Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Immigration News Roundup: March 12 – March 18

This week's news was somewhat sparse as the fallout from last weeks raids continued and news of war and scandal dominated the headlines. One ironic story coming out this week revolves the Texas town of Farmers Branch, where the ballots for a May 5th vote on anti-immigration ordinances will be bilingual. In the wake of the New Bedford immigration raid that garnered national attention, the Anti-Defamation League will be stepping up efforts to battle an increase in anti-immigrant bigotry in New England. While on the opposite coast, Washington State saw the first traffic checkpoints set up by the DHS to screen for immigration status. Lastly the LA Times gives us a detailed account of the case of Tyrone Williams, the trucker convicted in the deaths of 19 migrants who died during a smuggling operation turned deadly.

  • Farmers Branch to Use Bilingual Ballots for Anti-Immigration Vote

  • Anti-Defamation League to Fight Anti-Immigrant Bigotry in Wake of Raids

  • DHS Sets Up Traffic Checkpoints in Washington State

  • Details of Deadly Journey Revealed

Farmers Branch to Use Bilingual Ballots for Anti-Immigration Vote

Ballots for anti-illegal immigrant ordinance to be bilingual

To comply with state law, ballots and election materials related to an anti-illegal immigrant ordinance going to Farmers Branch voters May 12 will be printed in English and Spanish.

The controversial ordinance would require apartment landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants.

In November, council members also approved resolutions making English the city's official language and allowing local authorities to become part of a federal program so they can enforce immigration laws.


Bruce Sherbet, the Dallas County elections administrator, said every election requires ballots in Spanish and English, a requirement since 1975.

Some areas in Texas also have had to print election-related items in Vietnamese, Pueblo and Kickapoo languages, according to the secretary of state's Web site.

Farmers Branch has been sued by civil rights groups, residents, property owners and business people challenging the rental ordinance. Opponents of the ordinance also submitted a petition that forced the citywide vote on the issue, a move allowed under the city's charter.

Farmers Branch in suburban Dallas has changed from a small, predominantly white bedroom community with a declining population in the 1970s to a city of almost 28,000 people, about 37 percent of them Hispanic, according to the U.S. Census. It also is home to more than 80 corporate headquarters and more than 2,600 small and mid-size firms, many of them minority-owned.
Austin American Statesman

Anti-Defamation League to Fight Anti-Immigrant Bigotry in Wake of Raids

For ADL, another mission: Group will combat anti-immigrant bias

The Anti-Defamation League of New England, saying that hostility toward immigrants represents a growing form of intolerance, is making the fight against anti-immigrant sentiment a significant focus of the 60-year-old organization.

Leaders of the ADL, which is known primarily for its efforts to combat anti-Semitism, say they are alarmed at the animus toward immigrants that seems to be surfacing as the debate over securing the country's borders intensifies.

Andrew Tarsy, regional director of the ADL of New England, said recent events in immigrant communities around Boston demonstrate the urgency for more activism.

"We fight against bigotry in all forms," Tarsy said. "It has become clear both in the extremist world and even in the mainstream that the conversation about immigrants is laced with bigotry."


Tarsy said there has been an upsurge in anti-immigrant activity nationally among organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. The ADL here received reports in the last week of hate literature about immigrants being distributed in Taunton, Easton, and Brockton by another group, he said.
Boston Globe

Boston Globe
Columbia Missourian

DHS Sets Up Traffic Checkpoints in Washington State

Seven suspected illegal immigrants detained in first-ever U.S. 101 traffic checkpoint on Peninsula

Customs and Border Protection agents on Thursday detained seven people thought to be illegal immigrants at the North Olympic Peninsula's first-ever traffic checkpoint on U.S. Highway 101.

Travelers moving south on the highway between 8 a.m. and noon - including those in a Clallam County Transit bus - were stopped north of Forks and asked if they were citizens and where they were born.

More checkpoints on Highway 101 in Clallam County can be expected in the coming months, said Robert Kohlman, a field operations supervisor in the agency's Blaine office.

The federal agency, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said the checkpoint was part of a nationwide terrorism deterring strategy.

"The checkpoints are part of the national border protection strategy," Kohlman said.

The seven who were detained were taken to a federal detention center in Tacoma, where they will await removal proceedings, Kohlman said.


City and police officials in Forks were told ahead of time where and when the checkpoint would be, said Nedra Reed, mayor of Forks.

She said she has assured members of her city that the operation was not an immigration action.

"We're 100 miles or so from the Canadian border, and they felt this action was necessary," Reed said.
Penninsula Daily News

Highway checkpoint fallout reaches Rep. Dicks

The first terrorism checkpoint in the Northern Olympic Peninsula has spurred complaints and concerns that are reaching as far as Washington D.C.

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks' office received "a number of complaints and inquiries" Friday from constituents in the Forks area, said an aide to the congressman, D-Belfair.


(Dick's spokesman George) Behan said the Congressman "has questioned whether this is the best use of border protection resources."

Behan said Dicks planned to pass along to Customs and Border Protection some of the comments and concerns he has received.

"If there is a specific terrorist threat or legitimate information suggesting terrorist activity, there could be a cause for this type of search," Behan said.

"But Customs and Border Protection staff shouldn't function as immigration enforcement officers," he added.

When the agency was reached after the checkpoint was taken down Thursday, Robert Kohlman, a field operations supervisor in the agency's Blaine office, declined to say whether specific information or threats had prompted the checkpoint.

…Daniel Perez, intake and outreach coordinator, with the Tacoma-based Northwest Immigration Rights Project, said in light of Thursday's action, he plans to visit Forks and help inform the Latino community.

"People are not obligated to answer immigration official's question about status," Perez said.

"People can remain absolutely silent . . . the key is not to engage in any conversation."
Pennisula Daily News

Details of Deadly Journey Revealed

Immigrants' journey took a deadly turn

THEY started leaving the stash houses at twilight, six, seven immigrants at a time, crammed into vans, sport utility vehicles, compact cars. The smugglers dropped them in a field by a Fruit of the Loom plant outside Harlingen, Texas, deep in the Rio Grande Valley, not far from the border


Shortly after 10 p.m., a white Freightliner diesel truck, the legend "Wild Child" painted across the cab door, entered the field. The truck was pulling a 48-foot-long trailer equipped with a refrigeration unit — a "refrigerator on wheels" was how the driver described it.

Tyrone Mapletoft Williams, a 32-year-old Jamaican immigrant, routinely hauled fresh milk in this trailer from upstate New York to Texas, often returning with a load of watermelons. On this night, he was engaged in something far more lucrative than a typical milk run.

For a fee of $7,500, he had agreed to carry a load of illegal immigrants through a Border Patrol checkpoint about 45 miles up the highway. After he was underway, however, Williams would be redirected by the smugglers to Houston, a six-hour drive.


Williams remained in the cab, engine running. The smuggler who had recruited him — a chubby, ne'er-do-well of the border named Abelardo Flores — told Williams it was best if passengers never got a look at their driver, just in case something went wrong on the road.

Flores positioned himself on the running board beside Williams, giving him the standard instructions: Remain "cool" at the checkpoint. Tell the agent you are running empty. If caught, feign surprise and claim that the people must have sneaked on board, perhaps while you were asleep or inside a truck stop.

One thing Flores did not tell Williams was how many people were being squeezed into his trailer. There were at a minimum 74, and some who boarded put the headcount closer to 100. Still, the loading did not take long, maybe 10 minutes.


At first, conditions inside the trailer had seemed "normal," many of the survivors would testify without any apparent sense of irony. Wrapped in almost perfect darkness, they could see nothing. What they experienced were sensations and sounds — the slight swaying of the trailer as it left the field and rolled onto the roadway, the jostling of shoulders and hips, sticky sweat and, within minutes, rising heat.

According to a mathematical model prepared for trial, it took only 10 minutes to reach 100% humidity inside the insulated trailer. Within 35 minutes, the heat surpassed the normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees and continued to climb. This was a critical tipping point. Now body heat generated by the passengers no longer could escape into the trailer's airspace


By now, the passengers were stripping off blouses and shirts. Their bodies poured sweat, and the more they perspired, the more they became dehydrated. One man squeezed sweat from his shirt and tried to drink it. The 5-year-old boy was wailing.


On the trailer's corrugated metal floor, with his father crouched protectively over him, the boy slipped away. Castro-Reyes heard him cry out one last time.

"Daddy, I am dying."

And then the father screamed, and panic descended into pandemonium. Men and women pounded at the side of the trailer with fists and shoes, shouting huskily that they needed to be let out. Hoping to attract attention, others threw caps, shoes, anything that could fit, through the small holes they'd knocked in the doors after clawing away the insulation. There was fevered talk of rocking the trailer to tip it over.

"People were saying we were going to die anyway," recalled one passenger, "so we should roll it over so they would pay attention to us."


NSIDE the trailer, the passengers were hurtling toward death, their bodies battered by heat, dehydration and a shortage of oxygen. In overlapping methods of attack, these three instruments of death would break down the kidneys, lungs, heart and brain. Along the way, they would produce pounding headaches, vomiting, bulging eyes, a maddening shortness of breath and hallucinations.

By now, most of the trailer occupants were too far gone to bang or shout. Some, spent, sunk to their knees in weariness. Others found places in the less-crowded front of the trailer to lie down and await death. Lorenzo Otero-Marquez recalled it felt "fresh" somehow on the floor. He lay in the blackness and listened to others flailing as they died, their bodies convulsed by seizures.

"You could only hear that they were dying," he testified. "They started to strike with their hands louder, and then they stopped striking."

Ana Gladis Marquez-Aguiluz also heard, and felt, these final throes: "They were hitting and some of them were kicking us — strongly, not intentionally."

In the jumble of bodies, the living sometimes became pinned under the dead. The father of the 5-year-old was kneeling over his child when he too passed away.


Williams had stopped at a truck stop just south of the town of Victoria, more than halfway from Harlingen to Houston. He parked on a side road, next to a tree-studded horse pasture. Yet another camera captured the trucker's entrance into the store, time-stamped at 1:37 a.m.


"We're out of here," he told her.

There was a loud crash as the truck pulled away. Hastily unhooking the trailer, Williams had neglected to crank down the dolly wheels that hold its nose aloft when detached. Back on the highway, they spotted a police car speeding toward the truck stop. Williams called Abel Flores, who, high on cocaine, had just closed down a Harlingen strip joint named Secrets.


He turned the truck for Houston, pounding on the steering wheel as he drove. In a few hours, he would check himself into a hospital, complaining of a case of the nerves and telling a story about how a bunch of illegal immigrants somehow had sneaked into his trailer, perhaps while he was asleep or inside a truck stop.


As many as 100 people are thought to have boarded the trailer. Police recovered 18 bodies and caught 56 survivors, one of whom died later. Others are thought to have escaped.
LA Times Via KTLA-5

LA Times

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