Author Archives: Ian

Feds delay review of Obama immigration program (USA Today)

Feds delay review of Obama immigration program
Alan Gomez, @alangomez, USA TODAYShare

11:46PM EST November 5. 2012 – Seventeen months have passed since the Department of Homeland Security announced it would create an internal civil rights review of the Obama administration’s signature immigration enforcement program, but now department officials cannot say when, or if, they will complete it.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton announced in June 2011 that his agency would create a statistical monitoring tool to ensure that law enforcement agencies were not using the Secure Communities program to engage in racial profiling. The program screens all people booked into local jails for federal immigration violations. Despite calls from a Homeland Security task force and outside groups to complete the review, officials are not sure when that will be possible.

“Certain data collection factors have created challenges, delaying the completion of this model,” Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler said. He said they are working “diligently” to find an effective way to monitor for civil rights abuses.

People booked into jails have their fingerprints sent to the FBI to check their criminal background. Under the Secure Communities program, those fingerprints are then sent to Homeland Security to check for immigration violations. People who are flagged are then examined by ICE and could be deported.

The program, created in 2008 under President George W. Bush and embraced by the Obama administration, has expanded rapidly. It is now active in 97% of local law enforcement agencies with the goal of 100% participation by 2013.

Several reports have found considerable flaws in the program.

An October 2011 study by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley that examined a random sampling of people arrested under Secure Communities found that about 3,600 U.S. citizens had been erroneously arrested by ICE. The report also concluded that Hispanics were disproportionally targeted through Secure Communities — 93% of people arrested were Hispanics, even though they make up 77% of the illegal immigrant population.

Another review in September 2011 by a Homeland Security advisory council raised similar concerns. Half of the 14-member review panel said the program was so flawed it should be suspended until it could be fixed.

“Task Force members believe that it makes little sense to expand a program that many community leaders and elected officials consider deeply flawed, especially as to its impact on community policing and civil rights,” the report found.

Since then, officials in various jurisdictions in the U.S. have pushed back against the program. The California Legislature passed the TRUST Act, which would have limited the state’s cooperation with Secure Communities, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it Sept. 30.

“Here we are a year and a half after this review was begun and I had expected to see results by now,” said Brittney Nystrom, director of policy and legal affairs for the National Immigration Forum, a Washington-based think tank. “This statistical oversight piece was the lynchpin of the assurances that (Homeland Security) was going to operate this program in a way that respected civil rights and civil liberties. So the fact that we haven’t seen any results from that project concerns me.”

Local Activists Try to Rally Support for Trust Act (San Diego 6)

Local Activists Try to Rally Support for Trust Act

By Derek Staahl

Local civil and immigrant rights activists are heading to Sacramento to try to rally support for a bill that would protect illegal immigrants who commit minor infractions from deportation.

Lawmakers sent Gov. Jerry Brown AB1081, known as the Trust Act, on Friday.

The bill would allow California to opt out of some parts of the federal Secure Communities program. That program requires local law enforcement officers to check the fingerprints of people they arrest against a federal immigration database and hold those who are in the country illegally.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said the policy wastes resources and drives a wedge between immigrants and law enforcement agencies.

“Victims of crime, including domestic violence, are fearful of risking separation from their families and deportation,” he said.

Several GOP lawmakers spoke against the bill Friday, saying it would take away an important tool for ridding California of law-breakers.

“This has become the be-kind-to-criminals Legislature,” said Assemblyman Jim Nielson, R-Gerber.

AB1081 passed the Assembly on a party line, 44-23 vote after a lengthy debate.

As the debate became more heated, Ammiano said some of the bill’s Republican opponents had “been in the sun too long building that silly fence,” drawing a reprimand from Democratic house leadership.

The Trust Act would prevent local law enforcement officers from detaining arrestees for possible deportation unless the suspect had been charged with a serious or violent felony.

The bill has been dubbed “anti-Arizona” legislation, a reference to that state’s immigrant identification law. Supporters argue that the Secure Communities program targets otherwise law-abiding immigrants who commit minor traffic infractions, sell food without a permit or are arrested on misdemeanors charges but never convicted.

The federal government has deported tens of thousands of people under the Secure Communities program, with the majority coming from California.

Since 2009, California law enforcement officials have turned over about 80,000 illegal immigrants for deportation; fewer than half had committed a serious or violent felony.

Trust Act advocates have long expected Gov. Jerry Brown, who previously served as California’s attorney general, to present the biggest hurdle to the bill’s passage. The Democratic governor has not taken a position on the legislation, according to spokesman Gareth Lacy.

Secure Communities Costs Los Angeles County More Than $26 Million A Year: Report (Huffington Post)

Secure Communities Costs Los Angeles County More Than $26 Million A Year: Report

By: Elise Foley

WASHINGTON — Los Angeles County is spending more than $26 million a year to hold undocumented immigrants under a federal immigration enforcement initiative, individuals it would otherwise release, according to a report on Thursday. Critics say that demonstrates the high cost of the program, in which some local governments would rather not participate.

The report by Justice Strategies found that the cost of Secure Communities, a cooperative program between local police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is steep mainly because jails hold suspected undocumented immigrants are held an average of 20 days longer at ICE’s request than they otherwise would. The advocacy group examined public records from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department provided to the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Extending those numbers statewide, Justice Strategies estimates that California taxpayers spend $65 million each year to detain immigrants for ICE.

Los Angeles County first signed on to Secure Communities in August 2009, when the program was just gearing up. The initiative is now in force in 97 percent of the country — 3,074 of 3,181 jurisdictions — with the goal of 100 percent application by the end of the year. As Secure Communities expanded, it became increasingly controversial, from its troubled rollout to concerns that it nets non-criminals and makes communities fearful of police.

The program works by sending fingerprints of arrested individuals to ICE, which uses them to screen for deportable immigrants. If ICE finds a match, the agency asks local law enforcement to hold the person until federal authorities can come pick up the arrestee. Those holds, called detainers, are supposed to last 48 hours.

But in Los Angeles County and many other jurisdictions, jails often end up holding immigrants far longer, generating costs that aren’t reimbursed by the federal government.

ICE insists the detainers are important for public safety, even though the criminal justice system would release the individuals in question if they were not under a detainer.

“ICE places detainers on aliens arrested on criminal charges to ensure that dangerous criminals are not released from prisons/jails and into our communities,” ICE spokeswoman Nicole Navas said in an October 2011 statement. “Even though some aliens may be arrested on minor criminal charges, they may also have more serious criminal backgrounds which disguise their true danger to society.”

California may soon have a law barring the detention of immigrants “after that individual becomes eligible for release from criminal custody,” except in certain circumstances. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa supports the legislation, called the TRUST Act, which it has passed in slightly different forms in the state assembly and the state senate. It could soon go to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, although he hasn’t yet said whether he will sign it.

Similarly, Cook County, Ill., and the District of Columbia have passed measures against holding undocumented immigrants for ICE when they otherwise would be released based on the lack of severity of their accused crimes. ICE offered to pay Cook County for the expenses incurred, according to the Chicago Tribune, but county leaders didn’t budge.

To date, ICE has deported 59,535 immigrants under the Secure Communities program, according to the agency. The Justice Strategies report found that 5,184 people were handed over to ICE by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in the first three months of 2011.

Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca has declined to answer other questions about the operation of the program, despite a lawsuit brought by the National Immigration Law Center and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

The Los Angeles Times released an editorial on Tuesday criticizing Baca for his refusal to release numbers about the demographics of county jails and the extent of his office’s cooperation with ICE.

“Whether the sheriff should be holding illegal immigrants at all isn’t the issue, at least in this lawsuit,” the editorial declares. “Rather, the questions are whether those undocumented immigrants who are held spend far longer in custody than required and at what cost to taxpayers. It’s time for Baca to release the records that will help answer those questions.”

Day laborers protest in Hoover for right to assemble and deteriorating conditions at apartment complex (ALABAMA)



Day laborers protest in Hoover for right to assemble and deteriorating conditions at apartment complex

A group of approximately 100 laborers, tenants and supporters, have gathered this morning at 3400 Treeline Court in Hoover, protesting for the right to assemble, the right to look for work and in an effort to shed light on what they refer to as “deteriorating” housing conditions.

Members of the National Day Laborer Network, Undocubus riders, local day laborers, area tenants and supporters contend that the rights of workers, tenants and fundamentally, human beings, are being abused. Recently, they argue, building management at the apartment complexes at 3400 Treeline Court have continually tried to prevent day laborers, most of whom reside on the premises, from gathering outside the complex and waiting for work.

Furthermore, protesters allege, the management at the apartment complex fails to maintain adequate housing conditions for tenants, even in the face of repeated maintenance requests and complaints.

Nadia Marin-Molina of the National Day Laborer Network helped organize the event.

“We came here because we heard complaints from the tenants about being harassed when they step outside to look for work,” Marin-Molina said. “Managers here at the property tell them they can’t stand outside the apartment looking for work, nor can they wait for their employers to come pick them up.”

Instead, Marin-Molina said, employees at the apartments located at 3400 Treeline Court tell their tenants that they must wait for potential day labor hire in the parking lot across the street. Once there, however, tenants said the police arrives and tells them they can’t assemble there.

About 40 hispanics protested this morning on Lorna Road for better access to jobs and the living conditions at the Treeline Apartments Tuesday August 21, 2012. Hoover Police arrived on the scene shortly after the protest started checking permits and directing traffic on Lorna.  (The Birmingham News/Joe Songer). Watch video

This area in Hoover is known as a place where contractors, builders and others looking to hire day laborers can find employees, said Marin-Molina. For at least 13 years now, she said, day laborers have stood on the various sidewalks across Lorna Road waiting for a chance at employment.

“They used to gather together at the Chevron down the street,” said Marin-Molina.

Over the years, groups of day laborers, largely Hispanic immigrants, have made their way into the community, often living in places such as the apartment complex at 3400 Treeline Court.

“Employers know they can find them here,” said Marin-Molina.

Regardless of the long-established routine, however, those seeking employment say they have faced repeated harassment in more recent years.

“When they try to wait for jobs outside the apartment complex,” Marin-Molina said, “employees tell them they have to leave the area or go back to their room. These people are just trying to get jobs.”

Earlier this week, said Marin-Molina, a group of about 50 people tried to hold a meeting in one of the apartments. Almost immediately, she said, an apartment employee told the group they could not gather in the apartment and had to leave. When police arrived, they told tenants they could remain, but told everyone else they would have to leave, said Marin-Molina.

Although they continue to live and try to assemble at the apartments, the housing conditions are far from respectable, Marin-Molina said.

“When you talk to the workers, the people who live here, they tell you about bugs and leaks in the apartments,” she said. “Even when they complain to management about the conditions, nothing is ever done.”

Herman Arturo Hernandez, who has lived in apartments for three years, said he was recently notified that he had seven days to vacate the premises. When his unit flooded, he said, management began repairs, but quickly informed him that he would have to leave.

“They didn’t give me an option,” Hernandez said.

Management, he said, did not offer to help relocate him, nor did they offer him a place to live temporarily on the premises. The last he heard, he would essentially be able to retrieve his initial deposit, but he had no idea when that would happen. Six other apartment units faced the same fate, Hernandez said. According to a press release, when displaced tenants requested to be transferred over to empty apartments on site, management refused.

“We have the right to assemble, to look for work,” he said.

Today’s protest group held signs and chanted over megaphones. “We deserve rights, we want respect,” they said. In the first hour, at approximately 8 a.m., Hoover police began to arrive on scene.

Officers on scene refused to comment.

Captain Jim Coker of the Hoover Police Department, who was not on scene, said that the issue was not with the city, but with the apartment complex.

“There’s not a whole lot to comment on,” Coker said. “[The protesters] aren’t presenting any problems for us. They are on the right-of-way, between roadway and sidewalk; they haven’t been an issue for us. Their issue is with the apartment complex, not with the city.”

When asked about Marin-Molina’s claim that the police recently asked a group of supporters to move a planning meeting somewhere else, Coker once again said the issue was not a matter that involved a problem between demonstrators and the police.

“It’s strictly between them and the apartment complex management,” Coker said.

An employee on scene refused to comment.

Groups protest state immigration law (TUSCALOOSA NEWS)

Groups protest state immigration law

Demonstrators gather downtown to decry statute

By Jason Morton

On the same day a federal appeals court struck down some provisions of Alabama’s controversial immigration law and upheld others, a group rallied in downtown Tuscaloosa to decry the law’s impact on immigrant families.

Somos Tuskaloosa, a local coalition of community members and church leaders, joined with No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice, a delegation of undocumented residents and their supporters passing through Tuscaloosa. The protesters marched from the U.S. Federal Building and Courthouse on University Boulevard to the University of Alabama camp us Monday afternoon.

Ride for Justice left Arizona on July 29, the anniversary of that state’s immigration law, and is traveling across the country to rally migrants to organize and challenge laws and policies targeting undocumented immigrants.

The combined group of about 50 people started on the sidewalk in front of the federal courthouse, where chants of “Una familia, un Alabama” — one family, one Alabama — and “undocumented, unafraid!” were followed by the crowd shouting in unison: “No papers, no fear! Dignity is standing here!”

The group then moved to the courthouse steps, where federal marshals, who oversee courthouse security, alerted local police that the protesters lacked the required demonstration permits.

But, after speaking with the organizers, Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson said that it was better to allow the demonstrators to disperse peacefully, rather than arrest them.

Ireri Unzueta-Carrasco, 25, interpreted for several undocumented residents, many of whom said they are now living in Tuscaloosa, as they told stories of harassment and fear following passage of Alabama’s immigration law, commonly known as HB 56, last year.

One described the law as “a situation worse than the (April 27, 2011) tornado.” Others, through Unzueta-Carrasco, said the law was “inhuman and hateful” and that they didn’t want their children growing up in fear.

“I’m here to fight for the future of my children,” said Trini Garcia, an undocumented resident who said she’s lived in Alabama for the last 15 years and who used Unzueta-Carrasco as a translator. “Their success is my success.”

The protest, which started at 4:30 p.m. and lasted until after

6 p.m., drew the attention of passing motorists and pedestrians.

One of them was University of Alabama student Jessica

Edmundson, a junior from Montgomery majoring in geology.

She said she had come downtown for a cup of coffee when she spotted the demonstration.

“I think all of our citizens should have equal rights,” the 21-year-old said. “This (protest) is really empowering.

“The people are going to have to really be engaged in the political process for us to have a stable society.”

Her sentiments were shared by Tuscaloosa County resident Deb Crocker and Northport residents Carl and Pat Clements, who said they showed up to stand alongside the undocumented immigrants in opposition to a law they consider unfair and unjust.

“I’m here to support immigration law reform,” Pat Clements said, adding that she would like to see the immigration and legalization process simplified. “We have room in this country for the people who want to be here.”

Maria Luisa-Hernandes, a 28-year-old native of Mexico who said she has lived the last nine years in Tuscaloosa, said she was protesting for her children and her family.

Luisa-Hernandes said she believes it’s important to educate her children, ages 8 and 3, to appreciate and respect both the culture of Mexico and Alabama.

Her oldest child has not been bullied by his classmates because of his nationality, but she said she is worried that he will be.

“My child has fear,” Luisa-Hernandes said with the help of her interpreter and fellow Somos Tuskaloosa member, Gwendolyn Ferriti. “He’s afraid — he’s no fool …

“He listens to the conversations we have as a family in trying to plan for our futures.”

Luisa-Hernandes, a housekeeper, said she turned out to demonstrate in order for lawmakers to understand that these policies are affecting residents and families.

“The reason I’m here is because I want my voice to be heard,” Luisa-Hernandes said. “I think that we all have rights, we’re all human and we’re all searching for justice.”