US Census Counts Imprisoned Illegal Aliens Awaiting Deportation

May 31, 2010

TACOMA, WASHINGTON – Paulo Sergio Alfaro-Sanchez, an illegal immigrant being held at a detention center in Washington state, had no idea that the federal government would count him in the census.

No one gave him a census form. No one told him his information would be culled from the center’s records.

But counted he was, along with other illegal immigrants facing deportation in detention centers across the country – about 30,000 people on any given day, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement.

By the time the census delivers the total tallies to the state and federal government, most of the immigrants will be long gone. But because the population snapshot determines the allocation of federal dollars, those in custody could help bring money to the towns, cities and counties in Texas, Arizona, Washington and Georgia where the country’s biggest and newest facilities are located.

“I think the irony, if there’s any irony, is that the locality is what’s going to benefit, because you have a detention center in a particular city where people have been brought from different parts of the region, and that community will benefit,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, an organization that has pushed Latinos to participate in the census.

This census brings a twist, though. For the first time, states have the option of counting people in detention centers and prisons as residents of their last address before they’re detained, worrying some local lawmakers who say cities and counties that host detention centers could lose money.

“Detention centers and prisons should probably count where they are located, that’s where resources would be required,” Rep. Sanford D. Bishop, D-Georgia wrote in a May letter to the chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the census. Bishop represents Stewart County, Georgia, population 4,600, where the nation’s largest detention center housed a total of 14,000 people between April 2007 and March 2008.

ICE operates 22 immigrant detention centers and also houses people in hundreds of other jails or prisons. Most of the largest centers are in small towns in Texas, Arizona and Georgia. Texas is home to six detention centers, and Arizona has three.

The payout can be hefty for small towns. Federal money being distributed from the census averaged about $1,469 per person in fiscal year 2008, according to the Brookings Institution, and other grants are also available to small towns depending on their population.

In Raymondville, Texas, a town of nearly 10,000 people, the Willacy Detention Center holds an average daily population of about 1,000. The center opened in 2006 and was a boon to the community as ICE and the private company that runs the center rushed to hire personnel.

Now, the detention center’s population may push Raymondville over the town’s goal of surpassing 10,000, a number that will allow them to qualify for more federal help, Mayor Orlando Correa said.

“As long it’s humane, as long as the facility respects the rights of these people and they’re not treated like animals, I’m OK with it,” Correa said.

For safety reasons, most detainees are counted through administrative records, rather than forms being passed out, U.S Census Bureau spokesman Stephen Buckner said. The census will cull data from records kept on April 1.

Alfaro-Sanchez, for his part, is glad he’s being counted. He entered the country when he was about 15 through Tijuana, and worked as a handyman in Goldendale, a small town in eastern Washington.

He arrived in at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma on March 30 after being arrested in a fight. The charges were dropped, he said, but immigration officers had already flagged him for arrest.

“I think that even though we may be sent back, there’s a lot of people who may need that money, the Hispanic people that are here,” the 32-year-old said in Spanish.

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Gainesville Florida Police Entrap Motorists In Crosswalks

May 31, 2010

GAINESVILLE, FLORIA – When Kelly Stauff saw the man in the crosswalk, it was too late to stop. She didn’t hit the man, who turned out to be a Gainesville police officer in street clothes, but Stauff was nailed with a $154 ticket for failing to yield to a pedestrian.

Stauff and others have complained about GPD’s tactics in its new initiative to improve pedestrian safety, saying they are sneaky and create a violation that wouldn’t have existed otherwise.

GPD counters that such sting details are endorsed by pedestrian and bicycle organizations, and are an effective way to get across a message that traffic laws will be enforced.

And it’s likely that GPD may do more of them when schools reopen after the summer break, said Cpl. Tscharna Senn.

“We’ve had more pedestrian-related accidents than we are comfortable with, and even one is too much,” Senn said. “Agencies all over have used decoys for details like this one.”

Senn added that an early morning accident downtown on May 22 in which three pedestrians were hit is a prime example of why both pedestrians and drivers need to be more alert when crossing streets.

Senn added that officers won’t determine who was at fault in that accident until an analysis of evidence is done.

“This is why it is so critical that we do an education program on pedestrian safety because we do have a lot of areas in town that are very heavily congested with pedestrian and vehicular traffic,” she said. “Late at night, when you don’t have the best lighting conditions, it is incumbent on all drivers and pedestrians to know the law.”

GPD has already issued far more tickets for failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks this year than in past years: 9,174 so far compared with 9,043 last year and 10,026 in 2008.

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Crazed Oregon Department Of Human Services And Lane County Circuit Court Judge Kip Leonard Keep Canadian Child In State Custody For 2 Years For No Reason

May 30, 2010

OREGON – Almost two years after a 12-year-old Calgary boy was whisked into foster care in the United States in a bizarre custody dispute, an Oregon court judge has decided he’s coming home.

Noah Kirkman will be back home in Canada in a few weeks, but there was no suggestion that anything was amiss that caused the youngster to be kept from his family for almost two years.

“Noah was happy,” said Tony Merchant, the Regina-based lawyer for the family of the boy, who will finish his school year in Oregon.

Mr. Merchant, who has been involved in the case for the last few months, said that something was truly “bizarre” in the handling of this case. But he didn’t blame the judge who led it.

“I don’t know how things went wrong before I was involved,” Mr. Merchant said. “I don’t think Judge Leonard is at fault.”

Noah also met with his grandparents Thursday night, looked at his Calgary home on Google Earth and is excited to be reunited with his parents and sister, Mr. Merchant said.

The court acknowledged that there are still transition issues, but Oregon officials have been told to work them out.

The boy, who had been caught in bureaucratic limbo since the summer of 2008, will be returning to his Canadian family in a few weeks, the judge ruled.

The legal nightmare began when Noah was vacationing with his stepfather in small-town Oregon, while his mother and younger sister remained at home in Canada.

The boy was riding his bike without a helmet when he was stopped by police, but had trouble answering questions. He has severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but maintains an A average in school. Officials checked out his background and found an open social services file in Canada, which was the result of his special needs assistance, and that he was in the U.S. without his mother, his legal guardian and deemed her note permitting care by his stepfather wasn’t enough.

Noah was taken into custody to protect his welfare, although Oregon’s Department of Human Services won’t talk about the case citing privacy rules.

Noah’s mother, Lisa, and stepfather, John, who now resides with the family in Calgary and is the father of Noah’s sister Mia, (he and his wife for a time lived in different cities) have been fighting to be reunited with Noah ever since.

Last month, Oregon’s Lane County Circuit Court Judge Kip Leonard ruled that he might be open to sending the boy back to Canada when the school year ends, but there was no guarantee.

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San Bernardino California Police Can’t Find “Kidnapped” Girl For 14 Years, Mom Finds Her On Facebook

May 30, 2010

SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA – A father is behind bars, arrested for allegedly kidnapped his own children from California 14 years ago, and bringing them to Central Florida to live.

For years, investigators have been searching for him, but it was the social networking website Facebook that delivered the break it took more than a decade to get, MyFoxOrlando reports.

Faustino Utrera is now charged with two counts of kidnapping, and two counts of violating child custody orders.

According to the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office, Utrera was at a bus stop on Wednesday at about 2:30 in the afternoon, waiting to pick up his 16-year-old son from school, when he was taken into custody.

Faustino’s 16-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter had been attending celebration high school. Investigators said the family of three had actually been living in the palm key mobile home park in Polk County.

Investigators said that in 1995, Utrera took his two kids from the family’s San Bernardino, California home and disappeared.

Then just last march, investigators said the mother of the children was on Facebook and found her daughter. When she began conversing online, her very own daughter, who hadn’t seen her since she was 3 years old, told her mom she wanted nothing to do with her and deleted her Facebook page.

San Bernardino authorities issued an out-of-state arrest warrant, and this past Wednesday, Osceola County deputies caught up with Utrera.

We know Faustino’s daughter is about to turn 18, and she officially graduated from celebration high school on Thursday night. For now, both children are in the custody of the State of Florida.

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New Jersey Division Of Criminal Justice Charges Man With Commiting Crimes In Costa Rica Where Effort Isn’t Illegal

May 30, 2010

NEW JERSEY – A Buffalo man accused of running a multibillion-dollar online gambling site for a New York City crime family posted $100,000 bail this week following a court appearance on money-laundering and illegal gambling charges.

Investigators with New Jersey’s Division of Criminal Justice accuse Brian R. Cohen, 62, of operating a “wire room” in Costa Rica, where the Lucchese crime family took in $2.2 billion in illegal bets on sporting events.

Cohen has residences in Buffalo and Costa Rica.

He was arrested May 16 on a return trip from Costa Rica at Buffalo Niagara International Airport by detectives from the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Gangs & Organized Crime Bureau.

Cohen allegedly ran the Lucchese family’s offshore gambling operations, including a Web site called http://www.bigactionsports.com. The wire room in San Jose, Costa Rica, had up to 20 people at a time taking bets by phone and processing wagers, according to Stephen J. Taylor, director of the Division of Criminal Justice.

Cohen appeared Thursday in New Jersey Superior Court in Morristown, where Judge Thomas V. Manahan ordered him to surrender his U. S. passport.

His arrest was “another significant milestone” in the prosecution of the Lucchese crime family, Taylor said.

“We have indicted the top echelon of this criminal organization in both New York and New Jersey, and we continue to charge key players in their multibillion- dollar gambling operation,” he said.

A New Jersey grand jury earlier returned indictments against 34 alleged Lucchese members and associates, including two of the family’s “ruling members,” on multiple counts including racketeering, conspiracy and money laundering.

The allegations against Cohen also will be presented to a grand jury.

If convicted, Cohen could face up to 10 years in state prison on the money-laundering charge and five years on the gambling charge.

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Nutcase West Yorkshire UK Police Tow Car Because A Window Was Open

May 30, 2010

WEST YORKSHIRE, UK – Marcus Morris was told that police they had taken his VW Polo because the open window – which he had accidentally left down – meant the vehicle was at risk of theft.

Mr Morris, 25, had parked the car near to Leeds city centre as he went for a job interview but returned an hour-and-a-half later to find it had gone.

He contacted West Yorkshire Police believing it had been stolen but was told they had removed it to protect it from thieves.

Mr Morris, said: “I couldn’t believe it. It seems outrageous.

“So what if I had left my window open? If anything had been taken then it’d have been my own fault.”

Police told him a window had been left open and a CD wallet was in the back of the car. The vehicle had been taken to a storage facility.

When Mr Morris collected his car the next morning he was handed a bill for £150. “I’m not working at the moment and that’s a lot of money for me. It’s money I don’t think I should have had to pay,” he said.

West Yorkshire Police said it made no apology for taking action. Chief Insp Elizabeth Belton said: “Officers regularly patrol our communities looking for opportunities to prevent crime, which is exactly what has happened on this occasion.

“The vehicle was left insecure with valuables on show in an area with significant levels of car crime and we were unable to locate the owner.

“We make absolutely no apology whatsoever for the officer’s actions, which have prevented this vehicle becoming a target for thieves. Had a thief got there first it would have been a very different story.

“We need people to take responsibility for their own property and take any valuables with them when they park up. We hope Mr Morris’s story will serve as a reminder.”

The charges made for the recovery and storage of vehicles are set nationally by the Government. Mr Morris confirmed he is taking legal advice in an attempt to recover the cost.

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Nutcase Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Refuses To Produce Documents Detailing Taxpayer Dollars Spent By Department

May 30, 2010

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – Maricopa County sheriff’s officials said Tuesday that financial sanctions imposed by the Board of Supervisors will affect public safety, and the office likely will challenge the moves in court.

Sheriff’s Office attorneys have an 8:30 a.m. telephone conference today with a Superior Court judge on the proposed actions.

The conflict between the two entities hit a fever pitch Monday when the board froze the Sheriff’s Office’s access to racketeering and jail-enhancement funds starting July 1 because of what it suspects may be misspending. The funds totaled about $3 million this year. The move came after Sheriff Joe Arpaio refused to hand over financial documents the board subpoenaed. The board is trying to investigate the spending and set Arpaio’s budget for next fiscal year.

The board is scheduled to consider a range of additional financial actions against the sheriff at 11:30 a.m. today. The potential sanctions include canceling Sheriff’s Office credit cards, closing its outside bank accounts, restricting non-emergency travel or putting the office’s $269 million budget on line-item. The board had promised the actions would not impact public safety.

Still, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Lisa Allen said any actions would have serious ramifications and could affect everything from street patrols to drug investigations and disaster response. For example, she said, the Sheriff’s Office will have to park about 100 patrol cars funded exclusively through the racketeering funds if the money cannot be spent.

And if the board canceled staff credit cards, Allen said, deputies would be unable to quickly gas up patrol cars, purchase airline tickets for 20 to 30 monthly extraditions or purchase supplies to keep the office running.

“If we don’t have the flexibility to react as law enforcement is made to react – which is quickly – because they’re a little ticked off at us with how we’re reacting to their request, that will hinder our ability to keep the public safe,” Allen said.

Sheriff’s Office attorneys and staff also said the board could only put the office on a line-item budget if it was over budget. Sheriff’s spokesman Brian Lee said the office was within its $269 million budget and had spent about $215 million through April.

Allen said attorneys almost certainly would request a temporary restraining order to block any sanctions.

County spokeswoman Cari Gerchick said the county has an obligation to the public to take action.

“If they would just give us the documents, this could all be avoided,” Gerchick said. “With a $300 million budget, there are probably some non-mandated activities that occur, and reasonably limiting those activities will not harm public safety.”

The board since March has asked the sheriff to turn over financial documents including detailed credit-card transactions, work assignments, a list of all detainees or defendants extradited, and a list of all bank accounts dating to 2005.

The board subpoenaed the information and gave Arpaio until May 7 to turn over the documents. When he missed the deadline, the board tried to convene a contempt hearing. Attorneys for the Sheriff’s Office appealed to the court.

Pima County Superior Court Judge Richard Gordon ruled the board could not force Arpaio to attend the hearing and scheduled a hearing for June 4.

Sheriff’s attorney Kerry Martin said today’s proposed actions by the board could violate the temporary restraining order.

He said the action is “direct retaliation” for not turning over the documents. Martin requested a telephone hearing with Gordon to ask the judge to consider another temporary restraining order against the board if it imposes sanctions.

The board wants the records to help set Arpaio’s budget but also believes he may be misspending or misusing public funds, though to what extent is uncertain.

For years, county government was conducted without much fanfare.

Budgets were negotiated, misspending dealt with quietly. Audits were low key. The supervisors tussled with a few department heads and elected officials over money and power, but those cases didn’t match today’s outright war with Arpaio.

Betsey Bayless was a supervisor in the 1990s, when the board and sheriff first fought over authority and money.

“We had numerous problems, but not like today,” she said. “You have all of these individual office holders elected by the people, and that sets up a conflict which maybe on a day-to-day basis isn’t a problem, but it is very difficult to govern an organization that is very diffused.”

The supervisors and their attorneys maintain that if there is misspending, it must be rooted out. They also point out the new fiscal year begins soon.

Critics have said the county’s executive branch has used its budget authority to go after enemies.

“The board and county management use their powers of the purse to amass other powers and to settle grudges with other elected county officials,” said former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, who resigned to run for attorney general.

Last summer, seven countywide elected officials met to talk about a perceived power grab and lack of respect by the board and top county administrators.

But today’s relationships with the board are strong, said three elected officials, because supervisors Max Wilson and Don Stapley have reached out to meet regularly.

County Recorder Helen Purcell, Assessor Keith Russell and Schools Superintendent Don Covey all said they have positive relationships with the board and the Office of Management and Budget.

“On the sheriff, let me put it this way: I’ve been here 22 years and the last 18 months have not been pleasant,” Purcell said. “In almost anything that’s gone on, there’s right and wrong on both sides. It has made for not only an unstable situation, but it’s just the way most people don’t want to conduct business.”

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