TX News Service – Lawsuit Against Border Patrol Claims Excessive Force, False Arrest

Published October 23, 2013
John Michaelson, Public News Service – TX
Brownsville, TX

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency is facing a new lawsuit over an alleged false arrest and excessive use of force against a U.S. citizen.

The incident happened last November as a pregnant woman with disabilities was confronted by an agent outside her workplace in Brownsville. Adriana Piñon, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Texas, said the woman hadn’t broken any laws and was not interfering.

“And yet, when she asked a few questions of the agent, he reacted violently,” she said, “He threw her to the ground with so much force that her jeans tore and she suffered physical injuries. He put his weight on her and handcuffed her so tightly that the fire department had to be called to get the cuffs off.”

The woman suffered a miscarriage the next day from injuries as a result of the incident, according to her doctor.

Customs and Border Patrol does not comment specifically on pending litigation, but said it does not tolerate misconduct within its ranks and fully cooperates with all investigations.

Piñon said these types of cases are all too common, adding that to reverse that trend, the Border Patrol needs to improve training, transparency and accountability.

“It’s so important that agents understand what the legal limits of the use of force are,” she said, “because incidents such as the one in our complaint deteriorate trust in our community, and our border communities suffer as a result.”

An audit of Border Patrol training conducted by the Inspector General last year found that many agents and officers do not understand the extent to which they may or may not use force.

The complaint is online at aclutx.org. The Inspector General’s report on Border Patrol use of force is at aclu.org.

TX News Service: Poll – Texans Want Immigration Reform, Path to Citizenship

Published June 17, 2013
John Michaelson, Public News Service – TX
Austin, TX

Most Texans believe the country’s immigration reform system needs to be fixed, and a new poll also has found majority support for the U.S. Senate bill crafted by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight.”

Marisa Bono with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) said the plan is a step in the right direction.

“The poll results reflect what we at MALDEF have known all along: Most Texans and most Americans favor immigration reform that focuses not only on enforcement, but also includes pathways for legalization and work authorization for those already here,” Bono said.

In the poll, 67 percent of Texas respondents said they supported the “Gang of Eight” proposal being debated in the Senate, and an even greater percentage supported a path to citizenship.

Letting undocumented workers seek legal status through a rigorous path will have a genuine impact on the Texas economy, Bono added.

“For those immigrants who do not have criminal records, who do not pose threats to our communities or to our society – and who, in fact, contribute economically to our community in positive ways – it makes sense to embrace them, not to turn them away,” she said.

In 2011, the Pew Hispanic Center estimated that more than 1.5 million immigrants living in Texas are not in the U.S. legally and could benefit from the reform legislation.

The full poll results are available at americasvoiceonline.org.

Public News Service: Big Turnout Leads to Big Predictions of Immigration Reform

Published November 8, 2012
Peter Malof, Public News Service – TX
El Paso, TX

As political analysts debate whether this week’s election results will ease the gridlock in Washington, D.C., some are predicting a quick breakthrough on at least one major issue. Immigration reform has been blocked in recent years – primarily by a Republican base that wants to seal the border first. That stance alienated enough Latino voters to help propel Democrats to a national victory this week, according to Adriana Cadena, statewide coordinator of the Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance. She says Hispanic voters will not be satisfied with anything less than comprehensive reforms.

“That means providing venues through which people who are here undocumented can become U.S. citizens. There’s really no other option, and the time is now.”

The debate is already heating up. Some conservative activists say they will continue fighting what they see as amnesty for millions who are in the country illegally, but other Republicans are calling for a reexamination of their party’s relationship to the growing Latino electorate. President Obama, meanwhile, wants reforms enacted soon, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid promises to introduce a bill in the coming year.

Read more »

NYT Opinion: Migrants’ Freedom Ride

Published July 28, 2012:

On Sunday night or early Monday, about three dozen people are planning to set out on a six-week bus voyage through the dark terrain of American immigration politics. Their journey is to begin, fittingly, in the desert in Arizona, national capital of anti-immigrant laws and oppressive policing. It will wind through other states where laws and failed policies force immigrants to toil outside the law — New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee — and end in North Carolina at the Democratic National Convention.

There the riders plan to deliver a defiant message to a president who is hoping to return to office on a wave of Latino support that they believe he has not earned.

There is something very different about this particular protest. Many of those planning to ride the bus are undocumented and — for the first time — are not afraid to say so. Immigrants who dread arrest and deportation usually seek anonymity. These riders, weary of life in the shadows and frustrated by the lack of progress toward reform, will be telling federal authorities and the local police: Here are our names. This is our plan. If you want us, come get us.

Read more »

PNS – Report: Profit Motive May Be Influencing Immigration Policies

On July 26, 2012, the Public New Service reported

AUSTIN, Texas – The for-profit prison sector would have been hit hard by the Great Recession had it not been for expanded federal immigration enforcement. That’s according to a just-released report by The Sentencing Project. States suffering budget shortfalls, like Texas, have trimmed prison populations, reducing the need for new private contracts. But federal agencies have helped take up the slack by increasingly relying on private facilities to hold detainees awaiting hearings, according to Cody Mason, who authored the report.

“A lot of the detention growth is coming from immigrant detainees. There are these huge networks of facilities that they’re being housed in, and they’re not properly being overseen. It’s hard to keep track of where people are being held and what companies are actually holding them.”

He says most new detention centers are for-profit. One such facility opened this year in Karnes City. It’s an example of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency’s effort to steer fewer detainees into the prison system.

Read more »

Link to Sentencing Project Report »

Uncover the Truth: Newly Obtained Documents Reveal Secure Communities Program Leads to Deportations of People Who Have Never Been Arrested

Newly Obtained Documents Reveal Secure Communities Program Leads to Deportations of People Who Have Never Been Arrested, Despite Objection of California Department of Justice

July 3, 2012—Today, advocates released emails from the FBI and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) that show that ICE’s controversial Secure Communities deportation program is sweeping in individuals who have never been criminally arrested, despite objections raised by the California Department of Justice. The emails—which were obtained as a result of Freedom of Information Act litigation brought by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Cardozo Immigration Justice Clinic—show that people who are unable to satisfactorily identify themselves at drivers’ license checkpoints are processed for deportation through Secure Communities.

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Bloomberg: Texas GOP Shift May Show Way Out of Immigration Stalement

Reported June 28, 2012:

Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson rose nervously to urge Republicans at the state party’s convention to support a national guest-worker program for millions of undocumented residents.

Two years earlier, the party that dominates the second-most populous state had called for a crackdown on illegal immigrants.

“‘Well, here’s the end of a political career,’” Patterson said, recalling his thought as he looked over the June 8 gathering in the Fort Worth Convention Center. Instead, the delegates passed the platform with the guest-worker plan.

In Texas, the state with the second-largest illegal- immigrant population, Republicans have softened their stance toward them. The vote reflected a more pragmatic view of years past, such as when Governor Rick Perry signed a first-in-the- nation 2001 law that gave undocumented residents in-state tuition rates at public colleges. It preceded a U.S. Supreme Court ruling this week that voided most of an Arizona law cracking down on people in the country illegally.

“I’m no bleeding heart; I oppose birthright citizenship,” said Patterson, 65, whose elected office controls state lands and mineral rights. “But we need the labor.”

Read more »

Alternet: Who Is Securing the Texas Border? How Private Contractors Mislead the Public, Then Get Rich Off Taxpayer Money

Tom Barry, March 12, 2012:

Roy “Mac” Sikes wasn’t wearing a white 10-gallon like the other top Texas Rangers attending the 2010 Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition meeting in El Paso. Mac, as the Texas Rangers and sheriffs call him, was going hatless. But that may have been because it’s not entirely clear which hat Mac should have been wearing – ranger, cop or consultant?

Since 2006 many of the key figures in state-led border security operations and information campaigns have identified themselves as DPS employees or part of the Texas Rangers to the public, policy community and the media, disguising their true identities.

The business card he handed me during the sheriffs meeting identified Sikes as the director of the Border Security Operations Center (BSOC) – which is a type of fusion center for border-security operations in Texas. It’s a project of the Texas Rangers Division, which in turn is a branch of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).

However, Mac Sikes is neither a Texas Ranger nor a DPS employee. Like most of the other key figures behind the Lone Star State’s border security campaign, Sikes is a contract employee.

A “senior operational analyst” at Abrams Learning & Information Systems (ALIS), Sikes became director of BSOC as part of the firm’s $3-5 million annual contracts with DPS since 2006. The recent DPS decision — in response to a public records request — to release the ALIS contract revealed the true identity of Sikes.

The Border Security Operations Center is the nexus of the Texas’ own border security initiatives, collectively known as Operation Border Star. ALIS, a homeland-security consulting firm with offices in Arlington, Virginia, was founded in 2004 by Ret. Army Gen. John Abrams to cash in on the billions of dollars in new government contracting funds that started to flow after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.

Since 2006 ALIS functioned as the hidden force behind virtually all non-federal border-security operations in Texas. Whether it’s strategy formulation, border crime-mapping, operations management or public relations, ALIS and its team of consultants have been closely involved in creating what Governor Rick Perry calls the “Texas model of border security.”  Read more …

Huffington Post Opinion: Different State, Same Hate

Department of Justice steps in to block South Carolina's anti-immigrant law

Elena Lacayo of the NCLR writes: "On Monday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against South Carolina to block the implementation of SB 20, a divisive and dangerous anti-immigrant law signed by Gov. Nikki Haley (R-SC) earlier this year. If SB 20 does take effect on Jan. 1, 2012, the law will create a new $1.3 million immigration enforcement unit for South Carolina and provide local law enforcement with overly broad authority to investigate residents' immigration statuses. As NCLR (National Council of La Raza) has repeatedly pointed out in the past, when other states attempted to pass similar bills, these anti-immigrant laws not only promote racial profiling and discrimination, but also violate the Constitution."  Read more …

 

Huffington Post: DHS Documents State Local Police Not Required To Hold Undocumented Immigrants For U.S. Government

"WASHINGTON — Local law enforcement agencies are not required to hold undocumented immigrants at the request of the federal government, according to internal Department of Homeland Security documents obtained by a coalition of groups critical of the Secure Communities enforcement program.

The documents could provide ammunition for jurisdictions that no longer want to participate inSecure Communities, which allows federal immigration authorities to use fingerprints to scan those arrested by local law enforcement. They also support recent actions by Cook County, Ill., Santa Clara, Calif., and San Francisco, all of which decided this year to stop adhering to federal requests to hold undocumented immigrants who were either low-level offenders or were accused of felonies.

The National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Center for Constitutional Rights and Benjamin Cardozo School of Law received the documents after a Freedom of Information Act request and plan to release them this week. The three documents, from October 2010 and January 2011, clarify DHS policy on detainers — requests from federal immigration officials for police to hold those arrested, in some cases after being detected by enforcement programs.

'A detainer serves only to advise another law enforcement agency that ICE seeks an opportunity to interview and potentially assume custody of an alien presently in the custody of that agency,'according to an undated document.

Another document, notes from a briefing to Congressional Hispanic Caucus staff in October 2010, says 'local [law enforcements] are not mandated to honor a detainer, and in some jurisdictions they do not.' The third document, a series of questions and answers emailed in January 2010, says ICE detainers are 'a request,' and 'there is no penalty if they [local law enforcement] do not comply.'" Read more …