Sunday, April 6, 2008

INB 4/6/08: LA Area Warehouses Raided; Amtrak Arrests Protested

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 6 - April 6, 2008

1. LA Area Warehouses Raided
2. Day Laborers Arrested in Northern California
3. Nightclub Security Guards Arrested in Dallas
4. Idaho Pallet Company Raided
5. Activists Protest Arrests on Amtrak, Greyhound
6. Laws to Be Waived for Border Fence

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*1. LA Area Warehouses Raided

On Apr. 1, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 44 workers at the warehouses of three distribution companies--Samsung, Frontier and Imperial CSS--in an industrial park in Torrance, California, just south of Los Angeles. ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice said all but two of the 44 people arrested are Mexican. Kice said 17 of those arrested were released for humanitarian reasons. [Diario Hoy (LA/Chicago) 4/2/08, 4/3/08; La Opinión (Los Angeles) 4/3/08; Free Speech Radio News 4/2/08] The Mexican consulate in Los Angeles reported that its personnel were able to speak with 34 of the arrested Mexicans and offer them orientation about their legal situation. [El Financiero (Mexico) 4/3/08 with information from Notimex/MVC] William Jarquin, the consul of El Salvador in Los Angeles, said he was informed that two of those arrested were Salvadoran, and that one of the two had been released. [Diario Hoy 4/2/08]

At least 11 of the Mexican workers who were arrested on Apr. 1 were deported that same night, said Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). She added that it "seemed strange" that they were "deported so quickly, because that doesn't happen unless they have final orders of deportation, and none of these people even had the chance to talk to a lawyer."

Salvadoran immigrant Nemesio Hernández said he was arrested on Apr. 1 despite having valid Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Hernández explained his situation to the ICE agents but they threw him violently to the floor, handcuffed him and jailed him for seven hours, said his sister, Isabel Hernández. He was then released without so much as an apology. [La Opinión 4/3/08]

Miguel Angel Reyes, a Mexican immigrant who had worked for four years at Imperial CFS, described how managers there collaborated with ICE to carry out the Apr. 1 raid: "The managers said we were going to have a meeting. They had us sit down in the lunchroom and then Immigration began to ask for California identification. They put us on the floor one by one. After about two hours they started to take everyone in the van." Reyes said many of the workers did not try to escape because "the managers said everything was fine, that it was a routine check, that nothing was going to happen. When I turned around, all the immigration agents were right there in front of me." [Diario Hoy 4/3/08]

Salas said that according to workers at the raided companies, ICE agents only checked the documents of the workers who appeared to be of Latin American origin. [La Opinión 4/3/08] CHIRLA organized a press conference and demonstration on the afternoon of Apr. 1 outside the federal detention center in downtown Los Angeles where some of the arrested workers were apparently taken. The protest was attended by dozens of people, including family members of the workers arrested that morning and workers who had been arrested in a Feb. 7 raid at Micro Solutions Enterprises in Van Nuys. [CHIRLA Email Alert 4/2/08; Diario Hoy 4/2/08; Free Speech Radio News 4/2/08] One woman who attended the protest, María Cruz, said her husband had been arrested on Apr. 1 at the Amay's Bakery and Noodle Co. factory in central Los Angeles. He had been a legal resident in the US for 25 years, but in 2001 authorities dug up a 20-year old felony case they said made him deportable. Cruz said her husband suffers from epilepsy; the family is worried that his condition will be exacerbated by the stress of detention. [Diario Hoy 4/2/08; Free Speech Radio News 4/2/08]

ICE spokesperson Lori Haley claimed the operation in Torrance was simply a routine inspection of customs bonded warehouses. "We do this type of routine audit to make sure everything is safe and sound," said Haley. "In the course of the inspection, we found people who were in the country illegally and we arrested them." [Diario Hoy 4/2/08]

The raids in the area south of Los Angeles continued on Apr. 2 with operations at the warehouses of Nippon Express Inc. on Francisco Street in Torrance and The Trading Center in Long Beach, and at a factory in Wilmington where some 25 ICE agents detained at least 10 workers, most of them women. [Diario Hoy 4/3/08; La Opinión 4/3/08; El Financiero 4/3/08 with information from Notimex/MVC; 4/3/08]

Kice confirmed that the warehouse "inspections" would continue. "ICE and CBP [Customs and Border Protection] are carrying out routine inspections at import-export companies in various communities of Los Angeles... to identify any security vulnerability," said Kice. [Diario Hoy 4/3/08] By Apr. 3, as word spread about the raids, many Los Angeles-area immigrants reportedly stayed home from work. [El Financiero 4/3/08 with information from Notimex/MVC]

Following the February raid at Micro Solutions, groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, the National Lawyers Guild and the National Immigration Law Center sought a restraining order in federal court against federal immigration officials who they said repeatedly blocked attorneys from accompanying workers during meetings and interrogations. On Mar. 12, the two sides finalized a settlement guaranteeing that the workers arrested at Micro Solutions can be accompanied by an attorney to all meetings and interrogations. ACLU staff attorney Ahilan Arulanantham said the groups hoped that the case would set a legal precedent. "The government would have a hard time explaining why the rights of these people are different from those of others" detained in similar raids, he said. [Los Angeles Times 3/14/08]

*2. Day Laborers Arrested in Northern California

On Mar. 28, local police officers in Fremont, California (in the Bay Area, southeast of San Francisco) carried out a sting operation against day laborers who were waiting for jobs outside a local Home Depot outlet. The Fremont Police Department cited about 15 workers for trespassing and took 13 of them who had no ID to the Santa Rita Jail to be identified, according to Detective Bill Veteran. There, the laborers were apparently handed over to ICE.

The raid was carried out in response to complaints from Home Depot, Veteran said, because some of the laborers allegedly harass customers and drink in public. "As a matter of courtesy, we alert ICE when we conduct" these kinds of operations, said Veteran. The Immigrant Legal Resource Center in San Francisco said it will look into whether the operation violated the Constitution and will consider legal options. [ 4/3/08]

According to information received by Larisa Casillas, director of the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition (BAIRC), the workers were told at the time of their arrest that they would be placed in deportation proceedings. Casillas said her organization has received other reports indicating that people detained for traffic violations in Fremont are also being placed in deportation. Bay Area advocates are seeking to meet with Fremont police to discuss the issue. [Email message from Casillas received as forward on 4/2/08]

*3. Nightclub Security Guards Arrested in Dallas

Late on Mar. 29, a Saturday, agents from a task force led by ICE raided 26 mostly Latino night clubs, restaurants, pool halls and other businesses in Dallas, Texas, arresting 49 immigrants who were working as security guards. All of those arrested were employed by two local security companies. Jamille Bradfield, spokesperson for the Dallas County district attorney's office, said the names of the security companies were not being released yet because "we don't want to compromise the investigation." Authorities recovered four pistols during the operation. Five of the workers are being held on $250,000 bail each at the Dallas County Jail; they face felony charges of document tampering in order to get licensed as a security officer and to carry a firearm, Bradfield said.

Four of the 49 workers arrested were from El Salvador; the others were Mexican, authorities said. One of the Salvadorans has legal status in the US, immigration officials acknowledged; it is not clear whether he is facing any charges. Of the 45 Mexicans arrested, 29 accepted the government's offer of "voluntary return" and were swiftly returned to Mexico, officials confirmed on Mar. 31. None of the 29 would have faced criminal prosecution, according to ICE Dallas spokesperson Carl Rusnok. "Voluntary return is offered to noncriminal aliens or low-level criminal aliens"--such as for violations that usually result in a ticket, explained Rusnok. The US attorney's office is evaluating what charges to pursue against the other arrested workers; in the meantime they are being held at the Bedford Jail, which ICE contracts to use as a short-term detention facility.

The raids were carried out with the participation of the Dallas County district attorney's office, the US Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Dallas Police Department; the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission; and the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas. [Dallas Morning News 3/31/08, 4/1/08]

Norma Núñez, owner of the Palacio nightclub, said agents blocked everyone from leaving while the club was being raided, but did not question or arrest her customers. [El Hispano News 4/1/08]

*4. Idaho Pallet Company Raided

On Apr. 2, ICE agents arrested at least 13 Mexican immigrants working at a pallet manufacturing company in Homedale, Idaho. Maria Andrade, an immigration attorney and volunteer coordinator of attorneys helping the detainees, said that other arrests may have occurred as a result of the raid and that as many as 20 people may be in custody. The workers were all employed by Specialty Inc. Wood Products. They were expected to be placed in removal proceedings for violating immigration law. Two of the workers were released for "humanitarian reasons" and will make an appearance at a later date before an immigration judge, according to ICE spokesperson Lorie Dankers. The rest of the workers were being held at Ada County Jail. Since Idaho has no immigration detention facility, the workers will likely be sent to Arizona or Washington state, Andrade said.

Family members of the arrested workers joined community members in protesting the raids at a demonstration and press conference in downtown Boise on Apr. 3. "What we need to realize is that people come to this country as immigrants, as undocumented workers because they are poor, because...they have no other recourse," said Ed Keener of the Interfaith Alliance of Idaho. [ICE News Release 4/3/08; Idaho Statesman - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX 4/4/08; Fox 12 News (Boise) 4/4/08]

ICE initiated the investigation that led to the raid after receiving information that unauthorized workers might be employed at the wood products company. "Subsequent investigation revealed that some of the workers may have secured their employment by using false Social Security numbers and other counterfeit identity documents," ICE said in a news release. The company's owner is cooperating with ICE on this investigation, according to the news release. [ICE News Release 4/3/08]

"We've been going through an audit for about a year now," said Ed Leavitt, the CEO of Specialty Inc., on Apr. 3. "We totally didn't expect this." Leavitt said those arrested represented less than half of his workforce and that the arrests would have only a minor impact on the plant's operation. "We're back up and running and, in fact, hired 17 more people this morning," Leavitt said. [Idaho Statesman - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX 4/4/08]

*5. Activists Protest Arrests on Amtrak, Greyhound

On Apr. 2, several dozen demonstrators gathered in front of Penn Station in Manhattan to protest the collaboration of the Amtrak train company with border and immigration agents who arrest passengers traveling between US cities. With chants of transportation, not deportation!" and "immigrant rights are human rights," the protesters then marched to Port Authority to condemn the Greyhound bus company's collaboration with similar immigration sweeps.

The protest was organized by Families for Freedom, a New York-based multi-ethnic defense network by and for immigrants facing and fighting deportation. The protesters are demanding that Amtrak and Greyhound at the very least warn passengers about the raids in advance, publicly apologize and provide ticket refunds to those who have been arrested. [El Diario-La Prensa (NY) 4/3/08; Demonstration announcement from Families for Freedom, received via email 3/26/08; Immigration News Briefs editor's first-hand experience of demonstration 4/2/08]

A woman named Sonia, who spoke at the demonstration, said she was arrested by immigration officials along with her husband and two sons while returning to New York City from Chicago on Amtrak as the train passed through upstate New York. She spoke about the terror of being grilled by immigration officials and separated from her family. "This is the last thing I expected coming home. They seemed to be approaching all of the Latinos on the train and asking them for papers. One family even had work permits but immigration officials told them that this was not enough and they were detained also. I'm a customer, I paid just like everyone else, but my family and I were treated like we are less than human beings," Sonia said. After being detained at the Amtrak station, Sonia and her 17-year-old son were released while her husband and 18-year-old son were detained at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility for several days before being freed on bond. [Families for Freedom Press Release 4/2/08; EFE 4/2/08]

Amtrak has agreed to cooperate with border inspections on a random basis within 75 miles of the border, said Cliff Cole, a spokesperson for the company. "We're merely facilitating their request to board the train," he said of the Border Patrol agents. The train between Chicago and New York, called the Lakeshore Limited, passes within 75 miles of the border, he said. Greyhound also said it simply complies with law enforcement requests, be it local, state or federal. "We are under no obligation to inform customers of law enforcement activity at any time," said Greyhound spokesperson Dustin Clark.

Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, said the stops are just part of routine practice that has gotten more frequent as the agency has tripled its number of agents along the Canadian border over the past few years. [New York Times Cityroom Blog 4/2/08]

*6. Laws to Be Waived for Border Fence

In an Apr. 1 statement, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the federal government plans to speed up completion of 470 miles of border fence in the southwestern US by the end of 2008 by using two waivers to bypass some three dozen federal and state environmental and land-management laws. The move is permitted under an exemption granted by Congress in the Real ID Act of 2005.

One waiver will be used to complete a 22-mile combined river levee-fence project in Hidalgo County, Texas. The second waiver covers an additional 470 miles of fencing--through 2008 and future years--in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said the administration's use of the waivers exceeds what Congress intended when it approved the measure. "Today's waiver represents an extreme abuse of authority," Thompson said in a statement. "Waiver authority should only be used as a last resort, not simply because the Department has failed to get the job done through the normal process."

The waiver allows the agency to skip carrying out detailed reviews of how the fence will affect wildlife, water quality and vegetation in the ecologically sensitive affected border areas. Two environmental advocacy organizations, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club, filed a petition in March asking the Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of the waiver provision. [Los Angeles Times 4/2/08; Washington Post 4/2/08; Houston Chronicle 4/1/08]


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