The highest-ranking woman in the Concord Police Department, who received two settlements over lawsuits claiming sexual harassment, is now being sued for the same allegation.Lt. Robin Heinemann, a 22-year veteran, made unwelcome remarks of a sexual nature to Wendy Schwartzenberger, who works as a civilian community service officer, from 2004 to 2009, according to a suit Schwartzenberger filed last week in Contra Costa County Superior Court.During that time, Heinemann patted Schwartzenberger's behind, kissed her at least 100 times and made her uncomfortable by referring to her and her partner, including asking whether Schwartzenberger would ever share her sexually, the suit said.At a lunch in April 2009 to welcome a new officer, the suit said, Heinemann opened Schwartzenberger's fortune cookie and read the message aloud: "You will be giving this year."Heinemann added, "In bed," and suggested to Schwartzenberger that she call her partner to "ask how giving she had been in bed that year," the suit said."Plaintiff was uncomfortable and embarrassed because this was done amongst many people she did not know and in front of many others who didn't know she was gay," said the suit, which names the Police Department and Heinemann as defendants and seeks unspecified damages.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
New York (CNN) -- Four-year-old Emily Ruiz flew first class from Guatemala to the United States Wednesday for a tearful reunion with her mom, dad and younger brother.Immigration officers treated her like royalty, said her lawyer, David Sperling. After her plane landed in Florida, one officer called her the "princess of Miami," he said.
She was hugging her parents before too much longer."Mission accomplished," Sperling said on Twitter.The royal treatment and happy ending came nearly three weeks after the girl, a U.S. citizen, was unable to re-enter the United States because of a possible communication mix-up.Her supporters say that she was wrongly denied entry into the United States, while officials say that her parents were given a chance to keep her from returning to Guatemala.
She was basically deported to Guatemala -- not in the legal sense, but effectively this is what happened.-- David Sperling, family's attorney.
It is "a day to reflect on how such a tragic injustice could have been committed and to commit to making sure it never happens again," Sperling said in a statement Wednesday. "Why did U.S. government officials decide to put the immigration status of the parents above the rights of the parents?"
Emily, the daughter of Guatemalan immigrants living in New York without documentation, had spent five months recuperating from asthma while visiting her grandparents in Guatemala, Sperling said.
When her grandfather accompanied her on a flight back to the United States March 11, a customs officer at Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia stopped him for an immigration violation dating back about 20 years, the lawyer said.He was denied entry into the United States. That placed Emily in the middle of an immigration quagmire. According to her family, immigration officials gave her parents two options: Emily could be sent to Guatemala with her grandfather, or she could be turned over to state custody.She returned to Central America."She was basically deported to Guatemala -- not in the legal sense, but effectively this is what happened," Sperling said earlier. "We're not here to criticize the government; really, we do not know who is responsible for this."The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency [sic. It is U.S. Customs and Border Protection. No "agency" at all.] has said that it offered to have the parents pick Emily up.The agency "strives to reunite U.S. citizen children with their parents. If the parents choose not to take custody of their children, (the agency) works with other agencies to ensure the children's safety and well being, up to and including releasing them into the custody of other relatives," spokesman Lloyd M. Sterling said."In this case, the parents were offered to pick up the child, but elected to have her returned to Guatemala with her grandfather."
Officials say they gave Emily's father the opportunity to pick her up. The father said the conversation took place in English, a language he does not understand well. He said he decided to send Emily back to Guatemala given what he understood were his options.
Jeanne Butterfield, former executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the customs officers had a number of choices once they decided to not allow Emily's grandfather into the country. The could have taken Emily to her connecting flight and put her in the care of the airline until she reached her parents in New York, or they could have allowed the parents or a third party to pick her up, she said. A third option would have been to contact Child Protective Services, which could have taken temporary custody of the little girl, she said.
"CBP had absolutely no basis to deny custody to parents based solely on their immigration status," she said.
Charles Dickens had it right when he declared, "The law is (an) ass."
Consider as evidence the shameful decision by the Obama administration to "deport" Emily Ruiz despite the inconvenient fact that the 4-year-old from Brentwood, N.Y., is a U.S. citizen.A friend of mine, a professor specializing in immigration law, assures me that everything the government did in this case was legal. If so, then the law is an ass.Yes, I said: "deport." I will not be cajoled into referring to what happened to Emily as a "de facto deportation."
Baloney. The girl was on U.S. soil, and then she wasn't. And she was sent back to Guatemala, her parents' homeland, under the authority of the U.S. government - specifically, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. And she was, throughout her ordeal, in the custody of the U.S government. That's a deportation.
You can say the process was misapplied in this case because Emily is a U.S. citizen. But let's not allow the government or anyone else to lessen a grave injustice by calling it by anything but its proper name.
Here are the facts: Emily traveled with her grandfather to Guatemala to visit relatives. Returning to New York, their flight is rerouted because of bad weather to Washington's Dulles International Airport. Once on the ground, at about 3 a.m., the grandfather's visa is questioned and, upon further review, an old felony pops up for illegal re-entry many years ago. So Grandpa is taken into custody and slated for deportation.Up to this point in the story, I have no objection. I fully support deporting illegal immigrants, and Grandpa fits the bill. What I have a problem with is doing the same to U.S. citizens.That distinction is supposed to mean something in this country. Americans have spent the last six years arguing over proposed reforms of the immigration system because both the right and the left agree that U.S. citizenship is a big deal. The right wants to deny it to illegal immigrants as badly as the left wants to grant it to them. Because both sides agree that the classification matters, it has weight.
But it didn't mean squat for Emily, who, according to her family's lawyer, David Sperling, was detained alone for several hours at Dulles while authorities tried to figure out what to do.Meanwhile, when she and her grandfather didn't arrive in New York, her father, Leonel Ruiz, frantically called the airline and was told that U.S. immigration officials had detained the pair in Washington. Ruiz then called immigration officials. When asked about his own status and that of his wife, he acknowledged that they were both in the country illegally.The call is the key, because of what comes next. It's too bad there are conflicting accounts. CBP distributed a vague statement to the media, saying how "generally, CBP strives to reunite U.S. citizen children with their parents" without saying that this is what happened in this case. The father insists that he was never given the option of picking up his daughter - something he was preparing to do. His choice was between shipping off Emily to a child detention facility in Virginia or sending her to Guatemala with her grandfather. Fearing his daughter might be put up for adoption if he left her with authorities, he chose Guatemala.
Emily was expected to return to her home in New York Tuesday night, thanks to Sperling, who flew to Guatemala to retrieve her.I know what you're thinking, because I thought it too initially. The girl's parents acted irresponsibly by coming into the country or overstaying a visa, living in the country illegally for many years, and sending their daughter out of the country in the care of a relative whose own legal status was sketchy.But Emily's parents are not on the public payroll. They don't act in our names. What should be of greater concern to Americans is how government agents behaved during all of this, and whether they could have tried harder to get what was no doubt a scared little girl home to her parents. Or whether they wanted to wash their hands of the whole ugly situation as fast as they could.Too bad for Customs and Border Protection, some stains don't come out in the wash.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I’ve long had a soft spot in my heart for Worker’s World newspaper, with its tag line: “Workers and Oppressed Peoples of the World Unite!” I can’t say I always agreed with the paper, but is does sometimes highlight issues not covered by more mainstream news outlets.One recent story caught my attention. Last December, the paper had an article about Chilean “revolutionary” Victor Toro. Mr. Toro claims to be a leader and founder of the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR – the Revolutionary Left Movement) of Chile. He was tortured in Chile because of his political opposition to General Pinochet’s dictatorship. Mr. Toro has also been a well-known activist for immigrant’s rights in New York City for many years.According to Worker’s World, Mr. Toro, who is undocumented, was “racially profiled” by immigration agents and arrested in 2007. He was then placed into removal proceedings where he “demanded” political asylum.
First, it strikes me as a bit ironic that a Chilean revolutionary–someone who opposed the U.S.-backed coup that violently overthrew elected president Salvador Allende in 1973–would seek asylum in the United States, the same country that helped orchestrate the coup.
Second, it seems strange to “demand” asylum. Maybe it is a technical point, but asylum is a discretionary form of relief; this means that the U.S. government can deny asylum in the exercise of its discretion (say, for example, if the asylum seeker is not a person of good moral character). Given the discretionary nature of the relief, no one can “demand” asylum. They have to ask for it. Nicely.
Earlier this month, the Immigration Judge denied asylum. Mr. Toro’s attorney issued a strongly-worded statement condemning the decision and vowing to appeal. From what I can glean from the statement, the IJ denied relief principally because Mr. Toro did not file for asylum within one year of arriving in the U.S. and because country conditions in Chile had changed, making it safe for him to return.I have never worked on an asylum case from Chile, but given the current country conditions (good), I am not surprised that Mr. Toro’s case was denied. What seems a real shame is that, had Mr. Toro applied in a timely manner, he might well have qualified for “humanitarian asylum.” Humanitarian asylum is available to people who have suffered severe persecution in their country, and is available even if country conditions have improved. Basically, it is a recognition that some people should not have to go back to a country where they suffered severe persecution.
Mr. Toro was tortured severely in Chile, but apparently his failure to timely file for asylum prevented him from obtaining humanitarian asylum. Thus–once again–an arbitrary filing deadline has caused real harm. Frankly, I have my doubts that Mr. Toro will suffer persecution if he returns to Chile. But considering that he suffered torture in his country previously, he should have received humanitarian asylum.
Josh Vandiver, a graduate student at Princeton, and Henry Velandia, a dance instructor who emigrated from Venezuela in 2002, had been dating for three years when, in late 2009, Velandia got word that he was going to be deported. His request for an employer-sponsored visa had been denied, and he’d been entered into deportation proceedings.The next spring, the couple decided to marry, and after an August 2010 wedding in Connecticut, Vandiver filed a marriage-based green card application for his new husband. This was little more than an act of defiance. While for heterosexual couples it would likely be enough to win the green card and avoid deportation, under the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which bars the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages, gay and lesbian couples don’t receive immigration benefits.In January, the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, citing DOMA, denied Vandiver’s petition. “I assumed that’s the course that they would take,” Vandiver says. “They had no choice.”Vandiver filed an appeal in February that he expected would see the same fate. And he prepared for Velandia’s deportation, which is scheduled for early May.Last month, however, the Obama administration announced that it did not consider DOMA constitutional, and would cease to defend it in court. Couples like Vandiver and Velandia have since been wondering whether they might be thrown a line—and, if so, when. The legal fight over DOMA promises to be long and tense.Two seemingly obscure meetings held this week between USCIS officials and immigration lawyers suggest help may be on the way.Newsweek/The Daily Beast has learned that the heads of two USCIS districts—Washington, D.C. and Baltimore—informed attorneys from the advocacy group American Immigration Lawyers Association that cases in their districts involving married gay and lesbian couples would be put on hold. The news could have far-reaching effects. People like Velandia might be safe from deportation while their cases are on hold.Immigrant advocates say that individual districts are unlikely to be making such decisions on their own, which suggests the shift in practice is a national one. “They can’t do that in two jurisdictions and not do it in other jurisdictions,” says Christopher Nugent, who chairs the immigrant-rights committee for the American Bar Association and has testified before the Senate on immigrant benefits and DOMA. “This affects thousands of people. It has a tremendous impact on so many in the gay and lesbian community.”Vandiver and Velandia are being represented by Lavi Soloway, a leading attorney on GLBT immigration issues. If this is indeed a national development, he says, it will change his strategy in the case—and likely do the same for scores of couples. Most gay and lesbian couples, Soloway says, have been unlikely even to file a green-card petition. If it alerted authorities to an illegal alien, it could actually spark a deportation proceeding on its own. But now, Soloway says, “it may be possible for some married, gay and lesbian couples to have their [green-card] cases held. And to have their [deportation hearings] deferred to a later date—maybe after DOMA is struck down in the courts. That would afford them protection in the meantime.”If the new practice is confirmed, Soloway says, he will withdraw Vandiver’s appeal and re-file the marriage-based petition and green-card application, which could protect Velandia while the DOMA battle plays out. (He also stressed that gay and lesbian couples should consult attorneys before taking any new legal action of their own.)Sarah Taylor, who heads the Washington district for USCIS, gave a presentation on Wednesday night to more than 100 members of the local AILA chapter. During a Q&A session afterward, she was asked whether her office had put cases involving same-sex marriages on hold. Taylor said that it had, according to Brenda Oliver, the AILA chapter’s chair. The lawyers in the room, Oliver added, responded with claps, smiles, and cheers.In a meeting on Thursday, meanwhile, Greg Collett, director of the USCIS Baltimore district, said the same, according to an AILA lawyer who was present.In a phone call with Newsweek/The Daily Beast, Taylor confirmed that her district had put the cases on hold, then referred questions to the national office. Via email, Collett referred questions to the national office as well. USCIS press secretary Christopher Bentley responded to detailed requests for comment with an emailed statement. "We have not implemented any change in policy and intend to follow the president's directive to continue enforcing the law," the statement said.The change in practice, however, would have the most immediate impact in two types of cases. For gay and lesbian married couples in which foreign spouses have overstayed their legal status, filing a marriage-based green-card petition would protect them from entering deportation proceedings, and possibly make them eligible to work.And those, like Velandia, who are already in the deportation process, could have their deportation postponed while the case is being held. Judges would still have discretion, but they tend to be sympathetic when marriage to a U.S. citizen is concerned.
"With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that's just not the case," the president said."There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply through executive order ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president," Obama said.
He also rejected the idea of granting TPS to undocumented students.TPS "historically has been used for special circumstances where you have immigrants to this country who are fleeing persecution in their countries, or there is some emergency situation in their native land that required them to come to the United States," the president said.
(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama on Monday told a student who has received a deportation notice that he does not want to deport her -- he wants people like her to succeed.The exchange happened during a town hall event sponsored by the Spanish-language television network Univision at a Washington, D.C., school.A student, who appeared via Skype, asked: “My question for the president is, why [is the government] saying that deportations have stopped -- or the detention of many students like me, why is it that we are still receiving deportation letters like this one?”Obama answered, “We have redesigned our enforcement practices under the law to make sure that we’re focusing primarily on criminals, and so our deportation of criminals are up about 70 percent. Our deportation of non-criminals are down, and that’s because we want to focus our resources on those folks who are destructive to the community.“And for a young person like that young woman that we just spoke to who’s going to school, doing all the right things, we want them to succeed," Obama said.
Friday, March 25, 2011
SAN GABRIEL, Calif. — Authorities have closed three upscale townhouses operating as a maternity center for Chinese mothers paying thousands of dollars to give birth in the United States so the children would automatically gain citizenship.Police and city inspectors found seven newborns and two mothers when they closed the homes for building code violations on March 8 in San Gabriel, a suburb east of Los Angeles that is home to a large Asian population.The women, who were Chinese and Taiwanese nationals and spoke little English, told officials their families had paid to send them to the United States to give birth, said city code compliance officer Clayton Anderson. He did not know how much was paid.The women stayed at the center before and after giving birth at local hospitals, Anderson said.The three homes, part of a five-unit condo development on a quiet residential street, had adjoining inside walls removed and had rooms divided so mothers each had separate spaces, Anderson said.The babies were kept in clear plastic bassinets in a kitchen converted into a nursery."There was a woman there who said she was a nurse but she kind of scrambled away when we got there," Anderson said.The women and babies were taken to another location after the homes were deemed unsafe for occupancy because structural walls had been breached.U.S. law automatically entitles children born on U.S. soil to citizenship, and it is not illegal for pregnant women to visit the U.S. to give birth.Women from other countries have long traveled to the U.S. legally on tourist or student visas and given birth, but this case is unusual in that it appears to involve an organized business, experts said."The reports up to now have been about travel agencies abroad that specialized in this, but they send one person at a time here," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies. "What this could suggest is ... they're taking it to the next step. Whoever is organizing this type of operation is buying or leasing a home to become a clearing house. That's a serious problem."Republican lawmakers have targeted limiting automatic citizenship for children born in the U.S. and earlier this year said they hoped to trigger a Supreme Court review of the Constitution's 14th Amendment or force Congress to take action with legislation they've drafted on the issue.Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King sponsored a bill that would limit automatic citizenship to people with at least one parent who is a citizen, a legal permanent resident or served in the military, but there has been little movement on the legislation since it was introduced.Some states, too, have tried to take steps to limit birthright citizenship. Last week, Arizona's state Senate rejected illegal immigration bills that included measures intended to produce a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on who is entitled to U.S. citizenship at birth under the 14th Amendment.But Rep. Judy Chu, D-El Monte, said traveling to this country to give birth is not a common practice and defended automatic citizenship for children born in the U.S."The 14th Amendment is fundamental to the U.S. and too important to change because of the practice of a few," she said "It would be a severe disservice to our nation if millions of immigrants are painted with the same brush."Chapman University law professor Maria Cianciarulo, who specializes in immigration, said she's never heard of a maternity house, noting that birthing tourism is a tiny fraction of the flow of immigrants and tourists into the United States.Workers at the San Gabriel house were busy Thursday restoring it to its original state as ordered by the city.Property manager Dwight Chang was fined $800 for construction without a permit and operating a business in a residential zone. He told city officials that he had rented the townhomes to a woman. A phone message left at Chang's business, Ta Way Development in Arcadia, was not immediately returned.The city investigation, which included police and child protective services, was prompted by neighbors' complaints of noise at night and a lot of activity at the house at all hours, said Jennifer Davis, community development director.Neighbor William Padgett, who has lived on the street for 22 years, said he often saw groups of women in the advanced stages of pregnancy taking walks in the neighborhood and a lot of cars in the middle of the night."I knew something from the get-go was going on," he said. "There was a lot of coming and going."Mayor David Gutierrez said he understood why some foreign citizens would wish to have their children in the U.S."They should certainly be commended for looking at the future welfare of their children but we need to be very careful that as a result it doesn't impact services and quality of life that we provide for U.S. residents," he said.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement would only investigate if the case involved fraudulently obtained visas, agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice said.
255 E. Temple St.,Suite 1273Los Angeles, CA 90012Phone: (213) 894-3290Fax: (213) 894-0914
The women stayed at the center before and after giving birth at local hospitals, Anderson said.
Nobody has been fired from ROC Commercial Cleaning in Oakdale -- at least not yet. Since they got word that federal immigration officials are poring over the company's employment records, some janitors have simply quit.Co-owner Peter Mogren said he has no idea how many of his 129 workers might walk away or be fired. One employee said nearly the entire workforce will go.Mogren is angry and bewildered. "This is new territory for me," he said.His company is one of at least nine businesses across the Twin Cities undergoing a so-called immigration audit, part of the Obama administration's national crackdown on employers using undocumented workers. At least 2,000 people in the Twin Cities have lost their jobs in the last 18 months as a result of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) finding that they couldn't prove their eligibility to work in the United States.The results of ICE's audits offer a warning to businesses, especially those using low-skill workers:•The number of audits jumped more than 50 percent last year to about 2,200 from 1,444 in 2009.•The average fine under Obama ($21,851) has increased about 30 percent compared with the Bush era ($16,666).•Criminal arrests of employers have jumped 45 percent since 2008. Of the 196 employers arrested last year, 42 have been sent to prison so far, with sentences ranging from time served to 3 1/2 years. Many cases are pending.
Employees fired after such audits typically aren't deported, as they were previously.So far, the get-tough line hasn't impressed critics. They claim the arrests and fines are too weak given the estimated 8 million undocumented workers nationwide.And the clear evidence that the Obama Regime is not serious:In one of the largest Twin Cities firings, about 1,200 janitors were let go from a unit of New York-based ABM Industries Inc. in 2009. ABM, with profits of $64 million, was ultimately fined about $108,000, roughly $90 per fired worker. The SEIU called it "a joke."
Only four companies in Minnesota have been fined since 2003 for hiring undocumented workers. So far, there have been no criminal arrests of employers in the state, immigration officials say.2003 Wok & Roll of Msp Inc. $21,4002003 McDonald's Corp. office $6,9152010 Single-Ply Systems Inc. $ 22,959.752010 ABM Janitorial Services $107,937.50
Alondra, a native of Ecuador who has lived in the U.S. since 2000, went from collecting a steady $528‐a‐week income with benefits and union representation to barely scraping by. When she is able to find work such as housecleaning, dog walking, and washing laundry, she is paid in cash. Juan works part time for a fraction of his previous pay. The couple has taken in boarders, moved with their son into their attic, and maxed out their credit cards. They don’t seek medical care even when they need it. Because of unpaid bills, the utility company is threatening to cut off their water. But even with the challenges they face, the couple has no intention of returning to Ecuador.Instead, they have gone further underground, earning money off the books, paying fewer taxes, and living in society’s margins.“I have my home here,” Alondra said. “I put a lot of money into it. I have my child. I have nothing back in my home country.”
The feds deported a 4-year-old Long Island girl - who is a U.S. citizen - after officials detained her grandfather while he was bringing her back from a visit to Guatemala."I'm just shocked," the family's lawyer, David Sperling, said Tuesday."I think it's an outrage that Customs and Border Protection didn't do anything to reunite her with her parents....She is a U.S. citizen and she has every right to come to the U.S."Emily Samantha Ruiz and her grandfather, who had a work visa allowing him to travel, were returning from seeing relatives March 11 when their New York-bound plane was diverted to Washington.Officials at Dulles Airport noticed an illegal entry from the 1990s on grandpa's record and took him into custody, Sperling said.He suffered what Sperling believes was a panic attack and was sent to the hospital. The lawyer declined to name the grandfather.Emily was in federal custody for nearly a day in the airport while her parents in Brentwood wondered why the pair hadn't arrived home as planned.When her father figured out what happened and spoke to a border control agent, the lawyer says, he was told he had two choices: Emily could be held at a juvenile facility in Virginia or return to Guatemala with her grandfather.Worried she would be put up for adoption, he chose the latter option and has been trying to get her back ever since.A Customs and Border Protection spokesman confirmed Emily was sent back but would not comment on her case further.He said agents are instructed to tell parents in similar cases they can pick up their child, have the child turned over to child protective services or have the kid sent back to the country they left."We take every effort to reunite minors with their parents," said Steve Sapp. "The parents need to make the decision."But he conceded undocumented parents like Emily's risk being detained if they show up. "They do have to face consequences," he said.Rep. Steve Israel (D-L.I.) is asking Homeland Security to conduct a review."This bureaucratic overreach and utter failure of common sense has left a little girl - a U.S. citizen no less - stranded thousands of miles from her parents," he said.Meanwhile, Sperling plans to have a staffer go to Guatemala and retrieve Emily."We hope there's a happy ending to this story," he said.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Police recommended charges against six of the people who helped a teenage Christian convert run away from her Muslim parents in Ohio in 2009, an investigation by The Associated Press has found.
But prosecutors in Ohio and Florida have declined to file charges against anyone who helped 16-year-old Rifqa Bary leave Columbus on a Greyhound bus and shelter her for two weeks in Orlando without notifying authorities went too far, according to police reports obtained by the AP through freedom of information requests.
The six include a Kansas City minister, a Columbus family friend, an Orlando pastor and his wife and two members of the pastor's church.
A lawyer for Rifqa, now an adult, says prosecutors made the right choice.
"They'd have a very difficult time with any of those charges, given that Rifqa would say she was in fear for her life, and so they acted in what they thought were in her best interests," said Kort Gatterdam, a Columbus attorney who has represented her in juvenile custody hearings.
The case of Rifqa Bary resonated nationally at a time of tense Muslim-Christian relations in the U.S. that included one pastor's threat to burn a copy of the Quran. One of Rifqa's primary supporters is a blogger who a year later led a campaign against the development of an Islamic center in New York City near ground zero.
Christians who supported Rifqa rallied outside the county courthouse during one hearing. Others said Rifqa was being manipulated by conservative Christians to flame anti-Muslim sentiments and they questioned her version of the events that led her to flee.
Rifqa, who lives out of state and isn't commenting, alleged she feared harm or even death from her father for converting to Christianity, a charge her parents adamantly denied — and which police could not corroborate — according to the documents reviewed by the AP. But documents did show evidence of deep family tension over her conversion, including a threat by the girl's mother that they might send her back to her native Sri Lanka.
One summer 2009 incident involving Rifqa's laptop, when her father confronted her about her Christian comments on Facebook, underscored the emotions of the case.
Mohamed Bary "picked up the laptop and he was about to beat me with it," Rifqa said in an interview with Columbus police and prosecutors. "And he said, 'Tell me the truth, I will kill you.'"
Mohamed Bary told Columbus and Florida police he was just trying to take the computer away.
"That's not my intention," he said, when asked if he planned to strike his daughter. "I wanted the laptop away and took it away from her."
Police who investigated Rifqa Bary's disappearance said it was alarming that adults helped an underage girl run away without alerting authorities.
"We're spending all sorts of time and effort and energy looking for a child who may be in danger, and had we had that information up front, we could have maybe gotten this thing resolved a lot quicker than we did," said Columbus detective Sgt. John Hurst.
When Rifqa ran away, she ended up at the nearby house of a school friend, where the friend's mother, Fanchon Nicole Hopson, let her stay briefly, then later moved her to a relative's home overnight to keep police from finding her, according to a Columbus police report obtained by the AP and interviews with Hurst.
Hopson told police she knew the girl was leaving but didn't know where she was going.
The day after Hopson took in Rifqa, Brian Williams, a Kansas City, Mo., pastor who had previously baptized Bary in Columbus, drove 11 hours to Columbus to take Bary to the Greyhound station, according to Hurst's investigation.
Hurst recommended Hopson and Williams be charged with interfering with a child's custody and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, both low-level felonies.
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien declined to file charges in either case, basing his decision on "a combination of things," including difficulties re-interviewing Williams and Hopson.
Neither Williams nor Hopson returned phone and email messages and written letters seeking comment. In one interview with police, Williams, 26, told police, "We were just trying to make sure she was safe."
Hopson, 41, told police that she told Bary to call authorities. She also accused police of trying to create a case against her.
"There is no case to be built and I am a little bit aggravated," she told investigators.
O'Brien also declined to file charges against Rifqa's father after one of Rifqa's court-ordered counselors said he'd threatened the counselor with comments made to another person. O'Brien said an investigation couldn't confirm the allegation.
As Rifqa prepared to leave Columbus, Facebook friends in Florida swung into action to help, records show.
On July 20, 2009, Blake Lorenz, the pastor of the Global Revolution Church in Orlando, and John Law, a church member, went to the Orlando bus station where Law used a false name to purchase a $191 bus ticket for Rifqa, paying cash and reserving it with the code name "Ezekiel," according to a charging affidavit prepared by Florida investigator David Lee, as well as interviews Lee conducted with Lorenz and Law.
Rifqa had met Lorenz' wife, Beverly Lorenz, through Facebook, and had sent her a message three days earlier asking for help.
Law told Florida investigators he felt that if there was someone in need and the issue was important to his pastor, "I'm going to help him."
Beverly Lorenz then gave the code word to Williams, who passed it on to Rifqa Bary, Lee's affidavit said.
After John Law and his wife, Wendy Law, picked Rifqa up at the Greyhound station, they took her to a Denny's restaurant, then dropped her off at the Lorenzes' house after midnight.
There, she found a bedroom that the Lorenzes had decorated for her, Rifqa told investigators.
Blake Lorenz said they acted out of fear the girl could be in danger.
"Bottom line is she's crying out for help, help me, save my life, I gotta get out of this community," he told Florida investigators. "And so we were like, well, we deal with helping people all the time in ministry, we'll help her."
Over the next few days, Blake Lorenz tried to find attorneys who would take the girl's case pro bono. He also called the Florida Department of Children but didn't provide Rifqa's name or location. Finally, on Aug. 5, Blake Lorenz reported Rifqa to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Orlando police took her into custody Aug. 7.
Orange and Osceola County State Attorney Lawson Lamar closed the case in Florida earlier this year, saying he couldn't establish the elements of the charges.
Reached for comment, John Law said he had things he could share about the case, but didn't comment further.
Shayan Elahi, an Orlando lawyer who has represented Rifqa's parents, said Lamar abused his prosecutor's discretion by not pressing charges.
Rifqa, who turned 18 last year, remains estranged from her parents and two brothers.
A Florida lawyer who represented the Lorenzes said Lamar's office did the right thing. Blake and Beverly Lorenz had a legitimate reason to believe Rifqa Bary was in fear of her life because she'd converted to Christianity, said Mat Staver, a lawyer and professor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is launching a new round of worksite investigations, maintaining the pressure on businesses to make sure they are hiring only people who can legally work in the U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said Thursday it has notified 1,000 companies of upcoming audits of their I-9s, forms that new employees complete, and of the identification documents those employees provided to show they are eligible to work in the U.S.
"The inspections will touch on employers of all sizes and in every state in the nation - no one industry is being targeted nor is any one industry immune from scrutiny," ICE said in a statement. The agency declined to name the businesses to be inspected.
The latest round of audits will differ slightly from previous ones. Agents previously were told to audit a certain number each of small, medium and large businesses, said Dawn Lurie, who advises businesses on immigration compliance.But this time agents are being encouraged to investigate larger companies if that's where tips and leads are pointing them. A new Employment Compliance Inspection Center in the Washington suburb of Crystal City, Va., means they'll have more auditors and other resources for those larger investigations.
Audits are usually performed at the state in which a company is headquartered, but agents are being told they can audit other parts of the company if their records review shows there may be problems beyond the headquarters, Lurie said.
Lurie said the new focus for the audits is a sign that ICE is becoming more sophisticated in its worksite enforcement.
The Obama administration's worksite strategy differs from that of the Bush administration, which focused on high-profile raids that led to arrests of hundreds of workers at a single work site.
ICE still conducts raids, but they are smaller and less visible. The current administration also has been criticized for auditing mostly small businesses.
Lurie said she thinks the administration's audit tactic is having an effect.
"I do think businesses should be more frightened. Companies across the U.S. need to take compliance seriously. It's ridiculous to say you are not doing anything . we will wait until the federal government knocks at door," she said.
Companies can take small, inexpensive steps to help themselves, she said.
The administration has investigated records of such companies as Krispy Kreme and Abercrombie and Fitch. An immigration official has said such audits doubled in 2010 over 2008.
But critics say the administration's tactic isn't going far enough. At a recent House subcommittee hearing, Republican lawmakers suggested returning to raids and questioned whether more people not legally working could be detained and deported.
ICE assistant secretary Kumar Kibble told the House critics that the audits could not be assessed in a vacuum and are part of a larger enforcement strategy that helped bring about the record deportation of nearly 393,000 people last year, he said.
Kibble said that in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, ICE performed 2,746 worksite investigations, more than double the 1,191 two years earlier. It arrested 196 employers and fined employers nearly $7 million. That compares to fines of $675,209 in 2008.
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Thursday, March 17, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
The Department of Justice held the first in what is expected to be a series of meetings on Tuesday afternoon with a group of stakeholders in the ongoing gun-policy debates. Before the meeting, officials said part of the discussion was expected to center around the White House's options for shaping policy on its own or through its adjoining agencies and departments -- on issues ranging from beefing up background checks to encouraging better data-sharing.Administration officials said talk of executive orders or agency action are among a host of options that President Barack Obama and his advisers are considering. “The purpose of these discussions is to be a productive exchange of good ideas from folks across the spectrum,” one official said. “We think that’s a good place to start.”