Sunday, July 16, 2006

INB 7/16/06: California Pipeline Firm Raided;Senate OKs Border Funding

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 25 - July 16, 2006

1. California Pipeline Firm Raided
2. Absconder Raids Hit Ohio
3. Cleveland Imam Still Jailed
4. NY Court Backs License Restrictions
5. Senate OKs Border Funding

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 now archived at


Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 39 immigrants on June 28 at homes in San Diego county, California. Those arrested included 22 Mexican men employed by Burtech Pipeline, a company based in Encinitas which in the past has provided contract services to the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base in Oceanside. ICE spokesperson Lauren Mack said none of the arrested Burtech employees worked on the base. The company's contract with Camp Pendleton ended in July 2005, she said.

ICE agents reviewed the hiring records of more than 180 Burtech employees and found 72 of them to be deportable. The agents carrying out the raids were only able to locate and arrest 22 of the workers, but while raiding the homes they arrested another 17 people, including roommates and family members, on immigration violations. One of the arrested Burtech employees was a permanent legal resident with a prior narcotics conviction, whom ICE will now seek to deport; the others lacked legal immigration status.

The arrests were part of an ongoing worksite joint investigation involving ICE and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) under what ICE calls "Operation Safe Cities," allegedly geared to protecting the security of sensitive businesses. Burtech Pipeline cooperated fully with the investigation, according to ICE spokesperson Nadia Koroma. Since 2003, ICE agents have audited nearly 900 companies throughout San Diego county which have contracts with or links to national security facilities. [San Diego Union-Tribune 6/29/06; Washington Times 6/30/06]


From July 10-14, ICE agents from Boston, Philadelphia, Buffalo and Detroit fanned out around the Ohio cities of Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland to find 150 immigrants, nearly all of whom were deemed to have ignored deportation orders. The Ohio sweep was part of a national effort dubbed "Operation Return to Sender," in which ICE arrested 2,179 immigrants between May 26 and June 13 [see INB 6/18/06]. Local police and sheriffs collaborated in the Ohio operation, helping ICE to confirm the identities and homes of the targeted immigrants. James E. Brown Jr., a deportation officer for the Immigration Fugitives Operation Unit in Boston, said agents received leads from other law enforcement agencies and by running database searches against immigration court files.

In the end, ICE arrested 68 of the Ohio residents they had sought, as well as 86 other people who happened to be at the raided sites. Out of the total 154 immigrants picked up in the sweep, 20 had either been convicted of crimes or were also being sought on criminal charges, according to ICE. The arrested immigrants came from 31 countries, but the vast majority--82 of them--were from Mexico, followed by smaller groups from El Salvador (19) and Mauritania (seven). All but eight of the Mexicans were sent back to Mexico within two days of their arrest. The other people arrested in the sweep are being detained in the Seneca County Jail. ICE now plans to set up a permanent "fugitive operations" team for Ohio by Sept. 30, made up of seven agents working out of an office in Cleveland. [Columbus Dispatch 7/14/06, 7/15/06; 7/14/06]


Fawaz Damra, a Palestinian who served as imam of Ohio's biggest mosque, the Islamic Center of Cleveland, remains in what appears to be indefinite immigration detention, seven months after reaching a deal with the US government to be deported. Damra, who has lived in the US since the mid-1980s and was a naturalized US citizen, was convicted in June 2004 of failing to mention in his US citizenship application that he had ties to a group affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Under the agreement, announced last Jan. 5, Damra was to be deported to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Egypt or the Palestinian territories [see INB 1/6/06]. But officials say none of those countries have agreed to accept Damra. "He's a man without a country," his friend Haider Alawan said. [AP 7/14/06]


On July 6, a New York state appeals court ruled 5-0 that the state's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can make proof of legal immigration status a requirement to obtain a driver's license. The Appellate Division in Manhattan reversed a ruling issued on May 10 of last year by Justice Karen S. Smith. Smith had told the DMV it exceeded its authority when it began requiring license holders to prove they had valid Social Security numbers and were legally present in the US [see INB 5/14/05]. The appeals court said Smith erred in barring the identity procedures DMV Commissioner Raymond Martinez put in place and said they were "within his authority and enforceable." Foster Maer, a lawyer for the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF), which represented the plaintiffs, said his group was considering an appeal. [AP 7/7/06]


On July 11, the US Senate approved $350 million for "border security" as part of a $32.8 billion domestic security spending bill for the federal fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, 2006. The appropriation would go for aircraft, buses and other vehicles for the Border Patrol and to improve fences and other border infrastructure. It would be paid for by increasing fees for immigration and customs services. The border security amendment came from Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), who also won an amendment providing $648 million for more port inspectors and advanced equipment to scan shipping containers. The border security and port security appropriations are not included in the version of the fiscal 2007 domestic security spending bill already passed by the House. [Reuters 7/11/06]


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