June 30, 2008

ICE attorney arrested for alleged immigrant bribes


LOS ANGELES (AP) — An attorney for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and his wife were arrested on suspicion of accepting thousands of dollars from both legal and illegal immigrants in exchange for immigration benefits, authorities said.

ICE Assistant Chief Counsel Constantine Peter Kallas, 38, and wife Maria Kallas, 39, both of Alta Loma, were arrested Thursday at the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, where authorities believed they were accepting such a bribe, U.S. Attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a statement.

A search warrant affidavit said the couple, using a pair of companies they had set up, filed false employment petitions with federal authorities for 45 illegal immigrants and two legal permanent residents.

"The egregious acts of corruption alleged in this case are extremely disturbing to those of us who have sworn to serve the United States," U.S. Attorney Thomas P. O'Brien said in a written statement. "As a law enforcement official, Mr. Kallas abused his position in the Department of Homeland Security simply to line his own pockets."

The search warrant affidavit said about $950,000 beyond Constantine Kallas' salary had been deposited in the pair's bank accounts since 2000.

The couple was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy, bribery, making false statements and making a false statement in an immigration application.

Attempts to reach an attorney for the couple early Friday morning were unsuccessful.

They were expected to make their first court appearance in a U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on Friday.

Kallas has worked for ICE since 1998, but had been on unpaid leave since January, 2007.

Steve Fischel - Rest in Peace

On Saturday, my friend and colleague Steve Fischel, passed away after having heart surgery to repair an aortic anuerism and valve. He was attending the American Immigration Lawyers Association annual conference in Vancouver, Canada.

Steve spent 31 years with the U.S. Department of State in a distinguished career and joined the immigration attorney bar in 2005.

Stephen Fischel, a graduate of University of Santa Clara Law School, commenced his government career in January 1974 with the Passport Office, U.S. Department of State, adjudicating citizenship cases. He transferred in 1975 to the Visa Office, also, of the Bureau of Consular Affairs at State where he served in several capacities until he became the Director of the Office of Legislation, Regulations, and Advisory Assistance.

As the primary advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs on all visa related legal matters, including immigration policy, he oversaw the Advisory Opinions Division, the Legislation and Regulations Division, the Coordination Division controlling security advisory opinions, and the Waiver Review Division.

Steve was associated with FMF Global Law Group (www.fmfgloballaw.com) and was a Fellow with the Migration Policy Institute (www.migrationpolicy.org). Stephen received the 2006 American Immigration Law Foundation’s Distinguished Public Service Award in March, 2006. (www.ailf.org) Steve was on the American Immigration Law Foundation's board of trustees.

May your thoughts and prayers be with his family.

Steve will be missed by many, including me.

Heaven will now be better able to process those who belong in Heaven and those who do not, thanks to Steve.

June 25, 2008

U.S. Olympic Teams Benefit By Many Immigrant Athletes

See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/sports/olympics/15citizen.html

June 15, 2008
Swapping Passports in Pursuit of Olympic Medals

The New York Times

Marching into Beijing Stadium under the American flag this August will be a kayaker from Poland, table tennis players from China, a triathlete from New Zealand, a world-champion distance runner from Kenya and a gold-medal-winning equestrian from Australia.

All newly minted United States citizens.

Foreign-born and trained stars have been contributing to the United States’s Olympic medal count since 2000 in a modest but growing trend that blurs the national boundaries of the competition.

“We call them migrant laborers,” said Kevin B. Wamsley, a co-director of the Canada-based International Center for Olympic Studies. “Certainly, there’s a value for nations on medals.”

The United States is a magnet for attracting accomplished veteran athletes to switch citizenship, according to analysis by The New York Times. Since 1992, about 50 athletes who had competed in international events for their home countries — including 10 for China — became United States citizens and Olympians, winning eight medals, records show. This practice has implications for American athletes who are shut out of precious Olympic berths and has also been cause for conflict among competing nations.

Nine new citizens are on track to secure spots on the 600-athlete United States team for Beijing, including the distance runner Bernard Lagat, who won a medal for Kenya at the 2000 Sydney Games and another at the 2004 Athens Games.

The United States Olympic Committee says it does not recruit. “We think it’s just an offshoot of where athletes want to train and where they want to live and for whom they want to compete,” Jim Scherr, the chief executive of the committee, said in a telephone interview. “It’s a good thing. Nobody’s out there trading for athletes or offering financial rewards for an athlete to jump from one country to another.”

The International Olympic Committee imposes a three-year waiting period for an athlete who switches countries, although it will grant a waiver if the athlete’s native Olympic committee and international sports federation give permission. Two new Americans received the I.O.C. waiver this year: the equestrian Phillip P. Dutton, who won two gold medals for Australia; and the canoeist Heather Corrie, who is also a British citizen. (The Times’s statistics did not include dual citizens and athletes who immigrated as children.)

American-born competitors have grumbled about losing Olympic opportunities to newcomers and have been especially vocal when government officials have gone out of their way to expedite the eligibility of foreign athletes. Such fast-tracking does not appear to be happening for this Olympic cycle.

Few of the immigrants said they came here exclusively to continue their athletic careers. Mostly, they said, they came for love, opportunity, freedom and education. Nearly all have been welcomed by United States athletic federations.

They take advantage of EB-1 visas for aliens of extraordinary ability — meant for renowned scientists, artists and athletes — which moves them swiftly to the front of the line for permanent residency. The United States government issued 2,749 of these visas to foreigners, their spouses and children in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2007, but the statistics do not indicate how many went to athletes.

An athlete who marries an American citizen can apply for citizenship three years after obtaining a green card as a permanent resident; it takes five years otherwise. Potential Olympians often miss the Games while waiting.

Filling in the Gaps

In years past, the United States had trouble competing in some Olympic sports but for immigrants, said Alicia J. Campi, a former research coordinator for the Immigration Policy Center in Washington. Among the sports she cited were field hockey and table tennis.

“This is an area where immigrants can help because they already have the skills they’ve developed through decades and centuries of culture that valued that particular sport,” Campi said in a phone interview. “One or two athletes can really change the possibility of the United States doing well in one of those nontraditional sports.”

Seven Olympic medals since 2000 have been won by five new citizens who had been elite performers for their home countries: the gymnast Annia Hatch from Cuba and the synchronized swimmer Anna A. Kozlova from Russia each won two in 2004; the sailor Magnus Liljedahl from Sweden and the tennis player Monica Seles from Yugoslavia in 2000 in Sydney, Australia; and the ice dancer Tanith Belbin from Canada in the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.

The Nigeria-born Hakeem Olajuwon of the 1996 basketball Dream Team was the only foreign athlete to contribute to the United States medal count in the 1990s.

Kozlova finished fourth in the synchronized swimming duet for Russia at the 1992 Olympics and immigrated later that year. She missed the 1996 Games while waiting for a green card. “It was almost unbearable,” she said. She placed fourth for the United States in team and duet in 2000 and won two bronze medals in 2004.

“I came to live here,” Kozlova said in a phone interview. “I would have come here if I swam or not.”

The New Zealand-born triathlete Matt Reed, ranked 45th in the world, improved his chances of making the Olympics by becoming a United States citizen. New Zealand has two of the top four men in the sport, including his younger brother, Shane, ranked 35th. In Beijing, the brothers will be rivals.

While Shane struggles to make ends meet in New Zealand, Matt has found many corporate sponsors. He said, “I put in the hard work and sponsorships are definitely coming my way.”

In 2004, Matt Reed ran in both nations’ Olympic trials, finishing eighth in New Zealand and third in the United States, although he was not yet a citizen.

Reed moved here in 2001 for love, having met the American triathlete Kelly Rees. Married since 2003, they live in Boulder, Colo., with their two children. He became a citizen last December. Reed said that if he had not married an American, he would never have been able to qualify in time for the Games. “Being married is pretty much the only way I could have done it,” Reed said.

Hundreds of Chinese table tennis players have competed for other nations, but not all have changed citizenship. Since 1992, 9 of 18 members of the United States teams were foreign stars, including six from China.

Jun Gao, 39, is the best known. Once ranked third in the world and a 1992 silver medalist for China, she married an American in 1993 and left the sport.

Coaxed back to competition, Jun made the United States team in 2000 and 2004 but lost in early rounds.

Jun, ranked 27th in the world, calls Gaithersburg, Md., home, but she has lived virtually full time in Shanghai for six years.

“I come back twice a year, but not very often,” she said. “In China, there are so many world-class players. That’s why I am there. If I want to get a medal, I have to have world-class people to train with me.”

The International Table Tennis Federation instituted rules this year to restrict Chinese players from competing for other nations. It barred those 21 or older from competing in world championships but did not change its rules for the Olympics.

Congress Gets in the Act

Ice dancing, an Olympic event since 1976, produced the best-known Congressional maneuver, which eventually affected the overall standings at the 2006 Winter Games.

Three foreign-born ice dancers — the Canadian Belbin, and the Russians Maxim Zavozin and Sergei Magerovski — were granted expedited citizenship through special legislation signed by President Bush in December 2005.

Each had an American partner waiting to compete at the Olympic trials the next month.

Dean and Lynn Mitchell of Cortlandt, N.Y., the parents of on Olympic hopeful, wrote to their representatives in Congress in 2005 to try to block the special legislation.

Their objection fell short, and their son missed making the team when he finished ninth at the Olympic trials. The Mitchells did not return phone calls for comment.

Belbin and her partner, Ben Agosto of Chicago, became the darlings of American figure skating.

Their Olympic silver in 2006 ultimately gave the United States one more medal than Canada in the overall standings for sole possession of second place behind Germany.

Zavozin and his partner, Morgan Matthews of Chicago, failed to make the Olympic team in 2006, then split up. Matthews has found a new partner, Leif Gislason of Canada.

Facing citizenship delays at home, they have each applied for fast-track citizenship in Azerbaijan to skate for the same country by the 2010 Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Matthews, 21, followed a path carved by the American-born ice dancer Kristin Fraser, who represented Azerbaijan in the 2006 Olympics without ever visiting the country.

At least one athlete may yet turn to Congress to compete in the 2012 Games in London: the gymnast Charles León Tamayo, who won Cuba’s first medal at a world championship at age 20 in 2001. He defected to the United States in 2003 and, following advice from a pro bono lawyer, applied for asylum.

If Tamayo had waited one year after defecting and applied for relief under the Cuban Adjustment Act, he would have been eligible for a green card immediately, two to four years faster than the asylum process, said Amehd Camacho, a staff assistant to Representative Mario Díaz Balart, Republican of Florida.

Tamayo was ineligible for the 2004 and 2008 Olympic teams. To qualify for 2012, when he will be 31, he needs Balart’s help to persuade Citizenship and Immigration Services to let him apply for the Cuban adjustment. Camacho said Balart could sponsor legislation as a last resort.

“I come here and all I’m asking for is the opportunity,” Tamayo, who coaches gymnastics in Grand Junction, Colo., said in a phone interview. “I want to fight for my spot. I want to do what I can. But I can’t do that because of my citizenship.”

Legislation is not the only way foreign-born athletes have become United States Olympians. Olajuwon received assistance from Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard law professor. Konstantin Starikovitch, a Russian weight lifter, won an arbitration case against the United States federation.

Greg Schouten, an American junior record-holder in weight lifting, just missed an Olympic spot because of Starikovitch.

“I was angry at the federation for a year or two,” Schouten said in a phone interview.

After the Olympics, he would see Starikovitch at a training facility in Colorado, but Schouten said: “We really never talked to each other. I never cared to.”

‘I Am International’

Yueling Chen, a 1992 gold medalist in race walking for China, gained a spot on the 2000 United States team after Bill Hybl, then the U.S.O.C. president, appealed to the Chinese Olympic Committee a month before the Games.

Chen said she was puzzled that China had wanted to block her. “I was a U.S. citizen,” she said in a recent phone interview. “The Games are international. I should belong to the whole world. I am international.”

But Joanne Dow, a national champion race walker from New Hampshire, disagreed with that concept. She said Chen’s immigration dashed her Olympic dream.

At the Olympic trials, Dow was recovering from minor knee surgery and finished fourth, missing the cutoff for the team. Chen, who finished second, made the team but performed poorly in Sydney.

“I don’t know her at all,” Dow said, “but to see her come in third to last — that disgusted me. There are a little bit of hard feelings.”

Dow finished second at the Olympic trials in 2004, but the United States was allotted one Olympic slot in her division. In July, the 44-year-old Dow, a three-time national champion, will try again to make her first Olympic team.

China is not the only country to express dismay over one of its athletes competing for the United States. Sports authorities in Kenya said they were upset to learn that Lagat was changing allegiance.

Lagat is expected to be the star of the United States track and field Olympic trials beginning June 27. Lagat, a resident here since 1996, gained his United States citizenship in 2004, three months before he won an Olympic silver medal in the 1,500 meters for Kenya, which does not allow dual citizenship.

Lagat has said he kept quiet about changing citizenship in 2004 because he would not have been able to run in the Olympics for either country.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 18, 2008
An article on Sunday about the way that foreign athletes switch citizenship and compete for the United States in the Olympics referred incorrectly to the immigration process, gave an outdated title for an expert and misstated the years in which a top distance runner won medals.

An athlete can apply for citizenship three years after obtaining a green card as a permanent resident if married to an American, or five years otherwise. Those are not the waiting periods for a green card.

Alicia J. Campi, who described the potential benefit of having foreign-born athletes compete for the United States, is a former research coordinator for the Immigration Policy Center. She left the center in 2007.

The distance runner Bernard Lagat, now a United States citizen, won a medal for Kenya at the 2000 Sydney Games and another at the 2004 Athens Games. He did not win both in 2004.

U.S. Citizen Children Pay Heavy Price in Raids

Children Paying a Heavy Price for ICE's Showy Immigration Raids

By Kay Steiger, In These Times
Posted on June 24, 2008, Printed on June 25, 2008

At 10 a.m. on May 12, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents descended on a meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa, about 200 miles northwest of Des Moines. ICE agents arrested 389 workers who it determined were undocumented -- 304 of whom were indicted on various charges, mostly related to their immigrant status. The list of arrested did not include the owners or managers at the meat processing plant.

After Congress failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform in 2006, ICE adopted what is referred to as an "enforcement-only" approach to immigration. The incident in Postville is one example.

ICE arrests have increased 45-fold since 2001, according to the National Council of La Raza, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit. In 2007, nearly 5,000 workplace immigration arrests occurred nationwide.

The children of those arrested -- many of whom are U.S. citizens -- suffer consequences. The raid in Iowa "created panic in the school," said Janet Murgu'a, president of the National Council of La Raza, during a May 20 hearing before the House subcommittee on workforce protections. She said it forced St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville to mobilize and feed 450 migrants the first night of the raid, and to shelter 150 children who spent the night on mats and in pews.

The number of children with undocumented parents is unknown, but a March 2005 report by the Pew Hispanic Center found that 4.9 million children are in families with at least one undocumented parent. Of those, 3.1 million -- or 63 percent -- are U.S. citizens.

Last November, ICE adopted humanitarian guidelines after Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and others pushed for their implementation. The discretionary guidelines require agents to investigate whether humanitarian concerns exist among those arrested -- including "those with serious medical conditions ... pregnant women, nursing mothers, parents who are the sole caretakers of minor children or disabled or seriously ill relatives, and parents who are needed to support their spouses in caring for sick or special needs children or relatives."

Agents are also asked to coordinate with other institutions, such as foster care systems and the Department of Heath and Human Services.

"What we'd like to see is those regulations enforced on a consistent basis -- strictly enforced and not applied in a discretionary way," Murgu'a testified.

Kathryn Gibney is principal of an overwhelmingly (96 percent) Latino elementary school in San Pedro, Calif., a community that experienced a raid in March 2007. She told lawmakers that members of her community have witnessed white ICE vans stationed near school grounds in Oakland and Berkeley to ensnare parents.

Gibney said the effect on her school has been "ongoing relentless terror."

"The impact of these raids has been devastating," she said. "Absentee rates have soared. Test scores have dropped. Students who do make it to school remain distracted, as they worry about whether their families will be at home when they return."

The San Pedro raid last year occurred in the predawn hours before a state-mandated exam. About 40 students were absent that day -- seven times greater than the school's normal absence rate.

According to Gibney, in San Rafael, Calif., on May 8, ICE agents stopped a second-grade girl who was on her way to school with her father. The agents couldn't communicate with the father in his native language, so the girl served as translator. The agents eventually arrested her father.

ICE insists it acts humanely when rounding up illegal aliens. Acting Deputy Assistant Director of ICE James Sperro told Congress that agents involved in the Postville incident questioned detainees "no less than three times about humanitarian issues, such as child custody concerns." He said agents eventually released 62 of those arrested, but added that those released are still likely to be charged.

As Gibney told the committee: "There must be a way to execute a federal mandate in a more humane manner."

Kay Steiger is an Associate Editor at Campus Progress.

June 20, 2008

Barack Obama's Position on Immigration

I am a strong supporter of Barack Obama for President.

I support Barack Obama for inspiring us to hope and believe that this country can be much better and that we all have the power to change it.

I also support Barack Obama's position on immigration. There is a website started by my friend Laurel Scott, an immigration attorney in Houston, TX, called Immigration Lawyers for Obama.com. See www.immigrationlawyersforobama.com. I am listed on this website.

For those that claim that John McCain's positions on immigration are similar to Barack Obama's, I believe they are incorrect. John McCain has some positive views on immigration policy, but is far from a champion for immigrants.

For Barack Obama's official position on immigration, see Barack Obama's website at http://www.barackobama.com/issues/immigration/

It is also below:

Barack Obama's Plan for Immigration

“The time to fix our broken immigration system is now… We need stronger enforcement on the border and at the workplace… But for reform to work, we also must respond to what pulls people to America… Where we can reunite families, we should. Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should”

— Barack Obama, Statement on U.S. Senate Floor, May 23, 2007

At a Glance

* Create Secure Borders
* Improve Our Immigration System
* Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally
* Bring People Out of the Shadows
* Work with Mexico

Speak your mind and help set the policies that will guide this campaign and change the country.

* Present your ideas

Watch the Video
The Problem

Undocumented population is exploding: The number of undocumented immigrants in the country has increased more than 40 percent since 2000. Every year, more than a half-million people come illegally or illegally overstay their visas.

Immigration bureaucracy is broken: The immigration bureaucracy is broken and overwhelmed, forcing legal immigrants to wait years for applications.

Immigration raids are ineffective: Despite a sevenfold increase in recent years, immigration raids only netted 3,600 arrests in 2006 and have placed all the burdens of a broken system onto immigrant families.
Barack Obama's Plan
Create Secure Borders

Obama wants to preserve the integrity of our borders. He supports additional personnel, infrastructure and technology on the border and at our ports of entry.
Improve Our Immigration System

Obama believes we must fix the dysfunctional immigration bureaucracy and increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.
Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally

Obama will remove incentives to enter the country illegally by cracking down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants.
Bring People Out of the Shadows

Obama supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.
Work with Mexico

Obama believes we need to do more to promote economic development in Mexico to decrease illegal immigration.
Barack Obama's Record

* Crack Down on Employers: Obama championed a proposal to create a system so employers can verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S.
* Fix the Bureaucracy: Obama joined Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) to introduce the Citizenship Promotion Act to ensure that immigration application fees are both reasonable and fair. Obama also introduced legislation that passed the Senate to improve the speed and accuracy of FBI background checks.
* Respect Families: Obama introduced amendments to put greater emphasis on keeping immigrant families together.

June 19, 2008

Dead-Ends and Deportation for America’s Youth

Immigration Policy Center
Press Release
June 19, 2008

For the original report, click here.

As the school year ends, millions of children throughout the United States are looking forward to summer vacations. Many will soon be packing their bags as they head off to summer camp or to their first year of college. But others are not so lucky. Some children are packing all of their belongings and preparing to leave what may be the only home they have ever known, as the U.S. government prepares to expel them to countries they may not even remember. Others with the potential for higher education and a professional career are resigned to a life that’s underachieving and underground.

Arthur Mkoyan was due to be deported by the end of this month, just after graduating from Bullard High School in Fresno, California. The 17-year-old valedictorian was to take his 4.0 grade point average, his acceptance letter to the University of California at Davis, and his talent back to Armenia—a country he has not seen since the age of two. His deportation was delayed after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a private bill on his behalf in Congress on June 10. But whether or not he will be allowed to remain in the United States, and for how long, remains unknown (“Senator tries to keep valedictorian from deportation,” CNN.com, June 11, 2008).

Santiago Cordero graduated from Postville High School in Iowa on May 25, 2008. In addition to starting the school’s first soccer team, his participation in varsity football and volunteer programs was applauded by the Superintendent. Despite an immigration raid that tore his mother from their family, Cordero graduated in the top ten of his class. But because Santiago is undocumented, he faces an uncertain future (“Raid mars future for 3 graduating today from Postville,” Des Moines Register, May 25, 2008).

Laura just graduated from high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a 4.0 grade point average and dreams of becoming an engineer. But then she learned that Central Piedmont Community College, which she planned to attend for two years before switching to a four-year college, is no longer admitting undocumented students such as herself. Now Laura’s plans for college and a career are in limbo (“Yearning to learn, but rule says no,” Charlotte Observer, June 17, 2008).

As lawmakers keep trying to “deport their way out” of a dysfunctional immigration system that has fueled a growing undocumented population, they would do well to consider the cases of Arthur, Santiago, Laura, and approximately 1.8 million others, whose deportation would be traumatic not only for the students themselves, but for the American workforce as a whole. An IPC fact sheet, Dreams Deferred: The Cost of Ignoring Undocumented Students, details the financial and emotional costs of deporting these students and wasting human resources that are vital to our nation’s future. The fact sheet outlines a larger report from the Immigration Policy
Center, Wasted Talent and Broken Dreams: The Lost Potential of Undocumented Students, by Roberto Gonzalez.

Lost Potential: Children account for 1.8 million (15 percent) of the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. Though born abroad, these children primarily identify with this country. Many were brought at such a young age that they have attended most of their K-12 education here. Roughly 65,000 undocumented students—who have lived in the United States for at least five years—graduate from high school each year, but only an estimated 5-10 percent go on to college, which means that the potential of these honor students, valedictorians, aspiring teachers, and engineers goes unrealized.

Lost Tax Dollars: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $962 per week in 2006 (as opposed to $419 per week for workers without a degree). The Department of Labor found that the wages of immigrants who legalized their status under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) increased by about 15 percent after only five years. Given the opportunity, undocumented students will improve their education, work in higher-paying jobs, and pay more in taxes.

Lost Workers: The BLS identified 15 occupations expected to grow at least twice as fast as the national average between 2004 and 2014, nine of which require at least an Associate’s degree, and four of which, in 2005, had a significantly greater share of immigrant workers than native-born workers; 46 percent of medical scientists, 35 percent of computer engineers, and 20 percent of postsecondary teachers are immigrants.

States Step In: So far, ten states have passed laws permitting undocumented students to qualify for in-state tuition if they attended and graduated from in-state high schools. New Mexico and Texas also allow undocumented students to compete for financial aid. The experience of these states reveals that the number of undocumented students is far too small to deprive their native-born counterparts of college admission slots or financial aid.

June 16, 2008

Rep. Lee Lashes Out Against ICE

By Matt O'Brien
Contra Costa Times

OAKLAND — Pledging to "take them on big-time," Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, sharply criticized the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency Friday and declared she would push for measures to reduce the fear she said agents have caused East Bay immigrant families.

The Oakland Democrat told a packed North Oakland church that she wants to "ensure that ICE is following the rules and that those rules are well-known and publicized — especially when it comes to actions at schools, hospitals, religious centers and other critical community institutions."

Her comments followed a furor in Oakland and Berkeley last month when federal operations to arrest illegal immigrants, which ICE says were routine, caused panic because agents were seen in the vicinity of public schools.

ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the sightings that caused panic "turned out to be entirely erroneous. It's very unfortunate that some people in positions of authority perpetuated those rumors."

But the circumstances surrounding those and other arrests continued to invite condemnation and confusion from local officials this month.

Noel Gallo, an Oakland school board member, told Lee Friday that he believed ICE agents "purposefully" parked near the Stonehurst Elementary School on May 6. And he argued that it was not in dispute that last year at Melrose Elementary School, ICE agents followed a parent toward the principal's office and later escorted her out of the school.

"I am concerned that these intimidation tactics are, quite frankly, inhumane," Lee said. "Some, I think, could be politically motivated. And they are all, I think, totally unacceptable."

What remains unclear is whether ICE has the sort of rules about sensitive locations that Lee said she wants to make sure are followed.

ICE's predecessor, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, had a written policy expressly stating that the service "attempt to avoid apprehension of persons and to tightly control investigative operations on the premises of schools, places of worship, funerals and other religious ceremonies," according to copies of agency memorandums from the 1990s.

But Kice said that past policies were not necessarily transferred to ICE when it formed under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.

"We're a new agency," Kice said. "We have a completely new mission. We have established operating procedures."

Declining to speak about internal policies, Kice said that the agency's publicly stated policy "is that we conduct enforcement at appropriate times and appropriate places." She also said the agency tries to avoid interaction with third parties that could jeopardize the safety of agents or their targets.

Kice said that ICE's Northern California fugitive operations division arrested 2,121 illegal immigrants between Oct. 1 and May 31. Of those, 1,471 were considered fugitives, or people who have ignored a prior deportation order. Another 167 were not fugitives but had criminal charges. And the remaining 583 were in the country illegally and were picked up in the course of the operations.

Lee became the latest Bay Area lawmaker to lambaste the 5-year-old immigration agency in recent weeks, although it was not immediately clear how she would go about introducing any changes to current policy.

Last month, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, invited San Rafael educators to testify at a congressional hearing about the impacts that Marin County immigration raids have had on local schools. At the same time, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, has been leading an inquiry into ICE's medical treatment of detainees.

Lee said she has raised her concerns with the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, which this week proposed a draft $4.8 billion budget for ICE in the coming fiscal year, which is $60 million more than what was requested by the Bush administration. Of that, $800 million would be allotted to efforts focused on identifying and deporting dangerous criminals. Legislators also added a clause to the proposal that would force ICE to cancel contracts with private detention facilities that receive poor audits.

For the full story, click here.

Iraqis Who Worked for U.S. Find Resettlement Aid Slow in Coming

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post
Monday, June 16, 2008; Page A17

The List Project is a nonprofit group that seeks to bring to the United States hundreds of Iraqis whose lives are in danger because they worked for the U.S. government or military. Despite the efforts of its founder and others, it has succeeded in only a small number of cases.

Kirk W. Johnson said the list, which he began in February 2007 with the names of 40 Iraqis who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, now contains nearly 1,000 names, including 21 applicants in the past two weeks. After 16 months of work, only 31 Iraqis on the list, and 61 of their family members, have arrived in the United States.

The U.S. government's overall performance is not much better, according to State Department officials. In the two years that an Iraqi visa program has been available for people who worked for the United States, only 763 of more than 7,000 Iraqis have been granted entry. When spouses and children are included, the number of Iraqis who had come to the United States under the program through the end of May is 1,696.

"I believe the crisis of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis represents the most urgent moral and strategic imperative the war has produced," Johnson said. "How we address it will impact our standing in the region for at least a generation to come."

He spoke last Wednesday to 40 people brought together in a basement room of the Rayburn House Office Building under the auspices of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, an independent, nonpartisan congressional entity.

Johnson described a couple he met this year in Jordan who had worked as interpreters for the Army's 10th Mountain Division for three years. Almost two years ago, they had fled illegally after receiving threats because they were "collaborators with America."

They rationed their life savings because they had no work permits. Eighteen months passed, Johnson said, as they were "clearing hurdle after hurdle, patiently retelling their story to the array of [U.S.] officers, who struggled to implement a labyrinthine resettlement process." During that time, the woman had become pregnant. After overcoming the most difficult obstacle, approval of the Department of Homeland Security, she was required to have a chest X-ray as part of the final medical test.

"Knowing X-rays might pose a risk to her baby," Johnson said, "she inquired about whether or not the X-ray might be waived or an alternate method utilized." She had about six weeks left before it would be unsafe to fly, "and as an illegal she refused to face the uncertainty of delivery in a Jordanian hospital, where her husband might be arrested or care denied."

Johnson said he pressed the State Department for a waiver but one did not come. Instead, he said, the couple decided to return to Iraq and stay in hiding, "uncertain about which hospital would be safe for her to deliver her baby, which is due any day."

Wednesday's final presentation came from Ibrahim, an Iraqi, whose identity was protected because his family is still in Iraq. He described joining USAID in 2003 because "we wanted to work with Americans, who would teach us about the world outside. We wanted to pursue the American dream."

The dream turned to a nightmare after his name and photo were put up on a USAID Web site. There was no plan to protect him and his colleagues, he said, which "led us to believe our lives were worthless in the eyes of those who were supposedly trying to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis."

For the full story, click here.

June 12, 2008

Immigration Arrests on Amtrak & Greyhound!

Amtrak & Greyhound are helping to facilitate U.S. Border Patrol officers boarding Amtrak trains and Greyhound buses and asking Latinos for ID documents. Since Latinos likely make up a significant percentage of their customers, these actions by Amtrak and Greyhound should have financial repercussions for both companies.

It is important to note that under the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects all persons in the U.S. (not just those legally here), individuals do not have to present ID documents to federal border patrol officers or ICE officers that ask them for ID documents inside the U.S.

Here is the story, linked to at http://www.ww4report.com/node/5332

Activists protest immigration arrests on Amtrak, Greyhound

Submitted by WW4 Report on Sun, 04/06/2008 - 23:46.

On April 2, several dozen demonstrators gathered in front of Penn Station in Manhattan to protest the collaboration of the Amtrak train company with border and immigration agents who arrest passengers traveling between US cities. With chants of "transportation, not deportation!" and "immigrant rights are human rights," the protesters then marched to Port Authority to condemn the Greyhound bus company's collaboration with similar immigration sweeps.

The protest was organized by Families for Freedom, a New York-based multi-ethnic defense network by and for immigrants facing and fighting deportation. The protesters are demanding that Amtrak and Greyhound at the very least warn passengers about the raids in advance, publicly apologize and provide ticket refunds to those who have been arrested. (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, April 3; demonstration announcement from Families for Freedom, received via e-mail, March 26; Immigration News Briefs editor's first-hand experience of demonstration, April 2)

A woman named Sonia, who spoke at the demonstration, said she was arrested by immigration officials along with her husband and two sons while returning to New York City from Chicago on Amtrak as the train passed through upstate New York. She spoke about the terror of being grilled by immigration officials and separated from her family. "This
is the last thing I expected coming home. They seemed to be approaching all of the Latinos on the train and asking them for papers. One family even had work permits but immigration officials told them that this was not enough and they were detained also. I'm a customer, I paid just like everyone else, but my family and I were treated like we are less than human beings," Sonia said. After being detained at the Amtrak station, Sonia and her 17-year-old son were released while her husband and 18-year-old son were detained at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility for several days before being freed on bond. (Families for Freedom press release, April 2; EFE, April 2)

Amtrak has agreed to cooperate with border inspections on a random basis within 75 miles of the border, said Cliff Cole, a spokesperson for the company. "We're merely facilitating their request to board the train," he said of the Border Patrol agents. The train between Chicago and New York, called the Lakeshore Limited, passes within 75 miles of the border, he said. Greyhound also said it simply complies with law enforcement requests, be it local, state or federal. "We are under no obligation to inform customers of law enforcement activity at any time," said Greyhound spokesperson Dustin Clark.

Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, said the stops are just part of routine practice that has gotten more frequent as the agency has tripled its number of agents along the Canadian border over the past few years. (New York Times Cityroom blog, April 2)

From Immigration News Briefs, April 6

Society of American Law Teachers—SALT—and National Lawyers Guild—NLG—Joint Statement on ICE Immigration Raids and Criminal Immigration Enforcement

Society of American Law Teachers—SALT—and National Lawyers Guild—NLG—Joint Statement on ICE Immigration Raids and Criminal Immigration Enforcement

June 6, 2008


Hazel Weiser, SALT Executive Director, 631 650 2310, hweiser@saltlaw.org

Marjorie Cohn, NLG President, 619 374 6923, marjorie@tjsl.edu

On May 12, 2008, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), now a part of the Department of Homeland Security, conducted the largest single-site immigration raid in U.S. history at Agriprocessors, a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa.

Postville is the latest in a pattern of raids that has intensified in the past three years. With the help of state and local law enforcement, ICE arrested 389 workers, most of them from Guatemala and Mexico, nearly a third of all residents living in the town. The ICE raids came coincidentally after Agriprocessors had been issued 39 citations for alleged violations of state workplace safety and health standards, and after efforts to organize plant workers by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union,according to Iowa newspapers.

In an unprecedented move, ICE criminally charged 302 of the workers with aggravated ID theft and/or for using false social security numbers. In a matter of days, with the workers held at various detention centers, ICE resolved the fate of most of these workers: 297 of these men and women pled guilty and were sentenced to prison and subsequent deportation.

The uncharacteristic speed and efficiency of these proceedings left workers without adequate opportunity to consult with lawyers as they faced hard bargains from prosecutors. Hundreds of children were left not knowing about their parents' fate. Only 44 workers were released to care for their children. As in past raids, these children are likely to suffer from depression, anxiety,and post-traumatic stress. In contrast to the fate of the workers, so far no one in Agriprocessors' management has been charged, despite evidence that the company helped workers procure false documents, paid substandard wages, failed to pay overtime, and engaged in other types of grave worker mistreatment.

SALT deplores these raids that are creating a moral, legal, and humanitarian crisis in our nation. ICE's heavy handed enforcement against undocumented workers in the wake of failed immigration reform is shameful. Immigration laws remain completely out of touch with reality, and the absence of labor protection for these workers leaves them vulnerable to exploitation.

Under current immigration laws, no more than 10,000 backlogged permanent visas for unskilled workers and 66,000 temporary visas for seasonal workers are available per year, while an estimated 2,000 men, women, and children cross the Southwest border into the U.S. daily. An estimated 12 million undocumented persons live in the U.S.

These workers come to the U.S. because of global economic realities that drive them out of their nations where they have no means for even subsistence living, and into low wage jobs in the U.S. While U.S. employers and consumers benefit from this source of cheap labor, undocumented workers and their children bear the brunt of a broken immigration system.

The last immigration reform sought to stem the flow of illegal immigrants by sanctioning employers who knowingly hired undocumented workers. Enforcement has been sporadic and arbitrary. The financial incentives to employ workers who will be afraid to complain about substandard working conditions and violations of labor codes governing hours and wages are compelling. Few employers face civil or criminal sanctions for taking advantage of these laborers.

SALT also condemns ICE's decision to criminally charge almost all of the arrested workers when few constitutional guarantees are available to them. Ordinarily, use of false Social Security numbers to engage in otherwise lawful conduct, such as to apply for jobs, is not pursued criminally. This unprecedented shift to criminalize workers for the use or possession of false work documents has not been accompanied by a comparable infusion of constitutional guarantees in the handling of these cases.

ICE conducted the investigation leading to the Postville raid with easy-access to immigration databases and employee documents, by relying on informants, and then executed the raid with easily-procured administrative, not criminal, warrants. Thus, the protection of stricter Fourth Amendment search and seizure, Fifth Amendment due process, and Sixth Amendment right to counsel constitutional guarantees that apply to criminal investigations and arrests in judicial proceedings were unavailable to these workers.

Moreover, the suppression remedy for illegally seized evidence or coerced confessions is quite limited in immigration proceedings. Overwhelmingly, most workers pled guilty in their criminal cases, and thus, relinquished any possibility of raising a Fourth Amendment challenge in court. These workers waived their Fourth Amendment and other due process guarantees under extreme prosecutorial pressure and with little opportunity for adequate legal representation.

SALT is also concerned about the consequences to communities of the involvement of local law enforcement in these raids. Already distrust of police keeps many immigrants from reporting crime, which increases their vulnerability as crime victims and as employees of unscrupulous employers. Moreover, these additional responsibilities drain limited resources and take local police away from their primary duties as community caretakers. Federal immigration enforcement by local police is constitutionally suspect, particularly in the absence of Congressional authorization.

SALT, therefore, urges the Department of Homeland Security to halt such raids immediately and to treat those still in detention humanely and in accordance with all due process guarantees available to criminal defendants. If ICE plans to charge workers as criminals, then ICE should procure lawful warrants based on probable cause for future workplace raids.

SALT also calls on courts to be vigilant in protecting the constitutional rights of workers and their families affected by the raids, and apply stricter constitutional guarantees when criminal charges are implicated.

Congress should also seriously consider the implications of its trade and agricultural subsidies on developing nations and future migration flows. It is irresponsible to ignore the intersections of these policies. SALT calls on Congress to adopt comprehensive immigration reform that offers a path to legalization to workers and their families. Such legislation must include strong labor protections while ensuring family unification.

Since 1973, the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) has been an independent organization of law teachers, deans, law librarians, and legal education professionals working to make the profession more inclusive, to enhance the quality of legal education, and to extend the power of legal representation to under-served individuals and communities. www.saltlaw.org

Founded in 1937 as an alternative to the American Bar Association, which did not admit people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the

United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state. www.nlg.org

* * *

June 10, 2008

U.S. Department of State Visa Bulletin - JULY 2008

For the complete Visa Bulletin issuance with comments, click here.

NOTE: There was no movement in the 1st and 3rd preference of family-based visas. The remaining family-based visa preference categories, only saw slight movement forward. In regards to the EB-3 category, visa numbers have become unavailable. The remaining employment-based preference categories have remained unchanged.

Family Immigration
- Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act sets an annual family-sponsored preference limit of 226,000.
  • 1st Preference (USC unmarried sons & daughters over 21)
    • Worldwide: 15 March 2002
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 15 March 2002
    • India: 15 March 2002
    • Mexico: 22 July 1992
    • Philippines: 15 March 1993
  • 2A Preference (LPR spouses & unmarried children under 21)
    • Worldwide: 15 June 2003
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 15 June 2003
    • India: 15 July 2003
    • Mexico: 01 May 2002
    • Philippines: 15 June 2003
  • 2B Preference (LPR unmarried sons & daughters over 21)
    • Worldwide: 01 August 1999
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 01 August 1999
    • India: 01 August 1999
    • Mexico: 08 April 1992
    • Philippines: 22 February 1997
  • 3rd Preference (USC married sons & daughters)
    • Worldwide: 08 June 2000
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 08 June 2000
    • India: 08 June 2000
    • Mexico: 01 August 1992
    • Philippines: 01 April 1991
  • 4th Preference (USC brothers & sisters)
    • Worldwide: 22 August 1997
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 01 February 1997
    • India: 01 February 1997
    • Mexico: 15 December 1994
    • Philippines: 08 March 1986
Employment Based - Section 201 of the Immigration and Nationality Act sets an annual limit for employment-based preference limit of 140,000
  • 1st Preference (EB-1)
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • 2nd Preference (EB-2)
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 01 April 2004
    • India: 01 April 2004
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • 3rd Preference (EB-3)
    • Worldwide: 01 March 2006
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 22 March 2003
    • India: 01 November 2001
    • Mexico: 01 July 2002
    • Philippines: 01 March 2006
  • Schedule A workers (RNs, PTs)
    • Worldwide: UNAVAILABLE
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: UNAVAILABLE
    • India: UNAVAILABLE
    • Mexico: UNAVAILABLE
    • Philippines: UNAVAILABLE
  • Unskilled Workers (less than 2 years experience required)
    • Worldwide: 01 January 2003
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: 01 January 2003
    • India: 01 January 2003
    • Mexico: 01 January 2003
    • Philippines: 01 January 2003
  • 4th Preference (EB-4)
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • Religious Workers
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • Iraqi & Afghani Translators
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • 5th Preference (EB-5: Investors)
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT
  • Targeted Employment Areas/ Regional Centers)
    • Worldwide: CURRENT
    • China (PRC) - Mainland born: CURRENT
    • India: CURRENT
    • Mexico: CURRENT
    • Philippines: CURRENT

2 Year Employment Authorization

"I'm also pleased to announce that we will be extending the validity period of the employment authorization documents that we issue to individuals who are waiting adjustment of status to lawful permit residenture or in colloquial phrase, the green card.

Currently, adjustment applications are granted employment authorization documents with only a one year maximum validity. Beginning later this month, we'll start issuing these documents with a two-year validity period for aliens who are waiting adjustment of status if their application is expected to be pending for more than a year.

This, again, is eliminating a persistent source of frustration for workers who are here, who have a pending adjustment application but have to go and renew their employment documents every single year. It's going to cut the paperwork there."

For the full announcement, click here.

June 05, 2008

TN Visa Info for Canadians & Mexicans

The U.S. State Department has a lot of excellent information on TN (Trade NAFTA) visas on its website at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1274.html#

TN Visas are for individuals from Canada and Mexico in certain occupations listed in the TN regulations.

Please feel free to contact our office for more info on TN Visas.

Immigration Lawyers for Barack Obama

I am listed on a website called Immigration Lawyers for Obama, set up by an immigration attorney friend of mine, Laurel Scott, who is Houston, TX.

See http://www.immigrationlawyersforobama.com/home

The Immigration attorneys on this website believe in fair, comprehensive and sensible immigration reform and we believe Barack Obama is the president that this is most likely to happen under.

While John McCain was one of the architects behind comprehensive immigration reform in 2007, the bill that was pending in Congress had many flaws and would have scrapped our family-based immigration system. John McCain is also not likely to push for immigration reform in the future, as many in his political party are likely to create a strong backlash for even suggesting immigration reform.

June 04, 2008

The Countertraffickers - Rescuing the Victims of the Global Sex Trade

Here is an excellent article on global sex trafficking, which unfortunately also happens in the U.S..

The Countertraffickers

Rescuing the victims of the global sex trade.

by William Finnegan May 5, 2008

Language Barriers May Lead Immigrants to Waive Right to Hearing Before Deportation

Stipulated Removal Orders Statistics from the National Immigrant Justice Center.

Language Barriers May Lead Immigrants to Waive Right to Hearing Before Deportation

Tuesday, 03 June 2008

Increased Transparency, Timely Hearings Necessary to Ensure Due Process

Newly available federal data shows a steady increase in the number of immigrants in administrative detention who have signed deportation orders waiving their right to see a judge. The National Immigrant Justice Center, through a Freedom of Information Act request, collected data showing that 94 percent of the 80,844 stipulated orders of removal signed between April 1997 and February 2008 were by immigrants who spoke primarily Spanish, and most had not been charged with a crime.

"Given our work with this population, the data backs up our longstanding concern that immigrants in detention face language barriers and do not fully comprehend the implications of signing stipulated order of removal forms," said National Immigrant Justice Center Director Mary Meg McCarthy. "And while Immigration and Customs Enforcement suggests that increasing numbers of deportations make society safer, in reality most of the detained immigrants encouraged to sign away their rights and be deported had no criminal charges against them."

A former detainee describes what happened when he tried to intervene on behalf of a man who was being coerced to sign a stipulated order of removal.

Typically, when an immigrant is in administrative detention, he or she has the right to locate a lawyer and go to court to seek relief to stay in the United States. But when an immigrant signs a stipulated order of removal, he or she agrees to be deported immediately and waives the right to see a judge.

Key Data

The National Immigrant Justice Center compiled the data received from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the federal agency that adjudicates immigration cases.

Highlights include:

1. The use of stipulated orders has increased steadily since 2004.

In 2004, 5,000 orders were signed. That number increased to 15,000 in 2005 and 25,000 in 2006. Last year, 30,000 stipulated orders of removal were signed.

2. More than half of the stipulated orders were signed in four cities.

Twenty percent were signed at the Eloy Detention Center located 70 miles southeast of Phoenix, Arizona; 16 percent were signed by judges in Chicago; nine percent were signed by judges at the immigration court in Lancaster, California (near Los Angeles); and six percent were signed by judges in Seattle. (View breakdown by immigration court)

3. The majority of deportees have no criminal background.

Eighty-five percent of detainees who signed stipulated orders of removal had no criminal charges. Nearly 68,478 were detained on a single civil charge because they entered the United States without proper inspection or overstayed a visa.

Policy Recommendations

"This data helps demonstrate an immediate need for an increase in transparency and information available to both detainees and Immigration Judges," said McCarthy. "It is our responsibility, as a nation of immigrants, to treat all people - regardless of their legal status - with fairness, dignity and respect."

Specifically, NIJC urges the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to adopt the following four recommendations:

1. Limit pro se (no attorney) stipulated orders of removal and develop guidelines regarding the use and distribution of stipulated orders of removal
2. Ensure that the Immigration Judge has all of the relevant information about each case before signing off on the waiver of a hearing
3. Educate detainees about their options - including any relief to which they might be eligible as well as the consequences of signing the order
4. Provide immigrants without criminal records the option of "voluntary departure" so that they have an opportunity to later seek legal status in the U.S.

Colombian Woman Ordered Deported to Mexico

While some detainees choose to sign stipulated orders because they prefer deportation over detention, the National Immigrant Justice Center and other legal aid providers know of many cases in which detainees signed the forms unknowingly as a result of language barriers, disingenuous jail staff, or general misunderstanding of the deportation consequences, including a 10 year restriction on re-entering the United States. Many immigrants who sign the stipulated orders of removal are not aware of their legal rights or potential for eligibility to remain in the United States.

Last year, the National Immigrant Justice Center provided legal assistance to a Colombian woman who had unknowingly signed a stipulated order of removal indicating that she was deportable to Mexico. This woman did not understand and was too frightened to realize that she agreed to be deported - and to a country that was not her own. She realized the mistake and told an ICE officer but was ignored until a NIJC attorney intervened to have the order rescinded. The attorney soon realized that the woman was afraid to return to Colombia and had an asylum claim, which she is pursuing.

The National Immigrant Justice Center, a partner of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights, provides direct legal services to immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers and advocates for their rights through policy reform, impact litigation, and public education.