Man suing government over raid at 7-Eleven fled to U.S. because of death threat

Immigration officials say lawsuit should be thrown out and man deported

By Nick Madigan, health Originally posted in: 0, medical 2065062.story” target=”_blank”>The Baltimore Sun | 5:28 p.m. EDT, June 25, 2011

Sitting on a bus in Honduras in 2002, Denis Alvarez Alvarado says he overheard two men in front of him discussing how he was going to die.

Unaware that he was there, the men said that members of a gang called MS3 — who had kidnapped Alvarez a few days earlier, beaten him and eventually released him — intended to silence him so that he would not tell police about the abduction.

“I left Honduras because I was afraid that MS3 members would kill me,” Alvarez, now 32, says in court documents drawn up in his legal fight against the U.S. government to avoid deportation to his native country. “I fear that if I return the MS3 gang will have me killed.”

On Jan. 23, 2007, Alvarez, who had arrived in the U.S. without documentation, was arrested by immigration agents outside a 7-Eleven store in Upper Fells Point. A judge ordered him deported, but he is still here. Four years after his release on bail, he remains embroiled in a legal war as both defendant and plaintiff, and the battle could go on for years.

One of Alvarez’s legal cases is the effort by Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport him, and the other is his lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that his constitutional rights were violated because he was targeted as a Latino. He seeks a half-million dollars in damages.

What seemed a routine matter of rounding up illegal immigrants has become a test of the government’s ability to force a man to return to a place in which, he says, he could die.

The raid in which Alvarez and others were arrested left Baltimore’s Latino community angry. Human rights activists, politicians and representatives of Casa de Maryland, an advocacy group, accused federal immigration agents of racial profiling.

Attorneys for the ICE declined to comment, and court documents contain no references, other than Alvarez’s own, to his claim that his life would be in danger should he be forced to go home. Alvarez’s lawyers were silent, too. Alvarez, whose 11-year-old son was born in the U.S., says in court documents that he is the sole source of financial support for his father, who is in Honduras, disabled and using a wheelchair.

In documents Alvarez filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, he explained the events that had prompted his departure from Honduras. He had lived in Choluteca, the country’s fourth-largest city, in a neighborhood called El Porvenir that he said was “known to belong to a gang called 18.”

Alvarez wrote that in October 2002 he was kidnapped by members of MS3, a rival gang from the Santa Lucia neighborhood. “The MS3 gang falsely believed that I was a member of 18,” he said. “I tried telling them that I was not a gang member and that I had no connections to 18 or any other gang. However, they did not believe me.”

For two days he was kept in a room, he said, beaten and deprived of food and with only a single bottle of water. Alvarez’s father, Santos, whom he described as “respected in the community,” convinced MS3 that his son had no connection to the rival gang.

Alvarez was released. Several days later, he was riding a bus to work when he overheard the chilling conversation between the two men and the death threat. He fled to the U.S. and worked as a day laborer in Baltimore, where the 7-Eleven parking lot on Broadway was a popular spot to pick up workers.

In an interview at his East Baltimore home in November, Alvarez said the agents had “grabbed me unjustly” during the roundup in 2007. Alvarez said he was waiting for a man who had promised to hire him as a painter but decided to go home when the man failed to show up. Alvarez said that as he was leaving, a van appeared and the men inside — who turned out to be federal agents — solicited the crowd for construction workers.

In the lawsuit, Alvarez said that as he walked away, a second vehicle blocked his exit and men emerged wearing holstered guns. Alvarez was arrested, held for several days in the Dorchester County jail and released on $10,000 bail.

Alvarez said in court documents that the ICE’s Fugitive Operations Team had arrested him “based on nothing more than his race.”

A response filed by the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the ICE, said members of its fugitive team went to the 7-Eleven only to get food and coffee, and had not planned to arrest anyone as part of a raid.

An immigration judge overseeing Alvarez’s appeal of his deportation said the officers “were not forthcoming” about the arrests. The judge said it was “implausible” that the officers “went to the store to food and coffee,” considering the “nearly immediate arrival of two additional ICE vehicles.” He admonished the officers for their “complete lack of candor to the court” and said they had misrepresented to the laborers “that they were seeking to hire them for casual employment.”

But the judge determined that the officers had not violated Alvarez’s rights and ordered him deported, though he may remain here while he appeals.

Other documents filed in the case suggest that immigration agents were determined to boost their arrest numbers. An internal DHS administrative report says that after the officers had detained nine people earlier on the day of Alvarez’s arrest, a supervisor ordered the team “back into the field and make additional arrests.”

According to the report, the supervisor said they “needed more numbers.” News accounts of the raid indicated that out of 24 people arrested, eight had been previously deported and six had criminal records. Alvarez has no such record.

Warren Price, an Annapolis immigration attorney who is not involved in Alvarez’s case, said it was rare for a roundup of illegal immigrants to result in such a drawn-out legal battle. Alvarez is represented by the Immigrant Justice Center, based at American University’s Washington College of Law.

“These constitutional violations against members of the undocumented population happen all the time, but you rarely see these types of lawsuits in response,” Price said. “Usually they just get deported.”

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

GLAHR Response to HB 87 Injunction

With parts of HB 87 temporarily blocked, community still threatened by Governor’s appeal and already existing 287(g) and the so-called ‘se communities’ program.
06.27.2011 Atlanta, GA. Today Judge Thrash announced a temporary and partial injunction on HB 87, enjoining sections 7 and 8 of the state law while allowing other sections to move forward. Governor Deal promptly declared his intention to appeal the decision.
Teodoro Maus of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), plaintiff in the injunction suit responded to today’s announcement saying,
“We know that the law is unconstitutional. We will continue organizing until it is erased from Georgia’s books and our community is respected in this state for all we contribute. We ask our neighbors to take this moment to correct the false image of our community that has been created for them by hate-mongering anti-immigrant efforts.”
Adelina Nicholls, executive director of GLAHR added, “The court decision is a positive step forward but our communities still face discrimination from police empowered by the Obama administration’s 287(g) and se communities programs.
The criminalization of migrants is the wrong direction for our country regardless of whether it is state laws or federal programs propagating it. We now need an injunction on the federal level to stop programs that separate families. We need to turn toward a pathway for legalization.”
Gwinnett and Cobb counties are two of the most egregious examples of the racial profiling and discriminatory policing that occurs under federal ICE Access programs such as 287(g). HB 87 would have been an escalation of the already existing violations of civil and human rights of migrant and Latino communities in Georgia. Advocates are calling for the federal government to take a more active role in preventing implementation of HB 87, ending its own initiatives that have resulted in racial profiling and discriminatory policing, and pursuing genuine immigration reform.
GLAHR continues to call for a Day without Immigrants on July 1st and a march in recognition of the migrant community’s role in Georgia at the capitol on July 2nd. The partial injunction marks a temporary victory but dangerous segments of HB 87 are still moving forward. In that the Governor has already pledged to appeal its decision, the struggle for immigration reform and against racial bias in the state continues.

Protecting undocumented workers

Legislation would expand the protection of ‘U visas’ to those who come forward to report workplace violations.

Op-Ed By Harold Meyerson | June 24, 2011 | Source: 0,7107661.story” target=”_blank”>LA Times.com

Farm workers load a truck with cucumbers on a farm in Leslie, Ga. Last week, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and California Reps. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) and George Miller (D-Martinez) introduced the POWER Act that would give workers provisional "U visas." (John Bazemore / AP Photo)

Nearly every day for three years, Josue Melquisedec Diaz reported to work by going to a New Orleans street corner where contractors, subcontractors and people fixing up their places went to hire day laborers. It was there, one day in 2008, that a contractor picked him up and took him to Beaumont, Texas, just across the Louisiana line, to work on the cleanup, demolition and reconstruction projects that Beaumont was undertaking in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.

Diaz was put to work in a residential neighborhood that had been flooded. The American workers who were involved in the cleanup, he noted, had been given masks, gloves, boots and sometimes special suits to avoid infection. No such precautions were afforded Diaz and his crew of undocumented immigrant workers. “We were made to work with bare hands, picking up dead animals,” he says. “We were working in contaminated water,” tearing down and repairing washed-out homes.

Diaz told his story last week to a gathering of legislators and others in a meeting room at the U.S. Capitol, just a few doors down from the Senate chamber. He said that he and his crew asked their boss for the same safety equipment given their American counterparts. Instead, Diaz said, the boss responded by cutting the undocumented workers’ pay in half — at which point, Diaz and 11 others went on strike. Soon after, both the local police and immigration officers showed up to haul off the workers. The strikers were first taken to a local jail, then transferred to a federal immigration jail.

Fortunately, Diaz was a member of the New Orleans Congress of Day Laborers, which managed to get him and his co-workers released after four months behind bars. Since then, three of the 12 workers have been deported, one has died, and Diaz faces a deportation hearing scheduled for July 20. At least until then, he is trying to publicize the cause of workers who labor in dangerous conditions, who are compelled to work long hours for no extra pay, who get cheated altogether out of their paychecks and who have, in this nation of laws, no legal recourse.

Undocumented immigrants are just one among many groups of workers who effectively lack the on-the-job protections that most Americans take for granted. When the Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a national minimum wage and overtime pay, was enacted in 1938, it excluded restaurant employees and retail, domestic and farm workers. (Winning the votes of Southern senators required President Franklin D. Roosevelt to effectively exclude all occupations then largely filled by African Americans.)

In time, the act was expanded to cover some of those workers, but agricultural laborers still have no federal legal right to collect overtime, home healthcare workers have no right to the minimum wage and “tipped” workers such as waiters are entitled to a minimum of just $2.13 an hour. Nor are agricultural and domestic workers accorded the right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act (though farm workers have won this right on the state level in California), and such low-paid independent contractors as port truckers and taxi drivers are similarly excluded.

As construction workers, the Diaz 12 actually came under the protections of wage, hour and unionization laws. But employers know they can violate these laws with impunity when their workers have no union contract and are undocumented. The odds are overwhelming that the outcome of such conflicts is worker deportation, not management fines. This de facto exemption of undocumented immigrants from the protection of workplace laws actually encourages employers to hire more undocumented workers. It is easy for management to ignore labor laws when employees can’t complain.

Last week, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and California Reps. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) and George Miller (D-Martinez) introduced legislation (the POWER Act) that would give workers like Diaz provisional “U visas.” The visas were designed to provide temporary legal status to immigrant victims who come forward to report violent crimes, and the proposed legislation would expand the protection to those who come forward to report workplace violations. Such legislation, Menendez pointed out, would not only protect immigrants but keep unscrupulous employers from lowering labor standards generally. “When some workers are easy to exploit,” Menendez said, “conditions for all workers suffer.”

That’s also the message that Diaz brought to the Capitol last week. “When I was in jail, I met many workers with stories like mine, but whose voices are never heard,” he said. “I made a promise to them that I would bring their stories out with me.”

Harold Meyerson is editor at large of the American Prospect and an op-ed columnist for the Washington Post.

Stiffing Working Stiffs

Stiffing Working Stiffs

June 22nd, health 2011 | NATHAN GILLES | Source: Wweek.com

Lawmakers could have acted to shield day laborers from bosses who cheat them out of wages. Instead they turned their backs.

Stiffing Working Stiffs

JOB SEEKERS: The day laborers’ lot at the Voz Workers’ Rights Project on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. – IMAGE: Darryl James

Antonio Sanchez says he worked long hours for Enrique Hernandez in June 2009.

Sanchez had been standing on the corner of Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. and Lloyd boulevards, order hoping for a day laborer’s job, when a man drove up and said his boss needed help. The driver took Sanchez to a site where Hernandez’s company, Henry’s Quality Underlayment, was ripping out carpet and putting down vinyl flooring.

Sanchez says Hernandez agreed to pay him $10 an hour, and that he worked long days—without lunch breaks—for four weeks at houses in Portland and Clatskanie. He says he was never paid $1,700 Hernandez owed him.

Stiffing Working Stiffs

D. MICHAEL DALE OF THE NORTHWEST WORKERS’ JUSTICE PROJECT Credits: Darryl James

Hernandez claimed Sanchez never worked for him. It was the driver who brought Sanchez to the site, he said, who had hired Sanchez. He didn’t owe Sanchez a dime.

“That’s when I decided to sue,” Sanchez says.

Sanchez says he was the victim of wage theft—when employers cheat their workers out of their pay. It’s a particularly big problem for immigrants and workers who take short-term jobs and often move from one employer to the next.

Wage theft can take many forms, from minimum-wage violations to cases like Sanchez’s, in which workers are promised money from employers who never deliver. A 2009 study by the National Employment Law Project, focusing on New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, found 1.1 million low-wage workers had been victims of wage theft, losing an average of about $2,600 from a $17,600 annual income.

In Oregon, the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, or BOLI, receives roughly 2,800 claims of wage theft each year.

Since 2000, the bureau has helped employees get back approximately $17 million in lost income.

But that’s little comfort for people like Sanchez.

“What happens in a typical case of wage theft is nothing,” says D. Michael Dale from the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, a nonprofit legal service that helps immigrant workers fight wage theft. “It’s a huge problem. We are talking about millions of dollars of unpaid wages in the state of Oregon.”

Lawmakers had the chance to address the problem with five bills proposed by Dale’s group. But they caved in to business lobbyists. Democrats, after making a fainthearted effort to help workers, ditched the bills.

One measure, SB 611, would have helped workers like Sanchez by defining the employer-employee relationship, particularly for farm-labor and construction contractors. The bill died in committee after what Dale says was heavy lobbying from business groups.

“[SB 611] was just a very broad, far-reaching piece of legislation that would tremendously impact [the construction] industry,” said Jan Meekcoms, a lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business, who testified against the measure. She called Dale’s bills “extreme.”

The bill died. But another measure that would help people caught in Sanchez’s situation passed the Senate.

Hernandez, whose company did the work, claims he never met Sanchez. “I didn’t negotiate any wages when he started the job,” Hernandez tells WW. Instead, he says, the driver who picked up Sanchez, a man named Javier Galvans, should have paid Sanchez’s wages.

“I did not discuss wages, hours or other working conditions with Javier, rather only with [Hernandez],” Sanchez wrote in a Construction Contractors Board complaint.

SB 612 would have blocked employers from passing their responsibility to pay workers onto others. The measure requires day-labor drivers such as Galvans to register with BOLI as construction labor contractors. Bosses who get workers from unlicensed labor brokers would be on the hook for wages and civil fines.

The Senate passed the bill May 5 in a party-line vote of 16-13. Sen. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Northwest Portland), the bill’s carrier, said the measure would have “help[ed] to ensure workers receive the wages they are owed in an industry in which this has become a particular concern.” Republicans offered a different proposal that wouldn’t have made the contractor liable for the wages.

After that, the bill was orphaned in the House, where an even split between Republicans and Democrats means no bill gets a hearing without both parties’ agreement.

Since then, Bonamici says, she hasn’t pushed the matter any further. “I spoke on the bill because I was asked to carry it,” she says.

Dale says he hopes to build more support for his group’s measures in the 2012 session.

Meanwhile, Sanchez says he struggled to get by after he was denied his wages, and that his wife had to borrow money to pay bills. Last fall—more than a year after Sanchez did the work—the state contractors’ board worked out a settlement: Hernandez agreed to pay $1,000 of the $1,700 Sanchez says he was owed. Hernandez admitted no wrongdoing.

“I suffered a lot,” Sanchez says, “because he did not pay me what he told me he would pay me.”

News From the Front: The POWER Act

By Sarita Gupta & Saket Sohni | Originally posted in HuffingtonPost.com
Posted: 06/20/11 01:33 PM ET

In the fight for workers’ right to organize in America, link a 19-year-old migrant construction worker is on the front lines.

Josue Diaz is a member of the Congress of Day Laborers in New Orleans. After Hurricane Ike struck the Gulf Coast, Josue was taken to Texas to do treacherous clean-up work. He gutted houses, removing toxic sludge with his bare hands. His work allowed families to come home.

Josue was denied the masks and respirators given to the American workers on the site. He was refused breaks, worked to exhaustion, and forced to sleep in a makeshift labor camp. In response, Josue acted in the proudest tradition of labor leaders in America: he led workers in a strike to demand their dignified working conditions. The employer’s response was to fire Josue and his fellow workers and evict them in the middle of the night without pay.

Retaliatory firings are illegal under the National Labor Relations Act. Josue should have been able to go to government agencies to report the abuse. Instead, he was greeted outside by police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. They detained Josue, and disappeared with him into the vast darkness of the post-hurricane landscape. He is now fighting removal, and his case has become a national flashpoint for the debate on ICE’s role in undercutting worker power.

Why does Josue’s story matter for American workers? Because across the nation, employers are exploiting immigrant workers — whether day laborers or formal guestworkers on H2A and H2B visas — in a way that undercuts struggling American workers even further.

When brave migrant workers like Josue try to assert their basic rights to full wages and safe, dignified conditions, employers conspire with ICE to turn immigration enforcement into a weapon. The result for U.S. workers is that job opportunities, wages, and working conditions decline every day. Because immigrant workers cannot organize to protest labor abuses, employers have a captive workforce that has no choice but to work for less at lower standards. In the race to the bottom, all workers lose.

Stories like Josue’s — and what they mean for American workers — are what inspired the Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation Act, or POWER Act. Senator Robert Menendez re-introduced the bill to the Senate on June 14, and Reps. George Miller and Judy Chu introduced a parallel version in the House. The POWER Act protects the right of immigrant workers to hold employers accountable without fear of retaliation. It would provide temporary protection for immigrant victims of crime and labor retaliation so that employers who are guilty of labor violations may be held accountable. In the process, it would protect the security and dignity of work for American workers as well.

Workers across the country need the POWER Act. In New York, domestic workers face physical violence on their way to winning a domestic worker Bill of Rights. In California, day laborers fear deportation as they combat wage theft. The New York Times has revealed details of how ICE advised a major marine fabrication company on how to carry out illegal private deportations of metalworkers from India who organized to break up a labor trafficking chain.

Protected by the POWER Act, these workers and many thousands of others will be able to organize, without fear, to end the severe labor exploitation that marks our era. American workers would see wages rise, working conditions improve, and their own right to organize become more se. If the current race to the bottom is one we all lose, the fight to pass the POWER Act — the fight of Josue and his allies across America — is one where all workers win.

Sarita Gupta is executive director of Jobs with Justice. Saket Soni is executive director of the National Guestworker Alliance.

Follow Sarita Gupta on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@jwjnational

Cosmetic Reforms to Dangerous Se Communities Program More Spin than Substance

Obama Administration dismisses evidence of Failed Deportation Program
(NYC, LA) In response to mounting criticism, the Obama Administration announced reforms to the “Se Communities” jail deportation program today. The reforms which acknowledges problematic and indiscriminate implementation fall short of the call for a moratorium on the program.
Revelations from a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in which the National Day Laborer Organizing Network is a plaintiff represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law Immigration clinic, have described Se Communities as a deportation program in disarray, with deleterious effects on community safety, and potentially resulting in grave civil rights violations.
In recent weeks, the debate around S-Comm has reached a peak with Illinois and New York terminating the program and Massachusetts pledging not to join in. As a bill to regulate and reinforce the voluntary nature of S-Comm, the TRUST Act, is expected to pass the California Senate soon, Los Angeles and Oakland both passed resolutions seeking out of the program. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi recently denounced S-Comm as “a waste of taxpayer money.” The Congressional Hispanic Caucus and Congressional Progressive Caucus have both called for an outright moratorium on the program pending its review by an expedited Inspector General investigation set to begin in August, 2011.
The following is a statement from Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network:
“We are stunned by the inadequacy of this announcement. Reform before review not only puts the cart before the horse, it continues to take the country in the wrong direction. Given the inherent problems to the program and the continued secrecy in its implementation, S-Comm should be suspended immediately until the Office of the Inspector General can complete its report.
Any program meant to revolutionize our immigration systems should be implemented with deliberation, care, and consultation with impacted communities. The Se Communities program has failed to do that, and these so-called reforms are more of the same. One cannot name a program that makes us all less safe, “Se Communities.”
ICE has gotten into the snake oil business, and we’re not ing. You don’t put a collar on a snake and call it a pet. As long the federal government insists on inserting the fangs of ICE Access into local law enforcement, we’ll all be wounded by its poisonous effect.
ICE has become a rogue agency, and it cannot be tursted to reform itself. Do the reforms announced today protect the women who faced the double violation of being placed in deportation proceedings after calling for help when facing domestic violence? Do the reforms create an open and transparent government that corrects the dissembling and dishonest approach taken? Do the reforms set standards to prevent local prejudiced policing from resulting in racial profiling? What about Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona? Has his reign of terror- triggered by DHS- been brought to a halt? Hardly.
The Se Communities program is a Frankenstein. It doesn’t need make-up or cosmetic changes. It needs to be stopped immediately. The Latino community has come to view Se Communities as the symbol of President Obama’s broken promises on immigration reform. Cancellation of the program would help repair that trust and would be a step in the right direction. Anything less than suspension at this point is another symbol of the President’s approach to immigration: more spin than substance with disastrous consequences to our community.”
Chris Newman, Legal Director for NDLON, added, “Contrary to the administration’s claims, S-Comm undermines our shared goal of having a unified and reformed federal immigration policy. By delegating federal immigration authority into the hands of thousands of different state police, the federal government is gauranteeing the fragmentation of immigration enforcement. It is a force-muliplier for a broken status quo that has resulted in Arizona’s SB 1070 and copycat legislation. As a result of SCOMM, our immigration system begins to be shaped by potentially pernicious local policing patterns, and the long term unintended consequences to civil rights protections for immigrants are yet unknown.”
The National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) is a plaintiff in an on-going FOIA lawsuit against DHS/ICE for access to documents related to the Se Communities Program. NDLON plays a central role in California advocacy for the TRUST Act and coordinates the Turning the Tide campaign nationally.

Lamar Smith’s E-Verify Proposal Launches Backward Arizona Policies to National Level

Washington, DC. Rep. Lamar Smith added steam to the backward trend of Right-wing politics hijacking the political arena by introducing the overreaching e-verify bill that would mandate employer participation in the costly, inaccurate, and untested e-verify database.
The bill, a blend of Arizona’s anti-immigrant policies and Wisconsin’s anti-worker efforts, creates a toxic morass in Washington that would have devastating effects on the economy and is seen by many as a distraction to the real solutions Americans are seeking from Washington.
Pablo Alvarado, Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, stated, “It’s nearly criminal that Lamar Smith would hijack the cause of those suffering from joblessness for his extreme political ends when Washington has an actual opportunity to provide real solutions to the hardships everyday people are facing in America.
Smith has compiled the worst practices from Arizona’s immigration policy and Wisconsin’s recent approach to unions and somehow combined them into an immoral piece of legislative scapegoating.
The America I want to live is one that welcomes the newest members of our communities and creates opportunities for all of us to succeed. Lamar Smith would like to roll up the sentiments of welcome expressed by the Statue of Liberty and toss them and the unions along with them into the Hudson. E-verify’s result would be to sink the country into an even deeper economic crisis, one that none of us could afford.
In one fell swoop, Smith alienates immigrants, unions, and those with concerns over government programs encroaching on our privacy with his fortress USA style policy.
However, our efforts together will move the country forward toward a better America. Congress should be verifying that everyone has access to a dignified job and quality education, that those who immigrate here to provide for themselves and their families have a pathway to inclusion.
As a national network of day laborers, we’re proud of the partnership we made with the AFL-CIO in 2006 that recognized the humble workers, street corner day laborers, as key partners in the labor movement whose efforts make a rising tide to lift all boats in the country.
We will not allow Rep. Smith’s efforts divide us or turn us around.”…