January 2008


Two foreign nationals who said they were forcibly drugged by U.S. immigration officials during failed efforts to deport them have agreed to a settlement in the case, their attorney said Tuesday. In exchange for dropping the lawsuit, Amadou Diouf, a native of Senegal, will get $50,000, and Raymond Soeoth of Indonesia will receive $5,000 and be allowed to stay in the United States for at least two years, said Ahilan Arulanantham, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The ACLU filed the case jointly with the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson.

Soeoth, who was appealing his case for political asylum, alleged in the lawsuit that he had been sedated with anti-psychotic drugs in December 2004 at a San Pedro detention facility. Diouf, who also was pursuing an appeal for permanent legal status, said he was medicated in February 2006 while on a commercial plane at Los Angeles International Airport.

Soeoth and Diouf became friends while being held for nearly two years at the Terminal Island detention facility in San Pedro. They reluctantly accepted the settlement when Soeoth and his wife lost their immigration appeal and were threatened with deportation, Diouf said. Soeoth, a Christian, fled his predominantly Muslim country in 1999 to escape religious persecution and “greatly feared returning to Indonesia,” Arulanantham said.

Earlier this month, immigration officials said they would no longer forcibly sedate foreign nationals without a federal court order. At the time, ACLU lawyers promised to move forward with the lawsuit to gain compensation for Soeoth and Diouf. The settlement could make it more difficult to force the government to release details about its sedation policy, Arulanantham said.

The settlement reached Monday “does not constitute admission of wrongdoing by the government,” but it does “reflect the fact that ICE has changed its policy regarding medical escorts for detainees,” said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

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Saying she hoped the fear of God would keep federal agents away, undocumented immigrant Flor Crisostomo on Monday vowed to stay in a Humboldt Park church indefinitely to keep Congress focused on immigration reform. Tears streaming down her cheeks, a defiant Crisostomo said she did not believe she was breaking U.S. law, nor did she see herself as hiding.

Arrested in an immigration raid in April 2006, she was ordered to leave the country voluntarily by Jan. 28. Crisostomo sought “sanctuary” in the Adalberto United Methodist Church, the same church that housed undocumented immigrant Elvira Arellano and Arellano’s U.S.-born son Saul, for more than a year. “I am taking a stand of civil disobedience to make America see what they are doing,” Crisostomo said in a statement that was translated into English. Speaking in broken English, she said immigrants are not terrorists but hard-working people contributing to the economy. “The real problem is the color and the language,” she said.

U.S. immigration officials saw the issue differently, releasing a statement that said Crisostomo was given a voluntary departure order Oct. 12, 2006. After an appeal failed in December 2007, she was given 60 more days to leave the country on her own. “Ms. Crisostomo will be taken into custody at an appropriate time and place with consideration given to the safety of all involved,” read the statement released by Gail Montenegro, spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Montenegro said that it is also illegal to “knowingly harbor an illegal alien,” and those who do so can be subject to criminal prosecution.

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An “overwhelming majority” of Europeans believe immigration from Islamic countries is a threat to their traditional way of life, a survey revealed last night. The poll, carried out across 21 countries, found “widespread anti-immigration sentiment”, but warned Europe’s Muslim population will treble in the next 17 years. It reported “a severe deficit of trust is found between the Western and Muslim communities”, with most people wanting less interaction with the Muslim world.

Last night an MP warned it showed that political leaders in Britain who preach the benefits of unlimited immigration were dangerously out of touch with the public.

The study, whose authors include the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, was commissioned for leaders at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. It reports “a growing fear among Europeans of a perceived Islamic threat to their cultural identities, driven in part by immigration from predominantly Muslim nations”. And it concludes: “An overwhelming majority of the surveyed populations in Europe believe greater interaction between Islam and the West is a threat.”

Backbench Tory MP David Davies told the Sunday Express: “I am not surprised by these findings. People are fed up with multiculturalism and being told they have to give up their way of life. “Most people in Britain expect anyone who comes here to be willing to learn our language and fit in with us.” Mr Davies, who serves on the Commons Home Affairs Committee, added: “People do get annoyed when they see millions spent on translating documents and legal aid being given to people fighting for the right to wear a head-to-toe covering at school. “A lot of people are very uncomfortable with the changes being caused by immigration and politicians have been too slow to wake up to that.”

The report says people have little enthusiasm for greater understanding with Islam and attempts to improve relations have been “disappointing”. And with the EU Muslim population expected to reach 15 per cent by 2025 it predicts: “Any deterioration on the international front will be felt most severely in Europe.”

But leading Muslim academic Haleh Afshar, of York University, blamed media “hysteria” for the findings. She said: “There is an absence of trust towards Muslims, but to my mind that is very much driven by an uninformed media. “To blame immigration is much harder because the current influx of immigrants from eastern Europe are by-and-large not Muslim. The danger is that when people are fearful of people born and bred in this country it is likely that discrimination may follow.”

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Hmmmm… I am not sure I agree with the criterion for success here. Is a test that everyone passes of much use? Maybe so in the circumstances but what the test requires and what it brings about would surely be more important criteria for its “success”

FEARS the citizenship test is unfair to migrants have been proved unfounded by a review showing a stunning 93 per cent pass rate. Indians and Filipinos are doing far better on the exam than Brits and New Zealanders. But a high number of newcomers from war-torn states, most of them refugees, are struggling to get through the quiz, according to an analysis released last night. The study indicates that migrants keen to get citizenship are swotting up on their new country and taking the test seriously.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the Government wanted to ensure the test was not a barrier to migrants in need of support. But he said: “The test can play a valuable role in helping new citizens understand the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.”

It was introduced by the former government to “assist” people who want to become Australians understand “Australian values, traditions, history and national symbols”. The test, which started on October 1, has to be taken by migrants aged 18-60, before they apply for citizenship.

The Department of Immigration review from October to the end of December found 92.9 per cent passed on their first or subsequent attempts. Candidates are allowed as many attempts as they want. But there were some surprises:

The lowest failure rate was 0.9 per cent for the 338 South African applicants, followed by just 1.1 per cent for the 634 from India, and 1.9 per cent for the 254 from the Philippines. The 1103 British migrants had a 2.26 per cent failure rate, and the 282 New Zealanders, 2.8 per cent. Skilled migrants, who made up 44 per cent of the 9043 people from 172 countries who sat the test, had the best pass rate of 97 per cent, and family reunion migrants, 21.6 per cent of participants had a 90 per cent success rate. However, for migrants here on humanitarian grounds [Mostly Africans] the success rate fell to 80 per cent.

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Barack Obama’s defeat in the Nevada caucus revealed a weakness that the Clintons have been only too happy to exploit: Obama doesn’t win with Democrat Hispanic voters, or at least he didn’t in that state. Hillary Clinton won among Latinos in Nevada, 64-24, making her win there a sign that as the primary season heads west, Obama is going to meet a racial headwind. His solution: Pander to Hispanics by promising to support drivers licenses for illegal aliens.

Asked directly about the issue now, her California campaign spokesman said Clinton “believes the solution is to pass comprehensive immigration reform.” “Barack Obama has not backed down” on driver’s licenses for undocumented people, said Federico Pena, a former Clinton administration Cabinet member and Denver mayor now supporting Obama. “I think when the Latino community hears Barack’s position on such an important and controversial issue, they’ll understand that his heart and his intellect is with Latino community.”

Obama’s intention is to draw distinctions between himself and Clinton on what are otherwise indistinguishable positions on immigration. Both have adopted the standard Democratic approach of favoring tougher enforcement along with earned legalization.

The Illinois senator is differentiating himself in three key areas: driver’s licenses, a promise to take up immigration reform his first year in office, and his background as the son of an immigrant (his father was Kenyan) and a community organizer in Chicago.

By dragging his own father into the debate, Obama is also signaling that he’ll blur the line between legal and illegal immigration. Most legal immigrants will not appreciate this move, at all. This policy emphasis may help Obama in the primaries but it certainly won’t help him in the general election if he’s the nominee.

More here

The government must reexamine the eligibility for immigration of thousands of Falashmura and allow an additional 1,500 to move to Israel, the High Court of Justice ruled last week. This decision constitutes a serious blow to the government’s plan to end immigration by the middle of this year of members of this community, who claim Jewish ancestry despite conversion to Christianity over the years.

“Justice has been done,” said Avraham Nagosa, who heads an umbrella organization for Ethiopian immigrants. “We said they haven’t finished and that they need to check whether there are more people who meet the criteria. We asked only that they do the basic thing of checking them. This High Court decision is the beginning, and ultimately all the 8,000 [Falashmura] left will be checked.”

However, the Interior Ministry downplayed the decision, saying: “The High Court accepted the state position not to open the lists. Nonetheless, it said the state would do well to determine whether there is room to expand the list of eligibles to 17,000. It is not an order, and the state was asked to announce within three months what it has decided. The matter has been transferred to the cabinet secretary for a decision.”

The government decided a year ago that by June, 2008 it would stop bringing over Falashmura and close its offices in Ethiopia. The Foreign Ministry representative in the Ethiopian city of Gondar, who was responsible for investigating the eligibility of Ethiopians seeking to move to Israel, was recalled to Israel a few weeks ago. Some 1,400 Falashmura in Gondar have already received approval to move here, and that group will be immigrating at a rate of 300 a month.

Ethiopian organizations in Israel, and their supporters the world over, have criticized the government plan to bring the Falashmura immigration to an end, arguing that there are more than 8,000 members of the community in Gondar who meet the government criteria for immigration.

In response to a High Court petition on the matter, filed by representatives of the Falashmura, Justices Ayala Procaccia, Miriam Naor and Edna Arbel issued an interim verdict last week stating that the government must allow an additional 1,500 Falashmure to immigrate because the government said in 2004 that there were 17,188 potential Falashmura immigrants, but only 14,620 have received permission to move here.

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As the U.S. presidential candidates head into Super Tuesday primaries, decidedly negative views of American adults toward immigration are not only playing a role in the campaigns, but also risk damaging the U.S. relations with Latin America that could take years to repair.

An overwhelming majority of American adults say a candidate’s stance on immigration is important to their voting decisions, a new Zogby Interactive poll shows. More than 76 % of the online poll respondents said a candidate’s position on immigration is a “very important” or “somewhat important” factor in their decision on who to vote for in the presidential elections of 2008. When asked to choose from among possible policies the United States should adopt as part of its foreign policy with Latin America, the largest percentage of poll respondents, 36%, identified “job creation to stem migration…” as the most important policy.

The Zogby Interactive poll included 7,106 adults nationwide and was conducted January 18-21, 2008. It carries a margin of error of +/- 1.2 percentage points.

“This survey suggests that the United States public sees Latin America increasingly through an immigration lens, and a very negative one at that,” said Peter Hakim, the President of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank that collaborated with Zogby on the poll. “The fact is that most Americans think U.S. foreign policy in the hemisphere should prioritize stopping immigration,” he added. “U.S. debates over immigration, tinged with anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic sentiments, have sounded mean-spirited and disparaging of Latin America,” Hakim said, “and this sours prospects for improving U.S. policy and relations with the region in the years ahead.”

The poll also found U.S. public disapproval over remittances, the money sent from migrant workers in the U.S. to their families back home. An ample majority (61%) believe remittances by immigrants to family members living in Latin America “take a significant amount of money away from the United States economy.” That figure is particularly surprising, considering that over 20% of the public said in the survey they had either sent remittances or know someone who had.

While immigration and remittances are on the minds of the American public, the poll suggests that Latin America is not a major concern to Americans beyond that

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