Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mom Sues After State Takes Baby in Hospital Translation Horror

Mississippi state officials are accused of conspiring to take the infant of an undocumented woman in order to place the girl with a white couple, according to a lawsuit filed recently by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

Cirila Baltazar Cruz, an undocumented woman from Oaxaca who speaks neither English nor Spanish, had to fight for a year to regain custody of her infant daughter, Ruby. The lawsuit alleges that the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) deemed Cruz unfit after hospital officials were unable to communicate with her shortly after the girl was born.

Cruz speaks Chatino, an indigenous dialect that the hospital’s interpreter didn’t know. Instead, after trying to talk with Cruz, the interpreter surmised that she was prostituting herself for food and housing and was already planning to give the girl up for adoption. Cruz has said in court filings that she was trying to explain that she worked in a Chinese restaurant and lived in an apartment.

The child was then placed in the home of Wendy and Douglas Tynes, two white attorneys who were looking into adoption. The complaint alleges that MDHS officials conspired with the Tynes’ and a youth court judge. Cruz now lives with the girl in Mexico.

The suit has helped shed light on similar cases. According to the New York Daily News, immigrant rights attorneys say the problem is that federal laws govern undocumented immigrants, but their children, who are often U.S. citizens because they were born here, are under state jurisdiction.

“When they tried to take my baby away I felt that I was done wrong, and I was very angry. It was a very painful experience for me and for my baby. This is why I want other people to know, because I don’t want anyone else to go through the same experience,” Cruz said in a statement released last week by SPLC.

Monday, August 30, 2010

La post miseria| Agenda Ciudadana

Check out this interview with Marcola (the person about whom Lorenzo Meyer refers) here. It's clear that the experience of "la miseria" of huge masses of humanity coupled with governmental indifference and repression contribute to the narco-related violence that we see in Mexico and other places today.

Angela



La post miseria| Agenda Ciudadana
Por: Lorenzo Meyer
“Un criminal brasileño ofrece una explicación del narcotráfico más realista que la oficial”.


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Lorenzo Meyer

Concepto. No es común que un capo de la droga acuñe en prisión un concepto social para explicar su mundo y sus acciones, pero justamente eso es lo que hizo el brasileño Marcos William Herbas Camacho, alias Marcola: “la post miseria genera una nueva cultura asesina, ayudada por la tecnología, satélites, celulares, Internet, armas modernas. Es la mierda con chips…Mis comandos son una mutación de la especie social. Son hongos de un gran error sucio”. Post miseria resulta un concepto interesante.

Un Diagnóstico. Según lo afirmado por el procurador general de la República, la creciente ola de violencia desatada en México por el narcotráfico tiene un lado positivo. Se trata, asegura el funcionario, de una desafortunada, pero lógica manifestación de la “severa crisis” por la que atraviesan las organizaciones del narcotráfico como resultado de las acciones militares y policiacas en su contra ordenadas por el Gobierno, (Reforma, 20 de abril). Como hipótesis es válida y sobre todo, optimista. Sin embargo, no está de más explorar una explicación alternativa como la de Marcola, por precaución.

La Percepción de la Sociedad. Según una encuesta reciente, la mitad de los ciudadanos mexicanos considera que la violencia asociada al narcotráfico ya está fuera de control y 85 por ciento supone que la situación empeorará, (carta@parametria.com.mx). La alarma va en aumento y las estadísticas la avalan. Según un cálculo, en lo que va del año las “bajas por narco” superan las 800, (El Universal, 24 de abril). Lo extendido del fenómeno, su ritmo, la saña de los asesinatos y los mensajes dejados por los sicarios –desde simples cartones pegados al cuerpo de la víctima hasta videos puestos en la Red- justifican que el panorama actual y el del futuro inmediato se perciban sombríos.

Los Clásicos. Para Tomás Hobbes (1588-1679), su utilidad como protector de la vida y la propiedad de los ciudadanos es la razón de ser y justificación última del Estado. Sin la fuerza estatal, el hombre no tendría más remedio que vivir en el “Estado de naturaleza”, cuyas características centrales son la violencia generalizada y la imposibilidad de la vida civilizada. Por eso, la autoridad que falla en su obligación de proveer seguridad pierde su razón de ser.

El enfoque hobbsiano es descarnado, pero no es fácil argumentar en contra de la propuesta que ve en la fuerza la esencia del Estado. Max Weber (1864-1920) lo enunció así: “el Estado es la asociación que reclama para sí el monopolio del uso legítimo de la violencia y no puede ser definido de ninguna otra forma”. Ahora bien la formulación anterior no evita que dentro de cada estructura estatal existan actores que niegan legitimidad al orden existente y proponen un discurso alternativo, como ocurre con los revolucionarios. En contraste, la delincuencia común desde siempre ha retado al Estado y a la sociedad, pero sin justificar de manera teórica su desafío; el criminal simplemente se dedica a lo suyo y listo. Sin embargo, hay excepciones y una de ellas la encontramos en el ya citado Marcola. Las elucubraciones del capo brasileño resultan particularmente interesantes para México porque a falta de un material similar nativo, el paulista nos ofrece una vía indirecta para adentrarnos en el terrible universo mental del narco.

La Otra Explicación. En ausencia de un testimonio directo de “El Chapo” Guzmán, la entrevista con Marcola publicada en el diario O Globo en su edición del 23 de mayo de 2006, nos abre una ventana que permite atisbar e intentar comprender mejor la naturaleza del actual desafío armado al Estado mexicano y a su sociedad. Entender en qué tipo de guerra se está metiendo –nos está metiendo- el Gobierno actual en general y sus Fuerzas Armadas y su aparato de justicia en particular.

Marcola, de 35 años de edad, es un líder reconocido del mundo criminal de Sao Paulo, la principal ciudad de Brasil. Se trata, sin duda, de un personaje singular; según los datos disponibles, nació en un hogar pobre aunque no miserable. Es hijo de un boliviano y uno de sus hermanos, Gabriel, es diputado del MAS, en Bolivia. El personaje se inició en la actividad criminal a los nueve años de edad y ha pasado ya la mitad de su vida en la cárcel. En 2001, él y un centenar de presos más escaparon de prisión por un túnel, pero a diferencia de “El Chapo”, la Policía federal brasileña lo volvió a aprehender y hoy está purgando una larga condena en la prisión de máxima seguridad “Presidente Bernardes”. El 12 de mayo de 2006, unos días antes de la entrevista que aquí se cita, se supone que Marcola ordenó a su organización –el Primer Comando de la Capital o PCC- que desatara la mayor ofensiva de que se tiene noticia contra la autoridad en Sao Paulo. El resultado fue la muerte de 23 policías militares, siete policías civiles, tres guardias municipales, ocho agentes penitenciarios y cuatro civiles. Del otro lado y como respuesta, la Policía dio muerte a 107 personas en los barrios marginales. El alto costo del enfrentamiento entre la autoridad y el PCC, llevó a negociar una tregua, pero de ninguna forma el fin de la guerra. Y es el análisis de esa peculiar y brutal guerra –similar a la que hoy se desarrolla en México- lo que constituye el centro de la extraordinaria entrevista, (la conversación entre Marcola y “O Globo” se puede consultar en español en Google).

El capo paulista ha pasado buen tiempo en la cárcel pero, aparentemente, no ha sido tiempo perdido pues, además de dirigir su organización, ha leído tres mil libros, entre ellos los de Dante y Klausewits. A la pregunta de si es él el jefe del PCC, responde: “Más que eso, yo soy una señal de estos tiempos. Yo era pobre e invisible”. Él supone que en el pasado hubo condiciones para resolver de forma relativamente fácil el problema de pobres como él “¿[Pero] el Gobierno Federal alguna vez reservó algún presupuesto para nosotros [los miserables]?” No y como no lo hizo, Marcola, los seis mil miembros que se supone tiene el PCC y muchos más, buscaron su propia salida y la encontraron: “Ahora somos ricos con la multinacional de la droga y ustedes se están muriendo de miedo. Nosotros somos el inicio tardío de su conciencia social”.

Cuando se le pidió que pensara en una solución a la guerra entre el PCC por un lado y el Estado y la sociedad por otro, Marcola respondió: “¿Solución? No hay solución hermano. La propia idea de ‘solución’ ya es un error ¿Ya vio el tamaño de las 560 favelas de Río?…¿Solución, cómo? Sólo la habría con muchos millones de dólares gastados organizadamente, con un gobernante de alto nivel, una inmensa voluntad política, crecimiento económico, revolución en la educación…Y todo eso… implicaría una mudanza sicosocial…O sea: es imposible”.

El jefe criminal se adentra en los términos del conflicto: “nosotros somos hombres-bombas. Estamos en el centro de lo insoluble…La muerte para ustedes es un drama cristiano en una cama…La muerte para nosotros es la comida diaria…mis soldados son extrañas anomalías del desarrollo torcido…No hay más proletarios…Hay una tercera cosa creciendo allí afuera… [y] diplomándose en las cárceles… [es] la post miseria [que] genera una nueva cultura asesina”.

Y si los marxistas aseguraron que el burgués es capaz de vender incluso la soga con que se le va a ahorcar, Marcola afirma: “con 40 millones de dólares la prisión es un hotel, un escritorio. ¿Cuál es la Policía que va a quemar esa mina de oro, ¿entiende? Nosotros somos una empresa moderna…Ustedes son el estado quebrado, dominado por incompetentes. Nosotros tenemos métodos ágiles de gestión. Ustedes son lentos, burocráticos”.

En torno a su relación con la sociedad, el teórico-criminal sostiene: “Nosotros somos ayudados por la población de las villas miseria, por miedo o por amor. Ustedes son odiados. Ustedes son regionales, provincianos. Nuestras armas y productos vienen de afuera, somos ‘globales”. Y cuando se plantea el choque PCC-ejército, Marcola afirma: “Nosotros somos hormigas devoradoras, escondidas en los rincones. Tenemos hasta misiles anti-tanque…¿Para acabar con nosotros? Solamente una bomba atómica en las villas miseria ¿ya pensó? ¿Ipanema radioactiva?

La reflexión final: “Ustedes necesitan hacer una autocrítica de su propia incompetencia…no entienden ni la extensión del problema. Como escribió el divino Dante: ‘Pierdan todas las esperanzas. Estamos todos en el infierno’”.

Entre Esperanza y Simpleza. Naturalmente que lo último que se debe hacer es perder la esperanza. La cuestión es urgente y central y si hay un tema donde focalizar la energía colectiva es éste, pero hay que hacerlo sin simplificar, yendo a las raíces. La dimensión policiaca-militar es sólo una ¿dónde está el resto?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mexico massacre investigator missing; blasts hit TV and police stations

An official investigating this week's massacre of 72 migrants was missing, while possible car bomb explosions rocked a TV station and police station in the same violence-torn state of Tamaulipas.


A soldier and investigators work at the site where a vehicle exploded outside the Televisa network in the northern Mexican city of Ciudad Victoria. Another possible car bomb exploded outside a police station in San Fernando, also in Tamaulipas state and near the site where the bodies of 72 slain migrants were found this week. (Associated Press)

Reporting from Mexico City — A law enforcement official investigating this week's massacre of 72 migrants in northern Mexico was missing Friday, while possible car bomb explosions rocked a television station and police station in the same violence-torn state.

Meanwhile, authorities in Tamaulipas state said they had so far identified the remains of 31 of the massacre victims and determined that they were from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Brazil.

Tamaulipas officials said Roberto Suarez, an agent for the state prosecutor's office involved in the investigation, went missing Wednesday. That was a day after Mexican marines found the slain migrants on a ranch outside the town of San Fernando.

A San Fernando police officer was also reported missing Friday. The case is now run by the federal attorney general's office.

The disappearances and car blasts appeared to be further signs of the lawlessness that prevails in Tamaulipas, a stronghold of drug traffickers across the border from Texas.

In Ciudad Victoria, the state capital, a car blew up shortly after midnight outside the Televisa office, though it was not immediately known whether it was rigged with a bomb. The explosion caused damage but no one was hurt.

Less than an hour later, a second car exploded outside a San Fernando police station. No one was injured.

The car blasts were the second and third in Tamaulipas this month. A car detonated outside state police headquarters in Ciudad Victoria three weeks ago.

Last month, a car bomb blast in Ciudad Juarez, in the border state of Chihuahua, killed a police officer and three others, raising worries that drug gangs were adopting a new weapon in the nearly 4-year-old drug war.

In recent days, attackers have hurled grenades at Televisa stations in Tamaulipas and neighboring Nuevo Leon state. Drug gangs have made it so dangerous to report the news that many outlets have stopped trying.

In San Fernando, Mexican authorities and foreign emissaries worked to identify massacre victims found Tuesday after a survivor from Ecuador made his way to a highway checkpoint manned by marines.

Officials said the migrants were captured on their way to the U.S. border by the Zetas gang. Alejandro Poire, spokesman for the Mexican government's anti-crime strategy, said in a radio interview that the victims were killed because they refused to work for the drug-trafficking group, among the most bloodthirsty in the country.

The slayings touched off a fresh outcry by migrant rights activists who have long said that Mexico mistreats or fails to protect the estimated 400,000 workers who cross its territory on their way to the United States each year.

Migrants have for years been targeted by robbers, rapists and corrupt officials in league with smugglers. They face a new threat as drug traffickers increasingly move into people-smuggling or target migrants for extortion.

Mexican officials, sensitive to charges that they don't protect migrants at home while complaining of mistreatment of Mexicans on U.S. soil, say they are cracking down on the smugglers and kidnappers.

Cecilia Romero, head of the federal immigration agency, said authorities raided 16 safe houses in Tamaulipas last year, rescuing 812 foreign nationals. She said 30 immigration agents have been jailed and 300 fired for corruption. About 43,000 foreign migrants have been sent home this year.

"We are sorry we never found these 72," Romero said of the slain migrants. "Probably they were hidden in a trailer when transported, and we could not detect them. That is how it works. The migrants are invisible to us. They hide from us."

Romero later said that the Ecuadorean survivor, Luis Fredy Lala Pomavilla, has been offered a humanitarian visa to remain in Mexico if he chooses, the Associated Press reported.

Mexico's growing drug violence prompted the State Department on Friday to instruct U.S. diplomats in the northern city of Monterrey to remove their children from the area. The move came after a shootout near the American School Foundation last week.

ken.ellingwood@latimes.com

Times staff writer Tracy Wilkinson contributed to this report.

Mexico massacre highlights horrors for migrants



The gruesome massacre of 72 presumed migrants in Mexico has underlined the horrific risks taken by hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking to reach the United States each year.

Friday, August 27, 2010
By: AFP writers

MEXICO CITY, August 27, 2010 (AFP) - The gruesome massacre of 72 presumed migrants in Mexico has underlined the horrific risks taken by hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking to reach the United States each year.

Drug gangs are a growing threat, particularly the Zetas, who are suspected of carrying out the killings in Tamaulipas, northeast Mexico, and accused in scores of kidnappings and extorsion cases, sometimes in collaboration with local police.

Around half a million clandestine migrants take on the arduous journey across Mexico each year, mostly from Central America, according to Mexico's Human Rights Commission.

Some 10,000 undocumented migrants were abducted in Mexico from September 2008 to February 2009, the commission reported last year.

Drug gangs are using "extortion and kidnapping of migrants as a means for financing and recruitment because they are struggling to get money and people," a statement from the presidency said.

It blamed the killings on a power struggle between the Gulf gang and its former allies the Zetas.

It attributed the cartels' problems to what it claimed was the success of a controversial government clampdown on organized crime, which has seen thousands of soldiers deployed but also a spike in violence, with more than 28,000 deaths in three and a half years.

Critics say the growing activities prove the power of the gangs.

Rights groups once again slammed the government for failing to protect migrants.

Amnesty International said in April that the persistent failure by the authorities to tackle abuses against migrants had made their journey through Mexico one of the most dangerous in the world.

The group warned the situation had escalated into a "human rights crisis" and said that migrants faced kidnapping, rape and murder -- sometimes with the aid of public officials.

The latest case "will turn into an emblem of the capacity or incapacity of Mexican officials to face up" to migrant abuses, Alberto Herrera, director of Amnesty International Mexico, told AFP on Wednesday.

A group of non-governmental organizations from Latin America and the United States on Thursday condemned the massacre and the "insensitivity" of the Mexican government.

"We are worried to see that human rights violations against migrants are far from diminishing, but continue to happen and increase," said a statement from dozens of groups working with migrants in Mexico's southern Chiapas state.

Migrants are increasingly kidnapped and forced to give details of their families in the United States or South America for ransom demands of up to 2,500 dollars, according to Amnesty.

An injured Ecuadoran man who appeared to be the sole survivor of the Tamaulipas massacre said the group had been kidnapped and killed by members of the Zetas for refusing to work for the cartel.

The US government has called the Zetas the most dangerous organized crime syndicate in Mexico.

The group emerged in the 1990s, formed of former elite forces who deserted the Mexican army, to provide security for the powerful Gulf gang leader, Osiel Cardenas.

After Cardenas was detained and then extradited to the United States in 2007, the Zetas broke off from the Gulf gang and boosted their ranks.

"The Zetas control various routes which allow them to move from Guatemala to the US border, crossing Mexico sometimes with the help of local police," said Raul Benitez, an investigator at Mexico's UNAM university.

Local authorities blame disputes between the Gulf gang and the Zetas for more than 1,000 killings in northeast Mexico this year.

Army patrols checked vehicles Thursday in the hunt for the perpetrators of the massacre, in an area where many locals no longer dare to travel.

Investigators meanwhile struggled to find letters or identity papers on the bodies of the victims, who were found tied up and dumped inside a warehouse.

Migrants from Ecuador, Honduras, El Salvador and Brazil were believed to be among them.

Drug cartel suspected in massacre of 72 migrants

By MARK STEVENSON and E. EDUARDO CASTILLO (AP) – 2 days ago

MEXICO CITY — A wounded migrant stumbled into a military checkpoint and led marines to a gruesome scene, what may be the biggest massacre so far in Mexico's bloody drug war: a room strewn with the bodies of 72 fellow travelers, some piled on top of each other, just 100 miles from their goal, the U.S. border.

The 58 men and 14 women were killed by the Zetas gang, the migrant told investigators Wednesday. The gang, started by former Mexican army special forces soldiers, is known to extort money from migrants who pass through its territory.

If authorities corroborate the story, it would be the most horrifying example yet of the plight of migrants trying to cross a country where drug cartels are increasingly scouting shelters and highways, hoping to extort cash or even recruit vulnerable immigrants.

"It's absolutely terrible and it demands the condemnation of all of our society," said government security spokesman Alejandro Poire.

The Ecuadorean migrant staggered to the checkpoint on Tuesday, with a bullet wound in his neck. He told the marines he had just escaped from gunmen at a ranch in San Fernando, a town in the northern state of Tamaulipas about 100 miles from Brownsville, Texas.

The Zetas so brutally control some parts of Tamaulipas that even many Mexicans do not dare to travel on the highways in the state. Many residents in the state tell of loved ones or friends who have disappeared traveling from one town to the next.

Many of these kidnappings are never reported for fear that police are in league with the criminals.

The marines scrambled helicopters to raid the ranch, drawing gunfire from cartel gunmen. One marine and three gunmen died in a gunbattle. Then the marines discovered the bodies, some slumped in the chairs where they had been shot, one federal official said.

The migrant told authorities that his captors identified themselves as Zetas, and that the migrants were from Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador and Honduras.

Poire said the government was in contact with those countries to corroborate the identities of the migrants.

The Ecuadorean Embassy in Mexico said it was in contact with the surviving migrant, Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla, and was trying to find out if any of its citizens were among the dead.

Marcio Araujo, Brazil's consul general in Mexico, said documents found at the scene indicated at least four of the dead were Brazilian. Consular officials for El Salvador said they had no immediate information on whether any Salvadorans were among the victims.

The marines seized 21 assault rifles, shotguns and rifles, and detained a minor, apparently part of the gang.

Authorities said they were trying to determine whether the victims were killed at the same time — and why. Poire noted migrants are frequently kidnapped by cartel gunmen demanding money, sometimes contacting relatives in the U.S. to demand ransoms.

Poire also said the government believes cartels are increasingly trying to recruit migrants as foot soldiers — a concern that has also been expressed by U.S. politicians demanding more security at the border.

The government has confirmed at least seven cases of cartels kidnapping groups of migrants so far this year, said Antonio Diaz, an official with the National Migration Institute, a think tank that studies immigration.

But other groups say migrant kidnappings are much more rampant. In its most recent study, the National Human Rights Commission said some 1,600 migrants are kidnapped in Mexico each month. It based its figures on the number of reports it received between September 2008 and February 2009.

Violence along the northeastern border with the U.S. has soared this year since the Zetas broke with their former employer, the Gulf cartel. Authorities say the Gulf cartel has joined forces with its once-bitter enemies, the Sinaloa and La Familia gangs, to destroy the Zetas, who have grown so powerful they now have reach into Central America.

Teresa Delagadillo, who works at the Casa San Juan Diego shelter in Matamoros just across from Brownsville, said she often hears stories about criminal gangs kidnapping and beating migrants to demand money — but never a horror story on the scale of this week's massacre.

"There hadn't been reports that they had killed them," she said.

It was the third time this year that Mexican authorities have discovered large masses of corpses. In the other two cases, investigators believe the bodies were dumped at the sites over a long time.

In May, authorities discovered 55 bodies in an abandoned mine near Taxco, a colonial-era city south of Mexico City that is popular with tourists.

In July, investigators found 51 corpses in two days of digging in a field near a trash dump outside the northern metropolis of Monterrey. Many of those found were believed to have been rival traffickers. But cartels often dispose of the bodies of kidnap victims in such dumping grounds.

Authorities are still digging in a mine shaft where seven bodies were removed over the weekend in the central state of Hidalgo. Two more bodies have been pulled out since, officials said Wednesday.

The Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, who runs a shelter in the southern state of Oaxaca, where many migrants pass on their way to Tamaulipas, said the Zetas have put informants inside shelters to find out which migrants have relatives in the U.S. — the most lucrative targets for kidnap-extortion schemes.

He said he constantly hears horror stories, including people who "say their companions have been killed with baseball bats in front of the others."

Solalinde said he has been threatened by Zetas demanding access to his shelters.

He said the gangsters told him: "If we kill you, they'll close the shelter and we'll have to look all over for the migrants."

Associated Press Writer Alicia A. Caldwell in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Brewer condemns report to UN mentioning Ariz. law

By JONATHAN J. COOPER (AP) – 15 hours ago

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer demanded Friday that a reference to the state's controversial immigration law be removed from a State Department report to the United Nations' human rights commissioner.

The U.S. included its legal challenge to the law on a list of ways the federal government is protecting human rights.

In a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Brewer says it is "downright offensive" that a state law would be included in the report, which was drafted as part of a UN review of human rights in all member nations every four years.

"The idea of our own American government submitting the duly enacted laws of a state of the United States to 'review' by the United Nations is internationalism run amok and unconstitutional," Brewer wrote.

Arizona's law generally requires police officer enforcing other laws to investigate the immigration status of people they suspect are illegal immigrants.

Critics say it would lead officers to target Hispanics. Supporters, including Brewer, say the law prohibits racial profiling and other human rights abuses.

The U.S. Justice Department sued to block the measure, arguing federal law trumps the state's authority to enforce immigration laws.

A federal judge in July sided with the Justice Department and blocked enforcement of the law's most controversial provisions a day before it was scheduled to take effect.

In its report, the State Department does not specifically allege that Arizona's law would lead to racial profiling.

"A recent Arizona law, S.B. 1070, has generated significant attention and debate at home and around the world," the report says. "The issue is being addressed in a court action that argues that the federal government has the authority to set and enforce immigration law. That action is ongoing; parts of the law are currently enjoined."

A State Department spokesman had no immediate comment on Brewer's letter.

Brewer, a Republican, is running for election in November. Her popularity in Arizona and her national profile have soared since she signed the immigration measure in April.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Border deaths in Arizona may break record

Reporting from Tucson —

This year, Arizona became known as the state with the toughest policies against illegal immigration. That's why Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Eric Peters didn't think the Pima County coroner would see a surge in migrants killed while trying to cross Arizona's southern deserts.

But despite beefed-up efforts to stem illegal immigration and an economy that makes work harder to come by, migrants are still trying to get into the country. And many are dying.

In 2007, a record 218 bodies were found in Pima County. This year, the death toll could be worse. Already, authorities have recovered the remains of 170 migrants.

"We're kind of looking at a record-breaking year this year," Peters said.

July was the worst month of this year so far, with 59 people found dead. More than half of them died from heat-related causes. On July 15, the deadliest day of the month, seven bodies were found, among them the remains of Omar Luna Velasquez, 25. The high temperature that day was 108 degrees.

To accommodate the bodies in the summer heat, a 50-foot refrigerated trailer truck has been parked in the coroner's receiving area.

More than 66% of the bodies found this year remain unidentified. Sometimes corpses are reduced to skeletal remains; some are mummified by the sun and shriveled like raisins. Of the seven bodies found July 15, only Luna's could be identified.

The Pima County Medical Examiner's Office works closely with the Mexican Consulate to identify remains and locate relatives of the dead. Consular officials inspect the body and any belongings and try to match clues, such as voter registration cards or phone numbers inked on the inside of jeans, with tips that they keep in a database of missing migrants.

"We don't start from scratch because we have a big whereabouts database," said Julian Etienne, a spokesman with the Mexican Consulate in Tucson.

Border deaths were sparse throughout the 1990s. But in 2000, the numbers jumped drastically, and four years later the county created a name for the type of person who dies in such a manner: the "undocumented border crosser."

Increased border enforcement in California moved migration routes east into some of Arizona's most remote and inhospitable terrain. Unusually hot weather, even by Arizona standards, also may be contributing to the large number of deaths this year.

Some migrants try to time their journeys to the summer monsoon season with its cooling rains, said Kat Rodriguez, who works with the human rights group Coalicion de Derechos Humanos. But July was one of the hottest on record, according to the National Weather Service, and the seasonal rainstorms came late.

"The experience 10 years ago is completely different than now," Rodriguez said. "It's brutal and ruthless."

It's difficult to know how many people die crossing the Southwest border each year. California's Imperial County is one of only a handful of counties that keeps track, said Rodriguez, who conducts research with the University of Arizona Binational Migration Institute.

Imperial County, which adjoins Arizona and about 80 miles of Mexican border, hasn't seen a large number of migrant deaths since the mid-1990s. Through July, the county recorded 16 such deaths. In the last fiscal year, it had 23.

In San Diego County, 10 migrants have been found dead this year. "We used to have a lot more here, lots more here," said Deputy Medical Examiner Jonathan Lucas.

Kenneth Quillin, a supervising agent for the Border Patrol in Yuma County, Ariz., said he hadn't seen a death in about 15 months. He attributes the decrease to the border fence and increased enforcement by agents.

"Every mile of the border in Yuma has some sort of barrier," he said. The enforcement helps push migrants to Pima County and neighboring Cochise County.

Cochise County, in the southeastern corner of the state, has recorded 19 deaths this year. Last year, it had 28. Most of the fatal border crossings in Arizona occur in Pima County.

Oddly, although the number of deaths is on the rise, illegal immigration is down. Apprehensions at the border have dropped 61% in the last fiscal year, compared with 2000. This year, 194,000 people have been apprehended, down 5% from the same time last year.

"Crossing the border isn't as easy as it was before," said Omar Candelaria, a spokesman with the Border Patrol in Tucson.

Humanitarian groups such as Humane Borders in Tucson say that the increased law enforcement presence only means that people will go to greater lengths to come to the U.S.

Sofia Gomez, executive director of Humane Borders, said she recently met a woman in Sonora, Mexico, who said that in the 1990s, the journey to the U.S. took hours. Now it's several days.

Gomez asked the woman if she would cross again.

"She just smiled," Gomez said. "I could tell right away that she basically didn't think she had a choice."

Some human rights groups try to help migrants survive the desert. Humane Borders maintains 100 water stations in Arizona.

Volunteer Lance Leslie, a stocky man with blond hair, was checking water stations near the border recently, driving a white truck through deep sand and a landscape dotted with rattlesnake holes.

"People have been walking in this corridor for years," Leslie said after refilling a blue 55-gallon barrel. "I have no doubt that these barrels have saved a life."

But they couldn't save Omar Luna Velasquez, the 25-year-old found in the desert July 15. His family buried him recently in Mexico.

nicole.santacruz@latimes.com

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Tension over Obama policies within Immigration and Customs Enforcement

By Andrew Becker
Friday, August 27, 2010; B03

As it poises for further immigration initiatives, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is struggling with festering internal divisions between political appointees and career officials over how to enforce laws and handle detainees facing deportation.

Under the Obama administration, the Department of Homeland Security has shifted its focus away from the worksite raids and sweeps employed during George W. Bush's presidency to deporting more criminals and creating less prisonlike detention settings. But ICE, a branch of DHS, is facing intensified resistance from agency middle managers and attorneys, and the union that represents immigration officers.

The internal conflict has grown increasingly public over ICE's plans, among them to expand a risk assessment tool to guide agents on detention decisions, cut down on transfers of detained immigrants, and open more "civil" detention facilities -- what field directors call "soft" detention.

Immigration officers say the new measures limit their enforcement efforts and the revamped lockups will compromise their safety. In June, their union took the unprecedented step of issuing a vote of no confidence in the agency's director, John Morton, and the official overseeing detention reform, Phyllis Coven.

Months before that, the 24 field managers who oversee detention and deportation sent a memorandum to Morton that challenged a number of recommended changes. Current and former ICE attorneys in New York, Houston and other offices nationwide say they are angry that they have been instructed to drop efforts to deport some immigrants.

"We can't find a supervisor or manager that supports Morton or his initiatives," said Chris Crane, president of the American Federation of Government Employees' National Council 118, the union that issued the no-confidence vote.

Many of the measures, set to be implemented in the coming weeks and months, may not require a conversation with the union, but ICE leadership seeks the union's viewpoint on issues tied most closely to immigration reform, said Beth Gibson, ICE's assistant deputy director.

"We are at the beginning of a big push," Gibson said in an interview. "We are about to come up on a series of things I see as incredibly powerful pieces of reform."

Crane said the union wants to negotiate over implementation, which could delay some changes.

The criticisms of ICE illustrate the obstacles the Obama administration must navigate in selling the changes to the ranks while trying to appear both tough on enforcement and serious about fixing the nation's immigration laws. The friction between the agency's leadership and managers tasked with instituting the changes reflects the nation's split over immigration.

A senior White House official, acknowledging the rift between ICE leadership and boots-on-the-ground employees, said the union's unusual posture of addressing policy sent a message consistent with groups that espouse tougher immigration restrictions.

"The call from the left is John Morton is too tough. The guy is leading the effort to remove more people from the country than ever before," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. "That others say he's soft on enforcement strikes me as remarkable. At the end of the day, it's about sound law-and-order principles, not decisions based on the political wind."

Several current and former immigration officers, senior managers and attorneys, however, said in interviews that the agency's leadership regularly changes course on policy, apparently based on the political climate. Attorneys point to an ongoing review of pending cases and the dismissal of deportation charges against some immigrants without serious criminal records.

Michael D. Rozos Sr., who retired May 1 as one of the agency's most senior field managers, said he left his position in Miami "several years early" out of frustration that the agency was moving backward toward the years of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The defunct agency became part of ICE when DHS was created in 2002.

"I see a repeat of what the INS was like, which was chasing its tail," Rozos said. "They're trying to go in every direction and end up going in circles."

Rozos was one of the 24 field managers who sent a 19-page memo, obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, that outlined objections to an October report widely adopted as the detention-policy playbook. They also complained that their input was never sought.

"The Report seems to advocate that an entirely 'soft' detention system would be the ideal," the memo states. "In reality, there is a significant population with criminal convictions, arrest histories, gang affiliation, psychological issues, drug abuse, etc., and these individuals pose a flight risk or security risk to ICE officers, other detainees and, at times, themselves."

The "soft" detention facilities will house low-risk detainees without criminal records in less restrictive settings while giving more access to recreation.

One of the new civil detention sites, the James Musick Facility, is a non-working farm near Los Angeles, Gibson said. Other lockups will open in San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and elsewhere to cut down on transfers.

ICE spokesman Brian P. Hale said the agency remains committed to reform, despite the internal rumblings. "There are significant numbers that are in agreement and support our effort," Hale said. "Our challenge and ultimate goal is to stay focused and successfully implement our goals."

ICE might not be alone in facing a backlash. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) in July released a leaked draft memo from ICE's sister agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which outlined administrative remedies if a legislative fix falls short.

The memo angered Republicans, who said it proved the Obama administration wants to circumvent Congress to provide amnesty to thousands of illegal immigrants.

Janice Kephart of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for immigration restrictions, said agents are frustrated because they feel they aren't allowed to do their jobs to fully enforce the law. Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigration-reform group America's Voice, said ICE is run by "a bunch of political appointees on top of a rogue agency."

Doris Meissner, who as INS commissioner in the 1990s saw similar tensions, said the union's message is a "severe internal pushback."

"It is a barometer of how difficult it is to make change and how they have to really work it internally as well as externally," added Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.

Though ideological differences pose a challenge, they are not insurmountable, Meissner said, adding that she expects ICE employees to follow the new policies. The dissension, fostered by the country's polarization over immigration, is a product of legislative inaction, she said.

"Congress hasn't moved forward with the legislation that the administration envisioned, which puts ICE in the middle of the fray," she said. "The only thing happening with immigration in the country is enforcement."

Andrew Becker is a reporter for the Center for Investigative Reporting.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Other Side of the Anchor: Where Else Do American-born Kids Belong?

The screeds about “anchor babies” in the media reflect the scale of the paranoia about a foreign invasion destroying America from within. Implicit in the idea of the “dropped” baby is the notion that simply being born in America doesn’t make you any less of a foreigner, and that these children of immigrants actually belong back in their parents’ country of origin.

While the alienation of immigrants has become a self-fulfilling prophecy of ever-deepening segregation, the dispute about which children “belong” here should be answered simply by asking, what else would a kid born and raised in America be, other than American?

Latino America, a reporting project based at Arizona State University, looks at the consequences for American-born children who are forced to return to Mexico. (h/t Immigration Prof)

Consider the family of Margaret Acuitlapa, a U.S. citizen who moved with her three children to Mexico to follow her deported husband:

“The first year we were here, we were treated as strangers,” Acuitlapa said of her family’s arrival in Malinalco, a small town in southwestern Mexico. “Things were unpleasant for all of us.”…
Although she moved to keep her family together, the life they have faced in Mexico has put different strains on her marriage, and her children.

“Our kids didn’t speak any Spanish when we moved here. Even now, my 10-year-old daughter is reading at a second-grade level,” she said of the struggles her children have faced in school. “My 15-year-old son is still having a hard time with everything.”


An older youth imagines life as another kind of “alien”:

Kendrick Nunez, 18, is one of those citizen children who would be affected if the “anchor baby” bill became law. He and his citizen sister currently live in Arkansas without their parents, who were deported to Mexico. He finds the logic of the movement confusing.
“That seems unreasonable. What, you’re just born in the air?” Nunez says. “I recognize there is a problem, but there has to be a better solution.”

Nunez and his younger sister initially followed their parents and other siblings to Mexico but returned to the United States so they could continue studying within the American education system.

“I didn’t go to school when I was in Mexico. I spent my time working — in a car wash, a water park, a field,” Nunez said. “I was illegal there. All my best friends in Arkansas were graduating. I felt like I was missing out on something.”


It’s like a reverse mirror image of the undocumented experience in the U.S.: the cultural alienation, low-wage jobs preempting opportunities for education. Nunez, the “anchor baby” whom many immigration restrictionists want to “send home” to Mexico, finds himself “illegal” on that side of the border.

The experience is repeated over and over again for deportees who find themselves not just separated from loved ones, but alienated and often demonized once repatriated. The redemption story of Qing Hong Wu—a former delinquent who was saved from deportation by the state at the last minute—is the rare exception that underscores the rule.

The assumption behind the “anchor baby” myth is that birthright citizenship is not natural, that an immigrant mother’s connection to her progeny is merely through her womb, as opposed to the nurturing, labor and aspirations she’s poured into her child on American soil. Yet the dehumanizing language betrays a cruelly determinist concept of parenthood, because the one “American” inheritance that the mother passes onto the baby is the violation of a draconian immigration law.

We accept the term “naturalization” to describe the process of the foreign-born taking on a new citizenship. What could be more natural than being accepted as a citizen of the only home you’ve ever known?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Feds moving to dismiss some deportation cases

The Department of Homeland Security is systematically reviewing thousands of pending immigration cases and moving to dismiss those filed against suspected illegal immigrants who have no serious criminal records, according to several sources familiar with the efforts.

Culling the immigration court system dockets of noncriminals started in earnest in Houston about a month ago and has stunned local immigration attorneys, who have reported coming to court anticipating clients' deportations only to learn that the government was dismissing their cases.

Richard Rocha, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, said Tuesday that the review is part of the agency's broader, nationwide strategy to prioritize the deportations of illegal immigrants who pose a threat to national security and public safety. Rocha declined to provide further details.

Critics assailed the plan as another sign that the Obama administration is trying to create a kind of backdoor "amnesty" program.

Raed Gonzalez, an immigration attorney who was briefed on the effort by Homeland Security's deputy chief counsel in Houston, said DHS confirmed that it's reviewing cases nationwide, though not yet to the pace of the local office. He said the others are expected to follow suit soon.

Gonzalez, the liaison between the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which administers the immigration court system, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said DHS now has five attorneys assigned full time to reviewing all active cases in Houston's immigration court.

Gonzalez said DHS attorneys are conducting the reviews on a case-by-case basis. However, he said they are following general guidelines that allow for the dismissal of cases for defendants who have been in the country for two or more years and have no felony convictions.

In some instances, defendants can have one misdemeanor conviction, but it cannot involve a DWI, family violence or sexual crime, Gonzalez said.

Massive backlog of cases
Opponents of illegal immigration were critical of the dismissals.

"They've made clear that they have no interest in enforcing immigration laws against people who are not convicted criminals," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for strict controls.

"This situation is just another side effect of President Obama's failure to deliver on his campaign promise to make immigration reform a priority in his first year," said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. "Until he does, state and local authorities are left with no choice but to pick up the slack for prosecuting and detaining criminal aliens."

Gonzalez called the dismissals a necessary step in unclogging a massive backlog in the immigration court system. In June, there were more than 248,000 cases pending in immigration courts across the country, including about 23,000 in Texas, according to data compiled by researchers at Syracuse University.

'Absolutely fantastic'
Gonzalez said he went into immigration court downtown on Monday and was given a court date in October 2011 for one client. But, he said, the government's attorney requested the dismissal of that case and those of two more of his clients, and the cases were dispatched by the judge.

The court "was terminating all of the cases that came up," Gonzalez said. "It was absolutely fantastic."

"We're all calling each other saying, 'Can you believe this?' " said John Nechman, another Houston immigration attorney, who had two cases dismissed.

Attorney Elizabeth Mendoza Macias, who has practiced in Houston for 17 years, said she had cases for several clients dismissed during the past month and eventually called DHS to find out what was going on. She said she was told by a DHS trial attorney that 2,500 cases were under review in Houston.

"I had five (dismissed) in one week, and two more that I just received," Mendoza said. "And I am expecting many more, many more, in the next month."

Her clients, all previously charged with being in the country illegally, included:

An El Salvadoran man married to a U.S. citizen who has two U.S.-born children. The client had a pending asylum case in the court system, but the case was not particularly strong. Now that his case is terminated, he will be eligible to obtain permanent residency through his wife, Mendoza said.

A woman from Cameroon, who was in removal proceedings after being caught by the U.S. Border Patrol, had her case terminated by the government. She meets the criteria of a trafficking victim, Mendoza said, and can now apply for a visa.
Memo outlines priorities

Immigrants who have had their cases terminated are frequently left in limbo, immigration attorneys said, and are not granted any form of legal status.

"It's very, very key to understand that these aliens are not being granted anything in court. They are still here illegally. They don't have work permits. They don't have Social Security numbers," Mendoza said. "ICE is just saying, 'At this particular moment, we are not going to proceed with trying to remove you from the United States.' "

In a June 30 memo, ICE Assistant Secretary John Morton outlined the agency's priorities, saying it had the capacity to remove about 400,000 illegal immigrants annually — about 4 percent of the estimated illegal immigrant population in the country. The memo outlines priorities for the detention and removal system, putting criminals and threats to national security at the top of the list.

Up to 17,000 cases
On Tuesday, ICE officials provided a copy of a new policy memo from Morton dated Aug. 20 that instructs government attorneys to review the court cases of people with pending applications to adjust status based on their relation to a U.S. citizen. Morton estimates in the memo that the effort could affect up to 17,000 cases.

Tre Rebsock, the ICE union representative in Houston, said even if the efforts involve only a fraction of the pending immigration cases, "that's going to make our officers feel even more powerless to enforce the laws."

susan.carroll@chron.com

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Op Ed: Immigration Bait and Switch

Secure Communities, an immigration enforcement program created under President George W. Bush and now being greatly expanded by President Obama, is billed as an effort to catch and deport “the worst of the worst,” the violent criminals, drug and gun smugglers, gang members and other dangerous aliens. That would be excellent, if true. It doesn’t seem to be.

The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, the Center for Constitutional Rights, a public-interest legal organization, and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network analyzed arrest and deportation statistics and other data on Secure Communities they obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The records, covering the program from its inception in October 2008 through June 2010, lend disturbing credence to fears voiced by immigrant advocates and some law-enforcement officials.

The program requires agencies to automatically run fingerprints through federal immigration databases for anyone they arrest. Critics warned that it would be an indiscriminate dragnet — ensnaring illegal immigrants without criminal records, and encouraging racial profiling. Sheriff Michael Hennessey of San Francisco objected to Secure Communities, saying it targeted too many noncriminals and would have a dangerous “chilling effect” on the willingness of communities to work with local law enforcement.

It turns out the critics were right.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement records show that a vast majority, 79 percent, of people deported under Secure Communities had no criminal records or had been picked up for low-level offenses, like traffic violations and juvenile mischief. Of the approximately 47,000 people deported in that period only about 20 percent had been charged with or convicted of serious “Level 1” crimes, like assault and drug dealing.

The national average of Secure Communities deportees with no criminal records was about 26 percent, but that figure also varied wildly around the country. It was 54 percent in Maricopa County, Ariz., whose sheriff is notorious for staging indiscriminate immigration raids. In Travis County, Tex., it was 82 percent.

The Obama administration has deployed Secure Communities in 544 jurisdictions in 27 states, including every county along the southern border. It plans to have the entire country participating by 2013. Secure Communities “focuses our resources on identifying and removing the most serious criminal offenders first and foremost,” said John Morton, the director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The program now appears to be quite different from that: an effort to yoke local police into a broad campaign of civil immigration enforcement, maximizing the detention and deportation of the people whom Mr. Obama says he wants to give a chance to pay their debt to society and earn their right to become Americans.

Secure Communities won’t make the country more secure, not the way it is working. Police departments that don’t want to participate should be able to opt out. The Obama administration needs to fix it or jettison it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

U.S. may sue Arizona's Sheriff Arpaio for not cooperating in investigation

By Jerry Markon and Stephanie McCrummen
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A federal investigation of a controversial Arizona sheriff known for tough immigration enforcement has intensified in recent days, escalating the conflict between the Obama administration and officials in the border state.

Justice Department officials in Washington have issued a rare threat to sue Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio if he does not cooperate with their investigation of whether he discriminates against Hispanics. The civil rights inquiry is one of two that target the man who calls himself "America's toughest sheriff." A federal grand jury in Phoenix is examining whether Arpaio has used his power to investigate and intimidate political opponents and whether his office misappropriated government money, sources said.

The standoff comes just weeks after the Justice Department sued Arizona and Gov. Jan Brewer (R) because of the state's new immigration law, heightening tensions over the issue ahead of November's midterm elections. Renewed attention is focused on Arpaio, a former D.C. police officer who runs a 3,800-employee department, and a state at the epicenter of the debate over the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants.

Once seen as a quirky figure who has inmates dress in pink underwear and forces them to work on chain gangs, Arpaio has in recent years become a kind of folk hero to those who favor his heavily publicized "crime sweeps," conducted mostly in Hispanic neighborhoods. At the same time, civil rights groups accuse the 78-year-old lawman of racial profiling. And some Maricopa County officials say Arpaio has begun meritless corruption investigations of officials who have criticized his policies or opposed his requests.

Those allegations are at the core of the Justice Department investigations, according to documents, lawyers familiar with the inquiries and people who have been questioned by FBI agents and the grand jury.

The investigations reflect the tangled politics surrounding the immigration debate. The criminal probe is led by Dennis K. Burke, the U.S. attorney in Phoenix and a former top aide to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Two of Arpaio's attorneys, Robert N. Driscoll and Asheesh Agarwal, were officials in the Justice Department's civil rights division in the George W. Bush administration. They denied that the sheriff, a Republican who has been reelected four times since 1992, has been uncooperative or has engaged in racial profiling, misspent money or targeted political enemies.

"The sheriff's office is cooperating fully with the grand jury investigation and has complete confidence that the inquiry will clear it of any wrongdoing," Agarwal said. "The office has always fulfilled its responsibilities truthfully, honorably, and in full compliance with state and federal law."

Arpaio's attorneys contend that the investigations are politically motivated, citing a news conference in March at which Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. was quoted as saying he expects the inquiries to "produce results."

"While we have no quarrel with the assistant U.S. attorneys handling the investigation, the attorney general's comments appear to violate federal regulations, departmental policy and state ethical rules designed to ensure the fairness of criminal investigations," Agarwal said.

Brewer and her supporters have also asserted that the Justice Department was politically motivated in its lawsuit over the state law, which authorizes police officers to question people suspected of being in the country illegally. A federal judge last month stopped the most controversial sections of the legislation from taking effect.

Justice Department officials denied any political considerations, saying the investigations and the lawsuit are based on the facts and the law. They declined to comment on details of the Arpaio inquiries.

The civil rights division's investigation began in March 2009 and focuses on whether Arpaio's department engaged in "discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures," along with allegations that his jail discriminated against Hispanic inmates, according to letters the division sent to Arpaio. A complaint to the Justice Department said that even bilingual jail guards are required to speak to inmates only in English and that the rule could endanger prisoners' medical care. The jail was also accused of forcing Hispanic visitors to fill out a "citizenship check" form, the letters said.

Lawyers in the division have repeatedly interviewed Phoenix area human rights leaders about Arpaio's immigration sweeps, and local "cop watch" groups have turned over hours of video footage of the sweeps to investigators.

"Their questions are in regards to racial profiling, questions about what are the practices when people get stopped," said Salvador Reza, an organizer with the Puente human rights movement who has met with Justice Department lawyers. He said the lawyers have asked about the treatment of inmates in Arpaio's jail.

In an Aug. 3 letter to Arpaio's attorneys, Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, said the sheriff's office had declined repeated requests to turn over documents and meet with investigators. Without cooperation by Tuesday, the letter said, the government would file suit "to compel access to the requested documents, facilities and personnel."

In his Aug. 5 reply, Driscoll accused the Justice Department of "a desperate attempt" to compel cooperation and of "a public relations campaign against Sheriff Arpaio." He added: "DOJ cannot require the reproduction of millions of pages of documents so DOJ can 'see what it can find.' "

Arpaio's resistance is highly unusual: Justice Department officials said the threat of such a lawsuit is rare. They added that they plan to meet with the sheriff's attorneys next week in a last-ditch effort to forestall litigation. If the department files a broader civil lawsuit, it could result in the department terminating the several million dollars in grants to Arpaio's office each year or in a judge's order forcing him to change his policies.

On a separate track, the grand jury investigation has been underway since at least January. Lawyers familiar with the inquiry and witnesses said it is focused on allegations that as Arpaio has fought with the county board over his budget and other issues, he and his deputies have retaliated by carrying out at least seven criminal investigations of county officials alleging corruption, fraud and other crimes.

Some legal experts say it could be difficult for such allegations to result in criminal charges. "I don't know what a charge would be," said Peter Zeidenberg, a former Justice Department public corruption prosecutor. "We all would agree that being abusive is wrong, but I'm not aware of any federal statute that would fit."

In one case, Arpaio leveled 40 corruption-related charges against a county supervisor who had spoken out against his policies, all of which a judge dismissed. In another, the sheriff's allies in the county attorney's office filed more than 100 criminal counts against another supervisor for improperly filling out required financial disclosure forms. Several days after a judge dismissed most of those, Arpaio's deputies arrested the supervisor in a parking garage and walked him before TV cameras to jail, announcing more than 100 new charges, which a judge dismissed. (Some of the original charges remain on appeal.)

"They'll never stop," said Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson, who was named in one of Arpaio's investigations. Wilson testified before the grand jury and has spoken to FBI investigators more than a dozen times, as recently as last week. "They don't care who tells them to stop."

County Manager David Smith said grand jurors also questioned him about deputies' trips to conferences and training missions in Las Vegas, Honduras and other destinations, where he said they often stayed at "boutique" hotels. He said prosecutors were focusing on "issues that might involve the crime of extortion over the county budget, misappropriation of funds and abuse of police power."

McCrummen reported from Phoenix.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hispanic media turn on President Obama

President Barack Obama has lost the most trusted man in the Hispanic media.

Univision’s Jorge Ramos, an anchor on the nation’s largest Spanish-language television network, says Obama broke his promise to produce an immigration reform bill within a year of taking office. And Latinos are tired of the speeches, disillusioned by the lack of White House leadership and distrustful of the president, Ramos told POLITICO.

“He has a credibility problem right now with Latinos,” Ramos said. “We’ll see what the political circumstances are in a couple of years, but there is a serious credibility problem.”

Ramos has been called the Walter Cronkite of Spanish-language media, an unparalleled nationwide voice for Hispanics. And just like the famed CBS newsman’s commentary helped turn the country against the Vietnam War, Ramos may be on the leading edge of a movement within the Hispanic media to challenge the president on immigration — a shift that some observers believe is contributing to Obama’s eroding poll numbers among Latino voters.

“When you have a Univision and a Telemundo taking an aggressive and active role pointing to the White House inaction, it calls attention,” said Jose Cancela, president of the media consulting firm Hispanics USA. “It is not helping the administration at this point in time.”

The editorials and commentary from the Spanish-language media have been brutal since April, when Arizona passed its controversial immigration enforcement law — a moment that crystallized a sense of urgency among Latinos but also underscored how little progress the White House had made on reform.

“Words matter,” Telemundo anchor Jose Diaz-Balart said in April on NBC’s “Meet the Press” — adding that Obama’s campaign promise, known as “La Promesa de Obama,” has gone unfulfilled. “We haven’t seen it.”

After Obama announced his decision to send 1,200 guards to the U.S.-Mexico border in May, an editorial in El Diario La Prensa of New York asked: “Who’s in charge in Washington?”

The president’s major immigration speech last month only created more discontent.

La Opinion, the country’s largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, titled its editorial, “Words are not enough.”

“Obama came up short,” wrote Andres Oppenheimer, a columnist for El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald.

“Cheap and easy rhetoric,” La Opinion contributor Jorge Delgado concluded.

“It is unprecedented what Spanish-language media has been doing over the past several months,” Cancela said in an interview. “Many in the administration thought there was a cozy relationship and the Spanish-language media would play the role of quiet cooperator. It has been a wake-up call.”

The shift in tone among Hispanic opinion makers is helping solidify a narrative about Obama among Latino voters. They held great hopes for the president — given his promise in a May 2008 interview with Ramos to draft an immigration reform bill during his first year in office — but he has deeply disappointed them so far.

“Latinos voted overwhelmingly for President Obama, and they expected him to keep his promise and he broke his promise,” said Ramos, author of the recently released book “A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto.”

“If he was able to get 60 votes for financial reform, if he can get 60 votes to extend unemployment benefits, how come he can’t get 60 votes for immigration reform?” Ramos asked. “So many Latinos feel there is a lack of leadership, and he is not fighting for immigration reform with the same intensity that he fought for health care reform.”

An administration official pointed to the president’s accomplishments on immigration reform — his work with senators on a legislative framework, pressing Republicans to step up and delivering the speech last month to restart the discussion. But until a few Republicans break ranks, the official said, Obama is stymied.

The official also rejected the notion that Obama has lost the Spanish-language media: “I don’t know that we ever owned them. They are a fiercely independent bunch. They try to be loyal mostly to their readers and their viewers, and they do cover things closely. But I don’t think Republicans have gotten away without criticism, and they are held pretty strongly to account for what has gone on.”

The swing in opinion couldn’t come at a worse time for Democrats, who need a strong Latino turnout in November if they hope to maintain control of Congress. That voting bloc could be decisive in dozens of competitive House, Senate and gubernatorial races across the West, according to a report by America’s Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group.

But polls show signs of trouble. Obama’s approval rating among Hispanics dropped from 69 percent in January to 57 percent in May, even as his support among black and white voters remained stable, according to the Gallup Poll.

In a Univision/Associated Press poll released last month, only 43 percent of 1,521 Hispanics surveyed from March 11 to June 3 said Obama is adequately addressing their needs.

Ramos places blame on Republicans as well — as do the editorial pages of the country’s largest Hispanic daily newspapers — for doing nothing to resolve the immigration issue. But these papers say they never expected much from the GOP. Democrats, in their view, are a different story.

The president heavily courted Hispanic voters with La Promesa, and Democrats control both chambers of Congress. Latinos may acknowledge that it takes 60 votes to do anything in the Senate, but they’re not accepting it as an excuse.

“It was lukewarm,” said Ruben Funes, editorial page editor for La Prensa newspaper in Orlando, Fla. “It is not really strong support from him.”

Editorial page editors and Spanish-language journalists told POLITICO that their coverage reflects rising frustration in their community. For years, they said, Democratic leaders told Hispanics to be patient; now, their patience has run out.

At the same time, the Obama administration is set to deport more illegal immigrants this year than during the last year of the Bush administration, expelling otherwise law-abiding workers and tearing families apart.

“There is a disappointment of a promise that has not been fulfilled,” said Henrik Rehbinder, La Opinion’s editorial page editor. “More than disappointment is some anger, some resentment, over the fact that this administration was going to be sensitive to family separations, and they really are not.” The critique from Ramos could prove particularly damaging to the White House.

A Mexican immigrant and Univision anchor for more than 20 years, Ramos carries such weight with Hispanic-Americans that his commentary is viewed as the definitive take on an issue — “kind of the final word on it,” said America’s Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry.

Ramos turned critical after the first anniversary of Obama’s Inauguration, when it became clear the promise would not be met, and he hasn’t let up on the administration since.

“They know they are in trouble with the Hispanic community, and the problem in November is the Hispanic vote may be up for grabs again,” Ramos said. “My fear is they might not vote. They don’t feel protected or supported by either party.”

Press Release: Unauthorized Immigrants and Their U.S.-Born Children



Press Release
August 11, 2010
For Immediate Release

Contact:

Mary Seaborn
info@pewhispanic.org
202-419-3606
or
Vidya Krishnamurthy
vkrishnamurthy@pewresearch.org
202-419-4328

Unauthorized Immigrants and Their U.S.-Born Children


An estimated 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 were the offspring of unauthorized immigrants, according to a new analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

Unauthorized immigrants comprise slightly more than 4% of the adult population of the U.S., but because they are relatively young and have high birthrates, their children make up a much larger share of both the newborn population (8%) and the child population (7% of those younger than age 18) in this country.

These figures are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's March 2009 Current Population Survey, augmented with the Pew Hispanic Center's analysis of the demographic characteristics of the unauthorized immigrant population using a "residual estimation methodology" it has employed for the past five years.

The new Pew Hispanic analysis also finds that nearly four-in-five (79%) of the 5.1 million children (younger than age 18) of unauthorized immigrants were born in this country and therefore are U.S. citizens. In total, 4 million U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents resided in this country in 2009, alongside 1.1 million foreign-born children of unauthorized immigrant parents.

The report, "Unauthorized Immigrants and Their U.S.-Born Children" authored by Jeffrey S. Passel, Senior Demographer, Pew Hispanic Center, and Paul Taylor, Director, Pew Hispanic Center, is available at the Pew Hispanic Center's website, www.pewhispanic.org.
The Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, is a nonpartisan, non-advocacy research organization based in Washington, D.C. and is funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

This email was sent to valenz@mail.utexas.edu by info@pewhispanic.org.

Pew Hispanic Center | 1615 L Street, NW, Suite 700 | Washington | DC | 20036

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

14th Amendment causes GOP split

By SCOTT WONG | 8/9/10 8:28 PM EDT

The push by congressional Republicans to deny automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants has opened up a split in the GOP, with several former Bush administration officials warning that the party could lose its claim to one of its proudest legacies: the 14th Amendment.

For Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) and other conservatives, the solution to what they regard as one of the greatest flaws of U.S. immigration policy is obvious: Amend the amendment, which grants citizenship to anyone born on American soil regardless of whether their parents are legal residents.



But in recent days, former aides to bothVice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush, who pushed for comprehensive immigration reform, have condemned the calls by top Republicans to end birthright citizenship.

Cesar Conda, who served as domestic policy adviser to Cheney, has called such proposals “offensive.” Mark McKinnon, who served as media adviser in Bush’s two presidential campaigns, said Republicans risk losing their “rightful claim” to the 14th Amendment if they continue to “demagogue” the issue.

“The 14th Amendment is a great legacy of the Republican party. It is a shame and an embarrassment that the GOP now wants to amend it for starkly political reasons,” McKinnon told POLITICO. “Initially Republicans rallied around the amendment to welcome more citizens to this country. Now it is being used to drive people away.”

Enacted during Reconstruction by a Republican Congress, the 14th Amendment officially overruled the Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision and defined citizenship not only for newly enfranchised blacks but for all Americans.

For more than a century, it’s been interpreted by the courts to include children whose parents are not U.S. citizens, including illegal immigrants.

“That is the wisdom of the authors of the 14th Amendment: They essentially wanted to take this very difficult issue — citizenship — outside of the political realm,” Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “They wanted to take an objective standard, birth, instead of a subjective standard, which is the majorities at the time. I think that’s a much better way to deal with an issue like this.”

But for a growing number of Republicans who believe the children of illegal immigrants should be denied birthright citizenship, the 14th Amendment needs to be fixed.

Graham has become their somewhat unlikely spokesman. In recent months he has faced increasing anger at home from members of his own party who have derided his support for President Barack Obama’s two Supreme Court picks, the bailout for financial institutions, and comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

A Greenville County Republican committee voted last week to bar the two-term senator from future meetings and events, censuring him “for his cooperation and support of President Obama and the Democratic Party’s liberal agenda.”

But Graham, who isn’t up for re-election until 2014, recently scored points with conservatives after saying he may introduce a constitutional amendment to restrict the long-standing policy of birthright citizenship. Top Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), have joined in by calling for congressional hearings to explore the matter.

Graham’s proposal takes aim at two sets of people: children who are born in the U.S. to illegal immigrants and those born to “birth tourists,” foreigners who obtain 90-day tourist visas for the express purpose of giving birth in the U.S. so their children can become citizens.

His comments have angered immigrant rights groups that previously viewed him as an important GOP ally.

Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center, said the timing of his announcement and his harsh choice of words – “They come here to drop a child. It’s called drop and leave” -- indicated Graham was simply trying to rile up his conservative base in the midst of the red-hot immigration debate.

Giovagnoli, whose group backs comprehensive immigration reform, said “it really is a politically manufactured issue.”

Graham said he began thinking about birth citizenship after a woman asked him at a recent town hall meeting why children of illegal immigrants were citizens. He couldn’t give her a good answer, he said, and decided to check into it.

“I’m looking at how you can change the law to create the right incentives,” Graham told POLITICO last week. “Right now, the incentives are for people to come illegally to have children or just be tourists and have children for the very purpose of gaining citizenship.”

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Sunday said that altering the 14th Amendment is “worth considering” and that the debate should continue.

“There is a problem. To provide the incentive for illegal immigrants to come here so their children can become U.S. citizens does in fact draw more people to our country,” Boehner said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“In certain parts of our country, clearly our schools our hospitals are being overrun by illegal immigrants, a lot of whom came here just so their children could become U.S. citizens,” he added. “They should do it the legal way.”

Most constitutional scholars agree there’s little chance an amendment will succeed.

The last time it was done -- without dispute -- was nearly 40 years ago when the national voting age was changed to 18. The 27th Amendment, setting rules for congressional salaries, was ratified in 1992 but that amendment was first introduced in 1789, more than 200 years earlier.

To propose a change requires support from two-thirds of both the House and Senate; two-thirds of state legislatures also can call a constitutional convention to discuss an amendment. Approval from three-fourths of state legislatures, or at least 38 states, is needed to ratify the amendment.

“Good luck with that,” Bill Ong Hing, a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, told reporters in a conference call. “It can’t be a serious proposal on the part of those who are talking about it. Politically, it can’t be done and it’s a distraction from seeking true immigration reform.”

But some lawmakers believe there’s an easier way: changing the statute.

The citizenship clause of the 14th Amendment states: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

That’s been interpreted to include the offspring of illegal immigrants. But some Republicans have argued that illegal aliens are not “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” and that their kids should not receive automatic citizenship.

“When it was enacted in 1868, there were no illegal immigrants in the United States because there were no immigration laws until 1875. So drafters of the Amendment could not have intended to benefit those in our country illegally,” Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, wrote in POLITICO’s Arena.

Smith and 93 other Republicans have co-sponsored legislation that would limit citizenship to children born in the U.S. with at least one parent who is a naturalized citizen, legal permanent resident or serving in the military.

However, Jack Chin, a University of Arizona law professor who specializes in criminal and immigration law, said the Supreme Court ruled in 1898 that citizenship shall be granted to a child born in the U.S. to immigrant parents who are not serving as a foreign diplomat or in a hostile foreign military.

The court, he said, established that all immigrants – including those in the country illegally – are “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

“Undocumented people are subjected to laws of the U.S. legally and practically,” Chin said “If you are charged with a criminal offense against the laws of the United States, unlike a diplomat you can’t say, ‘I am immune from your laws,’ and unlike a soldier in a hostile army, you can’t say, ‘You have no practical ability to enforce your laws against me.’”

Even if a new law is passed by Congress, there are no guarantees it will withstand legal challenges.

“It’s easier to pass a statute than amend the Constitution,” said Louis Michael Seidman, Georgetown University’s Carmack Waterhouse Professor of Constitutional Law. “Whether the courts would allow uphold that statute is more problematic.”

Carrie Budoff Brown contributed to this story.

Fingerprint sharing led to deportation of 47,000

By SUZANNE GAMBOA, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 25 mins ago

WASHINGTON – A rapidly expanding illegal immigration enforcement program has led to the deportation of 47,000 people over 18 months when the Homeland Security Department was sifting through millions of fingerprints taken at local jail bookings.

About one-quarter of those did not have criminal records and slightly less — about a fifth — had committed or were charged with what are categorized as the most serious crimes, according to government data obtained by immigration advocacy groups who had sued.

ICE posted the data on its website late Monday in advance of the group's release of the data Tuesday.

The federal government says the fingerprint sharing program, known as Secure Communities, helps to identify criminal immigrants who threaten public safety in the U.S.

Immigration advocates say the government spends too much time on lower-level criminals and people who have not committed crimes. They also allege the program makes people fearful of reporting crimes, does not protect against racial profiling and is being forced on some communities without consent.

"ICE essentially throws a gill net over the concept of immigration reform. It sweeps up all the little people along with what they say is their intention, which is to deport serious and violent criminals," said San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey, whose city is having trouble getting out of the program. He said people picked up on traffic violations, whose charges are later dropped, still get deported.

From October 2008 through June of this year, 46,929 people identified through Secure Communities were removed from the U.S., the documents show. Of those, 12,293 were considered non-criminals and 9,831 were labeled as having committed the most serious crimes.

Fingerprints of people booked into jails already are sent to state criminal justice departments to be checked against federal criminal databases. Under Secure Communities, they also go to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to run through Homeland Security databases.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement divides crimes into three categories, with Level 1 being the most serious. Level 1 crimes include actions that threaten or compromise national security, murder, rape, drug crimes punishable by more than one year, theft and even resisting arrest.

Most of those deported committed Level 2 or 3 crimes or were non-criminals, a monthly report of Secure Communities statistics shows.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced Tuesday that Secure Communities is in place in all 25 counties along the U.S.-Mexico border. Her statement, released just before advocates criticized the program in a conference call with media, did not say when that occurred.

"Secure Communities gives ICE the ability to work with our state and local law enforcement partners to identify criminal aliens who are already in their custody, expediting their removal and keeping our communities safer," Napolitano said.

Richard Rocha, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman, said Monday non-criminals may be people who have failed to show up for deportation hearings, who recently crossed the border illegally or who re-entered the country after deportation. He also said it's important to remember that more people commit offenses that are considered Level 2 and 3 crimes.

The Obama administration wants Secure Communities operating nationwide by 2013.

As of Aug. 3, 494 counties and local and state agencies in 27 states were sharing fingerprints from jail bookings through the program.

California had the highest percentage of immigrants deported who had committed Level 1 crimes, with 38 percent of a total 14,823 immigrants sent out of the country, according to statistics from 24 of the states participating through the end of June. In Georgia, 39 percent of 624 immigrants removed were non-criminals, the highest rate among the states.

Travis County, Texas led all counties with the highest percentage of non-criminals deported, 82 percent of 724, according to the groups' analysis of the statistics.

The Immigration Justice Clinic at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, the National Day Laborer Organizers Network and the Center for Constitutional Rights had requested and sued for the statistics. They are awaiting the release of more data from the program.
___
Online:
Immigration and Customs Enforcement: http://www.ice.gov

Monday, August 9, 2010

Students Spared Amid an Increase in Deportations


Joshua Lott for The New York Times
From left, Tania Unzueta, Lizbeth Mateo, Yahaira Carrillo, Mohammad Abdollahi and Raul Alcaraz in a protest in Tucson.


By JULIA PRESTON
Published: August 8, 2010

The Obama administration, while deporting a record number of immigrants convicted of crimes, is sparing one group of illegal immigrants from expulsion: students who came to the United States without papers when they were children.

In case after case where immigrant students were identified by federal agents as being in the country illegally, the students were released from detention and their deportations were suspended or canceled, lawyers and immigrant advocates said. Officials have even declined to deport students who openly declared their illegal status in public protests.

The students who have been allowed to remain are among more than 700,000 illegal immigrants who would be eligible for legal status under a bill before Congress specifically for high school graduates who came to the United States before they were 16. Department of Homeland Security officials said they had made no formal change of policy to permit those students to stay. But they said they had other, more pressing deportation priorities.

“In a world of limited resources, our time is better spent on someone who is here unlawfully and is committing crimes in the neighborhood,” John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview. “As opposed to someone who came to this country as a juvenile and spent the vast majority of their life here.”

Still, Republicans say the authorities should pursue all immigrants who are here illegally.

“The administration appears to want to pick and choose what laws they will follow and which ones they don’t,” said Representative Brian P. Bilbray, Republican of California, who is chairman of a House immigration caucus. “They are trying to legislate from the White House,” he said.

The administration is debating how to handle immigration now that the chances for a broad overhaul that President Obama supports have faded for this year.

The issue of illegal immigrant students has become pressing because young immigrants have staged increasingly frequent and defiant protests to demand passage this year of the piece of the overhaul that would benefit them.

Lawmakers who support that legislation have asked the administration to halt student deportations until Congress takes it up. But most Republicans are opposed to any action that would weaken enforcement against illegal immigration.

An internal Homeland Security memorandum, released last month by Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, set off a furor among his fellow Republicans because it showed immigration officials weighing steps they could take without Congressional approval to give legal status to some illegal immigrants — including suspending deportations of students.

The moratorium had been requested by Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, and Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, the leading sponsors of the student legislation, called the Dream Act.

But a White House official said that the administration had decided against the moratorium, preferring to push for the student bill, which could grant legal status to more than 700,000 young immigrants here illegally.

“Legislation does far more for Dream Act students than deferring deportations would, in that it puts them on a path to citizenship,” said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal policy debate.

Instead of a general moratorium, immigration authorities appear to be acting case by case to hold up deportations of young immigrants.

“We have not had a single student whose case we handled who has been deported,” said Juan Escalante, a spokesman for the Dream Is Coming, an organization that has waged petition campaigns and sit-ins to stop student deportations. “Obviously, there is some sort of pattern there in the fact they are not deporting students.”

According to figures from the immigration enforcement agency, known as ICE, the Obama administration has accelerated the pace of deportations over all. In 2009, the authorities deported 389,834 people, about 20,000 more than in 2008, the final year of the Bush administration.

Last year, Mr. Morton announced the agency’s new priorities, directing agents to focus on capturing immigrant criminals. In the past 10 months, ICE has deported 142,526 immigrants convicted of crimes, a record number, the figures show.

At the same time, deportations of immigrants with civil violations, but no crimes, dropped by 24 percent. (Under immigration law, being in the United States without legal status is a civil violation, not a crime.)

The figures confirm “an enormous shift in targeting toward criminals,” said Susan B. Long, co-director of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which analyzes federal law enforcement data.

The vast majority of students who are illegal immigrants have clean criminal records, and they would have to keep it that way to qualify to become legal under the Dream Act. To meet its terms, immigrants must also have graduated from high school and lived in the United States for at least five years, and they must complete two years of college or military service.

Last month, the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research group in Washington, estimated that 726,000 young immigrants would be immediately eligible for legal status under the Dream Act, a big increase over earlier estimates.

Lawmakers from both parties say the student bill draws wider support than the broader overhaul — but still not enough to make it likely to pass before the election. Many young immigrants were brought to the United States illegally as small children by their parents. Often they learn of their illegal status only years later, when they are old enough to apply for a driver’s license or to attend college.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said in recent days that he was willing to bring up the Dream Act separately, but that he did not have the 60 votes required to bring it to the floor.

Some students, after years of hiding, have concluded that it may now be safer for them to come out in the open about their illegal status. Immigration authorities have appeared to respond to the students’ public campaigns, student leaders said.

“What we have seen is it is better to be out there,” said Carlos Saavedra, national coordinator of the United We Dream network, which links dozens of immigrant student groups from around the country.

On Thursday, after phone calls and petitions from more than 50 local student groups, immigration authorities deferred for one year the deportation of Marlen Moreno, a Mexican immigrant living in Arizona who has two children who are American citizens and who would qualify to become legal under the Dream Act.

Last month, students held a weeklong protest in Washington that ended with a mock graduation ceremony on Capitol Hill, where hundreds of immigrants wearing caps and gowns declared their illegal status.

Immigration agents have taken no action against 21 immigrant students who were arrested on July 20 by the Capitol Police in sit-in protests in Senate offices, according to David Bennion, their immigration lawyer. Several were detained in the offices of Senator Reid and Senator John McCain of Arizona, a Republican.

Earlier in the summer, students campaigned on behalf of Eric Balderas, a 19-year-old Mexican-born biology major at Harvard who was arrested by immigration agents in San Antonio in June when he was about to fly back to Cambridge after visiting his mother. With Harvard officials and Senator Durbin also weighing in, ICE deferred his deportation indefinitely.

ICE has not held up deportations of young immigrants who have committed more serious crimes or were previously deported.

Two immigrants who declared their illegal status during a sit-in in May in the offices of Mr. McCain in Tucson — Mohammad Abdollahi, 24, born in Iran, and Yahaira Carrillo, 25, born in Mexico — were briefly detained by ICE. But the agency has not filed charges against them in immigration court that would advance their deportations, their lawyer, Margo Cowan, said last week.

Ms. Carrillo, who has returned to her home in Kansas City, Mo., said she felt relieved after she went public with her illegal status. Now a student at Rockhurst University she has been living in the United States since she was 7.

“I don’t have to hide,” she said. “I don’t have to make excuses as to why I can’t take certain jobs or scholarships. What is the worst that can happen to me now? I’m already in deportation proceedings.”

Dems blasted for border bill

By CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN | 8/6/10 4:06 PM EDT Updated: 8/9/10 6:44 AM EDT
Immigration reform advocates blasted Democrats on Friday for pushing a $600 million border security bill through the Senate, accusing them of trying to placate Republicans who will never be satisfied with the government’s enforcement efforts.

“It is really unfortunate, misguided and a major political misstep,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, an immigrant rights group. “There will need to be a lot of repair work by the Democrat leadership with the immigrant advocacy community.”

In an unexpected move Thursday night, Senate Democrats won approval of a $600 million bill that includes money for 1,500 new border personnel, a pair of unmanned drones and military-style bases along the border. The bill by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), which fulfills a request from President Barack Obama, heads to the House for a final vote as early as next week.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Schumer and McCaskill told reporters in a conference call Friday that the bill paves the way for consideration of a comprehensive reform bill.

“My view is that we had a whole lot of people, both moderate Democrats and Republicans, who said they wouldn’t consider comprehensive reform until we did something about the border,” Schumer said. “It is smart, it is tough, it not punitive. It furthers the ability to get comprehensive reform done.”

But advocates said Republicans outsmarted Democrats, calling their bluff by agreeing to pass the bill by unanimous consent Thursday night. Schumer had introduced the bill only a few hours earlier, leading advocates to surmise that the Democrats never expected the GOP to accept the measure.

“They ate the Democrats’ lunch,” Bhargava said of Republicans, adding that the immigrant advocacy community was in “shock.”

The sharp criticism from immigration groups underscores the divide between advocates and congressional Democrats on political strategy.

Advocates want Democrats to remain focused on passing a comprehensive reform bill that includes a legalization program for 11 million undocumented immigrants, as well as a temporary worker program, an employment verification system and border security measures.

Passing a stand-alone border bill eliminated a bargaining chip for Democrats, they said.

Republicans won't consider any measures other than those that boost enforcement. And since Democrats do not have the numbers to move a comprehensive overhaul on their own, they are trying to meet Republican demands — in hopes that the GOP will accede to a broader reform early next year.

Advocates are skeptical that the strategy will ever work.

“If the Democrats try to feed the beast of enforcement that Republicans seem to be fixated on, they are never going to satiate that appetite,” said Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress. “I don’t know if Schumer thinks this is the candy that coaxes them back to the table, but it’s sort of like my fourth grader — there is never enough candy in the world to make her happy.”

Indeed, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) argued for even tougher border security, acknowledging only that the Schumer-McCaskill bill is a “step in the right direction.” And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who vowed he wouldn’t consider a comprehensive reform bill until he is convinced the border is secure, said he’ll push for more funding to tighten enforcement.

"I believe we have a lot more to do, but this will contribute to our effort to get our border secured," McCain said on the Senate floor.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the only Republican still willing to work with Democrats on a comprehensive bill, told POLITICO last month that the passage of a stand-alone border security bill would help break the logjam.

Immigration reform advocates argue that stopping the flow of undocumented immigrants requires more than just tougher border security, which has already been enhanced in recent years. The number of border agents has doubled in the past five years, while apprehensions have dropped, according to government data.

“The irony, of course, is that the U.S.-Mexico border is in fact safer than ever, our spending on border security is the highest in U.S. history, and illegal immigration rates are at a historic low,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-reform group. “Nevertheless, Democrats are charging towards the red flag waved by the Republicans who mindlessly repeat the mantra of border security first.”

Napolitano said the administration has reached out to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to encourage her to put the Senate bill up for a vote next week.

The Senate bill includes $300 million for 1,500 additional Border Patrol agents, Custom and Border Protection officers and Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel; $196 million for Justice Department programs; $32 million for two drones; and additional money for things like communications equipment and new facilities.

The Senate bill, which does not add to the deficit, would be paid for by increasing fees on so-called chop shops — foreign companies that use U.S. visa programs to import cheap labor from countries like India. Firms with more than 50 percent of their employees on H-1B work visas would be affected.