illegal immigration

Walkers aim to get driver's licenses back for undocumented immigrants

A small group began a four-day walk Friday from Portland to Salem to seek reinstatement of driver licenses for undocumented immigrants.

The walkers were scheduled to reach Salem for an event Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol. Eight started out on the walk, which will be in four stages. Friday’s stage ended in Oregon City. Canby, Woodburn and Salem will be the other stops.

They will urge Gov. John Kitzhaber to take steps to restore access by undocumented immigrants to licenses, which have been more restrictive since a 2007 executive order by then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

The Legislature in 2008 made legal presence in the United States a requirement for obtaining driver licenses and nondriver identification cards, so it would take action by the Legislature to change it. Among the documents that can show proof of legal presence are a birth certificate, passport or tribal ID.

“We want to urge Gov. Kitzhaber to make it (change) one of his priorities,” said Sindy Avila, a spokeswoman for Oregon Dream Activists.

“We know he cannot reverse the law and that it has to go to the Legislature. But we feel this is a great first step in educating the community about how not having drivers’ licenses affects undocumented people, and spreads our message.”

Avila said her group wants to call attention to the necessity for drivers’ licenses, which allow mobility of people for work, school and family chores.

The walkers will stay at parishes that have opened their doors to them along the way, Avila said.

Hundreds showed up at the Capitol on April 18. 2011, for a legislative hearing on a bill to allow the state to issue licenses without proof of legal presence. But the bill was heard after a deadline to advance legislation, and it died without further action.

Kulongoski and lawmakers acted to comply with the federal Real ID Act of 2005, which requires states to take specified steps to make driver licenses more secure if licenses are used as identification to board commercial aircraft or enter federal buildings.

The federal law does allow states to issue licenses without proof of legal presence if the licenses are clearly marked as not valid for federal identification purposes.

New Mexico and Washington issue some licenses without proof of legal presence. Washington also issues an “enhanced” license that can be used for federal identification purposes and identification to and from Canada.

Governors of both states have proposed legal-presence licenses, but lawmakers have not approved those requests.

Utah issues a driving privilege card that must be renewed every year. A similar proposal was shelved by Oregon lawmakers in 2005, although it cleared a House committee. Tennessee also issued a separate card, but has repealed its law.
 

Indo-Canadian truck drivers from GTA caught in web of North American drug trade

An 18-wheeler trundled to a stop at the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge on its way into Canada. During an outbound inspection, a U.S. immigration-customs agent asked the driver if he had anything to declare. The man behind the wheel said no, the tractor-trailer was empty.

But he appeared nervous and wouldn’t make eye contact, so the agent asked him to step out of the cab. Uneasy and shaking, the driver almost stumbled out.

The trailer was sent for inspection where it was scanned with a special low-energy x-ray machine used to identify illegal drugs, guns or currency. It showed nothing.

A second scan was carried out, again detecting no abnormalities. A dog trained to sniff out narcotics was brought inside the trailer and noticed nothing suspicious.

Then, two agents noticed screws on the floor boards that appeared to have been tampered with. They removed the boards and found a hidden compartment stretching across the entire floor. Inside, they found 97 bricks of cocaine, more than 100 kilos, worth an estimated $4.4 million on the streets, according to U.S. authorities. The Sept. 8, 2010, narcotics seizure was believed to be the largest ever in the Western District of New York.

The driver, Ravinder Arora, a 31-year-old family man from Brampton, would plead guilty to the charge of conspiracy to export cocaine.

Today, two years later, he languishes in a Buffalo prison awaiting sentencing. He faces a minimum 10 years to life behind bars.

For years, Indo-Canadian gangs in B.C. have been involved in cross-border drug smuggling, infiltrating the trucking industry and fighting turf wars that have often been bloody and vicious.

But now, members of southern Ontario’s Indo-Canadian community, in particular from Brampton and Mississauga, are increasingly being lured into the North American drug trade, according to Crown attorneys, lawyers, police and community leaders on this side of the border.

It is not difficult to understand why. An estimated 60 per cent of Ontario’s long-haul truck drivers are Indo-Canadian, making them logical targets for drug traffickers. They will gladly do long-haul jobs shunned by others that can mean being on the road for weeks. They don’t mind sharing the close quarters of a cab with a co-driver, and the job requires little more than a commercial driver’s licence.

“There are many (Indo-Canadian drivers) who just want to make a decent living,” said Manan Gupta, editor-publisher of Road Today, a monthly trucking magazine in the GTA. “But there are a few bad ones and their numbers are rising.”

“This is ruining our community’s name . . . drivers from Peel are looked upon suspiciously at the border,” he said.

Last month, a trial began in Windsor for transport driver Karamjit Singh Grewal of Brampton, accused of smuggling 82 kilos of cocaine across the Ambassador Bridge on April 12, 2009. The drugs were found between skids of California lettuce. Grewal has pleaded not guilty to possession and unlawfully importing cocaine into Canada.

On Monday, another trial starts for truck driver Kuldip Singh Dharmi, also from Brampton. He was arrested on Aug. 11, 2009, after Canada Border Services Agency officers allegedly discovered 117 kilos of cocaine in his tractor-trailer. He was bringing back a load of aluminum coils. He, too, is pleading not guilty.

And early next year, a trial is scheduled for Baldev Singh, again from Brampton, arrested in March 2009 while transporting California oranges across the Ambassador Bridge. CBSA officers allege the load included 69 kilos of cocaine. Singh is pleading not guilty.

Of the 15 to 18 significant drug seizures at the Windsor-Detroit crossing each year, about 70 per cent involve Indo-Canadian transport drivers, many of them recent immigrants to Canada, said federal prosecutor Richard Pollock.

“I am shocked when I hear the stories,” said Baldev Mutta of Punjabi Community Health Services, a social agency in Peel Region, adding it’s a problem few seem willing to address.

Ecstasy, marijuana and cocaine are the three major drugs smuggled between the U.S. and Canada. Ecstasy and marijuana travel south, cocaine travels north.

Until about a decade ago, cross-border smuggling was almost always by sea and air. As Mexican drug cartels replaced Colombian drug lords, cocaine smugglers started using land routes, specifically tractor-trailers to ship drugs from Mexico to the U.S. and Canada. For a while, Vancouver was where drugs were transported across Canada before hitting the Toronto area.

About six years ago, Canadian authorities determined that the Windsor-Detroit crossing was the preferred route of traffickers, although large drug seizures such as Arora’s have also taken place at Ontario crossings such as Sarnia, Fort Erie and Niagara.

Windsor-Detroit is the busiest border crossing, where more than 7,000 trucks cross daily. Homeland Security in the U.S. and the CBSA would not reveal how many trucks undergo the kind of extensive search that Arora was subjected to, but some sources say as few as 200 a dayabout 3 per centare given a thorough check.

The sheer volume of traffic, in the eyes of traffickers, makes it a risk worth taking, says Richard Pollock, federal prosecutor in Windsor. For every illegal shipment caught, he estimates 200 slip through undetected.

So popular is Windsor-Detroit for marijuana smuggling that shipments are sometimes sent by land from Vancouver to Toronto, then on to Windsor and across to the U.S., according to a 2009 CBSA report.

One RCMP official referred to the drug trade as a continuous “cat and mouse game” as traffickers come up with more sophisticated means of smuggling and authorities develop better ways of detecting the illicit cargo.

In this mélange of drugs, Mexican cartels and Ontario border crossings, some Indo-Canadian truck drivers, as courts have witnessed, become willing or unwitting players in smuggling schemes.

Several years ago, Pat Fogarty, superintendent in charge of operations for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in B.C., said he noticed his drug smuggling investigations on the west coast had an Ontario link — they often involved the Windsor-Detroit crossing and Indo-Canadian drivers.

This nexus started showing up with alarming regularity. He also discovered a growing number of “truck co-ordinators” in Ontario — brokers linked to the drug trade who help find trucks to ship marijuana to the U.S. and cocaine into Canada — were Indo-Canadian.

“They (the brokers) find it safe to find truckers from their own community,” said Fogarty. “They also know that these truckers won’t disappear with drugs worth millions of dollars because these co-ordinators know where these truckers are from in Punjab . . . right down to their villages. They have them pretty much marked down.”

Once a truck driver ferries one drug shipment, it becomes impossible to refuse a second or a third, Fogarty said.

“They are trapped.”

It began innocuously enough for Arora.

He came to Canada from India about eight years ago and lived in the basement of an aunt and uncle’s house in Brampton. He had been driving a truck for a few years and had a clean record when he was approached by a man he knew at a Sikh temple in Mississauga. The man offered Arora a job, which for the first few months involved transporting legitimate loads across the border.

Then one day the man told Arora he could make extra money — $8,000 per trip — if his shipments included drugs stashed in a well-hidden compartment, according to the plea agreement.

Arora, soon to be married, agreed. At that point, he became part of an elaborate Brampton-based operation responsible for smuggling 1.5 tons (more than 1,600 kilos) of cocaine into Canada over two years. The group is also believed to have smuggled ecstasy and marijuana, as well as cash, into the U.S., according to court documents.

Over the course of 2009 and 2010, Arora admitted to smuggling at least five shipments of cocaine into Canada. During that time, he also got married in India and brought his wife to Canada.

According to the plea agreement, the modus operandi was simple: Arora would pick up the cocaine at a warehouse in California and truck it to a warehouse in Cheektowaga, a Buffalo suburb, where legitimate cargo — mostly produce — was stacked on top of the false floor, concealing the illicit cargo. After crossing the border, the drugs were then delivered to a warehouse in Mississauga for eventual street sale in the Greater Toronto Area.

Arora’s payment was not a huge sum of money. But it was extra money, and tax-free.

In a news conference in 2011, James Engleman, director of field operations for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, called it a professional job. “They spent a lot of time to build professional-quality concealment on these trailers,” said Engleman.

It’s likely that if Arora hadn’t looked nervous that day in September 2010, the operation may have gone undetected for a long time.

By the time Arora was arrested, his wife was pregnant. His lawyer, Parmanand Prashad, said his client regrets this decision more than anything else in his life.

No one wants to target Indo-Canadian truck drivers. Not the police, not lawyers nor community leaders.

They know it’s a sensitive subject and weigh their words carefully. And they are emphatic in saying most Indo-Canadian truckers are not involved in trafficking; only a small number.

But that number may be growing and, according to Windsor’s federal prosecutor, poses a big worry.

“It is mind-boggling how naive some people are,” said Richard Pollock, adding drug traffickers believe they will get away with it forever.

In most cases, suspects plead not guilty and say they were unaware of the presence of drugs in the trailer. Some stories told in court are heartbreaking, he says.

Gurminder Riar, 33, broke down at his sentencing in Windsor last year, telling Superior Court Justice Gordon Thomson he was innocent. “It is not justice. My parents, my wife is in India. I do care for them. I love them and they love me,” he told the court.

Riar and his co-driver, Jaswinder Aujla, both from Brampton, were convicted of smuggling 37 kilos of cocaine hidden among a shipment of ice cream originating in California.

Justice Thomson noted that the men’s tax records and spartan living conditions indicated they were not wealthy, but said they succumbed to greed in the hopes of a big payday. Riar was sentenced to 14 years, Aujla to 16 years.

Though sentences appear to be getting tougher, Sarnia federal prosecutor Michael Robb says it doesn’t seem to be a deterrent. “There is lots of money to be made,” said Robb, adding younger drivers are more likely to take the risk.

“If you look at their financial status, they have obligations and they have families come in from their home countries and they need to be supported,” he said.

Nachhattar Chohan, president of the Brampton-based Indian Trucking Association, said there is no doubt the trucking industry has been infiltrated by drug smuggling. And he suspects some transportation companies are started just to smuggle drugs, as was noted in an RCMP intelligence report in 2011.

“Some companies make so much money so quickly . . . so you doubt what they are doing,” he said.

That RCMP report noted customized compartments are built within tractor-trailers to conceal drugs and cash, and “criminal groups conceal their illicit activities through layers of company ownership, name changes and transfers and closures.”

But Chohan, who operates a fleet of 35 trucks and employs as many drivers, emphasized the vast majority of Indo-Canadian drivers earn an honest living. Thanks to “these (smugglers), CBSA agents think all transporters do this business,” he said. “They think all our truckers are involved in trafficking drugs. I feel shamed, very shamed.”

Prashad, Arora’s Mississauga lawyer who has represented as many as 50 truckers arrested on both sides of the border, has heard stories of how they were recruited: some were enticed with money, others with the promise of steady work.

He recalls a case where a young Mississauga driver was arrested with cocaine near Chicago. His elderly, widowed mother had just come from India, said Prashad. “She didn’t know what to do, he was her only child . . . she cried for hours in my office.”

In a Windsor courtroom , Karamjit Singh Grewal, 48, dressed in a lemon-coloured shirt, grey pants and a lemon turban, his beard flowing loose, stood next to his lawyer, Patrick Ducharme, and said softly: “Not guilty.”

It was the first day of his trial, on Sept. 17, where he is fighting charges of possessing and unlawfully importing cocaine into Canada.

(Ducharme recently defended one of five former Toronto drug squad officers in this year’s highly publicized corruption trial.)

In his opening statement, Pollock told the court Grewal was the sole occupant of a tractor-trailer when it stopped at the Ambassador Bridge on the night of April 12, 2009, for a routine check. Grewal told a CBSA officer the trailer was loaded with California lettuce and was headed for the Toronto area.

It was an innocuous load and Grewal’s papers were in order. He would have glided through except for two things: the officer asked him how long his trip to the U.S. was and Grewal was vague, replying “eight or nine days;” and, the officer also noticed that the trailer’s metal seal, though not broken, appeared to have been tampered with.

Grewal was referred to a secondary inspection. In a matter of hours his life began to unravel.

A closer inspection would result in the discovery of two white boxes and two plastic pails containing 82 kilograms of cellophane-wrapped cocaine between the skids of lettuce.

Ducharme pointed out that the metal seal was intact when his client was asked to open the trailer. So much so, he said in his opening statement, that Grewal had to break it off with a hammer, cutting his thumb in the process.

During the trial, Grewal’s 20-year-old daughter sat in the courtroom listening intently. She wouldn’t comment on the case, about the impact of her father’s arrest three years ago, or that he filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Grewal’s trial ended last week. Justice Mary Jo Nolan will deliver a verdict on Dec. 10.

Arora’s sentencing has been postponed at least four times as he continues to co-operate with authorities on the vast drug-smuggling operation in which he became involved. (A permanent resident in Canada, he will probably be deported to his native India after serving a prison term.)

Since his arrest in 2010, he has disclosed information that has led to the arrest of three accomplices:

Parminder Sidhu, of Brampton, who hired Arora as a driver at his company, Prime 9, was arrested and then extradited to the U.S. on Feb. 7, 2012. Sidhu is charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and conspiracy to export cocaine.

When a search warrant was executed at Sidhu’s home, extensive drug ledgers were discovered, according to Arora’s plea agreement.

A home telephone listing was disconnected and a phone number for Prime 9 could not be located. Prime 9, according to documents, was incorporated in 2009.

Michael Bagri, a third associate from the Toronto area, was arrested in the U.S. Together with Arora, he has pleaded guilty to trafficking more than 1,600 kilograms of cocaine from the U.S. into Canada over two years, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Bagri, 51, is yet to be sentenced.

As part of the same operation, Huy Hoang Nguyen, 27, of Massachusetts, also pleaded guilty in July to importing more than 100 kilos of marijuana from Canada into the U.S. He faces a minimum of five to 40 years in prison.

Meanwhile, Arora’s wife has fled to B.C. with their daughter, who was born last year. Prashad says there was fear of a backlash on Arora’s family after he pled guilty. His wife, in her late 20s, has visited Arora a few times at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, N.Y., where Prashad says Arora has been incarcerated since his arrest.

Prashad says Arora has found religion: he now wears a turban, no longer eats meat, and prays. He has never met his young daughter.

Prashad talks to Arora’s wife often and says she doesn’t know what to do. “She can’t go back to India because her husband is here . . . but she doesn’t speak English too well so it is tough here, too,” he said.

“This drug trade has ruined three more lives.”

 

Marion County Correctional Facility Population - What You Need to Know

What follows is information taken from the Marion County Sheriff / Marion County Correctional Facility (MCCF) website for Inmate / Offender Information, Full Jail Inmate Roster, relating to the number of MCCF prisoners the United States (U.S.) Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has identified as possibly being in the county illegally, U.S. DHS–ICE prisoners charged with drug crimes, and the approximate incarceration cost to Marion County to house its U.S. DHS–ICE jail population.


Total MCCF Inmates: 406

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold: 39

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold: 9.60%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL METH: 3

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL METH: 7.69%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL HERION: 2

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL HERION: 5.13%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL COCAINE: 1

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL COCAINE: 2.56%

Total MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL MARIJUANA: 0

Percent MCCF Inmates with ICE Hold POS/DEL MARIJUANA: 0.00%

MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Inmate Per Day: $107.74

MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Day of 39 Inmates with ICE Holds: $4,201.86

MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Week of 39 Inmates with ICE Holds: $29,413.02

MCCF Incarceration Cost Per Year of 39 Inmates with ICE Holds: $1,533,678.90

 

Babeu: Docs prove Obama officials treated bounties on agents as acceptable risks

As the investigation into the Oct. 4 shooting of two border patrol agents continues, an Arizona borderlands sheriff condemned President Barack Obama for treating turmoil and danger caused by his policies as acceptable risk.

“We now have further evidence that the Obama administration at every level thinks the border situation is entirely acceptable,” said Pinal County Sheriff Paul R. Babeu, whose jurisdiction is nearby Cochise County, where the agents were shot and one, Nicolas Ivie, was killed, although the shooting was actually on federal lands designated by the Interior Department as environmental sanctuaries, and thus off-limits to both federal and local law enforcement officers.

Babeu said he has read documents that contained exchanges where Obama officials acknowledge that creating environment areas will create zones of lawlessness.

“They lack full border enforcement security within designated wilderness areas that risks our border patrol agents and law enforcement deputies’ safety,” said the native of North Adams, Mass.

“The responsibility for securing this international border is the core primary responsibility of the United States government and I believe the federal government has failed to do that,” said Babeu, whose county lies outside of Phoenix, 70 miles north of the border.

“They have failed to adequately protect the citizens of my county and my state. That threat to our country is not just the volumes of illegals and drug cartels, but more importantly, the threat that is posed when people of countries of interest cross our borders,” he said.

These people harbor or sponsor terrorism and are not friendly to the United States,” the sheriff said, who as an Arizona National Guardsman, deployed to Iraq and commanded a battalion-sized border task force.

“Leadership failed and everything I’ve learned as a rank-and-file police officer, Army private and field grade officer; whoever’s in charge is responsible in the end,” he said.

Babeu said Atty. Gen Eric H. Holder Jr., must be held responsible for Justice Department failures on his watch, including the failed Fast and Furious scandal.

“Whether he knew it or whether he should have known, Eric Holder created an environment and a dynamic that resulted in the murder of not only one agent that we can prove, but also hundreds of Mexicans have been killed with Fast and Furious weapons,” he said.

“This guy was not held accountable; he has not resigned so he should be fired. I believe he, and others in the government, should be held accountable even criminally,” he said.

Documents cited by the sheriff and made available to this reporter buttress Babeu’s charges and depict administration officials as determined to leverage federal environmental regulatory authority to open up the Mexican borderlands regardless of warnings from border patrol agents assigned to the region, local law enforcement, activist groups and border region ranchers.

These warnings by personnel with ties to the borderland, made through emails, meetings and videotapes, specifically cited threat to national security breaches and homicidal violence.

The documents prove that Obama officials were aware of national security issues, agent safety issues, bounties placed on Border Patrol agents by drug cartels, and the trafficking of drugs and humans.

Heavily redacted emails acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request by the National Association of Former Border Patrol Agents, confirm that before the Dec. 14. 2010 death of Brian A. Terry, a member of the elite Border Patrol Tactical Unit, parties to the inter-agency planning for the wilderness sanctuaries, including officials from Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Interior, congressional representatives were warned about national security and law enforcement concerns regarding the sanctuaries.

Some of the personnel taking part in exchanges captured in the documents: David Aguilar, deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection; Michael J. Fisher, chief of Border Patrol, Sen. Jesse F. “Jeff” Bingaman (D.-N.M); Alan D. Bersin, then-CBP commissioner and previously dubbed the “border czar” because of his international affairs portfolio at Interior and then-Rep. Mark E. Udall (D.-Colo.), who is now a senator and is a native of Arizona.

In one email, a border patrol agent said it was ridiculous to suggest that the human traffickers, or coyotes, would not use the wilderness areas as safe passage for their crimes.

“Do you really think that the coyotes or drug cartels are going to read a little sign in English/Spanish declaring it is unlawful to enter a federal preserve?” he said. “No. That means one thing to these banditos, Border Patrol will not be patrolling.”

Federal officials were also told that the creation of wilderness reserves in the Mexican borderlands would facilitate the “bounty program,” where Mexican crime organizations incentivized smugglers to kill agents and other law enforcement officers.

Babeu said the bounties should have been a top priority for the Obama administration.

“The primary concern for agents is, of course, the bounties placed on their lives for patrolling the border. Justice for murdered agents is extraordinarily slow; the Terry family is still waiting for his murder to reach a trial and government officials to be held accountable,” he said.

“When it was discovered that the New Orleans Saints football team coaches put bounties on the heads of opposing players, the league held the coaches responsible and they were rightly disciplined,” he said.

Babeu said in his dealings with Bersin, it was clear he favored environmental considerations over national security and public safety.

In a July 2010 video watched by this reporter, Bersin said to a questioner that he was aware of the bounty program, including a $250,000 prize for a law enforcement officer kidnapped or killed along the southern border.

The sheriff said Bersin, who left office when the Senate refused to confirm his recess appointment to his post, should have done more.

“Bersin and other high level cabinet members acknowledged that there are bounties placed on federal and even local law enforcement members by the drug cartels and what we have seen in Pinal County, which is 70 miles north of the border,” he said.

“This continuation is proof of the threat that illegal immigration and drug smuggling have not subsided,” he said.

“It should not be a surprise that that we have had four Arizona border patrol agents murdered in the last two years and the Obama administration, even some members of the media, do not want us to talk about this and say we make this political,” Babeu said. “These are deaths of our heroes!”

The sheriff said he rejects claims by administration officials, such as Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, that the border is more secure and he thinks Washington meddling has made the borderlands more dangerous.

“The four border states risk their lives to a more significant degree than we need to because of the failures of this administration and bureaucrats who make decisions thousands of miles away without our safety and security in mind,” he said.

“Contrary to Janet Napolitano’s proclamations that the border is more secure than ever, last year in October we had the largest drug bust in Arizona history with “operation pipeline express” that netted nearly $3 billion in product, money and weapons that we seized from the Sinaloa drug traffickers,” he said.

Officers’ recovered 108 weapons, including two came tagged as from the Operation Fast and Furious program, he said.

“These were not handguns that our police and sheriffs carry, these were scoped rifles and AK-47s, semi automatic weapons. These are all prohibited processors for violent criminals from a foreign country and they think they own the place,” he said.
 

OFIR President attends National Sheriff's Border School and Tour

El Paso, Texas hosted the Border School event that brought 60 Sheriff's from across the country to learn "What happens on the border, doesn't stay on the border".  Two sheriff's from Oregon attended.  OFIR salutes Morrow County Sheriff Kenneth Matlack and Multnomah County Under Sheriff Tim Morrow. 

Photos posted in the OFIR photo gallery.

Illegal migrants across U.S. taking protests to defiant new level

A growing number of undocumented immigrants in Arizona and other states are taking immigration protests to a new extreme, staging acts of civil disobedience by deliberately getting arrested in order to be turned over to federal immigration officials.

Often wearing T-shirts declaring themselves "undocumented and unafraid," the protesters have sat down in streets and blocked traffic, or occupied buildings in several cities including Phoenix and Tucson.

Dozens of protesters have been arrested, but in almost every case, federal immigration officers have declined to deport those in the country illegally. Protesters say they are planning more acts of civil disobedience, including possibly in Phoenix.

The acts are intended to openly defy stepped-up immigration enforcement that has led to record deportations over the past three years.

In Arizona, protesters are focused now on enforcement of a portion of the state's Senate Bill 1070 immigration law.

By getting arrested, immigrants say they are making a point: Illegal immigrants who are part of this country shouldn't have to live in fear of being deported and deserve to live here legally. They also think immigration authorities are less likely to deport illegal immigrants arrested in public because the government doesn't want the negative attention.

"Honestly, I can tell you I have never felt as free as when I was sitting in the middle of the street and when I was chanting 'undocumented and unafraid,' " said Daniela Cruz, 21. She is one of six undocumented immigrants arrested in March after blocking an intersection in front of Trevor G. Browne High School in west Phoenix.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say unwanted publicity has nothing to with the agency's decision not to take action against the protesters. In most cases, the agency has issued statements saying the protesters simply did not meet the agency's priorities of deporting criminals, recent border crossers and egregious immigration violators.

Still, undocumented immigrants could be taking a chance if getting arrested leads to a criminal record that could prevent them from gaining legal status in the the future.

Frustration spurs action

The rise of civil disobedience shows how some immigrant groups are turning to more-extreme measures out of frustration that the marches, work stoppages, voter drives and boycotts of the past have not worked. Reforms that include a proposed legalization program for millions of undocumented immigrants have not passed Congress, and deportations keep going up.

Last fiscal year, ICE deported a record of nearly 397,000 immigrants. ICE is on a pace to deport as many or more this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Comprehensive immigration reform likely won't be addressed again until next year at the earliest.

"Immigration reform has been on the national agenda for more than 10 years with no progress, and so, I think that is one of the reasons we are seeing an uptick in the level of civil disobedience," said Chris Newman, legal-programs director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, an advocacy group in Los Angeles that has worked with groups that engage in civil disobedience.

Carlos Vélez-Ibánez, director of Arizona State University's School of Transborder Studies, said the rise in civil disobedience is the result of a new crop of leaders who are inspired by some of the tactics of the civil- rights and Chicano movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

"In this case, people are putting themselves in harm's way to make the point of the unfairness of these laws," Vélez-Ibánez said.

Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C., that supports tough immigration enforcement, doesn't think civil disobedience now will sway public opinion to the degree that the civil-rights movement did.

"It's not clear to most Americans that this is analogous to the civil-rights movement," Camarota said. "In the civil-rights movement, you had American citizens demanding equality. In this case, you have people who aren't supposed to be in the country demanding the rights of citizens, and to most Americans, or at least a large fraction, that is not roughly the same thing."

Groups use e-mail, social media

Groups such as the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, Dream Activist and Puente Arizona, which is based in Phoenix, are only a few years old or less. But they have quickly built national followings through the use of websites, Facebook, e-mail blasts, Twitter and YouTube videos to promote civil disobedience. They also attempt to rally public support for individual cases of undocumented immigrants facing deportation.

Jonathan Perez, 25, a member of National Immigrant Youth Alliance, said he has seen an evolution in the undocumented-immigrant movement.

"Two or three years ago, people wouldn't come out. They were even afraid to be on camera," said Perez, an undocumented immigrant from Colombia who lives in Los Angeles.

Then, growing numbers of undocumented students known as "dreamers" began appearing on television and in front of Congress to tell their stories in hopes of generating support for the Dream Act, a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship if they attended college or joined the military.

The turning point came in May 2010, when a group of protesters dressed in caps and gowns staged a sit-in at the Tucson offices of Sen. John McCain, Perez said. Among the four protesters arrested were three who were in the country illegally. It was the first time students had deliberately gotten arrested and risked deportation in an act of civil disobedience, according to Perez and other activists familiar with the incident.

Protests heat up

Since then, civil disobedience in Arizona and around the country has steadily increased.

Among the most recent examples:

On July 24, four undocumented immigrants were arrested after stopping traffic at an intersection outside the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix. They were protesting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's tough stance against illegal immigrants on the same day he was at the courthouse defending himself against a racial-profiling lawsuit accusing his office of targeting Latinos to search for illegal immigrants.

On Sept. 4, 10 undocumented immigrants, including three from Arizona, were arrested when they blocked a busy intersection in downtown Charlotte, N.C., on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. The protesters said they wanted to push President Barack Obama to legalize illegal immigrants instead of deporting them.

On Sept. 7, four undocumented immigrants and two supporters were arrested while blocking traffic in Los Angeles. They were trying to pressure Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca to stop working with federal immigration authorities to identify and arrest illegal immigrants.

More civil disobedience may now be on the way. Local police are about to begin enforcing the so-called "show me your papers" provision of SB 1070 following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that rejected an argument that the provision is unconstitutional.

That provision requires police officers to check the legal status of a person stopped or arrested under certain conditions during investigations or traffic stops.

To protest the law, organizers from Puente Arizona say they are considering civil disobedience, including getting arrested by blocking streets.

"It's empowering," said Carlos Garcia, director of Puente Arizona. "But what it really comes down to is challenging the law itself and us being able to tell the stories of undocumented people and why they are risking everything."

In July, Puente created a Facebook page to drum up support for the "UndocuBus." About two dozen undocumented immigrants rode the 1970s-era passenger bus on a six-week trip across the country that began in Phoenix and ended in Charlotte. Along the way, the bus, painted bright turquoise with butterflies and the slogan "No papers no fear" on the sides, made stops in 15 cities, including Knoxville, Tenn.

In that city four of about 50 protesters blocking a city street were arrested on Aug. 28. They were protesting the local sheriff's participation in a federal program that gives local police the authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

The UndocuBus' trip culminated with a protest that blocked an intersection near the site of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.

Among the 10 people arrested there was Phoenix resident and UndocuBus rider Gerardo Torres, 41, an undocumented immigrant from Aguas Calientes, Mexico.

Torres, a handyman, said it wasn't until the night before, during a meeting at a local church, that he decided to get arrested.

"I wanted to prove the point to the (undocumented) community that when we are together and we are united, we have a lot of power," said Torres, who said he has been living in the country illegally since 1993, when his six-month tourist visa expired.

Torres conceded, however, that he knew the chances of being put into deportation proceedings were slim because he has no criminal record.

Since June 2011, ICE has revamped its deportation priorities to focus more attention on removing illegal immigrants with criminal records instead of those with clean records and strong community and family ties.

After spending about 10 hours in jail, Torres was released. ICE declined to pursue deportation against the 10 protesters.

ICE officials declined to be interviewed.

In a written statement, Amber Cargile, an ICE spokeswoman in Phoenix, said the agency "fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinions."

"We recognize that our nation's broken immigration system requires serious solutions, and we continue to work with Congress to enact reform," Cargile said.

Since the acts of civil disobedience started, immigrant groups say, ICE has taken deportation action against only one protester, Miguel Guerra-Montana, 35. The Phoenix resident is one of four undocumented immigrants arrested after they sat down and blocked an intersection in front of the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix.

In the statement, Cargile said ICE issued Guerra-Montana a notice to appear before an immigration judge and released him on bond after a federal database check revealed he had entered the country in January 2002 on a visitor's visa but failed to leave after the visa expired.

"ICE uses discretion on a case-by-case basis, taking enforcement action based on the merits of an individual's case and a comprehensive review of specific facts," Cargile said. An immigration judge will decide whether Guerra-Montana should be deported.

Guerra-Montana said he wanted to be placed in deportation proceedings. That would give him the chance to ask an immigration judge to let him remain in the U.S. legally. He has hired a lawyer and plans to argue that he should be allowed to stay because he has lived in this country for more than 10 years and two of this three children were born here.

He sees that as a better alternative than being stopped by police and turned over to ICE.

"I did this because I was tired of always having to hide," he said.

Although ICE has not pursued deportation against most of the protesters, they are still taking a chance by getting arrested.

In September, Cruz, the undocumented immigrant arrested in March for blocking the intersection at Trevor G. Browne High School, went to court to fight two misdemeanor charges. A judge found Cruz guilty of the two charges. Now, she has a criminal record.

Cruz said she doesn't know if her record will hurt her chances of applying for any future legalization program or for President Barack Obama's deferred-action program, which lets young undocumented immigrants apply to stay and work temporarily in the U.S. without the threat of deportation. The guidelines for applying rule out undocumented immigrants convicted of felonies, serious misdemeanors or three or more misdemeanors. Department of Homeland Security officials have said applicants for deferred action with records of disobedience will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

But Cruz has no regrets.

"To me, even after I was found guilty, it was more than 100 percent worth it," she said. "We showed our community that once we come out, we are a lot safer."
 

Two Woodburn men arrested for organized theft crime

A three-month long investigation lead to the arrest of two Woodburn men accused of buying and reselling stolen property.

Woodburn Police Capt. Jason Alexander said that Mario Paniagua, 35, and Adolfo Zarate Cabrera, 33, would send men to steal things from other stores and then resell the items in La Tienda Mexicana La Azteca, 153 Grant St.

Police served a search warrant at the store and a residence at 12549 McKee School Road, where they seized a significant amount of stolen property, police said.

The two are charged with racketeering, money laundering and attempted first-degree theft.

Police began an investigation in June when a person was arrested at a Fred Meyer for shoplifting, and gave information about La Tienda Mexicana La Azteca purchasing stolen goods.

Fred Meyer's Organized Retail Crime Section and Canby Police Department assisted in the case.

If anyone has information in the case, they are asked to contact Detective Aaron Devoe at 503-982-2345.

Supporters, opponents of rule affecting non-citizens speak out

Testimony on a provision banning non-citizens from serving as the City of Keizer’s youth councilor ranged from blasting the group for lost opportunities to support for the rule of law.

A work session Monday night at the Keizer Civic Center drew more than 50 people for what might ordinarily be a little-discussed topic: Rules and procedures for the city council.

Of course, this was no ordinary meeting: It was held at the behest of CAUSA, an immigrant rights group who requested to speak with Mayor Lore Christopher.

Francisco Lopez, executive director of CAUSA, questioned the timing of the decision: It came the same night Hugo Nicolas, a former Keizer youth councilor, received an award from the City of Salem and within days of speaking to numerous media outlets about his status as an illegal immigrant.

Lopez also asked how it would be enforced.

“How are you going to make a determination? Based on the color of skin? Or their last name?” Lopez said.

The council’s supporters came back to one theme: The rule of law, and whether allowing students whose parents brought them to the country illegally bends those laws too far.

State Rep. Kim Thatcher, R – Keizer, compared the situation to relatives who own land in another part of the state and live there part-time.

“They could contribute to their community all day long and they couldn’t run for city council because they don’t live there full-time,” Thatcher said. “There just has to be lines that are drawn (and) what you’re drawing is sensible.”

Nicolas himself addressed the council, saying he felt shame as he came to the Keizer Civic Center to volunteer as a police cadet or in the youth council role, then go home to a crowded house, with relatives sleeping in the garage.

“Here in Keizer and around the country we share a city, but not a community,” Nicolas said. “… We learn to only share a common fear.”

Councilor David McKane said earlier in the meeting the revised council rules had been in the works for about a year, and that the changes were not associated with Nicolas personally.

“It has nothing to do with you and people that say that should be ashamed,” McKane said.

Peter Dane testified that rules should maintain accountability for parents to follow the law for the sake of their children.

“To keep demanding more loopholes in the law … is selfish and egregious,” Dane said.

Dennis Koho, a former mayor who is unopposed in his candidacy for city council, said a system shouldn’t penalize children for their parents’ decision as of where to live.

“We can best help those future leaders by being inclusive rather than saying we’re only going to take a look at a certain type of young person,” Koho said.

Eduardo Angulo, chairman and executive director of the Salem-Keizer Coalition for Equality, said volunteer opportunities for immigrant children help bolster the area, comparing it favorably to troubled neighborhoods in southern California and New York City.

“You’re excluding a great deal of the population of Latino youth … who could be part of the solution,” Angulo said.’

Judy DeSpain said Nicolas was a victim of his parents’ lawlessness.

“Illegal immigrants cannot have the same rights as U.S. citizens,” DeSpain said. “To do so means our laws and citizenship are meaningless for all.”

OFIR President to give Border Tour presentation in Eugene

Alert date: 
September 11, 2012
Alert body: 

If you missed the OFIR meeting in May, please join Lane912 and others, this Tuesday, September 11th at 6:00pm to watch this disturbing presentation showing what is really happening on our southern border.  OFIR President Cynthia Kendoll participated in a private, behind the scenes tour of the Arizona-Mexico Border, travelling and talking with experts in Law Enforcement, the environment and more.

Admission is free.  Your participation is welcome.  Eugene IZZY's Restaurant at 950 Seneca Rd. in Eugene.

Police arrest home robbery suspect in Welches

Clackamas County sheriff's deputies are starting to unravel a bizarre robbery spree in Welches.

Saturday they arrested 20-year-old Sergio Cruz-Hernandez for robbing a home on East Twinberry Loop early that morning. Neighbors say the homeowner was stabbed twice during the robbery and was taken to Emanuel Hospital to recover.

Jeff Harum said he woke up to screaming around 4 a.m. as his neighbor's wife came running down the street pleading for help.

"She was yelling 'they've come back. They're back again. They have my husband,'" Harum said.

The same house had been burglarized the week before. The volunteer firefighter who lives there awoke to a man standing in his room. Although the intruder had a gun and demanded cash, the homeowner was able to convince him to leave empty handed.

Harum believes the same man came back this weekend.

"This is insane for the same guy to come and hit the same house twice," Harum said.

Saturday the intruder was armed with a knife. Harum said his neighbor was taken to the hospital with two stab wounds.

"We're all pretty tight here, and we realize we kind of (have) to police ourselves and keep an eye on it," Harum said.

The scare was the second call deputies responded to that morning, according to a sergeant on the scene.

Just two blocks away, Victor Ruiz said a man broke into his trailer and tried to molest his 16-year-old sister while she was sleeping.

"She was screaming and then she ran into my room and said somebody was in her room," Ruiz said.

When he tried to run after the intruder, Ruiz said he couldn't find anyone.

Later Saturday, deputies took Cruz-Hernandez into custody and charged him with first-degree robbery. He was booked in the Clackamas County Jail. Deputies plan to press more charges after further investigation, according to reports.
 

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