Friday, November 24, 2006

INB 11/24/06: Workers Win at Smithfield, Somali Man Deported

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 40 - November 24, 2006

1. Workers Win at Smithfield
2. Somali Man Deported
3. "Return to Sender" Hits NYC

Immigration News Briefs is a 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 for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is archived at


On Nov. 18, Smithfield Packing Company reached an agreement with workers at the company's pork-processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, putting an end to a two-day walkout [see INB 11/17/06]. The agreement was brokered with the help of the Catholic Church and its attorneys after the company received thousands of calls from activists and religious, civil rights and immigrant rights organizations, demanding that the workers' rights be respected. The strikers returned to work on Nov. 18.

The company agreed not to retaliate against the strikers, and to rehire dozens of workers who had been fired because of allegedly mismatched Social Security information. (The firings had prompted the walkout.) Those workers with mismatched data will be given more time to resolve the problems, and will be able to continue working in the meantime. Smithfield's Human Resources Department will designate a staff member to help process "no match" Social Security issues and respond to questions. The company also agreed for the first time to meet with a group of workers elected by the workers themselves to further negotiate about plant issues and employee concerns, starting on Nov. 21.

In other Smithfield operations where workers are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), contract language provides for a systematic and constructive process for workers and the employer to resolve issues such as immigration and work status. [Justice at Smithfield Message 11/18/06]


On Nov. 2, Mohamad Rasheed Jama was deported from the US to his native Somalia. He managed to call his lawyer from the plane in Newark, but the courts were closed. The next day a federal judge heard an emergency motion in his case, but ruled that Jama was already outside US jurisdiction. US immigration officials apparently flew Jama to Nairobi and handed him over to Kenyan officials, who flew him to Mogadishu. There, Islamist militants accused him of being a US spy and began demanding money.

Jama had lived in the New York City area for 28 years, since he was 18. He was convicted in 1989 for owning an unlicensed gun and ordered deported in 1993. He had been in immigration detention in New Jersey since October 2002. Jama's deportation came a week after his volunteer lawyers filed a habeas petition on his behalf, arguing that his continued detention in Middlesex County Jail was unlawful because "it is simply beyond dispute that effecting his removal to Somalia would be impossible."

Jama's deportation is the first to Somalia to be publicized since a failed attempt to remove Minneapolis resident Keyse Jama (no relation) to Somalia in April 2005 [see INB 4/24/05, 7/23/05]. Keyse Jama was released from US immigration detention in July 2005; he fled to Canada in January 2006 and applied for political asylum there.

On Jan. 12, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the Keyse Jama case that the absence of a functioning government--as in Somalia--is not an impediment to removal [see INB 1/15/05]. At a federal appeals hearing in Seattle this past October, a Justice Department lawyer said three people had been deported to Somalia--after allegedly having volunteered to go--since the Supreme Court ruling.

Jeffrey Keyes, the Minneapolis lawyer who argued the Supreme Court case, suggested that the latest deportation appears to be a warning that "if you use habeas, you'll be on the next flight." [New York Times 11/22/06]


Between Nov. 14 and Nov. 17, ICE Fugitive Operations Units arrested 70 immigrants in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens and Manhattan. Of the total, 27 had been ordered removed by an immigration judge and 43 were simply present in the US without immigration status. ICE described those arrested as including "criminal and non-criminal aliens," but declined to say how many of them had been accused or convicted of crimes. The arrested immigrants are from Albania, Algeria, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Panama, Pakistan, Poland, Sierra Leone, Trinidad, Uzbekistan and Yugoslavia. All were transported to detention facilities in New Jersey and placed in removal proceedings. ICE's Detention and Removal Office announced the arrests on Nov. 17 as part of a national initiative dubbed "Operation Return to Sender." [ICE News Release 11/17/06]

The New York sweep coincided with a separate Nov. 15 ICE sweep across eight US states and Washington, DC, in which 33 people were arrested. That sweep targeted Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, including an unknown number of Brooklyn residents, in connection with an investigation into the misuse of religious worker visas. Those arrested were charged with administrative immigration violations; some may also face criminal prosecution on visa fraud charges. Another six immigrants were arrested because they happened to be at the raided sites and were found to lack immigration status. [ICE News Release 11/15/06]

At least five Pakistani immigrants were picked up in the recent ICE raids in New York City. They include Baza Koohi, a Pakistani community leader and advocate for New York City residents affected by immigration detention. "Immigration violations are a civil offense, yet we are treated as convicted criminals," said Mohammed Razvi of the Council of People's Organization (COPO). "Racial profiling since 9/11 is devastating our community," said Kavitha Pawria of DRUM-Desis Rising Up and Moving. [International Action Center Press Release 11/23/06]


Contributions toward Immigration News Briefs are gladly accepted: they should be made payable and sent to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012. (Tax-deductible contributions of $50 or more may be made payable to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and earmarked for "NSN".)

Friday, November 17, 2006

INB 11/17/06: Smithfield Workers Strike Over Firings

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 39 - November 17, 2006

1. NC: Workers Strike Over Firings
2. Florida Construction Raid

Immigration News Briefs is a 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 for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is archived at


On Nov. 16, at least 550 workers walked out of the Smithfield Packing Company plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina. Workers at the facility, the largest pork-processing plant in the world, said the walkout was seeking respect and better working conditions, but was also fueled by anger over Smithfield's recent decision to fire a number of immigrants who the company claimed had presented false Social Security numbers. About two-thirds of the plant's 5,500 workers are Latino immigrants. [New York Times 11/17/06; Fayetteville Observer (NC) 11/17/06; Daily Press (Newport News, Virginia) 11/17/06]

Last Jan. 5, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 13 workers at two Smithfield Foods' packing plants in Smithfield, Virginia [see INB 1/21/06]. According to Smithfield spokesperson Dennis Pittman, several months ago US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) asked Smithfield to join a program to verify employees' names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and gender. About 600 of the Tar Heel facility's workers were found to have unverifiable information. About 100 of these were called in and asked to verify the information, and 75 were fired because their documentation could not be confirmed. Gene Bruskin, director of the union's organizing drive, said Latino workers brought a lawyer to the plant on Nov. 16 to dispute the legality of the firings. The company wouldn't meet with the lawyer, and that led to the walkout, said Bruskin. [FO 11/17/06]

Smithfield officials said the strike had only slowed production a little. Pittman said 350 workers walked out during the morning shift, and 200 during the afternoon shift. Several employees involved said the numbers were about 700 in the morning and 500 in the afternoon, for a total of 1,200. Leila McDowell, a spokesperson for Justice at Smithfield, a coalition of labor and immigration groups, said that by 4pm, some 800 workers were outside blocking access to the plant. "No trucks were getting through and no hogs were getting slaughtered," she said.

The United Food and Commercial Workers has been seeking to unionize the Smithfield employees in Tar Heel, and has launched a campaign with the support of the Justice at Smithfield coalition, targeting the company's abuse of worker rights. McDowell said the walkout was spontaneous. Pittman claimed the union instigated the strike, and was trying to use it to pressure the company to give in to the unionization campaign. The company has been fighting off a union drive for a decade. Workers cite harsh treatment, production line speeds and widespread injuries as key problems at the plant. [NYT 11/17/06; FO 11/17/06; DP 11/17/06]

Smithfield has been accused in the past of threatening Latino workers with deportation if they supported the Tar Heel union push. "They often use firings and the threat of firings as a form of intimidation when workers start standing up for their rights," said McDowell. "The constant abuse and intimidation just boiled over today," she said. [DP 11/17/06]

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in May that Smithfield was guilty of threatening workers trying to unionize more than 10 years ago. The court required the company to post notices and mail letters stating it will never assault, interrogate or intimidate workers seeking to organize.

Plant worker Keith Ludlum said he hopes this is the first of many stands workers take. "I think it's fantastic," he said. Dressed in a yellow, waterproof suit with "Union Time" written on his blood-spattered jacket, Ludlum said all workers want is a fair work environment. "We just wanted to be treated like human beings," he said. [FO 11/17/06] Ludlum was fired in 1994 after trying to organize a union at the plant; he won his job back recently after a 12-year court battle. [Workers Independent News 9/29/06]

The Justice at Smithfield campaign is urging people to send messages in support of the workers, demanding that Smithfield not retaliate against strikers, and that it stop the firings and abuses in Tar Heel and respect the workers' right to organize. Letters can be sent to Smithfield Board Chairman Joseph Luter and Smithfield CEO C. Larry Pope through . Smithfield can also be reached at 757-365-3000, 888-366-6767 or . [Justice at Smithfield Urgent Alert 11/16/06]


On Nov. 14, ICE agents arrested 40 Latin American immigrant workers employed by subcontractors at the Ocean Towers construction site in Palm Coast, Florida. The workers are from Honduras, Brazil, El Salvador, Mexico and Peru. They were employed by two subcontractors: Owen Electric Co. Inc. of St. Augustine and Weston Coatings of Daytona Beach, according to ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez. The companies are being investigated.

The US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida may prosecute three Honduran workers for felony reentry after deportation. The other 37 workers were placed in deportation proceedings and transferred to various ICE facilities in Florida. Bill Knox, project manager for construction contractor ACI Construction Services, called the arrests "a minor speed bump" on the project. Subcontractors "have already brought in people from other places to take care of what took place." [ICE News Release 11/16/06; Daytona Beach News-Journal 11/17/06]


Contributions toward Immigration News Briefs are gladly accepted: they should be made payable and sent to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012. (Tax-deductible contributions of $50 or more may be made payable to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and earmarked for "NSN".)

Friday, November 10, 2006

INB 11/10/06: Focus on Election Results; Texas Shrimp Company Charged

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 38 - November 10, 2006

Special Issue: Focus on Election Results

1. Voters Reject Many Anti-Immigrant Campaigns
2. Georgia: Republicans Gain, Voters Split
3. Arizona Vote: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
4. Colorado Vote: More Ballot Initiatives
5. Election Results Elsewhere: A Mixed Bag
6. Texas Shrimp Company Charged

Immigration News Briefs is a 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 for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is archived at


In the Nov. 7 national and state elections, voters throughout the US tended to reject candidates who campaigned solely or primarily on an anti-immigrant platform. In exit polls, fewer than one in three voters considered immigration "extremely important" in their decision; those who did consider it important only narrowly favored Republican candidates. According to the exit polls, about six in 10 voters said they believe undocumented immigrants working in the US should get a chance to apply for legal status; 61% of those supporting a path to citizenship voted for Democratic candidates. [Washington Post 11/8/06]

Exit polls also showed that more than 70% of Latinos voted Democratic in races for House seats, while only 27% voted Republican--an 11-percentage-point drop from the last midterm election in 2002. [Wall Street Journal 11/8/06]

"The immigration issue upset many Hispanics--the tone of it, the rhetoric, the reactionary solutions, the building of the wall," said Miami pollster Sergio Bendixen, who tracks Latino voting trends. He called the House GOP's enforcement-heavy approach a "very, very bad tactical mistake" that could weaken the party for years to come. [Houston Chronicle 11/9/06]

"With respect to immigration, the Republican Party handed the Democratic Party a gift," said Democratic activist Andrea LaRue, co-chair of "The GOP's mishandling of this issue has alienated the fastest growing group of new voters in the nation. Democrats now have a clear opportunity to realize a demographic realignment of historic proportions and redraw the nation's electoral map for a generation." [ Press Release 11/8/06]

However, as Roberto Lovato of New America Media noted, "The crop of House and Senate members-elect includes many Democrats whose positions on immigration hardly differ from the "border first" Republicans they ousted. [ from New America Media 11/9/06]

"Let's be honest: There are divisions within the Democrats; it will have to be bipartisan," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, which advocates for immigrants' rights. [Los Angeles Times 11/9/06]

Cecilia Munoz, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, which supports a path to citizenship for out-of-status immigrants, said she believes there will be a very different atmosphere on Capitol Hill next year. The election results showed, she said, "that all of the noise made by the anti-immigrant faction in Congress is just that, noise. It doesn't appear to have the kind of support that these Republicans thought it would." [Orange County Register 11/9/06] "The most vitriolic anti-immigration candidates went down in defeat," said Tamar Jacoby, with the conservative New York think tank Manhattan Institute. [Miami Herald 11/9/06]


In Georgia, Republican governor Sonny Perdue easily won reelection, and the Republicans made gains overall in the state. [AP 11/8/06] Last Apr. 17, Perdue signed a state law that fines employers for hiring undocumented workers, requires companies with state contracts to fire any employee who is not a legal resident and requires state offices to verify an employee's status before paying unemployment benefits or workers' compensation. [WP 5/3/06] Perdue capitalized on his support for that law during the campaign. Still, exit polls in Georgia show 53% of voters believe out-of-status immigrants should have a chance to apply for legal status, while 43% said they should be deported. The responses did not run strictly along party lines. [AP 11/8/06]


In Arizona, Democratic governor Janet Napolitano, who has vetoed several anti-immigrant bills passed by the state legislature, easily won re-election. [Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) 11/8/06] Two Arizona congressional races were defeats for anti-immigrant candidates. Democrat Harry Mitchell, a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, defeated hardliner Republican incumbent J.D. Hayworth. [ Press Release 11/8/06] And Democrat Gabrielle Giffords ended 22 years of Republican congressional representation in Southern Arizona, handily beating rival Randy Graf, a co-founder of the "Minutemen" vigilante group who had focused his campaign almost exclusively on opposition to "illegal" immigration. Graf even lost in Cochise County, where anti-immigrant sentiment is big and he was expected to do well. Giffords supports a path to citizenship for out-of-status immigrants, but campaigned as tough on border issues and opposed to "amnesty."

Still, Republican Jon Kyl was reelected to a third term in the US Senate, defeating challenger Jim Pederson; according to an AP exit poll, Kyl's supporters rated his hard-line stances on immigration and anti-terrorism as the most important factors in their decisions. [ADS 11/8/06]

And at the same time, by a nearly 3-1 margin, Arizona voters approved four state ballot initiatives that will make life harder for immigrants. Proposition 100 bars the release on bail of out-of-status immigrants charged with serious felonies. Proposition 102 blocks out-of-status immigrants from being able to obtain punitive damages in lawsuits--limiting awards to actual damages. Proposition 103 establishes English as the official language of Arizona. And Proposition 300 blocks undocumented immigrants from accessing state-subsidized programs including adult education and child care. [Arizona Republic 11/9/06] All four initiatives passed in all of the state's 15 counties.

Elias Bermudez, president of Immigrants Without Borders in Phoenix, said his group will organize a weeklong work stoppage and economic boycott on Dec. 12 to protest the passage of the ballot initiatives. He said he will also go on a hunger strike.

In Tucson, Latino voters casting ballots at a precinct were approached by "vigilantes," according to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). MALDEF staff attorney Diego Bernal said Latino voters were stopped as they entered and exited the polls by three men, one carrying a camcorder, one holding a clipboard and one a holstered gun. [ADS 11/8/06]


Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, a national leader of anti-immigrant Republicans in Congress, was reelected to a fifth term. [Rocky Mountain News (Denver) 11/8/06] But Democrats Bill Ritter and Rick Perlmutter, both advocates of comprehensive immigration reform, handily won their races for governor and Congress, respectively, defeating anti-immigrant hardliners. [ Press Release 11/8/06]

Colorado voters narrowly approved two ballot measures on immigration. Referendum H, which denies a state tax credit to employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers, got 50.8% of the vote, according to unofficial returns. Referendum K, which directs the state attorney general to sue the federal government to demand enforcement of immigration laws, got 56%. [RMN 11/9/06]


In Pennsylvania, Democrat Bob Casey, a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, defeated incumbent hardliner Republican Rick Santorum by 18 percentage points. Santorum had attacked Casey on immigration during the campaign, even launching a negative website, "" [ Press Release 11/8/06] John Hostettler, the Indiana Republican who chaired the House Immigration Subcommittee, was defeated, as were Chris Chocola (R-IN), Anne Northup (R-KY), Melissa Hart (R-PA), Charles Taylor (R-NC), Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) and Richard Pombo (R-CA). Many of those defeated are members of the anti-immigrant "Immigration Reform Caucus" headed by Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo.

In New Jersey, Republican Tom Kean Jr. lost to Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, a strong supporter of immigration reform. In Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) easily defeated challenger Katherine Harris, who had attacked him for his position on immigration. And in Delaware, Sen. Tom Carper (D) decisively defeated challenger Jan Ting, a former immigration official. [Immigrant Legal Resource Center 11/8/06] New Hampshire Rep. Charlie Bass was another "enforcement-first" Republican who lost his seat. [AR 11/9/06]

Democratic candidates for governor in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Wisconsin were attacked during their campaigns for supporting "illegal immigration," yet they all won their races. [ILRC 11/8/06] "The myth that members of Congress need to be afraid of immigration might have been put to rest, because no member of Congress was punished in this election for supporting pro-immigrant legislation," according to Josh Bernstein, federal policy director of the National Immigration Law Center. [LAT 11/9/06]

On the other hand, two Republican senators who had supported immigration reform efforts were defeated: Lincoln Chafee (RI) and Mike DeWine (OH). [ILRC 11/8/06] And several Democrats won with anti-immigrant campaigns: Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill won a Senate seat after campaigning as tough on immigration; and Virginia Democrat Jim Webb unseated Republican Sen. George Allen after accusing him of voting to allow more guest workers into the US. In Pennsylvania, Democrats Patrick Murphy and Chris Carney won House seats after campaigns in which they accused their Republican opponents of being soft on immigration. [LAT 11/9/06]


On Oct. 11, the US Attorney's office indicted Hillman Shrimp and Oyster Company, its owner and four employees for an alleged scheme to recruit and hire unauthorized immigrants to work at the Houston-area supplier of Gulf Coast oysters and shrimp. Manager Antonio Ramos Gonzalez, the company's agent in charge of submitting applications for work visas for temporary workers from Mexico, was charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, encouraging and inducing undocumented immigrants to enter and illegally remain in the US as seasonal employees for the company, using false identification documents and making false statements to a federal agency. Gonzalez is also charged with three felony counts of visa fraud relating to three of the employees.

The indictment also charges company owner Clifford Hillman and three other employees--Steve Taylor, Wendy Taylor and Derenda Campbell--with conspiracy to hire and recruit undocumented workers, a misdemeanor violation, from 1999 through late June 2004. The scheme allegedly involved the use of false identification documents and false statements to secure H2-B visas for temporary employees doing seasonal work, and the filing of falsely certified employment eligibility forms. [Houston Chronicle 10/12/06]


Contributions toward Immigration News Briefs are gladly accepted: they should be made payable and sent to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012. (Tax-deductible contributions of $50 or more may be made payable to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and earmarked for "NSN".)