DHS Agrees to Pay $400,000 to U.S. Citizen, Army Veteran, Unlawfully Detained by Immigration for Over Seven Months

From the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project:

Years after being wrongfully detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Rennison Castillo, a United States citizen and Army veteran, is finally receiving an apology and just compensation from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

In November of 2005, Mr. Castillo had just completed his sentence for violation of a protection order and harassment. Instead of being released from jail, he was transferred to the custody of ICE, which held him at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, WA for the next seven and a half months. During his detention, Mr. Castillo, who was born in Belize but became a United States citizen in 1998 while serving in the U.S. Army, repeatedly explained to several different ICE officers, and then to an Immigration Judge, how he had not only been naturalized as a U.S. citizen, but had also honorably served this country in the U.S. military.  ICE claimed that Mr. Castillo was in the country illegally and began deportation proceedings against him.

Like other immigration detainees faced with deportation, Mr. Castillo was not entitled to a court-appointed attorney, and he could not afford to hire a private attorney. He was only released after Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) took up his case on appeal.

Subsequently, Mr. Castillo received assistance from NWIRP attorneys Matt Adams and Angélica Cházaro, who agreed to represent him against the ICE officers who were responsible for his detention.

“What was most disturbing to me in reviewing this case was the callous indifference of the ICE officials,” said his attorney, Matt Adams. “We knew we had to take some sort of action to try to prevent this abuse of power from happening again in the future.”

After learning of the case, the law firm of K&L Gates agreed to provide pro bono representation to Mr. Castillo. K&L Gates lawyers representing Mr. Castillo included Douglas Greenswag, Theo Angelis, and Kymberly Evanson. Theo Angelis, a partner with K&L Gates and one of Castillo’s attorneys explained: “Our soldiers deserve honor, respect, and justice. We are proud of helping Mr. Castillo obtain an apology and just compensation.”

The government agreed to enter settlement negotiations after a federal district court judge denied the government’s motion to dismiss. In addition to the damages award and the formal statement of regret, DHS announced a revised policy to help prevent similar incidents in the future.

For more on this article, click here.


S-Comm Now Screens Immigration Status in California

From the Associated Press:

Federal authorities can now screen the immigration status of arrestees in every county in California.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Friday that the last six counties were hooked up to the so-called Secure Communities program this week.

Through January, the agency had arrested 65,000 people in California who were identified through the program. Immigration officials say more than 70 percent of them had a criminal conviction.

The program began in California in 2009 and is currently being rolled out across the nation.

Under the program, arrestees’ fingerprints are checked against Department of Homeland Security records and immigration officials are notified when there is a hit.

The program has faced ardent criticism from immigrant advocates who say involving local police in immigration enforcement discourages undocumented immigrants from reporting crimes.


Indigenous Ecuadoran Woman Humbles US Oil Giant

AFP/File – Ecuadoran indigenous villager Maria Aguinda, seen here at her house at the Rumipamba commune, helped …

This article is not really about immigration, but where else can you find an indigenous and uneducated grandma take on Chevron and WIN $9.5 billions? According to an AFP article by Valeria Pacheco, an indigenous villager Maria Aguinda helped bring a landmark judgment against US oil giant Chevron for polluting the rain forest she calls home.

The diminutive grandmother whose modest home sits near marshes clogged for decades in sticky oil has been at the heart of the David-and-Goliath case, and spoke out after Chevron was slapped last week with a $9.5-billion fine, among the heaviest ever handed down for environmental damage.

“Before I die they have to pay me for the dead animals, and for what they did to the river, and the water and the earth,” the 61-year-old Aguinda told AFP at her home in Rumipamba, a town in remote Orellana province where pollution caused by 30 years of oil drilling and petroleum accidents had become a sad fact of life.

Texaco operated in the area between 1964 and 1990, and was bought in 2001 by Chevron, which inherited Texaco’s legal nightmare.

“The demand (for compensation) is going on track,” said the ethnic Quechua woman, pointing to a nearby spot marked by spillage from an oil well run by Texaco in the 1970s.

“Mary Aguinda et al” are the opening words of the suit launched in 1993 on behalf of 30,000 residents of Orellana and Sucumbios provinces, in which they charge Texaco dumped billions of gallons of toxic crude during its operations, fouling rivers, lakes and soil and causing cancer deaths in indigenous communities.

Aguinda said she believes her husband and two of his 10 children died from effects of the pollution, which rights group Amazon Watch says has affected an area the size of the US state of Rhode Island.

For more on this story, click here.



Living the American Dream: Nonito Donaire, WBC and WBO Bantamweight World Champion

A native of the Philippines, Nonito Donaire, Jr. is a professional boxer known as the Filipino Flash and a three-division world champion. Currently, Donaire is the WBC and WBO Bantamweight World Champion, which he won last night in a fight against Fernando Montiel. Donaire knocked down Montiel with a devastating left hook and the fight was stopped shorthly after that. For those who are not familiar with the the Filipino Flash, Nonito Donaire, Jr. (born on November 16, 1982) is a Filipino American professional boxer. He is a three-division world champion, where he won four world titles in three different boxing weight classes. He is a known switch-hitter with the ability to fight either southpaw or orthodox. His surname is often mispronounced as do-nayr but it’s properly pronounced as do-nigh-reh.

Currently, Donaire is the WBC and WBO Bantamweight World Champion. He is also currently rated by The Ring as the number three pound-for-pound boxer in the world. He is the former WBA Super Flyweight Interim World Champion, IBF World Flyweight Champion and IBO World Flyweight Champion.

Some States “Just Say No” to Harmful Immigration Enforcement Laws

From the American Immigration Council:

If Arizona had its own television show, the warning “don’t try this at home” would appear after every commercial break. (Cut to tumbleweeds and Arizona businesses pulling their pockets inside out) This week, some states – like Virginia, South Dakota and New Hampshire – actually heeded that warning and rejected a host of enforcement measures targeting undocumented immigrants. States like Oregon, Colorado and Maryland are even introducing progressive, common sense immigration proposals that benefit their state. That is, of course, not to say that other states like Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kansas and Arizona aren’t still pursing harmful enforcement legislation, but they do so in full light of the social and economic consequences – consequences for which Arizona and other states are still paying.

This week, the Virginia Senate subcommittee rejected 10 of the 12 House-approved bills targeting undocumented immigrants, one of which was HB 2332, an Arizona-style enforcement bill. Critics complained the proposed bill would foster racial profiling while others, like Virginia Del. Scott A. Surovell, commented that the GOP’s current immigrant-focused enforcement strategy is like “a longterm kamikaze mission” given the states growing Latino population.

Similarly, South Dakota’s House State Affairs Committee voted 11-2 earlier this week toreject their Arizona-esque immigration enforcement bill (HB 1198). Mayor Mike Levsen commented that city police just didn’t have the time to investigate “the status of a single person,” while Tom Barnett, Executive Director of the State Bar of South Dakota, highlighted the potential burden to state taxpayers. “We will get sued,” he said, “and we will lose.”

Click here to read more…

ICE Deports Alleged Genocide Leader Mudahinyuka From Chicago To Rwanda

A man going by the name of Thierry Rugamba reportedly immigrated to the United States in 2000, as a victim of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He settled in Bolingbrook, Illinois, where he worked at an African grocery.

But all was not as it seemed with Thierry Rugamba, according to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. In 2004, he was identified by six witnesses as Jean-Marie Vianney Mudahinyuka, a supposed perpetrator of the atrocities he said he was fleeing. Mudahinyuka has long been wanted in Kigali, Rwanda on charges of genocide and war crimes. One Illinois witness notified authorities after recognizing the man as someone who committed murder and rape in Rwanda. Prosecutors said Mudahinyuka had lived undetected until January 2004, when someone recognized him at his job managing Chika’s Food Market, an African store in a Bolingbrook shopping complex.

He was arrested at his house in Romeoville, Ill., where he allegedly assaulted a Homeland Security agent and attempted to seize his weapon, according to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

After serving 51 months in prison for immigration fraud and assaulting a customs officer, Mudahinyuka was transferred to ICE custody to be deported. He appealed the deportation all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied his appeal on November 4 of last year.

For more on this story, click here.

Justice Prevails in Shawna Forde Murder Case

A Pima County jury on Monday convicted Shawna Forde in the 2009 killing of an Arivaca man and his 9-year-old daughter. The jury deliberated for seven hours over two days. Photo Courtesy of ColorLines

We recently reported on the Forde allegedly was involved in a group affiliated with the Minuteman. Pima County jury convicted Shawna Forde today of two counts of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009 deaths of Arivaca residents Raul Junior Flores and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia. The jury also convicted Forde of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Flores’ wife, Gina Gonzalez, as well as related aggravated assault and robbery counts.

A Pima County jury convicted Shawna Forde on February 14th of two counts of first-degree murder in the May 30, 2009 deaths of Arivaca residents Raul Junior Flores and his 9-year-old daughter, Brisenia. The jury also convicted Forde of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Flores’ wife, Gina Gonzalez, as well as related aggravated assault and robbery counts.

Gonzlez started crying as soon as the first guilty verdict, the killing of her daughter, was read just before noon in a packed courtroom at Pima County Superior Court. The jury deliberated for seven hours over two days. Jurors will now be asked if the death penalty ought to be considered. On the first day of the trial, which has gained national attention, Gonzalez testified her husband woke her to say the police were at the door. The woman at the door identified herself and the man with her as law enforcement officers looking for fugitives, Gonzalez said.

For more on this story, click here.

Delayed Immediate Relative Petitions

From U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:

Delayed Immediate Relative Petitions, (Form I-130) at Texas Service Center

In November 2010, USCIS transferred approximately 36,000 Immediate Relative petitions from our California Service Center to our Texas Service Center. We anticipated that this redistribution of work would result in more timely adjudication of these petitions. Due to a number of unforeseen circumstances at our Texas Service Center, many of these cases have not been processed and are beyond our estimated processing times. We sincerely regret any inconvenience this may have caused you and we are making every effort to remedy this situation as soon as possible.

On Feb. 7, 2011, we implemented a rapid response plan to expedite the adjudication of these petitions. We have transferred a large number of these Immediate Relative petitions back to our California Service Center to take advantage of resources currently available to immediately process these cases. Petitioners will see an action such as an approval, denial or a Request for Evidence (RFE) on their case from our California or Texas Service Centers by the end of February. Additionally, we have briefed the Department of State’s National Visa Center about these cases.

We encourage you to monitor the progress of your case by accessing My Case Status online. If you do not see any action on your case, such as an approval, denial or an RFE, by March 1, 2011 you may contact USCIS at: I-130Inquiries.Tsc@dhs.gov

Difficult to Amend Birthright Citizenship

Davis, CA: In the ongoing debate over illegal immigration in the U.S., and over the reform of America’s immigration system, the voices calling for politicians to put a stop to automatic U.S. citizenship for babies who are born to illegal immigrants in the United States, are steadily increasing in both strength and number. Today, all who are born in the United States automatically become U.S. citizens. This birthright is protected by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. constitution. The 14th Amendment was designed to ensure U.S. citizenship for slaves after the civil war, and today many of those who favor a tougher approach toward illegal immigration argue that it was not the intention of the founding fathers of the United States to grant U.S. citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. This is why many call for a change of the constitution. Two Republican U.S. senators, Rand Paul from Kentucky and David Vitter from Louisiana, have introduced a resolution to change the constitution in order to prevent children of illegal immigrants from getting U.S. citizenship. But an expert in immigration law and civil rights says that attempts to amend the constitution in order to deny citizenship to anybody born in the U.S. will not likely succeed. The Expert, Kevin R. Johnson, who is dean of University of California – Davis School of Law, says that changing the Constitution is a long process, and the amendment would first have to be enacted by Congress and then approved by the states.

Immigration Authorities Find Heroin Worth $1.3 Million

Brownsville, TX: The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested a 31-year-old woman who came to the United States from Mexico by driving her car across the Veterans International Bridge in Brownsville, Texas. According to a press release issued by the Customs and Border Protection the woman was referred to a secondary screening at the immigration checkpoint. During the second inspection the CBP found more than 13 pounds of heroin in the woman’s car. The heron has a street value of $1.385 million, according to the CBP press release. The woman was arrested and handed over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) who made investigations and launched a sting operation. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement had the arrested woman set up a meeting to deliver the smuggled heroin to a contact in the United States. In the operation orchestrated by ICE, the arrested woman met with her U.S. contact who was subsequently arrested by the immigration authorities. Both have been charged for carrying or trying to obtain the drugs with the intend of selling it, and a U.S. Magistrate Judge ordered them both held without bail until they will appear in a detention hearing. In addition to the drug charges, court records show that the arrested man had been an illegal immigrant in the U.S. for many months.

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