Monday, August 31, 2009

N.C. Native Wrongly Deported

It's a sad state of affairs with the U.S. government deports one of its NATIVE BORN citizens. But that's what happened to Mark Lyttle according to this report. It states:

At the time of Mark Lyttle's deportation, immigration officials had criminal record checks that said he was a U.S. citizen. They had his Social Security number and the names of his parents. They had Lyttle's own sworn statement that he had been born in Rowan County.

None of this stopped them from leaving Lyttle, a mentally ill American who speaks no Spanish, alone and penniless in Mexico, where he has no ties.

U.S. Immigration officials worked Lyttle's case for 31/2 months and held him in immigration detention for more than six weeks, but it took a third party in Guatemala to confirm he was indeed an American citizen.

What happened? And how can this be prevented from happening again? Clearly, this is not only an immigration problem. What the nation needs is a new way of completing all types of investigations so that when facts are revealed, the investigators actually pay attention to them.

Like with so much of law enforcement, once an agency develops a narrative about the alleged perpetrator, they are loathe to reconsider their position. This is how it is possible for police to completely botch a kidnapping investigation, for instance, because they suspected the girl's step-father. Never mind that they routinely passed by the house where she was being held prisoner, and even interviewed her abductors. Her step-father was the most likely suspect. End of stoyr

In the case of wrongful deportation, people can get swept up in the dragnet of our broken immigration system for the smallest transgressions, such as a traffic ticket, and end up being returned to a country where they have no life or history.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Finding your mom--immigrant kids crossing the border

Last year the film La Misma Luna (Under the same Moon) offered a fictionalized account of a young boy crossing the U.S. Mexico border in search of his mother in Los Angeles. It's a heartwarming, albeit harrowing story where we see a pre-teen boy make his way north, escaping what could be extremely dangerous circumstances.

That is fiction. The soon to be released Which Way Home is a documentary that explores child immigrants in their journey to the U.S.

The film was premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival this summer, and will air on HBO on Monday, August 31.

Life in America: Immigrant Retirement

What happens when immigrants retire, or perhaps can no longer manage on their own. This article from today's Washington Post examines a new trend in nursing and retirement home: adapting to the needs of non-native born Americans.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Immigrant Kidnapping on the Border

It appears that kidnappings have moved north. This article describes recent trend of kidnapping the undocumented as they attempt to cross the border. Ransom is extorted from their relatives who are living in the U.S., sometimes without authorization.

The story highlights the case of an undocumented family in Fairfax, VA., who received a call from kidnappers after their in-laws has been kidnapped. The family decided to contact ICE for assistance. It appears that U.S. officials are concerned about saving the kidnapping victims:

Although ICE officials recognize that everyone involved -- the immigrants and the kidnappers -- have broken the law, they say they want to save lives first and sort out immigration status second. Allen said the victims are part of the criminal conspiracy, "but at the same time, most of them didn't sign up for what ended up happening."

The most striking aspect of this story is that the family they focus on are residents of Prince William County. When they realized what was happening to their family members, they went to the police.

U.S. Flying the Undocumented Home

U.S. Immigration authorities are flying illegal immigrants into central Mexico from Southern Arizona to discourage dangerous crossings in triple-digit desert heat. This is a program that began in 2004.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The answer to our budget woes?

This op-ed piece in today's post offers a surprising and radically practical idea: legalize drugs. The U.S. spends billions ineffectively fighting the drug war, so why not throw in the towel, legalize and regulate drugs, and let nature take its course?
No one can deny that there is money to be made here. Similarly, there is no denying that if we are engaged in war on drugs, we're losing miserably. Why not accept the reality before us and balance our budget at the same time?

Wait a minute-how many times on this very blog have I recommended a similar solution to the immigration problem? As a reminder: I suggested that the U.S. sell work permits to potential immigrant workers (assuming the government would do background checks, etc) and effectively shut down the border crossing business. This would mean the government would collect the billions spent by immigrants crossing the border. What about overpopulation? The deal is that the work visa would make the immigrant a free agent--free to find work anywhere. This solution allows the market to take care of excesses as most workers would could not find work would likely go home or elsewhere for work.

I know it's unlikely to happen. I just like to daydream that Americans might one day be pragmatists.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Crazy: America's "Preexisting Condition"?

This essay from today's Washington Post offers an overview some of the crazy ideas Americans have posed in response different legislative initiatives. Did you know, for instance, that many Americans once believed that the Civil Rights Act would enslave whites in the south?

It puts the most recent craziness about Health Care Reform in perspective.

Immigrant Detention Revisited

Several years ago I blogged on the deplorable conditions that detained immigrants must suffer while they are awaiting their hearings. This article from the L.A. Times indicates that conditions for detained immigrants have not improved under the Obama administration.

The U.S. is holding more than 30,000 immigrants are in custody today, which is up from 6,200 in 1992. If we are going to incarcerate these people, we need to treat them humanely. If we cannot treat them humanely, they should be released.

Flying while Brown

This article in the Washington Post documents the woes of Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan as he encountered U.S. Homeland Security the Newark Airport.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Litterbug? Leaving Water in the Dessert for crossing Immigrants

It appears that no good deed will go unpunished. This article from the LA Times details the case of Walt Staton, an Arizona resident who was charged with littering when he left gallon milk jugs full of water in the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge:
But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said the plastic jugs he left for the immigrants endanger wildlife, and this week Staton was sentenced in federal court in Tucson on a charge of littering. He was given one year of unsupervised probation and ordered to spend 300 hours picking up trash.

Mr. Staton had originally been fined $175, but seeing his actions as a humanitarian effort, refused to pay and insisted on a trial. Prosecutors, apparently seeing this as a larger statement in the immigration debate, asked for $5000 in fines and 5 years probation.

But the story gets even better:
The government, which Staton's lawyer estimated spent about $50,000 to prosecute him, broadly criticized him in a sentencing memo for what officially was a littering case. Attorneys, for example, noted that No More Deaths volunteers often wrote "buena suerte," or "good luck," on the water jugs.

"The obvious conclusion is that the defendant and No More Deaths wish to aid illegal aliens in their entry attempt," the memo said.

"His actions are not about humanitarian efforts, but about protesting the immigration policies of the United States," the memo said. A U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday.

Arguing that Staton had "haphazardly left water for illegal aliens, drug smugglers and/or dangerous felons," prosecutors succeeded in persuading a judge to prohibit him from setting foot in the refuge during his probation.

It seems obvious that the prosecutors wanted to make Mr. Staton's desire to prevent death by dehydration as snubbing his nose to U.S. immmigration laws, such as they are. I wonder if those same prosecutors have the cojones to prosecute the contractors and small busines owners who routinely hire the undocumented, thus providing a motivation for crossing.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Obama and Immigration: How different from Bush?

This article from the NY Times outlines the nuanced differences between the Obama and Bush administrations on immigration enforcement. Although Neopolitano emphasizes that border security and employer sanctions are the focus and only undocumented criminal immigrants are deported, there is still probably too much emphasis (and money) being poured into border security.

I know the administration feels pressured to "prove" toughness on immigration enforcement, but I would rather see some of our democratic leaders show some back bone and start to stand down the right-wing opponents who represent themselves but nevertheless seem to always make their numbers look much larger and significant than they are. Border security doesn't work. We all know that. Why not try to demonstrate a better way and let the evidence of that success speak for itself?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Militia Resurgence

This report from the Southern Poverty Law Center documents the rise of radical militia groups in the U.S.

Town Hall Mobs

This op-ed piece in the NY Times discusses the anger expressed about health care reform and its links to cultural and racial anxiety at play in the U.S. today. I link this here because I think we'll see similar anxieties expressed when immigration reform is on the table next year.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Borders and Immigration Control

Even as his Health Care reform plans struggle, President Obama, speaking from the North American summit with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, said Monday that his administration will pursue a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. immigration system, but that no action on legislation will happen before 2010.

What does the President envision? Here's a synopsis:

... Obama said that there needs to be "a pathway to citizenship" for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States, and that the system must be reworked to avoid tensions with Mexico. Without it, he said, Mexicans will keep crossing the border in dangerous ways and employers will continue exploiting workers.

"We can create a system in which you have . . . an orderly process for people to come in, but we're also giving an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so that they don't have to live in the shadows," Obama said during an hour-long news conference at the CabaƱas Cultural Center in downtown Guadalajara. "Am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done? No. This is going to be difficult."

So, nothing new here, except that the President has established a pattern of talking up immigration reform, here with a few details of what he wants, a multifaceted approach. Of note: the article linked here indicates from the title that Obama will focus on border control, when in fact the body of the article suggests the opposite.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mexicans in Cananda

For years I have wondered why Mexicans seeking a better life have not simply bypassed the U.S. for our northern neighbor, Canada. There is ample work in Canada's oil industry in Alberta, for instance. And the Canadian government has long been fairly lenient admitting foreign residents. (The only drawback is the weather, as Mexicans in general avoid places with long harsh winters.)

It appears that some Mexican immigrants have also thought of this, as evidenced by talks at the NAFTA summit this week in Mexico. Immigration has been raised as a major issue at the meetings, but this time tensions are expected to be focused on Mexicans entering Canada, not the United States.

As reported by the NY Times today:

Too many Mexicans, the Canadian government complained, are fraudulently claiming political asylum in Canada, overwhelming the system. So Canada announced last month that it would begin requiring Mexican citizens to secure visas before entering the country, a decision that elicited outrage in Mexico.

The Cost of Immigrant Detention

The following is a re-post of the cost per night for housing detained immigrants:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement housed about 33,345 people per night in July at facilities across the country. Most are owned by local and state governments. A look at the amounts paid per night for each immigrant at some of those facilities, according to public records:

Orange County, N.Y. - $133.93

Monmouth County, N.J. - $105

Central Falls, R.I. - $101.76

Los Angeles County - $100.09

Otero County, N.M. - $96.99

Glendale, Calif. - $85

Pike County, Penn. - $81.50

Willacy County, Texas - $78

Henderson County, N.C. - $71.96

Eloy, Ariz. - $64.47

Farmville, Va. - $62.83

Stewart County, Ga. - $60.50

Pinal County, Ariz. - $59.64

Haskell County, Texas - $57.67

Imperial County, Calif. - $55.78

Perry County, Ala. - $45

Cobb County, Ga. - $42.58

Friday, August 07, 2009

Obama eyes immigration reform for early 2010

Reuters reports that President Obama is hoping to initiate legislation for comprehensive immigration reform in early 2010.

Although this is clearly something that needs to happen, 2 issues stand in the way of reform happening in 2010: the census and mid-term elections. It seems imprudent to provoke emotions around this issue even as the Census Bureau is attempting to count the undocumented. Reform talk and it accompanying controversies are likely to discourage immigrants from participating in the count. The mid-term elections may or may not present an opportunity for both parties--Democrats to reaffirm their commitment to America's newest arrivals and the GOP to continue to dig their grave with the nation's future voters.

Should be interesting.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Detention Centers will return to Federal employees to oversee treatment of inmates

The article from AP reports that the oversight of immigrant detainees will be returned to federal employees. Two years ago, DHS turned this function over to private industry.

The government has been criticized for its treatment of immigration detainees, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has made detention policies a top priority for her department. These changes are seen as a move to improve detainee treatment.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Recommended Reading: The Snakehead

The Snakehead is the true account of the June 6, 1993, a small, weathered freighter, the Golden Venture, ran aground along the shoreline of New York's Rockaway Beach. The freighter, carrying 300 people from China's Fujian province, was in many ways an age-old American story of immigrants risking their lives for a better life. Each person on the freighter had paid $35,000 to smugglers (the going rate is now upward of $70,000), and when the ship beached,those on board were ordered by the smugglers to jump into the rough surf and swim ashore. The sea was so turbulent that it flipped a 22-foot Boston Whaler sent out to rescue the swimmers. Ten of the Chinese men died. The rest lay exhausted in the sand, tended to by medics, given food and water, and then arrested.

I am linking the full review of this book here, along with a suggestion that you consider adding this to your summer reading list. The book has been praised for its nuanced approach to the conflicts inherent in U.s. immigration policy as well as being a "rich beautifully told story."

"For much of its history," Patrick Radden Keefe writes, "the United States has suffered from a kind of bipolarity when it comes to matters of immigration." And so it was that the men and women on the Golden Venture were not embraced but instead imprisoned, most of them in a jail in York, Pa., where they remained for three years while the government tried to figure out how it viewed them: as illegal immigrants or refugees -- or something in between. Indeed, the Golden Venture, which Keefe points out brought "the single largest arrival of illegal aliens in modern American history," came to symbolize the tightly wound tension that has long characterized this nation's stance on immigration: the instinct to take in the tired and the poor versus the oft-expressed inclination to return new arrivals to their home countries. "The Snakehead" evocatively captures our yin and yang over immigration policy. Even if you know where you stand, you'll get tossed about enough in this compelling narrative that you won't necessarily end up where you began.