Sunday, February 10, 2008

INB 2/10/08: Danbury Protest, Chicago Sanctuary, Raids in CA, Utah

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 4 - February 10, 2008

1. Danbury, CT: Thousands Protest Enforcement
2. Activist Takes Sanctuary in Chicago
3. California: Toner Cartridge Plant Raided, 130 Arrested
4. Utah: 57 Arrested at Metal Factory

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; weeklynewsupdate@gmail.com. INB is also distributed free via email; contact immigrationnewsbriefs@gmail.com to subscribe or unsubscribe. 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 http://immigrationnewsbriefs.blogspot.com.

*1. DANBURY, CT: THOUSANDS PROTEST ENFORCEMENT

An estimated 3,500 people attended a rally on Feb. 6 in Danbury, Connecticut, to protest a partnership between Danbury police and US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While the demonstrators voiced their opposition outside City Hall, inside the Common Council voted 19-2 to invite ICE to train and deputize Danbury police as immigration agents. Mayor Mark Boughton, who backs the plan, said it will start with the training of two detectives to carry out investigations of immigrants suspected of human trafficking, drug smuggling or document fraud. [News-Times (Danbury) 2/7/08; Hartford Courant 2/7/08]

Protesters carried signs and chanted "Stop 287," a reference to Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows ICE to train and deputize state and local enforcement agents to identify and detain people for violating immigration law. [AP 2/6/08] Section 287(g) was introduced as part of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). [ICE Fact Sheet: "Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act" 8/16/06]

City officials decided in advance to limit attendance at the council meeting to 120 people, not including council members, news reporters and city employees. More than 30 police officers were deployed outside the building, but police reported no arrests. [News-Times 2/7/08; Hartford Courant 2/7/08] Some city businesses closed their doors for the day to protest the enforcement plan. [AP 2/6/08]

Most of the demonstrators were from Danbury, but the crowd also included people who came by bus from Hartford and New Haven. "This is what being an American is all about, fighting for your rights," said Fernanda Franco, of Bethel, a legal Brazilian immigrant who sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the rally. "I waited 20 years to get my papers," Franco said. "Some of these people have waited even longer." [News-Times 2/7/08]

Danbury has a greater proportion of foreign-born residents than any other community in Connecticut, according to US census estimates. Ted Duarte, a union carpenter who works in Danbury and traveled to the rally from Wallingford to support fellow union members, motioned to the chanting. "This says it all," he said. "For a city council that supposed to represent the city of Danbury, they should take a look out here--this is Danbury." [New York Times 2/7/08]

*2. ACTIVIST TAKES SANCTUARY IN CHICAGO

At a press conference on Jan. 28 at the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood, activist Flor Crisóstomo announced she would not comply with her deportation set for that date, and would instead go into sanctuary at the church. "I'm not going. I've asked my pastor and my church for sanctuary and they have granted it." ICE said in a statement that Crisóstomo had been granted "voluntary departure" by an immigration judge, requiring her to leave the US no later than Jan. 28. Crisóstomo said she is not "defying the laws of this country and I'm not hiding. I am taking the position of civil disobedience to press this government to act, to fix the broken laws and end this inhumane system of cheap undocumented labor and exploitation." Church pastor Walter Coleman noted that "the forces that bring people here are still there. The Free Trade Treaty has destroyed agriculture in Mexico and other countries and until it is renegotiated people will keep coming." [Diario Hoy 1/29/08]

Crisóstomo, an immigrant from the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, was one of 26 Chicago employees of the IFCO Systems pallet company arrested in an immigration raid on Apr. 19, 2006. She is a single mother who has been working without papers in the US since 2000 and sending money back weekly to Mexico to support her three children, her sister and her mother. Crisóstomo said she plans to continue supporting her family by making crafts and selling them at the church. She explained that with her act of resistance she seeks to draw attention to the injustice of US immigration laws. "I know I have nothing to gain [from taking sanctuary], I don't have US citizen children and it's certain that they're going to deport me," said Crisóstomo. [Univision Online y Agencias 1/29/08; Statement by Flor Crisóstomo 1/28/08; Press Release from Adalberto United Methodist Church & Familia Latina Unida/Sin Fronteras 1/28/08]

Crisóstomo is heading a campaign called "America open your eyes," which seeks to educate people about how the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has forced Mexicans to migrate to the US. "I don't have to be an academic to know what NAFTA is and how it has divided Mexico and millions of families. I'm here because of that. We have to show the US people that it's not we immigrants who are guilty of all the problems, and how the international treaties are hurting our countries of origin," said Crisóstomo. [Univision Online y Agencias 1/29/08]

The Adalberto United Methodist Church is the same church where Crisóstomo's friend and fellow activist Elvira Arellano took sanctuary from Aug. 15, 2006 to Aug. 15, 2007 [see INB 8/26/07]. Crisóstomo and Arellano carried out a hunger strike from May 10 to June 1, 2006, demanding a moratorium on deportations [see INB 5/14/06, 5/28/06, 6/4/06].

*3. CALIFORNIA: TONER CARTRIDGE PLANT RAIDED, 130 ARRESTED

On the afternoon of Feb. 7, more than 100 ICE agents raided the headquarters of Micro Solutions Enterprises (MSE), a manufacturer of computer toner and inkjet cartridges in Van Nuys, California. ICE executed a federal search warrant at the site and arrested 130 MSE employees on administrative immigration violations. ICE also arrested eight current and former MSE employees on federal criminal charges for providing fraudulent information to gain employment. The search warrant remains under seal because the investigation is ongoing. [ICE News Release 2/8/08; AP 2/7/08]

All 130 workers arrested on administrative violations were from Latin America: 87 from Mexico, 24 from El Salvador, eight from Guatemala, four from Peru, four from Honduras and three from Colombia. ICE interviewed those arrested to determine if they had any medical, caregiver, or other humanitarian issues; 36 women and 10 men were released on humanitarian grounds to await their hearings before an immigration judge. Another 65 men and 19 women were detained. Most were due to be transferred to an ICE contract detention facility operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in Lancaster, California.

In its news release about the raid, ICE said it had set up a 24-hour toll-free hotline for family members of the arrested workers and had handed out flyers about the hotline to MSE workers and family members who came to the plant inquiring about relatives. "In addition, ICE contacted representatives of several prominent Hispanic community groups in the Los Angeles area to ensure they were aware of the enforcement action and had information about the toll-free number," said ICE in the news release. [ICE News Release 2/8/08]

Ahilan Arulanantham of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said lawyers who rushed to the scene of the raid were not allowed to talk to detainees. The ACLU is offering free legal representation to those arrested. "We're very concerned that people who were detained be given the opportunity to meet with a lawyer who can advise them of their rights," said Arulanantham. [AP 2/7/08]

*4. UTAH: 57 ARRESTED AT METAL FACTORY

On the morning of Feb. 7, ICE agents arrested 57 immigrant workers in a raid on Universal Industrial Sales Inc. in Lindon, Utah. The raid was carried out by some 100 ICE agents with the cooperation of state and local police. All the arrested workers were men from Latin America: 51 were from Mexico, two from Argentina, two from Uruguay, one from El Salvador and one from Honduras. During ICE's "processing" of the arrested workers, which lasted until early the next morning, US Department of Labor Wage & Hour Division investigators arrived to ensure those arrested were paid for work they had already performed for the company before their arrest. ICE also said it interviewed workers to determine if they had any "humanitarian issues," and that representatives from the Utah Health and Human Rights Project and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services were present during the processing. In the end, only one man was released pending a hearing before an immigration judge. The other workers remain in ICE custody at the Utah County and Weber County jails. The company had a total of more than 100 employees.

ICE officials forwarded about 30 cases to the Utah County Attorney's Office for possible criminal prosecution for offenses such as aggravated identity theft, forgery and document fraud. The Utah County Attorney's Office is expected to decide within a week which cases to accept for prosecution. Some cases involving individuals who reentered the US after being previously deported will be presented to the US Attorney's office for potential prosecution on felony charges.

Also on Feb. 7, Utah US Attorney Brett Tolman announced the unsealing of two indictments in Salt Lake City charging Universal Industrial Sales and its human resource director, Alejandro Urrutia-Garcia, with harboring unauthorized workers and encouraging or inducing them to stay in the US. Tolman said the investigation that led to the raid and indictments used confidential informants and an undercover agent, and is ongoing. Universal Industrial Sales is charged with 10 counts of "harboring illegal aliens" in an indictment which alleges the company concealed, harbored or shielded the workers from detection for commercial advantage between January 2003 and December 2006. Urrutia-Garcia, a naturalized US citizen who was arrested during the Feb. 7 raid, is charged with two counts of encouraging or inducing unauthorized immigrants to remain in the US. Urrutia-Garcia pleaded not guilty in federal court on the afternoon of Feb. 7. He was released from custody. A four-day trial is set to begin April 14. [ICE News Release 2/8/08; Salt Lake Tribune 2/9/08; Deseret Morning News 2/8/08]

The raid sparked panic in the local Latino community. About 150 people gathered on the night of Feb. 7 at St. Francis Catholic Church in Orem, Utah, for a mass and meeting. Jose Luis Uribe, who has worked at Universal for two years, said he was detained but was let go when he proved his legal status. "You feel so bad for all your co-workers who were arrested," he said at the meeting. "They asked me for help but I couldn't do anything." Uribe said federal officials separated workers into two groups: employees who had papers and those who did not. Those without papers were tagged at the wrist with red or yellow bands. "They put a red band on the people from Mexico and a yellow band on those from South and Central America," Uribe said. "They [ICE agents] entered running. We thought there was a fire or something." [SLT 2/8/08]

The raid left many families with young children suddenly without an income. During the meeting at the church, representatives from the Department of Human Services, the Division of Child and Family Services and Workforce Services met with families to evaluate if they qualified for public assistance. [Deseret Morning News 2/8/08]

Universal Industrial Sales produces highway guard rails, bridge railings and structures that hold overhead metal signs for highways throughout the US as well as parts of western Canada and Mexico. It is a major supplier to construction companies and also does business directly with the Utah Department of Transportation. [SLT 2/8/08]

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1 comment:

ConsDemo said...

With all due respect to Flor Crisóstomo, I don't think her criticism of NAFTA is valid. Trade protectionism rarely creates uniform prosperity. The developing world is seeing the migration from the farms that the developed world saw decades ago. People are flooding to the cities of Argentina and it has no free trade agreement with the US. Having said that, I wish her well and hope she is not deported.