Monday, August 31, 2009

The Elderly Immigrant

The fastest growing segment of the immigrant population are seniors. They make up more than a tenth of the immigrant population. Not many of them are undocumented, save for those who have come earlier and have aged here. Most have come legally, brought here by children for family unification. They have made a lesser impression on the public than young immigrants who may be sucked into gangs or who overcrowded schools. But attention is now turning to their problems. (See New York Times article.) Older immigrants often come unprepared for the new society. They do not know the language and lack skills -- like driving -- needed in an urban society. They often have a self-imposed isolation or live in "ethnoburbs" . As a consequence many are suffering from loneliness and depression. Since they have limited access to health care and social services, many of their physical and mental ailments go untracked and unmet.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Letter to Obama about the 287(g) program

Homeland Security has promoted the "Secure Communities" initiative that supposedly focuses enforcement on the criminal and fugitive element of the undocumented population. One part of that is the 287(g) program that promotes cooperation between ICE and local police. More than 500 civil-rights, immigrant advocates, religious and labor groups have signed on to a letter to President Barack Obama protesting the recent expansion of the program. The basic objections are that the program will lead to racial profiling and that it has not been restricted to ferreting out the dangerous criminals. Many have been deported for minor offenses under the program. Many also question the competence of local police to enforce immigration law and the abuses of the past. The Arizona Republic brings up the criticism of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County Office as the worse offender. Meanwhile Los Angeles County, which is thinking seriously about demanding E-verify for all its contractors, will now begin to send the files of all inmates to ICE to verify their status. Ironically, ICE complains that it's not ready to take that number of referral's. (See Los Angeles Times article.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Los Angeles County Government Contemplates E-Verify

Los Angeles County, which has responsibility for schools, hospitals, jails, roads, records and much more, has enormous economic power in letting contracts for services. Now the County Supervisors have voted to explore adapting the use of E-verify to require contractors to vouch for the legality of their employees. The federal government is making this a requirement for its contractors, as does six states. Immigrant advocates and labor leaders oppose the use of the system. It was created by the Social Security Administration for other reasons but is used to verify the status of workers. If there is a "no match" -- i.e., if the worker's Social Security number does not match the administration's records -- then the employer will have to dismiss the worker. The program is currently voluntary, but being made compulsory with immigration reform. LA County will be one of the largest public jurisdictions to require verification, if it's adopted. The system has been unreliable and has created a number of court challenges. The Obama administration claims to be perfecting the system. The county is only studying the possibility and will later act on a recommendation. (See Los Aneles Times article.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ICE Begins to Fly Detainees to Mexico City

Over the last six years, ICE has been repatriating undocumented aliens deep into Mexico as a way to get them away from the border and discourage them from going to the coyotes to try re-entry. They are flown ro Mexico City and then buses to their home villages. There are two daily flights from Tucson, carrying 150 each. (See Washington Post article.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Washington Post on ICE's Clean-up of Detention Centers

The Washington Post editorially welcomed many of the changes initiated by the Department of Homeland Security in how it held aliens for deportation in detention centers. But the paper joined immigrant advocates to deplore the unwillingness of ICE to release new mandatory regulations.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Impatience Grows Among Immigration Advocates

Notwithstanding a surprise appearance of President Barack Obama and Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano at the White House with advocates of comprehensive immigration reform, many came away disheartened by hints that reform may take as long as two years. They were grateful by the president's reaffirmation of his commitment and also at the reduction in household raids. But many advocates, especially Hispanic, were upset by the stepped up workplace enforcement and Homeland Security's reluctance to issue new rules for detention centers and on quotas in its fugitive operations. Some even warned that further delay may lead to an electoral backlash in 2010. (See Los Angeles Times article.)

HBO will air a documentary -- Which Way Home -- following the journey of a 9 year-old Honduran boy illegally into the U.S. in search of his parents. In Chicago the program airs at 9 pm on Monday, August 24, and probably will be rebroadcasted a number of times during the week. Consult local TV guides or HBO station for the times. (See the Los Angeles Times article.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

ICE Drops Quotas in Fugitive Operations

The Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that the agency's "fugitive operations" will not set "quotas" in its apprehensions. The program, which grew since 2003 with eight teams and $9 Million budget to 104 teams with $225 million, was intended to track down criminals and those who defied a deportation order. With Bush administration's stept-up enforcement, pressure was put on teams to make more arrests. In some regions that pressure led supervisors to set "quotas" and the arrests skyrocketed. According to a study of the Migration Policy Institute, 73% of those apprehended had no criminal records. Agents who enter a house or apartment in search of an individual would leave with whomever they suspected of being undocumented. The suspicion was that the agents were under orders to meet the quotas. (See Los Angeles Times article.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care Reform and the Undocumented

The debate on health care reform has rarely touched on the undocumented, though it is a live issue in the southwest border states. But even there the issue is old, raised because of their already burdened emergency rooms. The undocumented cannot be denied help in the emergency room, though they do not qualify for Medicaid. Often costs then are shifted to the community tax base with miserly reimbursement from the federal government, or are subsidized by other patients. On top of that, emergency room care is more expensive. Still one of the House bills (HR 3200) expressly denies any tax-payer funds to buy health coverages for the undocumented on the insurance exchanges the bill sets up. A debate could be raised from the public health perspective of extending some basic services to the undocumented. But if "death panels" and "public options" have raise a public outcry to irrational levels, extending health insurance to the undocumented would drown out all other discussion. An L.A. Times editorial suggests that the issue be kept out of the current debate, but must be raised again in comprehensive immigration reform

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Lawyers Prey on the Undocumented

Immigrants are susceptible to legal scams in seeking green cards and work permits. We often warn them that a "notary" does not have the same powers and function in the U.S. as a "notario" has in Mexico. If they have immigration problems, they should consult a "lawyer" or "abegado". Now. however, lawyers are joining in the scams, taking money from desperate families with promises of getting a green card or temporary work papers (H-2B visa). Not only do they fail to produce, sometimes they even get their client deported. (See New York Times article.) One lawyer in Salt Lake City is being charged by the Justice Department with having files fraudulently for 5,000 H-2B visas. As many as 300 lawyers have been suspended from pleading in immigration courts. This also creates problems for other immigration lawyers in cleaning up the mess afterward. The situation is also undermining the trust that should exist between lawyer and client.

The Los Angeles Times editorially has sided with critics of the ICE's detention centers and deplored Obama's Homeland Security in continuing most of the Bush administrations policies. It would have preferred new binding standards to redress the deplorable conditions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Napolitano Talks Tough on Immigration

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, in a speech at University of Texas, El Paso, defended the enforcement policies of the Obama administration and claimed the result were more effective than the Bush administration's. "Make no mistake," she asserted, "our overall approach is very, very different. It is more strategic, more cooperative, more multilateral and, in the long run, more effective." To underscore her point about effectiveness, the secretary noted that, already this year, ICE has arrested 181,000 undocumented and deported 250,000 -- twice as much as in 2007. She also claims that ICE isn't going after those who have not broken any other laws. Immigration advocates were disappointed and noted that Secretary Napolitano was defending and utilizing laws and practices both she and the president had previously claimed were "broken". All she is doing is prolonging human misery and should be pressing forward on comprehensive reform. (See New York Times article.)

Not just Sheriff Joe Apraio has problems with the feds. The Maticopa County (Phoenix) Board of Supervisors must answered to the U,S. Department of Justice about a complaint that the county does not provide translators at public meetings in violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Immigration advocates want the investigation to take in all agencies of the county, especially the Sheriff's office. (See Arizona Republic article.)

The Southern Poverty Law Center has just published a report on the revival of violence-prone right-wing militias. One of militants' fantasies is fighting to save America from the wave of undocumented immigrants who are just one tool in a design to reclaim the Southwest for Mexico. Also SPLC reports on the exploitation and abuse of Hispanics throughout the south.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Undocumented and Health Care Reform

Under every scheme for health care reform, health insurance coverage to the undocumented immigrant would be denied. They will still qualify for emergency room care and in same states their children -- even those brought here illegally -- might qualify for some care. Health care advocates have made a point of informing people that the undocumented do not qualify -- even the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. They don't want to jeopardize passage of health care reform. The nativist groups otherwise would be quick to pounce on the issue. NumbersUSA claims any inclusion of the undocumented would be incentive to sick Mexicans and Chinese to storm the U.S. border in search of care. But excluding the undocumented, however politically astute, is medically folly. Disease knows no borders. At least some diseases have to be monitored. Doing that through emergency rooms is going to create its own set of burdens, especially in California and the Southwest. The Los Angeles Times tells the story of one undocumented youth who manages to get some care in Chicago for his kidney ailment. It also tells of the plight of other immigrants dealing with serious health problems for whom returning to Mexico is no realistic option.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Corruption Grow on the U.S.-Mexican Border

The Associated Press reported that, just as law enforcement has grown rapidly to stem the traffic of humans, drugs and contraband across the U.S.-Mexican border, the arrest of local police, border patrol and custom officials for corruption has grown just as fast. Long suspected that border officials have look the other way -- even Mexico's President Felipe Calderon complains about it-- corruption is now a real hindrance to stepped up enforcement. Immigration advocates had warned that the rapid build up, especially of the Border Patrol, will create its own set of problems and not help the situation on the border.

President Barack Obama, meeting in a North American summit with the President of Mexico and Premier of Canada. said that immigration reform must wait till his administration and Congress have dealt with other priorities -- especially health care and climate change. (See New York Times article.)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mercy Sisters Minister to Detainees

I have known Mercy Srs. JoAnne Persch and Pat Murphy for over twenty years and admired their dedication and hard work for refugees and immigrants. They started Su Casa as a refuge for Salvadoreans fleeing the dirty war in their homelands and more recently have rallied the religious community to the plight of the deportees and detainees around Chicago. Their hard work paid off recently when the Illinois legislature passed legislation that allowed religious ministers access to state facilities that house detainees for ICE. Now JoAnne and Pat regularly visit McHenry County Jail, the largest dentention center in Illinois. (Cook County does not have a detention agreement with ICE.) At ICE's Broadview center in the western suburbs of Chicago, the sisters have been denied the same access. But they publicized the plight of the deportees by holding a prayer service each Friday morning at the gate of the center. Bus loads of deportees hear the refrains of the rosary as they're moved to catch their planes. (See Chicago Tribune article.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Homeland Security's Detention Reforms

The New York Times editorially welcomes the revision of the detention system for immigrants facing deportation. Still Homeland Security has taken only a first step to revise a Rube Goldberg contraption of abuse to the personal dignity of immigrants who are not criminal. Time will only tell how effective the reforms will be. The advisory role of community organizations and immigrant advocates must be more than window-dressing. Some of the abuses -- especially the treatment of minors at the soon-to-be-closed the T. Don Hutto Residential Center near Austin -- has schocked the nation.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Plans to Revamp Detension Centers

Homeland Security (DHS) will embark on a revamping of the network of detention centers for immigrant about to be deported. It will review the current contracts it has with local jails and private prisons and may create its own centers. It is looking to house more suitably noncriminals to be deported. As an indication of its seriousness, DHS will close the infamous T. Don Hutto Residential Center near Austin, TX, that had created a stir because of its abuses of children detained with their mothers. To facilitate the make-over, it will create a new office -- Office of Detention Policy and Planning -- which will have two advisory boards of experts and immigrant advocates. The current Office of Detention Oversight that directs the program will also be revamped. Immigrant advocates welcome the closing of Hutto, but are still cautious about the rest of the remake. (See New York Times article.)


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional the Legal Arizona Workers Law which imposes sanctions on employers for hiring the undocumented. It uses the same basic argument that has already been rejected by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals -- that immigration belongs to federal jurisdiction -- but adds that allowing one state the power to penalize employers on immigration would invite a thousands of others to do the same -- as it has happened. That would be bad for business. (See Arizona Republic article.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sheriff Joe Ponders Cooperation with ICE

After one of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's "criminal suppression operations", ICE refused to accept any detainees whose only "crime" was being in the country illegally. That has given pause to "America's toughest sheriff" -- not because he is getting soft on the undocumented -- and he has now 9o days to reflect on his cooperation with ICE. He defends his sweeps, not just for rounding up the undocumented alien, but because he has caught other criminals. They have netted over 550, less than half have been undocumented. Still, if the restriction now demanded by ICE were in effect, 150 of those picked up would have had to be released. Immigration advocates had criticized the sweeps as racial profiling. Most have happened in highly Hispanic neighborhoods and cars stopped generally carried Hispanics. The sheriff's office claims to have strict policies against profiling and had warned deputies, but anecdotal evidence charges that deputies do it nonetheless. Also many in the community charge that the sweeps only feed Sheriff Joe's appetite for publicity and are needlessly expensive. Other programs are more effective and less costly in identifing and detaining the undocumented. still, even if Sheriff Joe drops his cooperation with ICE because of the new restrictions, newly enacted state laws give him ample opportunity to pursue the undocumented and headlines. (See New Republic article.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Obama Disappoints on Immigration

The many Hispanics that voted for Barack Obama anticipated as president he would move quickly to propose an immigration overhaul that would provide a legalization process. They have been disappointed that the economy, global warming and health care reform pushed immigration back in his agenda. But the administrative moves he has made are also disappointing. His stress has been as much on enforcement as the Bush administration in an attempt to convince the American public that he will not condone violations of the law. While he has cut down on ICE plant raids, Obama in other way has not only continues, but actually accelerated nefarious Bush policies. In April of this year, for example, the number of federal criminal prosecutions has increased by a third. Homeland Security has continued to favor the flawed E-verify system -- checking of employees' Social Security numbers in which "no-matches" will lead to dismissal. The administration has asked for more money to "perfect the system" and now requires it of all private contractors doing business with the government. Rather than wrapping up its 287(g) program that promotes collaboration between ICE and local police -- which Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano knows first-hand is much abused by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- it is expanding. ICE still gets reports from local jails on the immigration status of all prisoners -- even those brought in solely for DUI. Napolitano justifies "expanding enforcement" because now it's being done "in the right way".

President Obama himself is not taking the heat from immigration activists. They do recognize that other issues take priority on his legislative agenda and seem satisfied that he will take up immigration before the new year. Much of their disappointment has transferred to Janet Napolitano. Apparently, the adminstratioin has convinced itself that it can't look soft on illegal immigration. Senator Chrles Schumer (D, NY)' who will lead writing the new bill, approves of the direction of enforcement and would extend E-verification to an universal ID card for all workers. Even he counsels his Democratic colleagues to drop the euphemism "undocumented" for "illegal". As for the GOP, it does seem impressed by Obama's recent moves. Senator John McCain (R, AZ) threatens to sit out the debate unless the administration pursues this strong enforcement policy. So the fight for comprehensive reform may split much as the health care reform has shaped up -- nay-saying from most Republicans and timidity from many Democrats. The Blue Dogs in the House have as many problems with the national party on immigration as it does on health care. (See New York Times article.)

An immigrant's trip to the U.S. from Mexico or Guatemala without papers has always been perolous. Now that drug related gangs are pushing into the turf of the coyotes and supplementing lost drug income with people trafficking, the trip is becoming even more dangerous. Often a successful crossing ends in being held hostage in Phoenix, or LA, or Compton. (see Los Angeles Times article.)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"Toxic Remnant" of the Bush Administration's Immigration Raids

The system of detention for the undocumented created by George Bush's get-tough immigration enforcement is still with us. The Rube Goldberg network of federal, local and private detention centers has long been faulted for abuses of the rights of detainees. Yet under the Obama administration the American gulag still holds as many as 30,000 any given day. The New York Times editorially denounced the system as a "toxic remnant" of Bush's "war" on the immigrant. When the National Immigration Law Center released a summation of the complaints against the detention centers -- A Broken System -- Homeland Security the next day refused to upgrade its rules for inspection to rid the system of abuses. The Times urges the Obama administration to get moving on the issue. Still the only final solution is to dismantle the American gulag through comprehensive reform, But a lot can be done administratively to relieve the hardships of detainees -- who after all are not criminals.