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Saturday, July 24, 2004

Congressman rips Bush's immigration policy

Congressman rips Bush's immigration policy
A Congressman from Chicago says the White House is more interested in persecuting Hispanic citizens in U.S. neighborhoods than in defending borders.

Rather than protecting our borders, this administration has decided to protect us from Windex-wielding cleaning ladies taking their children to school, or shopping for their families, hundreds of miles away from the border and deep in Latino communities, said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., chairman of the Democratic Caucus Immigration Task Force.

Delivering this week's Democratic Hispanic radio address, Gutierrez cast President Bush as more interested in a virtual ethnic cleansing of Hispanic neighborhoods than in legitimate border control.

The president has allowed anti-immigrant extremists to take control of his party's immigration agenda and to promote mean-spirited, misguided, and malicious anti-immigrant policies, Gutierrez said.

He also blasted as extreme factions House Republicans who oppose giving undocumented farm workers legal residency.

Said Gutierrez: We deserve better. Because America, as it has for generation after generation, depends on our hard-working immigrants, and America deserves an immigration policy as dependable as they are.

KRT Wire | 03/29/2004 | Cap on Immigrant Workers to Impact Many Hampton, Va.-Area Businesses

KRT Wire | 03/29/2004 | Cap on Immigrant Workers to Impact Many Hampton, Va.-Area Businesses

Daily Press, Newport News, Va. Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News


Mar. 27--HAMPTON, Va. - All winter, John Graham has been drumming up business for those interested in buying crabs from him when the crab season begins April 1. Graham landed huge accounts with restaurants and groceries for his crab-processing business, Graham & Rollins in downtown Hampton.

With all the new business, Graham -- who normally employs about 80 immigrant workers to pick crabs -- said he was poised for one of the best years ever, until recently.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced last week that it was imposing the 66,000-visa cap on H-2B workers, set by Congress in 1990, and that the H-2B program was shut down because the cap had been reached.

The H-2B visa program is used by a range of industries that need unskilled laborers to shuck oysters, pick crabs, split quarry rocks, staff ski resorts, work landscaping and perform various jobs at construction sites.

For the first time, new applications for immigrant workers have been cut off, leaving numerous employers like Graham scrambling for help.

Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that oversees visa applications, is this year now part of the Department of Homeland Security. The suspension of the H-2B program until October, when the new federal fiscal year begins, has hit many local employers hard.

Christopher Lemonds of Christopher's Lawn Service in Newport News said he's received word that his Mexican crews weren't coming this year. Lemonds began using H-2B workers in 2002.

This year, Lemonds was expecting four Mexicans from Sinaloa to arrive at the end of March. Those workers will not be coming.

"I've already gone ahead and hired domestic workers for this season, but I'm having to pay those workers $8 to $10 an hour, as opposed to what I had been paying -- around $7 an hour," Lemonds said. "This year, I'm going to be operating at a loss."

Although many industries have been hit hard by the decision to impose the cap, Libby Whitley -- president of Mid-Atlantic Solution in Lovingston and an H-2B visa program

agent who matches workers with employers -- said Virginia's seafood industry would be hit the hardest.

"This will shut down the entire industry," Whitley said. "Without these seasonal manual, unskilled workers, you can't run the business. It's the seasonal labor that permits and supports others to be employed in the same industry.

"Take crabbers, for example: Why go catch crabs if there's no one to pick them? And if you can't pick them, you don't need to buy containers for crab meat or have anyone to deliver the crab product," she explained.

As a result of the huge economic effect that the cap will have on certain industries, Whitley said, she's formed an H-2B Employers Council of H-2B employers, industry groups and program agents who represent about 25,000 annual placements.

If Congress hasn't "fixed" the problem with the cap by Easter, Whitley said, the group plans to get an emergency injunction and go before a federal judge.

"They are counting the number of H-2B visa petitions (the number of workers requested by employers) and not the number of workers who actually come to work for that employer," Whitley said. "An employer may petition for 100 workers, but maybe only 75 of those workers come. They are counting the full 100 workers that were petitioned for."

Debra Dowd, an immigration attorney for Kaufman & Canoles in Richmond, said Whitley could have a good chance proving that the count was incorrect.

"There's not a whole lot that can be done about the cap," Dowd said. "The cap is the cap, and it's been there all along. But she may have something by getting the count looked at."

Whitley said all the petitions made by March 1 in her company made it through the cap.

"It was the ones still being processed in late March -- those in food processing, seafood and hospitality -- that didn't make it and were shut out."

Meanwhile, Graham has no pickers ready to work in his crab-processing plant.

"If I could get my Mexicans here, I'd be on cloud nine," Graham said.

Friday, July 23, 2004

The Globe and Mail NAFTA takes it on the road

The Globe and Mail
NAFTA takes it on the road

With job losses rampant, this year's U.S. election may end up repeating Canada's 1988 experience and turning on the issue of free trade. But before they map out their positions, politicians would be wise to follow DOUG SAUNDERS down the route of the I-69, the controversial 'NAFTA superhighway' being built from Canada to Mexico, where feelings run high -- in every direction

By DOUG SAUNDERS
Saturday, February 21, 2004 - Page F4

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BLOOMINGTON, IND. -- As your car follows the grey strip of asphalt out of Canada, across the St. Clair River, through the factories of Michigan and into the industrial wastelands of Indiana, you begin to hear a different sort of conversation in the truck stops and burger joints along the road.

Before you can follow this highway's future path into the Mississippi bayous and the Texas scrub and then deep into Mexico, it becomes overwhelming: Here in the industrial zones and campus towns of the central United States, all anyone wants to talk about is the 10-year-old trade agreement that has given this highway its name and destination.

"It's just the final insult that they're calling this thing the 'NAFTA superhighway,' " says Dave Spano, a young Indiana-based truck driver who is hauling car parts to Michigan and taking a break to gas up at a truck stop here on the edge of Bloomington, Ind.

"The people here lost all these jobs to Mexico, thousands and thousands of jobs, and now they want to spend billions of dollars of our money building a road to make it easier to send things down to Mexico?" He shakes his head and returns to his hot turkey sub.

The idea of tying three nations together with a thick ribbon of asphalt, linking Quebec City to Monterrey, Mexico, in a continuous high-speed truck route, was born 15 years ago when planners began to anticipate the doubling of Canadian-U.S. trade and the quadrupling of Mexican-U.S. trade that the North American free trade agreement would bring about.

When the construction of the final stretch -- from Indianapolis to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico -- begins as early as this year, it will meet fierce resistance here in the Midwest. But it will be heralded in other communities for its promise of trade-driven growth, or at the very least a flood of low-wage service and manufacturing jobs in places where there were no jobs at all.

Up and down the string of highways and county roads that will be collectively known as Interstate 69 once the zoning battles have been won and the tens of billions of dollars have been spent and the six lanes of asphalt have been carved through the fields, NAFTA and its namesake highway have become household words, dominating front pages and stump speeches.

The upcoming presidential vote is very likely to become the NAFTA election, a 2004 American counterpart to Canada's 1988 "free trade" election. Here in the rust belt, Democratic candidate John Edwards has won strong support for promising to cancel the deal outright.

"He wouldn't need any ads," Democratic strategist Greg Hass said of Mr. Edwards, "just saying the word NAFTA is like raising a red cape in the face of a bull."

John Kerry, the front-runner, has promised to renegotiate the deal if he becomes president (though he voted for it as a senator). And even George W. Bush has started making protectionist noises in speeches.

The highway has become an emblem of the trade deal itself. As the road passes from Ontario snowdrifts to Midwest cornfields to the swamps and scrublands of the South, you find yourself hearing the entire decade-long debate played out, a thick volume of rhetoric and wrangling stretched across the geography.

Back in 1994, when NAFTA came into effect, most U.S. residents paid it little attention. It already had been the subject of a great debate in a hard-fought federal election in Canada years earlier, and the object of passionate hopes and fears in Mexico. But a poll at the time showed that 49 per cent of Americans had never even heard of it.

Ten years later, the world has changed dramatically. At the north end of the NAFTA highway, Canadians have largely made peace with the trade agreement. It has brought an era of export-driven economic prosperity, benefiting many regions and sectors of the economy, albeit with an even mix of very good information-economy jobs and so-so service-sector jobs.

At the south end, Mexicans aren't as pleased. The deal has quadrupled exports and raised wages in manufacturing, badly hurt many parts of the agricultural sector by flooding markets with government-subsidized U.S. crops, and left Mexicans, on average, only slightly better off than before.

In both places, most people seem to agree with the conclusion reached in a major study released last month by the Carnegie Endowment: "Put simply, NAFTA has been neither the disaster its opponents predicted nor the saviour hailed by its supporters."

But in the United States, it often seems as if half the population has woken screaming from a 10-year nap. Here in the middle of America, NAFTA has become the hottest word in the political vocabulary. This year's election will be won or lost in these politically crucial and deeply undecided states in America's industrial middle.

Yet once you've driven a few more miles down this road, it becomes clear that the politics of trade are as complex and layered as a highway interchange -- a lesson that politicians who take a simple stance on NAFTA will learn the hard way. The road is not as straight as it seems.

If you want to find out why NAFTA has suddenly leaped onto the political menu here, it's worth following the highway's path into the industrial west end of Bloomington. For decades, this city of 60,000 has been known for the stark town-and-gown division between the comfortable lawns of its state university campus to the east and the trailer homes and tiny wood-shingled bungalows of its sprawling industrial district to the west. The past five years, though, have nearly wiped out the blue-collar side.

On this grey and slushy afternoon, at a dreary strip mall on the wrong side of the tracks, a short, muscular man with a salt-and-pepper mustache is having a coffee after finishing his shift at the General Electric refrigerator factory. He is, by his own account and according to Washington's top political operatives, exactly the sort of American who could decide this year's presidential election.

Jackie Yenna has worked in this factory for 34 of his 51 years. When he left the army in 1974, it only seemed natural that Mr. Yenna would return to a job in the factory. It employed 3,000 people, including his mother, at decent union wages. Not far away, the RCA television plant had 8,000 employees, and a dozen other manufacturing plants made this a boom town.

"When you went to work at the plant then, you knew you'd be making enough of an income to raise your family and have a mortgage, and there was enough job security that you knew you'd have it until retirement," he recalls.

The plant workers shifted their political loyalties over the years: Many of them were the "Reagan Democrats," working-class men who shifted to the Republican Party in the early 1980s. But the George W. Bush years have left them scarred, insecure and politically undecided.

The closings began about five years ago. The GE plant was among the first hit, cutting 1,400 jobs as it moved its operations to other countries, most notably Mexico. Then the RCA factory moved to Mexico, eliminating its last 1,100 jobs in 1998. The ABB electrical-parts plant moved out of town, idling 1,000. And last year, Otis Elevator cut its work force from 1,100 to around 500, transferring most work to its new plant in Nogales, Mexico.

Mr. Yenna kept was one of the lucky few to keep their jobs. He and his fellow survivors spend their days nervously awaiting the next bad news, counting the years to retirement and settling for mediocre pay raises, since the threat of shutdown always hangs over contract negotiations.

Before the layoffs hit, Mr. Yenna and most of his friends hadn't given a moment's thought to international trade. That changed quickly.

"It hit me real hard," he says in a nonchalant southern-Indiana twang. "I had a guy from the company come up to me, he said, 'Come outside,' and we were all supposed to go into these temporary trailers they had out there, one at a time. Most of us were told we'd be getting a severance. A friend of mine came out of the trailer and he said to me, 'I warned you about NAFTA, I told you it was going to hit us.' And I hadn't thought about it before then. Before NAFTA, you really didn't think about losing your job to Mexico."

Across the central United States, the story has been the same: For the past five years, manufacturing industries have closed and moved their operations to lower-wage nations, with an estimated three million jobs lost since 1999. While a range of economic factors is involved, workers in these states almost unanimously blame NAFTA -- a conclusion that is hard to avoid in a place like this, where Mexico has been the destination for so many of the jobs.

And now they're building a six-lane highway to Mexico through the centre of town. The town has risen against it -- city councillors have run for office and won multiple terms on anti-highway platforms.

Jackie Yenna is indifferent, saying the NAFTA superhighway won't make much difference. But many of his friends are taking it personally. "You talk to the guys at Otis Elevator, and they see the highway as the final blow. Their jobs went down south, and now they have to line up to get jobs helping build a road that'll make it easier to move things to Mexico."

Stories like this are the meat of the Democratic Party's electoral hopes. The angry and hollowed-out American Midwest, packed with unemployed and disillusioned voters eager to vent their disappointment with the Republicans, has become a central part of the political mythology.

Yet things are not quite so stark. Bloomington has not turned into a squalid ghost town of soup lines and unemployment benefits. Mr. Yenna says most of the guys who were laid off in his factory have taken advantage of training to find work in cleaner, better-paying industries, or they have started their own businesses. The unemployment rate in Bloomington is under 3.5 per cent, about as low as it can get, and the main question is whether you have a good full-time job or a bad one. While some rust-belt towns and cities have been hit harder, a lot more are like Bloomington: Changed in dramatic and permanent ways, but not all for the worse.

The NAFTA superhighway's route passes through Memphis, and then enters the cotton fields and swamplands of northern Mississippi's Delta region, one of the very poorest places in the United States. Down here, you start hearing a very different story about NAFTA, one that does not appear on Washington's political radar.

Shortly before it crosses the Mississippi River's winding course, the highway wends by the most sung-about crossroads in the world, the one at Clarksdale where Robert Johnson made a deal with the devil and got himself the blues. These days, people in the Delta are hoping for a different sort of deal, one that will bring much more than just blues singers and musical tourists.

Nobody here worries about the NAFTA highway taking jobs away. Jobs are scarce enough already. The region is desperate for any employment at all.

In the Midwest, the prospect of a burger-grilling job at a roadside fast-food complex sounds like a deep and wounding insult to someone who's spent his life working in a factory for $20 an hour. In the Delta, it's a real opportunity.

This region's deep poverty, health and sanitation crises, lack of education and rotting infrastructure have led many observers to liken it to a developing nation. And that's exactly the point being made by officials here when they welcome NAFTA's road: Mexico's low-wage border manufacturing districts aren't a threat, but a model.

"It'll mean a lot for our county, giving long-range benefits to our residents here and future opportunities for job growth," says Scott Luth, the young man who runs the economic development office for Cleveland-Bolivar County. He and other regional officials boast of the six million square feet of vacant industrial space in the Delta -- and the thousands of dirt-poor workers eager to fill it.

"The biggest thing we have to offer is our availability of labour. The labour in the region, it's not mobile. We have around 2,000 folks unemployed in this county and our wages here are lower than most other places in the United States."

Those low wages, the lack of business taxes and Mississippi's anti-union laws could make the Delta a competitor for companies that want to be cheap and flexible but aren't quite up to moving south of the border, perhaps because of the increasing political stigma of such a move. All they need is a decent highway.

This part of Mississippi isn't yet calling itself "Mexico North," but that is the implication: We want what the guys in Nuevo Laredo have got. We want to be the end of the road.

But Mexico isn't quite what you would expect, either. The stretch of ramshackle cities that hug the Texas border are famously known as maquiladoras, low-wage manufacturing centres created in the 1980s as a tax-free, regulation-proof stateless netherworld that has attracted thousands of poor Mexicans seeking any steady work, even in terrible conditions, even for $2 an hour with no benefits.

The NAFTA superhighway reaches its end in Nuevo Laredo, a muddy enclave of high-security industrial parks and cinder-block housing across the border from the South Texas town of Laredo. Here you will find a Sony DVD factory, a Caterpillar engine-parts plant, and dozens of other small and medium-sized manufacturing plants.

You would think that NAFTA would be a kind word in this place, at least. It is one of the more successful towns in one of the three northern Mexican provinces that have experienced wage growth and increased employment from NAFTA (the rest of the country has seen little measurable benefit). A million new jobs have been created in this region since 1994, at average wages 37 per cent higher than those in Mexican domestic industries.

But the past few years have not been good for these border towns. The blue-collar residents of Bloomington may peer angrily down at Mexico, but many Mexicans are now finding themselves in much the same position as Bloomington's layoff-plagued workers.

As poor as the workers here seem, the maquiladoras are actually losing jobs because their wages are too high. NAFTA has put them in competition with the rest of Mexico, and globalization has put them in competition with the rest of the world. Since 2001, more than 240,000 jobs have been lost to Mexican towns deeper in the heartland, where people will work even cheaper, or to China and southeast Asia, where workers can be found for a couple dollars a day. In Nuevo Laredo, a third of the jobs have disappeared, turning it into Mexico's own rust belt.

"Mexico is becoming less competitive in the world," Jeffrey Davidow, the former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, said at a recent panel discussion. "Mexico's advantage in the world has gone to China. Mexico should focus on India as a competitor, not China." He was referring to India's recent growth, driven by a highly educated work force and high-technology industries that provide a step beyond mere assembly.

This may be a goal for Mexico's government, but it's not about to happen in these northern factory towns, where manufacturing jobs offer nothing but money. Universities, training programs and incentives to move workers above the bottom rung do not exist here. At the end of the long road, the Mexican border is proving to be not so much a source of fear as a subject of pity.

And this is where our road comes full circle. The question that Mexico is now beginning to ask itself -- how to move beyond the prison of assembly-line labour -- has already been most thoroughly answered, it turns out, by the people of Bloomington. The Indiana residents may not know it yet, but they have followed the path of their Canadian neighbours, out of industrial labour and into a service economy.

It becomes apparent as you cross the tracks. A decade ago, Bloomington's largest employers were General Electric and RCA. Today, they are the state university, followed by a major hospital and then a large number of new high-technology industries, most of them in biomedical and computer-related fields, that have made Bloomington's east side a boom town.

This, it turns out, is the main reason why the town is so upset about the NAFTA superhighway. While a few of the industrial workers may be upset about the danger of more jobs disappearing to Mexico, most of the opponents say the biggest threat is the prospect of more heavy industry, not less. They see that economy as a thing of the past.

"Bloomington's economic advantage -- our competitive edge, our attractiveness for investment -- is all the things the interstate degrades," says Andy Ruff, a city councillor who has won two terms of office with a single-issue, anti-highway campaign.

"Bloomington offers a cultural, educated, natural environment that attracts the sort of companies that want to do work in the knowledge-based economy. You put an interstate through here, and you're just going to homogenize it. Those trucks are based on an economy that we put behind us."

Mr. Ruff lives in a pleasant two-storey house in a heavily treed neighbourhood with access to parks, restaurants and organic supermarkets. It is the sort of area that has attracted employers such as XJD, which makes mouse pads and other computer peripherals; Cooke Inc., which makes medical devices such as catheters; and a number of fledgling software firms.

People on this side of town believe that tying the region to the heavy-industry NAFTA corridor would actually drive those businesses away. It has become a zero-sum equation: Either you go for the knowledge-based, elite companies whose plants look like quiet campuses, or you go for the ugly, grey low-wage industries that park themselves along freeway interchanges. It's one or the other.

"The highway is going to destroy the character of the place," says Steve Higgs, the editor of the local weekly paper and a teacher at the university, "and drive away the kind of business we should be attracting. The future of Bloomington is not in factories and heavy industry and highways. It's not that kind of place any more."

It is, in truth, a place much like the areas of Ontario perched at the top of the road. There, the old blue-collar jobs of the chemical and auto industries are still holding on, but they're no longer the driving force. In much of Canada, the growth is in the service industries -- an equal mix of really good jobs, requiring education and skill and offering better pay than the old blue-collar work; and bad but plentiful jobs, requiring little skill and offering little stimulation, providing rudimentary salaries and little security.

The new economy, with or without NAFTA, has taken us down a strange and winding road, where Mississippi wants to be Mexico, Mexico is turning into Indiana and Indiana is trying to look away from Mexico and be more like Canada. Meanwhile, Canada, its passion for trade debates long spent, is struggling to stay aloft at the top of the highway.

Doug Saunders writes on foreign affairs for The Globe and Mail.

Mexico: The next drug superpower

Mexico: The next drug superpower

November 16, 1996

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Mexico: The next drug superpower
By Ray Sanchez / Newsday
TIJUANA, Mexico -- The twostory peach house sits shrouded in silence on a suburban street near the world's busiest border crossing. From its hollowed walls and hidden compartments carved out of hard ground, cocaine was dispatched by Mexico's deadliest cartel through its vast pipeline to feed America's voracious appetite for narcotics.
Dolores Martinez stands in front of the stucco house and marvels at the changes that one month can bring. Inside, an unopened box of cereal lies on a kitchen counter and an abandoned 6-month-old mutt trapped behind the home's gated wall howls in loneliness and hunger. Federal judicial police had routinely protected and guarded the oncebustling building until the same agency joined with army troops to raid it, seizing more than 80 kilos of cocaine.

"Uniformed police commanders swaggered in and out of there like it was their own home," said Martinez, a longtime neighbor in her 50s who displays her courage by daring to speak of the drug trade in a city whose growth industries include gangland-style bloodshed and graft. "The police were like the traffickers' very own private security force and did nothing to hide it."

Buoyed by millions of dollars in payoffs to law enforcement authorities and well-established links to Colombia's cocaine cartels, traffickers are turning Mexico into the world's next drug superpower.

With the use of drugs up sharply among American youths and enforcement a major issue in the United States, politicians, parents and police officers are taking a closer look at the superhighway of drugs that joins Tijuana, Mexico City and the cities of the United States. Hundreds on both sides of the border have been murdered as ruthless drug lords sought influence and protection for their lucrative enterprises.

Drug smuggling and money laundering have transformed border towns, once distinguished by different language and culture, into a single domain oblivious to all legal boundaries. As in Colombia, where trafficking groups supply 80 percent of the world's cocaine and a growing portion of its heroin, the economic, social and political fabric of Mexico has been twisted into a transnational narcotics empire with only one rule: Keep cocaine flowing north and dollars south by any means necessary.

"Authority has been completely overrun by delinquency," said Victor Clark Alfaro, director of the Tijuana-based Binational Center for Human Rights.

Nowhere is that metamorphosis as blatant as in Tijuana. Once a grimy bacchanalian playground for U.S. tourists, there is now one crack house for each of the 500 neighborhoods in Mexico's most-visited tourist destination. Narco-dollars are everywhere in this bustling metropolis of 1.2 million. Glass and steel high-rises, part of the construction boom financed by drug dollars, have sprouted near hillside shantytowns without water or electricity.

Tijuana is also the land of the Arellano Felix brothers, reputed rulers of the multimillion-dollar organization. Authorities on both sides of the border paint a picture of the clan's activities including a trail of drug-related violence and payoffs from Mexico City to Southern California.

The Arellanos are living legends whose public appearances, down considerably of late, were spectacles featuring caravans of four-wheeldrive vehicles with tinted windows and heavily armed escorts. Sightings of the brothers have been reported in Tijuana night spots and San Diego's trendy La Jolla section. They built homes in exclusive hillside neighborhoods in Tijuana, and marked their children's baptism with lavish receptions reminiscent of scenes in "The Godfather." Most of all, they partied hard.

They invested millions from their drug fortune into hundreds of their Mexican and U.S. properties -- including warehouses, hotels, discos, restaurants and pharmacies -- while employing the world's busiest border crossing to bring cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines and heroin into the United States. Transported by car, truck and airplane, the drugs are smuggled into the United States, then shipped to distributors throughout the country. Mexican prosecutors and military commandos seized nearly 50 proper ties linked to their organization since March and arrested several of their henchmen, but the brothers remain at large.

Record narcotics seizures, the arrests of several key midlevel smugglers and August's purge of more than 700 corrupt federal judicial police officers are among the successes Mexican government officials like to point to as encouraging signs they are winning their fight against the smugglers.

"Slow, firm steps are being taken," said Francisco Molina, commissioner of the National Institute to Combat Drugs, Mexico's equivalent of the Drug Enforcement Administration. "It will not happen overnight."

But critics maintain that the leaders of Mexico's cartels still operate with impunity. Two years after entering the North American Free Trade Agreement, which eased border restriction, further liberalizing commercial ties with the United States and Canada, Mexico has been unable -- or unwilling -- to halt these powerful drug organizations.

"The Mexican government is being pulled in two directions," said Ernesto Ruffo Appel, former Baja California governor. "One arm is being yanked by the United States in urging Mexico to put its house in order by arresting or extraditing the traffickers. The other is being pulled by the traffickers themselves and the various political interests linked to the drug industry."

No one is interested in pursuing the brothers from Sinaloa -- Benjamin, 44, Javier, in his 20s, and Ramon, 30 -- or collecting the official $1 million bounty offered by the Mexican government on the Arellano clan. Even Tijuana's public security director, Jorge Alvarez, a former state judicial police commander who sports a fake Rolex around his wrist, knows his role and said he's content.

"I'm not going out to look for them," the commander of a 1,250member police force said. "Maybe they're armed and I don't want to die. I have a few years to go yet, I hope ... What happens if I find them? They'll kill me."

Forging strong ties with Colombia's cocaine cartels, Mexican traffickers have become players in a sophisticated international network for transporting money and drugs. With close contact to smuggling clans along the border, cocaine brokers operate out of highrise penthouses in swank Mexico City neighborhoods.

Authorities on both sides of the border believe the Arellano brothers are also responsible for a spate of grisly murders of Mexican police investigators this year, although some law enforcement insiders have not ruled out the hand of corrupt police officials in the slayings.

Sept. 6, Mexican authorities arrested Manuel Rodriguez Lopez in Baja Calfornia and identified him as a conduit between the Arellano organization and Colombia's Cali cartel. A fleet of boats, some allegedly used to smuggle cocaine from Colombia into Mexico and then to the United States, along with several properties worth $15 million were seized from Rodriguez, an alleged kingpin.

In late May, Mexico's government arrested a man it alleges is the main contact between Mexican drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes and top Cali cartel bosses. Together, the kingpins moved hundreds of kilos of cocaine into the United States through Texas, several prosecutors say. The Bolivia-born connection, Jose Luis Pereira Salas, was extradited and is scheduled to stand trial early next year in Miami as part of a 49-defendant federal case that named Carrillo, the imprisoned heads of the Cali cartel and several Miami defense lawyers in a drug conspiracy.

With the help of Mauricio Escobar Lopez, a Colombian who settled in Mexico, Pereira ran several businesses in Mexico City, according to Mexican and U.S. officials. They bribed Mexico City airport authorities and shuttled an estimated $4 million a week in drug proceeds to Colombia aboard commercial flights, authorities said. Meanwhile, the Colombians supplied Carrillo's Juarez cartel with all the cocaine it wanted. Pereira, when he was arrested in May, was carrying $2 million from a just completed cocaine deal with Carrillo, Mexican authorities said.

For five years, Pereira served as Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela's contact in Mexico, according to a federal prosecutor in Miami. As Miguel Rodriguez, the Cali cartel's No. 2 man, and his brother, cartel boss Gilberto, continue to run the enterprise from behind bars in Colombia, their point men in Mexico remain crucial to the pipeline.

"It's clear the Mexican cartels cannot operate without these guys nor would the Colombians agree to work with them without some type of intermediary on the ground that they trust," said one U.S. law enforcement official, who asked to remain unnamed.

Luis Antonio Ibanez, head of the federal attorney general's office in Tijuana until early October, was part of the team the government put in place to investigate the Arellanos. He played a role in January's arrest of Juan Garcia Abrego, who was extradited to the United States.

Abrego, head of the mighty Gulf cartel, was convicted Oct. 16 by a federal jury in Houston on 22 counts of drug trafficking and money laundering. For Ibanez, the Arellanos have proved more elusive than Abrego.

In a recent interview, Ibanez boasted that the Arellanos were no longer able to move around Tijuana with impunity.

"In another time that might have been true," he said. He boasted about cocaine and marijuana seizures without offering comparable figures for previous years. "There's no comparison," he insisted. "My work has been impressive."

In early October, Ibanez was transferred from Tijuana. A spokesman for the attorney general said the timing had more to do with the string of assassinations of Tijuana police officials. However, some U.S. and Mexican officials said the move came because of Ibanez's lack of success against the Arellanos.

"To my knowledge, he had zero impact," said one ranking U.S. law enforcement official.

Martinez, a lifelong Tijuana resident, said she is tired of looking the other way. When army and federal police officials raided the Arellano stash house near her home last month, she thought it was a military invasion.

"We can no longer turn a blind eye," she said. "It is so painfully obvious. We are losing our country to drugs. We live in fear. But we can't be silent."


Copyright 1996, The Detroit News

AP Wire | 07/23/2004 | 3-year sentence for Internet immigration scam

AP Wire | 07/23/2004 | 3-year sentence for Internet immigration scam
Posted on Fri, Jul. 23, 2004
3-year sentence for Internet immigration scam

Associated Press
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A millionaire was sentenced Friday to more than three years in federal prison for running an Internet scam that targeted foreigners hoping to win a lottery for immigrant visas.

John Romano pleaded guilty to a mail fraud charge.

He previously reached a $2.2 million settlement on civil charges filed by the Federal Trade Commission over the operations of Global Web Solutions Inc. The Fort Lauderdale company offered Web-based services under the name USA Immigration Services.

His wife, Hodal Nofal, who served as corporate treasurer of USA Immigration Services, was sentenced earlier to six months in prison for obstructing the U.S. mail.

Romano admitted offering help for a fee to people applying for so-called diversity visas, a free State Department program offering about 50,000 visas each year to workers in nations with low immigration rates.

"This case is a red light for fraudulent green-card operators," said FTC chairman Timothy Muris. "We want potential immigrants to know that the federal government is here to protect their rights."

U.S. Attorney Marcos Jimenez said, "This case signals that immigration scam artists will be pursued and shut down."

Under his plea, Romano, 30, acknowledged collecting fees from people who were ineligible for the lottery while promising that their applications would meet U.S. guidelines.

As part of the civil settlement, the couple are losing their island home-office, valued at $1.25 million. Romano also agreed in the criminal case to forfeit a $75,000 Jaguar, a Rolex watch, diamond rings, wedding bands, travelers checks and money orders that were seized when he was arrested last October.

The Fort Lauderdale man has been jailed since his arrest. He will be given credit for time already served on his 37-month sentence.

"I think that under the circumstances it was a fair resolution," said defense attorney Marc Nurik.

The FTC targeted eight Web sites, including Romano's, for trying to capitalize on the visa lottery last year.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

DodgeGlobe.com:State attorney general separating himself from lawsuit over illegal immigrant tuition 07/22/04

DodgeGlobe.com:State attorney general separating himself from lawsuit over illegal immigrant tuition 07/22/04
Story last updated at 10:53 a.m. Thursday, July 22, 2004

State attorney general separating himself from lawsuit over illegal immigrant tuition
By John Milburn
Associated Press Writer
TOPEKA -- Attorney General Phill Kline has distanced himself from the defense of a new law granting in-state tuition to some illegal immigrants, saying he opposes the law.

Kline said Wednesday that his office's civil litigation division will handle the state's defense in a federal lawsuit. He said its attorneys will report to Dave Davies, deputy attorney general for civil litigation, instead of Kline.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Topeka by Kris Kobach on behalf of the Federation for American Immigration Reform and 24 university students. The lawsuit alleges the tuition policy violates federal law, the U.S. Constitution and rewards illegal immigrants for being in the United States illegally.

Kobach, a conservative Republican running for the 3rd Congressional District seat, did not name Kline as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Kline, himself a conservative Republican, said he agrees with the plaintiffs and that Kansas law -- though worded carefully -- may not withstand federal court review. He said immigration policy is best left to Congress to decide.

"Although reducing education barriers is a laudable goal, the state would be better served by working in partnership with the federal government rather than contrary to its expressed aims," Kline said.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed the law on May 20 and it took effect July 1. It extends in-state tuition, which is lower than tuition for nonresidents, to illegal immigrants who attended a Kansas high school for at least three years and graduated, or earned a general educational development certificate in Kansas.

To receive the cheaper tuition, immigrants would have to actively seek legal immigration status or plan to do so when they were eligible. Immigrants must file an affidavit to that effect with the institution they attend.

Kline said he is concerned efforts such granting in-state tuition will diminish the value of legal immigration. He also said a state-by-state approach to immigration issues is ill-advised.

Nicole Corcoran, a spokeswoman for Sebelius, said the governor's office was aware of Kline's decision to recuse himself from the case and defended the tuition policy as benefiting Kansas and students.

The lawsuit also names Kansas Board of Regents President Reggie Robinson, Kansas State University President Jon Wefald, University of Kansas Chancellor Robert Hemenway and Emporia State University President Kay Schallenkamp as defendants.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Middle American News Muslims Use Mexico to Enter U.S. Illegally

Middle American News
Muslims Use Mexico to Enter U.S. Illegally

hile the U.S. government wages war against terrorism on foreign soil, America's poorly guarded Mexican border continues to be used as a covert entry portal by international gangs that smuggle Arabs into the U.S.

In November last year, Mexico's consul in Lebanon, Imelda Ortiz Abdala, was arrested on charges that she helped a smuggling ring move Arabs illegally into the U.S. from Mexico. Also arrested in connection with the smuggling operation was Salim Boughader Mucharrafille, who ran a Lebanese café in Tijuana, Mexico.

U.S. security officials say Boughader, 28, is suspected of smuggling at least 300 Arabs into the U.S. between 1999 and 2002. He had been arrested previously for smuggling and served 10 months of a one-year sentence.

Although the latest case has not received wide publicity, U.S. officials are worried because the case reaches into Mexico's foreign service, which the U.S. depends on for help in security operations against terrorism.

The Chicago Tribune reported last month that discovery of the smuggling of Arabs by Mexicans "set off alarm bells among U.S. security officials." That's because the arrests undercut assurances by pro-immigration groups that it would be difficult for Islamic radicals to slip through the border because they would stand out and Hispanic smugglers might hesitate to assist them.

Security officials note that café owner Boughader, who has pled guilty in one smuggling incident, easily turned his illegal alien clients over to Mexican smugglers who asked no questions about the background or motives of the people they were helping across the border.

"We cannot even talk about border security because of the high levels of corruption," said Victor Clark Alfaro, a Mexican policy analyst in Tijuana. "The smugglers don't care if their clients are
terrorists or not. They're like prostitutes. All they want is money."

Adolfo Aguilar Zinser, Mexico's former national security advisor, warned back in 2001 that "Spanish and Islamic terrorist groups are using Mexico as a refuge."

The Tribune reported that Abdala, the Mexican consulate officer in Beirut and 25-year veteran of Mexico's foreign service, allegedly charged as much as $4,500 for fake visas for Arab clients during her tenure there from 1998 to 2001.

As a result of the corruption in Mexico's foreign service, American officials say there is no way to tell how many Arabs, perhaps some with terrorist connections, have been smuggled into the U.S. through Mexican channels.

Investigators looking into the Boughader case say most of those he is suspected of smuggling were Muslims, and some were Christians from Lebanon. So far, authorities have found no connection to terrorist groups among the suspected clients, but according to the Tribune, "U.S. agents detected some support for Islamic fundamentalist groups, such as Hezbollah." The militant Lebanese group was blamed for the murderous bomb attack on U.S. Marines in Beirut in the 1980's.

Islamic terrorists have in the past come into the U.S. through programs designed to help Mexicans. Mahmud Abouhalima, a leader of the 1993 Trade Center bombing, was legalized as a "seasonal agricultural worker" as part of the 1986 amnesty that Congress granted to illegal aliens.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Opiate Replacement Therapy Rarely Available to Inmates

Opiate Replacement Therapy Rarely Available to Inmates
News Feature
By Annie Turner

Recognizing a huge opiate-addiction problem among inmates, New Mexico is breaking new ground by extending methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) to local prisons. Across the country, however, few prisons provide MMT to patients.

In February, Bernalillo County, N.M., announced the opening of the nation's first public-health office inside a county jail, and said the program would pilot an MMT initiative as part of its patient services.

One month later, the New Mexico Medical Society became the only statewide medical society to endorse prison and jail-based opioid-replacement treatment, passing a resolution calling for "legislation to require the initiation of voluntary opioid replacement treatment ... in jails and prisons in New Mexico." The resolution also stated that addiction-treatment modalities should be evaluated for effectiveness.

The Bernalillo County jail has the nation's second- and third-highest rates of opiate use among female and male prisoners. About two-thirds of the 40,000 men and women processed at the jail annually arrive with drugs in their system. Methadone would be offered to all inmates already enrolled in MMT at the time of their arrest. The clinic also will provide preventive services to inmates, such as immunizations, screening and treatment for STDs, and HIV testing, counseling, and consultation.

"We're establishing that critical link with the community to minimize costs and reduce recidivism as a working partner with the public-health, medical, and mental-health systems," says John Dantis, deputy Bernalillo County manager for public safety.

The effectiveness of this joint project will be assessed by the Behavioral Health Research Center of the Southwest (BHRCS) through process evaluation, a survey, and outcome evaluation. BHRCS will monitor the effects of MMT on inmate infractions, medical visits, and recidivism.

"The establishment of this clinic presents a rare opportunity to test the efficacy of harm-reduction policies in one of the neediest populations in our society," according to BHRCS. "If this approach is shown to be effective, it could serve as a model for the rest of the state and the nation."

Successful Model Remains Unduplicated

Despite compelling evidence of the efficacy and necessity of opioid-replacement treatment in prisons and jails, the Key Extended Entry Program (KEEP) at Rikers Island remains the only unrestricted methadone-treatment program for incarcerated inmates in the U.S.

Since 1987, Rikers has offered KEEP as part of its health services. Unlike the handful of prisons nationally that provide methadone to inmates who were in MMT prior to their incarceration, Rikers allows inmates to participate in KEEP regardless of treatment history, and refers them to designated slots in community-based treatment programs upon release.

KEEP treated approximately 4,000 opioid-dependent inmates serving time for misdemeanors or low-grade felonies in 2000. The program, combining pharmacotherapy and therapeutic treatment, has proven to be "an extremely effective method of reducing recidivism," according to a National Drug Court Institute (NDCI) fact sheet. (For a PDF copy of this document, click here).

Research shows that 78 percent of KEEP patients report to their assigned treatment programs upon release. According to a study by Vincent Tomasino in the January 2001 edition of the Mt. Sinai Journal of Medicine (PDF of article available here), over an 11-year period 59 percent of patients returned to Rikers once, and 20 percent returned twice -- "a remarkably low rate of recidivism, given their long history of drug involvement," according to Tomasino.

Mark Parrino, director of the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence, last year was named a winner of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Innovators Combating Substance Abuse Award. He plans to use the cash part of the award to implement a pilot MMT program in other prisons based on the Rikers Island model.

"Methadone is a medication that positively transforms a person ... and the physical recovery takes only weeks and is remarkable," says Parrino. "Denying treatment is not just inhumane, but poor public policy that does not benefit the inmate, the criminal-justice system, or society as a whole."

Stigma Limits Access in Prison

While the National Institute of Health and the Institute of Medicine both recommend MMT as a highly effective treatment option for heroin addiction, public reluctance to accept MMT as a valid form of drug treatment may be part of the reason for its inaccessibility in prisons.

Some critics argue that MMT is a "replacement addiction," substituting dependence on one drug for dependence on another. But advocates of MMT say that methadone is a stabilizing agent, transforming an opiate dependency into a medicated condition.

Methadone is not without its trail of overdose casualties, but according to SAMHSA's National Assessment Report, "methadone ... distributed through channels other than [opioid treatment programs] most likely are the central factor in methadone-associated mortality."

The convergence of methadone and the prison system in states like New Mexico makes sense from a criminal-justice perspective as well as from a public-health point of view. The NDCI notes that while many methadone patients relapse, 80 percent of those who stick with the program reduce or eliminate their criminal activity. A study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that MMT decreased weekly heroin use by 69 percent and criminal activity by 52 percent.

The World Health Organization supports the use of MMT for inmates to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS among intravenous-drug users, noting in a 2004 policy brief (PDF version here), "Prisoners on methadone maintenance prior to imprisonment should be able to continue this treatment while in prison," said WHO. "In countries in which methadone maintenance is available to opiate-dependent individuals in the community, this treatment should also be available in prisons."

Opiate addiction is not the only substance-use disorder being undertreated in correctional facilities. Drug treatment on the whole lacks adequate funding and support to meet inmates' needs, experts say. On average, 30 percent of inmates were under the influence of illicit drugs at the time of their offense, and half of them used within a month of their offense, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

But only 56 percent of state prisons and 33 percent of jails provide on-site addiction treatment, according to a 2002 SAMHSA report (PDF version here).

KGBT 4 - TV Harlingen, TX: Mexican Landfill Fire Causing Hazy Skies

KGBT 4 - TV Harlingen, TX: Mexican Landfill Fire Causing Hazy Skies
JULY 19, 2003 - It's been burning for days and filled the skies over the lower valley with a haze.

A landfill fire in Matamoros is causing two sets of problems, one for Matamoros firefighters trying to put out the blaze, the other for those with breathing problems.

Fire fighters say the flames started on Thursday. They were able to contain the blaze over the weekend, but then Monday morning the fire sparked up again.

But, now the bigger concern is smoke. The landfill is ten miles south of the Rio Grande, deep into the city of Matamoros.

The big flames are out, but small hot spots are still burning. Garbage trucks are moving in an out with no problem.

But, trash collector Felipe Cardenas says for days the thick black smoke has been making it very difficult for him to work.

"When the flames started it was big, then the wind changed almost changing climate, the flames started like nothing, then when the wind changed again and threw it back this way," Cardenas said.

The smoke isn't only affecting people living near the landfill.

Brownsville City Health Director Josue Ramirez says the smoke is blowing north into the Valley.

"Well, we got a report from TCEQ saying that the air quality is okay, our concern would be more for the people who suffer from allergies and respiratory problems to be in an indoor, air conditioned building while this passes by."

Even though results from the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality control show the air is not at a dangerous level, Ramirez says the health department is waiting for its own test results.

"But, it's very minimal particles in the air, so some might feel the reaction, some might not."

Fire fighters still don't know how the fire was started, but believe it was intentionally set.

Ramirez suggests if you aren't able to get to a place with air-conditioning and the smoke is bothering you, then you should buy an air filter mask. He says they cost two dollars at the most.

The next best thing is to tie a cloth around your face, covering your mouth to help keep you smoke free.

KGBT 4 - TV Harlingen, TX: 18 accused part of multistate drug ring

KGBT 4 - TV Harlingen, TX: 18 accused part of multistate drug ring
LAREDO, Texas Federal officials today announced 18 people from Laredo, Georgia and Mexico have been arrested for allegedly being part of a drug ring.

Prosecutors say the ring has been using commercial tractor trailers to distribute marijuana and cocaine throughout Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

After the drugs were dropped off with distributors, the profits allegedly were concealed in ice chests and other containers and hauled back to Laredo.

The 12-count indictment alleges the suspects ran a drug and money laundering operation going back to 1996.

The indictment was returned July seventh.

HoustonChronicle.com - Judge says immigrant smuggler's 14 months in jail is enough

HoustonChronicle.com - Judge says immigrant smuggler's 14 months in jail is enough
A man jailed after 19 undocumented immigrants died in a smuggling attempt through South Texas last year was sentenced today to time already served for holding for ransom the 3-year-old son of a survivor.


Juan Carlos Don Juan, 22, was sentenced to the 14 months he has served in the federal detention center since his arrest last year, despite efforts by prosecutors to stiffen his sentence.

"I know I did wrong," Don Juan told U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore. "I just want to get out of jail and take care of my son."

Don Juan, the first of 14 members of the smuggling ring indicted last year to be sentenced, had faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for harboring an undocumented immigrant.

Gilmore ordered that he be transferred to Cameron County to face state drug and bond-jumping charges.

Prosecutors had sought a tougher sentence after he refused to testify against his girlfriend, accused of assisting Don Juan in the extortion attempt.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Rodriguez argued for a harsher sentence because Don Juan had allegedly lied to probation officers and had avoided harsh sentences as a juvenile for a string of burglaries by using a different name each time he was arrested.

Don Juan and common-law-wife Erica Cardenas, 23, were arrested in the parking lot of a McAllen shopping center May 15, 2003, after he tried to exchange the boy for cash.

The boy is the son of a Honduran woman who was among at least 74 undocumented immigrants crammed into a sealed refrigeration trailer May 14, 2003.

The boy had been riding in a car following the trailer.

Seventeen immigrants died inside the trailer as immigrants clawed at the insulation and punched holes to let in air. Two others died in the hospital.

Cardenas's trial had been delayed pending an appeal by the prosecution of Gilmore's decision to throw out one of two statements Cardenas made after her arrest.

Investigators say Don Juan worked for alleged human smugglers Victor and Emma Rodriguez of Brownsville. Both were indicted along with Don Juan, but are jailed in Mexico City on immigrant smuggling charges.

newsobserver.com | State pays jail tab for alien

newsobserver.com | News
Habitual felon avoids deportation




Benitez was jailed three times before immigration detained him.



By ANDREA WEIGL, Staff Writer

RALEIGH -- Horatio Benitez should have been deported after he was convicted of his first felony in Wake County. He should have been deported after his second felony conviction.
So, Wake Superior Court Judge Narley Cashwell was amazed when the illegal alien appeared in his court earlier this month to answer for a third felony committed in Wake County.

"I was astounded someone could commit this many felonies and INS never did anything about it," Cashwell said. "Now he qualifies as a habitual felon."

Cashwell learned that Wake prosecutors twice during the past two years notified officials of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly INS) in Cary that Benitez was serving jail time and was an illegal immigrant. Regardless, Benitez was allowed to remain in this country and commit more crimes.

So far, Benitez's eight-month stay in prison has cost North Carolina taxpayers more than $16,000. That doesn't include how much was spent to house him at the Wake County Detention Center before his cases were disposed.

"All of that cost for somebody who shouldn't even be here," Wake District Attorney Colon Willoughby commented. "It doesn't seem to be working the way we think it should."

Court records show the immigration agency did issue a detainer once for Benitez, but prison officials never received it.

USCIS officials don't know why Benitez fell through the cracks. After looking at his file and talking to agents in the Cary office, Sue Brown, an immigration agency spokeswoman based in Atlanta, said she didn't have an explanation. "We don't know. It's not in the record," Brown said. "At the time, we probably didn't have the manpower."

But Brown said her organization takes these situations seriously. "We don't turn our backs on these kinds of issues," she said.

Benitez, 38, a native of Mexico, was first convicted of a felony in October 2001 for stealing a woman's purse. He spent seven months in prison.

His second felony was committed two weeks after he was released; this time he tried to steal a leaf blower from a downtown car dealership.

A week after Benitez was arrested, Wake jail officials noted that USCIS had placed a detainer on him. The detainer said there was an "investigation to determine whether [Benitez] is subject to removal from the United States."

The case was assigned to Assistant District Attorney Melanie Shekita, who notified immigration about the status of Benitez's pending criminal charge. In September 2002, Benitez was sentenced to at least four months in prison for felony breaking and entering.

The jail sent the detainer to prison officials so Benitez could go through deportation proceedings after he completed his sentence, but prison officials never received the document. So, in November 2002, Benitez was released from prison without immigration retrieving him.

Six months later, he was charged with breaking into the Hardee's restaurant on Hillsborough Street.

In August 2003, Shekita, who again was assigned to prosecute Benitez, sent a letter to USCIS officials notifying them about him and two other illegal immigrants with pending criminal charges. In the letter, Shekita wrote, "I know that you are swamped but I get so agitated when they keep coming back and breaking the law in our fair county."

Earlier this month, Benitez pleaded guilty to his third felony. He was sentenced to eight months in prison and is currently being held at the Wake County Detention Center.

Until Friday, there was no pending detainer on Benitez.

Phyllis Stephens, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office, said jail staff called immigration Friday after receiving phone calls from The News & Observer about him and were told to place a detainer on Benitez.

Aspen Times News for Aspen Colorado - News

Aspen Times News for Aspen Colorado - News
When Gabby heard rumors of immigration raids last week, she stayed inside her midvalley home for two days.

Four months pregnant with her first child and in the United States without permission, she wasn't willing to risk the deportation described in stories blanketing the Roaring Fork Valley last week.

The young mother-to-be sat in a bus stop, hands clasped on her slightly swollen stomach. Soft-spoken and urgent at the same time, she said in Spanish: "I'm worried they'll carry us off."

Gabby, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is one of an estimated 9.3 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, or approximately 26 percent of the total foreign-born population, according to the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit research group.

Mexicans comprise 57 percent of the total illegal immigrants, or about 5.3 million, according to Urban Institute figures. Another 2.2 million come from other Latin American countries.

Gabby said the raid rumors make her feel as though the Latino community is invading something that's not theirs, and authorities will swoop down and deal with them "como animales," like animal control trapping a nuisance neighborhood bear.

She said she thought America meant freedom.

"If we're not 'American,' they're going to [deport us]. But we're all Americans," she said, adding that North, Central and South America share that in common.

Many Hispanic workers in Aspen express frustration about what seems to them a paradox: Local employers need low-paid laborers, yet undocumented workers fear deportation and, possibly, jail. Early last week, rumors of widespread immigration raids on buses and in restaurants touched this nerve in the Hispanic community. A large number refused to go to work for a day or two even though immigration officials insisted that no such raids were occurring.

"It upsets people's routines and lives," said American citizen Chris Koch, who is married to an El Salvador-born immigrant. His wife, Marleny, is now a U.S. citizen, or as her friends joke, an "American chicken." She works at Aspen's City Market.

"Because [most Latino immigrants are] not here legally they have to work where they can find work," Marleny said, adding that she knows Latinos who mop floors and clean bathrooms in Aspen for as low as $5.80 an hour. She said she doesn't know any citizens who will work for that wage.

Hiding from authorities without papers "is a curse," said Elida Turcio, another City Market employee. Turcio, like other El Salvadorans who work at the grocery store, was granted a visa because of the strife in her country.

While she is not frightened by the rumors because she has permission for legal employment, Turcio said she knows three families that hid last week and didn't go to work.

The rumor is "a lie ... but it scares the people," she said.

She believes a variety of factors contributed to the scare: Drunken driving checkpoints that inmigrantes with poor English skills mistake for immigration blockades, television reports of raids in California and word of mouth. And she said reports on the local Spanish-language radio station only create more anxiety.

But not all undocumented immigrants are scared.

Eduardo, a cook at a restaurant in Aspen, didn't consider skipping work last week. "I'm not afraid," he said, explaining that he believes if you work well nobody will bother you. Eduardo's name was nevertheless changed to protect his identity.

"It's like that in all countries," he said.

Ron, a valley resident and U.S. citizen who recently wed an undocumented Mexican immigrant, said he was amazed by his new wife's secure attitude.

"Just [yesterday] morning I asked her, 'Did you hear about the rumors about roadblocks on Highway 82?' She said, 'Yeah.'

'Have you heard the rumors about raids up in Aspen?'

'Yeah. I'm not scared. [If I get deported] I'll be back in two weeks.'"

One Latina woman deemed that thieves and drunks should be shuttled back south, but hard-working laborers, even undocumented ones, shouldn't be considered criminals. "Give [them] the opportunity to work," she said.

Residing in the United States without permission is actually a civil offense, not a crime, explained Deputy Marie Munday of the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office. "Illegal immigrants" is not an accurate description since they are not criminals, she said.

Legal-status delays prompt federal lawsuit

Legal-status delays prompt federal lawsuit
Legal-status delays prompt federal lawsuit

By Diane Smith
Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Recent news caught Maria Coreas' attention: Immigrants are suing the government because they can't get prompt proof that they are in the United States legally.

The Irving mother turned to her 18-year-old son and said in Spanish, "It's the same thing."

Coreas and her son, Alexis, were legal immigrants in limbo until about two months ago. They had gained legal resident status in 2003, but the government withheld the documents they needed to prove they could live and work in this country until they filed a lawsuit.

Now other legal immigrants experiencing similar delays are playing hardball. Immigrants in California, Illinois, Wisconsin, New York and Florida have filed a federal lawsuit that calls on the government to issue them proof of status.

Plaintiffs' attorneys want the case certified as a class action because they say it's happening all too often. The lawsuit was filed this month in San Francisco, but it resonates among legal immigrants nationwide.

"Folks are waiting six months, a year, a year and a half, two years. They can't get a whole host of benefits or rights without their proof," said Javier Maldonado, a plaintiffs' lawyer with a San Antonio group, Texas Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, and one of several attorneys involved in the San Francisco lawsuit.

Maria Elena Garcia-Upson, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in Dallas, said the agency doesn't comment on litigation. She said the delays are generally due to heightened security checks.

"We have to check their backgrounds," she said. "We have to ensure that the right person gets the right benefit."

Every day, the agency issues 20,000 green cards, conducts 140,000 national security background checks and answers in-person inquiries from 25,000 visitors to information counters at 92 offices nationwide.

Jaime Barron, a Dallas immigration attorney, says he has clients experiencing the same delays. He believes the problem could be bureaucratic.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement brings deportation cases to court. When an immigrant gains legal residency, the file is forwarded to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which handles immigration benefits.

Barron said cases may hit a snag when files are being transferred between the agencies, which are part of the Homeland Security Department.

Whatever the reason, the delays are a hardship for immigrants who are left economically paralyzed if they can't show employers they are legal residents, Barron said.

"They have to survive however they can," he said.

Although no named plaintiffs in the California federal lawsuit are from North Texas, the case mirrors that of the Coreas family.

Citizenship and Immigrations Services officials didn't stamp Alexis Coreas' passport after a judge granted legal residency. The stamp is temporary proof of legal permanent status and allows travel out of the country. The Irving youth couldn't renew his driver's license, apply for a Social Security card, get jobs or apply to colleges while he waited for a green card.

Maria Coreas was given the needed stamp, but it expired while she and Alexis awaited their green cards. When she tried to have it renewed, the government refused. So both were left with no proof of status.

"You think everything is going to go downhill," said Maria Coreas, 42, who came to the United States in 1989 after fleeing the civil war in El Salvador.

She supports her family cleaning houses and has spent hundreds of dollars on government filing fees. She also had to pay an attorney to take the government to court.

But the legal route worked. The Coreas family sued the U.S. government after repeated letters, e-mails and visits to immigration offices, said their attorney, John Wheat Gibson of Dallas.

Once Coreas and her son got their proof of status, they dropped their lawsuit. Now, they are ready for the next leg of their American journey: gaining U.S. citizenship.

"Everything is better. We are happy," Maria Coreas said.

Legal permanent residents

Noncitizens who live legally in the United States, they are also commonly known as permanent resident aliens, lawful permanent residents and green-card holders, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Green cards

A green card is proof that an immigrant is a legal permanent resident. A green card may be obtained in several ways, including being sponsored by relative who is a legal immigrant, petitioning through an employer, or being an asylum-seeker or a refugee. For information about eligibility and applications, or about other immigration policies, go to ww.uscis.gov.


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Frosty Woodridge - The cost of anchor babies

>
>
> HERE'S AN EYEOPENER REGARDING THE COST OF
> ANCHOR BABIES!
>
> ANCHOR BABIES: BORN IN THE USA-ENORMOUS TAXPAYER
> COSTS
> PART II
> By Stephany Gabbard and Frosty Wooldridge
> Published 7/9/04 www.michnews.com
> If you don't think our Congress is taking Americans for a ride, think
> again. According to Dr. Madeleine Cosman, "At least 300,000 to
> 350,000
> anchor babies annually become citizens in California."
>
In 1994, 74,987 anchor babies in maternity units cost taxpayers
> $215
> million in Stockton, California. In 2003, 70 percent of the 2,300
> babies
> born in San Joaquin General maternity ward were from illegal
> aliens. That
> number has exploded today with over three million illegal aliens
> residing
> in California.
>
The French economist Frederic Bastiat said, "The unseen is more
> expensive
> than the seen." In Stockton, California, the Silverio Family was
> featured
> in the Wall Street Journal in 2003. They were fruit pickers who
> arrived
> illegally from Oxtotilan, Mexico in 1997. The wife, Felipa had three
> kids, but popped an anchor baby named Flor. The child was
> premature and
> spent three months in a neonatal incubator at a cost to the San
> Joaquin
> Hospital of over $300,000.00. They conceived another, Christian.
> The
> second baby made them eligible for $1,000 per month welfare.
> Because Flor
> is disabled, she receives $600.00 monthly for asthma. Although the
> illegal aliens made $18,000.00 annually picking fruit, they collected
> $12,000.00 of your tax dollars for their anchor babies. One night
> the
> father, Cristobal crashed his van. He had no license or insurance.
> Taxpayers paid for all hospital bills. That's why 77 hospitals in
> border
> states were going bankrupt in 2003, but Senator John McCain
> wrote a rider
> into the Medicaid Bill for $1.4 billion of your tax dollars. It passed.
>
Not to finish the spending spree on these anchor babies, the
> children
> attend California schools at a cost of $7,000.00 per year over and
> above
> what their parents pay in taxes. The cost for all five of their children
> for one school year exceeds $35,000.00 times 18 years for a grand
> taxpayer total of $630,000.00. This is only one family. No wonder
> California is $38 billion in debt.
>
Additional costs for illegal alien children stem from translators,
> advocates and middlemen. MediCal in 2003 sponsored 760,000
> illegal
> aliens. Supplemental Security Income is a non-means-treated
> federal grant
> of money and food stamps. Be assured that scams and fraud run
> rampant.
>
Over 500,000 'mentally disabled kids' are on drugs for ADHD and
> ODD. One
> lady, Linda Torres was arrested in Bakersfield with $8,500.00 in
> small
> bills in her pocket. It was her SSI lump award for her disability,
> which
> was heroin addition.
>
Just so Americans across the country don't feel left out, let's move
> to
> Georgia. Net Fiscal Costs of Illegal Immigration for Georgia:
> Births of illegal aliens in Georgia cost to taxpayers:
> 2000-- 5,133 births cost: $13 million
> 2001-- 9,528 births cost: $23 million
> 2002-11,188 births cost: $27 million
> Additionally, receiving public assistance in 2002 for 25,000 children
> of
> illegal aliens cost Georgia taxpayers $42 million annually. Health
> care
> costs to Georgia taxpayers for illegal aliens in 2002 was 64,000
> doctor
> visits which ran Grady Health System into a $63 million deficit.
>
What is it in your state? This picture is a small window into the
> massive
> fraud being perpetrated on your wallet by your congressional
> leaders.
> What is your senator or congressman doing about it? The simple
> answer
> fulfills French economist Bisbiat's rule of the unseen. Your
> congressional reps assist this fraud! They encourage it every day
> by
> doing nothing about 2,200 illegal aliens crossing our borders and
> they
> have done nothing since 9/11 to deport the estimated 13 million
> that are
> already here.
>
So what will you do? How about taking action! Join
> www.numbersusa.com and
>
> www.securedbordersusa.com and www.theamericanresistence.com
> and
> www.deportaliens.com and www.immigrationshumancost.org and
> www.reportillegals.us and
> www.commonsenseonmassimmigration.us
>
With over one million illegal aliens arriving annually, they birth
> 300,000 anchor babies in California alone and you pay the
> maximum. When
> those legal 'American' babies grow to 18, they can 'chain migrate'
> their
> kin into our country. We're talking about a crisis SO huge, your
> children
> and this country will not survive it.
>
Part III: 'Anchor Babies: Long Term Crisis to Society'
> Sources: "Madeleine's Guns and Medicine: Why is California Going
> Broke?"
> Madeleine
> Cosman, Ph.D.
> "Third World in the Making" by George Putnam
> ###
> Stephany Gabbard, RN, CLNC, (health@legal-
> nurseconsultant.com), is a
> Registered Nurse and Certified Legal Nurse Consultant specializing
> in
> disease prevention. She has worked in several County Jail Health
> Systems,
> witnessing first hand the effects of disease in the jail population.
>
> Frosty Wooldridge, web site: (www.frostywooldridge.com) is a
> teacher,
> author and has bicycled 100,000 miles around the globe to see
> overpopulation up close and ugly. Go to
> website www.securedbordersusa.com and sign the petition. Also,
> take
> action as a faxer at www.numbersusa.com. Go to
> www.theamericanresistance.com for more action as an American
> citizen. Go
> to www.commonsenseonmassimmigration.us

Star-Telegram | 07/20/2004 | Trooper foils planned dispersal in Fort Worth

Star-Telegram | 07/20/2004 | Trooper foils planned dispersal in Fort Worth
Trooper foils planned dispersal in Fort Worth

By John Gutierrez-Mier;Caren M. Penland

Star-Telegram Staff Writers


WEATHERFORD - State trooper John Forrest has pulled over countless trucks in his 33 years of patrolling highways in Parker County.

But when he stopped a truck on Interstate 20 Sunday morning and opened the trailer, he wasn't expecting to find 30 pairs of eyes staring back at him.

"The air was stale, and it was already getting hot," said Forrest, who pulled the truck over near the Willow Park exit, just east of Weatherford, after he noticed that the back wasn't properly sealed.

"I'm sure those folks were miserable by the time I stopped them, with no fresh air, no restroom facilities" and no way of knowing how much longer the trip would last.

It turns out that the undocumented workers -- 20 from Brazil and 10 from Mexico -- were only 15 minutes away from their destination in Fort Worth. Authorities believe that had they reached Fort Worth, the immigrants would have scattered.

After the discovery, authorities removed the immigrants from the truck and took them to the Parker County Jail, where they received food and water.

Monday morning, officials transferred them to federal immigration facilities, including one in Euless, said Mike Herrera, a spokesman with the Border Patrol.

Herrera said he isn't sure when the immigrants will be deported.

"Right now, it's an open criminal investigation, and they are potential witnesses," Herrera said.

Authorities charged two men from El Paso, Rodriego Ureno, 28, and his brother, Rolando Ureno, 25, with trafficking of persons, said Cpl. Lowell Moss of the Parker County Sheriff's Department.

Both remained in the Parker County Jail late Monday in lieu of $50,000 bail each.

The undocumented immigrants, including four women, rode in the back of the truck along with several pallets of apple cider and Mexican soda.

Forrest called for backup, and trooper Adam Jara, who speaks Spanish, arrived a short time later.

Jara said all of the men and women asked for water but otherwise seemed in good spirits.

"I didn't see one jug of water in there," Jara said. "And most of the men were wearing three layers of clothes." He added that most carried small plastic bags with some clothes and toiletries in them.

"Some of them had broken into the apple cider," Jara said. He said all of them appeared to be in good health but were disappointed that they had been caught.

Forrest said the Ureno brothers are lucky that none of the immigrants were hurt.

"The trailer had began to heat up pretty good," Forrest said, adding that a small hole near the door of the trailer provided the only fresh air.

Forrest said the two brothers, who declined to be interviewed, probably received about $300 per person.

Correspondent Gale M. Bradford Contributed to This Report.

Indians Abroad - Immigrants' children are rising intellectual superstars in US

Indians Abroad - HindustanTimes.com
HindustanTimes.com » Indians Abroad » NRI News


Immigrants' children are rising intellectual superstars in US

Indo-Asian News Service
Washington, July 20

An astounding 60 per cent of the top science students in the US and 65 per cent of the top math students are children of immigrants mainly from India and China, says a new study.

The study, "The Multiplier Effect," released by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP), an Arlington, Virginia-based public policy group, says foreign-born professionals and students are contributing more to the US than previously thought -- their children are rising intellectual superstars and without them the nation's technological and scientific standing is at risk.

To make its point, the study says that foreign-born high school students make up 50 per cent of the 2004 US Math Olympiad's top scorers, 38 per cent of the US Physics Team and 25 per cent of the Intel Science Talent Search finalists -- the United States' most prestigious awards for young scientists and mathematicians.

According to the study, the Intel Science Talent Search finalists showed a diverse mix of foreign-born parents, including seven from India, five from China, three from Korea two each from Vietnam, Israel, Tureky and South Korea. The foreign born parents of the 2004 US Math Olympiad's top scorers were divided among South Korea (four) China (four) Russia (three) and India (two).

"These findings provide evidence that maintaining an open policy toward skilled professionals, international students, and legal immigration is vital to America's technological and scientific standing in the world," said Stuart Anderson, Executive Director of NFAP and author of the report while releasing it at a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington DC July 19.

"If opponents of immigration had succeeded over the past 20 years, two-thirds of the most outstanding future American scientists and mathematicians would not be here today because US policy would have barred their parents from entering the United States, Anderson said.

"Efforts to preserve US strength in science and technology should start by recognizing the key role that immigrants and their children play in the nation's leadership in these fields. As the research demonstrates, the contributions made by the children of immigrants are beyond that ever considered by policy makers," Anderson said.

Anderson said due to denials of high-skilled employment visa applications which doubled in recent years, fewer international students are seeking admission into US universities. For the fall 2004 semester there is a 76 per cent decline in applications from Chinese students and 58 per cent from Indian students, according to a survey of 113 graduate schools by the Council of Graduate Schools.

Andersen said that while much recent media attention has been focused on high-skilled foreign-born professionals as a source of competition for native-born computer programmers and systems analysts, little attention has been paid to the enormous contributions -- both individually and collectively -- foreign-born individuals have played in US world leadership in science and technology.

The study also pointed out that today more than 50 per cent of the engineers with PhDs working in the United States are foreign-born, according to the National Science Foundation. In addition, 45 percent of math and computer scientists with PhDs as well as life scientists and physicists are foreign- born.

"These data help illuminate the significant role immigrant scientists and engineers play in the US." Advocating an open immigration policy Anderson said "When immigrants are allowed to come to the US legally and stay, the nation also in many cases gains the future skills of outstanding children who become US citizens.

"The question is whether the US will maintain a student and immigration system that is open enough to integrate that talent into US society -- or will policy makers push or keep that talent out of the United States," he asked.

The study also strongly favours raising the cap for H-1B visas as a key source of maintaining and expanding the United States intellectual base in science, mathematics and technology.

"Closing the door to immigrants, students and skilled professionals hurts the Untied States today -- and for a generation yet to come," the study said.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Kansas City Star | 07/19/2004 | Kansas lawsuit challenges in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants

Kansas City Star | 07/19/2004 | Kansas lawsuit challenges in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants
Posted on Mon, Jul. 19, 2004





Kansas lawsuit challenges in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants

By JIM SULLINGER

The Kansas City Star


TOPEKA — A Washington-based immigration reform group filed suit in federal court today challenging a new Kansas law allowing some undocumented immigrants to attend state universities at the lower, in-state tuition rate.

If the federation is successful in the Kansas case, it could bring into question similar laws in Oklahoma, California, Utah, Texas, Washington, Illinois and New York.

Kris Kobach, the attorney representing the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said the law that went into effect July 1 violated federal law and was unfair to out-of-state students attending Kansas universities who are American citizens.

Most of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are college students attending state schools in Kansas. Several were on hand at a news conference called by the federation.

“These students are suing to protect their equal rights under U.S. law as well as their equal rights under the U.S. Constitution,” said Kobach, who also is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House in Kansas' 3rd District.

Kobach said he will try to get a temporary restraining order issued prior to the start of university classes next month. That would prevent students who might take advantage of the law from getting the in-state rate.

Shortly after the lawsuit was filed, Reginald Robinson, president and chief executive officer of the Kansas Board of Regents, praised the new law for removing barriers to higher education.

Under the bill approved this year by state lawmakers, non-citizens who attend a Kansas high school for three years and obtain either a Kansas high school diploma or a Kansas-issued GED are eligible to enroll in the state's public colleges and universities at in-state rates without regard to their immigration status.

“I personally have enough student loans to pay off two cars,” said Michelle Prahl, a student at the University of Kansas from Bentonville, Ark., who is one of the plaintiffs. “I have mortgaged my future while someone who is here illegally can pay less than I do.”

Prahl said she has lived in Kansas three years and married a Kansas resident but is still unable to get in-state tuition.

Star-Telegram | 07/19/2004 | A deepening rut

Star-Telegram | 07/19/2004 | A deepening rut
A deepening rut

Low-paying jobs keep families mired in poverty

By Christina Hoag

Knight Ridder News Service


John and Kelly Delgado moved their family to Homestead, Fla., from Indiana last August, thinking that John's native South Florida was their land of opportunity.

They now regret the move.

"We never have any money," said Kelly, 32. "Every month, we're robbing Peter to pay Paul and then figuring out how to do it again. It's so expensive to live here. I can't afford to buy uniforms for school. My son had a field trip; it cost $8. He used the birthday money, $12, my mom sent him. It's been a very rough year."

The problem: John, 34, earns $6 an hour as a nursery laborer while Kelly, a medical administrative assistant with two associate's degrees, earns $8.50 an hour at a doctor's office. It's just not enough without food stamps, help from social service agencies and emergency cash from their parents.

The Delgados are part of a vast second-class economy of working poor people who cannot live on their salaries alone.

"These are people who are playing by all the rules of the game," said Oren Wunderman, executive director of the nonprofit Family Resource Center of South Florida, which helped the Delgados find an apartment. "They've got jobs; they're working. But they can't make ends meet."

They've been dubbed the invisible work force. Because these people are working, they don't qualify for many government benefits. But they don't make enough -- typically less than $10 an hour -- to lift a family out of poverty.

And there will be more of them. Of the 20 occupations that the U.S. Labor Department expects will see the biggest growth between 2002 and 2012, 17 are considered low-wage jobs. Only three require college degrees.

In Florida, expanding industries such as retail and food service pay 15 percent less than contracting industries, such as manufacturing and information technology, reflecting a nationwide trend.

"It's not a lack of work ethic," said Bruce Katz, vice president of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "It's the structure of the economy that is creating jobs that don't pay enough to make ends meet."

Treasury Secretary John Snow said the administration has implemented several policies that help low-income workers, including tax cuts and more training programs.

"The tax proposals the president pushed through Congress had a number of benefits for low-income people," Snow said. "It took 4 to 5 million people off the tax rolls. The other major area where the administration is taking steps is improving the availability of job-based training skills, often through community colleges."

But liberal economists said the federal government is underestimating the problem because it doesn't classify many low-wage workers as poor, because of unrealistically low poverty standards. The poverty rate rose from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 12.1 percent in 2002 -- the latest statistic available.

For example, a family of four with an annual income of about $18,500 -- an hourly wage of $8.89 -- is poor, according to the federal government. In reality, that family is extremely poor, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank.

"A good measure of poverty is twice the poverty line," said Jared Bernstein, the institute's senior economist. "A family of four with income below $30,000 in any city in this country is going to have trouble making ends meet." A $30,000-a-year income requires an hourly salary of $14.42.

The working poor encompass everyone from hotel maids and clerical workers to teacher's aides and construction workers. They are not just unskilled labor, said Harriet Spivak, executive director of South Florida Workforce.

Changes in immigration law delayed

Changes in immigration law delayed
WASHINGTON -- The Department of Homeland Security has given a reprieve to foreign healthcare workers -- and that's good news for hospitals in Maine who rely on nurses from Canada.

Tighter immigration laws due to take effect next week would have required foreign workers to comply with new certification requirements.

Monday, Sens. Snowe and Collins announced that the requirement has been put off for a year.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

FT.com / Business / US How low will the dollar go?

FT.com / Business / US


A little lower, maybe, or not
By Jennifer Hughes in New York
Published: July 19 2004 5:00 | Last Updated: July 19 2004 5:00

As the curtain rose on 2004, there was one sure-fire bet in the market: the dollar was going to fall.


Warren Buffett was investing overseas for the first time because of the dollar, George Soros had said he was shorting it, and Jim Rogers, his former partner, described the greenback as "fundamentally flawed".

Despite the predictions, the greenback, after an early decline, has stabilised so far this year. Did the investing luminaries get their dollar bet wrong? And does that mean the dollar's slide is over and it is fairly valued?

While valuing a currency is a slippery notion, many market participants are as confident as ever in predicting a slow, inexorable decline in the dollar.

Most currency watchers say the greenback's recent stability was inevitable after its previous performance. The dollar's slide really began in 2002 when a euro was worth about $0.87. The single currency's peak around $1.29 in January this year represented a hefty 48 per cent decline in the dollar. And by that point, the unanimous expectations for its decline played a part in capping the move. Once everyone is betting on the same horse, the old timers warn, the odds don't look so good and contrarian views get a look-in.

So what would be a fair value for the dollar? Ask any currency strategist and you'll be plunged into a discussion of abstract notions more suited to a classroom than the fast-moving foreign exchange markets.

"Concepts of value in FX are incredibly loose and slippery," explains Mark Austin, head of currency strategy at HSBC.

The key is that unlike stocks or bonds, a currency represents nothing in itself. As a unit of exchange, its perceived market value rests on a series of factors that vary in importance over time.

By most academic measures of currency value, economists say the dollar is probably relatively fairly valued at the moment.

"But fairly valued doesn't mean that it's not going down from here," adds Mr Austin.

The dollar's detractors claim the central problem is that the currency's role as the world's reserve currency is giving it a status similar to the emperor's new clothes.

In other words, the dollar is worth what the market says it is because so many people have a stake in believing that it is. International commodities such as oil and gold are traded in dollars. Greenbacks are accepted the world over and in some countries more widely than the local currency.

That the dollar is the reserve currency is a fact, too. In 2003, of the $502.8bn worth of new currency collected in central bank reserves - a record - only 12.2 per cent was not in dollars.

The dollar's status stems from the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates established after the second world war, with the dollar, convertible into gold, as the lynchpin. The system broke down in the early 1970s as the US struggled to cope with the costs of Vietnam and currencies floated.

Currency value is fundamentally based on the health of its domestic economy. Suffer an event that puts a country in turmoil and the currency will suffer.

Detractors say the dollar's reserve currency status is acting as a cushion for the US economy and distorting the risks the economy poses for the currency.

"In the past, foreign citizens accumulated US dollars so they could purchase American-made goods. Today, foreign central banks accumulate dollars so that Americans can purchase foreign-made goods," says Peter Schiff, chief global strategist at Euro Pacific Capital. The size of the current trade gap implies that the US imports goods each month worth about $45bn more than it exports. To balance its books the US then needs to attract about $1.5bn each day in foreign capital.

Economists at Citigroup estimate that something like 10 per cent of the rest of world's gross savings are being invested in the US.

"You have to wonder what the US would need to offer investors just to maintain the value of the dollar if the deficit rises faster than global savings," says Marvin Barth, global currency economist at Citi.

This year to date, Treasury data show overseas interest in US equities has been anaemic at best and that inflows are concentrated in bonds - much of which is attributed to Asian central banks buying dollars to limit their own currencies' appreciation. The risk of the US failing to attract the necessary capital is not really priced into the dollar, warns Lara Rhame at Brown Brothers Harriman.

"Generally, a big characteristic of any price bubble is when underlying risks are not being priced in," she cautions.

So when, and how quickly, will the dollar fall? That is anybody's guess. The currency market crosses borders and operates around the clock. About $1,200bn is traded daily and, since currency is needed for transaction purposes, physical demand plays a more important role than in stock or bond trading.

The good news for greenback investors is that it is used as one side of 90 per cent of all currency trades, and the countries whose currency would appreciate as a result of a dollar decline will not be willing to see a sharp move lower.