Immigration Around The Nation 09/03/2008

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►Mississippi Factory Target of the Nation’s Largest Raid
The Associated Press reports that on Aug. 25 almost 600 immigrant workers were arrested at a Howard Industries manufacturing plant in Laurel, Miss. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sealed off the entire factory for a day and set up mobile questioning booths nearby. It was the largest factory raid in American history, in terms of both arrests and ICE agents involved. Catholic Social Services reports that they and other children’s services are currently caring for 150 children who have been displaced due to the arrests, and dozens more remain unaccounted for.

ICE cites the failure of its three week “No-Jail Self-Deportation” program as one reason for its latest aggression. According to an Associated Press report released on Aug. 22, the initiative only produced eight willing subscribers during its three week test phase, after which the ICE director of detention and removal, Jim Hayes, vowed to step up deportation activities over the next year, including the hiring of more deportation agents.

►Catholic Authorities Renew Call for ICE to Back Off
Bishop Thomas Tobin and fifteen priests from his Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island called for a cessation of raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, saying: “I know for sure what Jesus would not do, would be to sweep into a community, gather up large numbers of people, separate them from one another and deport them to another country. In my own mind, in my own conscience, that’s crystal clear: Jesus would not do that.” This news, noted the Providence Journal, follows in the wake of similar statements from other Church authorities, such as those of Archbishop Jerome Hanus of Dubuque, Iowa, whose provenance included many of the workers in the Postville incident; Roger Cardinal Mahoney of the Diocese of Los Angeles, the largest diocese in the United States with over four million members, about 70 percent of whom are Latino; the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which released a statement last March condemning ICE’s deportation practices; and even Pope Benedict XVI himself, who said during his visit last April: “I have seen the breadth of this problem, above all the grave problem of the separation of families. This really is dangerous for the fabric — social, moral, human — of these countries.” Many parish churches are offering sanctuary for concerned immigrants and their families. (Statistical information courtesy of the University of Southern California and the Diocese of Los Angeles)

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►“Indian Chief” In Trouble for Selling Citizenship to the Undocumented
Self-proclaimed Indian chief Malcolm Weber was found guilty on six federal charges of defrauding immigrants. According to a report from the Associated Press, the 70 year old marketed memberships to the “Kewah Indian Nation”, an unrecognized Indian tribe founded by Weber, telling immigrants that membership in the Nation would give them rights to U.S. Social Security cards, U.S. passports, health care benefits, driver’s licenses, and even total citizenship. Testimonies at his trial revealed that he enrolled over 13,000 people in the Nation, the majority of whom – about 95 percent – are undocumented immigrants.

Weber had petitioned the government to recognize his Nation as a valid Indian tribe, and was turned down because his Nation had no historical basis and he himself was not by ethnicity a Native American. But even if his Nation had been recognized, no such benefits would have been granted; neither citizenship nor legal immigrant rights are granted for joining a Native American tribe. Indeed, the vast majority of valid Indian tribe members in the United States are, obviously, American-born. Weber collected an estimated $30,000 per day in tribe membership fees for a total of $1.2 million over the past two months. He was convicted of two counts of harboring illegal immigrants, two counts of possession of false documents with intent to defraud the United States, one count of conspiracy with intent to defraud the United States, and one count of mail fraud.

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