Tag Archives: ICE

Over 400 people in NorCal captured in ICE raids

by  Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress

SAN FRANCISCO – The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently reported that about one in every five undocumented immigrants now facing deportation captured in raids in Northern California have criminal records.

More than 1,150 people were taken into custody over the last three weeks, with the detainment and pending deportation of more than 430. Less than half of the detainees from Northern California are considered fugitives for failing to show up at earlier immigration hearings.

According to Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, ICE is committed to enforcing these deportation orders. ICE raids have been strongly criticized by immigrants’ advocates, stating that the approach hurts families.

In a report by the Associated Press, those arrested were from 34 countries. The raids ended last Saturday, September 27. Aside from the more than 430 arrests in NorCal, ICE also made 420 arrests in the Los Angeles area and 301 in the San Diego area.

Immigration officials have increased enforcement at factories, offices and homes in recent year, targeting illegal immigrants who have ignored and avoided deportations orders.  (www.asianjournal.com)

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More Illegals Nabbed in 5 States

by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducted a sweeping raid in the world’s largest poultry processor, Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plants last week in five states – Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Over 300 undocumented workers were arrested for suspicion of committing identity theft. A felony under Federal law, identity theft has been a growing problem as workers in the US illegally look for ways to avoid detection. Some US citizens and legal residents rent or share their Social Security numbers, making detection even more difficult.

The poultry plant raids and other recent raids by immigration officials were the main focus of discussion during Access Washington, a teleconference participated in by members of ethnic media to get the latest immigration updates. The calls are organized in partnership with the National Immigration Forum, the Center for Community Change, the Asian American Justice Center and the National Council of La Raza, and funded by Public Interest Projects.

As ICE raids are on the rise, hundreds of undocumented workers are put up into detention centers around the country, affecting families, communities and the economy. Last week, Federal immigration agents raided a Houston doughnut plant and arrested almost 30 workers as suspected illegal immigrants, according to the Associated Press.

Andrea Black, Network Coordinator of Detention Watch Network, reported that in recent months, there has been a dramatic increase in ICE raids and arrests. “Their target is to remove all illegal immigrants from the US by 2012. They have had a vast increase in budget and manpower and they have become much better organized. Last year, 276,000 were deported. These raids have been able to create an environment of fear across the country,” said Black.

The arrests have had devastating effects on families, according to Paromita Shah, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. “We have had reports that workers who have been arrested were not able to contact families or lawyers and were transferred to other facilities making it very difficult for their families to track them down. The usual problem is what happens to the children left at home by these people who are arrested and deported? “ Shah stated.

Black and Shah mentioned that with the failure of the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform program, the authorities are stepping up the enforcement of arresting and deporting illegal immigrants. If the attempt at such an immigration reform was passed last year in Congress, it would have provided a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants, a guest worker program and toughened enforcement against employers.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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FBI & ICE Arrest Pinoys for Human Trafficking

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have charged three people in connection with a human-trafficking scheme involving Filipino nationals brought into the US and forced to work in two local residential elder care facilities.

The FBI arrested Filipino Rodolfo Demafeliz, 39, and his assistant, Rolleta Riazon, 28, Thursday morning prior to boarding a flight to Manila, according to an FBI press release. The third person involved, Evelyn Pelayo, was also arrested at her residence in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The three were charged after criminal complaints filed in the US District Court in Los Angeles on April 2.

“The luring of persons into the United States on the promise of legitimate work and a better life, only to be held in what is, essentially, modern-day slavery is, regrettably, taking place in our community,” said Salvador Hernandez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles. “The charges allege that these victims were forced into debt bondage under threat of arrest or deportation, so the defendants could profit.”

According to the complaint, Demafeliz and Riazon recruited Filipinos in the Philippines with promises of employment at Pelayo’s nursing homes in Long Beach. The victims then were forced to work to pay for their “travel expenses,“ in a threatening and abusive environment.

The complaint also describes in detail how the alleged scheme was carried out.

According to the FBI release, Pelayo would allegedly recruit potential workers in the Philippines to work in her elder care facilities.

Once the victim agreed, Pelayo contacted Demafeliz. Demafeliz, a Taekwondo martial arts instructor, posed the victim to immigration officials as a Taekwondo student competing in a tournament for Visa purposes to bring them to the United States. The FBI added that there is no evidence to indicate that any of the victims ever participated in any tournaments in the US.

The complaint goes on to say that once the victims arrived, they were “forced to work 24 hours a day and advised that it would be necessary for them to work for several years while they repaid their travel debt.” If the victims tried to leave, Pelayo allegedly threatened to contact the police and ICE officials to deport them.

FBI Officials said that Pelayo allegedly held the victims’ passports and verbally abused them. She also instructed them to lie about the amount of hours they worked when questioned by officials with the Department of Social Services, who monitor the homes for the elderly.

During the investigation, the FBI’s Human Trafficking Task Force identified three victims who were working at the two elderly care facilities and an additional three workers were found during the execution of search warrants.

The victims have been placed in various shelters, according to the FBI.

“Forced servitude is an unconscionable crime and, as this case shows, it can take many forms,” said Robert Schoch, special agent in charge for the ICE Office of Investigations in Los Angeles.

“Holding people against their will and making them work under inhumane conditions amounts to modern day slavery. ICE is working closely with the FBI and its other law enforcement partners to ensure that crimes like these do not go unchecked or unpunished,” he added.

Demafeliz, Riazon and Pelayo are being held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Undocumented Student Activist Arrested

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) is asking for immigrant community support after Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities arrested a 24-year-old Vietnamese immigration advocate and her family.

Tam Tran, a former honor student graduate and Ph.D. candidate at UCLA, and her family were arrested October 8 by ICE agents at their home in Orange County. ICE officials charged Tran and her family with being fugitives from justice despite being immigrants seeking political asylum in the US for the past 18 years. They were released the next day with monitoring devices.

“Many in our community are scared to come out and lend their voices to the immigration debate because of ICE actions like these,” said APALC’s Immigration Policy Advocate Daniel Huang. “Such heavy handed tactics do nothing to solve our immigration problems and only serve to hurt families, refugees, and those in greatest need of assistance.”

Tran’s journey has been well documented. She represents one of thousands of undocumented students and children of illegal immigrants.

Tran has been outspoken in her efforts before State and US House legislators for the passage of the Federal DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act that would allow children of undocumented to become US citizens if they meet certain criteria. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the State DREAM Act that would have allowed undocumented students access to school financial aid.  Schwarzenegger said it would strain the State’s General Financial Aid Fund.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that 1.5 million Asians in the US are undocumented. Of that number, the National Federation of Filipino American Association (NaFFAA) estimated more than 500,000 hail from the Philippines.

Tran’s Plight

“I am lucky…to share my story and give voice to thousands of other undocumented students who cannot,” testified Tran’s during a House hearing.

Since her graduation from UCLA in 2006, Tran has embarked on a series of speaking engagements to educate people and legislators about the plight of undocumented students.

Recently, Tran was one of many undocumented students that testified before the US House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law last May.

According to the House transcripts, Tran’s parents fled Vietnam during the Vietnam war. A German ship rescued Tran’s parents at sea and brought them to Germany where Tam and her 21-year-old brother was born. Her family then migrated to Southern California seeking political asylum. After a lengthy battle, they lost the asylum case. The Immigration court ordered her family to be deported to Germany.

However, Germany does not grant birthright citizenship. German officials did not grant the family a visa. The family stayed in the US and continued to seek political asylum.

In 2001, the Bureau of Immigration court ruled that the father had suffered persecution in Vietnam for his political beliefs. Tran and members of her family were able to obtain Government identification and work permits from immigration officials.

Meanwhile, Tran continued to succeed in school. She assimilated into the fabric of American culture.

“I am culturally an American… I grew up watching Speed Racer and Mighty Mouse (cartoons)  every Saturday morning,” said Tran.

She graduated with honors at UCLA and was accepted to a Ph.D. program in Cultural Studies. UCLA also awarded Tran a department fellowship and minority fellowship.

“But the challenges I faced as an undocumented college student began to surface once again,” said Tran in her testimony.

Despite the fellowship and scholarships, the hefty price tag of $50,000 along with living expenses thwarted Tran’s educational dreams. Her undocumented status did not allow her State financial aid.

“When you’re in my situation you have to, or learn to, or are forced to make compromises.”

Tran began to work as a film editor but also encountered problems. Three days before she testified in front of Congress, her work informed her that it would be her last day at work until she renews her work permit.

“Every year, I must apply for a renewal but never have I received it on time,” said Tram. “This means every year around this month (May), I lose the job that I have.”

“But it’s okay, because I’ve been used to this – to losing things I have worked hard for. Not just this job but also the value of my college degree and the American identity I once possessed as a child.”

Outspoken

Chair of the House Immigration Subcommittee US House Representative Zoe Lofgren accused ICE officials of “witness intimidation” and trying to silence Tran and her family.

Huang said the timing of Tran and her family’s arrest is suspicious.

Three days before her arrest, Tam was featured on a USA today article, “Children caught in the immigration crossfire” about the number of undocumented children that are raised in the US and eventually, threatened with deportation to their home country.

“Of course, we can’t say for certain [that Tam was arrested because she spoke out],” said Huang.  “She’s been here, her family checks in yearly to immigration officials. How can anyone interpret them as criminals? We’re very suspicious.”

Phone calls to ICE authorities were not returned as of press time.

Huang said looking at the bigger picture, this arrest might affect the number of undocumented immigrants to keep silent.

“That’s something that we’re very concerned about,” said Huang. “This immigration debate and policy issues rely on the voice that is most affected. We don’t want to see anyone’s speech silenced through this kind of intimidation tactic.”

“Those in our community who are judgmental about illegal immigrants often don’t realize that they include asylum denials, visa overstays, and immigrants who simply have no legal avenue for staying here,” added Sara Sadhwani, APALC’s immigrant rights project director. “We hope the Asian American community will unite in support of the Tran family and their painful ordeal.”

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