Friday, February 27, 2009

Gun dealer faces charges of arming Mexican drug cartel

Eight Mexican agents died last spring after moving in on a safe house full of drug dealers. The agents were not prepared for the fire power that greeted them. An assault rifle police recovered was traced back across the border to a Phoenix gun store called X-Caliber Guns. Its owner, George Iknadosian, goes on trial this week on charges he sold hundreds of weapons to smugglers, knowing they would be sent to a drug cartel in Mexico.

Guns help fuel ongoing cartel warfare in which more than 6,000 Mexicans died in 2008. Drug gangs seek out guns in the United States because gun-control laws are far tougher in Mexico. Mexican civilians must get approval from the military to buy guns and cannot own large-caliber rifles or high-powered pistols, which are considered military weapons.

Gun laws in the United States allow the sale of multiple military-style rifles to American citizens without reporting the sales to the government. There are more than 6,600 licensed dealers in the U.S. along the Mexican border, many operating out of their houses.

Smugglers routinely enlist Americans with clean criminal records to buy two or three rifles at a time, often from different shops, then transport them across the border in cars and trucks. Mexican authorities say they seized 20,000 weapons from drug gangs in 2008, most of them bought in the United States.

U.S. officials estimate 90 percent of the weapons recovered in Mexico come from dealers north of the border. Iknadosian is accused of being one of those dealers. Officials say in two years, he sold more than 700 weapons of the kind currently sought by drug dealers in Mexico. At least 600 of those weapons, they say, were smuggled to Mexico.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

ICE agent removed illegal alien during church service

On a Sunday morning in October, in a church sanctuary in Texas, an off-duty immigration agent tapped Jose Juan Hernandez on the shoulder and asked him to step outside. Hernandez, a 31-year-old illegal alien from Mexico who has already been deported three times, followed the agent and was promptly detained on suspicion of illegal re-entry after deportation.

Hernandez was detained and arrested October 26, pleaded guilty to the re-entry charge in February and is scheduled for sentencing in April. He remains in federal detention.

Yet his attorney, Rick Soliz, said he plans to file a complaint against the ICE agent in connection with the arrest. “I wonder what the agent was thinking, if he was thinking at all,” Soliz said. “How do you decide to do that in the middle of a religious service?”

ICE has defended the agent’s actions as fulfilling his “sworn duty to enforce the nation’s laws.” The agency has guidelines related to arrests “in sensitive community locations” which allow agents to make arrests at churches in specific circumstances.

Hernandez is expected to again be deported after he serves his sentence. Court records show he was convicted of a felony drug charge and deported in 2000. He was deported again in 2001. He was convicted for DWI in January 2004, and in October of that year, he was convicted of driving without a valid license. He was deported for a third time in 2004, according to ICE records.

Hernandez has been in the U.S. illegally since age 6.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mexican protestors prefer drug cartels to army

Hundreds of Mexicans blocked bridges to the United States in three border cities- Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. The demonstrators said they want the Mexican army to leave their area and to stop trying to quell drug violence.

Demonstrators, mostly women and children, blocked the bridge leading from Ciudad Juarez to downtown El Paso, Texas. They shouted "Soldiers, get out!" as they stood in front of about 20 troops in green army pickup trucks.

The demonstrations displayed discontent against the government's role in an anti-drug crackdown staarted two years ago by Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Calderon deployed soldiers across the country to fight the drug cartels While 
Calderon's offensive was initially popular, drug violence has only surged since then, with drug gangs beheading rivals and attacking police.

More than 6,000 people were killed in drug violence in 2008. Border towns have been transformed by the crackdown, with soldiers in ski masks regularly rumbling down the streets in large convoys.

The same day the protest occurred in Ciudad Juarez, three police officers were shot to death by unidentified assailants on a street near the U.S. consulate. Another officer was wounded.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Increased numbers of Latinos and illegal aliens sentenced in federal courts

Criminals being sentenced in federal courts are increasingly Latino. In 2007, Latinos accounted for 40% of all federal offenders, more than three times their portion (13%) of the total U.S. adult population. At 40%, the Latino number of all sentenced offenders was up 175% from their 23% in 1991.

By 2007, immigration offenses made up nearly one-quarter (24%) of all federal convictions. They were just 7% in 1991. Hispanics made up 80% of those sentenced for immigration offenses in 2007, due to the sharp growth in illegal immigration and increased enforcement of immigration laws.

Demonstrating the sharp growth in illegal immigration, by 2007, Latinos without U.S. citizenship represented 29% of all federal offenders. Of all Latino offenders, 72% were illegal aliens, up from 61% in 1991. Far fewer illegal aliens sentenced were white offenders (8%) or black offenders (6%).

Fully 75% of Latino offenders sentenced for immigration crimes in 2007 were convicted of entering the U.S. unlawfully or residing in the country without authorization.

Hispanics who were convicted of any federal offense were more likely than non-Hispanics to be sentenced to prison. But among all federal offenders sentenced to prison, Hispanics were also more likely than blacks or whites to receive a shorter prison term. The statistics were included in the report "A Rising Share: Hispanics and Federal Crime," published by the Pew Hispanic Center.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Haiti blocks deportations from U.S.

U.S. immigration authorities have ordered 30,000 Haitians to leave the country, but officials in Haiti are refusing to issue the travel documents needed for the deportations. They say the Caribbean nation needs time to recover from last year's devastating hurricanes and cannot handle the return of its citizens.

The action has clogged U.S. immigration detention centers. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says about 600 Haitian deportees are in detention centers and another 240 are under house arrest.

The U.S. government halted deportations to Haiti for three months last year, starting in September, after back-to-back storms killed nearly 500 people and left tens of thousands homeless.

Soon after resuming flights in December, the administration of then President George W. Bush denied Haiti's request for temporary protected status. The designation would have allowed Haitians living in the United States illegally to stay and work temporarily.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Did you enjoy the Mexican candy?

Saturday was Valentine's Day, celebrated with flowers and candy, but increasingly, that candy is coming from Mexico. From jellied hearts to Hershey's chocolates, Mexico's candy exports to the United States have more than doubled since 2002 as manufacturers chase cheap labor and sugar south of the border.

The latest arrival is Hershey, which is building a 1,500-employee factory in Monterrey, Mexico. Since 2007, the company has closed or shrunk factories in Oakdale, Calif.; Reading, Pa.; San Francisco and other sites.

Hershey’s is following Brach's Confections, famous for caramels, and Ferrera Pan Candy, maker of Red Hots and Jaw Breakers. In January, Swiss chocolate giant Barry Callebaut opened a plant in Monterrey to produce about 100,000 tons of chocolate and cocoa a year for Hershey and other food makers. Mars Inc.'s Mexican branch produces Snickers and Milky Ways at a chocolate factory opened in 2007 in the northern city of Montemorelos, Mexico.

"All these companies want to make it cheap overseas somewhere, then bring it back and sell it to our people who don't have any jobs to buy it," said Dennis Bomberger, business manager of Chocolate Workers Local 464 in Hershey, Pa.

Even Mexican officials say they are unhappy, noting that chocolate factories are buying most of their cacao, the raw ingredient of cocoa and chocolate, at cheaper prices from Africa and Brazil, not Mexico.

Brach's Confections Inc. closed its Chicago factory in 2003 and moved to Linares, Mexico. Bobs Candies of Albany, Ga., a leader in the candy-cane business, moved its production to Reynosa, Mexico in 2005. In crime-ridden Juarez, Mexico, Sunrise Confections opened a plant in 2001 to make candies for U.S. grocery-store brands. For Valentine's Day, it churns out jellied hearts and cinnamon hearts.

Friday, February 13, 2009

E-Verify requirement stripped from stimulus package

A requirement that employers who get money federal stimulus money must first ue the federal E-Verify program to vet employees has been stripped from the final version of the $787 billion stimulus package. The move is a victory for those who called the E-Verify requirement unnecessary. Also cut from the final conference report was a provision to extend the E-Verify program beyond March 6, when it is set to expire.

The elimination of E-Verify from the stimulus bill is a major disappointment for those concerned about preventing illegal aliens from benefiting from stimulus programs. Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), said dropping the verification requirement was a mistake, both from a policy and a political sense.

"As a policy matter, when you are spending hundreds of billions on job creation, it should be for Americans and legal immigrants, and not illegal aliens," he said.

According to the DHS's own estimates,about 96% of employees are authorized for work within 24 hours, while about 4% receive initial mismatches. Less than one-half of a percent of those mismatches are later confirmed to be authorized to work, meaning the system is generally reliable in spotting mismatches.

Sen. Jeff Sessions had attempted to add E-Verify back into the bill, citing studies that said several hundred thousand stimulus jobs will go to illegal aliens without the requirement. Sessions urged a floor vote, saying that E-Verify would more than likely pass a vote in the Senate.

“The purpose of the bill is to put Americans back to work. It is common sense to include a simple requirement that the people hired to fill stimulus-created jobs be lawful American residents,” Sessions said.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Group of representatives seek to halt border fence construction

Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva, along and seven other Democratic members of the House have asked President Obama to halt the construction of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, until an evaluation of border security operations being conducted by the new administration is concluded.

'We strongly believe the Bush Administration's approach of constructing a fence along much of the Southwest border was ill-conceived as it was void of any meaningful input from the local communities or the Border Patrol Sector Chiefs who are most familiar with the challenges of securing our border," said the representatives' letter to Obama.

During the Bush administration, hundreds of millions of dollars were paid to private contractors to bring the total miles of border fences and vehicle barriers to 600 miles, up from 145 miles in September 2006. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff used a waiver granted to him in the Real ID Act of 2005 on four occasions during his tenure to bypass environmental law and move forward with the fencing project, angering many environmentalists and border residents.

The group's letter criticizes the use of that waiver and violations of the National Historic Preservation Act and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, citing the destruction of 69 Tohono O'odham graves south of Tucson in 2007.

The seven other Democratic members of the House of Representatives who signed the letter along with Grijalva include five from Texas and two from California: Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas; Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas; Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas; Ciro D. Rodriguez, D-Texas; Henry Cuellar, D-Texas; Bob Filner, D-Calif.; and Susan Davis, D-Calif.

Monday, February 09, 2009

16 illegal aliens sue Arizona rancher over their ‘civil rights’

Roger Barnett has waged a 10-year campaign to stop a flood of illegal immigrants from crossing his land in Arizona. He is now being sued by 16 Mexicans who accuse him of conspiring to violate their “civil rights” when he stopped them at gunpoint on his ranch on the U.S.-Mexico border.

In 1998, Barnett began rounding up illegal immigrants and turning them over to the U.S. Border Patrol, after they destroyed his property, killed his calves and broke into his home. Federal and county law enforcement officials acknowledge his ranch, near Douglas, Ariz., is 'the avenue of choice' for immigrants seeking to enter the United States illegally.

The 16 illegals have sued Barnet for $32 million in actual and punitive damages. Also named are Barnett's wife, Barbara, his brother, Donald, and Larry Dever, the sheriff in Cochise County, Ariz., where the Barnetts live.

The immigrants are represented at trial by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which charged that Sheriff Dever did nothing to prevent Barnett from holding their clients at gunpoint.

U.S. District Judge John Roll has already rejected a motion to have the charges dropped, ruling there was sufficient evidence to present the matter to a jury. Barnett's attorney, David Hardy, has argued that illegal immigrants did not have the same rights as U.S. citizens.

'This is my land. I’m the victim here,' Barnett says. 'When someone’s home and loved ones are in jeopardy and the government seemingly can’t do anything about it, I feel justified in taking matters into my own hands. And I always watch my back.'

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Los Angeles City Council approves $12.85 million payout to demonstrators

Two hundred demonstrators, most of them illegal aliens, sued the city of Los Angeles after a May Day 2007 melee in which Los Angeles police fired about 12 dozen rubber bullets into the crowd. Now the demonstrators will receive $12.85 million under a settlement approved by the Los Angeles City Council.

The clash between police officers, demonstrators and journalists resulted in more than 300 claims and lawsuits. After reviewing the incident for more than a year, Los Angeles Police Department brass recommended that four officers be fired for their actions that day. In addition, the city's "Board of Rights" also recommended that three officers receive official reprimands; five officers receive three-day suspensions; two officers receive a five-day suspension; and one officer receive a 10-day suspension.

The melee began when 20 to 30 people in the crowd of demonstrators threw rocks and bottles at the police officers. The officers responded by firing rubber bullets into the crowd.

The ‘official’ report released by the LAPD several months after the incident blamed the LAPD, saying that a lack of planning, training and orderly supervision hampered the officers and led to the fracas.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Nominee to head Commerce supports expansion of H1-B foreign worker program

Sen. Gregg Judd, President Barack Obama's new nominee to run the Department of Commerce, comes with a record of wholeheartedly endorsing the expansion of H1-B workers in the technology industry. H-1B is a temporary work visa program which allows companies and universities to employ foreign guest workers with the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor's degree in 'specialty occupations.' The intent was to help companies temporarily fill positions when there is not a sufficient qualified American work force.

Gregg co-sponsored a 2007 bill which would have increased the current H1-B visa cap of 65,000 to 150,000, and would have authorized a 20 percent increase beyond that number in any fiscal year after a year in which the cap was met. He voted against a bill introduced by Sen. Richard Durbin to ensure that employers make efforts to recruit American workers before hiring foreign workers, and he opposed legislation by Sen. Bernie Sanders to raise the fees from $1,500 to $10,000 for employers to import H1-B high-skill workers.

'Helping the high tech industry tap into highly skilled talent from around the world and address well-documented labor shortages not only keeps our economy strong, but creates U.S. jobs and deters employers from sending work elsewhere,' Judd stated.

His perspective, however, is tempered by strong opposition. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), a frequent critic of the tech industry's use of the H1-B visa system, has already staked out ground opposing the expanded use of H1-B visas.

Grassley wrote in a Jan. 22 letter to Microsoft, 'Our immigration policy is not intended to harm the American work force. I encourage Microsoft to ensure that Americans are given priority in job retention. Microsoft has a moral obligation to protect these American workers by putting them first during these difficult economic times.'

Grassley, Durbin and Sanders are seeking to reform the H1-B program. A bill introduced from Grassley and Durbin would require employers to make a good faith effort to hire American workers first. Employers would also have to show that the H1-B worker would not displace an American worker.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Heading toward collapse, U.S. banks sought foreign workers

As the banking system was melting down in 2008 and Americans were getting laid off, major U.S. banks sought government visas to bring thousands of foreign workers into the country for high-paying jobs.

The 12 banks now receiving the biggest rescue packages, totaling more than $150 billion, sought increasing numbers of H-1B visas in the past two years, 3,258 in 2007 and 4,163 in 2008. The positions had average annual salaries of $90,721, nearly twice the median income for all American households.

The requests were filed with the Labor Department under the H-1B visa program, which allows temporary employment of foreign workers in specialized-skill and advanced-degree positions. Foreigners are attractive hires because companies have found ways to pay them less than American workers.

The use of visa workers by ailing banks angers Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

'In this time of very, very high unemployment ... and considering the help these banks are getting from the taxpayers, they're playing the American taxpayer for a sucker,' Grassley said. Together with Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., Grassley is pushing for legislation to make employers recruit American workers first, along with other changes to the visa program.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

US Chamber of Commerce wins further postponement of E-Verify enforcement

An E-Verify regulation won’t be enforced for federal contractors until at least May 21. It was the second postponement of enforcement of the reguation that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has won. In a news release, the Chamber said the extra time will allow the rule “to be reviewed by the Obama administration.”

Rationalizing a campaign to allow contractors to continue to hire illegal aliens, Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the chamber’s public-policy law firm said “The new administration needs time to re-think mandatory E-Verify use, particularly in light of the stressed economy. We are hopeful that the incoming administration will agree that E-Verify is the wrong solution at the wrong time.'

A Chamber lawsuit challenging the rule is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Co-plaintiffs with the chamber are the Society for Human Resource Management, the Associated Builders and Contractors, the HR Policy Association, and the American Council on International Personnel.

The regulation requires contractors to use the E-Verify system to determine if their workers are legally eligible to work in the United States. In the program, employers electronically submit Social Security numbers for employees. If there is a match, the employee is deemed eligible to work. If not, procedures are in place to determine if the 'no-match' is an error, or if the Social Security number is being illegally used.