Sunday, September 9, 2007

INB 9/9/07: Detainees on Hunger Strike, More Raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 22 - September 9, 2007

1. AZ: Detainees on Hunger Strike
2. Nebraska: Lawncare Company Raided
3. Arrest Protested in Hartford
4. Florida: 195 Picked Up in Raids
5. "Anti-Gang" Raids in Boston Area
6. "Anti-Gang" Raids: Chicago, North Carolina, Oklahoma

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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According to information confirmed by Raha Jorjani of the School of Law Clinical Programs at University of California, Davis, at least 30 immigration detainees have been refusing some or all meals at Pinal County Jail in Florence, Arizona. The hunger strikers are among some 60 detained immigrants who were transferred on or around Sept. 5 from the Florence Service Processing Center to the county jail, which has a new contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to provide bed space for immigration detainees.

The detainees say they were promised they wouldn't lose any rights or privileges in the transfer. But they were woken up in the early hours of the morning to be moved out of the Florence Service Processing Center and many were not allowed to gather their personal property, including legal documents relating to their cases. Since they arrived at the county jail they have apparently been on 23-hour lockdown in 2-person cells, and there is no outdoor recreation area. There have also been very serious complaints about food and water quality. In addition, Pinal County Jail only allows family visitation to take place through video conferencing; no contact visits are allowed. Some of the transferred detainees who are facing imminent removal had planned for what they expected to be their final contact visits with family before being deported. Now they will be unable to see their families. [Email message from Raha Jorjani, University of California, Davis School of Law Clinical Programs 9/7/07]


On Sept. 6, ICE agents arrested 19 people who work for Cloudburst Lawn and Sprinkler in Grand Island, Nebraska. ICE spokesperson Tim Counts said all 19 people were arrested on "administrative immigrations violations." Counts said those arrested were being processed in Grand Island and would be detained in the Phelps County Jail. He said preliminary indications are that 11 of the people arrested are from Mexico, six are from El Salvador and two are from Guatemala. [Grand Island Independent 9/7/07]

According to Counts, ICE agents had gone to Cloudburst intending to arrest company owner David L. Wortman, but Wortman wasn't there, and the search warrant gave the agents the right to question and arrest unauthorized workers who were present. On the afternoon of Sept. 7, a criminal complaint dated Sept. 4 was unsealed in US District Court in Nebraska accusing Wortman of knowingly hiring unauthorized immigrants and paying them in cash. Wortman turned himself in and was arraigned on Sept. 7 but did not enter a plea, US attorney Joe Stecher said. A preliminary hearing was set for Sept. 20. [AP 9/7/07]

The last major ICE raid in Grand Island was in December 2006, when 261 workers were arrested at the Swift plant there. Only one of the 261 workers faced criminal charges. ICE arrested four more Swift employees in Grand Island this past July. [Grand Island Independent 9/7/07]


On Aug. 24, 140 people rallied outside the immigration court in Hartford, Connecticut to demand the release of Said Zaim-Sassi, a Moroccan-born resident of Wallingford, Connecticut. Marchers wore T-shirts that said "Keep Families Together" and held up signs that called for a stop to immigration raids. Zaim-Sassi has been living in the US for 20 years; he worked for Metro-North, volunteered to help other immigrants and played soccer. His wife, Souhair Zaim-Sassi, is a Morocco-born US citizen; the couple has three US-born children, ages two, four and seven.

Said Zaim-Sassi had been seeking to remain legally in the US, but had lost a final round in court this past January. Immigration officials have alleged in court documents that his first marriage was a sham marriage to obtain citizenship.

After losing his final appeal in January, Said Zaim-Sassi told immigration he would surrender whenever they required it. Instead, immigration agents came to his home at 5:45am and arrested him in front of his family. "It was so horrible," recounted Souhair Zaim-Sassi. "I thought they were burglars. They came pounding on the door and said, 'Open the door or we will break the door down.' They were screaming and using profanities. They stripped the blankets off the beds."

"My sister asked for a warrant. They flashed her a piece of paper but wouldn't let her look at it. There was no need for them to do it this way. They took him away like an animal in front of his children," Souhair Zaim-Sassi said. [New Haven Register 8/25/07; WTNH News Channel 8 8/31/07]

Paula Grenier, ICE's spokesperson for New England, claimed otherwise: "We were granted consent to enter and when we got there the family was evasive as to his whereabouts. We found him hiding," she said. Souhair Zaim-Sassi rejected that statement: "He was in my bedroom asleep," she explained. According to Grenier, Said Zaim-Sassi is currently at a detention center in Rhode Island and will be transported back to Morocco under the court's decision.

Egyptian-born Khalil Iskarous of New Haven helped organize the demonstration. "I think the main reason for the recent (immigrant) arrests has been because immigrants are working together for immigrants' rights, but we are not going to be silent any longer." Iskarous said people who fear immigrant labor will drive down wages do not realize that better protections and wages for immigrants will raise wages for everyone. "When we've had amnesty, everybody's wages go up," he said. [New Haven Register 8/25/07]

On Aug. 31 protesters again marched in Hartford to demand freedom for Said Zaim-Sassi, and pressed Senator Joe Leiberman to intervene. Lieberman agreed to look into the case, but he raised concern about the alleged marriage fraud. "The question is whether within the law there's any element for mercy here," said Leiberman, "or if immigration service feels he committed a fraud... if they have to punish him to make a point." [WTNH News Channel 8 8/31/07]


ICE announced on Aug. 29 that it had arrested 195 immigrants over the previous two weeks in the areas of Miami, Tampa and Orlando, Florida. According to ICE, "dozens" of those picked up in the sweep had criminal records, and 115 had failed to comply with deportation orders; the others were presumably merely out of status. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel 8/31/07]


On Aug. 28, 29 and 30, ICE agents swept through the greater Boston area, arresting 36 immigrants the agency claims are members or associates of the MS-13 street gang. ICE said the raids were part of ICE's national anti-gang initiative, Operation Community Shield, launched in 2005. Most of the arrests were made in Chelsea, East Boston, Everett, Lynn, Revere and Somerville. Those arrested come from El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

The Boston Globe cited Matthew Etre, deputy special agent in charge of ICE investigations in Boston, saying that 20 of the 36 immigrants arrested had criminal convictions, and another 14 were facing criminal charges or outstanding warrants. But ICE's own news release reported that of the 36 arrested, 27 had merely entered the US without inspection, four were lawful permanent residents with criminal convictions that make them subject to removal, two had re-entered the US after having been deported, two had final orders of removal from an immigration judge, and one was arrested on a state warrant. Etre said none of the detainees were charged criminally in connection with the raids. Two of those detained on civil immigration violations were minors who were released to their parents' custody. [ICE News Release 8/31/07; Boston Globe 9/1/07]

According to Etre, local authorities often partner with ICE to use the immigration status of alleged gang members as a way to get them out of the country. "When ICE gets involved, we're using our immigration and customs authorities to make an impact where maybe local law enforcement can't," Etre said. [BG 9/1/07]

In addition to the 36 people arrested in this operation, ICE said 23 other "gang members and associates" have been arrested by law enforcement agencies in conjunction with ICE since the beginning of August in the Boston area. ICE was assisted in the operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the US Attorney's Office, the Middlesex County Sheriff's Department, the Suffolk County Sheriff's Department, Boston Police Department, Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority Police, Massachusetts State Police and the police departments of Chelsea, Everett, Lynn, Revere and Somerville. [ICE News Release 8/31/07]


From Aug. 26 to 29, ICE agents arrested 58 Mexican men in Chicago's northern and northwest suburbs. According to ICE, those arrested have ties to "violent street gangs such as the Latin Kings, Sureno-13s, and the Latin Lovers, among others." Of the 58 people arrested, 37 are out-of-status immigrants and 21 are US permanent residents whose criminal convictions make them eligible for deportation. Six of those arrested had active warrants for their arrest and will be turned over to local authorities to face criminal charges. After those charges are resolved, they will be transferred back to ICE for deportation. Three of those arrested are being presented to the US Attorney's Office for federal prosecution for re-entering the US after having already been deported, which is a felony. The US Marshals Great Lakes Fugitive Task Force, Lake County Sheriff's Department, and the Waukegan and Mundelein police departments assisted ICE in the raids. [ICE News Release 8/30/07]

In the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 7, ICE agents and officers from the Alamance County Sheriff's Office raided homes in the towns of Burlington and Graham and in rural areas of Alamance County, North Carolina, arresting at least 19 suspected members of Sureno 13 and other gangs. Officers had expected to arrest only 11 people, but at least seven more suspects turned up at homes in Burlington, according to sheriff's spokesperson Randy Jones. Three other people were arrested during the operation who had nothing to do with suspected gang activity, said Jones. No charges have been filed against any of those arrested.

The operation was spearheaded by the Alamance County Sheriff's Office, with support from North Carolina Probation and Parole and the Gibsonville Police Department. Sheriff Terry Johnson said all those arrested are Latinos, but he insisted that the arrests were focused on reducing gang activity, not targeting those present in the US without authorization. About six months ago, the Alamance County Sheriff's Office took on the 287(g) program, a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security that trains and authorizes local law officers to enforce federal immigration law. Before the latest arrests, the sheriff's Alamance County Gang Unit had processed 21 other alleged gang members for deportation. [News 14 Carolina (Raleigh) 9/7/07; Burlington Times News 9/7/07]

From Aug. 27 to Sept. 2, ICE agents acting in partnership with other federal and local law enforcement agencies arrested 65 people in a sweep targeting members of street gangs in the Oklahoma City area. Those arrested were from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Iraq and Mexico. Three US citizens were arrested by local law enforcement agencies during the operation. ICE described 42 of those arrested as "known members of local street gangs"; 15 of those arrested had active warrants or were arrested on state charges. Some cases are being presented to the US Attorney's Office for federal prosecution for re-entering the US after having already been deported. Three immigrants with no previous criminal convictions who were picked up in the sweep were voluntarily returned to Mexico. Agencies participating in the operation included the US Attorney's Office, Western District of Oklahoma; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Oklahoma Highway Patrol; Oklahoma County Sheriff's Office; Oklahoma City Police Department; and Oklahoma Department of Corrections. [ICE News Release 9/4/07]


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