US Labor Secretary sends message to America’s under-paid and under-protected:‘We Can Help!’

News Release
WHD News Release: [04/01/2010]
Contact Name: Dolline Hatchett
Phone Number: (202) 251-7929 cell or 202-693-4651 office
Release Number: 10-0411-NAT

US Labor Secretary sends message to America’s under-paid and under-protected:‘We Can Help!’

Solis announces national campaign and commits to bringing justice to nation’s working poor

CHICAGO — Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today used the historic setting of Chicago’s famed Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, store on the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois, to unveil the U.S. Department of Labor’s “We Can Help” campaign. Solis committed to helping the nation’s low-wage and vulnerable workers, and reminded them that her agency’s personnel will not waver in protecting the rights guaranteed by law to every worker in America.

“I’m here to tell you that your president, your secretary of labor and this department will not allow anyone to be denied his or her rightful pay — especially when so many in our nation are working long, hard and often dangerous hours,” Secretary Solis told an energized crowd of workers, community advocates and leaders. “We can help, and we will help. If you work in this country, you are protected by our laws. And you can count on the U.S. Department of Labor to see to it that those protections work for you.”

 

Today’s event marked the beginning of the “We Can Help” nationwide campaign. The effort, which is being spearheaded by the department’s Wage and Hour Division, will help connect America’s most vulnerable and low-wage workers with the broad array of services offered by the Department of Labor. The campaign will place a special focus on reaching employees in such industries as construction, janitorial work, hotel/motel services, food services and home health care. It also will address such topics as rights in the workplace and how to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division to recover wages owed.

Through the use of Spanish/English bilingual public service announcements — featuring activist Dolores Huerta and actors Jimmy Smits and Esai Morales, the launch of a new Web site at http://www.dol.gov/wecanhelp and a toll-free hotline, 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), the department is renewing its emphasis on reaching and assisting workers who often find themselves denied the pay legally guaranteed to them by law. The campaign also underscores that wage and hour laws apply to all workers in the United States, regardless of immigration status.

“The nation’s laws are for the protection of everyone who works in this country,” said Secretary Solis, speaking from the site where President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Labor Secretary Frances Perkins once worked. “It is appropriate and correct that vulnerable workers receive what the law promises, and that no employer gain a marketplace advantage by using threats or coercion to cheat workers from their rightful wages. I have added more than 250 new field investigators nationwide — an increase of a third — to help in this effort. If you are a worker in America, on this day, we promise you a new beginning and a new partnership to ensure you receive the wages you deserve.”

Chicago’s Hull-House opened in 1889 when Jane Addams, the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, rented the site to institute and maintain educational and philanthropic enterprises to improve conditions in the industrial districts of Chicago. By its second year of existence, Hull-House was host to 2,000 people every week and today remains a central force in reaching out to Chicago’s poor.

Read this news release en Español.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor – We Can Help!

Activists on DHS’s 287g Program: “End It, Don’t Mend It”

Activists on DHS’s 287g Program: “End It, Don’t Mend It”

Source: Uprising Radio, Host: Sonali Kolhatkar (KPFK 90.7 FM)

Listen to this segment | the entire program

Activists on DHS’s 287g Program: “End It, Don’t Mend It” On Friday, the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security released an extensive internal report on its 287 (g) immigration agreements. The agreement facilitates the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have committed serious crimes and grants federal immigration authority to state and local police enforcement officials. It gained national notoriety and spurred much controversy in Arizona when Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio began utilizing it to conduct immigration sweeps and roundups. Friday’s comprehensive review of all the 287 (g) agreements DHS has in place found that the federal-local partnerships lacked oversight and were inconsistent in their applications from agency to agency. In contrast with the policy’s officially stated aims, local police were found to have used their authorities in targeting undocumented immigrants arrested only for minor offenses. Inadequate safeguards on civil rights were also highlighted. Despite the internal report’s findings, Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE has said that it has been aware of such problems and has already taken measures to address them. Immigrant rights activists, on the other hand, have responded to the report by calling on the Obama administration to end, not mend the agreements.

GUEST: Chris Newman, Legal Director of National Day Laborer Organizing Network

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Forgotten Corners of the Economy

Forgotten Corners of the Economy

Forgotten Corners of the Economy

As unemployment rises, the illegal of day laborers only worsens. Where’s the government?
Another dead day on the street corner and Gonzalo Mejia is wondering how he will get by. He’s been finding work just one or two days a week lately. Worse yet, a contractor recently stiffed him out of $400 worth of pay.”All the time there is less work,” grumbles Mejia, a short, muscular man in his mid-50s. His pals nod in agreement as they wait like hawks, ready to swoop down on the next contractor who pulls up. But it’s well past 9 A.M., only three cars have trolled by in search of workers, and hardly anyone has budged off the street.

Yet it is not just the disappearance of work that troubles him and the 150 or so men killing time at Milwaukee and Belmont, once Chicago’s busiest street corner for day laborers. Everything has become so difficult, so frustrating, so dangerous. For workers with minimal protections against employers who steal from their wages or sometimes leave them dead or maimed, life has lately become bare existence.

Before the housing bubble burst and the economy collapsed, the day laborers here tried to hold the line with employers at $10 an hour for basic work. Nowadays the going rate has dropped to $8 an hour, and some more desperate workers have grabbed $5-an-hour offers, saying it beats waiting around.

Day laborers here and across the U.S. have long suffered from employers who cheat them out of their wages. But there are more complaints recently about employers who give them bad checks or hire them at one rate and then pay less when the work is done or who vanish when it comes time to pay up.

“They say the job is for two or three days and they’ll pay you when it’s done. And then they disappear. Most of the guys have the same problems,” explains Mejia, who was earning $18 an hour as a carpenter when there was work. Nowadays, he takes $12 an hour if he can get it.

Latino immigrants dominate this and nearly all of Chicago’s day-labor street corners. But there has also been a rush of U.S. citizens, many of them newly unemployed or low-wage workers, as well as other immigrant groups.

Some day laborers will even continue working for weeks when they have not been paid. “They need money so desperately; they keep working, hoping to get paid. But they don’t, and that’s sad,” says Kasia Tarczynska, a Polish-speaking worker with the Latino Union of Chicago, which serves day laborers. She works with the Eastern European day laborers — Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Bosnians, Albanians, and others — who have been showing up increasingly on Chicago’s street corners and who suffer from roughly the same problems and abuses as the rest of the day laborers. Many are also undocumented immigrants and because of their limited English skills and the street corner’s pack mentality, they stick to themselves.

The flood of new workers has worsened conditions, say the men and workers from the Latino Union, because the increased supply has driven down the wages that the day laborers had struggled to maintain. But some also have made the work dangerous for themselves and others. “They face the greatest dangers because [many of them] have not done day labor before, and they don’t have the training,” explains Eric Rodriguez, executive director of the Latino Union.

The arrival of new groups of increasingly desperate workers threatens to wipe out a decade of efforts to set pay and safety standards on the nation’s street corners, says Nik Theodore, a University of Illinois at Chicago expert on day laborers. He is a co-author of a 2006 national study of day laborers, the first and only one of its kind. It is a grim accounting of what takes place on more than 500 street corners across the U.S. where day laborers gather early each morning to catch the best jobs.

On any single day, about 117,000 day laborers are out looking for work or are on the job, the study said. Three out of four of these workers, according to the study, are undocumented immigrants. But because workers often float in and out of the street-corner job market, it is estimated that as many as half a million people do day labor during the year.

The West Coast accounts for the greatest number of the nation’s day laborers, over 40 percent, followed by the East, the Southwest, the South, and the Midwest. About 43 percent of the employers are construction contractors. Another 49 percent are either homeowners or renters. This makes the worker situation even more hazardous, since these employers are unlikely to have safety equipment or know about safety rules.

***The danger of their work is a reality to the day laborers who reel accounts of falling off buildings, getting hit by falling construction supplies, and being trapped while digging ditches. Their stories help explain the 125 percent spike in the number of Latinos killed in construction jobs between 1992 and 2005, a figure that Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis called “unbearable” in a June speech to safety engineers in Texas. Seventy-five percent of the day laborers contacted in the 2006 survey said their work is dangerous, and one worker in five reported being injured on the job in the last year. But more than half of those injured did not get any medical care for their injuries, mostly because they couldn’t afford it or the employer refused to cover them under workers’ compensation, according to the survey.

Day laborers often turn to Chicago attorney Jose Rivero because he is willing to file workers’ compensation cases against shady contractors with the likelihood of minimal rewards for his clients. It is not uncommon for contractors to file bankruptcy or simply vanish or to threaten workers against taking them to court or reporting them to officials, Rivero adds.

But he has been getting fewer calls lately and doesn’t think that is because the work has suddenly become safer. The injuries he sees are “as horrible” as ever. “I think the economy is a big factor,” he explains. Workers know that they will be “blackballed” by contractors if they talk to a lawyer, he says. Because they are desperate to hang on to the work, they don’t take such risks.

But the day laborers’ biggest day-to-day worry, according to the 2006 survey, is getting paid. Nearly half said they had not been paid by an employer in the months just prior to the survey, and another 48 percent told of being underpaid. There has been no comprehensive survey since 2006, but my reporting suggests that these trends are worsening.

Chris Newman, Legal Programs Director for the National Day Labor Organizing Network, which links together several dozen groups that serve day laborers, says the level of wage theft “has been amplified by the [financial stresses] downtown. Before, you would be owed $200, but now it is more likely $2,000.” Theodore of the University of Illinois at Chicago adds, “I can’t tell if you have unscrupulous employers taking advantage of what’s happening or it’s the financial problems facing those higher up in the contracting chain.”

***As the ranks of the workers on the streets have swollen in the last decade, day labor activists like Newman have steadily complained about the federal government’s failure to stop the wage theft or to halt the unsafe conditions the workers face. Now, they say the Obama administration should take these steps:

First, the Labor Department should increase the ranks of investigators in its Wage and Hour Division, the office responsible for making sure employers do not cheat workers out of their wages. Kim Bobo, author of the recent book Wage Theft in America and head of Interfaith Worker Justice, a Chicago-based group organization, praises the administration’s plans to hire several hundred more investigators. “But that’s not enough. They need double the number of investigators,” she says.

Second, employers need to live in fear that will they face stiff fines for violating federal wage and worker-safety laws. They should not be allowed to negotiate down the penalties so that overworked federal bureaucrats can clear the cases. The likelihood of serious penalties should increase for employers with repeat violations. “Every time we file a case, [the Labor Department] settles it for 50 cents on the dollar, and that means workers don’t get what they are owed,” says Bobo, whose organization operates a network of worker centers around the U.S. She adds that the government should make employers’ violation records more “transparent” and accessible so businesses can be tracked.

Third, the government should develop direct ties with day-labor and worker centers, creating a system that will regularly inform workers of their rights and educate them on safe workplace practices. Theodore says the government should use the locations as worker development centers, where they can train and improve workers’ skills. By authorizing the centers to directly file workers’ complaints, the government can also expand its investigative outreach to the workers, he says.

Fourth, federal offices serving day laborers should be more accessible to workers, especially in the case of undocumented immigrants who are both fearful of visiting government buildings and who usually cannot enter them because they lack proper identification. “The agencies are designed to serve bankers, not low-wage workers who cannot make a 3 P.M. meeting,” Bobo says. So, too, she says there need to be more government workers able to communicate with the largely Latino day-laborer work force. After the Katrina disaster, the government was hard-pressed, she recalls, to cope with the number of Spanish-speaking day laborers drawn to the recovery work in New Orleans.

To Newman, however, the most important step is “harmonizing” the government’s immigration and labor-enforcement policies. “If undocumented immigrants are unable to come forward and form unions and file complaints and get redress from unscrupulous practices, then the bad guys will continue on,” he says.

As for prospects of the Labor Department improving its day-to-day performance, he is quite upbeat about Solis. “The team that she is assembling is fantastic,” he says. “There are all the indications that the U.S. will get its Labor Department back after eight years of self-mutilation.”

Solis, the daughter of Latino farmworker immigrants, tells me her agency is hiring 250 investigators, some of whom will be bilingual. She wanted more, “but we didn’t have the money.” Besides “looking at increasing penalties” against employers who break the laws, she also plans to create a strike force to focus on firms with the “most egregious abuses.” If the companies cooperate, the agency will offer them training and assistance, she says. And if they don’t want to comply, “we are not going to sit around,” she adds.

The agency will closely investigate how employers who use the government’s recovery funds treat their workers. “They better know we are taking a different approach here,” she says. As for workers’ fears of dealing with a government agency, she vows to increase the agency’s links with organizations that “have the trust of the community.”

***Help dealing with abusive employers or those who put him in dangerous situations could not come fast enough for Guillermo Caicero. Not long ago he got into an argument with a contractor who promised him $15 an hour but paid him only $10 an hour when the work was done. He complained and the employer called the police. But the police “didn’t do anything,” he says.

Four years ago he tumbled off a roof and broke a leg, he says. Several months ago, the 50-year-old day laborer dislocated an arm on the job. Not long ago a pipe also fell and hit his head, sending him to a . But the contractor refused to pay for or time lost, and Caicero was not covered by workers’ comp. He went to a county and was able to get free care, Caicero says.

Despite it all, here he is, on the corner, waiting and waiting.

Stephen Franklin is a former labor writer for the Chicago Tribune and author of Three Strikes: Labor’s Heartland Losses and What They Mean for Working Americans (2001).

Attorney General Milgram warns N.J. law enforcement about role in immigration program

Attorney General Milgram warns N.J. law enforcement about role in immigration program

 

by Tanya Drobness/The Star-Ledger

Wednesday September 02, find 2009, treat 7:47 PM
MORRISTOWN — The state’s attorney general is warning local law enforcement agencies seeking to deputize officers as immigration agents not to ethnically or racially profile people, but one mayor has fired back with an admonishment of his own.

Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello, who has four months left in office, today said Attorney General Anne Milgram should not interfere with the locals, adding she is politicizing the matter during a gubernatorial election year.

Attorney General Milgram warns N.J. law enforcement about role in immigration program
A Feb. 20, 2009 file photo of Morristown Mayor Donald Cresitello. Cresitello has said that he intends to start a program which would make police officers act as immigration agents to better protect residents amid human trafficking, and gang activity.)

“She’s drawn herself into the current election cycle and is playing politics with a very important issue that protects the residents of New Jersey,” Cresitello said. The mayor also said he intends to have six of the police department’s 58 police officers become deputized Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, operating under federal guidelines, “not her guidelines.”

“If she were to interfere with that legal process, I will take appropriate legal action,” Cresitello said.

David Wald, spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, said politics is not involved.

“The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer in New Jersey,” Wald said. The officers’ “first responsibility is to enforce the laws of the state of New Jersey.”

Milgram sent letters Friday and Tuesday to officials in three counties saying they should show no bias when upholding the law. Her concerns follow moves by Morristown officials and the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office to deputize officers as immigration agents, and she said effective policing comes with maintaining a “positive relationship” with the community.

Attorney General Milgram warns N.J. law enforcement about role in immigration program
Attorney General Anne Milgram at a press conference in August. Milgram is warning law enforcement agencies to follow the rules when questioning people about their immigration status.)

“Community fear that a police officer will convert every citizen encounter into an immigration inquiry destroys that relationship and will discourage reporting by victims and the cooperation of witnesses,” Milgram said.

Latino leaders and immigration advocates have been voicing the same message for months.

“Immigrants will not go to the police for anything. This will hurt the relationship between the people and the police, and it will affect the entire community, not just the Latino community,” said Diana Mejia, co-founder of the Morristown-based Wind of the Spirit immigration-resource center.

The attorney general said participating law enforcement agencies must provide her with proposed agreements and operational plans. Deputized officers also must submit monthly reports to the state Division of Criminal Justice.

Under Milgram’s guidelines, state, county and local law enforcement officers must not act as immigration officials when patrolling the streets. Deputized officers may question people’s immigration status after they have been arrested for serious violations, she said.

Monmouth County and Morristown, along with the Hudson County Department of Corrections, are among 79 departments nationwide that have been accepted into the program, known as 287(g), which was overhauled to allay fears it would be used to target or harass immigrant groups.

In Monmouth County, unlike Morristown, the program applies only to corrections officers who work in the jail and do not make street arrests, Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno said. Guadagno, who is running for lieutenant governor on the Republican ticket, said Milgram, who works for Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, was “misinformed” about the county’s role in the program.

“Under our program, we simply ensure that if you are detained in our jail and you are an illegal alien, you will be identified, processed by federal authorities and deported if appropriate,” Guadagno said.

Morristown Police Chief Peter Demnitz declined to comment today on Milgram’s letter.

Cresitello drew national attention two years ago when he took a hard line against illegal immigrants and tried to deputize police as immigration agents. He has softened his stance, but the issue re-ignited during the primary election campaign. Cresitello lost in the June Democratic contest.

The Hudson County Department of Corrections has been participating in the program since August 2008, according to ICE’s website. Corrections director Oscar Aviles did not return calls for comment.

The program initially came under fire from Congress’ investigative arm, the General Accountability Office, for failure to supervise participating agencies. In May, government investigators said that in some cases, police officers who had been deputized as immigration agents swept up large numbers of immigrants for minor offenses, such as speeding and drinking in public, in an effort to rid their communities of those who were in the U.S. illegally. Under the revised program, participating agencies are required to make the identification of illegal immigrants who commit serious crimes their priority.

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/09/attorney_general_anne_milgram_1.html

New Orleans day laborers want wage theft criminalized

Facing South Magazine:

Post-Katrina New Orleans has become the center of a national effort to protect migrant day laborers from wage theft. 

As Facing South has covered, following the 2005 hurricane season, site the Gulf Coast region saw an explosion in its Hispanic population, seek particularly in New Orleans where migrant workers came to fill the construction jobs that opened up during the post-Katrina recovery effort. Estimates indicate the New Orleans metro area’s Hispanic population has tripled in the last three years, from about 60,000 to about 180,000. 

Many of New Orleans’ Hispanic migrant workers have faced rampant wage theft, coercion and abuse. Following the hurricanes, in what labor rights advocates have called the “disaster after the disaster,” hundreds of contractors along the Gulf Coast employed migrant workers to clean up debris, repair damaged roofs and restore flood-soaked buildings, Contractors then reneged on promises to pay workers after that work was completed. The exploitation has been especially rampant in New Orleans, where thousands of workers employed by construction contractors to rebuild homes are still routinely shortchanged and denied promised wages once the work is completed. 

In fact, according to a recent study by the Southern Poverty Law Center, New Orleans has the highest incidence of wage theft in the South. Of those workers surveyed by SPLC, a whopping80 percent of the workers said they were victims of wage theft while working in New Orleans’ recovery since Hurricane Katrina. A 2008 survey of 300 day laborers indicated they had worked a total of 12,000 unpaid days and lost a total of $400,000 in wages, reports the New Orleans CityBusiness.

There are very few legal options for migrant workers, and the current laws on the books aren’t enough to protect workers, day labor advocates say. Simply put, there are no criminal statutes that hold contractors who practice wage theft legally accountable for their actions. 

New Orleans day laborers and labor rights advocates have been campaigning to stop wage theft, and to end the abuse, intimidation, exploitation and discrimination against migrant day laborers. Organizing with the New Orleans Congress of Day Laborers, a project of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, workers have urged local lawmakers and officials to pass tougher laws that would classify shortchanging or denying wages to a hired day laborer a crime. 

Workers brought their case before the New Orleans city council in a public hearing in late June, testifying to the rampant abuse in the sector. New Orleans Councilman Arnie Fielkow has started working on a city ordinance, which he hopes to have drafted by August, that would protect day laborers by criminalizing wage theft. 

Under state and federal law wage theft is a civil offense, which means workers can file civil suits against employers in small claims court, but often migrant workers face challenges to taking such measures. Fielkow’s ordinance would instead make wage theft a criminal offense, allowing cops to arrest violators. Supporters of the ordinance hope the law will empower the New Orleans Police Department to crack down on offending contractors and discourage employers from violating wage laws.

http://www.southernstudies.org/2009/07/post-48.html

Day Laborers on Long Island, Left at the Curb

Published: May 10, seek 2009

Just south of the commuter train tracks in Huntington Station, Long Island, a weary pileup of streets forms a little district of desperation.

Down along New York Avenue, Fairground Avenue and Depot Road, men in groups of a half-dozen or more linger by a gas station, a bar, a tire-repair . They are Latino day laborers, waiting for trucks to pull up with jobs to do.

When times were good, there was lots of work. But hardly anyone is building or renovating now, and the men go days and weeks without being hired. Wages have plummeted, and when a job is done, the men are often paid nothing and told to get lost. The sidewalks they have claimed are small outposts of the national pain created by the burst housing bubble.

The men have no safety net: no unemployment insurance, no food stamps. They are nobody’s responsibility, and nobody pays them much heed, except those who find them distasteful or frightening and have pushed for laws to shoo them out of sight. It’s like this across Long Island. In Huntington Station, jobless laborers sleep in the woods. They do the same out east, in lush Southampton, and in points between.

The presence of an underclass stranded by a lack of work, with no place to exchange sweat and skill for a day’s pay, is an affront to decency in a place that enshrines the work ethic and owes these men so much. In this kingdom of home and lawn maintenance, they blew leaves, trimmed hedges and grass, spread mulch, painted houses and patched drywall. There is little demand for the informal labor market now, and the men who made it work have been left at the curb.

Long Island owes them gratitude, but — gratitude? Are you kidding? The men are lucky they aren’t being harassed and racially profiled by the police, swept into federal custody, as local authorities are doing to Latino immigrants across the country.

Suffolk County has begun a police crackdown on gangs and s in Huntington Station, which are a problem there, as in any poor community. But outreach to day laborers — to help them assimilate, find jobs or housing, or perhaps go home — is harder to find.

There is a fenced lot on Depot Road with benches and portable toilets — a day laborer hiring site supported by Huntington Town. It is not working as well as planned. To gain the tiniest advantage, the men have dispersed ever farther from the site. Even on a bright spring morning, all those men standing around give the neighborhood a feel of disarray and aimlessness.

The same could be said of government efforts to deal with day laborers, which boil down to a question: Do we welcome you, or try to push you off the streets, and the economic ladder?

In places like Huntington and Southampton, some residents are attacking the problem with level heads and kind hearts. Volunteers in Huntington house homeless laborers in churches every night, all winter. Sister Margaret Smyth, a Roman Catholic nun who has spent years serving the poor on the East End of Long Island, works with Southampton’s day laborers, fighting homelessness, hunger and wage theft.

“We’re getting more and more cases of workers not just underpaid, but just plain not being paid at all,” Sister Margaret said. “We take them to court. Poor Southampton court system, I must have 40 cases with them.”

When she’s not being her own nonprofit legal service agency, Sister Margaret is a travel agent, raising money to immigrants air fare home.

“I’ve never bought so many tickets,” she said. “I just bought four in the last week and a half. We’ve gotten very good at it. I joined a club on the Internet, and with Spirit Airlines, I can get a one-way ticket to Guatemala for $120.”

The immigration problem is far bigger than Sister Margaret. It’s a federal failure that has fallen into the laps of local governments. But reform is finally showing signs of moving forward in Washington, and local government would be smart to help it along, starting now.

It could step in to magnify Sister Margaret’s labors. It could support nonprofit agencies and help the men to organize themselves, to run hiring sites across the Island. It could fight the crimes of wage theft and harassment. It could give the men soup. It could abandon reflexive hostility to day laborers as the equivalent of a pest-control problem.

It could act decently, without starting a huge fight over immigration policy.

“We can always pray for a miracle,” Sister Margaret said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/11/opinion/11mon4.html?_r=1&ref=opinion 

Arpaio and Civil Rights Abuses Hearing//TUNE IN TOMORROW

April 1st, ask 2009
National Day Laborer Organizing Network

The momentum against Sheriff Arpaio and the entire 287(g) program keeps building. Only a few weeks after announcing joint hearings in the Judiciary Committee to investigate Arpaio and other civil rights abuses under the program, Conyers is following through on his word and holding the hearings tomorrow. We would like to urge you to watch as victims of racial profiling, Arizona, Mesa Police Chief Gascon, and experts on racial profiling tear the cloak off the Bush’s failed “immigration enforcement” and expose it for what it is: a civil and human rights crisis. Thanks for all your hard work in helping make this hearing happen.

Please keep an eye out for our action alert after the hearing. We’ll need your help writing to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and the Obama administration to immediately terminate Sheriff Arpaio’s 287(g) contract. Si se puede! Yes we can!

Please tune in Thursday April 2nd at 10am EST: http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/calendar.html

Abril 1, 2009
Red Nacional De Jornaler@s

La presion contra Sheriff Arpaio y todo el programa de 287(g) sigue creciendo. Hace solo unas pocas semanas el Congressista Conyers anuncio audencias en el Committee Judicial. Manana estas audencias seran una realidad. Nos gustaria invitarlos a ver la audencia a travez del internet. Alli veran victimas del perfil racial, el jefe de la policia de Mesa, Arizona, y expertos de perfil racial demascarar las policias de immigracion de Bush por lo que verdaderamente son: una crisis de derechos civiles y humanos. Gracias por todo sus esfuerzos en hacer esta audencia una realidad. Por favor esten al tanto del aviso de accion que mandaremos despues de la audencia el jueves. Necesitamos la ayuda de todos para mandarle una carta a Janet Napolitano, la directora de Homeland Security, y la administracion de Obama para inmediatamente romper el contrato de 287(g) de Sheriff Arpaio. Si se puede! Yes we can!

Pueden ver la audencia jueves abril 2 a las 10am EST: http://judiciary.house.gov/hearings/calendar.html

De La Rocha Rages Against Arpaio


Rage Against The Machine and One Day As A Lion frontman Zack De La Rocha was one of the leaders of a Phoenix, check Ariz. protest against Maricopa County Sheriff (and DMX nemesis) Joe Arpaio and his enforcement of federal immigration laws against Latinos on Saturday.

“Without the proper warrants, he raids the homes and workplaces of janitors and gardeners,” De La Rocha told demonstrators at the end of the rally. “At routine traffic stops, he detains and deports mothers, violently separating them from their children, who are left abandoned.”

The controversial Arpaio was criticized after he recently invited the media to watch as he led undocumented Hispanic inmates who were shackled together by their hands and feet into the infamous Tent City prison, where detainees are forced to wear pink underwear and are subjected to Arizona’s sizzling summer heat. 

The policies and practices of the 76-year-old Arpaio, who describes himself as “America’s toughest sheriff,” have been criticized by Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arizona Ecumenical Council, the American Jewish Committee and the Arizona chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, among others.

Arpaio’s alleged mis of prison inmates made him the target of 2,150 lawsuits in U.S. District Court and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts from 2004 through November 2007, 50 times as many prison-condition lawsuits as the New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston jail systems combined.

“I don’t know why they have to have signs calling me illiterate and a Nazi and every other name in the book,” Arpaio told the Los Angeles Times newspaper. “I’m not concerned about them or some elected officials, they all seem to be Democrats. 

“Nothing changes. They are not going to deter me.”

De La Rocha performed a free show and addressed the issue of alleged racial profiling used against Latinos the night before the protest.

County to probe segregation in jails

by Yvonne Wingett and Michael Kiefer – Feb. 7, click 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will hold a public meeting at 2 p.m. Monday to talk about the possible legal and financial fallout of segregation in the jails by Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

In a letter sent Friday, Supervisor Max Wilson, chairman of the board, asked County Attorney Andrew Thomas to attend the meeting.

Wilson was reacting to statements Thomas made to the press about Arpaio’s new policy of separating convicted inmates who are in the country illegally from the general population. Arpaio said the policy is efficient; Thomas said it might be unconstitutional.

“If this is the case, issues of potential liability and the related financial risk to Maricopa County are clearly implicated,” Wilson wrote in his letter. “I request that you personally appear at a special meeting . . . to advise the board about the legal implications and potential financial risk to the county resulting from the Sheriff’s actions.”

A spokesman for Thomas’ office called the meeting a publicity stunt.

“He’s asking for public legal ,” Barnett Lotstein said.

Lotstein said Thomas had not yet decided whether he or someone from his office would attend the meeting.

Arpaio declined comment on the meeting but issued a statement calling Thomas a “good partner in the fight to reduce illegal immigration.”

“However, at times he and I will have to agree and disagree,” Arpaio said in the statement.

On Tuesday, Arpaio announced that he would segregate the illegal immigrants as a cost-cutting measure, saying it would make it easier to handle visits from consular officials and transport inmates after they serve their time.

On Wednesday, Arpaio marched 220 inmates from Durango Jail to Tent City.

Thomas said he disagreed with the measure on principle but has no statutory authority over Arpaio, who also is his closest political ally.

He cannot sue Arpaio over the issue because he does not have standing, Thomas said; a lawsuit would have to be filed by someone directly affected by the policy, such as an inmate.

On Thursday, Thomas cited a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision that rejected an unwritten policy of segregating prisoners by race – ostensibly to prevent gang battles – by the California Department of Corrections.

America’s Worst Sheriff (Joe Arpaio)

Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, ask Ariz., which includes Phoenix and its sprawling surroundings, is an aggressive self-promoter with a new claim to fame: a reality show on Fox called “Smile … You’re Under Arrest!” It’s a “Candid Camera” for crooks, with actors luring fugitives into compromising situations, for laughs.

It’s easy to snicker at the sight of a publicity-addicted law-enforcement official wallowing with the dregs of reality TV, sharing a channel with shows like “My Bare Lady,” “The Glutton Bowl” and “World Famous for Dicking Around.”

But Sheriff Arpaio is armed and dangerous. He is a genuine public menace with a long and well-documented trail of inmate abuses, unjustified arrests, racial profiling, brutal and inept policing and wasteful spending.

For years he has won fawning press coverage by playing the role of “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” But now another side of the story — that is, the truth — is leaking out.

The latest example is a report released this month that sums up, in devastating detail, the cost of Sheriff Arpaio’s reign. It was issued not by the sheriff’s usual critics — whom he routinely dismisses as a band of bleeding-hearts — but by the Goldwater Institute, a think tank dedicated to the principles of the late Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, an obelisk of conservatism.

Read a summary here, or the full pdf.

Here’s the gist.

What has risen on Sheriff Arpaio’s watch: violent crimes (up 69 percent overall from 2004 to 2007, with homicides up 166 percent in those three years), 911 response times, unserved arrest warrants, racist sweeps of Latino neighborhoods, and dollars paid out in budget overruns, overtime and lawsuit settlements.

What has declined: the arrest rate, the number of satellite booking stations, public access to department records, Sheriff Arpaio’s reputation.

The Goldwater report must bring some comfort to the residents of Maricopa County who have spent years raising the alarm about Sheriff Arpaio, with little effect outside Arizona.

They include a Web site, barriozona.com, that has tracked the sheriff’s terrorizing sweeps through Latino neighborhoods, and a dogged reporter, Stephen Lemons of The Phoenix New Times, who keeps the heat on Sheriff Arpaio in his blog. Mr. Lemons recently posted some chilling video from a public meeting of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, where Sheriff Arpaio’s deputies arrested citizens … for clapping.

Sheriff Arpaio was elected to a fifth term in November and is riding high, at least in the worlds of bad policing and jackass television.

But pride, they say, goes before a fall. Here’s hoping!