December 2008


Federal immigration officials, over the past year, have dramatically curtailed the controversial practice of sedating deportees with powerful anti-psychotic medication. The move followed court challenges and a public outcry over the practice, which often involved the use of Haldol, a drug used to treat schizophrenia. Data collected through Freedom of Information Act requests by The Dallas Morning News show that Immigration and Customs Enforcement sedated only 10 people in the past fiscal year. Haldol was used in only three cases. Over the past six years, through October, federal immigration personnel sedated 384 deportees, an average of 64 a year, the government disclosed. Of those cases, 356 involved the use of Haldol.

U.S. officials defended the sedation policy but declined to discuss it in detail, including the frequency with which sedation has been used, which led The News to request the information through the Freedom of Information Act. U.S. officials say the procedure is done on the recommendation of medical personnel and now requires a court order – a change made when the American Civil Liberties Union began opposing the procedure and after Julie L. Myers, then assistant homeland security secretary, learned of the cases. “When we do ask the court to involuntarily sedate, it is both necessary to effectuate removal and medically appropriate,” said Pat Reilly, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security.

Critics said there had been no effective oversight of the process, and some continue to say that the policy violates medical ethics. They praised the use of the court order and sedation restrictions. “What you are seeing here is that the courts have proven once again that sunshine is the best disinfectant,” said Wade Henderson, a lawyer and the president and chief executive officer of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights in Washington, D.C.

Though the agency has dramatically reduced its use of Haldol to sedate deportees, the practice remains controversial. Haldol is used to treat schizophrenia and such psychotic symptoms as hallucinations, delusions and hostility. It is sometimes used in hospital emergency rooms to manage acute agitation and psychosis. Medical authorities say the use of Haldol carries potential complications. The drug can trigger such adverse reactions as muscular spasms and a condition known as neuroleptic malignant syndrome that can result in a coma and even death if left untreated.

Scott Allen, an internist and co-founder of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights in Providence, R.I., said he opposes sedation except for deportees with schizophrenia or other mental illness. “The medical community needs to assert itself and make clear the medical ethics of involuntary chemical restraint: It is not acceptable,” he said. As for its decline in use, Dr. Allen said, “That is certainly encouraging, but it enforces the impression they were overusing forced medication in the past.”

New policy: ICE established the policy of requiring a court order for involuntary sedation of detainees during removal with “no exceptions” in January. ICE said it restated a policy from June 2007. Ms. Myers, who resigned as assistant homeland security secretary last month, said she moved toward a policy of “getting a court order so only in the narrowest of circumstances would we proceed like this.” She defined the narrow circumstances in which sedation would be used as those in which the agency believes that “based on the advice of medical professional, that this is the only way to have a safe and secure deportation, and a court agrees with that.” The policy went into effect in June 2007 after the Los Angeles Daily News reported that two detainees had been forcibly drugged in an effort to sedate them for a deportation flight.

Last year, the ACLU sued the U.S. government on behalf of the two immigrants, one from Senegal and another from Indonesia. Attorneys for the men believe both were given Haldol. The case was settled for $55,000 in total for the two, and the government admitted no wrongdoing or liability.

In November 2007, the federal government attempted to get a court order to sedate an Albanian man who resisted deportation and boarding from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, screaming he would be killed if he were sent back to Albania. The man, a political-asylum seeker, was aided by U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, who wrote a private bill that effectively stalled the Albanian’s deportation until early 2009….

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Missouri businesses are about to get a shove toward a federal database for screening newly hired employees for illegal immigrants. And cities will risk getting punished if they become havens for illegal immigrants.

Those new laws taking effect Thursday are part of a broader effort by Missouri lawmakers to crack down on illegal immigrants and those who employ them. Starting in 2009, public employers – including state and local governments – must use the E-Verify database that searches records from the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security to determine whether someone can work.

Private businesses won’t have to use the database unless they have a government contract worth more than $5,000, receive state loans or tax breaks, or have been caught hiring an illegal immigrant. But even those that don’t have to use E-Verify will have a big incentive to start. Employers caught “knowingly” hiring an illegal immigrant risk losing their business licenses, unless they had used E-Verify to screen their new hires.

Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who helped draft the law, said lawmakers showed foresight in going after illegal immigrants at cusp of the recession. Federal statistics released earlier this month show the state’s unemployment rate hit 6.7 percent in November.

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The number of people caught trying to sneak into the USA from Mexico is at its lowest level since the mid-1970s, signs of tougher enforcement and a weaker U.S. economy, officials say. The Border Patrol caught 705,000 people along the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2008, which ended Sept. 30, according to new agency figures. That’s nearly 2,000 a day and the lowest number since 1976, when 675,000 people were caught entering illegally between San Diego and southern Texas, the figures show.

The Border Patrol has long used the number of apprehensions as an indicator of how many people try to cross U.S. borders illegally. The latest figures show that recent steps – including building a fence, adding more Border Patrol agents and prosecuting more people caught sneaking across the border – are deterring illegal crossings, officials say. The weak U.S. economy also is discouraging migrants, officials and analysts say. “We’re definitely making it tougher on them,” Border Patrol assistant chief Lloyd Easterling says. “I’m not telling you that we’ve won the war, but we are making headway.”

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said in a Dec. 19 speech that there’s been “a collapse in the number of people who come across the border illegally.” Chertoff cited a weaker U.S. economy and “tough enforcement,” including the addition of 6,000 Border Patrol agents since 2006 and the construction of 526 miles of fence along the U.S.-Mexico border since 2007. About 97% of illegal border crossers enter through Mexico, and about 90% are Mexican, Border Patrol figures show.

Josiah Heyman, a border expert at the University of Texas-El Paso, said that “economic conditions of the U.S. affect migration. Word gets back to Mexico really fast what the job opportunities are or are not,” Heyman said. “It’s possible we’ve crossed some threshold where it’s risky and expensive to try to get to the U.S. (illegally) so it’s beginning to discourage people.” Illegal migrants often pay a smuggler about $2,000, Heyman said.

Border apprehensions have fluctuated widely for decades. They peaked at 1.7 million in the mid-1980s, fell to about 1 million in the late 1980s, and hit 1.6 million again in 2000. Border Patrol staffing has climbed steadily to 18,000 agents from 4,000 in 1993, agency figures show. The Congressional Research Service said in May that the number of apprehensions is “the most reliable” measure of illegal crossings but doesn’t give a full picture because “there are no reliable estimates” of those who evade capture. About 11.9 million illegal immigrants live in the USA, according to an October estimate by the Pew Hispanic Center.

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When the state’s employer-sanctions law took effect nearly a year ago, it threatened to shut down businesses that hired illegal workers. But not a single employer has been taken to court in Arizona, mainly because the landmark law is too difficult to enforce, authorities say. In Maricopa County, where the law led to raids on a dozen businesses and the arrest of 159 workers and a manager, investigators have not been able to assemble enough evidence showing that employers actually knew the arrested workers were illegal, which the sanctions law requires.

A few employers have resisted turning over their hiring records or talking to investigators. As a result, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas wants the Legislature to give prosecutors subpoena power to investigate cases under the employer-sanctions law, which is enforced by filing a civil lawsuit. That would make it easier for investigators to force employers to turn over records. Authorities have obtained records up to now with criminal search warrants, allowed because the raids were carried out as a probe into immigrants’ criminal identity theft. But Thomas said officers need subpoena power to make a civil case directly against an employer and prove intentional hiring of illegal workers. Employers in violation can have business licenses suspended or revoked.

Business groups oppose the change, saying the sanctions law is already the toughest in the nation and most employers are complying. Giving law enforcement more powers would lead to further harassment of businesses when the state’s economy is already suffering, they say.

The limit on investigative powers is not the only reason for a lack of action against employers. To a large degree, the state’s faltering economy so far has rendered the sanctions law moot because construction, manufacturing, hospitality and other industries that rely heavily on immigrant labor are laying off employees, not hiring them, prosecutors say. The law applies only to hires made after Dec. 31, 2007, and many of the 151 illegal immigrants arrested in the 12 raids had been hired earlier, authorities say.

Still, supporters say the law is fulfilling its purpose of turning off the job magnet that draws illegal immigrants to Arizona. Employers fearful of losing their business licenses are taking extra steps to make sure they aren’t employing illegal workers, which in turn has driven many undocumented immigrants and their families to leave the state, officials said. “I think it’s a good deterrent,” said Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has partnered with Thomas to crack down on illegal immigration. “People are worried about it and worried about us going into business establishments and arresting employees on identification theft and forgery.”

Critics, however, contend that the Legal Arizona Workers Act is being used as an excuse to target only illegal workers, not employers, an ineffective way to fight illegal immigration. “It (raises) the question: After all the expense and resources put into this law, were the employers the real target?” said Phoenix immigration lawyer Gerald Burns. “Probably not. It was to instill fear and to vet out suspected undocumented workers or drive them out of the state.”

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By Juan Fernando Gomez

I call it the little room. In most cases it’s actually not that small, but my claustrophobia seems to kick in as soon as the immigration officer separates me from the other passengers on my flight and escorts me through a door into my own private travel hell. As you sit in crowded airports waiting for your long-delayed flights, cursing yourself for traveling over the holidays, remember: It could be worse. You could be me. My ordeal begins before the plane touches down in the United States, some time between the moment when the flight attendant begins handing out blank immigration and customs forms and when I hear the wheels disengaging in the belly of the plane. Will I sail through immigration and customs, I wonder, or will this be the time that they get me? Might I even be whisked off to Guantanamo?

The crazy thing is that I have done nothing wrong. I am a U.S. citizen and have no criminal record. I pay my taxes (well, except for those few years when, right out of grad school, I was convinced that taxes did not apply to me). I don’t litter. The problem is that I happen to share a name with at least one shady character on the Terrorist Screening Center’s watch list. At least, that’s the list that I believe I am on, although no official will tell me for sure. My name is common in Latin America, the Spanish equivalent of John Smith. It also seems to be particularly popular among law-breakers. I once sneaked a peek at an immigration officer’s computer and saw an entire screen full of my doppelgangers. Who knows how many of them were bad guys and how many were law-abiding saps like me?

It doesn’t help that my travel habits are similar to those of people who actually belong on a watch list. I grew up in Medell┬ín, Colombia, during the height of the Pablo Escobar drug wars and have worked for the better part of the past decade in some of the most dangerous places in the world. In countries such as Afghanistan and Colombia, I help farmers find legal, profitable and sustainable alternatives to growing coca and poppies, the raw material for cocaine and heroin. So I guess it’s understandable that my passport — packed with added pages and stamps marking my entry into and exit from countries such as Cambodia, Bolivia and Haiti — raises eyebrows.

It seems to me, though, that airport security should know enough to tell me from the terrorists. I’m not easily offended, but being treated like a dangerous criminal every time I enter the country is getting a little old.

The airport routine is always the same, whether I’m in Miami, Washington, Atlanta or any other city. I step off the plane after sitting in coach for hours, my knees bruised from hitting the seat in front of me, and watching films that I swore I’d never pay to see. I’m always cautious as I wait in the immigration and customs line. On the Transportation Security Administration’s Web site is a running total of the number of people arrested each week for suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents. (For the week ending Dec. 21, 15 people were arrested due to suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents and 19 guns were found at checkpoints.) I would hate to be hauled in for scratching my nose or for tying my shoe while in line. So I do my best to act relaxed, as if I were just coming home — which is exactly what I’m doing.

The real terror begins when my toes touch the yellow line, where I wait to be called forward. Approaching the immigration officer before being summoned could make me appear too eager (and often earns me a stern reprimand). On the other hand, any hesitation could be interpreted as a sign that I’m afraid of facing the law. So I walk up to the officer and nonchalantly hand over my bright blue passport. Seconds feel like hours as he starts hitting the “page down” key on his computer, scanning screen after screen, periodically glancing at me and my passport. This is when I break out in a cold sweat, which makes the officer even more dubious. When he reaches for a yellow highlighter and marks my customs slip, I know I’m headed to the little room.

I’m so familiar with airport-security personnel that I often recognize the officers who escort me. In Miami, I cringe to see the large female officer who once screamed across the room that her advice, if I wanted to spare my family some trouble, was not to name my son Juan. Of course, not all officers are like that. I occasionally run into a young woman who stopped me once a few years ago. New to the job and eager to help, she took down my information and assured me that I would never be stopped again. But she was wrong; upon my next entry into the country, I was held for longer than ever before.

The little room in Miami is my favorite, partly because it has vending machines and partly because it is always full of people who, like me, seem familiar with the routine of being waylaid by airport security. Most of us are cleared within minutes or hours, though the process continues to be intimidating and cold. Others are taken into still smaller rooms, where I can only imagine what happens. Maybe I should stop watching all those bad in-flight action movies.

The room at Dulles is particularly intimidating. I recently landed there before dawn, after an overnight flight, and found myself alone except for two young guys in plastic handcuffs. While they seemed nice enough, I couldn’t help but wonder about the company I was keeping.

Time and time again, I’ve been cleared for entry into the United States. So why does my name remain on the list? Will I have to go through this for the rest of my life? In desperation, I always ask airport-security officers how my name can be removed. I’ve heard it all, from writing to my congressman (as if that would do any good) to filling out a form (never mind that no one has been able to produce the document or tell me where I can find it). The most honest answer came from a young, Afghan American officer at Dulles a couple of weeks ago: “There’s absolutely nothing you can do.”

It’s not the countless missed connections that bother me or the fact that I have to politely decline offers from well-meaning travel companions to wait for me, because they don’t know that they might be waiting for hours. It’s the powerlessness of being unable to clear my name and of having to go through this humiliation over and over.

I heard rumors that the Terrorist Screening Center watch list would hit 1 million people by the end of 2008, but the TSA Web site states that the real number is actually closer to 400,000 and that there are fewer than 16,000 people on the “selectee” and “no-fly” lists used by the TSA. The site also asks, “Got Feedback?” Well, I have plenty of feedback, but I’m a little scared of the consequences of saying what I really feel.

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Terrorists will continue to try to evade U.S. border security measures and place operatives inside the mainland to carry out attacks, the 38-page assessment said. It also said that they may pose as refugees or asylum seekers or try to exploit foreign travel channels such as the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of 34 countries to enter the U.S. without visas.

Long waits for immigration and more restrictive European refugee and asylum programs will cause more foreigners to try to enter the U.S. illegally. Increasing numbers of Iraqis are expected to migrate to the U.S. in the next five years; and refugees from Somalia and Sudan could increase because of conflicts in those countries, the assessment said.

Because there is a proposed cap of 12,000 refugees from Africa, officials expect more will try to enter the U.S. illegally as well. Officials predict the same scenario for refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Intelligence officials predict the pool of radical Islamists within the U.S. will increase over the next five years due partly to the ease of online recruiting means. Officials foresee “a wave of young, self-identified Muslim ‘terrorist wannabes’ who aspire to carry out violent acts.”

The U.S. has already seen some examples of these homegrown terrorists. Recently five Muslim immigrants were convicted of plotting to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix in a case the government said demonstrated its post-Sept. 11 determination to stop terrorist attacks in the planning stages.

The Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah does not have a known history of fomenting attacks inside the U.S., but that could change if there is some kind of “triggering” event, the Homeland assessment cautions.

A 2008 Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism assessment said that Hezbollah members based in the U.S. do local fundraising through charity projects and criminal activity, like money laundering, smuggling, drug trafficking, fraud and extortion, according to the homeland security assessment.

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There are several sobbing articles about immigration in the NYT at the moment but the comment from Newsbusters below on one of them gives you an idea of their calibre

Sure, its revenues might be plunging along with its share price, but the New York Times is still good for something. In these somber days of winter, the Gray Lady, her name notwithstanding, can still inject the sunshine of humor-albeit of the unintentional variety. Take its current editorial, Getting Immigration Right — please. With jobs at a premium and the collapse of the Big Three automakers attributable in no small part to the role of the unions, the Times naturally comes out in favor of:

* making it easier for illegals to get into the country to compete for what jobs are left, and

* granting the right of illegals once here to . . . unionize.

The teaser on the Op-ed web page drew me in: “In a time of economic crisis, it is especially vital to uphold workers’ rights, even for those here illegally.” The body of the editorial didn’t disappoint on the promise of more liberal looniness. Annotated excerpts:

[H]omeland security secretary Janet Napolitano of Arizona and commerce secretary Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who understand the border region and share a well-informed disdain for foolish, inadequate enforcement schemes like the Bush administration’s border fence.

That’s funny. I don’t seem to remember Pres.-elect Obama praising the pair’s disdain for border fences at their announcement ceremonies. Maybe some Republican senators will get into this during their confirmation hearings.

[The Bush administration’s] campaign of raids, detentions and border fencing was a moral failure. Among other things, it terrorized and broke apart families and led to some gruesome deaths in shoddy prisons. It mocked the American tradition of welcoming and assimilating immigrant workers.

We don’t want people to die gruesome deaths in shoddy prisons. But the Times must be joking if it looks at the Bush years as ones of tough immigration enforcement. As for the American tradition of welcoming immigrants, yes, by all means: in respect of legal immigrants. Does the Times editorial board plan to spend spring break on the border, welcoming illegals as they slip into our country?

And finally, as promised in the teaser, the Times bemoans the fact that “illegal immigrant workers are deterred from forming unions. And without a path to legalization and under the threat of a relentless enforcement-only regime, they cannot assert their rights.”

Let’s review. Under the NYT’s immigration plan:

* border fences would be discarded.

* illegals would be welcomed.

* once in, they would be accorded worker rights including that of forming unions.
Could someone please explain how this is anything but an open-borders policy and an abandonment of national sovereignty? The Times’ bleeding-heart liberalism could be cause for some much-needed mirth, but for the fact that the editorial goes out of its way to praise Obama’s pick for Labor Secretary, Hilda Solis, as a “staunch defender of [illegal] immigrants” and someone who “promises a clean break” from Bush immigration policies. Cheers!

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