Daryl Metcalfe, state rep with ties to right-wing extremists, begins hearings on anti-immigrant legislation
State Representative Daryl Metcalfe, the most right-wing member of the Pennsylvania legislature, yesterday began hearings on 14 anti-immigrant bills that he has christened "The National Security Begins at Home legislative package."
One bill is similar to Arizona's infamous "papers please" law that requires police to check "suspicious" persons for proof of citizenship. Civil rights activists are concerned because the only way someone can "seem like an illegal immigrant" is if they are, you know, not white or don't speak English well.
Student guestworkers at a Pennsylvania Hershey’s factory are on strike. The students paid $6,000 for a summer of work and cultural exchange and ended up working in a Hershey’s factory, and were allegedly threatened with deportation when they complained. Today, they protested outside the State Department office at 6th and Market in Philly--where I caught up this student striker from China.
Student guestworkers from around the world use J-1 visas to experience a summer in the United States. Thus the ubiquitous Eastern European presence on boardwalks up and down the East Coast.
Critics blame the State Department for lax oversight.
Philadelphia immigrant rights activists continue to pressure Mayor Nutter and District Attorney Seth Williams to cancel a program that gives Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents direct real-time access to the city's Preliminary Arraignment Reporting System (PARS), which holds data on arrestees.
DA Williams refused to send someone to meet with the group, while Director of Multicultural Affairs Izzy Colon received the letters on behalf of Mayor Nutter.
Marta Villanueva and Jen Rock of the New Sanctuary Movement arrived at 10:30 a.m. today to deliver the stack of 525 letters to the DA demanding the city cease collaboration with ICE. Rock says that she had spoken with Director of Community Outreach and Government Relations Vernon Price, a former ward leader from East Mt. Airy, and let him know they would be delivering the letters.
Philadelphia participates in a controversial immigrant deportation program called Secure Communities because then-Governor Rendell signed an agreement because local officials signed an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) saying we would (in most states, the governor signed). Or, that was the story until last week, when ICE said that they were canceling the agreements with states, called Memorandums of Understanding.
We are canceling the agreements, they said. And we will continue the program.
“Once a state or local law enforcement agency voluntarily submits fingerprint data to the federal government, no agreement with the state is legally necessary for one part of the federal government to share it with another part. For this reason, ICE has decided to terminate all existing Secure Communities MOAs,” ICE Director John Morton wrote in a letter to governors.
(More from activists here.)
Secure Communities gives ICE access to the fingerprints of arrestees that states have long already shared with the FBI. But the program is controversial: it is ostensibly focused on dangerous criminal aliens but has resulted in the deportation of large numbers of non-criminal or low-level criminal immigrants.
As I discussed at the Guardian, ICE had long promoted Secure Communities as a voluntary program. But then local, state and congressional officials began to protest. New York, Massachusetts and Illinois pulled out. And then ICE said: well, I know you thought that this agreement was a prerequisite to implementing the program that we agreed to together, but it’s actually not voluntary.
As long as states were happy with the program, it was voluntary. Now that states are protesting Secure Communities, the federal government has the authority to implement the program unilaterally. The thing that we agreed to do together is no longer an agreement now that you don’t like it: we are imposing it.
Sorry for the confusion.
Though Secure Communities is not subject to local control, Philadelphia does voluntarily participate in a separate ICE program: the city gives ICE real-time access to the police’s computerized arraignment system (called PARS)--sort of like a Secure Communities-plus.
The Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning Secure Communities and calling for the city to deny ICE access to PARS. Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky was, of course, grouchy. But Mayor Michael Nutter barely responded.
The PARS contract expires on August 31, and activists are ramping up pressure on Mayor Nutter. Yesterday the story got picked up in the Huffington Post, which reports that Tea Party activists are lobbying the Mayor to stay in the program.
The conflict pits immigrants, who made it possible for Philly to grow for the first time in half a century, against the Tea Party, which has almost no presence here. But when it comes to immigration, Mayor Nutter appears to be more attuned to White House pressure than to the demands of any local constituency.
In a resolution yesterday, City Council decried the city's involvement in the federal Secure Communities program, which requires that Philadelphia police hand over the fingerprints of everyone they arrest to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the FBI.
All 17 Councilpersons voted for the non-binding resolution, which urges the city to end the agreement when it is up for renewal on August 31. That decision will ultimately be up to the Nutter administration.
Though Secure Communities — used by other state and local police throughout the country — was billed by ICE as a way to rid the U.S. of criminals, a study recently showed that 61 percent of the immigrants deported from Philly with this program had no criminal record whatsoever. Meanwhile, 82 percent were either non-criminals or low-level offenders. Studies have revealed similar statistics throughout the country.
Supporters of Secure Communities argue that states and cities that are refusing to participate in the program — like New York and Massachusetts — are threatening the safety of their citizens. But critics argue that instead of fighting crime, Secure Communities has actually led to immigrants avoiding police when they are victims of crimes, witnesses or potential informants.
Councilman Jim Kenney told City Paper that he believes the program is "un-American." He continued, "They say they're rooting out the criminal elements, the terrorist elements, but really they're rooting out poor, innocent people."
Marley Dang, the 3-year-old son of a local Cambodian awaiting deportation.
Last week, I wrote about Mout Iv, a Cambodian refugee, Olney denizen and American permanent resident for the last 24 years, who was awaiting deportation and other local Cambodians like him, who have been deported recently because of criminal convictions (a fact that fits squarely into President Obama's immigration policy aimed at deporting more people with criminal backgrounds, regardless of how old their convictions are or whether they're refugees, apparently).
After the story went to print, I interviewed a Cambodian refugee named Lynn, who lived most of her life in Philadelphia, until her husband, Saul, was deported to Cambodia in 2007 for a crime he committed 10 years prior. His crime was theft by stolen property; according to Lynn, he bought a stolen car from a friend. Saul came to the U.S. when he was 3 years old, and Lynn was 4 months old when she landed here. They now live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Lynn told me, "I am not very good with details or my feelings," but still agreed to talk. This is my interview with her:
City Paper: Why did you decide to move to Cambodia with Saul? Not every wife does.
Lynn: My husband was deported on June 24, 2007 â¦ a couple weeks later my daughter was born. I never really thought that he was going to get deported because there were rumors that Cambodia wasn't accepting people back and then when it happened, I was kind of in shock. During his deportation process, I already knew I was coming to Cambodia. In January 2008, my children and I arrived in Cambodia. I moved to Cambodia because I wanted my children to be with their father, and I wanted my husband and daughter to meet each other.
CP: More than 30 percent of Cambodians live below the poverty line. Have you found work there?
Lynn: There are not many jobs opportunities here. It is hard for my husband to find a job. I can find one easier than him because of my passport. There is a lot of poverty. Majority of the people is trying to make it through the day. The government doesn't give assistance.
CP: During your husband's deportation process, did you find your lawyer helpful? And what about the lawyer your husband dealt with during his '97 conviction?
Lynn: [During his trial], he pleaded guilty to get a lesser sentence and his [public defender] didn't explain to him that it can get him deported. â¦ After his back judge gave him early parole, immigration picked my husband in December 2003 and took him to York. There we hired an immigration lawyer who took our money and didn't do anything for us. The lawyer told my husband that if he signed out and they don't deport him within six months, they will release him, so my husband signed out. He had to report to ICE once a month. To make a long story short, ICE picked him up on January 2007 and started his deportation process.
CP: Do you speak the language?
Lynn: We speak enough Khmer to communicate with the locals. Sometimes they have trouble understanding us and we have trouble understanding them.
CP: After living in Philly for so long, what has Phnom Penh been like?
Lynn: Living here is different. My first couple of months, I experienced culture shock and it can get pretty lonely without family and friends. The life here is really slow-paced so we get to spend more time with each other. My feelings toward living here is Cambodia is [it's] a fun country to visit, but to live here is a whole different story especially if you have family somewhere else. Both of our immediate family is still in the states. Our parents, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and his kids from his previous marriage.
You may remember AZI Fellas, the Cambodian-American hip-hoppers, from Philadelphia Weekly's cover this May. Despite the prime PW real estate, they're still underrated but that's a story for another day. The group recently released a track called "Injustice," which is about local Cambodian refugees getting deported, a topic I wrote about this week. In fact, the voice in the beginning is Mout Iv, the main subject of my story, anticipating his deportation: "This all I know, is America. It brings tears to me sometimes to think about being deported â¦ away from my mom, my two young kids."
Check the lyrics and track below:
(Voice of Mout Iv, now detained)
This all I know...is America.
It brings tears to me sometimes to think about being deported...
...away from my mom...my two young kids..
Taken without notice, no good byes or kiss/
I feel for the kids cause they dad they miss/
Twist of fate, how can you seperate race?/
All created equal why they treat us like slaves?/
Land of immigrants, we built this country/
Railroads, rowhomes, pay taxes monthly/
Judge me for mistakes in the past/ But
Martha Stewart stole millions still got another chance/
Shit is fucked up, they just corrupt puppets/
And politics, its all about bucks/
I'm trying to stay strong for Mout and Chally/
Ly Kol's family, see my visions like Ghandi/
We need to stand together FIGHT for FREEDOM/
Cause wives are bleeding, kids they need 'em/
Shit is unjust, but as hopeless as it seems/
Martin Luther ain't the only one with a dream//
As a kid I was taught to pledge my allegiance/
To a flag that I never even understood the meaning/
Never educated the importance of citizenship/
Fighting for freedom, same lands that the immigrants built/
They ain't giving a shit-
DEMOCRACY is HYPOCRISY/
You have it worst when you're living in poverty/
Obviously, they try to make a mockery of us/
What if it was your brother, sister, mother, father they wanted?/
They don't know what its like to escape from genocide/
Then taken back to same place where many died/
You tell me why a petty crime/
Can jeopardize your chances of ever truly living a better life/
But I guess INS only sees that crime pays/
Nevertheless, they tried their best to live the right way/
Mr. President, you promised things'll change/
But you just kept us waiting while the problem still remains//
In this week's issue, I wrote about Mout Iv (pictured), a local Cambodian refugee who is awaiting deportation in York, Pa. because of a crime he committed 12 years ago, to a country he hasn't seen since he was 2 years old. This is increasingly happening to other Cambodian refugees like Iv throughout Philly, and the Cambodian community has been active in protesting this, having held four rallies in the last two months. There will be yet another rally today from 5 to 7 p.m., at Thomas Paine Plaza (1400 JFK Blvd.).
"The recent ICE focus on detaining and removing people ingrained in local Philadelphia neighborhoods has created hysteria and outrage within the community," says Mia-lia Kiernan, a volunteer for Cambodian activist group One Love Movement, in a press release. "The community is demanding legislative change, support from local elected officials to stop the injustice happening in their districts, and the release of the men currently detained at York."
|Courtesy of Royal Meats|
Let's review why, in all likelihood, tonight's protest against the federal lawsuit challenging Arizona's new illegal immigration policy will be completely nuts: It's at Geno's (at 6 p.m.). The governor of Arizona is gonna be there. So is Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce, aka the author of Arizona's illegal immigration bill. (If you're not already aware, Pearce is a real gem of a man. He's friend to white supremacist J.T. Ready and sponsored a bill that would bar students at Arizona universities from creating groups based at all on race, like the Black Business Students Association or Native Americans United.) Our own state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who's introduced an illegal immigration bill modeled after Arizona's, will be there, too. Plus members of the Philadelphia Tea Party will make an appearance.
And of course, as we all know, Geno's is in a neighborhood full of Mexican, Vietnamese and Cambodian immigrants, among others. We haven't heard about any counter-protests being planned which would certainly up the crazy factor but if you have, let us know.
Just sayin', you might want to be there just to see what goes down or not be there, for that matter.
|After being told he was owed money, then turned over to I.C.E., handcuffed,
and detained at PPA headquarters, Oliver was let go. 23 drivers were charged.
Today, taxi drivers, supporters, and clergy members gathered at PPA headquarters in a "prayer vigil" for taxi drivers detained and/or charged with being here illegally after being netted in a sting set up by the PPA and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Last week, the Daily News reported that PPA officials, in collaboration with ICE, sent notes to 26 taxi cab drivers (cabs are governed by the PPA), telling them they were owed credit card payments, and should come by PPA headquarters to collect.
In fact, the notes were bogus: the drivers were greeted at the door and, they say, ushered into another room where they were handcuffed and detained by ICE officials.
Here's an account from Oliver (he preferred not to give his last name), one of the three men released without any charges, with whom I spoke today:
PPA sent us a letter saying they're holding some money if you come over and pick it up. I have the letter in my car! When I got there, there was a lady who asked me for my ID, I gave it to her, she checked the list, and said ok, this man will escort you inside to get your check. When I came in , they push me to the wall and say, "Police! Police!" I said, "What have I done? What have I done? What is the problem?" They didn't answer. They just took me to a warehouse in the back, where I saw the other drivers, handcuffed, sitting on the floor. I saw one of the immigration officials and I said 'I am a citizen! I've been a citizen for seven years my passport is outside in the car.' They said, 'Really?' They went out and brought it back and they said 'We're sorry - we're very very sorry - we made a mistake."
According to ICE spokesman Mark Medvesky, the operation was the result of a perceived vulnerability: taxi drivers have "access to parts of the airport that the general public does not have."
ICE, he says, approached PPA and asked to review drivers' records, ultimately coming up with the 26-person list. The 23 charged with being here illegally can challenge their deportations in immigration court.
The sting raises a few questions:
- After an extensive review of some 5,000 records, ICE only found 26 people of interest, and charged even fewer: was the .04% percent rate enough to justify such a search or such an elaborate sting? Was ICE expecting to find more than it did?
- If taxi drivers pose a threat to airport security why perform such a search now? And why aren't similar stings being conducted in other cities (spokesman Medvesky affirmed that they aren't).
- Was the method of arrest sending bogus notices to cab drivers and bringing them to PPA headquarters (not a federal facility, that is, but that of their employer) appropriate?
- Is the timing of this sting political? Medvesky says no, pointing out the operation was in the works before the city canceled its collaborative arrangement between police and ICE officials.
Ron Blount, president of the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania, suggests that the timing had more to do with PPA's recent losing court battle against the Taxi Workers' Alliance. The PPA, he suggests, is trying to curry favor with Harrisburg at a time when the agency finds itself suddenly without teeth.
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