Morning News, 2/4/09

By Bryan Griffith, February 4, 2009

Please visit our YouTube and Facebook pages.

1. Border Fence bill over budget
2. ICE strategy criticized by group
3. Analysis: NY junior senator pressured
4. AZ co. sheriff to isolate inmates
5. AZ amnesty activists hold protest

Border fence averaged $3.9 million per mile
By Brady McCombs
The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson), January 30, 2009

The flurry of fencing erected along the U.S.-Mexico border in the past three years by the Department of Homeland Security has cost more than expected, a government report shows.

The 140 miles of pedestrian fencing put up under the Secure Border Initiative prior to Oct. 31 of last year cost an average of $3.9 million per mile with costs ranging from $400,000 to $15.1 million a mile, a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday found.

That per-mile average is more than the $3 million estimated by the Congressional Budget Office in August 2006 and much more than the $2.2 million estimated by the Senate used during the immigration reform debate that same year. Even the highest estimate at the time, $3.2 million per mile from U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., ended up being too low.

Pedestrian fences, sometimes called primary fences, are 10-foot-or-higher steel barriers designed to stop or slow down people on foot.

Richard Stana, director of homeland security issues at the Government Accountability Office, said the GAO carried out the report to answer an intriguing question: If Homeland Security would have used the $393 million appropriated to the SBInet virtual fence project in fiscal years 2007-08, how many more miles of physical barriers could have been built?

The answer: 73 miles of pedestrian fencing or 232 miles of vehicle barriers; or 36 miles of pedestrian fences and 116 miles of vehicle barriers, the report says.

Project 28, the Boeing Co.-led virtual-fence test project anchored by nine camera and radar towers along a 28-mile stretch of border flanking Sasabe, Ariz., was delayed eight months by glitches and plagued with problems, a previous GAO report found. The second generation of virtual fences was scheduled to go up in late 2008, but the work was abruptly halted in August.

In reviewing Customs and Border Protection estimates of total contracts for fencing segments — the GAO did not independently verify or validate the information — the report offers a preliminary analysis of the actual costs of the biggest and fastest buildup of border barriers in U.S. history.
. . .


Despite Vow, Target of Immigrant Raids Shifted
By Nina Bernstein
The New York Times, February 4, 2009

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.

Internal directives by immigration officials in 2006 raised arrest quotas for each team in the National Fugitive Operations Program, eliminated a requirement that 75 percent of those arrested be criminals, and then allowed the teams to include nonfugitives in their count.

In the next year, fugitives with criminal records dropped to 9 percent of those arrested, and nonfugitives picked up by chance — without a deportation order — rose to 40 percent. Many were sent to detention centers far from their homes, and deported.

The impact of the internal directives, obtained by a professor and students at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law through a Freedom of Information lawsuit and shared with The New York Times, shows the power of administrative memos to significantly alter immigration enforcement policy without any legislative change.

The memos also help explain the pattern of arrests documented in a report, criticizing the fugitive operations program, to be released on Wednesday by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington.

Analyzing more than five years of arrest data supplied to the institute last year by Julie Myers, who was then chief of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the report found that over all, as the program spent a total of $625 million, nearly three-quarters of the 96,000 people it apprehended had no criminal convictions.

Without consulting Congress, the report concluded, the program shifted to picking up “the easiest targets, not the most dangerous fugitives.”

It noted, however, that the most recent figures available indicate an increase in arrests of those with a criminal background last year, though it was unclear whether that resulted from a policy change.

The increased public attention comes as the new secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has ordered a review of the fugitive teams operation, which was set up in 2002 to find and deport noncitizens with outstanding orders of deportation, then rapidly expanded after 2003 with the mission of focusing on the most dangerous criminals.

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.
. . .


Can Gillibrand change on immigration?
By Gebe Martinez
The Politico (Washington, DC), February 4, 2009

She has been likened more to Sarah Palin than to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Which would be just peachy if she were a Republican. But she is a Democrat.

She is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was just beginning her third year in the House representing a conservative, upstate New York district, when she was appointed by New York Gov. David Paterson to fill the Senate seat recently vacated by Clinton.

The decision annoyed some of the nation’s top Hispanic leaders, who are dismayed by what they describe as Gillibrand’s “anti-immigrant” record. (Gillibrand’s promotion to the Senate was praised by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an immigration restrictionist group.)

Either top Democratic leaders like Paterson and New York Sen. Charles Schumer did not know all of Gillibrand’s positions on key Latino issues when she was hurriedly picked or they let them slide, banking instead on her strong ability to dial for dollars and pull in New York’s conservative voters when Paterson and Gillibrand are up for election in 2010.

Bet on the latter. It’s all about winning the next election, not what a person stands for, Democrats remind us. (Gillibrand raised a staggering $4.7 million for her last House race.)

The result is a new senator who is an immigration hard-liner from an ethnically rich state where the Statue of Liberty is an enduring symbol of freedom; where more than one in five residents are foreign-born; and where more than half of the immigrants are citizens and eligible to vote.

Instead of being a rock-solid bet to keep the seat vacated by Clinton, who is a rock star to Latinos, Gillibrand cannot rule out a primary challenge. (She also has been backed by the National Rifle Association, scratching against the grain of New York’s liberal Democratic base.)

What’s more, Schumer’s replacement as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — the arm charged with making sure incumbents like Gillibrand hold on to Democratic seats — is Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the highest-ranking congressional Hispanic and a fierce advocate of immigrants’ rights.

With no way to go but up after being thrown into the deep end of the political pool by her bobbling governor, Gillibrand is setting out to prove she’s unsinkable. She has hired Bronx political veteran Roberto Ramirez to help plug up opposition as she assembles her campaign team for next year’s statewide race.

The “Educating Kirsten” campaign has begun.

Since being sworn into office last week, Gillibrand has met with Menendez and became the 45th member of the Senate Hispanic Task Force.
. . .


Sheriff Arpaio plans special immigrant tent city
The Associated Press, February 4, 2009

Phoenix (AP) -- Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has announced plans to segregate illegal immigrants from the rest of the inmate population at Tent City.

The Sheriff says it's a cost cutting move, although Arpaio did not explain how it saves the county money, other than past statements that it's cheaper to house inmates in tents than traditional jails.

Arpaio plans to move about 200 inmates from Maricopa County's Durango Jail to Tent City Wednesday afternoon.

Some are appalled at the Sheriff's latest move.

"That's one of the most inhumane things I've ever heard," said Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, a frequent Arpaio foe who has consistently voiced concern over the Sheriff's illegal-immigration-related policies.

"He's trying to justify this as a 'budget savings,' and I'm just appalled. It's just another publicity stunt, and he doesn't outline how he'll save costs. I don't think you can segregate people that way, and we're going to get all kinds of violations against us."

Others say if it saves money, they're all for it.
. . .


Activists March Through Yuma for Immigration Reform
The KSWT News (Yuma, AZ), February 3, 2009

Supporters of immigration reform have set out on a cross-country march and they included a stop in the desert southwest. The nationwide effort is spear-headed by a non-profit called Border Angels. This is the group's fourth migrant march, but this one comes well after congress abandoned talks for immigration reform. Now activists are attempting to breath new life into that debate.

Migrant March IV made a stop in Yuma on Tuesday morning. This time organizers are taking their case to President Barack Obama to stop workplace raids and border fencing.

"We don't want to have any more deaths," says Enrique Morones with Border Angles. "That's why we're going to be going across the country, planting crosses and reminding people that there's been more than 10,000 people who have died crossing through Arizona, crossing through California, New Mexico and Texas, coming into this country."

Community leaders also made a plea for immigrant families who have built a life here in the desert southwest. Local non-profit Campesinos Sin Fronteras has joined the human rights rally. They say immigration policies are tearing families apart.
. . .