Sunday, September 30, 2007

INB 9/30/07: NY Licenses; McDonald's Raids; Texas Rally; LI Raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 25 - September 30, 2007

1. NY Expands Driver's License Access
2. Raids at McDonald's in Nevada
3. Texas: 2,000 Rally Against Deportation
4. Long Island Raids Protested
5. Arizona Sheriff Raids Day Labor Sites
6. Farm Labor Contractor Fined

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 Sept. 21, New York governor Eliot Spitzer announced new rules under which the state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will issue driver's licenses without regard to federal immigration status. The new rules reverse a policy change adopted four years ago under governor George Pataki that made it virtually impossible for immigrants to obtain driver's licenses if they could not prove legal status. Under the new rules, the DMV will accept a current foreign passport as proof of identity without also requiring federal immigration documents. The policy does not require legislative approval and will be phased in starting in December. It will be tied to new antifraud measures including the authentication of foreign passports and the use of photo comparison technology to ensure that no driver has more than one license. The State Department of Insurance estimates that the new rules will save New York drivers $120 million each year by reducing premium costs associated with uninsured motorists by 34%.

Implementation of the new policy is to start at the end of 2007 with a relicensing process for some 152,000 residents who have had New York state licenses but couldn't renew them under the Pataki rules, said motor vehicles commissioner David J. Swarts. A second phase, to begin in April, will allow people to seek first-time licenses. This phase will involve more rigorous screening, Swarts said, including a four- to six-week process of authenticating foreign passports and other foreign identity documents. [New York Times 9/22/07]


Early on Sept. 27, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested at least 56 people in raids at 11 McDonald's restaurants in the northern Nevada towns of Reno, Sparks and Fernley. "They are people suspected of being in the country illegally," said ICE spokesperson Richard Rocha. "As far as I know, they were all McDonald's employees." In Reno ICE also raided the franchise corporate headquarters for Sierra Golden Arches, which operates the restaurants. The agents had search warrants for all the raided sites. The franchise company is owned by Luther Mack, who told News 4 that "as an employer, I do not knowingly hire or employ undocumented or unauthorized
workers." Lisa Howard, a spokesperson for McDonald's Corp., said the company had no comment on the arrests. "This is a local situation with a local operator," she said.

Rocha said the investigation into the restaurants began five months ago and was sparked by an identity theft complaint. A local law enforcement agency then gave ICE information that unauthorized workers were employed at specific McDonald's restaurants, Rocha said. ICE was working with Washoe County social services to help provide care for children whose parents were arrested in the raids, Rocha said. The workers arrested would be transferred to an unidentified local detention center to await deportation proceedings, Rocha said.

The raids drew immediate criticism from Reno mayor Bob Cashell and local immigrant rights activists, who estimated the number of people arrested to be closer to 100. The Republican mayor joined a news conference in front of the federal courthouse late on Sept. 27, called by local Latino leaders and members of the American Civil Liberties Union. "We don't approve of the Gestapo methods ICE is using," said Gilbert Cortez, a Latino leader who urged area residents to stay home from work in protest the next day, Sept. 28.

Cashell said he opposed the strike call and is against "illegal immigration," but "there has to be a better way to do this." He said he would contact Nevada's congressional delegation and ask the city council to look into the raids. "Think of some of the people who were arrested and picked up; they have children. They don't know where their mama or their daddy is. That's not right." [AP 9/28/07; 9/28/07]


On Sept. 26, some 2,000 people rallied at City Hall in Irving, Texas, a suburb west of Dallas, to demand that Irving officials stop handing over people held at the city's jail to immigration authorities. Demonstrators waved US flags and chanted "We are America."

Irving police have turned over at least 1,600 people to ICE since June 2006 under the"Criminal Alien Program," which targets immigrants accused of crimes. Opponents of the program say the Irving police engage in racial profiling; that people stopped for minor traffic infractions are being handed over to ICE; and that the policy has made local residents fear contacting police. The week of Sept. 17, Mexican Consul Enrique Hubbard Urrea warned immigrants from his country to avoid Irving. Community leader Carlos Quintanilla said he would organize a boycott of Irving businesses if the city persisted in the policy.

A few counter-demonstrators carried signs in support of the deportation program. Two counter-demonstrators were arrested for attacking protesters at the rally; police said Jerry Don Grayson put his hands around a demonstrator's neck and Teresa Williams scratched at other protesters. They each face a misdemeanor assault charge and were out on bond on Sept. 27. [Dallas Morning News 9/27/07; AP 9/27/07]


ICE agents raided homes on Sept. 24 in the Nassau County towns of Westbury, Glen Cove, Hicksville and Port Washington on New York's Long Island, with support from two sergeants and six officers of the Nassau County police. On Sept. 26, ICE raided homes in Freeport and Hempstead, assisted by four Nassau County police officers. A total of 82 immigrants were arrested in the raids.

On Sept. 27, at least 50 immigrants and immigration advocates gathered in Hempstead to protest the raids that took place in Latino communities in the towns of Hempstead, Westbury, Brentwood and Central Islip. "We cannot continue terrorizing families and breaking families apart," said Omar Henriquez, board president of the Hempstead-based Workplace Project.

Also on Sept. 27, Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey complained that his department had been "misled" by ICE about the nature of the raids. ICE had asked Nassau police to be present during the execution of arrest warrants for Nassau County residents who were affiliated with gangs, Mulvey said. The Nassau County police department had repeatedly asked ICE to share a list of suspected gang members targeted with arrest warrants, Mulvey said, but the request was only granted on Sept. 27-- four days after the raids started. "We had asked for a list of the targets on the warrants because we have a very accurate and up-to-date database on gangs in Nassau County," Mulvey said. "It was promised and not delivered." According to Mulvey, the ICE agents appeared to have outdated intelligence on where some of the suspects were located.

Only three of those picked up in the raids were suspected gang members, said Mulvey. It was not clear whether the three were named in the warrants; Mulvey had earlier stated that none of those arrested were named in the warrants. Most or all of those arrested were out-of-status immigrants discovered at the raided homes--including a father who was caring for his four-month-old daughter while his wife was at work. The man was forced to leave the baby unattended when ICE arrested him on Sept. 24 in Westbury, his wife said at the Sept. 27 press conference criticizing the raids.

Mulvey said that if he thought the goal of ICE had been to arrest undocumented immigrants, the department would not have assisted. The presence of police during the raids erodes the trust developed between police and the community, which is crucial to getting victims and witnesses to cooperate in investigations, Mulvey noted. "This sets us back," he said. "We suffer the consequences of the mistrust that develops." Mulvey also said the ICE agents who took part in the operations appeared to have come from various locations across the country and didn't even wear the same uniforms.

"We withdrew from any involvement in any further operations,"Mulvey said. "There will be no future cooperation unless these issues are ironed out." [Newsday 9/28/07; AP 9/28/07]


Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies arrested nine day laborers on Sept. 27 near the Good Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church in the town of Cave Creek, Arizona, north of Phoenix. For more than six years the church has been a safe haven for laborers looking for work. Sheriff Joe Arpaio ordered the arrests after the town passed two new ordinances on Sept. 24 targeting day laborers: one toughens the town's ban on loitering; the other prohibits cars from stopping on town streets. The new laws are set to take effect on Oct. 24. Arpaio praised the new regulations, but said: "We're not waiting for the 30 days for these ordinances to be implemented."

In the Sept. 27 arrests, agents from Arpaio's Illegal Immigration Interdiction ("Triple I") Unit stopped two vehicles as they exited the church's parking lot, one for speeding and the other for a broken taillight, Arpaio said. The drivers were given warnings; the day laborers riding in the vehicles were arrested. No citations were issued. "The drivers were legal, but the passengers were illegal," said Arpaio. "We've been doing this all over the Valley." [Arizona Republic (Phoenix) 9/28/07; KPHO (Phoenix) 9/28/07]

On Sept. 25, Arpaio announced that his deputies had arrested 34 out-of-status immigrants that day in Maricopa County's West Valley area. "We're up to over 730 that we have arrested under that state law that nobody else is enforcing," Arpaio bragged, referring to a 2005 Arizona law that makes smuggling people a felony. Arpaio claimed that he's getting a 90% conviction rate. "And my message to all these illegals--stay out of this county," he said. [KTAR News (Phoenix) 9/25/07] Maricopa County sheriff's deputies have been trained by ICE to enforce immigration laws; in addition to arresting immigrants under state laws, they have detained more than 4,200 people under federal immigration laws. [KPHO 9/28/07]

On Sept. 20, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas signed an agreement with Arpaio to cooperate in enforcing a new state law that will impose sanctions on employers who knowingly or intentionally hire undocumented immigrants. Thomas said he chose to partner with Arpaio's office because of its "track record of enforcing our immigration laws and not caving in to political correctness." Thomas will assign up to $1 million of the $1.4 million budget that the legislature gave him to enforce the new law to pay for the Sheriff's Office investigations. [Arizona Republic 9/21/07]


On Sept. 27, following a two-week trial and five days of deliberations, a federal jury in US District Court in Yakima, Washington, ordered the Los Angeles-based international labor contractor Global Horizons to pay $317,000 in damages for violating federal labor laws and discriminating against workers. The amount includes $17,000 in compensatory damages to three farmworkers and $300,000 in punitive damages to hundreds of workers.

The award comes in a class-action lawsuit filed in 2005 by Columbia Legal Services of Yakima, seeking damages of $1.6 million on behalf of about 600 farm workers who worked for Global Horizons in 2005 and other workers the company declined to hire. The jury found the contractor violated the federal Farm Labor Contractors Act by failing to provide the jobs promised to the workers, and discriminated by failing to hire the workers or by firing them and replacing them with "guest workers" under the federal H2A program. Workers said their jobs were given to "guest workers" from Thailand.

"This is a victory for farm workers everywhere who have been harmed by the unlawful practices of Global Horizons," said Lori Isley of Columbia Legal Services. Liability for Green Acre Farms of Harrah and Valley Fruit Orchard of Wapato, local growers who used workers supplied by Global Horizons, will be determined in a later hearing by Judge Robert Whaley. [Yakima Herald 9/28/07]


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