“More Dangerous Than Weed.” — Gonzo Apocalypto Gets A Warm “Welcome” To Portland, OR!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/09/23/attorney-general-jeff-sessions-visited-portland-of-course-there-was-a-protest/

Leah Sottile reports for the Washington Post:

“Portland is a sanctuary city in a sanctuary state — a place where officials have scoffed at threats from the Trump administration, where court employees have shuffled illegal immigrants out through employee entrances when Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel conducted raids, and where local law enforcement officials have argued that enforcing federal immigration policies is not their job.

Sessions’s appearance here Tuesday was brief. He spoke to a group of federal employees — ICE, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — for 18 minutes in the “oath room” of a Pearl District building, the place where people recite the Oath of Allegiance before they are granted U.S. citizenship. Sessions railed against sanctuary cities, places he called a “trafficker’s, a smuggler’s or gang member’s best friend.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks to federal employees in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday. (Stephanie Yao Long/The Oregonian via AP)
But outside, the protest against Sessions lasted for hours. A group of a dozen protesters leaned on a metal barricade just before 11 a.m. — hours before Sessions even touched down in Portland. And they were ready.

 

Juan Rogel, 26, is a leader of Milenio.org, a group that helps engage Latinos in political action and was one of several groups that organized protesters Tuesday.

“We want to send a clear message that he is not allowed to come here,” Rogel said of Sessions. “We’re pissed off.”

Rogel said it’s essential for Latinos to organize and for Sessions to see, if only for a moment, that people here aren’t welcoming of him.

“My dad used to say, ‘If you knock on the door for opportunity and they don’t open it, you have to break it down,’ ” Rogel said. “We haven’t been heard. We are young people working on a legacy for tomorrow.”

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Read the complete article at the link.

No, Gonzo, “sanctuary cities” are not a “smuggler’s best friends.” Look in the mirror:  you, Gonzo, are the smugglers’ and gangsters’ “best friend” with your xenophobic policies intended to drive a wedge between the Hispanic communities across the nation and law enforcement and to heap shame and blame on law-abiding residents who are just trying to make a living helping America out.

I can guarantee that smuggling and gang violence won’t be solved by a bunch of White Nationalists sitting at the DOJ thinking about the next attack they can make on Hispanic America. There is no “silver bullet” solution to deep-seated problems. But, whatever the solution might be, it’s going to take some reflection and lots of help, trust, assistance, and sharing of information with the Hispanic community which would like to get rid of gangs as much as you would (because they are much more likely to be victims than you and your white buddies are) and whose undocumented members (usually intermingled with family or neighbors in legal status) would vastly prefer being allowed to come to the United States through legal channels rather than paying smugglers.

Almost forty years ago when I was counsel to the “Legacy INS” Enforcement, among other things, one of the few effective tools we had for breaking up smuggling rings involved fairly sophisticated undercover operations. These, in turn, almost always involved agents, local law enforcement, or informants from ethnic communities.

Why would anyone from the Hispanic community want to risk his or her life to help someone like Gonzo, who disses them, denies their achievements, and intentionally minimizes their monumental contributions to America’s success and prosperity at every turn?

PWS

09-25-17

NYT: ADMINISTRATION PLANS TO FILL PRISONS WITH PARENTS WHOSE CHILDREN ARE SMUGGLED INTO THE UNITED STATES!

Caitlin Dickerson and Ron Nixon report for the NYT:

“WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is stepping up its pursuit of parents who paid to have their children illegally brought into the United States, according to people familiar with the matter. The effort, part of a widening crackdown on illegal immigration, is aimed at discouraging families from paying human smuggling organizations.
As part of a new round of immigration sweeps, officials are targeting parents or other relatives who were deported, re-entered the United States and then had their children smuggled across the border. Legal experts say cases of illegal re-entry are faster and easier to prove than a smuggling charge.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said it was common for parents or family members in the United States to make illegal payments to smugglers to arrange for children to be brought to the border, where they turn themselves in and are often eventually handed over to their relatives. Tens of thousands of women and children have arrived at the border in the last three years, beginning with a surge of arrivals in the summer of 2014, many seeking refuge from gang violence and extreme poverty in Central America.
It was not clear how many people would be affected by the effort to arrest and prosecute family members for illegal re-entry, but officials familiar with the plan said it would serve as a deterrent to stop other parents and relatives from paying to have children brought to the United States as unaccompanied minors. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss enforcement policies publicly.
ICE officials said they had arrested hundreds of people for smuggling children and referred dozens of cases to the Justice Department for prosecution, including many for illegally re-entering the country and then paying to have children smuggled across the border.
“The risks associated with smuggling children into the U.S. present a constant humanitarian threat,” ICE officials said in a statement. “The sponsors who have placed children directly into harm’s way by entrusting them to violent criminal organizations will be held accountable for their role in these conspiracies.”
Some children reported being raped or held hostage by smugglers for more money. Others have been abandoned by smugglers as they try to cross the border.
Immigration advocates called the new enforcement policy a heartless way to try to reduce smuggling.
“It’s extremely cruel when you started shutting down refugee applicants and rescinding protections for children brought to the country at a young age, to send this kind of message to parents trying to get their kids to safety,” said Chris Rickerd, policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington.
Smuggling cases are among the most challenging to prove, and the biggest hurdle is identifying witnesses, who are likely to be undocumented and unwilling to help, according to Michael J. Wynne, who spent 12 years as an assistant United States attorney in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. Targeting parents for re-entering the country illegally, rather than trying to go after them for smuggling, presents prosecutors with a higher likelihood of success.
“It’s a throwdown case,” he said. “You’re going to prosecute the crime where you get the biggest bang for your buck.”
Officials in ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division have been told to look for cases that can be brought to United States attorneys for possible prosecution, according to people familiar with the enforcement effort. Because prosecutions for illegal re-entry carry a five-year statute of limitations, ICE special agents are also looking to see if they can prosecute relatives of unaccompanied children for other immigration-related crimes, such as giving false statements, according to people familiar with the effort.
Convictions for illegal re-entry are politically popular among immigration restrictionists.
According to Justice Department data analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research group at Syracuse University, illegal re-entry made up the bulk of prosecutions for illegal immigration for the last five years.
The Trump administration has made no secret of its plans to go after parents living in the country illegally who bring in their children.
Earlier this year, administration officials said that the thousands of children who arrived each year as unaccompanied minors would no longer be protected against deportation, reversing an Obama administration policy. John F. Kelly, then the Homeland Security secretary and now the White House chief of staff, wrote a memo in February saying parents would be subject to criminal prosecution if they had paid human traffickers to bring children across the border.
The children, who turn themselves in to the Border Patrol, are handed over to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement. The office will either place the children in a shelter or release them to a family member. Immigration officials said most of the unaccompanied children apprehended at the border were eventually turned over to a family member, most often a parent, already living in the United States.
Homeland Security officials acknowledge that many of the children are fleeing violence in their home country, but they say that paying smugglers to transport them to the border endangers the children.”

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Read the full article at the link.

Seems like a pretty typical Trump Administration approach: please the White Nationalist/restrictionist base, fill the prisons with nonviolent “criminals,” rack up some nice stats, and make sure not to deal with the root causes of undocumented migration.

PWS

09-26-17

SURPRISE! – GONZO LIES: “2017 is on pace for the second-lowest crime rate since 1990 — and near-record low murders” — Sessions Fabricates “Crime Wave” To Support White Nationalist Anti-Hispanic, Anti-Black Political Narrative! –“It’s irresponsible to incite public panic based on falsehoods, and it makes our police officers’ jobs harder.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/09/06/2017-is-on-pace-to-have-the-second-lowest-crime-rate-since-1990-and-near-record-low-murders/?utm_term=.d5c197d6052e

Philip Bump reports in the Washington Post:

“At his swearing-in as the nation’s top law enforcement official in February, Attorney General Jeff Sessions picked up a thread that had run throughout Donald Trump’s campaign for president: America is experiencing an alarming crime wave.

“We have a crime problem,” Sessions said. “I wish the rise that we are seeing in crime in America today were some sort of aberration or a blip. My best judgment, having been involved in criminal law enforcement for many years, is that this is a dangerous, permanent trend that places the health and safety of the American people at risk.”

Preliminary analysis of crime data from the nation’s 30 largest cities released by the Brennan Center for Justice on Wednesday suggests that it isn’t. According to the center’s overview of crime and murder data, 2017 is on pace to have the second-lowest violent crime rate of any year since 1990.

From the report:

  • The overall crime rate is projected to drop by 1.8 percent to the second-lowest point since 1990.
  • The violent crime rate is projected to fall by 0.6 percent, also to the second-lowest point in over 25 years. (The lowest rate was in 2014.) “This result,” the report’s authors write, “is driven primarily by stabilization in Chicago and declines in Washington, D.C., two large cities that experienced increases in violence in recent years.”
  • The murder rate is projected to be down 2.5 percent, on-par with the rate in 2009.

Explore the center’s data for each of the country’s largest cities.

While there was indeed a national uptick in violent crime and murder during 2015 and 2016, one of the underrecognized drivers of those shifts was the sharp increase in killings in two cities, Chicago and Baltimore, which combined made up more than half of the increase in murders in large cities from 2014 to 2017. This year, the number of murders in Chicago alone is expected to drop 2.4 percent. But it’s declines in New York, Houston and Detroit that are driving the overall decrease.

Inimai Chettiar, director of the justice program at the center, told The Post that the analysis suggested two things.

“First, the long-term trend toward safer cities isn’t going anywhere,” Chettiar said over email. “The evidence conclusively shows there is currently no national crime wave. Second, short-term fluctuations in crime are often driven by local factors.”

There are several cities that reinforce that point. The murder rate in Charlotte, doubled over the first half of 2017, for example, even as it fell sharply in other places.

Chettiar addressed Sessions’s concerns directly.

“Our data leads us to believe that the upticks in 2015 and 2016 were likely short-term fluctuations,” she wrote, noting that “not enough research has been done to identify the exact catalyst.”

The center, which is a part of the New York University School of Law, shared its report with Ronal Serpas, a former New Orleans police superintendent who now co-chairs an organization focused on reducing incarceration rates.

“In contrast to what we have been hearing from the president and attorney general, this new data from police departments shows that all measures of crime and murder are in decline this year,” Serpas said in a statement provided to The Post. “It’s irresponsible to incite public panic based on falsehoods, and it makes our police officers’ jobs harder.” Both Serpas and Chettiar noted that in places where violent crime had increased the Trump administration’s focus was best placed on that crime — as opposed to immigration violations, for example.


Attorney General Jeff Sessions stands waiting during a meeting with the Fraternal Order of Police in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in March. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

As the Trump campaign and then the Trump presidency cited localized increases as examples of the crime threat that Trump pledged to solve, independent observers frequently noted that, despite the uptick in crime in recent years, overall levels were still near recent lows following the sharp drop of the last 20 years. The Brennan Center’s analysis suggests that this trend will continue, leading the administration to a no-doubt vexing problem:

Is it too soon to claim credit?

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I’ve noted many times before that Session’s disingenuous, xenophobic, White Nationalist focus on immigration enforcement actually makes the country less safe from crime. This report confirms that.

Moreover, with his “morbid fixation” on spreading a false narrative on immigration, Sessions has abandoned the real law enforcement functions of the DOJ, particularly in the areas of civil rights, voting rights, police brutality, prison reform, protection of the LGBTQ community, right-wing hate groups, domestic violence, and effectively combatting gangs, drug cartels, and human traffickers. As I’ve noted before, the latter three groups have been energized and empowered by Sessions’s focus on janitors, maids, gardeners, Dreamers and other “collaterals” — even dissing legal immigrants ands implicitly U.S. citizens of ethnic and immigrant heritage — rather than working on nuanced solutions to real law enforcement problems. By sowing unnecessary fear, mistrust, and terror among law-abiding productive members of migrant communities, he has basically “green-lighted” them as targets for crime, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, and gang recruitment. Ironically, this is a scenario I heard many times from individuals seeking refuge from third world countries: “I can’t go to the police because they won’t help and might even abuse or arrest me with impunity.”

Sessions is destroying the hard work of of community policing in ethnic communities in many cities throughout the U.S. One reason that many jurisdictions abandoned the “Safe Communities” program pushed by the Obama Administration is because they found it was a misnomer: busting undocumented workers and minor offenders actually did not make communities “safer.” Rather than learning from history, Sessions is doubling down on past failures. “Irresponsible” might be too kind a word to describe the Trump-Sessions White Nationalist legal agenda.

PWS

09-09-17

THE GUARDIAN: HUMAN TRAFFICKERS LOVE TRUMP & “GONZO APOCALYPTO” SESSIONS — HERE’S WHY! –Trump’s crackdown “a gift to human traffickers!”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/28/trump-immigration-immigrant-deaths-people-smuggling

Tom Dart reports from Houston:

“Donald Trump’s immigration policies are likely to encourage migrants to risk more dangerous routes into the US, like the journey which this week ended with the death of ten people in a sweltering truck, border security experts have warned.

Dozens of people from Mexico and Central America were found packed into a non-air-conditioned cargo container in a Walmart parking lot in San Antonio at about 12.30am last Sunday.

The deaths are thought to have been caused by heat exposure, dehydration and suffocation. About 30 people were hospitalised.

Days later, at least four people – including two children – drowned trying to cross the swollen Rio Grande near El Paso.

As part of its campaign to crackdown on undocumented migration, the Trump administration wants to force so-called “sanctuary cities” to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, beef up frontier security and surveillance, and – eventually – build a wall along the border with Mexico.

But Alonzo Peña, a former deputy director of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice), said simplistic strategies would not deter people desperate to join family or seek a better life. Instead, closing off simpler routes would prompt migrants to attempt more dangerous crossings.

“I call it an unfortunate collateral consequence,” he said. “They will put themselves in the hands of unscrupulous criminals that see them as just a commodity.”

Asked if a wall would help, Peña, now a consultant in San Antonio, said: “Absolutely not – it probably will contribute to more tragedies.”

He said building better binational relationships, encouraging information-sharing and more use of informants were key to breaking up networks of smugglers and traffickers.

In recent years, stepped-up frontier security has meant that smuggling activities once orchestrated by small, loosely organised enterprises are being run by bigger, more ruthless and profit-oriented criminal gangs with indirect links to drug cartels.

Packing many people into a truck is a profitable strategy for such smugglers. A large vehicle is a better hiding place than smaller alternatives and reduces the number of trips, making evading detection more likely at busy interior US Border Patrol checkpoints placed along highways near the frontier.

“The policies to enforce the border have the unintended consequence of strengthening transnational smuggling networks and the connection of business with transnational criminal organisations. There’s money there,” said Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, an associate professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley who studies migration and trafficking. “You are increasing the incentives for corruption on both sides of the border.”

. . . .

Texas this year passed a law banning so-called sanctuary cities – places that offer little or no cooperation with federal immigration agents. “Border security will help prevent this Texas tragedy,” John Cornyn, a US senator from Texas, wrote on Twitter.

But critics say that such enforcement does nothing to remove the “push factors” behind migration from Mexico and Central America, such as the lack of economic opportunity and violence by street gangs, security forces and crime groups.

A report published in March by the risk analysts Verisk Maplecroft termed Trump’s crackdown “a gift to human traffickers” by driving undocumented workers in the US deeper into the shadows, while a wall “would increase criminal trafficking fees, leaving migrants more deeply mired in debt and vulnerable to exploitation”.

But even this week’s deaths would not curtail demand, Correa-Cabrera said.

“They will still take trucks. They have been taking the journey and nothing has stopped them,” she said. “How many women are willing to take the journey even though they know there is a very high possibility of being raped?”

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Folks are going to keep coming and keep dying until we make the needed, realistic changes to our legal immigration system. The smugglers will up their profits and expand their operations, making and taking more money than ever from already stressed individuals seeking to come. And the bodies will continue to pile up as a testament to the failed White Nationalist agenda of Trump and Sessions.

What “gonzo enforcement” has done, however, is to cut or eliminate the incentive for folks to use the legal system by coming to the border and presenting themselves for protection or by turning themselves in to the Border Patrol. Knowing that their rights under the law and as human beings will not be respected by the likes of Trump, Sessions, and Kelly’s replacement will merely put more individuals at the mercy of the smugglers. The smugglers are likely to get so good that we won’t have the faintest idea anymore how many forks are coming without documents until they wind up dead in a parking lot or a field. And, I suppose that CBP will come up with some formula like “for every dead body we figure there are 1,000 who made it into the interior.”

PWS

07-28-17

HUMAN SMUGGLING TRAGEDY IN SAN ANTONIO — 9 DIE, 17 OTHERS SUFFER LIFE-THREATENING INJURIES!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2017/07/23/texas-tragedy-8-dead-including-children-found-locked-in-hot-truck-in-suspected-smuggling-case/?hpid=hp_rhp-top-table-main_pn-texas-9am-retest%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.6a18d3474065

Eva Ruth Moravec and Todd C. Frankel report in the Washington Post:

It began with a desperate request for water and a Walmart employee’s suspicions about a tractor-trailer parked outside. That led officials on Sunday to discover at least 39 people packed into a sweltering trailer, several of them on the verge of death — their skin hot to the touch, their hearts dangerously racing — and eight men already dead. Another would die later at a hospital.

Authorities think they found an immigrant smuggling operation just 2½ hours from the Mexican border that ended in what San Antonio Police Chief William McManus described as a “horrific tragedy.” The victims, as young as 15, appeared to have been loaded like cargo into a trailer without working air conditioning during the height of the Texas summer. It was unknown how long they had been in the trailer or where their journey started, but 30 of the victims were taken to area hospitals and 17 had life-threatening injuries. Federal authorities said the victims were “undocumented aliens.”

Reyna Torres, consul of Mexico, confirmed in Spanish that Mexican nationals are among those dead and in the hospitals and said the consulate is interviewing the survivors.

City Fire Chief Charles Hood said some of the victims appeared to have suffered severe heatstroke, with heart rates soaring over 130 beats per minute. In the worst cases, Hood said, “a lot of them are going to have some irreversible brain damage.”

Even more people were thought to have been inside the trailer before help arrived, police said. Survivors at six area hospitals told investigators that up to 100 individuals were originally in the tractor-trailer.

Walmart surveillance video showed cars stopping and picking up people as they exited the back of the trailer. But suspicions were not raised until an employee noticed a disoriented person, who asked for water. The employee then called police, authorities said. Then, a chaotic scene unfolded outside the Walmart on the city’s southwest side, as ambulances and police cars arrived and people were carried away, leaving behind shoes and personal belongings strewn across the asphalt and trailer floor.

The truck’s driver, identified as James M. Bradley, 60, of Clearwater, Fla., has been arrested and is expected to be charged Monday morning, said the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Texas.

The grisly discovery in San Antonio comes as the Trump administration is calling on Congress to increase funding for border security and to expand the wall on the southern border with Mexico.

It also illuminates the extreme risks immigrants face as they attempt to elude border agents in the searing summer heat. Some try to slip through legal checkpoints undetected, while others sneak illegally across the border. Often, they are fleeing violence and poverty in Latin America, advocates say.

Many have died attempting to enter the United States, drowning in the Rio Grande, lost in the desolate ranch lands of south Texas, or collapsing from exhaustion in the Arizona desert.

Two weeks ago, Houston police discovered 12 immigrants, including a girl, who had been locked for hours inside a sweltering box truck in a parking lot, banging for someone to rescue them. Three people were arrested. A Harris County prosecutor said the migrants were at imminent risk of death.

In May, border agents discovered 18 immigrants locked in a refrigerated produce truck, with the temperature set at 51 degrees. Passengers were from Latin America and Kosovo.

One of the deadliest smuggling operations occurred in 2003, when 19 people died after being discovered in an insulated trailer abandoned at a truck stop in Victoria, Tex. The truck driver in that case, Tyrone M. Williams, was sentenced to nearly 34 years in prison.

. . . .

Later Sunday, moments after Mass ended at the historic San Fernando Cathedral, two dozen people held a gathering in Main Plaza to show their support for immigrants. A handful of people made speeches­ and said prayers in Spanish and English, using a megaphone, to a crowd of about 50 people. Children played in the splash pads nearby while adults wandered in and out of the crowd, many taking photographs and videos.

“Hold your family extra tight tonight,” said Barbie Hurtado, the statewide organizer for ­RAICES, which organized the event, “and keep the people that lost their lives in your thoughts, in your prayers.”

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), a San Antonio native, addressed attendees at the end of the hour-long service.

“This represents a symptom of a broken immigration system that Congress, of which I am a part, has had the chance to fix but has not,” he said. “That’s a colossal failure that has a human cost.”

Another San Antonio native, Debbie Leal-Herrera, 55, said she was in town visiting from New Mexico this week and wanted to come to the plaza because “it touches­ me as a Hispanic.”

Leal-Herrera, an elementary school teacher, said she knows several people who have immigrated to the United States illegally and has taught many students whose parents are undocumented.

“It reminds me of how much we truly take for granted,” she said. “What a beautiful gift it is to be an American.”

Advocates for immigrants in Texas are still reeling from the recent passage of the tough new immigration law, set to take effect Sept. 1. The deaths marked yet another blow.

Maria Victoria De la Cruz, who is originally from Mexico, publicly urged federal officials not to deport the immigrants who were found Sunday.

“As an immigrant, I feel destroyed,” she told the group in Spanish. “It’s not fair to return them to the place they have fled.”

During the vigil, a somber group quietly approached the consul from Mexico to ask about a relative. Juan Jose Castillo, who said he is from the Mexican state of Zacatecas but lives in the United States, said he was relieved that his 44-year-old brother was among the survivors.

“He came out of necessity,” Castillo said in Spanish. “It’s very bad.”

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Read the full story at the link.

One way of saving some lives: reform the immigration system to 1) allow more individuals to immigrate legally, and 2) provide full due process adjudications of asylum and other claims for protection under U.S. law, with reasonable access to counsel and no detention unless required by individualized circumstances, to individuals who present themselves at the border. This would encourage individuals who seek to to migrate to or seek refuge in the U.S. to do so in an orderly fashion, with complete screening, through our legal system.

Militarizing the border and creating a detention empire might or might not reduce undocumented migration in the long run. But three things are certain: 1) smuggling fees will go up; 2) methods used by smugglers will become more risky; and 3) more individuals will die attempting to enter the U.S.

PWS

07-21-17