Sunday, January 6, 2008

INB 1/6/08: Ex-Detainee Wins Settlement

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 1 - January 6, 2008

1. Ex-Detainee Wins Settlement
2. Oregon Imposes New License Rule

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


In a Dec. 17 press release, Colorado's Park County announced it would pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit brought in February 2005 by Moises Carranza-Reyes, who was held in federal immigration custody at the county's Fairplay jail for seven days in 2003. According to the suit, Carranza-Reyes, now 31, was held in a filthy, freezing jail pod designed for 18 people, but holding 60. He was issued a "foul-smelling," dirty uniform and forced to sleep on the floor on a mattress soiled with vomit and feces between two inmates who were so sick that he had to feed them, his lawyers said. Carranza-Reyes soon came down with a strep infection and began complaining of aches and chills. Four days later, medical staff finally took him to the Denver Health Medical Center; by then he had developed pneumonia and his legs were black with gangrene. The infection led to a heart attack and coma; doctors reportedly gave Carranza-Reyes a 2% chance of survival. He ultimately recovered, but his gangrenous left leg had to be amputated and part of a lung removed.

The defendants included Park County Sheriff Fred Wegener and Undersheriff Monte Gore, who ran the jail at the time, along with jail nurse Vicki Paulsen. Park County rejected Carranza-Reyes' accusations of "inhumane conditions" and medical neglect at the jail. "Neither Park County nor any of its officials or employees admit any liability and have denied Carranza Reyes' charges," said the press release. The settlement prohibits all parties from discussing the agreement, although the documents filed in the case are part of the public record. Park County Attorney Lee Phillips said the entire amount of the settlement would be paid by the county's insurance company, the Denver-based nonprofit County Technical Services Inc., or CTSI, owned by its Colorado member counties. [Park County Republican & Fairplay Flume (Bailey) 12/17/07; Rocky Mountain News (Denver) 12/19/07] Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to have a detainee-housing agreement with Park County and the jail is inspected by the agency annually to ensure it complies with ICE's "strict detention standard," said ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok. Carranza-Reyes' attorneys say Park County improved jail conditions shortly after their client's detention.

Carranza-Reyes, a former Mexico City police sergeant, was arrested March 1, 2003, in Rifle, Colorado with his brother Abraham and several other immigrants in a truck headed for Chicago. Carranza-Reyes and his brother were hoping to work there and reunite with their father, a US citizen. Carranza-Reyes now lives in Colorado, and according to his attorneys is "financially desperate, is unemployed, and in desperate need of medical care." Federal authorities paid most of Carranza-Reyes' $1 million medical bill, but he "continues to suffer unbearable pain" from nerve damage in both legs and requires physical therapy and possibly more surgeries, according to court papers. ICE has allowed Carranza-Reyes to remain in the US while he recuperated, although his attorneys said in court filings he is now "in danger of deportation."

Carranza-Reyes' legal team, including the Washington-based advocacy group Public Justice, say he was victimized by Park County's aggressive attempt to profit by leasing jail bed space to state and federal authorities. "Park County Jail attempted to boost its net revenues by cutting basic human essentials, such as medical care, heat, clean laundry, and clean housing," co-counsel Bill Trine of Boulder said in 2005. "As a result of prison profiteering, we're seeing human rights abuses that we'd never expect to see in this country." [RMN 12/19/07]


On Dec. 31, Latino groups in Oregon turned in over 5,000 petition signatures to the state's Driver and Motor Vehicle Services Division in Salem, asking for a one-year delay in implementation of new rules that will require driver's license applicants to show proof of legal residence starting on Feb. 4. The change was mandated by Governor Ted Kulongoski in a Nov. 16 executive order, and the Oregon Transportation Commission drew up proposed emergency rules in December, revising and tightening the standards for obtaining, renewing or replacing a state driver's license, permit or identification card. The transportation commission is expected to vote on final rules Jan. 18. "We are finding out through our outreach efforts that it's not enough time to inform tens of thousands of people about the executive order," said Ramon Ramirez, president of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), Oregon's farmworkers' union and the state's largest Latino organization. [AP 1/1/08, 1/4/08; Statesman Journal (Salem) 12/17/07]

Patty Wentz, Kulongoski's spokeswoman, told the Statesman Journal newspaper on Jan. 3 that the executive order "absolutely" will not be delayed. "What the governor is basically saying to immigrants is, 'I don't care about you, and I don't care about your rights,'" Ramirez said. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) spokesperson David House said the rules could also affect large numbers of US-born Oregonians because many names and dates of birth on the DMV's records differ from the data held by the Social Security Administration.

Kulongoski has proposed an alternative plan that would create two types of licenses–one valid for identification and available only to those who can prove "legal presence," and a secondary "driving only" card for those who cannot prove legal residence. But that plan has little legislative support. Utah is the only state with such a system. [AP 1/1/08, 1/4/08] In New York state, Governor Elliott Spitzer proposed a similar license plan in late October--though with three tiers instead of two [see INB 11/4/07]--but he dropped that plan last Nov. 14 under intense political pressure from his own Democratic Party. [Washington Times 11/15/07]


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1 comment:

ConsDemo said...

That pompous windbag Lou Dobbs was highlighting Oregon's change. Kulongoski is caving to xenophobes.

On the positive front, if the Barack Obama and John McCain face off this fall, a pro-immigrant President will take office next year no matter who wins.