Saturday, January 17, 2009

INB 1/17/09: Uprising Quelled in Arizona Prison; Fugitive Raids in Dallas, Miami

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 12, No. 1 - January 17, 2009

1. Uprising Quelled in Arizona Prison
2. Fugitive Raids in Dallas, Miami; ICE Abuses Protested
3. Pallet Company IFCO Settles Criminal Case
4. Restaurant Owners Sentenced in Kentucky, DC
5. Attorney General Limits Appeals

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On Dec. 31, immigration detainees jailed in the South Special Housing Unit at Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, Arizona, began throwing furniture at prison staff and causing property damage in the unit, according to a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) press release cited in a local news report. At the time of the incident, there were approximately 34 detainees assigned to the Special Housing Unit. According to the news report, staff used chemical agents against the detainees to force them back into their cells. Jail officials placed the entire facility on lockdown status, meaning that detainees were restricted to their cells until further notice.

The Eloy Detention Center is a 1,500-bed facility owned and operated by CCA, the largest private for-profit prison company in the US. CCA contracts with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to house immigration detainees. ICE officials were on site at the facility at the time of the incident. "We would commend CCA for their professionalism in getting a handle on the situation very quickly, and preventing something more serious from happening," said ICE Public Affairs Officer Vincent Picard.

Surrounding CCA facilities were called to assist during the incident and the Eloy Police Department and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel were notified. According to Eloy paramedics who arrived on the scene with two ambulances, only one officer was reportedly injured; he was treated at CCA's Saguaro facility for a bump on the head, and sent to Casa Grande Regional Hospital as a precautionary measure. [Casa Grande Valley Newspapers 1/2/09, 1/7/09]


From Dec. 14 to Dec. 18, ICE agents from three local fugitive operations teams arrested 84 immigrants from Costa Rica, Mexico, Nepal and Nicaragua in the Dallas, Texas metropolitan area. The arrests were made in Argyle, Arlington, Balch Springs, The Colony, Carrollton, Dallas, Denton, Duncanville, Farmers Branch, Fort Worth, Garland, Haltom City, Irving, Kennedale, Mesquite, Plano, Richardson and Rowlett. Of the total 84 people arrested, 64 reportedly had final removal orders; the other 20 were out-of-status immigrants encountered during the course of the raids. Forty of the 84 reportedly had criminal histories. ICE was assisted in the operation by the US Marshals Service, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the police departments of Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth, Frisco and Grand Prairie. [ICE News Release 12/19/08]

In a five-day operation ending Dec. 23, ICE agents arrested 110 immigrants in the South Florida areas of Miami, Broward, Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa. ICE said 81 of those arrested were "fugitives" who had failed to comply with deportation orders; the other 29 were out-of-status immigrants encountered during the raids. According to ICE, 24 of the 110 people arrested had criminal histories. Most of the arrests (47) took place in Miami-Dade County; 30 arrests were in Broward County; 15 in Palm Beach County; seven in the Orlando area and 11 in Tampa. Of the total 110 people arrested, 17 were released under the Alternatives to Detention Program because they were verified to be sole caregivers of young children or had medical concerns. The other 93 people were being held in ICE custody. Those arrested came from countries including Guatemala, Haiti, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Moldova, Cuba, Bahamas, Nicaragua, Peru, Poland, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Mexico, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Canada and The Gambia. [ICE News Release 12/23/08]

The pre-Christmas raid in South Florida followed similar ICE operations in the same area in November. At a Dec. 9 press conference, several community groups called for an investigation into ICE abuses during a Nov. 19 raid in Homestead. ICE apparently used a human trafficking investigation to obtain warrants for the Nov. 19 operation, in which the agency swept up 77 people, none of whom were charged criminally in connection with the trafficking case. In a complaint sent to R. Alexander Acosta, the US Attorney who helped ICE secure the warrants, community members said ICE agents beat at least six Guatemalan men during the raid; officials at the Broward Transitional Center, where some of those arrested were detained, were so concerned that they called for an official inquiry into the injuries. Jonathan Fried, executive director of the Homestead-based community group WeCount!, said a Guatemalan woman saw agents beat her husband and throw him on the floor in front of their four-year-old daughter. Witnesses also reported several incidents of ICE agents pointing guns to residents' heads, including in front of children; using excessive force in executing search warrants; and using racial profiling to detain bystanders. [News Release from WeCount! & Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center 12/10/08; Miami Herald 12/10/08; South Florida Sun-Sentinel 12/10/08; New York Times 12/9/08] ICE announced in a Nov. 21 news release that it had arrested four "sex traffickers" and "rescued" nine "victims" on Nov. 19 while executing search warrants tied to the investigation of more than a dozen brothels and stash houses in Palm Beach and Broward counties where immigrant women were reportedly forced into prostitution. [ICE News Release 11/21/08] [In a Nov. 25 news release, ICE reported the arrests of 71 people from Nov. 17 to 21 as part of a "fugitive" operation in Miami, Broward, Palm Beach, Orlando and Tampa--see INB 11/30/08.]

ICE spokesperson Nicole Navas announced on Dec. 9 that the ICE agents involved in the Nov. 19 raid on the sex slave ring are under investigation for the alleged abuses. "The ICE Office of Investigations strongly denies all allegations of agent misconduct," said Navas. "However, as is routine protocol, all allegations have been forwarded to the ICE Office of Professional Responsibility for their independent review." Steve Mocsary, special agent in charge of the Office of Professional Responsibility in Plantation, Florida, said the investigation could take months. [Sun-Sentinel 12/10/08] Advocates said the internal probe was insufficient, and called for a robust investigation by the ICE Office of Inspector General or the US Attorney's office in Miami. [NYT 12/9/08]


In a settlement announced Dec. 19, federal prosecutors agreed not to pursue corporate criminal charges against IFCO Systems North America, a wood pallet recycling company headquartered in Guilderland, New York, in the suburbs of Albany. In exchange, the company admitted it had hired unauthorized immigrants and agreed to pay $20.7 million over four years, including $2.6 million in back pay and penalties for having failed to provide sufficient overtime pay to 1,700 of its workers. The company agreed to use the government's "E-Verify" screening program for all new hires, to verify the social security numbers of all current employees through the Social Security Administration (SSA), and to maintain an employee hotline to receive reports of any suspected illegalities at the company. The agreement "severely punishes IFCO for its serious immigration and employment violations; but it also allows the corporation to continue its operations, so that its lawful employees and innocent shareholders do not suffer the consequences of a business failure in this economy," said Acting US Attorney Andrew Baxter.

On Apr. 19, 2006, ICE agents raided more than 40 IFCO Systems locations in 27 states, arresting 1,187 workers on administrative immigration charges and seven current and former managers on criminal charges of conspiring to transport, harbor and encourage unauthorized workers to reside in the US for commercial advantage and financial gain [see INB 4/22/06]. Between February and December 2008, nine IFCO managers pleaded guilty to felony or misdemeanor counts relating to the case in US District Court in Albany. Four other IFCO managers are awaiting trial on felony charges. [Newsday (NY) 12/19/08; ICE News Release 12/19/08]


On Jan. 6, US District Court Judge Charles R. Simpson III of the Western District of Kentucky sentenced restaurant owner Fei Guo Tang to eight months in federal prison and three years of probation. The sentencing followed Tang's guilty plea for having knowingly employed at least 10 unauthorized immigrants for commercial advantage and financial gain. Tang was arrested on Nov. 14, 2007, when ICE agents raided his restaurant, Jumbo Buffet, in LaGrange, Kentucky, just northeast of Louisville [see INB 12/2/07]. During the raid, ICE detained six workers who were subsequently deported, and seized about $59,000 which will be forfeited to the US government. Tang is not a US citizen, and will be subject to deportation proceedings after he completes his prison sentence. [ICE News Release 1/7/09]

Francisco Solano, co-owner of the local Washington DC-area restaurant chain El Pollo Rico, was sentenced on Dec. 17 to three years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to harbor immigrants and commit money laundering, and to arranging his bank transactions to avoid reporting income. Prosecutors said Solano must forfeit $7.2 million derived from the illegal activities, including 13 bank and investment accounts and seven properties in Maryland and Virginia. According to a plea agreement, Solano concealed unauthorized immigrants in homes and businesses he and his wife owned, paying the workers in cash and accepting only cash for rent. Solano was arrested on July 12, 2007, along with three of his family members and nine employees of the family's El Pollo Rico restaurant in Wheaton, Maryland [see INB 7/22/07]. [AP 12/18/08]


In an opinion released late on Jan. 7, Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote that "neither the Constitution nor any statutory or regulatory provision entitles an alien to a do-over if his initial removal proceeding is prejudiced by the mistakes of a privately retained lawyer." The ruling came in the case of three people ordered deported who said their cases had been hurt by attorney errors. Mukasey's ruling is binding over the immigration courts, which are part of the Department of Justice rather than the judiciary. Immigrant advocates said they expected the ruling to be challenged in federal appeals courts. Until recently the Board of Immigration Appeals, the highest review panel within the immigration system, had generally found that immigrants whose lawyers had made critical errors could seek to reopen their cases on constitutional grounds. [New York Times 1/8/09] The Attorney General's decision, Matter of Compean, 24 I & N Dec. 710 (A.G. 2009), is available at The American Immigration Law Foundation (AILF) has a summary of the case on its website at [AILF Press Release 1/8/09]


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