June 25, 2008 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT3) lost his Republican primary to first-time candidate Jason Cheffetz, a former campaign manager and aide to Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. (R) by a twenty-point margin. Rep. Cannon has been the target of national anti-immigration advocacy groups because of his moderate views on immigration. Over the last two election cycles they have been going after him and they will no doubt be crowing about his defeat.
Rep. Cannon is Member of Congress who, breaking with most of his Party, seems to get the idea that a legal immigration system that works and allows hard-working immigrants to contribute to the economy above board is a good thing; that policies that put immigration back on the foundations of law and order should be the goal; and that the cheap politics of immigrant bashing is neither effective nor constructive. It appears even his opponent learned that immigrant bashing is not the most effective tool in the arsenal for getting elected. According to Congressional Quarterly (CQ Politics),
Chaffetz did not make immigration the centerpiece of his attacks on Cannon, as previous primary challengers in 2006 and 2004 had done.
Chaffetz went after Cannon for approving Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program that expanded the federal government’s oversight of local school systems, something Chaffetz said a “true” conservative would never support. He said he would advocate repealing the law and favors abolishing the U.S. Department of Education, arguing, “The federal government should not be in the public education business.”
He also criticized Cannon for supporting the 2003 measure that greatly expanded Medicare by creating a prescription drug benefit program, and associated the incumbent with what he described as fiscal irresponsibility practiced by Congress.
And while he did not make immigration the central issue of his campaign, as did challenger Jacob in 2006, Chaffetz did echo the well-aired arguments made by critics of the congressman’s position. – “Utah GOP Rep. Cannon Defeated in Primary,” Michael Teitelbaum, CQ Politics, June 25, 2008
There appears to be more going on with this race than just the immigration issue. Cannon is the latest of three incumbent Members of Congress to be defeated in a primary. He joins Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) and Rep. Albert Wynn (D-MD) who lost primaries earlier this year. Rep. Wynn resigned his seat and was replaced by newly minted Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), the woman who defeated him in the February primary, who won a special election June 17 in the heavily African-American District 4. Edwards, we should note, is an outspoken supporter of comprehensive immigration reform.
Rep. Cannon doesn’t seem to have done very well turning out his base and using the power of incumbency in a year that is shaping up to be a tough one for incumbents, regardless of party and certainly, regardless of holding mainstream views on immigration.
June 17, 2008 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
We are witnessing an unprecedented period best described as enforcement on steroids without reform. The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, which follows government law enforcement data closely, indicates that by several measures we are in a new era of unleashing the Department of Homeland Security and the courts in the war on immigrants.
TRAC reports that immigration-related convictions were up 96.3% in February 2008 compared to the same month in 2007 (see “Immigration Convictions for February 2008”) and that the U.S. set a new record for immigration-related prosecutions in March 2008 (see “Surge in Immigration Prosecutions Continues”).
[A]ccording to timely data from the Justice Department. The total of 9,350 such prosecutions was up by almost 50% from the previous month and 73% from the previous year.
The dramatic changes in the number of defendants charged with immigration-related charges are based on case-by-case information obtained by TRAC under the Freedom of Information Act from the Executive Office for United states Attorneys…
The spurt in the prosecutions of individuals charged with various immigration crimes is the result of “Operation Streamline.” Under this recently intensified administration policy, according to news reports and interviews with federal public defenders, the government has charged a rapidly growing number of undocumented aliens with various federal criminal charges in selected districts along the Mexican border. “Operation Streamline” began as a pilot project in December 2005 in Del Rio, Texas. – “Surge in Immigration Prosecutions Continues,” Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).
The editorial writers at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Monday addressed this new enforcement era with an editorial headlined “Abhorring a vacuum: The absence of comprehensive immigration reform from Congress is resulting in a crackdown — a repudiation of who we are as a nation.”
A recent New York Times article described how authorities throughout the country are using existing laws to round up illegal immigrants, with deportation as the end game. This is a nuclear, enforcement-only approach that disintegrates families and local economies.
Workplace raids occurred last month in Postville, Iowa, at Agriprocessors Inc., the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse. They resulted in 260 illegal immigrants sentenced to five months in prison on charges related to federal identity theft laws.
In Florida’s Santa Rosa County, the sheriff had businesses searched for illegal immigrants, making arrests on charges of violating state identity theft laws.
One consequence of this is precisely what immigration foes want: more apprehensions, more deportations and a pall of fear cast over the immigrant community and those who would join them. Other consequences, however, include a repudiation of who we are as a nation of immigrants and swimming against a global tide that makes labor as fluid as goods. – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial, “Abhorring a vacuum,” June 16, 2008
June 17, 2008 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
As we are learning (and have reported previously), one consequence of being put in ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention is quite literally death. Because of the way health care for immigrant detainees is restricted, many face consequences and 83 have died in recent years. Now it appears that at least some think ICE leaders have been less than honest in congressional testimony about the standards of care given detainees.
CQ Homeland Security reporter Caitlin Webber reports that experts on detention and advocates for detainees feel that Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary for Homeland Security and the head of ICE, failed to disclose that “non-emergency conditions are assessed or treated only if doctors believe their illness would prevent deportation.” According to the critics interviewed by Webber from the Detention Watch Network, the ACLU National Prison Project, and the New York University Program for Survivors of Torture, the policy is problematic for a number of reasons, but that this is not the first time senior ICE officials have not fully disclosed the standard for care.
“What I find most troubling . . . is that it is the second time now that ICE has been called to testify before Congress on the issue of medical care in detention and it’s also the second time that it has misrepresented the standard,” Tom Javits, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said in an interview.
Javits said Gary E. Mead, assistant director for management of the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations” also diluted the non-emergency care standard in testimony Oct. 4, 2007, before the House Judiciary Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law Subcommittee. – CQ Homeland Security, “ICE Officials’ Testimony on Detainee Medical Care Called Into Question,” June 16, 2008
Pressed by the CQ reporter, Homeland Security/ICE spokesperson Kelly Nantel came up with this telling response:
“We are in the deportation business. . . . Obviously, our goal is to remove individuals ordered to be removed from our country…We address their health care issues to make sure they are medically able to travel and medically able to return to their country.” – CQ Homeland Security, “ICE Officials’ Testimony on Detainee Medical Care Called Into Question,” June 16, 2008
What does this statement mean for all of those who are detained but are seeking relief in immigration court – like asylum seekers? Or those who should be given relief to testify against employers or traffickers? It’s the classic idea that immigration enforcement is just about booting people out of the country rather than attempting to ensure that all of our immigration laws are fairly enforced.
June 11, 2008 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
This has been a bad month or so for the Department of Homeland Security. Congressional oversight hearings have been called to examine recent revelations of deaths in detention, lack of health care, and forced drugging of detainees. Processing of citizenship applications remains hopelessly backlogged to the point that hundreds of thousands – perhaps more than a million – legal immigrants will not be able become citizens in time to vote in November. This week, the Bush Administration announced that the flawed E-Verify worker verification system would be extended to all companies with federal contracts, thus placing additional pressure on an experimental system that is already underperforming.
As the bad news keeps piling up, editorial boards are taking notice.
Today the Los Angeles Times addresses E-Verify and other wacky developments in our hysteria to do something about immigration:
It’s legitimate to demand that contractors seeking Uncle Sam’s money jump through a few more hoops. And although Chertoff’s claim that E-Verify is “99.5%” accurate seems overstated (a new Government Accountability Office report indicates that the system produces uncertain results 8% of the time, and a 2006 report cited a 4% error rate in Social Security records, which E-Verify relies on), the collateral damage may be less troubling than the damage to the country’s sense of itself.
As we hustle to show resolve in the immigration “crisis,” we’re getting used to the idea that all private endeavor is subject to Washington’s prior approval. What kind of country do we want? A few years ago, a border wall would have seemed a relic from medieval China or Central Europe in the totalitarian era. Now it is official U.S. policy. – Los Angeles Times editorial, “Over the line: The anti-immigration furor is pushing us toward irrational policies, June 11, 2008
The New York Times in an editorial supporting a new bill introduced by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) that would create mandatory detention standards across the immigration detention system including basic, minimal medical care, has this to say about deaths in detention:
The government should be rushing to improve the oversight and care in its sprawling detention system to protect all detainees. Instead, the official reaction has been slow and defensive, promised improvements are piecemeal, and criticism of the system is making immigration hard-liners indignant…
Whether immigrants are legal or illegal has nothing to do with their right to humane care. As Ms. Lofgren bluntly put it: “You are not supposed to kill people who are in custody.” – New York Times editorial, “Dying in Detention, June 11, 2008
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will be called before the House Committee on Homeland Security again on Thursday at 10 a.m. for additional questioning, presumably about these and other matters.
One of the new trends that we see as more bad news is the expeditious way immigrants swept up in home and workplace raids are being railroaded through the criminal justice system to deportation. In the aftermath of the massive raid in Postville, Iowa, last month, immigrants were strongly encouraged – some would say coerced – into waiving rights, waiving access to relief from deportation, and pleading guilty to criminal, not just civil, charges during mass drive-by hearings. The best overview we’ve seen comes from New America Media, a consortium of ethnic media outlets.
Wendy Sefsaf, a Washington-based writer for NAM, breaks down this complicated issue of due process denied and legal immigration status denied, using Postville and other recent stories to illustrate (We recommend you read the whole article).
In May, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid took place at an Iowa kosher meat-packing plant. It was the largest raid ever. Nearly 400 employees at Agriprocessors were rounded up and interrogated by immigration officials. The search warrant executed by ICE also laid out a range of workplace abuses, including physical abuse. According to the government’s own warrant: “In February, Source #7 told ICE agents he or she observed a Jewish floor supervisor duct-tape the eyes of an undocumented Guatemalan worker shut and hit the Guatemalan with a meat hook.”
If the government warrant itself outlined abuse, the workers should have been eligible for protected status. However, they were treated as criminals, not victims.
In another case in Louisiana, Indian workers were trafficked to the United States and housed in substandard conditions while their wages were held back, in order to pay back the $20,000 they were charged to come the United States to work at Signal Construction in New Orleans. After they walked out on their jobs en masse, the Department of Justice opened a trafficking investigation case acknowledging their victimization, yet refusing to protect them.
In past cases similar to Signal Construction, “continued presence” was automatically granted, allowing the workers to stay on in the United States while the case went ahead. According to Dan Werner of the Southern Poverty Law Center, “Continued presence is discretionary on the part of the Department of Justice, but people used to get processed on the spot. This delay is a new thing.” The lawyers representing the Indian workers have been told they must submit their clients for deportation hearings.
The remedies available to victims of trafficking and crimes are known as “T” and “U” Visas, and 5,000 T visas and 10,000 U visas are available annually.
Congress created these visas to protect victims, particularly those who could serve as witnesses to crimes. However, these cases show a possible change in policy to deport instead of protect these victims. – New America Media, News Report by Wendy Sefsaf, “Rush to Prosecute Leaves Immigrant Victims of Crimes Without Protection,” June 11, 2008
Advocates who watch the troubling world of immigration detention and due process closely (eg: the Detention Watch Network, Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Service, and the Rights Working Group, among others) have recently been emphasizing “alternatives to detention” like ankle devices and regular check-ins with authorities who can also provide legal services to those who have a path to become legal. These alternatives are not only more humane, they are cost-effective. Unfortunately, to the Department of Homeland Security, “alternatives to detention” means getting people deported as quickly as possible, preferably without all that pesky due process or those meddlesome immigration judges, lawyers and translators.
June 02, 2008 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin
Lots of dead immigrants in the news this week. From Arizona, we are reminded by the Arizona Republic’s editorial board that the season of migrants dying in the desert is fully upon us. Since the beginning of the fiscal year six-months ago, 61 immigrants are known to have perished attempting to cross the desert in the Tucson border sector.
Years ago, The Republic editorial page began writing about summer death counts in the hope of shaming Congress into reforming immigration policies that contribute to those deaths. Washington wasn’t paying much attention.
In recent years, the issue of illegal immigration reached hot-button status. Attention jumped right over those dead bodies. It leaped past the human dimension. Instead of being seen as people who are caught in a broken system, migrants are now portrayed as villains who are unworthy of sympathy.
That’s where Arizona is today. Anger has the upper hand. Rage is louder than reason.
But Arizona risks its humanity if it can’t refocus on what immigration policies are doing to real people.
Sons and daughters.
– “Our Lethal Policies,” Arizona Republic editorial, June 2, 2008
In recent months, news of another migrant dying to get in here has been met with ho-hum indifference, or worse, out right glee from some in Arizona. Responding to a Tucson Citizen story on a body discovered in the desert last summer, commenter “Chip B.” offered this cheerful response:
Better dead in the desert than here in our cities spreading their vermin, raping our women and consuming health care. – A comment on the story, “Remains found in desert may be illegal migrant,” Tucson Citizen, July 13, 2007.
Chip’s likeminded brother “roy w.” had a similar response to a story last summer on a proposed increase in border patrol and National Guard resources in the Tucson border sector:
Spend the money on 100 ex-Marine snipers with long rifles and scopes, turn 10 cabezas into red mush; the word goes out and people stop coming.
Savvy? Get these people out of this country before the American people start shooting them! — A comment on the story, “New bill calls for adding 14,000 border agents,” Tucson Citizen, August 3, 2007
And later the same month, “roy w.”’s death threats became a bit more specific:
God help the Pima County politicians, and businessmen, who brought this plague upon us, in the name of greed, profit and “humanitarianism”. We will hang them from lamp posts, and stick their severed heads on the Tucson City Walls. — A comment on “Border Patrol rescues 5, including 4-year-old girl,” Associated Press, August 29, 2007.
Lou Dobbs and Rep. Tom Tancredo must be proud of the rhetorical space they have opened in the public square for such thinking…if you can call it that.
But immigrants are not merely dying to get here because of our out-of-date and overly restrictive legal immigration system; they are dying in federal custody as well. The stories about immigrants dying in detention first uncovered by the Washington Post, New York Times, and CBS News are now being echoed across the nation. Veteran immigration reporter Sandra Hernandez of L.A.’s legal-focused newspaper The Daily Journal, wrote a good summation of the health care for immigrants in detention issue for this Sunday’s Los Angeles Times.
More than 70 immigrant detainees have died in custody since 2004, at least 13 of them in California, more than in any other state, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The reason may shock you. Unlike federal and state prisons, immigrant detention centers, many of which are run by private contractors, are not legally mandated to abide by any healthcare standards when it comes to treating sick immigrants. Civil and immigrant rights groups have filed suit in New York to force federal officials to issue such rules, but the Department of Homeland Security, which has jurisdiction in the matter, has yet to produce them. In the absence of legally binding standards, detained immigrants…have no legal way to complain about the lax healthcare they receive at the facilities where they are held. They cannot appeal the denial of care or sue in federal court to obtain it. – “A lethal limbo for migrants,” Los Angeles Times, June 1, 2008.
Michael Martinez, national correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, also wrote Sunday about immigrants dying in detention.
Francisco Castaneda had been in a federal immigrant detention center because he was an illegal immigrant with a drug conviction. During his 10-month stay, his signs of cancer went untreated until the facility made him a free, but sick, man. He died a year later.
“If they do a crime, they should do their time, but take care of them,” said a tearful Yanira Castaneda, 35, whose family in the Los Angeles area is continuing her brother’s lawsuit against the government. “I think my brother could have been saved.” – “More immigrant detentions, more deaths,” Chicago Tribune, June 1, 2008.
So far, the response from the Department of Homeland Security has been unapologetic. On Wednesday, June 4 at 2:00 p.m., Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law, will hold a hearing on “Problems with Immigration Detainee Medical Care.” We may learn more, and we may be further sickened by what we hear. What we are not likely to hear from the Department or its leaders is an apology or a clear sense of accountability.