NDLON in the News

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This time, Lake Worth works

Palm Beach Post Columnist

Sunday, store December 07, here 2008

A strange cultural dance between snowbirds and day laborers goes on in downtown Lake Worth most weekday mornings.

Dozens of retirees, in pastels and white sneakers, arm themselves with cue sticks and take to the shuffleboard courts at the city’s recreation center. They play for an audience of Latin American immigrants, in blue jeans, flannel shirts and ball caps. They stare from the sidelines, wondering what the hell they’re looking at. Are there no soccer balls in Lake Worth?

A Martian who landed at the scene would be hard-pressed to identify the more alien faction. But anyone in the galaxy can figure out that something extraordinary is going on.

A month ago, city commissioners approved a plan to lease space in the building for $1 a year and open Palm Beach County’s third day-labor center. Jupiter pioneered the concept last year and Loxahatchee Groves has followed. The three very different communities faced the same problem: Immigrants on street corners soliciting day jobs from motorists, many of whom were delighted to oblige. Putting employers and employees together not only has reduced traffic hazards in Jupiter and Loxahatchee Groves but has deterred workplace abuses and promoted good behavior among all parties.

Lake Worth wrestled with the decision for more than two years. But the popularity of the new center was evident on a recent Tuesday morning. Close to 100 workers, most from Guatemala and Mexico, came looking for jobs. Lines were two- and three-deep at the eight computer terminals where English instruction programs were running. The makeshift lounge was filled with people hoping to hear their names called. They drank coffee donated by Starbucks, registered for classes, swapped stories and checked out the shuffleboard when all else failed.

“Of course, Jupiter has been our model, and I’d say things have gone better than we expected so far,” says Lisa Wilson, the center’s program director. “It has taken a huge collaborative effort to get this started.”

Ms. Wilson is guilty of understatement. Here is a partial list of collaborators: The Mentoring Center, Our Lutheran Savior Church, Cristo Es la Respuesta, Maya Ministry of the Diocese of Palm Beach, Coalition of Guatemala, the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition, Palm Beach Community College, Buena Fe Center, Maya Quetal, Grupo Broadway, Lake Worth Global Justice, Organization of Mayan People in Exile, Adopt-A-Family, Interior Dimensions Group, Church of the Nazarene, Trinity Church International, Society of the Friends of the Quakers and the United Way.

Ms. Wilson says 22 employers have registered with the center, and 15 to 20 workers are getting hired each day. The average wage is $7.38 an hour. Only workers who live in Lake Worth can use the center, but employers have come from as far away as Delray Beach. Roughly 15”percent of workers placed have been native-born Americans.

“People miss that point a lot,” Ms. Wilson says. “One of the first persons we placed was an unemployed who has lived in Lake Worth her whole life. We found her a job as a caretaker for an elderly gentleman.”

Day labor centers have become necessary because of the federal government’s failure to come up with a comprehensive immigration reform plan that provides the economy the workforce it needs. President-elect Obama may be able to fix that. If not, there’ll be shuffleboard with Spanish play-by-play commentary in Lake Worth.

Dan Moffett is a former member of The Post Editorial Board. His e-mail address is moff1013@aol.com



Immigration support group in Centreville considers work center for laborers

geneva;”>While some neighboring communities focus on policing the activities of migrant workers, a Centreville group has instead committed itself to aiding them.

Last month, the group, which calls itself the Centreville Immigration Forum, discussed implementing an emergency hot line, a worker center, and a way to help immigrant families who have been impacted by federal raids.

The group meets monthly at various locations. Representatives of other area churches and social-service groups also attend.

Past speakers have included Fairfax County Supervisor Michael Frye (R-Sully); Eve Barner, aide to Va. Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-Centreville); Robert Rutland Brown, executive director of legal aid organization Just Neighbors; and Mukit Hussain, of the Herndon Resource Center.

Members of Wellspring United Church of Christ, through its community outreach committee, have overseen these monthly “immigration dialogue” meetings for about a year.

Alice Foltz, the committee’s director, who often acts as the moderator, says she wants to see “more light and less heat” on the subject of immigration.

“We want to listen to each other and try to build community in Centreville, instead of just parallel communities,” she said.

The forum, which has about 24 members, met Nov. 18 at the Centreville United Methodist Church and discussed implementing a worker center in Centreville.

“Not every day laborer standing on the corner is illegal, but they all need jobs,” Foltz said. “The former worker center in Herndon enabled workers to have some recourse when they were not paid. That side of the Herndon experience would be very helpful to us.”

After discussing the benefits of a worker site, which member Pat Hood called “a big sell job,” Foltz steered the group toward more immediately achievable goals. “Let’s focus on the low-hanging fruit. What can we do right now?” she said.

The group concluded that implementing a Spanish-language emergency hot line that laborers could call for assistance could be accomplished more readily. “It would be a way to provide direction for assistance should an emergency arise, such as electricity being shut off,” said Jerry Foltz.

Esteban Garces, of the union Workers and Tenants United, said that many immigrant families are adversely impacted when family members are detained by federal raids. “Workers and their families are in desperate need of bond assistance,” Garces said.

“Maybe we could take care of families after an [immigration enforcement] raid,” suggested Mike Morse.

“I hope so,” added Pat Hood. “But not everyone is as sweet as we are.”



Herndon starts I-9 campaign for day laborers

The Herndon Town Council has implemented a federal worker verification program that will require employers to check the work status of any prospective day laborer before hiring them.

In a November resolution, the council directed Town Manager Art Anselene to implement a campaign informing those who employ day workers that it is illegal to hire workers on private property and that federal law prohibits hiring workers without an employment check, typically conducted via completion of a federal I-9 form.

All employers are generally required to have workers fill out the form upon being hired, although Town Attorney Richard Kaufman has admitted there is some legal ambivalence as to whether this applies to day laborers.

Nonetheless, beginning next week, 12 signs incorporating this message will be erected at the approaches to Elden Street and the Alabama Drive intersection. Some will be placed in front of a local McDonalds, others at the side entrance to a local ping center and others near the Elden Street entrance to the Amphora Diner.

According to town spokesperson Anne Curtis, a box filled with I-9 forms will be attached to each of the 12 signs. “Similar to real estate signs,” she said. All employers will need is a pen.

Forms will also be available at the Herndon Municipal Center, and Herndon’s Neighborhood Resource Center.

The program’s implementation will also be advertised in local newspapers, and information will be available via the town’s Web site at www.herndon-va.gov.

“The town’s zoning ordinance prohibits the hiring of day workers on private property – and federal law prohibits the hiring of day workers without an employment check, or I-9 form,” said Mayor Steve DeBenedittis. “Our aim with this campaign is to educate employers of day workers to these requirements and to follow through with our own zoning enforcement activity and with direct contact to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement if we note violations to these requirements.”

Once implemented, Curtis said that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), would be contacted if it is observed that employers are not complying with the program. She added however, that there would be no “formal” observation put in place until at least June 2009, when the program and any additional resources will be re-evaluated.

Anselene estimates that the cost of the program to the town will range between $4,000 to $7,000 for the six-month period of December 2008 through June 2009.



“Alleged” No Longer: Nativist Buffalo Rick Galeener Pleads Guilty to Urinating in Public

Tue Dec 02, 2008 at 07:35:30 PM
Buffalo Rick Galeener, s guilty of taking an illegal al fresco whiz.
Stephen Lemons
Phoenix New Times

In a surprising turn of events in the pending bench trial of nativist wackjob and noted Yosemite Sam-lookalike Buffalo Rick Galeener, the grizzled 58 year-old entered Phoenix Municipal Court this morning, and pleaded “guilty” to one count of public urination. He was ordered to pay a fine of $194.

According to Chief Assistant City Prosecutor Vicki Hill, the deal had been arranged in advance, and Galeener was supposed to have made an appearance before Thanksgiving to enter the new plea, but didn’t make it in because he had been feelin’ poorly. His trial in Judge Deborah Griffith’s courtroom was set to begin today. 

Urinating in public is a class 1 misdemeanor, and carries a potential $2,500 fine, and six months in county stir, where, hypothetically, Galeener might have enjoyed the luxurious ity of his hero, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The incident, in which Galeener was spotted making water by a local Hispanic lady Paulita Cortes and her two year old son, took place on March 8, nearby the Macehualli Work Center, just south of 25th Street and Bell Road. 

Galeener was outside the work center for migrant day-laborers as part of a months-long protest of the site by members of United for a Sovereign America, the most virulent anti-immigrant hate group in the Valley, and one that recently marched outside of Mayor Phil Gordon’s home to protest Gordon’s outspoken criticism of Sheriff Joe’s immigration policies. 

According to the Phoenix police report of the incident, Cortes spotted Galeener around noon near his 1992 Ford Ranger truck, “exposing his penis and urinating in a container.” The same report stated Galeener admitted to a police officer that he had urinated, but had done so inside his truck where nobody could see him. It should be noted there’s a McDonalds and a Taco Bell just about a block away from where the incident took place.

Phoenix cops cited Galeener for misdemeanor indecent exposure,but the charge was later changed by the City Prosecutor’s office to public urination, which carries the same penalty. Galeener hired a lawyer, Phoenix attorney Joey Hamby, and insisted on fighting the case, though all the City Prosecutor wanted Galeener to do was plead guilty, pay a fine and walk.

A mean old cuss who has been overheard in the past referring to non-whites as “monkeys,” and who has a Web site where he proudly proclaims, “I hate illegals,” among other racist gibberish, Galeener refused cop to the al fresco whiz up until the last minute. Macehualli’s director, Salavador Reza, said Galeener’s lawyer questioned one of the cops involved in the arrest, the victim Paulita Cortes, and Reza himself, long before the trial date.

“The lawyer tried to portray [Galeener] as a respectable person,” related Reza. “I basically said I thought he was an eccentric and had a foul-mouth. That’s about it.”

Reza said he believed Galeener and his lawyer wanted to prove some conspiracy against Galeener existed between the cop, Cortes, and Reza. But there was no proof of such an unlikely scenario. Told of Galeener’s plea deal, Reza thought the Gabby Hayes doppelganger had gotten off easy.

“If any day laborer had done that in a white neighborhood, they’d probably be in Arpaio’s jail as a sexual predator,” said Reza. “He was cut a break. On the other hand, I think he had to pay a lot of money to his lawyer. And it showed him for who he is, somebody who’s so crazed with hate, that he’ll go to extremes to prove a point.”

Galeener’s earned a certain amount of infamy for his nativist activities, getting written up by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report magazine, being parodied by pro-immigrant activists, even inspiring a Buffalo Rick impersonator at a recent Halloween/ Day of the Dead celebration, complete with a fake bottle of urine. No doubt his recent plea of guilty will only add to his unsavory reputation.  



Who Is to Blame for Marcelo Lucero’s Murder?

Elected officials in Suffolk County have created a xenophobic climate that breeds hate crimes.

Lucero’s death was labeled a hate killing by local police, who said the teenagers, all locals, embarked on a beer-fueled rampage in search of “a Mexican” to beat up.

“Once more, the blood of our people, of an immigrant, has been sed on the streets of Suffolk,” said Allan B. Ramirez, a congregational pastor, speaking near the street corner where Lucero died.

It was only the latest, and most serious, in a chain of attacks on Latino immigrants in Suffolk County. In 2000, two Mexican day laborers in Farmingville were picked up by men ostensibly offering them work and were nearly beaten to death with gardening tools. Three years later, local teenagers firebombed a home, and the immigrant family of five living in it barely escaped with their lives. Low-level harassment is even more common. Community leaders say Latinos are regularly taunted, spit upon and pelted with projectiles.

This ugliness is belied by Suffolk’s surface peace and orderliness. It is a land of strip malls, corporate parks and idyllic towns and villages occupying Long Island’s eastern two-thirds.

Local soul-searching over the crime has focused on whether local politicians are partly to blame for Lucero’s death. Immigrant advocates say elected officials, through legislation and rhetoric, have created a xenophobic climate that breeds hate crimes.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy and his allies in the local legislature have very publicly championed measures aimed at stemming illegal immigration. Levy has won some of these battles (requiring county contractors to check workers’ status, cracking down on landlords with overcrowded housing) but lost others, most notably an effort to deputize local law enforcement to nab illegal immigrants.

Levy, an extremely popular, brash Democrat first elected in 2003, also co-founded a national group called Mayors & Executives for Immigration Reform. He has been a guest on Lou Dobbs Tonight, the CNN show known for Dobbs’ strident coverage of illegal immigration.

Meanwhile, Suffolk’s Latino population — a diverse mosaic of Salvadorans, Colombians, Dominicans, Ecuadoreans and Mexicans — has continued booming. Suffolk is 13 percent Latino, according to U.S. Census figures.

The contradictions of life in today’s Long Island were apparent recently at a county legislative session. A low-slung brick building in a governmental complex off a highway in Smithtown, the legislature’s usual business is the day-to-day management of suburbia. In a typical session, lawmakers might handle zoning, traffic problems and citizens’ complaints regarding trash pick-up.

On the morning of Nov. 18, however, the legislators got an earful about their portion of responsibility in Lucero’s murder, which happened 10 days earlier.

The morning began normally, with resolutions to commend community heroes: a little girl who had won a blueberry muffin baking contest, a sporting goods retailer that donated equipment to the “Fighting 69th” National Guard unit in Afghanistan, a policeman who saved the life of a man trapped in a car. The legislature’s presiding officer, William J. Lindsay, cheerily announced that a fifth grade class from a local elementary school in Bohemia was watching the proceedings.

Then came the public portion, when citizens are allowed to speak out, and the tone changed immediately.

Charlotte Koons of the Suffolk New York Civil Liberties Union was the first speaker. She read a poem about Lucero’s death, ending with this line: “We must all own our part in this crime … We can legislate and educate the hate away.” Suffolk resident Andrea Callan, also with the NYCLU, blasted the lawmakers for setting a bad example. “The policies coming out of this legislative body, and no doubt from the playbook of Steve Levy, have been divisive and unfair, and send a message of intolerance into our community.”

While the speakers, some wearing pins reading “I am Marcelo Lucero,” launched these critiques, many legislators looked the other way. Brian Beedenbender and Jack Eddington, both enthusiastic backers of Levy’s campaign against illegal immigration, stared at the screens of their laptops.

In between the advocates’ speeches, other speakers touched on more routine Suffolk issues like the budget woes of the county’s planetarium and science museum.

Some in Suffolk may yearn for normality, but their county has forever become emblematic of a problem with national reach: the tension between the suburban myth of white-picket fences and orderly lawns and the realities of immigration. As job-seeking immigrants increasingly move from urban areas to outlying communities, suburbs must choose whether they will embrace diversity or scapegoat foreigners.

It’s no secret many Suffolk residents moved from more urbanized areas to put some distance between themselves and what they perceive as the chaotic diversity of New York City and its immediate surroundings, said Patrick Young, program director of the Central American Refugee Center (Carecen), who also spoke at the session. Suburbia’s irrational distrust and fear of minorities can manifest as anti-immigrant sentiment.

“It has become an acceptable part of the culture of this area, and this is a culture that’s pandered to by these politicians and stirred up by them,” he said.

Not all Suffolk legislators agree on immigration. Some lawmakers (including two Latinos and a Republican) have made efforts to reach out to the Latino community and taken a stand against Levy’s aggressive immigration positions.

For his part, in a televised speech the same night of the Nov. 18 legislative session, Levy apologized for his initial reaction minimizing the hate crime’s importance (he had said that if it had happened elsewhere, Lucero’s murder would have been “a one-day story,” a comment that enraged many Latinos and activists). Levy, son of a Jewish father, also compared Lucero’s killing to Kristallnacht in 1938, when Nazis in Germany destroyed Jewish businesses and synagogues. Lucero’s murder occurred on the eve of Kristallnacht’s 70-year anniversary.

But Levy denied there was a link between Lucero’s death and his attitude toward illegal immigration. “Advocates for those here illegally should not disparage those opposed to the illegal immigration policy as being bigoted or intolerant,” he said.

The next day, though, Levy seemed to forget his serious tone and again was flippant regarding Lucero’s murder. According to Newsday, he was speaking to a gathering of business people and jokingly compared his difficulties handling the Lucero case to a colonoscopy.

In the past, Levy has cited the dream of a suburban lifestyle to justify his beliefs on immigration. “People who play by the rules work hard to achieve the suburban dream of the white picket fence,” he said in 2007 to The New York Times. “Whether you are black or white or Hispanic, if you live in the suburbs, you do not want to live across the street from a house where 60 men live. You do not want trucks riding up and down the block at 5 a.m., picking up workers.” With such statements Levy is advancing a polarizing vision, said immigrant advocates.

It’s the same rhetoric the teenagers who killed Lucero have been hearing since they were old enough to understand it, said Carcen’s Young, who added, “this constant branding of people as illegal is the most dehumanizing thing.”

At the street corner in the tidy, seaside village of Patchogue where Lucero died, an improvised shrine has been set up, with flowers, candles, and photos. A line of orange spray-paint left by police still marks the path the mortally wounded Lucero followed before falling. A sign written in black marker reads: “God Loves All People, and All People Should Love One Another.”



Deputy’s murder trial delayed: Yancey charged with killing wife, day laborer in his home

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Monday, December 01, 2008

The murder trial of ex-DeKalb County sheriff’s deputy Derrick Yancey will be delayed until early 2009.

Yancey earlier had invoked his right to a speedy trial on charges that he shot to death his wife and a day laborer in his home June 9. Under Georgia law, his trial would have had to begin in December.

But defense lawyer Keith Adams said Monday he had withdrawn the speedy trial demand because Yancey’s case might have overlapped with an unrelated case involving Adams.

Adams said he and the district attorney’s office have asked Superior Court Judge Linda Hunter to schedule the trial next year, possibly in February or March.

Yancey, 49, claimed he shot Marcial Cax Puluc after the laborer, who was about 20, killed Linda Yancey in an armed robbery attempt. Prosecutors allege Derrick Yancey killed them both but have not disclosed a possible motive.

Derrick Yancey resigned his job before his arrest. Linda Yancey, 44, also was an employee of the sheriff’s office.