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News :: Human Rights
ICE Headed by Bush Crony; Investigated by Homeland Security for Deplorable Prison Conditions
09 Mar 2007
Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the branch of Homeland Security responsible for conducting the immigration raids in New Bedford, Massachusetts that helped create a humanitarian and economic crisis there, was appointed to her post by President Bush thanks to close family connections, according to several sources.
Myers, a niece of former Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Richard B. Myers, and wife of John F. Wood, chief of staff for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, was appointed despite strong opposition from both Republicans and Democrats who were at the time weary of the recent FEMA’s Michael Brown fall from grace. She landed her position thanks to one of Bush’s recess appointments in January 2006, in a maneuver that circumvented the need for approval by the Senate.

Myers is responsible for a bureau with more than 15,000 employees and a budget of $5 billion. Her most relevant experience previous to her current post was cracking down on international money laundering at the Commerce Department where she managed 170 employees and a $25 million budget. At the time of Myers’ nomination, an editorial on the National Review harshly criticized the decision. “Even a cursory reading of her resume reveals that the well-connected 36-year-old attorney’s background fails to comply with this legal requirement [a minimum of five years of experience]; in fact, she meets the bare minimum only by counting her current stint in White House Personnel” where she managed support staff and interns.

She also faces a legal investigation. In December 2006, Myers was named as a defendat in a habeas corpus action against ICE for defying a federal judge’s order that prohibited federal agents from shipping detained immigrants arrested during a raid in a Swift meatpacking plant in Greeley, Colorado, out of state. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, also filed a suit charging that some of those taken in the raid were illegally detained, jailed, and interrogated in El Paso, Texas. At the time, The Nation reported that some of those detained in El Paso were literally “dumped” across the border and managed to find their way back to their families.

One can imagine that such expedited removal process does not, in fact, achieve ICE’s “effort to tackle the serious threat to national security posed when illegal immigrants cross our borders,” as quoted on ICE’s Secure Border Iniative web page. Yet at the time Myers was quoted in saying that the Swift & Co nation-wide raids were a major blow in the “war against illegal immigration.”

ICE’s detention facilities are also under review. In January 2007, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security inspector general issued a report confirming that ICE’s detention standards in at least five of its facilities were seriously flawed. The report identified environmental health and safety concerns, untimely intial and responsive medial care, and substandard discliplinary policies, classifying detainees, and housing together detainees at different security levels. “We further noted that the ICE Detention Standard on Detaineed Grievance Procedures does not provide a process for detainees to report abuse or civil rights violations,” reads its executive summary.

The audit did not review ICE’s detention facilities in Texas, however, Democracy Now! recently produced a report on the Hutto Detention Facility in Talyor, Texas, and the deplorable health conditions where about 200 immigrant children are being held. Owned by the private prison company, Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), Hutto has been holding families with young children for up to two years, where at night, children as young as six are separated from their parents. Members of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service who visited the jail are calling for its immediate closure for treating children as criminals. Their findings can be found in a report titled “Locking Up Family Values: The Detention of Immigrant Families.”

ICE’s Texan jail where as many as 150 Massachusetts immigrants (mostly women) were recently shipped to in a scurry, is located in Raymondville, Texas, and has earned the code name of “Ritmo,” according to a Washington Post’s article published on February 2. Civil liberties and immigration law groups say that immigrants there are confined to 23 hours a day in windoless tents, often with insufficient food, clothing, medical care, and access to phones. The company that built such camp? The Corrections Corporations of America or “prison privatization at its best” as its logo reads. CCA “designs, builds and manages prisons, jails and detention facilities and provides inmate residential and prisoner transportation services in partnership with government” and with our tax money.

Today at noon, immigration attorneys based in Boston requested immediate injunctive release of all detainees and disputed the veracity of an affidavit filed by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials. Indeed, it’s not the first time and probably won’t be the last, that ICE under Myers runs into problems in their handling of U.S. “border operations.”
See also:
Related stories on this site:
ICE Gestapo kidnappings in New Bedford: Mobilize labor's power to free them now!
Statement in Solidarity with Immigrant Workers in New Bedford, MA
New Bedford Migrant Workers Are Not the Enemy
ICE Raids in New Bedford, MA
Respuesta de los reformistas a las redadas: palabras huecas, muestras vacías

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Being Undocumented NOT a Criminal Offense
12 Mar 2007
The 1996 IIRAIRA has been used to deport folks
based on previous criminal convictions even if
they were minor offenses. However, this law did
not make being undocumented a criminal offense.
Workers picked up in these raids are brought up
on administrative charges and their basic human
rights have been violated. They won't be allowed
to go before a jury. They are not guaranteed a
lawyer and do not have the constitutional protections
afforded by the criminal justice system. HR4437
was an attempt to make these charges criminal
felonies and was shelved after the Macrh and April