Sunday, August 31, 2008

Black and Hispanic Divide in Mississippi

The recent raid by ICE of an electronics factory in Laurel, MS, had all the ear-marks of previous raids, but it also uncovered an underlying tension between black and Hispanic workers. The LA Times reports that black co-workers applauded as ICE agents hauled Latino workers away. The Hispanic population of Laurel has grown rapidly. These tensions are basically over jobs. Hispanics seem to be preferred to black, and American-born workers feel they have kept wages low at Howard Industries. The Times article goes on to speculate that such raids will decline in Obama administration, though it is doubtful what would happen under McCain.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mississippi Raid Opens New Debate on E-Verify

The Mississippi electronics plant that was raided by ICE recently, netting over 400 for deportation, has complained that it has followed the law by passing its new hires by a E-Verify check.It claims not hire undocumented workers. Whether that is true or not may be besides the point. The E-Verify system is a check of a prospective hire with the Social Security Administration. Some critics argue that the system is replete with error and can cause an injustice to legal workers. Other, more cynically, dismiss as an opportunity to peddle fake Social Security cards. Congress must reauthorize the program by the end of October. The House has done so overwhelmingly, but has added some restrictions. The Senate has yet to act. (See Washington Post article.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ICE Raids Mississippi Plant

ICE raided an electronics manufacturing plant in Mississippi, detaining more than 350 workers. It is not clear yet if ICE will process the worker swiftly much as they did after the Postville, Ia, raid. Nor is it clear they will charge identity-theft, a felony charge. (See NY Times article.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kosher Debate

The ICE raid on Agriprocessors, Inc."s kosher meat-packing plant in Postville, IA, has set off a debate between Conservative and Orthodox Jewish organizations on the ethics of the plants treatment of workers. Already federal and state agencies have cited the plant for violations of child labor, wage and hour, and safety laws. Agriprocessors has not acknowledge any wrong-doing, but has changed policy and practices to compile with immigration and labor laws. Conservative rabbis had joined the demonstration in July, asking for food processing that followed not just kosher rules but also justice. Many Orthodox have since rabbis rallied to Agriprocessors side, toured the plant recently and found it "kosher". (See NY Times article.)

The debate within the Jewish community points up to a larger issue in the plight of the undocumented -- exploitation. The Postville raid, along with the herding of the detained into a stock yard and a swift processing of the undocumented workers as felons, is only most egregious injustice. Just as painful is the fear the families of the undocumented have to live with and the exploitation workers must accept to find work and avoid detection. Postville -- at least prior to the raid -- was a good example of such -- workers under-aged, unpaid overtime, neglect of safety regulations. As we approach Labor Day, the plight of the undocumented seems to mirror more and more the struggles of earlier generations of immigrants in the workplace. More than one observer has referred to Postille as "The Jungle revisited", recalling Upton Sinclair's novel about the shocking conditions of workers in the Chicago stock yards.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

R.I. Bishop on Conscientious Objection in ICE Raids

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, wrote the regional office of ICE asking for an end to the raids and to allow ICE agents to opt out of participating. R.I. is more than half Catholic, including a governor who recently instructed state law enforcement to turn in the undocumented to ICE. The bishop presents a moral choice to ICE agents in the sweeping raids, but not in pursuit of alien felons. (See AP article.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ICE Sued over Health Care

The bunk-mate of a Chinese detainee, who died in custody of ICE and whose case is being investigated by the House Judiciary Committee, is suing Home Land Security and the companies contracted by it to hold detainees for deportation. (See NY Times article.) Marino De Los Santos, a Dominican facing deportation for drug activities, was in the bunk below Hui Liu Ng till the pain from what turned out to be cancer became so excruciating for him to get in the upper bunk that they had to swap places. De Los Santos also suffered from back pains, and like Ng had his complaints dismissed as faking and like Ng was denied use of a wheel chair. (See posting for August 13, 2008.) Now De Los Santos is suing in federal court in Providence, RI.

The virtual fence being planned for the Mexican-Arizona border has been put on hold indefinitely because the Interior Department refuses to accept the environmental impact statement sent to it by Homeland Security. Permission has been asked to place much of the surveillance infrastructure (towers, sensors, et al) on government lands mangered by Interior. See Arizona Republic article.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mexican Births and the U.S. Population

The Census Bureau reported Monday that what growth the U.S. has in population is due largely to immigration and the birth rate of Mexican women. (See Arizona Republic article.) Together with its earlier projection of population growth (See posting for August 14, 2008.), this report underscores the strategic significance of the growth of the Hispanic population. As non-Hispanic whites age, they will become more dependent on support of a Social Security system that is propped up on the labor of an Hispanic workforce.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Border Governors Call for Curbs on Guns to Mexico

A joint meeting of the U.S. and Mexican border governors met in Los Angeles. The Mexicans spoke desperately about the flow of guns from the U.S. to drug cartels in their states, feeding a vicious drug war. (See blog for August 10, 2008.) Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department is on the case and assured the governors that it will make greater efforts to infiltrate the smuggling organizations for better intelligence. Not mentioned is any curbs on gun dealers and gun shows in the U.S. Perhaps Homeland Security should also infiltrate the NRA. (See NY Times aticle,)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Browning of the U.S. Accelerated

The U.S Bureau of the Census released a demographic report projecting that the current n0n-Hispanic white population of the U.S. (now 66%) will be transformed into a minority by 2042. It had previously projected that this would happen after 2050. (See NY Times article.) California and Texas have already got to that point. The speed up of the day minorities -- Hispanic whites, Asians, blacks, Native-American, Pacific Islanders, and mixed-race -- become the majority will be due mostly to continued immigration and the birth-rate of Hispanics. Currently there are 47 million Hispanics in the U.S., but by 2050 the Census Bureau expects 133 million. The U.S. will have grown to more than 400 million, making Hispanic around a third of the population. Demographic projections is no an exact science, since cultural attitudes and public policy can make a difference. Still the report comes as a jolt. Already nativist groups are calling for an end to immigration. The immigrtion debate after the elections will reflect the new projections.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Death of Chinese Immigrant Revives Concern for Health Care at Detention Centers

The death of a Chinese immigrant while awaiting deportation hearings has revived concern as to how quickly and thoroughly authorities respond to the health needs of detainees. The man complained of back pains, but ICE and his keepers felt he was faking. He had appealed his deportation. Yet while in excruciating and growing pain, ICE pressured him to drop his appeals and submit to deportation. Finally a federal judge ordered the man be taken to a hospital where terminal cancer was diagnosed. Even then ICE delayed family visits. The case is added to earlier revelations of needless deaths while in ICE hands (See posting for July 3, 2008) that is spurring a congressional investigation. (See NY Times article.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The U.S.-Mexico Border: A Iron River of Guns

While U.S. politicians focus on the flow of immigrants and drugs across our southern border, Mexican law-enforcement officials complain about the guns coming the other way. While the U.S. provides 16,000 Border Patrol agents, it has only 100 or so Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents to check the reverse flow of guns south. These guns ended up in the hands of the drug cartels, are often superior to what the Mexican police or army have, and are responsible for more than 4,000 violent deaths in the drug wars. In the border states -- where the National Rifle Association jealously protects gun-dealing -- there are more gun dealers than federal ATF agents. Only California provides any stiff state enforcement. In the other states, especially Texas and Arizona, the gun culture reigns supreme. Beside it makes for a tidy profit as Mexicans flock to gun shows, where sophisticated weaponry can be easily -- thanks to the NRA vigilance. Mexico has consistently asked the U.S. to stem the flow of guns. Its appeals are getting desperate as the cartel goons out-gun and out-shoot the federales. (See LA Times article.)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Postville Convictions Were Scripted

The quick justice to undocumented immigrants rounded up in the Postville, IA, raids (See post for June 24 and August1, 2008.) seems to have been scripted beforehand by the Justice Department with the approval of the chief judge and federal prosecutor in Iowa. It was supposedly to assist defense lawyers prepare their cases -- so says the Justice Department. Critics, however, suspect the script -- a series of documents and possible scenarios -- was meant more to wring out guilty pleas to criminal charges. An ACLU attorney characterized the process as leading to "fast-track guilty pleas". A congressional subcommittee is investigating with prospects of hearings. While some attorneys were not upset with the script and found it helpful, others smell collusion between judge and prosecutors. (See NY Times article.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Labor Department Goes After Postville, IA, Employer

Among the demonstrators protesting the ICE raids at Postville. IA, (See posting for July 28, 2008) were a few Jewish rabbis and labor activists equally protesting how the employers generally treated their workers. The Labor Department has finally gotten around to charging the kosher meat plant, Agriprocessors Inc., with hiring under-aged workers. (See NY Times article.) The charges only point up that undocumented workers are vulnerable not only to deportation, but also to exploitation by employers who trade on their uncertain status.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

US Hospitals Repatriate Ill and Injured Aliens

A little known practice of some U.S. hospitals is to repatriate seriously injured and ill immigrants with whom they are stuck because nursing homes will not take them off their hands for long-term care. It's all a matter of cost -- cheaper to pack them into an ambulance plane and ship them back home. There is supposedly an after-care plan. Whether that's followed or not is no longer the hospital's concern. These repatriations are done without the involvement of ICE and apply to legal and undocumented immigrants. Only American citizens qualify for long-term care under Medicaid, though the hospitals are required by federal law to provide for after-care. Some critics have called this "international patient dumping" -- similar to the practice that outraged the country a decade or so ago, of loading an uninsured patient in an ambulance and sending him off to another hospital. There is no federal agency overseeing the practice. The New York Times has published an in-depth article on medical repatriations along with case studies. Perhaps this will alert the Congress, at least to hold hearings.


The death of a undocumented Mexican in a street fight has stirred the small town of Shenandoah, Pa. The old coal-mining town was built by European, and for the most part Catholic immigrants. The tension that affected Hazleton, Pa, earlier this year seems to have spread through central Pennsylvania where the Hispanic population has grown recently. National Hispanics organizations do not view the incident as isolated and call it as a "hate crime". Local officials were stunned by the death, but have begun to hear of earlier incidents in the newly arrived Hispanic community. (See NY Times article.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

ICE Goes After Legal Immigrants

Last year Immigration and Custom Enforcement deported more than 270, 000. In that number there were 95,752 "criminal aliens" -- not all of them undocumented and not all of them murders, gang-bangers, felons. Some were here legally and some were subject to deportation for relatively -- no, ridiculously -- minor misdemeanors. One man faces deportation for walking out of a grocery store with the pen he used to sign a check. His charge: theft of a thirty-cent pen. Still a 1997 law meant to get tough with alien criminals is now being interpreted at such extremes by ICE -- usually as the immigrant returns to the States. Often people who have lived in this country for years peacefully are caught for some minor discretion, and some have even paid penalties for their crimes. Yet they face exclusion from this country. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Justice Department's Conduct at Postville, IA, Challenged

The Justice Department's swift prosecution of undocumented workers at Postville, IA, has been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union as a denial of basic rights of the immigrants. It seems the department prepared and distributed a manual that scripted a process for quick prosecution -- even to how the judge would respond to questions. (See LA Times article.)

The New Times editorially raised another unfairness in the Postville incident -- that the Bush administration had dragged its feet on workers' complaints of safety and labor violations at the raided plant while swiftly moving against the undocumented workers. Some Jewish activists that joined the protest at Postville (See posting for July 28, 2006.) have come to call the plant "a kosher Jungle" after Upton Sinclair's description of the Chicago stock yards a hundred years ago.