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 user 2009-02-10 at 3:06:01 pm Views: 50
  • #21464

    One year later, immigration raid at factory leaves lives in limbo
    year ago, Gregorio Perez Cruz stood at his work station at a Van Nuys
    factory dismantling printer cartridges, as he had done for the previous
    two years.Forty-five minutes into his shift, he walked to a nearby
    water fountain for a drink and spotted law enforcement officers with
    weapons strapped to their legs and waists. What happened next turned
    his tranquil life upside down.”They came in shouting, `Everybody out.
    Stop doing what you are doing,”‘ Perez Cruz recalled.He said he was
    ushered into a hallway, where he saw anxious co-workers trying to
    steady trembling hands. That’s when he heard the word “immigration.”

    moment was the beginning of an ordeal that continues today for Perez
    Cruz and more than 100 others arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs
    Enforcement agents during a raid at Micro Solutions Enterprises in Van
    Nuys on Feb. 7, 2008.In the year that has passed, no resolution has
    been reached in the cases of Perez Cruz and the bulk of other arrested
    workers accused of being in the country illegally. Some have returned
    voluntarily to their homelands; others, like Perez Cruz, wait to see if
    they may be deported.Of eight workers facing criminal charges, such as
    identity theft, 2010 trial dates have been set for four.And so the
    debate rages over what, if anything, was gained by the raid at the
    printer cartridge factory.

    Civil liberties groups are pressing
    claims that authorities violated workers’ rights during the raid.ICE,
    meanwhile, argues that even without a resolution to individual cases,
    the Van Nuys raid acts as a deterrent to illegal immigration and
    hiring.The lack of measurable impact, critics say, reflects a national
    stalemate over immigration policy – an impasse likely to drag on as the
    country’s economic crisis takes center stage and the Obama
    administration shapes its own immigration policy.”Nothing has been
    gained,” said Nora Preciado, an attorney for the L.A.-based National
    Immigration Law Center, a legal group that advocates for the rights of
    low-income immigrants and their families. “People’s lives have been

    Perez Cruz, who is represented by the American Civil
    Liberties Union, is trying to get his charges dismissed, arguing the
    raid wasn’t conducted properly.”The agents flagrantly violated both
    immigration regulations and the Constitution,” said Ahilan Arulananthm,
    Perez Cruz’s lead attorney and the ACLU’s director of immigrants’
    rights and national security.”Most importantly, instead of only
    detaining those people who they suspected of being unlawfully present,
    they chose just to round up everyone first and gather evidence
    later.”Perez Cruz said he was handcuffed, arrested and questioned five
    times without being read his rights and without an attorney present. He
    says he didn’t get anything to eat for 18 hours after the raid, and he
    said he had to drink water from a bathroom sink in the detention
    center, where he was taken from the factory.He wasn’t able to use a
    bathroom until he got to the detention center, hours after the arrest.

    Similar allegations
    detainees have made the same charges, which ICE refutes.”It’s our
    policy to treat all persons humanely,” said Virginia Kice, an ICE
    spokeswoman. “That includes providing adequate food, water and access
    to restrooms.”Separate from the immigration and criminal cases, more
    than 100 people at the Van Nuys plant filed claims for damages against
    the U.S. government, charging that they were unlawfully detained – a
    charge ICE disagrees with.”We maintain that the search was conducted
    properly in accordance with the terms of the warrant, the federal rules
    of criminal procedure and ICE policies,” Kice said.Peter Schey,
    president of the L.A.-based Center for Human Rights and Constitutional
    Law and an attorney for the 115 people from the Van Nuys plant, said
    that in addition to emotional distress, such raids cause economic
    turmoil for U.S. workers, customers, investors and businesses.

    raids, business owners consider outsourcing, selling their company,
    closing their doors or opening a site outside the United States, Schey
    said. The increased costs of doing business are passed on to customers
    or remaining workers.”The ripple effect of the economic consequences
    are enormous,” Schey said.Plus, the raids do nothing to seriously
    address the millions of illegals in the country, he said.During the Van
    Nuys raid, ICE arrested 138 people out of the millions of illegals in
    the Los Angeles area.”It’s like a grain of sand on the beach,” Schey
    said. “It is entirely symbolic.”He suggests a different approach – ICE
    officials could audit employment paperwork, identify illegal workers
    and then work with employers.

    Enforcing the law
    Kice noted
    that ICE is enforcing the country’s laws and the outcome of this case
    is not final.What is definite is that hiring illegal workers doesn’t
    benefit business owners, the economy or legal residents and citizens,
    the ICE spokeswoman said.In some cases, illegal workers have stolen a
    legal resident or citizen’s identity in order to forge the necessary
    employment paperwork. Some employers have smuggled workers into the
    United States and exploited them, paying them dismal wages.

    which ICE calls work-site enforcement actions, protect the integrity of
    the nation’s legal immigration system, Kice said.”The prospect of
    employment is one of the most significant factors fueling illegal
    immigration,” she said. “That is why work-site enforcement has been a
    important facet of the nation’s immigration enforcement
    strategy.”Illegal immigration is down nationwide and increased raids
    are likely part of the reason, according to a July 2008 study – called
    Homeward Bound – by the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington,
    D.C.Through last May, the number of illegal immigrants in the country
    declined by 1.3 million people compared with the peak during the
    previous summer. The center estimates the current illegal population at
    11.2 million.

    The worsening economy is among the main reasons for the decline.
    Coe, founder and president of the California Coalition for Immigration
    Reform, a Huntington Beach-based nonprofit that advocates enforcing the
    nation’s immigration laws, disputes the findings that illegal
    immigration has decreased.The election of Barack Obama as president has
    changed the atmosphere dramatically, Coe said.”Those statistics are now
    a thing of the past,” Coe said. “I am talking to people on the border
    who are watching a deluge of illegal aliens coming in, sniffing amnesty
    in the air.”

    Obama campaigned on having undocumented residents
    register, pay fines and begin a path to legalization, which opponents
    tag as amnesty, said Angela Kelley, director of the Washington,
    D.C.-based Immigration Policy Center, the research arm of the
    pro-immigrant American Immigration Law Foundation.Three million
    children born in the United States have at least one parent who is
    undocumented, Kelley said. And of the 11 million to 12 million
    undocumented people in the United States, 60 percent have been here
    eight years or longer.”You can’t divide up the family barbecue and put
    undocumented on one side and citizens on the other,” Kelley said. “You
    are breaking up families.”

    The immigration quandary won’t be
    solved anytime soon since the economy is taking center stage, said
    Steven Camarota, director of research for the Washington, D.C.-based
    Center for Immigration Studies, which supports immigration law
    enforcement.”Immigration is not going to come up that much,” Camarota
    said. “When it does, the political stalemate in Washington is likely to
    remain.”That means, if his charges are dropped, Gregorio Perez Cruz’s
    life will stay in the same limbo as before, except now he has a
    6-month-old son.”I want to stay here,” the 24-year-old said. “I feel
    like I am part of this country. I have a family here.”