Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hint to Obama Administration on Immigation -- Haitian Deportations

Haiti was hit hard by hurricanes and mud slides and much of the country is still devastated. After ICE had rounded up 30,000 Haitian immigrants, as a humanitarian gesture, the Bush administration had suspended deportations in September. In December it reinstated them and passed the problem on to the Obama administration. Currently, Homelamd Secretary Janet Napolitano has the decision under review. How she decides on the Haitian case will tell us much about Obama's immigration leanings, especially on continued deportations and factory raids. (See New York Times article.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Undocumented College Graduate

The lot of the college graduate -- perhaps brought to this country in the early years, yet went through public schools and graduated from college -- is turning out to be no better than less educated undocumented workers in the ever tightening U.S. job market. The crack down by ICE has extended to the engineering firm as well as the factory door. Often college grads find greater utility in counterfeited documents bought off the street than a college diploma. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Illegal Migration -- Southward

The drug wars along the U.S.-Mexican border are fueled by guns from the north. With the current crack down by the Mexican federal government, the traffic in guns has quicken and has been dealing in more lethal weaponry. The tolerant U.S. and state gun laws has made it easy to purchase military quality guns and smuggle them into Mexico. There are 6,600 gun dealers along the border. They do not have to report the sale of a high-caliber weapon to the government and can sell to anyone with little documentation. Mexican law is much stricter. So it's easier the purchase weaponry in Arizona or Texas through a straw buyer and move them two or three at a time across the border in cars. At the border they are invariably waved in with inspection. Now that the drug cartel violence is sipping across the border, state and federal agencies are addressing the question more vigorously. Only the undocumented migrant is often caught in the middle. (See New York Times article.)

The Supreme Court heard arguments on the case of an East Moline, IL, steelwork who was charge with aggravated identity theft to cover his undocumented status. (See posting for Feb. 25, 2009.) The justices seemed to hear the governments argument with skepticism. The steelwork did not know that the counterfeit documentation he used had the Social Security number belonging to someone else. The decision which will come down in June will probably turn on the word "knowingly". (See Los Angeles Times or New York Times article.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ICE's Identity Theft Tactics Go Before the Supreme Court

Today the Supreme Court hears arguments on a case of an undocumented steelworker from East Moline, IL. He is charged with "aggravated identity theft". Having admitted guilty to illegal entry into the country and using false documents, he was sentenced to prison, but the court added two years for identity theft. The federal appeals court in St. Louis found for the government, and so the appeal. The identity theft law was written to protect people from having their identities used by others for gain. In this case there is no evidence that anyone was victimized for gain. The steelworker bought false identification that used a real Social Security number. He didn't know it was the number of a real person. The previous identity he used was fictitious. The New York Times argued ICE uses the threat of prosecution for identity theft to get workers rounded up in raids to accept deportation docilely. The Times calls it "unequal justice".

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D., IL) believes that marches and rallies are no longer the best strategy to gaining comprehensive immigration reform. He suggests that the tragic stories of many immigrant families be simply told, hoping it will stir the nation's conscience. The division of families, especially where some are undocumented and others legally here or even American citizens, is creating untold hardship. Parents are being separated from children. Nativists respond by denying citizenship to the children of the undocumented born here. The lack of compassion that attitude and current enforcement policy show convinces Gutierrez and the Latino Congressional Caucus to appeal to the nation's sense of fairness and moral principles. A campaign, already tested in Chicago and New York, will present the cases of split families in churches to focus on the suffering families "in a biblical, more perspective" -- or showing the problems our immigration laws create for families "with a human face." The National Family Unity Campaign has another event in Providence, RI, and then moves on to sixteen other cities. Legal members will send petitions for those in family who face deportation to President Barack Obama and to Congress. (See Washington Post article.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mexican Drug Wars Cross Border to Arizona

The violence of the Mexican drug wars has spilled over the border, shaking Arizona law enforcement and hardening their attitude to undocumented immigrants. The drug cartels have long before had connections to US cities, but the recent crackdown by Mexican authorities has lead them to intensified their networking. Kidnappings, exploitation migrants and even killings are increasing. But the trafficking is not only northward. From the U.S. there's the flood of weapons and cash to furl the wars of Juarez and Tiajuana. Pick up guns, with few restrictions on the caliber, at gun shows in states with a passion for bigger and deadlier "hunting rifles" is ridiculously easy. All that's needed is a "straw purchaser". The weapons find their way south, and soon the drug gang easily outgun the police. Now even gun-loving politicians in borders states are opening up to some restraints. But immigrants sneaking across the border are caught in the middle between the drug lords, who will use them as mules or profit from smuggling them, and hard-line and nativist politicians, who depict them has part of a harden criminal element. (See Arizona Republic or New York Times articles.)

John Morton, a career prosecutor in the Justice Department's Criminal Division, was nominated to head Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement. During the Bush years he had a hand in formulating immigration enforcement policy. His appointment must be confirmed by the senate, where he'll be quizzed on enforcement policy. But on a more positive note, Homeland Secretary Janel Napolitano has appointed Esther Olivarria to be deputy assistant secretary for policy. She is a more sympathetic voice for immigration reform. (See Washington Post article.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Lowest Rung on the Immigrant Ladder: Sheepherders in the West

Probably the worst conditions of immigrants in the U.S. are South Americans brought in legally as H-2A temporary workers to herd sheep in the West -- known as "borrequeros". Even undocumented field hands in the Central Valley of California have better pay, living and work conditions and treatment from employers. And that's not very good! Those recruited for herdding -- roughly 1,500 -- suffer isolation as well as poor working conditions and long hours. Basques use to be recruited for this lonely work, but as prosperity blessed the Basque country ranchers turn to Chile and Peru. The pay is generally better -- for what that is worth -- then back home. But the work conditions are unconscionable. The shepherd tends the flocks -- in the hundreds and thousands -- alone and for 24/7. They live is small huts called "campitos" with no running water, toilets, electrify and minimal heat. The winters are arctic and the summers stifling. Food easily freezes or spoils. The program that allows ranchers to recruit the borregueros is not efficiently run nor carefully supervised. The workers are not included in federal protections as regard to hours and wages. Their visas do not allow them to change jobs or employers. They are virtually held in bondage. Advocacy groups in the Western states are trying to improve the working conditions of borrequeros through state legislation. Ranchers, arguing that the the sheep-raising industry has declined drastically in the last few decades, see any improvements as a death knell. (See New York Times article.)

The New York Times has editorially charged the Immigration and Customs Enforcement of Hoimeland Security with "bad" enforcement of the country's immigration laws. They should have used stronger terms like "jug headed", "wasteful", "inhuman", "cruel" or even "masochistic". Aside from the foolishness -- even corruption -- of the "enforcement first" strategy, it's not working. The desperate still come. But The Times, musing on recent reports, argues that the policy is bankrupt. The Pew Hispanic Center (see posting for Feb. 18) reported that federal jails are filling up with Latinos, most of whom are not charged with crimes or are so charged as pretext to moving them quickly out of the country. Even enforcement is not honest, since the The Times notes the reports that ICE supervisors -- seemingly under pressure from the White House -- had a "quota system" for rounding up the undocumented. The money being was suppose to be used to apprehend "alien fugitives"or criminal aliens. Being this country without proper documentation is still not a crime.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Wednesday of the case of an East Moline, IL, man charged with identity theft. He's an undocumented Mexican steel-worker who used the Social Security number of a real person to get work. He was charged with identity theft which can lead to a two-year prison term. ICE uses the threat of the charge to get undocumented workers rounded up in factory raids to submit quietly to deportation. The East Moline worker had lost in lower courts and it now appealing to the Supreme Court. He is basically challenging ICE's application of the law -- not enacted specifically for immigration cases -- and claiming he did not know the number belong to a real person. Previously he had used a totally fictitious number. (See Washington Post article.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Census Bureau Profiles the Immigrant

The U.S. Census Bureau released a profile of the immigrant population in 2007. As expected, Mexicans were the largest group at 31% and all Latin Americans made up a majority at 54%. The Indians had the best education, while Somalis the least and the highest poverty level (51%). The Dutch and Irish has the lowest poverty rate (2%). (See New York Times article.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sharp Increase of Hispanic Convicts

The Pew Hispanic Center has just release a study of Hispanics and federal crime. The numbers of Latinos in federal prisons or held for the feds in state and local jails amount to 40% of all such convicts. The population in federal imprisonment has doubled over the last two decades, but Latino detention has quadrupled. And this for an obvious reason -- the stepped up enforcement of immigration law by focusing on crimes like identity theft. Of the Hispanic prisoners 48% are held for immigration violations. Critics of the government's strategy argue that in criminalizing undocumented immigration the nation is turning from real crime fighting. The New York Times had previously reported that fighting crimes like smuggling of guns and drugs has suffered while offenses associated with unauthorized immigration has sored.

Monday, February 16, 2009

New Threat to the Undocumented: Muggings

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina came an inundation of day laborers to rebuild New Orleans. Many, if not most, were undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. Welcomed at first and still essential for building the city, they now have to dodge payday muggers as well as ICE. Since the day laborers are often paid in cash and carrying it in their pockets at the end of the day, they make for easy targets in the empty parking lots of Home Depot or Lowe's in the early evening. While the NOPD has a campaign to inform day laborers of the dangers and how to avoid them, the immigrants complain that it does not respond quickly or responds not at all. Often when the police do show up, they'll give the worker a lecture on being in the country illegally.(See New York Times article)

Friday, February 13, 2009

New York State Goes After Exploitive Employers of the Undocumented

New York's State Labor Department has agreed with some workers' advocate groups to watch the labor practices of employers for violations of wage, hour samd safety laws. The New York Times lauds the state's initiative as being a more enlightened way to the issue of employing the undocumented than the federal government's effort to drive them out by tough enforcement. The ICE threats of raids only creates fear and makes the undocumented worker even more beholden to unscrupulous employers. Immigration advocates rightly focus on deportation and family unification. Even the plight of children brought across the border illegally when they were young children have hope in the Dream Act. But ironically, the undocumented worker is entitled by law to fair and safe treatment in the workplace. Only the fear of deportation and family seperation silences their protest. The Times hopes New York State's initiative will curb workers' exploitation and be picked up by other states.

Rep. John Conyers (D. MI), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has written to the Justice Department and Homeland Security Department to investigate Sheriff Joe Arpaio's treatment of Hispanic immigrants in Maricopa Couty, AZ. (See Arizona Republic article.)

The Inspector Generral's office of Homeland Security reported to Congress that since 1999 2.2 million removals of immigrants by INS and ICE. A hundred thousands of these had children, (see Washington Post article.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

A Dysfunctional Homeland Security

Former commissioners of immigration in the Clinton and Bush administrations looked over current functioning of the country's immigration policy and found it dysfunctional. Their report was published by the Migration Policy Institute. They also thought the prospect of comprehensive reform as promised by Barack Obama would open a can of worms in the current recession. That doesn't mean they think the administration can do nothing. They make 36 suggestions for improving the plight of the immigrant without stirring Congress -- e.g., dropping construction of the fence and turning from enforcement through workplace raids to a reliable E-Verify system. (See New York Times article.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

LA Foundation Pushes New Effort to Upgrade Latino Civic Participation

The California Community Foundation will pump $3.75 million into a program meant to improve the English and job skills of immigrants and make them better and more active citizens. Nothing particularly new. These are priorities of many Latino groups, but what is unique is the analysis and the new ideas of the initiative. (See LA Times article.) Latinos constitute about half the workforce of Los Angeles and contribute 40% of the gross domestic product. A third of all consumption is attributed to Latinos. That proportion will only grow, especially as the "baby-boomers" soon begin to retire. This transition will be crucial. The Latino workforce that will replace the retirees has so far not had the same educational and skill levels. The focus of the new initiative is to upgrade these, especially through innovative projects like Santa Ana's English language program. (See Times article.) The continued prosperity of Los Angeles will depend on success of such efforts.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sheriff Joe's Latest Publicity Stunt

Years ago Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, won the reputation of "the toughest sheriff in the country" by housing county prisoners in a tent city where they wore prison stripes and live on a baloney sandwich diet. His treatment of prisoners is under review in federal court. Now -- naturally before the TV cameras -- he has marched 200 detainees waiting for deportation into a portion of his tent city -- appropriately dressed in prison stripe and ready for a baloney taco diet. (See Arizona Republic article.) The New York Times deplored the program called 287(g) that partners ICE with local law enforcement agencies such as the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. It also is nervous that new Secretary of Homeland Security, who as governor did not come down on Sheriff Arpaio's antics because they were popular, has initiated a review of the program with an an eye to expanding it. The Obama administration is yet to get a handle on ICE policies and to curb its heavy handedness. A good place to start would be coming down on Sheriff Joe.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

ICE Fugitive Raids Deceptive

The Migration Policy Institute released a report implying that the Immigration and Custom Services has misled Congress on its "fugitive raids". An especially controversial practice, it's intent is to round up those immigrants who have ignored deportation orders. The number is more a half million. When the program was approved and funded by Congress ICE promised to go after those who were criminals or terrorists. The reality is that it scoped up more non-dangerous scofflaws than criminals. Often the raiders would make "collateral apprehensions" or pick up undocumented aliens who are not under a deportation order. The abuses of the raids had been documented anecdotally, but the MPI study went through internal administrative directives and documented that most picked up by the program were not dangerous or not under a deportation order or even here legally. (See New York Times article.)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Undocumenteds' Catch 22: Paying Taxes

Immigrant workers, even the undocumented, tend to pay their federal taxes faithfully, and the Internal Revenue Service welcomes those payments without prejudice to status. Now the IRS is getting nervous that the crack down on the undocumented will result in lost revenue. The attorney for Weld County, Colorado, is cooperating with the Justice Department's Operation Number Games to track those who use the Social Security numbers of others to file taxes. Those caught just don't get deported, but face jail time as well. (See New York Times article.)

The New York Times reports that Border Patrol agents in Riverside, California, are required by their regional superiors to meet a monthly quota in apprehending undocumented aliens. One agent is alleged to have been fired for not meeting his quota. The agents' union has formally protested. But if the practice exists in the Inland Empire, the suspicion is that it exists elsewhere.

Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, who was recently appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's senate seat, didn't have a very sympathetic record in the House of Representatives toward the undocumented. Under criticism from immigrant groups, she is beginning to sound conciliatory, seemingly favoring the Dream Act and being kinder to "Sanctuary cities" like NYC and San Francisco. The Latino state legislators who heard her remarks are still wary of a real change of attitude. (See New York Times article.)

Sunday, February 1, 2009

American Cause -- Getting Rid of the Immigrants

A group of Republicans, doing a post-mortem of the last election, argued that the party lost not because of its hostility to immigrants, but rather because it was too soft on them. Now the rallying cry for the the GOP's resurrection should be higher fences, more deportations to drive the immigrant out. The New York Times in an editorial equates this attitude to racism and argues this strategy is doom to keeping the party a perpetual minority. This group is organizing itself as "the American Cause" and, from the writings of its proponents, that cause is to keep American lily white.