The arrested foreign national who allegedly flew from New York to Los Angeles last week with a stolen boarding pass and ID card is a self-proclaimed "storyteller, strategist and designer who is passionate about reaching the world for Jesus," according to one of the many websites with which he is affiliated.Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, 24, a Nigerian-born man who was found with the stolen ID and up to 10 old boarding passes containing various names, was arrested Wednesday after attempting to board a flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta; five days after passing through layers of airport security at New York's JFK airport to board a plane with a day-old boarding pass, federal authorities said.Also known as Seun Noibi, the man claims to have an office on Chicago's southwest side and to be a frequent air traveler in comments that are posted under his various identities. He also says he is affiliated with the University of Michigan.In one post on a social media website, Noibi comments about his plans to travel and his commitment to God."3 days, 3 cities, Chicago, Detroit and NOw i can spy with my little eye New york city from this Sheraton at Liberty Int'l Airport in NJ," he said. "When i told God to use me i didn't know he'll take me serious. Here I am. Use more of me. Meetings right into my birthday on sunday and then back in las gidi...for the Diko and Friends in Concert and Album Launch. It can only be God."Noibi is also reportedly the founder of the "Unleash Abel Institute," said to be located in Chicago. The organization claims to have been "introducing students (8-12th graders and college bound) to professional careers in business, technology, and the sciences."He also is listed as a principal executive of Unleash Media Inc. and Unleash 9JA, described as "a movement of independent thinkers, artist, musicians and filmmakers propagating the african experience," according to one website.Noibi was charged with being a stowaway aboard an aircraft, according to FBI Special Agent Kevin R. Hogg. He is being held at a Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center and is expected to be in court Friday.Noibi allegedly managed to get through every layer of security with a fake ID and numerous boarding passes, at least one of which came from another passenger's pocket.The arrest came after Noibi allegedly boarded a plane Saturday under similar circumstances at JFK and travel to Los Angeles. Noibi boarded Virgin America flight 415 at JFK bound for L.A., according to an FBI affidavit.Virgin Atlantic confirmed in a statement to ABC News that Noibi was allowed to board at the gate with a boarding pass for a flight on a different date, and that its agent "may have missed an alert when the passenger presented a boarding pass from an earlier flight.""It's the human factor that's involved in everything," said Joseph Morris, a retired Port Authority of New York and New Jersey police officer and former security director at JFK Airport. "We can have the best technology. You can have the best processes and plans, but again it comes down to the human factor and human error.He was found on the plane after it had taken off and was in flight, in a seat in the aircraft's "main cabin select" area. When asked for his boarding pass, Noibi produced a boarding pass and ticket for a Friday flight that was not in his name, authorities said.On that pass was the name of a man with the initials M.D. After tracking down and interviewing him, the FBI learned that M.D. had lost his home-printed boarding pass from his back pocket, which had been folded into fourths, once he arrived at JFK via subway Friday, officials said. Once he discovered it missing, he obtained a new boarding pass from a ticket kiosk and boarded flight 413.The crew member alerted the captain, who then spoke to local authorities from the flight deck, according to Virgin Atlantic. Law enforcement officers met the aircraft when it landed.It is unclear how Noibi managed to get through security at both airports, and whether he left the L.A. airport once flight 415 landed last week and when he attempted to board Delta Airlines flight 46 to Atlanta Wednesday, although he claims to have cleared security."Noibi … said that he spent the night of June 28, 2011 at LAX Gate 51B, which I know is in the secure portion of the airport," agent Hogg said in the affidavit. "Noibi claimed he was able to go through passenger screening by obtaining a seat pass and displaying his University of Michigan identification and a police report that his passport had been stolen."Hogg was at the Los Angeles airport with tactical Flight Officer Edward Becerril Wednesday when Noibi approach a Delta Airlines departure gate counter, according to the affidavit. Becerril overheard Noibi respond that he had missed his flight the day before, and that "they" told him he could just go to the gate, according to the affidavit. The Delta agent told Noibi "no" twice, and Noibi kept trying to hand her the boarding pass.Hogg and Becerril then approached Noibi and said that when they searched his bags, they found more than 10 boarding passes in various individual's names.Virgin Atlantic said it takes security matters seriously and is reviewing training methods to try to avoid this kind of incident in the future.Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration said it "cannot comment on the specifics of the case given the ongoing FBI investigation."Generally speaking, though, the TSA said in its statement, "Every passenger that passes through security checkpoints is subject to many layers of security including thorough physical screening at the checkpoint. TSA's review of this matter indicates that the passenger went through screening."It is important to note that this passenger was subject to the same physical screening at the checkpoint as other passengers."A spokesman for Virgin America said the airline doesn't comment on security issues.It is unclear why Noibi was arrested Wednesday and not when he was discovered last week as a stowaway on Flight 415.On flight 415 Saturday -- the day after M.D.'s flight had already taken off -- a similarly folded home-printed boarding pass with M.D.'s name on it was found on Noibi, officials said.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Mohammed Mossadegh, Prime Minister, Iran (actually former communist dictator of Iran),Norodom Sihanouk, Leader of Cambodia (actually former puppet of North Vietnam and who waged an illegal war against the Republic of Vietnam),Patrice Lumumba, President, the Congo (actually the former dictator of the Congo and savage war criminal and cannibal),Fidel Castro, President, Cuba (actually the Communist dictator of Cuba),Che Guevara, Cuban military leader (actually an international terrorist killed in Bolivia),Rene Schneider, Army Commander (actually a Communist agent of Castro and the KGB in Chile),Salvador Allende, President, Chile (actually former dictator of Chile),Omar Torijos, Leader of Panama (actually former dictator of Panama),Ahmed Dlimi, Army General, Morocco (actually an Islamist terrorist who had plotted to overthrow King Hassan II of Morocco and establish a "Democratic Arab Islamic Republic of Morocco" and you know that any with the name Democratic in it is anything but and we also know that anything with Islamist in it is.),Miguel d'Escoto, Foreign Minister, Nicaragua (acutally a Nicaraguan Communist),Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Religious Leader, Lebanon (actually Shi'ite terrorist leader and mentor to Hezbollah),Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Military leader, Afghanistan (actually a Taliban allied terrorist),and Osama Bin Ladin. (Interestingly enough MUNI's advertisement gives Bin Ladin no title, unlike the others.)
(CNN) -- The Transportation Security Administration stood by its security officers Sunday after a Florida woman complained that her cancer-stricken, 95-year-old mother was patted down and forced to remove her adult diaper while going through security.
Reports of the incident took hold in social media, with scores of comments on the topic and reposts appearing hourly on Twitter Sunday afternoon.
The TSA released a statement Sunday defending its agents' actions at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport.
"While every person and item must be screened before entering the secure boarding area, TSA works with passengers to resolve security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner," the federal agency said. "We have reviewed the circumstances involving this screening and determined that our officers acted professionally and according to proper procedure."
Jean Weber told CNN's Fredricka Whitfield on Sunday that the security officers may have been procedurally correct, but she still does not believe they were justified, especially given her mother's frail condition.
"If this is your procedure -- which I do understand -- I also feel that your procedure needs to be changed," she said.
Weber said the two were traveling June 18 from northwest Florida to Michigan, so her mother could move in with relatives before eventually going to an assisted living facility."My mother is very ill, she has a form of leukemia," Weber said. "She had a blood transfusion the week before, just to bolster up her strength for this travel."
While going through security, the 95-year-old was taken by a TSA officer into a glassed-in area, where a pat-down was performed, Weber said. An agent told Weber "they felt something suspicious on (her mother's) leg and they couldn't determine what it was" -- leading them to take her into a private, closed room.
Soon after, Weber said, a TSA agent came out and told her that her mother's Depend undergarment was "wet and it was firm, and they couldn't check it thoroughly." The mother and daughter left to find a bathroom, at the TSA officer's request, to take off the adult diaper.
Weber said she burst into tears during the ordeal, forcing her own pat-down and other measures in accordance with TSA protocol. But she said her mother, a nurse for 65 years, "was very calm" despite being bothered by the fact that she had to go through the airport without underwear.
Eventually, Weber said she asked for her mother to be whisked away to the boarding gate without her, because their plane was scheduled to leave in two minutes and Weber was still going through security.
By this weekend, the 95-year-old woman -- who was not identified by name -- was doing "fine" in Michigan, where her niece and her family "was treating her like royalty because they love her so much."
"My mother is a trouper," Weber said.
This is not the first time that the TSA's pat-downs of passengers have come under fire, nor the first time that the agency has rallied behind its officers and policy.
Last year, the administration announced it was ramping up the use of full-body scanning and pat-downs to stop nonmetallic threats, including explosives, from getting on planes. The goal is to head off attacks such as the one allegedly attempted in Christmas 2009 by Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, who allegedly had a bomb sewn into his underwear on a flight from the Netherlands to Michigan.
The TSA estimates that only 3% of passengers are subjected to pat-downs -- and then only after they have set off a metal detector or declined to step into a full-body scanner. Yet the new policy has triggered an uproar online and in airports, from a relatively small but vocal number of travelers who feel their rights and privacy were being violated.
But the federal safety agency hasn't backed down, making some adjustments but no major changes to its policy.
"Every traveler is a critical partner in TSA's efforts to keep our skies safe," Administrator John Pistole, who ordered the new approach, said last fall. "And I know and appreciate that the vast majority of Americans recognize and respect the important work we do."
More recently, outrage erupted over a video-recorded pat-down of a 6-year-old passenger last April at New Orleans' airport. The video, which was posted on YouTube, shows the girl protesting the search by a female security officer at first, though she complies quietly while it is underway.
Pistole addressed this controversy at a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee meeting last week, explaining the pat-down was ordered because the child had moved while passing through a body imaging machine. He told committee members that "we have changed the policy (so) that there'll be repeated efforts made to resolve that without a pat-down."
The next day, TSA spokesman Greg Soule said that the new policy -- which will apply to children age 12 and younger -- is in the process of being rolled out. It will give security officers "more options," but does not eliminate pat-downs as one of them.
"This decision will ultimately reduce -- though not eliminate -- pat-downs," Soule said.
In a fix likely to have broad practical effect, Mr. Morton issued a memorandum that greatly expanded the factors immigration authorities can take into account in deciding to defer or cancel deportations. Agents are now formally urged to consider how long an illegal immigrant has been in the United States, or whether the immigrant was brought here illegally as a child and is studying in high school or college.
In practice, the memorandum gives immigration agents authority to postpone or cancel, on a case by case basis, deportations of illegal immigrant students who might have been eligible for legal status under a bill stalled in Congress that is known as the Dream Act.
The authorities are also instructed to give “particular care and consideration” to veterans and active duty members of the military, especially if they have been in combat, and to their close relatives.
Mr. Morton also expanded the authority of federal lawyers who handle cases in immigration courts to dismiss deportation proceedings against immigrants without serious criminal records.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
It was imperfectly odd. It was strangely unsettling. It was uniquely American.No, not uniquely American, Muslim immigrants to France routinely boo the French national team.On a balmy early Saturday summer evening, the U.S soccer team played for a prestigious championship in a U.S. stadium … and was smothered in boos.Its fans were vastly outnumbered. Its goalkeeper was bathed in a chanted obscenity. Even its national anthem was filled with the blowing of air horns and bouncing of beach balls.Most of these hostile visitors didn't live in another country. Most, in fact, were not visitors at all, many of them being U.S. residents whose lives are here but whose sporting souls remain elsewhere.Welcome to another unveiling of that social portrait known as a U.S.-Mexico soccer match, streaked as always in deep colors of red, white, blue, green … and gray."I love this country, it has given me everything that I have, and I'm proud to be part of it," said Victor Sanchez, a 37-year-old Monrovia resident wearing a Mexico jersey. "But yet, I didn't have a choice to come here, I was born in Mexico, and that is where my heart will always be."
On a street outside the Rose Bowl before the Gold Cup final, Sanchez was hanging out near a motor home that was hosting 17 folks — 15 of whom were Mexico fans. Inside, that ratio held, there seemingly being about 80,000 Mexico fans among the announced crowd of 93,420.This was Staples Center filled with Boston Celtics fans. This was Chavez Ravine filled with Giants jerseys. This was as weird as it was wild and, for a U.S. team that lost, 4-2, it had to be wearisome."Obviously … the support that Mexico has on the night like tonight makes it a home game for them," said U.S. Coach Bob Bradley, choosing his words carefully. "It's part of something we have to deal with on the night."It wasn't just something. It was everything. I've never heard more consistent loud cheering for one team here, from the air horns to the "Ole" chants with each Mexico pass, all set to the soundtrack of a low throbbing roar that began in the parking lot about six hours before the game and continued long into the night.Even when the U.S. scored the first two goals, the Mexico cheers stayed strong, perhaps inspiring El Tri to four consecutive goals against a U.S. team that seemed dazed and confused. Then when it ended, and the Mexican players had danced across the center of the field in giddy wonder while the U.S. players had staggered to the sidelines in disillusionment, the madness continued.Because nobody left. Rather amazingly, the Mexico fans kept bouncing and cheering under headbands and sombreros, nobody moving an inch, the giant Rose Bowl jammed for a postgame trophy ceremony for perhaps the first time in its history.And, yes, when the U.S. team was announced one final time, it was once again booed."We're not booing the country, we're booing the team," Sanchez said. "There is a big difference."
Mexico soccer fans have long since proven to be perhaps the greatest fans of any sports team that plays in this country, selling out venues from here to Texas to New Jersey, dwarfing something like Red Sox Nation, equaling any two SEC football fan bases combined.But eventually, the rules for their unrequited love get tricky. Because eventually, Mexico ends up playing the U.S. team on U.S. soil. And then folks start wondering, as they surely did Saturday, is it really right for folks who live here to boo and jeer as if they don't?"I know, it's strange, and when we got here, we were a little worried," said Roy Martinez, a U.S. fan who wrapped himself in an American flag and led "USA" cheers to passing cars outside the stadium before the game. "But, you know, it works."It was truly strange but, in the end, it indeed worked, perhaps because there is pride in living in one of the only countries where it could work.How many places are so diverse that it could fill football stadiums with folks whose roots are somewhere else? How many places offer such a freedom of speech that someone can display an American flag on their porch one day and cheer against the flag the next?I hated it, but I loved it. I was felt as if I was in a strange place, and yet I felt right at home.Certainly, for the U.S. team, it undoubtedly stinks. But then, well, to be honest, the team stinks.All the misguided hopes that surrounded their advancement into the second round of the 2010 World Cup — We beat Algeria, whoopee! — have come crashing down in recent lackluster play under Bradley.If this were any other country, Bradley would have been relieved by now. But because U.S. expectations remain sadly low, he is allowed to continue guiding a team whose mistakes and missteps led to the Mexico comeback.Long after that comeback was complete, when the stadium was finally cleared and the party had moved to the parking lot, the Rose Bowl field contained scattered patches of blue and gold celebration glitter. It was messy, and mangled, and beautiful.
Monday, June 20, 2011
(Reuters) - Chipotle Mexican Grill has hired a team of Washington legal A-listers to shore up its hiring and handle a federal criminal investigation stemming from the discovery of hundreds of illegal workers in its popular burrito restaurants.
The Denver-based chain has been in hot water since audits by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) turned up large numbers of undocumented workers on payrolls in Minnesota, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Around the start of the year, Chipotle quietly brought in a lawyer who knows the ins and outs of ICE -- Julie Myers Wood, the director of the federal agency under President George W. Bush and now an immigration consultant.
The launch of a related federal criminal investigation in April prompted the company to turn to Washington litigators Robert Luskin (of law firm Patton Boggs) and Gregory Craig (from Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom) as co-counsel.
Luskin is a top Washington litigator specializing in white-collar crime. He helped Bush strategist Karl Rove avoid charges in the outing of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame after her husband criticized the Iraq war.
Craig has represented Washington power brokers and was President Barack Obama's White House counsel in his first year in office. Most recently, disgraced politician John Edwards hired him to fight charges of using illegal campaign funds to cover up an extramarital affair.
"Both Bob and Greg are imaginative and stubborn advocates," said William Jeffress, a partner at Baker Botts. "Chipotle has a lot of audiences -- customers, government regulators, shareholders -- and they're going to need somebody who is capable of dealing with all of those challenges."
Mark Fabiani, who earned the "Master of Disaster" moniker after representing Bill and Hillary Clinton in the Whitewater affair, will manage Chipotle's public relations message. More recent clients include Goldman Sachs and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
There is a lot at stake for Chipotle, both on Wall Street, where it's an investor favorite, and on Main Street, where the gourmet burrito concept has won legions of fans. The company has more than 26,500 employees and roughly 1,100 restaurants and is on the brink of opening a new Asian street food chain.
Luskin, who spent years at the Department of Justice, said his work centers on resolving Chipotle's issues with ICE and the U.S. Attorney's office.
Among other things, his team is handing over hiring records, emails and documents that deal with corporate policy. Chipotle also received "a handful" of subpoenas seeking "very specific records that were unique" to some of the roughly 30 restaurants visited by ICE agents in May.
Luskin said that hiring illegal workers was "absolutely not" part of a corporate strategy to support the company's famed low labor costs -- as some on Wall Street questioned.
"We're very comfortable that at the end of this process, the U.S. Attorney is not going to find a basis to proceed criminally," Luskin said.
As Luskin helps Chipotle navigate the criminal probe, Myers Wood is steeped in the nitty gritty of compliance.
She recently went to Colorado to spend a day with the company's new, dedicated team of compliance specialists, who are being trained to ferret out fake documents that may be presented to prove work eligibility.
"We are pretty aggressive on compliance, so we're brought in when companies are serious about getting it right and doing things to really address the issues," said Myers Wood, president of ICS Consulting.
Chipotle recently began using E-verify on all new hires. That government system allows U.S. companies to check if prospective employees are eligible to work. Use is voluntary.
All this assistance doesn't come cheap.
Jack Hartung, Chipotle's chief financial officer, warned investors in May that the company's legal costs were rising due to the probes of its hiring practices.
Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold declined to say how much costs were up. He said Chipotle planned to update the CFO's comments when it reports second-quarter results on July 19.
ROSARITO BEACH, BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO—Taking advantage of the many opportunities shared between Southern California and Baja California was the main message delivered by speakers Friday at the Fifth Binational Mayors’ Summit here.More than 220 civic and business leaders plus mayors from 14 cities on both sides of the border attended the summit, which had as its theme “Unifying the Californias.”The summit, at which U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin was a keynote speaker, was the largest of the five inspired two years ago by an agreement between California Gov. Schwarzenegger and Baja Gov. Osuna.Representatives of both governors attended Friday’s summit as did the consuls of several countries.As well as welcoming and keynote speeches, the summit included workshops on border crossings, desalination/environment, economic development, public safety, education and a mayors’ roundtable.The summit, which is held twice a year on alternating sides of the border, was hosted by Rosarito and Redondo Beach. The San Diego and San Ysidro chambers of commerce, plus Rancho Santiago Community College were among assisting groups.Rosarito Beach Mayor Hugo Torres in opening remarks thanked all those who attended, while citing a recurring theme: “Having a shared border is not what separates us; it is what brings us together.”While sharing the busiest border crossing in the world creates some challenges, including traffic congestion, it creates many more opportunities in a region that shares friends, family, environment and economy, Torres said.Redondo Beach Mayor Pro Tem Steve Diels mentioned ways in which the region is closely linked, including by geography: “We’re 150 miles away, but when Mexicali shakes we feel it.”San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, noting the many vacation trips his family has taken south of the border, said “we view San Diego and Baja as one region in just about every respect.”Sanders also mentioned San Diego’s assistance in helping train Baja’s new Metropolitan Tourist Police in an effort to ensure that tourists on both sides of the border are treated alike.Mexican Congressman Gaston Luken Garza spoke of the southbound border crossing while Bersin cited actions that would improve the northbound flow of traffic.Among those were more public and private partnerships for infrastructure, plus increasing trusted traveler programs, such as SENTRI, so that they are used by 75 percent of commuters rather than the current 24 percent.Alternating between Spanish and English, Bersin said the Obama administration was troubled by recent legislation enacted by Arizona that allows police to seek residency status verification based on suspicion that someone might be an illegal immigrant.He said the Obama administration was reviewing its options on the law, including a possible court challenge.Bersin also said an organized, staffed and well funded binational organization was needed to advocate the interests of the region.The next Binational Mayor’s Summit will be in six months in Redondo Beach, co-hosted by the city of Tijuana.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
A decade ago, Evelyn Francisco was one of many teachers recruited from the Philippines and other countries by the Oakland Unified School District at a time when qualified math and science instructors were not always easy to find.Now, as budget cuts force the district to lay off about 90 teachers for the coming year, the tenured advanced placement statistics teacher is facing deportation to the Philippines because district officials refuse to continue sponsoring her visa, which expires June 30.Francisco's case is the first of its kind in Oakland. But other teachers on similar guest worker visas worry that they could be next, as district officials say there is now a surplus of teachers who are citizens or permanent U.S. residents.Francisco, the only AP statistics teacher at Oakland Technical High School, is asking an Alameda County Superior Court judge to order school officials to sign the paperwork.She argues that the district is illegally firing her by refusing sponsorship of the visa that allows her to stay in the country. Under the state education code, tenured teachers can be terminated only in specific circumstances."They're trying to circumvent the normal process that teachers are entitled to," said Francisco's lawyer, David Weintraub.The outcome of Francisco's case is likely to influence how the Oakland district deals with other teachers on guest worker visas, many of whom hope for green-card approval that would give them permanent resident status, Weintraub said.Work said to deteriorateOakland has about 20 such teachers, most with tenure, Oakland Unified spokesman Troy Flint said.District officials say in court documents that they are not firing Francisco. They acknowledge her tenured status and say if she can obtain a work visa on her own, the district will continue to employ her.At the same time, they say Francisco's performance has deteriorated, citing a 2009 performance evaluation that found she was not meeting district standards in certain areas, including engaging students and assessing learning.District officials say Francisco was never promised that her visa would be renewed indefinitely, and that they will no longer sponsor her now that there are U.S. citizens and permanent residents who could do her job.Compared with the period in which Francisco was hired, "there are many more highly qualified math teachers in the labor pool who are U.S. citizens or aliens who possess permanent authorizations to work," Barbara Gee, the district's human resources executive officer, wrote in a court affidavit.Since then, California has also slashed more than $70 billion from the state education budget, and schools across the state have laid off more than 30,000 teachers, said Flint, the district's spokesman."The workforce circumstances have changed dramatically," Flint said.Harsh scrutiny allegedWeintraub, Francisco's attorney, said he met recently with about two dozen teachers on guest worker visas, and many complained of being scrutinized more harshly than their U.S.-citizen counterparts and felt they were being discriminated against.Flint called such accusations "specious and unfounded.""It's very rare that an employee separating from an organization against their will doesn't claim that there was some kind of conspiracy or prejudice," he said. "So it's not surprising to hear that argument."Oakland school officials helped Francisco come to the United States in 2001 and renewed their sponsorship in 2007, court records show.Her troubles began in spring 2010, when she was told the human resources department would not sign paperwork to renew her H-1B visa, set to expire that fall.Francisco said that after she got a lawyer through her union, officials reversed their decision and said they would sponsor her. The school district's attorneys deny making such a promise.In any event, just days before her visa was set to expire on Sept. 30, district officials informed her that they would not sponsor it for renewal, Francisco said. In her complaint, she said a human resources worker also told her they "no longer needed math teachers."Short-term extensionsFrancisco challenged the district's decision in Alameda County Superior Court on Sept. 27, three days before her visa was to expire.School officials signed off on two short-term visa extensions to allow Francisco to stay in the country while they fought the case in court, records show.Now, as the final deadline looms, a judge is expected to rule on the issue this month.
Responding to a growing chorus of criticism, federal immigration officials are revamping a program designed to deport dangerous criminals.To address concerns that too many low-level offenders are being netted, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton announced Friday that the Secure Communities program will be changed to focus more on those convicted of serious crimes.A new advisory panel that includes local law enforcement officials and immigration advocates will come up with recommendations on how, for instance, to stop the deportation of people arrested, but not convicted, of minor traffic offenses who have no criminal history or serious immigration violations.To deal with concerns that ethnic profiling is going on and that community policing is being hampered, there will be more training.And to avoid cases where victims of domestic violence are deported, a new policy directs immigration officers to use discretion so that they and other crime victims aren't swept up."We need to do a better job of ensuring that the program is more focused on targeting those that pose the biggest risk to communities," Morton said in a statement. "Today we are undertaking several reforms--developed in collaboration with our law enforcement partners and other stakeholders--that help us achieve that goal and will improve and strengthen the program."Officials and advocates in California have been at the forefront of pushing for change. A bill that would require that counties "opt in" to the program was passed May 26 by the Assembly and is in the Senate committee process.The Bee editorial board also called for the program to be overhauled.UPDATE: Some advocates blasted the changes as merely cosmetic and called for a moratorium on the program until more comprehensive reform."Today's announcement by ICE is simply window dressing," Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, who is the bill's author, said in a statement."How many more innocent people have to be swept up by the ironically named Secure Communities program before the Obama administration will change course? Talking about the need for comprehensive immigration reform is not an excuse for continuing with a flawed, unjust program that is having tragic consequences for communities across the country," he added.Under Secure Communities, the fingerprints of everyone arrested by participating local law enforcement agencies are run through federal immigration databases.In California, nearly 1.8 million sets of fingerprints were checked from when the program started here in May 2009 through the end of March. Of those, 172,000 were matched to illegal immigrants and nearly 39,000 were deported.Nearly 12,000 of those deported had been convicted of violent crimes or major drug offenses. But about 16,000 were deported for lesser crimes, and nearly 11,000 were "noncriminals" - those without any convictions, though they may have had gang affiliations or have been deported previously.
Secure Communities has proven to be a critical tool for carrying out ICE's enforcement priorities. To continue to improve the program, DHS and ICE are committed to addressing concerns that have been raised about its operation including:Limited Removal Resources: Currently, ICE receives an annual appropriation from Congress sufficient to remove a limited number of the more than 10 million individuals estimated to be in the United States unlawfully. As Secure Communities is continuing to grow each year, and is currently on track to be implemented nationwide by 2013, refining the program will enable ICE to focus its limited resources on the most serious criminals across the country.Community Policing: Some law enforcement agencies have expressed concerns about whether Secure Communities could have an impact on witnesses and victims of crimes coming forward to report criminal activities in their communities. Given the importance of community policing, ICE is instituting additional training to ensure that law enforcement officers understand the goals and priorities of the program.Civil Rights: As with all enforcement programs, there is a need to ensure that the civil rights of those who interact with law enforcement are protected. As Secure Communities matures into a national program, ICE is taking additional steps to ensure that it can execute its mission while continuing to respond to any potential civil rights concerns.These additional safeguards will further protect the program from those who may undermine ICE's enforcement priorities or engage in racial or ethnic profiling:Advisory Committee & Minor Traffic Offenses: ICE is creating a new advisory committee that will advise the Director of ICE on ways to improve Secure Communities, including making recommendations on how to best focus on individuals who pose a true public safety or national security threat. This panel will be composed of chiefs of police, sheriffs, state and local prosecutors, court officials, ICE agents from the field, and community and immigration advocates. The first report of this advisory committee will be delivered to the Director within 45 days and will provide recommendations on how ICE can adjust the Secure Communities program to mitigate potential impacts on community policing practices, including how to implement policies stopping the removal of individuals charged with, but not convicted of, minor traffic offenses who have no other criminal history or egregious immigration violations.Prosecutorial Discretion: ICE Director Morton has issued a new memo providing guidance for ICE law enforcement personnel and attorneys regarding their authority to exercise discretion when appropriate – authority designed to help ICE better focus on meeting the priorities of both the agency and the Secure Communities program to use limited resources to target criminals and those that put public safety at risk. This memo also directs the exercise of prosecutorial discretion to ensure that victims of and witnesses to crimes are properly protected. The memo clarifies that the exercise of discretion is inappropriate in cases involving threats to public safety, national security and other agency priorities.Training for States: ICE and the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) have developed a new training program for state and local law enforcement agencies to provide more information for state and local law enforcement about how Secure Communities works and how it relates to laws governing civil rights. The first set of training materials can be accessed here.Protecting Victims & Witnesses of Crimes: At the direction of Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, ICE, in consultation with CRCL, has developed a new policy specifically to protect victims of domestic violence and other crimes and to ensure these crimes continue to be reported and prosecuted. This policy directs ICE officers to exercise appropriate discretion to ensure victims and witnesses to crimes are not penalized by removal. ICE is also working to develop additional tools that will help identify people who may be a victim, witness, or member of a vulnerable class so officers can exercise appropriate discretion.Detainer Policy: ICE has revised the detainer form ICE sends to local jurisdictions to emphasize the longstanding guidance that state and local authorities are not to detain an individual for more than 48 hours. The form also requires local law enforcement to provide arrestees with a copy, which has a number to call if they believe their civil rights have been violated.Data Collection:ICE and CRCL have created a new complaint system whereby individuals or organizations who believe civil rights violations connected to Secure Communities have occurred can file a complaint. For example, CRCL will investigate complaints of ethnic discrimination by policing jurisdictions for which Secure Communities has been activated, and DHS will take steps to ensure that bias or other abuses do not affect immigration enforcement.ICE and CRCL have created an ongoing quarterly statistical review of the program to examine data for each jurisdiction where Secure Communities is activated to identify effectiveness and any indications of potentially improper use of the program. Statistical outliers in local jurisdictions will be subject to an in-depth analysis and DHS and ICE will take appropriate steps to resolve any issues.
Data Collection:ICE and CRCL have created a new complaint system whereby individuals or organizations who believe civil rights violations connected to Secure Communities have occurred can file a complaint. For example, CRCL will investigate complaints of ethnic discrimination by policing jurisdictions for which Secure Communities has been activated, and DHS will take steps to ensure that bias or other abuses do not affect immigration enforcement.ICE and CRCL have created an ongoing quarterly statistical review of the program to examine data for each jurisdiction where Secure Communities is activated to identify effectiveness and any indications of potentially improper use of the program. Statistical outliers in local jurisdictions will be subject to an in-depth analysis and DHS and ICE will take appropriate steps to resolve any issues.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent decision to pull New York out of the federal Secure Communities program has been hailed by Democrats and immigration groups. But the praise isn't universal, and some police officers and lawmakers are criticizing the decision, saying it could hurt law enforcement efforts.On June 1, New York followed Illinois as the second state to withdraw from the controversial program amid concerns that it is unfairly targeting immigrants who are accused of minor infractions. Massachusetts followed suit on Monday.But the move has drawn criticism from some police agencies in New York and has prompted the head of the state Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, to hold a hearing Wednesday in Albany to scrutinize Cuomo's decision.Ball said he was concerned that withdrawing from the program would hurt police efforts to identify potential criminals who are in the country illegally. He accused the Democratic governor of trying to appease his liberal base."He shouldn't be using fundamental tools for law enforcement to do that. I strongly ask that he reconsider," said Ball, who wrote a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asking that New York's participation be reinstated.Still, the practical implications of Cuomo's decision appear to be minimal. The federal government plans to continue the program in New York as it conducts its own investigation."I don't think we're really upset about it because from a practical point of view, it's not going to make much of a difference," Peter Kehoe, executive director of the state Sheriffs' Association, said of Cuomo's decision.The program, started in 2008 nationally, is aimed at better identifying criminals when they are apprehended by local law enforcement. Fingerprints of those arrested are shared with the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, allowing the agencies to match any potential illegal immigrants.Since it started, more than 151,000 convicted criminals who are illegal immigrants have been taken into federal custody, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Roughly 77,000 have been removed from the U.S.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
(Reuters) - The complicated U.S. visa system hurts tourism and must be reformed if the United States wants to attract lucrative tourism from countries like China, India and Brazil, travel industry officials said on Thursday.The U.S. Travel Association announced a plan to help reform the visa process which it said could create 1.3 million U.S. jobs and add $859 billion to the U.S. economy by 2020 through increased overseas tourism."The challenge we have is the unnecessary, burdensome U.S. visa system," said USTA president Roger Dow. "It's really self-imposed barriers that we put on ourselves as a country that have caused us to lose international travel and that have stymied international growth."Travellers have criticized the United States for long waits to get a visa and for a lack of access in some countries to U.S. consular offices. Some potential tourists have to travel across their country just for an interview for a visa.Figures released by USTA show that while travel is the largest U.S. industry export sector, the United States has failed to keep pace with other parts of the world -- such as Western Europe -- as a travel destination in the past decade.Looking specifically at growing economies like China, India and Brazil, global long-haul travel grew 140 percent from 2000 to 2010 and is projected to double again over the next decade.But only a fraction of that travel -- and the billions of dollars in revenue it creates -- went to the United States.In 2010 more than half the Brazilians travelling overseas went to Europe while 29 percent went to the United States. Nearly three times as many Chinese -- who spend the most on average while overseas -- chose Europe over the United States.Top reasons for not visiting the United States were the visa process and strict security measures, the association said, referring to 2010 travellers' surveys.The U.S. visa process from beginning to end can take as long as 145 days in Brazil and 120 days in China, a USTA report said. In contrast, Britain takes an average of 12 days to process visas in Brazil and 11 days in China.U.S. 'DREAM DESTINATION'While the United States is the most frequently cited "dream destination" for Chinese tourists, France had 18 percent more Chinese visitors last year, a USTA report said. It said France's visa application process is more efficient."These are some of the fastest growing economies in the world," said Dow. "Shouldn't we be getting those people coming to the United States?"U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat who chairs a subcommittee focused on export promotion and competitiveness, said the travel industry was important to help President Barack Obama meet his stated goal of doubling exports by 2014."We see it as part of our economic recovery. I see this as a way to get jobs in our country," Klobuchar said."Since 9/11 we have lost 20 percent of the international tourism market," she said. "Obviously after 9/11 there were changes that had to be made to our security measures. Now we've made those changes and we have to look at how can we make this more efficient, still keeping the security in place."Klobuchar supported the recommendations of the U.S. Travel Association report which urged the State Department to hire more consular officers and reduce visa interview wait times to 10 days or less. It also proposed expanding the number of countries in the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of 36 nations to travel for up to 90 days without a visa.
(06-12) 17:35 PDT TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico (AP) --Mexican police on Sunday discovered 210 dehydrated mainly Central and South American migrants crammed into a truck near the country's southern border, an immigration official said.The migrants were found when the truck was searched at a highway checkpoint, said the immigration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk on the record.Police detained the truck's driver and his assistant, both of whom will be transferred to a maximum-security prison, the official said.The migrants were mainly from Brazil, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, but also from India. They were packed so tightly into the truck that they had to remain standing, official said.The official said the migrants had not eaten in 24 hours and were being given food and water. They are being held at a Chiapas federal police station awaiting deportation.Each year, hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants cross Mexico's southern border on their way to the United States. They are often smuggled in brutal conditions, packed tightly inside tractor trailers on long journeys. They are subject to robbery and kidnapping along the way.Loa, a 23-year-old from El Salvador, was among the migrants detained Sunday. He was prohibited by immigration authorities from giving his last name.Visibly haggard, Loa was buying a meat-filled sandwich passed to him through prison bars from a street vendor."It was very hot and we had no water," he told The Associated Press about his trek, which began Friday. His plan had been to reach Los Angeles.The United Nations estimates that smuggling migrants into the United States is a $6.6 billion business annually. That doesn't include another $1 billion paid by thousands of non-Mexicans to cross from Guatemala into Mexico and then travel north toward the U.S. border, according to a 2010 U.N. report on transnational crime.In May, 513 people were apprehended in two trailers in Chiapas, bordering Guatemala. They represented a cargo worth at least $3.5 million. Another trailer filled with 219 people was discovered in January.William, 43, one of the 210 migrants picked up Sunday, said he paid $3,000 to smugglers to truck him from Guatemala to the United States to work. He knew that once he was caught there would be no refund."There's no work back home," said William, who would not reveal his last name.The truck was traveling on a highway bordering Veracruz state when it was stopped by authorities.
A Brazilian national who lives in Shrewsbury is accused of running an illegal scheme to smuggle fellow countrymen to the United States, sometimes charging in excess of $10,000 to help them obtain seasonal work visas through two Massachusetts landscaping companies.US Attorney Carmen Ortiz’s office has charged Marcio Freitas, a 44-year-old married father of three, with conspiracy to commit visa fraud starting in 2003, when he allegedly began asking his employer, Hester Landscape of Northborough, to petition the US consulate in Brazil for temporary visas, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in US District Court in Worcester yesterday.