Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Emily Ruiz, 4-year-old American sent to Guatemala by U.S. immigration, reunited with NY family

Originally found here.

BY Mark Morales AND Erica Pearson

Wednesday, March 30th 2011, 1:40 PM

A 4-year-old girl sent to Guatemala by immigration officials even though she's a U.S. citizen has returned to her parents on Long Island.

Emily Ruiz was reunited with her family almost three weeks after she was sent packing with her grandfather while returning to the U.S. from a vacation.

"We have no words to express the joy it brings us to see, hold and kiss our daughter again," her father, Leonel Ruiz, said Wednesday in a statement.

"We are very happy because we were away from her for so long, without being able to see or hold her."
Wearing her little Dora the Explorer backpack, Emily flew back Tuesday after her family's lawyer flew to Guatemala to retrieve her.

"She's a lovely beautiful child. She never gave us a problem," said the lawyer, David Sperling. "Emily was super happy to see her family.

"It's a happy ending."

Emily, who was born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants, had initially traveled to Guatemala with her grandpa, Luis, to see relatives.

When they came back, officials at Washington's Dulles Airport flagged an illegal entry from the 1990s and detained the grandfather.

By Sperling's account, a border agent gave Emily's dad two choices over the phone: she could be held at juvenile facility in Virginia or go back to Guatemala with her grandfather.

Ruiz maintains he was never told he could come get Emily and was worried she would be given up for adoption, so chose to have her return to Guatemala on March 11.

Customs and Border Protection officials have said that the agency does not deport U.S. citizens and that her parents were told they could pick her up.

Emily's parents ran the risk of being deported themselves if they showed up to get Emily.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tell I.C.E. Not to Deport U.S. Veteran Who Served in War Zone

Originally found here along with a petition that you can also sign.

For nine long years Trinidadian native Ramdeo Chankar Singh served in the U.S. Army as a nurse with the rank of sergeant. Singh not only served in Germany but also in war-torn Kosovo. In March 2001, the military granted Singh—an undocumented immigrant—an honorary discharge for his service. But when he applied for naturalization a few years later, the federal government denied his application for citizenship, a slap in the face to a man who’s risked life and limb for the United States. The government reportedly rejected his petition for citizenship because Singh did not “meet the requirements” of the Immigration and Nationality Act provision he’d filed under.

Singh has spent the years since 2004 racking up legal bills in hopes of proving that he should be naturalized—but to no avail. The fact that he arrived in the U.S. at the age of 15 lacking a green card or permanent residency status continues to be an obstacle. Now the husband and father of two U.S.-born children faces deportation.

This is not the way veterans should be repaid for their service. Singh made a sacrifice for this country that many citizens never make. Let U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement know that Singh should not be deported.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

WWII vet discovers he’s not a U.S. citizen

Originally found here

By Liz Goodwin

Ninety-five-year-old Leeland Davidson discovered recently that he's not considered a U.S. citizen, despite living nearly 100 years in the country and serving in the U.S. Navy during WWII.

Davidson, from Centralia, Washington, told KOMO News that he discovered he wasn't a U.S. citizen when he was turned down for an enhanced driver's license he needed for a trip to Canada to visit relatives.

"We always figured because he was born to U.S. parents he's automatically a U.S. citizen," said Davidson's daughter, Rose Schoolcraft.

Davidson was born in British Columbia in 1916, but his parents didn't register the birth with the U.S. government to ensure they knew he was a citizen. He checked up on his citizenship before joining the Navy and was told by an inspector at the U.S. Department of Labor Immigration and Naturalization Service he had nothing to worry about. Now he worries that he won't be able to prove his citizenship, because his parents were born in Iowa before local governments started keeping records of birth certificates in 1880. "I want it squared away before I pass away," he says.

Schoolcraft says they tried to dissuade him from pursuing the matter. Employees at the local passport office scared them, telling her father "If he pursued it, (he could) possibly be deported or [be] at risk of losing Social Security."

"We keep telling him, leave it alone, leave it alone, and he won't, like a dog with a bone," Schoolcraft told the Centralia Chronicle. But Davidson says: "I want to get it done before I die." He also still wants to visit his friends and family in Canada. Sen Patty Murray's office is helping him with his application.

Note: The link above also includes a video interview.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Proposed Texas immigration law contains convenient loophole for ‘the help’

Originally found here

By Brett Michael Dykes

Texas has long been a hotbed of controversy on immigration issues. And a proposed immigration bill in the Texas state House is sure to raise more than a few eyebrows. The bill would make hiring an "unauthorized alien" a crime punishable by up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine, unless that is, they are hired to do household chores.

Yes, under the House Bill 2012 introduced by a tea party favorite state Rep. Debbie Riddle -- who's been saying for some time that she'd like to see Texas institute an Arizona-style immigration law -- hiring an undocumented maid, caretaker, lawnworker or any type of houseworker would be allowed. Why? As Texas state Rep. Aaron Pena, also a Republican, told CNN, without the exemption, "a large segment of the Texas population" would wind up in prison if the bill became law.

"When it comes to household employees or yard workers it is extremely common for Texans to hire people who are likely undocumented workers," Pena told the news giant. "It is so common it is overlooked."

Jon English, Rep. Riddle's chief of staff explained that the exemption was an attempt to avoid "stifling the economic engine" in Texas, which today is, somewhat ironically, celebrating its declaring independence from Mexico in 1836.

"Excepting household workers from a anti-immigration laws renders the law impotent and self-contradictory, just like the current U.S. immigration policy, of which it is almost a perfect microcosm," legal ethics writer Jack Marshall wrote on his blog. "It guarantees a measure without integrity that sends a mixed enforcement message and does nothing to stop the long-standing deplorable 'we don't want you but somebody has to do those menial jobs' attitude that has paralyzed our immigration policy for decades."

Rep. Riddle made headlines last year when she claimed unnamed FBI officials had told her that pregnant women from the Middle East were traveling to America as tourists to give birth, and then raising their children to be terrorists who could later enter the U.S. freely as citizens -- so-called "terror babies," a devious offshoot of "anchor babies." She became somewhat infamous on the web when she stumbled repeatedly in a CNN interview about the claims, complaining later that host Anderson Cooper's line of questioning was more intense than she had prepared for.

"They did not tell me you were going to grill me on specific information that I was not ready to give to you tonight," Riddle said when Cooper pressed her for more details. "They did not tell me that, sir."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Will Idaho have more private prisons in the future?

Originally found here

By Mike Murad

In Part 2 of his exclusive KBOI 2News investigation, Mike Murad tracks C.C.A’s money trail and discovers there’s an Idaho connection at the top of the list.

KUNA, Idaho - Monday night in part one of our special investigation, KBOI 2News showed you why Corrections Corporation of America had been hit with almost $150,000 in medical fines at the Idaho Correctional Center, the private prison it runs south of Boise.

The problems for C.C.A. haven’t been limited to Idaho but tonight we’ll show you which Idaho politician has benefited the most from the private prison company, why C.C.A. might be setting up shop in Idaho for years to come, and who could end up paying the tab in the long run.

On Monday, we told you about serious allegations about substandard medical care at I.C.C. and serious fines because of it for the private company that runs the prison in Kuna.

But the problems for C.C.A. are not limited to Idaho. We found complaints against C.C.A. in all 19 states they operate, all within the past decade, involving much more than just medical care.

Last year the governor of Kentucky ordered 400 female inmates to be removed from a C.C.A. run prison after allegations of sexual misconduct by male guards.

In 2009, C.C.A. settled with 21 former female workers in Colorado who claimed male managers forced them to have sex to keep their jobs. In Florida, a corrections officer pleaded guilty to smuggling drugs into a C.C.A. run jail. And in December, C.C.A. settled another lawsuit with the A.C.L.U. in California requiring, in part, the San Diego Correctional Facility hire more nurses.

“It’s not just unique to this facility,” says B.S.U. Criminal Science Professor Dr. Michael Blankenship. Blankenship says part of the problem is that private prison companies like C.C.A. exist to make a profit. “If you’re not delivering profits,” say Blankenship, “who’s going to buy your stock?”

We checked into the financial health of C.C.A. A decade ago on February 1st, 2001, their stock was trading at $2.50 a share. Four weeks ago, on February 1st, 2011, it was ten times that amount at $25.09 a share.

Dr. Blankenship says he is not a fan of privately managed prisons because of the reality that they exist to make a profit. “I think the idea is terrible,” says Blankenship. “I think if there are some things the state is going to do, like incarcerate and take people’s freedom away, then they should not parcel that out and let someone make a profit out of that.”

But not only does C.C.A. make money. It gives money.

KBOI 2News obtained a list of candidates receiving money from C.C.A. between 2003 and 2010. At the head of the pack receiving $19,000 is Idaho Governor Butch Otter.

We called C.C.A. to find out why but the company declined our request for an on camera interview. Instead, Spokesman Steve Owen sent a statement that reads in part: “Because C.C.A.’s political contributions reflect the specific laws and limits of individual states, it is difficult to compare our corporate giving to elected officials from different regions of the country.”

The disparity in campaign contribution is even more noteworthy when you consider of the 75,000 inmates C.C.A. supervises nationwide only 2,000 of them are here in Idaho. That’s less than 3 percent.

“The governor has made no secret that he’s in favor of privatization,” says Blankenship. And apparently Governor Otter has been for awhile.

Four years ago, Otter asked lawmakers to begin working on legislation that would have allowed private companies to build and manage prisons from the ground up. So far, lawmakers have shot it down.

But given C.C.A.’s financial backing of Otter, and the governor’s preference toward private prisons, should we assume Idaho will have more privately run facilities in the future? KBOI 2News wanted to ask Governor Otter that question. But for the past two weeks his office has told us that his schedule is too busy to schedule a 15 minute interview.

If money is the only measuring stick, C.C.A. appears to be doing what they claim to do. Save the state of Idaho money.

About 7,500 inmates are currently behind bars in Idaho prisons. It costs Idaho taxpayers about $52 a day per inmate, which amounts to just under $19,000 a year. 2,000 inmates are at I.C.C. The state is paying C.C.A. about $40 a day for each of them, which is less than $15,000 per prisoner per year. The annual difference is almost $9 million dollars.

But Professor Blankenship says it’s not a fair comparison, partly because of who is housed where. Part of the state’s responsibility is the 400 inmates in maximum security and death row. I.C.C. houses only medium and minimum security inmates who are cheaper to oversee.

"You have to cut somewhere in order to make a profit," says Blankenship.

Steve Hernandez has served time at Idaho's state run prisons as well as I.C.C. and says there is a difference, especially when it comes to medical care.

At I.C.C., Hernandez says “If someone got beat up, they'll get stitches but they won't take X-Rays. Let's say someone gets beat and gets their jaw hurt. They don’t X-Ray it. They refuse to X-Ray it,” says Hernandez.

“They'll just patch you up and send you to the hole. And that’s pretty much it.” KBOI 2News asked Hernandez if that was the case at state run facilities as well. “No,” he says. “If you had a problem at the state run facilities they take care of it. They help you out."

Last year's videotaped inmate assault at I.C.C. has gotten a lot of attention. But maybe the most troubling aspect of what's happening at I.C.C. is what's happening after the prison violence.

After the assault that left him with a broken nose and black circles under his eyes, former I.C.C. inmate Mark Snowball documented months of chronic breathing problems and bloody noses. He even started working on a lawsuit in prison, not for money, but for medical care. Snowball says even that didn't get C.C.A.’s attention.

"They just said you'll just have to wait until you're released because you're going to be released soon," said Snowball.

And when Snowball was released in January, 2010, his lawsuit in Ada County's Fourth District Court was thrown out. The state of Idaho and C.C.A. were no longer responsible, because Snowball was no longer an inmate. His medical problems were now his alone.

So what's to stop C.C.A. from withholding medical care long enough for the other 75,000 inmates they manage so the expense is eventually a burden for someone else?

At this point all we can do is ask the question, because we haven't been given any answers.

But here's why every Idaho taxpayer should care about what happens to Idaho inmates.

If the state of Idaho is dragged into court it takes taxpayer money for a defense, not to mention a judgment.

Originally the A.C.L.U. named Idaho on the lawsuit, right along with C.C.A. in the case. But last June the A.C.L.U. agreed to drop Idaho as a defendant, saving taxpayers the possible expense in this case.

Currently the A.C.L.U. is suing C.C.A. for $155 million dollars, which is equal to the amount of profit the company earned in 2009.

A C.C.A. spokesman told KBOI 2News the company will agree to an on camera interview after the lawsuit has been addressed.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

'The public doesn't know what goes on behind these walls'

Originally found here

KUNA, Idaho - Back in July, 2000, the Idaho Correctional Center opened as the state's first privately run prison.

Recently, I.C.C, run by Corrections Corporation of America, has come under fire after a lawsuit filed by the America Civil Liberties Union, alleging misconduct, mismanagement and more.

For the past two months, KBOI 2News has combed through more than 1,000 pages of documents, including the state's contract with C.C.A. We have also spoken with more than a dozen people trying to learn exactly what's happening inside Idaho's private prison which many believe has become a public problem.

The video from last year is hard to forget. A 30-minute inmate assault at the Idaho Correctional Center in Kuna as guards stand by and watch.

According to the A.C.L.U, the Idaho Correctional Center has more violence than Idaho's eight other prisons combined. But our investigation didn't end there. It was just getting started.

“The public doesn't really know what goes on behind these walls," says former I.C.C. inmate Mark Snowball.

Four years ago, Snowball was an 18-year-old dating a 15-year-old girl. He lived under her parent's roof and says they knew about the relationship he had with their daughter.

Snowball says when he split up with his girlfriend, and while he was being investigated for another charge that was eventually dropped, investigators learned of his prior relationship.

Snowball pleaded guilty to lewd conduct with a minor and was sentenced to two years in prison.

He was sent to I.C.C. in Kuna.

In March 2008, Snowball says he was assaulted in his cell, when someone punched him repeatedly in the face.

Snowball says he suffered a broken nose that was gushing blood, and still has chronic problems that exist almost three years later. “I’m still going through those injuries, sinus pain, congestion, bloody noses daily," says Snowball.

After the attack, he filed multiple grievance forms asking to have X-rays on his nose. He was denied. He asked to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. Again he was denied. At one point months later, still complaining of the lingering effects, he was even charged $5 for a medical visit when a nurse said his problem wasn't chronic.

Eventually, Snowball started the process of filing a lawsuit against the state of Idaho.

Meanwhile, C.C.A. is facing its own lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union. The A.C.L.U. has documented almost two dozen current or former I.C.C. inmates, many with stories similar to Snowballs'.

KBOI 2News requested an interview with the A.C.L.U., but C.C.A. has filed a gag order in the case. As a result, the A.C.L.U declined our interview request.

Nevertheless, we got a copy of the 81-page lawsuit against C.C.A. It tells the story of 23 inmates who all say they sustained serious injuries from assaults at I.C.C., including inmate beatings that split the area above the eye "to the bone, kicks to the face, broken ribs, inmates knocked unconscious, teeth broke, slashed face, eyes swelled shut, blood coming from ear."

In the lawsuit, the A.C.L.U. even cites a former I.C.C. correctional officer who says it took "two hours to clean the pools of blood" in one case.

But the inmate assaults may not be the most troubling part of the story.

The A.C.L.U. maintains the inmates who were beaten never received proper medical care at I.C.C. In case after case, “no X-rays were taken" after the assaults to determine "whether any bones were broken."

But the A.C.L.U. isn't the only one concerned about what may be happening at I.C.C. So is the state of Idaho.

Last year, officials with the Idaho Department of Correction discovered 10 of 13 drug and alcohol counselors at the prison weren't qualified to provide treatment. A separate medical audit revealed I.C.C. had extensive problems administering medical care, including delays in providing medication. In total C.C.A. was fined more than $141,000 by the state.

"I remember standing there with my superior and he went ‘can't help ya, sorry,'" says former I.C.C. correctional officer Tedi Hernandez.

Hernandez worked at I.C.C. in 2008. She says she heard stories of medical care being denied, including X-rays. But she also says daily prescribed medication often didn't make it to inmates on schedule - if at all. That’s what the medical audit of I.C.C. by state officials also concluded.

"I know that blood pressure pills like anti psychotic and some really important ones for my safety - those they ran out every once in a while,” says Hernandez. “Some people went days, other people went weeks. It all depended. They just didn't have their medications."

After just one year on the job, Hernandez quit from what she calls a lack of professionalism.

KBOI 2News wanted to hear what C.C.A. had to say about the allegations about their partnership with Idaho, but they declined to comment.

But the partnership today seems less stable than a decade ago, considering the state’s almost $150,000 in fines for medical related infractions.

Why would C.C.A. cut corners on medical care, even when they were racking up extensive penalties?

On Tuesday, KBOI 2News follows the money where we’ll look into C.C.A’s bottom line, but we’ll also pass along where the company spends its money.

And you might be interested to know which Idaho politician is number one in the country when it comes to financial backing from Corrections Corporation of America, and what that could mean for the future of private prisons in Idaho.