March 2008

Hundreds of illegal immigrants – including a suspected murderer and other criminals – are working in care homes in Britain, a leaked Home Office report has disclosed. In some homes more than half the employees have entered the country illegally and are now being entrusted with caring for old and vulnerable people. The immigration intelligence report found that one illegal worker was a murder suspect from the Philippines and others had been involved in the “abuse and mistreatment” of elderly people.

The report, which was produced more than two years ago, warned that the problems were “widespread” and “significant”. But officials say its findings have been ignored. “Very few of these cases are acted on,” one official said. “Ministers have turned a blind eye in the obscene interests of costs. These cases are not seen as a priority and most of them simply go to the bottom of the pile.”

The leak follows the fiasco last year when Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, admitted that more than 11,000 illegal immigrants had been cleared to work as security guards. It also comes as Gordon Brown prepares to launch his flagship UK Border Agency, which is designed to bolster the country’s protection from illegal immigrants, terrorists and other criminals.

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: “The Home Office is turning a blind eye and allowing some of the most vulnerable people to be put in the care of people who by definition cannot have a criminal records check.”

The 22-page intelligence report examined 110 investigations into the employment of suspected illegal immigrants in care homes in the south and southwest of England. The situation was so bad, the report notes, that “there is potential for embarrassment if the immigration service is not seen to be actively addressing this issue”. Many of the illegal workers were using false names and forged identity documents to bypass police criminal records checks. The suspected Filipino murderer had used fraudulent references to get a job at a care home in Plymouth.

The report discloses that Home Office ministers had failed to tackle the problem because most of the illegal care home workers were from countries such as Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa, which were not on the priority list identifying those who should be targeted. This restriction “does not allow the immigration service to take any form of action”, it says. Offenders are rarely brought to court because of a lack of resources. “There is no deterrent factor for those involved in these activities,” the report states.

One of the few prosecutions was a case in Nottingham in 2001 when an illegal immigrant was jailed for raping a woman in his care. The woman could not speak and had the mental ability of a three-year-old. The report, which has been leaked by Whitehall officials exasperated that little has been done about the problem, reveals:

– that 58 of 113 employees of a firm running two homes in Hampshire and Wiltshire were suspected illegal offenders;

– that 36 of 58 people at a Southampton care agency were working illegally, mostly using fake identity papers;

– and that 22 of 55 foreign nationals who applied for employment through a Salisbury agency were immigration offenders

The document says the proliferation of untrained and unqualified illegal migrants, many with unknown backgrounds, poses a direct risk to some of the estimated 480,000 elderly and vulnerable people in the 21,000 care homes in England and Wales. It states: “The severity of the reported incidents varies, ranging from care workers not being suitably qualified, to the abuse of clients within their care. If this is allowed to continue without action all have the potential to be damaging to the public and media perception of the immigration service.”

Mark Hammond, of the PCS union, which represents 2,000 immigration officials, said: “This report exposes the government’s big lie. There are not enough resources to enforce immigration law because of budgetary constraints and activity is set to decrease not increase, due to cuts in duties scheduled for weekends. Vitally important work won’t be actioned and vulnerable people will be at risk.”

The report found that there were so many illegal immigrants in two care homes in Bristol that a proposed operation at Christmas by the Home Office to arrest them was cancelled because it would have involved the removal of the majority of staff. The Home Office feared there would be “negative publicity” if it was held responsible for leaving old people without care.

Liam Byrne, the immigration minister, said controls had been tightened up since the report. “Every visa applicant is now fingerprinted before they reach here, ID cards become compulsory for all foreign nationals from November and œ10,000 on-the-spot fines are now in place for any illegal workers.”

The report, however, blames government policy for the lack of action. “The predominant nationalities identified working illegally within the care industry do not necessarily correspond with current national priorities for enforcement action,” it says.



People flock to Britain because its system of visas and social benefits are skewed in favour of those entering Britain

Last week’s report by the Independent Asylum Commission, which describes our asylum system as “shameful”, flies in the face of reality. It’s almost as if the former appeal court judge Sir John Waite is pulling our legs. His conclusion – that the UK’s treatment of asylum seekers falls “seriously below” the standards of a civilised society and that our treatment of them has “blemished” our international reputation – is, to say the least, a slight exaggeration.

Indeed it was only last month that the government proposed tightening immigration laws relating to asylum, citizenship and visas because it is felt – with justification – that too many people from abroad are taking advantage of our welcome and hospitality. This is borne out by Migration Watch UK’s prediction that more than 2m people will arrive in the UK every 10 years for the foreseeable future – taking our population to 65m by 2016. Even the Home Office’s own figures note that the UK has the third-largest foreign population and labour force in the European Union – currently about 2.2m.

It’s not exactly hard to come to the UK. A couple of years ago a close friend of mine who was getting married decided to invite an uncle over from Punjab, in India. The uncle duly received an invitation and a sponsorship form and within a few weeks had obtained a visa from the British high commission in Delhi. Just like that.

There don’t seem to be any stringent checks on foreigners arriving here. And various independent investigations – including one by the BBC’s Panorama programme – have already documented how easy it is to obtain visas and British passports by duplicitous means.

You would think that when so many people in Britain are concerned about the polarisation of communities and the erosion of a single national and cultural identity, that there would be some joined-up thinking. Surely, you might surmise, the government and the Foreign Office are singing from the same hymn sheet. Alas, you’d be wrong. Although Gordon Brown’s administration talks about tightening existing laws, it doesn’t seem to convey this to the visa sections in British consulates and embassies around the world – least of all in the Indian subcontinent.

It’s quite simple, really: if our government wants to control immigration and asylum, it needs to design a robust and consistent policy for entry, visas and deportation of failed applications for asylum – and this then has to be communicated to all relevant agencies. Soundbites about our rotten treatment of asylum seekers may help to win elections but they don’t safeguard the interests of the country at large.

Before Waite described our nation as “shameful”, perhaps he should have talked to ordinary people to get a real sense of what most of us feel about the existing asylum system. Perhaps he could have explained to them why some asylum seekers, allegedly fleeing for their lives, are crossing countries and even continents to get to the UK (surely, if you are genuinely seeking safety, you would ask for haven in the nearest country).

As everyone seems to know – except Waite – people flock here because our system of issuing visas and our social benefits system are skewed in favour of those entering Britain. However, unlike his commission, British people know full well when their hospitality and their country’s welfare system are being abused and exploited.

Back to my friend and his relative. Surprisingly, his uncle missed the wedding and instead turned up a few days later. A couple of weeks on, he asked to be shown the wonderful sights of our country. My friend did as much as he could, showing him around London, Manchester, Stratford-upon-Avon, the Lake District and north Wales. Eventually he had to say: “I’m sorry but I can’t keep taking you around because we can’t afford it.” His uncle took offence. “Well, then,” he said, “get me a job so I can earn some money of my own.” Anyone who comes over on a tourist visa, of course, cannot work here legally. Naturally, my friend – being a pillar of the community – declined to help, explaining to his uncle that he too would be breaking the law if he helped him to find illegal employment. Rather miffed, his uncle decided to move in with another relative in Middlesex.

Almost a year later, my friend spoke to the relative who had taken him in. This man said that he had given the uncle many hints about going home to India – but he just didn’t take any notice. Apparently, six months is the minimum period for a tourist visa. Why, the uncle’s new host asked plaintively, are tourists given such a long period of stay in this country?

As many British Asians know only too well, living with visitors with whom you have little in common can be a nightmare. Getting them to go home is almost impossible. Indeed the uncle’s host said he felt as though he was living in the Big Brother house with a guest from hell. So you can imagine how flabbergasted he was when the uncle suggested at the end of the six months that he wanted to extend his stay. No way, thought his host, who then helped him pack his bags and ordered a taxi to the airport.

This is quite a typical scenario. In other parts of our communities, “arranged” marriages are nothing more than economic contracts that enable young men from the Indian subcontinent to stay in Britain. Even so-called spiritual guides, such as the Sikh a cousin of mine once invited over, can be suspect. After six months the guru suddenly told my cousin that he was being persecuted in India – for being a Sikh. And, yes, he wanted to apply for political asylum.

It was like a sketch from Goodness Gracious Me. Yet the guru was serious: he knew that if he lodged an application for asylum, it might be years before the government heard his case. In the meantime he’d be free to do as he pleased. The next day he did a runner. Thus a Sikh who had nothing to complain about in his native land became one of the 60,000 people who, according to Migration Watch UK, enter this country every year on a visitor’s visa and then disappear. Most visitors from the Indian subcontinent, I’m afraid, will do whatever they can to stay in the UK. Maybe Sir John Waite could consider making that the subject of his next commission


Mayra Figueroa – a naturalized U.S. citizen, community organizer and licensed driver – had no reason to fear being arrested, no need to worry about deported. Then she was pulled over by a Houston police officer, who told her he found it suspicious that a Latina was driving a late-model car. The first thing the officer requested? Figueroa’s Social Security card, as proof of citizenship.

Until now, few local police and sheriff’s departments wanted any part of enforcing federal civil immigration laws. They had their hands full with local crime – and needed witnesses and victims to work with them without fear. But as local governments feel mounting frustration over illegal immigration, that hands-off attitude is disappearing. More than 100 local law enforcement agencies – including Los Angeles and Orange counties in California and Maricopa County in Arizona, which includes Phoenix – have begun or are waiting for training to help the Department of Homeland Security root out illegal immigrants and hand them over for deportation.

Advocates say the training beefs up the power of the overworked Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency. Detractors say it will discourage millions of immigrants from reporting crime or cooperating with police investigations. They also cite evidence of poor training and overeager cops, like the one who questioned Figueroa. [QUESTIONING someone is bad??]

The ICE training program began 12 years ago in 1996, but had only one taker until 2002, when political pressure began to mount to fix the illegal immigration problem. Now 41 law enforcement agencies are trained, and 92 more are waiting in line. Even in places where police departments have resisted enforcing immigration laws, elected officials and local governments have passed or are considering similar policies.

In Harris County, which includes Houston, sheriff’s deputies routinely check the immigration status of anyone booked into the county jail. In New Jersey, the Attorney General ordered police to ask arrested suspects about their immigration status. In Minnesota, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed an executive order requiring state agents to enforce immigration law. “When my deputies come across illegals, they arrest them – even on traffic violations,” said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. “People ask me why I am taking this on? The last I heard, crossing the border is an illegal activity. I took an oath of office to enforce the law, so I am enforcing the law.”

But some experts say it could spell the end of cooperating with police in immigrant neighborhoods. “People are very, very fearful of interaction with law enforcement, said Susan Shah, with the New York-based Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit. “Even people with legal status, whose families may have mixed immigration status, now have a fear of opening the door.” That fear has been exacerbated by accounts – some rumored, some real – of people being turned over to immigration officials after being stopped for minor offenses such as traffic violations and loitering, or after going to police to report a crime.

In Newark, N.J., a freelance photographer who stumbled upon on a dead body in an alley and reported the discovery to police was detained and asked about his immigration status. In Falls Church, Va., staffers at the Tarirhu Justice Center, which works with immigrant victims of domestic abuse, say they are fielding calls from women who have been assaulted, yet refuse to go to police. “When there’s confusion about what policy applies to you and when it does, the safe course of action is to avoid authorities altogether,” said Jeanne Smoot, the center’s director of public policy.

In Durham, N.C., police recently investigated a string of robberies targeting Latino immigrants, who the thieves saw as “soft targets” because they’d be reluctant to call police. Only after officials reassured local residents that they would not be reported to ICE did they get the information needed to solve the cases, said Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez. “If people are not reporting crimes, we don’t know what is happening out there. It puts all of the community at risk,” said Lopez.

Even so, the Durham police department does check the immigration status of anyone arrested, and has since been approved for the federal training program. Such confusing, sometimes contradictory, policies and programs are only heightening immigrants’ fear and mistrust, say immigrant advocates and community activists. Mayra Figueroa, the woman stopped in Houston, agrees. “I have been living here for the last 17 years, and to have an officer stop me for no reason and ask for papers, it made me feel like he didn’t think I belong here,” said Figueroa. “It makes people feel that anytime that something happens to you, you can’t call police.”


At least 304,000 immigrant criminals eligible for deportation are behind bars nationwide, a top federal immigration official said Thursday. That is the first official estimate of the total number of such convicts in federal, state and local prisons and jails. The head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Julie L. Myers, said the annual number of deportable immigrant inmates was expected to vary from 300,000 to 455,000, or 10 percent of the overall inmate population, for the next few years. Ms. Myers estimated that it would cost at least $2 billion a year to find all those immigrants and deport them.

This week, Ms. Myers presented a plan to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security intended to speed the deportation of immigrants convicted of the most serious crimes by linking state prisons and county jails into federal databases that combine F.B.I. fingerprint files with immigration, border and antiterrorism records of the Homeland Security Department. In an interview on Thursday, Ms. Myers said the plan would bring “a fundamental change” by streamlining deportations of foreign-born criminals.

Representative David E. Price, Democrat of North Carolina and chairman of the subcommittee, wrote a five-page letter on Thursday saying that the agency’s plan did “not meet the legal requirements” of the 2008 appropriation that gave the agency $200 million to deport criminals. Mr. Price said the plan failed to focus mainly on illegal immigrants who committed crimes, did not provide for any coordination with immigration courts and justice officials and included huge unexplained cost increases. Based on the schedule in the plan, Mr. Price said, he did not see evidence that the agency “shares my sense of urgency about removing criminals from our country before they victimize Americans again.”

In the intensely contentious debate over immigration, one point that generally draws broad agreement is that federal authorities should deport illegal immigrant criminals as swiftly as possible. But considerable confusion prevails about how fast that might be. Immigrants convicted of crimes – including illegal immigrants and those who had legal immigration status at the time of the crime – must serve their sentences before they can be deported. Many immigrant convicts are naturalized United States citizens who are not subject to deportation.

Ms. Myers said her agency, known as ICE, was seeking to expand operations to identify jailed immigrant criminals. The agency is working in all federal and state prisons, but reaches just 300 of 3,100 local jails, an official said. The agency plans a major effort to use new technology and databases at local jails so law enforcement officers can determine at booking whether immigrants have previously committed serious crimes or immigration violations. ICE officers bring charges while immigrants are serving their sentences so they can be deported as soon as they complete their terms without being released from custody. “We will identify individuals who pose the greatest risk as quickly as possible,” Ms. Myers said, including in jails that the agency cannot visit regularly.

Surprised by Mr. Price’s letter, she rejected his criticism of the plan’s legality. She was supported by Representative Harold Rogers of Kentucky, senior Republican on the appropriations subcommittee, who said the plan could be refined.

In fiscal 2007, 164,000 immigrant inmates were charged with immigration violations to prepare the way for deportation, and 95,000 immigrants with criminal histories were deported, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement figures. Immigration lawyers warned that unless local law enforcement officers were trained in immigration law, the ICE plan could focus on many immigrants who committed minor violations that did not make them deportable. “Immigration law is confusing and convoluted and not user friendly,” said David Leopold, a vice president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “To turn that over to local law enforcement without training is asking for trouble.”


Linking the presence of undocumented workers to Rhode Island’s financial woes, Gov. Don Carcieri signed an executive order that includes a series of steps to combat illegal immigration. The order signed Thursday requires state agencies and companies that do business with the state to verify the legal status of employees. It also directs the Rhode Island State Police and prison and parole officials to more aggressively find and deport illegal immigrants. The Republican governor said he understands that illegal immigrants face hardships – but he does not want them in Rhode Island. “If you’re here illegally, you shouldn’t be here illegally. You shouldn’t be here,” Carcieri said.

Immigrant advocate Juan Garcia feared Carcieri’s proposals would drive a vulnerable community underground. He said illegal immigrants who are victims of crime will fear approaching police, and that children could suffer if parents lose their jobs. “These people are not criminals,” he said. “This is affecting the poor people.”

Carcieri’s popularity has plummeted in recent months as Rhode Island faces an estimated $550 million budget deficit, its worst financial crisis since a series of bank and credit union collapses in the early 1990s. He has proposed cutting school funding, reducing welfare and health care benefits and even letting prisoners out of jail early. He blamed Congress for failing to set a new immigration policy. He said he supported increasing the number of legal immigrants and skilled workers allowed into the country. Carcieri was testy when taking questions after signing the order. When a reporter asked if his order might embolden xenophobes, Carcieri blamed the media for inflaming the immigration debate.

Under his order, state police will enter an agreement with federal immigration authorities permitting them access to specialized immigration databases. That information would allow police to identify and detain immigration violators. State police could investigate the legal status of anyone they suspect is an immigration violator, including crime victims, witnesses and people supplying police with confidential tips, state police Maj. Steven O’Donnell said.

Department of Corrections Director A.T. Wall said the prison system will negotiate a similar agreement so it too can identify illegal immigrants in state custody as well as legal immigrants who are subject to deportation if convicted of crimes.

Carcieri said he supported legislation that would force all companies in Rhode Island to do the same. He said he did not know how much his initiatives would cost, although he assumed they would save money in the long run.


By ANTHONY BROWNE (Author of Retreat of Reason. Review here)

There is a traditional pattern to any discussion about immigration. First, the Government and its supporters in the (often taxpayer-funded) immigration lobby declare various reasons the public should support their policies. Otherwise we would face a serious shortage of workers, economic growth would stagnate, there would be fewer people in the workforce to help pay the country’s pension bill, the NHS would collapse or that the country would suffer without the enriching force of multi-culturalism.

These arguments are then unquestioningly trumpeted by the BBC and by much of the rest of the Press which instinctively wants to support mass immigration on the basis it is the morally decent thing to do. But then someone suddenly points to holes in the arguments, often in cold, factual ways. These critics inevitably get pilloried. In my case, when I started pointing out some of the downsides of immigration, I was denounced by the then Home Secretary David Blunkett in the Commons for “bordering on fascism.”

In an earlier generation, Ray Honeyford, the Bradford headmaster, was hounded out of his job for declaring that children who are born and grow up in England should speak English. Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch, has been regularly demonised for the counterarguments he has put forward. But the beauty about truth is that, in the end, it will out. Ultimately, it is realised that mass immigration’s critics have many valid points, and ministers are forced to change their tune (of course, rarely with any public admission that they were wrong). And so the same government that promoted multiculturalism and attacked its critics is now having to admit that multiculturalism was wrong. In the same way, a government that once insisted the NHS would collapse without foreign workers is now having to impose curbs on foreign medical staff. And the very immigration lobbyists who previously denounced those who said people living in Britain should speak English now concede that they should for their own (and society’s) good.

And so is the case with that final defence for mass immigration – the argument that it benefits the British economy. The trouble is that the claim that our economic boom was based on mass immigration (rather than a credit bubble) seems a little thin now that our economy is collapsing with immigration still at record levels. The belief that we needed Eastern Europeans to fill 600,000 vacancies in our employment market seems a tad stretched given that a million or more Eastern Europeans have come – and we still have 600,000 vacancies. The argument that we are desperately short of workers looks faintly ridiculous now that we are all increasingly aware that there are more than 5 million people of working age out of work and living on benefits – and there have been for the past ten years.

The Government’s final justification was that immigration is a major boost to economic output – pumping the economy by 6 billion pounds a year. This figure is parroted so often that it has become received wisdom. But unfortunately, the argument is utterly misleading. Ignore the very serious questions about how the 6 billion figure was arrived at, and take it at its face value. The real problem is that while immigration does boost the overall size of the economy (more people working means more output), it also boosts the population. And what people really care about is not how big the economy is but how well off they are – their standard of living and quality of life.

In short, what matters is not the total Gross Domestic Product, but the GDP per capita. This is the mind-numbingly obvious flaw in the Government’s argument. Although a growing population means more output it also means more people to consume that output. Almost all the resultant increase in GDP goes to the immigrants themselves (which is why they come to the UK in the first place). In fact, using the Government’s own figures, the effect of immigration on GDP per capita is minimal 28p a week. That too is an average figure –while the affluent who employ immigrants tend to benefit, the poor who compete with them lose out.

When Sir Andrew Green first pointed out the 28p a week figure, he was, of course, pilloried. But, although his claims are about to be confirmed by the House of Lords committee, it is probably too soon for ministers to admit the folly of their beloved 6 billion argument. But as the truth slowly emerges, it can only be a matter of time before the Government finally abandons its policies of encouraging mass immigration to this already crowded island. Only then can we expect the level of immigration to be lowered.


Kansas lawmakers Thursday backed away from threats to pull the licenses of businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants. Like the Senate before it, the House eliminated tough penalties for businesses from a bill designed to crack down on illegal immigration. Instead, those who repeatedly hire illegal immigrants would face fines of up to $3,000 per illegal worker and the possibility of being held in contempt of court. The step back from tougher penalties pleases the business community, religious groups and immigrant advocates, but is sure to anger citizens who urged tough enforcement of immigration law. The House endorsed the bill, SB 329, on an unrecorded preliminary vote Thursday night. A final vote is expected today. The bill also:

* Creates new criminal penalties for employment identity fraud, voter fraud and exploitation of illegal immigrants

* Prohibits illegal immigrants from receiving many public benefits such as food stamps.

* Stiffens penalties for businesses that intentionally misclassify workers as contractors to avoid paying taxes and benefits.

An earlier provision to require all police to ask the citizenship of anyone they arrest was eliminated. Supporters said the bill struck the right balance. “It’s a tough but reasonable and effective response to the problem,” said Rep. Raj Goyle, a Wichita Democrat. The Senate approved a similar bill Thursday morning. The vote was unanimous, but several senators said they wanted a more aggressive bill.

One key difference: the House bill would, starting in 2011, require all new hires to be checked against the federal E-Verify database of legal workers. The bill would have the state’s Department of Labor run the checks unless businesses choose to do it themselves.

When introduced, the bills were much more aggressive. The authors of those proposals said the Legislature caved to powerful industry groups. “We can’t go home and say we’ve passed meaningful immigration reform in this session,” said Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican who said the original bill had been “eviscerated.”


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