January 14, 2012

Jan. 12, 2012 – Immigration Impact – Immigrants, Latinos and Asians Contribute More to Your State Than You Think – Hispanically Speaking News


Immigrants, Latinos and Asians Contribute More to Your State Than You Think


Photo Credits: State Map


Immigration has never been a numbers game. When people think of immigration in America, they likely call to mind fear-fueled myths perpetuated by immigration restrictionists, like “immigrants are stealing American jobs” or “immigrants are a drain on our system.” Sadly, numbers and facts have rarely been part of the discussion, especially as state legislatures continue to take immigration law into their own hands. Today, however, the Immigration Policy Center published 50 state fact sheets updated to show just how much immigrants, Latinos and Asians contribute to our country as consumers, taxpayers, workers, entrepreneurs and voters—facts state legislators would do well to consider before passing legislation that drives immigrants, undocumented and documented, from their state.


Legislators in Alabama passed one of the most extreme anti-immigrant laws (HB 56) last year in response to the state’s “immigration problem.” According to the Pew Hispanic Center, Alabama’s undocumented population was 2.5% of total population (or 120,000 people) in 2010—lower than in 22 other states. While Alabama’s undocumented may be smaller than other states, however, their economic contributions are not. Alabama’s undocumented contributed more than $130 million in state and local taxes in 2010.


As Alabama continues to drive undocumented immigrants and their contributions from the state, they also run the risk of alienating documented immigrants, Latinos and Asians in the process. Alabama’s Latino and Asian populations’ combined purchasing power was nearly $6 billion in 2010. Alabama faces a $979 million budget gap in FY2012.


In California, whose undocumented population paid $2.7 billion in state and local taxes in 2010, some recently attempted (and failed) to overturn the California DREAM Act—two laws which allow undocumented students to enroll in California’s public colleges and universities and apply for state-based funding. Studies show that by 2025, California will not have enough college graduates to keep up with economic demand. The California DREAM Act may play a critical role in boosting the number of college grads.


Another part of Georgia’s extreme immigrant law (HB 87) went into effect this month, requiring people to show certain forms of identification before they can get among other things, professional business licenses. While this may seem pretty standard, business leaders in the state are worried that this will slow commerce, cause serious processing delays, and hurt an already struggling economy. At last count, Latino and Asian businesses in Georgia had sales and receipts of $20.6 billion and employed nearly 110,000 people.


State legislatures, the majority of which convene this month, are likely to continue to consider restrictive immigration legislation this year, but it’s critical that they consider exactly how much these punitive laws will cost their state. States are far from fully recovered from the economic recession and many still face large budget shortfalls into FY2013, according to Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.


Facts don’t lie. Immigrants, Latinos and Asians have and will continue to account for large and growing shares of state economies and populations. Can state legislators really afford to alienate such a critical part of its labor force, tax base, and business community?

December 30, 2011

CNN – Dec. 29, 2011 – Obama administration sets up new hotline for immigration detainees – CNN.com

Obama administration sets up new hotline for immigration detainees – CNN.com.

updated 9:19 PM EST, Thu December 29, 2011
 An undocumented Guatemalan immigrant, chained for being charged as a criminal, prepares to board a deportation flight to Guatemala City, Guatemala, on June 24 in Mesa, Arizona.
An undocumented Guatemalan immigrant, chained for being charged as a criminal, prepares to board a deportation flight to Guatemala City, Guatemala, on June 24 in Mesa, Arizona.

  • A new federal hotline is set up for immigration detainees
  • The line is for detainees who “may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime”
  • Meanwhile, new immigration laws are set to go into effect in some states on January 1
  • The new laws require businesses to verify immigration status of workers

(CNN) — In the latest volley between the federal government and states pushing anti-illegal-immigration laws, the Obama administration announced Thursday it was establishing a new hotline for immigration detainees who feel they “may be U.S. citizens or victims of a crime.”

The 24-hour-a-day, 7-days-a-week hotline is part of a “broader effort to improve our immigration enforcement process and prioritize resources to focus on threats to public safety, (on) repeat immigration law violators, recent border entrants, and immigration fugitives while continuing to strengthen oversight of the nation’s immigration detention system and facilitate legal immigration,” a news release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said.

The new measure was launched by the Department of Homeland Security to ensure detained individuals “are made aware of their rights” or “properly notified about their potential removal from the country,” according to the release. The hotline number is 855-448-6903.

A new “detainer” form — which includes Spanish, French, Portuguese, Chinese and Vietnamese translations — also is part of the new policy. The detainer — or notice to detain — form is official paperwork giving law enforcement the authority to hold a person in custody for a time.

Administration to lower number of troops on Southwest border

“The new form allows ICE to make the detainer operative only upon the individual’s conviction of the offense for which he or she was arrested,” the release said.

Immigration rights advocates told CNN there “has long been a need for more accountability and oversight of the issuance of immigration detainers.”

“The ACLU and other advocates identified four native-born U.S. citizens who were held unlawfully in custody through immigration detainers in Los Angeles County. One of these citizens was held for two days because of an immigration detainer despite repeatedly telling officers that he was a U.S. citizen,” Laura Vazquez, immigration legislative analyst for the National Council of La Raza, told CNN in a statement. The council is a national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization.

CNN attempted to get reaction on the new policy from the attorneys general in Alabama and Arizona — two states viewed as having among the most strict immigration reform laws — but were unsuccessful. An official in the Alabama attorney general’s office said Thursday officials had no comment.

The move by DHS comes just before the beginning of the new year, when new immigration laws in Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia will require businesses to enroll in the federal E-Verify program to ensure employees are eligible to work in the United States, according National Conference of State Legislatures.

E-Verify is a controversial program designed to check a prospective employee’s citizenship or immigration status.

Supporters say it helps businesses avoid unintentionally hiring illegal immigrants. Critics complain that it is expensive to operate, pushes undocumented workers further underground, and is not always accurate.

December 5, 2011

Farm Press – 12/2/11 – State legislatures create problems with strict immigration reforms | Farm Press Blog

State legislatures create problems with strict immigration reforms | Farm Press Blog.

• In a nation that was built with immigrant labor, some of our states are now viewed as being openly hostile to the entire concept of immigration.

With the issue of migrant farm labor hitting a fever-pitch in the Southeast — especially in states like Alabama and Georgia — it might be a good time to take a step back and consider the contributions of immigrants to American agriculture.

In a recent article in The New Yorker magazine about authentic Southern cooking, writer Burkhard Bilger makes the interesting point that the nineteenth century was a great “Age of Experiment” in American agriculture.

“Three-hundred years of immigration had brought over every conceivable crop — rice from China, quinoa from South America, groundnuts from Africa — and farmers found ways to grow them all,” writes Bilger.

In this same article, David Shields, a professor at the University of South Carolina, says there was a “frenzy” of agricultural research at the time. “They took the carrot culture of Flanders, the turnip culture of Germany, the beet culture of France, and they tweaked them to create this extraordinary myriad of vegetables and grains,” says Shields.

This “extraordinary myriad” is what has given us the rich diversity of crops that we enjoy today. Yet, even as we consider such contributions, in a nation that was built with immigrant labor, some of our states are now viewed as being openly hostile to the entire concept of immigration.

The troublesome trend started in Arizona, where lawmakers were convinced they could do a better job than the federal government of keeping out undocumented immigrants. Georgia and Alabama followed suit, and Florida might consider its own version of “immigration reform” in 2012.

So far, the results of these state laws have been disastrous, and you can read more about it in the pages of this issue of Southeast Farm Press. Such “reforms” have been especially harmful to farmers, more specifically vegetable and fruit producers who rely heavily on immigrant labor to complete their harvest each year.

The reasoning from lawmakers was that these were “job” bills; that illegal immigrants were taking jobs away from U.S. citizens and that stricter enforcement would help to lower the unemployment rate. Either these legislators did not do a thorough-enough job of researching the issue or they simply ignored the facts.

The data is plentiful showing that immigrants typically do the work that Americans won’t do, such as picking vegetables from a field. This was proven dramatically in Georgia and Alabama, where crops rotted in the fields because there was no one to harvest them. And unemployment rates actually have risen in both states since the enactment of the laws.

But rather than admit they might have reached too far with these new laws, state officials have offered outlandish proposals to help remedy the problems they’ve created. In Georgia, it was suggested that perhaps recent prison parolees could perform farm labor, but many of them didn’t stay on the job for even one full day. Not to be outdone, Alabama has floated the idea of current prison inmates working in farmers’ fields.

We can all agree that illegal immigration is a problem in this country, but immigration reform on the level attempted by Arizona, Alabama and Georgia is not the answer. As is many times the case, these laws are the actions of politicians who were eager to act on a divisive issue, and who didn’t give a thought to what the repercussions might be.

And then there’s the problem of perception. I don’t have much faith in my elected officials these days, but I do believe they’re honorable enough men and women that they wouldn’t enact any law based on racial bias. But that’s not how the outside world is viewing the events of recent months.

For proof, just take a look at this recent headline of an editorial in The New York Times: “Standing in the Schoolhouse Door.” The article goes on to equate Alabama’s recent immigration law with the civil rights injustices of the 1960s.

You can reasonably ask the question of why we should give a damn what people in New York think about us. But national and international perception does matter, and it could do irreparable harm to our ability to attract new industry in the future.

In Alabama and Georgia, where draconian cuts continue to be made in state budgets, it’s beyond preposterous that our scarce tax dollars are now being used to fight appeals of these immigration laws in federal courts.


December 2, 2011

CSMonitor – 12/1/11 – Illegal immigration: Are Obama deportations truly aimed at ‘criminals’? – CSMonitor.com

Illegal immigration: Are Obama deportations truly aimed at ‘criminals’? – CSMonitor.com.


US says it deported a record 216,000 ‘criminal aliens’ in fiscal 2011, but immigration court statistics show a drop in criminal deportation proceedings from the Bush years. How do those square?


By Patrik JonssonStaff writer / December 1, 2011


County Sheriff deputies in Mesa, Ariz., arrested six workers at a dry cleaners during an immigration raid in April. Federal officials are concentrating on criminal illegal aliens, they say.

Michael Brannock



Immigration attorney Matthew Kolken is openly questioning the forthrightness of the Obama administration these days.


He knows the Obama administration is in a tough spot. Congress is refusing to take up immigration reform, and the president is being squeezed between Republicans who claim he is soft on border crossers and Hispanics who say he has not done enough to resolve the status of longtime illegal immigrants.

Yet it is the administration’s response that has left Mr. Kolken suggesting that the government “is not being truthful.” Immigration officials say they are cutting a “common sense” middle path – ramping up deportations of criminal illegal immigrants but also granting prosecutors discretion to have compassion on law-abiding illegal workers who have close ties to the United States.

Statistics from an independent clearinghouse for federal data, however, appear to contradict some of the government’s claims. Moreover, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University in New York says the administration has been hesitant to release details behind a record 400,000 deportations in the past year.

The result has been growing concern among critics on the left and right that the Obama administration is playing politics – holding back data that might upset the Hispanic community, which is seen as crucial to the president’s reelection prospects. Obama officials refute that assertion, but Kolken, for one, is skeptical.

“What I have seen coming out of TRAC, this administration is not being truthful with regards to the data they’re releasing, or at least with regard to the public-relations spin they’re putting on policies,” says Kolken, who works in Buffalo, N.Y. “Every time they say something, TRAC looks at the cold, hard data, and it contradicts the press releases. It’s a repeating pattern.”

So far, the Obama administration has been bold and specific in its assertions. The Department of Homeland Security “has implemented immigration enforcement priorities that focus limited resources on convicted criminals, repeat immigration law violators, fugitives, and recent entrants,” DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said in an e-mail.

As a result, Immi­gra­tion and Customs Enforcement (ICE) removed a record 216,000 criminal illegal immigrants in fiscal year 2011 – “an 89 percent increase over 2008,” Mr. Chandler added.

In May, President Obama told an audience in El Paso, Texas, that the focus was on “violent offenders and people convicted of crimes; not families, not folks who are just looking to scrape together an income.”

The problem is that immigration court statistics obtained by TRAC show that actual criminal deportation proceedings have dropped below Bush administration levels. So how are deportations of criminal aliens up 89 percent over 2008?

That’s the unresolved question.


While DHS says it’s counting deportations of people with past criminal convictions, TRAC can’t get access to detailed case data that would show whether deportees really are serious criminals or people with minor infractions that in the past may not have led to a deportation order. In other words, without more transparency, it’s not clear whether the Obama administration is bolstering its claim of focusing on “the worst of the worst” by including in its data the very immigrants whom the White House insists it’s not targeting.

“There are really an enormous amount of questions about what is actually going on, and it’s very discouraging when law enforcement agencies, despite all the talk about transparency, are not providing data that they are collecting – data that ­everybody really needs to have to decide the very, very complicated policy issues that the country is facing,” says Susan Long, director of TRAC, which tracks federal data through the Freedom of Information Act.

A DHS spokesman replied that agency officials spoke with TRAC on Nov. 11 about how to resolve how ICE tracks statistics. He also noted that the sheer volume of information requests may mean response delays, but to assume that those delays constitute a lack of transparency is “simply inaccurate.”

While the criminal-alien data remain in question, however, there is a more solid verdict on what impact prosecutorial discretion has had on deportations.

ICE Director John Morton announced the policy shift in June, and the administration on Nov. 17 also began a training program to show immigration agents how to block deportation cases against some noncriminal illegal immigrants.

But so far, it may not have protected many of those “just looking to scrape together an income.”

“The overwhelming conclusion is that most ICE offices have not changed their practices since the issuance of these new directives,” states a November study of 252 immigration cases by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

That’s due, in large part, to the culture of ICE, experts say. The ICE union has attacked the prosecutorial discretion policy, saying it undermines the focus on law and order.

Taking on ICE could boost Mr. Obama’s 2012 prospects among Hispanics, says Allert Brown-Gort, director of the Institute of Latino Studies at Notre Dame University in Indiana. “Though he didn’t pull out immigration reform … serious prosecutorial discretion is the next best thing he can do,” he says.

In the meantime, detailed immigration data could be damaging. The Obama administration “is basically letting ambiguity be its friend,” says Professor Brown-Gort. “One of the reasons why the administration is being less than forthcoming is because they’re really stuck between a rock and a hard place.”


December 2, 2011

AJC – 12/1/11 – UGA Council opposes regents’ illegal immigrant policy | ajc.com

UGA Council opposes regents’ illegal immigrant policy  | ajc.com.


Georgia Politics 5:27 p.m. Thursday, December 1, 2011


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Some University of Georgia faculty called a policy barring illegal immigrants from the state’s most selective public colleges “a step toward re-segregation,” and the University Council urged state leaders to rescind the ban Thursday.

UGA President Michael Adams said he will share the council’s resolution with the State Board of Regents, but he stressed the university will continue to follow the policy. The regents have stood by the rules when questioned.

The policy forbids illegal immigrants from attending any campus that has turned away academically qualified students the past two years. The rule went into effect this fall and applies to UGA, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Georgia Health Sciences University and Georgia College and State University.

The University Council is made up of faculty and administrators who advise Adams on policies concerning academics and other issues. The council’s vote was a symbolic stance by the state’s largest public university and follows an earlier resolution the student government passed urging the regents to reverse the policy.

The regents approved the ban after months of public debate over fears that illegal immigrant students take seats away from lawful residents. Illegal immigrants may attend the other 30 colleges in the University System of Georgia, provided they pay out-of-state tuition.

Lawmakers filed a bill last year to bar these students from all public colleges, but it didn’t pass either chamber of the Legislature.

Alabama and South Carolina bar illegal immigrants from attending public colleges. A dozen states grant them admission and in-state tuition if they are trying to earn legal status.

December 2, 2011

Athens Patch – 12/1/11 – University Council May Consider Immigration Issues – Athens, GA Patch


University Council May Consider Immigration Issues

Various colleges have passed resolutions in favor of undocumented high schoolers.

By Rebecca McCarthy

December 1, 2011

The agenda for today’s University Council meeting includes what could become a controversial item. It’s a resolution asking the State Board of Regents to rescind the policy excluding undocumented high school graduates from applying to UGA.

“Our mission is to educate the population of Georgia. and the issue of legal status isn’t part of our mission,” says Dana Bultman. “Determining whether someone is authorized to be here isn’t part of our mission. You could conceivably have a high school valedictorian who couldn’t apply to UGA, and that bothered peope.”

UGA has an admissions policy that grants undergraduate admission to valedictorians from accredited Georgia high schools. According to the Admissions Office website, the valedictorian must also meet “all Board of Regents requirements,” which would include legal status.

Bultman teaches Spanish Rennaisance literature in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences’s Romance Languages Department. She said the college’s Faculty Senate voted unanimously to approve a resolution calling for the policy to be rescinded.

“At the university, we have a non-discrimination policy, and this is clearly discrimination,” she says.

At today’s meeting, a representative from the UGA Student Govenrment Association will also present a similar resolution that members adopted. The College of Education also followed suit.

The Regents policy also pertains to other schools in the university system.These include Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia College and State University and the Georgia Health Sciences University (former known as the Medical College of Georgia).

A petition that circulated around the UGA campus called the move a step toward the “re-segregation” of Georgia schools.

Composed of representatives from each of UGA’s 14 colleges and schools, the University Council meets today at 3:30 in the Tate Center’s Grand Hall.

via University Council May Consider Immigration Issues – Athens, GA Patch.

December 2, 2011

GPB – 12/1/11 – Campaign Energizes Latino Voters

Campaign Energizes Latino Voters.

Thu., December 1, 2011 4:48pm (EST)

By Jeanne Bonner



A statewide Latino organization is launching a campaign to increase voter registration and turnout. And organizers say opposition to Georgia’s new immigration law will bring out Hispanic voters for next year’s state and federal elections.

As part of the campaign, Latinos already registered to vote will pledge to enroll 10 new voters.

As of 2009, there were about 150,000 registered Latino voters in Georgia.

Jerry Gonzalez heads the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. He says he hopes the campaign will push the number above 200,000.

And to that end, he plans to score Georgia legislators on how they voted on the immigration law, known as HB 87.

“The scorecard is going to be based on the final vote on HB87 and we will identify on a county level which elected officials voted for it and who voted against it,” he said.

But it’s unclear how it will affect the 2012 election.

Mark Hugo Lopez with the Pew Hispanic Center says many Latinos here can’t vote because they’re too young or not citizens.

“A smaller share of Georgia’s Hispanic population is actually eligible to vote, just 22 percent, compared to a state like New Mexico or California, where more than 40 percent of the population there of Hispanics is eligible to vote,” he said an in interview.

The campaign, however, could have long-term effects. Lopez said the center’s polling shows strong opposition to the state immigration laws that have cropped up in the last few years. He said only 13 percent of Latinos polled think illegal immigrants should be deported.

Andra Gillespie, an Emory University political science professor, says Latinos are a growing population in Georgia, and many of them will turn 18 in the next few years.

“I suspect immigration is going to be an issue for a very long time,” she said. “So if this is the environment in which young people are being socialized into the political process and civics, the campaign could be very effective.”

The voter campaign will focus on areas where the Latino population is large, including Hall, Whitfield and Gwinnett counties.

The Georgia Latino group opposed a new law requiring many employers to check workers’ immigration status using the federal E-Verify database.

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.


Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011



— 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

November 10, 2011

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



November 10, 2011


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


Asian American Legal Advocacy Center

Atlanta Friends Meeting Social Concerns Committee

Coalicion de Lideres Latinos of Dalton

Cobb Immigrant Alliance


Detention Watch Network



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.

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