Vargas-Rodriguez, 35, came to the woman’s Kalamazoo home, where he exposed himself, touched her breasts, tried to kiss her and grabbed her hand, placing it on his exposed self.
The woman managed to get Vargas-Rodriguez off her and out of her home, but not before he told her that she shouldn’t bother calling the police because she is an undocumented immigrant and they would deport her.
Over the course of the remaining 2008 growing season at the greenhouse, through the 2009 season and into the 2010 season, Vargas-Rodriguez harassed the woman at work, she testified at his trial, sometimes grabbing himself as he walked past her and saying to her “this is what you want.”
Fear kept her from reporting the assault for two years.
That fear, although real, should not be an impediment to illegal immigrants in reporting a crime or injustice, whether it’s harassment at work, domestic violence in the home or other wrongdoing against them, said Phillip Cruz, program coordinator for the council.
“The focus should not be on someone’s status, the focus should be on what’s being done to another human being,” Cruz said. “This is about someone’s civil rights.”
The woman’s bravery in coming forward should not be under-emphasized, many at the meeting said. In a best-case scenario, her story could serve as a springboard for more undocumented immigrants who are victims of abuse, harassment or other crimes to come forward, too.
“This was a one-in-a-thousand example,” said John Musik, director of the Michigan Organizing Project. “She was willing to stand up and fight. This population is so vulnerable and so powerless that they aren’t going to come forward until they find out it’s with impunity. I hope and pray that what she did is an example to others and we get a lot more to do the same.”
“We need to capitalize on this story,” Mercedes added. “This could be just the beginning.”
One possible pathway to ease the anxiety that undocumented immigrants have is a U-Visa, a program through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that provides undocumented immigrants who are the victims of violent crimes, such as sexual assaults, with a four-year temporary status card.
After three years, the immigrant can apply for citizenship. About 10,000 U-Visas are granted annually.
The U-Visa, which the woman has not applied for, is “kind of like a tool” law enforcement can use to get an undocumented immigrant to cooperate with crime investigations, said Susan Reed, an immigration attorney with the Michigan Poverty Law Program’s Immigration Law Task Force.
Reed said most employment laws have protections for workers regardless of legal status. But with undocumented immigrants so wary of coming forward to report violations of those protections — which range from personal health and safety to harassment — those protections are essentially voided because reporting them is so unlikely among that population.
“No matter what choice you made about crossing the border, you shouldn’t have to worry about being sexually harassed at work,” Reed said. “When there’s a segment of our population that is vulnerable, it makes everyone vulnerable because it lowers the standard of working conditions for all workers. It’s not them vs. us because they are us.”
Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Fink said his office rarely sees cases involving undocumented immigrants.
But if an undocumented immigrant does come forward to report a crime, the person’s immigration status takes a back seat to the main objective: Research the allegations, file charges if evidence of wrongdoing is found and then prosecute the case.
“The two issues are separate,” Fink said. “When you are looking at a criminal case, the whole community is involved and someone needs to be held to account. Citizen or non-citizen, we represent the victim because they are part of the community.”
Fink said it’s hard to determine how prevalent harassment and abuse of the area’s undocumented immigrant population is because most of the population keeps such a low profile.
“If you don’t see it, how do you know?” he said. “It’s like trying to prove a negative. How often it happens, we just don’t know.”
Fink said he didn’t know if Vargas-Rodriguez, who is from Mexico, is in the country legally. He did say that, since his office is not certain of his legal status, his case would be sent to federal immigration officials for review.
The policy at the prosecutor’s office is to inform U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials when a non-citizen is found guilty of a felony, he said. Vargas-Rodriguez was convicted of a “high-court misdemeanor,” considered a serious misdemeanor that is tried in circuit court, which prompted Fink’s office to decide to file the case with federal authorities after he is sentenced on Nov. 29.
A widespread problem
The National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, performed a survey of Latinos in Davidson County in Tennessee to find out, among other things, what the likelihood was for the Latino community there to report crime given the cloud of potential deportation hanging over them.
In the report, released this month, 42 percent of respondents said they knew of crime that had not been reported to police and 54 percent said that if they knew of crime in the future, they would not report it.
“… the survey indicated that much of the apprehension reported by Latino survey participants was related to immigration enforcement and fear of possible deportation,” according to the report.
“This is just a tiny snapshot of what we know is happening all over the country,” said Laura Vazquez, immigration legislative analyst for La Raza. “What is clear is that it is in the interest of a community that police have the ability to investigate crime and protect the community.”
The potential for deportation creates a chilling effect on undocumented workers, Vazquez said, which is frustrating for victims and law enforcement alike, especially public-safety agencies that have worked hard to develop good relationships with groups that work with immigrant communities, like the Hispanic American Council.
Moreover, when an undocumented worker does come forward to report a crime, like the woman did, it can have a negative ripple effect across a community’s entire undocumented immigrant population, making them head deeper into the shadows.
Anxieties are high locally that a raid by federal immigration agents is a possibility, Mercedes said.
“Word spreads quickly,” Vazquez said. “It can have a ripple effect that makes others not come forward.”
But that’s exactly what the newly formed local advocacy group is trying to stem.
“They need to know that they have a place to go,” Mercedes said. “When it comes to immigration law, there’s nothing we can do. But we can advocate for their civil rights.”
Those involved suggest that the discussion on bringing more victims out of the shadows would not be happening with as much intensity as it is now had the woman not taken the steps she did, overcoming her fear to make an injustice known.
“Those who don’t speak sometimes have the loudest voices,” Reed said.
Appeals, petition help keep Ugandan here
BY DAN HORN • DHORN@ENQUIRER.COM • OCTOBER 23, 2010
A Ugandan woman who claimed her life was in danger in her home country won a reprieve from immigration officials last week and will get to stay in Cincinnati.
Cissy Lyagoba, who fled Uganda in 1994, faced deportation when local Catholic groups and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur took up her cause earlier this year and launched a letter-writing campaign on her behalf.
Her lawyer said the personal appeals, including a petition drive, may have convinced authorities to take a closer look at Lyagoba's case and reconsider their position.
"I had lost the legal battle, but they took the ball and ran with it," said Lyagoba's lawyer, Firooz Namei. "It's over. She doesn't have to be deported."
Lyagoba's case began in 1994 when she came to the United States and applied for asylum, claiming her first husband was abducted and killed in Uganda because of his political activities. She later married a fellow Ugandan refugee and started a family.
Her new husband, Grace Mbeine, was granted asylum, but Lyagoba's request was denied.
Her appeal was filed late and several courts rejected her attempts to reopen the case, although some judges expressed sympathy for her situation.
Lyagoba, who has two daughters, came to the attention of local Catholic activists after she was jailed for six months while awaiting deportation. U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, D-West Price Hill, also lobbied immigration officials on her behalf.
They argued that Lyagoba had done nothing wrong and that her asylum appeal lost only because a previous lawyer missed a filing deadline.
Namei said she finally got the break she's been waiting for last week, when officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agreed to lift the deportation order and send her case back to an immigration judge. ICE officials confirmed the move but declined to comment.
The decision essentially ends Lyagoba's case because she now is eligible for "permanent resident" status based on her husband's U.S. citizenship.
287(g) deportation program snags few felons, memos from feds show
Critics hit deportation program
BY NATE RAU • THE TENNESSEAN • OCTOBER 24, 2010
Earlier this year, federal officials decided the Davidson County Sheriff's 287(g) program that screens the immigration status of incarcerated foreign nationals was targeting too many minor criminal offenders and not enough felons.
Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall's controversial program is supposed to place a priority on screening foreign nationals who are accused of committing serious felonies, according to last year's revised 287(g) agreement between Metro and the federal government.
But internal U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement memos obtained by The Tennessean show that Hall's program was screening more than twice as many people with minor offenses as those with crimes such as murder, robbery and rape. An ICE memo from April shows that 73 percent of those screened by 287(g) in Nashville during the latter part of 2009 were arrested for minor offenses, while just 13 percent had been arrested for serious crimes.
The question then becomes: Is 287(g) serving the intended purpose of targeting dangerous criminals given the large number of minor offenders screened by county jailers? Immigrant advocates and court filings in aggressive litigation targeting Hall's program say the program is not working as intended.
The 2009 figures are consistent with the track record of 287(g) in Nashville since the program was put in place in 2007, with 66 percent of those screened over the life of the program having only misdemeanor citations or arrests — not violent crimes or felonies. The program is an offshoot of federal immigration law that empowers local jails to act as extensions of ICE.
"By focusing on all these minor traffic offenders, it does take police officers off the street, and all these administrators to process it," said Gregg Ramos, a Nashville attorney and former member of the sheriff's 287(g) advisory council. "In the end I submit we're less safe."
Feds Question Screenings
ICE officials began asking questions this spring about the effectiveness of the Nashville program and its impact on violent crime.
In a July memo, ICE officials asked regional field officers to explain why nine different 287(g) programs, including Nashville, had such a disproportionate number of people screened for minor crimes. According to an audit that covered October through December of last year, 73 percent of those screened by 287(g) had been arrested for minor offenses. Just 13 percent were arrested for major felonies.
The disproportionate totals sounded alarm bells for federal officials, who just a year earlier had shifted the focus of 287(g) to prioritize "criminal aliens who are a threat to local communities," according to a separate ICE memo.
A second audit by ICE of Nashville's program from January through March of this year showed the numbers of those screened for minor crimes dropped to 36 percent.
The audit pointed out that the sheriff's only function in 287(g) is to check the immigration status of foreign-born prisoners and that the Metro police department is responsible for enforcing the law and making arrests. Hall would not address the memos, citing ongoing litigation in which the memos are exhibits. Metro police said the number of traffic stops this year is similar to 2009.
The series of ICE memos suggest federal officials were satisfied with the corrective action and that the Nashville program received no additional scrutiny.
Sheriff's data show the 2009 figures are more reflective of the performance of 287(g) through the years.
Since 287(g) was put into place in 2007, the Sheriff's office has screened the immigration status of 12,486 foreign nationals cited and arrested for everything from murder to fishing without a license, according to data obtained in an open records request by the newspaper.
Of those, more than 7,250 immigrants have been processed for removal because of Nashville's 287(g) program. The sheriff's office could not say how many of those processed for deportation came from misdemeanors or felony arrests.
According to the sheriff's office data, 66 percent of those screened through 287(g) since 2007 were arrested for misdemeanors, while 34 percent were arrested for a felony crime.
The crime that most frequently leads to being screened by 287(g) is driving without a license. Through September, 4,397 foreign-born prisoners initially arrested for driving without a license had their immigration status checked through 287(g), according to data provided by the sheriff's office.
Hall Defends Program
This past week, Hall defended the practice of screening everyone who comes through the jail, because doing so has led to deporting illegal immigrants with violent criminal pasts. He pointed to David Medina-Valasquez, who was arrested for driving without a license but had criminal convictions for crimes against children in California.
"If you said, only look at felony offenders, then (people like Medina-Valasquez) would not have been identified," Hall said.
"The point we're trying to make is, the charge seems fairly trivial," Hall added. "It's a question of, 'Why not just cite the person?' That's a police question. I don't know why he wasn't cited. But once he came to jail, this is what was discovered about him."
Hall dismissed the notion some immigrants are being deported for not having a driver's license.
"It is false to say that the only reason he was deported was because he had no driver's license," Hall said. "No, he was deported, because he had been deported before. He was arrested because he didn't have a license, and he didn't have any identification."
The sheriff would not answer any questions regarding the ICE memos because of the ongoing lawsuit from former inmate Juana Villegas. Villegas was nine months pregnant when she was detained by 287(g) in 2008, after being arrested for a traffic violation and driving without a license. She later gave birth while in sheriff's custody and then filed a lawsuit alleging she was mistreated.
But Hall did face questions about the high percentage of immigrants screened for minor crimes during his deposition for the Villegas case.
The sheriff, who was re-elected to a third term in August, said the purpose of 287(g) has always been to check the immigration status of every prisoner who enters the jail.
"So what happens to you has never been our decision," Hall said during his deposition for the Villegas lawsuit. "We are going to screen everybody."
Immigration advocates say 287(g) has missed its mark by not focusing strictly on violent criminals.
"There's plenty of people out there who the sheriff can concentrate on who are in fact dangerous offenders," Ramos said. "That alone will make this a much safer community."
Last year, Metro Council approved extending the 287(g) program until 2012.
Immigrant vets face deportation despite service
By JULIANA BARBASSA
Associated Press Writer
Published: Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010 - 9:07 am
Last Modified: Sunday, Oct. 24, 2010 - 10:47 am
SAN FRANCISCO -- When Rohan Coombs joined the U.S. Marine Corps, he never thought one day he would be locked up in an immigration detention center and facing deportation from the country he had vowed to defend.
Coombs, 43, born in Jamaica, immigrated to the United States legally as a child with his family. He signed up to serve his adopted nation for six years - first in Japan and the Philippines, then in the Persian Gulf during the first war with Iraq.
Up to 8,000 non-citizens enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces every year and serve alongside American troops. As of May 2010, there were 16,966 non-citizens on active duty. The military does not allow illegal immigrants to enlist.
If non-citizens die while serving, they are given citizenship and a military funeral. If they live and get in trouble with the law, as Coombs did, they can get caught in the net of a 1996 immigration law that greatly expanded the list of crimes for which non-citizens can be deported.
"As far as I was concerned, I was a citizen," said Coombs, whose soft-spoken, introspective nature contrast with his physical presence. Coombs stands 6 foot 5 and weighs more than 260 pounds - a gentle giant, according to his fiancee, Robyn Sword.
Now advocates of non-citizen servicemen and women are trying to change that. Attorneys are taking cases like Coombs' to court, arguing that an immigrant who serves in the Armed Forces should be considered a U.S. national and protected from deportation.
"These are people who served us - whether they are model human beings or not," said Coombs' attorney, Craig Shagin of Harrisburg, Pa. "They served in our uniforms, in our wars. If they were POWs, they'd be considered American prisoners."
Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, is looking into potential changes to the law so immigrants who serve in the military can avoid deportation.
"You come back from Iraq or Afghanistan today, you have put yourself on the line for this country," said Filner. "An incredible number of kids come back with an injury or illness that puts them in trouble with the law. To simply have these people deported is not a good way to thank them for their service."
Advocates estimate that thousands of veterans have been deported or are in detention. Government officials say they have no tally but plan to begin tracking the numbers.
The push comes as criminal courts are increasingly listening to arguments for leniency for veterans.
So-called veterans courts, which give them specialized treatment, now number more than 30, with a dozen more planned.
Next month, new U.S. Sentencing Commission rules will make it possible for federal judges to consider a criminal defendant's military service and mental and emotional condition to issue a lesser prison sentence. The rules, however, would not apply to immigration judges.
Most immigrants serve with distinction. The Center for Naval Analyses, a federally funded research and development center for the Navy and the Marine Corps, found that non-citizens are far more likely to complete their enlistment obligations successfully than their U.S.-born counterparts.
Coombs was one who did not make the grade.
He spent 10 months in the Persian Gulf and lost friends to combat, he said. After the war, he felt depressed and anxious. His family was far away in New York, and he said "whining" to fellow Marines didn't seem an option.
Instead, he got involved with drugs, and he got caught.
In 1992, he was court-martialed for possession of cocaine and marijuana with the intent to distribute, and was given 18 months of confinement and a dishonorable discharge.
He continued to struggle with drugs.
"Things would be going well, then something would happen," he said.
He got married, and that helped. When his wife died in 2001 of diabetes-related complications, he started smoking marijuana again.
In 2008, he was busted for selling marijuana to an undercover officer while working as a bouncer in an Orange County bar. He spent eight months in state prison.
"I don't want to make excuses. I made mistakes. I thought I knew the consequences - I served my time," he said in a telephone interview.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement found that his criminal convictions made him eligible for deportation, and he was turned over to ICE after serving his sentence. He has been held in a San Diego immigration detention center for 22 months and is appealing to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court.
Coombs was stunned to realize he could be forced to leave the country for his crimes.
"This is the only life I've known," he said. "The only time I left this country was when I was deployed overseas. This is my home."
On the other side of the country, Dardar Paye is appealing his deportation case to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
Paye came to the U.S. from war torn Liberia as a 13-year-old. He joined the Army in 1998, serving in Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Fox and then in a NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. He returned to New Jersey, where his family lives, to spend another year and a half with the Army National Guard.
In 2008, he was convicted of six weapons-related offenses, including two involving firearms dealing, and served time in federal prison. Now, like Coombs, he is facing deportation and is feeling betrayed.
"When I was in Kuwait, in Kosovo, I was like everyone else who was there, putting their lives on the line," said Paye, who in the Army was an armored vehicle crewman. "Now I feel like they just used me for what they wanted, and now they're throwing me away."
Advocates and immigration attorneys say that before the 1996 Illegal Immigrant Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, few immigrant veterans were deported, because immigration authorities could take their service into consideration.
The law added crimes such as drug possession for sale to the list of serious crimes that could lead to deportation of a legal immigrant.
"Drugs, anger management, weapons charges, that's what a lot of vets are getting caught for, and there is no relief," said Margaret Stock, a recently retired Army reservist and immigration attorney who taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point. "The 1996 law really put the nails in their coffin."
Coombs' attorneys, Shagin and Heather Boxeth of San Diego, Calif., who have represented or advised immigrant veterans in similar straits, estimate up to 4,000 veterans who served as long ago as World War II are now in immigration detention or have been deported, but acknowledge that there are no hard numbers.
ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said identifying and removing dangerous criminals from the country is an agency priority - and that the cases of people with prior military service are carefully reviewed.
Meantime, the military has started to offer a fast-track to citizenship to immigrants currently serving. Now, most joining the Army can expect to be citizens by the end of basic training, said Stock. Other branches are expected to join the effort by the end of the year.
That help doesn't extend to those who have already served such as Paye and Coombs.
"If I had died," said Coombs, they would have made me a citizen, given me a military funeral, and given the flag to my mom. But I didn't die. Here I am. I just want another chance."
Friday, October 22, 2010
One couple's fight
By ALICE ZHANG
Published: Friday, October 22nd, 2010
When Joshua Vandiver GS met Henri Velandia, his future husband, in 2006, he never imagined that he would be fighting to save him from deportation less than four years later.
Vandiver and Velandia were married Aug. 29 in Connecticut. But Velandia’s application for a work visa was denied and his current visa has expired, which means that he now risks being deported to Venezuela, his home country.
Typically, foreigners married to American citizens can obtain green cards through sponsorship from their spouses. But the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman for all federal laws, including immigration regulations. The law means that no member of a same-sex married couple can sponsor a spouse’s application for legal residency.
“It’s frustrating to find my passion and the love of my life, yet still run the risk of deportation,” Velandia said. He will appear before an immigration judge in Newark, N.J., on Nov. 17.
Velandia and Vandiver are now fighting for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. They are also appealing to members of Congress to immediately cease deportation hearings against foreign-born spouses of U.S. citizens.
“Part of our fight is to bring awareness to people and make them see what’s really going on in this issue that nobody is talking about,” Velandia explained.
The couple hosted a presentation about their campaign Thursday afternoon in Whitman College, and they have launched a Facebook group — “Save our Marriage – Stop the Deportation of Henry [sic] Velandia” — that has gained more than 1,000 supporters in two days.
On Thursday afternoon, Vandiver and Velandia spoke with Rep. Rush Holt, who was on campus to speak at an event sponsored by College Democrats and Tigers for Israel. During a question-and-answer session following Holt’s speech, Vandiver asked Holt to appeal to the Department of Homeland Security to cease deportations of spouses of U.S. citizens while debate on the Defense of Marriage Act continues. Holt said that he was opposed to the law and was in support of gay rights.
Vandiver, who is from Colorado, received his undergraduate degree from Harvard, spent a year at Oxford and is now in his sixth year of study for his Ph.D. in the politics department at Princeton.
Velandia, who met Vandiver online, emigrated from Venezuela in 2002. “I started from zero in this country — new language, new culture,” he said.
In the United States, Velandia took up salsa dancing and founded his own dance school, HotSalsaHot. He has appeared in the Spanish-language television show “Mira Quien Baila” and now teaches salsa five days a week at his dance school. He also teaches dance classes in Whitman College.
Current undergraduates who know the couple spoke about Velandia’s importance to the University community.
“It’s very sad and disappointing that if this were a straight couple, their marriage would be recognized,” said Lexi Meyer ’11, who takes dance lessons from Velandia and has had Vandiver as her preceptor. “Henry’s not a graduate student, but he still contributes what he can to the campus culture and has cultivated a great group dynamic.”
Graham Ezzy ’11, who had Vandiver as his preceptor and resident graduate student in Whitman, said, “The saddest part is that he’s really established a life here. To see that disrupted when it’s clearly only benefiting is annoying.”
Vandiver and Velandia ultimately acknowledged that their commitment to one another is more important than the location of their residence.
“We would be willing to leave this country together and go someplace like the U.K. or Europe or Canada where we could be together, but I don’t want to be a refugee in my own country,” Vandiver said. “I never imagined that I would face this kind of discrimination from my own country and potentially have to flee it to be with the one I love.”
GR biz owner admits hiring illegals
Oswaldo Garces ran Clean-Tech Services
By Henry Erb
Published : Thursday, 21 Oct 2010, 3:55 PM EDT
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A well-known Grand Rapids businessman pleaded guilty to a felony in Federal Court to falsely claiming three of his employees were in the country legally when they were not.
Oswaldo Garces ran Clean-Tech Services, a janitorial firm that had contracts with a number of downtown offices, including City Hall.
The indictment to which he admitted guilt said he submitted eligibility forms to the government, saying he had examined three employee documents and they appeared to be genuine. In fact, he knew they were not.
He also admitted to a misdemeanor charge of continuing their employment once he knew they were unauthorized to be in the US.
Garces, 48, faces up to 10 years in prison on the felony charge, and another six months on the misdemeanor. He may also be deported to his native Ecuador.
Vt. police arrest 2 illegal immigrants
The Associated Press
Friday, Oct. 22, 2010
ORWELL, Vt. -- Vermont State Police say a traffic stop led to the discovery of two illegal immigrants who've been turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol.
A trooper stopped Jose Tomas Flores Rocha for going 72 miles per hour in a 50-mph zone late Thursday in Orwell. The car had expired Mississippi plates.
Investigation revealed that Rocha and passenger Paola Lopez-Sarmiento, both of Aloha, Ore., were illegal immigrants, so they were turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol.
ICE nets 3 foreign fugitives in South Fla.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted on Friday, 10.22.10
MIAMI -- A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement effort to track down foreign fugitives has led to three captures in South Florida.
ICE officials say the arrests include a Honduran man sought for the slaying of a former government minister and a man wanted for murder in the Dominican Republic. A third arrest involved a Honduran allegedly involved in firearms and explosives crimes.
The arrests were part of an ICE initiative with the Interpol organization to find fugitives believed living in the U.S. The three South Florida cases were among 20 arrests nationwide, eight of them for murders.
Those arrested will be returned to face charges in their home countries.
The so-called "Operation Far Away" will continue until Oct. 31.
Elgin police and feds target illegals who commit felonies
By Steven Ross Johnson
Oct 21, 2010 08:32PM
ELGIN — The police department recently launched new efforts targeting illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes.
Police Chief Jeffrey Swoboda said the department last week became the first in the area to have one of its officers to join a federal task force aimed at finding foreign-born gang members with questionable residency status.
Swoboda said the move is designed to further strengthen the relationship between Elgin police and federal authorities by helping them find people who have been arrested in Elgin but were released despite being sought by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
All foreign-born people arrested in Elgin have their identities checked through the Immigration Alien Query database to verify their residency status.
In addition, the federal government contracts to use the city jail to house ICE detainees for up to 72 hours.
“We give ICE a chance to say if they want to talk with the person” arrested, Swoboda said, “and they can put a detainer on them.”
“However, at times, they will get back to us after the person has already bonded out, because sometimes they can be delayed in their response to us.”
He said the role of the officer assigned to what he described as a “public safety gang unit” is to help ICE agents find those who already have been released.
“It did look foolish when we had someone in our custody who bonds out and then ICE says, ‘Hey, we’ve got a detainer for that person,’ ” Swoboda said. “What this does is give us a tool to actually go back out with ICE to locate that person.”
The gang unit, which investigates gang activity throughout all of northern Illinois, is the latest development in a series of cooperative efforts Elgin police have had with federal authorities over the last several years.
In June, the department announced that two detectives were being assigned to a regional Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, designed to target fraudulent identity document vendors.
Gary Hartwig, head of ICE’s Office of Investigations in Chicago, said such relationships with local law enforcement play a key role in disrupting street gangs whose criminal activities have expanded beyond local street corners over the years.
“Where most gangs had been kind of an on-the-street distribution level related to narcotics, a lot of gangs now — specifically transnational gangs like the Latin Kings — are becoming more and more involved in not just the distribution of narcotics through their street networks,” he said. “They’re also involved in the importation and transportation of narcotics and the subsequent cash back out of the country in relationship to major drug trafficking organizations in Mexico.”
Hartwig credited cooperative efforts such as those involving Elgin police with helping ICE arrest more than 280 gang members in this region so far this year, and with more than 4,000 nationwide. In Elgin, police have held 186 people for ICE since the beginning of January up to the end of September.
“They’re pivotal, absolutely pivotal,” Hartwig said of local law enforcement, “because they’re the people on the streets.”
Swoboda said a major part of the officer’s role in working with ICE will be to follow the cases of foreign-born defendants to identify those who, upon conviction, may violate their legal residency status.
In terms of illegal immigration enforcement, Swoboda said he is comfortable with the department’s approach of focusing on those who commit serious felonies as opposed to more sweeping measures, such as ones where people are detained based solely on questions over whether they are living in the area legally.
“Our ultimate goal is going after criminals, people who are committing felonies, people who are involved in gang activity, and sex offenders,” he said. “We are focusing our efforts on those people who are causing problems within the Elgin community and committing crimes.”
Woman arrested for harboring illegal immigrants
According to the reports, ICE officials received confidential information on human smuggling activities in a home in south Laredo.
Friday, October 22, 2010
By: The Laredo Sun
LAREDO, Texas -- Federal agents arrested a woman and a man who allegedly hid illegal immigrants inside their home. According to the reports, officials from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) received confidential information on smuggling activities in a home in south Laredo.
ICE appropriated surveillance in the area and confirmed suspicious movements, so they decided to go to investigate. When agents arrived knocked on the door, a woman gave permission to enter the home where authorities found about 20 people who were waiting to be transported north.
The Mexican nationals testified before the law that the suspects were heading to different cities like Austin and San Antonio after paying up to $3,000. ICE agents also detained the woman who was allegedly harboring illegal immigrants in the home.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
CCGBA board meets, hears report
Press staff reports CNHI The Tahlequah Daily Press
Thu Oct 21, 2010, 10:41 AM CDT
TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee County Governmental Building Authority members heard a brief report Wednesday from Detention Center Administrator Loyd Bickel.
Bickel’s report was the only item on the agenda other than paying the authority’s bills and approving payroll. Bickel’s report is given monthly and doesn’t require action to be taken by the board.
Bickel said 107 inmates were housed at the 150-bed facility Wednesday morning. Ten were being held in the booking area and one of the 10 is a juvenile.
Eighteen women were inmates there and one inmate was being held for immigration. Bickel said 14 were awaiting transport to a Department of Corrections facility and 15 are doing county jail sentences.
He said a person may be sentenced to serve up to a year in the county jail.
Pool game aftermath leads to double stabbing
October 20, 2010 - 6:23pm.
By Shannon Fiecke, Staff Writer
After blowing his money playing pool at a Shakopee bar two Sundays ago, an out-of-town roofer went back to his motel and started a fight that ended with two men being stabbed, according to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office.
One man, 20-year-old Edwardo Chavez-Hernandez, was wounded in his abdomen, chest and arms. He was taken by ambulance to St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, where emergency room staff stitched the wounds on his arms.
Another man, 24-year-old Hugo Sican from Fort Worth, Texas, was also cut, but did not require treatment.
The fight was allegedly started by Raymundo Rojas, 28, who was arrested and charged, and his brother, who fled the scene before police arrived.
According to the criminal complaint filed in Scott County District Court:
Raymundo Rojas and his brother, who were staying at the Hillview Motel near Highways 41 and 169, went with four men on Oct. 10 to a bar in Shakopee. Raymundo's brother lost playing pool and became angry.
After returning to the Hillview Motel, the Rojas brothers started a fight, witnesses said.
Raymundo Rojas waived a roofing knife back and forth, threatening other men, witnesses said. Sican told officers he was cut by Raymundo Rojas with a blue roofing knife.
Chavez-Hernandez told authorities he was stabbed after he saw people fighting outside his motel room and ran out to break up the fight.
He said the Rojas brothers attacked him and one used a knife to stab and slash him, but he did not know which one.
Raymundo Rojas, who reported a Fort Worth, Texas address, was charged in Scott County District Court with two counts of second-degree assault. An immigration hold has been placed on him.
Chavez-Hernandez, the stabbing victim who required medical attention, told deputies he was also from Texas but could not recall his address.
Bryan County safety reports
Posted: October 21, 2010 - 12:19am | Updated: October 21, 2010 - 3:18am
Driving under the influence
Oct. 9, 8:51 a.m. - RHPD Officer Ruben Acosta stopped Flavio Lopez of Glenville for driving 54 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone. Acosta arrested Lopez after he discovered he did not have a valid driver's license. While he was putting Lopez in the rear of his cruiser, Acosta noticed a strong odor of alcohol emitting from the man. A preliminary breath test indicated Lopez's blood alcohol content to be .137. An investigation into Lopez's legal status revealed he was wanted by U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Global human trafficking roundup
October 21st, 2010 10:22 am ET
Human Rights Examiner
Missouri: The trafficker who exploited immigrant workers with labor in Wyoming and 13 other states signed a plea agreement.He agreed to spend 10 years in jail and fully cooperate with federal authorities in providing information involving conspiracy. If he fail to cooperate fully, he will face 12 years in jail.
Canada: An alleged trafficker who brought workers from his home country, Hungary to Canada was granted bail. The number of victims by his trafficking ring was allegedly grown to 19, according to the report. His wife and son however are remanded in custody. He is ordered to remain in his residence and make no contact with alleged victims. He is also facing nine outstanding charges regarding immigration and Refugee Act.
Florida: A Fort Myers woman was arrested on domestic human trafficking charges. Police says that she forced four children into prostitution and drug dealing. If the children refused to comply, they were subject to beating with broomsticks and hangers. On one occasion, she beat a child with hammer, according to the report. The woman also left children unsupervised for hours without any food. A 35 year old woman gets 7 year jail term for smuggling and forcing her two Honduran sisters to work at a bar. The arrest was made after the police received the report on two women being forced to work at a bar to pay off their smuggling debts. Prosecutors also said that she forced the two women to drink, dance naked, and submit to men who fondled them at bars.
California: Police arrested two women during the undercover cop sting at local massage parlors. The police raid resulted from a large number of complaints from local residents on massage parlors. The report also indicates the ubiquity of brothels disguised as massage parlors in Redondo beach area. Though a john claims that these women work at their own will to support their family, police says it is more common for these women to work to pay of smuggling debts at a massage parlor. A man was sentenced 3 years in jail for pimping on 18 year old girl. He was also ordered to surrender $4000, his Cadillac, and laptop that he was carrying when he was arrested. The prosecutor said that because the victim was uncooperative, it was difficult for the prosecutor to press charges against the man. She also stated that given the circumstance, she considers outcome as positive.
October 20, 2010
One day in April, J. Dan Pelletier, a government adjudicator, faces a video camera in an Atlanta immigration court. At the same moment, in a Stewart Detention Center mini-court in the Georgia hinterland, two dozen men in orange and blue jumpsuits seated behind a low rail are watching Pelletier on a monitor wheeled in front of a vacant dais. Pelletier addresses the men brusquely: "I have been told each of you has admitted the allegations and conceded removability back to your home country. Is there anybody in this group that does not want an order of removal to their home country?"
Giving the men no time for comprehension or to summon the courage to reply, Pelletier pushes on, ignoring the rule requiring him to ascertain whether each individual is abandoning a claim to remain in the United States. The interpreter, also in Atlanta, repeats in Spanish, "Nobody said anything. Does each one accept this? Please respond in the affirmative." The men sit there, mute, befuddled, watching the cranky old man like they might watch any other bad TV. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) prosecutor sits quietly in front of the rail.
Pelletier says, "I'm asking each of you to please respond orally." A few say yes or sí in a tone bespeaking a desire to end their confinement and stop the badgering. Many say nothing. No one has a lawyer.
Pelletier, who has the job title "immigration judge" but is employed by the Justice Department and not the judiciary, says, "If you object, say something. If you remain silent I will issue the order in each case."
Immigration court rules state, "It would offend due process if the immigration judge obtains from the group a 'mass silent waiver of the right of appeal.'" Nonetheless, Pelletier says, "I will take their silence as a waiver of their right to appeal, and I will issue an order," deporting the men en masse. Guards usher them to the hall, but four men are agitated and lag behind. "Hey," says one, "I thought we were going to talk to the judge!" Too late, a guard says, and orders them into the hall. One obeys. The DHS prosecutor notices the commotion, and at my prompting, she requests that Pelletier reopen the cases of the three still there.
Victor, 24, has been in the United States lawfully since arriving from Guatemala when he was 3. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, targeted him because of a seven-month misdemeanor marijuana conviction.) The DHS attorney looks through his file and tells Pelletier that Victor's mother probably included him as a dependent on her asylum application. Pelletier says he is "not comfortable" issuing an order against him, adding, "You may have an unadjusted status," meaning that Victor can apply for legal residency and be free pending a final decision.
This is Victor's big break, his reward for fighting for a hearing. Victor, however, confused by Pelletier's expression of discomfort and irritated demeanor, to say nothing of the legal gobbledegook, says, "I'll take the removal because my daughter [a 2-year-old US citizen] needs my help, and I cannot do it behind bars." Suddenly Victor is heading to Guatemala, a country he hasn't seen since infancy.
Pelletier and his colleagues are able to run roughshod over the rights of US residents because the agency that runs immigration hearings, the pompous and obscurely titled Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), headquartered in Falls Church, Virginia, is a paranoid bureaucratic backwater that shields immigration judges from accountability. As long as adjudicators process a high volume of cases, the agency will ignore and even cover up serious misconduct, including deportations of US citizens or people who have other avenues of relief. One immigration judge told me, "I'm afraid there's a premium on quotas and productivity, and not the truth."
* * *
The vast number of cases handled by Pelletier and William Cassidy, another Atlanta adjudicator, has made them into agency superstars. In 2008, 83 percent of the respondents held in Georgia's Stewart Detention Center were ordered deported, virtually all by Cassidy and Pelletier, compared with 72 percent nationwide. Glenn Fogle, an Atlanta immigration attorney, says of the ICE and EOIR operation at Stewart, "They're basically a deportation machine, trying to use the discretion of the judge, who's not following the law but making his own law."
Fogle expresses frustration that Pelletier, Cassidy and a third Atlanta adjudicator, Grace Sease, are all former DHS attorneys. "They're your archenemies for fifteen years and now they're the judge," he says. A new hire at the Stewart court also comes from ICE.
The disregard for due process in Georgia, which has the country's third-largest docket and respondents from across the country, is a national catastrophe—although the effects are personal to Logan Guzman, a 3-year-old who for more than a year has missed the affection of his father, Pedro, because Cassidy is resisting a recommendation from the Board of Immigration Appeals to grant Pedro bond based on his close ties to US citizens. (Cassidy turned this around, ruling that these close ties would make Pedro a flight risk and held him even though Guzman had a slam-dunk case on the merits.) Fogle, Guzman's attorney, says, "That's the logic of someone who wants to keep somebody in jail no matter what, to make them give up on their case and leave. That's this whole system, not just [Cassidy]. It's a strategy used by the DHS. You don't give someone a bond or give them a high bond, and they'll give up on their case and just leave."
Some adjudicators, relying on "stipulated removal orders," are deporting people without even seeing them. According to Rachel Rosenbloom, a professor at Northeastern Law School, an immigration judge who insists on "thoroughly questioning" people who sign these orders "regularly encounters US citizens." Rosenbloom adds, "There are many judges who don't question people, and it's very likely there's going to be US citizens among those people as well, and they're not being [identified]." (The EOIR statistics on the citizenship of respondents in immigration courts come from DHS filings, not the adjudicator decisions. As a result, even though thousands of citizens have been in deportation proceedings, the official EOIR number is zero.)
The country's 238 adjudicators in fifty-nine immigration courts rule on everything from asylum applications to whether a marijuana conviction warrants deportation. Many, especially the good ones, are burned out from their share of the massive annual caseload: 390,000 cases were initiated across the country in 2009. The laws, regulations and infrastructure are inadequate to the high stakes of prolonged incarceration or banishment. Dana Marks, leader of the immigration judge union—which has been pushing Congress for more personnel and logistical support, and independence from the Justice Department—says, "We're doing death penalty cases in traffic court settings." Marks's union presidency exempts her from the agency's ban on its employees' speaking to the media.
The rot at the core of many immigration proceedings, especially in detention centers, where 50 percent of all hearings were held in 2009, up from 30 percent in 2005, deprives the public of confidence that the hundreds of thousands of people being kicked out are genuinely deportable. The Boston College Post-Deportation and Human Rights Project receives inquiries from people worldwide and has identified dozens of US residents unlawfully shipped back to their countries of origin. The group is joining other advocates in pressing for legal changes to allow former US residents to reopen their cases from abroad.
The Post-Deportation Project, formerly known as Ruby Slippers, has an office in Zacualpa, Guatemala, and is establishing points of contact in the Azores and Ecuador for research and legal assistance. Referring to the thousands of unlawful deportations, co-director Daniel Kanstroom, a Boston College law professor, says, "We're only limited by the number of lawyers we can hire."
The underlying problems go back to the Clinton administration's support of the bad 1996 immigration law and bad adjudicators. In 1999 John Zastrow, employed as an adjudicator since 1983, deported Johann Francis, a US citizen, from the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona to Jamaica. It took Francis ten years to return. (Following a 1998 teenage brawl, Francis, then 19, completed a six-month sentence at an Oregon boot camp. The day of his release, without warning, he was picked up by immigration agents and shipped to Eloy.)
According to Francis's file, an agent at Eloy filled out a "Request for a Prompt Removal," but Francis never saw or signed it. Nonetheless, on April 7, 1999, without a hearing, Zastrow ordered Francis deported. Two months later, still in Eloy and unaware of Zastrow's ruling, Francis followed the instructions of a deportation officer and hand-wrote a request to be deported so he could leave confinement. "I guess it was just a CYA [cover your ass] thing," he now says of this document. "How can this happen in America?"
In late June 1999 Francis, "the guy who runs for school president," as he puts it, was sleeping on the streets in Kingston; he later moved to a rural area, where he survived on coconuts. "You drink two and you'll be full," he explains, adding that he became very sick from malnourishment.
He was stuck there even after he found his mother two years later. "I was able to prove who my mother was," he says, but since Jamaica filed birth certificates by number, not name, "I couldn't prove who I was." After Jamaica digitized its birth certificate registry, Francis was able to apply for a passport and return home in late 2009. He is now advising two other men in Jamaica, one deported last year, struggling to document their own US citizenship. Zastrow's last year on the job was 2000, but the federal courts are still overturning his orders for the few lucky enough to return for a hearing. And the decades-old pattern of wrongful deportations is continuing under the Obama administration.
Among those stuck in immigration jails today are people with no criminal history and, crucially, no lawyers to demand bond hearings. People who should be free may languish for months. When I met Clifford Bryan in Stewart, he was crying and contemplating suicide, largely because the adjudicators refused to grant a bond hearing and he feared being stuck there forever. "I filled out the paper [requesting a bond hearing] and sent it two times. They didn't send it back to me," he said. He was held for almost four months in Georgia before Cassidy finally set a $1,500 bond, the lowest amount possible, and Bryan was free to return to his wife in Michigan. Meanwhile, taxpayers had paid about $8,000 to the Corrections Corporation of America for his incarceration. In October the DHS issued welcome new rules resulting in ICE freeing hundreds nationwide, but many more who meet the criteria for release remain locked up, including Pedro Guzman.
The public's ignorance of the idiocies endemic to the EOIR's business as usual and the calamities these entail is no accident. The agency deliberately withholds basic information from the media and researchers, and its top officials routinely decline requests for interviews, as acting director Thomas Snow and others did twice for this article. (Snow is "acting," so he won't lose his civil-service job in the EOIR.)
According to David Burnham, a former New York Times reporter and co-director of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the staff in the EOIR public affairs office have a "bizarre conception of their role. We ask simple administrative questions and they say, Oh, you have to submit a FOIA request." Lauren Alder Reid, the agency's public affairs legal counsel, sent numerous e-mails along these lines to me but, along with top agency officials, is not responding to document requests from the agency's FOIA office as required by law.
The EOIR obscures its operations as well by admonishing immigration judges not to speak with the media, in contrast with other adjudicative agencies and the judiciary. When alerted to this, Charles Geyh, a law professor at the University of Indiana and a reporter for the American Bar Association's Model Code of Judicial Conduct, sounded taken aback. With the exception of prohibiting judges from commenting on pending cases, "it's not just that the rules say that you can do it, but they actively encourage it. Banning it makes the process seem less transparent and doesn't promote the confidence in the courts we're trying to encourage. Not conveying to the public the work they do and why they do it and how they do it is nonsense."
* * *
Even the court hearings are hidden from public scrutiny, especially those in detention centers, despite a regulation requiring otherwise. In August Dan Kowalski, an immigration attorney in Austin, Texas, and editor of Bender's Immigration Bulletin, sent the EOIR an e-mail asking whether the public would be allowed to attend hearings at a new court in the Pearsall, Texas, detention center. Kowalski explained his concern to me: "Sunlight is the best disinfectant. If there's nobody watching, it's easier for the prosecutors and immigration judges to take shortcuts or be dismissive or even abusive with the respondents." The EOIR's public affairs officer, Elaine Komis, replied to Kowalski's query by telling him to "contact GEO," a private security firm under contract to the DHS.
GEO's track record is bleak, according to Sandy Restrepo, an ACLU policy intern in Washington State. "Community members and law students...are getting hassled or turned away by security when they come in to watch the immigration hearings" at the Tacoma Detention Center run by GEO, Restrepo wrote in her July message to an immigration advocate listserv. Restrepo told me that since a 2008 Seattle University report documenting GEO's mistreatment of people in its custody, there have been "constant problems" with court access. She blames the EOIR as well as GEO. "The court administrator doesn't want a similar type of report to come out" about the Tacoma immigration courts, Restrepo believes.
Irina Kalinka, a Bard College student, decided that for her spring research project she would attend hearings at a nearby immigration court housed in the Downstate Prison in Fishkill, New York. The Fishkill EOIR office said she should call the prison for "security clearance." After being transferred to different prison personnel and calling several times, she was told by a prison official to fax a letter to the "Central Office." She asked where that was. "After a long silence," Kalinka wrote in an e-mail, "he just hung up." She left messages, but no one called her back. "The process of trying to find access is not just confusing," she wrote, "but I would go so far as to say actively discouraging." Kowalski suggests relocating the courts to a "different part of the building that doesn't need so much security, or give up on the notion of having them in the detention center altogether."
An employee of the immigration court in the agency's headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia, concerned I might be with the media, would not allow me to attend a hearing even after I had passed security; she was overruled by a superior, who said this was a "mistake." Despite a regulation stipulating that hearings are open to the public, another official disclosed a policy requiring court personnel to ascertain if an observer is with the media before entrance is allowed.
On my entering the hearing, immigration judge Roxanne Hladylowycz announced to the respondent, her attorney and the DHS attorney that an observer had entered her courtroom and indicated that she was not asking their permission for the observer to remain. Immigration courts are open to the public, she explained to a group in Memphis, who appeared on a huge, gorgeous flat-screen worthy of the Super Bowl. "She has a right to be here."
And then I observed a fascinating and scrupulously well-run hearing in which Hladylowycz figured out that the government's claim of fraud was based on confusion arising from the fact that the respondent, Alina, and her sister, despite both taking on their husbands' last names, had married men with the same last name. Alina's hearing took about an hour, sixty minutes longer than those for people in mass removal hearings.
* * *
Complaints about immigration judges fall under the jurisdiction of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), and people may file there directly, but the EOIR instructs immigration court stakeholders to lodge complaints with the EOIR itself. Instead of passing complaints on to the OPR, as the website promises, the EOIR top brass, to protect their cronies and avoid outside scrutiny, sweeps complaints under the rug. From September 2009 to August 2010, none of the OPR investigations originated with misconduct complaints filed with the EOIR. All but one occurred when federal courts overruled immigration judge decisions, per OPR policy. Since more than 84 percent of people in immigration jails lack attorneys and may submit complaints to the EOIR but will not file appeals in federal court, the OPR will never learn of most misconduct.
The EOIR batted away my recent complaint documenting extensive misconduct over the past eighteen months by Cassidy, who has worked in EOIR headquarters, and the Atlanta court administrator, Cynthia Long, including criminal and civil lawbreaking. The information should have been passed on to the OPR and the Office of the Inspector General, but according to EOIR attorney MaryBeth Keller, it stayed in-house at the EOIR.
Protecting misconduct is old news at the EOIR, which has been receiving complaints about Cassidy for years, including in the late 1990s from David Farshy, an attorney who attracted Cassidy's ire for protesting his due process violations. In one case, Cassidy left a message on Farshy's answering machine revealing an unlawful private conversation with the government's attorney and stating that he had decided Farshy's client's case before the hearing. Rather than fire Cassidy for these flagrant violations, the agency hired the government attorney with whom he'd had the conversation—Sease, now an Atlanta adjudicator who attracts her own misconduct complaints.
The experience of Adolfo Equite-Sequen, who lived in Los Angeles for twenty years and is eligible to apply for a green card, is another chilling example of the effects of moving DHS prosecutors from behind the table to behind the judge's bench. In September 2009, Equite was arrested for public drunkenness and, because of ethnic profiling, sent to ICE custody. A few days later he was shipped to Eloy based on an unauthenticated fingerprint match with the record of someone whose first name is Martin and who was ordered deported in 2004. ICE claimed no records existed for Equite.
Linda Spencer-Walters was a DHS attorney in 2008. In February 2010, she was Equite's adjudicator. Relying solely on the evidence from her old office, she discredited all of Equite's statements, denied bond and would not reopen his case even after a nonprofit attorney proved the DHS possessed Equite's bona fide immigration file.
Equite's pending appeal points out that Spencer-Walters ignored blatant inconsistencies in the ICE arrest report and admitted into evidence an unauthenticated fingerprint associated with a signature that did not match that of Equite, now in Guatemala.
Sarah Owings, EOIR liaison for the Atlanta chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association last year, said of similar events she has observed in immigration hearings, "Things are happening so quickly. They're trusting ICE has done their job and done the paperwork. They're not acting as adjudicators when they only get one side of the story and it may not be correct." Dana Marks sums up the problem: "As long as we are housed in the culture of a law enforcement agency, it's going to be difficult to achieve judicial neutrality." But severing the EOIR from the Justice Department, and the union's other worthwhile objectives, could take years.
Starting today, Attorney General Eric Holder can appoint a new director for the EOIR, ideally someone who will run this law enforcement agency according to the rule of law. The Justice Department could also issue new regulations for the EOIR to achieve immigration reforms that may not be possible through Congress or the DHS, including one mandating the release of anyone who is not given a bond hearing within forty-eight hours of a request. President Obama, whose own citizenship has been called into question, might want to take advantage of it.