Posted on March 31st, 2009 1 comment
ICE releases workers arrested in Washington raid
The Associated Press
SEATTLE Many of the 28 workers arrested by immigration agents last month in a northwest Washington raid have been released and given permission to work, in another sign of how the Obama administration is handling illegal immigration differently than its predecessor.
The raid at a Yamato Engine Specialists plant in Bellingham was the first mass arrest of immigrants since President Barack Obama took office and appeared to contradict his policy that federal agents focus more on employers who hire undocumented workers than on the workers themselves. Shortly after the arrests, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a review of the raid.
The Bellingham Herald reported that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement gave the immigrants work permits or the option of returning to their native country.
Immigrants were released with documents advising them “that per the assistant United States attorney assigned to this case, all persons involved with the Yamato Engine Specialists … should be afforded the benefit of deferred action and an employment authorization document, valid for the duration of this case.”
ICE spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said the workers were released pending further investigation of the engine company and were given the option of work permits. She declined to comment further.
Rosalinda Guillen, executive director of the Bellingham-based immigration advocacy group Community to Community Development, said most of the workers are remaining in the area with their families, and that two were deported.
The workers were released Thursday, she said.
Guillen said workers are expecting more questioning from ICE agents, and may seek legal help.
Shirin Dhanani Makalai, Yamato’s administrative manager, declined to comment.
Workplace raids involving the arrests of hundreds of illegal immigrants at a time became almost routine in the last years of the Bush administration.
Posted on March 20th, 2009 No comments
HANNIBAL, Mo. (AP) — A Hannibal police officer was finishing up mundane paperwork on a quiet Saturday morning when Manuel Cazares walked into the station, blood splattered on his hands and shoes.
Cazares put his hands out, crossed them, and told the officer to arrest him.
“I killed two people,” he allegedly said.
Details surrounding the allegations are far too common: an abusive relationship, a jilted lover, a sudden attack.
But some in this Mississippi River community of 17,000 best known as Mark Twain‘s hometown aren’t just outraged by the violence. They also question why Cazares was in Hannibal at all.
Cazares admitted after his arrest that he is an illegal immigrant from the Mexican state of Michoacan. The 32-year-old had several run-ins with law enforcement before the homicides, but officials had never questioned his legal status.
Now he is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the Feb. 28 deaths of his ex-girlfriend, 27-year-old Amanda Thomas, and 25-year-old Carl Patrick Epley.
“I don’t know how this happens,” said Tina White-Masengill, Thomas’ sister. “My stepdad told police many times, ‘I don’t even think the guy’s a legal citizen.’”
During his three years in Hannibal, Cazares managed to avoid detection, despite a few traffic violations and a property damage conviction after an arrest for allegedly beating up Thomas and tearing up her home. Thomas had a restraining order against Cazares, who got probation in the property-damage case.
Police say his name wasn’t in a database maintained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Police and Cazares’ boss also say he had authentic-looking identification, including a Social Security card. And police noted that Cazares speaks fluent English.
Cazares’ attorney did not return phone messages seeking comment. Cazares is being held in lieu of $1 million bond.
Hannibal police declined several interview requests from The Associated Press, but said soon after the killing that they had received several angry calls, some with racial overtones.
Days after the killings, rocks were thrown through plate-glass windows at the Mexican restaurant where Cazares worked. The FBI decided against opening a hate-crime investigation after concluding that it was vandalism, not retaliation.
Hundreds of messages related to the case were posted on the Hannibal Courier-Post Web site, with several questioning why authorities hadn’t been able to determine Cazares’ legal status before. One suggested police should conduct raids to seek out other illegal immigrants.
“Of course we have folks who say that’s unconstitutional and racial profiling so we have to ignore the problem until this sort of terrible tragedy takes place,” the posting read. The newspaper eventually took down the postings.
At a news conference, police Capt. James Hark told reporters that tracking illegal immigrants is a federal responsibility. He said the department is sympathetic to the victims’ families, “but, in retrospect, there’s nothing in the system that would have prevented this from happening.”
ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok said the agency seeks to work closely with local police to uncover illegal immigrants.
“When local law enforcement suspect that they have arrested an illegal alien on criminal charges, we encourage them to forward those suspicions to ICE, where we will make the appropriate determination whether that person is in the country legally or illegally, and whether he is deportable,” Rusnok said.
The relationship between Cazares and Thomas had long been rocky, with Thomas seeking restraining orders in 2007 and again early last year. Marion County prosecutor Tom Redington said the first order was dismissed when Thomas failed to appear at a court hearing; the second was dismissed at her request.
Thomas made a third attempt around Thanksgiving and obtained a restraining order that was supposed to keep Cazares away from the small brick duplex where she lived with their 20-month-old son and a 7-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
Yet neighbors said they often saw Cazares in the area.
“We pulled up one night and he drives up the street with his car lights off and just sits there watching her house,” said neighbor Charles Thomas, who is not related to the victim.
In early February, Thomas told police she thought Cazares was stalking her. White-Masengill said her sister played cell phone messages for police, including one in which he said, “No one can love you like I do.”
Redington said he didn’t have Cazares arrested immediately because of the “on-again, off-again nature of their relationship.” He asked Thomas to obtain records that would show that Cazares had been calling her, but she never got the records.
According to court records, Cazares offered the following account of the killings in his confession:
Despite the restraining order, he and Thomas had spent the night of Feb. 26 together after she called him. He thought they would be together again the next night.
Instead, Thomas went out. At some point she met up with Epley, a friend from her nearby hometown of Monroe City.
Cazares fumed when a friend told him he saw Thomas outside a bar. He stayed up late drinking beer, then went to Thomas’ home the next morning and found her with Epley.
Cazares said he went to the kitchen, found a knife and stabbed Epley before turning the knife on Thomas.
He then drove around in Thomas’ car before using her cell phone to call his mother. He told her “that I loved her and that I did something that was not right and for her to take care of herself.”
He said he considered suicide, but instead quietly turned himself in.
Posted on February 24th, 2009 1 comment
Our view: Racial profiling concerns, record number of federal prosecutions for immigration offenses leave a community feeling under siege
There’s but one plausible explanation for the arrest of 24 Hispanic men by federal immigration agents outside a Fells Point convenience store in 2007 – racial profiling. A recently released videotape and government documents detailing the incident provide a vivid look at how easily law enforcement can run amok when officers are only interested in making their numbers look good.
The officers were agents of the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division, and they were supposed to be looking for illegal immigrants who had been ordered to leave the country. Their bosses say they were just doing their job. But when their first sweep didn’t produce enough arrests to satisfy their superiors in the agency’s Baltimore office, they went to a local 7-Eleven where day laborers were known to gather and posed as employers. Hispanic men who approached were immediately arrested, while the agents ignored white and African-American customers. That’s a sloppy way of doing the public’s business.
The officers’ conduct tracks the findings of a report last week by the Pew Hispanic Center showing that in 2007, immigration offenses represented nearly a quarter of all federal convictions – up from just 7 percent in 1991 – and that 80 percent of those sentenced were Hispanics.
A similar study by the Transactional Records Clearinghouse at Syracuse University found that immigration cases drove federal prosecutions to new highs in 2008, with a surge in prosecutions near the end of the year. Overall, the annual number of such prosecutions more than quadrupled during the eight years of the Bush administration.
A store videotape captured the Baltimore incident and an internal ICE report on it was obtained by CASA de Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group that is protesting what it calls racial profiling by the agency. The group points to the taped record as well as to statements by the agents as evidence officials knew they had no probable cause for the arrests and that the men were targeted solely because of their ethnicity.
ICE denies the charges. But that’s not likely to satisfy the nation’s Hispanic community, which has born the brunt of anti-immigrant prejudice. In October, another Pew Center study found that 9 percent of Hispanics reported having been stopped by authorities and asked about their immigration status, regardless of whether they were immigrants or native-born U.S. citizens.
Not surprisingly, fully half of those interviewed said the situation for Hispanics in this country has gotten worse over the last year.
America needs a sensible immigration policy to staunch the flow of illegal workers across its borders. But it can’t do that by simply scooping up people on the basis of their race or ethnicity.
It’s worrisome enough when police feel they have to issue a certain number of parking citations or speeding tickets to please the higher-ups, but when the numbers game leads to arresting people who have committed no crime solely on ethnic, racial or religious grounds, it’s pernicious.