February 27, 2009

First Child Becomes a U.S. Citizen Overseas

USCIS Naturalization Ceremony Held in Japan

YOKOSUKA NAVAL STATION, JAPAN – Martin Miles Ulsano, age 7, the child of a member of the U.S. Navy, today recited the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony held here in the Chapel of Hope. In doing so, he became the newest citizen of the United States, and the first child naturalized overseas.
Martin, who was born and raised in Japan, is the son of Eugeline and Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Caesar Ulsano. Caesar, who is originally from the Philippines, became a naturalized citizen in 2004 in Hawaii.
“The successful first naturalization of a child overseas reflects the exemplary work of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees in Korea and the military unit at our Nebraska Service Center,” said Mike Aytes, USCIS Acting Deputy Director. This also reflects the great teamwork between USCIS’ domestic and international operations divisions.
James Zumwalt, the Charge D'Affaires from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, delivered the keynote speech. Kenneth Sherman, Director of USCIS’ field office in Seoul, Korea, presided over the ceremony and administered the Oath of Allegiance to Ulsano and the 62 active duty service members and nine military spouses stationed in the Pacific, who also became new citizens.
The new citizens come from diverse backgrounds, hailing from China, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, England, France, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Philippines, Romania, and Vietnam.
The National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2008 permits children of U.S service members to receive their citizenship overseas where their parent is stationed even though the child may never have been in the United States. Previous immigration law required these children to be physically present within the United States to naturalize.
Please refer to the fact sheet: “Overseas Naturalization Eligibility for Certain Children of U.S. Armed Forces Members," accessible from the Related Links section of this page, for filing instructions and additional information.

Ten Things that Immigration Lawyers Should Know about the Army's New Non-Citizen Recruiting Program

An article by Margaret D. Stock outlinging the U.S. army's new recruiting program for non-citizens.

Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Identity-Theft Law in Immigration Cases

February 25, 2009

By Adam Liptak and Julia Preston

WASHINGTON — A federal identity-theft law that has become a favorite tool of the government in immigration prosecutions appeared imperiled on Wednesday after the Supreme Court heard arguments about it.
Prosecutors have relied on the law to seek or threaten two-year sentence extensions in immigration cases against people who used fake Social Security numbers that turned out to belong to real people.
“There’s a basic problem here,” said Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.. “You get an extra two years if it just so happens that the number you picked out of the air belonged to somebody else.”
Other justices also expressed skepticism about the government’s interpretation of the law.
The argument on Wednesday mostly concerned the meaning of the law, which applies to anyone who, in connection to other crimes, “knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person.”
The question in the case, one the advocates and justices examined from many angles, was how far down that sentence the “knowingly” requirement travels. The government took the position that it stopped somewhere short of the crucial final three words — “of another person.”
Kevin K. Russell, a lawyer for the defendant, said that ordinary usage requires the government to prove that people accused of identity theft under the law knew the numbers they used belonged to someone else.
“If I say that John knowingly used a pair of scissors of his mother,” Mr. Russell said by way of example, “I am saying not simply that John knew he was using something that turned out to be his mother’s scissors or even that John knew he was using scissors which turned out to be his mother’s. I am saying that John knew that the scissors he was using belonged to his mother.”
Mr. Russell’s client, Ignacio Flores-Figueroa, was a Mexican citizen working illegally for a steel plant in Illinois. At first, Mr. Flores-Figueroa used a false name and fake Social Security number, one that did not happen to match that of a real person. Six years later, he told his employer that he wanted to be known by his real name, and he presented forged Social Security and alien registration cards that bore numbers assigned to real people.
When all of this was discovered, Mr. Flores-Figueroa pleaded guilty to several immigration offenses, resulting in a 51-month sentence, but he went to trial to contest charges under the identity-theft law. Although the government presented no evidence that Mr. Flores-Figueroa knew he was using numbers assigned to other people, he was convicted and sentenced to the additional two years mandated by the law.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in St. Louis, affirmed Mr. Flores-Figueroa’s conviction, saying that the government needed to prove only a knowing use of false information, and not that the defendant knew the fake number belonged to a real person.
Mr. Russell said that interpretation of the law can give rise to perverse results, including the possibilities of “two people with identical culpability ending up with substantially different punishments, or people with substantially different culpability ending up with identical punishments.”
Toby J. Heytens, representing the government in the case, Flores-Figueroa v. United States, No. 08-108, said the court should focus on the victims of identity fraud rather than on its perpetrators. The law often makes distinctions, Mr. Heytens said, between equally culpable conduct based on the harm it causes.
The identity-theft law was used last summer by prosecutors in Iowa to bring one of the toughest cases against illegal immigrants in a two-year nationwide crackdown.
After nearly 400 illegal immigrants were arrested in May in a raid at a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, prosecutors brought identity-theft charges against about 270 of them who were found to have used identity information, like Social Security numbers, that corresponded to other real people and were not simply fabrications.
The Iowa criminal prosecutions were an abrupt departure from past immigration enforcement practice, in which illegal work cases had generally been handled under civil law.
Prosecutors used the charges to pressure the immigrants both to plead guilty to lesser charges of document fraud and to agree to summary deportation, waiving their immigration rights. Almost all the immigrants did, and they have served their sentences and been deported.
But a court interpreter who worked in the hearings, Prof. Erik Camayd-Freixas of Florida International University, later broke his professional silence. He testified before Congress that most of the immigrants for whom he translated, many from Guatemala, did not know what a Social Security card was or whether the numbers they used at the Postville plant belonged to other people.
Several justices appeared persuaded on Wednesday that the identity-theft law was at least ambiguous enough that the “rule of lenity” ought to apply. That rule, as Justice Antonin Scalia summarized it from the bench, is that “the tie goes to the defendant.”
Mr. Heytens, representing the government, said the Supreme Court had said as recently as Tuesday, in Hayes v. United States, that “a certain amount of ambiguity doesn’t automatically trigger the rule of lenity.”
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who was in dissent in the Hayes decision on Tuesday, asked a question. “Is it time,” he said dryly, “to revisit the court’s decision in Hayes?”
Adam Liptak reported from Washington, and Julia Preston from New York.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: February 27, 2009 An article on Thursday about a Supreme Court argument in an identity-theft case misattributed a comment from one of the justices, repeating an error in the court transcript. It was Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. — not Justice John Paul Stevens — who said: “There’s a basic problem here. You get an extra two years if it just so happens that the number you picked out of the air belonged to someone else.”

February 23, 2009

Ten Things Immigration Lawyers Should Know About the Army

On Nov. 25, 2008, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, authorized the implementation of Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI)--a new pilot program allowing certain non-citizens legally present in the U.S. to join the miltary and apply for U.S. citizenship without first obtaining legal permanent residence.

Immigration attorneys should read this article in order to more accurately advise clients interested in serving in the U.S. Army.

County Cannot Banish Illegals

Sunday, February 22, 2009 10:34 AM EST

WEST CHESTER — A state appeals court has ruled that a Chester County judge's order banishing a Mexican man from Pennsylvania as part of his drunken-driving sentence crossed the line into an improper attempt to rid the state of illegal immigrants.

The decision by a state Superior Court panel issued earlier this month begins to establish guidelines for what local judges can and cannot do when confronted by an illegal immigrant who stands before them convicted of a crime, said the attorney who appealed Judge William Mahon's banishment order.

"Under the pretext of punishment, and the cover of the sentencing code, (Mahon) has fashioned his own solution to the problem of illegal immigration which has perplexed both state and national legislators," Superior Court Judge John M. Cleland wrote in a 10-page opinion filed Feb. 11.

"The sentencing code, however, cannot be transformed into a tool of immigration reform," Cleland wrote in his opinion.

Mahon had initially ordered the defendant, a Mexican national, deported after he served the minimum 48 hours of his sentence for drunken driving. Mahon later changed that to ordering the man to leave the state within 10 days of his release from prison.

The order comes at a time when courts have begun to rein in attempts by local elected officials in Pennsylvania and across the nation to deal with the problems they perceive with immigrants in the country illegally.

For example, a federal judge in July 2007 struck down an ordinance in Hazleton that sought to punish those landlords found renting to illegal immigrants and also to employers who hire them. The move by Hazleton's mayor had become a symbol of the growing movement to enact local laws to combat illegal immigration, because of a perceived failure to control the U.S. borders or deal with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants who live in the country.

In his opinion, Cleland recognized the scope of his decision reversing the banishment of Ulises Luna from the state.

"Luna's case presents a case of great public importance," Cleland wrote for the court's three-member panel.

"As Luna's case so vividly illustrates, some state courts, frustrated by what they view as lax enforcement of deportation laws, may search for state remedies that conflict with federal laws preempting the field," he said.

Mahon himself alluded to the impact his action might have when he said a reversal of his banishment order could have implications at the polling booth.

"He was in this country illegally; he committed a crime," Mahon said of Luna. "He has to remain outside the commonwealth — I don't want him here. And if the Superior Court tells me I can't keep him out of the commonwealth, then let them explain that to the voters."

Advocates on both sides of the immigration issue reacted with differing opinions to the Superior Court's decision.

"We think it's a sound decision," said Vic Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania. He said federal authorities must be in charge of immigation-related issues to avoid a hodge-podge of legal approaches.

"If you left it to each individual state, municipality or locality, then you would have a not-in-my-backyard situation. It's like the Hazleton case. Are you going to allow undocumented immigrants in Maryland but not in Pennsylvania?"

But a former Chester County commissioner who now serves as a national voice on immigration policy decried the court's action.

"Judge Mahon's frustration was entirely understandable," said Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring USA.

"He saw a potential continuing threat to society by a substance abuser who had no legal right to be here in the first place, and he sought to have that person removed once his prison term had been served," said Hanna, of East Bradford. "The penalty that the judge proposed, banishment from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania — was a creative one."

The attorney who handled Luna's case, Amparito Arriaga of West Chester, said she was glad to see the court impose some guidelines that she could explain to her clients who are faced with decisions whether to plead guilty to charges against them or fight them in court.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Judge Mahon, but there are limited purposes for which you can exclude a defendant from Pennsylvania," she said last week. "I hope that in the future, sentences are tailored to the offense that was committed, and that they don't spill over to areas outside the jurisdiction of the judges. It is important to know what the boundaries are.

"That is what this opinion has done for us," Arriaga said.

Mahon on Friday declined comment.

A spokesman for the county district attorney's office said no decision had yet been made on whether to appeal the matter to the State Supreme Court.

Luna, 23, who lived in Oxford with his fiancee and child, was arrested by state police from the Avondale barracks on June 16, 2007. He was charged with driving under the influence after he was involved in a one-vehicle crash.

Luna's blood-alcohol level was found to be 0.116 percent, according to a court transcript of his sentencing. The state's legal limit for drunken driving is 0.08 percent.

Accompanied by Arriaga, Luna, a freelance house painter, pleaded guilty to DUI on Nov. 19 and was to be sentenced to the standard two-day minimum prison term for a first-time offender.

In the course of questioning Luna about the matter, Mahon, known as a blunt and outspoken judge, asked him where he was born and how long he had been living in the United States. When Luna said he's been in the country a year or two from Mexico, Mahon grew agitated, according to the hearing transcript.

"Why do you think you can come to this country and break our laws?" the judge asked. "My suspicion is that you are in this country illegally.

"I'm old school, Mr. Luna," Mahon continued. "I just have a real problem accepting the fact that someone is here illegally and breaking our laws. I understand that you are a hard worker but that is not enough. If I was in Mexico, illegally and did what you did I would probably be locked up for years and thrown out of the country."

When Mahon announced his intention to order Luna deported, Arriaga stepped in, saying that immigration officials would handle that.

Mahon, who admitted not being an expert of immigration law, nevertheless said it seemed "inconceivable to me (that) someone, who is here illegally, can break a law in this country and not be detained and deported. It's ludicrous."

Luna was actually deported a month later. But Arriaga asked Mahon to reconsider his deportation order, arguing that he exceeded his authority.

"I'm doing this for selfish reasons," Arriaga told Mahon at a hearing on Dec. 13, 2007. "I want to know what the boundaries of a Common Pleas judge are so that I can advise my clients in the future."

She noted that Judge James P. MacElree II, when confronted by illegal immigrants, orders them to report their status to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. Many such defendants, it should be noted, already have immigration detainers placed on them before they come to court.

Mahon ultimately agreed to rescind his deportation order but said he would impose a substitute condition that Luna be formally banished from the state.

"He is to leave the commonwealth," Mahon said. "I can certainly do that."

"I don't believe that you can," responded Arriaga. "I mean, he is entitled to due process rights."

In the Superior Court decision, Cleland said Mahon was correct in reversing his deportation order, since such an action was out of his authority. Only immigration courts can deport illegal aliens, he said.

But Cleland said banishment from state was also out of order. Such actions are only legal when they serve "either the defendant's rehabilitation or the protection of public safety," Cleland wrote. "(Mahon) offered no explanation why 'deportation' from Pennsylvania relates to, let alone promotes, the rehabilitation of a defendants convicted of driving under the influence — or enhances the protection of our citizens."

And because Mahon said his order was directed at Luna's immigration status alone, it violated sentencing rules, the court ruled.

"We assume (Mahon) does not propose to protect the citizens of Pennsylvania from drunk(en) drivers by banishing from Pennsylvania everyone convicted of a DUI," Cleland wrote.

As an aside, Cleland also noted Mahon's suggestion that any rejection of his banishment order would have to be explained to the voters.

"We caution that intemperate comments of that nature are not appropriate," Cleland said in a footnote. "It is the obligation of judges, especially those who find themselves embroiled in controversial public issues, to refrain from such polemics."

Arraiga said she was pleased with the decision and is waiting to see what its ultimate impact would be. "I am curious to see what is going to happen now," she said.

New Documentary: "abUSed: The Postville Raid"

"Critically acclaimed director of The Silence of Neto, Luis Argueta, along
with co-producer Vivian Rivas, are in the post-production stage of abUSed -
The Postville Raid, the full-length documentary that tells the story of the
most brutal, most expensive, and one of the largest Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) raids in the history of the United States. By weaving
together the personal stories of the individuals, the families, and the town
directly affected by the events of May 12, 2008, the film presents the human
face of the issue of immigration reform and serves as a cautionary tale
against abuses of constitutional human rights.

In addition to the film, abUSed - The Postville Raid Archives is an
audio-visual collection of the interviews recorded in the making of the
documentary that will preserve the voices of the victims and witnesses of
the events of May 12, 2008. The collection will be housed at the Luther
College Library
in Decorah, Iowa. Recorded in the communities of Postville,
and Calderas, Dueñas, El Rosario and Parramos, Guatemala; they will
serve as the collective memory of a paradigmatic event on the quest for
humane and comprehensive immigration reform in the United States."

Government Offers Look at Nation's Immigrants

February 21, 2009

By: Sam Roberts

Indians are the best educated newcomers from overseas. Somalis are the youngest and poorest. Immigrants from Jordan and Bangladesh are most likely to be working in sales and office jobs.
Those are among the findings of a profile of the nation’s foreign-born residents, legal or illegal, released this week by the Census Bureau.
Over all, the profile indicates that Latin Americans and Africans account for a greater share of the nation’s immigrant population than they did five years ago. In 1990, 22 percent of the foreign-born residents were from Mexico. By 2007, 31 percent were.
In 2007, the Census Bureau found, 54 percent of the nation’s 38.1 million foreign-born came from Latin America, 27 percent from Asia, 13 percent from Europe and 4 percent from Africa.
More came from Mexico — 11.7 million — than from any other country, followed by China, the Philippines, India, El Salvador, Vietnam and South Korea.
Dominican immigrants accounted for 2 percent of the foreign-born — the same as the share of Canadians and the same percentage as Germans as recently as 2000. Indians made up 4 percent of the foreign-born.
A separate analysis found wide disparities among foreigners, especially Mexicans, being drawn to different regions.
“The new immigrant magnets, especially in the Southeast, are disproportionately attracting young Mexican men who are willing to accept low wages,” said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. “They have a lower potential to assimilate into the community than foreign-born Mexicans going to other destinations, and, as a result, they may be more prone to leave as economic opportunities continue to dry up in construction and related industries.”
The profile found that immigrants are about as likely to have graduated from college as native-born Americans, 27 percent compared to 28 percent. (Seventy-four percent of Indian immigrants have a bachelor’s degree.)
Those from India, Australia, South Africa and the Philippines had the highest median household incomes, with the figure for Indians at $91,195. Those from Somalia and the Dominican Republic had among the lowest. The median for the foreign born was $46,881 compared with $51,249 among the native born.
The oldest immigrants were from Europe (Hungarians, Italians, Greeks, Germans and Irish all had median ages of about 60 or more) while Somalis had the youngest median age (26.8).
A disproportionately high percentage of Nigerians and Kenyans are employed or looking for work.
Fully 97 percent of immigrants from Mexico and the Dominican Republic do not speak English at home. About 52 percent of foreign-born residents say they speak English less than very well.
Americans born in the Netherlands and Ireland had the lowest poverty rates (5 percent). Somalis had the highest (51 percent).

February 20, 2009

Judge: Federal agents violated rights in work site raid

A judge has dismissed the case of an illegal immigrant facing deportation after ruling that federal agents violated his rights during a work site raid last year in Van Nuys.

Los Angeles Judge A. Ashley Tabaddor issued a written decision that immigration agents failed to follow their own regulations when they detained Gregorio Perez Cruz without reasonable suspicion that he was illegal.

The judge also determined that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents failed to advise Perez of his rights and interrogated him in an “intimidating and coercive environment” in which he was deprived of food and water for 18 hours and forced to sleep on a concrete floor.

Perez's attorney, Ahilan Arulanantham, said the 19-page decision could affect dozens of other ongoing immigration cases of workers arrested at Micro Solutions Enterprises.

“We’re very pleased that the rights of the Van Nuys workers were vindicated,” said Arulanantham, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “The decision sends a message to ICE that it cannot disregard the rights of the people that it targets.”

On Feb. 7, 2008, armed immigration agents entered Micro Solutions Enterprises, blocked the exits and ordered employees to stop working while the authorities executed federal arrest warrants for eight people and a search warrant as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. Those eight were arrested on criminal charges, and 130 others were arrested on immigration violations.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice said the government plans to appeal the decision, which was issued Feb. 10 but not announced until today.

"ICE respectfully disagrees with the immigration judge's ruling," Kice said in a statement. "The ICE enforcement action involving the factory operated by Micro Solutions Enterprises was carried out in accordance with the terms of the related search warrant as well as with ICE policies and procedures."

Government regulations prevent agents from detaining people unless there is reasonable suspicion that the person is in the country illegally. They also require agents to advise detainees of their rights if they are being arrested without a warrant.

According to the decision, the agents violated both rules, which the judge said were designed to protect Perez’s right “to be free from an illegal detention, arrest and interrogation.”

Perez said that during the raid agents handcuffed him and asked him several questions, including where he was from and his date of birth. He said in court papers that had he known that the answers he gave could be used to deport him, he wouldn’t have given any responses. While he was in a detention center, Perez said he spent the night in a cold cell and had to drink out of the bathroom faucet because he was not given any food or water for many hours. The experience, he said, was humiliating.

“They didn’t respect our rights,” he said in an interview.

Perez, 23, said he was relieved that his deportation case was dropped and that he wouldn’t be forced to leave the country, even though he still is not eligible for a green card.

“I feel much better, but also sad because there are many workers who are in the same situation, in Van Nuys and in other states,” he said.

Over the past few years, the federal government has stepped up enforcement against employers that hire undocumented workers. Agents have conducted large-scale raids at work sites throughout the nation, arresting hundreds of undocumented workers.

-- Anna Gorman

February 19, 2009

Study Shows Sharp Rise in Latino Federal Convicts

February 18, 2009

By: Solomon Moore

Latino convicts now represent the largest ethnic population in the federal prison system, accounting for 40 percent of those convicted of federal crimes, according to a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan research organization.
Latinos made up only 13 percent of the United States adult population in 2007, but they accounted for one third of federal prison inmates that year, a result the study attributed to the sharp rise in illegal immigration and tougher enforcement of immigration laws.
Nearly half of Latino offenders, or about 48 percent, were convicted of immigration crimes, while drug offenses were the second-most-prevalent charge, according to the report.
As the annual number of federal offenders more than doubled from 1991 to 2007, the number of Latino offenders sentenced in a given year nearly quadrupled, to 29,281 from 7,924.
Of Latino federal offenders, 72 percent are not United States citizens and most were sentenced in courts from one of the four states that border Mexico. Federal prisoners who are illegal immigrants are usually deported to their home countries after serving their sentences.
“The immigration system has essentially become criminalized at a huge cost to the criminal justice system, to courts, to judges, to prisons and prosecutors,” said Lucas Guttentag, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. “And the government has diverted the resources of the criminal justice system from violent crimes, financial skullduggery and other areas that have been the traditional area of the Justice Department.”
Last month, The New York Times reported that federal immigration prosecutions had increased over the last five years, doubling in the last fiscal year to more than 70,000 cases. Meanwhile, other categories of federal prosecutions, including gun trafficking, public corruption, organized crime and white-collar crime, declined over the same period.
The federal justice system accounts for 200,000, or 8.6 percent, of the 2.3 million inmates in federal and state prisons and city and county jails. Nineteen percent of state prisoners and 16 percent of jail inmates were Latinos, the Pew study found. African-Americans, who make up about 12 percent of the national population, make up 39 percent of state prisoners and jail inmates.
Deborah Williams, an assistant federal defender in Phoenix, said that the large number of Latinos in the federal system, particularly those who are not citizens and have limited English proficiency, had sharply changed federal prison culture.
“I have Anglo and Native American clients who tell me about being the only non-Spanish speaker in their pod,” Ms. Williams said. “Ten years ago, it just wasn’t that way. Everything is changing in there, including the language, the television shows they watch, and a lot of times the guards don’t speak the language. How do you safely guard people who may not understand your orders?”
A spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons, Tracy Billingsley, declined immediate comment on the Pew report.
Mark Hugo Lopez, a co-author of the study, which relied on United States Sentencing Commission statistics, said, “It’s hard to understand whether we’re seeing a policy change or just a growth in the total number of immigrants coming to this country.”
The number of illegal immigrants in the country increased to 11.9 million last year, from 3.9 million in 1992.
Under federal programs like Operation Gatekeeper, which hired thousands of immigration enforcement officials along the Mexican border, and Operation Streamline, which instituted a “zero tolerance policy” for illegal border crossings in the same region, immigration crimes have skyrocketed.
The large number of immigration crimes and low-level drug offenses account for the relatively light sentences that Latinos typically receive — about 46 months, compared with 62 months for white inmates and 91 months for African-American prisoners, according to the study.
The hearing for José Sánchez on Wednesday in Los Angeles was typical. Having been convicted of illegal re-entry, Mr. Sánchez, 37, who has prior convictions for assault and drug possession, pleaded guilty in exchange for a sentence of 46 months.
The hearing took less than 10 minutes. Mr. Sánchez, who has a wife and three children in the area, asked to be assigned to a prison nearby. He is likely to be deported to Mexico after serving his sentence.

February 17, 2009

Storm-Ravaged Haiti Blocks U.S. Deportations

By Luis F. Perez and Georgia East South Florida Sun-Sentinel

February 16, 2009

Haiti is saying "No" to the United States. The Caribbean country is blocking the U.S. government from deporting Haitians. The move is clogging immigration detention centers and stalling the return of Haitians ordered out of the country. U.S. immigration authorities are using a diplomatic loophole: pushing Haitians to get their own travel documents, such as passports, so they can be sent home. Haiti took the stand after a series of brutal storms lashed the island last summer and after repeatedly asking the United States for, and being denied, what's known as temporary protected status. The status would allow Haitians in this country illegally to stay and work temporarily. Haitian officials say the country needs to rebuild and can't handle the return of its citizens. The result: Deportations to Haiti have dropped by nearly 89 percent, from an average of 156 in the months before the storms to about 17 a month since October.
"We're not processing travel documents until further notice," said Ralph LaTortue, the Haitian consul general in Miami.Across the country, more than 30,000 Haitians have been ordered to leave, with about 600 of those in detention as of Feb. 9, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Additionally, 243 were under a form of house arrest and being monitored with electronic ankle bracelets. "The lack of travel documents increases the amount of time a removable alien spends in detention and decreases the availability of detention space to house other removable aliens who may be dangerous to the community," said Nicole Navas, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Last summer, four tropical storms devastated Haiti, washing away roads, bridges and crops. Hundreds died, and hundreds of thousands lost their homes. Since then, Haitian President Rene Preval, South Florida elected officials and advocates renewed their request for protected status. A halt to deportations in mid-September gave them hope that their appeal was heard. But immigration officials resumed flights in early December. Two weeks later, then-President George W. Bush's administration denied the request for protected status. "Haiti is still trying to recover," LaTortue said. "It's going to be a very long rebuilding process." He said the consulate will wait until Preval gives the go-ahead to issue travel papers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has made up to 200 requests for them since the storms, he said. Phillippe "Bob" Louis Jeune, president of the Haitian Citizen United Taskforce, said he hears daily from many Haitians facing pressure from immigration officials. "I tell them don't sign anything until we get further word from Washington," Jeune said. Luis F. Perez can be reached at lfperez@SunSentinel.com or 954-356-4553.

ICE Agents Won't Testify

February 16, 2009

By: Thomas MacMillan

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will not testify in person after all to defend the constitutionality of their actions in the Fair Haven raids of June 2007.
The ICE attorneys have decided to make their case by written affidavit only, which means there will be no opportunity for in-person cross-examination by attorneys representing the immigrants arrested during the raids.
It is the latest development in the ongoing immigration court case dealing with 17 of the immigrants who were arrested in the 2007 sweep. The immigrants, represented by attorneys from Yale Law School, contend that they were arrested illegally and that their constitutional rights were violated when ICE agents entered their homes without permission and arrested them without due process. Attorneys for ICE deny the claim.
For previous coverage of the hearings, see here, here, here and here.
Judge Michael Straus ruled in January that in the case of six of the 17 immigrants, the burden of proof had shifted to the government. The ICE agents were expected to take the stand to defend their actions.
“It’s anyone’s right to refuse to take the stand,” said Jane Lewis, one of the Yale lawyers working on the case. Lewis said on Friday that she was “just baffled” why they decided not to testify in person.
She called the decision an “unfortunate choice.”
“We were really hoping the court would hear the agents themselves,” Lewis said.
The Yale lawyers will respond to the affidavits with a brief to Judge Straus. Lewis couldn’t predict when Straus would be making a decision.
In an email message, ICE Communications Director Mike Gilhooly said that the written affidavits were “reasonable responses in immigration court hearings.”
Gilhooly said that the government’s position was justified by a 1984 decision stating “that litigating the facts surrounding every immigration arrest would impose an intolerable administrative burden on the immigration enforcement system.”

Facing Graduation, Not Deportation

February 16, 2009

By: Nina Bernstein

Three years ago, Amadou Ly was a shy East Harlem high school student with a secret. He quickly became front-page news when his robotics team unexpectedly won a spot in the national finals in Atlanta, but he could not board a plane because he lacked government identification.
Born in Senegal, Amadou had been abandoned in New York at 14 by his mother, who wanted him to try to finish an American education. At 18, he was facing deportation as an illegal immigrant, with no way to attend the college where he had been admitted.
But by the time he arrived at the robotics competition by train, the response to an article in The New York Times had unleashed a news media whirlwind that brought members of Congress, Hollywood stars and volunteer lawyers to his side. They persuaded immigration authorities to drop deportation proceedings and grant him a foreign student visa to stay and study in the United States.
Now that happy ending has been eclipsed by another: Mr. Ly secured a juvenile green card just before his 21st birthday this month, thanks to his legal helpers and obscure changes in New York State law that extended the age of eligibility.
He is on track to graduate in June from Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, after struggling to pay tuition because as a foreign student he could not work more than 20 hours a week.
And he has already begun a very American career, winning parts in two independent films and a music video, and even an offer of a small role in an episode of “Law & Order.”
He had to turn down that television show last year, he said, because of the work limits imposed by his visa. But now, as a legal permanent resident, “I can work as much as I want, and I can travel,” Mr. Ly exulted last week, between college classes in Brooklyn and a film rehearsal in Harlem.
In April, he plans a trip back to Senegal, his first chance to see his grandmother since he came to the United States at 13. But he will not stay too long.
“I feel like I belong in this country,” he said, recalling how he longed to vote in the presidential election. “As soon as I have the next opportunity to become a citizen, I will take it.”
Mr. Ly (pronounced Lee) originally wanted to become a computer engineer. But he changed plans after he took an acting class in an effort to improve his public speaking style, and he visited producers at Universal Studios in Hollywood. He switched his college major to performing arts.
Amy Meselson, the Legal Aid lawyer who first took his case, said she was initially worried about his new ambitions. But she has been impressed by how hard he works, she said, and how much poise he has gained.
“When I first met him I was very struck by how shy he was,” she said, recalling the scared teenager who had been placed in deportation proceedings in November 2004, after he was a passenger in a car accident in Pennsylvania and a state trooper reported him to federal immigration authorities. “Even his voice was so quiet it was hard to hear him sometimes.”
“He’s always been a principled person who had a sense of the right way to act,” she added. “I feel like at every turn he has really taken the best from his environment and left the worst.”
He is still aware of his good luck, especially after visiting Senegalese friends when they were held for months without legal representation in an immigration detention center in Elizabeth, N.J. “There are people who have nobody to visit them,” he said. “They are just there alone.”
He now sits on a regional planning committee for the annual robotics competition, known as First, which has its robot-building trials on March 6. And he is trying to organize a robotics team in Senegal, said Kris Breton, who was Mr. Ly’s robotics coach in East Harlem and now works for the city overseeing free after-school programs.
Whether Mr. Ly succeeds in show business, returns to engineering or finds a different path, Mr. Breton added, he will make a fine American.
“Amadou has character,” he said.

February 15, 2009

U.S. Military Will Offer Path to Citizenship

Stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American military will begin recruiting skilled immigrants who are living in this country with temporary visas, offering them the chance to become United States citizens in as little as six months.
Immigrants who are permanent residents, with documents commonly known as green cards, have long been eligible to enlist. But the new effort, for the first time since the Vietnam War, will open the armed forces to temporary immigrants if they have lived in the United States for a minimum of two years, according to military officials familiar with the plan.
Recruiters expect that the temporary immigrants will have more education, foreign language skills and professional expertise than many Americans who enlist, helping the military to fill shortages in medical care, language interpretation and field intelligence analysis.
“The American Army finds itself in a lot of different countries where cultural awareness is critical,” said Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, the top recruitment officer for the Army, which is leading the pilot program. “There will be some very talented folks in this group.”
The program will begin small — limited to 1,000 enlistees nationwide in its first year, most for the Army and some for other branches. If the pilot program succeeds as Pentagon officials anticipate, it will expand for all branches of the military. For the Army, it could eventually provide as many as 14,000 volunteers a year, or about one in six recruits.
About 8,000 permanent immigrants with green cards join the armed forces annually, the Pentagon reports, and about 29,000 foreign-born people currently serving are not American citizens.
Although the Pentagon has had wartime authority to recruit immigrants since shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, military officials have moved cautiously to lay the legal groundwork for the temporary immigrant program to avoid controversy within the ranks and among veterans over the prospect of large numbers of immigrants in the armed forces.
A preliminary Pentagon announcement of the program last year drew a stream of angry comments from officers and veterans on Military.com, a Web site they frequent.
Marty Justis, executive director of the national headquarters of the American Legion, the veterans’ organization, said that while the group opposes “any great influx of immigrants” to the United States, it would not object to recruiting temporary immigrants as long as they passed tough background checks. But he said the immigrants’ allegiance to the United States “must take precedence over and above any ties they may have with their native country.”
The military does not allow illegal immigrants to enlist, and that policy would not change, officers said. Recruiting officials pointed out that volunteers with temporary visas would have already passed a security screening and would have shown that they had no criminal record.
“The Army will gain in its strength in human capital,” General Freakley said, “and the immigrants will gain their citizenship and get on a ramp to the American dream.”
In recent years, as American forces faced combat in two wars and recruiters struggled to meet their goals for the all-volunteer military, thousands of legal immigrants with temporary visas who tried to enlist were turned away because they lacked permanent green cards, recruiting officers said.
Recruiters’ work became easier in the last few months as unemployment soared and more Americans sought to join the military. But the Pentagon, facing a new deployment of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, still has difficulties in attracting doctors, specialized nurses and language experts.
Several types of temporary work visas require college or advanced degrees or professional expertise, and immigrants who are working as doctors and nurses in the United States have already been certified by American medical boards.
Military figures show that only 82 percent of about 80,000 Army recruits last year had high school diplomas. According to new figures, the Army provided waivers to 18 percent of active-duty recruits in the final four months of last year, allowing them to enlist despite medical conditions or criminal records.
Military officials want to attract immigrants who have native knowledge of languages and cultures that the Pentagon considers strategically vital. The program will also be open to students and refugees.
The Army’s one-year pilot program will begin in New York City to recruit about 550 temporary immigrants who speak one or more of 35 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Igbo (a tongue spoken in Nigeria), Kurdish, Nepalese, Pashto, Russian and Tamil. Spanish speakers are not eligible. The Army’s program will also include about 300 medical professionals to be recruited nationwide. Recruiting will start after Department of Homeland Security officials update an immigration rule in coming days.
Pentagon officials expect that the lure of accelerated citizenship will be powerful. Under a statute invoked in 2002 by the Bush administration, immigrants who serve in the military can apply to become citizens on the first day of active service, and they can take the oath in as little as six months.
For foreigners who come to work or study in the United States on temporary visas, the path to citizenship is uncertain and at best agonizingly long, often lasting more than a decade. The military also waives naturalization fees, which are at least $675.
To enlist, temporary immigrants will have to prove that they have lived in the United States for two years and have not been out of the country for longer than 90 days during that time. They will have to pass an English test.
Language experts will have to serve four years of active duty, and health care professionals will serve three years of active duty or six years in the Reserves. If the immigrants do not complete their service honorably, they could lose their citizenship.
Commenters who vented their suspicions of the program on Military.com said it could be used by terrorists to penetrate the armed forces.
At a street corner recruiting station in Bay Ridge in Brooklyn, Staff Sgt. Alejandro Campos of the Army said he had already fielded calls from temporary immigrants who heard rumors about the program.
“We’re going to give people the opportunity to be part of the United States who are dying to be part of this country and they weren’t able to before now,” said Sergeant Campos, who was born in the Dominican Republic and became a United States citizen after he joined the Army.
Sergeant Campos said he saw how useful it was to have soldiers who were native Arabic speakers during two tours in Iraq.
“The first time around we didn’t have soldier translators,” he said. “But now that we have soldiers as translators, we are able to trust more, we are able to accomplish the mission with more accuracy.”

February 10, 2009

March Visa Bulletin

Click HERE to see the March Visa Bulletin

ICE Arrests & Immigration Crackdown Overwhelms Immigration Judges & Courts

Immigration Crackdown Overwhelms Judges

Listen Now [4 min 46 sec] add to playlist

Illegal immigrants in detention center
Gregory Bull

A U.S. Border Patrol agent processes two men at a detention center in Nogales, Ariz., in April 2006. AP

“For some people, these are the equivalent of death penalty cases, and we are conducting these cases in a traffic court setting.”
Dana Leigh Marks, head of the National Association of Immigration Judges

All Things Considered, February 9, 2009 · Over the past few years, the Bush administration's immigration crackdown funded thousands more agents to arrest immigrants and hundreds more government lawyers to prosecute them.

But immigration judges — who adjudicate deportation and asylum hearings — have been left out of this expansion, and they say they're struggling under a staggering caseload.

Ballooning Backlogs

In fiscal year 2007, the nation's 214 immigration judges oversaw nearly 350,000 cases. Dana Leigh Marks, who heads the National Association of Immigration Judges, says she spends 36 hours a week on the bench trying to keep up, and Marks doesn't even have basic resources that other judges take for granted.

"I'm lucky," Marks says. "Here in San Francisco, I have one-quarter of a law clerk. Throughout the country, the ratio of law clerks to immigration judges makes it so that most judges have one-sixth of a law clerk."

Marks says she can definitely feel like Lucy Ricardo on the chocolate-factory line. But with many defendants seeking refuge from persecution, the frenetic work pace is hardly a comedy.

"For some people, these are the equivalent of death penalty cases, and we are conducting these cases in a traffic court setting."

Brittney Nystrom of the National Immigration Forum says the court system simply can't handle the number of cases pouring into it. She points out that immigration law is exceedingly complex and can demand knowledge of conditions in countries spanning the globe. Yet as the recent immigration crackdown has led to ballooning backlogs, judges have come under pressure to speed up decision-making.

"Judges may waive the testimony of a witness and choose to review a submitted statement," Nystrom says. "Or they may direct the applicant to focus on one side of their story instead of hearing all of the testimony."

One result has been a surge in appeals and scathing attacks by federal appeals judges, who've criticized immigration courts for inconsistent, sometimes illogical decision-making. In 2006, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales pledged to hire more immigration judges. That task falls to the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review. Officials there declined our interview request, but director Kevin Ohlson recently told Congress that during the past year, his office has hired 18 immigration judges, with 16 more in the pipeline.

But that effort hasn't even kept up with attrition. As of last fall, there were fewer immigration judges than when Gonzales ordered new hires.

Strategies To Manage Caseload

Along with the push for more judges, there are calls for other ways to bring down the backlog of cases. Julie Myers-Wood, who led Immigration and Customs Enforcement until recently, points out that because immigrants have no right to a lawyer in deportation cases, many represent themselves, which can lead to confusion and delays.

"Making sure that aliens know about what their rights are, making sure we're pushing to get pro bono counsel out there, I think could be the most positive thing for immigration courts that we could really see," she says.

Myers-Wood believes expanding pro bono help could improve due process and also lead many immigrants to give up their legal fights against deportation once they understand they have little chance of success.

She would also like to keep expanding a controversial program called stipulated removal, in which immigrants agree to be deported and bypass the courtroom altogether. Immigration lawyers complain that most immigrants who've signed such waivers did not consult a lawyer and may have had a defense against deportation without realizing it.

Marks of the immigration judge's union says no shortcut can overcome the need for more judges on the bench. She says a recent University of California study found overwhelmed immigration judges face stress levels equal to those faced by emergency room doctors and prison wardens.

"I think the immigration judges across the United States do an admirable job," Marks says. "But the lack of resources and the persistent inability to spend more time on cases is wearing me and my colleagues down."

February 09, 2009

ICE Air - Deportations by Air

Immigration agency's airline flies tens of thousands of deportees out of U.S.

ICE Air flew 367,000 illegal immigrants home last year

A few questions before he goes

Mario Barrados Rodriguez, 34, is questioned before he boards the plane that will return him to Mexico. (Tribune photo by Alex Garcia / January 27, 2009)

The nondescript 737 jet taxied to the front of the runway line at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

Aboard the flight, 53 passengers stared out windows as their rising plane banked toward Mexico and their handcuffs glinted in the morning sun.

This is U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Flight Repatriate, a booming airline ferrying illegal immigrants out of the country.

Flying worldwide from O'Hare and 22 other airports, the so-called ICE Air planes transported more than 367,000 illegal immigrants, including 11,500 from the Chicago area, out of the U.S. from October 2007 to October 2008—a 26 percent increase over the previous fiscal year and 77 percent more than in 2006. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently called for ways to "expedite removal" of thousands more illegal immigrants. The directive surprised advocates who have been lobbying for fewer deportations while they build momentum to reintroduce Immigration reform legislation in Congress by July.

"That was a signal to me that we need to work quicker and speak more effectively to the Obama camp," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who is organizing Immigration rallies in 14 cities.

"The vast majority of undocumented immigrants don't violate any law, other than their Immigration status," Gutierrez argued.

On board Flight Repatriate during a recent trip to the border near El Paso, Texas, the passengers embodied the dashed dreams of deported immigrants everywhere.

Some fretted over U.S.-born children. Others stewed over U.S. residency applications filed years ago. On a flight where many passengers were convicted of other U.S. crimes, still more grappled with alcoholism and other demons that make them poster targets for arrest.

"I shouted to the police: 'Then, kill me! Kill me!' " Moises Rivera, 35, boasted about the January night he guzzled eight shots of whiskey and fell asleep in his car at a Little Village traffic light. In jail, he sobered up to realize he was heading back to Mexico.

Near him sat Felipe Rodriguez, who was pulled over for speeding. The sunken-eyed restaurant busboy was arrested after showing an Illinois state trooper a fake driver's license.

"I don't smoke; I don't drink," said Rodriguez, 55, describing himself as a bookworm. "My whole family is in Chicago and Indiana, where we were happy."

Following years of secrecy, Immigration officials are more willing to show how deportations work after several highly publicized allegations last year of mistreatment. Among those are an ongoing lawsuit on behalf of deportees who say they were injected with dangerous sedatives such as Haldol, normally used for schizophrenia patients. Federal authorities said the practice is reserved for extremely unruly passengers and requires a federal court order and a doctor's consent.

"It's our goal to be transparent," said Gail Montenegro, Chicago spokeswoman for ICE. "We are mandated to enforce the Immigration laws as they are written and we pursue that mandate fairly and humanely."

The flights from O'Hare leave twice a week. The process begins before dawn inside a squat, brick federal detention center in suburban Broadview.

There, inmates arrived from several county jails in Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin that house immigrants arrested in raids or at home.

Bleary-eyed, the inmates reclaimed items they had when caught—fanny packs, jackets, wallets.

After a short bus ride to the O'Hare tarmac, some shivered against the stabbing winter wind in T-shirts and jeans as guards frisked them and checked their mouths for weapons or drugs.

"People tell you about all the opportunities in the United States, but they don't reveal the bad things like this, where they treat us like animals," muttered Ismael Martinez, 34, who spent five years in Chicago supporting three daughters and a wife before he was arrested in December for domestic battery.

Several noted the novelty of a plane ride after risking their lives in the desert to enter the U.S.

"This is the life we have," said Mario Barradas, who arrived from the Mexican gulf state of Veracruz and was arrested for driving without a license. "Nobody here knows I'm leaving and nobody there knows I'm coming."

After 57 inmates were picked up in Dallas, some ate turkey sandwiches as they eyed the dozen ICE agents standing guard in the aisle or trading jokes up in the "first class" section.

Several contemplated what they'd do in the Mexican border town of Juarez, where warring drug cartels and other violence contributed to 1,600 homicides last year.

"If it's anything like Laredo, I'm outta there," said Roberto Rodriguez, 26.

Carried across the Texas border as a baby, the oil worker preferred speaking English in his thick twang.

Like others, Rodriguez has been deported several times.

Each time, he said, "I walk right back across the border and tell them I don't have no ID. It works! If you talk to me, I don't sound illegal."

Turning to an incredulous ICE agent, Rodriguez added: "If I come over again, can you help me with my case?"

After applause for a smooth landing in El Paso, others walked into Juarez rubbing their freed wrists and formulating their own plans to sneak back.

Victor Jimenez, 43, watched the thin, leather-skinned beggars along Juarez's main strip—where police sirens and rattling assault rifles later filled the night—and vowed to return to his family in suburban Cook County.

"My whole life is there," he reasoned. "Here, only pain."

After a few days, Rodriguez did try. He was caught near the Laredo border last week and is in ICE custody for the fifth time.


February 06, 2009

Arpaio’s America

Published: February 5, 2009

It has come to this: In Phoenix on Wednesday, more than 200 men in shackles and prison stripes were marched under armed guard past a gantlet of TV cameras to a tent prison encircled by an electric fence. They were inmates being sent to await deportation in a new immigrant detention camp minutes from the center of America’s fifth-largest city.

The judge, jury and exhibitioner of this degrading spectacle was the Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio, the publicity-obsessed star of a Fox reality show and the self-appointed scourge of illegal immigrants. Though he frequently and proudly insists that he answers to no one, except at election time, the sheriff is not an isolated rogue. As a participant in the federal policing program called 287(g), he is an official partner of the United States government in its warped crackdown on illegal immigration.

The immigration enforcement regime left by the Bush Administration is out of control. It is up to President Obama and the new secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, to rein it in and clean it up. This applies not just to off-the-rails deputies like Sheriff Arpaio, but to the federal enforcement agencies themselves.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Border Patrol have been shown in recent news accounts to be botching their jobs. Border Patrol agents in California have accused supervisors of setting arrest quotas for undocumented immigrants, and a recent Migration Policy Institute study showed that a much-touted campaign of raids against criminal fugitives was a failure. It netted mostly the maids and laborers who are no reasonable person’s idea of a national threat.

The burden of action is particularly high on Ms. Napolitano, who as Arizona’s governor handled Sheriff Arpaio with a gingerly caution that looked to some of his critics and victims as calculated and timid.

Ms. Napolitano, who is known as a serious and moderate voice on immigration, recently directed her agency to review its enforcement efforts, including looking at ways to expand the 287(g) program. Sheriff Arpaio is a powerful argument for doing just the opposite.

Now that she has left Arizona politics behind, Ms. Napolitano is free to prove this is not Arpaio’s America, where the mob rules and immigrants are subject to ritual humiliation. The country should expect no less.

Deportation Proceedings Begin Against Goucher Teacher from Rwanda

Academic Denies Genocide Allegations
U.S. immigration authorities have begun deportation proceedings against a Rwandan academic who was suspended by Goucher College amid allegations that he had participated in the African country's 1994 genocide.

Leopold Munyakazi, 59, was arrested Tuesday afternoon at his home in Towson. Immigration officials said only that he was "in the country illegally," though he had arrived with a valid visa, said Brandon A. Montgomery, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Munyakazi was released on condition he wear a monitoring device and remain at home, Montgomery said, adding that "removal proceedings" have begun. An immigration judge will determine whether to deport him. Munyakazi said yesterday that his hearing would be held in April. He has denied the genocide allegations.

Goucher revealed Saturday that it had suspended him from teaching French this semester.

Goucher President Sanford J. Ungar took the action after learning Munyakazi stands accused of inciting violence in the genocide that killed 800,000 people in Rwanda.

Munyakazi said he entered the United States in 2004 and applied for asylum, adding that he believed his application was pending. Munyakazi's wife, Catherine Mukantabana, said she and their three children - ages 6, 14 and 20 - also have sought asylum.

Goucher believed Munyakazi's asylum request "was moving forward and wasn't considered any kind of obstacle" to offering him a visiting professorship, said spokeswoman Kristen Keener. Also, she said he held an ICE-issued "employment authorization card."

Baltimore Sun reporter Tricia Bishop contributed to this article.

February 05, 2009

US Immigration History Preserved on Angel Island

January 27, 2009


ANGEL ISLAND STATE PARK, Calif. (AP) — The Angel Island Immigration Station, once known as the "Ellis Island of the West," is reopening after a multimillion-dollar restoration of the historical landmark aimed at showing visitors a chapter of American history that many would rather forget.
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants, mostly from Asia, were detained on the largest island in San Francisco Bay for days, weeks and sometimes months in the three decades before World War II.
They were housed in crowded, dingy barracks while undergoing humiliating medical exams and grueling interrogations administered by officials intent on upholding federal laws restricting immigration from China and elsewhere.
"Angel Island is a commentary on the kind of racist thinking that really impacted how people from Asia were treated," said Eddie Wong, executive director of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation. "To correct those errors for other people, not just Asians, it's important to know that history."
Nearly seven decades after it closed, the station is set to reopen in mid-February following completion of the first phase of a $60 million restoration project that was started in 2005. The initial work has focused on restoring the barracks, where many immigrants carved poems into the wooden walls.
The station was built on Angel Island, a short boat ride from San Francisco, to help enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and other laws aimed at curbing immigration at a time when Americans were worried about immigrants stealing jobs and depressing wages.
From 1910 to 1940, about 1 million immigrants from some 90 countries — including an estimated 175,000 from China — were processed at Angel Island.
Some passed through fairly quickly, but many Chinese immigrants were detained for up to two years while immigration officials questioned their legal status.
Don Lee was 11 years old when he left his rural village in China's Guangdong Province to join his father in America in 1939. After three weeks crossing the Pacific in the steerage deck of a steamship, he was held for a month on Angel Island.
"The whole place is really congested and full of strangers, so I was more scared than anything else," Lee, 81, said during a recent visit to the renovated barracks.
The retired civil engineer remembers long interrogation sessions in which inspectors asked him detailed questions about his family, home, village and neighbors in China.
"They're not there to welcome you. They're really there to discourage you. It's up to them to bounce you," said Lee, who now lives in Concord, about 30 miles east of San Francisco.
The station was closed in 1940 after fire destroyed the main administration building. Then it was used to process German and Japanese war prisoners during World War II, when the U.S. repealed the Chinese Exclusion Act because China and the U.S. had become allies.
The island became a state park in 1954, and until the restoration project began in 2005 about 200,000 people visited the station each year even though they could only see a small section of the barracks.
Now visitors can tour the entire two-story facility, including several rooms furnished with suitcases, clothes, books, games and other items from the period.
"We're trying to create as accurate of an experience for the visitor so they can see what it was actually like to be detained here," said Katherine Metraux, a museum curator with the state Department of Parks and Recreation.
The abandoned barracks had been scheduled to be torn down in 1970, when a park ranger rediscovered the Chinese poems — many covered by paint — that conveyed the sadness, anger and loneliness of being held captive on the island.
One poem reads: "Imprisoned in the wooden building day after day, My freedom is withheld; how can I bear to talk about it?
"I look to see who is happy but they only sit quietly, I am anxious and depressed and cannot fall asleep."

February 04, 2009

Ex-Court Janitor Granted Asylum Due to Domestic Abuse

By Karen Lee Ziner
Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Maira Farfán Maldonado, one of 31 janitors arrested during immigration raids on Rhode Island courthouses last July, has been granted asylum based on domestic abuse in her home country of Guatemala.

While not precedent-setting, such asylum is unusual and much-debated.

Andrea A. Saenz, a lawyer with the PAIR Project (Political Asylum/Immigration Representation) in Boston, represented Farfán at a Jan. 23 hearing. Saenz said medical records, a social worker's testimony, and letters stating Farfán's husband had ties to former members of paramilitary organizations, persuaded immigration Judge Francis L. Cramer that Farfán would be in peril if she was deported.

Saenz and co-counsel Heather J. Friedman also made the case that Guatemala has a demonstrated indifference to domestic violence. They presented reports by the State Department and international organizations documenting that there have been "very few convictions for violence against women in Guatemala," and that "there is a societal attitude that this is the victim's fault, or it's a family matter."

The beatings Farfán endured from her husband caused permanent injuries. He broke her ankle, sending her to the hospital for eight days; broke her skull; knocked out her teeth. He also set her possessions on fire. He rarely allowed her outside, and threatened to kill her if she left him, according to Farfán: those accounts were supported in letters from family and friends.

In 2000, Farfán ran away and crossed the border illegally, leaving her mother and three children behind.

Said Saenz, Farfán's claim "was based on years of extreme domestic violence that she was fleeing in Guatemala. It's an asylum that's a little bit unusual, and you never know how it's going to turn out."

While many people think of asylum as politically or religiously based, "the asylum law allows anyone to seek protection if their government cannot protect them from persecution. And that would include, in this case, a country that has turned a blind eye to victims of domestic violence. We were able to document how her country would not be able to protect her if she were not able to go to police, or if she tried to leave her husband, who had made a number of death threats against her."

Farfán is now officially an asylee, and has applied for a work permit that her new status entitles her. She will be able to apply for permanent residency in a year or two, and eventually, for citizenship.

She said she is eager to find work, learn English, and live without fear.

Border Patrol to Probe Alleged Arrest Quotas

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The U.S. Border Patrol on Monday ordered an investigation of allegations by agents in Southern California that they were given arrest quotas and threatened with punishment if they failed to meet them.

Jeffrey Calhoon, El Centro's chief patrol agent, said he learned the patrol agent in charge of the agency's Riverside station some 100 miles north of the Mexican border gave agents numerical goals for how many suspected illegal immigrants they should arrest in January.

Calhoon says he has ordered a probe into whether agents were told they would be punished if they failed to meet this target.

"If there is some threatening behavior, we're not going to tolerate it," Calhoon said.

The probe comes after Border Patrol agents in Riverside said they were ordered to arrest at least 150 suspected illegal immigrants in January or faced having their work shifts changed.

No one has been suspended during the probe, said Richard Velez, an agency spokesman.

Calhoon said the agency does use goals to inspire agents, for example, by driving units to compete against each other, and often the measuring stick turns out to be number of arrests. But he said setting numeric targets was not common practice — nor one he would recommend.

"It would not be the normal method of refocusing work effort," he said.

Agents said the 150-arrest mandate for the station last month was a jump from targets set at the end of last year to make 100 arrests in each November and December.

"I don't know if there is a difference between goals and quotas if we have numbers," said Lombardo Amaya, president of Local 2554 of the National Border Patrol Council. "For this reason, I think numbers are out of place."

Amaya said Calhoon guaranteed that agents at the 15-person station would not be punished if they didn't make the target.

T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council — which represents close to 15,000 Border Patrol agents nationwide — said he wanted to see a fair and impartial investigation and appropriate punishment if the allegations were true.

Immigrant advocates said they worried such quotas could be driving agents to make arrests in heavily populated areas far from the border to keep up their numbers. Advocates have been sending monitors to day labor corners with video cameras to document the arrests and have called for a march on Saturday to protest the increased enforcement.

Emilio Amaya, executive director of the San Bernardino Community Service Center, questioned whether the Border Patrol might be bolstering efforts inland because of a recent decline in traffic across the Mexican border.

"They have been very visible," said Emilio Amaya, whose non-profit provides legal services to immigrants. "This was not an issue in the past."

Collateral Damage: An Examination of ICE's Fugitive Operations Program

Click here to link to Migration Policy Institute's press release on their most recent report: "Collateral Damage: An Examination of ICE's Fugitive Operations Program"

The report examines the evolution ICE Fugitive Operations Program over the past several years-- it's history, changes, and impacts. Overall, a thorough and much needed report.

The press release links to the actual PDF file of the report. Definitely a must read for anyone interested in ICE operations.

Target of Immigrant Raids Shifted

February 4, 2009


The raids on homes around the country were billed as carefully planned hunts for dangerous immigrant fugitives, and given catchy names like Operation Return to Sender.
And they garnered bigger increases in money and staff from Congress than any other program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even as complaints grew that teams of armed agents were entering homes indiscriminately.
But in fact, beginning in 2006, the program was no longer what was being advertised. Federal immigration officials had repeatedly told Congress that among more than half a million immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, they would concentrate on rounding up the most threatening — criminals and terrorism suspects.
Instead, newly available documents show, the agency changed the rules, and the program increasingly went after easier targets. A vast majority of those arrested had no criminal record, and many had no deportation orders against them, either.
Internal directives by immigration officials in 2006 raised arrest quotas for each team in the National Fugitive Operations Program, eliminated a requirement that 75 percent of those arrested be criminals, and then allowed the teams to include nonfugitives in their count.
In the next year, fugitives with criminal records dropped to 9 percent of those arrested, and nonfugitives picked up by chance — without a deportation order — rose to 40 percent. Many were sent to detention centers far from their homes, and deported.
The impact of the internal directives, obtained by a professor and students at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law through a Freedom of Information lawsuit and shared with The New York Times, shows the power of administrative memos to significantly alter immigration enforcement policy without any legislative change.
The memos also help explain the pattern of arrests documented in a report, criticizing the fugitive operations program, to be released on Wednesday by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington.
Analyzing more than five years of arrest data supplied to the institute last year by Julie Myers, who was then chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the report found that over all, as the program spent a total of $625 million, nearly three-quarters of the 96,000 people it apprehended had no criminal convictions.
Without consulting Congress, the report concluded, the program shifted to picking up “the easiest targets, not the most dangerous fugitives.”
It noted, however, that the most recent figures available indicate an increase in arrests of those with a criminal background last year, though it was unclear whether that resulted from a policy change.
The increased public attention comes as the new secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has ordered a review of the fugitive teams operation, which was set up in 2002 to find and deport noncitizens with outstanding orders of deportation, then rapidly expanded after 2003 with the mission of focusing on the most dangerous criminals.
Peter L. Markowitz, who teaches immigration law at Cardozo and directs its immigration legal clinic, said the memos obtained in its lawsuit reflected the Bush administration’s effort to appear tough on immigration enforcement during the unsuccessful push to pass comprehensive immigration legislation in 2006, and amid rising anger over illegal immigration.
“It looks like what happened here is that the law enforcement strategy was hijacked by the political agenda of the administration,” he said.
Kelly A. Nantel, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency, defended the program. “For the first time in history, we continue to reduce the number of immigration fugitive cases,” she said, noting that the number of noncitizens at large with outstanding deportation orders, which peaked at 634,000 in the 2007 fiscal year, is now down to about 554,000. “These results speak for themselves and they are consistent with Congress’s mandate: locate and remove immigration absconders.”
Ms. Nantel said the number of fugitives with criminal backgrounds arrested in the 2008 fiscal year rose to 5,652, or 16 percent of 34,000 arrests, and nonfugitives fell to 8,062, or 23 percent.
Many Americans have welcomed roundups of what the agency calls “ordinary status violators” — noncitizens who have no outstanding order of deportation, but are suspected of being in the country unlawfully, either because they overstayed a visa or entered without one.
But Michael Wishnie, one of the authors of the report, who teaches law at Yale, said that random arrests of low-level violators in residential raids not only raised a new set of legal and humanitarian issues, including allegations of entering private homes without warrants or consent and separating children from their caretakers, but was “dramatically different from how ICE has sold this program to Congress.”
“If we just want to arrest undocumented people,” he said, “we can do it much more cheaply.”
Congressional financing for the fugitive operations program rose to $218 million in the 2008 fiscal year, from $9 million in 2003, as the number of seven-member teams multiplied to 104 from 8.
In Congressional briefings and public statements since 2003, agency officials have repeatedly said that given the vast number of immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, the program will focus its resources on the roughly 20 percent with a criminal background.
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo dated Jan. 22, 2004, underscored that commitment: “Effective immediately, no less than 75 percent of all fugitive operations targets will be those classified as criminal aliens” — noncitizens with a criminal record as well as an order of deportation. It added that “collateral apprehensions” — immigration violators encountered by chance during an operation — would not be counted in that percentage.
But on Jan. 31, 2006, a new memo changed the rules. The directive, from John P. Torres, acting director of the agency, raised each team’s “target goal” to 1,000 a year, from 125.
And it removed the requirement that at least 75 percent of those sought out for arrest be criminals. Instead, it told the teams to prioritize cases according to the threat posed by the fugitive, with noncriminals in the lowest of five categories. And it repeated that “collateral apprehensions will not count” toward the 1,000 arrest quota.
But that standard, too, was dropped nine months later. A new memo from Mr. Torres said “nonfugitive arrests may now be included” to reach the required 1,000 arrests. On average, however, it said at least half of those arrested by each team should be fugitives. It also promised to “ensure the maximum availability of detention space for fugitive arrest operations.”
One result was an increase in noncriminals held in immigration detention. Another, the Migration Policy Institute report concluded, was that the percentage of criminal fugitives arrested plummeted, to 9 percent in the year that ended Sept. 30, 2007, from 39 percent in the 2004 fiscal year.
That same year, 15,646, or 51 percent of those arrested, had an outstanding deportation order, but no criminal record, and 12,084, or 40 percent, were termed “ordinary status violators” who did not fit any of the program’s priority categories.
The report said the program relied on a database riddled with errors, and that many deportation orders were issued without the subject in court, sometimes because of faulty addresses.
The looser rules were reflected in sweeps like one conducted in New Haven in June 2007. During the raid, lawyers at Yale’s immigration law center said, agents who found no one home at an address specified in a deportation order simply knocked on other doors until one opened, pushed their way in, and arrested residents who acknowledged that they lacked legal status.
Of the 32 arrested and scattered to jails around New England, only 5 had outstanding deportation orders, and only 1 or 2 had criminal records.