In New York, (And Elsewhere) Scammers And Killers Hunt Immigrants; Some 6,000 Children A Year Arrive Alone

A picture of Mexico as seen from outer space.
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Dodgy iPhone out-of-plane-window shot of one u...
Long Island....look out.Image via Wikipedia

This got lost in the shuffle yesterday — a huge march for immigration reform yesterday in D.C. — overshadowed by the health care reform bill.

Reported The Los Angeles Times:

Determined to push a major overhaul of the immigration system to the top of the nation’s political agenda, tens of thousands of people rallied Sunday on the National Mall, challenging Congress to fix laws that they say separate families and hurt the country’s economic and social vitality.

Organizers and supporters of the “March for America” campaign — who demonstrated as House members cast a historic vote on healthcare — want to make an immigration overhaul the next big undertaking in Washington.

“The reality is that immigrants keep jobs in America, they help businesses move forward,” said Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, one of hundreds of community, labor and faith-based groups nationwide that joined the march.

The organizing group, Reform Immigration for America, said Sunday’s rally was larger than the massive Washington demonstration in April 2006, when thousands protested around the country over immigrant rights and enforcement practices. On Sunday, the crowd stretched nearly five blocks on the mall.

Here’s one reason this feels urgent — the “sport” of hunting Latinos for sport on Long Island.

From The New York Times:

In a packed Long Island courtroom, a prosecutor laid out in chilling detail the “sport” that she said the defendant and his friends had made out of attacking Hispanic men.

“On Nov. 8, 2008, the hunt was on,” Megan O’Donnell, the prosecutor, told 12 jurors and 4 alternates in State Supreme Court on Thursday.

The defendant, Jeffrey Conroy, 19, was one of seven Patchogue-Medford High School students who the police and prosecutors said attacked an Ecuadorean immigrant, Marcelo Lucero, in November 2008. The fatal stabbing of Mr. Lucero shocked many on Long Island and focused new attention on assaults and harassment.

The same day’s paper carried this story:

Three members of a family in Richmond Hill, Queens, have been indicted on charges that they stole $1.75 million from 19 fellow West Indian immigrants by falsely promising to help them obtain green cards and bargain deals on federally seized property in New York City and Florida, the Queens district attorney announced on Thursday.

Shantal Ramsundar, her mother, Gomatee Ramsundar, background, arriving in court Thursday, and her father, Shane Ramsundar, have been charged with victimizing 19 fellow West Indians.

As part of the scheme, the authorities said, one defendant, Shane Ramsundar, 50, masqueraded as an agent from Immigration and Customs Enforcement on loan to the F.B.I., carrying an air gun, a phony badge and a false ID card.

“Our immigrant community here in Queens can be especially vulnerable to deception and fraud,” the district attorney, Richard A. Brown, said in a statement. “In this particular case, many of their immigrant victims are alleged to have implicitly trusted the defendants, who were West Indian like themselves.”

I ate dinner last week with a young, very successful Canadian woman who plans to move to Boston this summer, able to do so legally because she has, and can prove it, a thriving business. I just sent in $370 and a copy of my green card, which I received quickly and easily in 1988 as the unmarried child of an American citizen, because it’s time to renew it.

The legal right to work and live in the U.S., even in a terrible recession and appalling income inequality, remains alluring. American workers making $10 an hour, desperate to make more, already take home a day’s wage in Mexico. I’ve lived in Mexico and traveled there many times. If you have never visited a developing nation and seen these conditions firsthand, it’s difficult to imagine the poverty in other nations that annually compels so many across our borders.

As I wrote in the Daily News in 2005, children are also involved:

Of the 6,000 children a year placed in “removal proceedings” by the DHS, the more than 1,000 sheltered nationwide in group homes float in legal limbo. They can be deported at any time.

The number of such kids changes every day, says Maureen Dunn, director of the division of unaccompanied children’s services of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“Our load has doubled in two years,” Dunn says. “We don’t really know why. It might be increased apprehensions or perhaps because immigration authorities are releasing these children faster.”

“We’re getting slammed,” agrees Adriana Yserna, program director for the five-month-old nonprofit National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children. Yserna, an immigration lawyer, matches needy children with the more than 100 lawyers around the country willing to represent them without charge.

From a white paper on this issue:

The United States clearly cannot ignore the moral and ethical dilemma presented by a five-year-old being tossed across the border with a note to call a relative. But rather than respond simply by creating a new social-welfare bureaucracy, this phenomenon should point to the need for an examination of the policy decisions which forced the dilemma upon us in the first place by creating an anarchic situation where immigration laws are unenforced…

It requires a paradigm shift to think of the U.S. government as an active participant in human smuggling operations. And yet, looking at our response to the problem of unaccompanied minor children, smugglers themselves could hardly conclude otherwise.

AIDS/HIV No Longer A Barrier To U.S. Entry; Obama Changes A 22-Year-Old Rule

Blood testing in a medical facility in Ethiopia.
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Today’s New York Times reports the lifting of a 22-year-old rule, barring those testing positive for HIV and AIDS from visiting or immigrating to the U.S.:

“Under the ban, United States health authorities have been required to list H.I.V. infection as a “communicable disease of public health significance.” Under immigration law, most foreigners with such a disease cannot travel to the United States. The ban covered both visiting tourists and foreigners seeking to live in this country.

Once the ban is lifted, foreigners applying to become residents in the United States will no longer be required to take a test for AIDS.

In practice, the ban particularly affected tourists and gay men. Waivers were available, but the procedure for tourists and other short-term visitors who were H.I.V. positive was so complicated that many concluded it was not worth it.

For foreigners hoping to immigrate, waivers were available for people who were in a heterosexual marriage, but not for gay couples. Gay advocates said the ban had led to painful separations in families with H.I.V.-positive members that came to live in this country, and had discouraged adoptions of children with the virus.

Gay advocates said the ban also discouraged travelers and some foreigners already living in the United States from seeking testing and medical care for H.I.V. infection.

“The connection between immigration and H.I.V. has frightened people away from testing and treatment,” said Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, a group that advocates for gay people in immigration matters. She said lifting the ban would bring “a significant public health improvement.”

“Stigma and exclusion are not a sound basis for immigration policy,” Ms. Tiven said.

I moved to the U.S. as a permanent legal resident in 1988 from Canada, and had to have an AIDS test before I was granted my green card. As a heterosexual, non-drug-using woman who had never had a blood transfusion, someone who had been using condoms consistently — having covered AIDS for several newspapers in the 1980s,  I was well-versed in the dangers — this felt creepy, invasive and a little frightening. My then-partner, a medical resident, took my blood in the privacy of his office (“Nice veins!” was one of his oddest compliments) and we awaited the results from the small, local community hospital where he was training. We weren’t especially worried about the results, but in a small, gossipy rural town and his workplace it felt even more invasive to me.

I was clean. I was in. It felt weird that my blood contained the ultimate decisive factor in my carefully considered, life-changing decision to come to the U.S. to work and live.

I’m glad this ban has been lifted.