Saturday, February 10, 2007

INB 2/10/07: Day Laborers Arrested, Military Bases Raided

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 4 - February 10, 2007

1. Baltimore: Day Laborers Arrested
2. Chicago: Cleaning Workers Arrested
3. More Military Base Arrests

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 Jan. 23, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 24 undocumented day laborers in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven convenience store in the Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. ICE spokesperson Marc Raimondi said the agents were part of a fugitive operations team on an unrelated assignment when they stopped at the convenience store. A group of day laborers approached the agents' unmarked vehicles, believing they were contractors looking for workers. According to Raimondi, the ICE agents then determined that all 24 men assembled at the store were out-of-status, and brought them to an ICE holding facility in Baltimore. "Although ICE conducts targeted enforcement actions, we will not ignore immigration violations we encounter during the course of doing business," said John Alderman, acting director of ICE's Baltimore field office. Ten of the arrested men were Honduran, eight were Mexican, five were Salvadoran and one was Peruvian. According to ICE, six of the men had criminal records in the US, eight had failed to comply with final removal orders from an immigration judge and one had been caught at the border on four occasions.

At a press conference later the same day in front of the 7-Eleven where the arrests took place, the immigrant advocacy group CASA of Maryland said the "illegal raid" unfairly targeted Latin Americans and was beyond ICE's authority. "Asking a bunch of people about their immigration status is well beyond the confines of a specific warrant," CASA spokeswoman Kim Propeack said. Other immigrant advocates and faith leaders joined in the press conference to protest the arrests and call for reforms to the country's immigration system. [Washington Times 1/24/07]


On Jan. 23, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents arrested 11 women immigrants from Poland who worked cleaning residences and businesses in the Chicago area. The women were employed by CleanPol, a cleaning service company operated out of a residence in Glenview, just north of Chicago. All 11 had entered the US on visitor visas and overstayed. They have been placed in removal proceedings.

ICE initiated the investigation into CleanPol in October 2006 after receiving information that out-of-status immigrants were employed there. ICE subsequently discovered that CleanPol employed workers who were picked up in a van each day and driven to various job sites. ICE agents stopped a van at an intersection on Chicago's north side and made the arrests after watching the driver pick up workers at several locations. [ICE News Release 1/24/07]


On Jan. 17, ICE agents and US Army security personnel arrested 24 contract workers as they attempted to enter Fort Benning, Georgia, to build a barracks for soldiers. Three of the workers had overstayed visas and are to be placed in removal proceedings; the other 21 face federal charges in the US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia in Columbus for identity theft and immigration violations, including improper entry and reentry after deportation, according to ICE.

In Virginia on Jan. 18, ICE arrested 14 undocumented workers on administrative immigration charges--three of them at the Quantico Marine Base, three in Fredericksburg and eight at an apartment complex in Dumfries. ICE arrested two other men--one of them a US citizen--at the same Dumfries apartment complex; the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia has charged the two with conspiracy to harbor "illegal aliens." A third man is being sought. The three men are accused of hiring undocumented immigrants to work on a construction project on Quantico Marine Base. They are also accused of leasing apartments for the workers and providing them with transportation onto the base using trucks bearing Department of Defense decals.

On Jan. 18, ICE agents and Nellis Air Force Base security officers arrested two immigrants at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. The two were employed by a masonry construction company to construct aviation electronics buildings on the base. According to ICE, one of those arrested is a Nicaraguan who "is a member of MS-13, considered to be one of the most dangerous gangs operating in America." The investigation into is ongoing, says ICE.

Agencies assisting in the three operations included the US Marshals Service, the US Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, US military security personnel and the police department of Prince William County, Virginia. [ICE News Release 1/19/07]

During the week of Jan. 22, federal and Florida state agents arrested 13 individuals at the Naval Air Station in Key West, Florida. ICE reported that two of those arrested were undocumented and "in possession of fraudulent" green cards; the US attorney's office has agreed to prosecute, ICE said. Two other men were arrested on outstanding state warrants and nine on state fraudulent identifications charges, ICE reported. More than 120 individuals who did not have proper naval IDs were escorted off the base. All those arrested and escorted off base were employed by general contractors, the agency said. Other agencies involved in the operation included the Naval Air Station Key West, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Key West Police Department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. [Miami Herald 1/29/07]


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".)

Sunday, February 4, 2007

INB 2/4/07: NC Pork Plant Raided, Judge Throws Out LA 8 Case

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 3 - February 4, 2007

1. Border Patrol Kills Migrant
2. Smithfield Plant Raided
3. Judge Throws Out LA 8 Case
4. Palestinian Family Released

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 Jan. 12, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed Francisco Javier Dominguez Rivera, a construction worker from the town of Cuautla in the southern Mexican state of Puebla, after he allegedly resisted arrest near the border between Bisbee and Douglas, Arizona. Dominguez was with six other people trying to cross the border into the US when they were stopped by the Border Patrol; the group included two of his brothers and a sister-in-law, now being held as witnesses in the case. The Cochise County Sheriff's Office is investigating the incident as an officer-related shooting; the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also says it is investigating. The agent who shot Dominguez has been placed on paid administrative leave. The Mexican government has formally demanded a full investigation, and Derechos Humanos, an immigrant rights organization in Tucson, is calling for an independent investigation based on its lack of confidence in the Cochise County Sheriff's Office and FBI investigators. [Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) 1/14/07, 1/18/07; AP 1/23/07]


On Jan. 24, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 21 workers in a raid on the Smithfield Foods Inc. plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina. In contrast with high-profile raids at six Swift meatpacking plants last Dec. 12 [see INB 12/15/06, 12/21/06, 1/5/07, 1/12/07], this time ICE officials kept the operation low-key: they called Smithfield to say they were coming and showed up in unmarked cars and plainclothes, according to Smithfield spokesperson Dennis Pittman. The workers were then sent into a room with ICE officials, questioned and arrested on administrative immigration charges. The 20 men and one woman arrested were moved on Jan. 25 from the Mecklenburg County Jail to Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, nearly 700 miles from Tar Heel.

Local church officials and spokespeople from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union said the workers' families didn't know where they were, and other immigrant workers were terrified of more arrests. Those fears led hundreds of workers--including most of a nighttime cleaning crew--to stay home, resulting in a production slowdown on Jan. 25. "There were several hundred people who didn't show up," said Pittman; he accused union organizers of warning workers to stay home. Pittman said the company spent most of Jan. 25 trying to persuade employees to return to work, even placing advertisements on a Spanish-language radio station. Local UFCW organizer Eduardo Pena denied that the union told workers to stay home, and said the workers themselves, and their families, were the ones who spread the word. "There are hundreds of immigrant families who will have to decide, 'Do I show up to work [Friday] and risk being arrested by immigration?'" said Pena.

Last Nov. 16, about 1,000 of the Tar Heel plant's 5,000 employees staged a walkout after Smithfield fired 75 people in a crackdown on undocumented workers. The walkout ended two days later after Smithfield officials agreed to rehire the fired workers and give them 60 days to get their documents in order [see INB 11/17/06, 11/24/06].

Smithfield spokesperson Pittman said about half the workers arrested on Jan. 25 had been identified by the company as having unverifiable identification information. Pena, the UFCW organizer, called the latest arrests an intimidation tactic. The union has been trying to organize the plant for over a decade. On Jan. 15, the UFCW organized a small walkout at the Tar Heel plant to protest the fact that plant officials refused to designate the date--Martin Luther King Jr. Day--as a paid holiday. [Fayetteville Observer 1/26/07; AP 1/25/07 from Dow Jones Newswire; AP 1/26/07]

Pittman said 541 of the plant's 5,000 employees will face termination in mid-February because of discrepancies on their job applications, unearthed after Smithfield began participating last June in the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program, in which businesses submit I-9 employee eligibility verification forms to ICE for an audit. Pittman called Smithfield's agreement with ICE "a business decision" resulting from an implied threat. "We knew raids could be a possibility," he said. "We felt going this way, there would be less of an effect."

The UFCW charges that Smithfield has used the IMAGE program to target organizers."Most of the leaders of [the November walkout] are on their list," said UFCW spokesperson Leila McDowell. "Whether ICE is consciously in collusion or not, Smithfield could very easily manipulate the process and can use it as a tool to intimidate and threaten workers, which it has done in the past and been found to have done so illegally." [Washington Post 1/29/07]

On Jan. 25, a day after the raid, Smithfield announced it had reached an agreement with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that clears the way for a new union election at the Tar Heel plant. UFCW assistant general counsel Renee Bowser called the announcement "a public-relations ploy to shift attention," noting that the company still faces "outstanding unfair labor-practice charges." NLRB official Howard Neidig said that although the board had reached an agreement with Smithfield regarding the intimidation of employees during union elections in 1994 and 1997, no new election would be scheduled because a case involving a subcontractor is still pending against Smithfield. Under the terms of the agreement, Smithfield Packing, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods Inc., agreed to pay $1.1 million in back wages, plus interest, to employees who were terminated by the company. [Winston-Salem Journal 1/26/07 from AP]


In a decision received on Jan. 30, Los Angeles immigration judge Bruce J. Einhorn terminated deportation proceedings against Khader Musa Hamide and Michel Ibrahim Shehadeh, the last two members of the "Los Angeles Eight" (LA 8) group of Palestinian rights activists who were still fighting deportation. The government has been attempting to deport Hamide and Shehadeh since January 1987 on the basis of their alleged political associations with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization. In his decision, Einhorn said that the proceedings must be terminated because the government had violated the constitutional rights of Hamide and Shehadeh by its "gross failure" to comply with his orders to produce "potentially exculpatory and other relevant information."

Hamide and Shehadeh were legal permanent residents when they first arrested on Jan. 26, 1987, for allegedly distributing newspapers, participating in demonstrations and engaging in other lawful political activities on behalf of the PFLP. In his 11-page opinion, Einhorn wrote that "the attenuation of these proceedings is a festering wound on the body of respondents and an embarrassment to the rule of law."

"The government spent millions of dollars and thousands of hours trying to deport us, and the only things they ever accused us of were constitutionally protected activity," said Hamide on Jan. 30 after learning of the ruling. "Judge Einhorn's decision is important not only for Hamide and Shehadeh but for all immigrants in this country who want to be able to express their political views," said San Francisco attorney Marc Van Der Hout, who has been representing the LA8 on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild since 1987. "For 20 years the government has been attempting to deport these individuals for political activities that would clearly be protected if they were US citizens," said David Cole of Georgetown Law School, who has served as co-lead counsel for the LA8 on behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights since the case began. [Press Release 1/30/07 from Center for Constitutional Rights, National Lawyers Guild & ACLU of Southern California; Los Angeles Times 1/31/07]

ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice said ICE "finds the judge's decision troubling as a matter of fact and law, and the agency is considering its legal options." [New York Times 1/31/07]

Last Dec. 20, another LA 8 member, Aiad Barakat, was sworn in as a US citizen after a federal judge ruled last June that the government must allow him to naturalize [see INB 7/8/06]. [AP 12/20/06] Three other members of the LA 8 have obtained permanent resident status since their 1987 arrest. One member returned to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, and Ayman Obeid is still awaiting approval of his application for permanent residency. [LAT 1/31/07]


Five members of a Palestinian family jailed by immigration authorities in Texas since November were released on Feb. 3, a day after the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accepted to reopen their asylum case. Salaheddin Ibrahim, his wife Hanan Ibrahim, who is five months pregnant, and four of their five children had been detained since a Nov. 2 raid on their home by ICE agents. Hanan Ibrahim was jailed at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas, together with the couple's 15-year-old son Hamzeh and daughters Rodaina (14), Maryam (8) and Faten (5). Salaheddin Ibrahim is held at a separate facility in Haskell, Texas and had not been released as of Feb. 4. Three-year-old Zahra Ibrahim, a US-born citizen, has been cared for by her uncle, Ahmad Ibrahim, since her parents' arrest. The family's plight stirred media and public attention, and at least three protests were held outside the Hutto facility during their detention there. [Dallas Morning News 1/31/07, 2/4/07; WFAA-TV 2/1/07]

On Feb. 1, New York lawyers Ted Cox and Joshua Bardavid filed writs of habeas corpus on the family's behalf in federal district courts in Dallas and Austin, arguing that the government has no legal basis to detain the family and that their detention harms the "psychological, emotional, and mental health of all petitioners." "The government will have three days to explain why they are in detention," Cox said. [AP 2/2/07] The habeas suit charged that Hanan Ibrahim had not been provided appropriate medical treatment, and that she had been forced to remain standing on several occasions despite her complaints of fatigue or pain. Visits to an OB-GYN doctor involved a two-hour drive, and she was kept in arm and leg shackles for the duration of her physical exams. [Austin-American Statesman 2/2/07]

The Ibrahims arrived on valid visas from the West Bank in 2001, and were denied asylum and ordered deported in 2003. Attempts to reopen their case were denied in 2004 and 2005. Their temporary Jordanian passports have expired, and they have been unable to get permission from Israel to return to the West Bank. Lawyers for the Ibrahims sent letters to 54 countries asking each to accept the family. (DMN 2/4/07) On Feb. 2, the family's Dallas attorney, John Wheat Gibson, announced that the BIA had agreed to reopen the family's asylum case. "I have never heard of the Board granting such a motion for Palestinian asylum seekers before, even though many people have tried," wrote Bardavid later on Feb. 2. "I believe that the pressure put on the government by the actions filed in the federal courts, the media attention... and good work and thorough preparation of Mr. Gibson in his motion on behalf of the Ibrahims resulted in this outcome." (The BIA decision was apparently based, at least in part, on changed country conditions: the election of Hamas--a group designated by the US as terrorist--to head the Palestinian Authority.) [Texas Civil Rights Review 2/3/07]

Dallas businessman Ralph Isenberg, who earlier in January won a 14-month battle to bring his deported wife back to the US from China, helped win the release of the Ibrahim family by bringing Cox and Bardavid onto the case. Isenberg said the hundreds of other children still jailed inside the Hutto facility need to be freed. "You do not lock children and mothers that are pregnant up in the United States of America--that is not what this country is about," he said. [WFAA-TV 2/4/07]

Earlier in the week of Jan. 29, Ahmad Ibrahim picked up mail from his brother's apartment and found that one of the girls had written a letter to herself from detention. "I guess that was all she could think of doing, because there's nothing else to do there," he said. "She just wrote things like, 'How are you doing?' and 'How was school today?'" [DMN 1/31/07]


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".)