Why I May Vote For Roger Calero

This is the second piece of news I came across in the last few days.  As you might remember, there were scores of Indians and Gulf Indians who were trafficked to the U.S. and put to work on Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts in the equivalent of labor camps.  Some of them escaped and they started a hunger strike along with local NGO assistance.

Now it turns out that some of these workers got counterfeit documents and applied for work in North Dakota at an ethanol plant (will complain about ethanol in another post).   Their employer then reported them to the government, and the government arrested them despite  that they were claiming trafficked status.  The nut graf:

"It is an outrage that workers who courageously came forward at great personal risk to cooperate with the Department of Justice in a federal trafficking investigation were targeted by ICE and then denied access to their own legal counsel," said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. "Why isn't ICE spending national resources investigating criminal traffickers, instead of targeting and terrifying the victims?" asked Saket Soni, director of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice. "Since these workers have come forward to report Signal International, LLC, to the Department of Justice, they have faced ICE surveillance, ICE arrests, and now an ICE sting operation." [New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice 10/29/08]

Read the whole account from Immigrant News Briefs, a service I strongly suggest you sign up for - it's an e-mail or so a week and you get a much better idea in more concise terms of what's going on in terms of immigration enforcement than relying on having to find articles yourself or relying on whatever comes across your screen:

*2. INDIAN WORKERS ARRESTED IN NORTH DAKOTA

On Oct. 28, ICE agents arrested 23 workers from India at the construction site for an ethanol plant near Casselton, North Dakota. All 23 had been hired several months ago to work for Wanzek Construction Inc. of Fargo. A task force led by ICE made the arrests without incident when the workers showed up for what had been announced as a staff meeting at the Wanzek Construction office west of West Fargo. The raid was prompted by a tip from Wanzek Construction. Company president Jon Wanzek said members of his staff contacted authorities after noticing irregularities on the workers' identity documents, a few weeks after they were hired. The workers "just went through the normal process" to get hired, Wanzek said. "They just came in and applied just like everyone else." Company officials "have cooperated throughout the investigation in this case and they are to be complimented for making this investigation possible at all through their initial report," said Drew Wrigley, US Attorney for North Dakota.

All 23 workers face federal felony charges for possession of counterfeit documents. They also are accused of falsely claiming they were US citizens. Wrigley said they entered the US legally on a temporary worker visa and were issued a temporary social security card. "What happened then, we allege, is that they subsequently got counterfeit social security cards which look the same, have the same number which is legitimate for them but now doesn't have the limiting information on it. That opens a whole variety of opportunities for them, for employment and then to overstay that visa," Wrigley said. The false Social Security cards also enabled them to obtain driver's licenses from Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi and Nebraska, said Wrigley. [The Forum (Fargo) 10/28/08, 11/1/08; Grand Forks Herald (ND) 10/29/08 from The Forum; Minnesota Public Radio 10/29/08; AP 10/29/08; KXMB.com (Bismarck, ND) 10/28/08]

According to the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, the workers arrested in North Dakota were among a group of some 500 people trafficked to the US after Hurricane Katrina by Gulf Coast employer Signal International, LLC and subjected to forced labor in Mississippi and Texas labor camps. The workers escaped the labor camps earlier this year, reported the company's human trafficking to the Department of Justice, filed a federal class action lawsuit in New Orleans against Signal International and labor recruiters in the US and India, and held a march to Washington and a hunger strike to demand protection as witnesses to trafficking [see INB 3/29/08, 6/22/08]. The criminal trafficking investigation triggered by their protest is still open.

Upon realizing that they were being targeted by ICE, the workers in North Dakota presented letters explaining they were victims and witnesses to the federal crime of human trafficking. The letter listed their attorney's name and contact information. They communicated that they did not want to be questioned without legal counsel. ICE summarily refused the workers' requests and questioned them individually without attorneys or interpreters.

"It is an outrage that workers who courageously came forward at great personal risk to cooperate with the Department of Justice in a federal trafficking investigation were targeted by ICE and then denied access to their own legal counsel," said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. "Why isn't ICE spending national resources investigating criminal traffickers, instead of targeting and terrifying the victims?" asked Saket Soni, director of the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice. "Since these workers have come forward to report Signal International, LLC, to the Department of Justice, they have faced ICE surveillance, ICE arrests, and now an ICE sting operation." [New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice 10/29/08]

On Oct. 31, the 23 workers made a court appearance at the Cass County Jail, with three interpreters communicating via speaker phone. Hearings are usually held at the federal courthouse. "There's some logistical difficulties, as you might imagine, with a case that involves 23 defendants all coming in en masse like this," Wrigley said. US Magistrate Judge Karen Klein set the detention hearing for next Nov. 7 after defense lawyers asked for more time to prepare. Nick Chase, assistant US attorney, told the magistrate that he expects a federal grand jury will consider the evidence against the workers early in the week of Nov. 3. [The Forum (Fargo) 10/28/08, 11/1/08; AP 10/29/08]

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