Texas: Deal Is Reached on Border Fence
- in this e-mail:
(1) ‘The Jungle,’ Again
(2) Town struggles with fallout from immigrant's fatal beating
(3) Govt. Abuse of Sami Al-Arian Worsens / Tell ICE: Release Him!
(4) Proposed Kosher Certification Rules
(5) Texas: Deal Is Reached on Border Fence
(6) * Colorado "Fusion Center" to Step Up Intelligence Gathering During DNC; US
Northern Command to Play Role *
< font face="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif">July 31, 2008 -- Updated 1820 GMT (0220 HKT)
Town struggles with fallout from immigrant's fatal beating
- Story Highlights
- Luis Ramirez, 25, dies July 14 after beating by group of white teens
- 4 teens, all good students and athletes, charged with hate crime; two with homicide
- Justice Department's civil rights division opens criminal investigation
- Teens had been drinking; attorneys say it was a fight that got out of hand
By Emanuella Grinberg
CNNSHENANDOAH, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- By the time help arrived, Luis Ramirez lay convulsing in the middle of the street, foam running from his mouth.
Crystal Dillman displays the religious medal worn by her fiance, Luis Ramirez, who died from a beating.Blows had struck the 25-year-old illegal Mexican immigrant with such force that they left a clotted, bruised impression of Jesus Christ on the skin of his chest from the religious medal he wore.
His attackers were white teenagers, including star students and football players, witnesses told police.
After a night of drinking, the teens taunted the undocumented worker with racial epithets, pummeled him to the ground and then kicked him in the head, court documents charge. He died in a hospital two days later.
It took almost two weeks for arrests to be made. But on July 25, Colin J. Walsh, 17, and Brandon J. Piekarsky, 16, were charged as adults with homicide and ethnic intimidation.
Derrick M. Donchak, 18, was charged as an adult with aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation and an unnamed juvenile was also charged20with assault. The U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday that its civil rights division has opened a criminal investigation.Defense attorneys for two of the teens say Ramirez responded to the name-calling with his own insults, which escalated the confrontation into a fight that got out of hand.
The words allegedly hurled at Ramirez, and the perceived sentiments behind them, led prosecutors to label his death a hate crime.Without the ethnic intimidation charges, many in Shenandoah believe that the case would not be drawing attention to this depressed northeastern Pennsylvania coal town of 5,000. Residents question whether the attack was racially motivated or just an alcohol-fueled confrontation among kids.
Ramirez had spent July 12 with friends Arielle and Victor Garcia in their home. About 11 p.m., he asked them to drive him and a 15-year-old girl home, a probable cause affidavit says.
Don't MissThey got as far as a dusty park on Vine Street when Ramirez asked the couple to drop them off so they could walk. What happened next depends on the narrator, but everyone seems to agree that the first comments were directed toward the girl and Ramirez."Isn't it a little late for you guys to be out?" the boys said, according to court documents. "Get your Mexican boyfriend out of here."Racial slurs followed, and Ramirez responded. Punches were thrown, and Ramirez fell to the ground. Then Ramirez used his cell phone to call Arielle and Victor Garcia for help.The fight seemed to be over by the time the Garcias responded. But in an instant, the taunts resumed.
It is unclear who threw the first insult. Ramirez was knocked to the ground again and kicked in the head. He went into convulsions, said Arielle Garcia, who witnessed the second part of the fight. Garcia, 17, told police she knew some of the assailants from school.< div>
By this time, Eileen Burke, a retired Philadelphia police officer, had stepped out of her home after hearing Arielle Garcia's pleas to stop the beating.Burke recalled hearing one final, ominous threat as the teens ran. "They yelled, 'You effin bitch, tell your effin Mexican friends get the eff out of Shenandoah or you're gonna be laying effin next to him,' " she said.Ramirez was taken off life support two days after the fight. His body was flown back to his mother in Guanajuato, Mexico, with donations from parishioners from Annunciation Church in Shenandoah."There's outrage among Anglos and Latinos over what happened, and I think that's representative of the attitude here," said the Rev. George Winne, who is in charge=2 0of Hispanic ministries at Annunciation.Others in town pull over their cars at the sight of a stranger and recite a litany of attacks allegedly perpetrated by Latinos against Anglos. They refuse to give their names but acknowledge that Ramirez did not deserve to die. They say violence has been brewing between the races for some time.Attorneys for two of the teens deny that Ramirez was targeted because of his race."Let's call it what it was it was: a street fight, a chance encounter with a tragic outcome," said Frederick Fanelli, who represents Piekarsky.Fanelli said he plans to investigate whether Ramirez has a criminal background. He also questions why the engaged father of three was walking on the street with the girl, and the nature of their relationship. Ramirez's fiancee says he was walking her younger sister home.A lawyer for Walsh said he is equally skeptical about the ethnic intimidation charge. "They called each other names. The victim was calling them obscenities, vulgar names, and they said things back to him that would hurt him," Roger Laguna said. "It just means it was a foul-mouthed argument, not ethnic intimidation."Ramirez died just as things were falling into place for him and Crystal Dillman, 24, the woman he planned to mar ry.They met in Shenandoah in 2005 through the Garcias and had two children, Kiara and Eduardo, and Ramirez assumed the role of father to Dillman's daughter from a previous relationship, Angelina.By May, Ramirez had settled in Shenandoah, working two jobs after spending six months picking berries in Georgia."He worked hard so his kids would have more than he had growing up," Dillman said. "He talked a lot about how we take so much for granted here."
His diamond-encrusted religious medal, which cost him $300, now hangs over the fireplace in the three-story home on Main Street where Dillman and the children live."I just don't understand how you can beat someone so badly when you don't even know them," Dillman said. "People here are just ignorant. They think life begins and ends in Shenandoah."
A court affidavit identifies Walsh and Piekarsky as the teens who delivered the fatal blows: Walsh punched Ramirez in the face and knocked him to the ground. Piekarsky then is said to have kicked Ramirez in the head.Michael Walsh is struggling to comprehend how his boy -- a straight-A student who juggled track, football and school -- could stand accused of killing another person when he should be starting his senior year in high school."It's very stressing because you just don't expect it. If you had a child that's constantly in trouble, you'd say, hey, well, this is coming any day," he said."Colin was a great kid and fell into a bad situation. He never really gave me any trouble," he added. "I feel sorry for the families and anyone who cares about Mr. Ramirez."
"You would be proud to have any of these kids in your classroom, and any of them as your children," said Fanelli, Piekarsky's lawyer. "To this point in their lives, they have done everything right."Besides his academic achievement, Piekarsky worked part-time at Sears and made the varsity football team as a sophomore. He is a National Honors student.His mother postponed her wedding to a Shenandoah police officer because of the incident.Walsh and Piekarsky are being held in solitary confinement in an adult jail in nearby Pottsville. They are awaiting a preliminary hearing.
Donchak was the team's quarterback last year and graduated in May. He planned to attend Bloomsburg University in the fall. He is out on bail.The racial spotlight falls on the region nearly a year after a federal court struck down proposed ant i-immigration laws in nearby Hazleton. City officials had passed a law to fine landlords and employers who dealt with illegal immigrants. The city is appealing.
Although Schuylkill County is 96 percent white, Shenandoah has taken pride in its ethnic diversity. European immigrants came to work anthracite mines in the late 19th century. Pizza joints, German bakeries and Polish grocers on Main Street serve as reminders of that time.The town hit hard times after World War II and saw its population tumble from 20,000 to about 5,000, leaving about one in three homes vacant.Latinos began to arrive about 20 years ago, heading to the fields and distribution centers that have become the new economic base.Jose Calderon, a Puerto Rican who has lived in Shenandoah for two years, says he's not fearful. "These are the problems of the youth," he said.On Main Street, where people gather on benches in front of the remaining storefronts, some members of the Anglo community are also outraged."The young guys around here are racist because they think they're so much better than everyone else," said Jessica Lane, 18, as her 2-year-old son, Damien, squirmed in her lap.Shenandoah officials now acknowledge a racial element of20Ramirez's death.Regardless of perception of tension, many Latinos and Anglos have formed interracial relationships, like those of Dillman and Ramirez, and their friends the Garcias, who have a son.
"I have such survivor's guilt," she confessed.
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The New York Times
August 1, 2008
‘The Jungle,’ Again
A story from the upside-down world of immigration and labor:
A slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, develops an ugly reputation for abusing animals and workers. Reports of dirty, dangerous conditions at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant accumulate for years, told by workers, union organizers, immigrant advocates and government investigators. A videotape by an animal-rights group shows workers pulling the windpipes out of living cows. A woman with a deformed hand tells a reporter of cutting meat for 12 hours a day, six days a week, for wages that labor experts call the lowest in the industry. This year, federal investigators amass evidence of rampant illegal hiring at the plant, which has been called “a kosher ‘Jungle.’ ”
The conditions at the Agriprocessors plant cry out for the cautious and deliberative application of justice.
In May, the government swoops in and arrests ... the workers, hundreds of them, for having false identity papers. The raid’s catch is so huge that the detainees are bused from little Postville to the National Cattle Congress fairgrounds in Waterloo. The defendants, mostly immigrants from Guatemala, are not charged with the usual administrative violations, but with “aggravated identity theft,” a serious crime.
They are offered a deal: They can admit their guilt to lesser charges, waive their rights, including the right to a hearing before an immigration judge, spend five months in prison, then be deported. Or, they can spend six months or more in jail without bail while awaiting a trial date, face a minimum two-year prison sentence and be deported anyway.
Nearly 300 people agree to the five months, after being hustled through mass hearings, with one lawyer for 17 people, each having about 30 minutes of consultation per client. The plea deal is a brutal legal vise, but the immigrants accept it as the quickest way back to their spouses and children, hundreds of whom are cowering in a Catholic church, afraid to leave and not knowing how they will survive. The workers are scattered to federal lockups around the country. Many families still do not know where they are. The plant’s owners walk freely.
This is enforcement run amok. As Julia Preston reported in The Times, the once-silent workers of Agriprocessors now tell of a host of abusive practices, of rampant injuries and of exhausted children as young as 13 wielding knives on the killing floor. A young man said in an affidavit that he started at 16, in 17-hour shifts, six days a week. “I was very sad, and I felt like I was a slave.”
Instead of receiving merciful treatment as defendants who also are victims, the workers have been branded20as the kind of predator who steals identities to empty bank accounts. Accounts from Postville suggest that that’s not remotely what they were. “Most of the clients we interviewed did not even know what a Social Security number was or what purpose it served,” said Erik Camayd-Freixas, a Spanish-language interpreter for many of the workers. “This worker simply had the papers filled out for him at the plant, since he could not read or write Spanish, let alone English.”
The harsh prosecution at Postville is an odd and cruel shift for the Bush administration, which for years had voiced compassion for exploited workers and insisted that immigration had to be fixed comprehensively or not at all.
Now it has abandoned mercy and proportionality. It has devised new and harsher traps, as in Postville, to prosecute the weak and the poor. It has increased the fear and desperation of workers who are irresistible to bottom-feeding businesses precisely because they are fearful and desperate. By treating illegal low-wage workers as a de facto criminal class, the government is trying to inflate the menace they pose to a level that justifies its rabid efforts to capture and punish them. That is a fraudulent exercise, and a national disgrace.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
National Briefing | Southwest
Texas: Deal Is Reached on Border Fence
The planned fence along the Mexican border will no longer cut through a chunk of a South Texas university, according to an agreement that the university and the federal government presented to a judge. The judge, Andrew Hanen of Federal District Court, who had ordered the University of Texas at Brownsville and the Department of Homeland Security to work on a compromise, accepted the deal in principle and ordered both sides to submit it in writing by Tuesday. Under the agreement, the government will not condemn any university land and will not build a fence on campus. The university will enhance an existing fence so that it will stand 10 feet tall and will invest in additional surveillancecameras.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
The New York Times
National Briefing | Immigration
Proposed Kosher Certification Rules
Conservative Jewish leaders are seeking to protect workers and the environment at kosher food plants like the one raided this spring in Iowa. They issued draft guidelines for a kosher certification program meant as a supplement to the traditional certification process that measures compliance with Jewish dietary law. The proposed “hekhsher tzedek,” or “certificate of righteousness,” would be awarded to companies that pay fair wages, ensure workplace safety, follow government environmental20regulations and treat animals humanely, among other proposed criteria. Support for the idea has been fueled by controversies at Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville, Iowa, the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant. In May, immigration officials raided the plant, arresting nearly 400 workers.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company
Subject: Govt. Abuse of Sami Al-Arian Worsens / Tell ICE: Release Him!
Free Sami Al-Arian!Government's Abuse of Sami Al-Arian: From Bad to WorseDespite Judge's Words, Treated Like Violent CriminalHanover, VA - August 1, 2008 -More than two weeks after a federal judge granted Dr. Al-Arian bond, the government has stepped up its abuse of America's high-profile prisoner of conscience.
Having already prevented Dr. Al-Arian from enjoying even this small concession of justice by placing him under 23-hour lock-down in a prison several hours away from his attorneys, prison officials have become even more brazen in their attempt to psychologically break Dr. Al-Arian by disrupting his already limited phone contact with his family and by flat-out denying his children their requests to visit their father.
Yesterday morning, Dr. Al-Arian was only allowed twenty minutes of phone time and not the full hour accorded to all other inmates. Not only that, Dr. Al-Arian was granted his phone time during the hour reserved for "high-risk" prisoners, even though Dr. Al-Arian - as a federal judge recently announced in a US court of law - is most certainly not a danger to anyone. Furthermore, Dr. Al-Arian's phone call was constantly disrupted by heavy static and clicks which made it all but impossible for Dr. Al-Arian to communicate with his family.
Dr. Al-Arian's family has been denied their right to visit their father since July 12th. The last prison rejected mutliple such requests, while the current prison has denied visitation for this week, claiming that Dr. Al-Arian failed to read and sign a particular booklet which he was never actually shown. Given the government's history of mistreating Dr. Al-Arian, it is indeed difficult not to conclude that this is nothing more than an unlawful attempt to psychologically break Dr. Al-Arian before his pending trial.Tell the Government: Release Dr. Al-Arian Immediately!Friends, stand with us in protest of this outrageous abuse by making the following two calls:1. Vincent Archibeque, Assistant Field Office Director for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) (703 285-6221). Ask Mr. Archibeque why he is preventing Dr. Al-Arian from leaving prison before his trial despite the clear and unambiguous decision of a federal judge that Dr. Al-Arian is not a threat and should be granted bail.
2. Pamunkey Regional Jail: (804) 365-6400 (press 4 then 3001 and ask to speak to the Superintendent's office; press 0 after regular business hours). Ask why Dr. Al-Arian has been put under a 23-hour lockdown, why his calls are being disrupted, and why his family is not allowed to visit him. For a list of false excuses the prison may offer and the response to them, please click here.Remember:- If you do not reach the prison superintendent or Mr. Archibeque personally, leave a message on the answering machine. Call back every day until you do speak to the superintendent directly.- Be polite but firm.- Try to call every day.- Each time you call, click here to let us know you called.
Don't forget: your calls DO make a difference.
FORWARD TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS![Important note: before forwarding, make sure to remove the unsubscribe button below, or else you could be unintentionally unsubscribed :( ]As always, your support is deeply appreciated by Dr. Al-Arian and all of us at TBCJP.
* Colorado "Fusion Center" to Step Up Intelligence Gathering During DNC; US
Northern Command to Play Role *
Federal and state law enforcement officials in Colorado plan to increase
intelligence operations during the Democratic National Convention in Denver
and run a fusion center, where intelligence analysts will collect and
analyze reports of suspicious activity. Civil rights advocates fear the
fusion center could enable unwarranted spying on protesters exercising their
First Amendment rights at the convention.
* Headlines for August 1, 2008 *
Border Agents OK'd to Search Laptops & Cellphones