Reprieve: Illegal resident to spend holidays with family
Friday, December 03, 2010
By Carmen Cusido
EWING -- After facing separation from his family prior to Christmas, Guatemalan-born Ramon Gonzalez-Solares, an illegal resident of the United States who has been ordered to leave the country, will celebrate the holiday with his family after all.
He had previously been ordered to surrender to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials yesterday to be incarcerated until his flight out of the country. His attorney said yesterday the decision by ICE to grant him extra time with his family over the holidays was a surprise.
"I really didn't expect it," said Stephen Traylor of Princeton Borough, Gonzalez-Solares' attorney.
Gonzalez-Solares, 45, of Ewing, will instead be asked to report to the ICE office in Marlton on Jan. 14, and will be detained until he is sent back to Guatemala,
Gonzalez-Solares has lived in this country for 25 years, raised two U.S.-born children and established himself as a cook in a Princeton-area restaurant.
He was taken into custody by immigration officials in July. He was given a rare 90-day reprieve in August, after originally being scheduled to be deported to Guatemala then. In August, his deportation was again delayed.
This week, Traylor submitted a psychological report to ICE explaining that Gonzalez-Solares' domestic partner and two sons -- ages 18 and 13 -- were not doing well as a result of his pending deportation. The older son's grades have been slipping to the point that the high school senior may not graduate this year, Traylor said.
In an e-mail message sent to The Times, ICE spokesman Harold Ort said, "Mr. Gonzalez requested an extension of the stay of removal through his attorney in order to spend the holidays with his family. ICE granted this request. ICE plans to enforce Mr. Gonzalez's removal order."
Gonzalez-Solares could not be reached for comment yesterday, but he said after reporting to the Marlton office in November that he would leave if there was no other option for him to stay in this country.
Maria Juega, co-founder of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which has advocated on Gonzalez-Solares' behalf, said her organization will submit a petition with more than 100 hundred signatures to ICE.
Juega said LALDEF also will "continue to advocate for his indefinite release and deferred action on his deportation. His case is one of so many other senseless stories of families traumatized and torn apart for no good reason. This time, common sense and compassion prevailed but the immigration authorities should simply not pursue these cases," Juega said.
Traylor said he was grateful to ICE for their consideration. In the next week or so, Traylor will take additional legal measures in hopes of preventing Gonzalez-Solares' deportation.
Once an illegal immigrant reports to ICE, the average stay in detention before being sent to their home country is 32 days, Ort said.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Reprieve: Illegal resident to spend holidays with family
Traffic Stop Turns Into Human Smuggling Investigation
Posted: 10:23 PM Dec 2, 2010
Updated: 6:29 AM Dec 3, 2010
Colorado State Patrol says a traffic stop in a construction zone just north of Trinidad on Thursday has landed one person in jail, and nine others in trouble with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Authorities say they stopped a 2001 Honda Odyssey mid-morning on Thursday, as it was allegedly speeding through a construction zone at about mile marker 13, on I-25.
Troopers suspected a human smuggling operation might be going on, as nine of the individuals in the van were undocumented immigrants, apparently from a number of areas including Mexico and Guatemala.
No names have yet been released in the case, but authorities say charges are pending for the man that was behind the wheel of the van.
Stay with 11 News as more details are released about this investigation.
Phoenix Drop House Holds 11 Child Hostages
Tip From Mother Of 3 Victims Leads To Human Smuggling Find
Sarah Buduson, CBS 5 News
POSTED: 7:22 pm MST December 2, 2010
UPDATED: 12:09 pm MST December 3, 2010
PHOENIX -- Phoenix police rescued 11 children, ranging in age from 2 to 15, who were being held hostage at a Phoenix drop house Thursday afternoon.
Sgt. Steven Martos of Phoenix police said the FBI received a tip about the drop house at 6441 S. 7th Ave. from the mother of three of the victims.
He said the mother, who lives in El Salvador, claimed her daughters had been kidnapped.
The woman said the human smugglers were threatening to rape the girls, who are 12, 14, and 15, if she did not send money, according to Martos.
Martos said officers located the woman's daughters and eight other children when they arrived at the home.
It was unknown if they were sexually assaulted or if any of the other children were hurt.
Martos said the children "seemed OK."
He said officers discovered the woman's daughters were not kidnapped and that the girls and other children were all smuggled into the United States without their parents.
Police arrested two men and one woman in connection with the drop house.
Martos said one of the men is an illegal immigrant working as a guard at the house to pay off his debt to the smugglers.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Two arrested on I-91; police say they're in the country illegally
Updated Dec. 2, 8:40 p.m.
By SENTINEL STAFF
Published: Thursday, December 02, 2010
BRATTLEBORO — Two people from Peru in the country illegally were detained after the car they were riding in was stopped on Interstate 91 in Brattleboro Thursday morning, Vermont State Police said.
Javier Cruz-Quispe, 36, and Darwin Quispe-Cruz, 34, both of Queens, N.Y., were taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol agents, according to a State Police news release.
State Police were monitoring traffic near Exit 3 when they stopped a northbound car for speeding, according to the news release. Police said they discovered the two passengers had previously been detained by immigration officials, but had failed to appear for their deportation hearings. They were found to be in the country illegally and were taken to the State Police barracks in Brattleboro and turned over to border patrol agents.
The driver of the car was ticketed for speeding and issued a warning for failure to keep right on the interstate.
SF students race to save their peer who faces deportation to Peru
Posted on 02 December 2010
Vol 29 No 49 | December 4 - December 10
By Rupa Dev
New America Media
More than 80 students and community members gathered outside California Sen. Barbara Boxer’s office on Nov. 12 to protest the scheduled deportation of Steve Li, a 20-year-old nursing student, on Nov. 15.
Li, a student at San Francisco City College, is currently being detained in an immigration jail in Arizona, where he faces deportation to Peru. Ethnically Chinese, Li was born in Peru but has lived in San Francisco for the past eight years. He and his family were arrested during an immigration raid at their home.
Supporters gathered together late morning and stayed there all day making phone calls to the offices of Sen. Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, asking them to intercede on Li’s behalf. Li’s supporters urged the lawmakers to pass the DREAM Act, saying Li’s plight underscores the importance of legislation that would give undocumented students a path to citizenship.
Despite their efforts, they said they feared Li would be deported on Monday, according to confidential information obtained by his lawyers. Tense-faced supporters nervously clenched their phones, as they made repeated calls to the lawmakers’ offices, racing against the clock to make a difference in Li’s case.
“The last few weeks have come out of nowhere,” said Jonathon Jaranilla, 20, a City College student. “We’ve been doing everything we can, but time is a problem.”
Sin Yen Ling, Li’s attorney and lead counsel for the San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus, said all Boxer needs to do is say that she wants to issue a private bill or pick up the phone and call ICE on Li’s behalf.
“As someone who has received the support of the Asian American community, it should not be a hard task for her to do,” Ling said.
Calls to Boxer’s office were directed to voicemail, due to the high call volume, according to a phone message. The senator’s office did not return New America Media’s calls seeking comment on Li’s case.
“We’ve made over 1,000 calls,” said Daniel Tay, 21, a nursing student at City College who emigrated from Peru two years ago.
“We are trying to stop the deportation by calling the politicians’ offices,” said Kevin Shue, 20, a City College student, who has known Li since they were in high school.
“I’m glad so many people are trying to impact the decisions, but it’s frustrating to feel like the decision is out of our hands,” Shue added.
Li’s situation is somewhat unusual. Li was arrested with his mother, Maria, on Sept. 15 by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He was born in Peru, where his parents, who are Chinese nationals, fled to from China. Li came to the United States with his parents on a tourist visa in 2002. After their visas expired, the family applied for political asylum to remain in the United States. However, their application was denied.
Li has not lived in Peru since he was 12 years old.
Maria, Li’s mother, was bailed out after a three-week detention while her son was transferred to an ICE detention center in Arizona. They have communicated only through sparse phone calls over the past few weeks. Li’s parents were released from Sacramento County Jail and are awaiting deportation to China.
Li would be deported to Peru because he was born there.
According to Li’s Asian American Studies professor Sang Chi, when asked directly about Li’s deportation case, ICE Director John Morton said “dreamers” are at the bottom of the priority list in terms of detainees.
“So why are they nabbing highly motivated students? Why has Steve been in jail for the past 60 days?” Chi asked.
The Board of Trustees for City College and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors denounced Li’s deportation and called on ICE to postpone his deportation. They also urged Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which, if passed, would grant undocumented immigrant children citizenship if they entered the country before age 15 and are attending college.
Over the past few weeks, students and Li’s peers have raced against the clock to mobilize a movement to halt his deportation.
More than 2,000 students at City College signed petition cards for Boxer and Feinstein to intervene on Li’s behalf. About 7,000 people have joined the Facebook group in solidarity with Li. Feinstein has authored private bills for undocumented students in the past.
Professor Chi says that students have done “a lot of the heavy lifting” to campaign for Li.
“Students of all colors and backgrounds have been here from the beginning,” he said.
Ike Iloka, 24, a mentor for the Summer Science Institute at San Francisco State University that Li participated in, said Li’s situation completely changed his viewpoint on immigration.
“I used to think undocumented immigrants were coming over the border and stealing our jobs, but I understand that there are people with families, friends, and communities here.”
On Nov. 19, Feinstein introduced a private bill to delay Li’s deportation. On Nov. 20, Li was freed. However, unless his bill passes, is reintroduced, or the Dream Act passes this month, Li’s stay in San Francisco is guaranteed for only 75 days after the end of this congressional session.
City, County Sued For Mistaken Arrest
Joscelyn Moes | Reporter
Posted: 5:31 pm EST December 2, 2010
ALLENTOWN, Pa. -- A local man said he was locked up for three days on an immigration detainer, even though he is a U.S. citizen.
Now, the American Civil Liberties Union is suing on behalf of Ernesto Galarza, saying the city of Allentown, Lehigh County, and federal officials violated the man's civil rights.
"We have to find a way to protect American citizens from being wrongfully jailed by the immigration authorities," said attorney David Vaida.
Vaida brought Galarza's case to the attention of the ACLU, which said Galarza, 36, was locked up in Lehigh County Prison for three days on an immigration detainer, even though Galarza was born in New Jersey and is a U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican decent.
"There's no way, by looking at someone, to know whether or not they're American citizens," said Vaida.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit on Galarza's behalf in federal court in Allentown on November 19.
"We need to be very careful not to be so aggressive in enforcing immigration laws so that we violate people's rights the way that Mr. Galarza's were violated," said ACLU spokesperson Valerie Burch.
The ACLU said Allentown police mistakenly picked up Galarza during a drug sweep on November 20, 2008. He was later acquitted of the charges.
The ACLU said police targeted Galarza's boss, a construction contractor from the Dominican Republic.
According to the lawsuit, Galarza posted bail the next day, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed him on a detainer.
ICE claimed he was from the Dominican Republic and in the U.S. illegally.
The ACLU said Galarza's Social Security card and Pennsylvania driver's license were in his wallet the whole time.
According to the lawsuit, Galarza was not told why he was being held for nearly three days.
"I was born in New Jersey and I'm a proud American," Galarza said in a statement. "This isn't how Americans should be treated. It's like getting slapped in the face."
Meantime, ICE and the solicitor for Lehigh County have not returned our phone calls seeking comment.
The Allentown solicitor said, "The city received the lawsuit late yesterday [Wednesday] and it's being reviewed."
Ecuadoran is 1st to face deportation in wake of 2007 ICE raid in New Haven
By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
Published: Thursday, December 02, 2010
NEW HAVEN — Washington Colala, 44, is facing his last weekend in the United States and leaving behind a 10-year-old daughter, unless immigration officials allow him to stay to see through a civil rights challenge to his deportation.
His attorneys at the Jerome Frank Legal Service Organization at the Yale Law School are appealing to John Morton, the director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to use his discretion to put off Colala’s removal Monday — at least until he can testify.
The appeal addresses both Colala’s specific situation and what the attorneys see is a general problem of ICE deporting individuals in the midst of civil rights claims involving warrantless search and seizure.
"ICE is moving to remove ... people out of the country as their credible civil rights claims are pending and thereby officials seek to avoid liability for potentially very serious constititional violations," said lawyer intern Mark Pedulla.
Colala, formerly a teacher in Ecuador, is an illegal immigrant who has been doing construction work in the U.S. for 15 years, sending money home to his wife and three other children.
He was one 32 people picked up over three days in early June 2007 by ICE agents, mainly in New Haven, and the first that ICE is deporting after removal procedures played out in his case.
Colala is also part of the civil rights case filed last year by 11 of the men picked up in Fair Haven without warrants on the first day of that raid; a constitutional challenge is before U.S. District Court Judge Stefan Underhill in Bridgeport.
Immigration Judge Michael Straus in Hartford has already ruled in the case of five of the immigrants arrested in 2007, including Colala’s housemate, that the actions of the ICE agents showed an "egregious" disregard for their constitutional rights, and he suppressed any evidence against them. Straus’ decision on the housemate was based on Colala’s testimony.
Straus failed to suppress the evidence against 10 others, but the Bureau of Immigration Appeals has returned seven of those cases to Straus, ruling he had acted in error, while three others are pending.
LatinoJustice PRLDEF and the National Council of La Raza are also sending letters to Morton challenging ICE’s actions.
"What other law enforcement agency has the power — to use the collegial term — to get rid of the evidence and to keep a legitimate civil rights issue from proceeding?" said Foster Maer, senior litigation counsel for LatinoJustice, formerly the Puerto Rican Defense and Education Foundation.
Ross Feinstein, spokesman for ICE in New England, did not return a call seeking comment.
Colala, who had left his home early on the morning of the June 6, 2007, raid, returned to retrieve something he had forgotten and testified that he was confronted by ICE agents, who without benefit of a warrant, forced him, at gunpoint, to open the door to his apartment. He said he was handcuffed and not told the men were ICE agents until they were there for half an hour.
"It was quite humiliating," Colala said Thursday, as his lawyers translated for him.
Unlike almost half of the 32 immigrants picked up — 29 in New Haven and three in North Haven — Colala did not use the law school lawyers to separately fight removal proceedings.
Rather than invoking constitutional challenges to the raid, his attorney pursued a more traditional appeal, called cancellation of removal, which allows some illegal immigrants with U.S. citizen children to stay.
Few, however, qualify under this rubric and a three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals said it did not have jurisdiction to overturn the ICE deportation order against Colala, although his lawyers are seeking a ruling from the full panel.
Since he got the ICE order Sept. 15, Colala said it has been "quite difficult both for me and also because it involves my family. ... They depend 100 percent on me."
As he waits out a fast closing legal limbo, Colala said, "It is a little bit like a time bomb. Each moment in each day is a little bit more desperate."
Law student Rebecca Scholtz said once Colala returns to Pastaza, Ecuador, he will not be able to participate effectively in the case long distance for lack of adequate telecommunications.
Colala wants the opportunity to be vindicated in the lawsuit, but even if the court finds his rights were violated, he will still be deported.
"It’s a classic legal technicality. Establishing a constitutional violation won’t cure an administrative finding," said Muneer Ahmad, clinical professor and supervisor at the law clinic.
Asked at a press conference Thursday why he wants to pursue the case, Colala said: "After an experience such as this, I felt the need to be a spokesperson for other people who have had their rights violated and felt the need to fight for my rights."
He praised the law school lawyers and the Rev. James Manship at St. Rosa Church for helping the immigrants.
Colala was asked how he would respond to those who feel he broke the law and is now paying for it. He said he came to make a better life for his children.
"What I feel ... is that immigration in this country doesn’t understand humanity, the human side of this issue. That they don’t analyze the situation and the problems of each person. It is almost like they didn’t have a family themselves," he said.
27 accused of falsely using IDs to get jobs
Workers in country illegally, federal officials say.
By Steven Kreytak
Published: 10:00 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010
More than two dozen Pflugerville nursing home workers have been accused of misusing Social Security numbers to obtain employment in one of the biggest immigration-related workplace busts in Central Texas in recent years.
The arrests last month were prompted by a unique set of circumstances and do not appear to signal a more aggressive federal attack on local workers who are in the country illegally.
In all, 27 people stand charged in U.S. District Court in Austin, including five who have not yet been arrested, said Antonio Puente, a special agent with the Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General, which spearheaded the investigation.
Puente testified about the case during a bail hearing Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andy Austin regarding four of the defendants, all of them Mexican citizens whose lawyers downplayed the charges.
Austin said that after deciding on conditions designed to ensure their return to court, he would order the defendants released from federal custody this morning pending trial. Immigration authorities could still ask an immigration judge to keep them in jail. Except for one defendant facing more serious charges in the county jail, the others are in jail and scheduled for bail hearings before Austin today and Friday.
Each defendant arrested in the case faces a charge of misuse of a Social Security number, a federal felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Some face additional charges with the same possible sentence. Defense lawyers and prosecutor Ashley Hoff agreed during Wednesday's hearing that the defendants would probably receive a few months in prison or probation.
The inquiry began in October when, according to a police affidavit, a female patient at the Pflugerville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center told Pflugerville police that 38-year-old nurse's aide Mario Rojas Lara had sexually assaulted her weeks earlier.
Assistant Police Chief Jim McLean said that while trying to verify Lara's identity, police determined that he had used someone else's Social Security number and a fraudulent permanent resident card. Lara also was charged with forgery. His case is set for this month.
Later, McLean said, lawyers for the nursing home and rehabilitation center took it upon themselves to check the records of other employees and determined that there might be problems with some of the identifications the employees submitted.
McLean said because Pflugerville police do not investigate immigration crimes and do not have access to federal Social Security databases, he forwarded to Puente the list of employees the nursing home suspected had misrepresented themselves.
In his testimony Wednesday, Puente said that out of the 44 names the nursing home officials handed over, 28 were found to have misused Social Security numbers. The case against one of those people has been dismissed, he said.
Some of those Social Security numbers belonged to people who are dead, others belonged to children, and some were made up, Puente said.
Seventeen of the people used the numbers to obtain Texas certification to work as nurses aides, Puente said.
He said that aspect of the case persuaded him to pursue the investigation. "It's a health care facility with what I would consider a very vulnerable part of our society," he said.
"I was concerned about that."
Assistant federal public defenders Horatio Aldredge and Bill Ibbotson noted that with the exception of Lara, none of the defendants has a significant criminal history, and there was no indication of any problems with their work. One defendant, Elsa Gutierrez, was named employee of the month at the facility last year.
There are at least two mother-son pairs among those arrested, including Junior Bravo Reyes and his mother, Martha Reyes. Junior Bravo Reyes is a recent graduate of Georgetown High School, Ibbotson said.
Arrests of illegal workers at local employers are rare. In 2006, 34 immigrants were arrested at a Hutto pallet factory — part of a nationwide raid on a Houston company's plants.
Three were charged with illegal re-entry after a previous deportation. The rest were deported without charges.
Reputed Colombo wiseguy could be deported for concealing crimes on immigration application (NY Daily News)
Reputed Colombo wiseguy could be deported for concealing crimes on immigration application
BY JOHN MARZULLI
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, December 2nd 2010, 4:00 AM
A reputed Colombo soldier pleaded guilty Tuesady to concealing a slew of crimes - including disposing of a murder victim whacked in his Brooklyn home - on his immigration application.
Sebastiano (Sebby) Saracino, 43, could face deportation to Italy as a consequence of the guilty plea in Brooklyn Federal Court.
Saracino applied for citizenship in 2002, saying in a sworn statement that he had never committed a crime for which he had not been arrested, and that he was not a member of any "organization" or "society."
He never followed through with providing his fingerprints, so the application was dormant for years.
The feds dug it up after Colombo family informants began spilling the beans about crimes that Saracino had gotten away with.
In 1995, mob associate Richard Greaves was fatally shot in Saracino's basement and transported in Saracino's Jeep Wrangler to an industrial park in Long Island, where the corpse was buried in a freshly dug grave, according to court papers.
Also in the mid-1990s, Saracino was part of a team that attempted to burglarize a bank on Long Island.
The diminutive gangster hid inside a makeshift wall constructed around the night deposit box.
Saracino was not required to confess to a particular crime, but told Federal Judge Brian Cogan yesterday that he had torched a building that he owned in Coney Island.
Sources told the FBI that Saracino was inducted into the Colombo family in 2004. His younger brother, Dino, also is a wiseguy and is awaiting trial for racketeering and murder.
Saracino faces up to 14 months in prison at his sentencing.
Undocumented workers are culled in audit
Union for nearly 50 at tanning plant protesting the action
By Julie Forster
Updated: 12/01/2010 09:49:38 PM CST
Nearly 50 workers in South St. Paul lost their jobs Wednesday as a result of stepped-up workplace audits by the federal government trying to ferret out undocumented workers.
The union that represents the workers, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1189, is protesting the Department of Homeland Security's enforcement strategy, saying the federal government is going after well-paid, taxpaying meatpackers, janitors and factory workers instead of targeting criminals and "bad actor" employers. Wednesday was the last day of work for those who process hides for Twin City Hide who could not provide documentation of their legal status to work.
Another union, Service Employees International Unions Local 26, which represented 1,200 janitorial workers in the Twin Cities who lost their jobs about a year ago as a result of audits carried out by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, also spoke out against the audits.
According to the SEIU, more than 50 workers, or 40 percent of the work force at Twin City Tanning, next to Twin City Hide, lost their jobs at the end of October following the same type of audit. Those workers belonged to Workers United, a union affiliated with SEIU.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency declined to comment on the audits of South St. Paul businesses, saying in a statement that, "Inspections are one of the most powerful tools the federal government has to ensure that businesses are complying with U.S. employment laws."
Twin City Hide declined to answer questions but issued a statement saying the company strives to comply with federal law and that it sympathizes with the workers who have lost their jobs.
"Many of these workers were long-time loyal employees of our company who worked hard for their families. We are saddened that they are now in this position. We'd like nothing more than for Congress to reform our country's immigration laws so that this kind of thing doesn't continue to happen," the company said.
Most of the workers who lost their jobs are Mexican nationals who at one time had work visas that have since expired. The workers had jobs that paid $12 to $14 per hour, health insurance and a 401(k) plan.
Don Seaquist, president of UFCW Local 1189, said enforcement without immigration reform pushes undocumented workers deeper into the shadows, benefiting unscrupulous off-the-books employers. The government is targeting the wrong people, Seaquist contends: "The wrong employers and the wrong employees."
Union officials also contend the dismissed workers were performing jobs that no other workers want. As a result, they said, the company is struggling to resume production with temporary workers. The union says it represented 65 production workers at Twin City Hide before the dismissals. In some cases, the workers have been there as long as 10 years.
In the past three months, the Department of Homeland Security has audited three companies with unionized workers, the unions say. Each of the employers, according to the unions, pays more than the nonunion market average-wage and has very few, if any, labor or tax violations.
Workplace audits in the past couple of years have represented a shift from the Bush administration, which targeted workers in large-scale raids, said Laura Danielson, head of the immigration practice at the law firm Fredrikson & Byron.
The consequences might end up being similar in that the worker either is going to lose a job and be arrested or take off before being arrested. "In many ways it has the same result, yet the focus is on employer compliance instead of the focus on undocumented workers."
In her opinion, enforcement doesn't fix the main problem. "The problem is that there aren't enough visas available that will help fill the gap for those employers," that need essential workers for certain jobs that many Americans will not take. "There are many industries like that around Minnesota."
In fiscal year 2010, the immigration agency conducted more than 2,200 audits nationally, up from 1,400 in the previous fiscal year. It issued 240 fines totaling $6.9 million in the 2010 period, up from 52 fines totaling about $1 million in 2009, according to the agency.
In the case of Twin City Hide, the employer received notice of the audit several months ago. The union got a 30-day extension for workers to get their documents in order. If they didn't have sufficient documentation showing legal status to work in the U.S., they were terminated.
"There's a perception that employers that employ undocumented workers are taking advantage of them," Danielson said. "I would say there probably are some employers taking advantage of workers who are vulnerable. But the employers I see are trying to do it right and they are just trying to fill jobs."
Braun: Fickle immigration policies keep green card out of reach for accomplished N.J. woman (The Star-Ledger)
Braun: Fickle immigration policies keep green card out of reach for accomplished N.J. woman
Published: Thursday, December 02, 2010, 8:56 AM Updated: Thursday, December 02, 2010, 9:22 AM
Bob Braun/Star-Ledger Columnist
TOMS RIVER — Cecilia Ojoawo says she lives in a kind of limbo, and that is not a good place to be. Far worse for someone, like her, who is blind and alone. In a different time not long ago, she would probably be celebrated as a brave and accomplished woman, worthy of help or, at least, compassion.
But Ojoawo is one of the unwanted in this country. She may have, in her solitary darkness, earned an undergraduate and master’s degree and finished her coursework for a doctorate at Boston University. She may have worked as a public school teacher and counselor for a state agency for the blind. She may have been an advocate and volunteer for blind Americans. She may have for 25 years contributed to the lives of others who cannot see.
She may have done all that, but she is an immigrant, an out-of-status immigrant, and that has led her to lose a work permit she had for a quarter-century and, with it, her ability to earn a living.
Her home in Toms River is in foreclosure because she cannot pay the mortgage. When it gets sold, she also will be homeless. She has no money to return to Nigeria and, even if she did, has no one there to help her. She has no family here and few there.
"Ever since I was a child, I have tried to overcome what happened to me and use the knowledge I have gained to help others,’’ says Ojoawo, 53. "I think I have done some good.’’
Her blindness is a result of small pox, contracted as a 10-year-old in Nigeria, where she was born and lived until she came here for college. For the last 30 years, she has lived in the United States, first as a student and then as a teacher, counselor and advocate for the blind.
Ojoawo’s problem is the word "most." If she had lived all that time in the United States, not just most of it, she would not be facing destitution and homelessness. In 1986, however, she returned for several months to Nigeria to care for a brother who was in a car crash.
According to the federal bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she overstayed the time she should have been away and that landed her out-of-status. She also, immigration officials say, worked when she should have been just a college student.
There was a time when federal immigration policy was more forgiving. Ojoawo’s life coincided with that era — a time when the government granted amnesty more easily than it does now. She thought she could win amnesty or a second chance of remaining here permanently.
"It was confusing," she says. "Although the government said I was out of status, I continued to receive work permits every three years. They obviously knew I was here and they knew what my status was."
Over the years, she pursued her efforts to win a green card. The height and complexity of her file mounted and includes, among other things, a concession that one of her appeals was rejected in error. Her last appeal for an adjustment to her status, to allow her to resume working, was denied just weeks ago. Her stay in limbo was extended indefinitely.
"That was a terrible day," she says.
Another terrible day because, a year earlier, she had to resign from her job as a counselor with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind because her work permit was not renewed.
As an out-of-status immigrant, Ojoawo is ineligible for government benefits, including unemployment and disability. She has lived on cashed-in pension benefits but they’re gone. She lives alone, she is broke, and she is soon to be homeless. Just weeks, she says, from eviction.
"As a blind person, I can’t exactly work for under-the-table income," she says. "I can’t show up at someone’s house and offer to clean it."
Ojoawo is pursuing other appeals. The office of U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez has expressed an interest in her case and, perhaps, it can help.
A devout Catholic since childhood, she has made friends throughout the state through the Cursillo movement, a group of Evangelical Christians.
"Cecilia has done so much so much for so many," says her friend Carolyn Ahrens of South Orange, who met the Nigerian in church and, like her, is active in the religious movement. "We should be doing something for her now."
What Ahrens is trying to do — first — is save Ojoawo’s home. The chances look slim.
"But we’re not looking for a miracle," says Ahrens. "We’re looking for justice."
Shelby bad check suspects will be deported
BY JAMI KINTON • NEWS JOURNAL • DECEMBER 2, 2010
SHELBY -- Nine men arrested on felony charges last week pleaded guilty Wednesday and will be deported through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A representative from Shelby Municipal Courts said plea bargains reduced forgery charges to misdemeanor counts of receiving stolen property.
Last Tuesday, Roberto Guevara, 24; Jorge Priego Ortega, 27; Jesus Mata-Lopez, 22; Cristian Fuentes Torrez, 26; Uriel Nunez Almeron, 27; Mario Daniel Herrera, 23; Jose A. Torres-Flores, 24; Jose Alexandro Reyes-Mata, 24; and Alfonso Suarez-Gonzalez, 31, were arrested after Shelby police acted on reports of fraudulent payroll checks being cashed at several locations.
At a preliminary hearing Wednesday, police Chief Charlie Roub said he was pleased to see the men plead guilty.
"This puts this case in the federal authorities' hands and takes the burden off of us," Roub said. "It's a good way to handle this, so it's not a long, drawn-out process. It's fine with us as we'll still get pretty much the same results. What's important now is getting people their money back."
Roub estimated about $4,000 was stolen. He said the checks were cashed at fast-cash businesses.
The men are in Richland County Jail, awaiting deportation to Mexico.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Immigration authorities remove holds on two suspects in Gert Boyle kidnap case
Published: Wednesday, December 01, 2010, 5:17 PM Updated: Wednesday, December 01, 2010, 5:53 PM
Rick Bella, The Oregonian
Federal immigration authorities have lifted holds on two of the three foreign-born suspects held in a kidnap-for-ransom plot that targeted Columbia Sportswear Chairwoman Gert Boyle.
An investigation determined that the two men were in the United States legally at the time of their arrest, but federal officials would not discuss any of the suspects' specific immigration status. The third suspect remains under an immigration hold and is not eligible for bail.
"The two did not meet the threshold for removal, so the detainers were dropped," said Lorie Dankers, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, commonly referred to as ICE.
None of the men appears to have a criminal record. If convicted of crimes, the two men cleared of immigration holds could become eligible for deportation. Meanwhile, all three remain in the Clackamas County Jail, charged with kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, burglary and robbery.
Two ICE agents work full-time at the jail. If a suspect raises red flags, ICE agents begin an independent immigration investigation parallel to the state's criminal justice process. However, as Dankers explains, it can be difficult to determine immigration status because of insufficient documentation. Some suspects may not know their immigration status and some may not be certain where they were born.
If ICE agents find a suspect "removable," the inmate is taken to the federal Northwest Detention Center in Seattle for adjudication. Appeals can delay a final decision for as long as two years.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement stepped up such efforts after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Clackamas County officials instituted additional jailhouse screening in 2007, after a Mexican national who illegally remained in Oregon after a drunken driving conviction killed a 15-year-old girl in Milwaukie.
The kidnap case began, Nov. 10, when a man followed Boyle, 86, into her garage after she returned home. After a confrontation, the man shoved her into the house, demanding money and jewelry. Boyle was able to push a silent panic button, and the assailant ran when police arrived.
Police arrested Nestor Gabriel Caballero Gutierrez five hours later and arrested two additional suspects over the next five days.
Nestor Gabriel Caballero Gutierrez, 39, of Aloha, alleged to be the ringleader. Bail for Gutierrez, born in Honduras, is set at $500,000.
Caballero Gutierrez, formerly ran an advertising agency producing Spanish-language commercials and helped companies such as Portland General Electric, Safeway, Dick Hannah Dealerships and Pacific Power to connect with the Latino market. However, Caballero Gutierrez, married father of four, suffered serious setbacks, eventually losing his home to foreclosure.
Ramon Alberto Midence, 41, of Beaverton, also held on $500,000 bail. Midence, married father of three, runs Ram's Auto Repair in Aloha. He also was born in Honduras. Prosecutors contend he drove Caballero Gutierrez to Boyle's home, then waited down the street.
Jose Luis Arevalo, 47, of Beaverton. He is estranged from his wife, who also lives in Beaverton. Arevalo, reportedly born in Guatemala, told investigators that he offered the use of his van and agreed to serve as a driver for $20,000.