LA Police Commission supports officer shooting of Guatemalan day laborer

LA Police Commission supports officer shooting of Guatemalan day laborer

5:55 a.m. | Frank Stoltze | KPCC

KPCC Audio Broadcast

LA Police Commission supports officer shooting of Guatemalan day laborer

Victor Lopez is a Guatemalan community activist who says police have done a better job reaching out to his community in the wake of the shooting of a Guatemalan day laborer.

The Los Angeles Police Commission Tuesday said an officer was justified in killing a Guatemalan day laborer in the Westlake District last year. The shooting last September prompted violent protests.

The commission concurred with the findings of Chief Charlie Beck and his investigators. Beck said six independent witnesses described an intoxicated Manuel Jamines waving a knife at passersby, then turning it toward police when they arrived.

“The vast preponderance of evidence supports that Mr. Jamines held a knife over his head in a stabbing position and rapidly moved toward the shooting officer, closing to within 12 feet prior to the shooting,” Beck said.

Officer Frank Hernandez fired two shots and killed Jamines, who was 37 years old.

Several witnesses said Jamines, a day laborer who spoke only a Mayan dialect, had dropped the knife before the officer fired.

John Mack, who heads the five-member civilian police commission, told reporters that everyone who saw the incident didn’t see it the same way.

“Well there were some witnesses who were closer to the scene than others. Some were in a better position to observe whether or not there was a knife.”

As the commission announced its decision, District Attorney Steve Cooley also said he’d determined the officer had acted lawfully.

An attorney for Jamines’ wife and three children, who reside in Guatemala, said a federal civil rights lawsuit will still go forward.

Reaction to the decision varied.

In MacArthur Park, Richard Larios of the group Community Control of Police said he believed Jamines had dropped his knife. Larios held a sign that said “Stop Killer Cops.”

“I feel that there’s nothing crazy about saying ‘Stop Killer Cops’… if there’s a rogue officer who’s going around shooting people in the community without just cause.”

Two Guatemalan activists stood nearby. Victory Lopez, who works as a court interpreter, wondered what an officer is supposed to do with an armed man.

“If I have one knife and I’m approaching to you, I think you need to do something,” Lopez said.

Daniel Morales, who arrived in the Westlake neighborhood from Guatemala two decades ago, wished that the officer had reacted differently.

“I don’t believe that the police officers need to shoot that guy to stop him,” Morales said. “I think there’s another method that he can use to stop that.”

A police commissioner said the department is considering whether to arm more officers with Tasers.

The chief has said it may have been difficult for an officer to use the device in the Jamines shooting.

Morales and others said that in the wake of the shooting, police and political leaders have done a better job of reaching out to the relatively isolated Guatemalan immigrants who live just a few miles from L.A. City Hall.

“We opened channels of communication directly with the police and with the Mayor’s Office and we want solutions,” he said.

But Morales added that many in the Guatemalan community agree that any response to the commission’s decision must be peaceful, unlike the days of violent protest that followed the shooting.

“We want solutions on the table, we don’t want solutions with violence in the streets.”

(source: SCPR.org)

LA becomes 7th city to alter impound practices

March 16, check 2011 | Ryan Gabrielson

At a sobriety checkpoint in December 2009, the Los Angeles Police Department impounded 64 cars from unlicensed drivers while making just four drunken driving arrests.

That disparity has been common for years at such operations all over California, which are intended to catch or deter intoxicated motorists. Instead, officers at checkpoints spent most of their time seizing cars from sober motorists who were undocumneted immigrants and cannot obtain driver’s licenses, an investigation by California Watch and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism last year found.

However, impoundments may soon become far less common.

Last week, the Los Angeles Police Department became the seventh California law enforcement agency in the past year to alter its policies to reduce the number of undocumented immigrants’ cars taken at checkpoints.

Police Chief Charlie Beck told the Los Angeles Times that the agency’s checkpoint seizure policy had “stuck in my craw as one of the things we weren’t doing the right way.”

In fiscal year 2009, LAPD impounded more than 1,000 cars at the roadway operations, data from the state Office of Traffic Safety shows.

Going forward, at checkpoints LAPD officers are instructed to seize a vehicle only when it “cannot be released to a licensed driver” at the scene, according to an agency press release. Unlicensed drivers will have “a reasonable period of time” to find someone to legally remove their cars.

That is a significant shift from past practice.

California Watch’s reporting found that sobriety checkpoints across the state were increasingly turning into profitable operations for local police and tow companies because of impounds. In 2009, vehicle seizures generated an estimated $40 million in towing fees and police fines from checkpoint seizures.

Often, the operations would result in very few DUI arrests and dozens of cars impounded from unlicensed drivers.

The state’s vehicle code stipulates that if police impound an unlicensed motorist’s vehicle, they are to hold the car for 30 days. That hold generates more than $1,000 in tow storage charges for each car.

To date, Oakland, San Jose, Baldwin Park, Coachella, Cathedral City and Berkeley have altered their impound policies.

California cities frequently have a financial interest in impounding cars. Police departments charge impound release fees, commonly more than $100, and at times receive a cut of all tow revenues.

Tow operators traditionally argue that impounding the cars of unlicensed motorists helps to keep the state’s roads safer. The California Tow Truck Association has not taken a position concerning cities’ moves to reduce vehicle seizures, said Perry Shusta, the group’s president.

“I do believe there is a public safety issue there,” Shusta said. “But to tow or not to tow is not our call.”

(Source: CaliforniaWatch.org)

Ruling due Tuesday in LAPD shooting that sparked protests,

Ruling due Tuesday in LAPD shooting that sparked protests, clashes

March 15, story 2011 | 7:16am

Ruling due Tuesday in LAPD shooting that sparked protests, __fg_link_1__  clashes

Photo: Passers-by check out a makeshift memorial at West 6th Street and South Union Avenue, where a 37-year-old Guatemalan day laborer was shot and killed by an LAPD officer last year. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners on Tuesday is scheduled to announce its ruling on whether a fatal shooting of an immigrant day laborer by an LAPD officer was justified.

On a Sunday afternoon last September, Officer Frank Hernandez, who was assigned to a bicycle unit in the department’s Rampart Division, responded to a call for help at the corner of 6th Street and Union Avenue, in the heart of a densely populated Latino-immigrant neighborhood. On the sidewalk at the bustling intersection, Hernandez and two other officers found Manuel Jamines, a 37-year-old Guatemalan man.

Jamines, according to the Los Angeles Police Department’s account of the encounter, was armed with a knife, drunk and threatening passers-by.  Hernandez, police said, ordered Jamines in Spanish and English to drop the weapon and fired at him when the man made a sudden movement toward the officers.  A knife was recovered at the scene, police said.

Several eyewitnesses interviewed by investigators supported the officers’ account of the incident, according to police.  Some other witnesses, however, came forward to say they had not seen Jamines wielding a knife.

The shooting triggered a few days of protests and some rioting in the neighborhood, some of it instigated by anti-police groups that worked to stoke anger among the area’s residents.  Many protesters questioned why the officers hadn’t used a stun gun or some other non-lethal weapon to subdue Jamines. Their suspicion grew when it was learned that Hernandez had been involved in a controversial shooting once before. He was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing in that case.

Jamines’ identity came into question. Coroner’s officials later identified him as Manuel Ramirez based on a fingerprint match with U.S. Justice Department records. They also found U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement documentation identifying him as Gregorio Luis Perez.

Hoping to calm the tensions that frayed after the shooting, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck promised to fast-track the department’s investigation and adjudication of the shooting, which typically would have taken about a year to complete.

Beck recently presented the commission, a civilian panel that oversees the department, with his final report on the shooting, which included his conclusion concerning whether Hernandez had been justified to use deadly force. Although Beck’s report is kept confidential until after the commission makes its ruling, if investigators concluded Jamines did in fact have a knife, it is all but certain that Beck would conclude the use of deadly force was justified.

The five-person commission will make a decision in closed session. It has announced plans for a 12:30 news conference to announce its findings.

– Joel Rubin

(Source: LaTimes.com)

Connecticut City Settles Suit in Arrests of Day Laborers

Connecticut City Settles Suit in Arrests of Day Laborers

By SAM DOLNICK | Published: March 9, try 2011

The City of Danbury, Conn., has agreed to pay $400,000 to settle a federal lawsuit brought by eight day laborers who complained that their 2006 arrest in a local police sting operation was illegal and amounted to racial profiling, lawyers for the laborers announced on Wednesday.

Connecticut City Settles Suit in Arrests of Day Laborers

Juan Barrera, center, is one of the day laborers arrested in Danbury, Conn., on Sept. 16, 2006 by local police and federal agents. At left, Justin Cox, a Yale Law School student intern, and on right, Maria Cinta Lowe, an immigrant rights advocate.

The case made Danbury a flash point in a national debate over how suburban towns deal with day laborers and whether local authorities should engage in immigration enforcement.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers hailed the settlement as a major victory, calling it the largest amount ever obtained by day laborers and a harsh rebuke to Mayor Mark D. Boughton, who has taken a combative stance on immigration issues and strongly supported the actions of the Police Department.

“We’re thrilled,” said Helen O’Reilly, a law student intern with the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale University, which represented the laborers, along with lawyers from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. “The message that this sends,” Ms. O’Reilly said, “is that if a city does what Danbury did, and they harass and target Latino day laborers, there are consequences and substantial costs.”

But Mr. Boughton dismissed the settlement as a modest sum and said it would not affect how the local police enforced the law. “It’s very clear that we specifically did not do anything wrong, and we are not changing any of our policies, practices or customs,” he said in an interview.

Under the terms of the settlement, which must still be signed by both sides, the federal government would pay the plaintiffs an additional $250,000 to settle claims against six federal immigration agents who were also named as defendants.

The case stems from a sting operation conducted on Sept. 19, 2006, by an undercover Danbury police officer posing as a contractor. The lawsuit said the officer drove an unmarked van to a park where day laborers had gathered to await employers looking for workers. The officer told the laborers he would hire them to demolish a fence for $11 an hour, but instead drove them to a lot where they were arrested and handed over to federal agents.

The workers were placed in deportation proceedings, which are continuing, Ms. O’Reilly said.

Advocates for day laborers have denounced the arrests as gross civil rights violations. The suit said that the plaintiffs had been arrested without probable cause, and that the arrests kept workers from exercising free speech — the right to signal their availability for jobs.

Juan Barrera, one of the men arrested, said he was celebrating the settlement. “We hope that the rights of each individual and each day laborer who arrives at Kennedy Park to look for work will now be respected,” he said.

Mayor Boughton said he would have liked the case to go to trial, but his insurer advised the city to settle. “At the end of the day, this became a discussion about money and legal fees,” he said. “It had nothing to do with civil rights.”

Mr. Boughton has long embraced local collaboration with federal immigration authorities. In 2005, he pushed to have Connecticut deputize state police officers as federal immigration agents, but Gov. Jodi M. Rell, a fellow Republican, rejected the proposal. The Justice Department and the Danbury Police Department declined to comment on the case.

Barbara Gonzales, of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency “prioritizes efforts first on those serious criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities.”

A version of this article appeared in print on March 10, 2011, on page A28 of the New York edition.

(Source: New York Times)

Crowd Rallies This Weekend for Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Crowd Rallies This Weekend for Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

By: Molly Rosenthal | March 7, mind 2011 – 12:23 pm

Crowd Rallies This Weekend for Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Domestic workers, employers and their families gathered at the Women’s Building this Sunday in support of a new Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

Introduced by California assembly member Tom Ammiano last month, the bill would provide basic job protections for nannies, caregivers and housekeepers, regardless of immigration status.

Historically, domestic workers have not been included in many labor laws. California’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (CAL-OSHA) doesn’t apply to them. In many cases, California overtime law does not apply, either — especially in the case of live-in workers. If signed into law, the legislation will be the second of its kind. New York state enacted a similar law last August.

If the bill is passed, domestic workers will be entitled to a roster of benefits familiar to most other workers: overtime pay, paid vacation, meal and rest breaks, workers compensation, advance notice of termination.

It’s that last one that would be most welcome to Esmeralda Montufar, a domestic worker from Graton Day Labor Center in Santa Rosa, who told the crowd that she had once been fired via Post-It note. She arrived at work one morning to find a note that read “No work today” on the front door, even though her employer was home.

“After the family invited my husband and me over for Christmas dinner, the note confused me,” Montaf said through a translator. “I took it home to my husband because I didn’t know what to do. I kept thinking, ‘Are we a part of this family or are we not?’”

Other aspects of the bill illuminate the particular strangeness of working in a person’s home, such as the right, for live-in employees, to eight hours of sleep and access to kitchen facilities.

“So many of us want to be good employers but we don’t know how,” said Jessica Lehman, leadership organizer for Hand in Hand, who sponsored the event along with Mujeres Activas y Unidas. “We’re  here because all our justice is all wrapped up together. If you’re talking about women’s rights, it’s connected to immigrant rights, disability rights, and so on.”

Mujeres Activas y Unidas plans to bring domestic employers and workers together to educate them on maintaining a just and healthy relationship, while raising morale through expert hearings and media events.

The first hearing for the legislation will be held in Sacramento on April 13.

En Español:

Este domingo se reunieron trabajadores domésticos, empleadores y sus respectivas familias en el Edificio para Mujeres en apoyo de un nuevo Proyecto de Ley para Trabajadores Domésticos.

El asambleísta de California Tom Ammiano presentó el proyecto el mes pasado. El proyecto de ley daría protección básica laboral a niñeras, proveedores de cuidado y amas de casa sin importar su status inmigratorio.

Históricamente, los trabajadores domésticos no se incluyen como tal en muchas leyes laborales. La Ley de California para la Salud y el Cuidado Ocupacional (CAL-OSHA) no se puede aplicar a dicho grupo de empleados. En muchos casos, la ley de horas extra en California tampoco se puede aplicar; en especial en el caso de trabajadores que viven de planta en el lugar de trabajo. Si se aprueba como ley, la legislación sería la segunda de su especie. El estado de Nueva York aprobó una ley parecida el pasado mes de agosto.

Si el proyecto de ley se aprueba, los trabajadores domésticos tendrán derecho a un abanico de beneficios que muchos otros trabajadores tienen como el pago por horas extra, vacaciones pagadas, descansos para comer y descansar, compensación laboral, aviso por adelantado de liquidación. Se trata de este último el que Esmeralda Montufar, una trabajadora doméstica del Centro de Jornaleros Graton en Santa Rosa, está esperando. Le dijo a una multitud de personas que una vez la despidieron al haberle dejado una nota Post-It. Una mañana llegó a trabajar y encontró una nota que decía: ‘Hoy no hay trabajo’ en la puerta de la entrada, aunque su jefe estaba en casa.

“Después la familia nos invitó a mí y a mi esposo a cenar para Navidad, la nota me confundió”, dijo Montaf por medio de un traductor. “Me llevé la nota a la casa, a mi esposo porque no sabía qué hacer. No dejaba de pensar ‘¿somos parte de esta familia o no?’”

Otros aspectos del proyecto de ley pondrían más en claro la particular que es trabajar en la casa de una persona: el derecho para empleados que habitan en el lugar de trabajo a ocho horas de sueño, y acceso a instalaciones de cocina.

“Muchos de nosotros queremos ser buenos jefes pero no sabemos cómo”, dijo Jessica Lehman, líder organizadora para Hand in Hand, quien patrocinó el evento junto con Mujeres Activas y Unidas. “Estamos aquí porque la justicia está enmarañada. Si hablan sobre los derechos de las mujeres están conectados a derechos de inmigrantes, derechos para discapacitados, y así”.

Mujeres Activas y Unidas planea hacer que se reúnan los empleadores domésticos y sus trabajadores para enseñarles cómo mantener una relación justa y saludable y poder al mismo tiempo, levantar la moral por medio de audiencias y eventos con medios de comunicación.

La primer audiencia para la legislación se llevará acabo el 13 de abril en Sacramento.

(Source: MissionLocal.org)

Wal-Mart Warehouse Workers File Class Action Wage Theft Lawsuit

Wal-Mart Warehouse Workers File Class Action Wage Theft Lawsuit

By Kari Lydersen | In These Times | Monday, Feb 28, 2011, 2:57 pm

Wal-Mart Warehouse Workers File Class Action Wage Theft Lawsuit

Deathrice Jimerson and Demetrie Collins allege they were cheated out of hundreds of dollars in wages at a Wal-Mart warehouse. (Photo by Kari Lydersen)

CHICAGO—After three months of working in a Wal-Mart warehouse in the Chicago suburbs last fall, Robert Hines was fed up with getting paid much less than he had been promised by the company Reliable Staffing, which hired temporary workers to unload containers.

But the final straw came when he wasn’t paid at all for seven 10-12 hour days he’d worked shortly before Thanksgiving, he says. His calls to the agency weren’t returned, and when he went in person to demand his money, he said a manager claimed he and his work partner, Leo Williamson, had never worked those days at all.

So Hines and Williamson are among eight named plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed today in federal court charging Reliable Staffing, its owner Daniel Gallagher and Schneider Logistics, which runs the Wal-Mart warehouse in Elwood, Ill., with violating state and federal labor laws.

When former Reliable Staffing workers marched into the agency last Monday demanding pay and billing records (as is their right under the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act), they were not given any records and, they say, were greeted with hostility by Gallagher.

Under the Illinois day labor act, considered one of the nation’s strongest such laws, the workers have the right to see what Reliable Staffing billed Schneider for their work, and what it paid them. If the hours and/or piece rates reported to Schneider and reported to the workers themselves don’t add up, it could show Reliable Staffing was intentionally not paying workers for their labor.

The plaintiffs think that was standard practice at the company.

“The lady looked me in the face and said I have no recollection of you working,” said Hines, 37. “I got vulgar comments, a snazzy attitude from them. And I was breaking my back for peanuts, or to not even be paid at all.”

The lawsuit alleges violations of the aforementioned Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act, along with the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. Allegations include unpaid overtime, failure to pay state and federal minimum wage and failure to pay at least four hours’ wages when workers were called in to work, as mandated by the day labor services act.

The lawsuit says that plaintiffs who worked for Reliable Staffing from 2006 on were promised $10 an hour, plus a piece rate for unloading trucks, including a higher “premium” piece rate for heavier goods. It alleges they were not paid the piece rate as promised, and that in fact workers were often paid less than state and federal minimum wage along with not being paying overtime.

Hines said that at the rate promised, his paychecks for working often from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. should have been at least $300 a week – not counting overtime, which he also should have been due. But he was usually paid $239.

The suit also alleges workers were not paid for mandatory waiting time, adding up to multiple hours per week. It says that when one defendant wrote his arrival time on a sign-in sheet, a supervisor actually tore the sheet up.

“Reliable Staffing actually did not keep track of people’s hours,” said attorney Chris Williams. “That’s illegal. Even if you are paying a piece rate, under federal law you need to show that adds up to at least minimum wage.”

And the suit alleges Reliable Staffing violated state laws by failing to provide workers with documentation of where and for which third party they would be working, the nature of the work and how much they would be paid. The suit basically alleges that workers were paid the $10 piece rate only – often divided between two or three workers, workers say – and then the employer simply made up the number of hours the worker supposedly worked by dividing the piece rate by 10.

“The check stub is a fiction—their check stub could show they worked 36 hours when they really worked 72 hours,” said Williams. That’s why, Williams said, it’s so important the workers are able to demand their billing records under the state day labor services act.

“The workers are supposed to be able to go into the office and get this information themselves,” Williams said. “But unfortunately the law isn’t working. That’s why we had to take this to federal court.”

The suit says:

In fact, Defendants Reliable and Gallagher provided Plaintiffs and similarly situated laborers with check stubs that contained false information, showing the final gross compensation to the laborer divided by $10.00, thereby showing a number of hours worked on the check stub that bears no relationship to the actual number of hours worked…

Rather than provide Plaintiffs and the Class with the actual hours worked, Defendants Reliable and Gallagher provided Plaintiffs and the Class with a fictional number of hours worked and a fictional pay rate as described in paragraph.

The lawsuit adds that failing to provide workers documentation of their employment terms makes it easier for employers to cheat workers, saying:

The Illinois legislature found that such at-risk workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse of their labor rights, including unpaid wages, failure to pay for all hours worked, minimum wage and overtime violations, and unlawful deduction from pay for meals, transportation, equipment and other items.

The workers’ want unpaid wages, going back up to three years. The lawsuit also asks for statutory damages on some counts, attorneys’ fees, and that the company be blocked from violating these laws in the future. The suit notes that under the day labor services act, third party companies like Schneider that hire staffing companies are liable and legally responsible for any unpaid wages by the staffing company.

Depending on how the law is interpreted, it’s possible Wal-Mart itself could be liable.

“Hopefully this lawsuit will trickle down and help not just us but other people,” said Hines. “Maybe they’ll wake up and see that they have to treat people fairly if they want to get more out of us. Now they’re sitting there high on the hog, eating nice food, while we’re on the dollar menu at McDonald’s.”

(Source: InTheseTimes.com)

Georgia Lawmaker Seeks to Outlaw Day Laborers

By: GEORGE FRANCO/myfoxatlanta

 

ATLANTA – Day laborers are used all over Metro Atlanta for cash paying jobs. However, those days are numbered if a Georgia legislator has his way.

State Senator Jeff Mullis has introduced a bill to ban the hiring of day laborers. The proposal has sparked debate on what it may or may not do for the state of Georgia.

D.A. King is an independent consultant who has worked with Georgia lawmakers to craft previous legislation aimed at illegal immigration.

“The goal is attrition though enforcement, to encourage people in the country illegally to leave Georgia. The real villains in this are the people that hire the black market labor,” said King.

“Are we going to go after the teenagers that come knock on your door, wanting to cut your lawn? That happens all across Georgia, all over the suburbs. They’re day laborers,” said Jerry Gonzalez of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.

Gonzalez said enforcing the law would be a problem when Georgia lawmakers are struggling with red ink.

“Georgia’s budget is in a hole. How are we going to pay for it? So, this is bad for Georgia’s business,” said Gonzalez.

“If we take away the illegal labor, we’re going to have to hire legal labor, which was the original plan,” said King.

Sen. Mullis said in a statement, “The people of Georgia deserve a measure that most appropriately deals with Georgia’s most pressing needs, without hurting businesses.”

Source: myfoxatlanta.com

Undocumented worker who became quadriplegic is moved to Mexico against his will

Hospital’s decision to send quadriplegic man back to Mexico angers those in Chicago who cared for him

By Judith Graham, Becky Schlikerman and Abel Uribe, Tribune reporters, 6:05 p.m. CST, February 6, 2011

Quelino Ojeda Jimenez, 20, is cared for by an uncle in a Mexican . Ojeda was transfered from Advocate Christ Medical Center near Chicago to his home state of Oaxaca, Mexico, without his approval. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune / January 26, 2011)

For almost four months, s and s at Advocate Christ Medical Center cared for the young Mexican laborer who had fallen from a roof and lost the ability to speak, breathe or move most parts of his body.

But Quelino Ojeda Jimenez was in the U.S. with out documents, and just before Christmas he was taken from the Oak Lawn , loaded on an air and flown to Oaxaca, capital of the Mexican state where he was born.

His abrupt departure, which Ojeda says was undertaken without his consent, outraged a group of Mexicans living in Chicago who had rallied to his aid, tending to him in the and encouraging him not to give up.

Florinda Marcial, one of his frequent caregivers, said she pleaded with authorities to stop as Ojeda was rolled away on a gurney, dressed in a gown, crying. Authorities at the Mexican Consulate in Chicago also said they tried to intervene.

“They threw him out like he was a piece of garbage,” said Horacio Esparza, a disability rights advocate who runs the Progress Center for Independent Living in Forest Park.

Now, the 20-year-old man is in a Mexican that is so resource-poor that it is reusing filters for the breathing machine needed to keep him alive. After an investigation completed late last week, Advocate Health Care — the largest network in Illinois — acknowledged it never obtained Ojeda’s permission to transfer him to Mexico.

“We really do regret the way this process flowed and the steps that were taken,” said Kelly Jo Golson, an Advocate senior vice president.

“We saved his life and brought him to a stable condition,” but when it became clear that Ojeda needed a lifetime of care, it seemed best to return him close to family, she said.

That move sparked fierce criticism from Chicago’s Mexican community, and Advocate has decided to draw up comprehensive new policies to address medical “repatriations” at its 12 s, Golson said.

Such policies are important because there are potentially “hundreds and thousands of Quelinos,” undocumented immigrants building American homes or working in American factories who risk serious or injury, said Julie Contreras, national immigrant affairs commissioner for the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Latino rights organization working with Advocate on the policies.

In Illinois, more than 272,000 undocumented Latino immigrants are uninsured, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2008 Current Population Survey. Only emergency medical services are guaranteed to these patients, as they are to anyone in a medical crisis; once their condition has stabilized, they have no rights to any other type of .

There is no consensus about what should happen to undocumented patients who become severely disabled and need long-term care. By law, s are required to discharge all patients to “appropriate facilities” where they can receive adequate follow-up care. This is also an ethical obligation for s, according to a recent report from the American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs.

But rehabilitation centers and nursing homes won’t accept undocumented immigrants with no insurance, no government support, and no means to pay their bills.

That leaves s such as Advocate Christ Medical Center responsible for handling tragedies like Ojeda’s, while coping with the fallout of a depressed economy and trying to remain financially viable.

Whether Advocate had legal authority to send Ojeda back to Mexico is unclear. Although s say they are serving patients’ interests by sending them to their countries of origin, advocates argue they are potentially violating U.S. immigration laws. So far, legal repercussions remain largely unexplored.

“Immigration is the province not of s, but of the federal government,” according to a winter 2010 article on medical repatriations in the Northwestern University Law Review.

In Advocate Christ’s case, the made what it thought was a justified medical decision, not a deportation decision, said Howard Peters, executive vice president at the Illinois Hospital Association.

Cases such as Ojeda’s are relatively rare. Each year, the Mexican Consulate in Chicago gets involved with medical repatriations of 10 to 15 seriously ill or disabled undocumented immigrants, according to Ioana Navarrete Pellicer, a consular official.

What makes Ojeda’s story “completely unorthodox,” she said, is the allegation that the young man was returned to Mexico against his will and the wishes of his family. The Mexican Consulate was not consulted, but there is no legal requirement that s take this step, she said.

“I didn’t want to come back … because here there’s no … I need therapy, I need a lot of things and they don’t have,” said Ojeda, who spoke to the Tribune from a bed at Maria Lombardo de Caso General Hospital, a one-story concrete institution in a small town in the state of Oaxaca. He has gradually regained an ability to talk, albeit with difficulty, and move fingers and toes on his left side.

“I wanted to stay (in the U.S.) until I recuperated,” he said.

Ojeda’s stay in the U.S. began four years ago, when he journeyed to South Carolina to find work and to help support his Mexican family — a common law wife, his nearly 3-year-old daughter, six sisters and his impoverished parents, who live in a town of 18 small wood and straw-roof homes in the mountains.

Within a few months, he moved to Atlanta, where family members lived, and where he worked as a roofer. Ojeda came to Chicago in August to work on a building near Midway Airport, according to James Geraghty, a local lawyer who at one point represented the young man.

There, Ojeda said, he was trying to remove a sheet of metal from a roof when he pulled hard, thinking the sheet was sed by nails. It wasn’t and he fell backward over 20 feet to the ground. Three days later he awoke, a near quadriplegic connected to a ventilator, at Advocate Christ.

Imperial Roofing Group owner Anthony Ritter said Ojeda was working for a subcontractor who handled workplace issues on the Chicago job.

“I did not know Quelino,” said Ritter, adding that he thought what happened to the young man was “horrible.”

Ritter said he wasn’t sure if the subcontractor carried active workers compensation insurance. Imperial Roofing, he said, has since closed operations in Chicago, Atlanta and Houston because of the poor economy.

Ojeda knew no one here, but his aunt in Atlanta, hearing of his accident, contacted Ana Maria Cruz, a Chicagoan she had met through work.

Soon, Cruz and a circle of Mexican friends in Chicago began visiting Ojeda in the , talking to him, feeding him and helping him move his limbs.

Cruz’s husband, Reynaldo, was appointed Ojeda’s temporary guardian by the Circuit Court of Cook County’s probate division. Reynaldo Cruz said he sought legal help to successfully halt the ’s first plan to send Ojeda back to Mexico in October.

Gradually, the young man improved. It was clear he understood what was going on, and on Dec. 10 a judge removed Cruz as guardian and ruled that Ojeda could make his own decisions.

But Ojeda said he had no idea what Advocate Christ was planning.

“They did not tell me anything about leaving,” he told the Tribune, describing what happened the morning of Dec. 22, when staff quickly disconnected him from equipment and ushered him out the door.

“They told me, ‘Today you are going to your home,’” Ojeda said, recalling being struck with terror and unable to get words out. “I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t talk. I wanted to ask why.”

AeroCare Air Ambulance Service Inc. of Sugar Grove took over, conveying Ojeda to Mexico. Joseph Cece, AeroCare’s CEO, said s in that country as well as Chicago approved the patient’s transfer. “The actual responsible parties in a situation like this are the discharging and the receiving ,” he said. “The way I see it, this was a successful mission.”

The in the city of Oaxaca, where he was first taken, didn’t have a bed for him, family members say, and specializes in emergency care only, according to Pellicer, of the Mexican Consulate. That institution transferred Ojeda in early January to a smaller that doesn’t provide rehabilitation and that cannot afford new filters for his ventilator. Instead, staff cleans the filters daily and reuses them.

Almost every day, Ojeda’s uncle tries to help the young man and keep his spirits up. An aunt says Ojeda is sometimes “desperate” because “he isn’t getting better.” Ojeda’s parents and his wife live about four hours away in a rural village with a population of 140. They have spent little time with their son because they cannot afford transportation or hotels, they told the Tribune.

This is what Ojeda expected after his move to Mexico.

“I felt sad because I know how my state is. It’s poor … there’s nothing,” he said.

Without rehabilitation, he knows progress is unlikely. But still, he imagines a better future, saying, “I want to get up from here … and back at work.”

Tribune photographer Abel Uribe reported from Mexico for this report.

jegraham@tribune.com

bschlikerman@tribune.com

auribe@tribune.com

(Source: ChicagoTribune.com)