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]


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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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