US Immigration News

Posted by admin on Aug 15th, 2008

1. Detainee Dies in Rhode Island
2. Activists Protest Boston Area Raids
3. Workers Arrested at DC Airport
4. NC Parachute Company Raided
5. “Gang” Raids in Florida
6. “Fugitive” Raids in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Tennessee, Nevada
7. Al-Arian Trial Postponed

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Hiu Lui Ng died in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at a Rhode Island hospital on Aug. 6, two days after his 34th birthday, from terminal cancer which had gone untreated for months.

Ng had come to the US from Hong Kong at age 17 and had overstayed a student visa. In 2001, a notice ordering him to appear in immigration court was mistakenly sent to a nonexistent address, records show. Because Ng did not show up at the hearing, an immigration judge ordered him deported. Ng remained in the US, married a US citizen and had two US-born sons. He was detained on July 19, 2007, when he and his wife showed up at the immigration office for his green card interview. Since then he had been detained at a number of jails and detention centers in three New England states.

Ng had been complaining of excruciating back pain since April. In federal court affidavits, Ng’s lawyers said officials had refused to allow an independent medical evaluation and had denied Ng use of a wheelchair after he was too weak to stand, preventing him from visiting with his attorneys and family. On July 30, just a week before his death, guards at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, Rhode Island dragged Ng from his bed, carried him in shackles to a car and drove him two hours to a federal facility in Hartford, Connecticut, where an immigration officer pressured him to withdraw all pending appeals of his case and accept deportation.

Officials have given no explanation for the trip. But Ng’s lawyers say it appeared to be an effort to prove that their client was faking illness, and possibly to thwart the habeas corpus petition they had filed in Rhode Island the day before, seeking his release for medical treatment. US District Judge William E. Smith, who heard that petition on July 31, did not make a ruling on the request but insisted that Ng get the care he needed. On Aug. 1, Ng was taken to a hospital, where doctors diagnosed the terminal cancer and fractured spine. He died five days later. [New York Times 8/13/08; Providence Journal 8/14/08]

In a phone interview on Aug. 13, Judge Smith said he was “frankly shocked and disturbed” about the circumstances surrounding Ng’s death as reported in an Aug. 13 New York Times article, which he said conflicted with what government officials told him during the hearing. Referring to a statement released on Aug. 13 by the warden at Wyatt Detention Facility–citing a preliminary autopsy that determined Ng died of “previously undiagnosed advanced stage cancer”–Smith said “that raises some really serious issues about the treatment and care of this person while he was detained, and I want to know more about that.” [PJ 8/14/08]


On Aug. 8, ICE announced the arrests of “52 gang members and associates and 28 other criminals” in a four-day operation targeting “violent street gangs” across Massachusetts. Of the total 80 people arrested, 55 are legal permanent residents “who may be removable from the US based upon their criminal history,” according to ICE; the others included 14 people who were residing in the US without permission from the federal government, two who had failed to comply with deportation orders, and three who had reentered the US after having been deported. “ICE agents also assisted in the arrest of six other individuals on state criminal violations who were encountered during the gang operation,” according to the agency’s news release. The arrested immigrants were nationals of Barbados, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Portugal, Trinidad and Vietnam. All had criminal records.

The raids, part of ICE’s “Operation Community Shield” anti-gang initiative, were conducted in partnership with the police departments of Attleboro, Berkley, Boston, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Chelsea, Dartmouth, Everett, Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, Methuen, New Bedford, Peabody, Randolph, Revere, Rockland, Salem, Somerville, Stoughton, Taunton and Worcester; the sheriff’s departments of Bristol, Essex, Middlesex and Suffolk counties; the Massachusetts Division of Unemployment Assistance; the Office of the Massachusetts State Auditor; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the US Attorney’s Office; and the Department of State Office of Diplomatic Security. [ICE News Release 8/8/08]

On Aug. 4 and 5 in Lowell, about 30 miles northwest of Boston, ICE arrested 12 Southeast Asian immigrants between the ages of 25 and 36. [Lowell Sun 8/6/08] They were picked up on federal warrants for administrative immigration violations, ICE spokesperson Paula Grenier said. From Lowell’s Cambodian community, one of the largest in the US, 187 people have been deported since 2002; 15 more were expected to be deported on Aug. 14.

Relatives of those detained in Lowell joined community members in protesting the arrests at an Aug. 8 rally sponsored by Deported Diaspora and other community groups at Clemente Park in the Lower Highlands neighborhood of Lowell. More than 160 people attended the rally in the rain and signed a petition calling for elected officials and local authorities to investigate the sweeps, which they say have been heavy-handed and overly broad. Activists handed out fliers to inform people of their rights.

Linda Pream spoke at the rally about her boyfriend, Sokon Cheurem, who was among those arrested. Pream described Cheurem as a wonderful father to his 6-year-old daughter, Josselin, who is dependent on him for support, including health and dental care. “His entire life, actually his entire being is revolved around his little girl,” said Pream.

Families are having trouble getting in touch with those arrested, said Gregg Croteau of the United Teen Equality Center. In a press release, the group Deported Diaspora said most of the detainees seem to have been transferred out of state within 24 hours of their arrests. Croteau said his group is upset about the way ICE picked up people without considering their individual circumstances. He spoke in support of Song Sao, who was arrested seven years ago on an assault and battery charge but was given probation and never served time in jail. Croteau said Sao has been working with community groups. “According to his many friends and family members, he has completely turned his life around in a very positive and uplifting way,” said Croteau.

Croteau also expressed concern that the arrests will fuel distrust of law enforcement in the Cambodian community. The Lowell Police Department emphasized that the arrests were an ICE initiative and that its officers took part only as a safety precaution. “The Lowell Police Department has been committed to strong community partnerships, particularly with the Southeast Asian community,” said acting Deputy Police Superintendent Arthur Ryan. [Lowell Sun 8/9/08; Boston Globe 8/9/08; Deported Diaspora Press Release 8/8/08]

On Aug. 8 at Vida Real Church in Somerville, just northwest of Boston, several dozen residents took part in a rally and press conference against the raids. On Aug. 5 in Somerville, ICE agents stopped people at the Sullivan Square transit station and at a donut shop on Broadway, sowing terror in the community. Somerville police chief Anthony Holloway said ICE agents arrested one Somerville resident. At the Aug. 8 event, organized by the Somerville-based group Centro Presente, pastor Luis Morales said city officials are not giving the community adequate information about ICE activities. [BG 8/9/08; Somerville News 8/15/08]

On Aug. 13, more than 150 people from immigrant rights organizations, labor unions, religious congregations and other groups rallied at Boston’s City Hall Plaza to protest the raids and the collaboration between local police and ICE, and to demand fair immigration policies. The rally was sponsored by groups including Jobs with Justice and Centro Presente. [Open Media Boston 8/15/08; Boston Indymedia 8/14/08]


On Aug. 13, ICE agents set up a checkpoint at a service gate at Washington Dulles International Airport in Chantilly, Virginia, and questioned more than 200 people who attempted to enter the airport grounds. Most of those questioned were working on construction projects at the airport. ICE arrested 42 Latin American construction workers who were found to be ineligible to work in the US. The workers were detained administratively on immigration violations, said Mark X. McGraw, Special Agent in Charge of ICE’s Office of Investigations at the Washington field office. Federal officials were trying to determine whether criminal charges were warranted against the workers and their employers. [ICE News Release 8/13/08; Washington Post 8/14/08]

McGraw said the operation “illustrates ICE’s ongoing efforts in partnership with federal and local agencies to secure the critical infrastructure within the National Capital Region.” The operation was carried out with the support of the Transportation Security Administration and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. [ICE News Release 8/13/08] A similar operation at the airport in June 2006 resulted in the arrest of 55 workers at the airport. [WP 8/14/08]

The National Capital Immigrant Coalition (NCIC) responded to the raid with a press conference and vigil on the evening of Aug. 13 at the ICE detention office in Fairfax, Virginia. The coalition said that seven hours after the arrests, ICE was refusing to disclose the whereabouts of those detained–even to their family members–and was denying them access to their attorneys. “Our understanding is that [ICE] has been interrogating the workers without legal counsel, despite the fact that an attorney has been literally knocking on the door to get in to help them,” said Kimberly Propeack, advocacy director for CASA de Maryland, a member of the coalition. Propeack said a lawyer connected to the coalition reached the ICE office in Fairfax City in the afternoon, after the men were detained, but was told that because they had not been fully processed, they could not be informed that he was willing to represent them.

Advocates were also concerned that officials might decide to move the men quickly to detention facilities in a distant state, as often happens to immigrants picked up by ICE. “Some of these workers are likely to have viable legal claims to stay in the United States,” Propeack said. “They may qualify for asylum; they may have pending immigration applications. But if they are moved away from their families, who are the only ones likely to find them legal help, the likelihood that they will find legal representation is very slim.” McGraw said that it was not clear where the men would be detained but that if they are moved from Virginia, it would be because of a lack of bed space. [NCIC Press Release 7/13/08; WP 8/14/08]


On Aug. 12, ICE agents arrested 57 immigrant workers at Mills Manufacturing Corporation in Asheville, North Carolina. The company manufactures parachutes for the US military; ICE implied that the raid was intended to protect “the integrity of our nation’s critical infrastructure.” ICE said no criminal charges have been presented against the workers, but the agency said its investigation is continuing. Mills Manufacturing is not the target of the investigation and has been cooperative, said ICE. The workers used fraudulent documents to get jobs at Mills, said ICE special agent Del Richburg; company officials did not know the workers were unauthorized. The raid was the largest ICE operation yet in western North Carolina, according to Richburg.

Just before the raid, workers were told to gather in a warehouse, said Jessica Arrendondo, an employee who was not detained in the operation. Agents then entered the warehouse from two separate doors, Arrendondo said.

The arrested workers were transferred to the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office for immigration processing, and were placed into removal proceedings for being in violation of US immigration law. A majority of the workers arrested are from Mexico; others are from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Ecuador, said ICE spokesperson Ivan Ortiz-Delgado. ICE released 29 of the arrested workers based on medical, caregiver, or other humanitarian issues. [ICE News Release 8/12/08; Asheville Citizen-Times 8/13/08] The others were taken to the Mecklenburg County Detention Center near Charlotte. [ 8/13/08]

The 57 workers arrested in the raid represented nearly a third of the company’s workforce of 175. Some of the arrested workers had been with the company for years, said John Oswald, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Mills Manufacturing. [AC-T 8/13/08] Oswald said that the company shut down its operations on the day of the raid. “The whole thing is pretty traumatic,” Oswald said. “We can’t expect people to go about business as usual after what has just happened.” The company plans to continue operations but will adjust its delivery schedule, according to Oswald. [ 8/13/08]

In a press release issued the morning of the raid, Asheville City Council member and congressional candidate Carl Mumpower took some credit for the action at Mills, saying an employee there contacted him several weeks ago and “we developed a connection with ICE in Charlotte on Mills Manufacturing. I am grateful for their follow-through and will continue to press this issue.” [AC-T 8/13/08] Mumpower is known in Council meetings for his vocal stance against undocumented workers.

Though an ICE news release announcing the raid was circulated by the city of Asheville’s communication department, the city was not involved in the operation, according to an e-mail from Lauren Bradley, assistant to the city manager. [Mountain Xpress 8/12/08]


Between June 18 and July 25, ICE arrested 321 people in South Florida in what it called “an operation targeting trans-national and violent criminal street gangs,” part of a national ICE initiative known as “Operation Community Shield.” By ICE’s own count, only 59 of the 321 people arrested in the sweeps were “transnational gang members and associates.” According to ICE, 19 people were arrested on immigration charges–at least some of them legal permanent residents whose criminal convictions allegedly make them deportable–and 308 people “face multiple criminal charges including state racketeering influenced and corrupt organizations (RICO) conspiracy; drug possession, purchase and trafficking; firearms possession; outstanding bench warrants; and probation and parole violations.” Those arrested are from Cuba, Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Jamaica, El Salvador, Colombia, Chile, and the US. One individual was identified as having reentered the US after having been deported.

ICE was assisted in the operation by the Air and Marine branch of US Customs and Border Protection; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); the Florida Department of Probation; and the gang investigation units of the sheriff’s offices of Broward and Palm Beach counties and the police departments of Miami Dade, City of Miami, North Miami Beach, Miami Beach, Hialeah, Lake Worth and Boynton Beach. [ICE News Release 8/7/08]

In an operation that began during the week of July 28 and ended on Aug. 7, ICE arrested 54 more immigrants in the Miami area. According to ICE, 29 of those arrested were legal permanent residents whose “criminal backgrounds” make them eligible for deportation. The others were present in the US in violation of immigration rules. ICE identified 10 of those arrested as “sexual predators.” Those arrested were from countries including Guatemala, Honduras, Venezuela, Cuba, Peru, Bahamas, Mexico, El Salvador, France, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Guyana. [ICE News Release 8/8/08]

In a five-day operation ending Aug. 1, ICE Florida Fugitive operations teams arrested 62 immigrants in Lee County, in the Fort Myers area of southwestern Florida. The operation was carried out jointly with the sheriff’s office of Lee and Collier counties. According to ICE, 55 of those arrested were “fugitives” who had failed to comply with deportation orders; the other seven were present in the US in violation of immigration rules. ICE said those arrested included 15 people with criminal histories and six gang members. The arrested immigrants were from Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Peru, Mexico, Jamaica, Argentina, Bahamas and Russia. [ICE News Release 8/4/08]


The ICE office in Philadelphia announced on Aug. 11 that its local fugitive operations teams had arrested a total of 119 people in 10-day operation in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Of the total 119 people arrested, 75 had failed to comply with deportation orders; 26 of these 75 had criminal records. Another 44 people were arrested for being present in the US without permission; 12 of these 44 people had criminal histories, according to ICE. The operation was carried out by ICE’s Detention and Removal Operations and Office of Investigations in conjunction with the US Border Patrol in Erie, Pennsylvania; the Philadelphia Warrant Squad; and the police departments of Philadelphia, Hatfield, Horsham, Norristown and Altoona. [ICE News Release 8/13/08]

In a five-day operation ending July 1, ICE deportation officers assigned to the New Orleans and Memphis fugitive operations teams arrested 24 immigrants in the Nashville, Tennessee area. All but two of those arrested were “immigration fugitives” who had failed to comply with deportation orders. Of the other two people arrested, one had reentered the US after having been deported and another was an alleged member of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang who was found to be present in the US without permission. [ICE News Release 7/9/08]

On June 30 and July 1, ICE agents arrested 42 people in an operation targeting immigration “fugitives” in the Lake Tahoe area of Nevada. Only 21 of those detained had failed to comply with prior deportation orders, according to ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice. Six of those arrested had previous criminal convictions. “The majority of those encountered during the operation have already been repatriated to their native countries,” Kice said. [AP 7/15/08]


On Aug. 8 in Alexandria, Virginia, US District Judge Leonie Brinkema postponed the trial of Florida professor Sami Al-Arian indefinitely. Al-Arian was charged on June 26 with two counts of criminal contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury which is investigating whether Islamic charities in Northern Virginia were financing terrorists [see INB 7/5/08]. The trial, originally scheduled for Aug. 13, will now be delayed until the Supreme Court addresses an appeal submitted by Al-Arian’s attorneys, challenging the legality of the federal subpoena which led to the contempt charges. [Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace 8/9/08; AP 8/8/08]

At a bond hearing on July 10, Brinkema ordered Al-Arian released on bail; the judge expressed concern about the government’s maneuvers to keep him in custody despite a 2006 plea agreement with prosecutors that requires his speedy deportation. “There’s some strange signals coming out of this case,” Brinkema said. “I expect the Department of Justice to live up to its agreements.” [AP 7/10/08]

Instead of releasing Al-Arian on bond, the federal government transferred him into immigration custody, claiming he would be held pending deportation. Al-Arian was then transferred from Alexandria to the Pamunkey Regional Jail in Hanover, Virginia, where he was subjected to punitive conditions including solitary confinement. From there, Al-Arian was taken to the ICE office in Fairfax. When ICE agents tried to return him to Pamunkey, jail officials there refused to accept him because the facility had received so many telephone calls from Al-Arian supporters protesting his treatment. ICE agents then took Al-Arian to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, 100 miles from his family and attorneys in Washington. Following further protests, Al-Arian was finally returned to the Alexandria Detention Center in advance of the Aug. 8 hearing. [Tampa Bay Coalition for Justice and Peace 8/6/08]


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