Wednesday, February 29, 2012

US to Deport Mexican Immigrants to Home States Instead of Border

The U.S. government says it will begin flying detained Mexican migrants directly to their home states instead of dropping them off at the border, where many have been victimized by drug traffickers.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters in Mexico City on Monday that the U.S. will pay to deport migrants by plane to airports in Mexico and the Mexican government will arrange the last leg of the journey home. The program is to start in April.

Many immigrants from Mexico and Central America are robbed or forcibly recruited by members of organized crime groups on their northbound trip through Mexico, or on the way home.

The U.S. says a record 400,000 people were deported, mostly to Mexico, during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Most of the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country are from Mexico. reported that a reason for the repatriation by air is to aleviate the workload of the Border Patrol and other authorities working on the border.

"She said the change would ease pressure in areas along the countries' long border where many undocumented people from Mexico and other countries try to enter the US illegally by land, at the same time that US authorities are carrying out deportations by land," the website said.


ACLU of Nebraska to appeal immigration ruling

Opponents of a Fremont city immigration ordinance promised Tuesday to appeal a federal judge's ruling that kept in place a requirement that potential renters prove their citizenship or legal status.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska said it would challenge the decision, which struck down another part of the ordinance that would have allowed the city to revoke the rental licenses of illegal immigrants.

The Fremont City Council is expected to meet in closed session Tuesday night to discuss how to proceed with the ruling, which would still allow the city to charge a $5 free for a renter's license, if it takes effect. The city has voluntarily suspended the ordinance at ACLU Nebraska's request while the lawsuit works its way through the courts.

ACLU Nebraska filed the lawsuit on behalf of five renters in Fremont, a city of 26,000 about 35 miles northwest of Omaha, as well as two landlords and two local employers. The case will go to the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Amy Miller, ACLU Nebraska's legal director, told the council in a letter Tuesday that the appeal could last at least another year. Miller said the lawsuit plaintiffs still believe "that the entire ordinance is an illegal use of city power."

The ordinance stirred a whirlwind of controversy in June 2010 when roughly 57 percent of Fremont voters who turned up at the polls supported it. The measure catapulted the city into the national spotlight and spurred comparisons with Arizona and some cities embroiled in the debate over immigration regulations.

Fremont has seen its Hispanic population surge in the past two decades, largely due to the jobs available at the Fremont Beef and Hormel plants, which are just outside the city. Census data show the number of Hispanics soared from 165 in 1990 to 1,085 in 2000 and 3,149 in 2010.

It's unknown how many illegal immigrants live in the city. According to census figures, 1,259 noncitizens live there, a figure that includes illegal immigrants as well as lawful permanent residents, foreign students and refugees in the U.S. legally.

The measure won't have any effect beyond the city limits of Fremont. That means two major meatpacking plants and some neighborhoods, including some with large immigrant populations, won't be covered by the requirements for businesses to use the federal E-Verify database to ensure employees are legal or by housing permit rules for renters.

The ordinance adds some red tape for businesses and residents in the city. The judge said Fremont can require companies to use the free federal E-Verify system to verify the citizenship status of people they hire. It can also require potential renters to swear they are legal residents and pay $5 to obtain a renting permit. But the city won't be able to revoke the rental permits if applicants are found to be illegal immigrants.

The vote — and the attention it brought — took an immediate political toll. The City Council president, mayor, city attorney and city administrator all resigned within a year, citing various reasons.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Deportations Plummet Under Obama's New Immigration Policy

President Obama’s efforts to tighten the leash on U.S. immigration enforcement have caused a sharp drop in the number of deportations, according to a report by the Syracuse University Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. In the last three months of 2011, following the administration’s directive to curb deportations of illegal immigrants without criminal records or who came to the United States as a child or student (among other discretionary factors), deportations have plummeted.

The number of deportation proceedings instituted from October to December 2011 by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) plunged to 39,331, a 33-percent decline from the 58,639 filings documented the previous quarter. "Filings are typically lower at this time of year, but even adjusting for this seasonal drop-off and for late reporting," the report noted, "there appear to have been over 10,000 fewer deportation filings than would have been expected last quarter."

The chief priority of the administration’s June 17, 2011 directive was to restrict most deportations to those immigrants with criminal records. "It makes no sense to spend our enforcement resources on these low-priority cases when they could be used with more impact on others, including individuals who have been convicted of serious crimes," Cecilia Muñoz, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, wrote last August in a White House blog post. "This means more immigration enforcement pressure where it counts the most, and less where it doesn’t," she added. "That’s the smartest way to follow the law while we stay focused on working with the Congress to fix it."

However, according to Syracuse University researchers, there is "little evidence" that immigrants with criminal records are representing a higher ratio of overall deportations. In fact, during the purported timeframe, only 1,300, or 3.3 percent, were to be deported as alleged "aggravated felons." Conversely, from July to September 2011, 3.8 percent were alleged "aggravated felons," while six months ago the proportion was 4 percent. The researchers added:
An additional 4,193 were charged by ICE for other alleged criminal activity last quarter. When considered together with alleged "aggravated felons," the proportion of filings in the last quarter seeking deportation on grounds of any alleged criminal activity was still less than one out of seven (14%). And even this small slice is continuing to decline. Two years ago, slightly more than one of six (17.3 percent) were alleged to have engaged in criminal activity as the grounds ICE cited for seeking removal.

"People have heard about these policy changes but largely haven’t seen any difference," asserted Frank Sharry, executive director of immigration advocacy group America’s Voice.

Many critics have alleged that President Obama’s June 2011 directive was largely political, particularly considering deportations have reached record levels, averaging 400,000 per year, under the current administration. Astoundingly, that’s double the annual average during President Bush’s first term and 30 percent higher than the average when Bush left office. Due to those record numbers, along with Obama’s failure to implement so-called "comprehensive immigration reform," there has been an ignition of criticism among the Hispanic community — a growing portion of the Democratic voter base.

"Latino immigrant voters know that the Alabama and Arizona laws didn’t come about from Democrats. They’re aware the Obama administration is fighting those laws. They know that Republicans blocked the DREAM Act. They know that Mitt Romney is talking about massive self-deportation," Sharry said. "And they’re angry and disappointed that the Obama administration promised a legislative breakthrough, didn’t deliver it, but has delivered on record deportations."

In response, the President has embarked on a political campaign to recover previous support from this pivotal sector of the American electorate.

"What we’ve been able to do is, administratively, we’ve said — let’s reemphasize our focus when it comes to enforcement on criminals and at the borders, and let’s not be focusing our attention on hard-working families who are just trying to make ends meet," Obama said in an interview last week. "We’ve administratively proposed to reform the ‘three and 10" program so that families aren’t separated when they’re applying to stay here in this country."

In emphasizing his newly coined "five more years" campaign slogan, the President assured a Hispanic audience that he would use his second term to push immigration reform. "My presidency is not over," Obama indicated, responding to a question about his failure to actualize an immigration bill. "I’ve got another five years coming up. We’re going to get this done."

Moreover, the President rejected the notion that he broke a campaign promise, while passing the blame to Republicans who were unwilling to embrace any "sensible solutions" on the issue. "So far, we haven’t seen any of the Republican candidates even support immigration reform," Obama charged, targeting his potential opponents in the upcoming presidential contest.

Political analysts and commentators have predicted that the Hispanic vote will be critical for Obama’s reelection bid, as the minority’s rising population has become an increasingly chief component of the American electorate. While many Hispanics who supported Obama in 2008 may refrain from voting Republican, their disappointment over Obama’s immigration efforts may deter them from even voting at all come November 6.

Considering the persistently stale economy — which has led to a sharp drop in Obama’s approval ratings — the President will rely heavily on minority voting groups, observers predict. As the Los Angeles Times reported last October, the President has commenced an "all-out push to rebuild his popularity" with Hispanics, which has been "diminished by the weak economy and a lack of progress toward revamping the nation’s immigration system."

"The excitement isn't there like it was," asserted Ana Canales, a volunteer and the county chairwoman for the Democratic Party of Bernalillo County in New Mexico, where the Obama campaign has accelerated efforts to recruit Hispanic voters. "There are a lot of people who are saying, 'We're not going to vote.' We have a lot of work on our hands … to make sure those Latinos understand that he [Obama] is working for us."


Recent posts at CIS below

See here for the blog. The CIS main page is here.

1. Illegal aliens find a new BFF in President Obama (Op-ed)

2. 'The Hispanic Vote': An Insult Latinos Can Do Without (Blog)

3. Two Hidden Themes at the Recent House Immigration Hearing (Blog)

4. Bursts of Dubious Creativity in the Immigrant Investor (EB-5) Program (Blog)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Legal immigrants face deportation for filing false tax return

The Supreme Court rules against a couple who pleaded guilty and paid in full, saying the crime was an 'aggravated felony' subject to automatic deportation. Tax lawyers say the decision is ominous.

This is a pretty absurd action 20 years after the event and after previous administrations have decided to take no action. But I think we can decode it. Obama has said: Go right through the files and deport any non-Hispanics you can so I can get the figures up without riling my base too much. Anyone who happens to be in the way of Leftist politics is likely to get run over

Akio and Fukado Kawashima came to Southern California in 1984 as lawful Japanese immigrants determined to succeed in business. They operated popular sushi restaurants in Thousand Oaks and Tarzana and recently opened a new eatery in Encino.

But after they underreported their business income in 1991, they paid a hefty price. The Internal Revenue Service hit them with $245,000 in taxes and penalties. The couple pleaded guilty and paid in full. A decade later, the Immigration and Naturalization Service decided to deport them.

Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered the final blow, ruling 6 to 3 that Immigration and Customs Enforcement — as the INS is now known — was within its authority to declare such a tax crime an "aggravated felony," subjecting an immigrant to automatic deportation. Once limited to murderers and drug kingpins, this deportation trigger has steadily expanded over the years.

"It's really sad — and really unfair," Wakako Kawashima, the couple's daughter-in-law, said at the door of her home in Thousand Oaks. The restaurants have been the couple's life work, she said, and the family is crushed that a mistake two decades ago could result in their deportation.

Tax lawyers said the ruling in the case of Kawashima vs. Holder sends an ominous warning to legal immigrants throughout the country, and especially to small-business owners whose tax liabilities may be large enough to attract IRS attention.

Under the court's holding, an immigrant who makes a false statement on a tax return could face not only tax charges but also automatic deportation.

The Kawashimas never became U.S. citizens but were granted lawful permanent residency in the 1980s. They pleaded guilty in 1997 to filing a false corporate tax return, and the husband was given a four-month prison sentence.

"They paid a full restitution at the time to everything they owed the government," said Thomas Whalen, a Washington attorney who represented the couple before the high court.

Immigration authorities issued the deportation order under a provision of law added by Congress in 1994 that defined "aggravated felony" to include crimes of "fraud or deceit" that cost the victims more than $200,000, a threshold later lowered to $10,000.

The couple had appealed to immigration judges and to the federal courts but lost in a split decision before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Their hopes were revived last year when the Supreme Court agreed to hear their appeal. Judges in other parts of the country had rejected the idea that underreporting taxes amounted to an aggravated felony.

But Justice Clarence Thomas, speaking for the court, said the Kawashimas had "knowingly and willingly submitted a tax return that was false" and "therefore had committed a felony that involved 'deceit.'"

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said it was "implausible" to believe Congress saw this tax crime as "sufficiently serious to warrant the drastic measure of deportation." Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Elena Kagan agreed with her.

This decision "should send a shock wave through the resident alien community," said Sanford Millar, a tax lawyer in Los Angeles. "What's surprising is that this would be deemed an aggravated felony." The ruling could, for example, trigger deportation for immigrants working in the United States who fail to report foreign bank accounts as required by the IRS, he said.

But tax experts note that the ruling applies only to criminal tax violations, not civil claims that result in repayments.

Wakako Kawashima said her in-laws are "embarrassed" by the legal tangle and are still trying to absorb the ruling. "They know the decision, but they're trying to figure out what to do," she said.

Her husband, Hiroshi, 36, helps run the restaurants with his parents. On Friday, he was busy at work in Encino, helping to open the newest eatery in their mini-chain.

At the Thousand Oaks eating spot, called Cho Cho San, customers were beginning to fill the seats for the lunch rush. The restaurant, with gleaming glass doors and landscaped gardens, is a popular local stop for sushi and other Japanese specialties.

Stephanie Stanziano, a hostess, said news of the court's decision had not reached the staff. She was saddened by the couple's plight. "Oh, that's terrible!" she said.


Brewer Criticizes Obama Administration on Immigration

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer had harsh words for President Obama on his immigration policy, accusing him of not doing enough to secure Arizona’s border, which she called the “gateway” for illegal immigrants and crime from Mexico to enter the United States.

Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, Brewer said that California and Texas had done a good job of securing their borders with federal help, but that the government had failed in Arizona. "No, they don't want to secure our borders, or they would secure our borders," Brewer said of the Obama Administration.

"Instead what do they do? They send guns [...] to the cartels and then they don't track them," Brewer added, in reference to the botched federal operation known as Fast and Furious.

Brewer’s statements come just weeks after a tense interaction between Brewer and Obama on the tarmac of the Phoenix airport, during which Brewer could be seen wagging her finger at the president. Some have accused her of disrespecting the office, a claim that has gained traction since she declined to attend tonight's dinner for the National Governors Association at the White House.

"I am a governor. I've got priorities," she said of her decision not to attend tonight's event, explaining she had other commitments.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mississippi House Passes Tough Immigration Bill

A bill modeled after Alabama's tough immigration law moved through Mississippi's House on Friday, although the legislation's sponsor said the language that could get it tied up in a federal court was removed.

The House Judiciary B Committee voted 15-6 to pass House Bill 488, which now goes to the House Education Committee. It would then go to the full chamber.

The bill's sponsor, Judiciary B Committee Chairman Andy Gipson, R-Braxton, said the Mississippi bill should stand up to legal scrutiny. Alabama's law is considered one of the toughest state laws against undocumented immigrants.

Mississippi has a relatively small undocumented immigrant population, although it appears to have grown in recent years. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that in 2010, the state had about 45,000 undocumented immigrants out of nearly 3 million total residents.

The bill is supported by Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican who has been campaigning against undocumented immigrants since his days as state auditor. Proponents say the state spends more money providing services to immigrants than it reaps in taxes, and claim that undocumented immigrants, if they leave, will vacate jobs that unemployed citizens can take. They say the bill is about legal compliance and that they welcome legal immigrants.

"I believe that every person in Mississippi, whether they are here illegally or not, is a child of God," Gipson said. "We're not trying to hurt anyone. We're not trying to starve anyone."

Opponents dispute those claims, emphasizing that Mississippi doesn't need to summon any ghosts of its racist past.

"It is still about ethnic cleansing," said Bill Chandler, executive director of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance. "It is still talking about driving people out of Mississippi."

The new version of the bill removed an attempt to create a new crime of failing to carry immigration papers. That provision had led some opponents to nickname the measure the "papers, please" bill. Under the change, a police officer could only check someone's immigration status if the officer had pulled the person over for some other reason.

"The reason it was removed is not because it's a bad idea, necessarily," Gipson said. "The reason it has been removed is it has been enjoined by a federal court in Alabama."

The bill still says law enforcement officials should check for immigration status when "a reasonable suspicion exists" that a person is in the country illegally. The measure bars police from considering race, color or national origin when making that decision, although opponents still fear racial profiling.

The new version also adds an exception if a person is "an international business executive of an international corporation authorized to transact business in the state." In the months after the Alabama law was enacted, police there arrested a Japanese man on assignment at the state's Honda factory and a German man who worked for the state's Mercedes-Benz plant, spurring widespread concern that the law would scare off foreign investors.

Another provision was watered down that allows any Mississippi resident to sue a state agency, city or county that looks the other way on immigration status. The bill now says that an agency or government must adopt a written policy or ordinance to be subject to a lawsuit. The measure is supposed to prohibit "sanctuary cities" that don't enforce immigration laws. Gipson indicated that Jackson is a sanctuary city, but it's unclear if a 2010 ordinance that instructed police officers not to use racial profiling or ask about immigration status goes that far.

Added was a provision that allows churches and charities to meet "immediate basic and human needs" as long as they doesn't charge or use government funds.

Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, tried to also exempt government health care facilities and government-owned utilities from provisions that say undocumented immigrants can't enter into business transactions with any state agency or local government. Baria said after the committee meeting that he is worried about the public health consequences of undocumented immigrants and their children not being vaccinated or being able to connect water and sewer services.

"I want to make sure the children of illegal aliens are not deprived of those necessities of life," Baria said. "Are we going to deny that child a vaccination or other medicines that might keep that child from infecting your child?"

Under federal law, emergency rooms would have to continue to treat everyone and public schools would have to continue to enroll undocumented immigrants. But the bill still calls for schools to require a birth certificate and follow up on immigration status of anyone who can't produce one. However, the new version simplifies reporting, saying only that districts must submit to the state a yearly count of undocumented immigrants in each school.


Conservatives mull changes to citizenship rules for babies born on Canadian soil

It's one of the oldest immigration tricks in the book: get pregnant, fly to another country, have your baby, and voila - you've got immigrant ties to said country. It even happens in Canada.

According to the Toronto Sun, Ottawa has discovered a number of unscrupulous immigration consultants in Hong Kong, who are coaching wealthy Chinese mainlanders about how to keep their pregnancies hidden while entering Canada on student or visitor visas.

"Avoid any baby or maternity items in luggage, wear dark clothing going through customs to look slimmer, and arrive in Canada no later than in the seventh month of pregnancy are among the tips given," notes the article.

Once here, the women go into hiding until they are due to give birth and then go to a hospital to deliver the baby. And, because all babies born in Canada are considered citizens, they could return later in life as a student, for example, and sponsor their parents under family reunification.

Immigration minister Jason Kenney admits his department isn't sure how widespread the problem is but is considering citizenship law changes to prevent so-called anchor babies from automatically becoming citizens.

"We don't want people to get the idea that citizenship is a way to get a passport of convenience, that Canada is a country to be exploited," he told the Sun.

Toronto based immigration attorney Michael Niren says he doesn't think anchor babies are a "growing problem" and that changing the citizenship rules would be like "throwing the baby out with the bath water."

"Kenney is on a mission to clean up the immigration system from Refugee cases to Citizenship claims. Yes there are many broken aspects of our immigration system but I think he is going way to far here," Niren told Yahoo! Canada News.

"The solution is not to terminate this method for citizenship all together. Free societies like Canada have always granted citizenship to those born on their soil. This, in my view, should be a right not a privilege.

"[Instead of changing the law,] I think more careful screening of applicants to Canada should be conducted. In some cases, medicals are required which would reveal pregnancies. Sometimes the government gets ahead of itself and forgets that we are still a democracy."


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Net migration to Britain rose in Coalition's first year despite pledge to cut it

Official figures show that the number of people coming to live in Britain for more than a year, minus those who moved abroad, stood at 250,000 in the year to June 2011. This represents a rise on the figure of 235,000 for the year to June 2010, just after the Coalition came to power.

Fewer people are emigrating while increasing numbers continue to settle here, in particular students from Commonwealth countries in Africa and on the Indian subcontinent.

The number of National Insurance numbers given to foreign-born workers rose by 11 per cent, which is likely to fuel fears that immigration is worsening unemployment figures.

Meanwhile the number of asylum seekers from troubled countries including Libya and Iran rose by 11 per cent and the number of people being deported fell sharply.

It also provides more evidence that ministers will struggle to fulfil their pledge to cut net migration to “tens of thousands” by 2015.

Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, insisted: “Our reforms are starting to take effect.

“Home Office figures from the second half of last year show a significant decrease in the number of student and work visas issued, an early indicator for the long-term direction of net migration. “Net migration remains too high but, as the ONS states, it is now steady, having fallen from a recent peak in the year to September 2010.

“This Government remains committed to bringing net migration down from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands over the course of this Parliament.”

What should the government be doing about immigration?
Nothing, the reforms are starting to take effectThe number of migrants allowed into Britain should be capped furtherThere should be a one-in-one-out immgration policy

But Chris Bryant, his Labour shadow, said: “We need honesty and competence from this government on immigration, instead we get tough rhetoric not matched by the reality on the ground. The country deserves better than that.”

Matt Cavanagh, Associate Director at the IPPR think-tank, agreed that the Government has made “no progress” on its pledge of cutting net migration.

“Reducing immigration is a legitimate goal – but politicians should be wary of promising what they can’t deliver. There is also a risk that ministers will be tempted to take more extreme measures in pursuit of their elusive target, including on those areas of immigration which are most important to our economy, and which surveys show the public are less bothered about, including skilled workers and overseas students.”

The Office for National Statistics data show long-term immigration – people who move abroad for at least 12 months – in the year to June 2011 was 593,000, up slightly from 582,000 a year before.

At the same time, long-term emigration fell marginally to 343,000.

Immigration from “New Commonwealth” countries in Asia and Africa reached a record 170,000, with two-thirds of them coming to Britain to study.

In addition, 690,000 National Insurance numbers were given to non-British nationals who wanted to work in the country, an 11 per cent rise on the previous year. About a third went to Eastern Europeans.

Asylum applications were 13 per cent higher at the end of 2011 than a year before, reaching 5,261.

Separate Home Office figures showed a 9 per cent fall in non-asylum passengers being refused entry at ports in 2011 (to 17,173) and a 13 per cent drop, to 52,526, in the number of people being deported or leaving the country voluntarily in 2011.


Obama promises second term action

President Barack Obama, expressing confidence he will win re-election in November, told a Hispanic audience he would use a second term to seek comprehensive immigration reform.

'My presidency is not over,' Obama said in an interview with Univision Radio when asked about his failure so far to push through an immigration bill. 'I've got another five years coming up. We're going to get this done.'

Obama is seeking to shore up support among Hispanic voters, whose strong backing helped him win the White House in 2008. But some in the Latino community are disappointed over the lack of progress toward overhauling the immigration system.

Obama - in an interview broadcast the day before his Thursday trip to Florida, an election battleground state with a large Hispanic population - sought to reassure Latinos he was committed to trying to pass broad immigration reform.

He rejected suggestions that he had broken a campaign promise and put the blame on Republicans in Congress who he said were 'unwilling to talk at all about any sensible solutions to this issue.' 'So far, we haven't seen any of the Republican candidates even support immigration reform,' Obama said, taking aim at his potential opponents in the November 6 election.

Manufacturing growth: Obama spokes at the Industrial Assessment Center at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, after learning about how the center is teaching students about energy-efficient materials and processes

The White House hopes that hard-line positions taken by Republican presidential contenders on illegal immigration and border control will help Obama with Hispanic voters in vital swing states like Florida, Nevada and Colorado.


Friday, February 24, 2012

London is no longer an English-speaking city

Australia has been multicultural much longer than England has so I do understand the frustration of the writer below but I also have some news for him: He will get used to it. After about 60 years of frequent dealings with people who have limited English I just accept that as part of life. And in the end it all works somehow. And the better food has certainly been worth it

I can't boast of being particularly good at languages. But, what with an inordinate amount of to-ing and fro-ing over a lifetime, I manage to get by in most countries when it comes to buying things or ordering a meal.

I even make a point of refusing English-language menus, and, if one is thrust upon me, only ever look at it for amusement value. For example, a Petersburg restaurant once had a mystery item on special, called 'boiled language.' I like mine nice and blue with lots of salt and pepper, I wanted to say, even though I knew that the Russians have the same word for tongue and language (yazyk, if you're interested).

Anyway, by accident of birth I'm bilingual in English and Russian, so whenever I find myself in Moscow (which is as seldom as I can help it) I can ask anything I want, such as 'I like my food hot, my vodka cold, and not vice versa' or 'Please don't hurt me.'

Since I've been spending much time in France for many years, I can go so far as to exchange off-colour jokes with the maître d' at my favourite Paris restaurant, secure in the knowledge that he is duty-bound to laugh at my one-liners (nowadays professional obligation seems to be a precondition for anyone to appreciate what my wife calls my infantile humour).

Having lived in Italy for a while and travelled extensively through Spain, I can order a fairly sophisticated meal in Rome or Madrid, and the waiters don't even feel tempted to insult or overcharge me.

The only capital city in which I can't make myself understood at shops and restaurants is the one where I happen to live: London. And I'd be lying to you if I claimed that my reaction to this linguistic conundrum is invariably good-natured.

This morning I was at a major supermarket where I couldn't find Polish cucumbers in brine, which normally live in the Foods of the World section. I had to stop several assistants before I found one who could understand the word 'cucumber'. Not a single one knew what brine was. 'Vinegar?' they'd suggest helpfully. 'No, not vinegar! Brine! Salt and water!' 'Vinegar,' they'd say with decisive finality.

On another occasion I was driven to distraction by a shop assistant who kept pointing me towards the butcher's counter where I could buy 'peeg', rather than the pickle I had trouble finding. And when buying bread at a French bakery, such as Paul, one had better be able to speak French if wishing to communicate the difference between 'rye bun' and 'rum baba'.

Now I don't mind speaking French, but there's a big difference between not minding and having to. In fact, I'm bloody-minded enough to refuse to speak any language other than English in my city. If they take my money in my country, they should damn well speak my language - just as I try my best to speak theirs in their country.

If this makes me sound as if I were somehow against immigrants working in London, I want to dispel this impression once and for all. I'm not. In fact, I welcome it - it's nice to buy real bread from people who know how to make it; I like ordering my pasta from people who don't pronounce it 'passter'; I'm ecstatic about getting a tapa from a waiter who knows the difference between Serrano and Ibérica hams. I just don't want to have language problems in my own city.

Moreover, I'm a firm supporter of free trade, including the import of labour, though I do draw the line on the import of welfare recipients. I just wonder why I've never met a Paris waiter who doesn't speak proper French (and some of them aren't natives), while these days hardly ever meeting a London one who speaks proper English.

Our economy is in the doldrums, 20 percent of British young people are unemployed (and God only knows how many more on the 'sickie'), and yet catering and retail jobs go to people who don't understand me even when I speak slowly and loudly. I could suggest why this is happening, and even what needs to be done to change the situation, but I'll save that for a different article.

For now I'll just go on saying, 'Well, you better habla, mate. This is England, you know. Inglaterra! Entiende?'


Recent posts at CIS below

See here for the blog. The CIS main page is here.

1. REAL ID Implementation Annual Report Major Progress Made in Securing Driver’s License Issuance Against Identity Theft and Fraud (Backgrounder)

2. Summer jobs for foreigners crowd out Americans State Department program, though well intentioned, is out of control (Op-ed)

3. Illegal Population Stops Declining under Obama After Declining by 1 Million 2007 to 2009 (Announcement)

4. Case History: 32 years Later and Fernando Arango is Still in Court (Blog)

5. Finding Skilled Workers for U.S. Manufacturing Jobs (Blog)

6. Closing Immigration Loopholes That Benefited Capitol Bomber (Blog)

7. Another Terrorist Attempt, Another Illegal Overstay (Blog)

8. Oscar-Nominated Portrayal of an Illegal Immigrant from Mexico (Blog)

9. Case History: Sloppy Government Work Stalls Criminal's Deportation (Blog)

10. Four Films Demand Repeal of Alabama Law (Blog)

11. House Immigration Subcommittee Has a Lively Hearing (Blog)

12. Is the Mainstream Media Incapable of Getting the Facts Right About H-1B? (Blog)

13. 'Civil Rights' Group Endangers Food Stamp Eligibility for Its Own Alien Clients (Blog)

14. A Response to Father Tom Joyce and U.S. Catholic (Blog)

15. Dept. of Labor Loses Migration Enforcement Funds to USDA (Blog)

16. DHS Estimates: Long-Time Illegals Do in Fact Self Deport (Blog)

17. DHS Budget: More Tax Funds for Benefits, Less for Enforcement (Blog)

18. No Mormon Dialogue (Blog)

19. Obama Administration Proposes to Cut 287(g) Funding (Blog)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Immigration enforcement program to be shut down

The cost is minute so the cost-saving excuse is a transparent lie

The Obama administration is starting to shut down a program that deputized local police officers to act as immigration agents.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have trained local officers around the country to act as their agencies' immigration officers. Working either in jails or in the field, the officers can check the immigration status of suspects and place immigration holds on them.

The program, known as 287(g), reached its peak under President George W. Bush, when 60 local agencies signed contracts with ICE to implement it. But that trend slowed significantly under President Obama— only eight agencies have signed up since he took office, and none has done so since August 2010.

Now, in their proposed budget for the upcoming year, Department of Homeland Security officials say they will not sign new contracts for 287(g) officers working in the field and will terminate the "least productive" of those agreements — saving an estimated $17 million. All the contracts between ICE and local police agencies run for three years, so that portion of the program could be finished by November when the last contract for field officers expires.

In its budget request, DHS said officials instead will focus on expanding Secure Communities, a program that checks the fingerprints of all people booked into local jails against federal immigration databases. The followup work in those cases is done by ICE agents, not local police.

"The Secure Communities screening process is more consistent, efficient and cost-effective in identifying and removing criminal and other priority aliens," the department explained in its budget request.

The program had been criticized by Homeland Security inspector general reports, which found that local officers were not being properly trained and there was not enough oversight to ensure that local agencies weren't using the program to engage in racial profiling.

A study last year by the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, found that immigrants developed "fear and mistrust of authorities" when they realized that local police could act as immigration agents.

The main complaint Friday from groups that oppose 287(g) was that the program isn't being terminated immediately, and that its replacement — Secure Communities — is not much better.

"The 287(g) program has been repeatedly called into question by advocates as well as the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, and should be terminated rather than sustained with taxpayer money," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. "The Secure Communities program is surrounded by grave concerns about the impact to public safety, community policing and civil rights abuses."

Defenders of the program, such as Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies, say Homeland Security is "putting politics ahead of public safety" by cutting back the 287(g) program. She said Secure Communities is helpful but that local officers working in the field are better able to identify illegal immigrants who may not have their fingerprints in federal databases, making it harder to identify them.

She said some agencies such as the Colorado Department of Public Safety have used their 287(g) officers to suppress drug and human smuggling, gang activity and identity theft and said many sheriffs and police chiefs prefer the program to Secure Communities.

"The problem for ICE is that while they may feel that they get political brownie points for this kind of gesture, in reality what the anti-enforcement groups want is for them to end 287(g) and Secure Communities, not curtail (them)," said Vaughan, director of policy studies for the center. "So it's futile — they end up making everyone on both sides angry."


Mass immigration, and how Labour tried to destroy Britishness

Throughout the tenure of the last Labour government this newspaper, and others — while praising the huge contribution immigrants had made to this country in the past — attacked the laxity of what were supposed to be our border controls.

It was clear the very nature of our society was being changed by a new kind of uncontrolled mass immigration — and without the British people ever having been asked whether they supported the policy.

Labour arrogantly accused its critics of racism — though most of the incomers were white — and of scaremongering. It claimed it had no choice but to open our borders to the nationals of ten mainly ex-Soviet bloc countries which joined the EU in 2004. The truth was that — as other EU countries which restricted immigration from these states proved — it did have a choice.

The cynicism did not end there. Such, Labour claimed, was its commitment to ensuring that only people with a right to be in Britain could come here that in 2008 it set up the UK Border Agency. The truth, unfortunately, was very different.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has announced that the agency is being wound up next month precisely because it is useless, and the officials who ran it — rather like the borders they supposedly policed — were out of control.

Despite the strong threat from international terrorism, the evidence of eastern European criminal gangs infiltrating Britain, and our overburdened public and social services, 500,000 unchecked people were let in to Britain via Eurostar between 2007 and last year, while countless so-called students were just nodded through.

Though Labour clearly left the system in a shambles, it should be noted that it has taken almost two years for this Government to admit the mess our immigration procedures are in, and to do something about it. So Mrs May’s department — and notably the Immigration Minister Damian Green — also have a case to answer.

They seemed unaware that their officials, too, were ordering the relaxation of controls. Yet while the Coalition has been derelict, Labour was downright malign.

The game was given away in 2009 by Andrew Neather, a former Labour Home Office and Downing Street adviser, who revealed that mass immigration was a deliberate policy by the Left to change the social fabric of the country and to ‘rub the Right’s nose in diversity’.

This appalling policy was never discussed publicly because Labour strategists feared it would upset the party’s traditional white working-class support. For self-interested political reasons, the public could not possibly be consulted.

Mass immigration gratified the Left in two ways that have inflicted enormous damage on our country. It furthered the bogus notion of multiculturalism — undermining national identity and common values, and preventing the successful integration of immigrant communities into the British cultural mainstream.

Moreover, at a time of growing economic crisis, it added an enormous number of people to Labour’s client state.

Recent immigrants were grateful for their admission to the country, and for the costly safety net of the welfare state that was provided for them: a gratitude that, Labour hoped, would help it garner more votes at elections.

That aside, it is generally accepted that new arrivals to a country — who are often relatively impoverished — are more likely to vote for Leftish governments. So although present ministers have much explaining to do, this cocktail of ideology and blatant gerrymandering is of the Left’s making.

In the interests of creating a society with which Leftist ideologues felt comfortable, and which would help shore up Labour’s vote at elections, the wishes of the vast majority of the British people, and their security, were ridden roughshod over.

The idea of multiculturalism was advanced with varying degrees of stealth over several decades by politicians, civil servants and council officials. Its doctrine was spread in schools and in teacher-training colleges.

Weak as it so often is, the Church of England appeared to welcome it, even though it posed a mortal threat to that institution. The BBC, never to be found wanting when political correctness was required, suppressed any debate about mass immigration, took the tenets of multiculturalism as its gospel and preached it to the nation.

Internationalism is one of the core principles of the Left. It abhors the nation state, which it sees as a foundry of bigotry, racism and aggressive nationalism.

The Left has always understood this: that if you manage to wreck a national culture and a national identity, you shatter the ties of history and nationhood forged over centuries.

Although there used to be patriotic Leftists — and there still are one or two — many in the New Labour project in the Nineties and Noughties were, effectively, self-hating Britons.

They tortured themselves with post-imperial guilt, wanted the country to lose its independence and be ruled by Brussels, and sought to have what a BBC executive called the ‘hideously white’ mainstream culture diluted by ‘diversity’.

This was immensely dangerous. In a world where even Trevor Phillips, the chairman of the Equality Commission, highlights the threat that multiculturalism poses to social cohesion, it is surprising it has taken ministers so long to become alert to this danger.

However one of them, at last, has. Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, has said that the culture of the majority will once more be given pre-eminence in society. This is utterly sensible and, indeed, indispensable if we wish for a coherent and settled society of shared values.

To promote — as opposed to tolerate — the practices of other cultures is to drive people into ghettos. It prevents integration and assimilation and causes strife in society between religious and social groups who find themselves gazing at one another suspiciously across the social divides created by multiculturalism.

Mr Pickles has specified what this assault on multiculturalism will mean. He has said that public bodies’ obsession with translating leaflets into all known languages — and spending a fortune in public money on doing so — should end. Learning English is one of the fundamentals of grasping the British way of life.

He has argued that tolerance of the beliefs of others should not extend to disowning those of the majority.

He deplored the disciplining of Christian workers who wear crucifixes, and the recent decision to ban prayers before the meetings of a town council in Devon. He has called all these issues ‘the politics of division’, and he is right.

In a society that remains more than 90 per cent indigenously British, it is ludicrous to be ashamed of national traditions, rooted in common values from a shared past. And it is entirely right to expect those who come here to accept those values and traditions, and not be made — usually by mischievous, politically-motivated white liberals — to feel hostile towards them.

When even many atheists recognise the central importance of Christianity to the culture and institutions of our country — and I am one of them — it is offensive to the intellect as well as to the spiritual to seek to downgrade or marginalise that faith.

Our society needs an end to mass immigration.

This is not just because the parts of the country where immigrants most wish to settle are overcrowded, and the public services and infrastructure are cracking under the strain, or because we have 2.7 million unemployed.

It is principally because our national identity — founded on Christian values of tolerance and decency, and on a history of which we can be exceptionally proud — has been gravely injured by Britain’s Left-wing enemy within, and needs to recover from its wounds.

The best way to guarantee a harmonious future for all our people, of whatever racial background, is to make that culture strong again, and for us all to embrace it.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

REAL ID Implementation

Annual Report Finds Major Progress in Securing Driver's License Issuance Against Identity Theft and Fraud

The Center for Immigration Studies has released its second comprehensive assessment of the status of secure driver's license standards. The report fills a void left by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which has been silent on the implementation of state license standards in the REAL ID Act of 2005.

The report concludes that by the deadline of January 13, 2013, 36 of the 56 jurisdictions (50 states, Washington D.C., and the five island territories) will be substantially or materially or fully compliant with REAL ID, even if there remains a wide gap between the strongest of state systems and the weakest.

This assessment is by Janice Kephart, former 9/11 Commission counsel and National Security Policy Director at the Center. It covers state driver's license improvements in line with the REAL ID Act, including: overall compliance, production of tamper-resistant cards, verifying and protecting identity before and after issuance, secure card production, and federal funding.

The data is compiled in a chart that forms the heart of the report. Chart analysis shows that (1) states see value in pursuing REAL ID standards because the improvements reduce identity theft and fraud, increase efficiencies, improve customer service, and support law enforcement; (2) states are paying for those improvements with their own budgets outside of federal grant monies; and (3) states are often exceeding REAL ID minimum standards in order to achieve more complete credentialing security.

Specifically, this study finds that:

* In overall compliance, 53 states and territories are embracing REAL ID or the technical tenets of REAL ID; 5 states have submitted REAL ID compliance packages to DHS with a total of 36 materially or substantially materially compliant now or likely will be by the REAL ID deadline of January 15, 2013.

* At least 43 jurisdictions are issuing tamper-resistant cards;

In identity verification and protection:

* 51 are checking SSNs and the remaining five are currently getting online;

* 47 are registered with DHS to check legal presence through the SAVE database;

* only 5 motor vehicle agencies intend to check vital records prior to issuing a driver's license despite nearly all vital record agencies having digitized their birth and death records and 36 having installed the EVVE network that enables interstate queries;

In secure card issuance:

* 32 are issuing their cards from secure or central locations;

* 38 have installed facial recognition software to help reduce fraud and support law enforcement; this technology is expensive and not required by REAL ID.

The states contacted for this report said they no longer have guidance or support from DHS in implementing REAL ID. The Center for Immigration Studies is not in a position to determine the accuracy of state assertions about compliance; instead, the report focuses on states’ self-assessments as to whether benchmarks are met. Thus, the possibility for error exists. Suggestions for corrections from state motor vehicle agencies are welcome.

The above is a press release from from Center for Immigration Studies. 1522 K St. NW, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 466-8185 fax: (202) 466-8076. Email: Contact: Janice Kephart,, 202-466-8185

The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent research institution which examines the impact of immigration on the United States. The Center for Immigration Studies is not affiliated with any other organization

A very welcome immigrant influx to Australia

Huge numbers of Australian-born people have some Irish ancestry so an Irish influx is rather like a family reunion. Irish people will find goodwill towards them wherever they go in Australia. I would myself be inclined to mention my fond memories of my grandmother Kelly

A young hairdresser from Northern Ireland knew her prospects were turning sour about two years ago when the "old people" in her county's quiet shops started talking about how grim business had been getting.

"Everybody was talking about it," Brona Quinn, 22, said of Ireland's most recent economic downturn and the impact it has had on businesses and families.

Ms Quinn stuck it out for a couple of years, but about six months ago the strain of working three jobs to get a "full weekly wage," finally took its toll.

She secured a working holiday visa to get to Perth, where she had heard there was work.

"We had family over here they were able to tell us that they'd been to Brisbane, they'd been to Sydney and there was a lot of work in Perth," she said.

A jump of more than 50 per cent in temporary skilled visas from July last year suggests Ms Quinn is not the only one to notice the influx of skilled workers from Ireland, where jobs have continued to disappear following the 2008 banking crisis and ongoing financial instability in Europe.

Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship figures reveal the 3560 Irish workers entering the country on 457 visas since only July last year have almost already pipped the 2010-2011 financial year total of 3890.

Last year's figures were not shy either, topping the previous year's total of 2240 by more than 1500 workers.

Irish workers entering the country on permanent working visas also look poised to double in the 2011-2012 financial year. In December, the financial year halfway mark, the number of new permanent workers was close to the last year's total of 2934.

"All of my friends that I have are here - all in different parts of Australia - all the young people that I grew up with - they're all our here or they've been here or coming out here," Ms Quinn said. "Everyday I'm hearing of somebody new who is coming out or planning to come out."

The Perth reception desk at global recruitment firm HAYS has seen a "significant increase" in walk-ins from Ireland looking for work, according to WA senior regional director Simon Winfield. "Our reception feels like we've got half of Dublin in it on a Friday afternoon," Mr Winfield said.

"I think typically if you've been doing any research then you would probably want to be coming through WA or Queensland at the moment."

Mr Winfield said Irish workers on 417 visas seeking construction or property jobs in WA was nothing new, but he had noticed an increase of about 25 per cent in the past six to nine months.

Ms Quinn was among almost 12,000 Irish citizens who received working holiday or 417 visas between July and December 2011, according to the Department's records. The figures revealed a 30 per cent increase on the same period in the previous year.

"Also the demographic has changed slightly because in the blue collar space we've also seen graduate level and experienced graduates coming into the office as well looking for opportunities," Mr Winfield said.

"We've also seen a significant increase in the number of degree-holding Irish nationals looking at the white collar sector as well as the blue collar."

Accounts, finance, construction and office support are attracting the bulk of inquiries at the HAYS office, Mr Winfield said.

The influx has been bolstered by targeted campaigns HAYS and other firms have run for their clients to attract workers to WA from Ireland as labour shortages in the state related to the mining sector are predicted to widen.

"People are aware of the economic situation in the UK and Ireland and certainly are targeting those locations in the hopes they can find the individuals they're looking to find," Mr Winfield said. "When you compare the economics in Perth to somewhere like Ireland there are an awful lot of people who are keen to take those opportunities up."

Many people who have come to Australia on 417 visas seeking to secure 457s were finding success in WA, according to Mr Winfield. "We are finding that those applicants that are starting on a temporary contract on a 417 visa are becoming sponsored," he said.

Ms Quinn said she hopes to find an employer to sponsor her stay in Australia before her visa runs out later this year.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Good news for highly-skilled immigrants to the USA

The President authorized several initiatives to make the United States more attractive to highly skilled foreign students and workers. The first initiative will be to expand eligibility for the 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 international students to include students with a prior degree in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem). Under the current system, the 17-months extension of OPT is only available to F-1 students if the most recent degree they were conferred was in a Stem field. The proposed change expands eligibility to include students with a Stem degree that is not the most recent degree student received. DHS will also review emerging fields for inclusion in the list of eligible Stem degree programs.

The second initiative would allow spouses of F-1 students to enroll in academic classes on a part-time basis while his or her spouse is pursuing full-time studies.

Under current regulations, spouses may only take part-time vocational or recreational classes. This will greatly help those spouses who cannot commit to a full-time student workload because of family or other demands, yet, wish to pursue additional education.

Another initiative would also assist the H-4 spouses of H-1B holders. DHS will propose a change to current regulations to allow certain spouses of H-1B visa holders to legally work while they wait for their adjustment of status applications to be adjudicated. This means H-4 spouses of the principal H1B visa holder who have begun the process of seeking permanent resident status may be granted employment authorization. Presently, H-4 spouses are eligible to apply for employment authorization as adjustment of status applicants. But, if they work with this employment authorization, they lose H-4 status. This is undesirable because, if the adjustment of status application is ever denied, they no longer have an underlying legal status to allow them to remain in the US while either challenging the denial or seeking a new basis to adjust status. This places H-4 spouses in a Catch-22 situation.

One of the most interesting initiatives is the Entrepreneurs in Residence Initiative.

This will be conducted through a series of summits focusing on ensuring immigration pathways perform entrepreneurs a clear and consistent, and better reflect today’s business realities. This initiative calls for the creation of an entrepreneurs in residence tactical team comprised of business experts to work alongside United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) staff in-house. This promises to allow USCIS staff who are removed from current business practices and realities to better understand the environment for which they are adjudicating cases on. This should lead to more approvals of cutting edge business petitions.


Border scandal: failures of British border controls laid bare

In the last week of June 2007, Britain was in the midst of a terrorism crisis after car bombs failed to explode outside one of London’s busiest nightclubs.

Within days, the UK Border Agency had ordered that anyone arriving at British ports and airports was checked against a database which identified those potentially posing a risk to the country.

However, the Vine Report showed that the order failed to secure Britain’s borders and millions of people were able to enter the country with minimal checks.

The Home Office’s “Warnings Index” (WI), first introduced in 1995, is the “single most important electronic check” carried out to identify undesirable people, including suspected terrorists, criminals and paedophiles.

But, almost as soon as the order to check 100 per cent of passengers arriving in Britain against the index had been issued, exclusions already began to be introduced.

Initially, European nationals travelling from French “resorts” such as Disneyland Paris and the French Alps were not checked against the index. This is thought to have led to about 500,000 people arriving in Britain who had not been checked.

In June 2008, the then head of the Border Force also extended this exemption so that school coach parties travelling through Calais were also not automatically checked.

However, it was a more wide-ranging exclusion which led to some of the worst alleged loopholes emerging.

Border Agency executives were given the discretion to temporarily suspend the checks for “health and safety” reasons.

The Vine report found that the definition of a health and safety risk was not clearly defined but it was used regularly when queues became too long.

Labour claimed that the problem became worse after the election as government cuts began to hit the Border Agency, which was reducing staff.

For example, the report found that Warning Index checks were only suspended 6 times in Calais before 2010 – but 83 times since. The report says that some of these suspensions occurred because of a “moderate number of immigration officers on desks”.

In total, the crucial checks were suspended on 354 occasions.

The report concluded: “The Agency’s records relating to the suspension of the WI were poor. We found that records relating to some suspensions had not been kept, whilst other records did not capture important information, such as whether the emergency services had been consulted before checks were suspended.

“There was a lack of effective management oversight of the frequency with which checks had been suspended, the reasons for this and which ports were suspending checks.”

The lax system for checking people against the Warnings Index soon spread to other controls within the immigration system. A second check – Secure ID – is supposed to check passengers’ fingerprints when they are visiting Britain with a visa. This is designed to stop people fraudulently arriving in this country by checking those arriving are the same as the person who applied for the visa.

However, again, as the queues built up at airports and ports, the checks were quickly abandoned. On a total of 463 occasions at Heathrow in the past two years, the checks were suspended “from a matter of minutes to several hours”.

During 2011, Border Agency executives met ministers to discuss a new approach to checking people, the so-called “level two pilot” which effectively meant that only people deemed a higher-risk were thoroughly checked.

This meant it was no longer routine to open the biometric chip contained in the passports of European visitors. Warning index checks were also suspended for European children travelling “in obvious family units or school groups”. In September 2011, a further, potentially unlawful, scheme was also introduced by immigration staff code-named “Operation Savant” which meant that foreign students arriving to study were not routinely checked.

It also emerged that on 14,812 occasions the “biometric chip reading facility had been deactivated” at ports and airports. The Border Agency was unable to explain the exact reasons for this.

The picture that emerged from the 84-page report was one of chaos and confusion, where ministers’ orders to Border Agency executives were either misunderstood or ignored, and Border Agency staff do not consistently apply directives. There were signs that the situation deteriorated significantly under the Coalition.

The result was that millions of people were allowed to enter Britain without thorough checks.

The report also alleged that Brodie Clark, the former head of the Border Force, authorised officials to go beyond the terms of a pilot scheme agreed last summer. The biometric details of non-European visitors were also not checked, although Mr Clark is expected to argue that the instructions were unclear.

Mr Clark was forced to resign last autumn when details of the scandal first emerged. He is currently taking legal action against the Home Office.

For the Conservatives, the resulting scandal is deeply embarrassing as they made political capital out of a succession of immigration errors under Labour. Similar crises caused the resignations of several Labour ministers and the Home Office was branded “not fit for purpose.”

Last night, it appeared that the positions of Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and Damian Green, the Immigration Minister, were secure as the Vine report shared blame between ministers and officials.

However, this summer will see the biggest ever influx of visitors to London for the Olympics and one of the biggest security operations in Britain’s history. Any repeat of the circumstances laid bare in yesterday’s report would spell the end of ministerial careers.


Monday, February 20, 2012

French immigration critics use halal accusation to woo voters

NOTE: I have replaced some lazy references to "far right" below with more factual words. Just about all groups referred to by journalists as "far right" are in fact distinctly socialist -- from the parties of Hitler, Mussolini and Mosley to Germany's current NPD and Britain's current BNP.

And Marine Le Pen's advocacy of protectionism is socialist rather than market-oriented. It was a feature of the old Soviet bloc and the most extreme example is currently found in North Korea!

French [National Front] leader Marine Le Pen switched her presidential campaign back to immigration on Sunday, accusing Nicolas Sarkozy of bowing to Muslim pressure over how animals are killed for meat, to try to head off his attempts to poach her supporters.

Le Pen had sought to attract voters by shifting from a traditional emphasis on immigration and French identity to leaving the euro and imposing protectionist barriers, to exploit discontent over the debt crisis in Europe and globalization.

But at a congress of her National Front party in Lille, Le Pen returned to familiar anti-immigration territory, saying she had proof that all meat in Paris was halal - killed by cutting the animal's throat and letting its blood drain out.

"This situation is deception and the government has been fully aware of it for months," Le Pen said. "All the abattoirs of the Paris region have succumbed to the rules of a minority. We have reason to be disgusted."

Le Pen's aides said she would file a legal complaint on the matter. During her closing speech she said the government was bowing down to "Islamic radicals."

The main meat industry association, Interbev, denied the allegation, saying the vast majority of the meat in Paris was not slaughtered under halal practices, but the episode showed Le Pen was trying to win back wavering voters.

Most analysts deem her economic program as not credible and question the strategy of moving from the party's core message. Criticism of her economic policies has provided an opportunity for Sarkozy to woo far-right voters as he did in 2007 when he ran on a strong security and immigration platform.

"Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to renew 2007 by encroaching on our turf," Nicolas Bay, Le Pen's adviser on immigration issues, told Reuters. "That means we have to go on the offensive as we have no intention of letting him do it again."


Le Pen is third in the opinion polls behind Socialist candidate Francois Hollande and Sarkozy. The first round of the presidential election is on April 22.

At one point in January, Le Pen was snapping at the conservative leader's heels, but a BVA poll on Friday showed Sarkozy had an 11 point lead over her in the first round, although it said Hollande would beat the incumbent in the May 6 runoff.

Since announcing his campaign on February 15, Sarkozy has looked further right to win votes and proposed a referendum on battling illegal immigration, something the far right has championed for several years.

In January, his government trumpeted the deportation of a record number of illegal migrants in 2011, and Sarkozy has set himself the goal of cutting legal migration to France to 150,000 people a year, having cut the quota to 180,000 from 200,000.

Le Pen's National Front, founded 40 years ago by her ex-paratrooper father Jean-Marie, is still fuelled by anti-immigrant rhetoric. Among her ideas for protecting welfare are toughening citizenship requirements, shutting borders and forbidding foreigners from access to any social aid.

She said she was the only viable voice of the nation in the face of Sarkozy and Hollande, who she described as the candidates of "globalization, immigration and insecurity."

"People of France, give Nicolas Sarkozy a red card! Get him definitively off the pitch," Le Pen said as 2,000 National Front supporters cheered, brandishing red cards and French flags.

Bay said it was important that issues such as the halal meat accusation were made public to show how Muslim values were influencing policy and endangering secular traditions.

Le Pen says that crimes committed by foreigners had risen as the number of immigrants had risen and that immigration costs France as much as 70 billion euros a year. She has pledged to reduce the number of immigrants to 10,000 a year.

"I think in 2007 (Sarkozy) managed to blindside us using our themes because he was able to appear as a new candidate ... and the National Front didn't have the dynamic we have now with Marine Le Pen," Bay said. "But now he has bad track record and we have momentum around Marine so it will be difficult for him."


Australia: Melbourne in a Greek rush as new wave of migrants arrive

Melbourne is already one of the world's largest Greek cities

MELBOURNE is set for a new wave of Greek migrants as the nation's dismal economy drives away workers in search of jobs.

Fed up with unemployment above 17 per cent, hundreds of aspiring migrants have bombarded local Greek organisations looking for ways to call Melbourne home.

Department of Immigration figures show Australia is on track to record a 65 per cent increase in Greek migrants this financial year, after an influx in the last six months of 2011 as Europe's economic woes deepened.

And Melbourne - which has more Greek-speaking people than any city outside Athens and Thessaloniki - will take the lion's share, says Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne president Bill Papastergiadis.

He said the organisation had been swamped with hundreds of inquiries a month from Greeks wanting migration advice. "That really took effect once the economic situation deteriorated in Greece," Mr Papastergiadis said.

The number of Greeks visiting Australia on short-term visas also increased, with nearly 4000 arriving last year, up 21 per cent on 2009.

Melbourne already is home to more than 300,000 Greeks, with many arriving in the 1950s and 1960s when government migration schemes sought Greeks and Italians.

Lazarus Karasavvidis said his international recruitment and training firm Skillup Australia had witnessed a tenfold increase in the number of Greek people wanting work in Melbourne in the last six months of 2011. "The vast majority of them are young, urban professionals. They're well qualified, they're looking for a new home," Mr Karasavvidis said.

Melbourne's Ellie Doulgeris, 20, said Greek relatives planned to migrate. "Some are willing to stick it through, but things aren't great," Ms Doulgeris said.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Border battleground

Arizona rancher Jim Chilton spots a lone intruder near his barn. He grabs his rifle and rushes out, prepared for whatever may come. No threat. The man drops to his knees, hands in prayer, and offers Chilton his rosary. Chilton declines and instead gives him water. As he gulps it down, he asks, “Which way to St. Louis?”

Chilton cannot help with that. He wishes the illegal immigrant good luck wherever he lands—somewhere no doubt south of St. Louis. Perhaps in detention or in the hands of the criminals who haunt the mountains and canyons of this particularly scenic part of Arizona, where the desert suddenly brightens with glistening greenery against a backdrop of shadowed mountains. Small wonder that ranchers, despite the dangers, don’t want to leave. “I’m here to stay,” says Chilton, a fifth generation rancher who has ample reason to go.

His 50,000-acre cattle ranch stretches 19 miles to the southeastern border, supplying a convenient route for drug smugglers. His house has been burglarized, all his valuables stolen, including a prize antique gun. Chilton always leaves home with rifle and pistol, never sure what he will face. In days gone by, it was mostly immigrants parched after a desert trek. They wanted jobs and better lives in America.

Now the game has changed, he says. The lone immigrant is not seen so much. Border crossers tend to come in packs led by a coyote, a criminal guide. He in turn works for one of Mexico’s cartels, which force the immigrants to carry drugs across the border, or sometimes human cargo held for ransom. They are modestly paid for their effort. Those who collapse from exhaustion along the way are left behind to suffer a slow, agonizing death. The Border Patrol often comes across skeletal remains.

Woe to immigrants who try to avoid the cartels if they happen to get caught. Last summer, an independent-minded coyote was leading some 30 people across the border when they were spotted by cartel members keeping watch from a ridge with powerful binoculars that enable them to scan the countryside for Border Patrol. They swooped down on horseback and drove the group back to a safe house in Mexico, where they raped the women and tortured the men. They made an example of the offending coyote by cutting off all his fingers. Then they took their victims back across the border and turned them in—a clear warning to anyone else who would defy them.

It’s a commonplace that women trying to navigate the border must prepare for rape—the cost of crossing. They’re told to carry birth-control pills. Special treatment for children? Not a chance. More likely they’ll be used to hide drugs. A rancher says our own mafia have some limits to their cruelty. Not the cartels. Violence that is thankfully infrequent in the Southwestern United States is everyday in Mexico, where more than 40,000 people have been killed by the cartels in the last few years. Returning to Mexico after 20 years’ absence, Associated Press reporter Marjorie Miller writes that half the country is besieged by the cartels: “Mexico has become a country of mass murders.”

Fewer illegal immigrants are entering the United States these days, but more drugs. This is misunderstood, says Sylvia Longmire, author of Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars. Illegal immigration is controversial, she writes, “but worrying about Juan and Maria is totally separate from the issue of criminal drug trafficking. The cartels have been able to hide behind the immigration issue. It’s perfect for them that the attention is on illegal aliens, not them.” With this camouflage, the cartels now have outlets to distribute their drugs in more than 200 American cities.

A woman rancher north of Nogales—we’ll call her “Mrs. Smith”—prefers not to be quoted by her real name; she fears the cartels will seek vengeance on anyone who gives them trouble. She cites the nearby killing of rancher Rob Krentz after the Border Patrol was alerted to a large amount of marijuana on his property and arrested eight people. His widow Sue, who spoke out forcefully about his death, was later hit and badly injured by a car driven by an intoxicated illegal immigrant. Suspicions arose that she, too, had run afoul of the ever watchful cartel. Mrs. Smith must be just as watchful. She has had no close encounters, but her dog was poisoned, some pipes severed, a water tank drained. She is never quite sure who is passing through. Three Chinese passports were discovered on her ranch.

• • •

There’s much talk of non-Mexicans crossing the border. Yemenis are often cited, but a favorite seems to be the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Check “Hezbollah in Mexico” on the Internet and up come page after age of dire warnings from dubious commentators. A frequent source is the anonymous “former agent.” Evidence, such as it is, consists of gang members reputed to have tattoos in Farsi and drug tunnels similar to ones dug by Hezbollah in Gaza.

Are the cartels and Hezbollah working together? Nonsense, says George Grayson, author of Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State. The cartels don’t want to jeopardize their lucrative trade by allying with a terrorist-identified group that could bring down the full might of the United States on them. Besides, the cartels are not keen on cooperation and have a way of dealing with competition.

In October, three top U.S. officials involved in anti-narcotic operations testified before Congress that there’s no connection between Hezbollah and the cartels. Rodney Benson of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Mariko Silver from the Department of Homeland Security, and William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, reported that Hezbollah is raising money in some South American countries but is not a threat to the United States. Former Border Patrol undercover agent David Ham says he never encountered any Hezbollah on the border and thinks their presence in other parts of Latin America is exaggerated.

What about the Iranian-American who tried to get the Zetas cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington? Seems he shared the plot with an informant of the Drug Enforcement Agency who gave it away. The event has fired up neoconservatives and others anxious to confront the Islamic Republic, but I’ve found very few Arizonans who believe the story. Tony Estrada, the esteemed sheriff of the border county Santa Cruz, says Iranian operators are ruthless but smart. This action was just plain dumb.

Robert Baer, a CIA case officer in the Middle East for 21 years, agrees. “This doesn’t fit their modus operandi at all. It’s completely out of character. They’re much better than this.” It would help, he adds, if we had a back channel to Iran to explore these controversies when they arise.

• • •

There is a state sponsor behind some of Mexico’s cartel violence, but it isn’t Iran. The U.S. federal government’s “Operation Fast and Furious” involved the transfer of some 1,500 weapons from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to the cartels, including 34 powerful sniper rifles. “A perfect storm of idiocy,” says Carlos Canino, an ATF attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico. He testified to Congress that “U.S. law enforcement and our Mexican partners will be recovering these guns for a long time as they continue to turn up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States.”

“This is going to be bigger than Watergate,” asserts Pima County, Arizona sheriff Paul Babeu, who notes that nobody died in the earlier scandal but the current one has led to innumerable Mexican deaths from the misdirected guns—as well as the killing of at least one American, Border Patrolman Brian Terry.

Former Border Patrol Agent David Ham says the giveaway goes against everything he learned in his 13 years working undercover. “Whatever causes harm you don’t spread around,” he says. That most emphatically includes guns and drugs. Guns did away with people who cooperated with him in Mexico. He will not go back to furnish another statistic.

Fast and Furious was supposedly intended to trace the firearms up the ladder to the cartel bosses who could then be apprehended. But the guns were not followed across the border, and Mexican authorities were not informed of the project. So how was anyone to be caught? Don’t worry so much about an explanation, cautioned ATF group supervisor David Voth to dissenting agents in a 2010 email. “If you don’t think this is fun, you’re in the wrong line of work.”

ATF supervisors are not as talkative now that a congressional investigation is under way. The scandal has already claimed several scalps: the U.S. attorney for Arizona has resigned and two top-level ATF administrators have been reassigned. “More heads will roll, as well they should,” says George Grayson. One neck that’s on the block belongs to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been caught in contradictions. Documents released by the Justice Department, which supervises ATF, show there was a cover-up of Fast and Furious. Department officials said they didn’t know about it. They did.

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, leading the congressional investigation, told Holder: “Your lack of trustworthiness about Fast and Furious has called into question your overall credibility as Attorney General. The time has come for you to come clean to the American public.”

Mexico has been the recipient not only of ATF guns but of money from the Drug Enforcement Administration. The New York Times reports that in another effort to track down cartel kingpins the DEA has allowed millions of dollars from illicit drug sales to be returned to Mexico, fattening the cartels’ coffers. But the Times says this has led to no real disruption in drug trafficking. It may take months or years to make a seizure or an arrest, while the cartels carry on undisturbed. It seems DEA and ATF are making up their own rules—and losing.

• • •

There’s a different border around the city of Nogales, a kind of oasis of calm amid the tension. An imposing new 20-foot iron fence and more than 800 law-enforcement personnel keep Nogales and the surrounding area safe and under control. Even so, it is not without problems: tunnels are dug under the fence since it’s a lot more difficult to go over it. Recent ones have emerged under metered parking spaces close to the border; the car above has a trap door through which drugs are lifted. Ordinarily, the tunnels are a tight, claustrophobic squeeze, but recently one was discovered that was 319 feet long, equipped with support beams, electricity, and water pumps—a home away from home.

Tunnels aside, peace extends across the border to much larger, more festive Mexican Nogales. There, in contrast to the rather subdued American side, stores open early and cheerful crowds gather in the streets. There’s no sign of hostility toward Americans. There’s talk of reviving tourism despite the dangers elsewhere, and officials on both sides of the border are pleasant and accommodating.

This used to be one city, says Tim Smith, comptroller of the upscale clothing store Bracker’s, who has lived in Nogales 27 years. Crossing the border was like crossing the street. It could be again. People appear much the same on both sides, mostly Hispanics who tend to have relatives on either side. Each morning a long line of Mexicans waits to cross the border for better paying jobs. At night they return to Mexico with its lower cost of living.

This interaction is an underrated part of border life, says Jonathan Clark, managing editor of the Nogales International newspaper. There should be less emphasis on security, he insists, more on economy. True enough, says Bruce Bracker, one of the owners of the store in his name and president of the Nogales Downtown Merchants Association. “We are physically in the United States but economically in Mexico.”

Mexicans spend a million dollars a day on goods and services in the United States, accounting for 49 percent of sales taxes in Santa Cruz County. Much of the produce consumed in the United States comes from Mexico through the port of Nogales. Mexico is now the largest importer and exporter in Latin America.

Yet that is slowing down. Responding to fears of terrorism, customs officials examine documents more closely these days. Mexican drivers wait as long as four hours to cross the border, pedestrians an hour and a half. Many more customs officials are needed to relieve the back-up. Clark says many Americans, distrustful and fearful of the border, wouldn’t understand why he wants to make it easier for Mexicans to come into the United States. But these are the Mexicans who should be coming here, he says, the more the better for both countries.

It would certainly be better for Deborah Grider, who runs the only store in the border town of Sasabe, population 11. She relies on Mexican trade, now much diminished because fewer U.S. visas are granted. The Arizona Republic ran a front-page tribute to her staying power. She serves mixed drinks inspired by the border, e.g., “El Pollero,” the smuggler. Surviving the border today requires imagination.

Despite the slowdown, some American manufactures are moving just across the border to take advantage of lower labor costs while maintaining close proximity to the U.S. market. No need to go all the way to Asia for less rapid delivery of products. Optimists say this is a way of reviving American-owned manufacturing, crime permitting.

Given the current economy, we shouldn’t be too eager to expel illegal immigrants, says criminal defense attorney Scott Donald, who handles immigrant cases in Phoenix. He says there are currently some 100,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona who, like it or not, are vital to the state economy. Under economic and political pressures, many are returning to Mexico. As a result, businesses are hurting, schools are closing, tax revenues are in decline. It’s forgotten, he says, that immigrants, whatever their status, buy products, ride trains and buses, and pay taxes.

Another border area illustrates this dilemma. Because of the unparalleled violence in Juarez, Mexicans have been fleeing in large numbers to the safety of El Paso, Texas. It’s hard to turn down people in clear danger of their lives even without proper documentation, and most of those crossing are thought to be middle-class families, professionals, and business people. There’s no question they’ve changed the look of El Paso, what a demographer calls “a binational living space.” All the discussion about amnesty for illegals may have been overtaken by events in this Texas city. Is this the future?

President Obama has proposed a two-tiered treatment for illegals. Individuals considered dangerous would be deported, while others would be permitted to stay under certain conditions. This would help relieve the huge backlog in the 59 U.S. immigration courts. But it would meet serious resistance. Says former Border Patrol Agent Ham: “If you’re here illegally, you should go back home—period.” The New York Times editorializes that the plan seems too vague to make much of a difference.

And then there are the drugs, whose use grows with the U.S. population. Sheriff Estrade says bluntly, “The American people create the problem.”

What to do about it? Most of the people I’ve talked to—left, right, or center—say legalize marijuana. It’s the main drug of the cartels, and legalization would take a large chunk out of their profits. To be sure, it would not put them out of business. Sylvia Longmire notes that the cartels are quite adaptable and are now stealing oil from pipelines and hawking pirated goods, as well as other drugs like cocaine and heroin. But she says certain practical steps can be taken toward legalizing marijuana, beginning with creation of an independent commission that would study the economics of the drug and how it might be produced and regulated like tobacco and alcohol.

President Obama came to office supporting medical use of marijuana, but his administration has been raiding and shutting down state-approved facilities on the grounds that federal law preempts state law. Governors from two of the 16 states that allow medical marijuana—Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island—have petitioned the federal government to let the states continue. Governor Gregoire says that legitimate patients are being made to feel like criminals when medical marijuana is taken away from them.

It’s said that in the war against drugs, the drugs have won. George Grayson writes that the United States spends an estimated $40 billion a year trying to stop the drug traffic and pursue and punish offenders. Yet less than 15 percent of illegal drugs reaching the United States are seized. “The rest feed a $200 billion a year illicit business that caters to an estimated 13 million Americans each month.”

The war, in fact, is spreading south of Mexico to Central America and north to the United States. Don’t consider Arizona’s vast southwestern desert under reliable control, says Sheriff Babeau. “We have people who are kidnapped, people who are executed. We have bodies that are dumped in our desert.”

Nothing on the scale of Mexico’s bloodshed—yet. But when will our devastated next-door neighbor become as important as Iraq and Afghanistan? “The U.S. takes Mexico for granted,” says Sheriff Estrada. “We should help Mexico to help ourselves.” That means doing something about our unquenchable drug consumption that drives the crime in Mexico and increasingly in the United States. Either we cut back, which seems unlikely, or we stop paying the cartels for it, which can be done.


UK's new immigration regulations: Indian chefs may lose their jobs to EU counterparts

Thanks to the skill of Indian cooks, curry has become the favourite food of the English so this is a serious matter

The chicken curry in Birmingham may not taste the same anymore. And the blame for this lies squarely with the United Kingdom's new immigration policy. The new rules make it impossible for specialised chefs from India to move to Britain.

"Under the rules for Tier 2 skilled migrants, chefs from non-European Union countries who will be allowed to work in the UK have to earn a minimum amount of £30,000 annually. This is far too high and the restriction has badly hit Indian restaurants in the UK," says Keith Vaz, a Labour MP. Vaz, whose family is from Goa, has been a vocal critic of the new immigration rules.

According to the revised policy, non-EU migrants who want to work as chefs should have a minimum of five years' experience in a similar job and graduate-level qualifications. Further, an announcement by UK's immigration minister Damian Green last week on a threshold salary range of between £31,000 and £49,000 annually has also caused resentment among the Indian community. Green's statement means that those chefs from India, who fall below the salary limit, will now have to leave the country after five years, and will not be eligible for permanent residence.

UK's curry industry, which has been valued at over £3 billion, has been severely hit by the stringent immigration rules of the David Cameron government. The home office rules allow only the top 5% of chefs into the country from non-EU countries. Vaz, who had initially suggested a four-year chef visa to allow foreign chefs to live and work in the UK on a non-permanent basis, is now concerned about the impact on curry houses of the stringent policy.

"Indian cuisine is very popular in the UK. It is an ancient and traditional cuisine and finding skilled chefs from outside the Indian subcontinent is very difficult. Even if chefs from India start training locals in the UK, it would take some time. Till then Indian chefs should be allowed into Britain for the sake of the curry industry," he says.

Concern for Students

Chefs are not the only people Vaz, who chairs the home affairs select committee in UK parliament, is worried about. Foreign students, who till now had the option to remain in the UK post their studies and look for work, will have to return to their home countries. The new Tier 4 rules have shut the doors on this option.

"Before the changes for foreign students were announced, we at the home affairs committee had reached out to different organisations, including industry bodies in India such as the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), to make an assessment of the impact. The pattern of foreigners coming to study in the UK is intrinsically linked to the leave to stay back and work for a few years provision. The new rules are likely to hit the number of Indian students coming to the UK," he says.

Vaz felt that while making the assessment, the Migration Advisory Committee of the UK must have used a few isolated incidents of students doing unskilled jobs. "Just because there's one graduate they may have found working at the tills of a supermarket chain doesn't mean that all graduate students are doing the same thing. Indians students are a very vibrant community and continue to remain vital for the UK higher education institutions," he adds.