Tuesday, August 26, 2008

ICE Raids Mississippi Electrical Equipment Plant - Arrests 350+ Workers

ICE raids Miss. plant seeking illegal workers

By HOLBROOK MOHR


LAUREL, Miss. (AP) — Federal immigration agents said they rounded up 350 suspected undocumented workers in a raid on a Mississippi electrical equipment plant Monday, after sealing all entrances and questioning employees.

Barbara Gonzalez, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, confirmed the raid at Howard Industries Inc. of Laurel. Suspected illegal workers were loaded into white vans with shaded windows and driven away. Gonzalez wouldn't say where they were headed other than to say they were being taken to a holding facility.

"This is ... part of an ongoing ICE investigation that has revealed that illegal aliens are employed at Howard Industries," Gonzalez said.

She said agents were acting on a tip from a union worker and were still interviewing plant employees late Monday.

The raid was executed based on "evidence relating to aggravated identity theft, fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other crimes, as well as a civil search warrant for individuals illegally in the United States," ICE said in a statement.

Agents were talking with all workers at the sprawling plant to determine their residency status, said agency spokesman Brandon Montgomery.

A statement on the Web site of the Laurel Leader Call newspaper, attributed to Howard Industries, said the company "runs every check allowed to ascertain the immigration status of all applicants for its jobs."

"It is company policy that it hires only U.S. citizens and legal immigrants," the statement said.

Chief Executive Officer Billy Howard did not respond to a message left by The Associated Press.

A recording at Howard Industries said the telephone switchboard was closed. A man who answered the phone at the security station said reporters would have to call back Tuesday.

All plant entrances were blocked and a tent was set up at one checkpoint to keep agents out of a steady rain. Officers in an unmarked vehicle stopped motorists traveling on roads behind the factory and told them to leave.

People exiting the plant told The Hattiesburg American newspaper that so many workers were stopped that operations shut down. It wasn't clear how many workers the plant employed.

Rodolfo Galicia said his 22-year-old brother was detained.

"Everybody's crying, worried about what's going to happen to him," he said in Spanish.

The ICE spokeswoman said 50 people were given alternatives to detention for humanitarian reasons, meaning they could be fitted with a tracking device and order to report to a case worker later.

Howard Industries was founded in the 1960s. In 2002, state lawmakers approved a $31.5 million, taxpayer-backed incentive plan aimed at helping to expand its operations. The company produces dozens of products, including electrical transformers and medical supplies, according to its Web site.

The raid is one of several nationwide in recent years.

On May 12, federal immigration officials swept into Iowa's Agriprocessors, the nation's largest kosher meatpacking plant. Nearly 400 workers were detained and dozens of fraudulent permanent resident alien cards were seized from the plant's human resources department, court records showed.

Note: ICE says people whose relatives were detained can call for information: 866-341-3858.

Immigrants Rights Group New ICE Raid Coming

HattiesburgAmerican.com

August 25, 2008

Immigrants' rights group knew ICE raid coming


An immigrants' rights group based in Jackson knew for the last eight or nine days that more U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials were in the state.

“We saw a growing presecne of ICE agents in the area. It was apparant they were going after somebody,” said Bill Chandler, executive director of Mississippi Immigrants’ Rights Alliance.

Chandler said they didn't know where in the state a raid might occur. Federal warrants were served at a Howard Industries plant in Laurel this morning and also at the business's corportate offices in Ellisville.

Chandler said his group had sent lawyers to Laurel and and Hattiesburg.

Those arrested or detained this morning are expected to be processed at the Federal Courthouse in Hattiesburg this afternoon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

CA9 Finds No-Match Letter Does not Provide Constructive Knowledge of Immigration Violations

See http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?docid=26248

If you cannot access this link, please contact The Law Office of Randall Caudle for a hard copy of the 25 page decision or a summary of the decision.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Defective E-Verify Expands Despite Flaws

Immigration Policy Center (IPC)
...providing factual information about immigration and immigrants in the United States.
For Immediate Release

Defective E-Verify Expands Despite Flaws
Experts' Comments Slam Employment Authorization Program

August 11, 2008

Washington, DC--Final comments are due today on a rule that would make E-Verify mandatory for approximately 200,000 public and private federal government contractors and their 4 million employees. Employers, labor unions, privacy experts, and immigrant advocates are all submitting comments that express deep concern about the impact of E-Verify on American workers. The Department of Homeland Security should heed their advice before a vast new expansion of E-Verify is considered.

For months Congress has heatedly debated the merits of E-Verify -- a small, voluntary electronic employment authorization program run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in collaboration with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Several bills have been introduced to expand E-Verify and make it mandatory for all employers. Groups ranging from employers to unions to immigrant advocates and privacy specialists have warned against the expansion of the program until significant improvements are made, citing the problems a mandatory system would create for employers and U.S. workers alike. Most notably, during hearings that highlighted the massive drawbacks of E-verify, witnesses described the huge burden that an expanded E-Verify would put on SSA, resulting in longer waiting times for American workers seeking their benefits. Analysis of the program and evidence coming from those who have used it indicate that the current program is seriously flawed, ineffective, and could potentially cost thousands of U.S. citizens and legal residents their jobs due to database errors.

On July 31, 2008 the House of Representatives voted to extend E-Verify for another five years, keeping it a voluntary program. The House also mandated reports on the program's usage and effectiveness, and reimburse the Social Security Administration for expenses they incur. Similar legislation is now being considered in the Senate. Meanwhile, several states, including Arizona, Mississippi, and Oklahoma have made E-Verify mandatory. The experiences in these states offer a cautionary tale. In Arizona, employers have already been erroneously notified that native-born U.S. citizens are not authorized to work, businesses have decided not to invest additional dollars in the state, industries are unable to find enough workers, and the state economy may lose as much as $10 billion.

Before any new expansion of the deeply flawed E-Verify program is considered, the Department of Homeland Security must scrupulously review today's comments and address these troubling concerns.

###

The Immigration Policy Center has produced numerous reports and analyses of E-Verify and the various bills introduced in Congress to expand the program. For more information on E-Verify and other timely issues, please see IPC's webpage, www.immigrationpolicy.org.

For more information contact Andrea Nill, 202-507-7520 or email anill@ailf.org

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Biggest Immigration Law Firm in U.S. Suing U.S. Dept. of Labor

See http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2008/08/08/green-card-lovin-law-firm-fights-labor-department/

August 8, 2008, 6:34 pm
Green Card Lovin’ Law Firm Fights Labor Department
Posted by Nathan Koppel


An ongoing battle between the Labor Department and a prominent law firm just got nastier.

Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, a prominent New York immigration firm, is being audited by the Labor Department for possibly giving too much assistance to clients that seek green cards for foreign workers. Today, the firm fired back with a suit claiming that some of the department’s rules are unconstitutional.

At issue are controversial Labor Department rules that require a company, as a condition for sponsoring a foreign worker for a green card, to certify to the Labor Department that the company has not been able to find a “minimally qualified” U.S. worker to fill the job. Lawyers are limited from advising companies as to whether an American worker can be deemed qualified, according to Labor Department regulations. These regulations are aimed at preventing lawyers from helping clients find reasons not to hire qualified Americans.

In June, the Labor Department announced it was auditing green-card applications filed by Fragomen, because of a concern the firm may have improperly helped companies review the qualifications of American workers. Fragomen has denied wrongdoing. Here’s a law blog backgrounder on the audit.

The Labor regulations have been criticized widely by immigration lawyers, who say companies need their help in navigating a complicated area of law. The regs also violate clients’ First Amendment and due process rights to seek the advice of counsel, Fragomen claims in its suit. “As a result of the Department’s unlawful actions,” the suit asserts, “Fragomen has lost business from clients as well as opportunities to compete for new business.”

David James, assistant Secretary of Labor for public affairs, said that the department is “confident that it’s reasonable interpretation of its rules will be upheld.” The department previously has said that it’s not trying to limit legal advice but says that determining whether an employee is qualified typically shouldn’t require attorney input.

Immigration Enforcement Causing Employers Headaches

See http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-olivera_09met.ART.North.Edition1.4dcd188.html

For employers, immigration has a bottom line

Saturday, August 9, 2008


The no-match rule, the border fence and enforcement raids – these topics seem to dominate most public discussions on immigration these days.

Too often, though, the discussions generate lots of heat and little light, leaving the public in the dark about the impact of immigration on our economy.

But ask an employer, and a different story emerges, one with real human consequences.

That's the story the Texas Employers for Immigration Reform will be sharing when it has its fourth immigration summit later this month at the Dallas Marriott Las Colinas in Irving.

The Aug. 25 meeting is open to the public.

Speakers will review some of the main concerns of employers, many of whom are small-business owners who feel they're bearing the brunt of federal efforts to curb immigration.

The Social Security Administration's latest no-match rule remains a major concern for many employers, said Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business. He said 60 days is not enough time to determine whether an employee's Social Security number matches the name the government has on file.

"Divorce, marriage, transposition of digits – there's too many variables for mistakes," he said.

The program could result in employees who are U.S. citizens also losing their jobs, he said.

"When the workload increases dramatically [for the Social Security Administration], it could be disastrous for us and our economy," he said.

Mr. Hammond remains optimistic, however, that things will improve. Both presidential candidates have expressed support for immigration reform, he said, and the business community is doing a better job of getting organized to bring about pragmatic solutions.

For Eddie Aldrete, a bank executive in San Antonio and a member of the Texas employers coalition, the concern over Social Security numbers is overblown and a distraction.

He's worried over another set of numbers.

"The biggest threats to our economy are baby boomer retirements and our dropping fertility rates," he said.

His presentation on how fewer babies translates into fewer workers draws crowds every time he gives it, and he expects no less at the immigration summit.

"We've become too focused on keeping people out," he said, when we should be doing the reverse.

Almost every industrialized nation is experiencing falling birthrates, including the U.S.

The nation's birth rate now stands at 2.1 children per woman and is expected to fall below replacement level in seven years. Mexico's birth rate is 2.4.

He looks at key U.S. industries and how they are facing unprecedented levels of retirements in the next several years. He compares the looming economic impact to a meteor crash.

"At the end of the day, we should be recruiting people from Mexico to come."

Companies Implement Assimilation Programs for Immigrants

Hats off to Marriott! (Randall)

See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2008/08/08/ST2008080803431.html


Companies Take Lead in Assimilation Efforts
Programs Aid Immigrant Workers

By Pamela Constable and N.C. Aizenman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, August 9, 200
8;

Jose Trivelli, a graying engineer from Peru, spends his days fixing Internet connections at a Tysons Corner hotel and his evenings listening to a laptop computer program with cartoon characters and a chirpy voice that helps him pronounce such phrases as, "I'd like to open an account" and "Let me call my manager."

At 52, he admits to being slightly embarrassed by the simplistic instructional program, but he says his U.S.-born children, who speak perfect English, are so enthusiastic about his efforts that they help him with difficult words and dream of the day he will be promoted to manager.

Trivelli's employer, Marriott International, has a more ambitious motive for offering thousands of foreign-born housekeepers, cooks and maintenance workers its no-cost "Thirst for Knowledge" program, which simulates conversations in banks, hospitals, shops and schools as well as in hotel kitchens and lobbies.

Marriott and another Bethesda-based company, Miller & Long Concrete Construction, are among several dozen major U.S. corporations spearheading a campaign to turn the divisive national debate about immigration in a more positive direction.

"This is a mission for us," said Andy Chaves, a human resources manager for Marriott and a member of the White House Task Force on New Americans. "When our employees become proficient in English and assimilate into our society, it benefits the company, the community and the individual. Everyone gains."

Amid increasing public hostility to immigrants and intensifying efforts by local and federal authorities to crack down on illegal immigration, these business leaders hope to counter criticism that immigrants steal jobs and burden public services by highlighting the contributions they make to the U.S. economy and improving their ability to integrate.

The initiative is supported by a bill recently introduced in Congress. Sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and three representatives from California, Florida and Texas, it would provide $350 million for immigrant family literacy programs, individual tax credits for teachers and corporate tax breaks for firms that offer educational workplace programs like "Thirst for Knowledge."

In addition to support from private firms that employ thousands of immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere, the bill is backed by the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, which recently issued a report called "U.S. Business and Hispanic Integration: Expanding the Economic Contributions of Immigrants."

The report points out that Hispanics make up more than 14 percent of the U.S. workforce, own more than 2 million businesses and have a collective purchasing power of more than $800 billion a year. It says foreign-born workers have much to offer but need more help to master English and become more invested in American society.

It concedes that many Hispanic immigrants arrive with limited educations and that the immigration wave of the past two decades has slightly depressed wages among unskilled American workers. It also argues that immigrants "complement" the overall labor force as more native-born Americans earn degrees and seek higher-level jobs.

The report also asserts that if immigrants are given more opportunities to learn, earn and engage, they will repay the investment as better workers, parents, consumers and participants in public life. Although not endorsing illegal immigration, the report accepts it as a fact of life that needs to be addressed through legislative reforms.

The report lists corporations that have offered their large immigrant workforces a variety of skill-building programs. These include scholarships at Wal-Mart, English classes at United Parcel Service, financial literacy programs at Western Union and bilingual skills development at Northrop Grumman shipbuilders.

Some companies that employ immigrants have been reluctant to associate themselves with the effort, however, citing fears of public criticism and government scrutiny amid increasingly aggressive federal efforts to track down illegal immigrants and punish their employers.

"Businesses feel cowed by the rhetoric," said Christopher Sabatini, a policy director at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas. "There is a fear of being labeled as aiding and abetting undocumented immigrants." He said some companies have curtailed programs aimed at helping immigrant workers because of community disapproval.

One company that has taken a strong public stance in favor of helping immigrant workers is Miller & Long. Myles Gladstone, the firm's personnel director, said that it once hired mostly African Americans but that since the early 1990s, fewer U.S.-born workers have applied, and they have been largely replaced by immigrants. Today, the firm employs more than 2,000 Hispanics, mostly foreign-born.

Gladstone said the firm started offering safety instruction in Spanish but gradually expanded into "broader life skills" for workers and their families. Today, it offers 65 free classes, including English, Spanish literacy, job safety, lifesaving, financial skills and health promotion. He said there are plans to expand the program to help immigrants keep their children out of trouble, with seminars on gangs and substance abuse.

He noted that not all immigrants are able to learn English and that of about 500 who have taken the company's language classes, "not a lot" have become truly bilingual. He said that if construction workers are trained well and understand safety, "they don't really need to have fluency in English," although without it they cannot become foremen or crane operators.

Antonia Diaz, 42, has advanced steadily at Miller & Long since she emigrated from Honduras six years ago. She began as a laborer, earning $10 per hour and speaking almost no English. Now, after taking corporate English classes for several years, she is a construction site safety worker and earns $18.50 an hour.

"If I had known I would be talking like this, I wouldn't believe it," Diaz said yesterday in passable English as she built wooden safety barricades around a construction site in Silver Spring. Although she converses with her mostly Hispanic crew in Spanish, she said learning English had other merits. "It helps me in my personal life," she said. She said she loves her job and plans to stay with Miller & Long but added: "If I know English and I get laid off, I can find other work. I am prepared for anything."

At Marriott, where some hotels have employees from as many as 25 countries, Chairman Bill Marriott calls immigrants the backbone of his business and frequently talks about the virtues of diversity and assimilation in his personal blog.

"We would hire a native-born person any day, but in most cases they don't want to do the lower-level labor we need in our business," he said in a telephone interview this week. "Probably the most important thing we can do is offer our employees the opportunity to learn English and grow and become part of our society."

At the Tysons Corner Marriott, much behind-the-scenes work is conducted in Spanish among immigrant employees. Most who have taken the "Thirst for Knowledge" class do not speak perfect English; Trivelli still confuses "chopping" with "shopping" and tends to drop his consonants. But he and the others said they have gained something else: a stronger sense of confidence and belonging in their adopted environment.

"Until now, I was always working too hard to study," said Trivelli, who was practicing vocabulary on his laptop in a workroom filled with tools and wires. "Now my kids are so happy I am learning. They help me with my pronunciation, and they tell me if I learn enough English, I can replace my boss one day."