Sunday, May 28, 2006

INB 5/28/06: Senate Passes "Compromise" Bill; Hunger Strike Continues

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 20 - May 28, 2006

1. Senate Passes "Compromise" Bill
2. Hunger Strike, Protests Continue
3. Raids: 179 Arrested in Las Vegas
4. Raids: 35 Indonesians Held in NJ
5. Raids: 13 Seized on Alabama Base
6. Raids: 29 Arrested in San Diego

Immigration News Briefs is a weekly supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; INB is also distributed free via email; contact to subscribe or unsubscribe. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is posted at


On May 25, the US Senate voted 62 to 36 to pass the Hagel-Martinez bill (S. 2611), which would provide limited legalization for some out-of-status immigrants while stepping up enforcement measures [see INB 5/21/06]. Republicans were divided on the bill: 23 voted for it and 32 voted against. Among Democrats, 38 supported it and four opposed it. One independent senator voted for the bill. [Los Angeles Times 5/26/06] A day earlier, May 24, the Senate had voted 73-25 to limit debate on the bill and take a final vote on it by May 26. [Bloomberg News 5/24/06] The Senate bill will next go to conference to be reconciled with HR 4437, a harsh anti-immigrant measure passed by the House last December. The House bill includes no legalization program.

The Senate bill calls for doubling the number of Border Patrol agents over five years, adding 14,000 agents to the existing force of 11,300; building more detention centers to hold immigrants caught at the border; and putting up 370 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border. Within 18 months, all employers would have to start using an electronic verification system to check work authorization for new hires. Employers would be fined up to $20,000 for each unauthorized employee, and repeat offenders would face prison terms. [LAT 5/26/06] Another of the bill's provisions would add carrying fraudulent documents to the list of acts considered "aggravated felonies" under immigration law. [Washington Post 5/26/06]

The legalization plan passed by the Senate would require immigrants with less than two years in the US to leave, while those present at least two years but less than five would have to leave temporarily but could seek a work visa to come back. Immigrants in the US longer than five years could stay and eventually apply for permanent legal status if they paid back taxes and fines of at least $3,250, continued working, and learned English and US civics. [LAT 5/26/06] On May 23, the Senate voted 61-37 against an amendment introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) which would have replaced this three-tiered system with a single plan to legalize undocumented immigrants who have lived in this country since Jan. 1, 2006. [National Immigration Forum Policy Update 5/24/06]

The Senate also approved a "guest worker" program which would allow some 200,000 foreign workers per year to enter the country and ultimately seek permanent legal status. (An amendment to bar the "guest workers" from seeking permanent status was defeated.) [LAT 5/26/06] The Senate bill includes provisions that would reduce backlogs in family-based immigration, and two measures advocates have fought for in recent years: "AgJobs," which provides a path to citizenship for undocumented farmworkers; and the "DREAM Act," which would do the same for students. [Immigrant Legal Resource Center 5/25/06]

The Senate defeated several attempts to make the bill harsher, including an amendment which would have delayed the legalization and guest worker programs until the Secretary of Homeland Security certified that the border had been secured, and one which would have confiscated the Social Security benefits immigrants earned before they were legally authorized to work.

Several amendments were added which softened the enforcement side of the bill. One last-minute amendment requires local, state and federal officials to consult with Mexican counterparts before building a new border fence. [Washington Times 5/26/06] Another amendment, which passed 52-45, struck the bill's controversial section 227(c); that section would have allowed the immigration service to deport anyone seeking asylum or protection under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) before a federal court could review their case. [Asylum Working Group 5/25/06] As passed, however, the Senate bill would still limit the way federal courts review such cases, and would make it easier for the government to detain or deport immigrants, while making it more difficult for people to prove they deserve asylum or naturalization. [WP 5/26/06]

Two amendments backed by advocates were shot down on May 23: one proposed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) which would have provided protection for refugees deemed to have involuntarily provided "material support" to an armed group; and one offered by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) which would have enhanced enforcement of federal labor laws to protect workers' rights. [National Immigration Forum Policy Update 5/24/06]

Immigrant advocates criticized the Senate bill, while admitting that it is a major improvement over the House bill, HR 4437. The "We Are America" coalition called S. 2611 "a step forward, but flawed and unworkable." [California Chronicle 5/26/06 from LA County Federation of Labor] On May 24, a day before the bill was passed, advocates convened by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said the measure "would create deep divisions within the immigrant community and leave millions of undocumented immigrants in the shadows."

"The current Senate bill does not reflect the immigration reform called for by millions of immigrant communities marching the streets," said Sheila Chung of the San Francisco Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition. [Article by David Bacon via Pacific News Service 5/25/06]


As of May 25, two immigrant mothers who began a hunger strike in Chicago on May 10 were still consuming only liquids as they called for an end to all deportations until Congress finalizes a legalization bill [see INB 5/14/06]. Elvira Arellano and Flor Crisostomo, both of whom were arrested in immigration raids and are fighting their own deportation, have been joined by three other hunger strikers and are camping out in a plaza on Chicago's south side. They plan to continue their fast until at least June 1, the day when 23 of 26 Chicago-area IFCO Systems employees arrested in a nationwide sweep on Apr. 19 face hearings in immigration court. Crisostomo is one of the "IFCO 26." [Chicago Tribune 5/25/06]

Immigrant rights activists held new protests throughout the week of May 15, though much smaller than the coordinated marches and rallies that rocked the nation Apr. 9-10 and May 1 [see INB 4/16/06, 5/7/06]. About 1,000 people rallied in Washington in the rain on May 17. [Washington Times 5/18/06] Some 200 people marched in San Francisco on May 17, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. [SFC 5/18/06] In New York City, a May 17 march in Queens drew more than 200 participants ("dozens," according to the local Spanish-language daily El Diario-La Prensa), while a May 20 march in Manhattan drew close to 1,000 ("several hundred," according to the New York Times). [Eyewitness reports; ED-LP 5/18/06; NYT 5/21/06] Several dozen people also rallied in Brentwood, Long Island, on May 20. [Newsday 5/21/06]


Between May 20 and 25, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested 179 out-of-status immigrants in Clark County, Nevada in a sweep ostensibly aimed at people who had failed to comply with outstanding deportation orders. Only 87 of those arrested were found to be violating deportation orders; 92 merely lacked legal status. "Fugitive operations teams" based in Los Angeles and Phoenix were recruited to help local Las Vegas area ICE agents carry out "Operation City Lights"; ICE said in a news release that its agents also received "substantial assistance in the operation from the Nevada Department of Public Safety Parole and Probation Division."

The majority of those arrested were Mexican citizens; others came from Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, Egypt, the Philippines, Samoa and Iraq. As of May 25, 134 of those arrested had already been removed from the US, according to ICE. Officials said those who had not yet been deported--including an Iraqi man--were awaiting travel documents from their home countries. "Whether it's Iraq or Peru, we will reach out to officials in that country to obtain travel documents," said ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice.

"I find it hard to believe that this wasn't done to show Congress and the American public that they can deport people," said Jeremiah Wolf-Stuchiner, a Las Vegas-based immigration attorney and the head of the local chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). "Although people say it's impossible to deport 11 million people living here illegally, ICE is showing they can do this." [AP 5/25/06; ICE News Release 5/25/06]


Before dawn on May 24, about 24 officers from the ICE field offices in New York City and Newark arrested 35 Indonesian immigrants in a sweep through the area of Edison, New Jersey. Of the total arrested, 32 had been denied asylum or ordered deported; the other three were out-of-status immigrants caught fleeing the scene of the raids. Agents issued a notice for 15 other people who cooperated to appear at the ICE office for processing. Most of the deportation orders for those arrested were issued between two and five years ago, authorities said. Some of them had been appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), though the majority of those appeals were denied within the last year, authorities said.

"When they receive their orders from the immigration judge, they should have contacted our office to start the official removal process," said Raymond Simonse, acting Newark ICE field office director for detention and removal operations. Simonse said about 20 of those arrested lived at an apartment complex in Woodbridge. The others were at different sites in Edison and Metuchen. According to Simonse, ICE planned the raid after research teams identified a large pool of people in the same area who had ignored final removal orders. "We put together an operation to gather them all at once, so that those we didn't get couldn't abscond," Simonse said. Simonse said local police departments were notified just prior to the operation, but did not participate. Those arrested are being held at Hudson County Jail, Middlesex County Adult Correction Center and Elizabeth Detention Center, Simonse said. [Home News Tribune (central NJ) 5/25/06; ICE News Release 5/24/06]


On May 24, ICE agents questioned 50 people working at the US Coast Guard's Aviation Training Center in Mobile, Alabama, and ended up arresting 13 Mexican immigrants who were helping build an airplane hangar there. Mickey Pledger, resident agent in charge of the ICE office in Mobile, said six of the workers had no legal documentation and will be deported; seven workers employed by construction contractors working on the base were charged with possessing fake resident alien cards or Social Security numbers. Affidavits filed in federal court show Coast Guard officials alerted ICE that some of the workers for the contracting firms were presenting "questionable forms of identification" when they came on the base. [AP 5/26/06]


On May 23, ICE arrested 29 immigrants employed by the Standard Drywall Company, a San Diego area business that provides contract construction workers to perform services at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in Oceanside, California. None of the workers arrested on May 23 were identified as having worked at Camp Pendleton. One of the arrested workers is Honduran; the rest are Mexican. They were arrested at their homes after being identified in an ICE review of hiring records of more than 360 Standard Drywall employees. Standard Drywall cooperated fully with the investigation. The raid capped a four-month joint investigation involving ICE and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Seven of the 29 arrested workers had prior criminal convictions; two were lawful permanent residents whose criminal convictions made them deportable, according to ICE. [ICE News Release 5/23/06]


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