Thursday, August 12, 2010

Old jail to become for-profit detention center

by Yasmine Regester

Carolina Peacemaker

Originally posted 8/11/2010

Plans are underway to turn the existing Guilford County jail in Greensboro into a for-profit detention center.

FaithAction International House, an organization that advocates for immigrant and refugee rights, is voicing concerns that law enforcement will be looking for people to detain in order to recoup some of the new jail costs. “I think it’s a really bad policy for us to be trying to raise money by incarcerating people. It creates a conflict of interest for law enforcement because it causes them to focus on capturing people and getting them in jail because there is a profit to be made, rather than on protecting public safety. It goes against every value that professional law enforcement should be upholding,” said Rev. Mark Sills, executive director of FaithAction International House.

He added, “This is a huge incentive to look for people to incarcerate, it just won’t be undocumented immigrants, they (law enforcement) will be looking for every excuse possible to fill up those beds.” Sills also accused Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes of stating publicly that the old jail will house federal inmates and immigrant detainees.

Barnes said, “Immigrant detainees are federal inmates. The state doesn’t deport people, the federal government does. We will house anybody they (federal government) want to put in there. That will be their call.”

Barnes says he is looking for ways to pay for the new jail and has found the solution in the old jail. He has proposed to use the existing Guilford County jail in Greensboro to house federal inmates. According to Barnes, this strategy will shift the tax burden of operating the new jail from the county to the federal government. “Basically what we’re looking to do is house federal prisoners which we are paid for by the federal government,” said Barnes. A $115 bond referendum approved in November 2008 for a new county jail has been put towards new jail construction costs and renovation costs to the old jail.

Once construction on the new jail is complete, renovations on the old building will begin. “The old building needs to be refurbished; once that is completed it will be eligible to receive inmates such as Mecklenburg and Alamance County does. Jails all across the state keep federal prisoners but we can’t because we are overcrowded. We can end up making enough money to take care of the debt service on the new jail, which will make it a lot easier on citizens because it is less they will have to pay,” said Barnes. Debt service consists of day to day operation costs, which Barnes says is about $10 million a year, and repayment for the new jail.

Barnes noted there are no private companies involved and the jail will be run by the sheriff’s department.

According to Barnes, Mecklenburg County gets a little more than $100 a day to house federal inmates. “I think Mecklenburg County gets about $100 a day per inmate, so I’m hoping somewhere in that ballpark. We’re talking about money that local taxpayers won’t have to pay towards the repayment of building the new jail.”

Since the Middle District of North Carolina’s federal court is located in Greensboro, Barnes believes having a local federal prison will help eliminate heavy costs and hassle of transporting inmates from other cities to Greensboro.

“We used to keep federal inmates and it generated money to go towards a revenue source to help the county pay for the operation of their jails.” Barnes noted that there could be legal complications from turning a profit on housing federal inmates in the new jail because bond money is being used to pay for construction. Therefore, the new jail will not be used as a federal prison but will free up space in the existing Guilford County jail which is already paid for.

Gerald Chapman, immigration attorney at Chapman Law Firm in Greensboro believes that a detention center in Greensboro will increase fear within the community, particularly the immigrant community. “The fear is already there. The immigrant community already feels that law enforcement has got it in for them. The fact that we will have a federal detention facility here in Guilford County is more geography than anything. The real issue is the administration’s emphasis on enforcement and appropriate strategies for dealing with the undocumented population. The fact that we will have a detention facility that will hold people in federal immigration detention temporarily, I think its part of a real bad idea.”

Chapman also noted that if government wants to secure the borders a more comprehensive worker visa program needs to be created that will make the legal system work for both the worker and the employer. “With a worker visa program in place, you won’t need to have this kind of enforcement. We are spending so much money on this, it is absolutely astounding,” said Chapman.

According to the county’s law enforcement officials, Guilford County’s jail has long ago reached capacity, exceeding the 397 limit with a total inmate population currently at 507. The new completed jail will have seven floors, housing a combination of individual cells, dormitory cells, and four man cells, as well as recreation centers, a medical and dental center. There will also be 45 beds designated for substance abuse inmates. Renovations on the old jail will include a new sprinkler system, and improvements to the building to aid in the supervision of inmates.

Youth on the Dividing Line

Youth on the Dividing Line: Life in Tucson, AZ from Barni Qaasim on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

All U.S. counties on Mexican border now share inmate fingerprints with feds

Homeland Security Newswire
August, 11, 2010

All 25 U.S. counties along the Mexican border are now enrolled in the Secure Communities project; federal immigration officials now have access to the prints of every inmate booked into jail in these counties; Secure Communities makes the notification automatic; Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which plans to implement the program nationwide by 2013, says the program has identified more than 262,900 illegal immigrants in jails and prisons who have been charged with or convicted of criminal offenses, including more than 39,000 charged with or convicted of violent offenses or major drug crimes; ICE expects to remove 400,000 illegal immigrants this year; of the 200,000 illegal immigrants deported in the first ten months of fiscal year 2010, 142,000 illegal immigrants were with criminal records and about 50,000 were noncriminals; immigrant advocates say that some counties use Secure Communities to deport noncriminals: the national average of noncriminals flagged by Secure Communities is about 28 percent, but in Travis County, Texas, 82 percent of those removed through Secure Communities were noncriminals

Sharing of fingerprints in the Secure Communities program has led to hundreds of thousands of deportations // Source:

U.S. Immigration officials now have access to the fingerprints of every inmate booked into jail in all twenty-five U.S. counties along the Mexican border, DHS secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday, saying the program was a way of identifying and deporting “criminal aliens.”

Napolitano’s announcement came as immigrant rights activists criticized the fingerprinting program, known as Secure Communities, after obtaining documents showing that more than a quarter of those deported under its auspices had no criminal records (“Fingerprint sharing through Secure Communities led to deportation of 47,000,” 10 August 2010 HSNW).

Read more:

Rights Groups Release Documents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency FOIA Lawsuit, Reveal Federal Government Has Been Dishonest with State and Local Police about its “Secure Communities” Program

Groups Call “Secure Communities” Program a Racial Profiling Dragnet That Undermines Community Policing and Public Safety

August 10, 2010, New York, NY — Today, the National Day Laborer Organization Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law released internal government documents newly obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in a New York federal court in April. According to advocates who have reviewed the documents, they reveal a pattern of dishonesty regarding the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency’s “Secure Communities” (S-Comm) program. While ICE officials have declared their intention to expand S-Comm into every jurisdiction in the country by 2013, information about the nascent program has been scarce, and the development of operational details has been shrouded in secrecy.

S-Comm, which currently operates in 494 jurisdictions in 27 states, functions like the controversial 287(g) program and Arizona’s SB1070, making state and local police central to the enforcement of federal immigration law. The program automatically runs fingerprints through immigration databases for all people arrested and targets them for detention and deportation even if their criminal charges are minor, eventually dismissed, or the result of an unlawful arrest.

After reviewing the ICE documents and other information, advocates for NDLON v. ICE found evidence supporting the following primary claims. First, that ICE has been dishonest with the public and with local law enforcement regarding S-Comm’s true mission and impact. While ICE markets S-Comm as an efficient, narrowly tailored tool that targets “high threat” immigrants, it actually functions as a dragnet for funneling people into the mismanaged ICE detention and removal system. ICE’s own records show that the vast majority (79%) of people deported due to S-Comm are not criminals or were picked up for lower level offenses. Second, that the program serves as a smokescreen for racial profiling, allowing police officers to stop people based solely on their appearance and arrest non-citizens, knowing that they will be deported, even if they were wrongfully arrested and are never convicted. Preliminary data confirms that some jurisdictions, such as Maricopa County Arizona, have abnormally high rates of non-criminal S-Comm deportations. And lastly, the impression ICE fosters that S-Comm is not mandatory and jurisdictions can opt out is riddled with questions.

In fact, California Representative Zoe Lofgren, Chair of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law, wrote a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking for clarification on the program. The July 27 letter, which had not previously been made public, is available here.

“These records reveal a dangerous trend,” said Pablo Alvarado, NDLON Executive Director. “This program creates an explosion of Arizona-like enforcement at a time when the results have proven disastrous. Thanks to S-Comm, we face the potential proliferation of racial profiling, distrust of local police, fear, and xenophobia to every zip code in America.”

Said CCR attorney Sunita Patel, “S-Comm co-opts local police departments to do ICE’s dirty work at significant cost to community relations and police objectives. Without full and truthful information about the program’s actual mission and impact, police are operating in the dark. The bottom line is that thrusting police into the business of federal immigration enforcement isn’t good for anyone.”

Said Bridget Kessler, Clinical Teaching Fellow at the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, “ICE is racing forward imposing its S-Comm program on new states and localities every day, without any meaningful dialog or public debate. ICE should immediately release the full data that communities need to understand the true costs of the S-Comm program.”

The three organizations will continue to litigate for the release of more data and records to uncover the truth behind S-Comm and other ICE efforts to draft local police into immigration enforcement.

Visit CCR’s NDLON v. ICE case page to read a fact sheet with citations, the text of the administrative FOIA request, the lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York on April 27, 2010 and the documents ICE released on August 2, 2010.

Read more:“sec

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

House approves more agents, drones on border


The Associated Press

Tuesday, August 10, 2010; 3:48 PM

Washington Press

WASHINGTON -- In a rare moment of bipartisanship Tuesday, the House approved $600 million to pay for more unmanned surveillance drones and about 1,500 more agents along the troubled Mexican border.

Getting tougher on border security is one of the few issues that both parties agree on in this highly charged election season. But lawmakers remain deeply divided over a more comprehensive approach to the illegal immigration problem, and it's unclear if Congress will go beyond border-tightening efforts.

The House passed the bill by voice vote after brief debate and the Senate passed an identical bill last week. But senators must act again, for technical reasons, before sending the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, said leaders hope they can give the bill final passage by the end of the week, even though the full Senate is not in session.

The bill would offset its costs by raising fees on foreign-based personnel companies that use U.S. visa programs to bring skilled workers to the United States. These include the popular H-1B visa program. India says higher fees would discriminate against its companies and workers.

The bill includes $176 million for 1,000 new border patrol agents to form a strike force to be deployed at critical areas, $89 million for another 500 customs and immigration personnel, and $32 million to deploy unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.

It also provides $196 million for the Justice Department to bolster its forces of U.S. marshals, and FBI, DEA and ATF agents along the border.

Congress and the White House felt a greater urgency to act on border security after Arizona passed a law directing its law enforcement officers to be more aggressive in seeking out illegal immigrants. A federal judge struck down the law's main provisions, but many voters throughout the country favor crackdowns on illegal immigration.

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., asked the Senate to move quickly. She said it's time for the federal government "to stop letting us down and start getting the job done" on tighter border security.

Dems Blasted for Border Bill



Immigration reform advocates blasted Democrats on Friday for pushing a $600 million border security bill through the Senate, accusing them of trying to placate Republicans who will never be satisfied with the government’s enforcement efforts.

“It is really unfortunate, misguided and a major political misstep,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, an immigrant rights group. “There will need to be a lot of repair work by the Democrat leadership with the immigrant advocacy community.”

In an unexpected move Thursday night, Senate Democrats won approval of a $600 million bill that includes money for 1,500 new border personnel, a pair of unmanned drones and military-style bases along the border. The bill by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), which fulfills a request from President Barack Obama, heads to the House for a final vote as early as next week.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Schumer and McCaskill told reporters in a conference call Friday that the bill paves the way for consideration of a comprehensive reform bill.

“My view is that we had a whole lot of people, both moderate Democrats and Republicans, who said they wouldn’t consider comprehensive reform until we did something about the border,” Schumer said. “It is smart, it is tough, it not punitive. It furthers the ability to get comprehensive reform done.”

But advocates said Republicans outsmarted Democrats, calling their bluff by agreeing to pass the bill by unanimous consent Thursday night. Schumer had introduced the bill only a few hours earlier, leading advocates to surmise that the Democrats never expected the GOP to accept the measure.

“They ate the Democrats’ lunch,” Bhargava said of Republicans, adding that the immigrant advocacy community was in “shock.”

The sharp criticism from immigration groups underscores the divide between advocates and congressional Democrats on political strategy.

Advocates want Democrats to remain focused on passing a comprehensive reform bill that includes a legalization program for 11 million undocumented immigrants, as well as a temporary worker program, an employment verification system and border security measures.

Passing a stand-alone border bill eliminated a bargaining chip for Democrats, they said.

Republicans won't consider any measures other than those that boost enforcement. And since Democrats do not have the numbers to move a comprehensive overhaul on their own, they are trying to meet Republican demands — in hopes that the GOP will accede to a broader reform early next year.

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Students Spared Amid an Increase in Deportations


Published: August 8, 2010
New York Times
The Obama administration, while deporting a record number of immigrants convicted of crimes, is sparing one group of illegal immigrants from expulsion: students who came to the United States without papers when they were children.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

An International Organ of the OAS Finds that US Deportation Policy Violates Human Rights of Children and Families

Detention Watch Network

An Urgent Need for Immigration Reform in the United States

Washington DC, August 4, 2010

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States, made public on August 02, 2010, its groundbreaking decision in the case Wayne Smith and Hugo Armendariz et al, v. United States. The Commission found that U.S. deportation policy violates fundamental human rights because it fails to consider evidence concerning the adverse impact of the destruction of families, the best interest of the children of deportees, and other humanitarian concerns.

Mr. Wayne Smith and Mr. Hugo Armendariz, lawful permanent residents of the United States for 25 and 35 years respectively, were deported from the United States for non-violent criminal offenses that had occurred many years prior. They were deported without any opportunity to present evidence of their rehabilitation, their family situation, and the equities in their favor. The refusal to consider this evidence led to substantive violations of the rights of their U.S. citizen family members to establish a family. The United States government also violated the special protections that should be accorded to children who are affected by deportation proceedings.

The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), the law firm of Gibbs Houston Pauw, and the Center for Global Justice at Seattle University School of Law, legal representatives in the case, call upon the U.S. government to repeal its policy of mandatory deportation and provide comprehensive immigration legislation that protects human rights. “Under the current immigration regime, in many cases judges have no choice but to order deportation. This is the case in spite of the atrocious effects deportation has on the U.S. citizen family and children. This broken system offers judges no opportunity to keep families together”, said, Vivana Krsticevic, CEJIL’s Executive Director.

In this significant decision, the IACHR determined that when a decision-making process involves the potential separation of a family, there must be a hearing in which the judge accepts evidence and applies a “balancing test”, whereby the destruction of family life may be justified only where there is a more compelling need to protect the public order. The Commission found that “a balancing test is the only mechanism to reach a fair decision between the competing individual human rights and the needs asserted by the State.” According to the decision, the U.S. should allow Wayne Smith and Hugo Armendariz to return to the U.S. to be reunited with their families, and they should be given an opportunity to have their day in court – something that they were denied under the current U.S. deportation policy.

“This decision makes clear that there is an urgent need for immigration reform,” said Robert Pauw, lead attorney in the case. “New legislation should prioritize the best interests of U.S. citizen children and the unification of families. Deportation should be reserved for those individuals who present a real danger to our society.”

CEJIL believes that the United States’ compliance with its international human rights obligations is critically important for the U.S., its citizens and residents, and the world. Even in strong democracies with longstanding commitment to the rule of law, human rights treaties serve to safeguard fundamental rights. All Americans benefit when the U.S. commits to upholding certain basic standards of human dignity, and then takes concrete steps to meet these obligations.

Download the PDF of the report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Wayne Smith and Hugo Armendariz et al, v. United States.

Asylum seeker takes his own life after losing legal aid

by Owen Bowcott and Natalie Hanman
The Guardian
August 1, 2010

For two hours Osman Rasul perched on railings surrounding the seventh floor balcony of a Nottingham tower block. He blanked out police officers attempting to talk him down and at 7pm last Sunday, placing his hand on his heart, he looked up to the sky and leapt.

The 27-year-old Iraqi Kurd, classified by the local refugee centre as a "destitute asylum-seeker" and in a fraying relationship with the mother of his two children, had lost the legal aid he needed to pursue his application to remain in the UK. A trip south to confront Home Office immigration officers in Croydon saw him being turned away and told to find a solicitor.

Nine years of legal limbo, his friends suggested, had induced mounting desperation. Rasul anticipated deportation and all hopes of a life in Britain had evaporated by the time he jumped from Clifford Court tower. The waiting ambulance carried his body to the Queen's Medical Centre. At 7.21pm he was pronounced dead.

Rasul's inability to disentangle his life from the multiple restrictions of the immigration system were not unique. His problems became more acute last month when the charity Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ) was forced into administration, depriving him of access to legal aid and expert immigration advice.

The organisation blamed its demise on a policy of delayed payment by the Legal Services Commission [LSC], which runs the legal aid system in England and Wales. Charities including Amnesty International and Barnado's, as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury, had unsuccessfully lobbied the government to tackle the cash flow issue.On its dissolution the RMJ warned: "The legal representation of more than 10,000 vulnerable asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, including nearly 900 separated children, is now at risk."

Joanna Petersen, a former case worker for RMJ, said the number of lawyers and immigration advisers available to handle cases declined rapidly after changes made by the LSC four years ago meant solicitors were only paid fixed fees at the end of each case. "RMJ asked the government for it to be paid money it was already owed," Petersen explained. "The answer that came back [in June] was no. So we had to pack everything up. The worst part was boxing up files on which we wrote 'Urgent, Victim of Torture' or 'A Minor, Trafficking Victim' — and not knowing when the cases will ever be dealt with."

According to campaigners and lawyers, the reduction in legal aid is part of a broader national pattern that risks leaving hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people, including asylum seekers and victims of domestic violence, without access to advice.

The £2bn legal aid budget is already expected to be one of the hardest hit in Whitehall, with justice secretary Kenneth Clarke specifying in a recent interview that it was one area "where our cuts can come from".

"The LSC thinking was that they didn't need RMJ because they had plenty of suppliers willing to take on any new cases," Steve Hynes, director of LAG. "It must have been a political decision because it doesn't make financial sense. Everyone who knows about case work knows it isn't as simple as picking up a new case from another firm – there are always extra costs involved."The Law Society says firms providing legal aid are being "wiped out" by changes to the tendering process in which firms competitively bid for and are allocated legal aid work. In the family law sector – which covers domestic violence work – almost half (1,300) of the 2,400 firms have lost their bids, while only 252 of 410 firms applying for immigration and asylum work won contracts.

"Towns up and down the country have been left without a firm," said Richard Miller, head of legal aid policies at the Law Society. "Some firms can switch to private work and keep going. In a lot of cases the firms will collapse and the lawyers will become insolvent, closing down without finishing their current cases. Possibly hundreds of thousands of clients will have lost their current lawyer and will have to find another one."

The LSC insists its new tendering system works well. Its chair, Sir Bill Callaghan, said: "We are confident that we now have a quality provider base, and quality-assured advice provision across England and Wales."

Rasul, who arrived in Britain in 2001 claiming he was in danger from the Kurdish political factions that control northern Iraq, had been refused permission to stay in Britain once but was preparing a fresh claim. He had been receiving food parcels and £10 a month from a local charity, the Nottingham Refugee Forum. He was not allowed to work. "He was living on £20 a month in charitable donations plus gifts of food," said Bea Tobolewska, the manager of the forum. He was not allowed to work. "He was a destitute asylum-seeker and had been sleeping on the streets. When RMJ went into receivership it was his last opportunity of seeing a solicitor," she added.

For the last few months of his life, Rasul relied on the kindness of friends in Nottingham to provide support. Harry Woolner, who works with the homeless in the city, gave him shelter. "Osman had no resources," Woolner said. "He had gone through a traumatic period."

Receiving a letter from RMJ saying they could not help him any more was the last straw, said Woolner.

"He felt he was never able to take control of his life. He was frustrated that his case had not been progressed so he decided to go down to the Home Office [immigration centre] in Croydon and 'hand himself in', saying: 'Either send me home or help me'. He felt he was taking control at last. It was a brave thing to do. But when he got there they said 'Who are you? We don't know you. Get a solicitor'. In terms of his mental state it was too much to take.

"In London he stayed with friends some of the time but also slept rough and was not eating well. He was mentally and physically exhausted when he came back. We didn't realise the severity of the situation.

"He went out for a bike ride on the Sunday," Woolner said. "We thought that was positive. But he did not come back."

Woolner is now trying to raise money for Rasul's body to be returned to Iraq.Rasul was separated from his Polish partner and the mother of their sons, Malgorzata Gajda, 30, who lives in Coventry. She said he had become increasingly distant from their sometimes tempestuous relationship. "He was on the balcony for two hours, I was told. At 6pm that evening I received a call from a private number. I said 'Hello, hello' but no one answered. I'm sure it was him. He wanted to hear me and the kids for the last time."

"The police tried to keep speaking with him. He was very quiet. Then he put his hand on his heart and looked up to God and jumped."

Dasthy Jamal, of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, blamed the immigration system. "The Home Office's immigration policy is responsible for Osman's death. After nearly 10 years he didn't have a chance to build a life here."

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: "Any death of this kind is a tragedy and our deepest sympathies are with Mr Rasul's family and friends. We are working closely with Nottinghamshire police while this matter is being investigated. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further at this stage."

Alan Keyes: Lindsey Graham's Calls To Scrap Birthright Citizenship Are Too Crazy For Me

Evan McMorris-Santoro
August 4, 2010

Here's something you don't hear very often: a prominent Republican's policy position is too conservative for Alan Keyes. Speaking at a Tea Party Express-sponsored event in Washington this morning, Keyes said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is being irresponsible by suggesting, as he did recently, that the 14th Amendment may have been a bad idea.

Graham told Fox News that he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment that would remove automatic birthright citizenship for all babies born in the United States, even if their parents are here illegally. Graham and other Republicans have been whipping up opposition to the 14th Amendment, which they say encourages illegal immigrants to come to America with the plan to have babies who will automatically become U.S. citizens.

Keyes suggested that he shared the concern over so-called "anchor babies" with Graham and his allies, but he said that "the 14th Amendment is not the problem." Rather, he seemed to suggest, it's a mistaken interpretation of the amendment that's at fault. Changing the wording of the amendment would be a mistake, Keyes said -- and talk like Graham's is downright dangerous.

"The 14th Amendment is not something one should play with lightly," Keyes said in response to a question from ThinkProgress at the Tea Party Express press event today. "Lindsay Graham used the term -- as people have carelessly done over the years -- referring to the 14th Amendment as something that has to do with 'birthright citizenship' and we ought to get rid of 'birthright citizenship.'"

"Well, let me see," Keyes added sarcastically, "If citizenship is not a birthright then it must be a grant of the government. And if it is a grant of the government, it could curtail that grant in all the ways that fascists and totalitarians always want to."

See the Keyes statement on Youtube:

Illegal immigrants leaving the U.S. can be detained at the border

by Denis Wagner
The Arizona Republic

NOGALES, Ariz. - Undocumented immigrants who decide to leave the United States because of increasing enforcement and decreasing job prospects now face one more obstacle: the threat of arrest and deportation by border officers inspecting outbound traffic.

When illegal immigrants are detected trying to leave the country, they are not just ushered across the line, said Bonnie Arellano, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Instead, their information is entered into a database before they are allowed to return to Mexico.

Arellano and Guadalupe Ramirez, director at the Nogales port, said the objective is not to deter illegal immigrants who want to leave America but to catch those who have criminal records or are involved in smuggling. For the past year, officials have been conducting round-the-clock screening of southbound traffic. The scrutiny is designed to catch smugglers delivering currency and firearms to Mexican cartels but also has helped identify immigrants heading south.

"The whole idea is there are going to be consequences now for people who come into the United States with the sole purpose of doing illegal activity," Ramirez said. "Our job tells us if we find somebody at a port coming or going that is in violation of our laws, we are going to document it."

Making climate unfriendly

Since April, when Gov. Jan Brewer signed Arizona's new immigration law, illegal immigrants have been leaving the state. Some are moving to other states and some are moving back to Mexico. Supporters of the law say that's the point: to make the climate in Arizona so unfriendly that illegal immigrants deport themselves.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked key provisions from taking effect, including one that compelled officers engaged in a lawful stop, detention or arrest to, when practicable, ask about a person's legal status when reasonable suspicion exists that the person is in the U.S. illegally.

Although immigrants with otherwise clean records sometimes get caught on their way out of the country, Ramirez said, port inspectors use discretion in deciding whether to formally remove someone. Photos and fingerprints are entered into a database before the person is returned to Mexico, or the person is officially arrested and deported. The consequences of an arrest can be harsh: Those formally deported for unauthorized presence in the United States may be barred for 10 years from seeking legal-immigration papers. In addition, a later arrest for illegal entry may be prosecuted criminally.

During the past 10 months, Arellano said, inspectors in Arizona alone detained more than 5,000 people attempting to leave the country. That number includes those caught with contraband or wanted on warrants, she said, but CBP data does not indicate how many had no violation other than their illegal presence in the United States.

Some immigrant advocates say the CBP policy deters illegal immigrants from leaving the country, even though that's supposed to be the government's goal.

"It demonstrates the inconsistency and contradictions within our laws," said Isabel Garcia, co-chair of Derechos Humanos, an immigrant-rights group in Tucson. "Instead of permitting people who want to leave, we punish them in this fashion. . . . What purpose does this serve?"

Garcia said she believes the objective is to bolster CBP arrest statistics: "It's all about the numbers."

'Safe passage' urged

Even some groups dedicated to border security and immigration controls are critical of the federal policy. William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration, last week called on the government to adopt a "safe passage" program allowing undocumented immigrants to depart without negative consequences.

"We are asking the Obama administration to designate border checkpoints that illegal immigrants can use to leave the U.S. without fear," he said. "This is about the only situation we would ever advocate that our immigration laws be waived."

Until last year, the government only sporadically checked vehicles and pedestrians leaving the United States at all Mexican land ports. However, the Obama administration, in an effort to intercept weapons and cartel money, set up full-time checkpoints with barricades on southbound lanes.

Ramirez said the campaign has exceeded expectations in Arizona. Since September, inspectors have seized $4.7 million in southbound cash on the Arizona border ($7 million borderwide), and more than 12,000 rounds of ammunition on the Arizona border.

"On a weekly basis, we make multiple seizures and pick up people who have warrants for rape, child molestation and murder," Ramirez said. He said inspectors, often supported by dogs trained to detect money and firearms, study southbound travelers for body language and bags, as well as other hints of lawbreaking.

"It really comes down to the officers' intuition. How good are your officers' gut feelings?" Ramirez said. "We're looking for the needle in the haystack - the bad guys who mix in with the good guys."

Read more:

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Long Stay

Sunday 01 August 2010

by: Yana Kunichoff, t r u t h o u t Report

More than 300,000 immigrants languish in detention centers around the country. Why are they there - and who is profiting from their imprisonment?

Pedro Guzman Perez speaks to his wife, Emily Guzman, by phone every evening. They speak around 8 PM, a talk filled with stories about their days, shared projects and love. Sometimes their three-year-old son, Logan, wants to get on the phone too, but usually Logan will be watching a show in another room. They have a great relationship, Emily says, and the conversations are often the highlight of her day.

There are, however, some logistical difficulties. Pedro, a Guatemalan native who was in the country on a work visa, can only speak to his American-citizen wife on the phone for 20 minutes at a time - precious little for a couple sharing the tumult of raising a three-year-old. Each phone card costs $5, and the already staticky connection is easily broken.

This is because Pedro is calling from the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, an immigration detention facility where he has been detained for nearly ten months. Many aspects of Pedro's case led him to the detention center - two ten-year-old charges of marijuana possession, one of which has since been dropped; an administrative mistake by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to which they have admitted; the harsh record of his immigration court judge and even the patchy memory of an older woman whose answers in an immigration interview led the federal government to look into Pedro's status.

But neither Emily, Pedro's lawyer nor the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) thinks these are enough to warrant keeping Pedro under lock and key, away from his family and with tax payers bearing the cost of his prolonged detention.

The Scope

Pedro is one of the 383,524 individuals detained by ICE while they await court dates, deportation or bail. Detention is a key aspect of the federal government's push to deport immigrants, both documented and undocumented, who have committed any crimes or misdemeanors.

More than 3.7 million immigrants have been deported since 1994, and in the past decade, immigration detention has tripled. In 2001, the US detained about 95,000 individuals, compared to the 380,000 detained in 2009.

Detention Watch, a national coalition of organizations working to educate the public about the US immigration detention system, called these measures extremely punitive for individuals going through a civil administrative process.

"US policymakers see detention and deportation as a politically salient 'quick fix' to broken immigration policies and to the complex issues of global and regional poverty and instability," Detention Watch noted in a policy report. "Instead of recognizing and addressing larger economic and political structures that cause people to immigrate, politicians focus on interior and border enforcement as a way to repel people from migrating."

It has been an administration policy across the aisle, with more people being deported per year under President Barack Obama than under his predecessor George Bush.

To the tune of strategies such as Operation Endgame, the March 2004 Department of Homeland Security's ten-year-goal to "remove all removable aliens," the nation now has 270 immigrant detention centers in which individuals picked up for immigration offenses are held.

The rise in immigration detention also has many critics pointing to a more sinister reason than political expedience or security fears - the profit that private prison corporations make from the detention of immigrants like Pedro.

Private Immigration Detention and CCA

One of the most notorious players is the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private immigration detainer. It runs Stewart Detention Center, where Pedro now languishes, and is the sixth-largest correction system in the country, behind only the federal government and four states.

At any one time, CCA houses about 75,000 offenders in more than 65 facilities in 20 states, about half of all immigrants currently detained in private facilities. It shares its business with Geo Group, Cornell Company and Avalon Correction Services, as well as several smaller companies.

In addition to detaining adults, CCA also detains children whose parents are being picked up for immigration offenses, housing them in centers such as the infamous T. Don Hutto Center in Taylor, Texas. In 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the Hutto Center on behalf of ten juvenile plaintiffs, arguing that they were receiving substandard education, medical care and little privacy.

CCA also runs a slew of other private prisons - in fact, immigration detention makes up for only 40 percent of CCA's revenue, according to its quarterly report.

ICE deals with its $140 million budget deficit by routinely farming out its immigration detention operations to private companies like CCA or state and county prisons. According to Detention Watch, only 13 percent of immigration facilities are ICE-owned and operated. The majority of detainees, 67 percent, are housed in local and county jail facilities, with another 17 percent in contract detention facilities and 3 percent in others such as the Bureau of Prisons.

That 17 percent housed in contract facilities is telling: it's yet another statistic in the story of how US corrections operations are being farmed out to private companies. According to Alex Friedmann, associate editor of Prison Legal News, president of the Private Corrections Institute and a former CCA prisoner, ten states have 20 percent or more of their prisoners in for-profit facilities. These states include New Mexico, with 45.8 percent of immigrants housed in private centers; Hawaii, with 35 percent; and Arizona, with 23.1 percent.

Earnings of Immigration Detention

For the 273 days Pedro has been detained, CCA gets paid approximately $140, according to figures from the American Civil Liberties Union. In some of their facilities, such as the Hutto facility in Texas, the average rate ICE is contracted to pay the CCA an average rate of $200 per detained immigrant, per day.

The ICE budget allocated $250 million in 2008-2009 to raise the total number of detention beds to 32,000, while allocating only $10 million in funding to less expensive alternatives to detention, such as electronic monitors and regular visits with case managers.

Five of the most lucrative contracts CCA has with the federal government have no end dates, and several contain clauses that guarantee a certain amount of revenue regardless of the occupancy rates of the jails, the investigate online publication Business of Detention found. The rate of contract renewal is almost 95 percent.

These steady successes have reaped their benefits: CCA has managed to make a record profit every year since 2003. Their revenue in 2009 was $1.67 billion, the company has been estimated to bill $11 million a month, and between 2004 and 2008 the company's stock more than doubled, from $12.15 to $26.86 a share.

Who Else?

However, the profit from immigration detention does not end with CCA. Over 300 city and county governments across the country also have contracts with ICE and house the majority of detained immigrants. This acts as an incentive for local law enforcement to enforce immigration law, usually a national-level enforcement duty. This practice is already in place in some cities and states under the 287(g) Homeland Security program.

In addition, Friedmann notes, other industries that benefit from the boom in detention are prison food corporations, medical care, probation supervision, prisoner transportation services and financial firms that provide bond financing for new prisons.

Telephone access inside the prisons, as the frustrating reality of Pedro and Emily attests, has grown into a lucrative business. Companies such as EverCom run a virtual monopoly, leading to price hikes, in some areas as high as $17.34 for a 15-minute phone call. There have also been reports of county government's receiving kickbacks from phone companies, such as the 44 percent commission Davis County, Utah, makes from inmate phone calls.

Even when immigrants who have been picked up are released on bond, the price is steep: immigration bond can run up to $5,000.

Trimming the Fat

A central part of CCA's continuing profit stream is its ability to cut costs in immigration detention.

The ACLU has sued CCA for overcrowding and substandard medical treatment, and accused CCA of scrimping on the minimal services it is federally required to provide in order to cut costs.

Through his work, Friedmann has found that less training, lower benefits, lower wages and chronic understaffing of private detention facilities not only cuts costs, but also leads to instability in detention centers.

In addition to this, Human Rights Watch noted that ICE detention standards, most recently revised in 2009, are merely internal agency guidelines and do not have the binding authority of federal regulations or statutory law.


In a 2008 interview with a former CCA senior quality assurance manager, Business of Detention was told that, when CCA conducts its own internal audits of its facilities, it often downplays violent incidents or attacks on detainees. The source said he was told to make the incidents appear less serious (an act which could have led to the nonrenewal of the center's contract.)

Recently introduced legislation, the Private Prison Information Act of 2009, seeks to require private correctional facilities and other institutions housing federal prisoners to make the same information available to the public that federal prisons and correctional facilities are required to make available. However, it has yet to pass the House.

What Is It Actually Like?

Azadeh N. Shahshahani, the National Security and Immigrant Rights Project Director for the ACLU of Georgia and chairwoman of Georgia Detention Watch, said the lack of transparency regarding immigration deaths is a serious problem.

"We expressed really great concerns about the treatment of the detainees that failed even ICE's own non-binding standards," Shahshahani said. In particular, she has found it difficult to access information regarding the death of Roberto Martinez Medina at Stewart Detention Center, where Pedro is currently being held.

Medina, a Mexican national, died in ICE custody in 2008. "The attorney representing his widow pressed for some records from ICE showing that he complained of chest pain three days before he collapsed," Shahshahani said, but these attempts have so far been unsuccessful.

Since 2003, there have been 111 reported deaths in immigration detention. According to Detention Watch, the majority of these deaths were caused by a lack of timely and thorough medical care. Detainees must request medical services through CCA staff, and as Business of Detention notes, detainees have said that staff members often deny medical care to both reduce costs and push detainees into voluntary deportation.

The psychological toll of detention is also great. Speaking over the crackling connection from Stewart Detention Center, Pedro detailed his difficulty in dealing with his indefinite detention.

Day to day, Pedro says, he deals with both the physical reality of CCA staff who "scream at you, they yell at you; They threaten you; They take your lunch away" and the ever-present threats of being put in solitary confinement for a month. This punishment is meted out for acts such as not being in bed when told three times in a row, says Pedro, who has so far avoided the experience.

But Pedro, who was a stay-at-home dad to Logan while Emily practiced as a mental health therapist, finds missing his family most devastating. "Every day that goes by there is something that he [Logan] does, that he says, that I cannot watch, something I cannot do with him."

Though he has been in the United States since the age of eight and has no memory of, or contacts in, his native Guatemala, Pedro says that it is a constant struggle to continue fighting his case when "Emily could already be with me in South America."

For Emily and Pedro, helping other detainees, many of whom are not bilingual like Pedro, provides a brief respite. During some of their limited phone time, Pedro passes along information to Emily regarding family members or lawyers of detained individuals for her to contact. This action helps them feel less helpless at a time when the only advice they are given is to wait.

Pedro's Story

Pedro's mother arrived in the United States from Guatemala with her young son in tow in 1988, seeking asylum she was never granted from the turbulent political situation following the overthrow of the country's president in 1982.

According to Emily, Pedro's mother's "memory is not great," which proved to be a serious problem when she was called into immigration services for a permanent residency interview. Her responses led to the denial of her request for permanent residence. Because he entered the country with her, Pedro's immigration status was connected with hers, and he was sent a notice to appear in court.

However, as Emily and Pedro's attorney, Glenn Fogle, confirmed, the letter was sent to the wrong address. Yet, Pedro's failure to appear at the court date resulted in the issuance of an order of deportation. The order came to the correct address, and on Monday, September 28, 2009, two black SUVs pulled up to the couple's home in Durham, North Carolina.

Two men handcuffed Pedro and, after allowing Logan to kiss his father goodbye, took Pedro to the first of three jails or detention centers in which he has lived over the past ten months. Immigration authorities have since admitted their initial mistake in sending information to the wrong address and stayed his deportation. Due to entering the detention center with two marijuana convictions, Pedro was not eligible for bail, but after one misdemeanor charge was dropped, the BIA recommended that Pedro be released on bail.

Meanwhile, his immigration judge, a notoriously tough one with an asylum case denial rate of 87 percent, has rejected Pedro's pleas for bond and residency under an asylum program known as the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA), under which two of Pedro's siblings have gained residency. Pedro is now appealing with the BIA for both these issues, continuing to fight his case from the inside.

Prolonged Detention

The average length of stay in detention is 37 days, according to ICE, but the ACLU says these numbers are significantly skewed by Mexican nationals, who are often subject to expedited removal.

An Associated Press system snapshot found that, on the evening of March 15, 2009, at least 4,170 people had been detained for six months or longer. Of these, 2,362 were still fighting removal cases before immigration courts.

Pedro is lucky to be among the 16 percent of immigrants, according to the ACLU, who are represented by attorneys.

Fannin Anello, an attorney with the ACLU's Immigrant Rights Project, said another issue with prolonged detention is the trampling of prisoners' due process rights.

"Under the government's interpretation of the mandatory detention law, many people with viable legal challenges to deportation continue to be deprived of their liberty for many months or years," Anello said, adding, "even though they have never had a bond hearing to determine whether detention is necessary in their individual cases."

Laying Down the Law

Federal laws such as those surrounding the penalties for drug crimes also contribute to prolonged detention. Due to his two marijuana convictions, received in 1998 and 1999, Pedro was not eligible for bail.

Three-strikes and truth-in-sentencing laws also contribute to a more punitive system. These pieces of legislation and their desired policy outcomes began their life at ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council.

ALEC is the nation's largest public-private legislative partnership, which counts among its members more than 2,000 state lawmakers, about one-third of the nation's legislators and more than 200 corporations and special interest groups. Included in this list is the Corrections Corporation of America.

Central components of ALEC include ten task forces that work to develop model legislation in different areas, one of which is the Civil Justice task force.

"I am aware personally that CCA executives have been on the board of ALEC," said Friedmann. "The argument there is that CCA is being actively involved in an organization that pushes policy and legislation and therefore benefits the private prison industry."

Though federal law forbids corporations from helping form legislation, any ALEC bill must be approved by both its public and private sector members. Of the group's $6.9 million in annual revenue, about $5.6 million come from its corporate members.

According to an article by Beau Hodai of In These Times, Arizona's recent anti-immigrant bill, SB1070, is very similar to model legislation crafted by ALEC.

Furthermore, CCA retains the federal contract to house detainees in Arizona and would benefit greatly from heavier immigration enforcement in the state. During the bill's formation, Hodai reports, CCA enlisted Highground Consulting to represent it in Arizona.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's spokesman, Paul Senseman, was employed with an organization which lobbied for CCA, and his wife works with the Policy Development Group, which also lobbies for CCA. Brewer's chief policy adviser also lobbies for an organization of which the CCA is a "board level" member.

But CCA's ties with legislators do not end on the state level. According to Hodai, CCA spent nearly $3.5 million in 2005 for lobbying on immigration and national security, $3.25 million in 2007, $4.4 million between 2008 and 2010 lobbying the Department of Homeland Security and more than $175,000 during the 2010 election cycle. Of 43 CCA lobbying disclosure reports acquired by Hodai, only five do not express the intention to monitor immigration reform.

CCA has targeted its lobbying at both Republican and Democratic legislators. It has donated money to the Democratic Congressional and Senatorial Committees, the GOP, senators on the appropriations committee and the subcommittee on Homeland Security.

The path from the legislature to the CCA is also well trod. CCA's Senior Vice President, Mike Quinlan, served as the director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons from 1987 to 1992; Kim Porter joined CCA after nearly 25 years with the Immigration and Naturalization Service; and CCA's general counsel, Gustavus Puryear IV, was nominated by Bush for a federal judge seat in the Middle District of Tennessee, CCA's headquarters.

The Paradox

The ACLU notes the paradox in which immigration law and the detention industry have placed people. Forcing them to choose between waiting out their cases in jail indefinitely and giving up their immigration claims means that only the individuals with the strongest cases are most likely to continue to fight - and therefore face lengthy detention.

Pedro continues to wait for the BIA to rule on his eligibility for bond and residency under NACARA, so that he can come home and stay home. But it is a struggle - every day Emily and Logan lose with Pedro while he is detained, the Corrections Corporation of America profits.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Voting Behind Bars

by Linda Greenhouse
New York Times opinion
July 29, 2010

Another public conversation about race may be the last thing the Obama administration wants, but thanks to the Supreme Court, one is very likely on the way.

It has been nearly three months since the court “invited” — that is to say, ordered — Solicitor General Elena Kagan to “express the views of the United States” on whether laws that take away the right to vote from people in prison or on parole can be challenged under the Voting Rights Act as racially discriminatory.

The order came in a case from Massachusetts, Simmons v. Galvin, an appeal by prison inmates challenging a 10-year-old state constitutional amendment that stripped them of the right to vote while incarcerated. They seek Supreme Court review of a ruling, issued a year ago by the federal appeals court in Boston, that Congress never intended the Voting Rights Act to apply in prison. The federal government was not involved in the case. Now the administration — presumably under the direction of whomever President Obama names to succeed Ms. Kagan as solicitor general — has to come up with a position.

Given the implications of the case, the Supreme Court’s order has received surprisingly little attention. Forty-eight states, all except Maine and Vermont, deny convicted felons the right to vote, a modern version of the old concept of “civil death” for those convicted of serious crimes. In some states, as in Massachusetts, the ban lasts for the duration of the prison sentence. More often, it extends for years longer, through the parole period, as in New York, where in 2006 the federal appeals court rejected a challenge over the dissent of four judges, including Sonia Sotomayor.

The issue of felon disenfranchisement turns the spotlight on some uncomfortable facts about who goes to prison in the United States, a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world.

In every state, the impact on the black community is disproportionate, hardly surprising given that one in nine black men aged 20 to 34 is in prison. Even so, the numbers are startling, with disturbing implications for civic life in a democracy. According to an analysis by the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy organization in Washington, felony convictions have deprived 20 percent of African-Americans in Virginia of the right to vote, compared with a 6.8 percent disenfranchisement rate for Virginia residents as a whole. In Texas, a similar ratio applies: 9.3 percent for blacks compared with 3.3 percent for Texans as a whole. In New York, 80 percent of those who have lost the right to vote are black or Hispanic. Nationally, an estimated one in seven black men has lost the right to vote.

So clearly, the issue of felon disenfranchisement turns the spotlight on some uncomfortable facts about who goes to prison in the United States, a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world. More than two million people, nearly half of them black, are behind bars, including many whose felony convictions are the result of relatively minor drug offenses.

(The House of Representatives took a step this week toward addressing one aspect of the problem by passing the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. The bill, which President Obama is expected to sign, eliminates the five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the simple possession of crack cocaine and moves toward equalizing the amounts of cocaine in crack and powder form that provoke the same sentences; the previous ratio of 1 to 100 — five grams of crack counting the same as 500 grams of powder — will now be 1 to 18. But the bill does not make any of its provisions retroactive.)

Some scholars of race and criminal justice have warned that the mass incarceration of African-Americans is “The New Jim Crow,” the title of a new book by Michelle Alexander, a professor at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. “We have allowed ourselves to be willfully blind to the emergence of a new caste system,” Professor Alexander writes, “a system of social excommunication that has denied millions of African Americans basic human dignity.”

This is where the Voting Rights Act claim enters the picture. Section 2 of the law bars any “voting qualification” that “results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.” (The operative word here is “results”; Congress made clear in a 1982 amendment that Voting Rights Act does not require proof of intentional discrimination.) The civil rights organizations that have filed suits around the country argue that the racially disparate impact of the disenfranchisement laws fits clearly within the Section 2 definition of a Voting Rights Act violation as a matter of the plain meaning of the statute’s text, regardless of what a judge might deduce about Congressional intent or lack thereof.

This was Sonia Sotomayor’s point in her dissenting opinion in the New York federal district court case four years ago. The issue was not complicated, she wrote: “It is plain to anyone reading the Voting Rights Act that it applies to all ‘voting qualifications.’ ” And it was “equally plain” that the New York law “disqualifies a group of people from voting.” Consequently, she continued:

“These two propositions should constitute the entirety of our analysis. Section 2 of the Act by its unambiguous terms subjects felony disenfranchisement and all other voting qualifications to its coverage.”

Judge Sotomayor concluded her one-page opinion with a paragraph that foreshadowed remarks she would make three years later, at her Supreme Court confirmation hearing. “The duty of a judge is to follow the law, not to question its plain terms,” she said, adding that “if Congress had doubts about the wisdom of subjecting felony disenfranchisement laws to the results test of Section 2, I trust that Congress would prefer to make any needed changes itself, rather than have courts do so for it.”

Her opinion did not go unobserved at the time of her nomination to the Supreme Court. “Sonia Sotomayor wants to give jailbirds the right to vote,” the conservative Washington Times wrote in an editorial in May 2009. The newspaper said that her “remarkably dismissive” opinion should “make senators extremely wary of confirming her.”

It is impossible to know from the outside whether the Supreme Court’s “invitation” to the solicitor general was the result of Justice Sotomayor’s internal advocacy, but clearly the issue has the court’s attention. It takes the votes of four justices to “call for the views of the solicitor general” (“CVSG” in Supreme Court jargon). And it takes four votes for the court to accept a case for decision.

The court’s preliminary expression of interest is no guarantee that the justices will eventually decide to hear the Massachusetts case. In late September, the federal appeals court in San Francisco will rehear a case challenging Washington State’s felon disenfranchisement law. A panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, splitting 2-1, ruled in January that the law violated the Voting Rights Act in light of “compelling” evidence of racial discrimination in the state’s criminal justice system. (African-Americans make up 3.4 percent of Washington’s population but 23 percent of its prison inmates.) But the full appeals court then vacated the panel’s opinion and ordered the case reheard by an expanded panel of 11 judges. The Washington case, now called Farrakhan v. Gregoire, has been traveling up and down the federal court system since the mid-1990’s and has accumulated a huge record. The justices may prefer to wait to see what the Ninth Circuit does with it.

Whatever the justices eventually decide to do, the Obama administration is on the hook right now, obliged to respond to the May 3 CVSG. There is no formal deadline, but the court’s general expectation is that the solicitor general will take no more than a few months to convey the government’s views when asked. The right-wing critique of Justice Sotomayor’s 2006 opinion, as well as the continued popularity of the disenfranchisement laws — in blue-state Massachusetts, the voting ban was added to the state Constitution by referendum a decade ago when voters approved it by a margin of nearly two to one — demonstrates how politically potent the issue is.

But while the justices have handed the administration a burden, they have also provided an opportunity, as the court’s agenda-setting process occasionally does by prompting other government institutions to confront issues that might more easily go unaddressed. It is an opportunity for public education, for engagement with a painful issue, for leadership.

Arpaio Arrests Dozens in SB 1070 Protests - COLORLINES

Arpaio Arrests Dozens in SB 1070 Protests - COLORLINES

by Jamilah King

July 29 was a day of civil unrest across the country as hundreds took to the streets to protest Arizona's SB 1070. In Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio wasted no time rounding up protesters. A total of at least 50 people were arrested in Phoenix after peacefully confronting police dressed in riot gear, including several journalists covering the story, as well as faith leaders and at least one formerly elected official. Arpaio's office even had to postpone an immigration sweep scheduled for last night because his officers were too busy rounding up arrested marchers.

The actions in Phoenix began at dawn as protesters marched to Arpaio's office chanting," Sheriff Joe, we are here, we will not live in fear." The sheriff has taken criticism for years because of his frequent immigration sweeps and treatment of detainees.

As marchers gathered outside a Phoenix courthouse and blocked entry to a local jail, Arpaio demonstrated his landmark hubris.

"My deputies will arrest them and put them in pink underwear," Arpaio said, referring to one of his odd methods of punishment for prisoners. "Count on it."

Those arrested included civil rights leaders, politicians, clergy, and attorneys who had attempted to provide legal counsel to marchers.

At least three people were arrested at the courthouse, including former state Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez.

Hundreds of people also reportedly gathered at the county jail, where they beat on a metal door and blocked police entry. At least 32 people were arrested, including a photographer for the Arizona Republic.

Aarti Shahani reported for New America Media that Sunita Patel, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights who flew to Phoenix from New York to provide legal counsel to detained protesters, was also arrested and taken to Third Avenue Jail.

Longtime Phoenix civil rights leader Salvador Reza was also arrested, along with faith leaders, including Reverend Susan Frederick-Gray.

Hundreds gathered in cities across the country to protest Arizona's SB 1070. At least 300 marchers gathered in New York City, and of the 200 who protested yesterday in Los Angeles and shut down Wilshire Boulevard, at least 30 were arrested.

The battle against SB 1070 is far from over. Several lawsuits are still pending, and Gov. Jan Brewer has filed an appeal of a federal injunction earlier this week.

A Movement Rises in Arizona

by Jordan Flaherty
Huffington Post
July 29, 2010

Three months ago, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law the notorious SB 1070, a bill that put her state at the forefront of a movement to intensify the criminalization of undocumented immigrants.

Since then, activists have responded through legal challenges, political lobbying, grassroots organizing and mass mobilizations. More than a hundred thousand people from across Arizona marched on the state capitol on May 29. Today, hundreds more have pledged to risk arrest through nonviolent direct action. These are the public manifestations of a widespread struggle happening in this state. The organizations leading this fight offer a template of inspiring and strategic action for people around the US who want to join in resistance to these policies.

A Rogue State

Yesterday, Federal District Court Judge Susan Bolton issued a preliminary injunction against sections of Arizona law SB 1070, which is scheduled to go into effect today. The judge put a hold on some of the most outrageous parts of the bill, such as language that mandates racial profiling by officers. However, Judge Bolton left much of the rest of the law intact, including sections that specifically target day laborers.

For Arizona activists, the legal ruling represents -- at best - a small respite. "It's not a victory, it's a relief," says Pablo Alvarado of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). "We're putting a band aid on a wound."

Alvarado and the organizers with NDLON are part of a broad network of national organizations and volunteers who have joined with local organizers to fight not just against this unjust law, but also against a general climate of anti-immigrant hatred. "Arizona is a rogue state," says Alvarado. "We're going to use every single means that we have at our disposal to fight back."

Puente Arizona, a Phoenix-based organization that describes itself as a human rights movement working to "resurrect our humanity," has formed Barrio Defense Committees in neighborhoods across the city. Emulating the structure of groups founded by popular movements in El Salvador, the community-based structure work to both serve basic needs, and also build consciousness and help bring people together. The committees host regular "know your rights" trainings and ESL classes, and are organizing Copwatch projects. "We ask the community to unite and organize themselves," says Puente activist Diana Perez Ramirez. "And we are just there to support that." More than one thousand people have joined these neighborhood organizations so far, with more joining every day.

Puente has made use of volunteers from across the US, utilizing national support to help with local organizing, and initiating direct action with the support of out of town allies like The Ruckus Society, Catalyst Project, and various chapters of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They have issued calls to action including a Human Rights Summer (modeled after the civil rights movements' Freedom Summer) and "30 Days for Human Rights," a month of actions culminating in mass civil disobedience today, the day SB 1070 will become law.

Just after midnight, as the law took effect, the first protest of the day began. Nearly 80 people blocked the intersection at the entrance to the town of Guadalupe, a small -- one square mile -- Native American and Latino community just outside of Phoenix. Residents and elected leadership in the town have a history of public criticism of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been one of the main public faces of SB 1070, and most of the protesters (and all of the organizers) were from the community. Holding signs declaring their opposition to the new law and leading chants against police brutality, activists declared that Arpaio's officers are not welcome in their town -- a point they made concrete by physically blocking the main road leading in. The stand off against police lasted more than an hour before protest leaders in consultation with the town's mayor decided to open the intersection. Several more actions are planned for throughout today, and Arpaio has threatened mass arrests.

Working Proactively

The Repeal Coalition, a Flagstaff- and Phoenix-based grassroots organization, was formed in 2007. The group came together because they saw a vacuum in the immigrants' rights movement in Arizona. "Some of the left here were not being very audacious," explains Luis Fernandez of the Repeal Coalition. "The positions in the public debate ranged from 'kick them all out,' to 'get their labor and then kick them out.'" The Repeal Coalition has staked out a position of calling for the elimination of all anti-immigration laws, declaring, "We fight for the right for people to live, love, and work wherever they please." With this call, says Fernandez, "Now we can have a real debate."

When the coalition was founded, organizers brought in labor activists to advise them on how to build an organization along similar models to those that have built strong unions, utilizing house calls, neighborhood mapping, and group meetings. Although they are an all-volunteer group with little to no funding, they have developed a structure that has initiated large protests and provided direct service, and they are now strategizing more ways to take direct action and non-compliance in the post SB 1070 era.

Fernandez says that this struggle is ultimately about overcoming fear and moving from reaction to proactive action. "We've been in a crisis in Arizona for a long time," he explains. "Even if SB 1070 weren't implemented, it wouldn't matter. The political crisis would continue." To address this crisis, Fernandez believes organizations must build unity across race and class. "Traditionally in America, when the working class starts suffering, instead of connecting together and looking upwards at the cause of the problem, they look sideways or downwards for who to blame." Most importantly, he believes activists must take action to seize the initiative.

In this vision, he has been inspired by young organizers working on the DREAM ACT, a federal law that creates a path to citizenship for undocumented youth. "They came to Arizona and said, 'we're undocumented and we're going to commit acts of civil disobedience.'" At first, Repeal Coalition members tried to talk them out of this action, but the youth explained, "We are going to lose our fear because it is the fear of being arrested or the fear of being deported that fuels the inability of political action." The bravery and vision of these youth has inspired Fernandez to continue to search for new and bold ways to take action, rather than just continually respond to right wing attacks. "We need to set the agenda," explains Fernandez. "We have to say, 'No, you're going to react to us.'"

Despite a range of tactics and philosophies, one thing organizers here have in common is a dedication to exporting the lessons of their struggle. While Arizona's law is the first and most draconian, similar laws are pending across the country. And during this current national economic crisis, more and more politicians have found that they can score political points by demonizing immigrants. "The last two months we've had a lot of people calling us asking what they can do to help Arizona," says Fernandez. "We say, organize in your own town. You don't have to come to Arizona because Arizona is coming to you."

In Colorado, Debate Over Program to Check Immigration History of the Arrested


New York Times

Published: July 29, 2010

DENVER — In September 2008, a Guatemalan immigrant named Francis Hernandez sped his S.U.V. through a busy Aurora intersection and plowed into a pickup truck, knocking it into an ice cream parlor.

Three people were killed, including a 3-year-old boy.

Mr. Hernandez, as it turned out, was in the country illegally and been arrested more than a dozen times over the years, but had managed to elude deportation.

A task force recommended that Colorado institute a federal background check program called Secure Communities, which helps the authorities check an arrested person’s immigration history through a government database, for possible deportation.

Now, as Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. weighs whether to use Secure Communities, already in effect in 480 jurisdictions in 27 states, immigrant rights groups have been privately pushing him to reject the program. Critics say it promotes racial profiling by the local police and would undermine trust between immigrants and law enforcement, in a state that has particularly strict immigration laws.

“Secure Communities is an overbroad dragnet that will end up destroying communities and families while driving victims and witnesses underground,” said Hans Meyer, policy coordinator for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.

But officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the federal agency that runs Secure Communities, says the program is shoring up a system that has allowed illegal immigrants with criminal records to escape notice.

“It allows ICE and local law enforcement agencies to know as much as possible about people in local custody without any additional costs or procedural changes by local officers,” said Richard Rocha, deputy press secretary for the agency.

Under Secure Communities, created in 2008, people arrested have their fingerprints run through an immigration database, a process that takes only a few hours and is swifter and more efficient than the old method of local law enforcement making referrals to ICE. If they have had prior contact with immigration authorities — like having been previously deported, having been detained or having applied for a work visa — their names will appear in the database and the authorities can place an immigration hold on them.

Congress has allotted $550 million to pay for the program so far, and Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said she wants it available to every law enforcement agency by 2013.

Nearly three million people have been screened since the program’s debut in Harris County, Texas, in October 2008, through June of this year.

Of those, 39,054 were identified as having committed violent crimes like rape, murder and assault, and 9,831 have been deported. Of an additional 223,752 people who had committed less serious offenses, ranging from property crimes to misdemeanors, 24,805 were deported.

Mr. Rocha says the priority is finding violent criminal illegal immigrants. But critics say that most illegal immigrants identified by Secure Communities have committed low-level offenses and that the program is like an immigration sweep.

Bridget Kessler, a teaching fellow at Benjamin N. Cardozo law school at Yeshiva University in New York said the Obama administration was acting hypocritically by pushing for Secure Communities.

“It seems that the administration is speaking out of both sides of its mouth: standing strong to condemn state-imposed ICE and local partnerships in the context of Arizona, and quietly but forcefully, and on a much larger scale, promoting similar state-imposed ICE and local partnerships nationwide,” Ms. Kessler said.

Cheryl Little, executive director for the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center in Miami, said: “ICE claims, as it has done for years, that it is targeting dangerous criminals. Yet the program screens the fingerprints of anyone arrested by local police, not just those convicted of crimes.”

Florida is one of three states that have carried out the program statewide (Virginia and Delaware are the others).

Lt. Michael Lindsay, with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, said the program was effectively ferreting out illegal immigrants. “You’re being deported for being in the country illegally,” Lieutenant Lindsay said. “The crimes bring them to our attention. And the more heinous the crimes just gets them a front seat.”

Opinion on Secure Communities is divided among law enforcement in Colorado.

Keith Ikeda, the police chief of Basalt, a small mountain town with a sizable Hispanic population, said, “If we start talking about misdemeanor arrests and traffic infractions, then I believe it erodes the public trust.”

But Lance Clem, a spokesman for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which supports the program, predicted it would discourage racial profiling because everyone is subject to the same background check.

There is also the issue of the program accidentally ensnaring victims of crimes, particularly domestic violence, where the perpetrator can be unclear.

Domestic violence and immigrant rights’ advocates in Colorado have said that those arrested for domestic violence should not be subject to a Secure Communities screening until they are convicted, and that the program should exempt victims of crimes.

Mr. Ritter, a Democrat who is not seeking a second term, has not indicated whether he will sign on for the program.

Lost in the debate over the issue is the fact that Secure Communities would not have identified Mr. Hernandez, who was sentenced to 60 years in prison for vehicular homicide, had it been operating at the time, according to ICE.

Because Mr. Hernandez came into the country as a child and used multiple aliases to avoid deportation, ICE said, he was never referred to immigration officials despite his many arrests.

Deportation Madness

by Melissa del Bosque
Texas Observer
July 21, 2010

Carlos Roybal always thought of himself as an American. Born in Chile, he’d lived in the United States legally since he was five months old, growing up in a middle-class Miami neighborhood. In 2006, Roybal was studying to become a sound engineer at Miami Dade College. “That was my dream,” he says.

When Roybal—who asked that a pseudonym be used for this story—returned to the United States from a vacation in January 2006, things turned nightmarish. After Roybal presented his permanent resident card to U.S. immigration authorities, they checked it against a Department of Homeland Security database and found that he had a criminal record—dating back almost a decade—of two misdemeanor convictions for possessing half a marijuana joint and a single tab of LSD. That August, Roybal was ordered to appear in immigration court. He was deported to Chile, a country he had not visited since infancy—and where only a few of his relatives remained.

Like tens of thousands of others, Roybal had been swept up in the U.S. government’s push to deport immigrants—legal immigrants included—with multiple convictions. “I never thought in a hundred years that I would be deported,” he tells the Observer, speaking by phone from Chile. His father’s sudden death when he was 18 had led him to experiment with drugs briefly, he says. “I was trying to run away from myself and my problems.”

Roybal made another mistake during that difficult period. Roybal’s father, unlike most of his family, had refused to become an American citizen, declaring himself a proud Chilean. After his death, Roybal decided that he would honor his father by eschewing U.S. citizenship too.

When ICE agents locked him up in a Miami detention center to await his hearing, Roybal remembers thinking there had to be a mistake. “They took my clothes and told me I’d need to sign some papers to get them back,” he recalls. “I signed the papers. Then an agent came to me and said, ‘We’re sending you to Texas.’”

For any detainee, that is bad news. Roybal became one of thousands of immigrant detainees shipped to Texas in recent years—partly because the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which encompasses Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, has a well-earned reputation as the nation’s toughest on immigration cases. Immigrant advocates charge that tens of thousands of detainees have been sent to Texas in recent years so their cases will be heard in the 5th Circuit. (Another, more pragmatic, reason: There are more detention beds here.)

Because Roybal wasn’t a U.S. citizen, he had no right to a court-appointed attorney. Unlike 86 percent of detainees in Texas, he had the means to afford a private immigration attorney. Still, he couldn’t stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement from holding his hearing in Texas, though his lawyer and family were in Miami.

Roybal and his attorney got the customary 20 minutes with an immigration judge. “I had already been in detention for two months,” he says. “The judge said I’d be charged with an aggravated felony”—a deportable offense. “My heart just sunk, and I couldn’t believe it. That’s when reality set in.”

Roybal refused to sign his deportation papers. After five months at the Port Isabel Detention Center near Brownsville and the South Texas Detention Center in Pearsall, he gave in. “I had no shoes for two-and-a-half weeks, and the food was so awful I wouldn’t even feed it to a dog,” he says. “They just wore you down.”

By the time Roybal reached Chile, news came that his mother had died back in Florida. His request for a temporary visa to attend her funeral was denied by ICE. “It’s still very hard to think about,” he says. “I was in the United States legally and had never committed any serious crimes. I thought deportation was for the bad guys—drug cartel members and murderers.”

Increasingly, the “bad guys” are people with minor offenses like Roybal's. Under much-disputed federal law, ICE maintains that two misdemeanor convictions for drug possession constitute an aggravated felony that mandates deportation. When you’re convicted, immigration judges are then unable to consider other factors, such as good conduct or family hardship, in deportation decisions.

It all began with the sweeping revision of immigration laws in 1996. This reform removed judicial discretion in cases like Roybal’s and expanded the list of crimes that could be defined as aggravated felonies. During the final years of the Bush administration, a renewed push to deport more immigrants landed thousands more legal residents with multiple misdemeanors on their records in detention centers and immigration courts.

Daniel Kanstroom, a law professor who founded Boston College’s Post-Deportation Human Rights Project, calls it a “radical policy experiment with devastating effects. Deportation was a relatively small-scale operation until the last 15 years or so. Since 1996, though, we have seen a tsunami of deportation because of harsh new laws that, in my view, overreacted to the problem. They removed discretion and mercy, and reduced judicial oversight.”

The results are clear. In 2009, a record 387,000 immigrants were deported. The feds do not report how many were legal immigrants like Roybal, or how many were kicked out of the country for minor drug possession. Immigration attorneys and scholars say the number has skyrocketed. For 2010, ICE set a goal of 400,000 deportations, according to an internal memo unearthed by The Washington Post.

Last month, ICE’s goal became a little harder to reach—and Roybal, along with thousands of others deported for minor drug offenses, got an unexpected shot of hope that he can someday return to the country he calls home.

On June 14, in a decision that received scant media attention, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction of Houston resident Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo, whose case was strikingly similar to Roybal’s. Carachuri-Rosendo, who had lived legally in the United States since age 5, had been deemed an aggravated felon in immigration court—stemming from two misdemeanor convictions, one for marijuana possession and one for possessing a single tablet of Xanax without a prescription.

In 2006, Carachuri-Rosendo was deported to Mexico by an immigration judge in the 5th Circuit. The University of Houston’s Immigration Law Clinic took up his case, with law students helping clinic Director Geoffrey Hoffman with the appeals. When the case reached the nation’s highest court, the justices were openly critical of the harsh deportation rulings.

“Here we are talking about two crimes,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during oral arguments. “One is a small amount of marijuana. He gets 20 days in jail. The other is a pill that I never heard of, a Xan-something, and he gets what, 10 days in jail for that.

“If you could just present this scenario to an intelligent person who didn’t go to law school, that you are not only going to remove him from this country, but say, ‘Never, ever darken our doors again’ because of one marijuana cigarette and one Xan-something pill—it, 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 ...”

“What controls is Congress’ judgment,” interjected U.S. Attorney Nicole A. Saharsky. “And Congress has taken a hard line over the past 20 years on criminal aliens, particularly recidivist criminal aliens.”

The high court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice John Paul Stevens, disagreed. The court ruled that a lawful permanent resident convicted of minor drug possession offenses does not warrant being convicted under federal immigration law as an aggravated felon. Its ruling will have an immediate impact on thousands of immigrants still in the United States fighting their deportations. “Anyone in proceedings in front of an immigration judge, it will allow them to seek relief,” Hoffman says.

For Roybal and thousands of others already deported, there’s a hitch. “The good news is that the Supreme Court says the government was wrong,” Kanstroom says. “The bad news is there is no mechanism to get back into the country, and now people are living a lifetime in banishment.”

The only hope for those already deported is to sail into the uncharted legal waters known as “post-deportation law.” As Hoffman says, “It’s a very open question as to how the government will handle this.” Attorneys and deportees are awaiting guidance from Congress or ICE about how to mount post-deportation challenges and petition for re-entry. There’s no sign so far that clarity is forthcoming. (Nina Pruneda, a spokesperson for ICE, said her agency would not comment “due to ongoing litigation.”)

Lawyers at Boston College’s Post-Deportation Human Rights Project have been trying to help Roybal, to no avail. That’s partly because he was deported by the 5th Circuit—not only the nation’s toughest with deportation cases, but also with post-deportation cases.

When it passed immigration reform in 1996, Congress gave deportees a chance—one chance—to file a motion to reconsider or reopen their cases. The 5th Circuit has ruled that this was inconsistent with an older federal regulation denying any motion to reconsider cases once a person had been deported. While the 10th has ruled similarly, two other circuits—the 4th and 9th—have taken a different view. If Roybal had been deported in these jurisdictions, his attorney could have moved to reopen his case, and he might already be headed back home.

Another case brought by the Post-Deportation Project challenges the courts’ differing interpretations of the law. The attorneys hope that it will end up in the Supreme Court, where the justices can resolve the inconsistencies in interpreting post-deportation law. “We need to come up with a solution for these people,” says Maunica Sthanki, the project’s Supervising Attorney. Even she won’t hazard a guess what that solution might be.

Roybal could end up being a pioneer of post-deportation law. He’s not banking on it. After experiencing the U.S. immigration system firsthand, he doesn’t expect to be back in Miami anytime soon, if ever. Now 33, Roybal teaches English in Santiago while he works on becoming fluent in Spanish—a language he barely spoke when he was deported. His three siblings, his niece, and his grandmother are all U.S. citizens.

His mother had become a citizen, too, shortly before she died.

Roybal is overcome with emotion as he talks about the last time he saw her. He was behind bars at the Port Isabel Center north of Brownsville, fighting to stay in the United States.

Maybe someday he can visit her grave in Florida, Roybal says. “At least the court ruling gives me some hope.” Hope, for those caught up in the United States’ rush to deport immigrants, is a rare and precious thing.

Border Communities Unite to Head Off Militarization

by Melissa del Bosque
Texas Observer
June 2, 2010

National Guard troops are on their way to the border and Republican South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint can’t wait to build himself a 700-mile double layered fence. DeMint has attached his amendment to just about anything moving through the Senate – so far Democrats have defeated DeMint’s attempts.

But what happens when elected officials get down to horse trading over immigration reform? It may not come this year, but it more than likely will come in 2011. What happens when the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress need Republican votes to pass immigration reform?

Border residents already know the answer. They only have to look out their windows at the rusty 18-foot wall. “We’ll get the shaft,” is how one resident aptly summed it up.

Residents are already bracing to become the sacrificial lamb for Democrats desperate for Republican buy-in on immigration reform. They're already seeing it with the 1,200 guard troops and a Predator Drone dispatched to El Paso.

Anticipating this backlash, border community organizations from across the southern border will meet in San Diego this month to strategize. Their goal is to come up with a unified platform of issues important to their communities, and to try and head off a raft of bad border security policies that will only make life on the border more insufferable.

“We’ve got to separate border security from immigration reform,” said Louie Gilot, director of the Border Network for Human Rights in El Paso. “We need to have an independent voice for the well being of the communities and so the border isn’t sacrificed the next time immigration reform is taken up,” Gilot says.

Participants in the meeting will include the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium (CA), the Border Action Network (AZ), the ACLU Regional Center for Border Rights (NM) and the Border Network for Human Rights (TX) and Texas Rural Legal Aid (TX).

Gilot pointed out that El Paso, where she lives, is the second safest city in the country. This is the case for most border communities on the U.S. side of the border. Despite this fact, where she lives is depicted in the media and by politicians as a “war zone.” So the solutions that policy makers come up with for the border “would be more at home in a war zone,” she says.

“In my opinion what we have already at the border is working,” Gilot says. “The fear of spillover violence is very real but there hasn’t been any spillover violence.”

El Paso doesn’t need National Guard troops, she says. What it needs is more investment in the ports of entry so that goods and people can flow more securely and efficiently between Mexico and the United States. “People wait for hours to cross,” she says.

Border residents would also like to see better training for Border Patrol and U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

In my opinion this is something that has needed to happen for a long time. The Texas Border Coalition, which consists of elected officials and business leaders has been advocating for border communities in Texas for the past four years or so. They even have the high powered lobby firm Via Novo working for them in D.C. in an effort to penetrate the D.C. bubble. They’ve had some success but it’s difficult to break through the panic inducing rhetoric in the national media and among D.C. politicians whenever they want to ratchet the fear level up a notch and turn out voters.

A more unified voice from the border is needed to temper the national rhetoric. Because right now, the rest of the nation forgets that the border is the United States too. They seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable for the federal government to seize thousands of acres of private land to build an ineffective fence.

And they also don’t have a problem with the notion of armed troops patrolling American streets. If it weren’t for the Posse Comitatus Act we’d probably have soldiers in the streets today. Soldiers on the border matter to residents because in 1997, 18-year old Esequiel Hernandez, of Redford, Texas, was shot and killed by a U.S. soldier sent on a covert mission to patrol for drug smugglers. Every border resident knows it could happen again.

I remember getting on a plane in McAllen a few years back and having to board under the scrutiny of a National Guard soldier holding a M-4 rifle. It was something you’d expect in a developing country but not in the United States.

Last year El Paso, with a population of 612,374 had 4 murders, while Washington D.C. with a smaller population of 591,833 had 66, according to 2009 FBI statistics.

D.C. officials need to dial down the fear and panic and listen to the people who actually live on the border. Then they might actually come up with a border policy that works.

In the meantime, let’s send the National Guard to D.C.. Sounds like they’ve got a real crime problem. And while we’re at it, let’s build a double layered, eighteen-foot wall around Senator DeMint’s luxury brownstone and see how he likes it.