Monday, June 30, 2008

Checkpoints In The San Juan Islands of Washington

The misty islands in Puget Sound of Washington that touch on Vancouver Island of Canada is in an uproar created by Border Patrol checkpoints.. International ferry travel has long been monitored by the Border Patrol. But the domestic ferries that wind through the scenic and wet San Juan Islands are now being checked -- to the outrage of locals and tourists. So far it hasn't broken any large people or drug smuggling operation. Only a hand full of undocumented local to the islands have been rounded up. (See LA Times article.)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

McCain and Obama to Latino Leaders

Both perspective major party candidates for the presidency pleaded their cases before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. The group is heady, knowing that 10 million Latino votes can tip the election. Both candidates promised to make immigration reform a priority. McCain even promised to make it "my top priority yesterday, today and tomorrow." But he also justified his slide toward "border security first." Obama reminded the audience that during a January debate McCain had backed off from supporting a path to citizenship in favor of securing the borders. Obama also expressed such concern, but promised after he gets into the White House he'll review current policy. (See LA Times article.)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Candidates Start Courting Latinos

The great silence on immigration reform that had descended on the primaries is about to be lifted. Both John McCain and Barack Obama will appear today before the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in Washington and next week before the National Council of La Raza. Both candidates were assumed to be the most immigrant friendly in each's party primaries, though both had taken to talking more about border security and enforcement than a path to citizenship. Their positions should become clearer as they pursue the almost 10 million Latino votes. These tend to favor the Democrats, though the GOP had made inroads into that majority in the 2004 election. But that progress had halted abruptly with the passage of the Sensenbrenner Bill by a Republican congress. They paid dearly in the 2006 congressional election. Subsequent campaigns to rouse Latinos out of their political lethargy through aggressive voter registration does not bode well for the GOP. Obama has his own problems since most Latino votes in the Democratic primaries favored Hillary Clinton substantially. The Latino vote looms large in Florida, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Judge Throws Out Suit Vs Special Order 40

Special Order 40 restricts Los Angeles police from inquiring into the immigration status of individuals. It was established to win the cooperation and protection of Hispanics and other immigrants with the police. The order had come under criticism lately because of the slaying of a black athlete by an undocumented gang member. The decision to dismiss, however, was about a lawsuit brought earlier by the conservative Judicial Watch. It had argued that the order impeded the cooperation of the police in enforcing U. S. Law by the federal government. The judge disagreed and found that the order did not violate federal law or impede in the federal government's enforcement. (See LA Times article.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sumpreme Court And The Fence

The U. S. Supreme Court refused to accept a challenge to "the fence" brought by environmentalists. They wanted the court to restrain Homeland Security from waiving environmental laws to protect a parcel of ecologically sensitive wilderness in Arizona. Congress had given it wide powers to waive laws in building the fence. (See LA Times article.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Are Obama And McCain Irrelevant On Immigration?

Both expected presidential candidates are friendly on immigration, though they say more about security than legalization these days. The nativists are dismayed, but not quiet and inactive. They cheer the increasing the tougher enforcement of ICE and the progress of the fence. They have been especially active in state and local legislatures to pass mini-exclusionary laws. Now they'll jump into the campaign, not wasting their time on the presidential race, but rather focusing on the congressional. They will even support "blue-dog" or conservative Democrats running in districts were immigration is a hot issue. The intent of their strategy is to hem in the next president, so that he won't have the support in congress or in the nation for comprehensive immigration reform. (See LA Times article.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Criminal Charges Vs. Immigrants Surge

Enough episodes in which the undocumented rounded up in ICE raids are charged with criminal, rather than civil, offenses have abound over the last few months. Homeland Security proudly confirms it. Lawyers noticed as the case started clogging the federal courts. Well, it's no longer impression or braggadocio but hard statistics. In March 57% of all new criminal charges in federal court touched on immigration. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse that does research on the federal courts got the figures from the Justice Department through Freedom-of-Information Act. The department guardedly confirmed the analysis. (See LA Times article.) Nativists naturally laud the get-tough policy, but defense lawyers see a travesty of justice. Immigrants are being herded into court, charged criminally with inadequate legal representation, and sentenced to do time before deportation -- carrying with them a criminal record. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff hopes immigrants get the message.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What About Immigration After The Elections?

While immigration takes a back seat to Iraq and the economy this election, it nonetheless stirs such strong emotions among the electorate as abortion and gay marriage might. Whoever is elected will have to address the issue early and begin building a consensus for a new immigration policy. Both candidates are on record for finding a generous path toward legalization, but they have also supported the wall -- vaguely -- and talk semi-tough about border enforcement. In any instance, don't expect quick action. Congress, having been burnt last year and preoccupied with Iraq and the economy, is not likely to take up the issue for many months into the new session. Apart from its shyness on the issue and its other concerns, Congress will be split perhaps more sharply on the issue than before within both parties. (See Arizona Republic article.)

The Arizona Republic reports that over the last few months the number of Mexican professional and business people moving from border towns to the U.S. has grown. They're fleeing the violence of the drug wars along the Texas and California borders. Some have themselves been victims of abduction and ransom demands.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

National Guard Leaving The Border

The mission of National Guard units to supplement the Border Patrol is winding down to an end. They are packing up and will be gone by July 15. Many proclaim the deployment a success, though not all are speaking up to have them stay. Only the governors in the border states are. President George W. Bush had sent the Guard on a two year mission at a time when there were many complaints about overusing it in Iraq. (See articles in the NY Times and Arizona Republic.)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sheriff Joe Raids Funland

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County (AZ) sent his deputies to raid the offices of Golfland Entertainment Centers that runs three amusement park around Phoenix. In the process the deputies took nine workers into custody for id-theft. That allowed them to seize personnel records to check whether Golfland employs workers in contravention of the Legal Arizona Workers Act. The company insists all its workers have been vetted through E-Verify. The deputies carried away records of 400 workers. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bush Requires Governemnt Contractors To Use E-Verification

President George W. Bush has stepped up his enforcement-first policy on immigration by requiring through executive order that any business that wishes to contract with the federal government must first check the legal status of its workers through the E-Verify system. They are to submit the Social Security number used for employment to the Social Security Administration for verification. Critics point out that the SSA has no capacity yet to provide a reliable check and its current verification is replete with error. (See LA Times article.)

The NY Times has begun a series of how, and to what effect, local governments are going after Illegals. Some are working with ICE, but many are impatient in waiting for training. The first article describes the enforcement of state identity-theft laws in the Panhandle county of Santa Rosa, Florida.

An estimated 10,000 underage and unaccompanied undocumented children languish in ICE detention centers around the country. Many have been abused here or at home. Many are without legal representation. Many are held in place where it is difficult to get adequare legal representation. Many might qualify to stay, but become adults before their cases are heard. Another hidden injustice un the enforcement-first strategy. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Arizona Employers Saction Law Goes Before Federal Appeals Court

The Arizona law that suspends or revokes the business license of any employer who "knowingly" hires undocumented workers has\d survived a legal challenge before a federal district court. That sparked a couple of copy-cat laws in other immigrant unfriendly states. Now opponents of the law will bring it before the 9th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday this week. Whether it survives or goes down, it's certainly to go before the Supreme Court. A favorable decision on Thursday will probably quicken the pace of copy-cat laws. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

H-2B Visas -- Human Trafficing?

A group of ironworkers from India, employed by Signal International of Mississippi to repair oil rigs in the Gulf that were damaged by Hurricane Katrina, have charged their employer and the labor recruiters they hired of fraud and deception in bringing them into the country. They even call it "human trafficing". The workers have instituted law suits and have asked the Justice Department to initiate a criminal investigation.

The Indian workers had been recruited with promises of "green cards" that would have afforded them residency and the right to bring in immediate family. All were experienced in temporary labor in other countries, but the promises of the labor recruiters drew them to the U.S. They entered on H-2B visas that bound them to Signal and were only temporary. Also they claimed to have had their movements constricted and were put up in inadequate housing.

The workers are currently on a hunger strike in Washington, D.C. and the Justice Department has announced an investigate. Signal Industries and the labor recruiters have denied all, though the company claims now to have been as deceived by the recruiters as the workers. (See NY Times article.)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Big Job Lasses Among Latinos

The Pew Hispanic Center just released a report on the growing unemployment among Latinos. The loss is especially sharp among immigrants and in the housing construction. The study further documents a slow down in migration.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention just released its annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey. It indicates that white and black teens are more cautious, but that Hispanics still live on the edge. This is demographically important because the Hispanic teen population -- as with general Hispanic population -- is growing faster than white or black. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Great Immigration Panic Of The Early 2000s

The NY Times in a hard-hitting editorial denounced the U.S. drift to "restrictionism" -- the attitude "that illegal immigrants deserve no rights, mercy or hope." Even the presidential candidates, supposedly more open to finding a fair solution to the problem, are focusing on "secure borders" (McCain) or are disappointedly mute (Obama and Clinton). The stepped up enforcement -- the raids, charging the undocumented with criminal offenses -- is the obvious sign, but it extends as well to the clogged channels of legal migration. The Times feels there has generally been "something pragmatic and welcoming at the American core" that is now being "eclipsed, or is slipping away'. But polls indicate that not entirely true. Only political nerve seems to be failing our candidates who have either are veering toward restrictionism or have fallen silent before it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Operation Streamline -- Charging Bordercrossers With Crimes

For the last year Homeland Security has been charging illegal border crossers with crimes such as using someone else's Social Security numbered. Lately it, along with the Justice Department, has proclaimed it a success. The intent is not to charge every one crossing the border illegally with a crime, but enough to send a message. The program has been reserved for areas with less traffic, though recently it was used in Iowa (See post for May 24, 2008). Homeland Security attributes a decline in apprehensions at the border as a sign that the message is getting through. Migrants are thinking twice, since an illegal crossing might end in doing time in prison before deportation and having a criminal record that will cut off every chance of legal entry. Critics argue ithis approach is like going after a mouse with an elephant gun. Precious and limited resources are being diverted from pursing serious crimes, and courts and jails are needlessly being clogged. Even some on the border complain normal enforcement might collapse under the strain of extending the program. (See Washington Post article.)