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]


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