Posts Tagged ‘Immigration and Customs Enforcement’

Man returns home after long road through immigrant detention

Posted on: February 21st, 2012 by Teddy Wilson 1 Comment

Photo: Hope and Nazry Mustakim (courtesy of Hope Mustakim)

After a year in the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, Texas, Nazry Mustakim is finally at home with his wife, Hope. Nazry, or Naz, as his family and friends call him, has spent the last year navigating the complicated US immigration system, with the hopes of regularizing his immigration status and rejoining Hope.

As the Texas Independent reported, on March 30, 2011 Naz was detained by four fully armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Naz was led to believe that because of a previous drug conviction his green card was being suspended, and he would receive a hearing. It would take nearly a year for that to happen.

Because of his drug conviction, Naz was classified as an “aggravated felon” per the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Detention Watch Network has launched a campaign calling on Congress to repeal the laws mandating the detention of undocumented immigrants. The Florida Independent has reported that the law has torn families apart and may violate due process.

After extensive legal maneuvering, Janice Warder, the District Attorney in Cooke County, dismissed a previous felony drug possession charge. This paved the way for a master hearing Feb. 6, during which the prosecutor decided to grant him the waiver to cancel his deportation. Just 24 hours later, Naz was released.

Hope told the Texas Independent about the experience of picking up her newly released husband after a year apart. “I picked up Naz around 8:30 am,” said Hope. They then helped three fellow detainees get some clothes and duffel bags from a local store. “All the girlie ideas I had of our first few hours together disappeared quickly,” said Hope.

Naz is now back home with his wife, and told the Texas Independent about what it was like being home and how the experience has changed them. “Everything just keeps rolling,” said Naz. For Naz the nearly year long ordeal has been difficult. “There are times of hopelessness, powerlessness, but there are sparks of hope,” said Naz. “It is up and down. Just not knowing what the future would hold, but at the same time we know that we had God on our side.”

Part of his frustration was the lack of information available to him about his case while in detention. “I think that the officers in the detention center are clueless,” said Naz. “Most of the time they don’t know anything about your case, and can’t tell you anything.”

Naz also believes that the system can be reformed so that those who are awaiting hearings or are dealing with other immigration issues don’t have to be detained for months at a time. “They keep people there for way too long,” said Naz. “There are different ways they can ensure detainees can appear in court without incarcerating them.”

It is through this experience that Naz and Hope have become outspoken advocates for immigrant rights and against the for-profit prison system they see as the driving force behind immigrant detention in the United States.

“It’s giving us a passion to advocate for immigrants’ rights and immigration reform and to improve the perception of immigrants,” said Hope. “The media perception of immigrants is driven by a profit driven industry of private prisons. These companies like GEO and CCA hire lobbyists to pass these irrational, unreasonable, and draconian immigration laws.”

Hope also believes that anti-immigrant political rhetoric and anti-immigrant laws from Arizona to Alabama have fed into a negative perception of Latinos and people from other countries in the immigrant community.

“If you implant fear in people they will believe the worst of people,” said Hope. ”It becomes hateful, and there is a loss in humanity. As long as people are scared, they won’t care if you detain people with brown skin. It saddens me that I once thought that DHS was there to protect me. It made me sad that we are just a number to them. They say that they are about family unity, but that’s bullshit.”

“Local law enforcement and local courts need to wake up and realize that there is a large portion of immigrants, both authorized and unauthorized, who don’t know anything about immigration law,” said Hope. “What I don’t get is how we can do this over and over again with different ethnicities.”

Through it all, Naz and Hope leaned on each other and their faith. They communicated on a nearly daily basis, despite the high cost of the phone calls. They had a strong network of family, friends, and supporters.

“My faith in God has helped me not become bitter,” said Naz. “I am grateful for all the people who supported me. I know that I’m not all perfect. Because my past is why I was there, but there are people that were just trying to work and make a living that are being detained and imprisoned.”

After his ordeal, Naz said it would be easier to become bitter, but that he wants to look forward. “I saw a lot of people in there who got bitter, and angry at the United States,” said Naz. “They would say that the United States has a lack of compassion – a country that is powerful but lacks compassion. I see it that way also, but I try to look forward in a positive way.”

Immigrant finds long road in navigating America’s justice and immigration system

Posted on: January 18th, 2012 by Teddy Wilson No Comments

Photo: Hope and Nazry Mustakim (courtesy of Hope Mustakim)

For the past 10 months Nazry Mustakim has been waiting in the South Texas Detention Complex in Pearsall, Texas.

“I told my boss I would be late for work,” said Nazry, or Naz, as his family and friends call him. On the morning of March 30, 2011, Naz answered a knock at his door to find four fully armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. They informed him that his green card was being suspended pending a future hearing and they were taking him into DHS custody. (more…)

ICE detains and deports U.S. citizens

Posted on: January 5th, 2012 by Teddy Wilson 3 Comments

Jakadrien Turner ran away from home in the fall of 2010, and ended up being deported to Columbia. Turner, then fourteen years old, wasn’t an undocumented immigrant, but a US citizen from Dallas, Texas.

According to reporting by WFAA Channel 8, Turner was arrested by police for theft in Houston, and gave police officers a fake name. When the police checked the name it belonged to a 22-year-old illegal immigrant from Columbia with outstanding warrants for her arrest.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials reportedly processed Turner’s fingerprints, but didn’t confirm her identity. She was then deported to Colombia, where the Colombian government gave her a work card and released her. After her grandmother tracked down Turner through Facebook, U.S. Federal authorities notified the U.S. Embassy in Colombia. However, the Colombian government now has her in a detention facility and won’t release her.

ICE told WFAA that the agency “takes these allegations very seriously,” and acknowledges that there are instances where people provide ICE with inaccurate information regarding who they are and their immigration status.

The same year that Turner was deported after being arrested in Houston, another man who was born in Houston was deported after being detained in South Texas. Luis Alberto Delgado grew up in Mexico after his parents divorced. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, Delgado was stopped by a Jim Wells County Sheriff who called the US Border Patrol. Despite having a birth certificate, a state of Texas ID card and a Social Security card proving his citizenship he was taken into custody.

Isaias Torres, a Houston immigration attorney who represents Delgado pro bono, told the Texas Independent that Delgado was detained and held without representation for eight hours, and was eventually coerced into signing a statement that he was in the country illegally and born in Mexico. “The officials detaining him were taunting him and telling him that they knew he was a ‘wetback’,” said Torres. “There was no evidence that he had false documents. The only evidence they had was that he spoke no English.”

“There are two types of US citizens that are deported,” Barbra Hines of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Texas Law School told the Texas Independent. “There are citizens that were actually born in the United States, and there are citizens that were born outside of the United States but by virtue of their parents’ birth are also citizens.”

Hines went on to say that citizens not born in the United States are more likely to be deported, and in many cases these people are unaware they are actually citizens. “These people think that they immigrate as permanent residents,” said Hines. “But it turns out that they are citizens.” However, these cases can be very hard to prove due to migratory patterns of families and lack of documentation.

A growing number of citizens have been detained and deported as a result of the Obama Administration’s aggressive immigration policies. According to one study by Jacqueline Stevens of Northwestern University, 82 citizens were held for deportation from 2006 to 2008 at two immigration detention centers in Arizona. These people were held for periods as long as a year, and were finally freed only after federal judges determined they were citizens.

The deportation of citizens due to improper processing of paperwork may not be the only administrative problem within ICE. A recent study by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University shows a 34 percent discrepancy between the number of people ICE claimed to have removed and those it can document as being removed.

It has been over fifteen years since the last overhaul of immigration policy, and Hines says that “we are way overdue for an overhaul of our immigration laws.” However, in the current political climate, any talk of a change in immigration policy has been framed in the rhetoric of ‘enforcement first.’ “I don’t believe that they [Bush and Obama Administrations] were ever serious about immigration reform,” said Hines. “They have been talking about enforcement for years, without talking performance based standards. Meanwhile it has come at a tremendous cost to families, and millions of taxpayer dollars being spent.”

ACLU sues ICE, private prison operator over sexual abuse at Texas immigrant detention center

Posted on: October 19th, 2011 by Patrick Michels No Comments

Image by: Matt MahurinAmid a national push to expose incidents of sexual abuse at immigrant detention facilities across the country, the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas filed a federal suit Wednesday on behalf of three women who say they were sexually abused at a Central Texas facility with a history of abuse. (more…)

ICE task force member questions decision to terminate Secure Communities agreements

Posted on: August 10th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

The National Immigration Forum — a member of a task force created by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to help improve its Secure Communities immigration enforcement program — is questioning ICE’s decision to terminate agreements to implement the program in an effort to prevent agencies from opting out of it altogether. # (more…)

County in Michigan considers opposing Arizona-style immigration law

Posted on: April 15th, 2011 by The American Independent 1 Comment

The Kalamazoo City Commission will consider a resolution on Monday night to oppose proposed legislation modeled after the controversial Arizona immigration law.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports on a memo by the Kalamazoo City Attorney on the proposed resolution:

The Arizona law “is perceived as an anti-immigration measure that encourages ethnic profiling by state and local law enforcement officials and is opposed by the federal government as usurping federal jurisdiction over immigration policy and law,” according to a memo from Clyde Robinson, Kalamazoo’s city attorney, to commissioners.

In February, Rep. Dave Agema (R-Greenville) introduced legislation he says was based, in part, on the Arizona immigration law. The Arizona law required law enforcement to inquiry into the immigration status of persons they come in contact with during routine investigations including traffic stops. The Department of Justice has sued Arizona over the law, and a federal appeals court last week upheld an order from the lower court prohibiting the implementation of the law until the litigation over the constitutionality of the law is complete.

The news comes as activists for immigrants have been slamming Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Detroit for what they say are violations of ICE policies. ICE has admitted that some policies may have been violated by agents attempting to apprehend undocumented persons in the city and surrounding areas.

On a conference call Thursday, Ryan Bates, Director of the Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform – Michigan, said the agents were “out of control,” reports Bates sent out a press release on Friday announcing his group would be meeting with John Morton, Assistant Secretary for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. They will discuss the concerns about ICE actions.

BREAKING: Undocumented youth start protests in Atlanta

Posted on: April 5th, 2011 by The American Independent 2 Comments

Image by: Matt MahurinEight undocumented youth from around the country — including one from Michigan — have moved to shut down a major thoroughfare in Atlanta to protest state laws that ban enrollment in state universities by undocumented youth.

“We feel that the time for us to stand up has come. I am not only doing this for my friends who are in the same situation, but also for my mom who did everything she could to give me a better life,” said Dayanna Rebolledo (more…)

Mexico responds to reports of ATF policy encouraging gun smuggling

Posted on: March 7th, 2011 by Kyle Daly No Comments

Last week, The American Independent reported on a policy within the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) “Project Gunrunner” program to let guns “walk”: that is, to encourage firearm sales to known gunrunners in the interest of following the guns back to the cartels that ordered their purchase. In practice, the vast majority of the hundreds of guns smuggled under the eye of the ATF proved impossible to track, and some have since been involved in the murders of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and ATF agents. Mexico has now responded to media reports on the policy with a statement issued by the country’s Foreign Ministry.

The statement, translated from Spanish, reads:

In connection with information reported by numerous American and Mexican media outlets on an operation called “Fast and Furious,” conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) of the U.S. Justice Department, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs states the following:

1. Detailed information on this matter has been requested from American authorities.

2. The Mexican Government will follow with special interest the investigations announced by both ATF and the Department of Justice.

3. The aim of the governments of Mexico and the U.S. is to stop the trafficking of firearms on a basis of shared responsibility and to both work to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the field. The Presidents of Mexico and the United States endorsed this priority on March 3rd in Washington, D.C.

The reference to “Fast and Furious” reflects a CBS News report from last week confirming that the project was not just informal policy within the ATF, but that it was fully authorized by the Department of Justice and even given an official name: “Fast and Furious.”

The statement comes at a time when relations between the U.S. and Mexico have ostensibly become slightly less strained after a ratcheting up of tension in recent years over skyrocketing drug cartel-related violence near the border. According to Mexican officials, around 35,000 people in Mexico have died in drug-related violence since December 2006, and while the U.S. is hardly the only source of illegal guns in the country, Mexican officials cannot be happy with a program that saw a U.S. government agency encourage the flow of guns into Mexico. Presidents Obama and Calderón held a joint press event last week in Washington at which they vowed to redouble efforts to mitigate violence in the border region and to end a years-long impasse over cross-border trucking that resulted in retaliatory food tariffs from Mexico, the U.S.’s second largest import market.

Though the Foreign Ministry’s statement alludes to this cooling off, it remains to be seen whether Mexico will be satisfied with the American government’s level of cooperation or the comprehensiveness of the ATF and DOJ internal investigations. Attorney General Eric Holder authorized a preliminary investigation of the practice last week.