September 2008


Federal agents target those who ignored deportation orders or returned to the U.S. illegally. More than 400 are arrested in the Los Angeles area. This would normally stir up the Democrats but they might be more wary just before a Federal election

Federal immigration agents arrested more than 1,150 people in the largest collective sweep by specialized enforcement teams in California, authorities said today. The sweep targeted those who ignored deportation orders or returned to the United States illegally after being deported, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Virginia Kice.

The raids, which ended Saturday, produced 436 arrests in the San Francisco area, 420 in the Los Angeles area and 301 in the San Diego area. Of the 1,157 illegal immigrants arrested statewide, 595 had outstanding deportation orders and 346 had prior criminal convictions, Kice said. Those arrested come from 34 countries.

The squads responsible for the arrests, known as fugitive operations teams, were developed in 2003 to focus on apprehending foreign nationals who have ignored final orders of deportation or have returned to the U.S. illegally after being deported, Kice said. The cases at the top of their list involve those wanted or convicted in violent or drug-related crimes, agency officials said. “Individuals who defy immigration court orders to leave the country need to understand there are consequences for willfully disregarding the law,” said Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers, who oversees the federal immigration agency.

Kice released details of two arrests in the L.A. area. Jose Avila, a Mexican national whose criminal history includes prior convictions for lewd acts involving a child and battery, was arrested Sept. 15 in Santa Fe Springs. The 41-year-old was turned over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department on an outstanding warrant for making a terrorist threat, Kice said. After he is released by local authorities, Avila will be returned to federal custody for prosecution on felony charges of reentering the country after his deportation last year.

In North Hollywood, Ramon Cedano, 47, a previously deported Mexican national with a prior conviction for selling heroin, was arrested Sept. 11 at his home. Cedano was turned over to the Los Angeles Police Department on an outstanding drug warrant. Once he’s turned back over to the immigration department, he will be prosecuted for reentering the country after deportation, a felony charge that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

In recent years, the immigration agency has heightened enforcement at factories, offices and homes. In the Los Angeles region and surrounding areas, there are seven active fugitive operations teams that have conducted raids: four based in Los Angeles County, two in the Inland Empire and one in Orange County. Immigration officials have said they are going to add a eighth team, which would be based in Ventura County.

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By James Bissett, a former executive director of the Canadian Immigration Service

We sometimes complain about politicians who don’t do what they promise to do after they get elected. Ironically, it is sometimes much better for the country when some of these promises are broken. Let’s hope, for example, that the promises made by our political leaders to raise immigration levels and provide more money for immigrant organizations are not kept. Either our political leaders do not know that Canada is facing an immigration crisis or they care more about gaining a few more so-called “ethnic voters” than they do about telling the truth about immigration.

Canada is taking far too many immigrants and the leaders of all the parties are promising to take even more. There are already close to a million immigrants waiting in the backlog to come here. They have all met the requirements and by law must be admitted. There is also a backlog of 62,000 asylum seekers before the refugee board and even if these are not found to be genuine refugees most will be allowed to stay. In addition, there are between 150,000 and 200,000 temporary workers now in the country and here again it is unlikely many of them will ever go home.

Despite these extraordinary numbers, the Harper government wants to raise the immigration intake next year to 265,000. The Liberals and the New Democrats have said they want even more, as much as one per cent of our population, or 333,000 each year.

These are enormous numbers and even in the best of times would place a serious burden on the economy and on the already strained infrastructure of the three major urban centres where most of them would end up. Let’s face the facts — when there is a downturn in the world economy and dire predictions of serious recession or worse this is not the time to be bringing thousands of newcomers to Canada. In July of this year, Ontario alone lost 55,000 jobs. So what is the rationale for more immigration? The fact is there is no valid rationale. There is only one reason why our political parties push for high immigration intake and that is they see every new immigrant as a potential vote for their party. This is not only irresponsible it borders on culpable negligence.

There are few economists today who argue that immigration helps the economy in any significant way. Studies in Canada since the mid-1980s have pointed out that immigration has little impact on the economic welfare of the receiving country and similar studies in the United States and Britain have reached the same conclusion. Comprehensive studies by George Borjas, the world’s most renowned immigration economist at Harvard University have shown that immigration’s only significant impact is to reduce the wages of native workers.

Our politicians justify their desire for more immigrants by raising the spectre of an aging population and telling us immigration is the only answer to this dilemma, and yet there is not a shred of truth to this argument. Immigration does not provide the answer to population aging and there is a multiplicity of studies done in Canada and elsewhere that proves this. Moreover, there is no evidence that a larger labour force necessarily leads to economic progress. Many countries whose labour force is shrinking are still enjoying economic buoyancy. Finland, Switzerland and Japan are only a few examples of countries that do not rely on massive immigration to succeed. Productivity is the answer to economic success not a larger population.

Most Canadians assume that our immigrants are selected because they have skills, training and education that will enable them to enhance our labour force but only about 18 to 20 per cent of our immigrants are selected for economic factors. By far the bulk of the immigrants we receive come here because they are sponsored by relatives or because of so-called humanitarian reasons and none of these have to meet the “points system” of selection. This is why over 50 per cent of recent immigrants are living below the poverty line and why they are not earning nearly the wages paid to equivalent Canadian workers.

It also explains why a study published this year by professor Herbert Grubel of Simon Fraser University revealed that the 2.5 million immigrants who came to Canada between 1990 and 2002 received $18.3 billion more in government services and benefits in 2002 than they paid in taxes. As Prof. Grubel points out, this amount is more than the federal government spent on health care and twice what was spent on defence in the fiscal year 2000/2001. Isn’t it time our party leaders were made aware of this study?

In the discussions about immigration we never hear from our political leaders about the serious environmental problems caused by the addition of over a quarter of a million immigrants each year. Most of our immigrants are coming from developing countries of Asia where their “ecological footprint” is tiny compared to the average Canadian but within months of arrival here, the immigrant’s footprint has increased to our giant size. We have already experienced the impact mass migration has had on the health, education, traffic, social services and crime rates of our three major urban centres. It may be that cutting the immigration flow in half would do more than any gas tax to help reduce our environmental pollution.

If immigration is to be an issue in the election campaign, then let us insist that the real issues be discussed and that our politicians contribute more to the debate than promising higher levels and more money to immigrant groups. Canadians and immigrants deserve better.

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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on Wednesday will begin using the new version of its citizenship exam, which officials say assures immigrants learn about civic values rather than just memorizing answers.

The new test, which has been in the making since 2001, will be phased in over the next six months or so. Anyone who filed for citizenship before Oct. 1 can choose the old or new test, while those applying after that date must take the new exam.

Alfonso Aguilar, chief of citizenship at Citizenship and Immigration Services, has been traveling the country, talking with immigrant communities and ethnic and mainstream media about the new exam. He said ESL teachers and community organizations have been working with future test-takers to train them on the new exam and calm their fears. “People get anxious when there is change, and initially many were skeptical,” Aguilar said during an interview at the immigration office on Sansome Street. “The new test is not harder or easier, it’s better. If you study, you will pass.”

There has long been a call for a better naturalization test, and in 2000, the immigration service began an outreach effort to learn what changes should be made. The conclusion was that the civics test needed to be improved to include concepts rather than just trivia. “The old test has seven questions about the American flag,” Aguilar said. “We want people to know the meaning of the flag, not just its colors and how many stripes it has.”

In 2005, federal immigration officials started working with scholars and academics to develop the new test. After it was complete, a pilot program was run in 10 cities, and since then teachers have been preparing their students to take the new test, said Sharon Rummery, spokeswoman for the San Francisco immigration office.

Of the 100 questions on the new civics test, applicants will be asked 10 and must correctly answer six. The exam is oral and given during the naturalization interview. It is accompanied by reading and writing exams that test English skills.

Aguilar said that 92 percent of about 2,000 people tested in the pilot program passed on the first try, a higher rate than the 84 percent who passed the old test in 2003-04. “Our goal is to have people pass,” Aguilar said. “We want citizens, not permanent residents.”

President Bush has repeatedly called on immigrants to better assimilate American values and learn better English, and federal officials say the new test does that. “We tried in 100 questions and answers to get the minimum a person needs to know to be an American citizen and understand democracy,” Aguilar said.

Applicants are allowed to take the test twice. If they don’t pass, they must reapply.

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Malta’s opposition Labour Party on Sunday urged Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi not to sign an immigration pact backed by EU interior ministers last week, saying it was not in the interests of the island. Under the pact, due to be signed at an EU summit in October, the bloc pledged to boost the fight against illegal migration while promoting legal migration and a common asylum policy.

EU states agreed to cooperate more, as well as with the migrants’ countries of origin, and to expel more illegal migrants.
The Mediterranean island has reported a 35 percent surge in migrant landings this year and wants its EU partners to shoulder some of the burden. Some 129 migrants — a group of 101 from Africa and another of 28 — landed in Malta on Sunday. The larger group was rescued from a drifting boat by an Italian naval vessel, Malta’s armed forces said.

Calling on the government to veto the EU pact, Labour leader Joseph Muscat said a burden-sharing mechanism under which EU states had bound themselves take in migrants who landed in Malta was not good enough because it was voluntary. He also said the mechanism would apply only to recognised refugees, which constitute a small proportion of migrants.

However, the government rejected the call, saying the pact was beneficial because it included the burden-sharing mechanism. Malta’s prime minister told the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Friday that it had become extremely difficult for Malta to continue to carry such a migrant burden since it was disproportionate to the size of the country and its population.

The European Commission estimates there are up to 8 million illegal migrants in the bloc.

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I am so upset with Barack Obama and John McCain that, at this time, I will not vote for either one. They are saying one thing and doing another.

We have very high unemployment and our state is going broke. Yet neither of them is talking about stopping the criminals crossing our borders. Drug dealers and terrorists have a free pass. If a border patrol officer shoots a drug dealer, the drug dealers get to go home and the officer goes to jail.

Obama says he want to give citizenship to illegal aliens. Is that the kind of citizen we want? McCain says he will give anyone a green card who wants one. We have federal laws that say they cannot do that. But neither Obama nor McCain say they will enforce the federal laws on immigration

Each candidate says he is for the working men and, if elected, will see that they get jobs. But both are in the pocket of big business, which wants cheap labor that they can control

The state of California is going broke by $15 billion – more than $5 billion of which is the direct cost of people who crossed our borders illegally. We must put a stop to it.

If the state of California and the Congress in Washington were private industries being this dishonest, they would go to jail or be fired. I say let’s fire them and elect some people to run our governments who will follow and enforce the laws

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The state board of education passed a new policy Thursday denying illegal immigrants admission to Alabama’s two-year colleges despite one board member’s calls to delay it for more discussion and four of the nine members being absent. The policy, which takes effect next spring, was passed on a 4-0 vote, with Ethel Hall of Fairfield abstaining. Four board members — David Byers of Birmingham, Ella Bell of Montgomery, Sandra Ray of Tuscaloosa and Gov. Bob Riley — were not at the meeting, which was held in Pell City. Hall said she was hesitant to vote because there was only a brief discussion when the policy was first presented to the board at a work session two weeks ago.

“I don’t think we’ve done the kind of research we need to do in order to approve the policy,” she said before describing how her brushes with racial discrimination — such as being denied admission to the University of Alabama despite extensive qualifications — added to her reluctance. “It’s very, very, dear to me because I have been one of those who have been excluded and I was certainly capable and an American-born citizen,” Hall said. “So I cannot support this policy until I am given additional information.”

Starting next spring, applicants to the community college system will be required to show an Alabama driver’s license, state ID card, an unexpired U.S. passport, or an unexpired U.S. permanent resident card. Two secondary forms of documentation, including a photo ID card and a Certificate of Naturalization, also will be accepted. All international applicants must provide a visa and an official translated copy of their high school/college transcript along with information such as exam scores and proof of adequate financial support.

Shay Farley, attorney and spokeswoman for the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, addressed the board during a public comment period, questioning the policy’s necessity and cautioning that there could be unintended consequences. “We are bound by federal law to provide education to any student, K-12, regardless of legal status,” she said. “A lot of children are brought by their parents — they did not choose to come here. If we deny them a two-year college education, where will they go for their education?”

Two-year Chancellor Bradley Byrne said he was willing to work with opponents as the system develops guidelines for implementing the policy. “I don’t think we can address all of their concerns, but I think we can address some of them,” he said. Byrne said there was no way to know for sure how many students would be affected or how much money the policy would save, but he did not think there were a lot of illegal immigrants enrolling at two-year colleges based on student population.Admissions personnel at each college will check the documents, he said. “For 90 percent or more of our students, all that’s going to mean is they give them their driver’s license,” he said.

Schools in a few other states have passed a similar policy but it’s not a big movement, said Raul Gonzalez, director of legislative affairs for the National Council of La Raza advocacy group. Still, Alabama’s actions are troubling, he said. “They need to make sure in their zeal to deny public higher education to undocumented immigrants that they may deny those services to U.S. citizens who don’t have documentation,” he said.

Gonzalez acknowledged that the documents the system would soon require are the same needed in order to obtain legal employment, but said officials should also be realistic. “That’s a good point, but that’s another reason why we need to look at immigration reform,” he said. “The bottom line is people will find jobs. How many people do you know who are working under the table? It’s not about immigration, it’s about poor people who need jobs.”

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If mainstream politicians ignore people’s dislike of immigration, they just give votes to those who will express it

He has been denounced as a xenophobe and an extreme nationalist. He has been pictured wearing a military uniform at an alleged far-Right gathering. But when Heinz-Christian Strache appears at an election rally in Austria, thousands of enthusiastic supporters, from teenagers to pensioners, give him a roaring welcome. “We are the owners of Austria and we will determine who gets in,” Mr Strache, head of the far-right Freedom Party, told a cheering crowd that was chanting his name.

The police film his public appearances because supporters of Mr Strache have, in the past, made the Hitler salute or displayed Nazi insignia, which is illegal in Austria – under a law that Mr Strache is seeking to ban.

The reputation of Austria, which has been tarnished by child abuse scandals, is on the brink of another setback as a new breed of politicians, led by Mr Strache, gain momentum and are expected to capture almost a third of the vote on an anti-foreigner ticket at elections on Sunday.

The growth of extremist tendencies in Austria have caused concern. In 1999 the country incurred sanctions from other members of the EU after a far-right party led by Joerg Haider formed a government coalition. Eight years on, and two years after the controversial coalition was ousted at the last elections, extremist sentiment is still prominent among a large proportion of the population. This time Mr Haider’s former protege, Mr Strache, is expected to capture about 20 per cent of the vote, and his new party, Alliance for the Future of Austria, could win more than 8 per cent.

Mr Strache, 39, who overthrew Mr Haider as a leader of the Freedom Party with even more hardline policies against foreigners and the EU, is likely to establish himself as the third-largest political force in the country. The former dental technician has campaigned successfully with slogans such as “Homeland instead of Islam” and “Vienna must not become Istanbul”. He once wrote: “We must not allow our own sons to be insulted as `pigeaters’ in our schools and our daughters to be exposed to the greedy stares and gropings of whole hordes of immigrants.”

The controversial campaign has reshaped the agendas of the mainstream parties, the Social Democrats and the conservative People’s Party, which have refocused their campaigns on immigration issues and criticism of the EU. The move was an attempt to prevent haemorrhaging votes to Mr Strache after pollsters predicted that their share of the vote could drop to a record low of below 30 per cent each.

The popularity of Mr Strache was not damaged despite photographs being published of him in his youth wearing military uniform at an alleged far-right gathering and also showing Mr Strache raising his hand and stretching three fingers in an apparent covert version of the Hitler salute, used widely in the neo-Nazi scene. Mr Strache said that he was merely signalling for three beers in a pub.

The Jewish and Islamic community have protested against the extreme agendas of the far-right politicians. Behind the swing towards the far-right is growing dissatisfaction with EU policies and the perceived rise in immigration after the EU expanded eastwards. The country has, however, low unemployment and crime rates and the economy is booming as Austrian companies establish market domination in Eastern European countries.

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