CFIR Dallas, TX


Saturday, June 05, 2004 Victor Landa Victor Landa

San Antonio Express-News

It was 108 degrees in Laredo on Memorial Day. By some reports it was as hot as 112. When my father and I went to look for breakfast that morning, the sun already left a sting on the skin. "Va a estar caliente el dia," he said. It's going to be a hot day.

This is not news in South Texas; it's just something you get used to, a seasonal thing. It seems as if it's always been that way.

There are some things that are new, though. High temperatures along the border mean that soon the death toll of undocumented immigrants will rise. They'll be found trapped inside boxcars and trailers or lying in the desert where heat and thirst overcame them. These are seasonal things that we shouldn't get used to.

Newspapers in Mexico have reported that there is an agreement in the making between the United States and Mexico that would help save the lives of immigrants.

But there is something about the accord that doesn't sit right. The agreement, called the Safe Repatriation Accord or Secure Repatriation Accord, was made, according to Mexican news reports, between the Department of Homeland Security and Mexico's Secretaría de Gobernación (a kind of national internal affairs department, with all the privileges that implies). Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge apparently brokered the deal with Gobernación's minister, Santiago Creel.

Under the agreement, undocumented immigrants detained in the United States will be transported to locations close to the border (several cities in Arizona have been mentioned) from where they'll be taken to cities in the interior of Mexico (Guadalajara is one possible place). From there the Mexican government would be in charge of transporting them to the capital of their state of origin. After that they're on their own.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department is up in arms over the deal, mainly because it was sidestepped. Undersecretary Gerónimo Flores, according to a report in Mexico's Proceso magazine, denies that such an accord has been reached. Apparently, the U.S. administration was in a hurry to announce the agreement before summer sets in and was looking to put the plan in place this past week. But an internal Mexican tug-of-war has gotten in the way.

I'm curious, though, about what homeland security has to do with the repatriation of Mexicans, especially since the plan is supposed to be a way to prevent the deaths of immigrants coming to the United States.

I remember a scene in Laredo because I saw it so many times. A green Border Patrol bus would pull up to the sidewalk and a stream of Mexicans would be let out. They were escorted by armed men to the middle of the international bridge. Common knowledge told us the immigrants would soon make their way back, this time with a little more savvy.

This new accord would eliminate that scene. It would place the immigrants deep within Mexico, back in their home states.

What's interesting to me is that the agreement is an admission by default that the Border Patrol game of cat-and-mouse is futile. It's interesting that under the reorganization of the departments that handle immigration, customs and enforcement under the umbrella of Homeland Security, a new light is being shed on undocumented border crossings.

It's naïve to think that such a scheme will deter or prevent deaths in the desert. Immigrants don't cross the border because it's close, they cross it because there are jobs on the other side. Tossing a person looking for work back into deep Mexico will only waste his or her time.

Interestingly, recent headlines in Mexico lament the fact that more jobs in that country are being lost to China. Unemployment across the border is rising.

It was 108 degrees in Laredo on Memorial Day, and summer is just beginning. - Hispanic teen's case embodies immigration struggles - Hispanic teen's case embodies immigration struggles

June 5, 2004, 11:25PM

Caught in controversy
Hispanic teenager's case embodies immigration struggles in Nacogdoches
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

NACOGDOCHES -- Alarmed by the growing Latino gang problem in this quiet Piney Woods town, local police and federal immigration officials swept through Nacogdoches' Hispanic neighborhoods one morning last March looking for 10 illegal immigrants believed to be troublemakers or criminals.

One of the names on that list was Daniel Romero, an 18-year-old Nacogdoches High School soccer star and illegal immigrant with two arrests but no felony convictions. The immigration agents apprehended Romero in the gravel driveway of his family's home early March 25, just as his mother was about to drive him to school.

Romero faces an immigration court hearing Friday in Houston, after which he could be deported to Mexico, a country he hasn't seen since he was 6. The case has sparked debate about the role of local law enforcement in dealing with illegal immigrants.

In Nacogdoches, as in towns and cities across the country, residents are divided on the issue. Police in Houston do not cooperate with immigration officials, saying their mission is to prevent and investigate crimes, not do the federal government's job of rounding up those here illegally.

Yet in this small community of 30,000, illegal immigrants are more visible.

Between 1990 and 2000, Nacogdoches saw its Hispanic population more than double as immigrants poured into the region in search of jobs in the poultry and lumber industries. Hispanics now represent 10 percent of the population and more than 30 percent of the students enrolled in public schools.

In recent months, tensions have escalated between Latinos and Anglos, and not just because of the Romero case.

On Jan. 15, Rodolfo Sanchez, 55, a Mexican immigrant on his way home from work after a late-night shift at the Pilgrim's Pride plant, crossed a busy road and was struck and killed by a Nacogdoches police patrol car. The state Department of Public Safety was called in to investigate. The probe continues, though a DPS investigator initially said it appeared the officer was not at fault.

Still, a group of immigrants protested outside the Police Department a few days after the incident. Longtime residents say it was the first time they can remember immigrants in the town becoming politically vocal.

Police Chief Bill Lujan has been at the center of the controversy about that incident and the Romero case since his department first notified federal agents about the teen.

Many in town have publicly praised the chief for "protecting" the community by moving to deport illegal immigrants and cooperating closely with federal agents.

"It does not matter what this young man does in school or on the soccer field," said chemist Michael Bishop. "He is an illegal alien. Period. The law is the law."

But other residents question why Romero's name was added to the list, since he was not known as a gang member and is certainly not the first teen in town to get in trouble with the law.

"As far as I'm concerned, he's a nice, decent, honorable young man," said Farshid Niroumand, the soccer team coach.

Many of the parents of players on the team pitched in to raise the $5,000 needed to post Romero's bail so he could at least graduate from high school in May.

Yet rumors persist in Nacogdoches, said Claudia Fields, a longtime resident whose son plays soccer with Romero. She says she considers Romero almost a son.

"I have to hope no one would do this maliciously," she said.

Lujan dismisses as "ridiculous" any speculation that Romero may have been targeted for reasons beyond his police record.

The chief said agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement asked him to keep a list of immigrants who get in trouble with the law. He provided a list of 58 names, and the agents came back with a list of 10 men they wanted to capture, he said.

Lujan noted that Romero was added to the list because he had been arrested twice -- once after he fled the scene of a minor accident and once after he grabbed his girlfriend's wrist during an argument in the school auditorium.

The accident resulted in a conviction for misdemeanor hit-and-run. No charges were filed in the incident involving his girlfriend.

"I don't think there was any other reason (for notifying the agents about Romero) other than that he had been arrested before," Lujan said.

Lujan told the local newspaper, the Daily Sentinel, that the 10 immigrants on the list were "troublemakers" and said most were involved in gang activity.

"They are causing problems, and we want to get them out of our community," he told the paper in March.

In the case of Romero, that would mean expelling him from the only community he has ever really known. Although he speaks Spanish with his mother and father, Romero says he does not remember much about Mexico, a country he has not visited since his parents smuggled him out at age 6.

"I don't know what I would do in Mexico," Romero said recently in the weathered, single-wide mobile home he shares with his parents and younger sister. "I was raised here."

After leaving their native state of Durango, in northern Mexico, the Romero family first settled in Oklahoma. Then the family heard of work available in the Nacogdoches area and arrived about 10 years ago. Romero's father, Jose Gerardo Romero, took a job in a sawmill, where he began as a laborer and has moved up to saw operator. His mother, Alma, says she got a job at the Pilgrim's Pride poultry plant hauling chickens until last year, when she injured her back.

Daniel Romero and his older brother were enrolled in schools, which are required to educate children regardless of their immigration status. A sister, Crystal, was born here and is a U.S. citizen.

During the past few months, some in Nacogdoches have wondered whether there is any link between the immigrant protest in January and the sweep for illegal immigrants two months later.

"Did that (protest) have anything to do with the Nacogdoches Police Department picking up the phone and calling immigration?" asked Richard Fischer, Romero's attorney and president of the Nacogdoches school board. "I don't know. The sequence of events was certainly close."

Lujan denies any connection. Another who believes there is no link is Ruben Rodriguez, a sociologist at Stephen F. Austin University who works closely with immigrants.

In the polarized national debate about whether local police departments should enforce immigration law, Lujan takes a moderate position. He is proud of his department's cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal agencies, describing it as "second to none."

But Lujan opposes using local police to round up all illegal immigrants."A lot of businesses would fold temporarily" if all the illegal immigrants in Nacogdoches were deported, he said.

In Washington, the Bush administration has pushed for increased cooperation between federal and local authorities. In May, the immigration agency put out a national newsletter that hailed the Nacogdoches operation as a success.

"ICE rounds up gangs in Texas," the headline on the government release said.

Romero acknowledges he's had problems with the police but denies any gang activity. He said he was convicted on a misdemeanor because, as an illegal immigrant, he could not get a driver's license. But he drove anyway. While driving without a license last year, he rear-ended another car, panicked and fled the scene.

"I got scared," he said. "I just ran."

Then came the incident earlier this year, when he grabbed his girlfriend forcefully at school. Romero was arrested, but his girlfriend declined to file charges.

He was expelled from school and was attending an alternative school at the time immigration officials apprehended him.

He has graduated from high school and has a scholarship to attend Lon Morris College, a small school in nearby Jacksonville. He hopes to study criminal justice.

Even with his date in immigration court looming, Romero prefers to think there might be a chance he can stay in the town he considers home.

"I just hope everything happens for a reason," he said. "I hope I can stay here with my family."

Man is sentenced to 30 years for rapes

Man is sentenced to 30 years for rapes

Man is sentenced to 30 years for rapes
Saturday, June 05, 2004
Star-Ledger Staff
An illegal immigrant from Honduras apologized yesterday before he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for raping an 82-year-old woman and a 14-year-old girl and attempting to rape a 73-year-old woman in separate incidents last summer.

Nelson Abarca, 28, who had been living in New Brunswick, will serve about 24 years and eight months before he will be eligible for parole.

Before the sentence was imposed at the Middlesex County Courthouse in New Brunswick, Abarca asked for forgiveness and blamed drug and alcohol abuse for the attacks.

Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet asked the court for a harsh penalty, and noted that since the defendant was arrested, his DNA samples linked him to the rape of a woman in Dallas, where he is facing additional charges.

Superior Court Judge Phillip Lewis Paley sentenced Abarca who pleaded guilty in January. Abarca, who will be deported when he completes his sentence and any penalties he may face in Texas, avoided a possible life prison term by admitting the sex assault charges.

As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution dropped six burglary counts, in which Abarca was accused of breaking into the homes of his older victims and was charged with illegally entering four other homes in North Brunswick last summer.

The prosecution also agreed to dismiss two counts of criminal restraint, in which authorities charged the defendant held the two senior victims against their will.

Abarca admitted climbing through a kitchen window of a home in North Brunswick on June 27, hoping to steal money. He found the 82-year-old woman asleep, put his hand over her mouth, raped her and fled, he said.

He also said he walked through the unlocked front door of the North Brunswick home of the 73-year-old woman, removed her panties and attempted to rape her, but fled when a relative arrived and parked in the driveway.

A break in the case came when the mother of the 14-year-old girl complained to police that her daughter had relations with an older man, and police arrested Abarca.

He admitted having relations with the girl after picking her up at Feaster Park in New Brunswick on Aug. 3 and plying her with alcohol.

After arresting him on a charge of assaulting the teenager, police said they determined he was responsible for the attacks on the senior women.

The New York Times: Illegal Alien Dreamers | Crossing the Border Into the Middle Class

The New York Times > National > American Dreamers | The Waitress: Crossing the Border Into the Middle Class

June 3, 2004
Crossing the Border Into the Middle Class

AS VEGAS - Here are a few of the startling, improbable, only-in-Vegas apparitions that can be seen in and around Las Vegas Boulevard South, also known as the Strip: an ersatz Eiffel Tower. A Venetian palace. A miniature Brooklyn Bridge. An Egyptian pyramid that, once darkness falls, sends a towering shaft of light into the black desert sky.

Here is another: a petite woman with a jet-black ponytail driving to and from the pyramid in a white Dodge Ram pickup.

What makes this vision extraordinary is less what this woman looks like than who she is, how she got here and how well she reconciles a jumble of seeming contradictions in her hard but happy life.

She is Graciela Diaz: upwardly mobile waitress, Mexican immigrant soccer mom, middle-class striver, former undocumented sweatshop seamstress and now satisfied suburbanite, living with her husband and daughter in a two-story, four-bedroom stucco house with a two-car garage in a gated community north of town.

Thanks to a relentlessly booming economy and an unusual collaboration between labor and industry, Las Vegas has become a paradise for people like Ms. Diaz: unskilled newcomers, many of them immigrants. In Las Vegas, unlike most other American cities, dishwashers, busboys, hotel housekeepers and hotel janitors can easily gain a foothold in the middle class.

In Las Vegas, not only do these workers often obtain the emblems of middle-class life - a house and a car or two, good health insurance and a pension - but they have the opportunity to climb ever higher.

For Ms. Diaz, 32, a native of Jalisco, Mexico, it is no easy matter juggling the life of a low-skilled immigrant with that of a suburban middle-class mom. Ms. Diaz, who works as a waitress at La Salsa, a Mexican restaurant in the giant Luxor hotel casino, is learning, for example, that it is impossible to be the perfect parent, always there for her 8-year-old daughter, Cecilia, as she struggles to grab her piece of the American dream. But after coming so far, she is not giving up.

Until recently, Ms. Diaz was on the go seven days a week. Five days she bused tables at La Salsa, putting out tortilla chips and salsa, fetching drinks, removing dirty plates.

On Wednesdays and Thursdays, her days off, she took a six-hour-a-day course that would elevate her to waitress. For five months, she studied the fine points of the food server's trade, like how many pancakes are in a short stack and the difference between fettuccine and farfalle. She was enrolled at the Las Vegas Culinary Training Academy, which gives courses in jobs at all levels of the hospitality industry: grease-trap cleaner, hotel housekeeper, sommelier.

"I want to jump another step," Ms. Diaz said. "I want things to be better for my family. I don't want my family to miss anything. That's why I sacrifice for."

A Gilded Ladder

The academy is the brainchild of an enlightened labor union and a hotel and restaurant industry that needs a well-trained work force.

"Our union's goal and the training center's goal is you can come in as a non-English-speaking worker, come in as a low-level kitchen worker, and if you have the desire, you can leave as a gourmet food server, sous-chef or master sommelier," said D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of Culinary Local 226, one of the nation's fastest-growing unions. "We want to have a situation where the only limits are your own ambition."

With the food server's course now under her belt, Ms. Diaz has made an impressive leap in status and income. Busing tables, she made $500 a week, or $25,000 a year, but as a waitress, her wages and tips total about $20 an hour, or $40,000 a year.

Ms. Diaz is doing so well that her husband, Manuel, a burly six-foot construction worker, says he jokingly tells friends: "She'll be earning so much that I'm going to be able to quit my job and take care of the house. So when she arrives home, there will be steaming food on the table."

Two years ago, the Diazes paid $125,000 for their house on Gold Sluice Avenue. Their gated community, called Sutter Creek, was built in the desert 10 miles north of downtown and is so new that none of its trees are taller than 12 feet.

Mr. Diaz said they wanted a gated community because they were unhappy with their previous neighborhood. "People from Mexico - I call them paesanos - were burning tires," he said. "They played radios real loud. I was afraid of Cecilia playing outside, that someone would run her over. Here it's quiet and safe for her."

With a sheepish grin, Ms. Diaz said her parents could hardly believe how she lives. She and her husband have a 48-inch television, satellite dish, gleaming kitchen with track lighting, and his-and-hers pickup trucks. His is a dark green Ford 150 with a "Bad Boy" decal.

Manuel and Graciela Diaz have come a long way since 1994, when they met in a Los Angeles sweatshop. She was a seamstress, he bundled garments, and they both earned about $30 a day, or $7,500 a year.

Smitten with Graciela's broad smile, lustrous hair and easygoing manner, Manuel, clinging to Mexican tradition, asked her parents for permission to date her. They refused, partly because he had once lived with another woman and partly because he was not exactly raking in money.

But love trumped parental objections, and within a year, they were living together and Ms. Diaz was pregnant. With a baby on the way, they grew frustrated at their station in life, earning sweatshop wages and living in a rundown apartment.

"Everything is much harder in Los Angeles," Ms. Diaz said. "The pay is bad, and everything is more expensive."

Mr. Diaz persuaded his wife to move to Las Vegas, lured by his sister's tales of riches there for the taking, and she wasn't referring to the baccarat or blackjack tables.

In her admittedly imperfect English, Ms. Diaz acknowledged that her husband's hunch was right. "When we came here and see the big changes - the money, the benefits were good - he says, 'We stay here,''' she said. "In California, we never thought of buying a house. We couldn't buy many things. Here's it's more easy."

No Rest for the Casino Builder

Within days of arriving, Mr. Diaz took a job washing trucks. The pay was mediocre, the work unpleasant, so when he heard of a better-paying job removing asbestos, he took it. But after a week he began to realize just how dangerous that work was.

His brother-in-law then told him that workers were needed to build the Bellagio hotel casino, which the developer Steve Wynn envisioned as the zenith of Las Vegas opulence. Mr. Diaz landed a job there and joined the laborers' union. He did grunt work at first, carrying heavy construction materials; his large biceps and chest attest to hard work. His current job is on the latest Wynn dream project, a hotel casino intended to surpass the Bellagio. Now Mr. Diaz works more with his head than his hands, helping grade the land so plumbers and electricians can lay pipe and wire.

"They say Steve Wynn's new hotel will make the Bellagio look like a doghouse," he said, sounding like a major investor in the project.

Mr. Diaz's pay is $23.66 an hour; with overtime, some years he earns more than $60,000.

"I get like 20 times more money than I made in Mexico," he said.

He sounded a little guilty about his immigrant success.

"We don't want to take nobody's place,'' he said. "A lot of people born over here, they don't work so hard because they don't appreciate the opportunities they got. They didn't suffer crossing the border and all that stuff we put up with."

From Mexico to the Strip

Ms. Diaz certainly put up with a lot. After a brother in Los Angeles sent money, she and one of her sisters flew from Jalisco to Tijuana in 1991 to sneak into California.

"It was the first day of the gulf war," she remembered. "I call my mom, and she said, 'You have to come back because the war is starting. It's dangerous.'''

Ignoring that advice, Ms. Diaz and her sister took a taxi to the border, where they had arranged to meet a coyote, a smuggler who would lead them across. But no one showed up. The next day, they returned to the border before dawn. In a creek below them, Ms. Diaz thought she saw someone waving an arm, beckoning them across.

"I see something, but it was just a cow moving the tail," she said, laughing uproariously.

Just as the coyote arrived, a Border Patrol helicopter appeared overhead.

"We try to hide, we waited one hour under some bushes," she said. "It was real scary."

When the helicopter finally left, they sneaked across the border, and her brother arranged for a drive to Los Angeles.

Ms. Diaz arrived illegally, but she eventually obtained a green card and citizenship through her father, who had been granted amnesty. For years, he had worked at a carwash in Los Angeles. Today, her whole family - parents, two sisters and five brothers - lives in Los Angeles.

Once in Las Vegas, Ms. Diaz took a series of nonunion housekeeping jobs that she did not love, at a Best Western hotel, at Binion's Horseshoe Casino, and finally at the luxurious Venetian.

"In the hotels, the hardest job is housekeeping," Ms. Diaz said. "It's really hard when you come, and you don't know the language. You want to be somebody, but it's very hard."

Two years ago, Ms. Diaz learned from the wife of one of her husband's co-workers that there were unionized restaurant openings at the Luxor. Weary of making hotel beds and cleaning bathrooms, she landed a job busing tables at La Salsa. It paid $9.24 an hour, plus about $4 an hour in tips. The health plan was so good that she paid no premiums and made only modest co-payments. But Ms. Diaz had greater ambitions.

After she passed the Culinary Training Academy course, she was immediately promoted to waitress. Now she is responsible for a half-dozen tables in the ocher-colored restaurant, which has the music of a Mexican crooner piped in. She greets customers with her big smile and tentative English, often recommending her favorite dish, the fajita salad.

As her status at La Salsa has risen, so has her pay. Las Vegas's unionized busboys and waiters make the same base salary - $10.14 an hour, the highest rate in the nation. (By comparison, most waiters in New York City make $3.30 an hour before tips.) But waiters make much more from tips than busboys, who must be content with the often-meager amounts that waiters share with them.

Ms. Diaz worries that she has unwittingly become a role model to her 8-year-old. "My daughter says, 'Mommy, let me have your apron,''' Ms. Diaz said. "'I'm going to play. I want to be a waitress. I want to be a waitress because you always have money.'

"I say, 'No, don't be like me,'" Ms. Diaz continued. "My husband says to her, 'You have to learn and do everything the teacher says because one day you're going to be somebody.'''

The Diazes have big ambitions for their daughter: college and maybe law or architecture school.

Relaxing recently after a dinner of rice and chorizo, they boasted of her report card, which says, "With her creative imagination and flair for details, Cecilia has become one of the class's favorite story writers."

Many days a neighbor picks up Cecilia from school because Ms. Diaz normally works from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. But some days Mr. Diaz fetches her from an after-school arts-and-crafts program - he usually works from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ms. Diaz makes dinner before leaving for work so that her husband can reheat it after returning home.

"We help each other," he said. "I can't push and say, 'I want this, I want that.' I know she works."

Poking fun at him, Ms. Diaz chimed in, "Anyway, I'm the boss."

The affection and respect the two feel for each other are unmistakable. Now Ms. Diaz can joke about the thumb's down her father once gave her sweetheart.

"Now my daddy is proud about him," Ms. Diaz said, giving her husband an oversize girlish grin. "My daddy loves him more than me. My parents look at him - they say, 'He takes good care of our daughter.' They tell me, 'If you're doing good, it means he's doing good.' That's why my parents love him so much."

Caribbean News details

Caribbean News details

BALTIMORE, Maryland, Thurs. June 3: Two Republican lawmakers from Maryland want President George Bush, Attorney General John Ashcroft and other high-ranking federal officials to cut funding from agencies that "flagrantly" violate U.S. immigration laws.

Pat McDonough and Rick Impallaria, state representatives of Baltimore, suggest that funding be cut from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration if it issues driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants and from law-enforcement agencies that refuse to help the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency carry out its mission of deporting illegal immigrants, Washington Times reports indicate.

The two also recently submitted five bills in the 2004 General Assembly to crack down on the undocumented but none was approved. One bill called for incarcerating undocumented immigrants as soon as they are discovered, and another insanely called for U.S. residents to be punished for allowing the undocumented to use their cars while committing crimes.

A third bill focused on cracking down on foreign embassies that issue identification cards to those immigrants while the other two bills called for a study on the effect of this population on the state economy. –

Leave out the spins on immigration

Leave out the spins on immigration

Leave out the spins on immigration
Jun. 3, 2004 12:00 AM

O. Ricardo Pimentel continues to do readers a disservice by repeatedly playing the immigration race card.

Immigration is a force that has made America what it is, reflecting our core values and the distinctive greatness of our country. However, the issue was, is, and is likely to be illegal immigration - a point Pimentel refuses to consider.

Public policy debates should be conducted based on the merits of immigration, without coarse language inferring that some people are scum, the demagoguery of those who support the Protect Arizona Now initiative, or the highly offensive suggestion that Arizona will be remembered for morphing Ellis Island into Devil's Island.

Our state and the level of discussion on this issue deserve better.

Tim Serey, Scottsdale

Mexican national sentenced on immigration charges

Mexican national sentenced on immigration charges

Mexican national sentenced on immigration charges

June 3, 2004

LAFAYETTE — A Mexican national was sentenced on Wednesday to six month in prison on federal charges of illegal re-entry of a deported alien.

Apolonio Reyes-Lopez, 26, was arrested Nov. 10 after he was stopped for a traffic violation in Elton.

Prosecutors said he was transporting four other undocumented immigrants from Arizona to Florida.

Reyes-Lopez had previously been deported in April on charges of smuggling illegal immigrants.

Immigrant's experience prompts him to start bank - Thursday, 06/03/04

Immigrant's experience prompts him to start bank - Thursday, 06/03/04

Staff Writer
As an immigrant, Anil Patel says he's seen firsthand the problems that people like him can face obtaining financing and other banking services in the Midstate.

In 1985 six banks denied him a loan when he was trying to buy his first home, which Patel attributed partly to the lack of credit history he then had in the United States.

It's such realities for immigrants that the Clarksville, Tenn., gastroenterologist said led him to seek to start Civic Bank & Trust, which will be based in Nashville. Patel and other bank organizers recently filed for a charter with the state that, if approved, would allow them to raise as much as $20 million in startup capital.

Four of the five organizers are of Indian descent, including Patel, who has lived in the Midstate for 20 years since leaving the African nation of Zambia. Randy Austin, whose 30 years in banking included a stint as chief executive of The Bank-Oldham County in Kentucky, will be CEO of Civic.

Though the bank will target the entire Midstate community, it will focus on offering services to the growing immigrant population, Patel said. Its specific niches will include Asian immigrants and the medical community.

''Immigrants tend to have harder time with big banks just because the big banks cannot assess the risk,'' Patel said. ''They're willing to work, but they don't have the capital and access to tools to do what they're willing to do.''

If approved, Civic will join a growing list of banks nationwide being formed to target immigrants such as Asians and Hispanics. Such efforts reflect growth in the population and the purchasing power of immigrants.

From 1990 to 2001, the purchasing power of Asian and Hispanic residents nationwide rose 125% and 118%, respectively. Census data show that purchasing power of the black and Caucasian communities grew much less — 86% and 67%, respectively.

The number of Asian and Pacific Islander residents in a 10-county Midstate region more than doubled from 10,003 in 1990 to 20,560 in 2000, but that group still accounted for less than 2% of the region's overall population.

While several startup banks nationwide are seeing success targeting ethnic communities, some analysts aren't sure there are enough immigrants in the Midstate to make such an effort worthwhile.

''The Asian community is still very small in Tennessee,'' said Attilio Galli, a Midstate banking executive involved in a separate effort to launch a Nashville-based financial services company that has targeting ''underserved'' communities among its goals. ''We're going to take an income segmentation approach rather than an ethnic segmentation approach, because if you do that, you'll have a broader base of potential clients.''

Galli and a group that includes Nashville merchant banking firm 2nd Generation Capital are expected to file soon for a private-placement offering to raise money to buy an existing bank and expand its sales offices into distinct neighborhoods.

Jeff Davis, an analyst with FTN Midwest Research in Nashville, said large regional and national banks also were going after ethnic communities by designating certain branches to focus more on specific national groups.

''It's going to be a bit more tougher row to hoe, especially in Nashville, because the immigrant community is not necessarily huge. Secondly, it's spread out geographically,'' Davis said of Civic's plan to serve Asians.

That reality is why Civic will focus on the broader Midstate community, as well as eventually market itself to ethnic communities across the state, Patel said.

Nashville was chosen as headquarters for Civic because it is a hub for various international communities in Tennessee, Patel said. He hopes to open an office off West End Avenue by March. Patel is familiar with that area, having done his medical residency and fellowship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He also received an MBA from Vanderbilt.

''We feel like, particularly with the big banks being bought out, merged and so forth, there's still room for community banks (in Nashville) to offer a little bit more personalized service,'' Austin said.

Patel will be Civic's chairman and Austin will run daily operations. Other organizers include Ratilal G. Gajera, a physician in Hopkinsville, Ky.; Raman Patel, who owns hotels and motels in Clarksville, Tenn., and across the Southeast; and Magan B. Bhika, a MetLife insurance representative out of Brentwood.

''These four guys are successful people who are not under pressure to make money,'' Patel said about the group organizing Civic. ''What we want to do is establish an institution that will help the community long term.''

Getahn Ward covers financial services. He can be reached at 726-5968 or at

East Valley Tribune Online

East Valley Tribune Online

The 2:30 a.m. incident Tuesday on Loop 202 resulted from a lack of manpower — a problem that was supposed to be fixed with the addition last fall of 50 extra immigration agents in the Valley.

“I'm not going to suggest . . . there were no mistakes made,” said ICE acting special agent in charge Kyle Barnette, adding that he did not learn of the release until it was over. “We have the people — wake them up, get them out there.”

A state Department of Public Safety officer on Tuesday noticed two full-size vans traveling together on the freeway near the Dobson Road exit, said DPS spokesman Steve Volden.

When the officer tried to pull them over on a traffic violation, one exited the freeway at Country Club Drive and crashed in a ditch. Nearly 30 people got out and began running, Volden said. Other DPS officers called to the scene caught 18 of them, he said.

The second van, which was packed with 25 people, tried to flee on the freeway but was pulled over. Two more DPS officers showed up and helped handcuff the suspects. One resisted, breaking an officer's wrist, Volden said.

The officers called ICE but were told no detention officers were available for at least four hours, Volden said.

Barnette said no detention officers work between 4 and 6 a.m., but he could not explain the lack of agents when ICE received the DPS call at 2:49 a.m.

One ICE agent picked up a van and headed to the scene immediately, but the van could only hold 18 people. So DPS officers asked the agent to get 18 suspects being held at McDowell Road and Mesa Drive, Volden said.

Twenty-four of the suspects on the freeway were marched one mile to the Gilbert Road exit, where they were freed. The man accused of breaking the officer's wrist was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault, Volden said.

Barnette said no identity check was performed on the 24 who were released, so ICE has no idea whether some of them were hardened criminals or even illegal immigrants. However, the 18 taken into custody were all undocumented immigrants, he said.

“I will suggest my officer made a mistake,” Barnette said. “I would not have sanctioned or authorized releasing those people into the community.”

Such releases of immigration suspects were common in the past, but federal officials vowed to end that practice after launching the crackdown
dubbed “Operation: ICE Storm,” which doubled the number of Valley agents.

Volden said ICE still sometimes fails to respond when groups of illegal immigrants are discovered. Patrol officers sometimes say it is “hit or miss” to get ICE to come out, and it depends on the number of suspects involved, Volden said.

He said one officer related a story to him about being told by ICE that “20 people is the number, as a general rule” to get federal agents to respond. But once the officer called and said he had 20 to 22 suspects.

“The (ICE) person we talked to said we need to have 30,” Volden said.

Last month in Phoenix, ICE was called but did not come to a drophouse where 15 or 20 suspected illegal immigrants were found, said Phoenix detective Tony Morales. He said ICE has come out more frequently since the crackdown, but he remembers the frustrating days when immigration agents sometimes did not even answer their phones.

“We absolutely don't want it to go back,” Morales said. East Valley police officials said ICE always responds when called, although fewer drophouses or large groups of illegal immigrants are found in the East Valley compared with Phoenix.

Only 19 of the 50 new ICE agents will be permanently deployed in the Valley, and shifting priorities could also affect the future staffing level, Barnette said. However, Barnette said the Valley would never be “neglected” by immigration authorities like in the past.

Rocky Mountain News: Election

Rocky Mountain News: Election

Rocky Mountain News

To print this page, select File then Print from your browser
Illegal-immigrant plan won't be on ballot
By Javier Erik Olvera, Rocky Mountain News
June 3, 2004

An initiative to deny state services such as college grants and health care to illegal immigrants will not be on the November ballot.

Officials of Save Colorado Now say a legal challenge stalled their campaign to raise $200,000 needed to get nearly 68,800 signatures.

"We looked at what we wanted to achieve and the time we had available . . . and decided to . . . pursue it at a later time," said William Herron, Save Colorado Now chairman.

Committee members will spend the next couple of years trying to get support for the initiative, launched by U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.

Herron said members will take the initiative's message to as many people as possible and hope to put it on the November 2006 ballot.

Under the initiative, the Colorado Constitution would be amended so illegal immigrants - roughly 144,000 of Colorado's 4.5 million residents - could not get state-funded services.

The initiative would not have affected federally mandated programs, such as public education, or emergency services, such as hospital care.

Opponents were glad the initiative was dropped, saying it was mean-spirited and would have negatively affected all Coloradans.

For example, illegal immigrants would not have had access to basic medical services such as flu shots, further spreading the illness, said Keep Colorado Safe's John Britz.

Keep Colorado Safe challenged the initiative's wording twice - first with the secretary of state, then with the Colorado Supreme Court.

The group lost both times, most recently last month when the Supreme Court ruled for Save Colorado Now.

Britz anticipated early on that Save Colorado Now would drop the initiative so Republicans wouldn't lose the Hispanic vote this election. or 303-892-5113

Copyright 2004, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

The Calgary Sun: Child-killer faces boot

The Calgary Sun: Child-killer faces boot

Thu, June 3, 2004
Child-killer faces boot
Parole would mean quick deportation for mom convicted of manslaughter


EDMONTON -- If illegal alien Rie Fujii is successful in her bid for parole this morning, she'll be saying goodbye to her cell in the Edmonton Institution for women and hello to a new set of grey bars. Fujii, now 26, was sent to prison in the fall of 2002 after pleading guilty to manslaughter for the deaths of her children, Gemini, three months, and Domenic, 15 months.

Fujii left the kids alone while going on a 10-day sex romp with her boyfriend.

In her first parole bid, she'll try to convince the board she's a changed woman and deserving of an early release.

If the board agrees and releases Fujii, she will be whisked straight to the Edmonton Remand Centre where she'll await a one-way flight back to Japan.

"As a rule, we try to get them out as fast as we can," said Randy Gurlock, spokesman for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).

Fujii was ordered deported Sept. 18, 2002, just nine days after she was sentenced to the equivalent of eight years behind bars.

Prior to that, she'd been in the country illegally after her 1997 visitor's visa expired.

"In general terms, when a person is incarcerated and subject to removal, we place a detaining order on them," he said.

That means when the con gets out of prison, he or she goes straight into the custody of the CBSA.

Justice Peter Martin sentenced Fujii to eight years in prison, but allowed her credit for time spent behind bars while awaiting trial.

That effectively gave her a 5 1/2-year prison term.

While the parole board may forgive her today, the father of the two children said it will be tougher for him to do the same.

"Forgiveness will be something I have to learn," Peter Brown, a self-admitted petty crook, wrote the Sun in a letter that was previously penned from the Calgary Remand Centre.

Brown was on Calgary streets when Fujii was with a new boyfriend in his father's Cochrane home.

"Her actions were both cruel and negligent, forgiveness will be hard to come by," Brown said.

Gurlock said his agency has closely tracked the Fujii case and will be ready to act if and when she is released.

The Sacramento Bee -- -- Editorial: Illegal immigrant drivers

The Sacramento Bee -- -- Editorial: Illegal immigrant drivers

Editorial: Illegal immigrant drivers
Cedillo bill protects us all
- (Published June 3, 2004)
When he signed legislation to repeal a law that allowed illegal immigrants to obtain California driver's licenses, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to support a new license bill if it addressed his security concerns. Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-Los Angeles, has introduced SB 1160, which goes a long way in meeting those concerns. The governor ought to support it, not because the bill will make life easier for illegal immigrants but because it makes all Californians safer.

The governor says the bill falls short because it does not require a mark on the license that would identify the license holder as an illegal immigrant. Cedillo rightly refuses to include such an identifier. He fears it would set up undocumented immigrants for discrimination and exploitation and would discourage large numbers of illegal immigrants from getting licenses. That would defeat the whole purpose of the bill - to get more drivers licensed and insured.

Depending on whose estimate you believe, somewhere between 1 million and 2 million illegal immigrants are driving in California without licenses. That's both dangerous and costly. Those drivers have not been tested for competence behind the wheel. Because they are not licensed, they cannot buy insurance or in some cases even register their cars. California is losing millions of dollars in registration fees that help finance cash-strapped local governments. As the number of uninsured drivers mounts, auto insurance premiums for those who are insured increase.

Cedillo's bill would give undocumented immigrants who have applied for legal status or who pledge to do so a chance to obtain a California driver's license. Applicants must present proof of identification - either a passport or matricula consular, an official ID card issued by the their home country. They also must submit a full set of fingerprints and undergo a state and federal criminal background check.

Critics say the bill is likely to increase the threat of terrorism, a view that this page has echoed in the past. But that view seems less persuasive with the passage of time.

Sophisticated foreign criminals determined to commit terrorist acts aren't likely to be deterred by a law that denies licenses to illegal immigrants. Keeping driver's licenses out of the hands of hundreds of thousands of California residents who overstay their visas or sneak across the border to harvest crops, clean houses and wash dishes creates many more problems than it solves.

An example: Because cars can be confiscated from unlicensed drivers, local police say many immigrants caught in minor traffic violations flee rather than stop, creating serious hazards to other motorists.

California's driver's license debate plays out against the backdrop of an inconsistent and ambivalent federal immigration policy. The nation's borders remain porous. There is no active campaign to expel the millions of illegal immigrants who work in menial jobs that Americans won't take. Federal authorities don't regularly raid factories, restaurants, hotels or farms where illegal immigrants make up more than half the work force. And, most telling, employers who hire illegal immigrants are rarely punished. Finally, President Bush has proposed a new policy that amounts to at least temporary legalization for large numbers of immigrant workers who are in this country illegally.

If illegal immigration is not enough of a terrorist threat to warrant a consistent effort by the federal government, why should it be of such concern to California?

Cedillo's bill to grant driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants who live and work among us is not a reward for criminal behavior. It is a recognition of the very complicated facts on the ground. It is a way to manage a difficult situation that best protects everyone. It deserves the governor's support.

AP Wire | 06/03/2004 | Man claims self-defense in two killings, denies another

AP Wire | 06/03/2004 | Man claims self-defense in two killings, denies another

Man claims self-defense in two killings, denies another

Associated Press

WICHITA, Kan. - A nightclub owner on trial for killing three men, whose burned and dismembered bodies were found in a Cowley County field, testified that he shot two of them in self-defense.

Arturo Garcia, 31, is being tried for first-degree murder in the deaths last summer of Oscar Ramirez, 27; his brother, Nicolas, 22; and Clint Jones, 30. Jones was slain July 26 in the basement of Garcia's Club Mexico nightclub, and the Ramirez brothers died there five days later.

Witnesses called by the state have testified to seeing the bodies in the nightclub basement and helping dispose of them.

Garcia, taking the stand in his own defense Wednesday, denied killing Jones and said he shot the Ramirez brothers in self-defense when they confronted him. Garcia said his 10-year-old son was with him in the building on July 31 and that he began shooting when it appeared that Oscar Ramirez was going for a gun.

"When he went to his waist, I just snapped," Garcia testified.

Garcia testified that he decided to get into the nightclub business early last year, when he was about to be laid-off from a Cessna Aircraft Co. manufacturing plant. He said he began holding after-hours parties in the unoccupied half of the duplex where he lived, and the Ramirez brothers became so rowdy at one of them that bouncers asked them to leave.

At one of the parties he met Luis Hernandez, a relative of the Ramirez brothers, and Garcia said Hernandez put up $16,000 toward opening a Mexican dance club. "I knew it would attract a rough crowd, the drug dealers," Garcia said.

Garcia said Jones was killed during an all-night rave at the club, and that he found the body in a pool of blood in the basement.

"When I first saw him I thought that maybe he had committed suicide," Garcia said.

Later, Garcia said, he learned that one of his employees had shot Jones, and he told them he was going to call police.

"Everyone just got panicked about having the cops there," he said. "We'd had a lot of illegal activities."

When his attorney asked what, Garcia said, "Drugs. Possibly underage drinking."

He said he spent some time escorting customers from the club and that when he returned to the basement three men were using a long pole to dismember the body. He said that he took a turn as well.

"There was an agreement made that we should all get our hands dirty," he said. "So we could trust each other."

The body was eventually placed in a freezer, Garcia said.

"So you were going to pretend it didn't happen?" District Attorney Nola Foulston asked.

"Correct," Garcia replied. Latin America Threatens More Heroin Production In Free Trade Agreements

Reuters Recommends News Article |

Colombia to EU: Higher Banana Tariffs = More Drugs
Thu Jun 3, 2004 01:43 PM ET

By Jeremy Smith
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Colombian drug production could rise at the expense of banana-growing if the European Union hikes its import tariffs for the fruit in a major policy change expected before 2006, the country's EU envoy said on Thursday.

The European Commission, which negotiates foreign trade for the 25-nation bloc, hopes to start talks soon with trade partners on the way the EU imports bananas. It plans a single tariff by 2006, replacing the current quota and duty system.

At the moment, the basic tariff is 75 euros ($91.70) a ton. Latin American nations, growing bananas from Mexico down through Central America and into Colombia and the world's top exporter Ecuador, fear it might reach as high as 300 euros.

"We hope to have a common position among all Latin American countries. We'll go for less than 75 euros," said Nicolas Echavarria, Colombia's ambassador to the EU, based in Brussels.

"But for Colombia, there is another limit. There is an acceptance from the EU that there is co-responsibility for the drug problem. If we cannot maintain production of bananas and other crops, our production of drugs is going to increase."

Colombia is the world's top producer of cocaine, processed from coca, and also a major supplier of heroin and marijuana.

Latin American banana growers, competing with Caribbean island and African states for coveted EU access, say any tariff rise over 75 euros will cost them market share.

African producers, whose bananas are less competitive than those grown in Latin America, want a future tariff of about 220 euros. Africa's main growers are Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

Any loss in market access would entitle the Latin Americans to compensation from the EU. That right was enshrined in a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling in favor of the United States and Ecuador that put an end to the bitter 1990s "banana wars."

A tariff hike, they say, would also cause sweeping job losses as banana production withers -- while other crops, possibly coca and marijuana, are planted on the unused land.

"This will be a very big decision for Latin America. The implications are large for us. We have to defend our jobs and production," Echavarria told reporters.

Bananas are a sensitive issue for the EU, which must square any major policy change with the WTO. Brussels has long given preferential access to bananas from former European colonies in African, Caribbean and the Pacific, so-called ACP countries.

The EU's current system is comprised of three separate quotas totaling about 3.2 million tonnes. ACP nations have a duty-free quota for 750,000 tonnes, while Latin American suppliers face a tariff of 75 euros on the remaining quotas. ($1=.8178 Euro) Bulldozer Rampage in Granby Colorado

Jun 5, 8:30 AM EDT

Man in Bulldozer Rampage Found Dead

Associated Press Writer

Hertel says he was watching the rampage from the roof of his own store, when the bulldozer rammed through a nearby bank and other businesses, then headed his way. (Audio)

GRANBY, Colo. (AP) -- A muffler shop owner who plowed a makeshift armored bulldozer into several buildings after a dispute with city officials was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after a SWAT team cut their way into the machine with a blowtorch early Saturday, authorities said.

Grand County Emergency Management Director Jim Holahan confirmed that the driver, identified by the town manager as Marvin Heemeyer, appeared to have shot himself.

Heemeyer plowed the armor-plated bulldozer into the town hall, a former mayor's home and at least five other buildings Friday before the machine ground to a halt in the wreckage of a warehouse.

City officials said he was angry over a zoning dispute and fines from city code violations at his business.

Authorities detonated three explosions and fired at least 200 rounds against the heavy steel plates welded to the bulldozer, which looked like an upside down Dumpster. After the third explosion failed, officials cut their way in with a blowtorch, Holahan said.

A statement from Grand County Undersheriff Glen Trainor said the driver was found around 2 a.m.

Holahan said Heemeyer was armed with a .50-caliber weapon but appeared to be deliberately avoiding injuring anyone during the rampage, which began Friday at about 3 p.m. No other injuries were reported.

Trainor said the dozer's armor plates consisted of two sheets of half-inch steel with a layer of concrete between them.

Investigators searched the garage where they believe Heemeyer built the vehicle and found cement, armor, steel and a homemade crane.

Residents of this mountain tourist town of 2,200 described a bizarre scene as the bulldozer slowly crashed through buildings, trees and lampposts, with dozens of officers walking ahead or behind it, firing into the machine and shouting at townspeople to flee.

"It looked like a futuristic tank," said Rod Moore, who watched the dozer rumble past within 15 feet of his auto garage and towing company.

One officer, later identified as Trainor, was perched on top, firing shot after shot into the top and once dropping an explosive down the exhaust pipe.

"He just kept shooting," Moore said. "The dozer was still going. He threw what looked like a flash-bang down the exhaust. It didn't do a thing."

A flash-bang produces a blinding flash and earsplitting boom designed to stun a suspect.

"Gunfire was just ringing out everywhere," said Sandra Tucker, who saw the bulldozer begin the rampage from her office on Main Street. "It sounded to me like an automatic rifle, firing about every second."

At least 40 deputies, Colorado State Patrol officers, federal park and forest rangers and a SWAT team from nearby Jefferson County were at the scene.

Town manager Tom Hale said Heemeyer was angry after losing a zoning dispute that allowed a cement plant to be built near his muffler shop. Heemeyer also was fined $2,500 in a separate case for not having a septic tank and for other city code violations at his business, Hale said.

When he paid the fine, he enclosed a note with his check saying "Cowards," Hale said.

"We felt he was venting his frustration that he didn't get his way," Hale said of the note. "We didn't think he was going to do something like this."

Trainor said he believes Heemeyer spent months armoring the bulldozer, and investigators were looking into whether he had help.

Hale said owners of all the buildings that were damaged had some connection to Heemeyer's disputes.

The buildings included the cement plant, a utility company, a bank, a newspaper office, a hardware store and warehouse, the home of former Mayor L.R. "Dick" Thompson and the municipal building, which also housed a library.

Crumpled patrol cars and service trucks lay in the dozer's path. A pickup was folded nearly in half and had been rammed through the wall of a building.

Gov. Bill Owens traveled Friday night to Granby, about 50 miles west of Denver and 10 miles south of Rocky Mountain National Park.

State aid will be available to help rebuild local government buildings, and state officials will help businesses seek federal help, said Mike Beasley, director of the state Department of Local Affairs.

William Hertel, owner of High Altitude Audio, said the bulldozer drove by his business at mid-afternoon, crushing aspen trees and light poles after the rampage began around 3 p.m.

"I was up on the roof when he came by. I got down and got my wife and kids out of the back of the building," Hertel said. He said he had heard numerous shots.

The scene was reminiscent of a 1998 rampage in Alma, another town in the Colorado Rockies. Authorities said Tom Leask shot a man to death, then used a town-owned front-end loader to heavily damage the town's post office, fire department, water department and town hall.

* CONCERNS: Rising waters threaten Highway 4 and a second farming island
* EVACUEES: 300 people estimated homeless, many of them illegal immigrants
* TRAIN TRAFFIC: Break disrupts freight traffic throughout region Boulder-filled barges sat idle alongside a 400-foot-wide Delta levee breach Friday evening as local, state and federal officials scrambled to secure repair money before rising floodwaters and weather could inundate a second farming island west of Stockton.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency Friday in San Joaquin County as a levee break discovered Thursday on Upper Jones Tract continued to drown 12,000 acres of farmland and 70 houses and outbuildings.

Schwarzenegger will tour the flooded area by helicopter this morning and then attend a meeting with emergency-relief coordinators, a spokeswoman from his office said Friday.

But a county-hired contractor was waiting for a federal emergency declaration -- and subsequent federal disaster money -- before launching repair work, San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris Stevens said.

"They're not going to start until there's somebody to pay the bill," Stevens said.

That sent crews racing through the night Friday to brace a south Jones Tract levee before floodwaters could top Highway 4 and reach more farmland on nearby Roberts Island.

Flooding has temporarily transformed Jones Tract into a Delta outlet, affected by the same winds and tides that define the Delta's 1,600 miles of waterways.

But the Trapper Slough levee that runs alongside a stretch of Highway 4 was never meant to withstand the millions of gallons of water now covering Jones Tract. Forecasters fear stiff, wave-forming winds and a high tide Sunday could send floodwaters over the highway, forcing more evacuations and closing an important link between Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties.

"The next 36 hours are going to be critical," said Jason Fanselau, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "It's a race against the clock, really."

A 72-member California Conservation Corps crew filled sandbags along Trapper Slough on Friday afternoon as state and federal contractors trucked in loads of dirt and boulders. Engineers hope to raise the levee by 2 to 3 feet and line it with plasticlike sheeting along a 21Ž2-mile stretch of Highway 4, a project expected to cost $2 million, Stevens said.

Any spill threatens approximately 25 people and 10 structures on Drexler Tract, an agricultural area on the northwest corner of Roberts Island. ::: Advertisement :::

"At this time, there's no evacuation order in place, but we want the people who live in the area to be alert to the fact that the next 48 hours are going to be a critical time for Trapper Slough," Stevens said.

Even as emergency workers struggled to contain the damage Friday, early cleanup-cost estimates staggered officials. Engineers predict the bill for closing the levee breach, pumping out floodwater and restoring farms and structures could run more than $17 million. Repair work could take 45 days, Stevens said.

That doesn't include Jones Tract crop losses that the county agricultural commissioner estimated at $10 million Friday.

"This has enormous human impact," said county Supervisor Steve Gutierrez, who spent much of Friday trying to find migrant workers displaced by the floods. Relief agencies reported few requests for help from residents of the sparsely populated island.

But migrant-worker advocates fear many undocumented immigrants who lived in camps are afraid to approach agencies for help or have already left the area to look for work elsewhere.

No one knows what broke the levee, which is privately maintained by a reclamation district comprised of 15 Jones Tract property owners.

"Clearly, it wasn't built of proper material, and it wasn't maintained," Fanselau said.

Richard Johnson, the reclamation district's attorney, called that charge reckless. The district spent $242,000 on levee and canal maintenance in the past fiscal year, he said.

"Our engineer drove over the levee three times the day before it broke and didn't notice anything," he said. "We're just astonished at this break."

State and federal water regulators sought to ease concerns Friday about the flood's effects on water quality. Some water samples in Delta showed an increase in salinity, a possible sign that the breach had sucked in more salty San Francisco Bay water than usual, said Jeff McCracken, a spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation.

But water quality remained at safe levels, and the federal agency has increased flows from Shasta Reservoir to pump more fresh water into the Delta, he said. The bureau is still making deliveries to its Central Valley customers but also has asked that they tap groundwater wells and conserve where possible.

The state Department of Water Resources shut down its pumps Thursday and Friday for scheduled maintenance, not flooding, spokesman Don Strickland said. The state agency continued supplying customers as far away as Southern California with water from other reservoirs.

"We are confident that we can address potential water-quality concerns with minimal effects ... as long as we're able to stabilize the situation in short order," said Curtis Creel, chief of the State Water Project's planning branch.

The Delta provides water for two out of three Californians.

The city of Tracy responded to calls to conserve by shutting off sprinklers in parks and landscaping.

Engineers hope Jones Tract floodwaters will reach the level of the Middle River early today so permanent levee-repair work can begin.

Flooding consumed a Pacific Gas and Electric substation near Jones Tract on Thursday, knocking out power to 342 customers. PG&E has rerouted power to 322 customers and plans to inspect the remaining outage sites by boat when safe, a company spokeswoman said.

Record Staff Writer Emil Guillermo contributed to this report.

The consequences of illegal immigration - The Washington Times: Editorials/OP-ED - June 05, 2004

The consequences of illegal immigration - The Washington Times: Editorials/OP-ED - June 05, 2004

Veteran police officers and emergency services workers were taken aback by the terrible carnage they found in a Northwest Baltimore apartment on May 27: The bodies of three murdered young children -- a 9-year-old boy and his sister had been partially beheaded, and a 10-year-old boy who had been decapitated. Hours after the discovery of their bodies, police arrested two men, ages 17 and 22, and charged them with killing the children. Police have been investigating the possibility that the men, who are related to the murdered children, may have killed them in retaliation for their parents' failure to repay them for helping smuggle the youngsters into the United States.
Right now, about the only thing known for certain is that the accused, the slain children and their mothers were all living in the United States illegally. There are two separate, distinct issues in this case. The first is the unspeakable nature of the murders themselves. Whoever committed these crimes deserves to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
But the second issue is one that most politicians want to avoid discussing: the fact that some illegal immigrants are dangerous criminals. There are more than 300,000 "alien absconders" in the United States today -- people illegally in the country who have been ordered deported. These include an estimated 80,000 illegal criminal aliens -- among them convicted murderers and child molesters, according to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Marylanders have not been strangers to crimes committed by illegals. Sniper Lee Malvo is an illegal immigrant. So, too, was the Peruvian who killed Baltimore County Police Sgt. Mark Parry in 2002 by crashing into his patrol car. There also is Jose Alvarado, who molested two boys in Montgomery County. He served 18 months in jail after molesting a boy and was deported to El Salvador in 1998. Then, he illegally re-entered the United States and made his way to the Rockville area, where he molested another child last year.
Unfortunately, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley and Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan -- likely candidates for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2006 -- seem to be competing with one another to see who can do more to encourage illegal immigration to the state. Both have lobbied against the Clear Law Enforcement for Criminal Alien Removal Act, or CLEAR, introduced by Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican, which would encourage better federal-state law enforcement cooperation to apprehend illegal immigrants. Mr. O'Malley is now spearheading a P.R. campaign to attract immigrants to Baltimore -- without distinguishing between legal and illegal ones. That's shameful, because the first kind of immigrant is playing by the rules, while the other is involved in breaking the law. Mr. O'Malley's failure to make such distinctions sends the wrong kind of message about Baltimore. | 06/05/2004 | 'Aunt Hsia' eases plight of young detainees | 06/05/2004 | 'Aunt Hsia' eases plight of young detainees

'Aunt Hsia' eases plight of young detainees


Martha Hsia has heard the children cry while they whispered their stories of being hunted down for belonging to an obscure religious sect, of refusing to marry an ugly older man their parents were trying to force upon them, of being beaten by a drunk dad.

She can't turn her back on these Chinese youngsters -- some as young as 12 -- who fled to the United States, even though they have no paperwork to be here.

So Hsia -- whom the kids call ''Aunt Hsia'' -- helps them the best way she knows how. She translates their stories from Mandarin to English for their attorney, who will fight for them to stay in the country.

''I just feel so sorry for these kids,'' Hsia said. ``They're all alone and frightened. They are very scared about being sent back to mainland China.''

Last month, the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center honored Hsia as an Angel of Justice for her volunteer translating for the past seven years. She first helped mostly Chinese women at Krome Detention Center and now interprets for the youngsters detained at Boystown, a children's home run by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, one of nine sites where the feds send undocumented kids.

''She's wonderful,'' said Lisa Frydman, an attorney with the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center. ``She not only interprets but tries to bridge the cultural gap.''


Once, for example, a girl talked about being persecuted for her obscure religion -- and Hsia helped Frydman understand it. The faith grew out of a Robin Hood-type legend of a monk who protected the poor and the powerless. The Chinese government considers the sect subversive and illegal.

Another time, a Chinese teenager was perplexed at Frydman's question about who owned the land her parents farmed in rural China.

''Let me restate it,'' Hsai said.

It turned out the girl didn't understand the concept of land ownership: The Chinese government controls and allots the land to families.

As a Christian, Hsia said it is important for her to help the detained children. ''That's what we were taught by Jesus -- to love our neighbor as ourselves,'' she said.


She also volunteers to help Chinese Catholics in the archdiocese's Chinese Apostolate, a cultural group set up in the 1990s to reach out to South Florida's growing number of Chinese immigrants, many of whom didn't speak English.

Hsia's own parents fled to Taiwan after the Communists took over in the late 1940s: Her father was a four-star general who worked for the exiled Chiang Kai-shek.

Hsia came to the United States in 1951 to attend the Catholic-run College of St. Teresa in Minnesota, which is now closed. While studying for a master's in social work at St. Louis University in St. Louis, Mo., she met her future husband, Sung Lan Hsia, a University of Miami School of Medicine dermatology professor who is still doing biochemistry research at age 84. They have four grown children and eight grandchildren.

Indeed, at an age when others are kicking back, Hsia has taken on more responsibilities -- from helping to host visiting Chinese Catholic priests to holding Bible studies at her Palmetto Bay home to translating for the undocumented Chinese children.

As many as five to eight of these undocumented Chinese children are being kept at Boystown while the federal government decides what to do with them, Hsia said.


She said most of them fled China because of religious persecution, economic hardship or to avoid a forced marriage arranged by their families. Some relatives help the girls escape from marrying much older men -- including one mother who got her daughter out.

Other times, the kids are fleeing domestic violence in poor rural homes.

''Sometimes the dads come home drunk -- and beat the children,'' Hsia said. ``Sometimes the mother gets drunk, too. The kids cannot survive. They run away.''

Some have help in buying a boat or plane ticket. A few end up in the unlikely place of Miami -- since, Hsia said, most who arrive in the United States are trying to get to relatives in New York.

But, regardless of where they come in, the government sends undocumented children to Boystown or to one of the other nine facilities around the country that are approved to hold the children pending their release to family members or sponsors or their return to the country they came from.

Attorney Frydman is grateful that Hsia is here in South Florida to translate -- frequently by phone.

The children are just as grateful. Some keep in touch with ''Aunt Hsia,'' even after their release.

At a recent visit to Boystown, two Chinese girls enveloped the tiny Hsia in bear hugs.

Said a beaming Hsia: ``They're lovely kids -- very, very sweet.'' - Wal-Mart altering its bonus and pay plans - Wal-Mart altering its bonus and pay plans

Wal-Mart altering its bonus and pay plans
Some of chain's workers to get raises this month; Labor practices under fire

Bloomberg News

June 5, 2004

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Chief Executive Officer H. Lee Scott, facing increasing pressure to improve labor practices, said yesterday that some employees will receive pay raises this month and company officers' bonuses will be tied to diversity goals.
"Wal-Mart's taking great steps to move forward in this area," Scott told about 18,000 shareholders and employees at the retailer's annual meeting.

Wal-Mart's attention to costs - the company charges workers 35 cents for coffee at its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters - has helped make the chain the world's largest retailer and a favorite among budget-conscious shoppers. Higher wages and benefits may jeopardize the low-cost advantage Wal-Mart has used to help push some discounters such as Ames Department Stores Inc. and Bradlees Inc. into bankruptcy.

"You put all these pieces together in the mosaic and wonder, where does it all lead?" said David Ritt, an analyst at ASB Capital Management in Washington, which has 1.81 million Wal-Mart shares among $6.73 billion in assets.

Shares of Wal-Mart rose a penny yesterday to $56.59 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock has risen 6.7 percent this year, compared with a gain of less than 1 percent by the Standard & Poor's 500 index.

More than 30 lawsuits allege that the world's largest retailer forces employees to work on their own time without pay. Labor unions, which have led the opposition to store openings in such cities as Chicago and Inglewood, Calif., allege that Wal-Mart pays workers less than local prevailing wages. Federal authorities are investigating charges that some stores hired janitorial services that used undocumented immigrants.

Wal-Mart disputes the allegations of unfair labor practices. The company's policy is to pay employees for every minute worked and not to tolerate any form of discrimination, spokesman Gus Whitcomb said. Incidents where employees' claims have been validated represent exceptions and aren't as widespread as critics suggest, Whitcomb said.

"When your absolute standard is to deliver the lowest price to the consumer, you sacrifice other things such as labor practices," said Adam Kanzer, director of shareholder advocacy at Domini Social Investments LLC, which sold its Wal-Mart shares in 2001 because of concerns about the company's efforts to monitor and improve working conditions at overseas suppliers.

No workers will be paid less under the new compensation system, Scott, 55, told his audience at the University of Arkansas' Bud Walton arena, which is named after the late co-founder of the company.

Officers' bonuses may be cut by as much as 7.5 percent this year and 15 percent next year if some diversity goals are not reached, Scott said. The company, the largest private U.S. employer with 1.3 million workers, said no position will have a pay cap.

There will be seven job classes, and wages will reflect the market, said Charlyn Jarrells Porter, the senior vice president who heads the company's diversity office. Wal-Mart said the new system will raise compensation costs by an undisclosed amount.

Under the compensation system, workers may receive increases ranging from 8 cents to $3 an hour in June, according to unidentified employees and labor leaders, Business Week said in a preview of its June 14 issue.

Raises would be given based on a flat rate, not a percentage of salary, which may hurt long-term employees, Business Week reported.

The average Wal-Mart worker is paid $9.64 an hour, in addition to contributions to 401(k) and profit-sharing plans, Whitcomb said. About 75 percent of the company's employees work full time, or at least 36 hours a week, he said.

The diversity goals include the promotions of qualified minority and female candidates, Wal-Mart said. The company is testing scheduling software that takes into account individual states' work-hour requirements, as well as cash registers that will automatically shut down if cashiers do not acknowledge that it is time for their meal break.

The company has a new compliance team in place to make sure all Wal-Mart projects meet local requirements, Scott said.

Wal-Mart has more than 5,400 stores, with more than 3,570 in the United States and 1,900 abroad.

Local News - The Idaho Statesman - PAC Formed to Counter Commissioner who sent invoice to Mexican Consulate

Local News - The Idaho Statesman - Always Idaho

Some Canyon County residents have formed Action Against Hate — a bi-partisan political action committee to combat what it characterizes as distortions and hate messages regarding undocumented immigrants.

The group believes that immigration policy needs reform, but not at the expense of creating fear and dehumanizing people.

Committee members were among the 200-plus signers of an open letter printed May 2 in the Idaho Press Tribune. The letter opposed what it described as Commissioner Robert Vasquez's anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican public statements.

"They simply drain away tax dollars, lower the wages of the hard-working Americans, bring disease and crime, and create a threat to our national security," Vasquez said in an April press release.

"His hateful messages attack human dignity," said Corrine Tafoya-Fisher, a Nampan who is helping organize Action Against Hate with local businessman Ray Veloz.

Vasquez said Friday night the new group won't influence his actions or statements.

"I'm not intimidated by them," he said. "They may run me out of office, but I'm not going to give up my freedom of speech or my right to defend my country or my constituents.

"It's important to have the opposing view presented, even if you have to pay for it," he said.

Tafoya-Fisher said Vasquez has incited fear and stereotypes regarding the immigrant population through his presentations to the media and in public forums, Tafoya-Fisher said.

She said organizers and residents were pushed to their limit when Vasquez sent the Mexican government a $2 million bill for detention and welfare services that the county spent on immigrants.

"Not only President George Bush but also Idaho Sen. Larry Craig have proposed federal action to address the issue of undocumented workers," said Humberto Fuentes, vice chair of the National Farmworker Justice Fund and a supporter of Action Against Hate. "The value of Mexican immigrants to the American workforce is reflected in the current proposals that would provide work visas."

He said the National Farmworker Justice Fund supports federal action to resolve problems of illegal immigration.

Vasquez said those pushing for legislation to help undocumented workers haven't had someone question their motives and methods as he has. In defense, they charge those who question them with racism, he said.

Action Against Hate will become an official political action committee this week, and the group is meeting this morning, Tafoya-Fisher said.

The group needs to be ready to respond to future public comments by Vasquez, she said. > News > Mexico -- 2 more leaders of cartel arrested > News > Mexico -- 2 more leaders of cartel arrested

Detentions 'further gut' Arellano Félix drug group
By Sandra Dibble
June 5, 2004

One was one of the most powerful remaining members of the Arellano Félix drug cartel, in charge of moving loads of cocaine and marijuana across the border, U.S. officials say. And the other, they say, was his chief lieutenant.

The arrests of Efrain Pérez Pazuengo, "El Efra," and Jorge Aureliano Félix, "El Macumba," in Tijuana on Thursday "further guts their organization," John Fernandes, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego, said yesterday. "The significance is the continued erosion of Arellano Félix."

Fernandes confirmed their detentions, already widely reported in Mexico, even though the Mexican Federal Attorney General's Office still had made no formal announcement late yesterday.

The arrests are the latest blows to the violent Arellano Félix drug organization, which has long controlled the flow of drugs through Tijuana but has taken hits in recent years. In February 2002, its top enforcer, Ramón Arellano, was killed by police in Sinaloa, and a month later, Benjamin Arellano, said to be the cartel's chief executive, was captured in Puebla.

Pérez and Aureliano Félix face numerous charges in San Diego federal court, including conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana and money laundering. An indictment unsealed last July lists the two Mexican citizens along with nine others as key members of the organization who negotiated with Colombian traffickers to bring cocaine into Mexico, then smuggled it into the United States.

Also named in the indictment are Benjamin Arellano and two surviving brothers, Javier and Eduardo Arellano. Benjamin Arellano is behind bars in Mexico, but the two brothers remain at large. The U.S. State Department has offered up to $5 million for information leading to their arrests.

Pérez and Aureliano Félix are among seven suspects – including the brothers Javier and Eduardo Arellano – whose photographs appear on a wanted poster hung on the northbound car crossing lanes at the San Ysidro border. The U.S. government offered up to $2 million apiece for information leading to the capture of Pérez and Aureliano Félix.

The Mexico City newspaper Reforma reported yesterday that Aureliano Félix was wanted on drug trafficking charges in Mexico. John Kirby, one of two lead federal prosecutors on the U.S. case, said it is likely both suspects face charges in Mexico, but his office had not received any official confirmation.

If so, they would first be tried in Mexico before being brought to the United States. Under an addendum to the U.S.-Mexico extradition treaty, they could be tried in Mexico, then taken to the United States for trial. If convicted in both countries, they would serve their sentences consecutively, first in Mexico, then the United States.

Fernandes and Kirby said the arrests stem from coordination among law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border.

"It shows that Mexico is serious about capturing these people," Kirby said. "It is also going to make it very difficult for the Arellano Félix organization to continue to dominate Tijuana."

The Salt Lake Tribune -- Judge rules immigrant inmate can be barred from drug-treatment program

The Salt Lake Tribune -- Judge rules immigrant inmate can be barred from drug-treatment program

As an undocumented immigrant who sneaked into the United States at least four times, Antonio Hernandez-Ibarra is ineligible for a prison drug-treatment program that could shave a year off his time behind bars.
So the Mexican national, claiming the federal prison policy discriminates against noncitizens, asked a judge for a break.
But U.S. District Judge Dee Benson, who imposed a 46-month sentence on Hernandez-Ibarra in February for re-entry of a deported alien and ordered him deported at the completion of the term, said Thursday that the policy barring the inmate from the treatment program -- as well as regulations against placing him in a minimum-security prison or being released to a community correction center -- are valid.
Hernandez-Ibarra, 30, has several felony drug offenses and four illegal entries on his record. He is serving his sentence in the California City Correctional Center.
-- Pamela Manson

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: AP - Latin America/Caribbean: Woman deported to Venezuela finds support

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: AP - Latin America/Caribbean: Woman deported to Venezuela finds support


Saturday, June 5, 2004 · Last updated 3:30 a.m. PT

Woman deported to Venezuela finds support


VALENCIA, Venezuela -- Two months after she was deported from the United States, Amina Silmi can't stop thinking about her three young children and wondering whether she will ever see them again.

Rather than take the American-born children with her into a life of almost certain poverty in Venezuela, a place they have never been, Silmi chose to leave them in the care of her sister in Ohio.

"Each day I get more desperate," Silmi said in an interview with The Associated Press at her lawyer's office.

"I go to sleep thinking of my kids and I wake up thinking of them," she said, dissolving into tears.

U.S. immigration officials say Simli's deportation was justified because she had long been an illegal resident. But the case outraged the Muslim community in Cleveland, the city she considers her home.

Now Venezuelans are also taking up her cause, agreeing with her that an inflexible application of immigration laws broke up a family.

A local attorney has donated time to her case. Strangers have given her a place to stay in this drab industrial city. And the Roman Catholic archbishop of Valencia is lobbying the U.S. government to reconsider.

All this in a country she hasn't called home for years.

Silmi, 35, was born in Venezuela to Palestinian immigrants but has spent the last 14 years in the United States.

She moved to New York with her family in 1990 on a temporary visitor's visa. She married a legal immigrant, but the marriage lasted less than a year.

She soon married again, this time to another legal immigrant she met while visiting her sister in Cleveland. In 2000, she learned her husband had two felony convictions. He was deported in December to the West Bank, and she was ordered to surrender.

Silmi is barred from returning to the United States for 10 years for failing to obey a 2001 order to leave. She arrived here March 31 - knowing no one - and spent her first night in a park.

Ohio supporters wrote a flurry of letters to U.S. immigration officials. And Silmi has found new supporters in Venezuela.

Luis Eduardo Gallo, a Valencia attorney, is helping her apply for humanitarian parole, a benefit granted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under circumstances of extreme hardship.

Gallo believes Silmi qualifies because her youngest child is autistic and can't get adequate care in Venezuela. He also argues it's unfair to force three American children to choose between their mother and their country.

Valencia's Roman Catholic archbishop, Monsignor Jorge Urosa Savino, has also met with Silmi and is pressing the U.S. Embassy in Caracas on her behalf.

"We understand there were legal reasons to deport her, but we are appealing to the humanitarian aspect," said Jeanette Marquez, director of Venezuela's chapter of the Catholic charity Caritas. "Bringing her children here would only mean making them endure hunger."

In Washington, Homeland Security spokesman Bill Strassberger would not comment on Silmi's chances of obtaining humanitarian parole.

"It's unfortunate," Strassberger said. "We see this sort of thing every day where people who stay in violation of the law ... ultimately have to face the consequences of a decision they made, whether it was one year or 12 years previously."

Karen Meade, Silmi's attorney in Ohio, acknowledged it's a long shot. "But it's all she's got going for her right now," Meade said.

Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich introduced a bill to grant Silmi legal residency - a last-ditch effort to delay her deportation that has virtually no chance of approval in the Republic-dominated Congress.

In Venezuela, Silmi is at the mercy of the kindness of strangers. She has no relatives in a country she hasn't seen in more than a decade. After searching for several days, she found a family whose oldest son once knew her deceased brother.

They offered her shelter in Valencia, where Silmi spends her days helping with the cooking and cleaning.

Motherhood has been reduced to a couple of phone calls each week to the Cleveland suburb where her sister is raising her children: Haiat Awad, 12; Fida Salti, 6; and Belal Salti, 5.

Jamila Jabr, a day care worker, also has four children of her own.

"These kids are American. They are accustomed to their language, and they are used to their lives here," Jabr said. "I don't want to send them to Venezuela so they'll be more confused. I can't."

Friday, June 04, 2004

NCM > 'Anti-Sanctuary' Vote Defeated in U.S. Congress

NCM > 'Anti-Sanctuary' Vote Defeated in U.S. Congress

'Anti-Sanctuary' Vote Defeated in U.S. Congress
El Norte Digest

NCM, News Digest,
Compiled and edited by Marcelo Ballve, Jul 24, 2003

Traducción al español.

'Anti-Sanctuary' Vote Defeated in U.S. Congress

Democrats said they defeated a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would have cut off federal funds for law enforcement agencies in so-called sanctuary cities, which bar police from reporting undocumented immigrants to federal authorities.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado known for his efforts to put curbs on immigration, introduced a bill July 22 that would have prevented any U.S. Justice Department funds from going to Houston, San Francisco, and other cities that have sanctuary policies.

Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat and Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said, "Once again in the dark of night, Mr. Tancredo and his Republican allies attempted to tack on yet another amendment that attempts to legislate an anti-immigrant agenda."

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the 302-122 vote that defeated the amendment showed many Republicans do not really back a pro-Hispanic program.

Tancredo was also defeated recently in an effort to cut off U.S. Department of Homeland Security funds for cities with sanctuary policies, which he argues clash with federal immigration laws. In a speech on the House floor July 16, speaking about that vote, Tancredo said: "We could not even get a majority of the people in this body to agree that the laws that we have already passed in the United States should be enforced. Amazing."

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was reconsidering his recent order scrapping the city's longstanding "don't tell" sanctuary policy.

A Bracero Monument Contemplated in San Jose

The braceros, Mexican guest workers who labored on U.S. farms and laying down railroad tracks beginning in the World War II years, want a monument in San Jose that recognizes their contributions, reports El Observador, a San Jose-based bilingual weekly.

The braceros have been in the news lately because of their legal struggle to regain funds they say are owed to them by the federal government. In the 1940s through the 1960s, when the bracero program was operating, the U.S. government was supposed to pay a certain amount of a workers' salary once they returned to Mexico. Many braceros say they never received that money.

Meanwhile, braceros have been able to persuade California city governments, such as Fresno and Stockton, to build monuments in their honor, according to the July 17 story in El Observador by reporter Margarita Perez. The ex-braceros living in San Jose now want the same treatment.

The ex-braceros, many of whom worked around San Jose in the bracero years and now live there as U.S. citizens, presented a letter requesting the monument to San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales, who last year recognized Sept. 29 as International Bracero Day. The braceros hope that this year, a monument can be erected in time for that date. Pedro Cantor, an ex-bracero, was quoted as saying, "At the time (of the bracero program), this country was fighting fascism and with our manual labor we harvested the crops and laid down the rail lines that kept this country fed."

Salvadoran Elections Focus on Migrant Issues

With 1 million Salvadorans estimated to be living in the United States, the politicians seeking to be the country's next president in March 2004 elections can hardly afford to ignore the issues of U.S. Salvadorans, although Salvadorans cannot vote from overseas.

Oscar Ortíz, who wants to be the presidential candidate of the leftist FMLN party, told Los Angeles-based weekly El Salvador Día a Día that if elected he would create a Cabinet-level department to deal with the affairs of U.S.-based Salvadorans.

Ortiz, currently the mayor of Santa Tecla, also told the Spanish-language weekly that he would push for Salvadorans to be able to vote from overseas.

Ortiz's FMLN recently triumphed in local and legislative elections in the country of 6.4 million people. The governing ARENA party, which is conservative, is on the defensive after leading the nation through a rapid program of privatization that was supported by the United States, but has not been able to create enough jobs.

The newspaper asked Ortíz what he would do to prevent the exodus of Salvadorans overseas: "We need a government that is capable of attacking poverty, that is able to govern for a majority of Salvadorans so that we can instill optimism and hope and say that this country is theirs, and that they can invest in it."