Thursday, May 31, 2012

Operation Cross Check And The Detention Of Martin Berrospe Yepez

Operation Cross Check And The Detention Of Martin Berrospe Yepez

Fernando Romero

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Operation Cross Check And The Detention Of Martin Berrospe Yepez

Posted: 05/30/2012 6:18 am

Last March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted Operation Cross Check, the largest sweep in history netting a whopping total of 3,168 people. The operative was meant to identify, detain and deport the most serious criminal aliens.
But, much like other enforcement-only operation and programs, the intended effect of deporting criminals is not occurring. Instead, over half of those arrested under Cross Check did not have any felony convictions.
ICE has a fact sheet accounting for a dozen "Notable Arrests" on their web page. These narratives point the essence of the operation. But one has to ask; what about the other 3,156 people who came under wide net of Cross Check? Chances are that over half of them are like Martin Berrospe Yepez who was detained and arrested in Rancho Cucamonga, California on route to a day laborer center to look for work.
As the Coordinator for the Justice for Immigrants Coalition (JFIC), based in the Inland Empire, I've worked with Martin on a professional level on an array of events and projects. I've also gotten to know him at a personal level as well and become friends within the struggle for immigrant rights. I can attest to his honesty, hard work and commitment to his community.
On the morning of Saturday, March 24, Martin was walking to a day labor site in Rancho Cucamonga, when ICE stopped him. Although ICE could not identify him, they asked him for his immigration status. Martin tells community leader, Emilio Amaya, that he attempted to speak English and explain that he was on his way to work but an officer told him that it was not necessary. After being questioned about his parent's birthplace, the officer assumed that Martin was also from there. The officer stated that he would be deported in a few hours but Martin insisted that he belonged to an organized day laborer group and that he knew his rights. He insisted that he should have the right to see an immigration judge when he was offered voluntary departure at the ICE office in San Bernardino.
Martin's arrest and detention is one that is emblematic of the misgivings of the enforcement-only approach. I was present at Martin's court hearing and the prosecutor representing ICE and the U.S. government acknowledged that they picked up the wrong person and the judge recognized Martin as a "good person."
The Inland Empire is no stranger to encounters with immigration agencies. In this video created by local community organizations in 2009, Border Patrol agents can be seen conducting raids and sweeps at day labor corners and centers in the area.
Many caught under these sweeps or programs are far from dangerous. As detailed in ICE's fact sheet, 1,257 of the 3,168 were either "Immigrant Fugitives" or "Illegal Re-entrants." An immigration fugitive is someone who did not appear for their hearing or trial at an immigration court. An illegal re-entrant is a person who'd been given voluntary departure or deported and later returned without proper inspection. Neither of these categories poses a threat to the security of our local communities. Many of the re-entrants do so because their family and friends are here. Of the 2,834 labeled as "criminal aliens," 1,357 were convicted for misdemeanors which can imply a conviction as minor as a traffic violation. Thus, nearly half had no violent criminal history and were yet caught up in the drag net of this operation.
In the case of Martin, who has lived in California for almost 20 years, he has close ties to the community and is an active participant with the Fernando Pedraza Community Coalition. He has no criminal convictions and poses no threat the society. He was released on May 1 from the Mira Loma Detention Center after bail was met and his case is up for hearing in-mid-June.
DreamActivist, an organizing group led by immigrant youth, has taken Martin's case and created a call-to-action in order to have his case dismissed and halt his deportation. Martin's case is one of few non-Dreamers that are being highlighted on the DreamActivist website. The show of solidarity with Martin as a day laborer, pinpoints to the cohesion of the immigrant rights community with people who strive for the America Dream via education and hard work.
The propaganda war that ICE and the Obama Administration is conducting prevents the advancement of any legislation which would bring a just and humane immigration reform. I am not arguing for, or trying to prevent ICE from removing batterers, gang members or actual violent criminal offenders. I argue that we allow people like Martin to have the opportunity to legalize their status in this country so that he's able to get up on a Saturday morning and go to work without the fear of being torn apart from our community.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Slain prison guard's family sues DOC

Slain prison guard's family sues DOC

Slain prison guard's family sues DOC

5:27 PM, Apr 27, 2012   |  
A member of the South Dakota Department of Corrections Honor Guard and state penitentiary prison Warden Doug Weber with Lynette Johnson at the dedication of penitentiary training academy in honor of her late husband Ron "RJ" Johnson.
A member of the South Dakota Department of Corrections Honor Guard and state penitentiary prison Warden Doug Weber with Lynette Johnson at the dedication of penitentiary training academy in honor of her late husband Ron "RJ" Johnson. / John Hult / Argus Leader
The family of slain corrections officer Ron Johnson is suing the South Dakota Department of Corrections over the escape attempt that led to his death.
Johnson died April 12, 2011 on his 63rd birthday when two inmates tried to escape from the South Dakota State Penitentiary.
Rodney Berget and Eric Robert pleaded guilty to Johnson’s murder and have been sentenced to die.
The DOC dedicated a staff training academy in Johnson’s name on the one-year anniversary of his death.

In California, Lawmakers Mount New Challenge to Secure Communities » Immigration Impact

In California, Lawmakers Mount New Challenge to Secure Communities » Immigration Impact


In California, Lawmakers Mount New Challenge to Secure Communities

Last year, lawmakers in California were poised to pass a bill—known as the TRUST Act—to let local jurisdictions opt out of Secure Communities, the federal program that routes fingerprints taken at local jails to federal immigration authorities. Before final passage, however, federal officials rendered the bill moot by declaring that participation in the program was mandatory. Now, lawmakers are considering a revised version of the bill that would minimize the impact of Secure Communities by limiting the ability of local governments to detain immigrants on the federal government’s behalf.

Introduced earlier this month, the new version of the TRUST Act would narrow the circumstances in which local jurisdictions could honor immigration “detainers” from the federal government. As their name suggests, detainers are requests from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asking that particular inmates be detained beyond their date of release so that federal immigration authorities can assume custody. Under federal regulations, jurisdictions that honor immigration detainers are only permitted to hold inmates for an additional 48 hours, not including weekends or holidays. While the federal government has issued detainers for decades, their use has become increasingly common following the expansion of Secure Communities.
Under the revised TRUST Act, authorities could only honor immigration detainers filed against persons who have been convicted of a felony classified as “serious” or “violent” under California law. In addition, jurisdictions that choose to honor detainers would have to create policies to prevent an increase in racial profiling or the discouraging of victims and witnesses from reporting crimes. According to the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, such precautions are necessary because immigration detainers “have led to the needless prolonged detention of immigrant domestic violence survivors, street vendors arrested only for selling food without a permit, and even U.S. citizens.”
If the TRUST Act becomes law, California would not be the first state to curb the use of immigration detainers. In February, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced that state jails would consider honoring detainers on a case-by-case basis. Prior to that, the California counties of Santa Clara and San Francisco enacted anti-detainer measures, as did New York City and Cook County, Illinois. And according to news reports, Seattle and Milwaukee may soon join the list. (Although DHS often implies that detainers are mandatory, the fact it has taken no legal action against any jurisdiction that declines to honor them is proof alone that they are voluntary.)
Of course, even if the revised version of the TRUST Act is passed, it would not necessarily prevent immigrants from being deported if they are convicted of minor offenses or acquitted altogether. So long as Secure Communities exists, DHS will have access to all fingerprints taken at booking and, as a result, may seek to take custody of individuals as soon as they are released. To eliminate this problem, states and counties could amend their policies to ensure that people arrested for minor crimes, including traffic violations, don’t have their fingerprints taken in the first place. But in the meantime, passage of the TRUST Act would go a long way to reducing the problems associated with Secure Communities.
Photo by Jim Barber.

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New Immigration Detention Resource via @LIRSorg: ‘Steps Beyond – Education, Advocacy & Community Care’ « Detention Watch Network: Monitoring & Challenging Immigration Detention, Immigration Enforcement & Deportation

New Immigration Detention Resource via @LIRSorg: ‘Steps Beyond – Education, Advocacy & Community Care’ « Detention Watch Network: Monitoring & Challenging Immigration Detention, Immigration Enforcement & Deportation

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

ACLU challenges Vallario over immigrant arrest reports to ICE |

ACLU challenges Vallario over immigrant arrest reports to ICE |

ACLU challenges Vallario over immigrant arrest reports to ICE

Domestic violence arrests shouldn't be reported unless suspect is convicted, group says

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado — The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado says the Garfield County Sheriff's Department is violating state law by immediately forwarding the names of immigrants arrested in domestic violence cases to federal immigration authorities.

The ACLU notes that domestic violence victims can sometimes be arrested when police are unsure who is at fault. While charges may later be dropped, placing themselves at risk for deportation will make undocumented immigrants less likely to seek police help in a domestic violence incident, the ACLU contends.

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario calls the criticism a “slanderous lie.” He said while the law doesn't require jail officials to report domestic violence suspects until their case is resolved, it does not prohibit such reporting.

Rather than trying to track the case outcomes for every immigrant arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, Vallario said anyone being booked at the county jail is assumed to be a defendant, and their information is passed along to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“When they come into the jail, they are a defendant. It's not up to my jail staff to determine if they are a victim. They are being booked in as a defendant, and we notify ICE of any defendants believed to be foreign born,” Vallario said Tuesday.

The argument centers on differing interpretations of a state immigration policy law, Senate Bill 90, passed in 2006. Among other provisions, the law requires county sheriffs to report to ICE the booking into jail of any foreign person who does not have a proper visa or immigration papers.

But a 2008 amendment exempts county sheriffs from the mandatory reporting requirement when foreigners are arrested on domestic violence charges, until the person is actually convicted of a domestic violence offense.

Vallario reads the amendment as making reporting at the time of an arrest optional. The ACLU contends that the reporting is prohibited unless the person arrested is actually convicted.

To bolster its position, the ACLU cites a 2009 report by the State Auditor's Office interpreting the domestic violence amendment as “illegal immigrants arrested for a suspected act of domestic violence are not to be reported to ICE until conviction.”

In a written release issued Tuesday, ACLU staff attorney Rebecca T. Wallace stated, “When undocumented victims of domestic violence are referred to ICE as a result of reporting the abuse to law enforcement, the signal to the undocumented population is clear. If you call the police to report domestic violence, you may end up being deported.”

Wallace said the ACLU worked with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition to investigate three cases of illegal immigrants booked into the Garfield County Jail following domestic violence incidents in the past two years.

“In each case, [jail staff] promptly reported the victims to ICE without waiting to see if the individuals were convicted of any charges,” the ACLU's release states.

While the three women were later exonerated, ICE initiated deportation actions against them, the release said.

“In talking to these victims, they clearly and reasonably felt re-victimized by being sent into ICE detention simply because they had interacted with the police about the abuse,” Wallace said.

The ACLU notes that other county sheriffs follow the ACLU's reading of the law. For example, the Summit County Sheriff's Department uses an eight-page policy guideline with a decision tree to follow in deciding whether or when to report domestic violence arrests to ICE.

And on April 3, Mesa County Sheriff's Lt. Brenda Apolinar issued a one-paragraph directive to Mesa County Jail booking technicians reversing the agency's policy on reporting domestic violence suspects to ICE.

“You will no longer contact ICE as you have done in the past. You will contact ICE only when and if the individual is found guilty and convicted of the domestic violence charges,” her directive states.

Vallario said he is well-versed in the human dynamics of domestic violence and understands the “chilling effect” argument posed by the ACLU.

All victims of domestic violence are reluctant to call police, he said.

“The added concern that they could be deported, well, I can't fix that. They are not in the country legally. I am complying with the law. I am being consistent, not picking and choosing,” Vallario said.

ACLU's news release issued Tuesday comes three weeks after the organization sent Vallario a three-page letter calling on his department to comply with the state law's domestic violence exception.

“We have not threatened legal action. That's not the point,” Wallace said Tuesday. “We are asking the Garfield County sheriff, ‘Will you change your policy of auto-reporting to ICE?' We urge him to do so, to follow the will of the Legislature and the will of the people, and as a way to make effective law enforcement.”

Vallario said he will have none of it.

“I beat them once before, I will beat them again,” he said of the ACLU, which tangled with him over inmate treatment in the county jail.

Vallario noted that within a matter of weeks, the federal Secure Communities Act will take effect statewide. Fingerprints taken from anyone booked into the county jail will be automatically sent to state and federal crime and immigration databases.

The shift will render the domestic violence exception a moot point, he said.

What Started a Mississippi Prison Riot? Depends on Who You Ask - COLORLINES

What Started a Mississippi Prison Riot? Depends on Who You Ask - COLORLINES

What Started a Mississippi Prison Riot? Depends on Who You Ask

Tuesday, May 22 2012, 9:37 AM EST Tags: Corrections Corp., Mississippi, Prison


A Mississippi jail is on lockdown today after a Sunday night riot left one prison guard dead and as many as 20 inmates and guards injured. According to sheriff’s reports, the violence began as a gang feud and soon engulfed the privately operated facility, which holds 2,500 non-citizens incarcerated for reentering the United States after deportation and for other charges. But the fragments of information that have emerged from inmates and advocates suggest that the violence had more to do with a pattern of abuse and neglect that has emerged at privately run, for-profit prisons.
The Adams County Sheriff’s office and the Corrections Corporation of America, the behemoth prison company that operates the facility for the federal Bureau of Prisons, have tightly controlled news of the riot and what caused it. In statements, officials say the violence emerged out of thin air and soon “turned into a mob mentality,” according to Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield.
“This could have happened anywhere, anytime,” Mayfield told the Associated Press.
Prison watchdogs say that’s not necessarily true. What little independent information that has emerged from inside Adams County Correctional Center suggests a different story—one of mistreatment and abuse at the hands of guards that may have reached a breaking point.
At 5 p.m. on Sunday evening, an inmate reportedly phoned a local TV station with a cell phone, sending photos to confirm that he was indeed held inside the facility.
“They always beat us and hit us,” the prisoner told the local reporter. “We just pay them back. We’re trying to get better food, medical (care), programs, clothes, and we’re trying to get some respect from the officers and lieutenants.”
According to the news report, the prisoner said that nine guards had been taken hostage.
In an interview with, Patricia Ice, who directs the legal program at the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, said that her organization has heard reports of neglect and abuse inside the Adams County facility. Ice said she received a call last month from a California woman who reported medical neglect of a family member in the jail.
“I got a complaint from a family member saying that a man had lung cancer and was being ignored,” Ice said. “Three weeks earlier, he was examined by a doctor and diagnosed with lung cancer but had not received any treatment at all.”
Prisoner’s rights advocates say that the accounts of these inmates are consistent with documented conditions in private prison facilities around the country.
“Private prisons have a financial incentive to spend as little as possible in order to make a greater profit,” said Bob Libal, of Grassroots Leadership. Libal is a longtime advocate for the rights of prisoners held in private facilities. “They skimp on staff salaries and training, which leads to high turnover rates. They spend as little as possible on services in order to maximize profit. This mentality leads to poorly run facilities where abuse, neglect, and prisoner uprisings are common.”
The Corrections Corporation of America operates over 60 jails and detention centers in 20 states with the capacity to hold over 90,000 people. The facilities have a track record of violence.
The Associated Press reports:
In 2004, inmates at a different CCA prison in Mississippi set fire to mattresses, clothing and a portable toilet. No injuries were reported. The company announced after that disturbance that it would add about 25 guards at the Tallahatchie County facility.
In Idaho, violence at a CCA-run prison has prompted federal lawsuits, public scrutiny and increased state oversight. In 2010, Vermont inmates being held at a CCA prison in Tennessee were subdued with chemical grenades after refusing to return to their cells.
Reports of medical neglect inside Corrections Corp. facilities have piled up in recent years. The New York Times in 2010 reported that federal immigration officials attempted to cover up numerous neglect-related deaths inside CCA jails, which hold immigration detainees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement as well as thousands of Bureau of Prisons inmates incarcerated on immigration-related charges like “illegal reentry.”
In increasing numbers, the federal government now prosecutes border crossers who previously would have been quickly deported.
Patricia Ice said the man whose family member called her is serving a three-year sentence for illegal reentry. Ice told, “I did try to contact to the jail and I never got anybody on the phone. There was nothing I could do.”
An ACLU spokesperson wrote in an email that the organization is “engaged in an investigation of a handful of privately-run facilities in Mississippi,” including a CCA facility.
“[C]onditions of confinement are often woefully inadequate and levels of violence can be higher at for-profit facilities,” an ACLU statement said.
Catlin Carithers, 24, had worked in the prison since 2009. He died from blunt head trauma, according to the county coroner.
By yesterday afternoon, news reports said all of the 2,500 inmates in the jail were locked inside their cells as officials investigate the guard’s death and identify the perpetrator. Federal and local authorities are working with Corrections Corp. to investigate the violence. The sheriff’s office told the Natchez Democrat that it is on standby waiting for word from the FBI on how to proceed.

Showing 12 comments

  • ConnieHinesDorothyProvine
    These prisons stress punishment over rehabilitation.  They WANT to keep locking more people up.  The US imprisons people at a higher rate than does a certain police state with four times our population (China).

  • Kevin Schmidt
    The Corrections Corporation of America is yet another corporate person who should face the death penalty, but literally gets away with murder.

  • My child is serving a 30 year mandatory minimum sentence at Graceville, a CCA facility for a drug crime (yet the man that murdered my granddaughter got probation). Prior to going to Graceville he was in a state run facility and did endure constant degradation and deprivation. Since moving to Graceville both he and I have been surprised at the professionalism of the staff. My son says as long as you show them respect they will do the same. The warden and his staff have always promptly addressed any concerns. While I do agree that prison profit is a bad idea, I am not so sure it is better off out of the hands of the state!

  • Some of these state prisons in CA are over 150 years old - Folsom, San Quentin, etc. The state has no money whatsoever to replace them.
    If other people have a better solution - and the money - for housing people, let's hear it.

  • Who ever came-up with the idea that prisons and schools should be run for profit should have to live in one of the former.

  • P.
    Condolences to the family of the deceased guard but his blood and the blood of the inmates and injured staff members are on the hands of Haley Barbour, MDOC Commissioner Christopher Epps, Bennie Thompson and all the state officials who let CCA continue to operate here in Mississippi despite the many riots, injuries and inhumane conditions that the staff (and inmates) are forced to deal with. I have been trying to get attention brought to this situation for years without avail and unfortunately it takes someone dying to get national attention brought to this. low pay, under staffing and under trained staff are CCA norms and I KNOW that's why it took so long for the riot to get under control. The prison I worked at in Tutwiler JUST had a huge riot in December with 26 inmates hospitalized and there was NO MEDIA COVERAGE.
    CCA can't hide this death like they have the riots in Tallahatchie County or the inmate that died in February from a drug overdose. CCA, Haley Barbour, Phil Bryant, Bennie Thompson, Thad Cochran, Roger Wicker, Jim Hood, Robert Huddleston, David Jordan and any other state representatives and senators as well as local officials who have CCA prisons in their districts are at fault because they have known for years what CCA has operated but turned a blind eye at the expense of the employees and the public who is put in danger because the prisons are SO UNDER STAFFED.
    I used to work at arguably one of the worst prisons in the CCA system in Tutwiler, MS. I was able to view the contract (after almost a year of trying to get it) and to paraphrase it, the responsibility of quelling a disturbance that gets out of hand is on the local authorities THEN the state then the National Guard. Everything that was detailed out in this incident falls RIGHT in place with the contract we got our hands on. The local authorites (police if located in a town, sheriff's dept.), State (Troopers) and federal (National Guard) handled the situation while CCA was activating the SORT team (my (deceased) brother along with myself were members) CCA has NO responsibility in this. I just want the national spotlight to shine brightly on Mississippi so all these crooks can be exposed and everyone responsible not only for Carithers' death but all the incidents that have occurred at Tallahatchie County (numerous inmate deaths with NO media coverage), Delta Correctional Facility (now closed; 1 death in 2010) and Wilkinson County (numerous incidents) and NO ONE from the local to the federal level has done ANYTHING despite being contacted on numerous occasions.

  • I have no sympathy AT ALL!!  Prisoner's rights? Please!

  • Gail Tyree
    No sympathy until it's one of your family members being mistreated. For- Profit Private prisons is in the business to make money and their product is our families, friends and our children. They treat them like animals and operate like slave traders. Do your home work Roni. God forgives us a million times for our mistakes, and we should be human enough to forgive people when they make a mistake. Let's work to get all of the for-profit private prisons out of Mississippi. My sympathy is extended to the family of the guard that lost his life. No one should have to die to make a living.

  • P.
    Mr. Carithers family might differ other wise. He was called in on his off day to help out and lost his life in doing so. If those inmates were treated like humans, they probably would be less rowdy (even though you are dealing with inmates so a lot of them  would be rowdy no matter what). When you mix up mistreated inmates + mistreated staff (overworked, under paid, under staffed) = A deadly combination.

  • Roni you totally don't get the point. These are not child molesters or murderers, this is masses and masses of human beings incarcerated for migration which is for the most part caused by and sustained by US corporations disrupting labor patterns in foreign countries. (Menjivar 2009) US corporations start migration flows, then they profit off these undocumented migration flows by maintaing FOR-PROFIT detention centers where their main concern is not correction, rehabilitation, or the reforming of immigration law but rather the prolonged, unnecessary, and extremely expensive incarceration that serves no deterrent purpose but will continue to bring them a profit because government spending on incarceration means more subsidies and funding for them. Furthermore, instead of using the millions given to them for BASIC human needs like food, clothes, shelter, and medical assistance, for the inmate humans they profit off of, they pay their top execs multimillion dollar salaries while the inmates are neglected and the workers are exploited. If you can't understand this then YOU deserve no sympathy in your ignorance. Perhaps you should be encarcerated like these unethical heads of for-profit prisons and kept in these same conditions. Then let us know if you don't believe in prisoner's rights. Closer reading Please!

  • So, the federal government is feeding into this incarceration racket non-US citizens, who have no recognized rights nor avenues of appeal ... nice work if you can get it.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Most immigrants Sent Back to Mexico Detained at Work or Home, Border Apprehensions Decline - COLORLINES

Most immigrants Sent Back to Mexico Detained at Work or Home, Border Apprehensions Decline - COLORLINES

Most immigrants Sent Back to Mexico Detained at Work or Home, Border Apprehensions Decline

About one-in-six migrants sent back to Mexico (17%) were apprehended at work or at home in 2010, according to a recent Pew Hispanic Center analysis. The rise in home or work apprehensions is a pretty significant jump from previous years—in 2005, only 3% were apprehended at home or at work.
By contrast, a declining share of Mexican migrants report being apprehended at the border—25% in 2010, compared with 33% in 2005 and nearly half (49%) in 1995.
While the number of people crossing from Mexico into the United States has fallen to 40 year lows, the rates of deportation have reached historic highs.
“The new data unveils what we already knew: as migration wanes, immigration enforcement is shifting gears, moving increasingly to the interior of the United States and is targeting people who’ve lived here for long periods, have homes and jobs and families here,” said’s investigative reporter Seth Freed Wessler.
“As previous Pew data shows, nearly two thirds of undocumented immigrants have lived in the country for more than a decade and nearly half have children here. Considering these shifting demographics, the fallout of the government’s insistence on deporting 400,000 people annually is likely to accumulate to toxic levels,” Wessler went on to say.
Many of those deported are parents who leave children behind. Between January and June of 2011, the United States carried out more than 46,000 deportations of the parents of U.S.-citizen children, according to federal data obtained by’s publisher, the Applied Research Center.