Shakira to President and VP: The U.S. Needs Immigration Reform!

Josh Rogin on The Cable reports that singer Shakira met with President Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden at the White House yesterday.  ” And Shakira isn’t confining her advocacy to education; she also wants Obama to push forward on immigration reform. White House officials told Shakira that they hope to reach an agreement this year with the Republican Party to legalize undocumented immigrants, her representative said.”

Here is a video of Shakira’s performance at halftime of the 2010 NBA All-Star Game.

Sobriety Checkpoints and Car Impoundments Focus on Latinos

Ryan Gabrielson writes for the NY Times:

Sobriety checkpoints have increasingly become profitable operations that are far more likely to seize cars from unlicensed — and often undocumented immigrant — motorists, than to catch drunken drivers.

An examination by the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley, has found that in 2009, impoundments at checkpoints generated an estimated $40 million in towing fees and police fines statewide. Cities like Oakland, San Jose, San Rafael, Hayward and Redwood City divide the revenue with towing companies.

While there is an economic benefit for strapped cities, it comes at a cost to taxpayers. In the last fiscal year, $30 million was authorized to pay overtime for officers working on the drunken-driving crackdowns. That money came from federal taxpayers through the California Office of Traffic Safety, which contracts with the University of California, Berkeley, to help distribute the money.

While the checkpoints do catch some drunken drivers, the police manning them are also leaving sober but unlicensed drivers, like Bernardino, on the side of the road, with no hope of regaining their vehicle for at least a month. Once vehicles are impounded, California law requires towing companies to hold them for 30 days. That can mean storage fees and fines that run from $1,000 to $4,000, municipal finance records show. Unlicensed motorists rarely challenge the impoundments.

Often the owners lack the money to recover their cars. Tow companies do not require vehicle owners to have a driver’s license, but they must bring a legal driver with them to the tow lot.

Perry Shusta, vice president of the California Tow Truck Association and owner of Arrowhead Towing in Antioch, said two-thirds or more of the impounded vehicles were never reclaimed and were sold at lien sales.

The proceeds go primarily to the towing companies.

The Investigative Reporting Program reviewed hundreds of pages of city financial records and police reports, and analyzed data from sobriety checkpoints during the past two years. The data revealed that police departments across the state are seizing a growing number of vehicles from unlicensed drivers. In the last fiscal year, the police seized approximately 24,000 such cars at sobriety checkpoints, up from 17,900 in 2008 and 15,700 in 2007.

Law enforcement officials say demographics play no role in determining where the police establish checkpoints. But records show that cities where Hispanics make up a majority of the population are seizing cars at three times the rate of cities with small minority populations. Click here for the rest of the story.

Hackers expose security flaws with ‘Elvis Presley’ passport

CNN reports that “In the name of improved security a hacker showed how a biometric passport issued in the name of long-dead rock ‘n’ roll king Elvis Presley could be cleared through an automated passport scanning system being tested at an international airport. Using a doctored passport at a self-serve passport machine, the hacker was cleared for travel after just a few seconds and a picture of the King himself appeared on the monitor’s display.”

The King died in 1977.

Immigrant faces deportation for 15-year-old-crime

A recent New York Times article on Chinese immigrant Qing Hong Wu who faces deportation after he was abruptly locked up in November as a “criminal alien,” subject to mandatory deportation to China.  Wu left China he at 5, when his family immigrated legally to the United States. But almost 15 years after his crimes, by applying for citizenship, Mr. Wu, 29, came to the attention of immigration authorities in a parallel law enforcement system that makes no allowances for rehabilitation.  According to the article, Wu earned his second chance by being a model inmate, earning release after three years. He became the main support of his immigrant mother, studying and working his way up from data entry clerk to vice president for Internet technology at a national company.

Under the 19th-century legal doctrine still at the heart of much of modern immigration law, however, neither detention nor deportation counts as punishment, just as administrative remedies for the failure to exclude an undesirable foreigner in the first place, experts say. The definition of undesirability has changed over time, but the 1996 laws eliminated most case-by-case judgment in favor of expanded categories of criminal convictions. The shift was part of a national crackdown on crime, and the perception that immigration judges had been too lenient, allowing noncitizen felons to remain in the country and sometimes commit new offenses.

This case is similar to that of Jean Montrevil who subject to deportation to Haiti for a 20-year old conviction. For the full story on Qing Hong Wu please click here.

Immigration Policy Center Report — Many Happy Returns: Remittances and Their Impact

Immigration Policy Center (IPC) released a report, Many Happy Returns: Remittances and Their Impact by Kristin Johnson, Ph.D. which analyzes remittances and their effect on the economies of both the U.S. and receiving countries. Remittances – the transfer of money by workers back to home countries – can constitute one of the top financial inflows to many developing countries, in some cases exceeding international aid. Mexico and the Philippines are the top receiving countries from the U.S. and are also large consumers of U.S. goods. In addtion, in the wake of Haiti’s overwhelming humanitarian crisis, remittances will assume a central role in providing critical resources to the population. Some critics argue that remittances are a loss to the U.S. economy, however, the latest IPC report shows that remittances are actually used to buy goods from U.S. companies, showing that remittances actually benefit both the sending and receiving countries.

Watch PBS “Faces of America” Series

What made America? What makes us? These two questions are at the heart of the new PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.  The Harvard scholar turns to the latest tools of genealogy and genetics to explore the family histories of 12 renowned Americans — professor and poet Elizabeth Alexander, chef Mario Batali, comedian Stephen Colbert, novelist Louise Erdrich, journalist Malcolm Gladwell, actress Eva Longoria, musician Yo-Yo Ma, director Mike Nichols, Her Majesty Queen Noor, television host/heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, actress Meryl Streep, and figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi.

For a N.Y. Times review, click here.

Chapman Law Review Symposium: Drug War Madness: Policies, Borders, and Corruption

January 29th was the 2010 Chapman Law Review School Symposium on “Drug War Madness: Policies, Borders, and Corruption.” The conference brought together an impressive group of speakers with a variety of diverse insights on drugs, borders, and national security.

From KJ at ImmigrationProf:

The keynote speaker at lunch was former (2005-09) Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, now senior of counsel with Covington & Burling and co-founder of a risk management and security consulting firm. Chertoff talked about narcoterrorism and the increasing interrelationship between drug dealers and political insurgent movements around the world. He claimed that Colombia’s FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) was now working with political and other groups around the world, from South America to Europe. Chertoff predicted that, in the future, it would be difficult to distinguish drug traffickers from political insurgents. In discussing recent events in northern Mexico, Chertoff mentioned that the drug cartels were engaging in similar strategies as certain Islamic terrorist groups — beheadings, kidnappings, and torture — with the same intention – to terrorize the population.

Chertoff mentioned several security issues that were of interest, with some of them still needing to be addressed:

1. The Problem of Ungoverned Space:  The United States must attempt to deal with the problem of “ungoverned space” in nations like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and parts of North Africa and South America.  The problem occurs when governments cannot control parts of their territorial jurisdiction, which then can become safe havens for terrorists.

2. Law Enforcement Measures Addressing

— Financing of terrorist activities

— Monitoring communication

— Monitoring and regulating travel

— More secure travel documents

— Better terrorist lists. Chertoff mentioned that the lists had improved with U.S. government’s access to airline databases.

— Biometrics, including finger printing.

—  Increasing the physical security of the borders.  Chertoff acknowledged that terrorists tend to use airline travel currently to come to the United States but he stated that they could try land border crossings in the future. For that reason, as Secretary of DHS, he supported the increased fencing along the U.S./Mexico border and doubling the size of the Border Patrol.

Chertoff concluded his remarks by emphasizing that drugs and political movements are increasingly intertwined and that this will create more work for lawyers as the legal rules of engagement are worked out.

Besides the keynote, the conference had three panels of speakers.  Associate Dean Tim Canova welcomed the group with some introductory comments in the morning and was followed by Marc Mauer, Executive Director of the Sentencing Project, which has been critical of U.S. drug policies.

The first panel was on U.S. Drug Policy and Alternative Paradigms. Among others, it included the former Director of the Drug Enforcement Agency and Undersecretary of Homeland Security, Asa Hutchinson. Among the interesting tidbits offered by this panel was the admission by a former senior DEA supervisor that he had been involved in bringing Humberto Alvarez-Machain from Mexico to the United States, an act that resulted in years of litigation, including a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, and an arrest warrant issued against the DEA agent in Mexico.

The second panel was on “Cross Border Flows: Drugs, People & Trade.”   The moderator of the panel was Ernesto Hernández (Chapman) who offered some theoretical background about the meaning of the border.  My talk was entitled “It’s the Economy, Stupid: The Hijacking of the Debate Over Immigration Reform by Monsters, Ghosts, and Goblins (or the War on Drugs, War on Terror, Narcoterrorists, Etc.).”  It focuses on how immigration, at its core motivated by economic opportunity and the desired access to U.S. labor markets, really should be viewed separately from the “drug war” and the “war on terror.”

Jennifer Chacón (UC Irvine) discussed the increased use of criminal immigration prosecutions by the U.S. government in immigration enforcement and expressed concerns over (1) the efficacy of this strategy; (2) whether the resources devoted to it were efficiently being used: (3) the potential for burnout among the U.S. attorneys, federal public defenders, and judges processing the mass of immigration prosecutions; and (4) the dehumanizing procedures being employed in prosecuting the cases. Ruben García (California Western) discussed a group of drug war casualties who are often ignored, the hundreds of women who worked in the maquiladoras who have been killed in Ciudad Juarez over the last 20 years. His remarks reminded me of the more general issue of the regular deaths on the U.S./Mexico border, with thousands of Mexican migrants having died trying to cross since the early 1990s. Today, about one person a day dies trying to cross.

The last panel was on “Narcoterrorism, Organized Crime, and Political Corruption.”

Trial date set for Agriprocessors in child labor case

The trial for Agriprocessors Inc. related to violations of child labor law has been set to begin May 4. A number of Agriprocessors officials “face 9,211 charges related to employing underage youth, requiring them to work more than eight hours per day and more than 40 hours per week, requiring them to operate power-driven machinery and exposing them to dangerous and poisonous chemicals.”  After a federal immigration raid of the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa in May 2008, Iowa state officials conducted further investigations before brining the child labor charges.

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