30 Mexican Workers Level Kidnapping Allegations Against Police In Mississippi Town
August 24, 2007, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Blogroll

30 Mexican workers level kidnapping allegations against police in
Mississippi town
By HOLBROOK MOHR Associated Press Writer

JACKSON, Miss. — Thirty Mexican nationals with visas to work in the
U.S. claim police in Pascagoula kidnapped and threatened them with
arrest or deportation if they did not return to an employer.

The workers, backed by the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, the
American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups, said
Wednesday that Pascagoula Police Capt. George Tillman threatened to
send them to jail if they didn’t return to work for a recruitment

The workers plan to file a lawsuit accusing Tillman of “kidnapping,
kidnapping with intent to enslave, false imprisonment, human
trafficking, and violations of the workers’ civil and constitutional
rights,” they said in a news release.

Enrique Garcia, 41, one of the workers, said Tillman told the workers
the company “owned” them.

Interim Pascagoula Police Chief Eddie Stewart said in a statement that
the allegations were without merit. He said they stemmed from a “call
for service in which two private contractors were in a dispute over who
employed a group of workers.”

Officers handled the situation properly, he said.

“Our responding officers, with the assistance of Immigration Customs
Enforcement, explained to both the private contractors and the workers
their options,” Stewart said.

Jackson County Assistant District Attorney Brice Wiggins said Wednesday
his “office has not received a complaint or allegation on the matter.”

The workers said they received H2B temporary visas to work for
Southwest Shipyards in Channelview, Texas, but left the company because
they were paid less than they were promised and working conditions were

Under terms of their visas, the workers were permitted only to work for
the company that sponsored them. A message seeking comment left after
hours Wednesday with Southwest Shipyards was not immediately returned.

The workers said they were promised jobs by a labor recruiting company
but that after six days of waiting in cramped mobile homes the company
had put them up in, they left for Pascagoula Miss., where they found
work repairing ships.

The workers said an official from the labor recruiting company tracked
them down and showed up with Tillman and at least two other officers on
Aug. 2. They said Tillman told them the recruiting company owned them
and that could be jailed if they didn’t return to work.

Garcia said the workers were not searched, handcuffed or detained by
the officers, but that the way they were handled merits their
kidnapping claim.

“Capt. Tillman told us that we had two options: that either we go back
to work … or be detained,” he said.

Patricia Ice, an attorney for the Mississippi Immigrants Rights
Alliance, acknowledged that the men were in violation of their visa
agreement by leaving the original employer. But the company had
violated agreements with the workers, she said.

The workers, all from Veracruz, Mexico, said they paid a recruiter
between $1,500 and $2,000 to come to the U.S., expecting to make $16.50
an hour. Instead, they said Southwest Shipyards paid them $14 an hour,
of which they only kept $12 an hour after transportation and living
expenses were deducted.

With outside help, the workers escaped to New Orleans, where they have
been living without work or money, according to The (South Mississippi)
Sun Herald.


FLOC Denounces New Crackdown on Immigrants
August 22, 2007, 7:12 am
Filed under: Commentary

FLOC Denounces New Crackdown on Immigrants

On August 10 Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, and Secretary of Commerce, Carlos M. Gutierrez, held a joint press conference to announce a sweeping new crackdown on undocumented workers and employers.  DHS’s plans will do little except increase the feelings of fear and panic in immigrant communities which is already running at record levels.  It will also increase the feeling of uncertainty small American farmers have.  In fact, Baldemar Velasquez, President of FLOC, emphasizes that “our farmer employers are distraught that these new regulations will threaten our vibrant $78 million dollar NW Ohio agricultural economy already plagued by labor shortages.”

With the DHS announcement, it is clear that the immigration reform debate—limited as it was—that might have provided a path to legal status for the 8-12 million undocumented workers has ended and the only ideas being considered now are harsh enforcement-only policies.

Instead of helping to fix America’s broken immigration system, enforcement-only plans will only result in the increased misery of millions of the hardest working people in this country; as previous raids and crackdowns have proven, it will do very little to reduce the immigrant population living in the country without legal status.

“We are handing the criminal element a greater opportunity to flourish in the multi-billion dollar fake ID and human trafficking business,” said Baldemar Velasquez.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a 26-point list of “enforcement tools” they will use in their crackdown.  The National Immigration Law Center reports DHS’s plans include:

*  Convert Social Security Administration “no-match letters”
into an immigration enforcement tool. DHS announced it
will issue 140,000 letters starting September 10th to
employers questioning the status of 8 million workers.
*  Increase civil fines against employers who knowingly hire
undocumented workers, and expand efforts to criminally
prosecute employers;
*  Increased militarization of the border with more Border
Patrol agents, more border fences, and more cameras
and radars;
*  Expand detention facilities to house 31,000 people with
no suggestion that widespread rights violations in the
current facilities will be reviewed;
*  Reduce access to court hearings to contest erroneous
deportation orders;
*  “Streamline” guestworker programs with no indication
that the current recruitment problems FLOC has
uncovered will be addressed;

Instead of bring undocumented workers out of the shadows and giving them a chance to bargain with their employers for a fair day’s pay, this strategy will drive them deeper into the underground economy and into the hands of human traffickers and unscrupulous employers who will exploit them even further.

FLOC understands the need for national security, but we believe these new policies will not make our country safer.  We need to stop picking on poor people, and go after the real criminals; not help their crooked businesses grow.

FLOC’s position is clear. Whether immigrant workers have legal status or not, they deserve the basic labor and human rights that will allow them to live with dignity and respect.

For more information on the immigration issue, see the FLOC website on:

Immigrant Rights (www.floc.com)

Hands Across el Rio
August 22, 2007, 5:29 am
Filed under: call for action, News Stories

Calling all “HANDS”.  Amigas and amigos from both sides of el Rio Grande/Bravo…to form human chains across the bridges crossing the Rio Grande/Bravo and to show off our solidarity and friendship.  Calling all paddles.  Kayakers, canoeists, row boaters, inner-tubers…to form a flotilla upriver from the bridges and show off our geography and the Rio that unites us.

In two weeks we will kick off Hands Across el Rio at the downtown bridge in El Paso-Juarez.  We will do our best to keep everyone updated on www.borderambassasors.com <http://www.borderambassasors.com> .  We have folks in the different regions that are helping to make this historic event a success knowing the importance of this 1250 mile 16 day show of solidarity on both sides of the Rio Grande…in opposition to a grotesque wall that would divide we the people and destroy our environment and economy.

Here are some related news links to Hands Across el Rio.

USA Today.  http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2007/08/texans-raising-.html

KGBT 4…CBS…McAllen. (See video clip)  http://www.kgbt4.com/Global/story.asp?S=6907456&nav=menu90_3 <http://www.kgbt4.com/Global/story.asp?S=6907456&amp;nav=menu90_3>

El Paso Times.  http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_6575165

Rio Grande Guardian. http://www.riograndeguardian.com/rggnews_story.asp?story_no=14

The Daily Texan. http://media.www.dailytexanonline.com/media/storage/paper410/news/2007/08/08/TopStories/A.Line.In.The.Sand-2929832.shtml

Below are some of the diverse organizations that have already given their endorsement.  Followed by our wish list.

League of United Latin American Citizens
www.lulac.org <

Texas Border Coalition
www.texasbordercoalition.org <

Texas Chapter of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement/AFL-CIO
www.lclaa.org <

The Border Trade Alliance
www.thebta.org <

Cesar E. Chavez Legacy and Educational Foundation
www.sachavezfoundation.org <

Lone Star Sierra Club
www.texas.sierraclub.org <

No Border Wall
www.notexasborderwall.com <

We do need to ask for assistance.  Here’s our wish list.

We welcome any volunteer who would like to chronicle Hands Across el Rio.  Videographers, photographers, writers, reporters.

We welcome any individual and organization to help with handling the media, actual events and logistics, both locally as well as regionally.

We are also looking for a volunteer to be administrator of our blog and forum at www.borderambassadors.com <http://www.borderambassadors.com> .

With deep gratitude, we will accept any financial assistance, however small.  We will gladly list all who help out financially on a special “Amigos” page.  http://www.borderambassadors.com/donations.html

If a business or organization wants to be an official sponsor of Hands Across el Rio, we will give a banner on the website.

If anyone wants to advertise on Border Ambassadors you can go to this link. http://www.borderambassadors.com/advertising.html

We also ask that you consider signing and passing along the NO BORDER WALL petition to stop the proposed wall that would divide us and destroy our environment, economy and culture.   

Finally, we ask that you forward and share this with your friends and your own respective networks.  Be a part of this history altering and epoch event.

In solidarity…

Texas defies federal court with plan to execute man who did not kill
August 22, 2007, 5:11 am
Filed under: News Stories

Dan Glaister in Los Angeles
Monday August 20, 2007
The Guardian

Texas is poised to execute a man for a crime he did not commit. While the perpetrator of the murder in San Antonio was executed last year, Kenneth Foster, who was sitting in a car 25 metres away at the time of the shooting, was sentenced to death under the “law of parties”.The controversial Texas law removes the distinction between the principal actor and accomplice in a crime, and makes a person guilty if they “should have anticipated” the crime.

While a federal appeals court declared that Foster’s death sentence contained a “fundamental constitutional defect”, a legal anomaly means the state appeals court cannot overturn his conviction, there being no new evidence.After the failure this month of Foster’s most recent appeal, the 30-year-old African-American’s final hope of avoiding execution on August 30 rests with an appeal for clemency to the Texas parole board and the Texan governor, Rick Perry.

“He’s on death row because they screwed up,” said his attorney, Keith Hampson. “There has been a series of mistakes that has had a cascading effect. Now I’m asking the court to step in on their own motion to correct their mistake. Otherwise this guy gets executed.”

On August 14 1996 Foster and three friends were driving around San Antonio smoking marijuana and robbing people at gunpoint. Foster, who was driving, stayed in the car while two others, Mauriceo Brown and Julius Steen, robbed. As they went to the home of Dwayne Dillard, the fourth person in the car, they found themselves in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. A woman asked why they were following her, and as she left Brown got out of the car and followed her to the home of her boyfriend, Michael LaHood. Brown and Mr LaHood argued, and the three in the car, 25 metres away, heard a “pop”. Brown returned to the car and Foster drove off.

The four were arrested in connection with Mr LaHood’s murder. Dillard was never tried for the crime, and Steen had a deal with the prosecutors. The prosecutors sought the death sentence only for Brown and Foster, and at the district attorney’s behest the pair were tried together.

While Brown’s conviction was straightforward, Foster’s depended on Steen’s testimony – who had said he had had “a pretty good idea” of what was going to happen when Brown left the car. In the trial Steen’s testimony was key: it showed there had been a conspiracy to commit the armed robbery. If Steen knew about it, the logic went, then so did Foster.

The decision to try Brown and Foster together harmed Foster, said his attorney. Foster, the bigger man, appeared the dominant figure. And when Steen testified, his gang friends arrived to watch. The jury allegedly assumed the gang was linked to Foster; they requested and got armed guards for the remainder of the trial.

Brown and Foster received death sentences in May 1997. Brown was executed by lethal injection last year.

Since Foster’s conviction evidence has emerged suggesting there was no agreement to rob Mr LaHood. But the basis for Foster’s appeal has been the unconstitutionality of his punishment, a point made by his lawyer in a letter this month to the head of the Texas parole and pardons board. However, the fifth circuit court of appeals concurred with previous rulings that Foster should have known someone might be killed that night in 1996.

“Foster could not have helped but anticipate the possibility that a human life would be taken [during] one or more of his co-conspirators’ armed robberies,” the court wrote. It said he clearly displayed “reckless disregard for human life”.

Foster’s lawyer is dismayed. “We’re caught by this procedural glitch. Every court that has looked at this [concludes] his execution would be unconstitutional. It’s maddening,” Mr Hampson said.

The matter now rests with the Texas parole board, which can recommend the governor commutes the sentence if at least five of the seven board members agree. But Mr Perry has never commuted a death sentence, even on such advice.

In Texas 398 people have been put to death since capital punishment was reinstated in 1974, more than in any other state.

Immigration activist deported to Mexico
August 22, 2007, 5:08 am
Filed under: News Stories

Elvira Arellano, detained in L.A., is seen as an icon of migrant rights by some and as a symbol of lawlessness by others.

By Teresa Watanabe August 21, 2007

U.S. immigration officials announced Monday that Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant who symbolized inhumane treatment of migrants to some and brazen lawlessness to others, has been deported to her native Mexico, as immigrant-rights groups vowed to respond with massive protests.

Arellano, a 32-year-old single mother, was “a criminal fugitive alien who spent a year seeking to elude federal capture” by taking refuge in a Chicago church, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.

The agency said that tracking down and deporting immigration fugitives was one of its “top enforcement priorities” and that 220,000 illegal immigrants had been deported between last October and July, among the highest numbers ever for a 10-month period.

Federal immigration officials said they chose to arrest Arellano because she had defied not only immigration law but also federal criminal law.

In 2002, she was arrested and later convicted of using a false Social Security number to find work cleaning airplanes at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, gaining access to a secure area of a major airport one year after 9/11, said Jim Hayes, director of the immigration agency’s detention and removal operations in Los Angeles.

“We see her not as an icon but as a priority and example of the type of person we want to ensure we’re removing from the United States,” Hayes said.

But many immigrant-rights groups view Arellano as a symbol of courage in defying U.S. deportation orders that separated her from her 8-year-old son, Saul, a U.S. citizen. Southern California labor, religious and immigrant-rights groups are organizing vigils, political lobbying to give Arellano legal status to return and a march on Saturday through downtown Los Angeles to protest the actions.

Activists are also planning a national rally and boycott on behalf of Arellano in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 12, said Carlos Montes of the March 25 Coalition, which organized the massive immigration march through Los Angeles last year.

“She’s encouraging and inspiring people by her courage in service of a mission to draw attention to the suffering of immigrant families,” said the Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice of California, who is helping coordinate a national movement to offer sanctuary to illegal immigrants.

Federal immigration officials arrested Arellano without incident Sunday outside Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Los Angeles. After being processed at an immigration facility in Santa Ana, Arellano was taken 100 miles to the border crossing at San Ysidro and turned over to Mexican immigration officials later that day.

Arellano left behind her tearful son, who headed to Tijuana on Monday to visit her.

The boy, who has since settled down and is “very calm,” according to Anita Rico, an Arellano supporter who drove with him to Tijuana, agreed to make the trip only if he could return to the United States, where he prefers to live. He was scheduled to return Monday night.

Shortly after taking sanctuary last year, Arellano had discussed her situation with Saul and had given him the choice of what to do if she were arrested, Rico said. The soon-to-be third-grader, whom Rico described as a straight-A student enamored of wrestling and soccer, said he wanted to stay in the United States with his legal guardians, the Rev. Walter Coleman and his wife, whose Chicago congregation had harbored Arellano.

Rico said Arellano never stepped outside her Chicago sanctuary until, as her one-year sanctuary anniversary approached, she decided to risk arrest by stepping out publicly in Los Angeles and had planned to speak in Washington, D.C., next month.

“She said she would sacrifice herself because our people can’t wait any more for just immigration reform,” Rico said.

Arellano first entered the U.S. in 1997; she was caught and deported. A few days later, she reentered the country, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. In 2002, she was arrested and convicted of using a false Social Security number in Chicago.

Last summer, an immigration judge ordered Arellano to appear for deportation. Instead, she sought refuge in the church.

Arellano’s deportation Sunday coincides with heightened enforcement against the nation’s estimated 12 million illegal immigrants and the collapse of congressional efforts to pass an immigration reform bill that would have offered them a path to citizenship.

Many immigrant-rights groups had not widely embraced the sanctuary movement as their first tactic of choice, focusing instead on political action to win comprehensive reform. Now, however, Arellano’s deportation could refocus activists’ energies on broadening the sanctuary movement, according to Germonique Jones, spokeswoman for the Washington-based Fair Immigration Reform Movement.

In Southern California, 25 churches have signed up to offer sanctuary; four families are being harbored.

“It’s a rallying cry,” Jones said of Arellano’s deportation, “and another spark to bring people together to fight for immigration reform.”

But Arellano’s deportation also gave voice to powerful passions against illegal immigrants.

The L.A. Times website, latimes.com, drew hundreds of reader responses to the article Monday about Arellano, many of them outraged by what they saw as flouting of immigration laws.

In Chicago, dozens of protesters gathered in front of federal immigration offices, chanting for Arellano’s return and waving signs that read “Stop Enforcing Racist Laws.”

For some like Cynthia Lorenzo, 32, the news of Arellano’s fight reflected their own troubles.

“I’m a U.S. citizen. My children are citizens and my husband isn’t,” Lorenzo said. “He was deported a year ago, and we’ve been fighting for him to return ever since. I keep hoping that things will change, but it’s so hard to keep fighting.”


Times staff writer P.J. Huffstuffer in Chicago contributed to this report.

Immigration Enforcement: The Rhetoric, The Reality
August 3, 2007, 5:22 pm
Filed under: News Stories

A recent study by Syracuse University shows that the two divisions of the Department of Homeland Security that deal with immigration and undocumented immigrants are spending very little time catching terrorists– few persons prosecuted for criminal offenses or deported for immigration law violations are terrorists. Most of the persons encountered are persons who entered without inspection (crossed illegally) or overstayed (entered legally but did not leave when their visa expired). The 911 terrorists were all overstays.

Read the article and see that a Border Wall is NOT needed to protect the United States from terrorist attacks.
http://trac. syr.edu/immigrat ion/reports/ 178/

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