Morning News, 8/25/09

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1. U.S. flies illegal Mexicans
2. Bunkers complicate CA fence
3. Court makes decision on asylum
4. Study finds no shortage of labor
5. NY Dept reports to DHS

Plan's aim is cutting border deaths
By Brady McCombs
The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), August 25, 2009

An annual summer binational program that offers Mexican illegal immigrants a flight home in an effort to save lives and disrupt smuggling has started a month later than usual and with a new air carrier.

The sixth annual Interior Repatriation Program kicked off on Saturday with 221 people flying from Tucson to Mexico City aboard two Miami Air flights. The program will continue through Sept. 28 with two flights a day at an estimated cost of $6 million.

The flights are voluntary and available only to Mexican illegal immigrants who don't have criminal records. Flights carry at least 133 people, with an average of about 150 a day so far, said John Torres, special adviser to the assistant Homeland Security secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In the previous five years, the program began in July and ran for at least two months, at a cost of about $12.5 million a year.

U.S. and Mexican officials said negotiations and logistics delayed the start this year. It was a "no-brainer" to renew the program for the new presidential administration, but things tend to move more slowly in a transition year, Torres said.

"You have to brief all the new officials that have been appointed and/or designated," Torres said. "The briefing process for all topics can be a little lengthier than what we normally see, especially with the focus on U.S.-Mexico relations."

The delay can be attributed to logistics being handled by the U.S. government, said Beatriz Lopez Gargallo, Mexican consul general in Nogales, Ariz. But she said the late start doesn't diminish this year's program.

"If it saves one life, it justifies the program," Lopez said.

The Arizona Daily Star's border-death database shows that June and July are the two deadliest months for illegal immigrants, with August the third-deadliest.

The shift to Miami Air from Aero Mexico (which operated flights the first five years) came down to the lowest bid, and the fact that the Mexican government had dropped a requirement from the first years of the program that it be a Mexican airline, Torres said.

"There has always been interest in getting it to a U.S. carrier," Torres said.

The program's aim is to separate illegal immigrants from smugglers who could put them back in harm's way during the scorching summer along the deadliest stretch of the U.S.-Mexican border. The program is also being offered in the Border Patrol's Yuma Sector.
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Border bunker battle
Fence backers, historians at odds over WWII posts
By Leslie Berestein
The San Diego Union-Tribune, August 25, 2009

On a windswept hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the remains of what constituted border security almost 70 years ago maintain an uneasy coexistence with present-day border fortifications.

Built into the ocean-facing side just a few yards from the aging metal fence that marks the U.S.-Mexico border are three concrete bunkers, the southernmost of a series of military installations built along the San Diego coastline during World War II to scan the horizon for invading Japanese ships and submarines.

U.S. soldiers spent cold days and nights in what was called the Mexican Border Fire Control Station, peering through telescopes at the ocean and sleeping on metal bunks, their supplies pulled up the steep hill on rails. If enemy ships were sighted, they were to report the news via underground telecommunications to troops manning long-range artillery at Point Loma.

The enemy troops never arrived, and the rough, clam-shaped bunkers on what is still referred to as Bunker Hill were abandoned once the war was over.

What occurred there decades ago is mostly forgotten, but Bunker Hill is still a battleground of sorts. The hill is the last piece of the westernmost 14 miles of border that does not have double fencing, a stretch that some political leaders have pushed to seal off since the mid-1990s.

For now, there are no plans to build a second fence through the area, most of which has a crude 20-year-old metal barrier. However, some local members of Congress continue to call for additional fencing at Bunker Hill, while historians and archaeologists continue studying the bunkers in hopes of preserving them.

“We think it an extremely important site,” said Bruce Coons, executive director of the Save Our Heritage Organisation, a historical preservation group that two years ago sued the federal government in an attempt to halt fence construction. “It shouldn't be needlessly destroyed.”

Over the years, plans to build additional fencing at Bunker Hill have varied. The terrain is very steep, making a fencing project a costly proposition. An alternative considered at one point was to build fencing to the north on lower ground, sparing the bunkers, but enclosing them between the two fences.

The bunkers, once accessible to hikers as part of Border Field State Park, are now off-limits; the federal government took control of the property before fence-building began in nearby Smuggler's Gulch last year.

Border fence construction is based on operational assessments, engineering, cost and other factors, said Claude Knighten, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman in Washington, D.C. And at the moment, he said, “there are no CBP plans to construct pedestrian fencing at the Bunker Hill location.”

This decision does not sit well with some border-fence proponents. Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and Brian Bilbray, R-Carlsbad, recently wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano insisting that double fencing be continued over Bunker Hill and through Goat Canyon on the eastern side of the hill. The double fence picks up again on the other side of the hill, about 700 feet to the west, and continues to the ocean.

Joe Kasper, a spokesman for Hunter — the son of former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a longtime fence proponent — said that while Bunker Hill is high ground with good visibility, this is no reason not to fence it.

“If you have a smuggler who is committed to crossing the border, they are going to make any effort possible to cross in any part,” Kasper said.

A federal mandate dating from the mid-1990s championed by the senior Hunter called for all 14 miles to be fenced, though environmental and other concerns have resulted in some parts being completed only recently.
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Genital mutilation grounds for asylum bid
By Bob Egelko
The San Francisco Chronicle, August 25, 2009

San Francisco -- A Northern California family whose daughter underwent forced circumcision in Indonesia is entitled to seek political asylum in the United States, a federal appeals court said Monday.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco criticized immigration officials who, in ordering the family deported, decided that the girl had suffered no serious harm when her genitals were mutilated as a newborn.

Any form of female genital mutilation is "horrifically brutal" and amounts to persecution under established precedents in federal courts and the Justice Department's immigration courts, the court said.

The 3-0 ruling gives Bob Benito Benyamin, his wife, Anabella Rodriguez, and their three daughters another chance to challenge deportation to Indonesia, where the oldest daughter underwent forced circumcision at 5 days old in 1992 at the orders of a grandmother. The family said she has felt pain from the procedure ever since.

The family entered the United States legally in 1999 and applied for asylum in 2002 after Benyamin's business visa expired. They live in the Sacramento area, their lawyer said.

Federal courts have granted asylum to women who fled their countries after being genitally mutilated or threatened with mutilation. In this case, the parents argued that one of their younger daughters would face ritual mutilation if deported to Indonesia, and that sparing her from deportation would be meaningless if the rest of her family was deported.

In denying asylum, immigration judges cited a State Department report that said female genital mutilation as practiced in Indonesia "involves minimal short-term pain, suffering and complications."
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Real Unemployment At 16 Percent
By Bradley Vasoli
The Bulletin, August 24, 2009

A report released last week by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) suggests official government estimates may misstate the extent of joblessness in America – and not in a relieving way.

CIS research director Steven Camarota analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on America’s unemployed rate, which was officially at 9.7 percent in June. The official jobless population was 15,095,000 at that point.

But when those who work part-time involuntarily and those who may hope for work but have not actively sought work are factored in, that month’s jobless rate rises to 16.8 percent. America therefore had an estimated underutilized labor force of 26,573,000 million people that month.

The nonprofit immigration research organization studied this swelled unemployed and underemployed population to determine whether America has the “labor shortage” to which many high-immigration advocates continually refer.

Examining native-born Americans exclusively, CIS reported that their unemployed population was 9.7 percent in June. Those working part-time involuntarily and those who have simply not actively sought work bring that figure up to 16.3 percent. The underutilized labor force therefore included 21.7 million natives.

CIS says this has major implications for the possibility of an amnesty for nearly all illegal aliens, something for which President Barack Obama has strongly hoped.

The overall jobless rate for immigrants, measured comprehensively, is 19.7 percent, according to CIS’ study. The analysis shows a surfeit of people from both groups of who are of modest education, skills and financial means.

“It just doesn’t seem like there’s any shortage of less educated workers,” Mr. Camarota said.

Another report by CIS last week scrutinized the assertion that immigrants do the jobs Americans refuse to do. Strictly speaking, there are no such jobs. Only four occupations – plasterers and stucco masons, agricultural graders and sorters, miscellaneous personal appliance workers, and tailors and dressmakers – employ mostly immigrants, and even their majorities in those cases are very slight.

In many professions stereotyped for employing many immigrants, natives make up the vast majority of the workers. Seventy-five percent of janitors are native-born; 65 percent of construction laborers were born in the U.S. as well.

Mr. Camarota said the supposition that these are jobs Americans will not perform owes partly to the relatively elevated educational and professional stature of those who make it.

“I think that really when college-educated people say ‘These are jobs Americans don’t want,’ what that really means is ‘These are jobs I don’t want.’”


Immigration Officials Often Detain Foreign-Born Rikers Inmates for Deportation
By Nina Bernstein
The New York Times, August 25, 2009

In a city with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to immigration status, it may come as a surprise to many that the New York Department of Correction routinely gives a list of foreign-born inmates at Rikers Island to immigration authorities, who use it to question, detain and try to deport thousands of them.

At least 13,000 Rikers inmates have been placed in deportation proceedings since 2004 through this practice, a coalition of immigrant advocacy groups has learned from data obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request. The groups, and their lawyers at the Immigrant Justice Clinic of Cardozo School of Law, will discuss the findings and start a protest campaign Tuesday morning at Judson Memorial Church in Lower Manhattan.

“This is a huge program with enormous consequences for New Yorkers,” said Nancy Morawetz, a professor at New York University School of Law, who helped one of the groups file for the information from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “The experience in New York is a warning about what we can expect nationally as ICE expands its jail-based programs around the country.”

According to information released in response to the request, agents from the federal immigration enforcement agency, typically in plain clothes and under no requirement to provide interpreters, question about 4,000 inmates a year about their immigration status, out of about 105,000 people jailed annually at Rikers. Immigration authorities put a hold, or “detainer,” on roughly 3,200.

Then, instead of being released when they finish their terms — or even if criminal charges against them are dismissed — these inmates are sent to immigration detention centers, often in Texas or Louisiana, far from legal services and relatives, Professor Morawetz said.

The advocacy groups, which include the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City, Make the Road New York and the Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights, contend that this process is “leaving the deportees’ families abandoned in New York and dependent on our city’s strained social service system.” The groups plan to ask the City Council to refuse federal agents access to pretrial detainees.

Gilliam Brigham, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency, defended the program.

“By processing these criminal aliens for removal before they are released to the general public, ICE is enhancing public safety,” she said.

The Rikers effort, she added, is “one element of ICE’s comprehensive strategy to build cooperative relationships with local law enforcement agencies.”

Stephen J. Morello, a spokesman for the Department of Correction, said the department provides federal immigration officers, who have free office space at Rikers, a list of newly admitted foreign-born inmates. But the information — including country of birth, if a detainee supplies it — is publicly available on the department’s Web site, he said, and if federal agents decide they want to visit a foreign-born detainee, the department cooperates.

After hearing advocates’ concerns that inmates were being inadequately notified of the nature of the visits and their right to decline them or to have legal representation, the department agreed in June to refine the current notification form, provide it in several languages and train correction officers about the issue, Mr. Morello added.
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