Saturday, July 7, 2007

INB 7/7/07: PA Raid, TX Protests, Migrant Deaths

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 17 - July 7, 2007

1. Construction Raid in Pennsylvania
2. ICE Arrest Locks Down CA School
3. Texas Activists Protest ICE Prisons
4. Migrants Die on Border

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 July 2, local authorities arrested 16 immigrants working at a construction site in Bethlehem Township, Pennsylvania. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents came and took custody of the workers the same day. Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli announced the arrests on July 5. The arrested workers were from Brazil, Honduras, Uruguay and Guatemala; they were employed by a framing subcontractor at a construction site for a "Courtyard by Marriott" hotel. Two of the workers apparently had prior deportation orders, said Morganelli, who has been aggressive in pursuing out-of-status immigrants in the county and has often blasted ICE for not taking enforcement seriously.

Morganelli said his office began an investigation June 15 after a complaint was received from the Lehigh Valley Carpenters Union that the workers had illegal documents. Morganelli said half the workers were from J& S construction of Philadelphia and the other half were from Diaz Construction of West Orange, New Jersey. Bethlehem-based Iron Hill Construction Management, the site manager for the construction project, said the workers were provided by Pentel Enterprises Inc. of Burlington, New Jersey. Morganelli said Iron Hill was not charged because the workers did not have false documents with them and there was no way to determine if they had shown such documents to gain employment. [Express-Times (Easton) 7/6/07]

Last Apr. 2 in Bethlehem, Northampton County authorities arrested nine immigrants as they arrived for work at the Hotel Bethlehem. Seven of the workers were from Bolivia, one was Guatemalan and one was Salvadoran. That raid was prompted by a tip received by the Northampton County District Attorney's Office about workers at the hotel allegedly using false documents. When Morganelli called ICE to take the workers into custody, he said ICE officials responded by questioning why his office "isn't going out looking for gang members and drug dealers." [ 4/3/07; Express-Times (Easton) 7/6/07; Lehigh Valley Live 4/2/07]


On July 5, De La Salle High School in Concord, California, was locked down for 15 minutes while ICE sought to arrest a construction worker on the school grounds. Confusion erupted after two Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officers driving past the school that morning saw a suspicious man with a holstered handgun disappear between two buildings. The BART officers notified school administrators and the Concord police, which sent officers to the school to intercept the mystery gunman. The gunman turned out to be one of four undercover ICE agents seeking to arrest a Mexican immigrant employed by a contractor doing asbestos abatement at the school. According to ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice, the worker had a prior conviction for driving under the influence and had failed to comply with an immigration judge's order to leave the country. Kice said the employer told ICE where to find the worker,
but the agents didn't realize it was a school until they arrived, and then they assumed that because it was summer, no students would be around, so they proceeded with the arrest.

Brother Christopher Brady, the school's principal, said more than 200 students were on campus for special classes and a basketball camp. The teens were immediately moved from outside to the school theater, and kept there for about 15 minutes until the lockdown was over. ICE has since assured the school and the Concord police that it will notify them during similar operations in the future, Kice said. [Contra Costa Times 7/5/07]


On June 23, some 500 activists marked World Refugee Day by gathering outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, an ICE detention center holding immigrant families with children in Taylor, Texas. The facility holds more than 500 immigrants, including hundreds of children. The Taylor Police Department was dispatched to the Hutto facility to prevent protestors from entering private property, but they did not try to stop the vigil. The event was sponsored by Amnesty International, an international human rights advocacy group, and organized with other groups including the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Code Pink, Houston Sin Fronteras, the Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice, Texans United for Families, Children and Families for Humane Treatment Alliance and the Greater Faith Institutional Church. The event marked the 10th vigil at Hutto since September 2006. The Hutto jail is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which gets about $2.8 million a month from ICE, about $5,472 per month ($182 per day) for each immigrant detained in the 512-bed facility. [San Antonio Current 6/26/07; Daily Texan 6/25/07; Austin Chronicle 6/29/07]

On July 2, a grand jury in Harris County, Texas, declined to indict two protesters on felony charges for a protest in which they used a bike lock to chain themselves to a fence at a CCA detention facility in Houston. Houston Sin Fronteras members Ashley Turner and Benjamin Browning were arrested on June 4 by off-duty Houston Police Department officers working as security guards at the Houston Processing Center, run by CCA for ICE. The two activists were charged with possession of a criminal instrument--the bike lock--and trespassing. Randall Kallinen, defense attorney for the two protesters, said the district attorney's office overreacted and used the charge to squelch his clients' rights. "They were doing it for punishment and the fear factor to keep them from protesting," he said. Misdemeanor trespassing charges are still pending against Turner and Browning. [Houston Chronicle 7/2/07; Diario El Dia 7/3/07]


An unauthorized migrant drowned in a border canal in El Paso, Texas on June 27 after a US Border Patrol agent trying to rescue him was hit in the head with a rock thrown by a suspected smuggler, Border Patrol officials said. The agent, who was not identified, fired at least one shot at the suspected smuggler and at another would-be immigrant, who fled back into Mexico, Border Patrol spokesperson Patrick Berry said. It was unclear how many shots the agent fired or whether either of the fleeing men were hit by bullets. The drowned man's body was found in the canal more than four miles east of where the agents saw him go under the water, Berry said. The shooting is under investigation; it was the third involving a Border Patrol agent in the El Paso area this year. [AP 6/27/07]

On June 25, Border Patrol agents found the body of a possible unauthorized migrant in the Altar Valley southwest of Tucson. It was the 11th body found over a 12-day period. Agents found six bodies from June 18 to 22. From the start of the fiscal year on Oct. 1 to June 26, there were 109 known deaths of border crossers in the Border Patrol's Tucson sector, compared with 116 the same time last year. [Arizona Daily Star 6/27/07]

From June 29 through the morning of July 2, Border Patrol Tucson Sector officials confirmed the deaths of two migrant women, and the discovery of skeletal remains of a third presumed migrant whose sex could not be determined. Daily temperatures have been exceeding 100 degrees in the area; most of the deaths appear to be heat-related. [ADS 7/3/07] On the afternoon of July 2, Border Patrol agents found the body of a 26-year-old Mexican woman about 60 miles southwest of Tucson on the Tohono O'odham Reservation. A search for a missing companion was unsuccessful. The woman was the 16th border crosser whose remains had been found over the past 18 days. [ADS 7/4/07] On July 4 a badly decomposed body--presumed to be another border crosser--was found in the Altar Valley. [ADS 7/6/07]

On June 26, two suspected unauthorized migrants were killed after the driver of a pickup truck fleeing the Border Patrol swerved into oncoming traffic and crashed head-on into another vehicle on a winding, rural road near Ocotillo, about 70 miles east of San Diego in southern California. Authorities said the pickup carried eight suspected unauthorized migrants from Mexico, including the man and woman who died. Several other people were seriously injured in the crash, including two people in the other vehicle. The Border Patrol said agents used spike strips in an unsuccessful attempt to puncture the pickup's tires, and halted their pursuit of the pickup after reaching the speed limit of 55 miles per hour. Agents said they later spotted a plume of smoke several miles away and found the pickup in flames on a two-lane road. But Pablo Arnaud, Mexico's consul in Calexico, said survivors told Mexican officials that a green and white vehicle--the Border Patrol's colors--pursued the truck until the
crash. According to Arnaud, the driver ignored the passengers' pleas to slow down. The driver suffered moderate injuries and will be charged with felony vehicular manslaughter. [AP 6/27/07]


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