Morning News, 7/12/11

1. ATF to require gun buyer info
2. Mexican repatriation flights
3. Asylum fraud industry thrives
4. Immigrants leaving AL
5. Advocate urges All-Stars

ATF to require gun buyer information on border
By Pete Yost
The Associated Press, July 11, 2011

In an effort to stem the illicit flow of weapons into Mexico, the Justice Department announced Monday that all gun shops in four Southwest border states will be required to alert the federal government to frequent buyers of high-powered rifles.

The new policy comes amid criticism of a flawed federal probe aimed at dismantling large-scale arms trafficking networks along the Arizona border with Mexico.

In the probe, called Operation Fast and Furious, several agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives say they were inexplicably ordered by superiors to stop tracking some small-time "straw" buyers who purchased large numbers of weapons apparently destined for drug cartels.

Twenty low-level gun buyers have been charged in the operation. In December, two assault rifles that one of the now-indicted small-time buyers under scrutiny in Fast and Furious had purchased from a gun shop in Glendale, Ariz., turned up at the scene of a shootout that killed Brian Terry, an agent of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In recent congressional testimony, ATF agent John Dodson estimated that 1,800 guns in Fast and Furious were unaccounted for and that about two-thirds are probably in Mexico.

Under the new policy, federal firearms licensees in Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico must report purchases of two or more of some types of rifles by the same person in a five-day span. The requirement applies to purchases of semi-automatic rifles that have detachable magazines and a caliber of greater than .22.

ATF estimates it will generate 18,000 reports a year.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the new reporting measure will improve the ATF's ability to disrupt illegal weapons trafficking networks that funnel firearms to criminal organizations

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said the new policy "is exactly what ATF agents on the ground told Congress — that reporting multiple sales of military-grade assault weapons is a crucial tool to identify and disrupt Mexican drug cartels engaged in gun trafficking."

One of the critics of Operation Fast and Furious called the new policy "the height of hypocrisy." The Obama administration is restricting the gun rights of border state citizens, "when the administration knowingly and intentionally allowed guns to be trafficked into Mexico," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas.
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U.S. and Mexico resume migrant repatriation flights
Reuters, July 11, 2011

An annual program of voluntary repatriation flights to take Mexican illegal immigrants nabbed in the Arizona desert back to their homes in the Mexican interior resumed on Monday, authorities said.

The joint program coordinated by U.S. and Mexican authorities has operated each summer since 2004. It aims to save lives while disrupting Mexican human smuggling networks, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said in a news release.

Last year 249 people perished after crossing into Arizona, according to a tally kept by the Arizona Daily Star newspaper. The most common cause of death is heat exposure in the summer months, when desert temperatures frequently top 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

Under the program, Mexicans arrested in the U.S. Border Patrol's Yuma and Tucson sectors are offered the flights after meeting with Mexican consulate officials and receiving a medical check up.

Participants are flown to Mexico City from Tucson International Airport. Once in Mexico, they are taken by bus to their hometowns, ICE said.
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Immigrants May Be Fed False Stories to Bolster Asylum Pleas
By Sam Dolnick
The New York Times, July 11, 2011

The man caught on the wiretap urged his immigrant client to fabricate a tragic past if he wanted asylum in the United States. To say that he was a victim of political repression in Albania. Or police brutality. Or even a blood feud.

“Maybe you had to leave because someone threatened to kill you,” the man suggested. “Because of something that your father did to somebody else or something to do with the land. You understand? That can be a way to get asylum.”

Often enough, it is. A shadowy industry dedicated to asylum fraud thrives in New York, where many of the country’s asylum claims are filed. Immigrants peddle personal accounts ripped from international headlines, con artists prey on the newly arrived and nonlawyers offer misguided advice.

The revelation that the West African hotel housekeeper who accused Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault apparently lied on her asylum application has focused new attention on the use of these schemes.

The embellished stories go in and out of fashion along with the news of the day, reflecting turmoil in nations around the globe, lawyers say.

West Africans claim genital mutilation or harm from the latest political violence. Albanians and immigrants from other Balkan countries claim they fear ethnic cleansing. Chinese invoke the one-child policy or persecution of Christians, Venezuelans cite their opposition to the ruling party, and Russians describe attacks against gay people. Iraqis and Afghans can cite fear of retaliation by Islamic extremists.

Of course, thousands of those claims are legitimate. But each cataclysm provides convenient cover stories for immigrants desperate to settle here for other reasons, forcing authorities to make high-stakes decisions based on the “demeanor, candor or responsiveness” of the applicant. “When there’s a problem anywhere, a horrible slaughter in Somalia, wherever, the first couple of years of those cases are very real,” said Andrew Johnson, an immigration lawyer in Manhattan. “Then the next four or five years, they just mimic those stories.”

There is no reliable data on the pervasiveness of asylum schemes, but law enforcement officials say they are among the most common immigration frauds, and the hardest to detect and investigate. “Fraud in immigration asylum is a huge issue and a major problem,” said Denise N. Slavin, an immigration judge in Miami who is vice president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s accuser said in her 2004 asylum bid that she was gang-raped, and that soldiers destroyed her home, beating her and her husband, who she said died in jail. She recently admitted to prosecutors that she had been lying.

Her lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, said she was desperate to leave Guinea, and had been encouraged to exaggerate her claims. She told Manhattan prosecutors that a man had given her a recording of the asylum story to memorize.

The accuser’s immigration case is apparently not unusual.

A woman from Burkina Faso who lives in Harlem said she had recently acted as an interpreter for a woman from another African country, Mali. The woman had undergone genital mutilation, but told her lawyer she suffered no side effects. In court, the interpreter said, the Malian woman changed her story.

“People would lie to stay here because they don’t want to be sent back home,” the interpreter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she did not want to implicate anyone, said.

Amadou Diallo, the street vendor from Guinea who was shot 41 times by New York police officers in 1999, came from a well-off, stable family. But he told immigration authorities that he was from nearby Mauritania, and that his parents had been killed in that country’s conflict.

It was not true, but he was granted asylum. The scheme was revealed after his death.

Every immigrant neighborhood has businesses that guide newcomers — many of them here illegally — through the complicated process of gaining legal status. Sometimes that means claiming asylum in immigration court, one of several ways to receive it.

Some of them employ legitimate lawyers. Many do not.

In legal circles, these operations are sometimes called “chop shops.” In Hispanic neighborhoods, they are called “notarios,” which handle everything from money transfers to asylum applications. In Chinatown, clusters of legal offices atop narrow staircases offer dubious counsel. In Harlem, one storefront provides a range of services like shipping to West Africa, travel insurance, translation help, tax assistance and immigration aid.

“Often, the applicant is misled by various actors with a story that is much more compelling,” said Claudia Slovinksy, a longtime immigration lawyer. “Weren’t they soldiers? Wasn’t it a gang rape?”

Whether here legally or illegally, immigrants can apply for asylum within one year of arriving. To qualify, they must show a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group — which could cover gays or abused women.

Immigration courts across the country granted 51 percent of asylum claims last year, government statistics show. Such courts in New York City, which heard more cases than in any other city, approved 76 percent, among the highest rate in the nation.
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Immigration law could impact city's rebuilding
By Patrick Rupinski
Tuscaloosa News, July 10, 2011

On Wednesday morning, Dorothy McDade called a Hispanic immigrant she hadn't seen for a while to see how he was doing.

The immigrant answered and said he had moved to Texas, said McDade, who works in the Hispanic ministry at Holy Spirit Catholic Church. The man is among a growing number of Hispanics leaving Alabama.

Some Hispanics left after the April 27 tornado rendered them homeless. But a potentially larger exodus of Hispanics began after the Alabama Legislature passed a law in June that bans hiring people who are in the country illegally.

"I am surprised by how many have already left," McDade said, adding that she thinks more Hispanics will go before the law takes effect on Sept. 1.

There is no solid number on how many Hispanics have left the Tuscaloosa area in the past few weeks, but there is anecdotal evidence of their departure — fewer people at Holy Spirit's Spanish Mass on Sunday afternoons, more Hispanics talking about leaving and more inquiries from Hispanics to church workers like McDade, asking what they should do .

Most of the Hispanics immigrants, whether they came here legally or illegally, came to find work, she said.

"They work hard and take jobs others won't," McDade said.

As they leave, it is possible that a worker shortage could develop in some industries that employ large numbers of Hispanics.

"It will cause a labor shortage, particularly in construction and in fields dominated by Latino immigrants," said Michael Innis-Jimenez, an assistant professor of American studies at the University of Alabama, who specializes in Latino and labor issues.

And that shortage might manifest itself most as reconstruction in tornado-ravaged neighborhoods gets under way in earnest later this year and in 2012.

Jimmy Latham, CEO of WAR Construction in Tuscaloosa and president of the Alabama Association of General Contractors, said the rebuilding in Tuscaloosa will be most noticeable by January and February 2012, and that's when people here might see the impact of the new law.

"Statewide, what we think will happen is that the (work) crew sizes will get smaller and prices will go up," said Latham, whose association represents contractors doing industrial, commercial and infrastructure projects.

The smaller crews could result in projects taking longer to complete, he said.

As for the higher prices, fewer available workers will result in more competition to hire the needed crews.

Even before the immigration bill passed, the state construction industry faced a growing worker shortage that is expected to get worse as the economy improves, Latham said. That's why the association has been running TV advertisements urging people to consider careers in the building trades.

The immigration law could make the shortage of construction workers even more acute, he said.

The Alabama Association of General Contractors took the position that any immigration reform laws should be done at the national level to put all states on equal footing, he said.

"If there are illegal immigrants working in Alabama, they most likely will go to another state" with friendlier laws toward immigrants, Latham said.

Alabama is one of several states that have enacted laws targeting illegal immigrants within the last year. The state's law, however, is viewed as the toughest in the nation. On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama filed suit in federal court, seeking to have Alabama's law declared unconstitutional.
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Rev. Jesse Jackson urges baseball All-Stars to speak out against Arizona immigration law
By Ronald Blum
The Associated Press, July 11, 2011

The Rev. Jesse Jackson urged baseball's All-Stars to speak out against the Arizona immigration law, saying they should follow the example set by Jackie Robinson when he broke the sport's color barrier more than a half-century ago.

Jackson tells The Associated Press that it's too late for the players to withdraw. He says they should play and speak out.

Boston slugger David Ortiz was among the few players willing to talk Monday about the law. He is from the Dominican Republic and says he would never agree with treating immigrants the wrong way.
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