1. ICE changes strategy
2. Court overturns PA law
3. Angle courts Hispanics
4. Thai farmworker conditions
5. Farm labor costs debated
U.S. shifts approach to deporting illegal immigrants
By Marcus Stern
USA Today, September 10, 2010
The Obama administration is changing the federal immigration enforcement strategy in ways that reduce the threat of deportation for millions of illegal immigrants, even as states such as Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Ohio and Texas are pushing to accelerate deportations.
The changes focus enforcement on immigrants who have committed serious crimes, an effort to unclog immigration courts and detention centers. A record backlog of deportation cases has forced immigrants to wait an average 459 days for their hearings, according to an Aug. 12 report by Syracuse University's Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), which analyzes government data.
Among the recent changes:
• Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton ordered agency officials on Aug. 20 to begin dismissing deportation cases against people who haven't committed serious crimes and have credible immigration applications pending.
• A proposed directive from Morton posted on ICE's website for public comment last month would generally prohibit police from using misdemeanor traffic stops to send people to ICE. Traffic stops have led to increased deportations in recent years, according to Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank whose research supports tighter enforcement.
The directive said exceptions would be made in certain cases, such as when immigrants have serious criminal records.
• ICE officers have been told to "exercise discretion" when deciding whether to detain "long-time lawful permanent residents, juveniles, the immediate family members of U.S. citizens, veterans, members of the armed forces and their families, and others with illnesses or special circumstances," Daniel Ragsdale, ICE executive associate director of management, testified July 1 in the administration's lawsuit to block Arizona's controversial immigration law. The law requires police officers to determine the immigration status of suspects stopped for another offense if there was a "reasonable suspicion" they are in the USA illegally. A U.S. district judge has held up the provision pending review.
• A draft memo from ICE's sister agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, to Morton discussed ways the administration could adjust regulations so certain groups, such as college students and the spouses of military personnel, could legalize their status or at least avoid deportation if Congress doesn't pass comprehensive immigration reform. USCIS rules on applications for visas, work permits and citizenship. USCIS spokesman Christopher Bentley said the memo was intended to stimulate brainstorming on how to legalize immigrants if new laws aren't passed.
The administration's new direction puts it at odds with those who believe the nation's immigration laws should be strictly enforced and that all illegal immigrants should be deported.
ICE is "thumbing its nose at the law," said Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the top Republican on the House immigration subcommittee.
The changes have also drawn complaints from immigration advocates. They say deportations under Obama are at record highs and immigrants who remain behind are living in limbo, without work permits, Social Security cards or driver's licenses.
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Court voids Hazleton, Pa., law targeting illegal immigrants
By Alan Gomez
USA Today, September 10, 2010
A Hazleton, Pa., law that targeted illegal immigrants and served as a model for similar laws around the country was struck down by a federal appeals court Thursday.
The law, passed in 2006 but held up by lawsuits, would have allowed the city to revoke the licenses of businesses that employed illegal immigrants and fine landlords who rented to them. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that the law infringed on the federal government's exclusive power to regulate immigration.
"It is, of course, not our job to sit in judgment of whether state and local frustration about federal immigration policy is warranted," wrote Chief Judge Theodore McKee. "We are, however, required to intervene when states and localities directly undermine the federal objectives embodied in statutes enacted by Congress."
Mayor Lou Barletta said the city will appeal.
"This ruling is a loss for Hazleton and its legal residents," he said. "It is also a blow to the rights of the legal immigrants who choose to call Hazleton their home."
The ruling follows the July decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to halt Arizona's immigration-enforcement law, which would have required police officers to determine the immigration status of suspects stopped for another offense if there was "reasonable suspicion" they were in the country illegally. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is appealing that decision.
The Hazleton law was the model for similar laws passed around the country, said Omar Jadwat, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project, who argued against the Hazleton law before the appeals court.
After 84 state immigration laws of different kinds were passed in 2006, more than 200 were passed by state legislatures in each of the next three years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"I think it's especially significant that the parent of all of these laws has been pretty conclusively found unconstitutional by a federal court of appeals," Jadwat said.
Gabriel Chin, a University of Arizona Rogers College of Law professor, said those rulings will halt the wave of immigration laws as legislators realize the costs of defending them.
"They are going to put the brakes on around the country on anti-immigrant legislation because it begins to look like a costly proposition," Chin said.
Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a group that advocates tighter immigration controls, said Thursday's ruling "makes it almost certain" that the Supreme Court will weigh in on states trying to enforce immigration law.
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Angle courts wary Hispanics in Nevada Senate race
By Cristina Silva
The Associated Press, September 9, 2010
Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle's conservative views on illegal immigration and her limited outreach to Hispanics have done little to endear her to Nevada's largest minority group.
The tea party favorite is challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a swing state that borders Arizona, where a recent effort to enact a strict immigration law has polarized voters nationwide. Angle supports the law, which is generally unpopular with Hispanics, who make up 26 percent of Nevada's population and could decide the narrow Senate race. Reid does not.
"For me, she is scary," said Esperanza Montelongo, a Reid supporter who hosts a Spanish-language political radio show in Las Vegas. "She is anti-anything Latino."
Angle, a former state assemblywoman, boasted during her Republican primary race of opposing a state scholarship because it benefited students who were legal residents, but not citizens. She supports Arizona's Joe Arpaio, a conservative sheriff under federal investigation for potential civil rights violations. She has said Congress needs to define the 14th Amendment, which establishes birthright citizenship.
Angle's campaign, however, said it is not conceding the Hispanic vote. She is courting endorsements from Hispanic leaders and has plans to air Spanish-language ads.
"Her feeling is she needs to bring together all groups," campaign spokesman Jarrod Agen said.
In a year in which many voters seem to be craving new leadership, Angle represents a fresh voice for voters - Hispanic or other wise - disenchanted with President Barack Obama's social and economic agenda.
"They are in the same situation that everyone in Nevada is," Agen said, pointing to the state's wounded economy, where unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies are soaring.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval also could prompt some Hispanics to cross party lines and vote for Angle. Sandoval appears poised to become the state's first Hispanic governor, although his conservative positions on border security issues disappoint some Hispanics.
Polls show the Reid-Angle race to be a dead heat, and with low approval ratings, Reid needs the Hispanic vote to secure his fifth term.
Reid has spent years cultivating a sensitive image on Hispanic issues. He vowed to pass comprehensive immigration reform at a Las Vegas rally earlier this year, an effort that went nowhere in Congress. He has condemned federal raids on illegal immigrants who haven't committed violent crimes.
"We know that at the end of the day the Hispanic vote will be a vote for Reid and not for Angle because of all the work he has done for them," said Jose Parra, Reid's Hispanic liaison for his Senate office and campaign.
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Thai workers describe being lured into slavery in U.S.
By Teresa Watanabe
Los Angeles Times, September 9, 2010
More than two dozen Thai farmworkers lined up in front of the Wat Thai Buddhist temple in Sun Valley on Wednesday, flanked by the compound's two giant guardian statues but still so frightened of retaliation that they masked their faces with sunglasses, baseball caps and traditional Thai scarves.
Then their representative stepped forward and spoke, breaking the long public silence in what federal authorities call the largest labor-trafficking case in U.S. history.
Seven years in the making, the case broke open last week when a federal grand jury in Honolulu indicted Mordechai Orian, the Israeli-born president of Global Horizons Manpower Inc., a Beverly Hills labor contracting firm. Five of Orian's associates were also indicted on criminal charges of labor coercion of about 400 Thai farm workers.
As he took the lectern Wednesday, a 42-year-old farmworker described being recruited by Thai associates of Global Horizons to pick apples in Washington and pineapples in Hawaii. They promised him a 40-hour workweek with pay that amounted to more than 10 times his $100 monthly income as a struggling rice farmer in rural Thailand, he said.
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The man, who went by the pseudonym Lee to protect his identity, arrived in Seattle on the Fourth of July, 2004. But rather than finding freedom and independence, he said, he was charged an $18,000 recruiting fee and given less than half the work promised. The recruiters confiscated his passport, confined him to a wooden shack, warned him not to speak to anyone outside the farm and threatened him with violence and deportation if he tried to escape, he said.
Finally, in September 2005, he escaped under cover of darkness by running through pineapple fields, he said.
"I thought I would find freedom and jobs here," he said at the news conference. "I thought the United States was a civilized nation, the highest in the world. I never imagined this kind of thing could happen here."
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King wonders if Vilsack is ’secretary of amnesty’
By Lynda Waddington 9/9/10 3:10 PM
The Iowa Independent, September 9, 2010
For U.S. Rep. Steve King it was obviously an attack so nice that he had to use it twice.
King issued a press release in late August deriding U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for saying that without comprehensive immigration reform, American consumers will wind up spending “a lot more” for food. On Thursday, King hit the same notes while crafting his e-mail newsletter to constituents and supporters.
While interviewing with the Politico, Vilsack made the assertion that America’s relatively inexpensive foods can be linked to the immigrant workers employed by farms and other agricultural-related industries.
“But, if you didn’t have these folks, you would be spending a lot more — three, four or five times more — for food, or we would have to import food and have the food security risks. Neither is what Americans want. What they want is what we have. Which is why we need comprehensive immigration reform.”
King, a Republican from Kiron who is known for his strict stance against illegal immigration, took immediate exception to the comment, and has used it to allude to a grand scheme by Vilsack, President Barack Obama and other administration officials to enact blanket policy or legislation that would allow all immigrants to become citizens.
Data compiled by the USDA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, according to King, indicates that the cost of labor represents only 6 percent of the prices consumers pay for fresh fruits and vegetables. This statistic was also quoted in a 2007 white paper developed by the conservative Center for Immigration Studies to argue that the media was exaggerating farm labor shortages. While that white paper contains a lengthy bibliography, the statement in the introduction of labor only representing a 6 percent contribution to the price of food is not attributed.
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