12/20 Border News Bulletin: 500 S Cal Resident Detained by INS! NacroTunnels..
- 12/20 Border News Bulletin: 500 S Cal Resident Detained by INS! NacroTunnels..
By: US-Mexico Border Actions & Information Bulletin
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[from Los ANgeles Independent Media Center]
500 Plus So-Cal Residents Detained Without Warning
Arab, Iranian, and Northern African residents throughout the United States went to INS offices this week, for a re-registration program mandated by the INS. About 1/4 of them were then detained. Since these residents went down to the INS offices voluntarily, the detentions came as a shock to their families and the wider community. Upwards of 500 Southern Californians, (young and old, followers of differing religions), were detained. As of Wednesday night, many still remain locked away. It's fair to assume that others in similar situations are also detained throughout the country. On Wednesday afternoon there was a massive protest at the Westwood Federal building, organized in large part by local Iranian radion stations. Several thousand people came out to support immigrant rights and condemn the INS' recent practices. Read an on-the-scene report from the protest. See 19 PHOTOGRAPHS from the demonstration. Posted on the newswire is a link to a moving website recording detention testimony heard on one of the AM radio stations that helped organize the rally. Here's a statement adressed to the INS from the Alliance of Iranian Americans. The Alliance states they are raising legal defense funds for the detainees.
The ACLU posted an analysis of the situation and a discussion about the possibility for further detentions. Here's a statement from the Irvine-based website of the Green Party of Iran. And here's a BBC article (posted on NYC Indymedia) about the arrests and rally.
1) FNS: Mexico and US Work Together to Find More Narcotunnels in Baja (FNS)
2) Hundreds Are Detained After Visits to INS (Los Angeles Times)
3) US Eyes Mexico Social Security Deal (Assoicated Press)
4) 25 Chicago Airport Workers Arrested (Assoicated Press)
1) FNS: Mexico and US Work Together to Find More Narcotunnels in Baja
Date: 12/19/2002 11:33:23 AM Pacific Standard Time
Mexico's Federal Preventative Police (PFP) and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) have coordinated their efforts to find tunnels used to smuggle drugs under the US-Mexico border, said Miguel Angel de la Torre, general director of tactical support for the PFP.
On December 11, 2002, in Tijuana, a tunnel in the early stages of construction was discovered. It came within a block of the US.
De la Torre stated that tunnels have become big business for drug traffickers and that authorities are watching all areas along the border that are ideal for tunnel building. However, de la Torre also stated that while the PFP has 400 agents in strategic points in Baja California and doing intelligence gathering in the state, the agency currently has no people in Tijuana.
A constant exchange of information between the PFP and the DEA has led not only to the discovery of tunnels used for the transport of drugs but also to the prevention of crimes, said de la Torre.
Source: La Voz de la Frontera (Méxicali), December 19, 2002. Article by Abraham Salcido Bastidas.
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2) Hundreds Are Detained After Visits to INS
Los ANgeles Times
December 19, 2002
Thousands protest arrests of Mideast boys and men who complied with
order to register.
By Megan Garvey, Martha Groves and Henry Weinstein
Times Staff Writers
December 19 2002
Hundreds of men and boys from Middle Eastern countries were arrested
by federal immigration officials in Southern California this week
when they complied with orders to appear at INS offices for a special
The arrests drew thousands of people to demonstrate Wednesday in Los
Immigration and Naturalization Service spokesmen refused Wednesday to
say how many people the agency had detained, what the specific
charges were or how many were still being held. But officials
speaking anonymously said they would not dispute estimates by lawyers
for detainees that the number across Southern California was 500 to
700. In Los Angeles, up to one-fourth of those who showed up to
register were jailed, lawyers said.
The number of people arrested in this region appears to have been
considerably larger than elsewhere in the country, perhaps because of
the size of the Southland's Iranian population. Monday's registration
deadline applied to males 16 and older from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan
and Syria. Men from 13 other nations, mostly in the Mideast and North
Africa, are required to register next month.
Many of those arrested, according to their lawyers, had already
applied for green cards and, in some instances, had interviews
scheduled in the near future. Although they had overstayed their
visas, attorneys argue, their clients had already taken steps to
remedy the situation and were following the regulations closely.
"These are the people who've voluntarily gone" to the INS, said Mike
S. Manesh of the Iranian American Lawyers Assn. "If they had anything
to do with terrorism, they wouldn't have gone."
Immigration officials acknowledged Wednesday that many of those taken
into custody this week have status-adjustment applications pending
that have not yet been acted on.
"The vast majority of people who are coming forward to register are
currently in legal immigration status," said local INS spokeswoman
Virginia Kice. "The people we have taken into custody ... are people
whose non-immigrant visas have expired."
The large number of Iranians among the detainees has angered many in
the area's Iranian communities, who organized a demonstration
Wednesday at the federal building in Westwood.
At the rally, which police officials estimated drew about 3,000
protesters at its peak, signs bore such sentiments as "What Next?
Concentration Camps?" and "Detain Terrorists Not Innocent Immigrants."
The arrests have generated widespread publicity, mostly unfavorable,
in the Middle East, said Khaled Dawoud, a correspondent for Al Ahram,
one of Egypt's largest dailies. He questioned State Department
official Charlotte Beers about the detentions Wednesday after a
presentation she made at the National Press Club in Washington.
Egyptians are not included in the registration requirement.
Beers, undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public
affairs, was presenting examples of a U.S. outreach campaign for the
Middle East, which includes images of Muslims leading happy lives
here. Dawoud asked how that image squared with the "humiliating"
arrests in recent days.
"I don't think there is any question that the change in visa policy
is going to be seen by some as difficult and, indeed -- what was the
word you used? -- humiliating," Beers said. But, she added, President
Bush has said repeatedly that he considers "his No. 1 ... job to be
the protection of the American people."
Relatives and lawyers of those arrested locally challenge that
rationale for the latest round of detentions.
One attorney, who said he saw a 16-year-old pulled from the arms of
his crying mother, called it madness to believe that the registration
requirements would catch terrorists.
"His mother is 6 1/2 months pregnant. They told the mother he is
never going to come home -- she is losing her mind," said attorney
Soheila Jonoubi, who spent Wednesday amid the chaos of the downtown
INS office attempting to determine the status of her clients.
Jonoubi said that the mother has permanent residence status and that
her husband, the boy's stepfather, is a U.S. citizen. The teenager
came to the country in July on a student visa and was on track to
gain permanent residence, the lawyer said.
Many objected to the treatment of those who showed up for the
registration. INS ads on local Persian radio stations and in other
ethnic media led many to expect a routine procedure. Instead, the
registration quickly became the subject of fear as word spread that
large numbers of men were being arrested.
Lawyers reported crowded cells with some clients forced to rest
standing up, some shackled and moved to other locations in the night,
frigid conditions in jail cells -- all for men with no known criminal
Shawn Sedaghat, a Sherman Oaks attorney, said he and his partner,
Michelle Taheripour, represent more than 40 people who voluntarily
went to register and were detained.
Some, he said, were hosed down with cold water before finding places
to sleep on the concrete floors of cells.
Lucas Guttentag, who heads the West Coast office of the American
Civil Liberties Union's immigrant rights project, fears the wave of
arrests is "a prelude to much more widespread arrests and
"The secrecy gives rise to obvious concerns about what the INS is
doing and whether people's rights are being respected and whether the
problems that arose in the aftermath of 9/11 are being repeated now,"
Many at Wednesday's protest said they took the day off work to join
the rally, because they were shocked by the treatment.
"I came to this country over 40 years ago and got drafted in the
Army, and I thought if I die it's for a good cause, defending
freedom, democracy and the Constitution," said George Hassan, 65,
from the San Fernando Valley.
"Oppressed people come here because of that democracy, that freedom,
that Constitution. Now our president has apparently allowed the INS
vigilantes to step outside the Constitution."
Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern
California, called the detentions doubly disturbing because "a lot of
the Iranians are Jews who fled Iran because of persecution, and now
they are undergoing similar persecution here.... This is just
Attorney Ban Al-Wardi, who saw 14 of her 20 clients arrested when she
went with them to the registration, said that although everyone
understands the need to protect the nation against terrorist attacks,
the government's recent action went too far.
"All of our fundamental civil rights have been violated by these
actions," she said. "I don't know how far this is going to go before
people start speaking up. This is a very dangerous precedent we are
setting. What's to stop Americans from being treated like this when
they travel overseas?"
Times staff writers Greg Krikorian and Teresa Watanabe in Los Angeles
and Johanna Neuman and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington
contributed to this report.
3) US Eyes Mexico Social Security Deal
By LEIGH STROPE
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration is considering an agreement with Mexico that would eliminate double taxation of Social Security benefits for workers and employers and allow retirement benefits under just one country's system.
``This is an issue that is being explored on a technical level,'' White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Thursday. ``No decisions have been made.''
The agreement would not be unusual. The United States already has 20 existing pacts with other countries, ranging from Canada to South Korea. The Social Security Administration pays 94,022 beneficiaries affected by such agreements an average of $162 a month, for a total of $184 million a year.
Generally, Mexicans working in the United States get their earnings taxed for Social Security here and for Mexico's retirement system. Americans working in Mexico also pays both taxes. Employers also can be affected.
An international agreement with Mexico would allow a worker and employer to pay the tax to one system and receive benefits from one system.
Such agreements also allow time worked in both countries to be counted toward eligibility for retirement benefits.
The United States requires 10 years, or 40 quarters, of work history to ultimately claim some sort of benefit from Social Security. If an American has worked most of their career in Mexico, they may not qualify, but a ``totalization'' agreement would let those years in Mexico be counted.
Mexico has been pressing for such an agreement with the United States, and the intensity has increased since promised immigration reforms were set aside after last year's terrorist attacks.
Jim Courtney, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration, said the agency had no estimates on cost or how many people could be affected.
``There aren't numbers yet because our actuaries continue to do the research,'' he said.
A big concern is whether any agreement with Mexico would add a huge burden to the Social Security system, which already is facing big shortfalls in the next 15 to 20 years. A Mexico agreement would be larger and costlier than any of the others.
Nearly 46 million people currently receive $372 billion in Social Security benefits a year.
On the Net:
Social Security international agreements: http://www.ssa.gov/international/inter(underscore)intro.html
12/19/02 22:37 EST
4) 25 Chicago Airport Workers Arrested
By MIKE ROBINSON
.c The Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) - Twenty-five Chicago airport workers have been charged with criminal violations and the security clearances of 553 others have been canceled in a crackdown on employees using fake IDs, officials announced Tuesday.
Those arrested include ramp agents, truck drivers, members of cleaning crews, a baggage handler, an airline cabin service attendant and a number of food service workers at O'Hare International and Midway airports.
Six of those arrested were charged with making false statements about previous criminal records - four for drug offenses, one for burglary and another for robbery, federal officials said. Sixteen were charged with using bogus Social Security numbers and three with re-entering the country after they had been deported.
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said the 553 whose clearances were lifted had raised the suspicions of federal officials but were still under investigation.
Such employees need security badges to gain unescorted access to tarmacs, airplanes and other security-sensitive spots where their jobs would normally take them.
The arrests and canceling of security clearances were part of a nationwide sweep dubbed Operation Tarmac designed to shore up airport security in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
12/10/02 22:00 EST
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