Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Certain Illegal Immigrants Collared by Arpaio Score Papers to Work Legally as a Result of Their Arrests (Phoenix New Times)

Certain Illegal Immigrants Collared by Arpaio Score Papers to Work Legally as a Result of Their Arrests
By Uriel Garcia Thursday, Aug 11 2011

Last summer, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies raided two Western Sizzler restaurants, one in the West Valley and the other in the Northeast Valley, netting 23 suspected illegal immigrants.

"This is another example of a case where desperately needed jobs are being occupied by illegal aliens who have disregarded our laws and our borders," Arpaio crowed at the time.

But months after the raids, some of these former employees went right back to work at the Sizzlers — all getting their jobs back legally in an ironic twist to Arpaio's tough-on-illegals stance.

Blanca Sanchez, a Sizzler employee and one of the people arrested, told New Times that she and a couple of other employees who were arrested are co-workers again.

One of those employees is Octavio Diaz. He says the immigration judge assigned to his case let him stay in the country temporarily because he has a wife and children who depend on his salary to survive.

New Times learned that, besides Sanchez and Diaz, a third employee was rehired after the raid. Sanchez claims there are others who have returned to work, but she declined to name them.

Management for the two restaurants would not comment on the rehires.

For countless nativists nationwide who cheer on Arpaio's war on undocumented dishwashers and landscapers, Joe's raids on eateries such as Sizzler are cause for applause. He's doing what the feds won't do: round up Mexicans.

But would these anti-immigration zealots feel the same way if they knew that some of the "illegals" captured in made-for-TV-news Joe shows end up with Social Security numbers, driver's licenses, and the ability to work legally for a year or two?

After the news crews depart, the arrested immigrants are booked for crimes like ID theft and forgery. Over the long haul, a judge will sentence them to jail time (usually about three months) or the County Attorney's Office may decide to drop their charges.

Once cases are adjudicated or dismissed, those suspected of being in the country illegally are turned over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE then decides on a case-by-case basis whether to hold, deport, or, in some instances, release the immigrant involved on bail 'til a pending court date, usually a year or two in the future.

In the case of the last scenario, immigrants are released with temporary legal status. They then can score Social Security numbers, Arizona driver's licenses, and can work legally until their court dates. Often, an individual arrested with so much fanfare by the sheriff ends up applying for his or her old job, at the same place raided by the MCSO.

You could call it Joe's lottery for illegals: Get nabbed by the MCSO, and you, too, could end up not having to dodge la migra for a year or more.

After that, an immigration judge will decide whether the immigrant can stay or has to return to his or her country of origin.

Naturally, the MCSO doesn't want to take credit for such a generous system.

"That's a decision made by ICE," Sheriff's Office spokesman Jesse Spurgin told New Times. "In some cases, people are allowed to stay in the country while they appeal their . . . deportation status."

Still, that doesn't change the fact that if these immigrants never had been paddy-wagoned by the sheriff, they would not be able to work legally or get Social Security numbers or Arizona driver's licenses.

It has been more than three years since the MCSO conducted its first anti-immigrant raid of an employer. Since then, the Sheriff's Office has raided 48 businesses, resulting in more than 536 employee arrests.

More than 200 were turned over to ICE right after getting booked into a county jail.

Spurgin said the "primary reason" for most of the raids is to catch undocumented immigrants using false identification.

Which makes the fact that some of the same undocumented immigrants get "legal" (albeit temporarily) particularly rich.

Asked about this twist of fate for some undocumented workers, local ICE spokesman Vinnie Picard gave a hair-splitting response.

"They don't get [legal] status," Picard insisted. "But they do have documentation that shows that they are in immigration proceedings."

To people untrained in federal immigration law, Picard's distinction may seem weak. This is especially true in the case of Sandra and Carlos Figueroa.

The Figueroas, a married couple, are undocumented immigrants who came from Mexico 14 years ago. They were arrested in 2009 at Lindstrom Family Auto Wash.

The wife and husband were about 15 minutes into their shift at 9:15 a.m. Saturday, June 12, when Arpaio's deputies rolled into the car wash's parking lot.

"My worry was [for] my daughter, who was going to be waiting for me," Sandra remembered thinking as she noticed the deputies' patrol cars.

Figueroa and her husband were arrested on suspicion of "the illegal use of Social Security numbers not assigned to them by the Social Security Administration to gain employment."

From the Lindstrom raid, 25 suspected illegal immigrants were collared. Fourteen were arrested at the scene. The other 11 had arrest warrants served on them at their homes, according to a Sheriff's Office affidavit.

During their incarceration, Sandra and Carlos were separated from each other, and from their then-9-year-old daughter, Katherine. Sandra's sister took care of Katherine while her mom and dad were behind bars.

Pro-immigrant activists immediately latched onto this family-separation story, turning Katherine's plight into a symbol of the need for comprehensive immigration reform.

A YouTube video of a weeping Katherine, captured by pro-immigrant videographer Dennis Gilman and immigrant advocate Lydia Guzman, went viral.

In it, Katherine told how she learned of her parents' arrests from TV news, on which she saw her father in MCSO custody with a zip-tie around his wrists.

She pleaded for assistance from President Barack Obama, observing that he had daughters her age.

"I [told] him to help us," she cried. "I wanted to get my parents back."

A year later, Katherine was asked to testify in front of a congressional hearing on immigration enforcement. It was chaired by Tucson U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva.

"It was very hard for me every time I went to school. I kept thinking I would see my parents when I got back home," Katherine told the panel.

This is, of course, being the flip side of the Arpaio "lottery": human suffering.

However, the alternative for the Figueroas could have been far worse. If they'd been deported, the separation from their daughter could have been much longer. Perhaps permanent if little Katherine stayed in the United States.

Instead, Katherine's mother was freed three months after the raid. After doing her time, Sandra was turned over to ICE and ultimately released.

Her husband served a little more time than her. After getting freed, they did a year's probation, and each paid a $65 probation service fee.

Both are now working at the same car wash where they were arrested. This time with Social Security numbers that the Social Security Administration assigned them.

Once an illegal immigrant is in ICE custody, Picard says, the agency takes into consideration various factors in determining whether he or she can be bailed out and given a court date, or if the immigrant should be sent back to his or her country of origin immediately.

Such factors include: home ownership, whether American-citizen children are involved, whether there's a criminal record, and how long the immigrant has lived in the United States.

In the Figueroas' case, they own a house trailer, their daughter is a U.S. citizen, and before the raid, they lacked criminal records and had lived in the country for more than a decade.

In addition, after their ordeal in county jail, Sandra gave birth to her youngest daughter Alondra, now an 11-month-old American citizen.

As a condition of her bail, Sandra promised to comply with certain requirements.

She needs to check in with immigration every three months and must appear for her final court date in 2013.

Carlos must meet similar requirements and will have his day in court in May 2012.

Even as ICE was trying to persuade her to deport herself by signing what's known as a "voluntary return," Sandra insisted that she wanted to fight her case in order to reunite with Katherine.

"They told me they were going to send me to [ICE's] Florence [detention center]," she said, where she would have been picked up to be shipped back to Mexico.

"But at the end, the [immigration official] who was interviewing me said he was going to talk to a supervisor to see if I could go back home . . . and see the judge at another time."

Both Sandra and Carlos have been advised by their lawyer to be prepared for whatever the judge decides. They could still end up getting deported.

Sandra admits that it all depends on the judge's compassion toward them.

"The lawyer told us that we have a 50-50 chance [of the judge ruling in our favor], because we don't have an extreme case," Sandra said. "For example, our [daughters don't] have special needs . . . We [would] have a higher possibility of staying here [if one of them had] specials needs."

Living and working illegally in the country for more than a decade, then miraculously receiving permission do so legally, is an opportunity many undocumented immigrants would relish.

"It was joyous," Sandra recalled, referring to the day she and her husband received their work permits in the mail.

Still, she doesn't believe the work permits or the shiny new driver's licenses — coveted by so many undocumented aliens — outweigh the price she paid in jail

"Those three months that we lived; [they were] not worth it for papers," she said.

Yet despite the harshness of jail, and the pain of separation, Sandra's family has recuperated well economically, thanks to those work permits.

Meanwhile, the unintended consequence of illegal immigrants getting work permits after busts by the MCSO seems unlikely to cease, as Arpaio has vowed to continue anti-immigrant raids.

As recently as July 14, the MCSO arrested 28 people at Alpine Valley Bread Company in Mesa, of which 26 were suspected illegals. Ten were turned over to ICE immediately. The remainder were arrested on state charges.

But don't be surprised if some of these bread-makers end up getting their jobs back after they are released, with the long-shot chance of U.S. permanent residency.

Thanks, in no small part, to good ol' Sheriff Joe.

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