Sunday, December 30, 2007

INB 12/30/07: Detainee Killed in Workplace Accident

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 32 - December 30, 2007

1. Detainee Killed in Workplace Accident
2. Raids Hit Hawai'i
3. Connecticut Nonprofit Raided
4. Vigil at NYC Detention Center
5. March, Vigil at Texas Detention Center
6. Phoenix: Pro-Immigrant Activists March
7. ICE Chief Confirmed

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 for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe.

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On Dec. 5, Cesar Gonzales-Baeza, a Mexican immigration detainee at the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, California, was electrocuted when the jackhammer he was using struck a high-voltage power line. Gonzales-Baeza was transferred to the University of Southern California Medical Center's burn unit, where he died on Dec. 7. The accident took place while Baeza and another detainee were moving fence posts as part of a voluntary program that allows detainees to earn $1 a day or extra visiting hours in exchange for performing kitchen, janitorial or other light work.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said in a written statement that Gonzalez Baeza suffered a "serious electrical shock while he was performing maintenance duties as part of a volunteer work crew." The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating the death, said ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice. Kice declined to comment on why Baeza was working with a jackhammer.

Baeza's wife, Judith Gonzales, said authorities have provided little information about the accident. "This has been very hard for us," Gonzalez said. "I never expected something like this to happen because he was detained." Greg Moreno, an attorney for Gonzales-Baeza's family, said, "We want to know who was supervising this work and how it is that no one knew about the power line." Gonzales-Baeza, a legal permanent resident, had been picked up on a traffic violation and detained for 10 months while appealing his deportation, Moreno said. "This shouldn't have happened," Moreno said. "This is a man who should have been bonded out. He was a hardworking man, a father of two young boys. He wasn't a threat to society or anyone else. And now he is dead."

Gonzales-Baeza's death is believed to be the first workplace-related death involving an immigration detainee. [Most facilities do not allow immigration detainees to work.] "Typically, all the deaths we know about have involved medical issues," said Paul Wright, who runs Prison Legal News, a newsletter geared toward prisoners, lawyers and rights activists. At least 70 people have died while in federal immigration custody since fiscal 2004.

Despite questions surrounding Gonzales-Baeza's death, on Dec. 11 Los Angeles county supervisors unanimously approved a request from the County Sheriff's Department to spend $10 million to double the bed space at the Mira Loma facility. In November, the Department of Homeland Security agreed to pay the county $51 million to house 1,400 immigrants at Mira Loma, according to the contract obtained by the Los Angeles Daily Journal. County officials charge the Department of Homeland Security $100 a day to house a detainee, according to the county documents. Plans to expand Mira Loma come just months after the immigration detention center in San Pedro, also in Los Angeles County, was shut down temporarily by federal officials. ICE officials denied the agency plans to expand the detention contract at Mira Loma. "ICE has not entered into a contract at this time to add beds at the facility," Kice said in a written statement. [Los Angeles Daily Journal 12/21/07]


Early on Dec. 19, armed ICE agents with search warrants raided a warehouse in the Hawala district of Honolulu, Hawai'i and arrested 11 workers for allegedly being present in the US without permission. Later the same morning, ICE agents raided a construction site for a luxury condominium in downtown Honolulu, conducting floor-by-floor searches and arresting eight workers. Wayne Wills, special agent in charge of the ICE office of investigation in Hawai'i, declined to say who owned the warehouse or give further details about the raids. "We're working with the US Attorney's Office to look at additional charges," he said. The 19 people arrested were taken to the Federal Detention Center near the Honolulu airport.

"The aggressive law enforcement crackdown is highly unusual in the local construction industry given the multiethnic composition of the local workforce," said Pacific Resource Partnership, an organization of contractors and the 7,600-member Hawai'i Carpenters Union, in a statement praising the arrests. Partnership executive director Kyle Chock. said his organization was told the arrested workers are Hispanic and Chinese. "Companies that knowingly break the law by exploiting workers and creating slave conditions are simply unacceptable," said Chock. The Pinnacle condominium construction site is a nonunion location with a small crew of fewer than 50 workers, according to Chock. Partnership officials have been in contact with federal and local authorities about allegations of unauthorized workers, safety issues and unpaid wages, Chock said. [Honolulu Advertiser 12/20/07; Pacific Business News (Honolulu) 12/20/07; (Honolulu) 12/20/07; Honolulu Star-Bulletin 12/20/07]


On Dec. 13, over a dozen agents from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies raided the office of the nonprofit Community Action Agency in New Haven, Connecticut, which helps poor residents file applications for help with their heating bills from the federally- financed Connecticut Energy Assistance Program. According to Community Action Agency president Amos Smith, the agents had a warrant demanding all documents from 2003 onward. The raid continued until past 3am on Dec. 14; agents took away as many as 90 boxes of documents and three computers from the office. Smith said the agents asked staff members if they had been instructed to accept applications from immigrants without legal status. The raid was apparently sparked by an employee's complaint--filed last June with the office of state attorney general Richard Blumenthal and in September with federal agencies including HHS--that ineligible immigrants had been receiving energy assistance through the nonprofit. [New York Times 12/18/07]


On Dec. 13, over 100 people (50 according to the Village Voice) braved the freezing rain to take part in an interfaith candlelight vigil outside the Varick Street service processing center in downtown Manhattan, New York City, where ICE processes immigrant detainees. The pro-immigrant vigil was hosted by the New York City New Sanctuary Movement, a coalition of 19 churches that have banded together to protect and assist families facing deportation. Organizers said they were seeking to remind the public that the Varick Street processing center is often the first stop for New Yorkers who are ultimately deported and separated from their families. "People do get deported straight from Varick Street, or held here for 48 hours before being sent upstate or to New Jersey," said Angad Bhalla, a New Sanctuary organizer. "We just wanted to highlight what is happening right downtown in a building we all pass by all the time." Seven people from a group calling itself New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement (NY ICE) held a counter-demonstration, yelling insults at the crowd. [Report from the Varick Street Vigil by Juan Carlos Ruiz of New Sanctuary Movement 12/18/07; Village Voice 12/18/07]

Vigil participants included several workers who had just lost their jobs at FreshDirect, a grocery-delivery service, because they couldn't comply with the company's Dec. 9 order requiring them to prove they were authorized to work [see INB 12/16/07]. Labor leaders accused the company of using the new requirement as a tool to intimidate workers and keep them from joining a union. [Village Voice 12/18/07] In a secret ballot vote conducted by the National Labor Relations Board on Dec. 22 and 23, 80% of the 530 participating workers at FreshDirect voted against joining either of the two unions that were competing to represent them. [New York Times 12/24/07]


On Dec. 16, some 100 activists marched from downtown Taylor, Texas, to the T. Don Hutto immigrant prison at the outskirts of town, which holds families with children facing deportation. At sundown, the activists lit candles and held a vigil, then attempted to deliver holiday toys and wrapping paper into the lobby of the prison as gifts for the detainees. "Free the Children, Now!" chanted the crowd, led by Jaime Martinez, National Treasurer of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). "Close Hutto Down!" Over more than a dozen protests in the past year, security guards have generally stopped protesters from crossing a line onto prison grounds, but this time the protesters were allowed to deliver their gifts, and prison officials appeared to be processing the toys for distribution to the detaineees. The protest was co- sponsored by LULAC and Texans United for Families (TUFF). According to Sherry Dana, an activist from Georgetown, Texas, as of Dec. 14 the Hutto prison held 142 detainees: 13 men, 55 women, 31 boys and 43 girls. The number of detainees can change on a daily basis. [Counterpunch 12/17/07]

On Dec. 18, activists commemorated International Migrants Day with a candlelight vigil in downtown Dallas, Texas. The vigil urged an end to raids against immigrants and the closure of the Hutto prison. [AP 12/18/07]


On Dec. 19, about 100 immigrant rights activists marched six miles from Pruitt's Home Furnishings in Phoenix, Arizona, to City Hall to protest Mayor Phil Gordon's decision to end a policy that restricts Phoenix police officers from asking people about their immigration status during routine encounters. The march took place on the day of the last City Council meeting of the year; 25 activists entered City Hall to urge the Council to oppose the policy change. "I implore you to maintain the policy so the immigrant community can maintain trust of the police," Rev. Liana Rowe of Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona told the City Council. About 30 anti-immigrant activists held a counter-protest outside City Hall.

Activist Salvador Reza, who organized the march, accused Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of trying to intimate marchers by sending deputies to patrol areas along the route. A Sheriff's Department van with a billboard on the side that said "stop illegal immigration" trailed protesters most of the way along the march route. Sheriff's deputies arrested nine people in traffic stops near Pruitt's; seven of those arrested turned out to be undocumented immigrants, according to sheriff's department spokesperson Paul Chagolla. Arpaio is a vocal opponent of out-of-status immigrants and has had a number of his deputies trained to act as immigration officers. [Arizona Republic 12/19/07; 12/20/07]

Pruitt's has been the site of weekly protests by rights advocates and supporters of day laborers and counter- protests by anti-immigrant activists. [AR 12/19/07] Reza started bringing protesters to Pruitt's to pressure the store's owner to stop paying off-duty sheriff's deputies to patrol his parking lot. Reza said the off-duty deputies have arrested and deported 65 immigrants in the area so far. "In essence, you have a private individual being able to implement US immigration laws," Reza said. "That's very dangerous and it cannot be tolerated." Reza said his group will continue to protest outside Pruitt's and boycott the store until the owner replaces the sheriff's deputies with private security guards, who do not have the power to deport people. [AP 12/21/07]


On Dec. 19, the Senate confirmed Julie L. Myers as director of ICE, two years after President George W. Bush used a recess appointment to assign her to the position. Myers was among more than 30 people whose appointments were approved by a voice vote of the Senate as it concluded its session before the holidays. Her appointment was questioned recently after she gave the "most original" costume award to a white employee who came to the ICE Halloween party dressed as an escaped prisoner with dreadlocks and darkened skin. Myers apologized for the incident after it drew complaints of racial insensitivity. [AP 12/20/07]


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".)

ORDER "The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers," a new book by the editors of Immigration News Briefs and Weekly News Update on the Americas, out now on Monthly Review Press: for details see publisher website:
book website:
authors' blog:
or email the authors at

Monday, December 17, 2007

INB 12/16/07: Hartford March; NYC Workers Fired; More Raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 31 ‑ December 16, 2007

1. Hartford: Marchers Protest Raids
2. NYC: Fresh Direct Workers Fired
3. Arkansas Restaurants Raided
4. NM: Frozen Foods Plant Raided

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 for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe.


On Dec. 10, some 150 people marched to the federal building in Hartford, Connecticut, to demand an end to immigration raids. Activists were upset about the arrest of 21 Brazilian immigrants in early November in the city's Parkville neighborhood in a joint operation between local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents [see INB 11/4/07, which reported that nine people had been arrested as of Nov. 2]. Local police said they had asked ICE to help them search for a Brazilian man being sought on attempted murder and robbery charges. They didn't find the suspect, but ICE picked up 21 other people suspected of being in the US without permission.

The march was sponsored by more than a dozen organizations, including Stop the Raids, a Trinity College‑based group; People of Faith; and the Connecticut chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Luis Cotto and Larry Deutsch, elected to the Hartford city council in November as members of the Working Families Party, both attended the march and said they would push for policies that limit when local police can inquire about immigration status. [Hartford Courant 12/11/07]


On Dec. 9 and 10, FreshDirect, an online grocery delivery business operating in New York City, sent its workers a memo saying that ICE planned to inspect the records of every employee and asking them to provide proof that they are authorized to work in the US. At least 40 workers at the company's warehouse in Long Island City, Queens, subsequently quit or were suspended because they could not produce such proof. Officials from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union, which is seeking to organize some 900 of the company's warehouse workers, said many FreshDirect employees were so frightened of being detained and separated from their children that they stayed home on Dec. 12. Others said they were told not to come back. "Some people just walked out the door," said Sandy Pope, president of Teamsters Local 805. "They were sobbing, with garbage bags full of their clothes from their lockers. They didn't feel they had any chance of fixing their paperwork, so they just left."

According to Pope, some employees were warned by company officials not to show up for their paychecks. She said the union was scrambling to find clergy members or other volunteers to collect paychecks for workers who feared going back to the warehouse.

Pope said on Dec. 12 that the suspensions seemed to be an effort to thwart the union, and that the company's lawyers might have invited ICE to scrutinize employment documents in an effort to weaken the union drive. ICE spokesperson Kelly Nantel said, "I would categorically deny that that's the case." Jim Moore, the FreshDirect senior vice president for business affairs, called the claim outrageous.

FreshDirect officials said in a statement that they were trying to comply with the government's request and keep their employees informed about the investigation. Moore said the company had asked ICE officials to delay their audit until after the holidays, but the agency refused. [New York Times 12/13/07] The warehouse workers are scheduled to vote on Dec. 22 and 23 on whether to affiliate with the Teamsters local or with Local 348 of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which already represents about 500 drivers, helpers and delivery workers at FreshDirect. The workers may also choose not to join a union. The company has actively discouraged its employees from joining the Teamsters. [NYT 12/12/07 (online), 12/13/07]

The Teamsters organized a demonstration outside the warehouse in Queens on Dec. 11 to protest the company's actions. "We are going to file charges against the company with the National Labor Relations Board, because we strongly believe this was done to scare the workers into voting no," said Pope, the local union president. [WNYC 12/12/07]

FreshDirect had no problem with its employees' paperwork before they expressed a desire to organize, notes the Teamsters union, which is urging labor rights activists to support the workers by sending letters to company officials through its website: [Teamsters alert, "Tell FreshDirect: Stop Threatening Workers," undated]


On Dec. 10, ICE agents raided four Mexican restaurants of the local Acambaro chain in Benoton and Washington counties in northwest Arkansas and two sites of a related business in Benton County, Garcia's Distribution Co. Agents arrested four "operational managers" of the businesses‑‑Arturo Reyes, Sylvia Reyes, Armando Reyes and Lucila Huaracha‑‑on criminal charges related to harboring and employing unauthorized immigrants for financial gain, according to a news release from the US attorney's office in Fort Smith. All four are being held in local jails with ICE detainers that bar them from being bonded out of jail. ICE says all four are in the US without permission.

Another 19 people apparently employed at the raided sites were arrested on immigration violations and face deportation to Mexico and El Salvador. ICE spokesperson Temple Black said one of those arrested is a sole caretaker of children who was released on her own recognizance to make arrangements for her children's care.

A civil forfeiture complaint filed on Dec. 10 states that money laundering is also part of the investigation; federal prosecutors have already seized more than $100,000 from 15 bank accounts and are seeking forfeiture of 11 real estate properties owned by the Reyes family in Benton and Washington counties, claiming the properties were purchased with money derived from harboring and employing unauthorized workers. Acambaro and Garcia's also have locations in southwest Missouri, but those sites weren't raided. The raids were carried out by the Immigration Criminal Apprehension Task Force, formed in September and made up of ICE agents and local police in Washington and Benton counties. [Benton County Daily Record 12/11/07; Arkansas Democrat‑Gazette 12/11/07, 12/14/07, 12/15/07; Morning News (NW Arkansas) 12/12/07, 12/14/07]

Holly Dickson, attorney for the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said the latest operation is not what the task force had said it would focus on. "The public has been told that this task force would be going after serious, violent criminals, but this appears to be mostly centered around undocumented workers," said Dickson. [AD‑G 12/14/07]

According to affidavits unsealed on Dec. 14, the investigation began in September 2006 after a confidential informant told authorities that Arturo Reyes was harboring and employing unauthorized immigrants at his business. Immigration officials and police then noticed that a number of the unauthorized immigrants they were arresting in other cases turned out to be Acambaro employees. They started interviewing the arrested Acambaro employees in March 2007 and used the information gained about hiring and pay practices to make a case against Arturo and Silvia Reyes. The affidavits say many of the chain's unauthorized immigrant workers were paid in cash, "off the books." [Morning News 12/14/07]


On Dec. 10, ICE agents executed a criminal search warrant at Proper Foods, a frozen foods plant in Deming, New Mexico, and arrested 21 of the company's employees on immigration violations. One of the arrested workers is Honduran; the others, including a 17‑year‑old boy, are Mexican. Of the adults arrested, 10 are women (including the Honduran) and 10 are men. Three women were released on their own recognizance and served with a notice to appear before an immigration judge. The juvenile was handed over to the care of the Mexican government. Two men and four women are being held at an immigration detention center in El Paso, Texas, to await removal proceedings. The remaining 11 workers were "voluntarily" returned to Mexico on Dec. 10, the day of the raid.

The raid followed a five‑month investigation and was carried out by agents from ICE, the Border Patrol and the Border Operations Task Force. Proper Foods owner John Johns said he was "amazed" that agents found even one unauthorized worker at his plant. "We had all the documents that are required that you are allowed to ask people for," said Johns. "It turns out some of them are fake." According to ICE, Proper Foods employs about 300 people to prepare, package and distribute tamales. [Las Cruces Sun‑News 12/12/07; Santa Fe New Mexican 12/11/07; El Paso Times 12/11/07, 12/12/07]


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".)

ORDER "The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers," a new book by the editors of Immigration News Briefs and Weekly News Update on the Americas, out now on Monthly Review Press: for details see
publisher website:
book website:
authors' blog:
or email the authors at

Sunday, December 9, 2007

INB 12/9/07: Texas Residents Resist Wall Plans

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 30 - December 9, 2007

1. Texas Residents Resist Wall Plans
2. Massachusetts: Raid Targets Roofers
3. "Predator" Raid in New York
4. Report Blasts HIV Care in Detention
5. Somali Man Gets 10 Years in Terror Plea

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 for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe.


On Dec. 7, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he would give landowners in South Texas 30 days to consent to letting federal officials survey their properties to determine whether they are suitable for a planned border fence. If the owners don't give permission, Chertoff said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will turn to the courts to gain temporary access. If the agency finds the land appropriate for fencing and landowners refuse to cooperate, the department will seek court action to confiscate the land. [Los Angeles Times 12/8/07; Brownsville Herald 12/8/07] Chertoff said the DHS needs access to 225 miles of noncontiguous land, most of it in Texas and Arizona, in order to build 370 miles of border fencing by the end of 2008."The door is still open to talk, but it's not open for endless talk," Chertoff said. "We won't pay more than market price for the land," he added.

Ranchers and farmers in Texas, where much of the land along the border is privately owned, say the fence would cut off their access to the Rio Grande, the only regional source of fresh water. Business groups also complain that the fencing will slow cross-border traffic crucial for local economies. Juan D. Salinas, a judge and chief administrator of the local government in Hidalgo County, Texas, said the community opposes the planned fence based on economic, cultural and environmental concerns. "I tell you, on this one issue, the Farm Bureau, the United Farm Workers, Democrats and Republicans, white, black, brown, everybody is against the border fence. It just doesn't make sense," said Salinas. "It's a disappointment that again the Department of Homeland Security is not listening to local taxpayers."

DHS contacted some 600 owners and held town hall meetings in border communities to explain the fence project. Chertoff said two-thirds of Texans who were approached agreed to give DHS access to their land, a quarter did not respond, and about 10% refused. The agency mailed about 150 letters on Dec. 7 to landowners who have not yet given permission, warning them of the 30- day deadline. DHS officials say California landowners have been cooperative and "relatively few" will be receiving such letters. [LAT 12/8/07]

One of the Texas landowners who is resisting is 72-year-old Dr. Eloisa Garcia Tamez, an elder of the Lipan Apache tribe who works as director of the nursing department at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College. [BH 12/8/07; Email Alert from Margo Tamez, daughter of Eloisa Garcia Tamez, 11/16/07] In late November, two men from the US Army Corps of Engineers and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) knocked on Tamez's door and asked for permission to survey her property in El Calaboz, a rural community along the Rio Grande, 10 miles west of Brownsville. They were seeking her consent to enter, survey and store equipment on her property for 12 months. But Tamez has refused to sign. "I will protect this land just like my ancestors did," she said. Tamez's family has occupied the same tract of land in El Calaboz since 1784. The proposed wall would leave the majority of her land on the south side of the barrier. When Tamez told a CBP representative that she wouldn't consent to the conditions of the land surveyors, he replied: "Have you heard of eminent domain?" [BH 12/8/07]

Eloisa Tamez's daughter, poet Margo Tamez, spoke about her mother's resistance to the wall at Yakima Valley Community College in Yakima, Washington, on Nov. 29. She said El Calaboz residents, along with landowners in Arizona, are being pressured and intimidated by men in military and Border Patrol uniforms to grant the government access to their land. Margo Tamez pointed out that indigenous peoples were separated when borders were drawn on a map. "The US-Mexico border is a good place to see how we're related," Tamez said. "We don't believe in borders. We've lived on this land for over 10,000 years." [Yakima Herald-Republic 12/1/07]

Residents of El Calaboz were first contacted by authorities about the wall in August. Since then, they've met at local churches and in the homes of community members to discuss the plan. "They told us they will pay fair market value for the land where the wall will be built," said 76-year-old Idalia Benavidez, who like Eloisa Tamez is a descendant of the original residents of the area. Benavidez consented to the federal government's land survey but is unhappy about the wall's proposed route--which is not along the border, but along a levee north of the Rio Grande. The planned wall would separate her home from pasture land south of the levee where her family keeps their cows. If the wall is built, her 80-year-old husband, Jose Benavidez, would have to drive to a checkpoint three miles from their home, then cut back another three miles along the levee in order to reach the cows to feed them. "Raising and selling those cows is how we pay our taxes," said Idalia Benavidez. [BH 12/8/07]


On Dec. 7, some eight to 10 agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided two sites in Milford, Massachusetts, with their guns drawn. The agents arrested 14 people for violating immigration laws. The raid was part of a criminal investigation into Same Day Roofing and Construction, owned by Ecuadoran immigrant Daniel Tacuri Llivichusca. ICE also arrested Tacuri on criminal charges, according to ICE spokesperson Paula Grenier and Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin. Grenier said Tacuri will face a US District Court judge during an upcoming hearing, but she declined to further explain the case, referring a reporter to the US district attorney's office. The other 14 suspects--12 men and two women--will face a federal immigration judge, Grenier said. All those arrested are in detention pending the outcome of their cases, said Grenier.

Milford police assisted with the pre-dawn raids at Tacuri's office, where ICE arrested two employees, and a three-family residence where ICE arrested the other 12 immigrants. ICE also seized documents at the office and the residence. At the office, Milford Police arrested a local homeless man with an outstanding warrant who was living there, O'Loughlin said.

Tacuri's brother, Antonio Tacuri, witnessed the raid at the residence but said he was not arrested because he and two other Same Day Roofing employees were arrested two weeks earlier when ICE agents pulled over their van on Interstate 495. They face deportation hearings at immigration court in Boston. Only three or four of the people arrested at the raided residence worked for the company, said Antonio Tacuri; the rest were mostly relatives. Last May, a Worcester Housing Court judge granted a preliminary injunction against Tacuri, ordering him to clear out an illegal "rooming house" at the residence, which is supposed to have six bedrooms but where town inspectors last March found 11 bedrooms. [Milford Daily News 12/8/07; Worcester Telegram & Gazette 12/9/07]


On Dec. 6, ICE arrested 22 people it described as "child predators" and "criminal alien sex offenders" in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. The arrests were part of the ongoing "Operation Predator" initiative. All those arrested were on probation in New York City for prior felony or misdemeanor convictions for sex offenses; ICE listed their crimes as including rape, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, endangering the welfare of a child, sodomy and promoting prostitution. Those arrested were citizens of Burma, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Guyana, India, Italy, Jamaica, Korea, Mexico, Poland and Trinidad. Eleven were legal permanent residents; the other 11 were in the US without permission. All were transported to an ICE detention facility where they will be detained and placed into removal proceedings. All will have the opportunity to have their cases heard before an immigration judge, said ICE in a news release announcing the arrests. [ICE News Release 12/6/07]


In a 71-page report released on Dec. 7, Human Rights Watch urged the Department of Homeland Security to upgrade its care and treatment of immigration detainees with HIV, the virus associated with AIDS. According to the watchdog organization, the agency fails to monitor medical care for detainees with HIV, and doesn't even know the extent of the problem among the nearly 30,000 people it holds in immigration detention on any given day. "The US government has no idea how many of these immigrants have HIV or AIDS, how many need treatment, and how many are receiving the care that is necessary," said Megan McLemore of Human Rights Watch's HIV/AIDS program.

The report, "Chronic Indifference: HIV/AIDS Services for Immigrants Detained by the United States," documents the experiences of HIV-positive immigration detainees whose HIV treatment was denied, delayed, or interrupted, resulting in serious risk and often damage to their health. Among other cases, it highlights that of Victoria Arellano, a 23-year-old HIV-positive transgendered detainee who died in immigration custody in July 2007 after being detained for eight weeks at a detention center in San Pedro, California [see INB 8/26/07]. The report is at [HRW Press Release 12/7/07]


On Nov. 27, Somali immigrant Nuradin Abdi was sentenced to 10 years in prison in US District Court in Columbus, Ohio, for his role in an alleged plot to bomb a shopping mall [see INB 3/13/04, 7/31/04, 3/6/05]. Abdi, a cell phone salesperson before his November 2003 arrest, pleaded guilty in July 2007 of one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. [In 2004, questions were raised about whether Abdi's mental state had been broken through torture while he was in immigration detention-- see INB 7/31/04]. Abdi first entered the US in 1995 with a false passport and was later granted asylum "based on a series of false statements," according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). A DOJ spokesperson said Abdi would be deported to Somalia after serving his prison term.

The DOJ claimed Abdi traveled to Ethiopia in 1999 in an attempt to be trained in radio usage, guns, guerrilla warfare and bombs. Abdi's attorneys point out that the DOJ never alleged what organization they believed was running the training camp Abdi was accused of visiting, or confirmed whether he even went there. "Since this was not a session where everybody has to bring their proof, they could have made any kind of statement," said Yusuf Abucar, a spokesperson for Abdi's family.

One of Abdi's alleged co-conspirators in the mall bombing plot, Pakistani immigrant Iyman Faris, pleaded guilty in May 2003 to providing material support for terrorism and is serving a 20-year prison term. The other alleged co-conspirator, US citizen Christopher Paul, was indicted in April 2007 with plotting to bomb European tourist resorts and overseas US military bases and is scheduled for trial in January 2009. [AP 11/27/07, 11/28/07; Reuters 11/27/07]

According to an AP report, Abdi refused earlier plea deals that would have required him to acknowledge ties with Al Qa'ida and testify against other suspects. Abucar and attorney David Smith said on Nov. 28 that the government had offered Abdi five years in prison minus the time he already served, plus a green card--lawful permanent residency in the US.

"He believed that the government didn't have any strong case against him and he should not accept that kind of plea bargain," Abucar said. "He wanted to be cleared of everything." The government wanted Abdi to testify against Paul, said Abucar. Abdi refused to testify against a fellow Muslim but also said he didn't know what the government was talking about, Abucar said. "He's very religious," Abucar said. "He said, 'If I lie, God will punish me.'"

The plea agreement Abdi accepted this past July does not require him to cooperate with the government in other cases. Sherif said Abdi agreed to the plea to get on with his life and because he worried what a jury would decide given the country's current mood. [AP 11/28/07]


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".)

ORDER "The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers," a new book by the editors of Immigration News Briefs and Weekly News Update on the Americas, out now on Monthly Review Press: for details see
publisher website:
book website:
authors' blog:
or email the authors at

Sunday, December 2, 2007

INB 12/2/07: Raids Protested in Idaho

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 29 - December 2, 2007

1. Raids Protested in Idaho
2. Roofers Arrested in North Dakota
3. Missouri Cafeteria Workers Indicted
4. Kentucky Restaurant Workers Arrested
5. Detention Center Protested in Tacoma
6. Canada Rules US Not Safe for Refugees

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 for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe.


A US Border Patrol official confirmed on Nov. 13 that agents investigating human smuggling on commercial bus lines arrested more than 100 illegal immigrants in the area of Twin Falls, Idaho, over the past week. The number of people arrested was later confirmed to be 108. Alex Harrington, spokesperson for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Havre, Montana, said the ongoing operation was not coordinated with unconfirmed reports of repeated strikes over the past week by immigration agents at other locations, including malls and a bank.

The operation stemmed from a tip from Greyhound bus officials who complained to local Border Patrol agents that sometimes a single person would purchase more than 10 tickets at once. The Border Patrol concluded that human smugglers appeared to be using local bus stations as hubs for transporting immigrants around the country. "With the increase of agents on the southern border (of the United States) there have been concerns that some of the smuggling traffic is moving up north," said Harrington.

It was unclear why the operation was carried out by Border Patrol agents, who generally operate within 100 miles of the border, rather than by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, which generally handles interior enforcement. Twin Falls is some 600 miles from the Canadian border, and more than 700 miles from the Mexican border. It was also unclear how agents approached passengers on the buses. Local activists say agents used racial profiling to target immigrants. "We don't do profiling," Harrington claimed.

A spokesperson for WinCo Foods supermarkets said on Nov. 12 that on "several occasions" over the prior week immigration agents had detained "a number" of unauthorized immigrants at one of the chain's stores on Blue Lakes Boulevard North. Ben Reed, a personality on the La Fantastica Spanish language radio station, based in nearby Rupert, Idaho, said one of the raids at WinCo sent immigrants fleeing into the stockroom. Agents later hauled them out. The most recent raid at WinCo, he said, happened on the night of Nov. 12. An ICE spokesperson in Seattle, Lorie Dankers, declined to confirm whether the agency had carried out any enforcement operations at WinCo.

The community responded to the raids with a Nov. 14 organizing meeting at a Twin Falls church and public protests at Twin Falls retailers--including a small demonstration against the raid in the parking lot at the WinCo Foods on Blue Lakes Boulevard North-- among other efforts. [Magic Valley Times News (Twin Falls, Idaho) 11/14/07, 12/2/07]

Harrington, the Border Patrol spokesperson, said protests and complaints from Twin Falls have prompted officials in Washington, DC to rethink further widespread sweeps in south-central Idaho. "This operation has definitely stirred up a lot of rumors, a lot of activities," said Harrington. "It's probably not going to be done again--probably not. We were only told to hit the bus lines. Stay on them. These guys [Twin Falls-based Border Patrol agents], they have families. They do what they're told."

"I can safely say the agents conducted their operations only around the bus lines because if they were not, they could face disciplinary actions," Harrington said, adding that the agents have assured him they did nothing more than follow orders.

Local resident Alicia Martinez said her husband Elias Aguilar-Martinez, who worked full-time at a dairy, was arrested by Border Patrol agents on Nov. 6, three weeks after the couple married. Aguilar-Martinez was later deported to Juarez, Mexico. "The sole reason they stopped him was his dark skin color," Martinez said. "They are targeting these people." "They thought he looked like what an illegal immigrant looks like," Martinez added. "They said if you don't sit down and shut up we can seize your jointly owned vehicle. I'm an American citizen. I was born here--in San Diego, California."

On Nov. 8, two Border Patrol agents stopped Eric Valencia, a Washington state native now studying at the College of Southern Idaho to become a paramedic, and scrutinized his documents outside Ridley's market in Jerome. Agents questioned his valid Idaho driver's license, but let him go after 30 minutes. Valencia says he has considered suing the Border Patrol for what he considers racial profiling. He says he must have been singled out because of his race--and the fact that he was wearing a jacket with a Mexican national emblem.

ICE spokesperson Dankers said that by using their "knowledge, their training and experience," agents can appropriately question people on "reasonable suspicions." Dankers insisted: "It's just not profiling."

"Border Patrol says it's very good at picking out people on their demeanor and the way they dress," said Twin Falls Planning and Zoning board member Gerardo Munoz, who was just elected chairman of a citizen committee. "And I am saying I don't care how good you are. You are already establishing a profile when you say I am really good at picking out somebody." [Magic Valley Times News 12/2/07]


On Nov. 7 and 8 in Fargo, North Dakota, state officials arrested at least 31 workers (33 according to some reports) suspected of being in the country without permission and handed them over to the Border Patrol. The workers were repairing roofs at five homes in the Fargo area--about 150 miles south of the Canadian border--where a Sept. 21 hailstorm damaged hundreds of homes. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said it's common for contractors to flock to an area after a severe storm. State officials inspected the worksites to check roofing contractors' compliance with state regulations. Most of the arrested workers were employed by subcontractors at three job sites overseen by out-of-state companies which were licensed as North Dakota contractors after the storm. "[Y]ou can't drift into North Dakota, claim you have no employees and yet then have subcontractors involved in the work who aren't complying with the laws," said Consumer Protection Director Parrell Grossman.

Four workers were arrested at a site managed by a North Dakota company, All Seasons Roofing of Bismarck. Eight workers were found at a site overseen by E Mastercraft Exteriors of Roscoe, Illinois. Seven workers were arrested Nov.7 at a site overseen by E Greenhaven Exteriors of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. Greenhaven issued a statement late on Nov. 8, saying that its local subcontractor has a proven record of hiring legal, documented workers. "Many of our subcontractor's Hispanic workers are legally working in the United States, have the appropriate documentation and they are good and decent hard working people," said Bear Deardorff, Greenhaven's production manager in Fargo, in the statement. A clerical error by Greenhaven prompted the raid, the statement said, and seven workers were detained because they weren't carrying proper documentation on the job site.

Seven workers were arrested Nov. 8 at a worksite managed by the Indianapolis-based CMR Construction and Roofing. CMR Construction and Roofing CEO Steven Soule subsequently issued a two-page statement of apology, saying the company rigorously follows federal and state requirements when hiring new employees or subcontractors. "The problem that we are experiencing, along with thousands of other companies nationwide, is that there is no accurate mechanism for verifying the validity of these documents," Soule said in the statement, which was sent to The Forum, a local newspaper, presumably on Nov. 11.

The detained workers had been with CMR for some time and carried their own liability and workers compensation insurance, Soule said. "We have absolutely no idea how an illegal alien could obtain such insurance coverage, except with very convincing documents," he said. "We regret the incident occurred and assure you we are working to make sure it does not happen again," he said. [The Forum (Fargo) 11/9/07, 11/12/07; Associated Press 11/12/07]


In a series of indictments returned by a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Missouri, five employees of a firm that contracts to operate the cafeteria at the city's Richard Bolling Federal Building were charged Nov. 7 with using false Social Security numbers to gain employment. US Attorney John F. Wood, Western District of Missouri, announced the indictments; the case was investigated by the Federal Protective Service, a program under ICE. Two of those indicted are Guatemalan women who live in Kansas City, Kansas; three are Mexican men living in Kansas City, Missouri. Each of the five defendants was employed by Aramark Services, the contractor that operates the cafeteria in the federal office building. One of the Guatemalan women left her job at Aramark a year ago. [ICE News Release 11/7/07]


On Nov. 14, ICE special agents based in Louisville, Kentucky, arrested 10 men and five women working at Chinese restaurants in the area. The workers were employed at the Jumbo Buffet in La Grange, northeast of Louisville, and the China Star Buffet and Grill in Bardstown, southeast of Louisville. ICE agents executed federal search warrants at both restaurants as well as residences in La Grange and Bardstown. The workers were being held in ICE custody for immigration violations; they will be placed into deportation proceedings. Ten of them are Chinese; five are Mexican. The arrests were part of an ongoing criminal worksite enforcement investigation which ICE began in December 2006 after receiving a tip that the restaurants were knowingly employing out-of-status workers. [ICE News Release 11/14/07]


Some 50 protesters, many wearing masks and identifying themselves as anarchists, marched in downtown Tacoma, Washington, on Oct. 9 to speak out against the Northwest Detention Center, a privately run 1,000-bed prison holding immigration detainees on the Tacoma Tideflats. The protesters were met by a similar number of police agents in riot gear. Tacoma police arrested two men and a woman on suspicion of disorderly conduct and failure to obey a police officer, police spokesperson Mark Fulghum said. There was one counter-protester.

"The reason why we're out here today is simply to say that the people inside the Northwest Detention Center are not our enemies," said Tom McCarthy, a protester who helped organize the action. "Our real enemies are people who push things like NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement], which destroys jobs in our country and destroys the livelihood of people in Latin America and forces them to be economic refugees," said McCarthy. [News Tribune (Tacoma) 11/10/07, 11/13/07; News Tribune blog 11/9/07]


Canada's federal court ruled on Nov. 29 that the US breaches the rights of asylum seekers under the United Nations Refugee Convention and the Convention Against Torture. Justice Michael Phelan cited the example of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was detained in September 2002 by US immigration officials at JFK Airport in New York while in transit to Canada and deported to Syria, where he was tortured for 10 months under a policy later identified as "extraordinary rendition" [see INB 10/18/02, 11/8/02, 11/7/03, 1/24/04].

The ruling essentially nullifies the three-year-old "Safe Third Country Agreement" (STCA) between the US and Canada, which denies refugees who land first in the US the right to later seek protection in Canada, and vice versa. Under the agreement, Canada automatically sends refugee claimants at the US border back to the US, where they are usually either detained or deported. "... The United States' policies and practices do not meet the conditions set down for authorizing Canada to enter into a STCA," Phelan wrote in his 126-page decision. The court has given both parties until Jan. 14 to make and respond to submissions for an appeal. Until then, the STCA remains in effect. [ 11/30/07]

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".)

ORDER "The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers," a new book by the editors of Immigration News Briefs and Weekly News Update on the Americas, out now on Monthly Review Press: for details see
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or email the authors at

Monday, November 26, 2007

INB 11/26/07: ICE Agent Rapes Detainee; Chicago Airport Raided

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 28 - November 26, 2007

(Note: Immigration News Briefs did not publish for the past three weeks; the last issue came out on Nov. 4.)

1. Florida ICE Agent Rapes Detainee
2. Airport Raid in Chicago
3. Oakland Carpentry Company Raided
4. Ex-Detainee Wins Damages from Prison Firm

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 for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe.


On Nov. 16, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Wilfredo Vazquez was arrested by federal agents in Tampa, Florida, and charged with three counts of knowingly causing a detainee under his supervision to engage in a sexual act. According to the accusation, Vazquez was driving a Jamaican woman, identified in an ICE press release only with the initials "M.C.," from ICE's Krome Service and Processing Center in Miami-Dade to the Broward Transition Center in Pompano Beach on the afternoon of Sept. 21 when he took a detour to his home in Tamarac and raped her there.

Vazquez had worked for ICE for less than a year. ICE issued a statement late on Nov. 16 saying that the agency fired Vazquez "shortly after the allegation was lodged against him." Federal authorities are now poring over computer records and other documents that track Vazquez's involvement in previous detainee transfers to see if other women were attacked but feared coming forward. Vazquez was also on rotation with an unidentified military reserve unit.

M.C., who had lived in the US for 12 years, was being transferred to Broward after being sentenced to time served in connection with a false claim to US citizenship. Immigration officials planned to place her in deportation proceedings.

In accusing Vazquez, M.C. said she did not outwardly resist the attack because she was afraid; she "emphasized that [he] was wearing his firearm at all times, and she did not know what he was capable of doing to her," according to the complaint. M.C. was released from immigration detention on Nov. 1, said Cheryl Little, executive director of Miami-based Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, which is representing her. "I was scared for my life," said M.C. in a telephone interview before being released. "He had a gun. He's a big man, and I was in his custody." Little said the former detainee cried with relief when told Friday night about the arrest.

In a statement given to her attorneys, M.C. said she was at Krome's intake room when Vazquez noticed her among a crowd of male detainees. Vazquez told her: "I'll rescue you, so you don't have to wait for them to process all the men." In his van, Vazquez removed M.C.'s handcuffs, told her, "You can sit in the front if you are going to be a good girl," and helped her make phone calls to her daughter and a friend. After calling his wife to ensure she was not home, Vazquez took M.C. to his house and forced her to have sex with him before finally taking her to the Broward Transition

At the Broward facility, another Jamaican female detainee asked M.C. why she was crying. M.C. told her what had happened, and the next day the other detainee reported the conversation to facility officials, who took M.C. to the Broward Sheriff's Office and a treatment center.

Vazquez denied several times to investigators that the incident happened or that he stopped other than to get gas, according to an affidavit by Homeland Security agent David Nieland. But records from Florida's Turnpike SunPass electronic toll system showed Vazquez's official vehicle left the highway at a Commercial Boulevard ramp near his home, Nieland's affidavit said. Also, M.C. gave investigators accurate and detailed descriptions of the route they took and the interior and exterior of Vazquez's home.

The Broward Sheriff's Office first opened the investigation in late September after M.C. made her accusation against Vazquez. The ICE Office of Professional Responsibility and the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General got involved, and the US attorney's office in Miami developed the case. [Miami Herald 11/17/07; ICE News Release 11/19/07]


On Nov. 7, ICE agents arrested 24 workers at several warehouses close to O'Hare International Airport in Chicago in a raid culminating an eight-month investigation into Ideal Staffing Solutions, a temporary employment agency. Agents also executed a search warrant at the Ideal Staffing offices in Bensenville, Illinois, and arrested managers Norinye Benitez and Mary Gurin there on criminal charges. Benitez and Gurin were each charged with one count of harboring "illegal aliens" for financial gain and one count of misuse of Social Security numbers for allegedly assisting the workers in obtaining unauthorized access to secure areas of the airport, according to an ICE statement.

The workers who were arrested are facing felony charges in Cook County for possession of fraudulent identification in the form of airport security badges. Most are unauthorized immigrants from Mexico; they are being held at Cook County Jail but are expected to be deported, officials said.

Federal authorities say more than 100 temporary workers employed by Ideal Staffing were in possession of fraudulently obtained airport security badges, which allowed the workers to gain access to secure areas of the airport while loading pallets, freight and meals for companies doing business at O'Hare. In one instance, Benitez allegedly pushed a box filled with 20 green color-coded security badges toward a worker cooperating with federal agents and instructed him to "pick one with a picture that most closely resembled his own likeness," according to a federal affidavit filed Nov. 7. The worker, who had never been fingerprinted by federal aviation officials, used the deactivated badge he chose to gain access to a United Airlines cargo facility, officials alleged. Federal officials couldn't say how the company got access to deactivated Chicago city Aviation Department security badges or why those badges would still allow someone to enter a restricted area. [Chicago Tribune 11/7/07, 11/8/07]

On Nov. 8, the city Aviation Department issued a statement saying it is cooperating with federal officials. The department said the city uses a badging process approved by the federal Department of Homeland Security.

ICE announced on Nov. 8 that it had arrested 10 more workers in connection with the same investigation into Ideal Staffing Solutions. Some of the workers were apparently arrested at their homes. [CT 11/9/07] ICE was assisted in the investigation by the Social Security Administration-Office of the Inspector General; Department of Labor- Office of the Inspector General; US Attorney's Office; Cook County State's Attorney's Office; Cook County Sheriff's Police Department; City of Chicago-Office of the Inspector General; US Customs and Border Protection; and the Transportation Security Administration. [ICE News Release 11/7/07]


On Nov. 6, ICE agents arrested Mexican national Jose de Jesus "Pepe" Guzman-Baez at his Oakland, California carpentry business, Pepe's Cabinets, following a search executed at the premises. Guzman was arraigned on Nov. 7 in US District Court on criminal charges for unlawfully employing and harboring unauthorized immigrants. ICE agents also detained and processed seven workers encountered during the raid on administrative immigration violations. According to the criminal complaint filed in the case, Guzman and all of his employees were using Social Security numbers that appeared to be fraudulent or did not match Social Security Administration records. The raid culminated a 16-month investigation into the hiring practices at Pepe's Cabinets, sparked by information provided to ICE's toll-free tip line. [ICE News Release 11/7/07]


On Nov. 13, in its second day of deliberations, a federal jury in Newark, New Jersey awarded former asylum seeker Hawa Abdi Jama of Somalia $100,000 in damages after finding the private company that ran an immigration detention facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, negligent in its hiring and training. The jury rejected a claim that Jama's international human rights were violated during her 11-month detention at Elizabeth in 1994-95.

Jama, now a US citizen living in Ohio, was one of nine immigrants who had sued Correctional Services Corp. (CSC)--known as Esmor when it ran the Elizabeth center--over abuses at the facility. During a six-week trial in Newark, the company reached settlements with the other eight defendants. In 2005, a separate group of 1,600 former detainees at the Elizabeth facility got a $2.5 million settlement from CSC, with most getting less than $1,000 each after legal fees [see INB 9/17/05].

The federal government closed the Elizabeth detention center and canceled the contract with Esmor after hundreds of detainees rioted over poor conditions at the facility in June 1995. The detention center reopened in January 1997 under contract with the Corrections Corp. of America, based in Nashville, Tennessee, which continues to operate it.

Jama's suit, filed in June 1997 as Jama v. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), was based on the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789, which is generally applied in cases involving atrocities committed outside the US. In November 2004, US District Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise dismissed charges against the federal immigration agency and its officials, saying the government could not be sued. He also dismissed some charges against the company's guards, finding that individual actions did not rise to the level of international human rights abuses. But he allowed the suit to move forward with charges against the company and its officials, ruling that the defendants had the right to use the statute to seek monetary damages for violations on US soil. It was the first time the 1789 law has been used against a private company.

During the trial, Jama said she and others held at the Elizabeth facility were beaten, fed rotten food, denied basic supplies such as toothbrushes and sanitary napkins, and forced to use toilets and sinks overflowing with feces and vomit. "I felt like I wasn't human," she said.

Penny Venetis, co-director of the constitutional litigation clinic at Rutgers School of Law-Newark, who represented Jama and her co-plaintiffs, contended that the company cut corners for profits. Venetis urged the jury to award punitive damages to her client to "send a message" to the company and prevent it from abusing others. The defense argued the allegations were exaggerated and that Jama was traumatized by her experience in Somalia, not by abuses at the detention center. "She came here as a damaged person and we have empathy for her, but that does not mean we are responsible under our judicial system,"said CSC attorney Larry Reich.

Although the jury rejected Jama's claim that her international human rights had been violated, it found the company and four of its officers were negligent in hiring, training, supervising and retaining guards. The jury awarded her $100,000 in compensatory damages. Jama, who is Muslim, also alleged she was prevented from practicing her religion. The jury found Esmor and one of its officers liable under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and awarded Jama an additional $1 in damages on that claim.

Venetis said she was disappointed the jury rejected the human rights claim, but added that "the $100,000 is not peanuts." She also said the eight other defendants would not agree to a gag order on their settlements, so details eventually will be disclosed. "I think it's critical for the public to know that when corporations violate human rights they will be called to task, and we have called them to task," said Venetis. [Star-Ledger (Newark) 11/14/07; AP 11/14/07]

CSC was purchased in July 2005 by the Geo Group Inc., a multinational prison and security company based in Boca Raton, Florida, which operated under the name Wackenhut Corrections Corporation until late 2003. [Geo Group website accessed 11/26/07, see] Geo reported 2006 profits of $30 million, or $1.68 per share, compared with $7 million, or 47 cents per share, a year earlier. It had revenue of $860.9 million in 2006, compared with $612.9 million in 2005. [AP 11/14/07]


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".)

ORDER "The Politics of Immigration: Questions and Answers," a new book by the editors of Immigration News Briefs and Weekly News Update on the Americas, out now on Monthly Review Press: for details see
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book website:
authors' blog:

Sunday, November 4, 2007

INB 11/4/07: Charges Dropped Against LA 8; Raids in CT, NY, GA, VT

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 27 - November 4, 2007

1. Final Charges Dropped Against LA 8
2. Connecticut: New Raid as State's Role Questioned
3. Dozens Snared in Queens Raid
4. Chicago Workers Arrested in Raid
5. Georgia: 30 Workers Arrested Near Fort Benning
6. NY Governor Accepts Federal Licenses
7. Vermont Hotels Raided
8. Migrant Deaths Marked
9. California: Immigrants Affected by Fires

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 for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe.


On Oct. 30, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) dismissed all charges against Palestinian immigrants Khader Musa Hamide and Michel Ibrahim Shehadeh, the last two members of the "Los Angeles Eight" (LA 8) who were still fighting deportation, and approved a settlement submitted by the men's lawyers and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The BIA announced the settlement on Oct. 31.

Hamide and Shehadeh were legal permanent residents when they were arrested on Jan. 26, 1987 and placed into deportation proceedings along with six other activists because of their alleged support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Specifically, the government targeted the eight activists' efforts to distribute Al Hadaf, the PFLP magazine, a publication available in public libraries and college campuses. On Jan. 30, 2007, Los Angeles immigration judge Bruce J. Einhorn terminated the deportation proceedings against Hamide and Shehadeh, calling the government's conduct in the case "an embarrassment to the rule of law." [see INB 2/4/07; see also Einhorn's ruling posted at]

The government had appealed Einhorn's ruling, but under the terms of the settlement it dropped its appeal and agreed not to charge either Hamide or Shehadeh as "removable, deportable, excludable or inadmissible, or bring any other type of proceedings to expel" either of them or take away their lawful permanent resident status "based on any affiliations, associations, information or conduct in any way connected with any organizations that were identified or described in any testimony" or any other legal document in the case or based on any statement they made.

In exchange, Hamide and Shehadeh agreed to have several court orders--including Einhorn's January 2007 order--vacated as moot; and to give up their right to sue any government officials or agencies--including the Justice Department, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement--for any action taken in the course of the case. The settlement also states that Hamide and Shehadeh must wait at least three years before they can apply for citizenship, and could be subjected to deportation or to having their permanent resident status revoked if they violate immigration laws in the future.

In a statement, the DHS said, "After thorough analysis and investigation, the United States government has no information indicating that Khader Musa Hamide and Michel Ibrahim Shehadeh currently pose a threat to national security." [Los Angeles Times 10/31/07]

"The government reasonably believed at the time these men were charged they were a threat because of their membership in a terrorist organization," said Virginia Kice, spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in California. "Based on current analysis, we have no information that they are a threat." [New York Times 11/1/07]

"It's a huge victory and certainly a relief for our clients who have lived with this cloud over them for 20 years," said Georgetown University law professor David Cole, representing the Center for Constitutional Rights, which fought the case along with the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union. [AP 10/31/07]

"This is a monumental victory...for all immigrants who want to be able to express their political views and support the lawful activities of organizations in their home countries fighting for social or political change," said San Francisco attorney Marc Van Der Hout of the National Lawyers Guild, who has worked on the case since its inception. The government's attempt to deport Hamide and Shehadeh "all these years marks another shameful period in our government's history of targeting certain groups of immigrants for their political beliefs and activities."

"My family and I feel a tremendous amount of relief," said Hamide, who lives in Chino Hills, California, and works as a wholesaler of coffee and tea. "After 20 years, the nightmare is finally over. I feel vindicated at long last. This is a victory not only for the LA 8 but for the First Amendment of the Constitution and for the rights of all immigrants."

Shehadeh, who now lives in Oregon, said that although he was "extremely happy" to put the battle behind him, he had mixed emotions. "The government robbed us, and our families, of the best and most productive years of our lives. But we will continue...acting on our beliefs, loving our country and defending the Constitution," he said. [LAT 10/31/07]

As for the other members of the LA 8, Hamide's Kenyan-born wife, Julie Mungai, has permanent resident status, as do Naim Sharif and Amjad Obeid. Obeid's brother Ayman remains in the US on a work permit; his application for permanent residency is apparently still pending. Basher Amer returned to the West Bank. Aiad Barakat is a US citizen, sworn in on Dec. 20 of last year, six months after a federal judge ordered the government to allow him to naturalize [see INB 7/8/06, 2/4/07].


ICE spokesperson Paula Grenier said on Nov. 2 that nine people were detained that morning in Hartford, Connecticut. The raids apparently began around 7am in the Parkville section of Hartford, where ICE agents went to homes and businesses on Park, South Whitney and Carpenter streets. Grenier said an ICE fugitive operation team arrested one person on an outstanding deportation order. The others were apparently swept up in the raid, suspected of being in the country without permission. Grenier declined to say how many warrants agents were trying to serve. "It was a routine operation by a fugitive operation team," she said.

Jason McGahan, a member of Stop the Raids, a Trinity College-based group, said the latest raid in Hartford "drives home that we have to mobilize in response to these attacks if we are going to protect the immigrant community. Otherwise they are sure to continue." Raids by ICE fugitive operation teams in New Haven in June led to public demonstrations, as well as aggressive legal challenges by a team of law professors and students from the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at the Yale Law School. [Hartford Courant 11/3/07]

On Oct. 31, at a Connecticut state Freedom of Information (FOI) Commission hearing in Hartford, Commissioner Vincent Russo took testimony on whether state police should be ordered to make public all the records they have in their possession on a June 6 ICE raid in New Haven in which 29 people were arrested on immigration violations. Lawyers representing two advocacy groups are seeking the state police records to determine whether ICE acted unconstitutionally by entering homes without consent or civil warrants or by racially profiling those arrested.

At the hearing, several partially redacted emails were released to the lawyers, including an Apr. 30 email from an ICE employee to state police detective Carmine Verno about an ICE operation planned for May 2 in New Haven. "I know you guys usually work nights, but if you're interested we'd love to have you! We have 18 addresses--so it should be a fun time!! Let me know if you guys can play!!" said the ICE official. "Sounds great!" Verno wrote back, saying he would run it by his bosses. The date was later pushed back to June 6; in the end, four state police officers participated. None of the emails referred to any suspected criminal activity by those targeted.

"It sounds like a bunch of cowboys decided to get a posse together, and the feds wanted to give the state police the opportunity to take part in the roundup," said Justin Cox, a student intern at Jerome N. Frank Legal Services. The law clinic is representing 21 of the 29 people arrested in the June 6 raid. [New Haven Register 10/31/07, 11/1/07]


On Oct. 14, federal and local agents carried out a massive raid on Roosevelt Avenue, the main commercial strip of the heavily immigrant neighborhood of Jackson Heights in northern Queens, New York City. While the operation was supposedly targeting individuals accused of involvement in a fraudulent document ring, Spanish-language news reports cited witnesses saying that dozens of immigrants--possibly as many as 100--who had nothing to do with the fake IDs were also swept up in the raid. Witness Rodrigo Arce told the Spanish-language television news channel Telemundo that agents used plastic netting to trap people who were standing there talking or passing by. "They were asking people to show documents," he said. (Telemundo 47 10/16/07) Rosario Ruiz, an employee of a Colombian bakery, said she witnessed "more than 100 arrests." Ruiz confirmed that people who just happened to be walking on the crowded avenue that Sunday afternoon were among those arrested. According to Ruiz, "Of those arrested, and there were a lot, 80% were Mexicans who were passing by here." [El Diario La Prensa 10/16/07]

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown announced at a press conference on Oct. 16 that the raid was part of an operation targeting suspects involved in the production and sale of fraudulent identity documents. Brown said an inter-agency taskforce was formed in October 2005 after the DA's Counter-Terrorism Unit received information from the Queens Gang Squad of the New York Police Department (NYPD) that fake government documents were being manufactured and sold on Roosevelt Avenue. Brown said the investigation led to the indictment of 41 people on various charges including enterprise corruption, forgery, conspiracy and criminal possession of forgery devices. Of the 41 people indicted, 20 were in custody, said Brown; the remainder were being sought. According to Brown, more than 40 suspects were arrested over the weekend, including the alleged ringleader; he did not say whether the other 20-plus arrestees--those not named in the indictment--were charged with anything. [WABC Eyewitness News (Queens) 10/16/07; Queens Tribune 10/20/07; Queens County District Attorney Press Release 10/16/07]

"Today's indictments are the result of a two-year investigation that included months of court-authorized eavesdropping and video surveillance and thousands of intercepted telephone calls," Brown said in a press release. "During the investigation hundreds of arrests were made of those purchasing fraudulent documents and numerous search warrants were executed resulting in the closure of a number of fraudulent identification mills and the seizure of thousands of completed, semi-completed and blank forged government identification documents." [QCDA Press Release 10/16/07]

Brown said most of the suspects are undocumented residents from Mexico. NYPD Deputy Inspector Robert Boyce claimed that at least 12 of the 41 suspects indicted are members of the M-18, Surenos 13 or Vatos Locos gangs. [Queens Tribune 10/20/07] The investigation involved city and state police, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, the Social Security Administration and the state branch of the Secret Service. [Times Ledger (Queens) 10/18/07] Brown also "expressed his appreciation to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Joint Terrorism Task Force and the US Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement for their assistance during the investigation," according to the press release.

Seventeen of the defendants named in the indictment were arraigned on Oct. 15 before Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter on charges of enterprise corruption, forgery, criminal possession of a forged instrument, criminal possession of forgery devices and conspiracy. Two other defendants were arrested in Los Angeles, and a third was arrested in New Jersey. [QCDA Press Release 10/16/07]


On Oct. 31, ICE special agents arrested 23 immigrant workers at the Rock Run Business Park in Joliet, Illinois, just southwest of Chicago, as part of what ICE referred to as "an ongoing criminal worksite enforcement investigation." The 16 men and seven women were employed by ANNA II Inc., a staffing company which provides laborers to various warehouses in the Chicago area. They had been transported to the worksite in Joliet from the heavily Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen on Chicago's south side in three vans. The driver of a fourth van was taken into custody in Des Plaines, northwest of Chicago. ICE agents executed a criminal search warrant the same morning at ANNA II's main offices in Bensenville, Illinois. ICE initiated the investigation into ANNA II in April 2006.

One of those arrested was from the Dominican Republic; the others were from Mexico. All are currently being processed at ICE's Broadview facility and will face deportation proceedings for violating US immigration laws.

During fiscal year 2007, which ended Sept. 30, ICE arrested 863 individuals on criminal charges in worksite investigations, and administratively apprehended another 4,077 unauthorized workers on immigration violations. These arrests have increased significantly when compared to the 160 criminal arrests and 685 administrative arrests ICE made in fiscal year 2004. [ICE News Release 10/31/07]


On Oct. 30, ICE agents entered the worksite of the new National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park, next to the army base at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia, and checked the IDs of all workers. ICE spokesperson Richard Rocha said 27 Mexicans and three Guatemalans were arrested on immigration violations. All 30 were transported to the ICE detention center in Stewart County, said Rocha, and will be processed for deportation.

Cyndy Cerbin, a spokesperson for the National Infantry Foundation, a private group building the museum, referred all questions to contractor Batson-Cook Co. Eddie Sanders, on-site project manager for Batson-Cook, said his company is cooperating with ICE, and that the arrested workers were employed by a number of subcontractors on the site. "Batson-Cook follows all the federal and state laws on hiring of personnel," Sanders said. "We expect our subcontractors to follow those laws, as well."

The $85 million museum dedicated to infantry history will replace the current museum, which is in the middle of Fort Benning and is run by the army. Last Jan. 17, ICE arrested 24 unauthorized contract workers at the Fort Benning base as they arrived there to work on a barracks project [see INB 2/10/07]. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution 11/1/07]

The latest raid comes just a few weeks before thousands of protesters descend on Fort Benning Nov. 16-18 to demand the closure of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), a combat training school for Latin American soldiers. The institution was formerly known as the School of the Americas; the annual November protests are organized by School of the Americas Watch, a grassroots organization based in Washington.


On Oct. 27, New York governor Eliot Spitzer joined Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in announcing that New York state will alter a plan Spitzer announced on Sept. 21 which would have allowed immigrants to get driver's licenses without having to provide a social security number or proof of legal residency [see INB 9/30/07]. Instead, New York will create a three-tiered license system: an enhanced license for residents of northern and western areas of the state which can be used instead of a passport to cross the border into Canada; a license which meets the new federal standards of the Real ID Act and will only be available to citizens or legal permanent residents; and a license available to anyone who does not want to pay the extra fee for a federally approved license or who cannot provide the necessary documents--including out-of-status immigrants. This third type of license will be marked with the phrase "not for US government purposes" and will not be valid for boarding airplanes. To get this category of license, applicants will have to present a valid passport from any country and proof that they reside in New York state. [Newsday 10/28/07; Washington Post 10/28/07 from AP]

"I don't endorse giving licenses to people who are not here legally," said Chertoff, "but federal law does allow states to make that choice." [WP 10/28/07 from AP] Spitzer said long, collegial conversations with Chertoff over several weeks led to the policy change. Spitzer said he has known Chertoff for more than 10 years, since he went to Harvard Law School with Chertoff's wife. [Newsday 10/29/07 from AP]

New York is the fourth state to agree to the secure licenses as established by the Real ID Act, after Arizona, Vermont and Washington-- all border states. New and tighter rules are soon to go into effect for border crossings. [WP 10/28/07 from AP] Real ID is expected to be phased in by 2013. After that, federal agencies that now allow standard state-issued licenses for identification will require the Real ID or other federally accepted identification, like a passport, for boarding a plane. [New York Times 10/28/07]

Immigrant advocates blasted the compromise deal. Spitzer's move "is a lose-lose political decision that betrays his most ardent supporters and emboldens the anti-immigrant opposition," said Chung-Wa Hong of the New York Immigration Coalition. "Public safety for all is not possible when we carve out a million people to be outside of the public safety rules or stigmatize them as second-class residents marked by a Scarlet Letter." (Newsday 10/28/07) "He's now embracing and letting his good name be used to promote something that has been widely known in the immigrant community as one of the most anti-immigrant pieces of legislation to come out of Congress," Hong added, referring to the Real ID Act. [NYT 10/28/07]


On Oct. 23, more than 20 agents from ICE and the FBI raided the Quality Inn & Suites and the Hampton Inn in Brattleboro, Vermont, arresting 13 out-of-status workers. Ten of the workers were being detained pending removal hearings; three were released with orders to appear for immigration hearings at a later date. Federal agents were assisted in the raids by Brattleboro police and Windham County Sheriff deputies; Brattleboro police arrested a Brazilian national at one of the hotels for possession of amphetamines.

In addition to arresting the workers, federal agents arrested Canadian citizen Gurdeep Nagra, president of the Nanak Hotel Group, which owns the two hotels. Nagra was taken to US District Court in Burlington where he pleaded not guilty to charges of employing and harboring unauthorized immigrants and lying to authorities. According to an ICE news release, many workers at the hotels were "employed by a shell company created by Nagra to avoid detection by immigration officials." ICE says Nagra was arrested on immigration charges in 1992 when he was using the name Gurdeep Singh. He then apparently changed his name legally and applied for admission to the US under the new name. [Brattleboro Reformer 10/24/07; ICE News Release 10/23/07]


In El Paso, Texas, about 30 activists marked Day of the Dead on Nov. 1 by hanging 450 white wooden crosses on the border fence along the American Canal, where at least 15 people drowned this year trying to enter the US. Some crosses held the names of dead migrants, while others were blank to represent those who have not been identified. The event was organized by the Border Network for Human Rights, an El Paso-based grassroots group that keeps track of migrant deaths. According to the Border Network, 371 migrants died this year on the US-Mexico border, including 25 in El Paso and New Mexico. Border Patrol officials in El Paso recorded 27 deaths in this sector.

Later in the evening on Nov. 1, community members gathered at the Chamizal National Memorial for a candlelight vigil in the memory of migrants who died. "This is the day that we mourn our dead and demand a change in the policies that caused those deaths," said Fernando Garcia, executive director of the Border Network. Garcia pointed out that migrant deaths increased after 1993, when new border policies forced migrants away from urban areas into more remote and riskier crossing areas. The crosses were scheduled to stay up until Nov. 3. [El Paso Times 11/1/07]

The Human Rights Coalition, an Arizona immigrant rights group, documented 237 deaths along the Arizona-Mexico border between Oct. 1, 2006 and Sept. 30, 2007. The figures exceed the previous fiscal year, when 205 bodies were recovered. The totals represent the number of deaths reported by coroners in Pima, Yuma and Cochise counties over the federal fiscal year. At least 51 of the migrants who died in Arizona were women. The Human Rights Coalition compiled the data with the help of Arizona authorities, multiple foreign consulates and the Binational Migration Institute. The Border Patrol reported 186 migrant deaths in Arizona through August of this year. [ 10/22/07]


Immigrant rights groups and the ACLU say authorities have created a climate of intimidation at evacuation centers set up to help people displaced by wildfires in southern California. As wildfires forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people, more than 100 Border Patrol agents were deployed to help evacuate homes, operate checkpoints, guard against looters and assist at evacuation shelters. At an assistance center set up at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, a Border Patrol communications vehicle provided key logistics support and uniformed Border Patrol agents were visibly present. "Having people at evacuation sites in Border Patrol uniforms is asinine," said Enrique Morones, president of the Border Angels, an immigrant rights group. The ACLU and other rights groups say immigrants were subjected to racial profiling at Qualcomm and were abused by some volunteers who questioned their legal status. They have also said the city did not go out to migrant camps to tell people to evacuate. [Los Angeles Times 10/28/07]

On Oct. 24, San Diego police arrested an evacuated Mexican family as they tried to leave Qualcomm Stadium. The police handed seven family members--four adults with three children ages two, eight and 13--over to Border Patrol agents, who deported them that same evening. Footage of their arrest was replayed numerous times on local television stations.

According to the San Diego office of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which interviewed the family in Tijuana following their deportation, a volunteer at the evacuation center had called police, claiming that the family was taking more than their share of material aid. At least five police officers responded, aggressively questioned the family, and demanded to know their immigration status. Despite the San Diego Police Department's official policy of not collaborating with the federal immigration agency, officers called the Border Patrol after determining that the family was undocumented. All of the family's belongings--including things they had brought with them, such as the children's backpacks containing personal items--were taken back into Qualcomm Stadium and have not been returned to the family.

The seven members of the family were taken to a Border Patrol facility, where they were processed. From the time of their arrest around 8:30am until their deportation after 7pm, they were not provided with food. The Border Patrol failed to inform the family of their right to consular consultation and phone calls. Two Border Patrol agents insulted the family, calling them thieves and other derogatory names. Consular officials interviewed the family only after they had already signed for voluntary departure. The San Diego AFSC office is coordinating with the local ACLU office in investigating possible civil rights violations. [Update from Pedro Rios, AFSC, 10/26/07]

On Oct. 25 four migrants, two men and two women, were found apparently burned to death in the wildfires in a ravine off state Route 94 in southern San Diego County. Their bodies remain unidentified; authorities suspect they may have crossed into the US shortly before being trapped by the flames. Another 11 suspected undocumented immigrants are among 18 people who have suffered burns from the wildfires and are hospitalized at UCSD Medical Center's burn unit. [San Diego Union Tribune 10/31/07]


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Sunday, October 28, 2007

INB 10/28/07: Judge Halts SSA Crackdown, Raids Continue

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 26 - October 28, 2007

(Note: Immigration News Briefs did not publish for the past three weeks; the last issue was dated Sept. 30. Sorry for the lapse.)

1. Judge Halts Crackdown on Workers
2. Buffets Raided in Kentucky, Maryland
3. Over 1,300 Arrested in California
4. "Fugitive" Raids in Idaho, Kansas
5. New York Raids Challenged

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 for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe.


On Oct. 10, federal judge Charles R. Breyer of US District Court in San Francisco granted a preliminary injunction barring the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from launching a planned crackdown on workers whose social security numbers don't match the Social Security Administration (SSA) database [see INB 9/2/07]. At an earlier hearing on Oct. 1, a day after immigrant workers and their supporters demonstrated in front of San Francisco's federal building to protest the crackdown, Breyer had extended a temporary restraining order for 10 days. His Oct. 10 injunction blocks implementation of the plan until the court makes a final ruling in a lawsuit on its legality.

The crackdown, announced by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Aug. 10 with new rules originally set to take effect Sept. 14, involves mailing "no-match" letters to 140,000 US employers, warning them that they must resolve questions about their employees' identities or fire them within 90 days. If they fail to do so, employers could face stiff penalties, including fines and even criminal prosecution. The federal government has mailed out "no-match" letters since 1994, but in the past employers weren't required to take action and did not face liability.

The lawsuit against the plan was brought on Aug. 29 by the AFL-CIO and local labor organizations, who were joined on Sept. 11 by the US Chamber of Commerce and trade associations for the agriculture, restaurant and construction industries, and on Sept. 13 by UNITE HERE and the United Food and Commercial Workers union. The national American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), its Northern California chapter, the National Immigration Law Center and two private law firms are representing the plaintiffs. [Washington Post 10/11/07; Blog by Jennifer Chang of ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project 9/14/07; AFL-CIO, ACLU & NILC Press Releases 10/1/07, 10/10/07; David Bacon 9/30/07]

The plaintiffs convinced the judge that the SSA database includes so many errors that its use in firings would unfairly discriminate against tens of thousands of legal workers, including native-born and naturalized US citizens, and cause major workforce disruptions that would burden companies. "There can be no doubt that the effects of the rule's implementation will be severe," Breyer wrote, resulting in "irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers."

"The government's proposal to disseminate no-match letters affecting more than eight million workers will, under the mandated time line, result in the termination of employment to lawfully employed workers," wrote Breyer. "Moreover the threat of criminal prosecution... reflects a major change in DHS policy." Breyer also said that the government may have ignored a 1980 law, the Regulatory Flexibility Act, that requires it to weigh the cost of imposing new regulations that would significantly burden small-business owners.

Chertoff expressed disappointment with Breyer's injunction and said the administration will continue to aggressively enforce immigration laws while considering an appeal, which plaintiffs' attorneys said could take at least nine months. Judge Breyer was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1997 and is the brother of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

SSA database errors have also hampered DHS' efforts to promote the Basic Pilot Program (now known as E-Verify), a system it launched in 1996 which employers can use voluntarily to verify the social security numbers of new hires. A report provided to Congress showed that between June 2004 and May 2006, the program erroneously rejected 11% of foreign-born US citizens and 1.3% of authorized immigrant workers. That error rate led Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich to sign state legislation in August barring Illinois companies from participating in the program until it is 99% accurate. [Washington Post 10/11/07]


On Oct. 16, local police in Villa Hills, Kentucky, a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, pulled over a van carrying immigrant workers to their jobs at the Empire Buffet in nearby Crescent Springs. After a passenger in the van allegedly admitted being an undocumented immigrant, police detained five of the van's eight passengers. The driver was cited for running a stop sign and released. Police then returned to the house where the workers lived, allegedly obtained consent to search there, and arrested another immigrant worker found sleeping. All six immigrants were handed over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Five men and one woman were in the custody of federal authorities on the night of Oct. 16, according to Villa Hills Police Chief Dan Goodenough. Three others were released when they provided proof of identity.

Police claimed they pulled over the van in a "routine traffic stop," but admitted they had been investigating the home for months. "We had complaints from neighbors due to the volume of people that were living in the property," said Villa Hills Police Detective Joe Schutzman. Schutzman said every room in the two-story home was used for people to sleep.

On Oct. 17, ICE spokesperson Gail Montenegro said nine Empire Buffet workers were detained in the operation: five Mexican men, two Chinese women and two Chinese men. Montenegro said all nine were in the US without permission and would face removal proceedings. [Cincinnati Enquirer 10/17/07; 10/17/07; Cincinnati Post 10/19/07]

City officials say they are in the process of citing Chun Gond Shi, president of the company that operates the restaurant and owner of the home, and Wang Xiu Yun, who is also listed as an owner of the home, for about a dozen building code and city ordinance violations. Both Chun and Wang are naturalized US citizens. [CE 10/17/07]

Early on Sept. 27, ICE agents assisted by local law enforcement agencies raided the Mikayo Sushi and Seafood Buffet, the Panda Buffet and a private home in West Ocean City, Maryland, arresting six immigrant workers from Mexico and China. Following the raids, the restaurants were chained shut. In the nearby private community of Oyster Harbor, ICE officials also served a search warrant at a residence apparently belonging to Zhu Bo Hao, who owns the two restaurants. ICE spokesperson Ernestine Fobbs confirmed the arrests; she said the six workers were transported to the ICE regional office in Baltimore for processing and remain in custody. [Maryland Coast Dispatch 10/5/07]

It was the second federal raid in a week in Worcester County; on Sept. 20, ICE and FBI agents raided two convenience stores and a residence in Snow Hill as part of "Operation Cash-Out," an undercover sting targeting hawala (money transfer) businesses and involving at least 46 defendants in the US, Spain, Canada and Belgium facing bribery, money laundering and other charges. [Maryland Coast Dispatch 10/5/07; FBI Baltimore Office Press Release 9/20/07]


In a two-week sweep that ended Oct. 2, ICE officers arrested 1,327 immigrants in five southern California counties: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura. A total of 530 people were arrested in their communities on immigration violations; ICE said 258 of them--less than half of the total--were "fugitives" who had failed to comply with deportation orders or who had reentered the US after being deported. ICE claimed that half of the 530 people arrested in the communities had criminal histories.

At the same five counties' jails ICE took custody of another 797 people it described as "previously unidentified deportable foreign nationals" who had been scheduled for release. Some of those arrested in the sweep were lawful permanent residents who were said to be deportable because of crimes they committed. Of the total 1,327 people arrested, about 1,100 were from Mexico, 170 were from Central America and others came from more than 25 countries including Armenia, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Jordan, Peru and Vietnam. Nearly 600 of them had already been deported by Oct. 3. The US attorney's office plans to prosecute more than 45 of those arrested on felony charges of reentry after deportation. [Los Angeles Times 10/3/07; ICE News Release 10/3/07]


ICE officers arrested at least 20 immigrants in Idaho's Wood River Valley region over the weekend of Sept. 15. ICE agents in unmarked sport-utility vehicles were seen conducting pre-dawn raids in Ketchum and Bellevue on Sept. 15. ICE officials declined to comment on the raid, but Blaine County Sheriff's Detective Steve Harkins said the federal agents were from a "special fugitive unit" out of Boise that was allegedly searching for immigrants with felony convictions. It was not clear whether any of the individuals arrested had convictions or were among those allegedly being sought, or if they were simply found to be without documents. Harkins said on Sept. 18 that he heard 21 people were arrested. Ketchum police spokesperson Kim Rogers said some of the detainees were Peruvian. The ACLU of Idaho is investigating to see if civil rights were violated in the raids. The sheriff's office and Ketchum police assigned officers as uniformed escorts during the raids. [Idaho Mountain Express (Ketchum) 9/19/07]

Between Oct. 20 and 24, ICE agents arrested 50 out-of-status immigrants in a sweep through the greater Kansas City area of Kansas and Missouri; 29 of the 50 had apparently failed to comply with deportation orders, while the other 21 were merely discovered during the raids and found to be out of status. Nine of those arrested had criminal convictions. ICE was assisted in the raids by local police in Kansas City, Independence, Grandview and Raytown, Missouri; and in Kansas City, Overland Park, Lenexa, Olathe, Shawnee and Topeka, Kansas. [Kansas City Star 10/25/07]


On Oct. 2, officials in Nassau County on New York's Long Island called for a federal investigation into an "anti-gang" sweep carried out by ICE Sept. 24-30 during which 186 immigrants were arrested in Nassau and neighboring Suffolk county [see INB 9/30/07]. Nassau officials said the vast majority of those arrested were not gang members and that local police were misled and endangered by the operation. Nassau County police commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey noted that many US citizens and legal residents were rousted from bed and required to produce papers during the raids, and that all but 6 of the 96 administrative warrants issued by the immigration enforcement agency in the alleged search for gang members had wrong or outdated addresses. Peter J. Smith, an ICE special agent in charge of the operation, called the Nassau county officials' allegations "without merit."

"We didn't have warrants," said Smith. "We don't need warrants to make the arrests. These are illegal immigrants." Smith said that of the 186 people arrested in the two counties, 28 were identified as gang members (13 in Nassau and 15 in Suffolk) and 129 as "associates of gang members" (79 in Nassau and 50 in Suffolk). Asked how the agency defined "associates of gang members," Smith replied, "If you're hanging with gang members and you're eating with gang members, there's an affiliation there." Smith said 59 of those arrested had previous criminal convictions that might make them deportable. All 186 face deportation proceedings; apparently none face criminal charges. Suffolk County police commissioner Richard Dormer expressed complete support for the ICE raids. [New York Times 10/2/07, 10/3/07]

On Oct. 5, several families and individuals from Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester counties filed a request in US District Court in Manhattan for a temporary restraining order to prevent ICE from conducting further raids without court-issued search warrants. The plaintiffs are represented by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and a private law firm. The petition names 27 plaintiffs who are also listed in a class-action lawsuit filed Sept. 20, alleging that ICE raids in the three New York counties in February, March and September 2007 violated their constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches by the government. [Newsday (Long Island)


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".)