Antonio Vanegas has worked at a pita shop in the food court of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C., for three years, and recently joined 150 workers on a one-day strike to protest low wages and other labor law violations. He spoke at the protest and asked the federal government to be a “good landlord” and only house businesses that follow the laws of the land.
However, Vanegas ran into a bit of a problem: He’s an undocumented immigrant, his place of employment was housed in the same building as United States Customs and Boarder Protection and he is facing deportation after being apprehended by a federal office at work just a few days after his protest.
According to The Huffington Post.
“Vanegas said his immigration status was never an issue on the job -- at least until he claimed publicly that his boss had been violating labor law. Not long after that, he said, he was detained for four days, and now has an immigration hearing scheduled for August.
“'This country is a country of laws,’ Vanegas, 26, told HuffPost through an interpreter. ‘Regardless of my status, I should have some protections based on the labor laws that have been violated.’"
Venegas claims that he was paid under the table and below minimum wage, worked beyond federal overtime limits without compensation and simply wrote his hours on a piece of paper and was subsequently paid in cash.
The report continued, “During Vanegas' detainment, the Latino advocacy group Presente.org circulated an online petition calling the situation "outrageous."
Kyle de Beausset, senior campaigner with the group, told HuffPost he felt Vanegas was ultimately punished for doing a brave thing.
"When undocumented workers are trying to organize, they're threatened with deportation, and that keeps everyone's wages down," de Beausset said. "We're hopeful this will help people realize that when folks are here in the country and unable to organize, it hurts everyone."
Source: The Huffington Post
A controversial program aimed at curbing illegal immigration, known as Operation Streamline, has grown during the Obama administration and may yet triple in size.
Operation Streamline began in 2005 under President George W. Bush but has become a central piece of President Barack Obama’s effort to stem the flow of illegal immigration coming across the southern border. Deportations under the Obama administration reached 1.9 million in December, a record for any American president.
The program is essentially a fast-paced arrest, charge, try and convict system. Judges in Tucson, Ariz., convict 70 men and women per day in rapid succession.
“My record is 30 minutes,” said Magistrate Judge Bernardo P. Velasco of Federal District Court.
The accused are offered a plea deal. Many are repeat offenders. The deal: Plead guilty to illegal entry, a misdemeanor, or face trial for illegal re-entry. The latter is a felony that carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. Almost always, after a 30-minute meeting with a lawyer, the accused take the deal and serve about six months behind bars before being deported. The convicted men and women are housed in federal prisons, county jails, and private facilities that have contracts with the government.
Many feel that the program’s fast pace denies the defendants the opportunity to plead their cases or mount proper defenses.
“The whole thing is basically about meeting the minimum requirements so as not to violate your rights,” said Saúl M. Huerta, a lawyer hired by the government at $110 per hour to represent defendants.
“As ugly as some people think it is, it’s a bargain for the defendants,” Judge Velasco said. “What we do is constitutional, it satisfies due process. It may not look good, but it does everything the law requires.”
The program has met harsh criticism in the Latino community and sparked angry protests. Last year, in Tucson, one protest delayed a bus carrying defendants to court. The bus was too late in arriving for the defendants to meet with attorneys. They were then taken back across the border and released without trial.
The efficacy of Operation Streamline remains in question by many. However, numbers from last year’s analysis by the Congressional Research Service show a two percent drop in recidivism among migrants who had been convicted and then deported under the program. Politicians seem encouraged by such numbers and a comprehensive immigration bill passed by the Senate in June tripled Operation Streamline’s budget. Immigration overhaul is currently stalled in the House of Representatives.
SAN FRANCISCO – Sergio Garcia graduated from law school and passed the California state bar exam, but there’s one problem: he is an undocumented immigrant living in the US illegally. On Thursday, in a groundbreaking decision, California’s Supreme Court ruled that he must be given a legal license.
Although Garcia’s father is now a naturalized citizen, the two of them left Mexico when Garcia was a young boy and came to the US illegally to pick almonds. With his father sponsoring him, Garcia applied for citizenship in 1995, when he was 17 years old.
However, the naturalization process was lengthened considerably by the fact that Garcia had already turned 21 years old when his father finally became a citizen. Thus, Garcia’s application for a green card was categorized as that of an adult child of a US citizen, a line that is decades long. Now 36 years old, he is expected to receive his green card in 2019.
In the meantime, he has gone to community college and law school, worked as a paralegal, passed the bar exam, and has most recently been working as a motivational speaker.
“I think I’m going to continue doing that and fulfill my dream of practicing law,” Garcia has said.
Garcia’s case challenged a 1996 law that prohibits illegal immigrants from holding any kind of government-issued or publicly funded professional license in the US. The court case dates back to May 2012, when justices first said they would hear the case. Interestingly, the case also served as a point of disagreement between California legislation, which supported Garcia’s case, and Obama’s administration, who opposed licensing Garcia.
“I never in my life imagined it would take me longer to win my right to practice than it took to actually get my degree,” Garcia said.
News of the ruling has been met with varied reactions. Some see it as a victory for immigrants who, like Garcia, are living in the US illegally. In Garcia’s own words, the court’s decision serves as proof that hard work and dedication mean something in America.
Conversely, however, others, such as Mark Krikorian, the executive director at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank in favor of tightening controls on immigration, view it as a problem, or even “an absurdity." Krikorian has further described the ruling as “one more step toward elimination the distinction between legal and illegal immigrants.”
Two similar cases are pending in Florida and New York.
Sources: The Huffington Post, NBC News
Photo Source: http://albitelawgroup.com
A Texas family says justice has not been served in the shooting death of Jesse Benavides, who was gunned down at a family birthday party in front of his 8-year-old son in 2011.
Seven weeks before the murder, his attacker, Santana Gaona was in jail in Dallas County accused of raping and beating his wife. Gaona was flagged as an illegal immigrant and scheduled to be deported.
ICE officials later canceled and released Gaona because “another law enforcement agency” asked them to remove the detainer, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Gaona was reportedly an informant for multiple federal agencies, including the FBI, according to TheBlaze.
Benavides, 33, tried to break up a fight between Gaona and his estranged wife on Oct. 22, 2011, when Gaona fatally shot him.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” said the victim’s brother, Juan Benavides. “If someone was an illegal immigrant and had a history of violence, for him to just slip through and open up the murder situation — nobody understands that.”
The Benavides family told TheBlaze they haven’t found any closure. They are in the process of filing a complaint with the FBI and have considered filing suit.
“I still can’t go a day or minute without thinking of my brother Jesse,” Juan Benavidas said. “Jesse isn’t the only person whose been killed unnecessarily by criminals like Gaona, who shouldn’t be here to begin with. Where’s the FBI now? Why haven’t they ever said anything to our family — since it was their guy who killed my brother. Why wasn’t he deported when he was arrested the first time?”
Unnamed ICE officials told TheBlaze that ICE officers rarely deport people who haven’t commited a crime after their illegal entry into the U.S., adding that deportation is a complicated matter.
After his arrest for murder, Gaona was again flagged for deportation. It is unclear whether he has been prosecuted or deported since 2011. The FBI told TheBlaze it cannot comment on informants.
“I’m sure that this is not a weekly or daily thing, but there is negligence on the part of our government for not enforcing their own laws,” Juan added. “These illegal immigrants need to be incarcerated or deported — he took an 8-year-old child’s father. Who’s going to explain to Micah what happened and why? This is a huge weight and it still doesn’t make sense to him. I’d like to see something that’s public that will require a higher level of responsibility when it comes to informants and illegal immigrants. At work I’d be fired for this level of irresponsibility — it’s baffling to me.”
Janet Napolitano Pledges $5 Million To Illegal Immigrants Wanting to Attend the University of California
Former Homeland Security Secretary and current President of the University of California Janet Napolitano announced on Wednesday that she is devoting $5 million in aid to students living in the country illegally. In addition, Napolitano also pledged $10 million recruiting and training graduate students.
“Let me be clear,” asserted Napolitano. “UC welcomes all students who qualify academically, whether they are documented or undocumented. Consider this a down payment — one more piece of evidence of our commitment to all Californians.”
The money, Napolitano says, will be used to support the students with various resources, including financial aid, trained advisers and student service centers.
Napolitano also says that the school will do everything in its power to encourage more enrollments by minority students and appeal to low income families who can’t afford the costs of a college education.
“Our doors are open,” said Napolitano. “I’m not sure our doors are open wide enough, and we’re going to do more of that while I am president.”
“You don’t have the money to go to college, it’s too expensive, that’s not a reason not to go,” said Napolitano while discussing her plan for free tuition for families who make under $80,000 a year.
Some have been skeptical about the idea of Napolitano being president of University of California based on her qualifications, but she maintains that it was a good choice.
“I believe my selection was, in good measure, a result of my experience running large, complex institutions, such as the third-largest department of the federal government and the state government of Arizona,” said Napolitano in her prepared remarks. “I made clear from the start that my learning curve at UC would be a steep one. But I have faced steep learning curves before.”
In any case, immigration rights groups are sure to be happy about the money Napolitano is devoting to schooling illegal immigrants, but with such a heated debate over illegal immigration in this country, those opposed will probably have a huge problem with her decision.
The U.S. government is open again and President Obama says that immigration reform will be a top priority for the rest of 2013.
The Huffington Post reports that the nation’s biggest for-profit prison companies, such as the GEO Group Inc., make millions of dollars each year putting immigrants in federal custody. The company collects $1.6 billion each year locking people up and will obtain more money if the new laws bring on many new prisoners.
GEO pulled in its market share by taking 72 lobbyists into service in 17 states and making a contribution to over 400 candidates between 2003 and 2011. The lobbying will be profitable with contracts to operate 57 jails and prisons across the U.S.
According to Huffington Post, GEO has a history of abuse and neglect juveniles at its facilities. For instance, at the company’s youth prison in Walnut Grove, Miss., officials found that guards sexually abused minors.
Said one one federal judge, the Walnut Grove youth prison is “a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.”
GEO is still doing well financially despite lawsuits regarding the company’s abuses. The company also wants to uphold polices that increase mass incarceration.
In the company’s annual financial report, GEO admitted that it could be “adversely affected” by “any changes with respect to the decriminalization of drugs [that could] potentially reduce demand for correctional facilities.” Fewer people under correctional control would be disadvantageous for the company.
The SAFE Act (HR 2278), if passed by the House Judiciary Committee, would classify millions of undocumented immigrants as criminals overnight, Huffington Post reports. Without papers, immigrants could face felony charges and end up in prison for months or years. The civil immigration detention system would also expand. If the bill is passed, private prison companies could profit, and cost prison companies could collect large profits.
Tea Partiers Angry That IRS Continues To Ignore Their Tax Exempt Requests After Giving $4.2B to Illegal Immigrants
A new report from Watchdog claims that while Tea Party groups are being stalled by the IRS as they try to obtain nonprofit status, undocumented immigrants are being given money. $4.2 billion in child-credit checks, they say, have been mailed by the IRS to undocumented immigrants, and many on the right are angry.
The Watchdog report says that the IRS is abusing “the Additional Child Tax Credit program by dispensing $1,000 checks to families in this country illegally.”
Republican Senator Charles Grassley told Watchdog that the laws need to be changes so that undocumented immigrants are not receiving money.
“The law needs clarification that undocumented immigrants are not eligible,” says Grassley. “Unfortunately, the majority leader (Harry Reid, D-Nev.) cut off debate, so we weren’t given the chance to offer our amendment.”
The amendment Grassley is referring to was co-sponsored by he and fellow Republican Senator Mike Enzi. In it, the two Senators looked to ensure that only American citizens could receive benefits from the Additional Child Tax Credit program.
An apparent audit from 2009 by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration stated that the law needed to be clarified, but no action was ever taken.
“We believe legislation is needed to clarify whether or not refundable tax credits such as the ACTC may be paid to filers without a Social Security number,” reads the audit. “Such a legislative change could result in cost savings to the federal government of $1.8 billion annually. As it now stands, the payment of federal funds through this tax benefit appears to provide additional incentive for aliens to enter, reside and work in the U.S. without authorization, which contradicts federal law and policy to remove such incentives.”
Now, the right is angry that illegal immigrants allegedly continue to receive money from the IRS while most Tea Party groups are still being denied the tax-exempt status they requested long ago.
Eight congressmen were arrested yesterday after participating in a rally for immigration reform.
The Democratic congressmen included Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, Rep. Al Green of Texas, Rep. Raul Grivjalva of Arizona, Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York, and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.
All eight were willingly arrested, along with close to 200 other protestors, at the “Camino Americano: March for Dignity and Respect” rally held on the National Mall.
The protesters were allegedly blocking a street and were asked to move, but refused, so they were taken into police custody. Those involved knew that would happen prior to the protest, but wanted to show that they would go to any length to demand immigration reform.
“America should not have a permanent under class,” said Jose La Luz, one of the 200 protestors. “That’s why we’re here and that’s why we believe this is the moment.”
While only Democratic congressmen were actually arrested, several Republican congressmen showed up at the rally in support of immigration reform. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida and Reps. David Valadao and Jeff Denham of California all took part in the events, but were not involved in blocking the street.
Many people are questioning, though, why the protest was allowed to take place on the National Mall, being that the government is still shut down, and according to reports, the Park Service actually helped protestors set this rally up.
Still, the day’s events marked a big step in the push towards immigration reform, with activists saying that enough is enough. They want further action to be pursued, and they don’t want to wait any longer.
California Governor Jerry Brown Denies Local Law Enforcement Ability to Detain Illegal Immigrants Arrested for Minor Crimes
Undocumented immigrants in California can no longer be detained for longer than necessary by local law enforcement after arrests for minor crimes.
Governor Jerry Brown officially signed the Trust Act into law. Under the new legislation, illegal immigrants would have to commit violent and other serious crimes in order to be held after an arrest.
A recent Opposing Views report noted a growth in nationwide opposition to immigrant detentions and screenings like this, made possible under what’s known as Secure Communities. This legislation allowed local law enforcement to hold illegal immigrants for longer than they need to, even they were just arrested for a traffic violation, so that federal immigration services can come and deport them.
California was seemingly at the front of the movement to end this policy, with another recent Opposing Views article noting that a San Francisco board unanimously voted to end screenings in the city.
Governor Brown says that while the feds have yet to move forward on immigration, he can no longer wait.
“While Washington waffles on immigration, California’s forging ahead,” said Governor Brown. “I’m not waiting.”
With the Trust Act now officially being law in California, local law enforcement can no longer act as immigration services. Immigration activists and workers rights groups alike say this is a huge step in the right direction.
“We’re finally seeing the tide turning against the idea that it is good to use police as deportation agents,” said Chris Newman of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.
Immigration activists are still rallying Congress to pass nationwide immigration reform, but for now, California is taking matters into its own hands.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has just put an end to a policy that would have required local law enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants for 48 hours so that federal immigration services could deport them.
The unanimous vote occurred on Tuesday after much pushback from government officials and immigration activists alike.
The dismantling of the policy will not apply to people arrested for certain violent crimes, but it will ensure that non-violent undocumented immigrants who get reprimanded for things like traffic violations aren’t caught in a system that would force them to be deported and taken away from family.
The original policy, called Secure Communities, was put in place to allow that illegal immigrants in custody be detained for up to 48 hours extra so that immigration officers could get them deported. A recent Opposing Views report showed that there was a growing distaste for this policy, and now, San Francisco is at the forefront of pushing back against it.
“This legislation has passed and people do not have to fear immigration customs enforcement as much as they have,” said San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos.
The legislation that puts an end to Secure Communities is called Due Process for All, and there are many people backing it. However, some people say that there are holes in the legislation and that not every aspect of it is clear.
Still, the board made a unanimous vote to end the policy, and because of that, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has no choice but to sign it into law. It could take up to 10 days for it to be signed, and possibly another 30 days for it to take effect.