Police: 36 illegal immigrants found in NW Valley house
by Philip Haldiman on Nov. 05, 2011
Thirty-six people suspected of being in the country illegally were found in a northwest Valley home on Saturday, according to Phoenix police.
Officials received an anonymous tip that the residence, in the 2100 block of West Shaw Butte, could be being used as a drop house.
The group is in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
No further information was available.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
Police: 36 illegal immigrants found in NW Valley house
Benita Veliz, DREAM Act Poster Child, Spared Deportation By Immigration Officials
First Posted: 11/6/11 08:28 AM ET Updated: 11/6/11 11:09 AM ET
Benita Veliz, a poster child for the DREAM Act, was spared deportation earlier this week under deportation guidelines established by the Morton Memo on Prosecutorial Discretion, issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement this past June.
After her parents brought her to Texas from Mexico at the age eight, Veliz graduated from high school two years early as a National Merit Scholar and as her class valedictorian. She then graduated from St. Mary's University, which she attended on a full academic merit scholarship. But in 2009, she said a small driving error threatened her ability to stay in the only country she knows.
Veliz neglected to make a complete stop at a stop sign, prompting a police officer to pull her over. Deportation proceedings were then initiated when it was discovered she was undocumented.
In a video testimony on YouTube filmed in 2009, Veliz says that she has "absolutely no family in Mexico" and knows "absolutely no one" in her native country. Veliz says in the video that critics should take into account how young she was when her parents brought her to the U.S.
"A lot of people will take the argument, illegal is illegal is illegal and so if you're here illegally you did something wrong and you need to go back where you came from," she said in the video. "But put yourself in the shoes of an eight-year-old child, who has absolutely no concept of what legal is or illegal is ... who could barely write in cursive, much less understand the complexities of the immigration system."
Luckily for Veliz, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton established new guidelines earlier this year that prioritized the deportation of undocumented immigrants who are dangerous criminals over that of individuals with no criminal record. Thanks to those guidelines, immigration authorities ended deportation proceedings against Veliz on Wednesday. Nancy Shivers, Veliz's lawyer, said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News that she believes Veliz was spared because she's eligible for the DREAM Act.
However, Veliz's trouble are still "far from over," according to the San Antonio Express-News, because in order to obtain a work permit, she would have to leave the United States and face a 10-year ban before she could return.
While cases like Veliz's are not yet commonplace, she is not the first to avoid deportation thanks to the Morton memo. Luis Enrique Hernandez and Pedro Morales, two students from Georgia who were brought to the U.S. at a young age, both successfully filed petitions to drop their cases based on the memo's guidelines.
Despite the challenges she still faces, Veliz says she is happy to be able to stay in the country she calls home.
"When this started three years ago, I thought that was it. I'd lost hope," Veliz said to the San Antonio Express-News. "I'm definitely happy to still be here."
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Frederick murder case sparks debate about illegal immigration
By Brad Bell
November 4, 2011 - 05:06 pm
The arrest of a suspect in the murder of a Frederick Burger King manager has ignited a debate in Frederick County about illegal immigration.
The suspect arrested by police, 21-year-old Jose Reyes Mejia-Varela, is an illegal immigrant who had already been deported once before.
Federal criminal charges are pending against Mejia-Varela for illegally re-entering the country after having been deported as an aggravated felon, police say. He has also been charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery, first and second-degree assault and theft.
County Commissioner Blaine Young is proposing a package of rules to drive illegal immigrants out of Frederick County.
“What happened was this hit kind of close to home. So we kind of fast-tracked some of those initiatives we want to look at,” Young said.
He wants to strengthen an existing English-language ordinance, require businesses to use a government data base to verify employees’ status, prohibit the rental of homes and apartments to illegal immigrants and prohibit day-labor gathering sites.
“We should not be offering assistance to people that aren't here legally,” Young said.
Some Frederick residents share Young’s sentiment, but others argue the rules go too far.
“Bottom line, if you're an illegal immigrant, you're here illegally. You got to enforce the law,” said John Hardin.
“There’s absolutely a middle ground for finding a way to accept all who come to this country and adhere to our laws,” counters Chris Garcia.
Young predicts the proposals will become law.
“People have said Frederick is the (…) unfriendliest county in the state of Maryland when it comes to illegal aliens. We wear that as a badge of honor,” he said.
US Citizen Caught With Drugs Avoids Prison by Posing as Illegal Immigrant
Scenario 'not unusual,' says immigration official
By Ray Downs | Christian Post Reporter
Fri, Nov. 04 2011 11:21 PM EDT
An American citizen who thought deportation would be preferable to incarceration told police that he was an illegal immigrant in order to be sent to Mexico instead of prison – and it worked.
Jaime Alvarado, 27, from Salt Lake City, was arrested in Feb. 2010 for possession of "cocaine and heroin with an intent to distribute," reported ABC News, and told police that he was Saul Quiroz, an illegal immigrant from Mexico.
After pleading guilty, police handed him over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and instead of the 15-year sentence he would have been given had he been honest about his identity, Alvarado, aka Saul Quiroz, was given a one-way ticket to Mexico.
According to the Daily Mail, Alvarado "exploited" the fact that officials are allegedly more willing to send foreign offenders back to their country instead of trying to fit them into already overcrowded prisons.
Eventually, Alvarado came back to the U.S. under his real name using his American passport. Everything seemed fine until he was re-arrested in April of this year and was about to be sent to the ICE again before he confessed his true, American identity.
Alvarado was then released from prison in June, with everything seeming to be over. However, authorities eventually figured out the ruse and on Oct. 31, issued a warrant for the arrest of the man previously known to Utah authorities as "Saul Quiroz."
This time, however, Alvarado is pleading instead of fleeing in order to avoid hard time.
"I know I made a poor choice by lying to you guys a year ago. I was afraid to go to prison," he wrote in a letter to the judge presiding over his case.
"I have a good job right now, a lot of little girls waiting for me and a family that will support me," he added. "It's my first offense and my last. I want to spend the rest of my life with my kids."
In a separate letter from Alvarado's fiance, Anelia Carballo, said her future husband has made "a 360-degree turnaround" and was a good father to their daughter together as well as her other four girls, ABC News reported.
According to The Associated Press, ICE spokeswoman Lori Haley said it is not rare for American citizens to claim being an illegal immigrant and face deportation in order to avoid going to prison.
Vermont enforce new immigration policy
Posted: Nov 05, 2011 5:36 AM EDT
BURLINGTON, VT (WPTZ/CNN) - Vermont's governor has released a new immigration policy for state police, which is being dubbed the "look the other way" policy.
Gov. Peter Shumlin says state troopers should not try to arrest people just for being in the U.S. illegally.
Back in September, a state trooper made a routine traffic stop and asked one of the passengers his immigration status. He suspected that person of being an illegal immigrant and called Customs and Borders Patrol, who arrested the man.
The arrest sparked protests from the migrant worker community, who says the trooper should never have asked about the man's immigration status.
The governor's office says the trooper did nothing wrong, but Gov. Shumlin said the state's policy was in a gray area that needed clearing up.
"Vermont farmers can't survive without workers from outside America," Shumlin said. "That's just the way it is. We've got to keep our dairy farms strong, so we've always had a policy in Vermont where we kind of "look the other way" as much as we can.
The governor says that immigration is to be enforced by federal agents. State police can choose to help by detaining people they suspect of being illegal immigrants.
"The new policy states that Vermont State Police troopers should not try to identify people whose only suspected violation is that they are present in the United States without proper documentation, but also makes it clear that officers should continue to investigate suspected criminal activity," Shumlin said in a released statement.
In the new policy, Shumlin also recommends federal authorities be called in to help with Canadian border cases.
Macon Police: Alcohol Sweep Turns Up Illegal Immigrant
Written by Katelyn Heck
1:53 PM, Nov 5, 2011
The Macon Police Department Narcotics Unit issued several citations and made one arrest after conducting alcohol compliance tests Thursday evening.
Jami Gaudet with the police department says Jograj Singh was arrested for sale of alcohol without a license.
Gaudet says police called Immigration Enforcement after Singh gave them a South Texas correction identification that appeared to be fraudulent. Immigration Enforcement revealed Singh is on bond in New York for illegally entering the United States.
According to Gaudet, six people were cited for the sale of alcohol to a person under the age of 21. Police cited Saeb Saidi, Victor Elias, Syed Ahmed, Kalpesh Patel, Matthew Black, and Lakeshia Reeves.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Thousands of Kids Taken From Parents In U.S. Deportation System
by Seth Freed Wessler
Wednesday, November 2 2011, 8:00 AM EST
Clara’s eldest kid was 6 years old and her youngest just a year old when it happened. Josefina’s baby was 9 months. All three children were ripped from their mothers and sent to live in foster homes with strangers. Clara and Josefina, sisters in their early 30s who lived together in a small northern New Mexico town, had done nothing to harm their children or to elicit the attention of the child welfare department. Yet one morning last year, their family was shattered when federal immigration authorities detained both sisters. Clara and Josefina were deported four months later. For a year, they had no contact with their children.
The sun was rising on a late summer morning in Farmington. Clara (all parents’ names in this story have been changed) was asleep inside the trailer that she shared with the children and Josefina, who was finishing a night shift at the local restaurant where both sisters worked. Clara says she was jolted awake by the sound of banging and yelling. A group of uniformed officers, some marked with ICE, for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and others DEA, for Drug Enforcement Administration, burst through the door.
The agents put Clara in handcuffs, while two of the officers began walking and carrying the children out of the trailer. Clara pleaded with them, asking what they would do with her children. “We’re taking them where we take all the kids,” Clara remembers one of the agents saying. She begged them to let her call a friend who could come pick up the children. The agents refused.
When Josefina arrived home from work several hours later, ICE officers were waiting. The sisters were locked up in the San Juan County jail, where they stayed for several weeks until ICE transported them to an immigration detention center in Albuquerque, three hours to the south. Their children remained in foster care.
This family is one among thousands who’ve been through the same ordeal. In a yearlong investigation, the Applied Research Center, which publishes Colorlines.com, found that at least 5,100 children whose parents are detained or deported are currently in foster care around the United States. That number represents a conservative estimate of the total, based on extensive surveys of child welfare case workers and attorneys and analysis of national immigration and child welfare trends. Many of the kids may never see their parents again.
These children, many of whom should never have been separated from their parents in the first place, face often insurmountable obstacles to reunifying with their mothers and fathers. Though child welfare departments are required by federal law to reunify children with any parents who are able to provide for the basic safety of their children, detention makes this all but impossible. Then, once parents are deported, families are often separated for long periods. Ultimately, child welfare departments and juvenile courts too often move to terminate the parental rights of deportees and put children up for adoption, rather than attempt to unify the family as they would in other circumstances.
While anecdotal reports have circulated about children lingering in foster care because of a parent’s detention or deportation, our investigation provides the first evidence that the problem occurs on a large scale. If these cases continue mounting at the same pace over the next five years, 15,000 children of detained and deported mothers and fathers will likely be separated from their parents and languish in U.S. foster homes.
Citizen Kids Caught in the Deportation Dragnet
Josefina and Clara’s children are among the hidden victims of an expanding immigration detention and deportation system that now expels nearly 400,000 people each year.
According to Clara and Josefina, the ICE and DEA agents came to their home looking for drugs, but found none. Clara believes a neighbor called in the false report to ICE. A criminal background check confirms that charges against the sisters were dropped and that neither had ever been convicted of any crime. ICE nonetheless detained them because of their undocumented immigration status, moving them from the county jail to the immigration detention center where they were held for three months. They were deported to Mexico in December 2010.
According to over 100 child welfare caseworkers and attorneys we interviewed around the country, as rates of deportations increase, so do the numbers of children from immigrant families in foster care. Indeed, federal data released to the Applied Research Center through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that almost one in four people deported in the last year was the mother or father of a United States citizen. (Next week, Colorlines.com will publish a follow-up story further detailing and explaining this startling data.)
Roberta is one such parent. Almost a year ago, she was arrested on a drunken driving charge that would likely have triggered only a short interruption in her child custody, if she were a citizen. Instead, it threatens to result in the termination of the 35-year-old’s parental rights, because she is an undocumented immigrant and was deported after being charged. Her five young children are now in two different foster homes in Phoenix. Separated from them by the U.S.-Mexico border, Roberta cannot make the journey back to fight for her kids.
ICE detained Roberta after the Phoenix police stopped her one evening as she drove three of her children home from a family party, where Roberta acknowledges she had one beer too many. Police administered a breathalyzer and charged her with driving under the influence and with child endangerment.
“I know I’ve made a mistake, but I’ve never before had a problem and I’ve paid,” Roberta told me in late January 2011, while still at the Eloy Detention Center, a 1,600-bed facility run by the for-profit Corrections Corporation of America. A criminal background check confirms that this was Roberta’s first conviction in her 15 years living in the United States.
Phoenix is one of almost 70 jurisdictions around the country where local police have signed agreements with the federal government to act as immigration agents. The “287(g)” agreement, as the program is called, turns a simple traffic stop into a path to deportation by deputizing local cops as immigration enforcement agents.
Our research found that children in areas where local cops aggressively engage in immigration enforcement are more likely to be separated from their parents and face barriers to reunification. In the counties we surveyed where local police have signed 287(g) agreements with ICE, children in foster care were 29 percent more likely to have a detained or deported parent than in other counties. That disparity remained statistically significant when controlling for the size of the foreign-born population.
In Roberta’s case, as the police officer arrested her, he called the county Child Protective Services, which came quickly to the side of the road and took the children away. The agency placed them in what were supposed to be temporary foster homes, until Roberta could get out of jail.
But she was not released—not until she was deported, without her children.
A Morally Corrupted System
Local immigration enforcement is metastasizing through initiatives like the 287(g) agreements and, most significantly, through a controversial program called Secure Communities, which allows ICE access to data on every person booked into a county jail. As the federal government shifts its deportation tactics away from high-profile workplace raids and toward enforcement that’s silently tied to the day-to-day functions of local police departments, a growing number of long-time residents with families and deep ties to the U.S. are deported. The program is turning jurisdictions around the country into deportation hotspots. We have identified at least 22 states where children in foster care face barriers to reunifying with their detained or deported mothers and fathers.
Whatever the state of the debate, or rancor, over who should and should not be allowed to live in the U.S., the moral and bureaucratic fallout of deporting 400,000 people a year are accumulating to toxic levels. Child welfare caseworkers say that in the face of an opaque detention system, they are helpless to reunify families. And although federal law requires child welfare departments to make diligent efforts toward family reunification, when parents are detained that’s basically impossible.
In Los Angeles, where according to our research, the mother or father of approximately one in every 16 children in foster care has been detained or deported, a caseworker for the country described the frustration. “Ultimately, as social workers our role is to reunify families. I’m not saying that ICE is right or wrong; what I’m saying is, let us do our job, let us reunify families.”
An immigration enforcement system that operates anything like the one we have will run roughshod over most everything.
Some of the most unsettling cases that our research has uncovered involve children who entered foster care when local police arrested non-citizen mothers after they or neighbors called 911 to report domestic violence.
Hilaria, of Phoenix, was arrested because she tried to defend herself against her abusive husband. One day in October 2010, he began berating her and threatening her. In minutes, the words escalated into hitting and choking. Hilaria fought back, freeing herself from the man and running to the kitchen, where she says she picked up a screwdriver and threw it at him, drawing blood.
A neighbor heard screaming and called the police. When the cops arrived, Hilaria’s husband told them that she attacked him and, as is too often the case in domestic violence reports, the officers arrested Hilaria for assault. Because their children were home at the time, the police called Child Protective Services. But when the officers and Hilaria’s abuser told the CPS worker that Hilaria had been the assailant, the caseworker left the children with him. Two weeks later, the child welfare department returned to check on the children. The caseworker now suspected that Hilaria’s husband was using drugs and removed the children from him, placing them in foster care.
Two months later, Hilaria sat on a plastic chair in a small detention center visitation room, speaking through tears. “I’ve had domestic violence before, but I took it for my kids,” she said. “Now they’ve robbed me. I did what I did to defend myself and my kids.”
Hilaria is now applying for a reprieve from deportation, which is available to some victims of domestic violence. But because of the charge of assault against her, it’s not clear the government will grant her a visa—she violates a zero-tolerance policy against “criminal” immigrants. The Obama administration recently announced that it would review the deportation cases of all 300,000 people slated for removal. The policy change, which is designed to stop the deportations of people brought to the U.S. as children and other target populations, does not appear to have helped even those like Hilaria. One year after her arrest, Hilaria is still detained. Her children are still in foster care.
The Abyss of Detention
Four months after Roberta lost her children, she also sat in detention center visitation room, sifting through crinkled papers in a bulging folder to find a photo of two of her children. “It has been four months since I’ve talked to my kids,” she said, looking at the photo of her then 7-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter. The children stood shoulder to shoulder, smiling at the camera in front of a graffiti-scrawled wall near the family’s Phoenix apartment. The boy wore camouflage pants and the girl a pink shirt.
“I would rather die than lose my kids,” Roberta said, tears running down her round face.
“They treat us like animals here,” she complained of the barbed-wire ridged jail in Arizona’s basin cotton fields. According to Roberta, women inmates were given unwashed underwear and detainees were fed stale bread and dirty vegetables for their two meals a day. “But the worst,” said Roberta, echoing the sentiments of other detained parents, “is that I can’t see my kids.”
Three weeks after ICE detained Roberta, the juvenile court held a hearing about her family. Roberta, however, did not know about it. Neither her court appointed attorney nor the child welfare caseworkers or attorneys contacted her.
All of the parents with children in Child Protective Services custody whom we interviewed inside six detention centers said that they missed at least one of their juvenile court hearings. From detention, they could not access the courts and their attorneys could not find them.
ICE is not by law required to detain many of those it plans to deport, but it keeps non-citizens locked up to prevent them from absconding. A parent whose singular concern is getting her kids back is scarcely a flight risk. ICE nonetheless takes confinement to an extreme. Even when parents know about their juvenile court hearings, ICE categorically refuses to transport them to juvenile court hearings where vital decisions about their families are made. In hundreds of interviews with attorneys and caseworkers, not one had ever seen a detained parent appear in person at a hearing. Some detainees are not even able to arrange to phone into the hearings.
Unsurprisingly for a system in which about 85 percent of detainees lack legal representation and can be held for months, sometimes years, in squalid conditions, ICE functions without any obligation to the legal needs of the people it detains. And juvenile court judges are powerless to compel ICE to do anything.
“Parents [should] have an absolute right to be present in a court hearing,” a juvenile court judge in Pima County, Ariz., told us, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We order that if they are in custody they appear, but these orders are not honored by the detention facilities. We don’t have the authority over the federal centers.”
A month after she was initially detained, Roberta was finally able to contact her court appointed attorney by phone. But the attorney spoke no Spanish and they could not communicate. Roberta still arranged to call in to the next court hearing, but she says that because of a bad phone connection over the detention center phone, she understood nothing uttered in the courtroom.
Without any specific policy for addressing the needs of detained parents, child welfare agencies often treat them as if they’ve abandoned their children. And so, after several months in detention and no contact with her children, Roberta says she got a letter in the mail. “All [the court] sent me was a Spanish sheet with threats,” she said. “If you don’t appear, you’ll lose kids. That’s all it said.”
There was also little chance she could have complied with the child welfare department’s overall plan for family reunification. Detention centers provide parents no access to the services and programs needed to take part in their case plans for reunification, which for her would have consisted of treatment for alcohol abuse, parenting classes and visitation with her children.
Because detainees are often moved to detention centers far away from their homes—an average of 370 miles—they can rarely see their children. Though the Obama administration has said that it plans to overhaul immigration detention practices, including making efforts to detain non-citizens closer to their homes, as of August 2011, this promise did not appear to have taken effect in any significant way.
Parental Rights End at the Border
Josefina and Clara were deported to Mexico after three months in immigration detention. They made their way to Michoacán, 1,000 miles south of the border, to their mother’s home, where they began trying to regain custody of their children.
During a July 2011 phone interview from Michoacán, Josefina spoke quietly about the baby she never got to bid goodbye. “I don’t know where my child is, I have no contact with my baby,” she said. “I didn’t do anything wrong to have my children taken away from me. I didn’t steal, I didn’t do drugs, nothing. Why did they take my children?”
Once parents are deported, the threats to their families grow. While parents are detained, child welfare departments are largely prostrate to reunify families. Once mothers and fathers are deported, however, the agencies often switch gears, actively slowing down the reunification process and sometimes halting those efforts altogether.
Soon after they were deported, the sisters contacted the Mexican consulate in New Mexico to ask for help in regaining their parental rights. The consulate began corresponding with the child welfare department on the sisters’ behalf. For months after their deportation, a staff person at the consulate repeatedly told Clara and Josefina that the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department planned to reunify the family as soon as the sisters could prove that they had stable housing and jobs. Yet, even after they found work and were set up in their mother’s home, the children remained in foster care. Reunification dates cited by the department came and went, but still, no children.
According to the sisters, the New Mexico child welfare department would not let the mothers speak by phone with the youngest two of the three children and Clara spoke only once to her 6 year old. According to Josefina and Clara, they heard word that their children were placed in three different foster homes and the babies were being raised entirely in English. They feared their children would not remember them even if they were reunified and they began to believe they might never see their children again.
“I miss everything about my kids,” said Clara through sobs over the phone. “How I spent Saturday and Sundays with them, how I made my home with them, all of it. Then my children were just gone.”
Many deported parents make the tormented decision to make the bloody desert journey over the U.S.-Mexico border without papers so that they can be present at juvenile court hearings. Caseworkers around the country said that in many cases, when a parent of a foster child is deported, they are back weeks later to appear in a juvenile courtroom to try and reclaim their children.
The risks of crossing are enormous. In addition to growing violence in Mexico against migrants crossing into the U.S., immigrants caught in the country after a previous deportation now face prison time. Until recently, immigrants who were deported before were simply deported again. Now, “illegal reentry” is treated as a federal criminal offense that carries sentences of years. The charge now accounts for nearly half of all federal criminal prosecutions.
Clara and Josefina did not risk crossing back over the border; the fear of violence on the border or of extended incarceration was too great. So for a year, they waited, in fear their parental rights would be terminated.
In late September 2011, their hope dwindling, the Mexican consulate in New Mexico phoned the sisters at their mother’s house in Michoacán. “They told us to go to the airport the next day,” said Clara.
In the morning they drove three hours to the airport. Two employees of the Mexican government escorted the three children off the plane. In the middle of a waiting room at the airport, after 14 months apart, Josefina and Clara took the children into their arms.
The next day, now back at their mother’s home with the sounds of pouring rain in the background, Clara said over the phone, “It hurts me so much to talk about this. I don’t want to remember anymore.” Now the family will try to piece themselves back together.
For many, however, separation is not memory. It is a present horror. In July, after seven months of detention, Roberta was deported to Mexico. She was given no notice before she was loaded onto an ICE bus and dropped at the border. ICE did not give her time to call her children’s caseworker or her court-appointed attorney before her removal and she arrived in Mexico with nothing but $10, given to her by another deportee.
Deportation too often leads to the seamless termination of parental rights. In jurisdictions around the country, child welfare departments and children’s attorneys have successfully argued that it is in a child’s best interest to remain in the U.S. rather than join their parents in another country. Though child welfare departments are required by law to try to reunify children with their parents, and research shows that children fare better with their families than in foster care, the principal is often quashed when a border stands in the way.
Many caseworkers and attorneys noted to us a pervasive bias against placing children in another country. “When you break down the cases, placement with parents in Mexico happens very rarely,” an attorney who represents children and parents in El Paso, Texas, told us. “The knee-jerk reaction of almost everyone is that the children are better off in U.S.”
As a parents’ attorney in Takoma, Wash., said in describing several cases like Roberta’s, “They’re deported and they’re treated like they fall off the face of the earth.”
Some jurisdictions, especially those near the U.S.-Mexico border, are working to interrupt this rapid move to sever families. In San Diego County, Calif., and El Paso County, Texas, for example, the child welfare departments have established international liaisons who work with the Mexican consulate and Mexican child welfare department to place children with their families in Mexico. Without the consulate, Clara and Josefina would still be without their children.
Yet most countries lack any formal policy for deported parents and ultimately, when parents are detained and deported, families are shattered.
In the detention center, before she was deported, Roberta looked up from the photo of her children and stated a policy that many would think is common sense. “If you send the mom to Mexico,” she said, “let her take her kids with her.” It has now been one year since she lost custody of her children. Her family’s status remains in limbo.
Undocumented Immigrant Students at Brooklyn College Form ‘DREAM Team’
By Feet in Two Worlds • 11/02/11
NEW YORK—Anayely Gomez looks like your average Brooklyn College student. She wears her dark hair in a high ponytail and a backpack slung over one shoulder. A dimple dots one cheek when she smiles and a determined crease appears in her brow as she describes her new student club. But the 23-year-old bilingual education major will not be able to work as a teacher after she graduates this fall. Teachers in New York State must be fingerprinted. To be fingerprinted, a teacher must submit a Social Security number. Gomez doesn’t have one.
On Monday, October 17, Gomez and Cesar Ventura, a sophomore Latino Studies major, held elections for their student club, “The Dream Team,” the first club on campus to focus on the DREAM Act and immigration issues. Gomez is the new club president and Ventura was elected vice president.
It all began as a Facebook group, where students could post petitions for relatives and friends who were in detention centers or at risk of deportation.
“I want undocumented students to come out and not be afraid anymore. I want them to not be in the shadows,” said Gomez.
On Thurday, October 27, the Dream Team hosted its first event, “The Right to Dream.” Dreamers formed a circle, sharing their stories, and The New York State Youth Leadership Council (NYSYLC) immigration attorney Gisela Chavez-Garcia spoke about “misconceptions about getting your papers”.
Gomez was motivated to become an activist when she ran into problems securing her final set of credits this semester, a student teaching position which required that she be fingerprinted. She searched the Internet for guidance and discovered NYSYLC, an organization run by immigrant youth endeavoring to pass the DREAM act.
Gomez began attending meetings and met another student who had studied bilingual education and had run into the same problem. Since she was interested in a short-term teaching job, Gomez was advised to say that her Social Security card was on its way, and the plan has worked so far.
At NYSYLC, Gomez learned of the nation-wide “dreamer movement” and the DREAM Act, which would allow students who came to the country before the age of 16 to begin a six-year process which, as long as they complete high school and two years of college or military service, could end in permanent citizenship. She decided that fighting for New York State to pass the DREAM Act was her only chance at achieving a better future.
Although she is the oldest of three sisters who are each about a year apart, Gomez’s siblings have not shared her struggles.
When she was three-years-old Gomez and her parents traveled to the U.S. from Mexico City in the back of a truck, with several other families she did not know. Her sister Alma, who is now 22 and has recently reconnected with Gomez through Facebook, was left behind to be raised by her grandparents. Gomez said that she remembers little about the journey, but recalled crouching under leaves and gardening tools as they drove across the border.
“I remember faintly my mother telling me, ‘Don’t say anything. Be quiet,’” Gomez said.
Gomez’s youngest sister Araceli was born in Brooklyn, NY, making her a U.S. citizen. As the oldest, Gomez always tried to to set an example for her sister, working multiple minimum-wage jobs, sometimes 12-hour shifts, while getting consistent A’s in college. Though the sisters are close now, Gomez initially resented Araceli’s privileges as a citizen.
“I had to be her role model, but it hurt that she had it easier,” said Gomez. “She is able to apply to any school, she can get financial aid, she can travel, she can get a state I.D., and she can work anywhere. We got into fights because she seemed to take it for granted and it didn’t seem fair that I had to work twice as hard.”
When Gomez was nine, her father was almost deported when the factory he worked at was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He managed to hide under a table and made it home to tell his family about the ordeal. Still, Gomez did not completely understand that her family was different since immigration status was rarely spoken about.
“It didn’t hit me until I tried to get a summer job in high school like my friends. I felt very out of place. I thought, ‘I’m not like my friends. I can’t work. I can’t travel. I can’t vote.’ It was very scary.”
Ventura, who will succeed Gomez as president of the club after she graduates this fall, traveled from Mexico City to Brooklyn when he was eight. Like Gomez, he did not have to worry that he was different until high school when he realized that he could not get a job or learn to drive like his friends. In his senior year, he was accepted to most colleges of his choice, but could not attend them.
Some, like Syracuse University, had tuition and living expenses that were too expensive to manage without financial aid or loans unavailable to DREAMers. Even with a 3.6 GPA, Ventura did not qualify for the limited scholarships available to DREAMers at some schools.
“The reality is CUNY has very few scholarships available for undocumented students. Undocumented students can apply to CUNY Honors College. It’s available only to outstanding undocumented students, and it offers a laptop, a stipend and full tuition scholarship,” said Sofia Carreno, communications coordinator for CUNY’s immigration center, Citizenship Now, which Ventura said had helped him.
“If I wasn’t in this situation I don’t think that I would appreciate everything that I have. In the end it makes me work harder,” said Ventura.
He joined forces with Gomez because he wanted to motivate other DREAMers to tell their stories and speak out for immigration reform.
Ventura had strong words for undocumented students at Brooklyn College who might be afraid to put their parents at risk.
“I know that our parents struggled for us to be here, but they brought us here for a better life. We are not making it better by staying in the shadows. We have to act on what our parents wanted for us. If we cannot get a job, then we cannot have what our parents wanted—a better life. It’s something that we all deserve.”
Gomez agreed. “If we can acquire the language and skills to get a better job, then in the end we will be able to better help our parents,” she said.
While so far the group is predominantly Latino, the club’s new treasurer is Indonesian and they are reaching out to DREAM Act-eligible students of all nationalities. Students at other CUNY schools – Lehman College and Baruch College – have recently formed similar clubs to support the DREAMer movement.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Five personal stories of life in mixed-status families
October 28, 2011 | 11:18 AM | By Leslie Berestein Rojas
What is it like to live in a family in which you’re a U.S. citizen, but your spouse, one of your parents, a sibling, an uncle or aunt, even one of your children is undocumented?
During the past week, Multi-American has presented a series of first-person stories from people in families like these. Families of mixed immigration status are surprisingly common. In 2009, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated there were 8.8 million people living in mixed-status families in the United States.
This makes for a conservative estimate, as Pew’s definition was limited to families with unauthorized immigrants and their U.S. citizen children. Even more common are mixed-status extended families, one example being the Kenyan-born family of President Obama, whose undocumented half-uncle was arrested in August, and whose aunt was up for deportation until being granted asylum.
Why are mixed-status families so prevalent in the U.S? The demand for family reunification through legal channels is much larger than the number of available immigrant visas, for one thing. And for those who are in the U.S. illegally, it is much more difficult to adjust one’s immigration status than commonly thought, even through marriage. Those who entered with visas and overstayed stand a better chance, but tighter laws over the years have made it impossible for many people who entered without visas to ever adjust their status.
So what is life like for these families? As those who contributed to the series have explained, things as simple as taking a trip together are fraught with anxiety, or just not done. Those here legally don’t add their spouses to insurance plans or add their names to loan documents. “It’s as if she doesn’t exist,” one person wrote. Here are some highlights from the series.
A woman in Arizona who is a U.S. citizen writes about life with her undocumented husband, who has been unable to adjust his status and is now being deported:
People who don’t have undocumented family members don’t believe me when I tell them he can’t get papers. They don’t believe me when I tell them my brother-in-law can not enter this country legally to pick crops. They always tell me I’m mistaken. Or they’re callous and don’t understand how easy it was for their ancestors to enter, and how difficult it is now.
A man who works with elementary school students in Portland, Oregon public schools writes about how media images and public attitudes affect children in mixed-status households:
Many of my students have a lot of sad issues with their cultural identity, stemming from the kind of hateful things they hear all the time about them and their families. The undocumented population in Portland is pretty big, so there’s not as much fear or secrecy as there are kids growing up having to listen to their neighbors and the media speak about their parents as if they were sub-human. That causes lasting damage to kids, and it sucks.
A woman who was born to Mexican immigrants in Kansas City, Missouri writes about life with her domestic partner, who has tried to adjust her status but remains undocumented:
It hurts to keep so many secrets. I can’t put her on an application for a loan and I have to say I’m the only person in the household. I can’t put her on my health or auto insurance and again – it’s as if she doesn’t exist.
We share a car because I don’t feel comfortable knowing she is driving at night (she works at two restaurants). She works weekends, so I know that there is plenty of police patrol on Friday and Saturday nights. I had to learn to drive stick shift (but that’s a positive)!
I have a professional career and I hate not being able to take her to company events where they may require valid drivers license/identification/etc. I hate that I can go to college and she (who is miles ahead of me), can’t. I hate that she is taken advantage of at work and she can’t just quit or file grievances like I could.
A legal resident in Orange County, California, whose family arrived in the U.S. on temporary visas when he was 13 and overstayed, writes about the fear he feels over what could become of his two undocumented siblings who now have families of their own:
Fear. Fear that my siblings who are still undocumented will be picked up by ICE agents and deported. Fear that they’ll be deported and their children be picked up by Child Protective Services. Fear that they lose their employment due to their legal status.
A young Los Angeles woman who is a U.S. citizen also wrote about her fear and frustration. Despite their attempts to legalize after 21 years here, both her parents are undocumented:
Fear is something we live with. It’s our enemy because it’s always there reminding us of who we are but it’s also our friend since it has been with us for so long.
Fear is involved in everything we do and everywhere we go. Driving or paying with a credit card (no license or valid ID). Deportation is always a possibility as well. Our future as a family is uncertain.
Mixed citizenship status within a family causes frustration, uncertainty, secrecy, lies. It’s a burden at times and something that is thought about every single day.
The personal stories were submitted via KPCC’s Public Insight Network, which solicits input from the public on specific topics.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
From cops to courts, confusion reigns over Alabama immigration law
12:08 AM, Oct. 27, 2011
Written by Jay Reeves
BIRMINGHAM -- Alabama's tough new law on illegal immigration was complicated even before the courts got involved. Now that federal judges have blocked parts of the act while letting others take effect, officials say uncertainty reigns even while suspects are being arrested and jailed.
Court cases can vary from one place to the other, depending on how local police apply the law to arrest suspects. Once those suspects get to court, the handling of their cases can vary from judge to judge in the state's more than 450 trial courts at the municipal and county level.
"There's a whole lot of confusion about the law and what we should do about it," said Judge Scott Vowell, a circuit judge in Birmingham's Jefferson County and president of the Alabama Circuit Judges Association.
He said he has a list of troubling reports: In some areas, police are setting up roadblocks near mobile home communities where Hispanic people live. One municipal judge opened court by saying that anyone without a driver's license would be arrested under the law. Another judge told spectators that the need for a translator could be considered evidence against someone.
Other cases of mixed signals are easy to find.
In the north Alabama city of Decatur, four people were arrested on charges of failing to have proper documents and pleaded guilty within hours under a part of the law a federal court has since struck down. The same day in Jemison, a judge threw out a similar charge against a man because the defendant already was free on bond from a federal immigration court.
Court administrators' interpretation of a key part of the law was challenged by a judge in one instance, and a lawyer tried and failed to use the month-old law to throw out a contract reached in May 2010 between a car seller and two purchasers who were living in the country illegally.
Alabama's top law enforcement official, Attorney General Luther Strange, said many people who are uncertain about the law haven't even read it.
While some said the federal court decisions added to the confusion, Strange said they may have instead helped by placing some sections on hold.
"I think it will give people a chance to take a breath and read the provisions," said Strange, whose office is defending the act in court.
State officials are trying to clear up some of the questions through training that began only after the law took effect. The Administrative Office of Courts has sent memos and emails to judges explaining the law, and the Alabama Department of Homeland Security provided an overview for police at a meeting organized by Strange's office.
On Friday, the Alabama District Attorneys Association will hold a meeting for prosecutors in hopes of developing a blueprint for statewide training for law enforcement. Executive director Randy Hillman said many local agencies still aren't enforcing the law because of uncertainty over exactly what it says.
"Right now people don't know how to apply it," Hillman said. "We're feeling our way. It's not that it's not doable, it's just that it's difficult."
Susan Fuqua, the head of a state organization for municipal court officials, said training sessions and legal advice from Montgomery help, but courts constantly disagree over how to enforce laws. Court rulings yet to come could complicate the situation even further, she added.
"There are over 170 municipal courts in Alabama. There are judges there, and they might be on different pages on how to handle it. Are they all in agreement? I can't answer that," said Fuqua, president of the Alabama Municipal Court Clerks and Magistrates Association.
Passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Robert Bentley, the 72-page, 34-section law is considered the nation's toughest crackdown on illegal immigration by both supporters and opponents. It covers a wide range of everyday life, from making it illegal to give an illegal immigrant a ride and requiring schools to check students' citizenship status to barring contracts with illegal immigrants and making them carry documents.
The law originally was set to take effect Sept. 1, but U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn blocked implementation while considering challenges from the Justice Department, immigrant rights groups, religious leaders and others. She finally let some sections take effect Sept. 29 but blocked others, and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals then blocked more of it this month.
As lawyers sorted through the court opinions, some police agencies delayed enforcement. Fuqua said police haven't filed any cases in the municipal court she oversees in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover, but other cities already are prosecuting people.
The four illegal immigrants arrested in Decatur during a pair of traffic stops pleaded guilty Oct. 10 within hours of their detention under a section of the law that created a misdemeanor offense for anyone who was in the country illegally and failed to carry an alien registration document.
Each was ordered to pay $296 in fines and fees and transferred to the custody of federal immigration officials, even though the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blocked enforcement of that section of the law four days later.
Municipal court officials said none of the four appealed their convictions, but a defense attorney who represented them did not return messages seeking comment.
Meanwhile, a judge in the central town of Jemison was throwing out the case against a man who was arrested on a similar charge of failing to have documents. His lawyer, Freddy Rubio, argued that the law was unclear and his client was legally in the United States because he was free on bond while challenging a deportation order from a federal immigration judge.
Rubio, an American Civil Liberties Union board member who is part of the coalition challenging the new law, said he has spent years representing immigrant clients yet still isn't sure exactly which parts of the law are now in effect and exactly what they mean.
"It's a mess. It was so big, no one is sure what it is now," he said.
Vowell, the head of the judges' association, agrees.
"Judges need to make an effort to apply the law the same around the state, and that's certainly difficult because of the ambiguity of the law and the opinions that have been issued by the federal courts that have addressed the law," he said. "Some of it will just have to be addressed on a case-by-case basis."
Illegal aliens found riding in rescue vehicle
Alamogordo Daily News
By Duane Barbati, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/26/2011 10:09:33 PM MDT
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are investigating four men two of whom may be illegal immigrants who came through the Border Patrol checkpoint during the weekend in an emergency vehicle.
Otero County Sheriff Benny House said an Otero County Volunteer Fire Department emergency rescue vehicle, assigned to the Chaparral area, entered the U.S. Highway 54 South Border Patrol checkpoint around 7:30 a.m. Saturday en route to Alamogordo.
He said Border Patrol agents conducted standard questioning of the driver. Three occupants of the rescue vehicle were all dressed in volunteer fire department attire and claimed to be U.S. citizens.
House said three of the occupants provided agents with New Mexico driver's licenses for identification.
The men all claimed to be going to Alamogordo to attend a training session, he said.
House said the individuals were identified as Jose Louis Avalos, 29; Omar Oswaldo Lopez, 26; Jaime Rafael Enriquez-Quinones, 21; and Jesus Manuel Fuentes-Ortega, 37.
Avalos and Lopez indicated they are residents of Chaparral and affiliated with the Far South Volunteer Fire Department, he said.
House said Enriquez-Quinones listed his address as Chaparral and Fuentes-Ortega listed his address as Las Cruces.
He said agents discovered through further investigation that Enriquez-Quinones and Fuentes-Ortega were presently in the U.S. illegally.
ICE authorities were notified and responded to the checkpoint and detained the four men, House said.
He said ICE is continuing their investigation into the incident. The rescue vehicle was transported to the Otero County Sheriff's Department and returned to service in the Chaparral area.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Clanton police amend policy to reflect new immigration law
By Justin Averette
Published 7:20pm Tuesday, October 25, 2011
The Clanton City Council voted Monday to amend the police department’s policy manual to reflect the state’s new immigration law.
Police Chief Brian Stilwell said a provision of the law requires police departments to enforce the law — if cities refuse, their mayors and police chiefs could face various penalties.
Under the new policy, anyone who is pulled over for a traffic stop or lawfully detained must show one of six forms of identification. Some forms of acceptable ID include a valid Alabama driver’s license, state non-driver ID card, some federal IDs and foreign passports with unexpired U.S. visas.
“Ninety percent of the time, it will stop at the driver’s license,” said Sgt. Neil Fetner.
People who forget to carry their license can usually have their citizenship status verified by providing officers with information like their name, date of birth and social security number.
But Fetner cautions people to not take that chance.
“Have your ID, and be prepared to show your ID,” Fetner said.
People who fail to provide any of the six forms of acceptable ID and can’t be found in any database will be cited and arrested for driving without a license.
Anyone detained must appear before a magistrate within 24 hours to determine citizenship status.
If someone is in the country legally or if the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency fails to provide citizenship status information within 24 hours, the person detained must be immediately released, pending bond on any local charges.
People found to be in the country illegally will be transferred into ICE custody once legal charges are adjudicated.
So far, only one person has gone through the process and was picked up by ICE after seven days in Clanton’s custody.
In that case, a driver was pulled over for having an expired tag. He couldn’t produce any acceptable form of ID. It was also later determined that he gave a bogus name to the arresting officer.
Fetner said the amendment to the department’s policy would be rescinded if federal courts eventually overturn the law, which is being appealed by the U.S. Justice Department and other groups.
He said it’s also likely the state Legislature will close some loopholes and make other changes when it reconvenes early next year, which could also affect the department’s policy.
In the meantime, he said CPD had no choice but to enforce the law as it was written.
“We want to make sure we cover our bases and the city’s liability by enforcing the law,” Fetner said.
Fetner also wanted to stress that the law prohibits law enforcement from “racial profiling,” and that officers will only be checking IDs of people lawfully detained or arrested. The law also provides immunity from the immigration law for victims and witnesses of crimes.
Dream Act Supporters Rally Around Detained South Floridian
Protesters are fighting for the release of Shamir Ali while hoping the Dream Act will be signed into law to provide a path to citizenship for students and military service members
By Steve Litz | Tuesday, Oct 25, 2011 | Updated 10:23 PM EDT
The American dream of education has become a nightmare for some who were too young to know they were brought into the country illegaly.
The proposed 'Dream Act' would create a pathway to citizenship for college students and members of the military, but so far, it hasn't passed -- meaning a wave of deportations continues.
One of those deportations may be Shamir Ali, who is on the brink of being returned to India after living in the U.S. 18 years. His mother brought him into the country when he was seven; now 25, the government is ready to deport him to Bangladesh.
Protesters outside the Broward Transitional Center Tuesday are working to make sure that doesn't happen.
"It's just not fair that during an economic boom people came and were taken advantage of, paid low wages, etc., and now they're being told to leave after they built a life in the United States," said Felipe Matos, a protest organizer and friend of Ali's.
Nearly 400,000 illegal immigrants have been deported this fiscal year, the largest number in U.S. history. The government says 55 percent were convicted criminals.
Protesters, however, say the enforcement of current immigration laws is not working, and claim people are being wrongfully detained.
"This is breaking up families," said Kim Matum, who married her British husband inside the transitional facility in July. Immigration officials won't let him out.
"I'm a three hour drive away," Matum said. "I come because I got to support him, got to do what I can because I feel this is totally wrong that he's here [despite being] married to an American...His daughter is [in the] U.S. Navy."
Some 3,000 people have signed a petition in support of Ali, but in a statement Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say there is no demonstrable evidence that his removal would visit hardship on his family.
Matos and the protesters disagree.
"Shamir is one of many," he said. "That's why we're here, because we're not gonna stop until we can finally get the end of deportation of all Dream Act students."
Ali, meanwhile, will stay in detention until further notice.
Morresi critical of procedures
BY MIA LIGHT AND AMANDA CHRISTMAN (STAFF WRITERS
)Published: October 26, 2011
A routine traffic stop involving an admitted illegal immigrant has the police chief of a small Carbon County community once again criticizing Immigration and Customs Enforcement - and now the Hazleton Area School District, too.
Beaver Meadows police Chief Mike Morresi said he conducted the traffic stop on Arturo Garcia-Garcia, 34, on Saturday at 2:40 p.m. for traveling at 46 mph in a 35-mph zone on Broad Street. It was during that traffic stop that Garcia-Garcia handed him a fictitious Pennsylvania identification card that listed his address as 10 E. Broad St., Hazleton, according to an investigation report furnished to the Standard-Speaker.
The report states that Garcia-Garcia told Morresi he was in the country illegally for the past 15 years and lived with his girlfriend, with whom he has two children, ages 9 and 11, the report states. Garcia-Garcia said he used the same card to enroll his children in the Hazleton Area School District three years prior, Morresi said.
Garcia-Garcia was taken into custody and the false ID was confiscated. The vehicle and children were released to acquaintances of Garcia-Garcia and he was taken to the Pennsylvania State Police Hazleton barracks for a records check, the report states. Morresi said that check showed he had a prior arrest and driving under the influence conviction in Florida under a fictitious name.
Morresi said during an interview Tuesday that when he checked Garcia-Garcia's record again, it showed the man was cited on four separate occasions by different police departments for driving without a license, the first one in 1993 and the last in 2007. Each time, Morresi said, Garcia-Garcia was issued a citation and released.
Additionally, Morresi wrote another police agency charged Garcia-Garcia with a vehicle code violation recently. That violation caused him to be brought before an immigration judge, who granted him a voluntary deportation for Nov. 5, Morresi wrote.
Morresi said he called ICE with the information, noting he met the requirements for providing him with a detainer for Garcia-Garcia. Immigration told Morresi to release him, refusing to take him into their custody or provide police with a detainer, according to Morresi's report. ICE officials continued, saying the only way they were going to take Garcia-Garcia into custody was if police filed charges. Morresi said he told ICE he would be filing charges, which "forced" ICE to provide a detainer.
Garcia-Garcia was arraigned on charges of false identification to law enforcement, driving without a proper license and speeding before District Judge Joseph Homanko, who set bail at $5,000 straight and set a preliminary hearing for today at 11 a.m.; however, ICE has 48 hours to obtain custody of him from prison, Morresi said.
A Carbon County prison spokesperson said Tuesday that Garcia-Garcia is still listed as an inmate at the facility and cannot be picked up by ICE until he answers to the charges placed against him by Beaver Meadows police.
At the end of the incident investigation report, Morresi wrote he was forwarding the report to explain the "ongoing dilemma" law enforcement has with ICE.
"On previous occasions I was informed by ICE that agents would immediately pick up any illegal immigrant that had a criminal history, was in the country illegally for re-entry or had gang affiliations. As previously stated, Garcia-Garcia did have a criminal history in addition to being in the country illegally for the second time. However, when I presented these facts to ICE they told me to release him or charge him."
A media spokesperson for ICE was made aware of the allegations and as of Tuesday afternoon was looking into the issue. A media spokesperson from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation also was investigating.
Morresi was also critical of the Hazleton Area School District, noting Garcia-Garcia, who also told police he now lives on Allen Street in West Hazleton, said he used the false ID to enroll his children at the Hazleton Area School District and they did not have a problem accepting it. Morresi said the Hazleton Area School District website clearly states three proofs of residency are needed to enroll students.
"In addition to the government problem we have with deporting illegal immigrants, I hope you are in agreement with me that it is bewildering that our locals schools are allowing children of persons with no legal United States proof of residency to attend the schools," he wrote.
After reviewing Morresi's complaint Tuesday, acting District Superintendent Francis X. Antonelli said Garcia-Garcia claimed to have enrolled his children in Hazleton Area schools three years ago, which was more than a year before the district adopted its current student enrollment policy that includes strict proof-of-residency requirements.
"Our registration policy wasn't adopted until the spring of 2010, so these kids were registered before the policy went into effect," Antonelli said.
Even though Garcia-Garcia's immigration status has been brought to his attention, Antonelli said the district is prohibited from taking any immigration-related action.
"We in this state do not have the right to preclude registration or enrollment on immigration status. And I can tell you unequivocally, if we tried, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) would challenge the district and probably prevail," Antonelli said.
Protecting illegal immigrants to catch criminals
Article by: PAUL McENROE, Star Tribune
Updated: October 26, 2011 - 7:33 AM
One Minnesota county has done an about-face on deportation, bucking federal law to stop violence.
AUSTIN, MINN. - It was after 1 a.m. when the policeman arrived at Patricia Sanchez's house, and he understood in a glance why she had dialed 911. Her face was streaked with scratches and her neck bore the red imprint of a man's hand.
"You're lucky to be alive,'' he said. He arrested her husband for domestic violence with intent to strangle and told the young woman to get an order for protection as soon as the courthouse opened.
The next morning, before returning to work at her packinghouse job, Sanchez stood at a court clerk's window, filling out a piece of paper that was supposed to be strong enough to stop abuse.
While Sanchez waited at the courthouse, though, police were at her home, searching for evidence that her husband was an illegal immigrant. Rummaging through drawers and bedding, an officer noticed a framed photograph on the living room wall. It depicted a woman identified as Lisa Salazar in her white work uniform and hard hat, honored as Quality Pork Processors' Employee of the Month. Except that Salazar looked exactly like Patricia Sanchez. Police also found documents suggesting Sanchez had committed identity fraud to get work and receive benefits for her children.
A week later, Sanchez sat bewildered in the Mower County jail, facing immigration charges and the threat of deportation back to Mexico. The victim had become a suspect.
The frightening June night in 2009 transformed Sanchez's life -- and now it has thrust Mower County into the vanguard of a national struggle over illegal immigration, policing and crime.
Today, after more than a year of soul-searching over law and justice, Mower County has a striking new policy: Illegal immigrants who become victims of violent crime will not be charged with document offenses, giving them immunity to aid the prosecution of more serious, violent felonies.
In Austin, a storied meatpacking town of 24,700 near the Iowa border, the issue has been pushed to the fore by an unlikely voice: Jeremy Clinefelter, the tough-minded assistant prosecutor who helped deport Sanchez's husband and then charged her with felony fraud.
"It didn't feel right morally,'' Clinefelter said. "We're prosecutors. But more that, we're here to be fair and just.''
Mower County may be unique in the Upper Midwest, according to Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster, president of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association. But its new approach, he said, could have wider repercussions by removing a form of blackmail used against illegal immigrants.
"The abuser says, 'You can't go to the police, or I'm going to tell them you're here illegally,' '' Beaumaster said. "It's a legitimate use of prosecutorial discretion in assuring that a defendant doesn't get to use our immigration laws as a weapon.''
Yet Mower County wouldn't put its new philosophy into practice until another act of violence played out this year, when another illegal immigrant answered his door and found himself looking down the barrel of a shotgun.
Since Congress created a program called Secure Communities in 2007, local police and prosecutors have been playing an ever-larger role in enforcing federal immigration law. Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have been arrested and deported, often in a process that started with a routine traffic stop or a set of fingerprints taken at a county jail.
But one question keeps arising: How can police and prosecutors build trust in growing ethnic communities when illegal immigrants who are otherwise law-abiding fear they will face arrest and deportation if they step forward to report crime?
Secure Communities places a priority on catching dangerous illegal immigrants convicted of violent felonies, yet federal documents show that one-fourth of the immigrants deported under the act had no criminal convictions.
At least five states have dropped out of the program in the past year, amid concerns about the potential for abusive and counterproductive tactics.
In Minnesota, however, some influential lawmakers are eager to have the state participate, even though that's not mandatory until 2013.
Last May, after a late-night hearing and without debate, the Legislature adopted an amendment requiring Minnesota to take part in Secure Communities. That legislation stalled at Gov. Mark Dayton's desk, but the passionate debate is not over.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek is among those who think Secure Communities is a fine idea.
"Do my deputies go out on the streets and roads looking to arrest illegal aliens?'' he said. "Absolutely not. But if someone is stopped for breaking laws and there is an identity issue involved, then they may be booked like anyone else who breaks a law, and that kind of information is available for [immigration officials] o review.''
Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, who pressed the legislation last spring, says the issue has been unfairly politicized. "I agree we should have amnesty programs for victims and witnesses who report crimes,'' she said. "But if we're going to house them in our jails or in our custody, we want to find out whether they're here illegally.''
But civil liberties lawyers -- and some prominent lawmen -- disagree.
"You're going to put the community in an adversarial position with their police,'' says John Harrington, a state senator and former St. Paul police chief. "You're taking out the people who are in the best position to tell us about dangerous people in our community.''
A few days after the assault on Sanchez, Jeremy Clinefelter walked into his office, skimmed through the papers on his desk and found what seemed to be just another routine file: Patricia Sanchez, aka Lisa Salazar -- felony fraud-forgery.
Then it hit him: This was the same woman whose husband he had just charged with domestic assault.
He thought it through. Here was a woman who had found the courage to step out of the shadows, confront a criminal and call the police. He knew the investigating officers, too. They hadn't gone to her house intending to trap her. They had stumbled onto the evidence.
He couldn't remember Mower County having a similar case, and now it was his.
Clinefelter was a Hamline law grad. He hailed from Ohio and still kept a photo of a red-drenched Buckeye football stadium on his office wall. He married a woman from Austin and decided it was a good place to settle down. He had started as an assistant prosecutor in 2003, the same year that Patricia Sanchez showed up at Quality Pork to receive her hard hat and knife.
He soon found that, geographically and emotionally, Austin sat at the center of an immigration wave roiling southern Minnesota. The big meatpacking plants across the state's southern tier required an endless supply of workers willing to do grueling, dangerous jobs for modest wages. People willing to travel thousands of miles from the Texas-Mexico border for low wages satisfied it.
But there was a hidden cost to the boom. Austin had hundreds of residents with two, sometimes three, different names. They had purchased stolen IDs from brokers along the Mexican border or once they arrived in the Midwest. That meant there were also hundreds of victims of identity theft somewhere -- crime victims who suffered because of immigrants seeking work.
Inside the plants, the illegal immigrants and their supervisors had a running one-liner: "What's your name today?" a boss would ask as he walked down the line. The worker would smile and just keep cutting.
"It's no secret [that packinghouses] frequently employ illegal aliens using assumed identities," Clinefelter said. "That itself is a federal issue. But it is virtually impossible for an illegal alien to work without [also] committing multiple violations of state law, anywhere from traffic offenses -- no driver's license -- all the way to felony offenses.
"We'll prosecute violations of Minnesota law,'' Clinefelter added. "But cleaning up immigration is a federal issue."
From 2000 to 2009, the Hispanic population in Mower County more than doubled, to nearly 3,500, part of a larger immigration wave statewide. Clinefelter's stolen-identity caseload was running at 50 to 70 files per year by 2005, most of them illegal immigrants. He'd become the office expert on document crimes.
To Clinefelter, however, court files weren't the truest reflection of Austin's new demographics. When he drove through town, whether to one of his children's dance recitals or to play hardball in the town's Over 30 League, he found it more revealing to measure Austin's changing character by the colors and sounds he picked up backstage or along a dugout bench.
On a Saturday morning, he noticed that city basketball courts along the Cedar River were packed with dozens of Hispanic players. All teams in custom uniforms, with their own referees and families hooting friendly Spanish catcalls.
At a dance recital, he had watched his kindergarten son -- red hair and blue eyes -- rush up to a Hispanic family sitting shyly off to the side. "Bianca!' the boy shouted to the little girl. She was his class pal from their reading group. "Dad, she's a Red Cricket!''
Now, Clinefelter had the troubling Sanchez file in front of him. He walked next door to his boss' office.
The lawyers debate
County Attorney Kristen Nelsen listened patiently as Clinefelter outlined the case. She trusted her deputy's instincts and heard him out. Then the debate began.
"What if we'd found drugs in that house?'' she said. "Would we look the other way? A stolen car out front? Would we ignore that because she's the victim of domestic abuse?
"Where do we say, 'Hold on a minute?' '' Nelson said. "What about the people on the other side of identity fraud --the ones who've had their identities stolen?''
Clinefelter came back at her. If we start prosecuting people like Sanchez, he said, it will have a chilling effect on future cases.
The argument went back and forth.
Nelsen was one of Austin's daughters who took the long way home. She had graduated from Austin High School, then the University of Minnesota and then Hamline Law School. She had headed west to Las Vegas for a spell, prosecuting violent felonies, and then became a prosecutor in the District of Columbia.
The road trip had left a mark.
"I learned how to be a prosecutor in Vegas,'' she said. "Lots of charges and stiff penalties. Minnesota people don't go to prison as often as they would in other places. I have a tendency to be on the harsh end."
In the Sanchez case, Nelsen was not moved. Mower County charged the young woman with aggravated forgery, a felony likely to put her on a federal deportation plane.
'I'm not a bad person'
As a teenager, Patricia Sanchez had risked her life crossing the Mexican border and the treacherous Sonoran Desert to get to the United States for a better life. Now, in the summer of 2009, she found herself in a Sherburne County jail cell leased by federal immigration authorities. Her sister in California had taken the children.
"People at immigration see us as criminals,'' she recalled. "I told them: 'I came here to work. I don't use drugs, I don't drink. I am not a bad person.' ''
Meanwhile, her case had been taken up by a St. Paul attorney, former Ramsey County District Judge Alberto Miera. He argued that the police had conducted an illegal search of Sanchez's purse and wanted the fraud case dismissed, a move that infuriated County Attorney Nelsen.
Finally, the attorneys agreed to go to trial on a charge of simple forgery, still a felony. A judge found Sanchez guilty. She received a year's stay, marked down to a misdemeanor if she obeyed the law.
Then, satisfied with a finding of guilt, Clinefelter and Nelsen took a step on Sanchez's behalf -- the crucial step that could save her from deportation. They supported her application for a special visa granted to victims of domestic violence, a document known as a U-Visa. It worked.
By that fall, Sanchez was released from federal custody, reunited with her children, and back at work on the cutting line at Quality Pork.
But the conclusion of her case didn't settle the larger question for Mower County. By late 2010, police Capt. Bill McKichan was back in Clinefelter's office, not to debate the merits of Ohio State football, but to describe the flak that police were catching from Hispanic community groups.
He said Hispanics, wary from the Sanchez case, weren't stepping forward to help solve major crimes they knew about. He wanted a clear policy on immigration crimes from Nelsen's office.
All across southern Minnesota, police and prosecutors were coming to grips with the same dilemma. Just 130 miles west on I-90, the city of Worthington was the scene of a 2006 immigration raid in which Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents with Kevlar vests and automatic weapons swept through the Swift meatpacking plant, arresting 230 workers and carrying them off in chartered buses. Distrust permeated the city. To this day, authorities in Worthington say, immigrants often refuse to help police for fear of being deported.
Clinefelter agreed with McKichan. "Finally, I just walked in and said to Kristen that I thought this was bull, and I outlined why,'' he said.
This time, Nelsen agreed. She struck a verbal agreement with police that, going forward, illegal immigrants who were crime victims would not be arrested and charged for their document violations.
"The re-victimization issue came to the surface through this case,'' Nelson said. "We're having our evolution. You have to figure out what's your greater purpose.''
Officials from ICE wouldn't comment on Mower County's policy. But a spokesman for the Bloomington office said: "ICE has a significant history and reputation for working closely with all law enforcement agencies -- local, state, federal and international -- to accomplish the common goal of ensuring public safety. While local governments decide how to approach law-making in their communities, ICE will continue to enforce a wide range of federal immigration laws.''
Immunity for a witness
Months went by and then, in March 2011, a bloody altercation put the county's new policy to the test.
A man had been shot in an Austin apartment and, bleeding profusely, was being rushed by helicopter to Rochester for emergency care. Detective Sgt. Todd Clennon had been assigned to the case and now, in the man's apartment, was following the blood trail across the floor.
Clennon's eyes scanned the room slowly. A spent shotgun case. Flesh on the wall. Religious figurines.
Deeply Catholic, Clennon thought. Probably Hispanic.
"Then it occurred to me that this apartment was really being taken care of,'' Clennon recounted later. "My first thought was this doesn't appear to be a place where you have a guy selling dope."
The shooting was Clennon's first big case as a detective. It would also be the case that tested Mower County's new approach to immigration enforcement.
Alejandro Jimenez-Gonzalez had been shot in the thigh by an assailant who had come to the door holding a shotgun, apparently mistaking it for the home of a drug dealer. Jimenez-Gonzalez had managed to get his two kids outside, and then at the last second, had pushed the gun barrel away from his stomach as the gunman fired.
In the bedroom, Clennon and his partner found a dresser littered with IDs.
"It took me 10 seconds to realize he had two different names,'' Clennon recalled.
The next day Clennon briefed Police Chief Brian Krueger at dawn. He said the victim had been using false documents, probably to get work, but said that issue was "about 800th'' on their list of concerns. The chief agreed. Within days, a suspect was arrested in Rochester and Clennon felt they had a solid case of attempted murder.
A few days later, Clennon took a call from Kristen Nelsen. She had heard that Jimenez-Gonzalez and his family planned to skip town to avoid getting busted for document fraud.
"I'm thinking we need to scramble the jets,'' Nelson told the detective. "Otherwise, this [case] will fall apart."
Nelsen told Clennon she was prepared to give Jimenez-Gonzalez and his wife a letter of immunity from any immigration charges so that he would stay in Austin to testify in the murder case. Clinefelter would draft it.
"My office will not charge you for using false documents to reside in this community,'' the letter read. "This immunity ... has been granted to you because you are the victim of a violent crime.''
It didn't take Clennon long to find Jimenez-Gonzalez's wife.
"We pull up, you could see the [suspicion] in her face,'' Clennon said. Was it a ploy? A trick?
His partner read Nelsen's immunity letter to her in Spanish. "You could see this glow come over her face,'' Clennon said. "They could live in the U.S. without a knock on their door."
Meanwhile, Clinefelter wanted the family under formal federal immigration protection. He contacted Dan Donnelly, an experienced immigration attorney in Austin, who took the case pro bono.
Jimenez-Gonzalez has agreed to stay. The man accused of shooting him is expected to face trial before the end of the year, and Jimenez-Gonzalez will be there to testify.
The decision to trust the judicial system has come with a cost. Jimenez-Gonzalez lost his job at Quality Pork for using false documents - employers now face stiff federal penalties for employing undocumented workers.
"But I bet Alejandro would say it was worth it,'' Clennon said. "Shoot me in the leg in order to get that visa? [It got] that fear out, so they never have to be looking over their back.''
As for Patricia Sanchez, she works the day shift at Quality Pork. The kids are doing well in school and they are all living legally in the United States.
She is dating a man who, she says, treats her very well. He said he is an illegal immigrant who found a job in Austin.
Local business raided Friday
By Staff reports
Posted Oct 26, 2011 @ 11:00 AM
Heber Springs, Ark - On October 21, about 11 a.m., a total of 29 illegals were retained after all four El Tres Amigos restaurants were raided by the Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, along with local, state, Federal, and IRS agents, according to official sources.
The El Tres Amigos owner was also detained for identity theft.
The raids took place in Heber Springs, Rose Bud, Mountain View, and Batesville.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Perkasie dad faces deportation
Posted: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 5:55 am
By Theresa Hegel Staff Writer
Three-year-old Noah Orellana-Garcia hasn’t seen his father for three months, not since an early July morning tore his family apart.
Miguel Orellana-Garcia, 24, of Perkasie, was getting ready to leave for his job at the Richlandtown feed mill where he’s worked for the past four years.
He stepped out the front door and was apprehended by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents who had been waiting nearby, said Jessica Winkler, 25, Orellana-Garcia’s fiancee.
“They threw Miguel on the floor right in front of Noah,” said Winkler, a U.S. citizen. “We were in shock. We didn’t know what was going on.”
As far as the couple knew, Orellana-Garcia was in the country legally, under temporary protected status, having come to the United States with his family from hurricane-ravaged, war-torn El Salvador when he was 9.
Since that day in July, Orellana-Garcia has been sitting in York County Prison, awaiting a deportation hearing scheduled for Thursday.
Orellana-Garcia’s abrupt change in status from legal to illegal stems from a handful of misdemeanor arrests and a court letter that never reached its intended destination.
Orellana-Garcia received a DUI charge for underage drinking in 2006 and was twice arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana, in 2007 and 2009. He served no jail time, receiving instead 30 days’ probation for each of the drug charges.
But because of those infractions, the government revoked Orellana-Garcia’s temporary protected status, said Dave Bennion, Orellana-Garcia’s lawyer. Any two misdemeanors, even for something as minor as shoplifting, could trigger the change in status, he added.
“He had these run-ins, it’s not uncommon for people of that age,” Bennion said of his client. “It was certainly a mistake, but he’s been trying to get things on track. ... I think that the consequences of those actions are disproportionate. It wouldn’t stand in the criminal system, but in the immigration system, it’s pretty much anything goes.”
Orellana-Garcia’s status was revoked in 2007, but the notice of his court hearing for immigration proceedings wasn’t sent out until 2010, to an old address, Bennion said.
Because Orellana-Garcia never received the letter, he missed his court date and was ordered deported by a Philadelphia judge, he said.
Representatives from ICE’s local Office of Chief Counsel, prosecuting Orellana-Garcia’s deportation hearing, declined to comment on the case, saying it was against the office’s policies.
Harold Ort, an ICE spokesman, would say only: “(Orellana-Garcia) was ordered removed by an immigration judge in absentia in May 2010. He was subsequently arrested by ICE officers in July 2011 as a fugitive alien. However, in August 2011 an immigration judge granted a motion to reopen the case.”
Orellana-Garcia’s example is common under the “unforgiving and inhumane” immigration system in the U.S., said Douglas Massey, an immigration expert and professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton University.
“This guy is just the latest face in a bureaucratic system that’s doing this to hundreds of thousands of people every year,” Massey said. “Congress has made it very difficult to be an immigrant in the U.S. today.”
A 1996 law made immigrants — even permanent residents — subject to deportation if ever convicted of a crime, whether the crime was the result of changes in immigration law or something minor done by a youth who has since turned his or her life around, he added.
The government has “streamlined” the deportation process, allowing record numbers of immigrants to be detained, often in secret and without a trial, Massey said.
In the last fiscal year, ICE deported nearly 400,000 people, the largest number in the agency’s history, according to John Morton, director of the agency.
Among the 396,906 people deported, more than 1,000 were convicted of homicide. An additional 5,800 were sexual offenders, and about 80,000 had been convicted of drug-related crimes or driving under the influence.
“This comes down to focusing our resources as best we can on our priorities,” Morton said. “We continue to hope for comprehensive immigration reform at a national level, working with the Congress, but in the meantime, we work with the resources we have, under the laws we have.”
The agency has three priority areas: the identification and removal of criminals and national security threats, fugitives, and recent border entrants and others who game the system, according to its website. The agency said focusing on these areas has had a profound positive effect on public safety.
About 55 percent of the people deported in the last fiscal year had felony or misdemeanor convictions. The number of deported aliens convicted of crimes is up 89 percent from 2008, according to agency officials.
Because of his drug arrests and underage DUI, Orellana-Garcia falls under one of ICE’s high priorities for deportation.
In a way, Orellana-Garcia was lucky his fiancee witnessed his apprehension and was able to secure a lawyer before being rushed out of the country, Massey said.
But Orellana-Garcia’s family isn’t feeling so lucky.
Winkler, five-and-a-half months pregnant with their second child, had to move out of their Perkasie home, squeezing into Orellana-Garcia’s mother’s place in Allentown. She had to get a full-time factory job in Pennsburg, leaving Noah with her mother in Milford during the day.
Before Orellana-Garcia was detained, Winkler was a full-time mom, while Orellana-Garcia worked 53-hour weeks to support his growing family.
Despite the long workweeks, Orellana-Garcia still found time to take his young son to the park or other outings, Winkler said.
“It’s a handful, trying to take care of a 3-year-old, being pregnant, working and having the stress of not knowing what’s going to happen to Miguel on top of that,” she said.
The stress has affected Noah as well. The once calm and collected young boy now acts out, constantly telling his mother he’s mad.
He hoards snapshots of his father, telling Winkler, “I need these pictures so I don’t forget my daddy.”
Though they talk on the phone daily, Winkler has only been to see Orellana-Garcia once in the last three months because the long drive to York for a half-hour visit is too depressing to bear. Noah hasn’t been to visit at all because Orellana-Garcia doesn’t want his son to see him behind glass in a prison, Winkler said.
If Orellana-Garcia is deported, moving with him to El Salvador is not an option for Winkler and Noah, especially since she also has a 9-year-old son with another father.
Orellana-Garcia has spent the majority of his life in the U.S. and barely remembers his time in El Salvador. His family — mother, father, siblings, grandfather — has been living in America legally for years. His three younger siblings are citizens who were born in this country.
Orellana-Garcia never embarked on the path to citizenship because under temporary protected status, it’s very difficult to get a green card, according to Bennion. While Orellana-Garcia had TPS, he would have had to leave the U.S., triggering multiple bars to re-entry, before applying for permanent residency, he added. This would have been true, even if he had married Winkler while his TPS was active, Bennion said.
Though Orellana-Garcia still speaks Spanish — in addition to English — he would stick out as a foreigner were he to go back to the country of his birth, Bennion said.
“He would be an obvious target for kidnapping,” he said. “(Gangs) would assume he had family in the U.S. who could pay ransom.”
On those grounds, Bennion plans to apply for asylum for Orellana-Garcia, though he’s not optimistic about the chances for success. He’s hoping to get Orellana released from detention to give him the chance to prepare and fight his case in court.
“It’s not a huge request,” Bennion said.
Winkler is hoping the judge on Thursday will look beyond Orellana-Garcia’s criminal record to see the family man he is now.
“(The judge) sees this little part of Miguel’s life,” Winkler said. “He doesn’t know who Miguel is. He doesn’t see him at work, or at home with his family.”
And Noah is just hoping to see his father again.
“I want daddy to come home because I miss him,” Noah said.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Farm workers, Vermont governor discuss immigration issues
3:24 PM, Oct. 17, 2011
Written by Mike Donoghue
A small group of farm workers and supporters say they were pleased with their meeting last week with Gov. Peter Shumlin and his legal counsel to discuss immigration issues in Vermont and ways to modify policing policies when it comes to migrant workers.
"We feel that it was a good dialogue. They did not make any specific promises, but we look forward to keeping the conversation open," said Natalia Fajardo of the Vermont Migrant Farmworker Solidarity Project.
Five farm workers and five other supporters, including translators, met with legal counsel Beth Robinson for more than an hour, Fajardo and Robinson estimated. They said Shumlin was able to stay for about 20 minutes.
"It was helpful to hear everybody's perspective," Robinson said. She said the conversation centered on "how they would like to see how the state moves in general with some goals."
The meeting came on the heels of a Sept. 13 traffic stop by Vermont State Police that netted two Mexicans whom the U.S. Border Patrol said were in the United States illegally. The State Police Advisory Commission ruled Wednesday that Senior Trooper Jared Hatch had followed the department's Bias Free Policing Policy after stopping a Vermonter driving 88 mph in a 65 mph zone on Interstate 89 in Middlesex.
Excessive nervousness, inconsistent answers and a failure on the part of the two passengers to make eye contact with Hatch led the trooper to ask additional questions, the advisory commission said. The trooper's questions were not motivated by the passengers' actual or perceived race, color or national origin, according to the commission , which consists of seven state residents appointed by the governor.
The panel noted that Hatch, when stopping the compact pickup, was unable see the driver, who was from Vermont, or the two passengers, who were from Mexico.
Danilo Lopez and his cousin Antonio Meza-Sandoval were later detained.
Lopez, who is active with the Solidarity Project, "contacted them and this set off a chain of calls and rapid response eventually leading to the farmworkers release from Border Patrol later that evening," the Solidarity Project's news release said.
The director of the Vermont State Police said Friday that the issue of bias-free policing is an important topic. Col. Tom L'Esperance said he spoke with Brendan O'Neill from the Solidarity Project and is hoping to schedule a meeting with him this week.
"The dialogue regarding immigration needs to continue, so that the Vermont State Police can ensure the fair and humane treatment of all people living and working in Vermont while providing professional, accountable, and compassionate law enforcement services," L'Esperance said in a written statement to the Burlington Free Press.
Part of the meeting with Shumlin included viewing a five-minute video designed to show the Middlesex case wasn't an isolated incident, Fajardo said. She said the incidents outlined in the video happened in Vermont, including one at Burlington International Airport. The video also includes one person talking about not wanting to report a theft because of immigration status.
The Solidarity Project said the five farm workers at the meeting represent at least 1,500 workers who help sustain the dairy industry and landscapes. The topics Friday came from a "long series of meetings and surveys by the farmworker community," Fajardo said.
Lopez, one of the two undocumented immigrants detained Sept. 13, had chatted in passing with Shumlin about immigration issues about three weeks before the stop.