Immigration Enforcement

Justice Department visits local courts over language access

GRAHAM – Members of the U.S. Department of Justice toured dif-ferent Alamance County courts this week as part of a statewide investigation into whether people with limited English proficiency have equal access to court services.The Coordination and Review Section of the department’s Civil Rights Division announced last May that it planned to investigate the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts in response to a complaint filed in 2006 by local attorney Ebher Rossi Jr.
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March 2, 2008 Posted by | alamance, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

NC Voice Challenges county commissioners to solve problem of illegal alien contractors

By TOMAS MURAWSKI
Staff Writer-Alamance News
December 20, 2007

An argument over unreturned phone calls has driven a wedge between county officials who oppose illegal immigration and a like minded activist group with concerns about businesses that it says operate in the county illegally.

NC Voice, which formed over the summer in response to the immigration debate, has denounced the county for its alleged unresponsiveness to a request that it recently made for a meeting with the county commissioners.

The group, which is based in Swepsonville, approached the commissioners two weeks ago to announce that its members have dug up numerous violations of tax and licensure rules, which the group says a number of businesses are committing right under the noses of county officials.

Mike Kelley, a spokesman for NC Voice, asked the commissioners for a private meeting so he could show them evidence of violations that he said his group has uncovered. Several of the commissioners said at the meeting that they’d gladly meet with the group, although Kelley insists that he hasn’t heard back from anyone on the county’s governing board.

“It implies that they’re sandbagging us,” Kelley explained in an interview. “I think two weeks was quite enough time to give them an opportunity to contact us.”

Kelley has posted a stinging indictment of the county on his organization’s website. His post is especially critical of Alamance County’s manager, David I. Smith, who apparently declined to arrange a meeting between Kelley and the commissioners.

Kelley’s online rebuke hasn’t won him much sympathy from one commissioner who has been particularly outspoken on the issue of the illegal immigration.

Commissioner Tim Sutton excoriated the group’s spokesman for attack on the county as well as his expectation that the commissioners would meet with him before he disclosed any of the evidence that NC Voice has collected.

“We’re playing childish games here,” Sutton said in an interview. “He’s trying to portray us as not being forthright enough. I don’t think he understands the process.”

Kelley was more optimistic about the county’s interest two weeks ago when he appeared at a commissioners’ meeting with his request. Kelley told the commissioners that his group had found numerous businesses that weren’t licensed or properly listed for tax purposes. He told them that he had already brought these findings to the attention of federal officials, who advised him to share the information with local government leaders and return to them if nothing happened within 7 to 10 days.

Kelley’s request got an immediate response from commissioner Bill Lashley, who publicly announced that he wanted to hear what the group had to say. Kelley said he was later approached by commissioner Ann Vaughan, who also seemed interested in his information. The commissioners instructed Kelley to give his contact information to Alamance County’s manager, David I. Smith, who Kelley said was supposed to get back with him and set up a meeting.

Kelley said that he didn’t hear from the county manager for more than a week, and when Smith finally did call him, he declined to let the group’s spokesman meet with the commissioners in private. Kelley said he was informed that the commissioners couldn’t see him behind closed doors because it would violate the state’s Open Meetings Law.

The group’s spokesman added that the county manager was skeptical the group’s information was even within the county’s jurisdiction.

“He said it was a municipal matter,” Kelley said in an interview. “It just seems like an endless circle with everyone pointing at everyone else, and they’re not doing anything. So, we’re closing the loop.”

Kelley said that the county manager told him he’d share his contact information with the commissioners, who were welcome to speak with him if they wanted. The group’s spokesman said that he never heard from anyone on the county’s governing board. He added that he tried to contact the commissioners himself but never got past their answering machines. He acknowledged that he didn’t bother to leave any messages for the commissioners.

Smith couldn’t be reached for a comment before press time this week. But Sutton said he has already discussed NC Voice’s concerns with the county manager, and he said that Smith couldn’t respond to Kelley’s concerns because Kelley wouldn’t reveal any specifics about the information his group has collected.

“We’ve asked for that information repeatedly, and he did not provide it,” the commissioner said. “My advise would be to give this information to Clyde Albright, the assistant county attorney, and see if there’s anything he can do.”

Sutton said that he asked to see the group’s information long before Kelley approached the commissioners two weeks ago. He added that he and Kelley spoke shortly after NC Voice formed over the summer, although he said that he and the group’s spokesman have since had a falling out. Sutton acknowledged that he never called Kelley after Smith gave the resident’s contact information to the commissioners.

Kelley said that he is reluctant to distribute this information too widely because it includes serious allegations, which he and the group’s other members are still trying to corroborate.

Kelley said that NC Voice has evidence that about 70 businesses are operating without privilege licenses or tax listings and some even lack personal tax listings in Alamance County. He added that some of these businesses have nothing to do with illegal immigrants, although he added that others appear to serve or belong to people who are in this country illegally.

Kelley declined to provide any details about these businesses to The Alamance News. He said that much of this data was obtained over the phone from local government offices, and he added that he and the group’s other members are now trying to validate that the reports are, in fact, accurate. He said that the information will be made public as soon as the vetting is over.

Kelley said that he’d like to provide this information to the commissioners in an open meeting but said he’s uncomfortable releasing the names of the companies at this time. Even so, he said that he’d still like to get a response from someone within the county government.

“We’re not attacking the commissioners on this issue,” the group’s spokesman said; “we just want to be heard as citizens of the county.”

As most folks familiar with this type situation are already aware, when confronted in one locality with potential discovery and arrest, the perpetrators simply pick up and move to a new community, stick a new magnetic sign on the truck, print up a few business cards and they are back in business! We did not want to simply send our problems to our neighbors, we wanted to solve them. The information I was given growing up led me to believe that was why we elected leadership in the first place, but as Mr. Sutton so eloquently stated, “I don’t think he (me) understands the process”.

Alamance County officials are very proud of their 287g program, and rightly so. Believing however that the 287g program is an end-all do-all is a fallacy; the truth is that you have to arrest before you can identify and deport. We were hoping that tax evasion and fraud were grounds for arrest, but It’s starting to look like those laws only apply to lawful citizens.

I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, “If that were me doing that I’d have been arrested long ago!” One businessman told me he was late filing a tax form on his business because it was apparently lost in the mail and he almost got arrested and closed down. Don’t guess I need to tell you how mad he is over this, and I imagine the city and county officials will be getting a little feedback from him and a few others.

I’m a little confused about Commissioner Sutton being quoted as having asked for the information repeatedly but that I did not provide it. By his own admission he has not even spoken to me since August, and we didn’t even have the information collected at that time. I suppose he may have solicited it from another group member, but they were all advised to keep the information confidential until such time as we received a reply from the Feds. We didn’t want to interfere with any investigation they may have begun, and frankly it seemed pretty obvious no one in local government was motivated to action in spite of TV coverage, a large group of protesters, William Gheen, and Ron Woodard shouting at them from the Courthouse steps on a Saturday afternoon in August!

By the way, that was the bone of contention that Mr. Sutton referred to as a “falling out”. I’ll show him more courtesy than he offered in his last interview and forego any direct quotes at this time, but I assure you he was more polite to the Burlington Police Chief recently than he was to me when he found out ALIPAC would be represented at the August Rally.

I’ll also say that I have been severely criticized for “ruffling some feathers” locally, but I though it a courtesy to “ruffle” them now, rather than watch them “plucked” later. We have a majority on the Board of Commissioners coming up for re-election in 2008 and I think it a disservice to their distinguished record to be shooed away from dealing with this thorny issue by Mr. Sutton or Mr. Smith. I still hope to hear from some of them in order to move forward on this and other issues, and my understanding is that there are a few other citizens organizing locally as well with some questions of their own.

All the citizens of Alamance County deserve the support of their government, and we can’t all squeeze into gated communities, West Burlington, or the growing Mebane metropolitan area as our smaller bedroom communities become less clean, less safe, and less marketable. Hard times require hard choices, and I think most working folks recognize that hard times are upon us. Let’s all agree that there is a growing problem, and put our heads together to solve it.

http://www.ncvoice.info/ 

December 22, 2007 Posted by | alamance, nc voice, north carolina | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alamance officials refuse to enforce laws to drive out illegal alien businesses

December 19, 2007

ON Tuesday December 11, 2007 NC Voice was contacted by Alamance County Commissioner David Smith in regards to a prior commitment December 3rd by County Commissioners Lashley and Vaughn to meet with us. The discussion focused on our formal request to present to the Commissioners details of our informal investigation into complaints of a large number of alleged unlicensed businesses operating within the county.

Evidence was easily uncovered that supported claims of over seventy(70) businesses operating locally, doing business with no privilege license, no business tax listing, and in many cases the individuals did not even have personal tax listings on file in Alamance County.

Although County Manager Smith was advised of the content of our intended disclosure, he declined to schedule a meeting with Commissioners stating, “The county is currently doing all it can on this issue. We are restricted by state and federal laws defining our actions. There will be no meeting scheduled, however those Commissioners who are interested could certainly contact you (NC Voice) on their own as citizens. I will see that they get your contact information.”

A brief discussion with Thomas Murawski at the Alamance News earlier in the morning revealed that Commissioner Sutton had also expressed to him an interest in seeing our data, but to date no Commissioner has come forward expressing any interest.

Currently, we are preparing similar presentations for the cities of Burlington, Graham, and Mebane. They will be delivered to officials of those municipalities as soon as they are completed, certainly no later than early January. Meantime, we encourage Alamance County residents to reach out to your elected officials and ask them to look into the matter. The craftsmen and laborers being put out of business are your friends and neighbors, and the tax revenues being lost are made up from your wages. Isn’t it time you spoke out with your NC Voice? Link…

December 19, 2007 Posted by | alamance, north carolina | , , | Leave a comment

Sheriff heralds 287(g) program, says gang activity down

By Tomas Murawski
Staff WriterAlamance News
December 6, 2007

County officials are heralding the success of a program that trains sheriff’s deputies to arrest and process illegal immigrants under federal supervision.

The sheriff and others familiar with this program, which is known as Section 287 (g), insist that it has reduced some violent crimes by as much as 50 percent, and the sheriff credits it with a decrease in gang activity within unincorporated parts of the county.

But the members of one local group are emphatic that the county isn’t doing enough to crack down on illegal immigrants, and they insist that they have the documentation to show what the county has missed in its zeal to deal with immigrants who are suspected of other crimes.

Earlier this week, members of NC Voice, a grassroots group that formed over the summer, approached the county commissioners to inform them about what they say is a pervasive problem with illegal businesses that cater to immigrants, and especially those of Hispanic descent.

“There is a broad spectrum of violations here,” Mike Kelley, a spokesman for the group, told the commissioners on Monday. “We have come to the commissioners because there are a number of businesses operating in Alamance County that are operating without privilege licenses and are not subject to taxation.”

Kelley said that he and his colleagues reached this conclusion after they dug through tax records and other public documents that the county has on file.

Kelley told The Alamance News that he won’t provide any specifics about this investigation to the public until he’s able to share them with the commissioners.

“I will say that a number of state and federal agencies have been contacted regarding our findings,” Kelley elaborated in an interview. “We were specifically advised by federal officials to bring the matter to the attention of local government leaders and were told that if our concerns were not addressed within 7 to 10 days to notify the federal officials, and they would at that time intervene.”

Kelley said that the group’s inquiry initially focused on businesses that employ, or are owned by, illegal immigrants. Kelley added, however, that the investigation revealed violations at a number of businesses that have nothing to do with illegal immigrants. The group’s spokesman wouldn’t say how many businesses were implicated in the inquiry, although he acknowledged that it was “a shockingly large number.”

Kelley asked the commissioners to meet with him and the group’s other members to discuss the organization’s concerns, and some of the commissioners were eager to take him up on the offer.

“I for one would like to meet with them,” said commissioner Bill Lashley. “I would like to know what they have to say.”

Commissioner Tim Sutton also said that he’d like to meet with the group, although he added that he’s not sure the organization appreciates what the county has already done about illegal immigration.

Sutton was instrumental in the county’s decision to sign onto the Section 287(g) program, which is sponsored by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The commissioner began pushing the program long before the county launched it in February, and Sutton is quick to point out that Alamance County was one of the first places in the United States that obtained the program’s special enforcement authority.

“Out of some 3,700 counties, we were 12th”, Sutton said that Monday’s commissioners meeting, “and that’s impressive.”

Section 287(g), which is named after the relevant portion of a federal act that created the program, allows certain specially-trained deputies to identify, charge, and process people for immigration violations once they’ve been brought tp the county jail for other unrelated offenses. The sheriff’s department detains many of these individuals once they’ve been charged, although it also houses many illegal immigrants through a separate detention program that allows the federal government to lease bed space for out-of-county inmates in the county jail.

The sheriff’s department reports that, as of last week, it processed a total of 368 people for immigration violations through Section 287(g). Randy Jones, a spokesman for the sheriff’s department, pointed out that some of these inmates may not have been local because federal agents are known to haul in suspects from other areas for processing. Even so, the department insists that the program has helped weed out the criminal element within Alamance County’s immigrant community.

Sheriff Terry Johnson told the commissioners that the county has seen a precipitous drop in many violent crimes since Section 287(g) went into effect.

“It’s shocking,” Johnson told the commissioners on Monday. “it’s telling me that the individuals who are breaking the law are leaving the county.”

Johnson said that, according to the department’s latest figures, rates for most of the “index” crimes that the department tracks have gone down during the eight months between February and September of this year as compared with the same period last year.

Johnson told the commissioners that the department has witnessed 38 percent fewer rapes and 29 percent fewer armed robberies during this year’s eight-month period. He acknowledged that break-ins have gone up about 11 percent, although he attributed the increase to the illegal drug trade rather than crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Johnson also told the commissioners that the county has seen a drop in gang-related activity since it implemented Section 287(g).

“Our gang problem in the county has gone down,” the sheriff said Monday. “I can tell you it’s gone down in the county.”

http://www.ncvoice.info/localnews.html

December 11, 2007 Posted by | alamance, north carolina | , , , , | Leave a comment

12 Illegal Immigrants Arrested in Human Trafficking Case

 
 

By ERIC WHITE
FOX8 News

ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) – Investigators said a routine traffic stop in Alamance County may have slowed down an illegal human smuggling operation.

Sheriff’s investigators say one of their deputies was on routine patrol about 10 p.m. Thursday when he noticed a van dri
ving erratically on Interstate 40/85.

The driver, Wilibando Landero Guitierez was charged with not having a driver’s license. It was later determined Guitierez and eleven passengers are illegal immigrants.

Another passenger, Rene’ Alonso, was the only U.S. citizen in the van. He has been charged with drug possession and allowing an unlicensed driver to operate a vehicle.

12 people are now being held on immigration charges in the Alamance County Jail.

Alamance County investigators said they’ve determined the passengers were being dropped off in North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey and New York. Federal immigration and customs enforcement officials are now handling the case

December 10, 2007 Posted by | alamance | , , | Leave a comment