December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays from Caudle Immigration!

Warp speed Mr. Kringle!Image by booleansplit via FlickrCaudle Immigration / The Law Office of Randall Caudle wishes everyone a very Happy Holidays!

The office is closed Dec. 24th to Dec. 28th but will be open most of the week of Dec. 29th.

Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Happy Hanukkah, a Joyful and Reflective Kwanzaa, and a Peaceful New Year!

December 11, 2008

Protest calls for immigration reform

Supporters demonstrate outside Camarillo detention center


Leaders of local business and community groups called for immigration reform Wednesday in front of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Camarillo.

Supporters held signs as speakers called for a moratorium on deportations and for respect for immigrants' rights next to a barbed-wire fence surrounding several white ICE vans near the Camarillo Airport.

"They separate working families, do nothing to protect us from terrorists and undermine the economy," said Maricela Morales, associate executive director of the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, a co-sponsor of the protest.

The date was chosen to coincide with the United Nations' adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10, 1948.

"It's hard to believe there is a detention center here in Camarillo," said Ana Cristina Flores, a Central Coast Alliance supporter from Oxnard. "You see all the fields, and the people working on them are being detained right across the street."

Gabriela Navarro-Busch, an immigration attorney, said she had tried earlier Wednesday to meet a client being held at the Camarillo facility and was denied. She said she has tried several times to meet with other clients at the facility without success.

"At the county jail, I can go any time," Navarro-Busch said. "These workers have rights. The right to remain silent and the right to counsel Are these individuals' rights being upheld?" she asked rhetorically.

Anyone who is arrested has the right to seek relief from deportation, ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. Immigration courts review the cases and apply the law, she said.

"Our job as a federal law enforcement agency is to enforce the laws as enacted by Congress. We don't have the authority to change it or the prerogative to ignore it," Kice said.

ICE is pursuing cases in Ventura County and recently deployed a team here to better handle immigration cases involving fugitives, Kice said.

"The fact that ICE is putting a team in Ventura County is completely ridiculous when you think about who is here," said César Hernández, a Central Coast Alliance community organizing director in Oxnard. "What kind of risk does a farmworker pose, does a mother pose, or a student without legal documentation?"

Hernández recently returned from Washington, D.C., where he participated in a forum in which local activists urged leaders to make immigration reform a priority in the first days of the Obama administration.

"People shouldn't be separated and deported because Washington hasn't gotten their act together," Hernández said. "It's up to the people to get involved."

Cleaning Firm Used Illegal Workers at Chertoff Home

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 11, 2008; A01

Every few weeks for nearly four years, the Secret Service screened the IDs of employees for a Maryland cleaning company before they entered the house of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the nation's top immigration official.

The company's owner says the workers sailed through the checks -- although some of them turned out to be illegal immigrants.

Now, owner James D. Reid finds himself in a predicament that he considers especially confounding. In October, he was fined $22,880 after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators said he failed to check identification and work documents and fill out required I-9 verification forms for employees, five of whom he said were part of crews sent to Chertoff's home and whom ICE told him to fire because they were undocumented.

"Our people need to know," said the Montgomery County businessman. "Our Homeland Security can't police their own home. How can they police our borders?"

Reid admits he made mistakes but called the fine so excessive that it may put him out of business. Several of his workers moved after ICE agents showed up at their homes, he said.

Raising a common objection among employers as ICE cracks down on illegal hirings across the country, Reid said it is unreasonable to expect businesspeople to distinguish between fake and real driver's licenses and Social Security cards.

Immigration laws are unevenly enforced, he added, allowing big companies to stay in business while crushing small-business owners and workers. He said the rules punish "scapegoats" such as him while inviting people at every level -- customers, subcontractors and contractors -- to look the other way while benefiting economically from cheaper labor.

"No one wants to put the blame on the head; they'd rather put the blame on the business owner," said Reid, who owns Consistent Cleaning Services. "Damned if I should be fined for employees that I took over to their house."

Chertoff declined to comment. "We're very constrained in what we can say about anybody who has any kind of issue with the department," he said.

The Secret Service uses workers' ID information to conduct security checks, not immigration checks, much like most police departments do when they pull over people for traffic stops.

Eric Zahren, a spokesman for the service, which is part of Chertoff's department, declined to discuss specific screening practices. But he said agents protecting the secretary "would have run the appropriate checks, screened and escorted people as appropriate in order to maintain the security of the residence and our protectee's security."

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said that in this type of investigation, ICE focuses on the employers, not where employees are dispatched. He said that contractors have the responsibility of ensuring that their workers are legal, and that the Chertoffs were assured by Reid that workers sent to their home were legal. Upon learning that Reid might have hired illegal immigrants, the Chertoffs fired him, and the secretary recused himself from the department's subsequent enforcement actions, Knocke said.

"This matter illustrates the need for comprehensive immigration reform and the importance of effective tools for companies to determine the lawful status of their workforce," he said.

The Bush administration has pushed to expand employers' use of E-Verify, for instance, an electronic system that can confirm new hires' work documents against federal databases.

In addition to the Chertoffs' house, Reid said, his service once cleaned the Washington home of former president Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), now secretary of state-designee, as well as homes of another Bush Cabinet member and Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright. In those cases, he said, his company worked as a subcontractor and billing was done by a larger contractor firm.

ICE investigated Reid's company under a 1986 federal law barring employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. It provides for civil and criminal penalties against employers who do not examine workers' documents and keep completed I-9 forms.

In February, ICE agents singled out Reid's company, and they subpoenaed two years of payroll and I-9 records this summer, a U.S. official said. Reid was fined $2,750 for hiring violations and $20,130 for not completing paperwork.

His offenses included failing to ask for IDs from or fill out I-9 forms for several workers who turned out to be in the country illegally. Reid said he also did not verify the eligibility of people he knew were native-born U.S. citizens, including himself, his stepbrother, his sister and his sister's friend.

ICE policy states that companies are not randomly selected for scrutiny and that all investigations are based on tips or intelligence. ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel said Reid was targeted under a year-old initiative called Project Safe Harbor, in which field offices pursue employers in the service, agriculture and fast-food industries.

Nantel declined to say when the Chertoffs learned of the investigation. She likened the couple to restaurant or hotel customers who take the owner's word that its workers are legal.

Reid said he was referred to the Chertoffs in 2005 and worked mainly with the secretary's wife, Meryl J. Chertoff, an adjunct professor and director of the Sandra Day O'Connor Project on the State of the Judiciary at Georgetown Law School. Reid's calendar shows that the Chertoffs paid $185 per visit for his company to clean their suburban Maryland home.

Reid said he routinely asked workers to give personal information to Secret Service agents and assumed the workers were authorized because they were cleared.

Chertoff's situation appeared to be different from a case announced last week in which federal prosecutors arrested Lorraine Henderson, the Boston port director for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, another part of Chertoff's department, on charges that she repeatedly hired illegal immigrants to clean her condominium.

Staff researcher Julie Tate and research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

December 05, 2008

Judge backs U.S. on interrogation policy

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

(12-02) 14:13 PST SAN FRANCISCO -- The government doesn't have to disclose its policies for questioning travelers to the United States about their religious and political views, a federal judge has ruled in dismissing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by two San Francisco legal groups.

The Asian Law Caucus and the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed the case in February, saying more than 20 people, mostly South Asian and Muslim, had complained of being interrogated repeatedly at U.S. airports on such subjects as their views on American foreign policy, whether they hated the government and which mosques they had visited abroad.

The suit also sought information on customs agents' searches of travelers entering the country. In response, the Department of Homeland Security provided records this summer showing that the Bush administration has authorized customs agents to read and copy documents without requiring evidence that a traveler has done anything wrong, the legal groups said.

The plaintiff organizations said the government had not responded to their request for guidelines or limits on agents' interrogations of travelers about religion and politics. The nonresponse, they said, was evidence that no such limits exist.

They renewed their request that Homeland Security reveal which topics customs agents are allowed to bring up with travelers, saying the information might show that the government was systematically interfering with free speech.

But U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken, in a Nov. 24 ruling in San Francisco, said the government is not required to disclose records that could help people coming to the country for illegal purposes.

Wilken said the department had given her documents for private review that described the subjects about which customs agents could question travelers. She said she had concluded that releasing the information could help people break the law.

On another issue in the suit, Wilken said Homeland Security isn't required to identify the databases that customs agents use in assembling watch lists of hundreds of thousands of names of people who are supposed to be stopped at borders and airports.

She rejected the legal groups' argument that the information should be made public because the government's use of watch lists is common knowledge. The public knows that the lists exists, Wilken said, but lacks information about the investigative techniques' that the government uses and is entitled to keep secret.

Shirin Sinnar, an Asian Law Caucus attorney, said the legal organizations hadn't decided whether to pursue the case further.

"Some serious First Amendment issues have been raised by reports we're getting from travelers," she said. "I believe questioning people on religious practices and political concerns has a chilling effect on people's willingness to engage in lawful activities."

E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/03/MNR014FKDN.DTL

Pentagon to recruit aliens on visas

By PAULINE JELINEK

WASHINGTON – Struggling to find enough doctors, nurses and linguists for the war effort, the Pentagon will temporarily recruit foreigners who have been living in the states on student and work visas, or with refugee or political asylum status.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has authorized the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to recruit certain legal residents whose critical medical and language skills are "vital to the national interest," officials said, using for the first time a law passed three years ago.

Though the military previously has taken recruits with green cards seeking permanent residency, Gates' action allows the services to start a one-year pilot program to find up to 1,000 foreigners who have lived in the states legally for at least two years on certain types of temporary visas.

The new recruits into the armed forces would get accelerated treatment in the process toward becoming U.S. citizens in return for serving in the wartime military in the United States or abroad.

"The services are doing a tremendous job of recruiting quality personnel to meet our various missions," sometimes with bonus pay and tuition for medical school, said Bill Carr, deputy under secretary of defense for military personnel policy. There are currently about 24,000 doctors, dentists and nurses in the Defense Department.

But despite the incentives, the Pentagon's doctor and nurse corps remain 1,000 short of the numbers needed to treat patients, and Carr said he hoped the program would fill the gaps.

The military's most pressing need is for neurosurgeons and dermatologists to treat troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan with brain and burn injuries caused by insurgents' wide use of roadside bombs and suicide bombs.

The force also lacks nurses with a broad range of specialties, Carr said.

It also needs people with special language and cultural skills for a war on terrorism that has taken the armed forces across the globe.

Though the military has been looking for more Arabic speakers and others to help with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the new program looks to recruit speakers of some three dozen languages, including Albanian, Korean, Punjabi, Somali and Turkish.

The effort to find the recruits begins early next year. If there is a need for more recruits in the future, it would take a new authorization, Carr said.

Of the 1,000 new recruits, at least a third must be medical professionals, Carr said.

"It is exceptional, limited, vital," he said of the new effort.

The linguists are to be used in a broad range of military jobs now done by troops at home and abroad — as infantrymen, seaman, truck drivers and military policed. Those with the best language skills would be used in intelligence fields.

The armed forces have used foreigners since the War of 1812 — at one time or another some 700,000 have served.

But because of the counterterrorism war started after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President George W. Bush signed an executive order in July 2002 making foreigners who join the military eligible to apply immediately for citizenship.

They essentially go to the head of the line among citizenship applicants, having their cases processed in about three years as opposed to the five years it takes others, Carr said.

There are currently 29,000 non-citizens in uniform today, Carr said, with about 8,000 more enlisting every year.

Carr said he expected that among those who will be interested are doctors with work visas who are working at hospitals around the country, a program aimed at tackling shortages among U.S. medical professionals.

The military has never recruited non-green card holders, but a law passed three years ago allows them to do so when it is determined to be vital to the national interest.

Gates on Nov. 25 declared that to be the case for the purpose of getting more doctors, nurses and linguists.

Carr stressed that recruits will have to pass the same physical, mental and aptitude tests required of all who join the armed forces.

Health care workers also will have to meet all medical professional criteria to practice, be proficient in English, and agree to enlist either three years on active duty or six years as reservists.

The linguists/culture experts will have to enlist for four years of active duty service.

ABC Schedules a ‘Homeland Security’ Series

“Homeland Security USA,” a reality show produced with the full cooperation of several agencies of the Department of Homeland Security, will have its premiere on Jan. 6 on ABC.

In an announcement Thursday, ABC said the production “has been given unprecedented access to the agencies,” including Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Transportation Security Administration and the Coast Guard.

The show will spotlight the work of border patrol officials who work on land, sea and air to keep the United States secure. ABC has ordered 13 episodes of the series; they will be shown on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., opposite “American Idol” on Fox. While reality shows about harrowing jobs have prospered on cable — think of “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers” — they have yet to find an audience on broadcast TV.

When news of the series emerged in May, the show was named “Border Security USA.” Although the name has evolved, the show will still focus on the border patrol mission. Here’s the description of the first episode from ABC:

The premiere episode, “This is Your Car on Drugs,” takes viewers inside some of the busiest international entry points to the U.S. At Los Angeles International Airport, a voluptuous 20-year-old woman arrives from Switzerland with no working papers but a suitcase full of titillating surprises! In the Pacific Northwest, at the Blaine, Washington border crossing, smugglers attempt to foil DHS canines by packing narcotics in baby diapers. Along the border between the U.S. and Mexico in the scorching heat of the desert outside of Tucson, Border Patrol agents race the clock to find six undocumented immigrants lost in the barren wilderness. In one of the most dramatic stories at the San Ysidro, California border crossing, a fake license plate tips a border officer off to a life-threatening situation. Meanwhile, there are some unusual illegal items intercepted at the International Mail Center in Carson, California, including a “delicacy” officers are shocked to discover is actually barbecued bats.

In May, The Hollywood Reporter said the show was “billed as the first multi-episode television series to be shot in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security.” The project elicited complaints from some Internet users, who labeled it “propaganda.”

The executive producer, Arnold Shapiro, acknowledged at the time that the show was meant to portray Homeland Security in a good light.

“I love investigative journalism, but that’s not what we’re doing,” he told The Reporter in May. “This show is heartening. It makes you feel good about these people who are doing their best to protect us.”

December 04, 2008

Should NPR Run Funding Credits from the Department of Homeland Security?

NPR Ombudsman Alicia C. Shepard

Whenever NPR's Talk of the Nation dips into the topic of immigration, the national call-in show's telephone board lights up like a Christmas tree.

Immigration is an especially hot-button topic. So it's not surprising that when NPR began running a funding credit on Nov. 10 for the Department of Homeland Security's E-Verify program, my office heard from listeners and a few concerned public radio station managers.

They all questioned NPR's judgment in running the credit about the federal computer program that employers use voluntarily to check the legal status of new hires. At the least, some said, it is not a good fit for NPR. Some suggested NPR is endorsing E-Verify.

First, it's helpful to explain funding credits. Since NPR is a non-commercial network, it accepts money for what's called "underwriting." Local public radio stations do the same. The 10-second underwriting credits, which appear at various points in NPR programming, come from foundations, banks, auto companies, other businesses, and federal agencies.

Here's the text that is generating controversy: "'Support for NPR comes from NPR stations, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), offering E-Verify, confirming the legal working status of new hires. At DHS dot gov slash E-Verify."

E-Verify runs a free electronic database system for employers to scan 450 million Social Security and 60 million DHS records to confirm if new hires are eligible to work. Two states -- Arizona and Mississippi -- have made E-Verify mandatory for employers, as has the federal government for its new hires. Beginning Jan. 15, federal government contractors will be disqualified from competing for new contracts if they do not use E-Verify.

"In very basic terms, the goal of E-Verify is to assist employers in maintaining a legal workforce and to protect jobs for authorized U.S. workers," said Bill Wright, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. According to his agency's statistics, 96.1 percent of employees are confirmed as "work authorized" instantly or within 24 hours.

Some listeners say the program is far from benign. In fact, the program is the subject of lawsuits, court cases and Congressional investigation. "E-Verify is an extremely problematic program," writes Mary Hopkins."Big Brother aside, it 'verifies employment eligibility' against a filthy database, is ridden with delays and errors, and has caused a great deal of trouble for a lot of innocent people, including US citizens."

"The E-Verify system was being promoted to target illegal immigrants," wrote Richard Imm. "This program is error-filled, and is yet one more racist intrusion of the Bush administration into the business world and the private lives of all job-seekers. I recently became a Sustaining Member of my local NPR station (WNMU-FM) -- was this a mistake?"

Then this from general manager Matt Martin of public radio station KALW, in San Francisco: "Given the political uses to which DHS has been put and the fact that listeners want to be assured that NPR (and by extension, KALW) can be depended on for independent critical coverage of this and other government agencies, the credit may not belong in a news program."

DHS is in the midst of a two-month marketing campaign to promote E-Verify. "We are picking NPR because of its national reach," Wright said. "NPR has morning shows, reaches a lot of commuters out there. It's a trusted network and has a wide following and reaches a lot of demographics across the country." E-Verify funding credits also are carried on Latino USA, a show that NPR distributes but does not produce.

But there are problems with E-Verify, according to a May 2008 Government Accountability Office study, which found the service is vulnerable to employer fraud and misuse and noted that it can't ferret out stolen documents.

Another problem concerns the database's accuracy, said Tyler Moran, employment policy director for the National Immigration Law Center, a group that promotes legal rights for immigrants. "The error rate disproportionately affects foreign-born workers and that includes naturalized citizens and legal immigrants," she said. "It's often because of their names." Moran wrote a paper last month on how E-Verify has hurt legal workers.

So, should NPR run these funding credits? NPR has accepted underwriting from the government for 20 years, said John King, operations manager for sponsorship.

"In addition to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting," he said, "we've accepted underwriting from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Postal Service, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities." None, though, has generated anywhere near as much controversy as the E-Verify credit.

NPR has strict guidelines about funding it will accept. Those guidelines indicate a funding credit must be 10 seconds and cannot contain price information, an explicit inducement to buy or a call to action. For example, a spot could not say, "Stop by our showroom to see a model." A credit can name a program or a store and tell listeners how to get more information. "Learn more about" is not considered a call to action but rather a way to provide listeners information, according to NPR's legal office.

E-Verify's Wright admits the service has some minor flaws. And certainly it has detractors in Congress and among groups advocating for immigrants. Even so, the E-Verify credit does not violate NPR's guidelines. Just because some listeners might not like the funder, or even the program it promotes, that is not a strong enough reason for NPR to reject an underwriter.

Accepting underwriting is not the same as approving the message, NPR managers said.

"The underwriting credit does not advocate a position about immigration," said Blake Truitt, senior vice president of National Public Media, NPR's sponsorship subsidiary. "The credit describes a DHS service."

But there is another potentially more serious concern. Will NPR do stories about E-Verify in hopes of keeping the funding coming? Or will DHS be able to influence NPR's coverage since it's helping keep NPR afloat?

The answer to such questions is no because of what's known in the news business as an impenetrable firewall between NPR news and the underwriting department. NPR reporters pay no attention to the funders, and the funders have no influence over what is covered, said managing editor Brian Duffy.

But the perception of a conflict can exist. Sean Collins, executive producer of Latino USA, is concerned about this since his show reports in-depth on immigration issues.

"There's a perception of a conflict when you hear reporting and then you hear a funding credit that's from a particular point of view and you realize the program was funded in part by that government organization or entity," said Collins. "It just makes you a little queasy. I don't think we do a good enough job of reiterating the concept of a firewall. It really does exist."

It's possible that NPR's immigration correspondent Jennifer Ludden will cover E-Verify, as she has in the past.

"Having this funding credit on air would have no bearing on how I handled future stories," said Ludden. "I certainly would have no idea if this particular credit would air in the same show or segment as one of my pieces. More to the point, I would have no problem continuing to report on the program's shortcomings, and the controversy over it."

But in any future reporting on E-Verify, Duffy says that NPR will need to also mention at the same time that E-Verify is a sponsor. "If Jennifer Ludden does a story on it for NPR, we should clearly disclose that E-Verify is something that NPR is receiving underwriting for," said Duffy. "We want to be as transparent as possible. We have no secrets."

Another concern -- one that involves all funding credits -- is that at many local public radio stations funding credits are read on-air by the same announcers who give the local news. This blurs what should be a clear distinction between news and underwriting.

In my view, local stations, and NPR, should take whatever steps necessary to make sure that listeners don't associate underwriting with legitimate news reporting.

NPR will continue running the E-Verify credit until Feb. 9.

December 02, 2008

Immigration Experts Predict Fewer Workplace Raids

by Jennifer Ludden

As the Obama administration takes shape, many experts are betting it will significantly curtail one of the most visible and controversial facets of the Bush administration's immigration crackdown: the high-profile workplace raids in which federal agents arrest dozens, even hundreds, of undocumented workers.

The number of people arrested in such raids has risen tenfold in the past five years, to 6,287 in 2008. Most have been administrative arrests. The biggest raids have made national news, but on any given week, there have been smaller ones across the country. They've targeted a San Francisco Bay Area chain of taquerias, Rhode Island courthouses and a Virginia painting company, to name a few.

As a candidate, Sen. Barack Obama questioned the effectiveness of such tactics in a 2007 interview with The Des Moines Register.

"I'm not particularly impressed with raids on plants that grab a handful of undocumented workers and send them home, leaving the company in a position where it can just hire the next batch," Obama said.

Calls For A Halt On Raids

Since the election, immigrant advocacy groups and Democratic members of Congress have intensified their calls for a moratorium on immigration raids, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has talked of finding a way to end them. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) says the undocumented workers being arrested and deported have millions of family members who are legal residents or U.S. citizens, and he says the effect has been devastating.

"You have single mothers now," Gutierrez says. "You have young, 15-year-old kids with no father. Think about that a moment. And the government took your dad away."

The Bush administration actually spent years pushing to legalize undocumented workers. But when a broad immigration overhaul failed in Congress two years in a row, Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff dramatically ramped up worksite raids, along with other get-tough measures. In recent months, a number of studies have shown a big drop in illegal migration, and while Chertoff admits the tanking economy played a big role, he credits his agency's crackdown as well.

"This is a direct result of strong, positive enforcement, which is yielding measurable results," he says.

Doris Meissner, a former head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and now a senior fellow with the Migration Policy Institute, is not convinced.

"I think a lot of what's been going on has been high-visibility disruption for its own sake," she says. "I'm not sure there's a real strategy that's guiding it."

Shifting Focus To Employers?

Meissner does not believe President-elect Obama will end worksite raids altogether, but she does foresee a shift in focus to employers, and a far broader approach to holding them accountable. Meissner says basic labor law enforcement has languished for years. She expects an Obama administration to devote more resources to protecting wage and safety standards. She also says leveling the playing field in that manner would go a long way toward weeding out undocumented workers.

Obama also has spoken of the need for a reliable way to check workers' legal status. That has cheered even the staunchest supporters of the current government crackdown, such as Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

"Even though I expect the Obama administration is going to dial back on worksite raids," Krikorian says, "I don't think it's a complete disaster, because you're going to see employer-oriented enforcement continuing."

The Department of Homeland Security has aggressively encouraged businesses to consult a federal database to check workers' legal status. It's a program called E-Verify, which DHS promotes in a number of ways, including funding credits on NPR. Soon, DHS also will require large federal contractors to use the program. Mark Krikorian says that could mean up to 20 percent of all new hires in the country will be checked.

"That's a big deal," he says. "I mean, that's starting, at that point, to become a standard labor practice."

On the other hand, critics complain this program's error rate is too high, and some groups want to scrap it as well. That will be one more decision for the Obama administration as it shapes its own immigration policy.

November 25, 2008

Immigrant Widows Left In Limbo

Everybody loves a love story - everybody it seems, except the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. In our post-9/11 world, immigration has become increasingly tough on, of all groups, widows.

A foreigner who marries a U.S. citizen is entitled to become a U.S. resident. But as correspondent Bob Simon reports, immigration wants to deport several hundred widows-and a few widowers-foreigners who had been married to American citizens when the Americans died.

Immigration claims basically that a widow is not a wife, and that if the widow did not complete the process to become a U.S. resident while her husband was alive, she cannot remain in the country.

If that sounds a little strange, wait till you hear what happened to Raquel Williams when she met up with immigration.



Raquel Williams, a young nursing student from Brazil, was visiting Florida when, one night, she and three girl friends drove into a gas station. They caught the eye of a car full of guys who were also getting gas.

"I guess they noticed that we were, you know, not from here," Raquel remembers, recalling when she first met her future husband. "Well, they're like, 'Oh, Where you guys from?' You know? 'Oh, my name's is Derek. Nice to meeting you.'"

That chance meeting with Derek Williams led to love, marriage, and eventually parenthood. Two years after they met, their son Ian was born.

But then the unthinkable happened.

"I woke up 4:30 in the morning, 5:00 and to find my husband laying on the couch. I could see that something's wrong. Get closer. And he's not breathing. And called 911 and they stay on the phone with me. And then I hear that they coming. And I said, 'Please, please. Oh, come fast. Fast.' And it was, he was, he was gone by that time," Raquel remembers.

Derek had insomnia, so he'd watch TV on their couch during the night. But he also had breathing problems and an irregular heartbeat, which proved fatal. After he died, Raquel and her son Ian moved in with Derek's parents, and three months after Derek died, Raquel finally had the immigration interview that shed been asking for for a year - the interview to prove that her marriage was legitimate.

She went to the interview with Ian, and brought all the documentation needed to prove she had been married to Derek; she also brought the death certificate.

"And I explained what happened. 'My husband pass away. What can I do from now? This is his death certificate,'" she remembers. "'Oh, your case, your case is gonna be denied.'"

"And they said, 'You're gonna have to go back to Brazil.' And I said, 'I have my son. You know? This is my son. He's American citizen.' And they said that, 'You can go. He can stay.'"

Ian was five months old at the time.

Raquel, like all the other widows 60 Minutes met, had entered the U.S. legally. Still, immigration has been rejecting requests for permanent residence if the American spouse died before they had their immigration interview to prove their marriage was based on love.

But the government can take months-sometimes more than a year-to schedule that interview. Raquel's mother-in-law, Linda, says Raquel shouldn't be penalized because the bureaucracy didn't move fast enough.

"They were doing things legally. They filed the right papers. They filed them in a timely manner. Things were not processed in a timely manner. And they're and then my son died. This was not something that you can foresee," Linda says.

Raquel and her in-laws are raising Ian together. They've managed to hold off deportation while they appeal immigration's decision; but they know a knock on the door can come at any time. They know it, but they still can't believe it.

"We're Americans. You know? This is our country. And my country is threatening to send my daughter-in-law and my grandson out of the country? He's an American citizen," Linda says.

"They're not threatening to throw your grandson out of the country," Simon remarks.

"But who would separate a mother and a child? Who? My country would separate? His mother Raquel? Ian's mother and him? It isn't right. That is not right. And this is America," Linda says.

Monika Monroe is still grieving over the death of her husband Tim. Monika is a movie make-up artist from Germany, who met Tim when they were both vacationing in Prague, where, she said, it was love at first sight.

"It's a beautiful place to fall in love," Simon remarks.

"Yes, but we [were] even blind to the place because all we could see were each other," she says, laughing. "It's like the whole world changed. We felt like we cannot survive without each other anymore. So he begged me to come to Los Angeles, so I came two weeks later."

And two months after that, Tim took her out in a boat in Sequoia National Park, where he got on his knees and proposed.

Tim was an artist, and their house doubled as his studio. She told Simon her life had never been better, until it all fell apart. "Everything happened so fast. It was, like, we were in our life and then he died of a heart attack. And then he was gone," she says.

And now she's fighting deportation, trying to stay where she and Tim built their life together.

Asked why it's important to her to stay in the house, rather than to return to Germany, Monika tells Simon, "Because it's my home. And it's the place that I was the happiest in my life."

While a foreign spouse can become a U.S. resident, immigration argued in court that a widow is not a spouse, citing Black’s Law Dictionary, which defines spouse as "a married person."

"That rules out widows," said immigration, "because a widow is no longer married." But the federal court in Massachusetts rejected that argument because just a few lines down the same law dictionary defines a surviving spouse as one who outlives the other. So, the court said widows are spouses and are eligible to become U.S. residents.

But immigration is appealing that decision and three other federal court rulings that have all gone against them.

60 Minutes tried to find out why the government is being so tough on widows, but immigration and its parent agency, Homeland Security declined our requests for interviews. So 60 Minutes went to the top, to a press conference held by Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

Asked why his department is refusing U.S. residency to legitimately married widows, Chertoff says, "All I can tell you is, without getting into you know, specific cases and arguing the facts and circumstances that I think the lawyers have an obligation to pursue the matter through the system until we get a final resolution from the courts."

"Four courts, sir, have ruled in favor of the widows. And your department appeals the cases every time," Simon points out.

"I think what you’re seeing is a normal part of responsible lawyering, if I may so," Chertoff replies.

But attorney Brent Renison says the government could accept all the court decisions instead of appealing them. Renison is working pro bono for many of the widows. He's filed a class action suit to force immigration to simply examine each marriage to determine whether it was legitimate. That is, instead of automatically turning all of them down. He says making sure the marriage was bona fide would cost the government a lot less than to keep fighting in various courts.

"All we're asking for is a bit of common sense. We need someone to tell the agency to stop this madness or Congress to enact some laws that provide for this," Renison says.

Bills are pending in the House and Senate to direct immigration to change its policy. That can't happen soon enough for Diana Engstrom. Her husband Todd was killed in Iraq. They'd met in her native Kosovo, fallen in love, and gotten married near Todd's home in Illinois. Then he signed up with a private contractor to train Iraqi soldiers.

Asked why Todd went to Iraq, Diana says, "He told me he wanted to serve his country. It was his duty to do that."

Then one day, the truck Todd was riding in was hit by a rocket propelled grenade.

Todd's father Ron got the first call, explaining how his son had died. "A rocket propeller grenade hit basically where Todd was sitting. Todd was killed instantly. It's the kind of call that no parent should have to receive," he remembers.

And soon after that, Ron heard that immigration wanted Diana to leave the country. His reaction? "Disbelief. We had buried our son. Was in the shock of that. We were just in shock again."

"I don't think that any other country would treat a widow like that. So, it's just unbelievable," Diana adds.

Immigration said Diana couldn't become a resident because she hadn't had her immigration interview with Todd, so she couldn't prove her marriage was bona fide. "There was no question that they were in love, that they were happy; that they were gonna build a future together. No question," her father-in-law Ron says.

Diana is part of Renison’s class action suit, so she hasn't been deported - yet. She and the other families feel the government has betrayed them, and worse, betrayed their dead husbands and sons.

"Cindy, what do you want our viewers to understand," Simon asks Todd's mother.

"That our son gave his life for this country," she says. "And our government should stand behind him and do what he would have wanted."

November 21, 2008

Immigrant's Residency Dream Becomes a Nightmare

Published: November 20, 2008

In 2004, Heathcliffe Bradley was planning to return to his native New Zealand after eight years in the United States when he met Cheryl Losee, a New Jersey native, and his plans flew out the window. He stayed, they married, and then he turned his attention to a lingering problem: Mr. Bradley was an illegal immigrant.

Cheryl Losee reunited with her husband, Heathcliffe Bradley, when he was released earlier this month after spending 36 days in an immigration detention center in Elizabeth, N.J.

But what seemed to them a straightforward process to make Mr. Bradley a legal resident soon turned into a bureaucratic and legal nightmare. Last month Mr. Bradley, a construction worker who says he has no criminal record in either the United States or New Zealand, was hauled from his home in handcuffs and put in an immigration detention center in Elizabeth, N.J., and told he was going to be deported.

He is challenging his deportation in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

“I’m fighting for my wife and for myself,” he said on Tuesday, sounding weary. “This is my life, and this is where I want to live.”

Mr. Bradley, 36, had been swept up in tougher enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security’s Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of certain countries, all close allies of the United States, to stay in the country for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

The government admits millions of travelers on visa waivers every year, requiring them to sign a document waiving any right to challenge their removal, except under certain conditions. Most leave in a timely fashion, officials said. But Mr. Bradley, who entered the country in August 1996 with a visa waiver, never left.

Since 9/11, the Visa Waiver Program, which now includes 34 participating countries, has come under close scrutiny as a potential loophole for terrorists. In 2004, all visa waiver visitors were required for the first time to be photographed and fingerprinted when they arrived in the United States. In the 2008 fiscal year, 785 foreigners who entered the United States on visa waivers were deported, up from 750 the year before, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement figures.

As the spouse of an American citizen, Mr. Bradley was eligible to apply for an adjustment of his administrative status and seek a green card.

It is a common enough process: Immigrant law experts estimate that hundreds of people who have overstayed their visa waivers apply successfully for green cards every year. Indeed, a brother and a sister of Mr. Bradley, both of whom had overstayed their visa waivers, married Americans and successfully obtained green cards.

Mr. Bradley applied for a green card interview and was granted one scheduled for March 24, 2008. He twice postponed the interview because of work conflicts, according to his lawyer, Harry Asatrian.

He said he did not expect any problem with the application. He had worked illegally, mostly as a bartender in New Jersey. But he had stayed out of more serious trouble, he said.

On June 5, however, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services denied Mr. Bradley’s second request for a postponement, saying he had failed to show “good cause,” Mr. Asatrian said. Mr. Bradley filed an appeal with Citizenship and Immigration Services on June 24, the lawyer said.

Mr. Bradley heard nothing more about his case until 5 a.m. on Oct. 8, when immigration officers knocked on the couple’s door in West Milford, N.J. They said he was going to be deported, and they arrested him.

Harold Ort, a spokesman for the Newark office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that the agency could not comment on any deportation cases that were in litigation.

In his appeal to the deportation order, Mr. Bradley challenges the integrity and constitutionality of the visa waiver procedure itself.

Mr. Asatrian said that the Department of Homeland Security had not produced the document waiving Mr. Bradley’s right to challenge his removal. Court papers filed by Mr. Asatrian say that Mr. Bradley “vaguely recalls” signing the waiver when he passed through immigration at Kennedy International Airport, but that he was not in any condition to waive his rights “knowingly and voluntarily” since he was not sufficiently knowledgeable about his legal rights and was “groggy from the sleeplessness, jet-lagged and sufficiently intoxicated.”

“If you take a survey,” Mr. Asatrian said, “I don’t think 90 percent of the people would know what they are signing away.”

The government has argued that the Third Circuit has no jurisdiction in the case, and that Mr. Bradley’s “constitutional claims” do not apply, because he waived his rights to appeal a deportation order before entering the United States, according to court records.

As for proving whether Mr. Bradley knowingly waived his rights, “the form itself is the prima facie evidence,” said Stephen F. Day, a trial lawyer in the Department of Justice who is handling the case. “He admitted signing it.”

On Nov. 10, the appeals court stayed the deportation. It has agreed to hear the case. Mr. Asatrian said it could take up to two years to complete. Mr. Bradley was released on Nov. 14 pending the outcome of the case.

“It’s still very surreal; I still haven’t quite adjusted fully,” he said in a telephone interview from his home. “I’m still worried when cars are driving by the house, and I’m still looking out the window. Hopefully that feeling will go away with time.”

November 19, 2008

Illegal staff may bring arrest, fine

November 17, 2008

Illegal staff may bring arrest, fine

Letters would warn employers if IDs didn't match database

By Janell Ross
THE TENNESSEAN

When Nashville immigration lawyer Linda Rose holds a seminar for business owners, there are usually questions about worksite immigration raids.

But at a seminar this month, much of Rose's audience wanted to talk about immigration enforcement that comes in the mail, not through the door: the no-match letter.

After nearly 2½ years of litigation delays, the Department of Homeland Security announced in late October plans to revive an effort to put employers with suspected illegal workers on notice. If they don't act, they'll be penalized or even prosecuted.

No-match letters actually come from the U.S. Social Security Administration. The letters advise employers information submitted about workers does not correspond with information in the Social Security Administration's database. Under the new effort, the employer and employee would have about 90 days to address the problem.

Homeland Security announced in October the letters will include a list of actions employers must take. If an employer fails to follow the steps or fire the worker, the employer would be engaged in "knowingly employing" someone the agency considers an illegal worker.

Some first-time offenses — those that are a matter of a clerical error and those involving illegal workers but no evidence of a pattern — are considered civil violations. They carry fines that range from $110 to $3,200 per worker, Rose said.

But in cases where the government believes that there is a pervasive pattern of hiring illegal workers, criminal charges can be filed.

Penalties can range as high as six months in jail and or $3,000 fines.

A suit filed by the AFL-CIO in 2006 and joined by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups initially stopped Homeland Security from moving forward with its plans.

The groups said the measure would disrupt business operations, force employers to provide new training and, because of the 18 million errors the Social Security Administration estimates exist in its database, mistakes were likely.

Lawsuit pending on plan

The errors haven't been corrected, but Homeland Security wants to move forward. Officials will find out whether they can after a Friday federal court hearing on the lawsuit.

The Social Security Administration hasn't decided "due to the pending litigation whether it will be mailing the letters (to employers) or not," said Patti Patterson, an agency spokesperson based in Atlanta.

Some suspect the burden of proving a legal right to work in the U.S. will fall to employees.

"They are the ones who will be at risk of not being able to work when they are legally and fully able to do so," said Stephen Fotopulos, executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. "I think there are a lot of people who want an employment system that works. But it will never work better than the data."

Tom Negri, the general manager of the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel, said new workers there are run though an existing Department of Homeland Security database and must pass a background check and drug test. He said he doubts the plans would affect him, but they will other companies.

"They have to spend the money to have the kinks worked out," Negri said. "If they don't … well, with unemployment as high as it is, do you want it to affect millions of people, employable U.S. workers? I would think not at this period in time."

Cheney, Gonzales, Vanguard Group in "Prisonville"

Private prison corporations are a good place to put money – if you are interested in making good money from companies that imprison people for profit. As the two leading private prison firms like to tell investors, it’s a booming business these days not because crime rates are rising but because of the new opportunities in immigrant detention.

So it’s not surprising that Vanguard Group, one of the country’s largest mutual funds companies, puts its investors money into private prison firms, including the country’s two largest: Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group (originally incorporated as Wackenhut). Vanguard Group is also a major investor in Correctional Services Corporation.

Willacy County, Texas is the epicenter of the private prison phenomenon that is sweeping the country, fueled in recent years by the immigrant crackdown. Over the past three years, over 3,000 new “prison beds” have come on line in Raymondville, the county seat, as politicians and Texas developers have attempted to cash in on the federal government’s demand for prison space for detained immigrants. The largest operator is the Utah-based Management and Training Corporation, although GEO Group also has prison operations in Raymondville, commonly called “Prisonville” by locals.

The recent indictments of Vice President Dick Cheney and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for private prison-related crimes highlighted the controversial role of private prisons in immigrant detention. The indictments were filed by outgoing County Attorney Juan Angel Guerra but have not yet been signed by the county judge.
Cheney is charged organized criminal activity related to the vice president's investment in the Vanguard Group, while Gonzales is charged with using his position as attorney general to stop investigations of prisoner abuse at private prisons in the country. Also indicted are GEO Corp, state Sen. Eddie Lucio (profiting from public office by accepting honoraria), two district judges, and a former U.S. attorney.

The country’s largest private prison company, CCA, has no business in Willacy County. However, County Attorney Guerra had protested the country contracts with Management and Training Corporation, contending that CCA would be a better partner for the country. In particular, he charged that Senator Lucio was lobbying for MTC and, as a private prison consultant, was benefiting from his favoring the Utah firm.

For more on Willacy County and private prisons, see an excellent report in the Texas Observer by Forrest Wilder. http://www.texasobserver.org/article.php?aid=2320

November 18, 2008

Fact Sheet: Visa Waiver Program Expansion

Release Date: November 17, 2008

For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
Contact: 202-282-8010

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables eligible citizens or nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and was recently expanded to include seven new allies to the list of countries authorized to participate in the VWP.

Facilitating Travel Between Partner Nations With A Common Focus On Security

  • The administration sought authority for years to reform the VWP.
  • In 2006 President George W. Bush proposed, and Congress ultimately passed as part of the "Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act)," reforms to the VWP law that gave the Administration greater flexibility to admit countries to VWP as the program's security was strengthened. Section 711 of the 9/11 Act amends Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which provides the legal authority for the VWP.

Easier Travel For Legitimate Tourists And Travelers

  • DHS has increased the number of participating VWP countries from 27 to 34. Expanding the number of countries whose citizens can travel to the U.S. without a visa increases business and social ties between our countries and at the same time deepens cooperation on required security measures.
  • The seven newly added countries are: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia.
  • Citizens of countries eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP prior to November 17, 2008 are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Strengthening Security Measures To Protect Against Those Who Want To Do Us Harm

  • To be admitted to the VWP, a country must meet various security requirements, such as enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States and timely reporting of both blank and issued lost and stolen passports. VWP members are also required to maintain high counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security standards.
  • As a result of these information sharing measures, DHS is able to screen arriving VWP passengers far more effectively and to detect, apprehend, and limit the movement of terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous travelers.
  • Beginning November 17, 2008 eligible citizens or nationals from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia must obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP
  • Beginning Jan. 12, 2009, eligible citizens or nationals from all VWP countries must obtain approval through ESTA prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP.
  • ESTA is an automated system that assists in determining eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP, and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk. Upon completion of an ESTA application, a VWP traveler is notified of his or her eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP.

For more information on the Visa Waiver Program, please visit http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cg ov/travel/id_visa/business_pleasure/vwp/. For additional information on ESTA, visit www.cbp.gov/esta.

November 14, 2008

Pragmatic Hope for Immigration Reform Under Obama

New America Media, Access Washington Report, Rupa Dev, Posted: Nov 14, 2008

Editor's Note: Immigrant rights advocates are optimistic in the aftermath of the Nov. 4 elections, in which anti-immigrant politicians lost seats in Congress. They hope comprehensive immigration reform will prevail under the Obama Administration. Rupa Dev is a reporter for New America Media.

The results of elections 2008 are good news for immigration reform. It's not just the election of Barack Obama, say advocates. From the Senate to Congress, immigration failed as a wedge issue. And some anti-immigrant candidates have lost their seats.

Representatives of immigration rights groups recently weighed in on the elections during an Access Washington call organized by New America Media. They discussed how the ethnic vote swayed the presidential and congressional races in battleground states and why they perceive the changing landscape of the U.S. government as a victory for immigration reform supporters.

"Immigration is not just a Latino or Asian or immigrant issue," proclaimed Angela Kelley, Director of the Immigration Policy Center. "This is an issue of America."

Candidates - both presidential and congressional - spent $27.5 million dollars on 253 advertisements on immigration issues, reported Lynn Tramonte, policy director of America's Voice, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. Though it didn't come up in the presidential debates, immigration policy emerged as a key issue in the Nov. 4 elections, especially among New American voters – immigrants and children born since 1965.

An exit poll, reported by America's Voice, interviewed voters in Florida and California and found that 63 percent of the 2,101 Hispanic voters polled felt immigration issues were "very important" to them. It is a misconception that Latinos aren't concerned about immigration just because it is not always the top issue, said Clarissa Martinez, senior director of Immigration and National Campaigns for the National Council of La Raza.

Martinez believes that immigration, especially over the last three years, has been the "driving push factor" influencing the Latino vote. "We've seen this [trend] since the election in 2006, when Latinos started walking away from the Republican Party because of their embrace of anti-immigrant political strategies," Martinez explained.

An exit poll of Chicago metropolitan voters, released by the Asian American Institute, found that 68 percent of Latino voters felt the Republican Party is not favorable to immigrants while 47 percent of Asian-American voters felt that way.

Election results indicated that a candidate's stance on immigration reform played a pivotal role in who gained the majority vote in certain battleground congressional races.

Some Republican representatives attempted to make illegal immigration a wedge issue in their campaigns, but this strategy proved ineffective. In Pennsylvania, Lou Barletta, the Republican mayor of Hazleton, ran an anti-immigration campaign against incumbent State Senator Paul Kanjorski, who was one of the few vulnerable Democrats. Barletta lost, which was heralded by immigrant rights groups who view him as the poster child of restrictionism.

Tramonte and her America's Voice colleagues tracked the 16 competitive battleground races in which Republican candidates highlighted their Democratic opponent's immigration reform positions. This tactic failed, for the most part. In 14 races, the Democratic candidate who supported comprehensive immigration reform won her/his race.

"It just proves that being for [immigration] solutions, being for common sense reform is not a political liability, and it actually enhances your chances in battle ground states," said Tramonte.

Immigrant rights groups are casting an eye towards five newly elected, pro-immigration reform senators who they hope will examine immigration issues with a different light and solve problems. They include: Mark Warner (Virginia), Mark Udall (Colorado), Kay Hagan (North California), Jeanne Shaheen (New Hampire), and Tom Udall (New Mexico).

Now that Congress and the White House are in the Democrats' hands, there's no excuse not to move forward with immigration, argued Karen Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, a civil rights group.

"Immigration is long overdue," agreed Tramonte.

But Narasaki cautioned against setting expectations too high, noting that President-elect Obama will experience a trying first year in office with the current troubled state of the economy.

"In a weak economy, when people are losing jobs and feeling financially insecure, it's going to be much more difficult to have a rationale discussion about immigration and get the kind of fair, humane, comprehensive policies that we are seeking," she said.

When asked about how much leeway Hispanic organizations will extend to Obama's administration before pressing him to act on immigration matters, Martinez said, "We're not going to give them a free pass; we're not going to wait more than one year."

The challenge for Obama, perhaps, is not so much when he will tackle immigration reform but how he will approach all the issues it entails: amnesty, backlog, raids, enforcement agencies, border patrol, and the undocumented.

What will Obama do about the raids, for example?

"Obama knows the raids aren't an effective enforcement technique and have horrible ramifications in the community," observed Kelley, but at the same time, he must also balance that knowledge against the need, as commander-in-chief, "to not show weakness and inexperience on security and enforcement matters."

He will have to carefully walk a tightrope, she concluded.

While all four immigrant rights representatives shared confidence in Obama's ability to successfully push comprehensive immigration reform, each had different concerns moving forward.

Latinos placed a majority of the 250,000 calls to Congress in 2007, but Martinez wanted to make sure that that civil engagement does not lose steam now that the election is over.

Kelley said leaders in the community, locally and nationally, need to openly debate what fair enforcement measures should be proposed – not the ones that round up legal permanent residents and tear families part.

Since the Obama campaign promised change, hope, and solutions to tough problems, Tramonte said she would look to the administration to transform those ideals into action.

Narasaki suggested the Obama Administration should at least consider suspending the ICE raids because she believes group processing, during which clusters of immigrants testify before a judge together and are forced to plea to charges they don't really understand, is neither fair nor humane.

"I can't really think of another issue more important than how we treat America's newcomers, and how we treat American communities and families that are not monolithic in their immigration status," said Kelley.

Expanding Borders, Diminishing Rights

New America Media, Commentary, Sophie Feal, Posted: Nov 12, 2008

Border checks are no longer happening just at the border. Immigration checks are being carried out on passengers traveling domestically in the U.S. writes Sophie Feal, Supervising Immigration Attorney at the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, Inc. in Buffalo, NY. She is a member of the Detention Watch Network, a national coalition working to reform the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system. IMMIGRATION MATTERS regularly features the views of the nation's leading immigrant rights advocates

Many people may believe that if they are traveling domestically inside the United States, they cannot be questioned about their immigration status. Unfortunately, this is not entirely true. Indeed, in Upstate New York, an alarming number of noncitizens who are out of status and encountered by the U.S. Border Patrol aboard buses and trains from New York City have been arrested, detained and placed in removal proceedings. Those who are not carrying proper immigration documentation with them, such as a “green card” or a passport and I-94 card, may be delayed and subjected to a humiliating interrogation while officials investigate whether they are in fact in status. Amtrak and Greyhound provide no warning to their passengers that they may be subject to such inspections by immigration authorities.

It is clear that when a person is seeking to enter the United States at a border point, or a port-of-entry as immigration law refers to it, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers can request a passport and a visa, if required, or other appropriate identification, and can inquire in detail about the reason why one wants to come into the country. Therefore, there are very few rights at the border. The Government is authorized to question individuals to determine whether they have a legitimate right to enter or remain in the U.S. This is called the inspection process.

However, this process is not just limited to the physical border. There is a provision in the immigration law that treats a distance of up to 100 miles from an international border as its “functional equivalent.” This allows Border Patrol and other immigration officials to enter and search vessels, buses, trains, and vehicles traveling inside the U.S. to determine whether those aboard are legally in the country. These searches extend to train and bus stations, and even airports which have no international flights. Recently, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a fact sheet on the “Constitution-Free Zone,:” this area 100 miles from an international border, including the U.S. coastline. The organization calculates that 197.4 million people live in this zone.

In Upstate New York, the Border Patrol has generally extended its power to stop and question within the “functional equivalent of the border” to only 25 miles from the physical border. Nonetheless, since 400 miles of New York State borders Canada, this still means that all major Upstate cities, including Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany, are within Border Patrol’s jurisdiction. Moreover, these four cities lie along Interstate 90, a major pathway for buses and trains from New York City to points westward, such as Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago and onward.

The “functional equivalent of the border” rule gives immigration authorities broad powers to conduct transportation checks farther from the actual border in order to stop and question people about their immigration status, as well as to establish checkpoints inside the U.S. However, this does not mean that one gives up all of his or her rights. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. Therefore, a law enforcement officer must have a search warrant or the consent of an occupant to enter a dwelling. Similarly, outside of a checkpoint, immigration officials must have a reasonable suspicion that a U.S. immigration law has been violated in order to stop a car, as well as probable cause or a warrant to search the car. It is also very important for individuals to know that, if stopped by Border Patrol at a bus or a train station or at an airport, even within the area known as the “functional equivalent” of the border, they still have the right to remain silent and may refuse to respond and walk away.

Since 9/11, given the concern that terrorists might enter the United States from Canada, there has been a steady increase in agents conducting checks along the Northern border. While in 2001 only 340 immigration agents were assigned to this border, by next year, there will be 1800. These agents are aggressively patrolling the region: they board buses, trains and ferries to question people about their status in the U.S. and they operate undercover in area's airports as well. Although it has publicly denied doing so, immigrant advocates express concern that the Border Patrol is engaging in racial profiling during its transportation checks to determine who is not a U.S. citizen.

While civil rights organizations like the ACLU justifiably view the transportation checks as a broad and illegitimate expansion of law enforcement’s authority to protect U.S. borders, there have been no legal challenges of the law to date. For individuals caught up in the dragnet, nonetheless, the consequences are severe.

November 10, 2008

December 2008 Visa Bulletin

U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT VISA BULLETIN

DECEMBER 2008

(COURTESY OF THE LAW OFFICE OF RANDALL CAUDLE)

FAMILY IMMIGRATION

PREFERENCES

WORLDWIDE

CHINA (PRC)-
mainland
born

INDIA

MEXICO

PHILIPPINES

1st (USC Unmarried Sons & Daughters over 21)

MAY 22, 2002

MAY 22, 2002

MAY 22, 2002

SEP. 22, 1992

JUNE 01, 1993

2A (LPR Spouses & Unmarried Children under 21)

APRIL 01, 2004

APRIL 01, 2004

APRIL 01, 2004

AUG. 01, 2001

APRIL 01, 2004

2B (LPR Unmarried Sons & Daughters over 21)

FEB. 15, 2000

FEB. 15, 2000

FEB. 15, 2000

MAY 01, 1992

JULY 15, 1997

3rd (USC Married Sons & Daughters)

JULY 22, 2000

JULY 22, 2000

JULY 22, 2000

OCT. 01, 1992

MAY 15, 1991

4th (USC Brothers & Sisters)

JAN. 01, 1998

JULY 15, 1997

SEP. 15, 1997

FEB. 15, 1995

APRIL 15, 1986

EMPLOYMENT-BASED IMMIGRATION

PREFERENCES

WORLDWIDE

CHINA (PRC) Mainland Born

INDIA

MEXICO

PHILIPPINES

1st (EB-1)

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

2nd (EB-2)

CURRENT

JUN. 01, 2004

JUN. 01, 2003

CURRENT

CURRENT

3rd (EB-3)

MAY 01, 2005

FEB. 01, 2002

OCT. 01, 2001

SEP, 01, 2002

MAY 01, 2005

Schedule A Workers

(RNs, PTs )

JAN. 15, 2003

JAN. 15, 2003

JAN. 15, 2003

JAN. 15, 2003

JAN. 15, 2003

Unskilled Workers (less than 2 years exp. Required)

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

UNAVAILABLE

4th (EB-4)

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

Religious Workers

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

5th (EB-5) (Investors)

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

Targeted Employment Areas/Regional Centers

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT

CURRENT