Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Latinos Disproportionately Hit, as US Government Announces Record-High Deportations

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that that deportations reached a record high in fiscal year 2011, with almost 400,000 people deported. The agency said that some 55 percent of these had criminal convictions, with 1,000 having been convicted of murder, 5,800 of sexual offences, and 80,000 of drink-driving or drug crimes.

The New York Times reports on a University of California, Berkeley, law school reporton the Secure Communities scheme, which relies on data-sharing to check any fingerprints taken by police against records of immigration violations. More than 226,000 people have been arrested through this program, which was launched in 2008, and the report says that programs like this are responsible in large part for the surge in deportations, which have increased four-fold since 1996.

The report found that 93 percent of those arrested under the program were Latinos -- a disproportionately large amount, given that this group makes up 77 percent of undocumented individuals in the U.S. In addition, it points out that more than a third of those arrested under Secure Communities said they had a child or spouse who was a U.S. citizen, meaning that the scheme is having a significant impact on Latino families with members who are U.S. citizens. A major criticism put forward by the report is that the program:
has led to the mass deportation of low-level offenders, such as people who violate traffic laws and people without criminal histories at all.
The Wall Street Journal notes that there was no information available on how many of the deported who had criminal convictions had been found guilty only of previous violations of migration law. According to ICE, some two-thirds of those deported in the 2011 financial year were either repeat border-crossers, or were detained soon after crossing the border. It seems likely, then, that many of the criminal records referred to by the government are simply convictions for previous attempts to cross the border. As Mike at Central American Politics comments: 
I'm guessing that since [the ICE] didn't have the answer to such a basic and predictable question, most of the remaining deportees were simply people desperate enough to get to the U.S. a second or third time.
The NYT reported earlier this month on the changing profile of those crossing the U.S. border from Mexico, saying that despite the decline in border crossers, deterred by the faltering U.S. economy, or the risks from Mexican criminal gangs in the region, there is a hard core of migrants who are determined to get to the U.S. despite having been deported previously:
Migrant shelters along the Mexican border are filled not with newcomers looking for a better life, but with seasoned crossers: older men and women, often deportees, braving ever-greater risks to get back to their families in the United States — the country they consider home.
More from the Washington PostLA Times.

News Briefs

  • Reuters reports on the oil boom in Colombia, where production has hit a record 950,000 barrels per day, driven by the improving security situation. It is set to grow to 1.1 million bpd by the end of 2012, with the biggest finds in the short term expected in the provinces of Meta and Vichada, to the center and east of the country -- both regions with significant activity from the FARC rebel group.
  • Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding announces that he will be replaced by current Education Minister Andrew Holness when he steps down on Sunday,reports the Miami Herald. The Associated Press reports that Holness had been the expected choice to take over from Golding, since the PM announced his resignation in September, though the hand-over comes a month earlier than expected. The move followed the Golding government’s damaging attempts to resist the extradition of drug lord “Dudus” Coke to the U.S., resulting in clashes that killed over 70 people in Kingston. His resignation has been widely interpreted as an attempt to give his Labour Party a chance to bounce back from the scandal in time for the coming general elections, due to be held by December 2012.
  • NPR has a report on Mexico’s attempts to attract tourists to the country, despite the bad press from high levels of drug violence. Despite the daily reports of “severed human heads, shootouts, kidnappings or extortion,” this year has seen a rebound in the number of visitors, which is reaching almost record levels. Despite growing homicide rates caused by clashes between cartels for control of tourist areas like Acapulco, much of Mexico’s territory remains relatively untouched by the violence, with most of the killing taking place in hotspots like the northern border region. One such danger zone is the Gulf state of Veracruz, which is important drug gang territory because of the capital city’s position as a major port on the Caribbean coast. There have been a string of deadly incidents in recent weeks, and on Tuesday, as the Associated Press reports, the authorities announced the dismissal of some 1,000 state police officers as part of efforts to purge the force of corrupt elements.
  • Reporters without Borders warns of police repression of grass-roots reporting in some of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, where special police “pacifying” forces known as UPPs have been sent to root out drug gangs. In the Complexo do Alemão district, where security forces have clashed with civilians and gangs in recent weeks, reporters were reportedly ordered to stop filming by soldiers, leading Reporters without Borders to ask whether these zones are in a state of emergency where normal rights have been suspended.
  • In more bad news for press freedom in the Americas, Venezuelan authorities have hit TV station Globovision with a fine of more than $2 million for its coverage of a 27-day stand-off at the Rodeo Prison in June. The regulator said the station's reporting advocated crime, encouraged public disorder, and incited hatredThe Washington Post describes Globovision as “the country’s only remaining channel that takes a staunch anti-Chavez stance,” and quoted station owner Guillermo Zuloaga as saying the move was “one more attack by a government that has only fear of freedom of expression.”
  • Meanwhile Leopoldo Lopez, a favorite to win the opposition nomination for Venezuela’s 2012 presidential elections, has declared that he will stand for the nomination despite the Supreme Court’s latest move to block him from holding office, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Colombian security forces reported the find of another “narco-submarine,” a vessel designed to transport illegal drugs under the surface of the ocean. The vessel was seized in Cordoba, a province on the country’s Caribbean coast, which is unusual as most other narco-subs have been found close to the Pacific ocean. The authorities said it likely belonged to the Urabeños drug gang, a new-generation paramilitary group which is powerful in the coastal region.
  • Also on the Colombian drug trade, an article in La Silla Vacia points out that, even as the country gradually disentangles its economy from the drug trade, there are warnings that at least 150 of the country’s more than 1,000 municipalities could elect criminal representatives in the upcoming local elections. The website says the parallel processes of the “de-narcotization” of the economy and the “narcotization” of politics could be explained by the fact that the mafias now need to wash their dirty profits, and “the best way to do this is through public administration. That’s why they need to become governors, mayors, and councilors.”
  • Haiti’s new Prime Minister Garry Conille, a former aide to ex-U.S. President Bill Clinton, was sworn into office, five months after President Michael Martelly took office, the Miami Herald reports.
  • Protesters in Peru have lifted a blockade of Yanacocha gold mine, the biggest in Latin America, reports the Associated Press. Locals are protesting against plans to drain natural lakes in the area and build artificial ones, saying it would harm cattle farmers.

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