Blogging mostly about mundane stuff like, immigration, Workers' Compensation and other immigrant related activities.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Hidden System, A Police Chief and One Hairbrained Idea

Marisa Treviño posted on the Immigration and Custom's Enforcement (ICE) prison system that has been largely hidden from the public eye.

George Gascón, a former assistant chief in the Los Angeles Police Department, is a lawyer and the chief of the police department in Mesa, Arizona writes an Op-Ed in the NY-Times entitled: "The Laws Cops Can't Enforce

"Without a national immigration policy, a new culture of lawlessness will increasingly permeate our society. In cities, politicians will pressure police departments to reduce immigration by using racial profiling and harassment. At the same time, immigrants who fear that the police will help deport them will rely less on their local officers and instead give thugs control of their neighborhoods.

The Bush Administration weighed in with one amazingly hairbrained idea: "Operation Scheduled Departure". Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is launching the operation on August 5 in the following cities: Santa Ana, California; San Diego; Phoenix; Chicago; and Charlotte, N.C.

ICE spokeswoman Cori Bassett said that the program will end August 22, adding that program is aimed at people who have been ordered to leave the country but remain in the United States and have not committed a crime. Those that come forward will not be jailed and will not be required to wear tracking devices, according to Bassett.

Jim Hayes, the acting ICE detention and removal director, said about 572,000 people in the country had final deportation orders but had not committed a crime. - AP

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Interpreting and Defending Migrants

The story that follows was first reported on here by Duke of MigraMatters on a post at The Sanctuary blog. Kyle at CitizenOrange also weighed in here.

The story has now made it to the front page of the The New York Times.

In plea agreements offered by Mr. Dummermuth, the immigrants could plead guilty to a document fraud charge and serve five months in prison. Otherwise, prosecutors would try them on more serious identity theft charges carrying a mandatory sentence of two years. In any scenario, even if they were acquitted, the immigrants would eventually be deported.

Worried about families they had been supporting with their wages, the immigrants readily chose to plead guilty because they did understand that was the fastest way to return home, Professor Camayd-Freixas said.

“They were hoping and they were begging everybody to deport them,” he said.

(Read Full Article)

The story involves Erik Camayd-Freixas who is a Certified Federal Courts Interpreter. He was one of the interpreters called upon to help with the hundreds of undocumented immigrants caught during the ICE raids at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa. The ICE raid netted some 297 undocumented immigrants, all who charged and prosecuted for illegal entry into the United States, identity theft and unlawfully using Social Security Numbers.

The full content of Professor Camayd-Freixas 14 Page Letter is posted here on the Hutto Galleons blog.

One can't read Camayd-Freixas letter and not come away at how unjustly ICE treated the undocumented immigrants snared in the raid and how the susequent court proceeding denied them basic legal rights. Here is an account from someone who witnessed firsthand the abuses and systematic disregard for both civil and human rights of these immigrants. The letter points out how largest ICE raid in history was clearly intended to be a pilot project, an experiment in "fast-tracking" .

The Times article along with the letter by Camayd-Freixas are likely to become quite controversial, but nevertheless a groundbreaking exposé, if not a clear indictment into the abusive actions of ICE.

The NY Times story and Professor Camayd-Freixas' written condemnations of the proceedings will also raise controversy within Language Interpreters, because most Language Interpreters will confess that their job is only to translate spoken words from one language into another. It's a difficult task to be an Interpreter, to have to bite your tongue and not speak out, to attempt to right a wrong, especially when it involves the civil or human rights.

To be fair what Camayd-Freixas has done is in fact controversial. It may even border on being professionally unethical, after all he could have simply recused himself from the proceedings, citing eithical and moral grounds. However, I agree with his actions and soundly applaud him for his speaking out. Prof. Camayd-Freixas has done something quite bold and courages by subjecting himself and participating in the court proceedings that were clearly in his view, unethical and immoral.

I'm sure the Right Wing pundits will widely critize him and question his motives. Critics will point to the fact that Camayd-Freixas violated his oath of impartiality and neutrality. They will point to his actions and comfortably rest in the notion that most Americans won't bother to read the contents of a 14 page letter on how the rights of undocumented immigrants were violated and yours could be next. Obviously a 14 page letter places limits on it's full publication and therefore only bits and pieces of so much information will only make it out into the MSM and even less largely disseminated, nevertheless, Camayd-Freixas is my hero of the day.

All those critics should ponder the following: In most jurisdictions, the interpretation is considered an essential part of the evidence. Incompetent interpretation, or simply failure to swear in the interpreter, can lead to a mistrial.

The question becomes, since most of the undocumented immigrants caught up in the Postville raids are still serving 5 month jail sentences before they are officially deported, will they be granted new trials since some of these immigrants with names like, Tajtaj, Xicay, Sajché, Sologüí were all provided Spanish Interpeters while they are clearly Mayan and their primary language is most likely an indigenous tongue.

Will the authorities do the right thing and afford these immigrants new trials? Afford them the right to be represented by immigration attorneys? Afforded with Intepreters who speak their Native Languages?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Illegally Celebrating Independence Day Amongst US

Yesterday night, our family celebrated the Fourth of July with friends. Our celebration included the usual ingredients that traditionally mark such celebrations; family, friends, food, drink and fireworks. Our celebration for the most part was typical of those held by families across the nation, with the exception that ours included a few undocumented immigrants.

As we celebrated several things crossed my mind, among them the irony that on a yearly basis an increasing number of undocumented immigrants actually celebrate the 4th of July, since some undocumented immigrants have lived in this country since 1986 and without a doubt celebrate the day with their US born children. The other thing that crossed my mind is that yesterdays Independence Day would be the last one celebrated under the Bush administration. Our next year Independence Day will be celebrated under an Obama or McCain administration.

I'm hopeful that next years 4th of July celebration will be quite different from yesterday for the estimated 12 Million undocumented immigrants currently in our country. Both Obama and McCain have sparred over immigration, but the fact is that both candidates will have no choice but to place immigration reform at the top of their list once they elected to the presidency. Both have campaigned with pledges to address immigration reform within the first 100 days of their administrations.

Between now and November the issue of illegal immigration will test the two candidates. Americans will be faced with confusion about what to do with the 12 Million undocumented immigrants as they are once again thrust into the complexities that make up illegal immigration.

The false sense of victory that some Americans, particularly in the border States, have felt with the deployment of 6000 National Guardsmen will be tested. Those troops are scheduled to be removed as of July 15, 2008. There is no denying that enforcement of the border is necessary, but the reality is that even a beefed up Border Patrol is just one piece of a well run immigration policy. An effective immigration policy must have a workforce enforcement provision that prevents the illegal hiring of undocumented workers and also takes steps to protect the rights of both documented and undocumented immigrant workers. Our current system provides too many ways that unscrupulous employers can employ undocumented workers and thus contributing to the creation of a second class of workers that are routinely denied worker rights and protections afforded to the rest of us.

The policy would have to address the need for immigrant labor in our economy and the contributions immigrants bring this nation not only from an economic point of view, but also from a cultural and social aspect.

No amount of new fencing and strict border enforcement will do much towards encouraging undocumented workers to come out from the shadows, step forward and be counted.

The task for our next President, whether it's work permits, legal residency and an eventual path to Citizenship remains to be worked out.

Let's remember that history repeat itself and as IRCA of 1986 has proven, 10 years from now none of this will matter if our next Presidential Administration does not take steps to prevent the hiring of undocumented workers, the failure successive administrations to enforce sanctions and penalties written into IRCA, steadfastly weakened the rights of all workers both legal and undocumented.

Their is a long list of things this country needs to do in order to fix our immigration system. Let's hope that our next President and Congress provide us the change necessary for us celebrate our next Fourth of July honoring our independence and the values as well as the economic contributions that all immigrants bring to America.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Delivered in rapid fire mode ala Ze Frank, this has got to be the best video that debunks most myths about illegal immigration. Gracias, Ray William Johnson.

Thanks! to Kyle Hussein de Beausset for turning me onto this video.

The Mayans and Ladinos of New Bedford

Are the newly arrived Central American immigrants of New Bedford, Mayans? or are they Ladinos? Some of them would prefer to be referred to as, "Guatemalan Mayan's".

An investigative four part series being published by The Standard-Times titled; "The New Immigrants" highlights some of the unique differences.

In case you are wondering, Ladinos, are people of Mayan and mixed European heritage. Mayans, are people of pure indigenous background, from the Southernmost regions of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize.

The investigative project took almost 2 years to complete and it's a great series that sheds much needed light on the causes and effects that newly arrived Central American immigrants bring to New Bedford. The series also tells the story of two immigrants, Alex and Casimiro, and chronicles some of the perils and dangers endured by these two immigrants in their journeys to safely arrive in the United States.

The series is about both legal and illegal immigration and despite the fact that this story focuses primarily on Central American immigrants it's a must read for anyone who is seeking a further and broader understanding of the complex issue of illegal immigration.

The series is commendable because it touches on the push factors and pull factors that largly contribute to illegal immigration today, and despite political posturing from both political parties, not much will stem the flow of illegal immigration until the push and pull factors are addressed and both sides agree on comprehensive immigration reform. Read more about The Standard-Times findings here, amongst those findings:

— Contrary to popular belief, most immigrants who came to New Bedford in the early 20th century faced no restrictions on legal immigration. Many Portuguese immigrants came to the U.S. on tourist visas and simply stayed to work afterwards.
The statement above is specific to New Bedford, a community largely settled by Portuguese immigrants, but such statement can apply to almost any immigrant group in the United States.

Americans are fond of talking about how today's immigrants should come "legally," the way their parents or grandparents did. The fact is, however, that if their forefathers and mothers came to the United States before 1921 — as many did — there were virtually no restrictions on immigration from Europe or the Americas.

Anti-immigration advocates typically speak of how illegal immigrants are breaking the rules, they deem them to be "cutting in line", of getting ahead of other unidentified immigrants who they claim are seeking legal entry into this country via the proper channels. Although, that argument is false, mostly because for Mexicans, Central Americans and South Americans there are no "proper channels", sure those with an education, some of the middle class with money or land can secure tourist or student visa. The fact is that these immigrants account for largest number of illegal immigrants, immigrants who arrive via legal means and simply don't return, they just overstay their visas and effectively join the ranks of millions of illegal immigrants.

“We did it because we had to do it,” said Victor Pixcar Gonzalez, the brother of Casimiro. “We are poor people. I needed to go to the U.S. because in our village there are not many resources or jobs.”
The only exception is made for Cubans to whom the Clinton Administration granted the "wet foot, dry foot" provision, which essentially guarantees any Cuban who touches US soil is guranteed legal residency within one year, all that in the name of combating communism, but that is fodder for another day.

The comparisons of 19th century U.S. immigration versus the influx of illegal immigration today is flawed. As the article points out:

The only 19th century U.S. immigration restrictions were against individuals who were incapable of working (the mentally and physically disabled), had criminal records or were Chinese laborers.

Unrestricted immigration was the environment in which New Bedford's largest immigrant group — the Portuguese — first came to America.

As much as anti-immigration proponents would like to blame the illegal immigrants for all of societies ills, whether those immigrants are Latinos, Ladinos or even Mayan, the fact remains is that those groups will supplant one another, as long as they serve an employers bottomline and we continue our reliance on the availability of cheap goods and services.

Americans would do themselves a big favor if they fully examined how we've come to depend on cheap immigrant labor. Few of us consider how a fast food chain restaurant is able to offer us a .99 Cent burger or the fact that we pay less to have our lawn mowed than we did 10 years ago, without putting to much thought into how this is economically possible.

Think about it, something has to give.