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

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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]

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