NDLON in the News

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Hidden cameras test public’s prejudice toward immigration

Posted on 16 March 2011

By David Bauder
The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Public attitudes toward immigration are put to the test on the latest episode of a news–reality hybrid television show that uses hidden cameras to record the reactions of real people.

An episode of the ABC network’s “What Would You Do?” shows the responses of people standing in line at a deli behind two day laborers fumbling with cash and struggling with English, help when the clerk begins spewing hatred. “Go back to your country or go eat at Taco Bell.”

What would you do?

Stand in uncomfortable silence, hoping simply to leave as quickly as possible? Tell the clerk to shut up? Join in with the bigotry? Kick the men as they’re down?

When ABC News set up that scenario in a New Jersey deli, hiring actors to portray the clerk and laborers, and hiding cameras to record people’s reactions, it found all of those responses — and more.

“What Would You Do?” has gotten some traction on ABC.

Producer Chris Whipple thought of the idea after wondering if there was a way to do a TV version of “The Ethicist” column in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. There was an immediate response in the ratings after “Primetime” carried the first segment in 2004 with an actor portraying a babysitter who was verbally abusing a boy in a park.

ABC carried five “What Would You Do?” hours last winter and doubled the order for this year because it was the highest-rated newsmagazine program with younger viewers.

“It’s the kind of insightful television that makes you think, the water-cooler stuff you talk about the next morning,” said John Quinones, who anchors the series. “It’s pretty powerful, and [it’s] a reminder that you’re not in this world alone. You have to look out for all your fellow human beings.”

The deli segment proved to be emotional. Even though he was an actor, one of the men portraying a laborer cried later because of the way he was treated.

One Black man initially advised the laborers to get out of the deli, at first seemingly in sympathy but then in anger. In an interview after Quinones stepped in, he acknowledged being mad at immigrants taking away jobs. He softened after some thought, realizing he was guilty of the same discrimination that he had experienced.

Quinones, who grew up in San Antonio, dressed down and took a few turns himself posing as a Spanish-speaking laborer.

“Even though I knew it was all an act and the guy behind the counter was being paid to say these awful words, the words still stung,” he said.

Here’s how highly ABC thinks of the show: Even during troubled economic times, Quinones and Whipple scored a trip to Paris last summer to find out whether the French were snooty toward American tourists.

“What Would You Do?” is also a sign of changing times in broadcast news divisions. Quinones is a veteran journalist who reported about Central America for “World News Tonight” and won Emmy Awards for stories on the Congo’s rain forest and the Yanomamo Indians who reside in the Amazon rainforest.

Now Quinones spends most of his time on concocted social situations.

Quinones admitted to some trepidation about the idea at first, but he said it has been erased by how many times he has seen brave people do the right thing.

“How many other newsmagazines are tackling domestic violence, racism, attacks on the homeless, date rape, hazing, ping while Black?” Whipple said. Some of the experiments come directly from the news: The recent stabbing death of an immigrant from Ecuador on Long Island, east of New York City, has inspired a segment where people’s reactions will be tested when they see day laborers threatened with physical harm.

ABC has nine more episodes running on Tuesday nights through March.

(Source: NWAsianWeekly.com)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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