August 26, 2008

U.S. Legal Immigration Chart

Want to immigrate to the U.S. Legally? Check out this chart of the U.S. Immigration System.


ICE's Operation Scheduled Departure Scrapped After Netting 8 out of 457,000

New York Times

August 25, 2008

That’s 8 Out of 457,000

This month, the Bush administration rolled out a new strategy to solve illegal immigration and just as quickly rolled it back in. It was called Operation Scheduled Departure, and it was simply this: It asked people to turn themselves in.

Those who showed up would have 90 days to get their affairs in order — to find foster parents for their citizen children; to settle mortgages and car loans; to prepare themselves for new lives in the old country. Of the 457,000 people facing deportation orders, eight took the bait. The program was scrapped after three weeks.

It is tempting to mock the administration for naïve conception and even worse execution, but that would give it too much credit for sincerity. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could never have expected to reap a big crop of undocumented people this way.

We suspect what it really wanted was to lend cover to its continuing campaign of raids and arrests. That is the real strategy. It is brutal, simplistic and also ineffective, but it is the one the country is sticking with.

By capturing almost nobody, the report-to-deport program has bolstered the talking points pushed by the immigration agency and the restrictionist hard-core: illegal immigrants are a vast class of criminal fugitives, and only more enforcement can solve this problem.

One in 20 workers is undocumented. Federal raids are seizing undocumented workers only a dozen or a hundred at a time, a rate that will leave millions in the shadows for decades to come. The raids are also sweeping up and terrorizing citizens. Mass deportation is an impossible mission, and a recipe for family and economic upheaval on a colossal scale: more than three million young Americans, native-born children, live in households where one or both parents are undocumented.

There is a better way. It is to build a system for immigrant workers and family members that more closely matches demand and supply — a system that people will go through, not around. It is to deal sanely with the hidden, hard-working undocumented by requiring them to legalize and assimilate, and using enforcement power to catch and deport the criminals.

That is the path toward a controlled border and a less vulnerable America — not quick fixes that sound good and solve nothing.

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Police Reluctant to Help Arrest Immigrants for Immigration Violations

Many Officials Reluctant to Help Arrest Immigrants

By Pamela Constable
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, August 23, 2008

Although law enforcement agencies in Prince William and Frederick counties have agreed to help federal authorities enforce immigration laws, officials in many other parts of the country remain reluctant to do so, saying they fear losing the trust of immigrant communities and worry about being accused of racial profiling.

Despite a nationwide clamor against illegal immigration, only 55 of more than 18,000 police and law enforcement agencies across the country have signed agreements to coordinate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Although they face public and political pressure to crack down on illegal immigrants, officials say such efforts can backfire by making immigrants reluctant to report crimes, exposing departments to lawsuits, and putting local police officers in confusing and dangerous situations that can lead to mistakes and abuse.

El Paso's mayor, John Cook, described his mostly Hispanic city on the Mexican border as "the second-safest city in America," in part because it stresses community police involvement. While recognizing that illegal immigration is a crime, he said he is also worried about a growing public perception that immigrants are criminals.

"There is a danger," he said. "Once people don't trust a police officer in immigrant communities, they become communities that foster crime, where people won't report domestic violence or the theft of a TV. If people feel they are under threat of being deported, they become silent. There has to be a delicate balance."

Houston's police chief, Harold Hurtt, said that the city has been labeled a "sanctuary" for illegal immigrants by some conservative commentators but that his department has focused on catching those who commit other crimes. He said it is extremely difficult to track down illegal immigrants without infringing on the rights of others, especially in minority and ethnic communities with many legal immigrants.

Hurtt posed a hypothetical case in which "your wife runs a red light on her way to the store" and has forgotten her driver's license. She is detained and booked, and her immigration status is checked. "Can you imagine doing that to every resident?" Hurtt asked an audience of several hundred police and local officials at a conference on immigration policing and civil liberties this week in the District. "There is a moral issue here. We are here to provide not only law enforcement, but justice."

Most of the agencies that have agreed to work with ICE are in the Southeast, including North Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas, where mostly non-Hispanic communities have been dramatically changed by influxes of immigrants, many of them illegal Mexicans and Central Americans, seeking work at farms, mills and slaughterhouses.

Many of the local cooperating agencies are overseen by county sheriffs, who are elected and run regional jails, rather than city police departments with appointed chiefs.

The Police Foundation, a private national group that sponsored the conference, held four focus groups with law enforcement and other officials in Kansas, Texas and Florida. Anita Khashu, a foundation consultant, said three of the four groups decided that immigration enforcement should remain "solely a federal responsibility."

James Pendergraph, director of the office of state and local coordination for ICE, told conference participants that his agency is eager to form more local partnerships. He said that ICE does not seek to intimidate immigrants and that only those involved in criminal activity are likely to face arrest.

"Some people talk of fears of terrorizing immigrant communities, but if you're not involved in criminal activity, you'll probably never come in contact with these programs," Pendergraph said. "The media make it seem like if you are out mowing your grass, we'll snatch you from your yard and arrest and deport you. That is just not the case."

Several scholars at the meeting expressed concerns about public perceptions that illegal immigrants are linked with high crime. Rubén Rumbaut of the University of California at Irvine said crime rates across the country have steadily declined as immigration rates have increased. His research showed that the percentage of foreign-born men in U.S. jails and prisons is far lower than that of African Americans and in some cases close to the level of native-born whites.

Other legal experts and advocates at the meeting said that immigration law is increasingly being "criminalized" to prosecute people who have crossed the border to find work, especially by charging them with identity fraud, and that civil immigration warrants are being used like criminal warrants, even though they do not carry the same powers, such as the right to enter a home without permission.

August 19, 2008

SF Sanctuary City Status Under Attack


Sanctuary city under attack

Roger Dyer chronicles the attack on San Francisco's status as a sanctuary city for immigrants--and the struggle to stop that attack.

August 19, 2008

Protesters call for San Francisco to act as a sanctuary city at a demonstration against the Minutemen (Steve Rhodes)Protesters call for San Francisco to act as a sanctuary city at a demonstration against the Minutemen (Steve Rhodes)

SAN FRANCISCO is often described as a progressive city. Its residents have taken stands for same-sex marriage, against the war on Iraq, and for the rights of immigrants.

The city started the year, for example, putting up multilingual posters around town informing immigrant residents that they are welcome here, and cannot be denied access to services. In 1989, San Francisco passed the Sanctuary Ordinance, making it a "City and County of Refuge" for all immigrants.

Today its "City of Refuge" status is under attack, and the word "sanctuary" (which means "a place of safety") is being redefined in very narrow terms. The attack is being waged by a spectrum of anti-immigrant forces--from the racist Minutemen, to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to the mayor.

ICE launched a high-profile raid on the El Balazo Taqueria chain on May 2--on the heels of May Day marches for immigrant and worker rights. This raid was part of a nationwide campaign of repression on the part of ICE and marked the beginning of stepped-up attacks in San Francisco in particular.

ICE vans have since been seen patrolling local neighborhoods and harassing Latino drivers. On July 30, the same day that over 200 pro-immigrant supporters came out to counterprotest an anti-immigrant Minutemen rally, ICE conducted yet another raid in the predominantly Latino Mission District.

Though no one was arrested, ICE agents handcuffed, held and interrogated up to 17 people in the early-morning raid. After subjecting two entire immigrant families to this treatment for nearly three hours, the agents left--and took with them documentation papers, cell phones and other personal effects. They left behind a sense of fear, violation and anger.

San Francisco's history as a sanctuary city is over 20 years old, dating back to 1985, when it granted refuge to immigrants from El Salvador and Guatemala. Four years later, the Sanctuary Ordinance extended the policy to all immigrants. As the city government Web site, states:

The [Sanctuary] Ordinance is rooted in the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s, when churches across the country provided refuge to Central Americans fleeing civil wars in their countries. In providing such assistance, faith communities were responding to the difficulties immigrants faced in obtaining refugee status from the U.S. government. Municipalities across the country followed suit by adopting sanctuary ordinances.

In short, sanctuary status was a gain won through struggle. In 2006, when the immigrant rights movement re-emerged across the U.S., San Francisco saw a series of demonstrations culminating in a May Day march of 200,000 people. The May 1 marches that followed in 2007 and 2008 were smaller, but the fact that they happened here and in other cities has helped re-establish the International Workers' Day tradition.

In February 2007, Democratic Mayor Gavin Newsom "reaffirmed San Francisco's commitment to immigrant communities" in an executive order. Yet since July 2008, Newsom has handed over no less than 38 immigrant youths who were being held in the Juvenile Probation Department to ICE. Newsom now claims that nothing in the Sanctuary Ordinance allows for the city to "shield convicted felons"--the youths were being held on drug-related charges--but the fact is that his actions reverse nearly two decades of tradition here.

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MOST RECENTLY, a young immigrant man from El Salvador has been accused of a triple homicide. Edwin Ramos, age 21, has been labeled a gang member and is alleged to be here in the U.S. without documentation. His lawyer says that all three allegations are untrue.

It should be pointed out that, at the time of writing this article, not one of the allegations against Ramos has been proven. This detail is ignored by the likes of Republican Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, who has built a career on bashing immigrants. Tancredo has suggested that the U.S. Department of Justice should take over the case from San Francisco. "Because San Francisco's political leaders have already demonstrated their willingness to act in flagrant violation of federal law, I do not believe that local judicial institutions can be trusted to fairly try the case or mete out an appropriate punishment."

Diana Hull, president of Californians for Population Stabilization, an anti-immigrant group that claims it is "preserving a good quality of life for all Californians," went a step further--condemning all sanctuary city policies. "We need to remember always that a death-dealing policy like 'sanctuary' hides behind the false mantle of compassion," Hull said.

What Tancredo, Hull and the Minutemen share is a racist, anti-immigrant agenda and see the Ramos case as an opening to promote their vile politics. The "gang-related" rhetoric surrounding the case is a further attempt to demonize Ramos, sanctuary status and immigrants in general by tapping into the "tough-on-crime" (read "racist and anti-poor") rhetoric that so many politicians already use. It also dovetails with the practice of referring to undocumented immigrants as "criminals" and "illegals."

Whether or not Ramos is found to be guilty of murder, and whatever his actual documentation status, the movement must stand united around a simple demand, "ICE stay out of SF!" If we say its okay for ICE to come in and take some folks away, then ultimately we make it easier for them to take everyone away. Give ICE an inch, and they will try to take a mile.

Why does Newsom seem ready to open San Francisco to ICE and throw sanctuary city status away? In the same week that he began turning over inmates from Juvenile Hall to ICE, Newsom publicly floated the idea of running for governor in 2010. In moving to the right, and away from his earlier "commitment" to immigrant communities, Newsom is attempting to better position himself within the workings of the Democratic Party establishment.

Republicans like Sen. James Sensenbrenner have authored some of the worst bills to come before Congress in the name of "immigration reform," but we should all keep in mind that the Democrats' performance has been less than inspiring. Now, with Barack Obama poised to be elected in November, many in the immigrant rights movement are hopeful that he will deliver some changes.

Given the needs of big business for a stable and low-paid workforce, it is almost certain that the next president will bring changes in U.S. immigration policy. But will they be the kind of changes that those fighting for equal rights actually want? Thus far, Obama's stance on immigration issues has been a mixed bag at best.

Having once promised to never vote for increased militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, he did just that as a senator last year. Obama has announced an intention to grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants (which we would welcome) but has also repeatedly staked out positions that John McCain could be happy with--fines, English-speaking requirements and "back of the line" penalties for those seeking permanent residence in the U.S.

This is the context of Newsom's shift to the right.

Additionally, California is facing a huge budget crisis, and Newsom is no doubt trying to scapegoat and cut corners--by robbing those in need. By pointing the finger at undocumented immigrant youth, Newsom has opened the door to the Minutemen and others who see a chance to make headway against a high-profile sanctuary city like San Francisco.

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FORTUNATELY, THESE attacks aren't going unchallenged. Though the movement has seen its ups and downs, the huge spike of activity in Spring 2006 breathed new life into the local and national movement. Only three days after the El Balazo raids, 250 people came out to protest in the middle of a Monday at ICE headquarters. An organizing meeting soon after brought together 40 or so activists to strategize about next steps. That meeting put some forces in motion, working in loose collaboration, to respond to the raids and other attacks.

The El Balazo Workers Defense Committee was established by activists and workers from El Balazo Taqueria to build a campaign around their case, and a defense fund was created to help deal with the hardships that many of the workers and their families now face. The first fundraiser drew over 120 people and raised thousands of dollars. Another fundraiser is scheduled for the end of the month.

Know-your-rights forums are being organized, and a "Regional Town Hall Meeting to Stop the Raids" is set for early September in Richmond. And that is just the beginning. In San Francisco on July 29, about 100 people came out to protest Newsom's attacks on our sanctuary status. The next day, over 200 came out on short notice to protest the Minutemen.

At that rally, many people got their first news of the raid that had happened in the Mission District that morning, and an emergency meeting was called for that same evening. That meeting brought together another 35 people or so to discuss what had happened, and what to do about it.

These are important steps toward building the kind of movement necessary to stop the raids and defend the Sanctuary Ordinance. While Mayor Newsom is pushing hard and fast, there are several members of the Board of Supervisors who have voiced opposition to what he is doing. What is needed now is increased coordination between the forces in the local pro-immigrant rights movement.

We need to come together to defend our communities but also to define "sanctuary" on our terms. A successful strategy would include a variety of means, including a legal strategy for the courts and collaboration with city supervisors who are already leaning in our direction.

But the bedrock of any strategy must be grassroots organizing and mass action. The powerful experience of May Day 2006 has not been forgotten, and rallies and meetings since then have shown that many people are willing to organize and fight for dignity, equality and justice. Our movement will need to continue to tap into that dedication and strength, and to cultivate it in more and more people.

What we do to turn the tide here will be a component in building a strong national movement strong enough to push the direction of future immigration law reforms. And that is something we will definitely need, whoever becomes the next governor of California or U.S. president.


August 15, 2008

Fishing While Brown Leads to Deportations

Fishing while brown
13 AUG 2008 • by Vernal Coleman

It was twilight Aug. 6 when Officer Jeff Brown of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission noticed an empty Toyota Pathfinder while patrolling an access road near the Haw River. After inspecting the car and finding no one, Brown walked to the edge of the river access point and saw men casting a fishing net. They had come from Kernersville after having heard of the good fishing to be had in Burlington, one man told him. According to Brown, the men were trying to hide a cooler full of fish as he approached.

Brown asked to see each of their fishing licenses, but no one had one. He then asked for their identification. Among them, all they had were two El Salvadorian ID cards and an expired California driver's license. He arrested the five men—Antonio Ordaz, Jose Ernesto, Javier Jimenez, Edwin Marquez and Juan Aria—who, because they were fishing at the wrong hole at the wrong time, are in custody at the Immigration and Custom Enforcement holding facility in Alamance County Jail, waiting to be deported to their home countries.

The men could have merely been cited, but Brown chose to arrest them.

"We're certified state law enforcement officers, and it's up to an officer's discretion whether to arrest someone," Brown told the Indy. "If a person has no I.D. on them, and you feel that they may not appear in court on you, or that they may not pay the ticket off ... yeah, we do arrest them."

Like most state law enforcement agencies, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission doesn't track how many individuals arrested by their officers end up in ICE custody. Similarly, its officials insist that they don't target any group for arrest.

Within the last two years, N.C. Wildlife officers have checked the licenses of 110,000 anglers. Of those, about 5,000 of them were issued citations. How many of those citations resulted in arrest, the agency couldn't say.

The much-scrutinized 287g section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, adopted by Alamance County last year, allows in-house immigration officers to identify and deport undocumented immigrants who have, for whatever reason, found their way into custody—fishing without a license included. Shortly after their arrival at the jail, the five men arrested by Brown were processed and found to be living in the U.S. illegally.

"It's things like that which are a testament to the fact that 287g isn't working at it was intended," says Rebecca Headen, Racial Justice Project director of the North Carolina ACLU. "It's is a misguided program that takes energy and resources away from regular law enforcement."

Other critics of the 287g program say that the program opens the door to racial profiling, and that it corrodes the relationship between police and the communities they are charged to protect.

Some in law enforcement contend that what some critics of the program are really advocating is a selective application of the law.

"The law has to be fair and equitable, otherwise it doesn't work," posits H.R. "Randy" Jones, spokesperson for the Alamance County Sheriff's Department. "What some people do not seem to understand is that 287g is just a screening program, meaning that you have to be detained and arrested first. What some folks are asking is that we not do our jobs."

The five men detained by Brown represented themselves during their trial last week and pleaded guilty to charges of fishing without a license and possession of fish without an authorized method. In pleading to the charges, they expedited their own deportations.

According to Brown, the basic fine for fishing without a license is $35. For those unable to produce a valid North Carolina identification card the fine jumps to $75; additional fees increase the total cost of the ticket to $196.

Brown acknowledged he didn't cite the men for being unlicensed, non-resident anglers, which would have required them to pay the fine. Asked why, one could almost hear him shrug through the receiver.

"They were going to jail anyway," he says. "So it really wouldn't have mattered."