Sunday, September 7, 2008

INB 9/7/08: Al-Arian Released, Flower Grower Raided

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 11, No. 22 - September 7, 2008

1. Civil Rights Activist Al-Arian Released
2. Texas Town's Rental Ban Overturned
3. Marchers Oppose Border Fence
4. Raid at California Flower Grower
5. Poultry Workers Charged, Raid Feared
6. Immigrants March in Denver

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 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 posted at


On Sept. 2 in Alexandria, Virginia, former Florida professor and civil rights activist Sami Al-Arian was finally released on bail after spending five-and-a-half years in jail. Al-Arian had been transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody on Apr. 11 of this year, then transferred back to US Marshals custody on June 30 after being charged with criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury. After US District Judge Leonie Brinkema ordered Al-Arian's release on bail on July 10, the government transferred him back to ICE custody, claiming it was attempting to deport him. Brinkema reaffirmed the bail order on Aug. 8 as she postponed the criminal contempt trial, pending a Supreme Court ruling on Al-Arian's appeal challenging the government's right to compel him to testify [see INB 8/16/08, 7/5/08, 4/27/08, 3/29/08, 3/24/07, 6/10/06]. On Aug. 25, Al-Arian's attorneys filed a habeas petition demanding his release; Brinkema gave ICE until Sept. 2 to respond. The agency's response came in the form of an order for Al-Arian's release on bail. Al-Arian's family met him as he was released from an ICE facility in Fairfax, Virginia. He remains under house arrest. [Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace 9/2/08; Tampa Tribune 7/1/08]


On Aug. 29, US District Judge Sam A. Lindsay issued a final judgment permanently preventing the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch from enforcing an ordinance that would have required landlords to verify the immigration status of tenants. Lindsay ruled that Ordinance 2903 violated the due process clause of the 14th Amendment because it was too vague, and that it interfered with the federal government's exclusive jurisdiction over immigration. Farmers Branch voters had approved Ordinance 2903 by a ratio of more than 2-to-1 in May 2007, after an earlier attempt to restrict housing rentals by out-of-status immigrants was blocked by the courts.

In January 2008 the Farmers Branch City Council adopted yet another replacement measure, Ordinance 2952, to take effect 15 days after Lindsay's final ruling on the earlier rule. The new ordinance would require all prospective tenants to get a rental license from the city. The city would use a federal database to verify the applicant's legal status before approving the license. [Dallas Morning News 8/31/08, 9/4/08; AP 8/29/08]

Opponents filed a lawsuit against the new ordinance on Sept. 3, asking Judge Lindsay to block its implementation, currently set for Sept. 13. The lawsuit says that the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database which the city plans to use is designed to verify eligibility for programs such as housing assistance, Medicaid and unemployment compensation; municipalities are not authorized to use the system to determine who is eligible for rental housing. Judge Lindsay had already criticized the new ordinance in May, calling it "yet another attempt to circumvent the court's prior rulings and further an agenda that runs afoul of the United States Constitution." [DMN 9/4/08]


On Aug. 31, more than 100 activists from a coalition of organizations concluded a four-day march along the route of a new border fence which the US federal government claims will help stop immigrants crossing from Mexico. The march opposing the fence construction began at Fort Hancock, Texas, some 55 miles southeast of El Paso, and ended with a rally in Sunland Park, New Mexico, just northwest of El Paso. Marchers took part in the action on both sides of the border fence. Border Patrol agents in vehicles and on horses kept watch over the border and scanned the march from a distance.

The new section of fencing is expected to be completed by the end of the year; it will be nearly 100 miles long, stretching across the El Paso area from Columbus, New Mexico, to Fort Hancock. The fence is expected to cost about four million dollars per mile, according to US Customs and Border Protection officials. [El Paso Times 9/1/08, 9/3/08; KVIA/ABC7 (El Paso, TX/Las Cruces, NM/Juarez, Mexico) 9/1/08]

El Paso County Attorney Jose Rodriguez announced on Sept. 3 that US District Judge Frank Montalvo had denied a request for a preliminary injunction against construction of any physical barriers along the US-Mexico border. In a 28-page ruling dated Aug. 29, Montalvo said the plaintiffs failed to prove that construction would irreparably harm the public.

The request for the injunction was filed June 23 by the County of El Paso, City of El Paso, El Paso County Water Improvement District No. 1, Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, Frontera Audubon Society, Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, Friends of Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and South Texas property owner Mark Clark. The petition was part of a lawsuit challenging Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's statutory authority for issuing waivers of more than three dozen federal laws, as well as related state, local and tribal laws, to expedite the fence construction. The injunction request sought to halt construction until the Department of Homeland Security complies with the laws Chertoff waived on Apr. 3 [see INB 4/6/08]. [EPT 9/3/08, 9/4/08]


On the morning of Sept. 2, ICE agents executed federal search warrants at the Arcata, California headquarters of the Sun Valley Group, a major wholesale flower grower. ICE arrested 19 workers at the job site and two others later in the day in McKinleyville and Eureka while executing related search warrants at the Humboldt County homes of nine company employees. Another two workers who were sought in the morning raid turned themselves in to ICE that same afternoon at the Coast Guard Station in McKinleyville where ICE was processing the detainees, according to ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice. An additional Sun Valley employee who was sought as part of the investigation was found to be in the custody of the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department on an unrelated state charge. ICE agents lodged an immigration detainer against that person to ensure they will gain custody of him once the local case is completed. The 24 workers identified in the raid are all citizens of Mexico; six of them are women. [ICE News Release 9/3/08; Eureka Reporter 9/4/08]

As ICE was driving detained workers off the Sun Valley premises in white agency vans, three people who identified themselves as concerned members of the community linked hands across the road in an attempt to block one of the vehicles from leaving. The van made a U-turn and headed in the opposite direction. [Times-Standard (Eureka) 9/4/08]

The Eureka Reporter spoke to a man who witnessed one of the ICE raids on an apartment complex in Fortuna. Willie Bramlett said about 10 to 15 agents, some wielding machine guns, went up to the apartment, knocked on the door and then use a battering ram to open it up. "They knocked and then bashed it in," he said. [Eureka Reporter 9/4/08]

By Sept. 3, ICE had released 21 of the arrested workers under supervision to await hearings in immigration court. One worker who had been previously deported will remain in ICE custody to await his hearing. A worker with a criminal record was turned over to the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department on an outstanding warrant issued out of Southern California.

The investigation at Sun Valley originated with a call to ICE's tip line; agents then uncovered evidence that some of the company’s employees used Social Security numbers and alien registration numbers that were either fraudulent, did not belong to them, or did not authorize employment. In addition, some of the company's workers are believed to have falsely claimed to be US citizens or lawful permanent residents, according to ICE. [ICE News Release 9/3/08]

"While we have the utmost concern and compassion for all Sun Valley team members, we respect that the law is the law and we are cooperating fully with ICE," Sun Valley owner Lane DeVries said in a statement. "In light of this cooperation we are extremely disappointed that ICE has chosen to escalate their approach to working with us on their concerns, as they have today."

According to the company's statement, ICE notified Sun Valley on Aug. 25 that 40 of its employees who were hired between November 2007 and May 2008 appeared to be ineligible to work in the US. On Sept. 2, Sun Valley told those employees they could no longer work at the company until they could document that they are authorized to do so. Since June, the company has used the federal government's E-Verify system to ensure that all new hires have valid identification, the company said. The notice to the 40 workers was not related to the search warrant used in the raid, which identified 52 people, said Sun Valley spokesperson John Armato.

A worker interviewed outside the plant told the Times-Standard that employees had no warning of the raid. Another employee who asked to remain anonymous told the newspaper the raid was demoralizing. "I'm white, I'm legal, but I've worked with these people and they are good people and it was very disturbing to watch these people taken away," she said. [Times-Standard 9/4/08]

On June 9, Sun Valley fired half of its workforce--283 employees--after a letter from ICE informed the company that the workers' Social Security numbers didn't match government records [see INB 6/22/08].


On Aug. 13, three employees of the House of Raeford Farms poultry processing plant in Greenville, South Carolina, were indicted on charges of using counterfeit IDs to gain employment, identify theft, and making a false statement to a federal agency. The three men were arraigned on Aug. 28. They were arrested in July; two former supervisors at the plant were arrested the same month on similar charges.

On Aug. 19, seven former supervisors at the plant, including the two arrested in July, pleaded guilty to using fake IDs to work at the Greenville plant. The plant's human resource manager, Elaine Crump, also arrested in July, has been indicted on 20 felony counts charging that she instructed employees to use fraudulent employment eligibility forms. Crump’s pre-trial hearing, originally scheduled for Aug. 19, was continued until later this year. The prosecution of the 11 House of Raeford employees is part of an ICE investigation that apparently began after the Charlotte Observer published a series of reports in February about the plant’s hiring practices. [Charolotte Observer 8/14/08, 8/20/08; AP 8/28/08]

At a House of Raeford Farms plant in West Columbia, South Carolina, an employee identified as Sergio said workers there fear that after immigration agents finish investigating the Greenville plant, less than 100 miles away, they will come to the West Columbia plant. "They say 'la migra' is coming on Monday, or Tuesday," said Joaquin Hernandez, whose wife is a supervisor at the West Columbia plant. "No one knows what to do." [Charlotte Observer 9/5/08]


About 1,500 people marched through the streets of Denver, Colorado on Aug. 28, the final day of the four-day Democratic National Convention there, to press for immigrant justice. The march was organized by American Friends Service Committee and sponsored by local and national religious, human rights and labor organizations. Federico Peña, the former Denver mayor who co-chairs the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Barack Obama, helped carry a banner stating: "Immigrant Rights Are Human Rights." [Notimex 8/28/08; La Jornada (Mexico) 8/29/08 from AFP; Denver Post 8/29/08]


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