NDLON in the News

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Mexico protests Tent City separation of illegals

The Associated Press

Published: February 11, 2009

MEXICO CITY: Mexico on Tuesday criticized an Arizona sheriff’s decision to keep illegal immigrants separate from other inmates at tents in Phoenix that house prisoners.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio accompanied the immigrant inmates — along with members of the media — to Tent City from an area jail on Feb. 4. He suggested illegal immigrants were better at escaping than other criminals and that housing them separately would save money.

The Mexican Foreign Relations Department said 230 Mexican nationals were being held at Tent City.

The Mexican consul general in Phoenix has “energetically protested the undignified way in which the Mexicans were transferred to ‘Tent City,’” the department said in a statement. The department said the and transfer of prisoners should “conform to internationally recognized norms” but did not give more details about why it thought the prisoners had been mistreated.

Arpaio said Mexican officials have not expressed any discontent personally to him and that he was surprised by Tuesday’s statement. He said he was told that the Mexican officials who visited the prisoners at Tent City expressed satisfaction over conditions.

“Everything was good, so I don’t know what this is about,” Arpaio told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Arpaio said keeping illegal immigrants in one place is convenient for consulate officials visiting foreign inmates and for Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents charged with deporting the inmates after they have served sentences in county jails.

He also said that the separation involved not only illegal immigrants but also U.S. citizens who have orders to be transferred to the federal government after serving out their sentences. But he said the vast majority of those held in the separate area were illegal immigrants.

Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox has expressed concern that Arpaio could potentially be violating the immigrants’ rights by keeping them separated and would seek an opinion from the Justice Department and have staff there issue an opinion.

Alessandra Soler Meetze, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, has said it was degrading and unnecessary to shepherd the prisoners in front of media.

The Tent City is part of a tough atmosphere that made Arpaio nationally famous. His jails also feature chain gangs and pink underwear for male inmates.


Day Laborers Hopeful as They React to Obama Inaugural Address

Day Laborers Hopeful as They React to Obama Inaugural Address

Day Laborers Hopeful as They React to Obama Inaugural Address
Send Clear Message Throughout the County:    “We will continue to organize for Change!” 

Contact: Chris Newman,   323-717-5310

Who:  Day Laborers
What:  React to Obama Inaugural Address
Where:  Events planned throughout country
When:  January 20 and 21

(Washington DC)  Day laborers, order   their organizations, and community partners will hold a series of press conferences, demonstrations, teach-ins, and discussions throughout the country  following the President-Elect’s inaugural address.     The events are part of a coordinated effort by the 41-member  National Day Laborer Organizing Network to ensure day laborers’ voices are heard as a new era of government begins in Washington DC.    The approximately 120,000 day laborers  who seek and receive work every day are hopeful for a change in US policy that will bring full labor protections, a restoration of civil rights, and a path to citizenship and political equality.  

In the last several years, the Day Laborer Community has come under unprecedented assault by anti-immigrant politicians at all levels of government.   A strategy that sought to gin-up anti-immigrant sentiment to gain favor with voters has resoundingly failed.     

“Efforts to demonize the day labor community brought us no closer to immigration reform, and it’s now clear the nativist movement was a paper tiger,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of NDLON.  He added,  “We know that any true immigration reform in the United States will draw upon the experiences and perspectives of migrants themselves, particularly those who are unfairly disadvantaged by our currently broken immigration system.” 

President-elect Obama pledged during his campaign to make immigration reform one of his top priorities, and day laborers- like others in the migrant community- are eager to hear how he plans to deliver on those campaign promises.  They will gather in churches, on street corners, and at worker centers to collectively interpret the inaugural address and discuss plans to engage an Obama Administration moving forward. 

“It’s time for less words and more action from Washington DC,” said Maria Marroquin of Mountainview, CA and NDLON’s Board Chair.  “We are hopeful that the era of immigrant bashing is behind us.”    

In some places throughout the country, there is a greater sense of urgency for federal action.  For example, in Janet Napolitano’s hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, a local sheriff deputized himself to enforce federal immigration law and enlisted vigilantes to help in the process.   The result is a policy of scapegoating, racial profiling, and civil rights deprivations not seen in this country since the days of Jim Crow.       “There is nothing short of a human rights crisis in Maricopa County, Arizona,” said Salvador Reza of the Macehualli Day Labor Center in Phoenix. 



Latinos Recall Pattern of Attacks Before Killing


Latinos Recall Pattern of Attacks Before Killing

Damon Winter/The New York Times
Carlos Angamarca said he and a friend were attacked in Patchogue by a group of teenagers.
Published: January 8, 2009

PATCHOGUE, health N.Y. — Carlos Orellana, a construction worker from Ecuador, was walking home from work in this small Long Island town on July 14, he said, when about a dozen teenage boys on bicycles knocked him to the ground and kicked and beat him, shouting, “Go back to Mexico.”

Mr. Orellana, 39, said he lost consciousness, and when he came to, his shoes and $20 were missing. He called the police. He said he recognized some of the boys, who often hung around Main Street. But the mug shots the police showed him were no help. The police classified the case as a second-degree robbery, he said, and no one was arrested.

Attacks like the one Mr. Orellana reported have drawn new attention since Marcelo Lucero, another Ecuadorean immigrant, was stabbed to death on Nov. 8 near Main Street. Prosecutors say seven 16- and 17-year-old boys, mostly from neighboring Medford, were attacking Mr. Lucero when one of them rushed at him with a knife. The attacks were such an established pastime that the youths, who have pleaded not guilty, had a casual and derogatory term for it, “beaner hopping.” One of the youths told the authorities, “I don’t go out doing this very often, maybe once a week.”

That was not news to Latinos in Patchogue, who say that regular harassment, muggings and assaults have had them living in fear — 11 men told The New York Times of 13 attacks, nine of them in the past two years.

But the Suffolk County police said it was news to them.

“We hadn’t noticed this,” Richard Dormer, the Suffolk County police commissioner, said in an interview last month when asked about the attacks by groups of young men. “And that’s a concern to us.”

Mr. Orellana is one of many Latino residents who believe that Mr. Lucero would be alive today if the police had taken crimes against them more seriously and recognized them as symptoms of a larger problem. While some Latino immigrants say they are reluctant to report crimes because they are in the country illegally or fear the police will assume they are, they and their advocates believe the police did not see a pattern because they did not want to see one.

“I told people, here the authorities are waiting for a white to kill a Hispanic or a Hispanic to kill a white,” Mr. Orellana said. “They keep attacking and robbing, and nothing changes. There had to be a death, and the death was Lucero.”

Prosecutors say the teenagers charged in the attack on Mr. Lucero chased another Latino man and shot a BB gun at a third that day. But the problems began long before Mr. Lucero’s death. And by the men’s accounts, the series of attacks involved far more teenagers.

Last month, Times reporters spoke with the 11 Latino men who gave detailed accounts of attacks they said they experienced or witnessed. The attacks the men described fit a pattern: Groups of teenagers — often, the men believed, from neighboring towns — roamed Patchogue’s grid of s and houses and assaulted Latino men unprovoked.

The men said the groups were made up mostly of white male teenagers, but sometimes included black or Latino attackers or female onlookers.

The men’s stories could not be independently verified. Some had police complaint numbers or bills; most did not.

The Times provided Suffolk County police officials with details of each account. Mr. Dormer said the police were conducting intensive investigations of several cases brought to their attention after Mr. Lucero’s death, but declined to comment on individual cases.

Immigrants say they bear some of the responsibility, because some did not report past attacks. Many fear the police because they are in the country illegally; some give false names; some do not know how the criminal justice system works or how to document their dealings with the police. Immigrant advocacy groups say the police often fuel a cycle of mistrust by inappropriately asking about immigration status; the police deny that.

But a majority of those who spoke with The Times said they or a witness called the police. Several said officers took down information and had them look at mug shots. Yet five men who reported assaults believed the police did not take the cases seriously enough. One said an officer told him he could not arrest a minor; another said the police discouraged him from filing a report; a third said he saw a victim arrested after his assailants told officers he had started the fight.

On Dec. 3, the advocacy group Hispanics Across America and the Congregational Church of Patchogue invited victims to the church to report cases to advocates and authorities, including the police, the district attorney, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department. Most of the men who spoke with The Times reporters were among those who reported their stories at the church. Mr. Orellana told his story, and the next day the police brought more mug shots to his house. This time, he identified several of his attackers.

One, he said, was Jeffrey Conroy, the well-known high school athlete charged with plunging the knife into Mr. Lucero.

Mr. Conroy’s lawyer, William Keahon, said that Mr. Conroy did not attack Mr. Orellana, adding that news media coverage may have distorted Mr. Orellana’s memory.

In early December, Commissioner Dormer ordered the department to audit thousands of police reports filed last year in the Fifth Precinct, which includes Patchogue, “to see if there was something going on that we missed,” he said.

“We’re not naïve enough to think that nothing was going on,” he added.

Even though the department has CompStat, a computerized system that helps track patterns, the police could have missed a trend if officers recorded similar incidents inconsistently, as “disturbance,” “police information” or “harassment,” Mr. Dormer said. Officers will receive new guidance on report writing, he said.

Foster Maer, senior litigation counsel for LatinoJustice P.R.L.D.E.F., a legal advocacy group, said the problem went deeper. “Something is wrong systemically,” he said.

Fernando Mateo, president of Hispanics Across America, agreed. “This was a pattern,” he said, “and the cops knew about it.”

LatinoJustice has called on federal authorities to investigate police conduct, and the Suffolk County district attorney is investigating more than a dozen complaints of violence against immigrants.

Life on Main Street

Patchogue’s Main Street has red-brick storefronts and, around Christmas, a crèche that blares “Silent Night” loudly enough to be heard inside passing cars. Unlike other Main Streets decimated by big-box stores, the one here still functions as a town center.

One reason Main Street is still alive is foot traffic from immigrants, who have settled in the surrounding villagelike blocks. But the influx has placed Patchogue at the center of a painful debate.

Driven by immigration, Long Island’s Latino population grew 70 percent between 1990 and 2000, according to census data, and has grown faster since then, officials say.

Amid these shifts, tensions have risen, and in some cases, violence has erupted. In 2000, two men posed as contractors, abducted two Farmingville day laborers and beat them nearly to death with a crowbar. In July 2003, a group of teenagers set fire to the house of a Mexican family in Farmingville.

County Executive Steve Levy made tough policies against illegal immigration his central issue and was re-elected in 2007 with 96 percent of the vote. In 2004, he tried to deputize police officers for immigration checks but dropped the plan after a police union argued that it would make immigrants afraid to talk to the police.

Over the years, immigrants, drawn by relatively affordable housing, settled into Patchogue, a town of about 12,000 that had been mostly white. Since 2003, the Latino student population of the Patchogue-Medford School District has swelled to 24 percent from about 4 percent.

Paul V. Pontieri Jr., Patchogue’s mayor, said he believed the immigration debate painted illegal immigrants as “animals” and spurred crime by people who saw them as “expendable.” He said some residents blamed the newcomers, and the attendant costs, for austerity budgets that forced cutbacks in the high schools.

“It goes from the dining room table to the conversation at the lunchroom table — kids sitting around talking about how the senior trip they’ve been waiting for is going to be canceled,” he said. “We as the adults have to frame our conversations in a different way.”

Patchogue village officials took enough notice of menacing teenagers that last summer they adopted an ordinance allowing code enforcement officers to confiscate bicycles ridden on the sidewalk, and posted unarmed officers behind the town library, where immigrants complained they were often harassed. Mr. Dormer said the county police had made outreach efforts before Mr. Lucero’s death, holding community meetings and teaching officers basic Spanish. Yet he said no residents told the police about the scope of the problem around Main Street.

After the killing, Mr. Dormer transferred a Hispanic commander to lead the Fifth Precinct, assigned a Spanish-speaking foot patrol officer to Patchogue and named Sgt. Lola Quesada, born in Ecuador, as a community liaison. He said that the department would investigate any reports of police negligence.

Accounts of Fear

On Sept. 22, 2007, Sergio Yanza was sitting on his porch on Evergreen Street with friends when 16 to 20 people, ranging from 13 to 18 years old, poured into the street in front of the house, he said. They threw rocks and sticks — and later, logs of firewood — jumped on his car and shouted ugly things about “Spanish” people.

The youths fled before the police arrived. Hit in the head with a rock, Mr. Yanza, 38, went to the for eight stitches. He never received a police report and does not know what became of the case. The police declined to comment.

Carlos Angamarca, a construction worker from Ecuador, said he and a friend were attacked in the summer of 2007 by a group of white youths who beat and kicked them. He begged a woman driving by to call the police, but she laughed. A few minutes later, he said he saw the youths get into her car and drive away.

“It’s like a hunt,” Mr. Angamarca said. The police showed him mug shots, but he recognized no one.

Last July 11, five or six boys surrounded Mauro Lopez, 45, a native of Ecuador, on a dark Patchogue street, he said. They sprayed a stinging liquid in his eyes, kicked him, bit his ear and beat him with batons or baseball bats. They stole $300, his identification, his clothes and his shoes, he said.

Later, the police drove by as Mr. Lopez crouched nearly naked on the sidewalk. The police, he said, spoke to him from the car in Spanish. But Mr. Lopez was afraid, and he told them, “No problem,” then walked home. The police, he thinks, did not notice his injuries.

The police opened an investigation after Mr. Lopez reported the attack last month. They said that he told them the car was a block away, and that they do not know whether he spoke to an officer that night.

Mr. Lopez said he d his wounds at home, embarrassed and alone. “I wanted to swallow it myself,” he said. Five months later, he still has headaches and blurred vision. He has not been able to work.

Lindsey McCormack, Jack Styczynski and Karen Zraick contributed reporting.



NDLON Benefit Concert “Community Media” Project with OZOMATLI


Producciones Cimarrón presents… “COMMUNITY MEDIA” Benefit Concert Perfomances by
Jan 16th, 2009 8pm
@ The EchoPlex
1154 Glendale Blvd, L.A.

$15 or $12 with non-perishable food donation (Food Donations will be distributed among Los Angeles day laborer centers.

Benefit for…

“Jornaleras Presente” a media research project representing women day laborers within the 

National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

“Centro de Comunicación Comunitaria” an independent media center in  El Serreno, East Los Angeles 

(a project of Producciones Cimarrón).

for more info:
213 215 0738

In the Cold


New York Times

This winter day begins a new year of the mortgage crisis. Nothing is certain about the miseries ahead except that they are growing. It is, for example, a freezing morning on Long Island — a national symbol of the single-family suburb. Its two counties, Nassau and Suffolk, boast well-run governments, an educated work force and a long history of stability and affluence. Comfort and consumption are the twin strands of their DNA. But the struggle there is acute.

In Nassau County, New York State’s richest one, the foreclosure whirlwind hit hard. Shelters are filling up and food pantries are emptying. More than 500 people sought emergency housing from the county in a recent December week. Most were families with children.

Connie Lassandro, Nassau’s director of housing and homeless services, said the need had risen 30 percent to 40 percent over 2007, as the face of poverty changed. More overburdened homeowners and the elderly are coming forward now — often bewildered and ashamed.

Private outreach organizations, too, are buried under an avalanche of need. Alric Kennedy, director of community resources for the Long Island Council of Churches, said the council used to be able to help some clients with a month’s rent or mortgage but the money ran out last October. It referred people to other agencies until those funds dried up, too. More people than ever are coming to its emergency food centers — 40 to 60 on a typical day in Freeport, in Nassau; 100 or more seek help in Riverhead, in eastern Suffolk. They are desperate for food, diapers, cooking oil and baby formula.

These are not the chronic homeless. “Our donors are now our clients,” Mr. Kennedy said. “People who gave us food are now asking us to help them.”

As people lose not only homes but also jobs, pain is cascading to the bottom rungs of the economy. The Workplace Project, a longstanding defender of immigrant workers’ rights in Hempstead, has seen an alarming rise in reports of unpaid wages, said Nadia Marin-Molina, its executive director. Contractors are cutting costs by missing payrolls and are counting on an undocumented work force not to complain.

Domestic workers are seeing wages cut in half, Ms. Marin-Molina said, as their bosses tell them to come back to clean house every other week.

When the undocumented lose their jobs and homes, there is no government agency they can turn to. Some of that need is being met by charitable organizations. The Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative is a network of church volunteers who give homeless men, mostly Latino immigrants, an alternative to sleeping — and freezing — in the woods. In cold months, they take them into church halls and basements, offering meals, winter coats and hot showers. They do this into the spring. But this economic chill won’t be gone by then.

Nassau County’s comptroller announced this week that s taxes — a mainstay of county revenue — could fall for the first time in nearly 20 years, which would blow a $24 million hole in the 2008 budget. Other local governments and nonprofits are looking to the federal government for help and for billions that might refill empty coffers and loosen tightened belts. But there are no assurances that the aid will be enough — only uncertainty in a place that has been shaken to the core.

“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, and I’ve never seen it like this,” Ms. Lassandro of Nassau County said. “Nobody’s exempt from it.”

Ms. Marin-Molina was astounded by the turnout for The Workplace Project’s annual Christmas party. “An incredible number of people came,” she said. “At least a hundred.” Most were men who needed help and were grateful to go home after a hot meal with donated sweatshirts, hats and gloves.