Sunday, June 24, 2007

INB 6/24/07: Detainee Force Fed; Agent Kills Migrant; Raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 15 - June 24, 2007

1. Hunger Striking Detainee Force Fed
2. Undercover Border Agent Kills Migrant
3. Dallas Factory Raided
4. Poconos Plastics Factory Raided
5. California Pizzerias Raided
6. 18 Arrested in Nantucket Raids
7. New Haven Marches Against Raids
8. Atlanta: Vigil Draws Over 10,000

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;

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On June 15, a federal judge in Trenton, New Jersey ruled that officials at the Monmouth County jail in Freehold can use intravenous or feeding tubes to force feed immigration detainee Samuel Izrailovich Shevaniya, who is on hunger strike. Shevaniya arrived at Monmouth County jail on June 7 and stopped eating on June 9. According to a petition filed on June 14 by the US Attorney's Office in Newark and obtained by The Star-Ledger, Shevaniya has "steadfastly indicated he has no intention of eating," and if he doesn't get food soon "his health will continue to deteriorate and he will ultimately die." Undersheriff Cynthia Scott, a spokesperson for the Monmouth County Sheriff's Department, said Shevaniya was cooperating with doctors, who will use either an intravenous tube or a feeding tube to deliver nourishment.

Detainee advocates and attorneys say they don't remember a time when the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency asked for a court order to make a detainee eat. "For the most part, they put them in isolation and threaten to force-feed people," said Subhash Kateel, co-director of Families for Freedom, a New York City-based group.

The Monmouth facility is mainly used to detain people picked up by ICE's New York City office. Shevaniya's hunger strike comes less than a month after a controversy over a canceled visit to the jail by a United Nations human rights inspector. Scott said the inspector, Jorge Bustamante, canceled his visit after jail officials set several conditions, including allowing jail officials to videotape his interviews with detainees. Bustamante called that statement "a lie," saying jail officials simply denied access. [Star Ledger (Newark) 6/16/07]


Early on May 31, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed Benito A. Gonzalez after trying to handcuff him in an unincorporated area north of Escondido, California, just east of Interstate 15. Gonzalez was an out-of-status immigrant who lived in Sun City in Riverside County. The incident began when undercover Border Patrol agents pulled over a van suspected of carrying unauthorized immigrants, arrested the driver and 11 passengers and took them to a Border Patrol station. Gonzalez arrived in a separate vehicle and according to officials, confronted the lone undercover agent who had stayed behind to wait for a tow truck. The agent and Gonzalez scuffled in a parking lot and again in an adjacent lot after Gonzalez tried to run away, sheriff's investigators said. It was unclear whether Gonzalez was linked to the van stopped earlier. [San Diego Union Tribune 5/31/07; AP 6/5/07]


On June 14, ICE agents raided a factory of Fossil Inc. in northeast Dallas, Texas, arresting 31 women who worked there. Dozens of people who said they were family members of the workers were outside the factory that afternoon, trying to find out the whereabouts of their relatives. Seven of the workers were from Honduras, three were Salvadoran, one was Nicaraguan and the other 20 were Mexican. Authorities interviewed a total of 63 women workers in the factory, which does repair work on Fossil watches and other products. [Dallas Morning News 6/14/07]


On June 19, ICE agents arrested 81 suspected unauthorized immigrant workers in a raid on Iridium Industries Inc.'s Artube division, a manufacturing plant in the Poconos area of Pennsylvania. The raid took place at 6am, as night-shift workers were punching out. The company employs 130 workers. All the arrested workers were taken to detention centers for processing and have been placed in removal proceedings for eventual deportation, said ICE spokesperson Ernestine Fobbs.

The vast majority of the arrested workers--76 of them--were from Indonesia. The rest were from Malaysia, Mexico and Ecuador. Twelve women detainees were being held in Pike County Correctional Facility in Hawley. It was unclear where the other detainees were taken. Indonesia has demanded access to its citizens arrested in the raid, saying it wants to make sure they get legal assistance, a Foreign Ministry official in Jakarta said on June 22. "They have overstayed their visas and allegedly violated the US immigration law," ministry spokesman Kristiarto Legowo said. "We want to make sure that, as suspects, their rights are protected."

Iridium's plant manager, Wayne Migliaccio, said on June 20 that the raid was focused on a temp agency that supplied workers to the plant. "[ICE] Special Agent Jason Rundell's first words to me were, 'You are not the target here. You are the victim,'" Migliaccio said in a statement emailed to the media. "Rundell said that the raid was aimed at one particular temporary employment agency which was operating in the area." Neither Migliaccio nor government officials identified the temp agency. Fobbs said the investigation was "ongoing."

Migliaccio said Iridium uses various temp agencies and that it is their responsibility to check workers' immigration status. He said the company had no reason to question the employees' status before the raid. But an Iridium worker told the Pocono Record that "the owners, everybody there knew those people are illegals." The employee said unauthorized immigrants have worked at the plant for at least the past five years. A former Iridium employee confirmed that information, saying the company has high worker turnover and "very few" authorized workers. The sting began with complaints to Monroe County CareerLink. "We had a few remarks from past [Iridium] employees who said something fishy was going on," said John Casella, CareerLink director. Casella contacted state Rep. Mario Scavello about two weeks ago. "The federal government acted pretty quickly," Scavello said. Stroud Area Regional Police helped conduct surveillance on the company before the raid. Iridium makes plastic squeeze tubes for customers like L'Oreal and Victoria's Secret and has received more than $9 million in public assistance since it opened in 1999, including a $3.7 million tax-free bond in May 2007. [Pocono Record 6/21/07; AP 6/20/07, 6/21/07, 6/22/07]


At 6:30pm on June 15, armed ICE agents executed search and arrest warrants in simultaneous raids on two northern California pizza parlors owned by Glenio Silva, a legal resident from Brazil. ICE arrested Silva and six of his employees, all Brazilian, in the raids on Monterey Pizza in San Francisco and the Pizza House in Hayward. Two of the workers have been charged criminally for identity theft, while four were arrested on administrative immigration violations. Another two workers charged with identity theft in the case are still being sought.

According to investigators, Silva staffed his two restaurants with unauthorized workers from Brazil, paying them in cash to conceal their employment and avoid payroll taxes. Ray Greenlee, a deputy special agent in charge at ICE's San Francisco office, said Silva also was housing some of the workers upstairs from the Hayward pizzeria. On June 18 Silva was charged in federal court with harboring unauthorized immigrants; he was released the same day on $75,000 bail and was back at work June 19 at the Hayward restaurant. Silva and his wife were also ordered to surrender their passports.

Local law enforcement agencies did not participate in the raids. San Francisco has a "sanctuary" policy that precludes local police from cooperating with immigration enforcement. Hayward has no formal policy, but Police Chief Lloyd Lowe has said it is not his department's practice to get involved in immigration issues. The California Department of Motor Vehicles Office of Investigations did collaborate with ICE during the course of a four-month investigation into Silva's businesses, and DMV officers assisted ICE in the raids. [Alameda Times-Star 6/20/07; ICE News Release 6/19/07]

Rosana Barcellos, a legal resident who has worked for Silva for about six years, said she and other employees were forced to stand between a soda cabinet and the Hayward pizzeria's front window as they were handcuffed. "There was a huge crowd outside, seeing everything," Barcellos said. "It was humiliating." [Alameda Times-Star 6/20/07]


On June 20 at 4am, 30 ICE agents landed on Nantucket island, Massachusetts, on a Coast Guard ship and joined with local police in raiding several homes. By mid morning, they had arrested 16 immigrants with prior convictions for assault, theft, credit card fraud, drug dealing and other felonies. Two other immigrants were detained for being in the country without permission. The 15 men and three women face court hearings that could lead to deportation. Those arrested were handcuffed, fitted with orange life preservers, and taken to Woods Hole, Massachusetts. One woman was released to care for her child. The arrested immigrants were from Jamaica, Brazil, El Salvador, England, Lithuania, Ireland, and Cuba. [Boston Globe 6/21/07; AP 6/21/07] Yeseni Ayala, a US citizen born in Puerto Rico, said that that four or five Nantucket police officers and an equal number of immigration agents entered her home shortly after 5am on June 20 without asking permission, claiming the door had been left open a crack. "Even though we're Puerto Rican, they put us all in the same column," Ayala said. [Cape Cod Times 6/21/07]


On June 16, more than 1,000 people, including large contingents from labor unions Unite Here and SEIU Local 32B-J, marched through New Haven, Connecticut to protest ICE raids carried out on June 6 in the city's Fair Haven neighborhood [see INB 6/17/07]. The marchers walked from Front Street's waterfront park down Grand Street through rain and thunder. New Haven mayor John DeStefano joined John Wilhelm, president of Unite Here's hospitality division, and members of the city's Board of Aldermen at the front of the march behind a large red and white banner reading "Stop the raids now." [Workers World 6/23/07; People's Weekly World 6/21/07] The Long Island daily Newsday said the marchers numbered "several hundred." In East Haven, the Connecticut Citizens for Immigration Control held a counter-rally at the local American Legion Post. [Newsday 6/16/07]

On June 20, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department was "examining" whether the New Haven raids were handled properly. Also on June 20, an immigration judge in Hartford reduced bail for 12 of the detainees from the raids to $6,000-$8,000, down from $15,000. Bail was set at $2,000 for one person who lawyers said may be eligible to become a permanent resident. The judge refused to reduce $25,000 bails for two detainees who reportedly had prior criminal records for driving under the influence. Various groups have been raising money to help those detained make bail. [Hartford Courant (CT) 6/21/07; AP 6/21/07]


On the evening of June 18, more than 10,000 people gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, for a vigil to demand "fair and comprehensive immigration reform." Many participants wore white t-shirts and carried candles for the three-hour vigil in the parking lot of the Plaza Fiesta shopping center, organized by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR). GLAHR leader and Mexican former consul general in Atlanta Teodoro Maus said DeKalb County police told him the crowd was between 11,000 and 12,000 people. Rep. Cynthia Mckinney (D-GA) was among the politicians who attended the vigil and addressed the crowd. [Atlanta Latino 6/21/07]

[Georgia was one of the few states where no major pro-immigrant demonstrations were reported during a national day of action last May 1. In Immigration News Briefs of May 6, 2007, we reported on over 100 pro-immigrant actions that took place around the US on May 1, but we missed at least a few others. In New York state on May 1, more than 200 people demonstrated in Ithaca and over 50 people rallied in Albany. [National Jobs with Justice Update 6/18/07] In North Carolina on May 1, two vigils were held in Hendersonville--one which drew 100 people to the Immaculate Conception Church and another of about 50 people at the Capilla Santa Maria. [Report from Evelyn Alarcon of the Latino Advocacy Coalition 5/10/07]]


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