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May 2000, Volume 7, Number 5

INS: Border, Detention

The INS has been returning to Agua Prieta, Mexico over 1,000 migrants a day who were apprehended just inside the US border in Arizona. Many of those sent back from the US wait in the Mexican border city of 125,000 before making a new attempt. This prompted the newly appointed mayor of Agua Prieta to urge apprehended migrants to demand hearings before US immigration judges, thus clogging US courts. The mayor complained that the INS was returning to Mexico known smugglers, thus encouraging them to form new groups of migrants to attempt re-entry. One result is that the conversion of buildings and homes into guesthouses for migrants is the fastest-growing business in Agua Prieta.

Currently, most Mexican migrants who are apprehended accept "voluntary return," which means that they waive their right to a hearing before an immigration judge and in return are not barred from legal entry into the US in the future. After meeting with the mayor, the Border Patrol promised not to return known smugglers to Agua Prieta. Instead, smugglers will be flown to the Mexican interior.

In Douglas, Arizona, a city of 15,000, the Border Patrol had 170,490 apprehensions in the last 12 months.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in April 2000 ruled that Border Patrol agents cannot use racial appearance in deciding whether to stop someone for suspected smuggling or illegal entry: "Stops based on race or ethnic appearance send the underlying message to all our citizens that those who are not white are judged by the color of their skin alone ... that they are in effect assumed to be potential criminals first and individuals second."

The California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation issued a report that said 37 people died from heat, cold, drowning or other causes while crossing the 140-mile California-Mexico border in the first three months of 2000. Since Operation Gatekeeper began in October 1994, 500 migrants have died trying to cross the Mexico-California border.

Detention. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 in April 2000 that immigrants convicted of crimes in the US and thus ordered deported, cannot be held by the INS indefinitely when their countries of origin refuse to accept their return. There are about 3,500 "lifers" in INS custody.

Two other appeals courts have upheld the INS policy of keeping such aliens in prison; the INS says it will appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The Florida Supreme Court decided 4-3 in April 2000 that non-US citizens who plead guilty or no contest to criminal charges, and have not been told that they could be deported as a result of their pleas, will have two years to withdraw their pleas and seek a new trial. The high court implemented the rule in 1988, instructing judges to tell non-citizens about the consequences of their pleas, but some state judges did not do so. Thus, if a judge fails to provide the warning, a two-year window opens for the defendant. For more information:

Discrimination. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Denny's paid civil penalties to the Office of the Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices in the Department of Justice for violating non-discrimination in hiring laws. The Atlanta Journal refused to hire a naturalized US citizen with a valid Social Security card and driver's license. Denny's agreed to retrain all its 1,170 restaurant managers in response to allegations it requested excessive documentation from aliens applying for work in San Diego.

Students. The INS is completing a $43 million computer system to track the 500,000 foreign students in the US; many US colleges and universities say that they should not be required to collect and forward to INS data on the foreign students they enroll and advise. About 427,000 foreigners entered the United States with student visas in FY96.

"Atlanta newspaper agrees to settlement over hiring practices," AP, April 11, 2000.