Homeland Security Releases Annual FOIA Report

The Department of Homeland Security has released the 2009 Freedom of Information Act Report. The report shows that the Department processed over 160,000 requests in the past year, with 27,182 requests remaining pending. Of the requests processed, 11% were granted in full, 60% were classified as “partial grants/partial denials,” and the remaining 29% were denied in full. The overwhelming majority of backlogged requests and appeals are pending at the Customs and Immigration Service. For denied requests with processed appeals, nearly 30% were fully reversed on appeal, and another 32% were reversed in part. EPIC currently has two FOIA cases pending against the Department relating to its use of Body Scanner machines. For more information, see EPIC v. DHS, EPIC FOIA Litigation Docket.

Officials Hid Truth of Immigrant Deaths in Jail

Silence has long shrouded the men and women who die in the nation’s immigration jails. For years, they went uncounted and unnamed in the public record. Even in 2008, when The New York Times obtained and published a federal government list of such deaths, few facts were available about who these people were and how they died.

But behind the scenes, it is now clear, the deaths had already generated thousands of pages of government documents, including scathing investigative reports that were kept under wraps, and a trail of confidential memos and BlackBerry messages that show officials working to stymie outside inquiry.

The documents, obtained over recent months by The Times and the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act, concern most of the 107 deaths in detention counted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement since October 2003, after the agency was created within the Department of Homeland Security.

The Obama administration has vowed to overhaul immigration detention, a haphazard network of privately run jails, federal centers and county cells where the government holds noncitizens while it tries to deport them.

But as the administration moves to increase oversight within the agency, the documents show how officials — some still in key positions — used their role as overseers to cover up evidence of mistreatment, deflect scrutiny by the news media or prepare exculpatory public statements after gathering facts that pointed to substandard care or abuse.

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Mexican Who Tried to Stop Cop from Fondling Woman May Be Deported

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – An undocumented Mexican immigrant is facing possible deportation after he was arrested for trying to defend his girlfriend from a Charlotte police officer accused of sexual assault on three women, two of them Hispanic.

Police in North Carolina’s largest city revealed on Wednesday that a third victim, a 37-year-old Mexican woman who was not identified, filed a complaint against Marcus Jackson, 25, because he had sexually assaulted her.

Jackson has been under arrest since Dec. 30 in the Mecklenburg County jail, with bail set at almost $500,000, for two previous accusations by a Latina and an African-American woman of kidnapping, extortion, assault, sexual abuse and indecent exposure.

The third victim, who is undocumented, said that on Dec. 29, when she was going home at night, Jackson stopped her in the parking lot of the apartment complex where she lives.

She also said that eight weeks earlier the same officer had fondled her breasts.

In the Dec. 29 incident, police say, the boyfriend of the victim tried to stop the abuse by calling 911 but Jackson seized his telephone and arrested him for resisting a police officer.

The Mexican man spent six days in the Charlotte jail and was subjected to the 287g program, which determined that he entered the country without the proper papers.

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Cell Phone Application directs border-crossing immigrants to water

SAN DIEGO — A group of California artists wants Mexicans and Central Americans to have more than just a few cans of tuna and a jug of water for their illegal trek through the harsh desert into the U.S.

Faculty at University of California, San Diego are developing a GPS-enabled cell phone that tells dehydrated migrants where to find water and pipes in poetry from phone speakers, regaling them on their journey much like Emma Lazarus‘s words did a century ago to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” on Ellis Island.

The Transborder Immigrant Tool is part technology endeavor, part art project. It introduces a high-tech twist to an old debate about how far activists can go to prevent migrants from dying on the border without breaking the law.

Immigration hardliners argue the activists are aiding illegal entry to the United States, a felony. Even migrants and their sympathizers question whether the device will make the treacherous journeys easier.
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FBI Releases Michael Jackon Files

Michael Joseph Jackson, a celebrity pop star, was born on August 29, 1958. He died unexpectedly on June 25, 2009 at the age of 50.

Between 1993 and 1994 and separately between 2004 and 2005, Mr. Jackson was investigated by California law enforcement agencies for possible child molestation. He was acquitted of all such charges. The FBI provided technical and investigative assistance to these agencies during the cases. The Bureau also investigated threats made against Mr. Jackson and others by an individual who was later imprisoned for these crimes.

This release consists of seven separate files, as described below:

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Record High Federal Prosecutions in 2009

FY 2009 Federal Prosecutions Sharply Higher

Analyzing data from the United States Department of Justice, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University has released this report showing a 9% increase in federal prosecutions compared to last year. At a total of 169,612, the swell in prosecutions is attributed to “an unusual flood of immigration prosecutions.” According to the report, immigration and narcotics cases represented the majority of prosecutions, with the former at 54% and the latter at 16%.

In regards to what agencies referred cases for prosecution, Customs and Border Protection filed 46.5%, Immigration and Customs Enforcement filed 12%, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) filed 9%, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives filed 6%, and all other agencies filed 18%. The report also touches on the administrative priorities of the Justice Department.

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America’s Secret ICE Castles

“If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” Those chilling words were spoken by James Pendergraph, then executive director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement‘s (ICE) Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008. Also present was Amnesty International‘s Sarnata Reynolds, who wrote about the incident in the 2009 report “Jailed Without Justice” and said in an interview, “It was almost surreal being there, particularly being someone from an organization that has worked on disappearances for decades in other countries. I couldn’t believe he would say it so boldly, as though it weren’t anything wrong.”

ICE agents regularly impersonate civilians–Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors, insurance agents, religious workers–in order to arrest longtime US residents who have no criminal history. Jacqueline Stevens has reported a web-exclusive companion piece on ICE agents’ ruse operations.

Pendergraph knew that ICE could disappear people, because he knew that in addition to the publicly listed field offices and detention sites, ICE is also confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces revealing no information about their ICE tenants–nary a sign, a marked car or even a US flag. (Presumably there is a flag at the Department of Veterans Affairs Complex in Castle Point, New York, but no one would associate it with the Criminal Alien Program ICE is running out of Building 7.) Designed for confining individuals in transit, with no beds or showers, subfield offices are not subject to ICE Detention Standards. The subfield office network was mentioned in an October report by Dora Schriro, then special adviser to Janet Ann Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, but no locations were provided.

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