Monday, June 14, 2010

Immigration Detention Will Offer Tutoring, Social Services, Recreation, Open Dorms, email and Skype to Illegals

Houston Chonicle reporter Susan Carroll wrote this article about changes that ICE plans in immigration detention. Some of the amenities seem remarkable, given the austere circumstances in which many working or retired citizens now find themselves.

By Susan Carroll, Houston Chronicle

Improving Detention
ICE and the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America have agreed to make more than 24 changes at nine facilities. The changes include:

Relaxing security: Low-risk detainees will have “freedom of movement” in the facilities and will no longer be subject to lock downs or lights out.

Access: Detainees will be able to have visitors stay as long as they like within a 12-hour window. The facilities will increase attorney visitation space, add un-monitored phone lines and give detainees email and free, Internet-based calling. A unit manager will be available to take complaints directly from detainees.

Daily life: Detainees will be allowed to wear regular clothing, will have at least four hours of recreation daily, and will be offered cooking, art and dance classes.

Nine locations, including Houston, will implement the changes.

• Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility, New Jersey

• Eloy Detention Center, Arizona

• Florence Service Processing Center, Arizona

• Houston Contract Detention Center, Texas

• Laredo Contract Detention Facility, Texas

• North Georgia Detention Center, Georgia

• Otay Detention Center, California

• Stewart Detention Center, Georgia

• T. Don Hutto Detention Center, Texas

Source: ICE
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are preparing to roll out a series of changes at several privately owned immigration detention centers, including relaxing some security measures for low-risk detainees and offering art classes, bingo and continental breakfast on the weekends.

The changes, detailed in an internal ICE e-mail obtained by the Houston Chronicle, were welcomed by immigrant advocates who have been waiting for the Obama administration to deliver on a promise made in August to overhaul the nation's immigration detention system.

The 28 changes identified in the e-mail range from the superficial to the substantive. In addition to “softening the look of the facility” with hanging plants and offering fresh carrot sticks, ICE will allow for the “free movement” of low-risk detainees, expand visiting hours and provide unmonitored phone lines.

ICE officials said the changes are part of broader efforts to make the immigration detention system less penal and more humane.

But the plans are prompting protests by ICE's union leaders, who say they will jeopardize the safety of agents, guards and detainees and increase the bottom line for taxpayers. Tre Rebstock, president for Local 3332, the ICE union in Houston, likened the changes to creating “an all-inclusive resort” for immigration detainees.

“Our biggest concern is that someone is going to get hurt,” he said, taking particular issue with plans to relax restrictions on the movement of low-risk detainees and efforts to reduce and eliminate pat-down searches.

The changes outlined in the ICE e-mail are planned for nine detention centers owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, including the 900-bed Houston Contract Detention Facility on the city's north side.

Some of the changes will be implemented within 30 days; others may take up to six months, said Beth Gibson, ICE's senior counselor to Assistant Secretary John Morton and a leader of the detention reform effort.

Other major changes include:

• Eliminating lockdowns and lights-out for low-risk detainees.

• Allowing visitors to stay as long as they like in a 12-hour period.

• Providing a unit manger so detainees have someone to report problems to other than the guard.

• Allowing low-risk detainees to wear their own clothing or other non-penal attire.

• Providing e-mail access and Internet-based free phone service.

Not about punishment
Gibson said the improvements are part of ICE's efforts to detain immigrants in the least restrictive manner possible while ensuring they leave the country if ordered to do so.

“When people come to our custody, we're detaining them to effect their removal,” Gibson said. “It's about deportation. It's not about punishing people for a crime they committed.”

ICE officials have faced pressure from immigrant advocates and some members of Congress to improve the detention conditions for the roughly 400,000 immigrants it houses annually. The agency has relied on a hodgepodge of more than 250 government-run detention centers, private prisons and local jails to accommodate its growing population — with roughly one in four detainees held in Texas.

At the CCA facilities that have agreed to ICE's changes, detainees will see more variety in their dining hall menus and have self-serve beverage and fresh vegetable bars.

CCA also plans to offer movie nights, bingo, arts and crafts, dance and cooking classes, tutoring and computer training, the e-mail states.

Detainees also will be allowed four hours or more of recreation “in a natural setting, allowing for robust aerobic exercise.”

CCA also committed to improving the look of the facilities, such as requiring plants, fresh paint and new bedding in lower-risk units.

Advocates pleased
Some of the improvements offered at the CCA facilities counted as hard-fought victories for immigrant advocates, including plans to improve visitor and attorney access.

“A lot of these measures are what we've been advocating for,” said Lory Rosenberg, policy and advocacy director for Refugee and Migrants' Rights for Amnesty International.

“Many of these points are very important to changing the system from a penal system, which is inappropriate in an immigration context, to a civil detention system.”

Union members said they have concerns about the plans, primarily focusing on safety.

Rebstock said some detainees may be classified as low-risk because they have no serious criminal history but still may be gang members that “haven't been caught doing anything wrong yet.”

He also said eliminating lockdowns will make it more difficult to protect detainees from one another.

He said reducing or eliminating pat-down searches could allow contraband into the facilities, including weapons.

Gibson, with ICE, said the agency is developing a sophisticated classification system and will make sure “that our detainees are still safe and sound.”

“As a general matter, it will be the non-criminals who don't present a danger to anyone else who are benefitting from the lowest level of custody,” Gibson said.

On the taxpayers' dime'
Rebstock also questioned the cost to taxpayers for the changes.

“My grandparents would have loved to have bingo night and a dance class at the retirement home they were in when they passed away, but that was something we would have had to pay for,” he said. “And yet these guys are getting it on the taxpayers' dime.”

Gibson said CCA is making the improvements at no additional cost to ICE. The agency's contract with CCA for the Houston detention center requires that ICE pay $99 per bed daily for each detainee, slightly lower than the $102 average daily rate ICE pays nationally .

Rosenberg said some of the changes, like new flower baskets, may seem small, but they will combine with the bigger changes to make a difference in the daily lives of detainees.

“Taken together they will go some way to making this system less penal,” she said.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Immigration Hanky Panky is Cover for Mexican Pederast Priest

How nauseating, if true, that while Cardinal Mahony pretended to lead an altruistic campaign for mass amnesty to illegal immigrants, he was gaming border enforcement to keep a known pederast unprosecuted and unrevealed.

Mexican Man Says He Was Raped by Priest; Files Suit Naming Mahony, Mexican Cardinal

A Mexican man who says he was repeatedly raped by a priest who was shuttled between southern Mexico and Los Angeles in the late 1980s filed a lawsuit Tuesday, alleging that Cardinal Roger Mahony and his Mexican counterpart conspired to hide the alleged predator's 20-plus years of abuses to protect the church from scandal.

The complaint filed in Los Angeles relies on a more than 200-year-old U.S. law allowing foreign victims of human rights abuses to bring their perpetrators to justice in U.S. courts. The civil suit on behalf of the now 25-year-old victim is the first known to use the Alien Tort Claims Act of 1789 to demand a jury trial and compensation for offenses committed abroad.

The suit accuses Mahony and Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of negligence and conspiracy in covering up sexual abuses reported by dozens of young boys against Father Nicolas Aguilar Rivera in Los Angeles and Mexican parishes.

The Mexican-born Aguilar first came to the attention of Mexican police in late 1986, after a brutal beating attributed to punishment for having young boys stay overnight at the rectory in the Diocese of Tehuacan, Mexico. A month later, Cardinal Rivera Carrera wrote to Mahony to offer Aguilar for placement in a Los Angeles ministry with a coded reference to the priest being problematic, the lawsuit alleges.

Mahony appointed Aguilar associate pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Los Angeles in March 1987, and two months later transferred him to St. Agatha parish.

Within nine months of Aguilar's arrival, Los Angeles police had amassed 26 reports of sexual abuse of minors by the priest, who fled to Mexico the night Mahony was informed of the impending charges, says the suit announced by the victim's attorney, Jeffrey R. Anderson of St. Paul, Minn.
Anderson said Aguilar's escape was believed to have been facilitated by church authorities to evade arrest and an ensuing scandal.

Archdiocese spokesman Tod Tamberg called the lawyer's claims "preposterous and without foundation."

"None of the documents concerning Nicolas Aguilar Rivera are new. The media have reported on them extensively in the past decade. They show that Cardinal Mahony urged Aguilar-Rivera’s return to the U.S. to face justice," Tamberg said in a statement. He said that was all the church planned to say on the subject.

The latest in a string of lawsuits brought by alleged victims of Aguilar, the complaint filed by Juan Doe1 contends that the priest raped him repeatedly in 1997, after both cardinals knew he was a sexual predator.

Aguilar was defrocked in July, more than 20 years after the first credible complaints of sexual abuse were brought by authorities in Mexico and Southern California, Anderson noted. He said Aguilar is suspected of abusing as many as 60 boys in Mexico as well as the 26 reported in Los Angeles.

Aguilar remains a fugitive in Mexico and subject to arrest and extradition warrants. If apprehended, he faces criminal charges in his homeland and the civil charges in U.S. court.

-- Carol J. Williams

Monday, April 5, 2010

You Just THOUGHT You Didn't Need to Take Immigration in Law School

This decision may impact the curriculum at U.S. law schools, where immigration law is ordinarily viewed as an arcane academic backwater, offered as an elective, and perhaps not available every semester. Now it would behoove every urban criminal defense practitioner to have a working knowledge of immigration law, lest this abstract new development of ineffective assistance of counsel doctrine ripen into more tangible legal malpractice claims.

Criminal Defense Lawyers Weigh in on New Requirements
By Sylvia Hsieh, Staff Writer

Criminal defense lawyers are weighing in on Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision, which held that they must inform non-citizen clients about the risk of deportation when taking a plea deal.

Such notification is a constitutional requirement for effective assistance of counsel pursuant to the Sixth Amendment, the Court said.
Many lawyers welcomed the ruling, saying it resolved an issue plaguing many criminal cases.

“It impacts so many of our clients. … Clearly the immigration consequences are enormous, sometimes even more serious than the criminal consequences,” said Tova Indritz, a criminal defense attorney in Albuquerque, N.M. and an expert on the intersection of criminal and immigration law.

“It’s an historic decision, because prior to [it] almost every lower court said the Sixth Amendment doesn’t require competent advice on deportation consequences,” said winning attorney Stephen B. Kinnaird, an appellate litigator and partner at Paul Hastings in Washington, D.C.

(Earlier in the week, an appeals court in Maryland refused to overturn a plea by a Latvian national who was not warned by his lawyer about the risk of deportation.)

Immigration attorneys also applauded the ruling.

“Immigration consequences of a plea are part and parcel of the [criminal] defense. It’s high time it be recognized,” said David W. Leopold, a Cleveland immigration attorney and president-elect of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

He predicted that cases where a defendant has already taken a plea and faces deportation because he or she wasn’t warned about the risks may be reopened as a result of this decision, including two recent queries that came through his office involving federal pleas.

“They will have to be re-advised,” Leopold said.

‘Raised stakes’

The case before the justices involved a lawful permanent resident of 40 years and Vietnam War veteran who faced deportation to Hondurus, where he was born, after he pled guilty to a drug charge.

His attorney had told him he “did not have to worry about immigration status because he had been in the country so long.”

The Kentucky Supreme Court denied post conviction relief, finding that the risk of deportation was merely “collateral” to the criminal conviction.

But the Supreme Court said that recent changes in the immigration laws that broaden the class of deportable crimes and take away a judge’s discretion in deportation decisions have “dramatically raised the stakes” of a noncitizen’s criminal conviction and put it “within the ambit” of the Sixth Amendment right to competent counsel.

“The importance of accurate legal advice for noncitizens accused of crimes has never been more important. These changes confirm our view that, as a matter of federal law, deportation is an integral part - indeed, sometimes the most important part - of the penalty that may be imposed on noncitizen defendants who plead guilty to specified crimes,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens for the majority.

“It is our responsibility under the Constitution to ensure that no criminal defendant - whether a citizen or not - is left to the ‘mercies of incompetent counsel.’ To satisfy this responsibility, we now hold that counsel must inform her client whether his plea carries a risk of deportation,” the Court said.

However, the Court noted that while in this case the attorney could have easily looked at the statute and found that nearly all drug crimes require mandatory deportation, in cases where the deportation consequences are “unclear or uncertain,” a criminal defense attorney “need do no more than advise a noncitizen client that pending criminal charges may carry a risk of adverse immigration consequences.”

Some 28 states already have a requirement that a criminal defendant be warned generally of immigration consequences, often by the judge during the plea colloquy, said Indritz.

The ruling now applies to criminal cases in every state, as well as in federal cases, which did not have a rule about warning defendants of immigration consequences, she added.

Kinnaird predicted that federal prosecutors will make it explicit in plea agreements that a plea may carry immigration consequences “so their pleas aren’t at risk.”

‘White, pink or green’

For some lawyers, the new obligations may require a wholesale rethinking from the moment a client walks in the door.

“We have to get over our stereotypes. I don’t care if you’re white, pink or green, right after I ask your name, my next question is, ‘Where were you born?’ said Indritz.

Given the complicated maze of this area of law, experts suggest that criminal defense lawyers get up to speed on immigration law or work with an immigration lawyer.

“This requires that in every case, a criminal defense lawyer ask the client what his citizenship status is, then keep in mind if you’re pleading to something that [makes your client] removable,” said John Wesley Hall, immediate past president of NACDL, who practices in Little Rock, Ark.

In some cases, knowing about the immigration risks and then renegotiating a plea deal can keep your client from being banished. For example, a client could plead to a lesser crime in exchange for actual jail time, or a prosecutor could agree to reduce a sentence from one year to 364 days, thereby taking a crime out of the “aggravated felony” category for purposes of deportation.

But the calculus depends on a dizzying variety of factors, and jurisdictions are split on some definitions of what makes a crime deportable. In addition, a plea can carry a panoply of risks aside from deportation, including the risk of not being allowed back in the U.S. if a defendant travels abroad or the risk of ineligibility for citizenship.

“It’s an absolute minefield. A criminal defense lawyer is well-advised to give a detailed analysis to her client prior to engaging in a decision to take a plea or go to trial,” said Leopold.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys will get advice from an immigration specialist before a client pleads to a crime, said Ira Kurzban, an immigration attorney at Kurzban, Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger & Tetzeli in Miami.

More ‘collateral consequences’ to come?

The ruling could lead to a further expansion of the Sixth Amendment right to the effective assistance of counsel.

“It’s a transformative decision and at least opens the door for further decisions on whether any other collateral consequences are also within the Sixth Amendment,” said Kinnaird, who argued the case for the defendant.

The biggest example would be the consequences for a defendant pleading guilty to a crime requiring registration as a sex offender; lesser examples include losing the right to serve on a jury or the right to carry a firearm as the result of a plea.

“Those are all questions for the future,” Kinnaird said.

Convict Can Stay Because His Criminal Defense Lawyer Failed to Tell Him That Felons Can Be Deported

If this decision is applicable retroactively, expect a flood of "ineffective assistance of counsel" appeals, perhaps filed by immigration attorneys who otherwise try to stay out of court, not to mention appellate courts. As a practical matter, the USCIS won't contest them all. Somebody will make a phone call or send a memo down, and the deportations of convicted felons will be quietly dropped.

Supreme Court Says Lawyers Must Tell Immigrant Clients of Deportation Risk
By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer

Lawyers must advise their immigrant clients facing criminal charges that pleading guilty could lead to deportation, the Supreme Court decided Tuesday.

The court ruled 7 to 2 that the Sixth Amendment guarantee of an effective counsel extends to advice about the risk of having to leave the country.

"It is our responsibility under the Constitution to ensure that no criminal defendant -- whether a citizen or not -- is left to the mercies of incompetent counsel," Justice John Paul Stevens wrote.

Stevens said the responsibilities for lawyers are heightened because of congressional crackdowns on immigrants who commit crimes, even relatively minor ones. "These changes confirm our view that, as a matter of federal law, deportation is an integral part -- indeed, sometimes the most important part -- of the penalty that may be imposed on noncitizen defendants who plead guilty to specified crimes," he wrote.

The case before the court involved California truck driver José Padilla, who was considering whether to plead guilty to trafficking in marijuana. Before agreeing to the plea, he asked his lawyer whether it would affect his status as a legal permanent resident.

Padilla, a native of Honduras, had been in the United States almost 40 years and had served in the Army during the Vietnam War. (He shares a name with, but is not related to, the onetime "enemy combatant" convicted on terrorism charges.) He said his lawyer told him that he did not have to worry about his immigration status because he had been in the country so long.

So Padilla pleaded guilty -- and found out that his lawyer was wrong. Padilla's plea to an aggravated felony left him virtually no defense to deportation once his jail term ended.

On appeal, Padilla argued that his lawyer's bad advice deprived him of the constitutional right to effective counsel and that he should be able to withdraw the plea. The Supreme Court in Kentucky -- where Padilla was arrested -- said a lawyer is required only to advise his or her client about the direct consequences of a guilty plea and not collateral issues, such as how it would affect immigration status.

Tuesday's court majority said that was wrong. "When the deportation consequence is truly clear, as it was in this case, the duty to give correct advice is equally clear," Stevens wrote.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. agreed with the outcome of the case but said the majority went too far in extending the Sixth Amendment and what it requires of lawyers. Because immigration law is so complex, Alito said, it is enough for a lawyer to refrain from providing incorrect information and then advise a client to consult an immigration lawyer about the consequences of a guilty plea. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. agreed with Alito.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the opinion was "overkill."

"In the best of all possible worlds, criminal defendants contemplating a guilty plea ought to be advised of all serious collateral consequences of conviction, and surely ought not to be misadvised," Scalia wrote. "The Constitution, however, is not an all-purpose tool for judicial construction of a perfect world."

Padilla, who has been living in California while awaiting the outcome of his legal challenges, now returns to the Kentucky Supreme Court to argue that his lawyer's bad advice means he should be able to withdraw his plea.

The case is Padilla v. Kentucky.

Importing 85,000 Immigrant College Graduates for U.S. Employment

The U.S. government will permit employers to import 85,000 foreign workers this Fall, and has begun processing H-1B applications based on U.S. Department of Labor certification that American citizens and resident aliens are unavailable for the jobs, or are otherwise unsatisfactory. Of these jobs, 20,000 are reserved for immigrants with Master's degrees or higher, and 65,000 must have bachelor's degrees or equivalents. The U.S. employment will begin October 1.

On April 1, 2010, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting new H-1B visa applications for employment that will begin on October 1, 2010. The H-1B visa is a popular choice for companies who want to hire a foreign worker to fill a "professional" or "specialty occupation" position requiring a minimum of a bachelor's degree or the equivalent.

There are 65,000 H-1B visas available each year plus an additional 20,000 H-1B visas reserved for holders of U.S. master's or higher degrees. Although USCIS reached the quota in the first week of filing in previous years, the quota this past year was not filled until December 2009.

Unlike previous years, there is no longer the possibility of one-day approval from USDOL for Labor Condition Applications – which are required in order to file the H-1B petition with USCIS. The USDOL is generally taking seven days to process Labor Condition Applications and this processing time is expected to increase as employers file more H-1Bs.

Possible candidates for H-1B visas are current employees or potential new hires now working in F-1, J-1, L-1 and TN categories whose employment authorization will expire before October 2011.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Deportation for Misdemeanor Criminal Recidivism Appears to Divide Supreme Court Along Familiar Ideological Faultlines

Kimberly Atkins' article doesn't mention any comments or questions from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the sole Hispanic on the Court, but I would be surprised if she votes for deportation of the Hispanic criminal. If the typical pattern holds, Alito, Roberts and Thomas will join Scalia and Kennedy to prevail 5-4 over Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Stevens.

Court considers if two misdemeanors equal a felony
By Kimberly Atkins
Staff writer

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court took up a case Wednesday that considers whether a person who was convicted of two misdemeanors - therefore qualifying for, but never charged with, a felony enhancement - is guilty of an “aggravated felony” under immigration law.

The case, Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder, involves Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo, a permanent U.S. resident from Mexico who pleaded guilty to possession of a marijuana joint - a misdemeanor - in 2004. In 2005 he pleaded guilty to illegal possession of one Xanax tablet without a prescription - another misdemeanor.

Although he could have been prosecuted under a recidivism statute that would have elevated the second charge to a felony, the prosecutor chose not to seek an enhancement.

Carachuri-Rosendo then received notice of removal proceedings. At a hearing, an immigration law judge held that he was subject to deportation. The judge reasoned that the second conviction qualified as an “aggravated felony” under the Immigration and Nationality Act because it could have justified a felony sentence under the Controlled Substances Act. (The INA authorizes deportation for anyone convicted of a crime “punishable” under the CSA.)

Carachuri-Rosendo appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals and ultimately to the 5th Circuit, which both affirmed.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case.

What is ‘punishable’?

Sri Srinivasan, a partner in the Washington office of O’Melveny & Myers, argued that the “aggravated felony” trigger should not have come into play absent a court ruling on recidivism.

“At the very least [the defendant] would have had to have been found to be a recidivist under a state provision that attaches sentencing consequences to being found to have been a recidivist,” Srinivasan argued.

“But this was ‘punishable‘ as a felony because it was his second drug offense,” Justice Antonin Scalia said, referring to the language of the INA. “He was a recidivist. And although it was only a misdemeanor under state law, under the Controlled Substances Act he could be prosecuted for a felony.”

“But he has to have been convicted of the felony,” Srinivasan replied. “That is the critical distinction.”

Scalia said a conviction wasn’t necessary under the text of the law.

“The critical language is ‘punishable,’” Scalia said, emphasizing every syllable of the word. “The truth is, he could be punished for a felony.”

“He has to be convicted of a felony,” Srinivasan asserted. “In absence of that finding he hasn’t been convicted of an ‘aggravated felony.’”

Justice Anthony Kennedy pointed out that five states have no recidivism statutes at all, so there could be uneven results.

“If you have one of those states with no recidivist provisions and you have ten separate possession convictions, [the defendant is] still not a recidivist under the federal rules,” Kennedy observed.

“That doesn’t mean that those prior convictions don’t enter into the picture at all,” Srinivasan said, noting that federal authorities can take those convictions into account when considering removal actions.

Felony to have ‘one Xan-something pill’?

Nicole A. Saharsky, assistant to the solicitor general, argued on the government’s behalf that state court action is not the determinate factor in deciding who is an aggravated felon under federal law.

“Congress’s judgment here was that all aliens who engage in the same serious conduct would be treated the same for immigration purposes,” Saharsky said. “What [the defendant] is saying is: ‘I don’t want my aggravated felony to count because of the difference in state law.’”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wondered if the punishment fit the crimes.

“If you could just present this scenario to an intelligent person who didn’t go to law school, that you are going to not only remove him from this country, but say never, ever darken our doors again because of one marijuana cigarette and one Xan-something pill - it just seems to me that if there is a way of reading the statute that would not lead to that absurd result, you would want to read the statute” that way, Ginsburg said.

Saharsky said the result is the one Congress intended.

“What controls is Congress’s judgment, and Congress has taken a hard line over the past 20 years on criminal aliens, particularly recidivist criminal aliens,” Saharsky said.

Justice Stephen Breyer, using a hypothetical of a gentle “pussycat burglar” armed only with a pillow, said that the case illustrates the same practical problem present in cases involving other sentence-boosting statutes, such as the Armed Career Criminal Act: people committing relatively minor crimes facing dire consequences based on unclear state and federal laws.

Breyer said he feared a ruling in the government’s favor could “get [a] very mixed up area of the law which we have tried to straighten out [o]nce again totally mixed up. That’s my concern.”

A decision is expected by this summer.

Questions or comments can be directed to the writer at:
© Copyright 2010 Lawyers USA. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Immigrants Sue to Force Massachusetts Taxpayers to Provide Free Health Care

Legal immigrants have two extreme and opposite images in America: the opportunity-driven, entrepreneurial, patriotic and hard-working heroic individual, on the one hand, and the clannish, backward-looking, unproductive, stubbornly unassimilated, parasitical ward of the state, on the other.

The kind of immigrant who cheers his native country's sports teams against U.S. teams, who displays a foreign flag in his apartment window, or who sues his hosts to force them to tax themselves for his benefit probably nudges the image toward the latter.

IMMIGRANTS SUE STATE OVER EXCLUSION FROM HEALTH CARE: Massachusetts program faced budget cutback last year
By Kay Lazar
Boston Globe

Massachusetts’ exclusion of thousands of legal immigrants from state-subsidized health coverage is unconstitutional and should be struck down by the courts, according to a lawsuit filed yesterday by several of the affected immigrants.

The lawsuit charges that the state’s Connector Authority and its executive director, Jon Kingsdale, violated the immigrants’ right to equal protection under the state and federal constitutions when the administrators last year cut their health coverage through the Commonwealth Care program because of a tight state budget.

The Connector oversees the state’s 2006 landmark health law that created Commonwealth Care, which provides lower-cost insurance for low-income residents. Dick Powers, a spokesman for the Connector, said the authority had no comment on the lawsuit.

“You can’t violate people’s constitutional rights just because you don’t have the funds,’’ said Matt Selig, executive director of Health Law Advocates, a Boston-based public interest law firm that is assisting the immigrants in the suit.

Last year, about 26,000 immigrants lost their coverage after lawmakers eliminated $130 million in funding to help balance the state’s budget.

The Legislature ultimately restored about a third of the money, and the immigrants were given stripped-down health care plans with significantly higher copayments for medications and other treatments.

Since then, 8,000 more legal immigrants became eligible but have been denied coverage in the plans because the Legislature capped enrollment when it voted last summer.

Among those unable to get coverage is Dorothy Ann Finch of Boston, a 51-year-old immigrant from Zimbabwe with college degrees in psychology and business management, who was a project manager in London before immigrating to the United States in 2006, according to the lawsuit.

Finch was not offered health insurance by her employer here, the suit says, because she worked part time.

So she applied for and was accepted into Commonwealth Care, but the enrollment process was not completed before July 2009, when the Legislature voted to terminate coverage for the immigrants and capped enrollment in the new, stripped-down program.

“This event turned my life upside down,’’ Finch said in an affidavit filed with the lawsuit.

She is a diabetic who suffers from oral health infections, vision loss, and kidney and heart problems, according to the suit, and she has been unable to afford other insurance.

“I cannot hold liquid in my mouth because of my infected jaw,’’ Finch said in her affidavit. “I am afraid to receive medical treatment because I cannot pay the bills.’’

Another plaintiff in the suit, identified as 45-year-old Jane Doe, a licensed architect from the Philippines with a master’s degree in building science, has breast cancer and has been unable to find cancer specialists from the list provided to immigrants in the state’s stripped-down health plan.

“I have searched on the new plan’s website, and I called for assistance,’’ Doe said in her affidavit. “I finally found a GYN in Norwood but with a waiting list. I cannot find a medical oncologist, and I am worried about my health care.’’

The lawsuit estimates that the Commonwealth has saved more than $80 million by cutting the immigrants’ health coverage.

Lawmakers have said they were reluctant to cut immigrants’ coverage, but made the choice because they are more expensive for the state to insure: The federal government does not chip in for their care the way it does for others who are US citizens.

Through a spokesman, Senator Steven Panagiotakos, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, declined to comment on the lawsuit, as did Representative Charles Murphy, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said it was unfortunate that immigrants have to sue the state’s Connector Authority, especially because Governor Deval Patrick and his administration have fought hard to retain coverage for the group.

But she said the immigrants could not legally sue the Legislature.

“These people are their neighbors, they pay taxes, they are part of the fabric,’’ Millona said. “But they are being separated because of their immigration status.’’

Monday, January 18, 2010

Weakened Secretary of Homeland Security is Readying Florida Base to Receive Illegal Immigration from Devastated Haiti

U.S. officials are talking tough for public consumption, but are quietly making arrangements to accomodate a tidal wave of Haitian migration to South Florida. The AP story here quotes officials saying that any illegal Haitian migrants will be intercepted at sea and repatriated to their native country.

That is obviously intended to dissuade Haitians from staging a mass evacuation across the strait, but Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, already weakened by earlier public relations debacles, can't make it stick. The political pressure will come from several points on the compass, including the Catholic church, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Hip-Hop Summit, and the president's own pollsters.

Napolitano obviously understands that she is a paper tiger, as she is already preparing the former Homestead Air Base south of Miami to receive the expected surge of escaping Haitian survivors.

Haitians Seeking U.S. Refuge Will be Returned
By CURT ANDERSON, AP Legal Affairs Writer

MIAMI – U.S. authorities are readying for a potential influx of Haitians seeking to escape their earthquake-wracked nation, even though the policy for migrants remains the same: with few exceptions, they will go back.

So far, fears of a mass migration have yet to materialize. However, conditions in Haiti become more dire each day and U.S. officials don't want to be caught off guard.

Between 250 and 400 immigration detainees are being moved from South Florida's main detention center to clear space for any Haitians who manage to reach U.S. shores, according to the Homeland Security Department. The Navy base at Guantanamo Bay could house migrants temporarily — far from suspected terrorists also being held there — and the Catholic church is working on a plan to accept Haitian orphans.

Homeland Security spokesman Sean Smith said Monday that orphans who have ties to the U.S. — such as a family member already living here — and Haitians evacuated for medical reasons are among those who can gain special permission to remain in the U.S.

The mass migration plan, known as "Operation Vigilant Sentry," was put in place in 2003 because of previous experiences with Caribbean migrations, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Chris O'Neil, spokesman for the Homeland Security Task Force Southeast that would manage any Haitian influx.

"There is no new incentive for anyone to try to enter the United States illegally by sea," O'Neil said. "The goal is to interdict them at sea and repatriate them."

The message was underscored by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano during a weekend appearance at Homestead Air Reserve Base south of Miami, a key staging area for Haiti relief flights.

"This is a very dangerous crossing. Lives are lost every time people try to make this crossing," Napolitano said, addressing Haitians directly. "Please do not have us divert our necessary rescue and relief efforts that are going into Haiti by trying to leave at this point."

Some immigration advocates say the U.S. should shift away from stopping migrants and ease safe passage. They say those on approved waiting lists should be able to join spouses or relatives in the U.S.

"We should be figuring out an orderly transition for people to come here, instead of being panicked about it," said Ira Kurzban, a leading Miami immigration attorney.

The Obama administration's decision last week to grant temporary protected status to Haitians in the U.S. illegally as of Jan. 12 does not extend to those attempting to enter the U.S. after that date.

So far this year, the Coast Guard has intercepted 17 Haitians at sea, all before the earthquake struck. The 2009 total of 1,782 was higher than any year since 2004, when more than 3,200 Haitians were stopped attempting to reach U.S. shores. That was a year of political upheaval in Haiti following the collapse of the government of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Cuba is responsible for the biggest mass migration from any Caribbean nation: more than 125,000 Cubans streamed to the U.S. in 1980 after former President Fidel Castro opened the port of Mariel to anyone who wanted to leave.

U.S. policy notwithstanding, the Catholic Church in Miami is working on a proposal that would allow thousands of orphan children to come permanently to this country. A similar effort launched in 1960, known as Operation Pedro Pan, brought about 14,000 unaccompanied children from Cuba to the U.S.

Under the plan dubbed "Pierre Pan," Haitian orphans would first be placed in group homes and then paired with foster parents, said Mary Ross Agosta, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Miami.

"We have children who are homeless and possibly without parents and it is the moral and humane thing to do," Agosta said.

Officials said many details would have to be worked out and the Obama administration would have to grant orphans humanitarian parole to enter the U.S.


Associated Press writers Matt Sedensky in Miami and Larry Margasak in Washington contributed to this story.

Tough Immigration Enforcement Lands Sheriff Under Investigation by Eric Holder's U.S. Justice Department

Shortly after President Obama took office, his attorney general placed Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio under investigation for racial discrimination and unconstitutional searches.

Arpaio is legendary for his unsympathetic treatment of jail inmates, and more recently he has been publicized as one of the few major western law enforcement official who actively enforced immigration laws.

Within the Mexican-American constituency, which is large and probably decisive in most of the West, this confrontation with Arpaio is pure re-election gold for Obama. He will sew up solid majorities among Mexican-Americans, including Evangelicals, in 2012.

Although Obama needs no help with Black middle-class voters, Holder's attack on Arpaio may help cement Obama's solidarity with the Black underclass that normally does not vote. It will be interesting to see whether Obama and the new class warriors can finally mobilize the Mexican-American and Black lumpenproletariat that has heretofore be reliably inert.

Thousands protest sheriff's immigration efforts

By JACQUES BILLEAUD, Associated Press

PHOENIX – Thousands of immigrant rights advocates marched in front of a county jail in Phoenix Saturday in a protest that was aimed at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration efforts and was marked by a clash between a small group of protesters and police officers.

Organizers say the protest was meant to show officials in Washington that Arpaio shouldn't handle immigration enforcement, and that Congress and the Obama administration need to come up with a way for immigrant workers to come to the country legally.

The three-mile walk that started in a west Phoenix park ended by afternoon at the Durango Jail Complex, a collection of five jails, where officials played music, including a record by singer Linda Ronstadt, to drown out noise made by protesters. Ronstadt took part in Saturday's protest.

Protesters chanted "Joe must go" as they approached the jail complex. One person carried a sign that said "We are human" and bore a picture of a lawman with a wolf's face. A family of five wore T-shirts saying "Who would Jesus deport?"

For his part, Arpaio said he wasn't bothered by the protesters and that they should be directing their frustrations at Congress because it has the power to change America's immigration laws.

"They are zeroing in on the wrong guy," Arpaio said. "They ought to be zeroing in on the president."

The demonstration was peaceful until police say protesters near the end of the procession started throwing water bottles at officers. Phoenix Police Lt. Pat Hofmann said officers used pepper spray as they tried to separate protesters from an officer who was trying to take away the bottles.

Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Andy Hill said on-scene supervisors described a group of demonstrators purposefully disrupting the demonstration by assaulting several police officers and a police horse.

He said one demonstrator struck a police sergeant on the head and chest with a flagpole. Two others threw water bottles, possibly containing rocks, at other officers, but missed.

Hill also said a police officer on horseback was assaulted while her horse was mobbed, punched and pushed. The officer used pepper spray to stop the assault.

"Most regrettably, a nearby 2-year-old child was hit by some of the pepper spray," said Hill, adding that the Phoenix Fire Department was called to the scene to treat the girl. "I am told she was released and was expected to be OK."

No one else was seriously injured, he said.

Phoenix police said Saturday night that five people were arrested during the protest and taken to Maricopa County Jail. Four were booked on suspicion of aggravated assault on police. The other faces disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

Though the scene of the disturbance was cleared within minutes, the aftermath was chaotic. Protesters yelled obscenities at police officers in riot gear. One officer shook his pepper spray canister as he ordered people to keep moving. One protester wore goggles, and several others wrapped bandanas around their mouths.

Critics have accused deputies working in Arpaio's immigration efforts of racial profiling, which the sheriff denies. He says his deputies approach people when they have probable cause to believe they had committed crimes.

Ten months ago, Arpaio learned he was under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for alleged discrimination and unconstitutional searches. He says the investigation was prompted by his immigration efforts, although federal authorities haven't provided details.

Since early 2008, Arpaio has run 13 immigration and crimes sweeps involving officers who flood a section of a city — in some cases heavily Latino areas — to seek out traffic violators and arrest other violators.

Arpaio's power to make federal immigration arrests was stripped away three months ago by officials in Washington, but he continues his immigration efforts through the enforcement of two state laws.

A federal grand jury also is investigating Arpaio and his office on allegations of abusing his powers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haitian Catastrophe is Immigration Policy and Enforcement Game-Changer

The recent catastrophe in Haiti is shaping up as an immigration policy and enforcement game-changer. The Obama regime has already halted deportations of illegal alien Haitians, even those already in detention. Now Haitian activists and their allies are urging relocation of large numbers of orphaned Haitian children to South Florida.

Operation Pierre Pan May Start at Miami Hospitals: Miami advocates are pushing to relocate Haitian children to the U.S.
By Todd Wright
Jan 15, 2010

Some of Haiti's most fragile - its children - have arrived at Miami area hospitals and for a few, Miami may become their new home. So far, 23 patients from the earthquake have been treated at Jackson Memorial Hospital, with countless more likely to be airlifted from the island for treatment. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson has contacted all the children's hospitals in Florida and requested that they receive critically injured Haitian children in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Nelson on Friday said he also plans to introduce a "major Haitian relief bill."

But the injured won't likely be the only children coming to Florida.

"Operation Pierre Pan," as its being called, is an effort to relocate the thousands of children likely orphaned by the natural disaster in Port-au-Prince. Many of the children could already have relatives in Miami and around the U.S.

A similar effort occurred decades ago when "Operation Pedro Pan" was launched to help the children of Cuba during the political upheaval in that island neighbor. Some 14,000 children were relocated to the United States, many of them settling in South Florida.

While advocates mobilize for a push to help find the children new families if not reunite them with stateside relatives, there are several hurdles that need to be overcome.

The movement would need the approval of the U.S. government to at the very least grant the orphans temporary status in the country.

Still, agencies in Miami-Dade and Broward are gearing up for the possible influx of children in need of a home, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

We've already begun to make preparations and are willing to do our part," said Mark Riordan, Broward County spokesman for the state's Department of Children and Families.