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Lofgren leads Dems in urging stop to ICE raids

A Bay Area congresswoman helped lead 146 House Democrats in urging President Obama to suspend Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids targeting Central American families and children.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Downey; and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., sent their letter to the White House just hours before the president was scheduled to deliver his final State of the Union address Tuesday. The entire Bay Area delegation except for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, signed the letter.

Lofgren is the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security.

The lawmakers wrote that the Department of Homeland Security operation “has generated widespread fear and panic in immigrant communities and has far-reaching impacts beyond the alleged targets for removal.” And it has raised due-process concerns “including meaningful access to legal counsel for mothers and children after apprehension and DHS officers reportedly using deceptive tactics to gain entrance into private residences,” they wrote.

“For these reasons and others, we believe that this operation should be immediately suspended until we can ensure no mother or child will be sent back to a country where they would face persecution, torture or death,” the lawmakers wrote.

The Democrats blasted the Obama administration for failing to provide a comprehensive refugee solution for those fleeing from violence in Central America.

“Your Administration has used family detention, Spanish language communication campaigns in Central America urging people not to come to the United States, and financial assistance to Mexico to deter, arrest, and return those fleeing violence,” they wrote. “This strategy has proven to be ineffective, as mothers and children continue to arrive at our Southwest border seeking refugee protection. Desperate Central American mothers and children will continue to flee to the United States and seek protection, regardless of the deterrent actions taken by this Administration.”

A regional solution to the crisis should include refugee screening and resettlement, the use of safe havens in appropriate third countries, temporary protected status for those in the United States, the use of priority refugee processing, and other humanitarian remedies, all in cooperation with other countries and non-governmental organizations, they wrote.

“The goal of this comprehensive refugee approach should be to ensure that Central American refugees, particularly mothers and children, are able to live free from an endless cycle of violence and persecution,” the lawmakers concluded. “We urge you to immediately halt the current enforcement actions towards Central American mothers and children and take steps to engage in a comprehensive effort with our hemispheric partners to address this regional refugee crisis in an appropriate humanitarian manner.”

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Tim Donnelly wants immigrant kids deported

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who lost last month’s gubernatorial primary election, wants California and federal agencies to start deporting the thousands of young illegal immigrants who’ve been rushing to U.S. borders in recent months from violence-ravaged Central American nations.

Tim Donnelly“Rather than dump these children on our streets to become victims again, we need to do what is in their best interest which is to restore them to their natural parents in their home countries,” Donnelly, R-Hesperia – a former Minuteman anti-illegal-immigration activist – wrote in a letter Wednesday to the officials at the state Department of Social Services, U.S. Border Patrol, Riverside County and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“Study after study irrefutably indicate that children who are raised by their birth parents, even if they are imperfect or living in difficult circumstances, have a better chance of achieving long–term success if the family unit stays intact,” he wrote.

Donnelly’s letter comes a day after Homeland Security buses carrying immigrant children and families were rerouted Tuesday to a facility in San Diego after American flag-waving protesters blocked the group from reaching a suburban processing center. The standoff in Murrieta came after Mayor Alan Long urged residents to complain to elected officials about the plan to transfer the Central Americans to California to ease overcrowding of facilities along the Texas-Mexico border.

More than 52,000 unaccompanied children – mostly fleeing at their parents’ behest from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras – have been detained after crossing the Texas-Mexico border since October in what President Barack Obama has called a humanitarian crisis. Many of believed they would receive leniency from U.S. authorities.

“News stations are reporting these children are to be ‘processed’ and ‘released,’” Donnelly wrote. “There have also been credible reports these children are being sent to our country by the drug cartels with only a phone number of a contact in our state. The Border Patrol have been instructed they are not to check the backgrounds or immigration status of the contacts state side … in other words, our government has completed the drug cartels communication ring at taxpayer expense and no government agency is doing their duty to prevent this from happening.”

Donnelly wrote that he wants to know to whom these children are being released, and whether background checks are being done on those people to see if they are “illegally present in our country, and by the very nature of their status, are unable to provide the safety and stability these children desperately need.”

He also wants to know where children without relatives in California will be released, and what sort of action plans various counties have to deal with the influx.

“We have a moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable among us. I can think of no group at greater risk than ‘unaccompanied minors’ – these children are alone and their parents are thousands of miles away,” Donnelly wrote. “The Border Patrol is reporting that nearly one third of the girls, ages 10-14, have been raped during their journey to our country, and many of them are now pregnant. This is unconscionable.”

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TRUST Act activists target sheriffs in Sac, Oakland

Four protesters supporting the TRUST Act anti-deportation legislation now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk reportedly were arrested Wednesday after a protest and sit-in at the office of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, which opposes the bill.

The sheriffs’ association said the four refused repeated demands that they leave the private property, and were taken to Sacramento County Jail. Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern, the association’s president, later contacted protesters to explain his group’s position.

But apparently they’re all too aware of that position, as they’re planning to hold a “pray-in” at Ahern’s Oakland office Thursday morning.

Among the leaders of Thursday’s protest will be Pancho Ramos-Stierle, who was arrested as he meditated while police cleared the Occupy Oakland encampment in 2011 and was held by Ahern’s office on behalf of immigration authorities; his immigration case is still pending.

Currently, when someone is booked into a county jail, the suspect’s fingerprints are sent to the FBI for comparison with criminal databases. Under the Secure Communities program launched in 2008, the FBI shares that information with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. If ICE thinks the inmate might be deportable, it asks jail officials to hold that person until an immigration agent can review the case and perhaps take the inmate away for deportation.

AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – the TRUST (Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools) Act – would forbid jail officials from honoring those immigration holds in many cases.

The sheriffs’ association issued a statement Wednesday afternoon explaining that the law “would require offenders that have been subject to prior removal orders, previously deported from the country, or have been charged with serious and violent felonies to be released into the community. It also would require sheriffs to release persons that, while not having been previously convicted of a serious or violent offense, have been deemed threats to national security or public safety by the Department of Homeland Security.”

Finally, the association noted, AB 4 would require a sheriff to let someone go if required by “local law” or “any local policy.”

“These terms are not defined and could defeat even the narrow exceptions provided by AB 4 that would allow a sheriff to hold a person that has been convicted of serious and violent felonies,” the association’s statement said.

But the groups behind tomorrow’s protest in Oakland – Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy, and the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition – contend AB 4 gives law enforcement much broader discretion to honor immigration “hold” requests than the similar bill Brown vetoed last year, while ensuring that those with most low-level, non-violent offenses are not wastefully held for deportation.

“We pray for renewed trust between law-enforcement and immigrant communities in Alameda County and throughout our state. And we pray that Sheriff Ahern will open his heart to hear the pleas of the people, for safety and protection from indiscriminate detention and deportations,” Rev. Deborah Lee said in a news release. “And we pray that the Governor will sign this bill, so as to advance immigration reform.”

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Lofgren crowdsources domain-name seizure bill

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, is crowdsourcing a plan for a bill regarding domain-name seizures for copyright infringement.

The forthcoming bill is a reaction to concerns over “Operation in Our Sites,” a program by the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeting websites that distribute counterfeit and pirated items.

Lofgren, who serves on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet, issued this statement today:

“During SOPA I saw firsthand the Reddit community’s strong dedication to free expression. Because of that dedication, I thought I would attempt an experiment: crowdsourcing a legislative proposal on Reddit. The goal of the legislation would be to build due process requirements into domain name seizures for copyright infringement. I’d like your thoughts on the proposal.

“Although I am considering introducing a bill on domain name seizures for infringement, that does not mean I accept the practice as legal or Constitutional. Nonetheless, since these seizure actions are occurring, I thought it worthwhile to explore a legislative means providing appropriate protections for free expression and due process. While I promise to carefully consider all recommendations, I can’t, of course, promise that every suggestion can be incorporated into a bill I’d introduce.

“The goal is to develop targeted legislation that requires the government to provide notice and an opportunity for website operators to defend themselves prior to seizing or redirecting their domain names. The focus would be on government domain name seizures based on accusations that a website facilitates copyright infringement and not, for example, accusations of obscenity or libel. Feedback and input should also take into account any legitimate concerns that notice or delay might reasonably lead to destruction of evidence, threats to the physical safety of an individual, or other unintended negative consequences.

“So, Internet policy experts and free speech warriors: How, specifically, would you suggest accomplishing these goals? I look forward to reading your thoughts and input!”

Click here to access Lofgren’s Reddit post and offer your suggestions.

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Honda claims victory on LGBT immigration issue

Rep. Mike Honda is declaring victory after a decision that LGBT relationships will be considered just like any other family relationships in exercising prosecutorial discretion in immigration and deportation matters.

In a letter sent in late July, Honda – along with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and 82 other House members – had asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to explicitly recognize in writing that the ties of a same-sex partner or spouse can be a positive factor for discretionary relief in immigration enforcement deportation cases. A June 2011 memo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, dealing with prioritizing ICE’s resources and reducing excessive deportations, had said a key positive factor in exercising prosecutorial discretion is a “person’s ties and contributions to the community, including family relationships.”

Napolitano responded yesterday.

honda.jpg“After many conversations with President Obama’s administration, a strong push by the LGBT community, and with the help of my colleagues, Secretary Napolitano has announced that she will disseminate written guidance to immigration authorities that confirms the interpretation of the phrase ‘family relationships’ to include LGBT relationships — specifically the relationships of immigrants in same-sex marriages and partnerships with U.S. citizens,” Honda said today.

Honda said this small win underscores the need for more comprehensive immigration reform. “Current immigration laws are tearing families apart and separating American citizens from their loves ones. No one should have to choose between their spouse and their country, and no family should be left out of the immigration system.”

Honda, D-Campbell, is the author of the Reuniting Families Act, H.R. 1796, which would recapture family and work visas that have gone unused and unclaimed due to bureaucratic delay; reduce the long backlog for families trying to reunite with their loved ones by classifying lawful permanent resident spouses and children as “immediate relatives” and exempting them from numerical caps on family immigration; provide equal treatment for all stepchildren and biological children under immigration laws; and more.

Honda said that bill “reunites same-sex couples and protects the civil rights of LGBT individuals and ensures that they are treated equitably through an immigration reform that is both comprehensive and inclusive.”

“The United States is a nation built upon the toil of immigrants hoping to build better lives for themselves and their families,” he said. “Our country deserves an immigration system that honors that legacy and keeps all families intact.”

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Christian charity gets bogus MLB gear seized in SF

No, that poor kid in Malawi isn’t necessarily a Giants fan: Counterfeit Major League Baseball clothing seized during last year’s playoffs and World Series will be donated to needy people overseas, the Department of Homeland Security announced.

DHS officials will hold a news conference tomorrow in San Francisco to show off some of the more than 2,000 items of counterfeit MLB clothing seized by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations directorate in and around AT&T Park last fall. The feds estimate that had the merchandise been genuine, it would have retailed domestically for more than $150,000.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which has the bogus gear now, will turn the seized items over to World Vision – a “Christian humanitarian organization” based in Washington State helping impoverished children and families around the globe. “Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people,” the group’s website says.

“The sale of counterfeit goods causes immeasurable harm to the U.S. economy, but through charitable efforts like this, at least some good can come from these crimes,” Shane Folden, special agent in charge for ICE Homeland Security Investigations in San Francisco, said in a news release today.

ICE HSI and CBP intellectual property rights enforcement efforts led to nearly 20,000 seizures in FY 2010, a 34 percent increase over the previous year. The seized goods had a total value of $1.4 billion, based upon the manufacturer’s suggested retail price had the products been legitimate.