Friday, March 30, 2007

INB 3/30/07: Detainees Protest in GA, Migrant Shot, Baltimore Raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 9 - March 30, 2007

1. Detainees Protest in Georgia
2. Border Agent Kills Migrant
3. Baltimore Factories, Warehouses 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. Immigration News Briefs is now archived at


More than 1,000 immigration detainees held a two-day hunger strike at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, according to the consul general of El Salvador in Georgia, Asdrubal Aguilar. The Atlanta Latino newspaper reported the protest in a Mar. 22 article, but did not say when it took place. The facility is operated by the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) under contract with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Aguilar said the Salvadoran consulate received as many as 600 calls in one day from detainees reporting the protest and complaining about conditions. The consulate sent staff members to the detention center and interviewed 40 detainees. Aguilar reported that detainee Oscar Armando Castaneda Lopez was beaten by CCA guards after clashing with a guard who tried to force him to eat. Castaneda was punished with 45 days in "the hole," an isolation unit. After the hunger strike, authorities transferred the women detainees at Stewart to the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama.

Guillermo Antonio Carpio, a 70-year old detainee at Stewart, told the consulate he is HIV-positive and has Parkinson's disease and diabetes, yet is denied adequate food and medical care at Stewart. Carpio said when he has medical problems needing attention, it generally takes two to four days before he can see a doctor. Another detainee, Carlos Antonio Alfaro, said he suffers from attacks of schizophrenia which must be controlled with medication, but since being detained he has not had access to medication and his condition has worsened.

Jose Saul Hernandez Argueta, also detained at Stewart, said he and his wife were arrested last October in a raid on a Houston meatpacking plant. Their only son, who was eight years old and suffered from asthma, was at school when his parents were arrested; he was sent to live with his uncle and aunt, who were unfamiliar with his treatment needs. Hernandez said his son's asthma grew worse and he died three weeks ago from complications of the condition. "My wife is currently in an immigration jail in Texas, and I don't even know if she knows about our son," said Hernandez. [Atlanta Latino 3/22/07]


On Mar. 26, a Border Patrol shot and killed a man who allegedly threatened him with a rock in Calexico, California, on the border with Mexico. The agent fired an M-4 assault rifle at the man, who was apparently trying to evade arrest and run back to Mexico. The man was pronounced dead from one bullet wound at El Centro Regional Medical Center. Pablo Arnaud Carreno, Mexico's consul in Calexico, said the victim appeared to be a Mexican man who had entered the US without permission. His name was not released. The Mexican government has asked US authorities for a thorough investigation. "It seems unjust to shoot someone who is unarmed," Arnaud Carreno said on Mar. 27.

Border Patrol spokesperson David Kim said agents saw seven people climb a border fence, run to the All-American Canal and attempt to cross the waterway in rafts. The victim was in a raft that had turned back toward Mexico. Kim said the agent fired after seeing the man's arm cocked back with a rock in the hand. Other people continued to throw rocks at the agents, Kim said. [AP 3/28/07]

Enrique Lozano, a spokesperson for the Border Patrol's El Centro sector office, gave a different version of events. He said agents searching a truck lot just north of the All-American Canal caught six immigrants out of a group of seven suspected of having crossed the border without permission. The seventh jumped into the canal, swam across and ran south back toward the border with agents in pursuit, Lozano said. As the man ran toward the border fence, about five or six people on the Mexican side of the fence in Mexicali scaled the fence, jumped onto the US side and started throwing rocks at the pursuing agents, Lozano said. "They were just flinging rocks all over the place," said Lozano. They also lit and threw a Molotov cocktail at the agents, Lozano claimed. The homemade bomb landed near the agents, but failed to explode, he said.

According to Lozano, as agents closed in on the man being pursued, he picked up a large rock and turned toward them with his arm cocked back to throw it. "He was face-to-face with the agents, just feet away," Lozano said. At that point, one of the agents fired one shot from his M-4 rifle, hitting the man. The group that jumped the fence and attacked the agents with rocks eventually ran back into Mexico, Lozano said, while five of the six people caught in the truck lot were allowed to voluntarily return to Mexico. The sixth was found to have a misdemeanor warrant pending against him and was turned over to Imperial County sheriff's deputies, said Lozano. [San Diego Union Tribune 3/28/07]

The FBI is investigating the incident and the Imperial County coroner's office was performing an autopsy. The Border Patrol declined to identify the agent involved. [AP 3/28/07]


On Mar. 29, ICE agents detained 69 immigrants from Latin America and Africa in raids on nine businesses in the Baltimore area that used a local temporary employment agency, the Jones Industrial Network (JIN). Agents also seized the $600,000 bank account of the employment agency, and is investigating it for allegedly supplying unauthorized immigrant workers to firms including the sportswear manufacturer Under Armour and bonded warehouses in or near the Port of Baltimore. Authorities said the Jones firm was the sole target of their criminal investigation, although no Jones officials faced arrest or charges immediately. In addition to the Jones firm, officials said the eight raided facilities were operated by Under Armour and Dixie Printing and Packaging Corp., in Anne Arundel County; Tessco Technologies and BP Castrol, in Baltimore County; and Pritchard Brown, C. Steinweg, Baltimore Metal and Commodities, and Beacon Stevedoring, all in Baltimore. James Dinkins, acting special agent in charge of the Baltimore field office of ICE, said the inquiry was launched last August after investigators received an anonymous tip that out-of-status immigrants were working at the Port of Baltimore. Dinkins said ICE was concerned because the facilities were bonded warehouses, which store incoming and outgoing cargo before it is examined by customs agents. [Washington Post 3/30/07] In a news release, ICE said "civil warrants were executed at five businesses and consent searches were conducted at three businesses " where the employment agency allegedly provided unauthorized workers. The Maryland State Police, Baltimore City Police, Baltimore County Police, Anne Arundel County Police Department and the US Customs and Border Protection agency provided public safety assistance during the operation, said ICE. [ICE News Release 3/29/07]

ICE announced the raids at a news conference in a Baltimore hotel, while CASA of Maryland, a local group that supports immigrant workers' organizing efforts, held its own news conference on the afternoon of Mar. 29 outside the headquarters of the Jones agency, which was closed for the day following the raid. At the site, family members of those detained gathered with activists carrying signs that read "Stop Dividing Our Families," "Stop the Raids," and "Fair Immigration Reform Now." Relatives of several of the women detained in the raids wept and urged their release, saying they had young children at home or were pregnant. [WP 3/30/07; FIRM (Fair Immigration Reform Movement) Press Release 3/29/07; AP 3/30/07] CASA of Maryland spokesperson Kim Propeack noted that even when employers are charged, workers bear the brunt of the punishment. "They kick workers out of the country," she said. "They levy a series of charges against these guys... but have they ever collected unpaid wages? Do they even ensure that workers receive their last paychecks? No." [Washington Times 3/30/07]

ICE said in its news release that all the detainees "will be interviewed by ICE staff, Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Immigration Health Services (DIHS) staff and offered access to Maryland Child Protective Service staff to record any medical, sole-caregiver or other humanitarian situations." [ICE News Release 3/29/07] According to Dinkins, ICE officials are "evaluating 20 cases" and "believe there may be grounds for humanitarian releases."

Calvin McCormick, ICE's Baltimore field office director, said at the ICE press conference that the arrested workers were being held at the Dorchester County and Worcester County detention centers in Maryland and in York County Prison in York, Pennsylvania. [WT 3/30/07] All those detained face administrative immigration violations. One detained woman, who was eight months pregnant and said she was not feeling well, was taken to a hospital during a raid, said ICE spokesperson Jamie Zuieback. Officials said the detainees came from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Kenya, Cameroon and Ghana. [WP 3/30/07] The Washington Times, also citing immigration officials, gave a slightly different list of the detainees' countries of origin: Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Mexico and El Salvador. [WT 3/30/07]


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".)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

INB 3/24/07: NJ Detainees Protest; Raids in Upstate NY

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 8 - March 24, 2007

1. NJ Detainees Stage Protest
2. Raids Hit Hudson Valley, NY
3. SC: Tire Company Aids Arrests
4. Child Detainees Sexually Abused
5. Al-Arian Loses Appeal

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 the morning of Mar. 18, at least 103 immigration detainees at Monmouth County Jail in Freehold Township, New Jersey, refused to eat or participate in any jail programs as a protest over insufficient food and lack of medical care at the facility. The detainees were also demanding repair of a broken television, among other issues. Undersheriff Ted Freeman, spokesperson for the facility, said the detainees' act of "passive resistance" had ended by the evening of Mar. 18.

Freeman said he knew of one detainee who did not receive a dental appointment as planned. "That was brought to the warden's attention and we had a dentist come in to handle it today," Freeman said late on Mar. 18. He also said the broken television was replaced. "The warden [William J. Fraser] has been meeting with [the detainees] all day, and their concerns have been met," Freeman said. "The demonstration--or whatever you want to call it--is over." Undersheriff Cynthia Scott, public information officer for the Sheriff's Office, said the warden has ordered that the medical charts of all the immigration detainees be reviewed by medical personnel.

Scott said detainees had complained of a lack of linens; she said additional linens have been provided. Freeman said the detainees were also demanding more Spanish-speaking officers, but Scott denied that was among the grievances. Freeman said detainees were satisfied that jail officials are working to address at least some of their concerns. Freeman said he did not expect food servings to change. He said immigration detainees, like all the 1,268 inmates at Monmouth County Jail, receive three meals daily, consisting of 3,400 calories. The diet is recommended by a nutritionist with the jail's food-service company, Freeman said.

New York resident Denton Osborne, a native of Guyana, said his younger brother, Ray Osborne, was among the detainees who complained about not getting enough food at the jail, and about the lack of medical attention. He said his brother had lost about 20 pounds since arriving at the facility in January. "They are just asking for the services they need to get, but [jail officials] are treating them like they don't care about them. [The detainees] do have rights also. They are human beings," Denton Osborne said. He said he had not spoken to his brother since Mar. 17, and was not convinced the issue is resolved. "These folks have been protesting and voicing their complaints quite a while now," Denton Osborne said. "The media has gotten involved so [the jail officials] are trying to save their necks today. They're trying to do a quick fix, and it's going to take more than that."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pays the jail $80 a day per detainee to hold as many as 132 detainees. ICE detainees make up more than 10% of the jail's population. Mark Thorn, a spokesperson for the New York ICE office, said the situation at Monmouth County Jail is under investigation. "We sent a team from our office to look into the matter and are working with the Monmouth County Jail to address the situation," Thorn said. [Asbury Park Press (NJ) 3/19/07, 3/20/07]


Early on Mar. 19, ICE agents raided an apartment building in the village of Mount Kisco, in the lower Hudson Valley area of New York state, allegedly searching for a fugitive. Local police said the fugitive, Estanslao Lopez, is an immigrant with multiple criminal convictions--though they wouldn't release his rap sheet. Village police Lt. Patrick O'Reilly referred questions to immigration officials. "It was their operation," he said. The raided apartment building was apparently Lopez's last known address.

Lopez wasn't there, but ICE arrested 20 immigrants who lived in the building and took them to an ICE location in Manhattan for processing, police said. ICE New York spokesperson Mark Thorn said the fugitive who was the focus of the raid--he would not identify the person--had been ordered deported. Thorn said the apartment building was targeted because the agency had information the fugitive would be there. "When we're at a target location, we need to know who's on the premises for officer safety," Thorn said. "Everyone on the premises will be interviewed." Thorn said those taken into custody were arrested for immigration law violations and placed in removal proceedings. [Journal News (White Plains/Mount Kisco/West Nyack) 3/22/07, 3/23/07]

On Mar. 22, ICE agents carried out a raid at a house in Mount Kisco. Mark Thorn confirmed on Mar. 22 that a second operation seeking a fugitive had been carried out in Mount Kisco; he would not say whether the fugitive was the same person sought in the Mar. 19 raid. A couple who lived at the house said they were awakened that morning by agents forcing open the first-floor windows by their bed. They said they were handcuffed and taken with five other residents of the same house to Manhattan immigration offices where all seven were photographed, fingerprinted and released later in the day with court papers instructing them to return to immigration court for hearings.

Of the 20 immigrants arrested in the Mar. 19 raid, 14 had been released by Mar. 22, according to attorney George Echevarria. Several of those arrested on Mar. 19 said they spent one night in Manhattan and two nights at a New Jersey jail before being released with orders to appear before an immigration judge in Manhattan on April 2. One of the men said immigration officials put the group on a Manhattan subway bound for Grand Central Terminal. No one in the group had cash to pay for the train ride back to Mount Kisco, but one of the men was able to use a bank card and buy the needed train tickets. [JN 3/23/07]


On Feb. 22 and 23, federal and local officials arrested seven men and six women at a tire manufacturing plant in Aiken, South Carolina. All 13 workers were charged in separate indictments with fraud and misuse of immigration documents for allegedly using false green cards to obtain employment at Carlisle Tire and Wheel. All made appearances in federal court and were being detained awaiting trial on $250,000 secured bonds.

Officials say the investigation began last year after a local woman told the Aiken County Sheriff's Office that her identity was being used by someone employed at Carlisle; she discovered the identity theft when she was rejected for unemployment benefits. County investigators forwarded the information to federal authorities, who obtained employment records and found that a Carlisle employee had presented counterfeit documents--a green card in the name of the local woman--to get hired. After that employee was arrested, Carlisle officials asked ICE to review the immigration documents provided by other employees. That review prompted the Feb. 22-23 arrests.

"Carlisle's pro-active efforts in this matter are highly commendable," said Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt. The case was investigated by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Secret Service, Social Security Administration-Office of Inspector General, US Marshals, Aiken County Sheriff's Office, and the Aiken Department of Public Safety. [WLTX-TV News (Columbia, SC) 3/1/07; Aiken Standard 2/27/07, 3/2/07]


During the week of Mar. 19, federal officials transferred all 72 children out of a Texas detention facility for unaccompanied minors amid allegations that staff there had sexually abused some of the detainees. The 72 children held at the Texas Sheltered Care facility in Nixon were transferred to several destinations, said Tara Wall, a spokesperson at the federal government's Office of Refugee Resettlement. Some were sent to other child detention facilities in Texas, while others were deported. "No person who had made allegations of abuse was deported," according to Wall.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement oversees 36 facilities for unaccompanied minors throughout the US, including the one in Nixon. About 8,000 children a year, mainly teenagers from Central America who crossed into the US without permission, are held at these facilities while authorities determine whether to place them in foster care, hand them over to relatives in the US or deport them. Most are deported. The average stay at Texas Sheltered Care was 18 days. The 136-bed facility, operated by Away from Home Inc., usually held about 100 mostly teenage male undocumented immigrants.

The Bernardo Kohler Center is representing three children who say they were abused at Texas Sheltered Care. Sources familiar with the allegations said eight children made accusations against an employee; that employee has since been fired. Federal officials said they decided to move all the children out of the shelter until they determine whether to take other steps, including permanently closing the facility.

The Gonzales County district attorney's office had initially concluded that the local sheriff did not have jurisdiction in the case, and brought in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which launched an investigation in February or early March into the allegations of abuse. Erik Vasys, spokesperson for the FBI's San Antonio office, said investigators believed abuse had taken place.

But the US attorney's office announced on Mar. 22 that it had decided not to bring any federal charges in the case. "After a thorough review of the evidence and applicable federal law, this office concluded that the alleged activity...could likely be more effectively addressed by state of Texas prosecutorial authorities," Johnny Sutton, US attorney for the Western District of Texas, said in a statement. "The most we could prove would be a misdemeanor violation of civil rights, when the state has available to it a statutory violation that would result in a felony conviction," Sutton said. It is not clear whether the state will pursue the charges: "Our prosecutor is going to take a look at it, see if there are state charges," said Gonzales County Sheriff Glen A. Sachtleben. [Los Angeles Times 3/23/07; San Antonio Express-News 3/23/07; Houston Chronicle 3/24/07]


On Mar. 23, a three-judge panel of the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Alexandria, Virginia, unanimously affirmed a civil contempt ruling against former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian activist who has refused to testify in front of a federal grand jury investigating Islamic charities in northern Virginia. Al-Arian had argued that a plea agreement in his Florida prosecution exempts him from testifying before the grand jury.

Also on Mar. 23, Al-Arian's family announced he will suspend his 60-day water-only hunger strike and begin a liquid-only fast. Al-Arian began the hunger strike last Jan. 22 to protest the grand jury subpoena and the contempt citation. He is detained at a medical prison in Butner, North Carolina. [St. Petersburg Times 3/24/07] Nahla al-Arian said she was able to convince her husband early on Mar. 23 to end his water-only fast. She said he had lost about 53 pounds--about 25% of his body weight--and was too weak to walk. [Daily Press (Hampton Roads, VA) 3/23/07 from AP] Shortly after his arrest in February 2003, Al-Arian carried out a liquids-only fast that lasted 140 days. [Tampa Tribune 1/24/07]

On Apr. 14, 2006, after being detained for more than three years, most of that time in solitary confinement, Al-Arian made a deal with the government, pleading guilty to one count of conspiring to provide support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in exchange for what was supposed to be a sentence of time served and a speedy deportation. Instead, in May 2006 Judge James S. Moody Jr. of Federal District Court in Tampa sentenced Al-Arian to 57 months in prison--the maximum allowed under sentencing guidelines [see INB 6/10/06]. Last Nov. 16, Al-Arian was found in civil contempt for refusing to testify before the Virginia grand jury, and Moody extended his prison sentence by an additional 18 months. [SPT 11/17/06] In January 2007, Amnesty International sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, complaining that Al-Arian has been detained under what appear to be "unacceptably harsh and punitive" conditions. [Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace Press Release, 2/13/07, at]


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, March 18, 2007

INB 3/18/07: California County Responds to Raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 7 - March 18, 2007

1. CA: Marin County Responds to Raids
2. Arizona Construction Company 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.


At dawn on Mar. 6, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided the low-income Canal neighborhood of San Rafael in Marin County, California. The raids, part of ICE's national "Operation Return to Sender," were supposedly based on 30 warrants for people who had prior deportation orders. The ICE agents returned to the neighborhood early on Mar. 7 and carried out more arrests; at least one similar raid took place in nearby Novato over Mar. 6-7. ICE agents apparently returned to San Rafael for the third consecutive day on Mar. 8 to make further arrests. San Rafael police were notified that ICE would be making arrests near the city's downtown area between 7 and 8 a.m., said police spokesperson Margo Rohrbacher. Some of the immigrants may have been deported the same day they were arrested, an immigration official said on Mar. 8. [Marin Independent Journal (Novato) 3/7/07, 3/8/07, 3/9/07]

Federal officials declined to reveal the number of people arrested in the raids until pressed by the office of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who sent an aide to meet with ICE. Congressional officials said on Mar. 15 that ICE had arrested 65 people in Marin County during the week of Mar. 5, and had deported 23 of them. "For every one [with a warrant] they picked up, 12 [were arrested who] are not named on the warrant," said Canal Alliance Executive Director Tom Wilson. That means it's more about people not named in the warrant," he said. "That's really scary--that tells me they're just using the warrant as a way to get in a door into a house." [MIJ 3/15/07]

Rey Reyes said his 7-year-old nephew, US-born citizen Kevin Reyes, was with his family in an apartment where officers made the arrests. "They put handcuffs on him; he is only 7," Reyes said through an interpreter. At Bahia Vista Elementary School, Principal Juan Rodriguez reported that two students were separated from their parents because of the raid, and that 77 children did not come to school on Mar. 7, likely out of fear. On a typical day, eight to 10 students are absent. Rodriguez said many of the missing students returned to class the next day, Mar. 8, leaving only 11 absent. School representatives and community members have been meeting with roughly 20 children directly affected by the raids, and have been escorting students from their front doors to the classroom, Rodriguez said. [MIJ 3/7/07, 3/8/07] San Rafael Superintendent of Schools Laura Alvarenga said many San Rafael teachers rode the bus with their students on Mar. 7 to help reassure them. [MIJ 3/14/07]

In the pre-dawn hours of Mar. 9, about 75 people held a three-hour candlelight vigil in the Canal neighborhood, spreading out in teams at several intersections in order to protest the ICE raids, show support for immigrant residents, and witness and document any further early-morning ICE actions. [MIJ 3/9/07, 3/10/07; Canal Alliance website,] Rev. Carol Hovis, executive director of the Marin Interfaith Council, which organized the protest, said the vigilers would return at 5 a.m. every weekday morning over the subsequent week. [MIJ 3/9/07]

Later in the afternoon on Mar. 9, more than 100 people chanted and held signs at another protest in San Rafael against the raids. [MIJ 3/10/07] On Mar. 12, hundreds of people again protested the raids with a march from St. Raphael's Church in San Rafael to a "know-your-rights" meeting at Pickleweed Park Community Center. [Report posted on Canal Alliance website, 3/13/07; KGO News (San Francisco) 3/13/07]


On the morning of Mar. 9, ICE served 11 federal search warrants at a number of sites in Sierra Vista, Arizona, in a raid targeting construction company Sun Drywall and Stucco Inc. Nearly 200 agents took part in the sweep; the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, Sierra Vista Police Department and the Border Patrol assisted with the arrests. Eight individuals were sought on federal criminal charges of hiring and harboring out-of-status immigrants. Agents arrested the president of the company, the human resources manager, three foremen and one other worker at the company's headquarters; another company manager was arrested later in the day on a local highway, and one other manager was charged but remained at large on Mar. 10. Investigators said those charged conspired with fraudulent-document makers to hire and protect immigrants who lacked work authorization.

Another three people were arrested the same day on state charges of identity theft for allegedly making and selling fraudulent documents in connection with the case. Also on Mar. 9, agents arrested 10 Mexican nationals on immigration violations--seven who worked for Sun Drywall, one who worked for a different framing company, and two women who happened to be at a raided site. During the course of the 16-month investigation, agents arrested 32 other people allegedly working without authorization for Sun Drywall. [Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) 3/10/07] US Customs and Border Protection, US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, and the Arizona Fraudulent Identity Task Force (AFIT) collaborated in the probe. [ICE News Release 3/9/07]

The investigation of Sun Drywall began in November 2005 after officials noticed that a number of deported immigrants claimed to have worked at the company, said Alonzo Pena, ICE special agent in charge in Phoenix, at a Mar. 9 afternoon press conference at the federal courthouse in Tucson. In December 2005, during an audit of the company's employee records, agents found 11 workers who were using fraudulent green cards, according to the criminal complaint against the company. ICE agents told the company president and human resources manager to fire the workers, but they continued to employ them, the complaint states. Investigators also found other workers using fraudulent green cards with numbers that belonged to other people. [ADS 3/10/07]


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".)

Friday, March 9, 2007

INB 3/9/07: Factory Raids in Massachusetts, Indiana

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 6 - March 9, 2007

1. MA: Over 300 Arrested at Factory
2. Factory Raided in Indiana

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.


Early on Mar. 6, some 300 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and police officers raided the Michael Bianco Inc. leather goods factory in New Bedford, Massachusetts. [Boston Globe 3/6/07 (online edition), 3/7/07] At least 361 workers who could not immediately prove they were authorized to be in the US were initially rounded up in the raid. [Washington Post 3/9/07 from AP] Immigration officials later said 327 of the company's 500 employees were detained for possible deportation. [AP 3/8/07] Most of the undocumented workers were women from Guatemala and El Salvador, officials said. [AP 3/7/07]

Workers present during the raid said the scene was chaotic. People panicked and tried to flee, only to discover that the plant was surrounded by agents, with helicopters hovering above to alert authorities of escape routes. [BG 3/6/07 (online edition), 3/7/07] "When we realized what was going on, a lot of people were screaming and crying," said Tina Pacheco, a supervisor who has worked at the company for 14 years. "They told American citizens to stand in one area and the people without papers to stand in another area. It was terrible, they were crying and didn't know what was going to happen." Witnesses said police guarded exits while other officers grabbed some of the fleeing workers and shouted at them to lie on the ground. Several officers drew their handguns. [BG 3/7/07]

The arrested workers were loaded onto buses and taken for processing to a US Army Reserve center at the former Fort Devens military base in Ayer, nearly 100 miles from New Bedford. [BG 3/7/07; Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA) 3/7/07] About 90 of them were then flown on Mar. 7 from Fort Devens to a detention center in Harlingen, Texas, according to ICE spokesperson Marc Raimondi. On Mar. 8, a group of 116 others were flown to Albuquerque, New Mexico, said Raimondi. The detainees remaining in Massachusetts have been transferred to local jails, and the Fort Devens facility has now been vacated, Raimondi said.

On Mar. 8, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. urged federal authorities not to move any more of the detained workers out of state until their children are found and arrangements are made for their care. Federal authorities postponed a third flight that was to depart at noon on Mar. 8 after Patrick twice called Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff seeking better cooperation from ICE officials. "I urged the federal government to stop all flights out of Fort Devens immediately until we can be assured that all parents have been identified and appropriate arrangements made for their children and dependents," Patrick said.

ICE chief Julie Myers said ICE agents asked each of the arrested workers if they were sole caregivers to children, and 60 people who said they were have been released on humanitarian grounds to face hearings later. [WP 3/9/07 from AP] Myers said eight pregnant women were also allowed to leave the factory shortly after their arrests, and were ordered to appear in court later for immigration hearings. [BG 3/7/07]

One woman released on Mar. 6, Viviana Luis Hernandes, said she sat in the factory for nine hours, handcuffed with plastic ties, while her case was evaluated. Her husband was also arrested, so in the end she was released to care for her one-year-old baby. [BG 3/7/07] Massachusetts Department of Social Services spokesperson Denise Monteiro said another woman was detained until the night of Mar. 8, despite having a 7-month-old infant hospitalized for dehydration. During three days and two nights of detention, the woman was unable to nurse her baby. [WP 3/9/07 from AP]

ICE spokesperson Raimondi said those workers still in custody were given the option of letting their children stay with a guardian or putting them in state care. "We had an agreement in place," he said. "We are not aware of anyone who had any children that weren't being cared for." [AP 3/7/07] Raimondi said ICE notified social workers in advance about the raids, coordinating with state officials on the afternoon of Mar. 5. [AP 3/7/07; WP 3/9/07 from AP]

But Corinn Williams, director of the Community Economic Development Center of Southeastern Massachusetts, said about 100 children were stuck with baby sitters, caretakers and others. Williams said her center was hearing stories about infants that were left behind. "It's been a widespread humanitarian crisis here in New Bedford," she said. [AP 3/8/07] JudyAnn Bigby, secretary of Health and Human Services, said the state has identified about 35 children whose parents were arrested and who were now staying with relatives or friends. There are other children who had keys to their homes "and went home with no one there," Bigby said. "We have no idea how many that is." Monteiro said federal immigration officials have allowed state social workers to travel to the out-of-state detention centers "and identify some of the people they took too early before we got to interview them." [WP 3/9/07 from AP]

On Mar. 6, the same day the plant was raided, Michael Bianco Inc. owner Francesco Insolia and three of his managers were charged in US District Court in Boston with conspiring to encourage or induce unauthorized immigrants to live in the US, and conspiring to hire them. The four were released the same day, and are due back in court on Mar. 26. Luis Torres, who worked in a music store across the street from the factory, is being detained on charges of providing fake identification documents to some of the factory workers.

"Insolia and others knowingly and intentionally exploited the government by recruiting and hiring illegal aliens without authorization to work," said US Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, announcing the arrests on Mar. 6. "They exploited the workforce with low-paying jobs and horrible working conditions, exploited the taxpayers by securing lucrative contracts funded by our legal workforce, and exploited the legal workforce by hiring illegal aliens." [BG 3/7/07]

The 11-month investigation that led to the raid began with a tip from a Michael Bianco employee who was angry at the way the company responded to workers' fears when an immigration raid took place nearby in December 2005. According to an affidavit by ICE special agent Melvin H. Graham, the employee said about 75 workers ran and hid after company officials announced over the loudspeaker that the employees were free to leave for the day. [BG 3/7/07; AP 3/7/07; Patriot Ledger 3/7/07] [During the raid on Dec. 5, 2005, ICE agents and US Coast Guard officials arrested 13 workers at several fish processing plants in New Bedford, sparking widespread panic. "The whole city emptied out, all the plants," said Frank Ferreira, a manager at one of the raided plants, AML International. See INB 12/11/05]

In September 2006, an undercover agent posed as a Mexican illegal immigrant and recorded conversations with company officials in which she was open about her purported status. [Patriot Ledger 3/7/07; BG 3/7/07] According to affidavits unsealed on Mar. 6, Insolia and other managers told the agent that many of the company's workers were in the country illegally, and even encouraged her to seek false documentation from Torres, the music store worker. The agent bought a green card and a Social Security card from him for $120, according to the federal documents. Another company official told the agent that she would hire her relatives if they, too, provided false documents.

According to federal officials, two thirds of the workers employed at the company had bogus Social Security numbers, or numbers that did not match their names. The Social Security Administration had been sending notices informing the company of the mismatches since 2001, they said, but Insolia and his managers took no action in response.

The Defense Department participated in the case. [BG 3/7/07] Michael Bianco Inc., founded in 1985, specialized in manufacturing high-end leather goods for retailers including Coach Inc. and Timberland Co. before landing a $9.4 million military contract in 2003 to make survival vests. Between 2004 and 2006, the company won another $82 million in military contracts to make products including lightweight backpacks. The contracts led to a massive expansion of the company's work force, from 85 employees in 2003 to more than 500, according to investigators. [AP 3/7/07; BG 3/6/07 (online edition)]


On Mar. 6, more than 50 ICE agents acting on a criminal search warrant arrested 36 of the 250 workers at Janco Composites, a factory in Mishawaka, Indiana that produces fiberglass-reinforced plastic products. The agents, all from the ICE office in Chicago, also hauled away boxes of files. The 20 women and 16 men arrested were taken in a bus to a center in Broadview, Illinois, where agents interviewed and fingerprinted them. One worker was reported as being from El Salvador; the rest are from Mexico. [Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne) 3/7/07 from AP; South Bend Tribune 3/7/07, 3/8/07]

One Mexican man was released later on Mar. 6 because someone had previously petitioned for legal status for him. [AP 3/8/07] Two women were released on the evening of Mar. 7 "due to childcare issues," said ICE spokesperson Gail Montenegro. The women will need to return to Chicago for removal hearings, she said. The other workers are being held at jails in Kenosha County, Wisconsin and in Illinois. Five people waived their right to a hearing, so they will be transported back to Mexico, Montenegro said. Two women from El Salvador had previous deportation orders and will be detained and removed promptly, according to Montenegro. (Previous reports indicated only one of the arrested workers was Salvadoran.) Among the others, 24 will be released from jail if they post bonds of $3,000 to $6,000. [SBT 3/9/07]

The arrests sent shock waves through the Latino community in northern Indiana. The Rev. Jose Ortiz, interim pastor of La Iglesia Menonita del Buen Pastor in Goshen, described the aftermath of the raid as a "silent captivity." He said people will be staying out of sight due to fear. [AP 3/8/07] On the evening of Mar. 6, a prayer vigil was held for the arrested workers at St. Adalbert church in South Bend. "Basically we are saying these are husbands, wives, children," said Rev. Christopher Cox, pastor of St. Adalbert and St. Casimir churches. [SBT 3/7/07; JG 3/7/07 from AP]

ICE said the raid was part of an ongoing investigation that began late in 2006. The arrests came more than three weeks after Mexican citizen Etzel Ortiz Partida was arrested and accused of using someone else's Social Security number to gain and keep a job at Janco, where she was hired in 2001. Ortiz also reportedly used the false identification to obtain an Indiana driver's license. She remains in St. Joseph County Jail. [JG 3/7/07 from AP; SBT 3/7/07] At a hearing on Mar. 1, federal Magistrate Judge Christopher A. Neuchterlein ruled that Ortiz could be detained for an additional 10 days so immigration officials could process her. After that period, she could be released on a $5,000 bond. Neuchterlein set a trial date of May 14, but Ortiz Partida's attorney, George Caturla, said, "I'm working with the US attorney to resolve this case, hopefully to avoid going to trial." [SBT 3/7/07]

The Mishawaka raid was the latest in a series of recent ICE raids in the greater Chicago area. On Feb. 27, ICE agents arrested nine men and eight women employed at Cano Packaging Corp. in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, Illinois. The company provides packaging services for the confections and food industry. Special agents began investigating the company in October 2006 after receiving information that many out-of-status immigrant workers were employed there, said Montenegro, the ICE spokesperson. Company officials have not been charged, she said. [Chicago Tribune 3/1/07]

In Chicago, ICE agents arrested 11 Polish nationals who worked for a cleaning service on Jan. 24 and ten employees of a popular restaurant in Greektown on Jan. 9 [see INB 1/12/07, 2/10/07].

On the evening of Mar. 7, Chicago immigrant rights activists protested the recent raids with a rally outside the center in Broadview, where ICE processes detainees from Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin. [AP 3/8/07]


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, March 4, 2007

INB 3/4/07: Janitors Caught in National Raid; More Border Shootings

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 5 - March 4, 2007

(Immigration News Briefs did not publish between Feb. 11 and Mar. 3. Apologies to our readers for the unanticipated lapse.)

1. Janitors Swept Up in National Raid
2. Seattle Area Warehouses Raided
3. Texas Waste Plant Raided
4. Three Killed in Border Shooting
5. Border Agents Shoot at Migrants

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 the night of Feb. 21 and early morning of Feb. 22, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested some 200 immigrant cleaning workers in raids at 63 locations in 17 states and the District of Columbia. The immigrants were employed by the Nevada-based cleaning contractor Rosenbaum-Cunningham International, Inc. (RCI) to do janitorial work at chain restaurants and hospitality venues, including such national restaurant chains such as Hard Rock Cafe, ESPN Zone, Planet Hollywood, House of Blues, Fox Sports Grill, Dave and Busters and China Grill. (Another restaurant chain, Yard House, cut ties with RCI four months earlier after being contacted by ICE investigators.) The sweep--which ICE dubbed "Operation Clean-up"--was conducted while the businesses were closed. The restaurants' parent companies were not charged.

RCI co-owners Richard M. Rosenbaum and Edward Scott Cunningham and firm controller Christina Flocken face various criminal fraud, immigration and tax charges included in a 23-count indictment, returned Feb. 15 and unsealed Feb. 22 in US District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Rosenbaum was arrested on Feb. 22. The indictment alleges that RCI failed to pay $18.6 million in employment taxes on its nationwide operations between 2001 and 2005, and did not require its workers to show proof that they were authorized to work in the US. [AP 2/22/07, 2/23/07; Washington Post 2/23/07; Los Angeles Times 2/23/07; Houston Chronicle 2/23/07; ICE News Release 2/22/07; ICE chief Julie Myers Remarks at News Conference 2/22/07]

The workers arrested in the raids are from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Haiti, ICE officials said. [Arizona Republic (Phoenix) 2/23/07] They were arrested for immigration status violations and face deportation, not criminal charges. Most are in custody, although ICE chief Julie Myers said an unspecified number were released "on humanitarian grounds" because they were the sole parent in a household. [LAT 2/23/07; ICE News Release 2/22/07]

The ICE investigation was triggered by the arrest some 20 months earlier of an out-of-status immigrant by police in Grand Rapids, Michigan. According to Hagen W. Frank, assistant US attorney for the Western District of Michigan, that man told authorities about false documents he had obtained from a state employee, Juanita "Janie" Schlagel, who was selling the Social Security numbers, dates of birth and visa numbers of real people. Schlagel in turn led investigators to Santiago Echaniz, the RCI supervisor at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa. In February 2006, ICE agents raided the resort and arrested about 20 immigrant workers. On Nov. 30, 2006, Echaniz pleaded guilty to charges of harboring out-of-status immigrants and making a false statement on a tax return. In May 2006, former RCI employees Ofmara Maltos-Trevino and Miguel Martinez-Garcia each accepted deals to plead guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the unlawful employment of aliens. Both agreed to cooperate with the investigation as part of their plea deals. Schlagel later pleaded guilty to a two-count indictment charging trafficking in means of identification. [LAT 2/23/07; Washington Times 2/23/07; Traverse City Record-Eagle (MI) 5/27/07; US Attorney's Office Western District of Michigan Press Release 12/1/06; ICE News Release 2/22/07; AP 2/22/07; WP 2/23/07] In Washington on Feb. 22, ICE chief Myers praised Grand Traverse Resort for its cooperation in the probe. "We stand ready to work with honest companies--companies like Grand Traverse Resort and Spa--who want to work with us and change their business practices and do the right thing," said Myers. [LAT 2/23/07]


On Feb. 15, ICE agents acting on a federal civil inspection warrant arrested 51 immigrant workers in raids on two customs-bonded warehouses operated by UPS Supply Chain Solutions in the Seattle suburb of Auburn, Washington. Most of the detained workers were temporary laborers; many worked for Spherion Corp., a labor contracting firm which provides temporary employees for UPS Supply Chain Solutions. The warehouses are storage facilities licensed to handle imported goods; ICE claims they are critical infrastructure facilities, in the same category as airports and military bases. The raids were triggered by an ICE audit of the employment records of UPS Supply Chain Solutions and Spherion, following a routine employment compliance exam by US Customs and Border Protection. A spokesperson said the audit revealed discrepancies that made agents believe a number of the company's employees had used counterfeit identity, including fraudulent Social Security numbers, to obtain their jobs.

"I want to emphasize that there have been no charges filed against UPS, but this is an ongoing investigation," said ICE spokesperson Lorie Dankers. "Everyone apprehended today was apprehended on an administrative immigration violation, meaning that they were not picked up on criminal charges." [Seattle Post-Intelligencer 2/15/07] UPS spokesperson Susan Rosenberg said UPS will conduct its own investigation. "UPS has policies regarding unauthorized employment for ourselves and any contractors that we work with," she said. [Seattle Times 2/15/07]

Four of the arrested workers were from Guatemala and three were from El Salvador; the others were from Mexico. [SP-I 2/15/07] By Feb. 15, ten workers had convinced authorities of personal and family hardships and were released from the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma with orders to appear before an immigration judge, said Dankers, the ICE spokesperson. The others remained in custody.

Immigrant rights advocates and religious leaders condemned the warehouse raids at a press conference on Feb. 15, and called for a moratorium on such raids until Congress can reform the nation's immigration system. El Comite Pro-Amnistia, an immigrant justice group, said that if no moratorium is imposed, it will launch a local sanctuary effort by the end of March as part of a national campaign. "If there is no response, then sanctuary is the next step," said the Very Rev. Robert Taylor, dean of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral Church. Taylor, who came to the US as a political exile from South Africa, revealed that he lived as an out-of-status immigrant for three years during the 1980s. [ST 2/16/07]


Early on Jan. 31, ICE agents backed by helicopters raided the Republic Waste Services plant in Humble, Texas, a suburb of Houston, detaining 53 suspected undocumented workers. ICE officials said the workers would be placed into removal proceedings to be returned to their countries of origin, which include Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Since 2005, Republic Waste had been participating in ICE's Basic Pilot Program, which is designed to help employers check applicants' immigration status.

Will Flower, a spokesperson for the Florida-based company, said the raid resulted in the detention of Republic Waste employees and workers from temporary agencies. "I feel badly that [ICE] had to spend these resources because they could have come out at any time and gotten the same response," said Flower. "We've always been very open with them. We believe we are in compliance with all applicable laws, rules and regulations." [Houston Chronicle 2/1/07]

On Feb. 3, about 40 immigrant rights activists protested the Republic Waste raid with a demonstration outside an ICE detention center in North Houston. The protest was organized by the "Coalition in Defense of the Community" to demand a moratorium on raids. Another 40 or so people staged a counter- protest, organized by "US Border Watch" and the Houston chapter of the "Minutemen." [HC 2/4/07]


Before dawn on Feb. 8, near Silverbell, Arizona, two men fired high-powered assault rifles at a pickup truck carrying migrants who had just crossed the border on their way to Phoenix. Three migrants--one Mexican man, one Guatemalan man and one Mexican woman--were killed, and one woman was seriously wounded. The alleged guide leading the trip, a man from Mexico, was shot in the hand and is under arrest. The driver of the pickup and some two dozen other migrants remain missing. Four witnesses who survived have told conflicting stories about the details about the shooting. It is not clear whether the attack was the work of rival smugglers, extremist vigilantes or what are known as bajadores--crews of bandits who steal human cargo from smugglers to extort ransom from migrants' families. [Washington Post 2/19/07; Arizona Daily Star 2/28/07; New York Times 2/9/07]

A few days after the assault near Silverbell, two men were found dead in the desert west of Phoenix. The week of Feb. 12, Pima County authorities found a body in the desert; the person had apparently been dead for two weeks. Authorities believe all three deaths were connected to smuggling.

On Jan. 28, a truckload of illegal immigrants was ambushed in the desert near Eloy, and the driver of the truck was shot to death. Migrants who witnessed the attack said the assailants were several armed men wearing camouflage clothing and military-style berets. Three were white; one was described as a Hispanic who spoke limited Spanish. Activists believe the assailants were anti-immigrant vigilantes. [WP 2/19/07; Arizona Republic (Linda Valdez opinion column) 2/18/07; New York Times 2/9/07]


On Feb. 13, a Border Patrol agent fired at least one shot at a group of migrants along the border near downtown El Paso, Texas. Doug Mosier, a spokesperson for the Border Patrol's El Paso Sector, said the agent, who was not identified, fired at the migrants after some of them began throwing rocks at him. The migrants ran south from the border after the agent fired. Border Patrol officials do not believe anyone was injured; Mexican authorities who responded to the scene in Mexico also did not report any injuries, Mosier said. The shooting is under investigation. [Associated Press 2/14/07]

On Feb. 20, a Border Patrol agent opened fire on a migrant in a similar incident near Otay Lakes, California. According to Border Patrol Agent Wendi Lee, the agent fired one shot when the migrant picked up a rock and cocked back an arm as if to throw it at him; nobody was reported injured, and the migrant escaped. [North County Times (CA) 2/21/07]

On Feb. 21, a Border Patrol agent shot and wounded a man at a gas station in Rio Rico, near Nogales in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. According to County Sheriff Tony Estrada, the man was shot after he became argumentative and threatened a group of agents with rocks. The man was flown to a Tucson hospital, where he was reported in stable condition with a wound in his arm and a grazing wound in his torso, Estrada said. The FBI is investigating the victim on suspicion of assaulting a federal officer. The Border Patrol agent who fired the shots has been placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard agency protocol, said Border Patrol Tucson Sector spokesperson Gustavo Soto. [Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) 2/22/07]

On Feb. 24, a Border Patrol agent fired at an oncoming sport utility vehicle on Arizona highway 286 just north of the Sasabe port of entry. One person who was in the vehicle at the time apparently suffered minor injuries and is now in custody on unspecified charges. It was not clear whether the person was wounded by gunfire. Another passenger in the vehicle was also taken into custody. Border Patrol spokesperson Jesus Rodriguez said agents found 1,300 pounds of drugs in the SUV. The agent has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the shooting. [Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) 2/26/07]

The latest non-fatal shootings come just over a month after a Border Patrol agent shot and killed Mexican migrant Francisco Javier Dominguez Rivera in southern Arizona on Jan. 12. [See INB 2/4/07--note that we incorrectly reported that Dominguez was "from the town of Cuautla in the southern Mexican state of Puebla." Cuautla is in Morelos state, just southwest of Puebla. The confusion arose because news sources reported that Dominguez was from Puebla, and that his family buried him in the town where they lived, Cuautla. According to the Mexican daily La Jornada, the family was originally from Puebla but had relocated to Cuautla. [LJ 1/21/07]]


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".)