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]


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