Monday, February 4, 2008

INB 2/4/08: Nigerians, Palestinians on Deport Flight

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 3 - February 4, 2008
(INB did not publish for the past two weeks; apologies for the lapse)

1. Nigerians, Palestinians on Deport Flight
2. US Signs Deport Pact with Vietnam
3. Feds Sue Texas Border Towns
4. "Fugitive" Raids in Wisconsin

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On Jan. 15, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported 107 people on a flight from Niagara Falls that made stops in Lagos, Nigeria; Cairo, Egypt; and Amman, Jordan. The deportees included 94 Nigerians, 11 Palestinians, one Moroccan and one Egyptian. Seven of the Palestinians and 39 of the Nigerians on the flight had no criminal records in the US. The flight was contracted by the Office of Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) Operations Support and Coordination Unit. The deportees had been transferred from various facilities across the US to the Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, New York, in preparation for the flight.

The Canadian government also included 10 of its own deportees on the flight, all of them Nigerians, including seven people with criminal records. The flight was staffed with 20 ICE DRO officers and six Canadian officers. Two Nigerian consular officers from the embassy in Washington and one Nigerian consular officer from the embassy in Canada accompanied the flight. [ICE News Release 1/16/08]


On Jan. 22, the US and Vietnamese governments signed a memorandum of understanding that will make it easier for the US to deport Vietnamese immigrants who entered the US after diplomatic relations between the US and Vietnam were restored on July 12, 1995. ICE director Julie Myers was in Hanoi to sign the pact, which culminated 10 years of negotiations between the US and Vietnam. Until now, Vietnam had generally refused to issue travel documents for those ordered deported from the US.

The pact is expected to affect about 1,500 Vietnamese immigrants who arrived after July 12, 1995 and have received final deportation orders. Another 6,200 Vietnamese nationals who arrived before 1995 have also been ordered deported but cannot be returned to Vietnam under the new pact; ICE claims they will instead face possible deportation to a third country. Repatriations are scheduled to begin when the agreement takes effect 60 days after signing. The pact will be valid for five years, and will be extended automatically for terms of three years after that unless written notice not to extend is given by one government to the other at least six months prior to expiration. [Los Angeles Times 1/24/08; AP 1/22/08; New York Times 1/23/08; ICE News Release 1/22/08]

Critics of the pact wonder whether it won't be rolled back to include Vietnamese who entered the US in the 70s and 80s. "There is concern," said Joren Lyons, a staff attorney with the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco, which has represented dozens of Vietnamese facing deportation orders. "Vietnam has said for decades no, these people can't be returned to Vietnam, and now they're saying yes. So is this a foot in the door? Will they start accepting people who came earlier as well?" [AP 1/22/08]

ICE spokesperson Kelly Nantel said that only about 200 of the Vietnamese immigrants slated for removal to Vietnam are currently detained, since the Supreme Court's June 2001 Zadvydas v. Davis ruling requires authorities to release detainees after six months if their countries don't accept their return. Under the terms of the pact, the US government agrees to pay for the deportations of Vietnamese, and to provide 15 days' notice to the Vietnamese government before carrying out a deportation. [New York Times 1/23/08]


On Jan. 14, US Attorney Johnny Sutton filed a lawsuit on behalf of the US Department of Justice against the city of Eagle Pass, Texas, to seek access to land for a planned border fence. It was the first of 102 lawsuits expected to be filed in an escalating battle with local landowners and municipalities as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seeks to build 370 miles of new border fencing by the end of the year [see INB 12/9/07].

Eagle Pass mayor Chad Foster serves as chairperson of the Texas Border Coalition, which has been fighting the border fence construction plans. The coalition says DHS has failed to respond to concerns about the impact the fence will have on the environment, residents' property access and rights, and the binational way of life along the border, and has ignored local officials' suggestions for alternatives. [AP 1/15/08]

Within hours after the suit was filed, and without a hearing, US District Judge Alia Moses Ludlum of the Texas Western District Court, Del Rio division, ordered the city of Eagle Pass to "surrender" 233 acres of city-owned land to the federal government for 180 days so it can begin to build the border fence. The judge's order said the federal government is entitled to possession or control of the property as requested. [AP 1/16/08; San Antonio Express-News 1/16/08]

City Attorney Heriberto Morales said he believed Eagle Pass was the target of the first lawsuit because of Foster's activism against the fence. "I really think it was to send a statement all along the border, to the other cities and individuals: Let's go after [Foster] first and everyone else will fall into line." Brownsville mayor Pat
Ahumada agreed: "They picked the one that had the least defenses against the border fence so they can win in court easily and set a precedent and hold a big stick over the rest of us and make us fall in line," he said.

The city commission of Brownsville voted Jan. 8 to grant access for development of the border fence, said Ahumada, even though he himself voted against allowing access. "It troubles me deeply because [the fence] destroys our ecological corridor, it destroys our historical corridor, it destroys our way of how we perceive ourselves as a binational community," Ahumada said. Brownsville is reviewing its legal options, he added. The governing board of Brownsville's city-owned water and electric utility voted against granting access, according to Ahumada. The University of Texas-Brownsville also has not granted access, said school spokesperson Lety Fernandez. [San Antonio Express-News 1/16/08]

In an order dated Jan. 25 and released Jan. 28, US District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville ordered 10 Cameron County property owners to comply with the US government's request for access to their land for 180 days to work on the border fence. Hanen denied the federal government's request that he rule immediately without participation from the landowners, a legal maneuver allowed in eminent domain cases and accepted by Judge Ludlum in the Eagle Pass case. Instead, Hanen ordered the government to inform all property owners of the Jan. 25 hearing. Hanen questioned the government's efforts at contacting landowners and heard from some property owners and their attorneys at the hearing. "This court will make itself available if needed for the resolution of any disputes, but it expects all parties to act cooperatively and with due concern for the rights and needs of the other parties in the implementation of this order," Hanen wrote. Hanen also ordered government contractors to work with landowners to make the intrusion as minimal as possible, and denied the government's request to access properties adjacent to those included in the order.

Access to the properties will end July 23, according to the order. Each property owner will receive $100 for the temporary easement, but will be able to petition for more if their property is damaged. Two additional defendants, including the Brownsville Public Utilities Board, were not included in Hanen's order because the government was close to reaching settlements with them. [AP 1/29/08]


In a three-day sweep Jan. 25-27 in the area of Green Bay, Wisconsin, ICE agents arrested 20 immigrants, 18 of whom ICE said had failed to comply with final orders of deportation. Those arrested were citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, Jordan, Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua and Yugoslavia. Twelve agents from the Milwaukee ICE Fugitive Operations Team split into four teams of three agents each to round up the immigrants in Brown, Door, Kenosha, Outagamie, Sheboygan and Winnebago counties. The Brown County Sheriff's Department was notified of the plans and according to ICE, assisted "in planning and executing the operation." The Brown County Jail garage was used as a staging area, but those arrested were taken to the Dodge County Correctional Institution. [Oshkosh Northwestern 1/30/08 from Gannett; ICE News Release 1/30/08]


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