Archive for November, 2011

November 20, 2011

11/19/2011 Ledger-Enquirer.com – Crowd calls for closing of Stewart Detention Center; two arrested

Ledger-Enquirer.com | 11/19/2011 | Crowd calls for closing of Stewart Detention Center; two arrested.

News

Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011

jmustian@ledger-enquirer.com

 

— A season of protest in Georgia continued Friday in front of a federal immigration detention center here, as a crowd of 270 people called for the closing of the Stewart Detention Center.

The fifth annual protest, which included two arrests, sought to highlight what demonstrators claim are inhumane conditions inside the facility, as well as the plight of the inmates’ families on the outside.

“We’re here to fight for the justice of immigrants and those who are detained in Stewart,” said Arely Lara, 13, of Dalton, Ga., who said her father was held here before being deported to Mexico.

Activists marched more than a mile uphill from downtown Lumpkin to the entrance of the detention center, where they held vigil and celebrated the release of one inmate, Pedro Guzman, who was behind bars here this time a year ago.

“This place breaks you,” he said, assailing the conditions inside the detention center. “It’s basically made to break your soul.”

Guzman was joined by his family, who described the impact his incarceration had on their lives several hours away in North Carolina.

“Most do not fight because the system is not set up for justice,” said Guzman’s wife, Emily, who is five months pregnant. “It is set up to get as many immigrants out of the country as possible. Pedro is free, but so many are not.”

Prison officials have denied the claims made by the protesters. Stewart Detention Center is run by Corrections Corporation of America , the country’s largest private corrections company. “We’re mystified why these individuals would want to protest a company that saves taxpayers millions, provides safe, humane housing for detainees and helps keep communities safe,” said Steve Owen, a company spokesman.

The cold air was filled Friday with echoes of other activist movements of recent weeks. One woman wore a pin in remembrance of Troy Anthony Davis, the Georgia prisoner executed in September amid an international uproar prompted by his claims of innocence.

Others were affiliated with the Occupy movement and the SOA Watch protest taking place this weekend in Columbus.

The size of the crowd more than doubled from last year’s event when eight protesters were arrested for crossing onto the prison grounds, said Anton Flores-Maisonet of Georgia Detention Watch. One demonstrator, Chris Spicer of Chicago, was arrested Friday afternoon and charged with a misdemeanor count of criminal trespassing.

“I want to cross because we are crossing a river of love with no fear for you,” Spicer told the crowd before ducking under a yellow strip of police tape and being handcuffed.

Spicer was released this year from federal prison after serving time for trespassing onto Fort Benning at the 2010 SOA Watch protest. Flores-Maisonet, who emceed the event, was briefly taken into custody after the crowd dispersed, accused of crossing onto prison grounds when he took Spicer’s jacket.

Stewart County Sheriff Larry Jones said authorities reviewed news media footage of the event and determined Flores-Maisonet was not in violation.

“We replayed the video and got that corrected,” Jones said, referring to Magistrate Judge G. Wayne Ammons’ dismissal of the charge. “The video cleared him.”

Flores-Maisonet, who was arrested for an act of civil disobedience at last year’s event, said the authorities took “a much more aggressive stance this year,” noting protesters last year were released on $250 bond, while Spicer’s bond was set Friday at $5,000.

“Rather than trying to obstruct justice,” he said, “we’re trying to obstruct injustice.”

Speakers at the protest urged the crowd to resist recent efforts by state legislators to crack down on illegal immigration. Xochitl Bervera of the Georgia Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition said federal authorities and state legislators in Alabama and Georgia “have already lost” because a growing number of people are speaking out against the incarceration of undocumented immigrants.

“You’re on your way out,” Bervera said. “A new day is coming, and we can see the sun rising over the horizon as we speak.”

Participants waved banners bearing slogans like “Brown is not a crime” and “No human being is illegal.”

A number of activists from Columbus made the 45-minute drive to join in the march. Others, like Scott M. Woods, came all the way from Phoenix, a city embroiled in its own debate over immigration.

Woods said there should be “a better way of dealing with the situation” than detention and deportation, such as more opportunities for immigrants to gain citizenship.

“I don’t believe that migrants should be incarcerated,” said Woods, who came to town for the annual SOA Watch protest in Columbus. “There are a lot of jobs that they’ll do and nobody else will.”

Lumpkin Police Chief Ronald Jackson said the event was peaceful as usual. The only change, he said, was that the crowd was asked to stay off the courthouse lawn because it just received new grass.

“We don’t have any trouble with them — anything we ask them to do they comply,” Jackson said. “Each year you can look and see it getting larger and larger, so I reckon they’re getting their message out.”

Read more: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2011/11/18/1824958/crowd-calls-for-closing-of-stewart.html#ixzz1eIvUUdEI

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November 10, 2011

MEDIA RELEASE – GDW and human rights groups hold Stewart Vigil V: “No More Profits Off Our Pain” – erkvss@gmail.com – Gmail

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 10, 2011

 CONTACT:

Anton Flores-Maisonet, Georgia Detention Watch, 706-302-9661, anton@alternacommunity.com

Azadeh Shahshahani, ACLU of Georgia, 404-574-0851, ashahshahani@acluga.org

 

Georgia Detention Watch and human rights groups hold Stewart Detention Center Vigil V:

“No More Profits Off Our Pain”

November 18 at 10 am in Lumpkin, Georgia

 

Advocates call for the for-profit detention center to be shut down

Atlanta, GA – On Friday, November 18 at 10 am, Georgia Detention Watch will hold its fifth annual vigil at Corrections Corporation of America’s Stewart Detention Center.  “This year’s vigil will highlight the traumatic impact of detention on the families, especially children of those detained, while  CCA continues to secure record-breaking profits off of human misery,” said Georgia Detention Watch Steering Committee member, Priscilla Padrón of Atlanta.

Families that have been directly impacted by detention at Stewart will play a major role in this year’s vigil.  In 2010, Emily Guzman spoke on behalf of her husband, Pedro, who was detained inside Stewart for 19 months.  Emily’s mother, Pamela Alberda and seven others were also arrested for a nonviolent act of civil disobedience at last year’s vigil as they demanded the release of her son-in-law.  Earlier this year, victory was declared by advocates as Pedro was granted relief and reunited with his family.  He will now address those in attendance at the vigil himself as a legal permanent resident of the United States.

“There’s so much money they make from us, but they’re not investing any money in detainees,” Pedro Guzman said in an interview upon his release from the for-profit detention center in the remote town of Lumpkin, population 1300. “The treatment you get is like you’re an animal. I have two dogs, and I treat my dogs much better than the detainees are treated in there.”

Others directly affected by the for-profit detention of immigrants at Stewart will also attend this year’s vigil, including Lilian Quiroz.   

Quiroz’s husband, Paul, entered the United States in 1984 when he was only 11 years old and now has two children and a wife in a familial crisis as his detention at Stewart goes on for five months with no end in sight.

“It is time to close this for-profit detention center and end the mandatory detention of immigrants,” said Anton Flores-Maisonet of Georgia Detention Watch.

Additional individuals slated to speak at the vigil include Theresa El-Amin, a veteran of the civil rights movement and representative of the Southern Anti-Racist Network; Flores-Maisonet; Bryan Holcomb, a former employee-turned-whistleblower of Corrections Corporation of America’s Stewart Detention Center; and Azadeh Shahshahani of the ACLU of Georgia.

§ About the Stewart Detention Center
Located in rural Southwest Georgia, the Stewart Detention Center detains approximately 2,000 immigrant men for deportation proceedings. Stewart, the largest immigrant detention center in the U.S., is operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), a Nashville-based corporation with revenue of $1.7 billion in 2010; CEO Damon Hinninger received a compensation package of $3,266,387 the same year. The average cost to the tax payer to house each detainee is $122 per day per bed.

Case-by-case data also show that the highest proportion of deportation orders in the country (98.8 percent) were issued by the judges in the Lumpkin, Georgia Immigration Court.

§ Conditions at Stewart: Substandard and Inhumane
An April 2009 report by Georgia Detention Watch on conditions at Stewart documented violations of ICE’s own detention standards at the facility. The report charged that food and medicine are withheld as punishment and that solitary confinement is routinely imposed without a disciplinary hearing. In March 2008, Roberto Martinez Medina, a 39-year-old immigrant held at Stewart died of a treatable heart infection.  To this day, many unanswered questions surround his death. Additionally, Mark Lyttle, a U.S. citizen formerly detained at Stewart, has a lawsuit pending against the U.S. government for his wrongful detention and deportation.

§About Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)
2010 revenue: $1.7 billion
Prisoner capacity: 90,037
Year founded: 1983
Headquarters: Nashville, Tenn.
Head: Damon Hininger (president and CEO)
Executive compensation: $3,266,387 compensation package for Hininger in 2010 (according to Morningstar)

Sources: CCA: 2010 Annual Letter to Shareholders; A Quarter Century of Service to America; About CCA; Morningstar, Corrections Corporation of America, Key Executive Compensation.

———-

Lead Sponsor: Georgia Detention Watch

Collaborators and Endorsers:

School of the Americas Watch

American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia

Alterna

Asian American Legal Advocacy Center

Atlanta Friends Meeting Social Concerns Committee

Coalicion de Lideres Latinos of Dalton

Cobb Immigrant Alliance

Cuentame

Detention Watch Network

DreamActivist.org

Enlace

Georgia Immigrants and Refugees Rights Coalition

Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights

Georgia Peace and Just Coalition

Georgia Rural Urban Summit

International Action Center

International Center of Atlanta

Southern Anti-Racism Network

Southerners on New Ground

Georgia Detention Watch is a coalition of organizations and individuals that advocates alongside immigrants to end the inhumane and unjust detention and law enforcement policies and practices directed against immigrant communities in our state. Our coalition includes activists, community organizers, persons of faith, lawyers, and many more.

Member organizations of Georgia Detention Watch include: the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, American Immigration Lawyers Association Atlanta Chapter, Amnesty International-Southern Region, Amnesty International -Atlanta local group 75, Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment (ABLE), Coalición De Líderes Latinos (CLILA), Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR), Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition, Immigrant Justice Project- Southern Poverty Law Center, International Action Center, Open Door Community, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta (RRISA), and others.

November 9, 2011

11/8 – AJC.com – State immigration law beset with gaps, confusion | ajc.com

State immigration law beset with gaps, confusion  | ajc.com.

Breaking News

Penn State ousts football coach Joe Paterno

Georgia Politics 4:43 a.m. Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A key part of the Georgia law that cracks down on illegal immigration is fraught with gaps and confusing to businesses expected to comply with it, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation has found.

At issue is a 2007 state law that requires certain government contractors and subcontractors to use a federal work authorization program called E-Verify. The free online program helps businesses confirm whether their newly hired employees are eligible to work in the U.S.

Supporters say the program will help block illegal immigrants from taking jobs from U.S. citizens; critics say that while the program is free, it costs them time and money to utilize. Unknown is how many public contractors required to use E-Verify are doing so. The reason: Some government agencies aren’t checking.

The Legislature revised Georgia’s law last year, hoping to ensure compliance. The law said the state Labor Department would conduct at least 100 random audits of local governments and their contractors, but only if labor officials had the money.

Labor Department spokesman Sam Hall confirmed his agency hasn’t done any such audits because it hasn’t received any state or federal funding. The agency sent the U.S. Labor Department a funding request in January, but still has not received a response, Hall said.

“If we don’t [get a response] by the end of the year, we will resend it again, and we will continue to resend it until we get some response,” Hall said.

This year, Georgia legislators revised the law once more, seeking to toughen it. It now calls for the Audits and Accounts Department to conduct annual audits beginning next year — as long as it has the funding.

The state Legislature has not set aside any money for these audits or asked the department “to provide any budget projections relative to that activity,” State Auditor Russell Hinton said.

At the same time, Georgia is preparing to greatly expand the number of businesses that must use E-Verify. Under a new measure Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law in May, businesses with 11 or more employees must use the federal program, regardless of whether they have government contracts. The requirement will be phased in beginning Jan. 1, based on each company’s number of employees.

Steve Ramey of the Founding Fathers Tea Party Patriots said government officials should do even more to ensure compliance with the law and to make sure taxpayers aren’t on the hook for costs associated with illegal immigrants.

“I would certainly like to see a more effective way of monitoring and intensified checks,” Ramey said. “The answer is to vote out the incumbents and find responsible replacements that care what happens to the Georgia citizen worker.”

State Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, one of the E-Verify law’s chief supporters, said lawmakers will seek funding for the audits. But he indicated that will be a difficult task given the tough economy and the state’s lean finances.

“We are going to make every effort we can to secure funding,” he said.

State law does not require cities and counties to audit their contractors. Officials from Cobb and DeKalb counties and Atlanta don’t do these checks; they rely on employers’ signed affidavits that say the employers are registered to use E-Verify, and promise to use it throughout their government contracts.

Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee said county officials have talked about doing audits but “[We] simply don’t have the resources to move forward on that right now.”

Fulton and Gwinnett counties audit their contractors. Six of 12 companies randomly audited by Gwinnett over the past two years failed to verify the legal status of their workers according to federal guidelines.

Among them was Norcross-based Tristar of America, a contractor that used five illegal workers to demolish the famed “Gwinnett is Great” and “Success Lives Here” water towers along I-85. The company had won the $149,000 contract to demolish the towers and other county water facilities. Although the contract began on March 31 last year, the audit found Tristar did not verify the eligibility of 18 new hires until Aug. 31 last year — after it received notice of the audit.

Of the 18 Tristar employees checked, five were not authorized to work in the U.S., according to the audit. Two already had been terminated, while three others lost their jobs on Aug. 31 last year. The county terminated the contract.

The audit report found Tristar didn’t participate in the E-Verify program as required by state law. After Gwinnett ended the contract, which was nearly complete, it found another firm to finish the work. Under Gwinnett’s purchasing ordinance, Tristar lost its eligibility to bid on another county contract for one year.

A Tristar official said the company was not aware it was required to use E-Verify and suggested state and local government agencies should do more to educate businesses about the requirement. Tristar said the unauthorized workers provided phony documents and were fired as soon as the company learned of the audit.

“Tristar never intended to evade the law,” Allison Hughes, Tristar’s operations/office manager, said in an email. “Once Tristar learned of the requirement it immediately came into compliance and it now uses E-Verify as required by the statute. Had the state and local governments performed even basic awareness or training about the program then the issue with unauthorized workers would never have arisen.”

Gwinnett’s audits found five other contractors did not verify the eligibility of their workers within three days, per federal guidelines. None of the firms employed unauthorized workers. The companies were allowed to keep their contracts because they didn’t violate any law.

Gwinnett Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said the audits are a valuable deterrent, but Gwinnett has limited resources for them, and the E-Verify audits are a small part of the staff’s workload. Gwinnett’s four-person performance analysis staff randomly chooses about half-dozen contracts each year to review.

“We believe we’re doing what we need to do to be in compliance with the law,” Nash said. “Not just the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law.”

Tristar officials are not alone in experiencing difficulties with the law.

Of 95 proposals businesses submitted for new concessions at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this year, 34 ran into trouble with the law. Some businessmen failed to include key information on the sworn affidavits that confirm they are authorized to use E-Verify, public records show. Others didn’t submit the affidavits as required. The city started the process over again, partly because of these errors.

“I just don’t think the vendor community realized how serious this form is,” said Adam Smith, the city’s chief procurement officer. “And that it is a state-mandated form.”

How we got the story

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution interviewed state and local government officials, and reviewed state laws, Gwinnett County audits and documents concerning Atlanta’s requests for proposals for airport concessions.

How it works

State law requires companies that do business with public agencies to use E-Verify to ensure newly hired employees are eligible to work in the U.S. Operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration, the online system uses employee names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and other information to confirm employees can legally work here.

November 2, 2011

11/1 – AJC.com – Mexican senators seek meeting with Georgia lawmakers over immigration | ajc.com

Mexican senators seek meeting with Georgia lawmakers over immigration  | ajc.com.

 

Georgia Politics 6:16 p.m. Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

WASHINGTON — A group of Mexican senators announced Tuesday they are preparing to meet with state legislators in Georgia and four other states next month, hoping to head off more stringent immigration laws like the one Georgia enacted this year.

The senators plan to share information with state lawmakers that shows illegal immigrants generally stay out of trouble and contribute to the economy while they are here.Sen. Carlos Jimenez Macias, a member of the Mexican Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, confirmed those plans Tuesday at a workshop on immigration reform in D.C. at the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan public policy institution.

Macias said the author of Georgia’s House Bill 87 — Republican state Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City — is among the legislators he and his delegation want to meet next month.

The Mexican senators also plan to meet with state lawmakers in Alabama, Arizona, South Carolina and Utah, which have enacted similar immigration enforcement measures.

For Macias, the issue is personal. He said he illegally entered the United States when he was 17 to find work and lived for a time in Chicago.

“I know what the illegal immigrants feel here in the United States,” he said.

Ramsey said Tuesday he had not received a request to meet with Macias.

“However, I would welcome the opportunity to meet and hear their concerns and share with them our concerns that motivated us to draft legislation aimed at addressing the issues posed in Georgia by illegal immigration,” Ramsey said.

Macias’ announcement comes after the Mexican ambassador to the United States condemned an early draft of HB 87 in February, saying it was “poisoning” the relationship between the two countries. The Mexican government filed court papers in June in support of efforts to halt HB 87.

Supporters of HB 87 complain illegal immigrants are straining taxpayer-funded resources in Georgia, including schools and prisons. HB 87 seeks to deter illegal immigrants from coming to Georgia by cutting off their access to jobs and public benefits. A federal judge in Atlanta put parts of the law on hold in June amid court challenges. The state is appealing.

Another Mexican senator, Ruben Velazquez Lopez, said he didn’t want to see the “problem of anti-immigrant laws” to be “Mexicanized.”

“This is something that affects all the illegals in the United States,” he said. “And they are from many nations. Not all. But certainly many. Our fellow countrymen are part of the total.”

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