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Posted on January 28, 2011 by Robert A. Kraft

Yesterday, immigration and Customs Enforcement deputy director Kumar Kibble told a House subcommittee hearing that it costs approximately $12,500 to arrest, detain, and deport each person removed from the United States.

This is only one of several reasons that most immigration lawyers believe deportation of illegal immigrants is not a workable solution to our current immigration problems. 

In 2010 ICE deported about 393,000 people from the United States, and the cost was almost $5 billion. It’s estimated that 11 million people are currently in the U.S. without authorization. Extrapolating the ICE figures, it would cost the government almost $140 billion to deport them. We simply cannot afford to do that.

Posted on August 23, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

A recent article in the Dallas Morning News discussed the relatively “hands-off” deportation policy regarding students who are in the country illegally, but only because their parents brought them here as young children. In other words, these students did not choose to break the law and enter the U.S. illegally of their own will. Here are excerpts from the article:

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 U.S. without papers when they were children.

The students who have been allowed to remain are among more than 700,000 illegal immigrants who would be eligible for legal status under the Dream Act, a bill before Congress specifically for high school graduates who came to the U.S. before they were 16.

Department of Homeland Security officials said they had made no formal change of policy to permit those students to stay. But they said they had other, more pressing deportation priorities.

“In a world of limited resources, our time is better spent on someone who is here unlawfully and is committing crimes in the neighborhood,” John Morton, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in an interview. “As opposed to someone who came to this country as a juvenile and spent the vast majority of their life here.”

Still, Republicans say the authorities should pursue all immigrants who are here illegally.

The administration is debating how to handle immigration now that the chances for a broad overhaul that President Barack Obama supports have faded for this year.

An internal Homeland Security memorandum, released last month by Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, set off a furor among his fellow Republicans because it showed immigration officials weighing steps they could take without congressional approval to give legal status to some illegal immigrants – including suspending deportations of students.

But a White House official said that the administration had decided against the moratorium, preferring to push for the student bill.

“Legislation does far more for Dream Act students than deferring deportations would, in that it puts them on a path to citizenship,” said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss an internal policy debate.

Instead of a general moratorium, immigration authorities appear to be acting case by case to hold up deportations of young immigrants.

The vast majority of students who are illegal immigrants have no criminal records, and they would have to keep it that way to qualify to become legal under the Dream Act. To meet its terms, immigrants must also have graduated from high school and lived in the U.S. for at least five years, and they must complete two years of college or military service.

Lawmakers from both parties say the student bill draws wider support than the broader overhaul – but still not enough to make it likely to pass before the election.

Many young immigrants were brought to the U.S. illegally as small children by their parents. Often they only learn of their illegal status years later, when they are old enough to apply for a driver’s license or to attend college.

Posted on June 28, 2010 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News has an excellent editorial today pointing out the inequities in our current immigration system, particularly deportation. Few people would object to the deportation of criminals or of those who knowingly came here illegally as adults and made no effort to work within the system. But the editorial mentions the plights of other immigrants who, through no real fault of their own, have been placed in terrible situations by seemingly arbitrary decisions by the federal government.

The editorial is important enough to be reprinted in full: 

Justice isn’t always blind when it comes to immigration enforcement. U.S. authorities exercise apparently wide latitude to impose the letter of the law or inject compassion, especially in cases of political expediency. Too often, simple common sense doesn’t seem to factor into the equation. Three recent cases illustrate the point.

Olivera Snyder and her sister, Jelena Boldt, were born in the former Yugoslavia and brought here as children by their parents in 1985. They know little of their Serbian homeland. Both married Americans, and Olivera has three American children. Through one of the stranger twists in U.S. immigration enforcement, the Dallas-area sisters are bracing for deportation, despite having filed all the required paperwork and completed every step of the process.

Their immigrant mother won permission to stay. They have no criminal history. Someone in the bowels of Immigration and Customs Enforcement decided it was time to close their cases and move on. Their lawyer says he can’t get an explanation and describes the case as “one of the most disturbing departures from rational thinking I have ever witnessed.”

Eric Balderas is a Harvard student who grew up in the United States and has virtually no memory of his early childhood before his parents brought him to Texas from Mexico. He lost his passport and wound up in the sights of an ICE official as he boarded a flight from San Antonio to Boston. Now he faces deportation. Harvard dignitaries are trying to help, but the 19-year-old’s future hangs in limbo until a July 6 deportation hearing.

Hervé Fonkou Takoulo is a Cameroonian facing deportation after losing an asylum bid. He and his American wife, Caroline Jamieson, are professionals in Manhattan. Jamieson wrote to President Barack Obama in a desperate attempt to stave off the deportation, and in apparent retaliation, two immigration agents went to the couple’s house, mentioned the Obama letter and then took Takoulo away in handcuffs. An inquiry by The New York Times led to Takoulo’s quick release.

Thousands of such cases never make it into the media spotlight, so there’s no telling how many horror stories are out there. It shouldn’t take a reporter’s inquiry or an embarrassing news article to make immigration authorities recognize that theses are human beings whose lives face irrevocable destruction.

Yes, we want a predictable and consistent system of immigration laws that apply equally to all. But common sense also must come into play. These three cases underscore the real human hardship created by America’s broken immigration system and overburdened immigration courts. Comprehensive immigration reform, with tough but fair measures to help people attain legal status in this country, is the best way to break this chain of tragedy.

Posted on September 23, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Foreign nationals who have stayed in the United States after the expiration of their period of authorized stay or are present in the United States without being admitted or paroled are unlawfully present in the U.S.   If more than 180 days but less than a year of unlawful presence accrues, then the foreign national is inadmissible for three years (three year bar). Foreign nationals who are unlawfully present for one year or more are inadmissible for 10 years (10 year bar). If a foreign national has accrued unlawful presence in the United States, then they are deemed inadmissible and illegible to re-enter the U.S. for either the three year or 10 year bar from the date they leave the U.S.   There is a waiver available for the unlawful presence ground of inadmissibility. Essentially the waiver will waive the three and 10 year bar of inadmissibility. The waiver is only available to foreign nationals with a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or parent. Children are not deemed qualifying relatives for the waiver. The first step in the waiver process is for the foreign national to attend an immigrant visa consular interview in their home country. Once the consular officer deems the foreign national is inadmissible and a waiver is available, the foreign national will then file the waiver (form I-601, with the applicable filing fee) and establish there is extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent if the foreign national were not allowed to return to the United States. The waiver request is discretionary and extreme hardship is only one factor the officer will consider.   Certain individuals do not accrue unlawful presence and are not subject to the three or 10 year bar. For instance, foreign nationals under 18 years of age do not accrue unlawful presence.  

For more information on the waiver process, and extreme hardship, please call Kraft & Associates at 214-999-9999.

Posted on July 9, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Wall Street Journal reports, “The Obama administration said Wednesday it would implement a Bush-era program aimed at cracking down on federal contractors that hire illegal immigrants.” The program will require employers to “check whether employees are entitled to work in the U.S. through the government’s E-Verify system, which compares names and Social Security numbers with a government database.” Illegal workers are then supposed to be fired. “The Obama administration also said Wednesday it would end a similar program that is unpopular with the business community: the so-called no-match program operated by the Social Security Administration.”

From the American Association for Justice news release.

Posted on July 1, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports that 66 gang members have been arrested in a North Texas sweep. This effort is part of a continuing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement project targeting gangs that operate both in Texas and in other countries including Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, and Laos. Here are excerpts from the article:

The arrests were made with assistance from police agencies in Arlington, Dallas, Carrollton, Fort Worth, Irving, Lewisville and Plano. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives also participated.

Among those arrested were six gang members from the Mara Salvatrucha 13, considered one of the most violent transnational gangs. Two members of that gang were arrested in Carrollton, one person in Irving, and the other three in Dallas or Fort Worth, said ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok.

One person, arrested in Fort Worth, was identified as a member of the Zetas, a gang linked to a Mexican narcotics cartel. Another 22 gangs were represented among those arrested, ICE said.

About a third of those arrested were U.S. citizens, ICE said. Fourteen of the 66 were deemed “gang associates.”

Posted on June 15, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Sheriff’s offices in the South Texas counties of Hidalgo, Starr, Brooks, Jim Wells, and Kenedy have begun accessing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) fingerprint databases to determine if arrested individuals are immigration offenders who may face removal.   Once each individual’s criminal process is completed, he or she will be taken into ICE custody. Secure Communities was launched in October 2008, and is currently in place in San Diego, California; Mesa, Arizona; Fairfax, Virginia; and Dallas, San Antonio, and Huntsville, Texas. All U.S. counties are expected to implement the system by 2012.   ICE asserts that the Secure Communities initiative will allow law enforcement officials to streamline a “time-consuming and spotty system of Border Patrol interviews in jails.”  

More information may be found by visiting: www.ice.gov.

Posted on June 4, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

As reported in the Dallas Morning News, a rule limiting access to lawyers for immigrants facing deportation has been tossed out by the Obama administration. Here are excerpts from the article:

The rule was issued in the waning days of the Bush administration, angering immigrants’ rights groups that immediately sought to persuade the incoming Democratic administration to discard it.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder did just that, saying he is vacating the order issued by predecessor Michael Mukasey that said that immigrants facing deportation do not have an automatic right to an effective lawyer.

Mukasey had issued a 33-page decision in January saying the Constitution does not entitle someone facing deportation to have a case reopened based upon shoddy work by a lawyer. Mukasey also said, however, that Justice Department officials have the discretion to reopen such cases if they choose.

Posted on June 2, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Until now, new inmates booked into the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department had their fingerprints checked only for criminal history information. But now, each new inmate booked into one of the three largest jails in the County will now also have his or her fingerprints checked by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) biometric system for any immigration record.   The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is the first law enforcement organization in California to partner with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in their Secure Communities program. This comprehensive program is intended to streamline the process by which ICE determines if the screened inmate is a criminal alien, subject to automatic removal at the completion of his or her incarceration. Highest priority is given to inmate aliens who have been convicted of crimes such as rape, robbery, murder, kidnapping, and major drug offenses.   By implementing programs like Secure Communities in prison facilities and law enforcement organizations, ICE identified more than 221,000 potentially removable aliens incarcerated nationwide in fiscal year 2008. This fiscal year, the agency anticipates spending more than one billion to continue these programs.  ICE currently partners with 50 counties and law enforcement agencies across the nation through the Secure Communities program and looks to expand the program to all law enforcement agencies throughout the United States.   More information about ICE’s Secure Communities effort is available at www.ice.gov. Additional information about the San Diego County Sheriff’s partnership with ICE may be found at:

http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/0905/090526sandiego.htm.

Posted on May 26, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

Until now, new inmates booked into the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison system had their fingerprints checked only for criminal history information. But now, each new inmate booked into the Huntsville, Texas, intake site will now also have his or her fingerprints checked by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) biometric system for any immigration record.

The TDCJ prison system is the first in the United States to partner with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in this new program, called Secure Communities. This comprehensive program is intended to streamline the process by which ICE determines if the screened inmate is a criminal alien, subject to automatic removal after the inmate completes his or her prison term. Highest priority is given to inmate aliens who have been convicted of crimes such as rape, robbery, murder, kidnapping, and major drug offenses.

Eventually all 24 intake sites in Texas will have the same capability to screen inmates’ immigration history. ICE currently partners with 50 counties and law enforcement agencies across the nation in the Secure Communities program, and looks to expand the program to all law enforcement agencies throughout the United States.

More information about ICE’s Secure Communities effort is available at www.ice.gov. Additional information about TDCJ’s partnership with ICE may be found at: http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/0905/090519huntsville.htm.

Posted on May 11, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reported that 27 people were arrested in the Dallas area on charges of migrant-smuggling. The Federal government has accused these people of bringing 500 to 1,000 illegal immigrants a month into the United States. The U.S. Attorney’s office said these arrests were the result of a two-year investigation.

Posted on February 5, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

On January 22, 2009, we posted a blog message discussing the Secure Communities program administered by U.S. Immigration and Custom’s Enforcement (ICE) that facilitates the process for ICE to determine if an individual in local custody is a potentially deportable criminal alien. When an individual is detained, as part of the booking process their fingerprints are taken. With the Secure Communities program, the fingerprints are simultaneously checked for criminal and immigration records.

Now, six southwest Texas counties have joined the Secure Communities program to identify criminal aliens in the counties’ jail systems and process them for deportation. The six southwest Texas counties are Zavala County, Uvalde County, Maverick County, Val Verde County, Kinney County, and Real County.  Additional information on the Secure Communities program is available at http://www.ice.gov/pi/nr/0902/090202sanantonio.htm.

Posted on February 4, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

An article in the New York Times today reveals that a federal program originally intended to find and deport illegal aliens with criminal records has been altered to focus on easier targets – aliens with no criminal records and no deportation orders outstanding. Here are excerpts from the article:

The raids on homes around the country were billed as carefully planned hunts for dangerous immigrant fugitives, and given catchy names like Operation Return to Sender.

And they garnered bigger increases in money and staff from Congress than any other program run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, even as complaints grew that teams of armed agents were entering homes indiscriminately.

But in fact, beginning in 2006, the program was no longer what was being advertised. Federal immigration officials had repeatedly told Congress that among more than half a million immigrants with outstanding deportation orders, they would concentrate on rounding up the most threatening — criminals and terrorism suspects.

Instead, newly available documents show, the agency changed the rules, and the program increasingly went after easier targets. A vast majority of those arrested had no criminal record, and many had no deportation orders against them, either.

Peter L. Markowitz, who teaches immigration law at Cardozo and directs its immigration legal clinic, said the memos obtained in its lawsuit reflected the Bush administration’s effort to appear tough on immigration enforcement during the unsuccessful push to pass comprehensive immigration legislation in 2006, and amid rising anger over illegal immigration.

“It looks like what happened here is that the law enforcement strategy was hijacked by the political agenda of the administration,” he said.

Posted on January 22, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

The Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have developed a new program that enhances identification and removal of criminal aliens. The program, known as Secure Communities, is administered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and provides ICE and other local agencies immigration history information on an individual who is booked into jail. During the booking process, the arrestees’ fingerprints are taken, and checked for criminal history and now also for immigration records maintained by DHS. If the person’s fingerprints match those of a person in the DHS fingerprint system, ICE will be notified and take the appropriate enforcement action.

More information is available at www.ice.gov.

Posted on January 10, 2009 by Robert A. Kraft

From the Journal of the American Bar Assocition:

Days before a new presidential regime will be in place at the White House, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey issued a written opinion (PDF) yesterday finding that noncitizens have no constitutional right to counsel in deportation proceedings.

The attorney general’s opinion, which reverses a 15-year precedent established by Matter of Lozada, is also expected to make it more difficult for aliens who retain private attorneys to seek relief for ineffective assistance of counsel, reports the Blog of Legal Times.

The ruling was greeted with dismay by immigrants rights groups, which intend to seek relief in Congress, according to the BLT. But, in the meantime, federal courts are likely to defer to the attorney general’s opinion as far as ineffective assistance claims in immigration cases are concerned, Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, tells the law blog.

The opinion, which must be followed by the nation’s immigration courts and Board of Immigration Appeals, gives them discretion to reopen cases when major counsel error prejudices a case.

Posted on December 29, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Here’s a bit of good news from Immigration and Customs Enforcement – ICE is reducing the number of deportees they sedate, and is using less-powerful drugs when they do sedate people. Here are excerpts from an article in the Dallas Morning News:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Posted on November 18, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

An editorial in today’s Dallas Morning News decries the decision by Harris County to release illegal immigrants who have been charged with felonies. This editorial is hard to argue with. Regardless of your position on immigration reform, surely no one believes our country is better off because we’re releasing serious criminals because of paperwork delays. Here is the editorial:

Local authorities around the country are taking the lead to tackle illegal immigration because our leaders in Washington have failed to devise a workable enforcement system. Federal deficiencies are so severe that public safety is being compromised, as a Houston Chronicle report showed this week.

Regardless of where you stand on comprehensive immigration reform, it’s hard not to be outraged by the failures the Chronicle exposed in Harris County’s jail system. Hundreds of illegal immigrant inmates charged with felony crimes – murder, rape, drug dealing and child molestation – were set free because Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities didn’t complete the paperwork to hold them for deportation.

ICE, part of the Homeland Security Department, failed to process detention orders for roughly 2,600 jail inmates who admitted they were illegal immigrants. In 177 cases, inmates committed additional crimes after being released. Hundreds had three or more prior convictions.

ICE officials say they’re doing their best with limited resources, but we’ve heard that excuse before. A year ago, ICE officials were forced to temporarily curtail the Criminal Alien Program in Irving because their staff and facilities couldn’t cope with the number of illegal immigrants Irving police were detaining.

Dallas County announced last week that it would participate in a new federal database project that is even more comprehensive than Irving’s. With growing participation by local governments, the pressure on ICE is going to grow. But ICE says it would take years and up to $1 billion to bring a new screening system up to speed and ensure the most serious offenders are deported – not released.

The heated debate in Washington over comprehensive immigration reform no doubt will resume after the incoming Obama administration addresses other pressing issues such as the economy and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ridding our cities of these most undesirable immigrants deserves top priority attention, too. Failing that, the Department of Homeland Security should consider a name change, because the criminals it is releasing onto our streets have no justification to be in this “homeland.” And when they roam free, the notion of security for Americans becomes laughable.

Posted on November 13, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports that the Dallas County jail has become one of the first in the nation to use a new federal database to identify illegal immigrants during the book-in process. Here are excerpts from the article:

Normally, when prisoners are booked into jails, their fingerprints are run through a national database to check their criminal history. Under the new initiative, fingerprints also will be automatically run through a similar database to check the person’s immigration status.

If the computer shows a prisoner is in the country illegally, he or she will be referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which will determine whether to place an immigration hold on the person. The same applies to non-U.S. citizens who have been convicted of certain crimes while in the country legally.

After the person’s criminal charges are resolved through probation or prison time, they will be referred to ICE for deportation.

Posted on November 6, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports today that arrests of illegal immigrants in North Texas increased 21 percent in the last fiscal year. Here are excerpts from the article:

More than 16,300 people were repatriated to their native countries, compared with 13,500 the previous fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security.

For the nation, removals of illegal immigrants has doubled since 2004.

For the last two years, the federal government has stepped up its use of criminal law, rather than administrative law, in prosecuting immigrant workers in the U.S. illegally.

It is unclear what measures the incoming presidential administration of Barack Obama will take, and when. But Mr. Obama has been critical of raids that divide families, has urged tougher enforcement of employers who hire illegal immigrants, and has spoken favorably of a legalization program with certain qualifications.

Posted on October 24, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced that the Bush administration will renew its efforts to crack down on U.S. companies that hire illegal immigrants. This effort is currently stalled by a federal judge’s ban.

The administration wants to begin mailing notices to almost 150,000 employers, forcing the employers to match their employees against a federal database of Social Security numbers.

The proposal is drawing fire from all sides. Both the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are opposed to this move. The problem is that it will cost employers much time and money in the middle of an economic crisis, and will probably lead to the loss of thousands of jobs, partly due to inevitable errors in the government database. Higher unemployment is exactly what our country does not need right now.

Posted on October 21, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Today’s Washington Post reports on an ID theft case that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to consider. The question is whether prosecutors in immigration cases have to prove that defendants in aggravated identity-theft cases knew they were victimizing real people. Here are excerpts:

The justices will hear the appeal of Ignacio Flores-Figueroa, a Mexican illegal immigrant who used false identification to get a job at a steel plant. He was convicted of aggravated identity theft, a charge created in 2004 that carries a mandatory two-year prison term. It is increasingly being used against those picked up in federal raids on work sites that employ illegal immigrants.

Flores-Figueroa argued that the government failed to prove that he knew the fraudulent documents belonged to a real person as opposed to being fabricated. Lower courts in the case, accepting the Justice Department’s position, ruled that the government did not have to prove that.

Overall, three appellate courts have rendered decisions backing the government; three have ruled otherwise. The Supreme Court is expected to resolve the dispute.

A loss for the government, experts said, would devastate its ability to use aggravated identity-theft charges against illegal immigrants because most of them do not know whether their fake IDs belong to someone else.

Posted on August 27, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Here is the official ICE press release regarding the immigration raid in Laurel, Mississippi this week:

595 arrested in ICE and Department of Justice joint immigration enforcement action initiated at Mississippi transformer manufacturing facility
Approximately 106 identified with humanitarian issues, eight charged criminally

LAUREL, Miss.- U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) special agents executed a federal criminal search warrant yesterday at Howard Industries, Inc., an electric transformer manufacturing facility, for evidence relating to aggravated identity theft, fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other crimes, as well as a civil search warrant for individuals illegally in the United States.

The announcement was made by ICE Special Agent in Charge of the Office of Investigations in New Orleans, Michael A. Holt, and Stan Harris, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi.

As a result of yesterday’s enforcement action, approximately 595 illegal aliens were arrested by ICE special agents. Of those, approximately 106 were identified as being eligible for an alternative to detention based on humanitarian reasons. These individuals will still be required to appear before a federal immigration judge who will ultimately determine whether or not they will be deported.

Eight criminal cases have been accepted for prosecution by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi. The criminal cases are focused on charges of aggravated identity theft. The other cases are being handled via administrative law procedures at the Department of Homeland Security.

“Yesterday’s enforcement action is part of ICE’s ongoing nationwide effort to shut down the employment magnet fueling illegal immigration,” said Holt. “We are committed to strengthening the integrity of our nation’s immigration system.”

Harris noted that the eight cases being criminally prosecuted are for separate identity theft charges. “Identity theft is a growing problem in the United States, and the Department of Justice has prioritized bringing perpetrators of these crimes to justice and protecting the interests of innocent victims.”

All of those arrested were interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed by ICE agents and processed for removal from the United States. Approximately 475 were transported to an ICE facility in Jena, Louisiana where they will await the outcome of their case. The eight individuals facing criminal charges are in the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Service.

Everyone encountered was medically screened and interviewed by a Public Health Service officer to determine if they had any medical, caregiver, or other humanitarian concerns. As a result of this screening, ICE identified individuals eligible for humanitarian release and nine unaccompanied juveniles who are all 17-years-old. The juveniles, which included one female and eight males, were transferred into the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR).

Those arrested yesterday represent numerous countries including: Germany, Peru, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama, Honduras and Brazil.

ICE contacted local Consular officials, community groups and others to ensure they have accurate information regarding the operation.

ICE has established a local telephone number for family members to find out more information about the detention status of those arrested. Family members may call: 1-866-341-3858.

The investigation into this case continues.

Posted on August 27, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

 MSNBC has a good article about the huge immigration raid in Mississippi. I hope the detainees are treated better this time than were those in Iowa. Here are excerpts from the article:

The largest single-workplace immigration raid in U.S. history has caused panic among Hispanic families in this small southern Mississippi town, where federal agents rounded up nearly 600 plant workers suspected of being in the country illegally.

One worker caught in Monday’s sweep at the Howard Industries transformer plant said fellow workers applauded as immigrants were taken into custody. Federal officials said a tip from a union member prompted them to start investigating several years ago.

About 100 of those detained were released for humanitarian reasons, many of them mothers who were fitted with electronic monitoring bracelets and allowed to go home to their children, officials said.

Another 475 workers were transferred to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Jena, La. Nine who were under 18 were transferred to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

The superintendent of the county school district said about half of the district’s approximately 160 Hispanic students were absent Tuesday.

Those detained were from Brazil, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, and Peru, said Barbara Gonzalez, an ICE spokeswoman.

The Mississippi raid is one of several nationwide in recent years.

On May 12, federal immigration officials swept into Agriprocessors, the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant, in Iowa. Nearly 400 workers were detained and dozens of fraudulent permanent resident alien cards were seized from the plant’s human resources department, according to court records. In December 2006, 1,297 were arrested at Swift meatpacking plants in Nebraska and five other states.

Posted on June 26, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

An immigration raid in Houston yesterday netted more than 160 immigrants, many of whom will be deported. Here are details in excerpts from a story in the Dallas Morning News:

More than 160 suspected illegal immigrants working in a hot, cluttered rag factory were detained Wednesday in one of the largest immigration raids in Houston in nearly two years.

The detainees are from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

About 60 may qualify for temporary release, if they have so-called humanitarian issues, such as health needs, or are sole caregivers to children.

About 70 percent of those detained were female – eight of whom were pregnant – and two minors were released to members of their family.

Posted on June 1, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Houston Chronicle ran a thought-provoking article today titled Immigration raid spurs calls for action against employers. The point of the article is that if the government was serious about workplace enforcement, they would arrest officers and management, not just workers. In the recent Iowa raid, more than ⅓ of the employees were arrested and labeled as illegal immigrants. As the article quotes a New York congressman, “Is it not reasonable to assume that if over a third of the work force employed at this plant violated labor law in one form or another that management has to have some complicity in those violations?”

So will we continue to put on a show of hassling workers while we allow management to skate free? Or will we get serious about enforcement by sending some corporate officers to prison? Or, would it be smarter to just sit down and come up with a comprehensive immigration reform package that both political parties could agree to pass? Here are excerpts from the article:

After the biggest immigration raid in U.S. history, hundreds of workers have been sentenced but not one company official as yet faces any charges — something critics say is typical of a federal government that is tough on employees but easy on owners.

Worker advocates and lawmakers say the fact that nearly 400 workers were arrested in the May 12 raid at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in Postville — or more than one-third of the total number of employees — proves that company officials must have known they were hiring illegal immigrants.

“Until we enforce our immigration laws equally against both employers and employees who break the law, we will continue to have a problem with immigration,” said U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, an Iowa Democrat whose district borders Postville.

Such raids are designed to get headlines and make it appear that the federal government is cracking down on illegal immigration, said Frank Sharry, executive director of the immigration reform group America’s Voice. But he says even those who think enforcement is the answer can’t seriously believe the 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. can be arrested and deported.

“Even if you wanted to pursue an imbalanced enforcement-first strategy, the only thoughtful way to do it would be to go after employers, make examples of them and try to scare other employers into compliance,” he said. “They’re not doing that.”

Continue Reading…

Posted on April 17, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports today that immigration agents raided several companies across the country, and arrested quite a few people for identity theft. Especially hard-hit was a Pilgrim’s Pride plant in East Texas. Here are excerpts from the story:

Federal immigration officials on Wednesday arrested more than 280 workers employed at Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plants in five states, including Texas, on suspicion of committing identity theft. The crackdown is part of a widening criminal investigation involving workers at the world’s largest poultry processor. “This case is a good example of our efforts to prosecute identity theft that harms credit and the good name of U.S. citizens,” said Julie Myers, assistant secretary for the U.S. Homeland Security Department, in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. “We have cooperated fully with the government,” said Ray Atkinson, a Pilgrim’s Pride spokesman, at corporate headquarters in Pittsburg, Texas. Pilgrim’s Pride also participates in a federal government program to voluntarily check Social Security numbers against workers’ names in two government databases, Mr. Atkinson said. The program is known as E-Verify. It has been criticized as error-prone and because it can’t detect workers who are using authentic Social Security numbers connected to a U.S. citizen or a legal permanent resident. “Unfortunately, it does not detect ID theft situations,” Mr. Atkinson said of E-Verify. Identity fraud is a felony under federal law, and a growing problem as federal immigration efforts have intensified and workers in the U.S. illegally have looked for ways to avoid detection. Some U.S. citizens, and legal residents, rent or share their Social Security numbers, making detection even more arduous. In Houston, Dallas and Washington, D.C., advocates for those detained denounced the law enforcement round-ups. Douglas Rivlin of the National Immigration Forum noted the U.S. arrival on Tuesday of Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI and the pontiff’s message to President Bush on immigration. “At the same moment that Pope Benedict XVI was admonishing President Bush that the U.S. must treat immigrants with dignity and humanity, the Bush administration was rounding up immigrant workers in raids in at least five states across the country,” Mr. Rivlin said in a prepared statement. “What a black eye for the president and for the United States.” Pilgrim’s Pride officials have been activists for a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. An attempt at such reform failed last year in Congress. It would have provided a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants, a guest worker program and toughened enforcement against employers.

Posted on April 1, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

This is a follow-up on the last post about the immigration raid on security guards in Dallas. According to the Dallas Morning News:

Twenty-nine of 49 people picked up in a weekend Immigration and Customs Enforcement sweep targeting illegal immigrants who were working as state-licensed security guards have been sent back to Mexico, officials said Monday. The U.S. attorney’s office is evaluating what charges to pursue against the others still being held at the Bedford Jail, which ICE contracts to use as a short-term detention facility.

Those returned to Mexico were offered a “voluntary return” because none of them would have faced prosecution for criminal charges, ICE Dallas spokesman Carl Rusnok said. “Voluntary return is offered to noncriminal aliens or low-level criminal aliens” – such as for violations that usually result in a ticket, he said.

Posted on March 31, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports today that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided more than two dozen mostly Latino night clubs, restaurants, pool halls and other businesses Saturday night, arresting 49 undocumented immigrants employed as security guards. Here are excerpts from the story:

All of those arrested work for two local security companies, which authorities declined to identify Sunday. At 11 p.m. Saturday, teams made up of local, state and federal officers simultaneously hit 26 businesses in the Love Field area, northwest Dallas, Old East Dallas and Lakewood. No injuries were reported. Authorities recovered four pistols. Federal law prohibits illegal immigrants from possessing firearms. Those arrested also face charges of being in the country illegally. Five of the suspects face charges of document tampering in order to get licensed as a security officer and to carry a firearm, Ms. Bradfield said. That is a third-degree felony, and the punishment range is two to 10 years. “Hopefully, this operation will help us send a message that we will not tolerate the falsification of documents for undocumented aliens under the guise of providing security,” said Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins in a statement Sunday. Four of those arrested were from El Salvador, and the others were Mexican, authorities said. In addition to ICE and the district attorney’s office, the following agencies also participated Saturday night: the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Dallas Police Department; the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission; and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas.

Businesses raided

1. Az De Oro Night Club, 3320 Samuel Blvd., Dallas 2. Far West Night Club, 7331 Gaston Ave., Dallas 3. Ojeda’s Restaurant, 4617 Maple Ave., Dallas 4. El Penasco, 4601 Maple Ave., Dallas 5. Izalco Bar, 4605 Maple Ave., Dallas 6. Palacio, 4430 Maple Ave., Dallas 7. Metropolis, 8416 Denton Dr., Dallas 8. El Pulpo Restaurant, 2829 W. Northwest Hwy., Suite 330, Dallas 9. Los Compass Deli and Club, 2829 W. Northwest Hwy., Suite 216, Dallas 10. Taqueria Lupita’s, Webb Chapel Ext., Dallas 11. Terry’s Supermarket, 3025 Webb Chapel Ext., Dallas 12. Extravaganza Restaurant and Bar, 2905 Webb Chapel Ext., Dallas 13. Billares Puebla, 2900 Walnut Hill Lane, Dallas 14. Guerrero Bar, 2900 Walnut Hill Lane, Suite 220, Dallas 15. Exclusiva, 2900 Walnut Hill Ln., Suite 200, Dallas 16. La Frontera, 9744 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas 17. La Pachanga, 9745 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas 18. Los Corrales Restaurant and Bar, 10229 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas 19. El Diamante, 4915 Singleton Blvd., Dallas 20. Club de Cache, 9100 N. Central Exp., Suite 300, Dallas 21. Oficina Billares, 10830 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas 22. Viva Cafe and Billiards, 2829 W. Northwest Hwy., Suite 330, Dallas 23. Dallas Gentleman’s Club, 2117 W. Northwest Hwy., Dallas 24. 039 Club, 1820 W. Mockingbird Ln., Dallas 25. Orienta Night Club II, 8120 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas 26. La Tormenta, 9834 Brockbank Dr., Dallas

Posted on March 29, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

The Los Angeles Times recently ran an interesting story about the abuse of unauthorized immigrants working in car washes in Southern California. Essentially, the immigrants work for tips only, allowing the employers to avoid paying wages or taxes of any type. Fear of deportation keeps the car wash workers from complaining. It’s just one more way that mistreatment of illegal aliens allows Americans to pay lower prices for goods and services. Here are excerpts from the story:

A team of state inspectors strode into the Blue Wave Car Wash in West Los Angeles, past latte-sipping customers in electric massage chairs and into the gritty carwash tunnel. “¿Cuánto gana usted?” the inspectors asked worker after worker, about 20 of them, most Latino immigrants. How much do you make? Each carwashero responded that he earned minimum wage or more — just as the owner of the Blue Wave, one of the region’s busiest carwashes, had told the inspectors. Looking over payroll records, however, the regulators became suspicious. Employees who said they were full time were listed as working just 10 or 15 hours a week. Inspector Martha Mendoza ushered Juan Cruz Santiago, a small man with salt-and-pepper hair, away from the others. During gentle questioning under a ficus tree, he admitted that most days, he and his 66-year-old father worked for tips only. So did nearly half the other employees, he said. It had been that way for at least six years. “It’s bad,” the 41-year-old Oaxacan immigrant whispered to Mendoza, his eyes darting nervously toward his boss’ office. “Other carwashes are the same, no?” Many are. A Times investigation has found that hand carwashes, automotive beauty shops patronized by tens of thousands of Southern California motorists every day, often brazenly violate basic labor and immigration laws, with little risk of penalty. Half or more of carwash owners flout the minimum-wage law, estimated David Dorame, the longtime lead investigator for low-wage industries at California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. “Tips only” is a requirement for some new workers until owners are satisfied that they can properly dry a car, laborers said. Their take is typically $10 to $30 a day. Desperate for a toehold in the region’s underground economy, many in the largely undocumented workforce are loath to complain for fear of being fired, physically threatened or deported. Pedro Guzman, an undocumented Honduran immigrant, said a manager at a Hollywood carwash was able to keep employees washing at a furious pace — 350 to 700 cars a day — with two words in ungrammatical Spanish: “Quiere casa?” “Want to go home?” Immigration authorities have done little to discourage the steady flow of undocumented workers into carwash jobs, affording owners an endless supply of cheap, eager and easily exploited laborers. Despite the national debate over illegal immigration and a recent crackdown on some employers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they have not raided a single California carwash in at least four years.

Posted on February 16, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

Phoenix is the latest city to try to do what the federal government refuses to do — resolve the nation’s perceived illegal immigration problems. Phoenix police will now start asking all people arrested in that city whether they are in the U.S. legally. Here are excerpts from an article in the New York Times:

The police in this city at the center of the immigration debate will soon ask all people arrested whether they are in the United States legally and will in certain cases report the information to the federal authorities, Mayor Phil Gordon announced on Friday. People stopped for civil traffic violations like speeding will not be questioned, nor will crime victims or witnesses. All those arrested on criminal charges like drunken driving and murder will be asked by officers whether they are in the United States legally. The police may decide to recommend checking by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The change includes having the police notify the immigration agency about people who are detained but not arrested who officers have “reasonable basis” to believe are illegal immigrants. A conservative legal group said the policy did not go far enough. Civil rights advocates suggested that people who appeared to be Latino or spoke with accents would be more likely to be checked than others. Hispanics make up 34 percent of Phoenix, the nation’s fifth-largest city, with 1.5 million residents. The program departs from a policy that is more than 10 years old that bars officers from asking people about their legal status in most cases. It also sets Phoenix apart from most other big cities with large immigrant populations, including New York and Los Angeles. The police in those cities generally avoid such questions over fears that they would lead to racial profiling and discourage immigrants from cooperating with the police.

Posted on February 12, 2008 by Robert A. Kraft

As another result of the federal government’s refusal to take any action regrading immigration reform, more and more local jurisdictions are attempting their own solutions — usually with poor results and unintended consequences.

The Dallas Morning News reports today that Republican candidates for County Sheriff are incorporating strict immigration enforcement policies into their campaigns, while Democratic candidates are mostly silent on the issue. Here are excerpts:

Sheriff’s hopefuls want jail to check for illegal immigrants Dallas County: Most from GOP say jail could detect suspects who are in country illegally

The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department isn’t doing enough to identify illegal immigrants in the jail, according to some Republican candidates for sheriff.

Illegal immigration, a hot topic locally and nationally, has become an issue in the race for sheriff. Several candidates are addressing it in their campaigns. One of them, Mesquite police Lt. Charlie Richmond, has made it his top issue.

He and fellow Republican candidates Catherine Smit and Jim Bowles say they would apply for special training from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that would allow jailers to question inmates about their immigration status and detain them for federal authorities.

But former Irving Police Chief Lowell Cannaday said he would prefer to use a model used in Irving in which jailers call ICE at all hours of the day when they suspect an inmate is in the country illegally.

Most of the Democrats in the race don’t support such measures.

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is running for re-election, says she has no plans to change the current arrangement in which a couple of ICE agents periodically visit the Lew Sterrett Justice Center to question inmates.

All of the Democratic candidates for sheriff except for Lancaster school Police Chief Sam Allen agree that the department is doing all it can and that immigration enforcement is a job best left to the federal government.

When ICE agents determine an inmate is a noncitizen who is deportable, they place a hold or detainer on him so he can be turned over to federal authorities once his local criminal charges are resolved.

That means the inmates must sit in the jail until ICE can pick them up. Between 180 and 230 Dallas County prisoners are released to ICE’s custody every month, said Ron Stretcher, the county’s criminal justice director.

He said he has not studied the impact of the detainers on the jails’ population but that he plans to do so.

“Anytime you place holds or detainers, it’s critical that we get a quick response,” Mr. Stretcher said, referring to ICE’s ability to take custody of inmates.

Mr. Cannaday said some defense attorneys will bond out their clients when they know ICE agents are not inside the jail. He said illegal immigrants must be screened when they are booked into the jail.

Inmates who are booked into the Dallas County jails currently must fill out a form that asks for their country of birth. But jail guards do not use that information to screen for illegal immigrants.

It’s an election year, and the question of identifying illegal immigrants in jails has arisen in the Harris County sheriff’s race as well.

Harris County Sheriff Tommy Thomas, who is running for re-election, wants his jailers to receive the ICE training to determine the immigration status of noncitizens.

Ms. Smit, the Cockrell Hill police chief who is running as a Republican, said she would work with other law enforcement agencies in the county to develop a coordinated strategy for tackling the problem.

“Every prisoner who comes into intake should be questioned at book-in so ICE agents have an opportunity to get to them before they bond out,” she said.

Posted on December 11, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

From the Brownsville Herald comes a story about a recent USCIS proposal to require holders of old green cards with no expiration dates to turn them in and get a newer version. The stated reason for the proposal is to allow USCIS to get current personal contact information on these green card holders.

The problem for green card holders will be that this will give USCIS an opportunity to run criminal background checks, and if any minor infractions of the law are found, the green card holder could be subject to deportation. It’s going to be a very tricky matter. Here are excerpts from the article:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) is considering a proposal to eliminate hundreds of thousands of green cards that were issued between 1979 and 1989. The cards, which were issued without expiration dates, would be upgraded to store personal information electronically. Officials at CIS say that the new cards would be more difficult to counterfeit. Like cards issued after 1989, they will expire every ten years. “The photos on the old cards are more than 18 years old,” said Sharon Rummery, a spokesperson for CIS, “and the security features are not as good.” She explained that the new card includes holograms of U.S. presidents, which are difficult to duplicate. CIS is currently reviewing comments that have been submitted in response to the proposal. As of now, there is no timeline for implementation. If the proposal, which was issued on Aug. 22, moves forward, legal permanent residents would have 120 days to apply for new cards. Failure to comply with this would be a misdemeanor, which could result in $100 fine and/or imprisonment of up to 30 days. Immigration attorneys are concerned about the financial burden their clients will bear if the proposal is implemented. The card costs $290 plus an additional $80 for fingerprinting and photo fees.

Permanent residents who replace their green cards will also be subject to criminal background checks. If an infraction–even one as minor as a traffic citation–is uncovered, they might be asked to provide relevant paperwork, including proof of an indictment and its dismissal.

Posted on October 19, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News reports today that the City of Irving may have come to an agreement with immigration-rights advocates regarding the arrest and deportation of so many illegal aliens in Irving recently. Here are excerpts from the article:

Illegal immigrants may be able to avoid being arrested in Irving if they can provide police with a Mexican identification card, a utility bill or a similar document, the city’s mayor said Thursday.

“You have a better chance if you can identify yourself,” Mayor Herbert Gears said after meeting with immigration-rights activists. “If you can’t identify yourself, you’re going to have no chance.”

The acceptance of the Mexican ID, known as a matrcula consular, and other documents besides state-issued ID cards comes as activists have encouraged the mayor to help prevent more people from being deported as part of the Criminal Alien Program. Irving officials began using the program in September 2006 and have since turned more than 1,600 arrestees over to federal authorities for deportation.

Mr. Gears explained that if someone is stopped for a traffic violation, that person’s chances of avoiding jail will be better with proof of identification. If the police can confirm someone’s identity, that person will be issued a citation and let go.

The mayor also agreed to help create an educational campaign to inform people of immigration laws.

Posted on October 5, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

CNN has an interesting article online about a sailor in the U.S. Navy who may have to quit the service because his wife is being threatened with deportation. Here are excerpts:

Eduardo Gonzalez, a petty officer second class with the U.S. Navy, is about to be deployed overseas for a third time. Making his deployment even tougher is the fact his wife may not be around when he comes back.

His wife faces deportation to Guatemala — her home country that she hasn’t seen since 1989. He also doesn’t know what would happen to his young son, Eduardo Jr., if that happens.

“I like being in uniform and serving my country, but if she goes back I’m going to have to give it all up and just get out and take care of my son and get a job,” he said.

“Defending the country that’s trying to kick my family out is a thought that always runs through my mind.”

The U.S. military does not have a policy to deal with such cases. Each is handled case-by-case, not by the military, but by immigration authorities. The government doesn’t have numbers on how many military members are in predicaments similar to Gonzalez’s.

Immigration officials also said marrying a U.S. citizen does not mean the spouse is automatically entitled to U.S. citizenship or permanent legal status.

Article Correction
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Eduardo Gonzalez’s immigration status when he entered the United States as a boy. He and his family entered the country legally. Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, a member of the U.S. Army Reserves who teaches immigration law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, said she believes there should be an overall policy dealing with the potential deportation of family members of active duty military members.

“You got to understand. When you’re in a combat zone, you need to be focusing all of your energies on fighting the enemy. You can’t be worried that your loved ones back home could be shipped off to a foreign country where you’re never going to see them again,” she said.

Stock also said the government is conflicted about how to treat such cases. On the one hand, the government is supposed to be providing military families with assistance, housing and other forms of benefits while their spouses are overseas. On the other hand, the same government is trying to deport the very same people.

“What’s happening right now is, because of the dysfunction and complexity of our immigration laws, we’ve got people fighting overseas who are facing the impossible situation of having family members facing deportation back home,” she said.

In Gonzalez’s case, his wife, Mildred, came to the United States with her mother in 1989 when she was 5 years old. They were granted political asylum because of their status as war refugees from Guatemala.

In September 2000, Mildred’s mother applied for legalization and included her daughter in that application. Her mother was granted legal status in July 2004, according to Gonzalez.

However, six weeks earlier, Gonzalez and Mildred got married, canceling Mildred’s ability to apply for legal status through her mother because she was no longer an unmarried daughter under the age of 21. As a result, her legal status still remains in jeopardy.

A judge in June granted her a one-year extension to remain in the United States. If her legal status does not change by June 8, 2008, she will have 60 days to voluntarily leave the country or face deportation.

That’s just fine, according to Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, which lobbies for tougher laws on illegal immigration.

“What you’re talking about is amnesty for illegal immigrants who have a relative in the armed forces, and that’s just outrageous,” he said. “What we’re talking about here is letting lawbreakers get away with their actions just because they have a relative in the military. … There’s no justification for that kind of policy.”

Gonzalez said that type of response is unjustified. “I’m trying to make his country better — my country better — and it should be her country too.”

“I understand the laws have to be followed and guidelines and a system must be maintained, but on the other token, there are times when the situation is just out of their reach,” Gonzalez said.

His wife, Mildred, added, “We didn’t come here to break the law. We just want to feel safe and have a home just like everybody else.”

U.S. Army Sgt. Emmanuel Woko, a member of the Army’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division who faces his third tour in Iraq, understands just how Gonzalez and his family feel. His wife and children could be sent back to Nigeria.

“My heart is bleeding on the thought that my wife could be deported back to Nigeria while I am deployed in Iraq,” he said. “I am extremely distressed and distracted by the thought.”

That’s a sentiment echoed by Gonzalez: “We are not asking for anything. We are just asking for our families to stay with us.”

Posted on October 3, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

My friend Ren Castilla has written an excellent guest editorial for the Dallas Morning News about the immigration situation in Irving, Texas, his current, and my former, hometown. In fact, this is by far the most rational and logical discussion of the situation that I have seen.

I have posted before about Irving’s participation in the Criminal Alien Program, in which the Irving police call the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement department pretty much any time they detain a Latino without proper immigration paperwork. This has resulted in illegal aliens being deported because they committed traffic violations, regardless of the positive contributions they may have made to the community in the years they lived here.

The editorial is so good, I’m going to take the liberty of publishing it in its entirety. Please don’t tell  the Dallas Morning News…

When the Irving City Council adopted the Criminal Alien Program earlier this year, it was in response to the mounting pressure from the community and a council member to participate in the federal program 287g, an immigration enforcement section of the Immigration and Naturalization Act.

The majority of the City Council wanted no part of 287g ,and neither did Irving Police Chief Larry Boyd, partly because city jailers would come under the supervision of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and partly because ICE wants the city to underwrite the cost of implementing the program.The minority community wanted no part of 287g because it gave wide discretion for police officers to pick people off the streets who looked suspiciously Hispanic and maybe undocumented.

Long before the City Council formally adopted the Criminal Alien Program, Chief Boyd established a working relationship with ICE, whose district offices were in Irving and whose nearby agents were invited on a regular basis to make a sweep of Irving jails. ICE did identify criminal illegal aliens and had them deported.

When a resolution came before the city council to adopt the Criminal Alien Program, it did so with the support of the minority leadership of Irving, including those Hispanics outside of Irving who are now organizing protests denouncing the program.

The Criminal Alien Program was seen as a better alternative to 287g. It rid our communities of criminal illegal aliens who were drug dealers and other felons preying on our community.

So why did it turn sour?

ICE moved its office from Irving to Dallas, and the agents who had regularly entered Irving jails were no longer available to make on-site visits. Face-to-face interviews switched to telephone interviews. The procedure now had jailers deciding when to call ICE for a telephone interview with a detainee.

If a jailer can’t establish identity, call ICE.

That’s the rub.

When it was reported that ICE was now deporting 300 people a month (mostly Hispanic), suspicions were aroused. And rightly so. Individuals were turned over to ICE for traffic violations and failure to provide proper identification, in some cases for public intoxication.

Traffic citations are nothing new. What changed is that now there are consequences for these traffic violations in Irving. ICE is in the picture under the Criminal Alien Program.

What didn’t change were the old practices for processing individuals to determine identification. No identification? You speak Spanish? Call ICE. Irving police say this procedure applies to everyone without regard to race. Maybe.

What the demonstrations and shouting matches did was call to our attention that there are flaws in the Criminal Alien Program.

Now that the shouting has stopped, it is time for the mayor, the police chief and the minority leadership in Irving to come up with workable guidelines for the program palatable to all sides.

For example, at what point should jailers call in ICE, especially when they detain Spanish speakers with limited English speaking ability? Entering the United States is a civil offense, not a criminal offense, so why equate one with the other?

Most traffic violations – driving without a license or public intoxication – are all class C misdemeanors. It is certainly less serious than a felony. So maybe felonies should be the triggering mechanism to call in ICE. Failure to show proof of identity is cause for being taken to jail for fingerprinting. But if fingerprinting brings up no criminal record or outstanding warrants, does calling ICE have to be the next step?

These are all important questions for the mayor, police chief and minority leadership in Irving to consider.

There is no indication that the City Council is going to rescind the Criminal Alien Program, even though fear of police is spreading throughout Irving’s Hispanic community. Stories of random police stops to check IDs are beginning to surface.

It’s time for Irving to take back its city and regain control of a program gone bad. A solution-based dialogue is an important first step.

Ren Castilla is executive dean of North Lake College South Irving Center and chairman of the Mayor’s Human Relations Advisory Committee. His e-mail address is castilla@dcccd.edu.

Posted on September 28, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The news (and protests) about the City of Irving’s policy of reporting the immigration status of everyone stopped for a traffic violation or detained by the police for any other reason has many immigrants afraid to live in or even drive through Irving.

Whether you’re a legal or illegal immigrant or an American citizen, it can be helpful to know how best to avoid being stopped by the police for any reason.

First and foremost, know and obey all traffic laws. The best source for learning the rights and responsibilities of Texas drivers is the Texas Drivers Handbook, available free from the Web site of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Obviously the police will, and should, stop any driver who runs a red light, speeds, doesn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign, or commits some other major traffic violation. But police look for other, less obvious, driving errors also. They are trained to do this in order to get drunk drivers off the road, but it’s a good idea for each of us to know what activities might catch the eye of a patrol officer.

There are preventive steps you can take to avoid being stopped. Many of these steps will help you avoid making the driving mistakes that might lead a police officer to decide to pull you over.

Let’s assume you are about to drive a car. If you are at all uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the car you are driving, you are much more likely to make mistakes or drive erratically. And if you are not driving well, you are more likely to get stopped by a police officer.

If you are driving a car you are not used to–a friend’s car, a car you just bought, or a car you have not driven in awhile–it is important that you take a moment to remind yourself where everything is before you start to drive: emergency brake, transmission, turn signals, windshield wipers, headlights, high beams, hazard lights, and so on. To get an overall feel for the car, just grip the steering wheel and put your foot on the brake. Also make sure that the seat and steering wheel are adjusted properly for you.

Taking a few seconds to do this is especially important if you are used to driving a car with a different kind of transmission. If, say, you are driving an automatic when you are accustomed to a manual, spending a minute or two to familiarize yourself with the car can make the difference between getting where you are going safely and slamming on the brake in a frantic search for a non-existent clutch.

Also make sure everything on the outside of your vehicle is in working order and that your vehicle registration tags are current. Police officers often use a minor vehicle infraction like broken taillights or expired registration tags as a reason to stop a vehicle. Things like broken taillights are especially likely to get you pulled over at night when they can be easily seen.

Before you start driving, know where you are going, how to get there, and how to get back home. Getting lost and trying to find the right road will inevitably lead to errors in your driving.

If the unfortunate occurs, and you are stopped, know your rights and what to expect when you are pulled over.

If you have any questions about these matters, please contact Kraft & Associates.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on September 27, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The Dallas Morning News has an article today about a large protest of the immigration policies of the city of Irving, a suburb of Dallas. In a nutshell, Irving’s policy is to check the immigration status of anyone detained or arrested in the city. This has resulted in a very large number of immigrants who have been deported after being stopped for a traffic violation or other minor infraction.

Obviously there are two schools of thought on this subject. One is that any person here illegally should be found and deported. The other is that a city has no business trying to enforce a federal law, and it’s disruptive to the community and to the lives of individuals for good, hard-working people to be deported just because they got traffic tickets.

Here are excerpts from the Dallas Morning News article:

Angered over a record number of recent deportations in Irving, more than 1,000 protesters waved U.S. flags and chanted “We are America” as they rallied Wednesday night at City Hall.

Demonstrators called for Irving officials to put a moratorium on turning over suspected illegal immigrants to federal officials until immigration laws are reformed nationally. They also urged people to call Mayor Herbert Gears and ask him to stop deporting people from the city’s jail.

“We need to raise our voice and we need to ask for changes about the things we don’t like here,” said Hector Flores, a leader in Irving’s Hispanic community.

A few people who support the deportations carried signs in favor of the illegal immigration enforcement.

“Our compassion starts at home, and our charity starts at home,” said Sue Richardson, a longtime Irving resident and vice president of the Greater Irving Republican Club.

At the heart of the contention is Irving police’s use of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Criminal Alien Program. The plan provides for round-the-clock communication with federal authorities and is designed to detain illegal immigrants who have been accused of a crime. It’s the latest tool being used by local governments in the absence of a federal overhaul of immigration laws.

“It does not deal with illegal aliens; it deals with criminal illegal aliens,” said Irving City Council member Tom Spink.

Tensions over the practice have simmered for months among residents, officials and City Council colleagues. But the program has recently become a lightning rod for controversy with publicity about the growing number of people Irving police hand over to federal officials for deportation each month.

Opponents say police are overzealous. Supporters believe the program is the perfect answer to a national problem. And some residents and council members say police still aren’t going far enough to combat illegal immigration.

Irving police have turned over at least 1,600 people to Immigration and Customs Enforcement since June 2006. In response, Mexican Consul Enrique Hubbard Urrea last week warned immigrants from his country to avoid Irving. And community leader Carlos Quintanilla said he would organize a boycott of Irving businesses if the city persisted.

Opponents of the program say Irving police are unfairly targeting Hispanics. They say that many Hispanics have become afraid of police and that families are being torn apart as parents are deported thousands of miles from their children.

“This isn’t justice,” said Deyla Reyes, a Northlake College student. “We need to stop this. These people have come here to work. We cannot support this program.”

Many people at the rally accused Irving police of racial profiling and turning Hispanics over for deportation because of minor traffic infractions.

“We’re not just hurting people driving without driver’s licenses,” said Luis DeLaGarza, a political consultant who helped organize the rally. “We are hurting the economy in Irving. We need to have immigration reform.”

Mr. Gears said a major part of the problem isn’t Irving’s policy. Instead, it’s lack of knowledge of the law. He said many people – including natural-born citizens and legal immigrants – aren’t aware of consequences that come with traffic citations, which can include license suspension. And many minorities, he said, wrongly assume that police officers who ask for identification are trying to prove citizenship.

Mr. Gears said he has overseen investigations into every complaint about the program but has found no wrongdoing or malice on the department’s part.

Posted on June 12, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) made a statement on their Web site yesterday that Federal immigration officials had illegally deported a U.S. citizen last month. Pedro Guzman, who is 29 years old, is currently missing in Mexico.

Mr. Guzman was born in Los Angeles and raised in California. He was serving time in jail for a minor misdemeanor offense when he was deported to Tijuana on May 10, 2007. Mr. Guzman is developmentally disabled, does not read or write English well, and knows no one in Tijuana.

Currently, it is not clear why Mr. Guzman was removed from the United States. The ACLU of Southern California stated that even though he was deported illegally, Federal officials in the United States have refused requests from family members to assist in the search for Mr. Guzman. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, in a written statement, denied that Guzman’s deportation, which followed immigration checks at the jail, was improper.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time a U.S. citizen has wrongfully been deported from the United States. There are documented cases where citizens have been deported, usually to Mexico. Although this rarely happens, the most common scenario is when a person automatically becomes a citizen (usually through a parent who naturalizes) and never realizes that he or she has also acquired U.S. citizenship. It is extremely rare to hear of a case like Mr. Guzman’s, who was born and raised in the U.S., and then deported as an adult to Mexico.

Under federal immigration law, there are absolutely no circumstances which allow a citizen to be deported if they were born in the United States. For those who naturalize in the U.S., the only basis for deportation is if they lied or committed fraud on their citizenship applications.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on March 7, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

The American Civil Liberties Union has officially filed a lawsuit against federal immigration officials at the T. Don Hutto immigration detention facility that is located in Tyler, Texas. The lawsuit is brought on behalf of the children confined at this facility.

The ACLU claims in its lawsuit that both adults and children are being detained at this facility in jail-like conditions and that the children are not being provided with adequate schooling or medical care. The ACLU also states that the children are not allowed to bring either books or toys into the facility.

Many of the people who are currently detained in the facility are those who are seeking asylum in the United States. They could potentially wait more than 200 days before they are scheduled for a hearing with an immigration judge who would decide whether they will stay in the U.S. or be deported.

The ACLU’s main argument for the release of the children from the detention facility is that it is against the law and against American values to place children in a jail-like setting, without access to school or recreation.

Posted on February 2, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

On September 30, 2001, a Palestinian family, the Ibrahims, entered the U.S. on tourist and business visas. They were unable to return home, however, since that would require traveling through Israel and Jordan. This was impossible since their temporary Jordanian passports had expired and Israel does not allow Palestinians to return home through that country.

Unable to return home, the Ibrahims applied for asylum, but their case was denied. A deportation order was issued for them to return home. Once again, this was impossible for the Ibrahim family. The family members were then classified as “stateless,” which implies that they have no country to be deported to.

Three months ago, however, the family was arrested during a raid at their Richardson apartment by immigration enforcement officers. The arrest came over two years after the family’s request for asylum was denied. The family, which includes Salaheddin Ibrahim, his wife and four children, are now being held in a detention facility in Taylor, Texas. Mr. Ibrahim’s wife is also five months pregnant.

Much attention has been drawn to this case since four children, who range from the ages of five to fifteen, are also being detained. Lawyers who are working to help the Ibrahims, have taken action in federal district court so that the family may be released.

The lawyers representing the Ibrahim family contend that there is no justification for the detention of the family or the young children. The petition seeking their release notes that the children have been traumatized by being held in a jail like setting and are being deprived of education. The lawyers also argue that there is no basis for detention since the family does not pose a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Posted on January 14, 2007 by Robert A. Kraft

For non-citizens, the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction may be far greater than any punishment of jail time, probation or a fine. For those non-citizens who are convicted of crimes, particularly those given state or federal prison sentences, Immigration Services will most likely begin proceedings to deport them from the United States. In many cases deportation will result regardless of the length of time in the United States, family ties in the United States, or even the severity of the crime committed.Based on a criminal conviction, a client might be subject to deportation, and in some cases be permanently barred from the United States. In other cases, criminal conduct may preclude a finding of good moral character under the Immigration and Nationality Act, which is a requirement for naturalization.In other situations, the immigration consequences of criminal activity can include delays in obtaining visas to the U.S. and denial of immigration benefits while in the United States.To complicate matters, the Immigration and Nationality Act has developed its own definition for what constitutes a “conviction.” For example, the definition of “conviction” includes a guilty plea or deferred adjudication. This ambiguity in the definition of conviction has led to attorneys erroneously advising their clients to accept deferred adjudication believing that this would not constitute a conviction under immigration law.

Deportation Issues

An alien with a criminal record may be barred from admission to the United States. In general, among others, crimes of moral turpitude, drug offenses, multiple offenses, and engaging in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past ten years will be considered as criminal grounds and can make the alien subject to being barred from future legal admission to the United States.Additionally, most drug offenses under the U.S. immigration laws may result in deportation from the United States, depending on the type of controlled substance involved. This includes violations of any law or regulation relating to a controlled substance, no matter whether the law is federal, state or foreign. These laws cover persons with a past conviction or admission of committing offenses. They may also include any person that a USCIS officer knows, or has reason to believe, is a drug trafficker.

Naturalization Issues

When applying for citizenship, it is necessary to show that the applicant has been a person of “good moral character” for the past five years. If there was any criminal conviction during this period, however, it is possible that the naturalization application will be denied.

Additionally, if a criminal conviction is brought to light while applying for naturalization, a person may be placed in removal proceedings. There is a wide variety of acts (some that do not even need to result in a criminal conviction) that will result in a person’s application for naturalization being denied.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.

Posted on December 7, 2006 by Robert A. Kraft

Immigration courts have often deported immigrants residing in the United States for minor drug offenses. This occurred because under the Immigration and Nationality Act any immigrant convicted of an aggravated felony was deportable. An aggravated felony included any felony punishable under the Controlled Substances Act.

As a result of this, thousands of immigrants were deported from the United States. Minor drug convictions under state law were being used to remove aliens from the U.S. However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided on December 5, 2006, that immigration courts cannot deport aliens convicted of minor state drug offenses that are not felonies under federal law.

Immigration is currently regulated under federal law. Therefore, in order for a person to be deported, the offense committed must be considered to be an aggravated felony under federal law, regardless of its categorization under state law.

Currently, those who are convicted of misdemeanors (both felony and state) are allowed to apply for certain waivers if they are placed in removal proceedings. This is not an option for those who have been convicted of felonies. The Supreme Court now holds that the only time when a waiver is not available to an immigrant in deportation proceedings is for a crime that is a felony under federal law.

The decision by the Supreme Court will certainly reduce the number of people who are deported from the United States each year for minor drug offenses. The Supreme Court also made it easier for some immigrants convicted of drug possession under state law to remain in the country.

For more information about immigration news, immigration laws, immigration policies, proposed immigration laws, border enforcement, green cards, citizenship, employment visas, family visas, naturalization, and other immigration subjects, please visit Immigration Law Answers and DFW Immigration Law Blog.