Immigration Holds Result in Deportations, Even for Minor Infractions

February 2012

Half of all people arrested by federal immigration authorities in Sonoma County in the past two years were never convicted of any crime, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) statistics obtained by Patch.

Out of more than 500 people arrested or booked into ICE custody from October 2008 through September 2010, 286 were labeled non-criminal, despite being apprehended under ICE’s Secure Communities program, a new effort aimed at rooting out violent criminal aliens. Click here to read the full story

ACLU, Sheriffs Office Reach Agreement Over Unlicensed Drivers

CHECKPOINT16WLC.jpgSonoma County Sheriff’s Office and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California reached an agreement Wednesday that will limit the Sheriff’s Office collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a move advocates say is an important step to protecting undocumented immigrants from deportation if stopped for driving without a license or other minor traffic offenses.

The settlement comes three years after the ACLU of Northern California filed a suit on behalf of three Sonoma County residents and Committee for Immigrant Rights of Sonoma County, a local community organization against the Sherriff’s Office.

Click here to read full story

Mexican expatriates take first step toward historic July 2 elections

Stockton Record

vote-aquiSTOCKTON – Like millions of other Mexicans living in the United States, Stockton resident Bernabe Lora never felt like he had a voice in the political stake of his home country. He couldn’t vote in America because he was not a citizen, yet wasn’t around in the summers to vote in Mexico’s presidential elections.

On Saturday, the 70-year-old retired farm worker joined thousands of other expatriates by registering for Mexico’s presidential elections, scheduled for July 2.
It’s a historic moment, marking the first time Mexican expatriates are allowed to vote for a president while out of the country.

“I feel so happy that they are finally taking us into consideration,” Lora said. “I am proud that the Mexican government is recognizing us.”

An estimated 4 million Mexicans who are eligible to vote live in the United States. It is not known how many of them live in San Joaquin County.

Immigration is a huge issue in this year’s campaign and has been the source of many fiery speeches among candidates about what is needed to address the issue, said Luis Magana, a co-director of the Northern California Farm Worker Association, a Stockton-based advocacy group.

“They are talking about the (proposed 700-mile) wall the INS (federal immigration authorities) wants to build along the border, the temporary guest worker program and remittances,” Magana said.

Remittances are the second-largest source of revenue for Mexico, with an estimated $16 billion sent there each year, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Latino issues in the United States.

Other Stockton residents said they were voting because they were tired of corruption that has marked decades of their country’s government.

“In Mexico, the government likes to shake down people,” said Luis de Jesus Rodriguez. “They took my land and robbed money from farm workers. Every time you go anywhere, they stop and threaten to write a ticket unless you pay.”

Despite the thrill of finally being able to vote, some local activists criticized the complex registration procedures that required proof of residency, such as a bill, a Mexican voter registration card and another form of identification issued by Mexico.

They say applications were not distributed early enough, the directions were not straightforward, and those who did not have their Mexican voter registration card had to travel to Mexico to obtain it.

They say this attributed to the abysmally low turnout – only 10,000 people in the United States had registered by Friday, according to Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute, the national agency that handles elections. The agency had printed up 5 million applications in anticipation of the expatriate vote.

“There is not a lot of trust of the way the system is set up,” said Jose Rodriguez, director of El Concilio, a Latino nonprofit group that offers health care, housing and other services. Rodriguez added that the complicated registration procedures were specifically designed to block a high number of Mexicans, who are dissatisfied with the current administration, from voting in the elections.

Grapes of Wrath

Despite years of migratory experience, Mexican families make life on both sides of the border
Stockton Record

workersFRENCH CAMP, Calif.

It takes 37 hours to get from the tiny village in Michoacan to Stockton, but it’s a trek the Perez family makes twice a year.

Every spring, after the rains have stopped, they pile their pickup high with clothes and food, setting out on the trip that has become a sort of pilgrimage for the farm worker family. They drive 10 to 12 hours a day, stopping only for bathroom breaks or to sleep. They inch through the deserts of Northern Mexico and the long line at the border. They skirt Los Angeles and blow through Bakersfield as they climb up Highway 5.

Eventually, they come to French Camp, as they have for decades, their Chevy pickup a dusty camel that has once again survived the treacherous journey.

“We are like the Bulgarians,” says 50-year-old Guillermo Perez Sepulveda, referring to Roma Gypsies. “We carry our homes with us.”

Others have also resigned themselves to the migratory existence that sends them from French Camp to other agricultural communities in Oregon, Southern California and Arizona. For their work, they receive an average of $7 an hour or $5 for each box of cherries they pick. Those who earn more than $80 a day are considered fortunate.

“Nobody likes doing this, but we have no choice,” said Miguel Angel Garibay, 44, who had also recently arrived at the migrant camp with his wife and four kids. “It’s a vicious cycle that forces us to live the way we do.”

Last week, dozens of new arrivals stood in line at the Joseph Artesi Migrant Center, waiting to present identity cards and be given keys to the simple wooden duplexes that would be their homes over the next months. Ryder trucks and vans idled in the parking lot, as families moved back and forth to unload the items they had brought with them. All camp residents are required to have permission to work legally in the U.S.

Nearby, a group of adults greeted familiar faces, shaking hands and slapping backs, as they sought refuge from the already-blazing sun. Their kids ran around, looking for their friends from last year.

“We are a community here,” Guillermo Sepulveda said. “Everyone knows each other and we don’t have any problems. We are here to work.”

Gloria Marquez and her husband, Rafael, are other long-time residents of the camp, but after nearly 40 years of the migrant life, they are thinking of quitting. At 65, Rafael is no longer the spry young man he used to be. His back hurts. His joints ache. But he still ambles out to the fields several months a year in order to supplement his pension.

The Marquez kids, however, aren’t following in their parents’ footsteps. They’ve settled in Southern California, where a son works in construction, two daughters are in real estate and another daughter owns her own business. ”We are glad they are not in the fields,” Gloria says. “It’s too hard and pays so little.”

Guest Worker Plan Draws Fire

Dec. 5, 2005
Stockton Record

STOCKTON – Days after President Bush outlined a new version of a guest-worker program, some Latino activists in San Joaquin County say the proposal is unrealistic and an attempt to attract Latino voters without offering real solutions to the immigration problem.

Last Monday, in a speech at a Tucson, Ariz., Air Force base, Bush called for increased border patrols as well as a temporary-worker program between Mexico and the United States that would give visitors up to six years to work legally in the United States.

After that, immigrants would have to return home and apply for new work visas.

The plan is still in its early stages and already is being challenged by critics from both sides.

Many Republicans feel it is too close to an amnesty program, while others feel it doesn’t go far enough in dealing with existing undocumented immigrants.

Several Stockton Latino activists said the move doesn’t take into account the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States, including roughly a half-million in the Central Valley.

“Because this country has failed for so long to maintain its borders, we have people who have now become part of the mainstream,” said Jose Rodriguez, executive director of El Concilio, a nonprofit organization that provides services to the Spanish-speaking community in the Stockton area.

“It’s ludicrous to believe that they will just get up and leave when they have homes, pay taxes and have children who are citizens,” he said.

Critics such as Rodriguez also say that if workers have to return to Mexico before they get visas, the program could have a disastrous impact on industries that rely on immigrant labor, such as agriculture and some customer-service fields.

Talk of a temporary-worker program is not new but stalled after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Still, many say the only way to deal effectively with the issue is through an amnesty program that would give current illegal immigrants the right to stay in the country.

“If they have been here for a while, been good citizens and not broken the laws of this country, they need to give them a legal right to work here,” said Jose Lopez, director of the Migrant Ministry and Hispanic Youth Ministry at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton.

Stella Lopez, president of the Latina Democratic Club in Stockton, said she was happy to hear about the president’s proposal even as she remained skeptical about its chances of being passed into law.

She pointed to the federal Bracero program, run by the United States and Mexico through the 1960s, as an example of an effective plan that provided jobs for Mexicans and stimulated the U.S. economy.

“Immigrants are all looking for the American dream,” she said. “They are not terrorists; they come here to work.”

Other portions of Bush’s plan include a new program called interior repatriation, under which people caught entering the country illegally are flown to Mexico and then bused to their own communities, often thousands of miles from the border.

The president also said he would continue increased funding for border security and would work to expedite deportation proceedings.

It’s not uncommon for non-Mexican illegal immigrants to be detained as long as three months.

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