Sunday, May 20, 2007

INB 5/20/07: Senate Bill Announced, More Raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 10, No. 13 - May 20, 2007

INB did not publish last week, and does not expect to publish for the next three weeks. We apologize for the lapse.

1. Senate Immigration Bill Announced
2. Dairies Raided in Michigan, Texas
3. Raid at Tennessee Trailer Park
4. Arkansas National Guard Base Raided
5. Homes Raided in Long Island
6. New Jersey: 217 Arrested in Sweep

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;

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On May 17, key Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and the administration of President George W. Bush reached a compromise agreement on a Senate immigration reform bill after months of closed-door negotiations. [Arizona Republic (Phoenix) 5/18/07] Under the plan, which the Senate is set to begin debating on May 21, out-of-status immigrants present in the US as of Jan. 1, 2007 could initially seek "probationary" status while border security improvements and a high-tech worker identification program are put in place. Applicants could then seek a renewable "Z visa" that would allow them remain here. After paying fees and fines totaling $5,000 and waiting eight to 13 years, they could ultimately get on track for permanent residency-- although heads of households would first have to return to their home countries.

The plan would also create a temporary worker system, allowing foreigners to come to the US to work for two years, then requiring them to return home for a year, for up to three cycles. A new immigration system would grant points for education, job skills and English language proficiency, while making it harder for US citizens to petition for parents, siblings and adult children. [AP 5/18/07; Washington Times 5/18/07; National Public Radio 5/18/07]

A number of advocacy organizations moved quickly to condemn the bill, while others expressed cautious hope. The Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform called it "a great starting point for reform getting done this year." [CCIR Email Message 5/18/07] Sen. Edward Kennedy, the lead Democratic negotiator with Republicans and the White House, acknowledged widespread criticism of the deal on May 18 but called it "our last-gasp stand." [AP 5/18/07]

On May 17, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a key negotiator in closed-door Senate meetings on immigration reform, blasted the agreement, saying he could not support the limitations in the family reunification program, the temporary nature of the worker program, and the unrealistically high fees that undocumented immigrants would have to pay to participate. [Menendez Press Release 5/17/07] On May 18, AFL-CIO president John Sweeney also criticized the deal because it abandons "policy favoring the reunification of families" and includes "a massive guestworker program." [Sweeney Statement 5/18/07]

On May 17, just hours after the deal was announced, some 2,000 people took part in a previously scheduled march in Los Angeles to demand immigration reform. The demonstrators marched peacefully to the same park where police attacked protesters on May 1 [see INB 5/6/07]. [AP 5/18/07]


On the morning of May 8, about two dozen armed agents from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided the dairy farm of Johannes and Anthonia Verhaar in Bad Axe, Michigan, in Huron county about 100 miles north of Detroit. Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Mark Krebs said agents arrested 13 workers from Mexico, hauling them away in handcuffs. [Bay City Times 5/9/07] The workers were held in Detroit while federal officials tried to verify their identities, said Detroit-based ICE spokesperson Greg Palmore. [Detroit News 5/11/07 from AP]

By May 15, 11 of the 13 workers had already been sent back to Mexico; two others were challenging their deportation. Michigan State Police are continuing their investigation of the Verhaars, natives of the Netherlands who are in this country on work visas. Krebs said he didn't know whether the Verhaars would face criminal charges for allegedly employing unauthorized immigrants. The couple claim their workers had legal status. [AP 5/15/07]

While probing an alleged crime at the Verhaar farm earlier this winter, Krebs said he obtained supposed names and Social Security numbers of various Mexican immigrants working there. "The FBI said they're all fake numbers," Krebs said. [BCT 5/9/07]

In mid-March, Huron County Sheriff's Department deputies, along with state police, arrested 13 suspected undocumented Mexican immigrants who had worked on the farm of Brian J. Ingram, near Port Austin in Bloomfield Township in northern Huron county. ICE agents came to Huron county to pick up the arrested workers, though it was unclear whether the workers were deported. [BCT 5/9/07, 5/13/07]

On May 16, ICE agents acting on federal search warrants and backed by Lamb county authorities raided the Five Star Dairy and the Milk Harvest Dairy in Amherst, Texas, arresting 12 men and five women employed by the two farms. Agents reportedly also seized personnel and tax documents. Amherst, a town of about 760 residents, is located 45 miles northwest of Lubbock. ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok said the workers are believed to be from Mexico. ICE deported one woman and one man on May 17; the same day, Assistant US Attorney Denise Williams filed federal criminal complaints against the rest of the group in US District Court in Lubbock. Twelve of the workers were charged with fraud in connection with an immigration document; three were charged with improper entry into the US. All 15 appeared before US Magistrate Judge Nancy M. Koenig in US District Court on May 18.

Official tax records indicate that both dairies are owned by Kornelis and Piertsje Vanderlei. No charges have been filed against the owners, however, the investigation remains ongoing. Rusnok said ICE agents raided the same two dairies more than a year ago. [KCBD - NewsChannel 11 (Lubbock) 5/16/07, 5/18/07; AP 5/17/07]


Around 6am on May 15, deputies from the Maury County Sheriff's Department joined ICE agents in a raid on the Country Side Village Mobile Home Park in Columbia, Tennessee, where they arrested 24 suspected out-of-status immigrants, including two juveniles. The raid was sparked when sheriff's deputies began investigating a 14-year-old student who brought a gun to Witthorne Middle School in January. "During that... investigation, we discovered that he and some of his family members was in the country illegally," said Sheriff's department captain Nathan Johns. The agents initially intended to arrest only the boy and his family, but according to Johns, "Once we got there we was able to take these individuals into custody, also there was other illegal immigrants living in the household." The agents then spread out into neighboring homes, asking residents for documents. "It just kind of kept dominoing until we got up to 24 undocumented or illegal immigrants," said Johns.

Those arrested included co-workers of local residents who arrived expecting to give them rides to work. "There was two different vehicles that we found to have illegal immigrants in that came to these houses to go to work to the worksite... So those people was detained as well," said Johns. If ICE agents hadn't been present, local authorities would not have been able to make the arrests since those taken into custody were not suspected of any crimes. [WKRN (Nashville) 5/15/07; NewsChannel (Nashville) 5/16/07]


On May 10, ICE special agents arrested nine men, two women and one boy, all from Mexico, who were employed by two different companies performing contract work at Camp Joseph T. Robinson Army National Guard Base in North Little Rock, Arkansas. One of the employers was identified as El Nopal, a dining facility contractor. The other company, contracted to do landscape work, was not identified. Camp Robinson was under lockdown during the raid, with the main gates closed and all traffic diverted to the Camp Pike gate about a half-mile away.

All 12 workers were being held in administrative custody in Fort Smith, awaiting removal proceedings. No criminal charges have been filed. [ICE News Release 5/10/07; KATV (Little Rock) 5/11/07] An ICE investigation revealed that the majority of the workers used fraudulent social security and alien registration numbers to complete the required forms to obtain employment. The ongoing joint worksite investigation involves ICE and the Camp Joseph T. Robinson Army National Guard Base Provost Marshall. Michael A. Holt, special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in New Orleans, commended the Camp Joseph T. Robinson Army National Guard personnel and the Conway, Arkansas Police Department for their participation and support. [ICE News Release 5/10/07]


ICE officials confirmed on May 11 that they raided five homes on the East End of Long Island in New York over the week of May 7, arresting 18 people who they said lacked immigration status. Some of those arrested were named on administrative warrants for having failed to comply with prior removal orders; others were found in the raided homes and were determined to lack immigration status. Southampton Village police provided two marked cars as ICE agents raided two houses in the village at 5:30am (it was not clear what day the operation took place).

The raid comes at a time when Southampton Town and Southampton Village are embroiled in a legal action over efforts by the village to allow day laborers to use a park as a gathering place to seek work. Three other houses, two in Southampton outside the village and one in Hampton Bays, also were raided, according to ICE spokesperson Michael Gilhooly. Of the 18 people arrested, six were found to have criminal records and two others were charged with re-entering the United States after previously being deported, a felony. The other 10 were determined to be in the country without permission from the federal government. Several of them were released after processing and face hearings in federal immigration court later this month, according to a source familiar with the operation. The raid follows a similar action in East Hampton earlier this year. [Newsday (LI) 5/12/07]

According to a report in the New York Spanish-language daily El Diario-La Prensa, three immigrants were arrested in a similar recent raid on a home in Westbury, Long Island, and at least two of them were deported to Mexico on May 9. All three men were married and had US- born children. Victorina Hernandez, whose husband was deported, said the agents claimed to be looking for a bearded man named "Jose," and showed a photo of him. Hernandez said her husband told the agents he didn't know the man. They asked him if he had documents and he said no, and by that time "there were already eight men in the house, entering the bedrooms, looking for people all over the place and asking us all if we had documents," Hernandez said. Her husband, Miguel Mesa, told her later by telephone that the agents followed the same routine in several other homes where they also arrested people. Mesa said in all the cases the agents initially identified themselves as police, then as immigration agents. Speaking in fluent Spanish, the agents showed the same photograph of "Jose" before searching all the rooms in the home. [El Diario-La Prensa 5/14/07]


On May 1, ICE announced that its three New Jersey-based "fugitive operations teams" had arrested 217 people during a three-week statewide sweep Apr. 9-27. The raids were part of the agency's so-called "Operation Return to Sender," a national initiative targeting people who have failed to comply with prior deportation orders. Of the total arrested in New Jersey, only 75 had prior deportation orders; the rest were people who happened to be at the raided sites and whose undocumented status was discovered by agents. Only 37 of the 217 people arrested had criminal records. Those arrested came from Latin America and the Caribbean (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, Trinidad and Uruguay); Africa (Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Nigeria); Asia (China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines and Saudi Arabia); and Europe (Poland, Portugal and Yugoslavia). Since May 26, 2006, ICE has arrested more than 1,585 people in New Jersey in "Return to Sender" sweeps; 253 of those arrested had criminal records. [ICE News Release 5/1/07]


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