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‘I Am a Pawn’: Trump’s Immigration Fight With California Squeezes Those Caught in the Middle

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LOS ANGELES — Three immigration agents showed up last month at Poindexter Nut Company, which processes walnuts for 300 growers in California’s Central Valley, demanding payroll records to verify whether its employees were authorized to work in the United States.

To comply with federal law, Mike Poindexter began amassing documents to turn over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. To comply with a new state law, he posted a notice above the time clock informing workers that ICE was auditing their records, a process that could take months.

Immediately, workers began resigning, and Mr. Poindexter signed their last pay checks.

“I am a pawn caught between the federal and state governments, like a child between two fighting parents,” said Mr. Poindexter, the company’s chief executive. “Each is threatening to punish me if I don’t listen.”

The Trump administration is in combat with the nation’s largest and most progressive state, filing a lawsuit[1] against California this week seeking to nullify three state laws that protect undocumented immigrants. On Wednesday, both sides threw gasoline[2] onto their feud, with Attorney General Jeff Sessions denouncing the state’s “open borders radicals” and Gov. Jerry Brown saying the administration was “full of liars.”

The fight has energized partisans on each side. And it has squeezed those in the middle like Mr. Poindexter — the people directly affected by the laws.

Employers are now bearing the brunt of the Trump administration’s wrath against California and illegal immigration more broadly; ICE’s chief, Thomas D. Homan, has vowed more workplace enforcement and warned that the state had better “hold on tight.”[3]

At the same time, those companies now have to follow the state’s Immigrant Worker Protection Act[4], which took effect Jan. 1. The law prohibits companies from cooperating with ICE without a subpoena, and from letting ICE agents into nonpublic areas.

It also requires them to post notices alerting workers that ICE will be reviewing records — a tip-off to those who may not be legally allowed to work. Any company found violating the law faces fines of $2,000 to $10,000.

Several workplaces visited by ICE have lost workers, or customers, since it began targeting businesses in late January, and before the audits were even completed. Agriculture, a state economic powerhouse, has been especially hard hit.

When Bee Sweet Citrus[5], a large grower and shipper of oranges, lemons and grapefruit in Fowler, in Central California, plastered on the wall an advisory about ICE’s inspection plans, the company lost some packers, sorters and administrators, one employee said.

“I resigned out of fear,” said the worker, Ana, who asked that her last name be withheld because she is undocumented. She said she hung on until Feb. 16, close to the deadline for the company to submit paperwork to ICE, so she could make another month’s rent. (The company said it was complying with state and federal laws regarding the ICE audit, but declined to comment further.)

Faith in the Valley[6], an advocacy group based in Fresno, said it has received a spate of calls from workers rattled after seeing the notices about audits. Manuel Cunha, the president of Nisei Farmers League, a growers’ organization, said, “I have never seen workers quit like this before.”

“There is fear and hysteria,” he said.

Rooting out illegal labor is, of course, the main purpose of ICE’s workplace visits, which usually involve inspections of companies’ I-9 forms[7], the federal document on which employees attest they are citizens or otherwise legal workers. (The California law does not require subpoenas for I-9 inspections.)

California farmers are heavily dependent on immigrant labor, both legal and illegal, and often contend that they have no way of knowing when a worker submits a fake Social Security number on their I-9 forms.

ICE has also stepped up activity in urban areas, conducting sweeps and delivering audit notices to hundreds of businesses in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.

Reyna Guardado, the owner of El Guanaquito Pupuseria, a restaurant in Riverside County, said that all of her workers are family members with green cards or citizenship. But the moment a pair of agents, donning flak jackets emblazoned with “ICE,” set foot there to serve her an I-9 audit notice, her patrons dispersed. “Everybody knows ICE was here,” she said.

Also in a bind are law enforcement agencies prohibited by another new state law[8] from cooperating with ICE unless the federal agency has a warrant or the case involves a major crime.

Even before the law, many of the state’s largest agencies, like the Los Angeles and San Francisco Police Departments, limited their work with ICE. But agencies in more conservative areas have had to change their practices.

The California State Sheriffs’ Association was one of the most vocal opponents of the law. “What used to happen is that I would hand someone off while they were in custody, ICE would escort them out and they would be gone,” said Sheriff Donny Youngblood of Kern County, who was president of the association last year. “Now we have to turn them loose.”

Last year, before the law took effect, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department turned over about 370 undocumented immigrants from county custody to federal authorities, said Sheriff Sandra Hutchens.

“Now those people are going back into the community,” Sheriff Hutchens said. “We haven’t had any horrible incident that has occurred yet, but when that happens, the community is going to say to me, ‘Why were they released?’”

The Trump administration argues that the state laws shield dangerous criminals from federal law enforcement at the expense of public safety. In his speech Wednesday announcing his lawsuit, Mr. Sessions cited the case of a 34-year-old undocumented immigrant arrested in Ventura County on a charge of sexual abuse of a minor. The man, Jose Vaca, left jail and has disappeared, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office told local news media[9], because the new state law forbids jails to turn inmates over to ICE until they have appeared before a judge. Mr. Vaca posted bail and was released before his first court appearance, the sheriff’s office said.

The state’s Democratic leaders have argued that their new law regarding law enforcement cooperation with ICE keeps communities safe by maintaining trust between the police and immigrant residents. After President Trump took office, the police departments in Los Angeles and other American cities said domestic violence reports from the Hispanic community dropped[10], which they feared was because victims who were undocumented were afraid of coming forward.

The law on employer cooperation helps immigrant workers learn their rights and seek legal help if necessary, its supporters say. “The law works first and foremost to protect Californians’ privacy at the workplace,” said Sarah Lovenheim, a spokeswoman for Xavier Becerra, the Democratic state attorney general. She said she could not divulge whether the office had received any complaints about companies violating the law.

Mr. Poindexter, the walnut processor, said he considers himself fortunate that the audit came after the harvest. But his plant operates year-round, and he is eager for ICE to finish its work so he can replace the lost workers before the fall harvest. “There is no point in hiring people with this cloud hanging over us,” he said.

Some business owners even wondered if California’s attempts to protect undocumented immigrants were having the opposite effect.

“I don’t think the state is helping employers or workers; they are making it worse,” said Karen Musson, who owns Gar Tootelian, a fertilizer retailer that serves 1,500 growers in Fresno County. “We are attracting ICE agents because California drew a line in the sand.”

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References

  1. ^ filing a lawsuit (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ threw gasoline (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ “hold on tight.” (insider.foxnews.com)
  4. ^ Immigrant Worker Protection Act (oag.ca.gov)
  5. ^ Bee Sweet Citrus (www.fresnobee.com)
  6. ^ Faith in the Valley (faithinthevalley.org)
  7. ^ I-9 forms (www.uscis.gov)
  8. ^ new state law (www.nytimes.com)
  9. ^ told local news media (www.keyt.com)
  10. ^ dropped (www.nytimes.com)

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster

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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

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Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”

References

  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (www.nytimes.com)

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake

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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.

References

  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (akleg.gov)

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes

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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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