Colorado lawmakers urge Obama to help Libyan students stay in U.S.

Colorado lawmakers on Wednesday called on the Obama administration to relax a freeze on Libyan assets — or extend visas — so that Libyan students aren’t deported back to war-torn Libya.

Read More

Libyan students in Colorado anxious about their plights

Libyan students stuck as upheaval back home threatens civilians and cuts off their finances are dreading possible deportation and considering asking for asylum.

Read More

Denver cops give 911-only cellphones to refugees worried about recent attacks

Recent beatings of South Asian refugees have prompted Denver police to hand out cellphones to newcomers from abroad. On Dec. 11, a group of men beat and robbed teenage refugees from Bhutan in east Denver, following them from an RTD bus, according to police. Six were beaten, one requiring emergency-room treatment. The attack spread fear among refugees from Bhutan, Burma and elsewhere — who are concentrated in low-rent apartments and have been victims of previous robberies. The hope is that the emergency-only phones, which require no payments, will help refugees reach paramedics and police to prevent future trouble and give a sense of security.

Read More

Denver center for torture survivors shut

A Denver center that offered counseling and legal help to asylum-seeking immigrants who said they had been tortured in their home countries has closed after losing its federal grant. Now hundreds in Colorado — among the 50,000 who seek asylum in the U.S. each year — must look elsewhere for help. Torture-survivor programs in Atlanta, Jersey City, Chicago, San Diego and Detroit also have had federal funding cut and are struggling to stay open.

Read More

Immigration checks by employers rise

More Colorado employers use national system to verify status of new hires

Colorado employers are increasingly trying to weed out illegal workers. The latest data show the number voluntarily using the national electronic system for verifying immigration status has more than doubled in two years — from 2,065 in May 2007 to 4,690 today. Yet there are 155,000 employers in Colorado, and most get by simply by asking new hires for an ID, keeping a copy and signing a statement saying they checked. As Congress and President Barack Obama move toward immigration reform, the gap in Colorado between employers that use e-verify and those that don’t is replicated nationwide. About 125,700 out of 7 million U.S. employers are signed up. They check about 6 million, or one-tenth, of the nation’s new hires a year. Immigration experts have long argued that a consistent system for checking worker status is essential to prevent illegal immigration. Congress has appropriated $274 million and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has spent $183 million developing e-verify, which lets employers type in a name and Social Security number to find out whether a new hire is eligible for work. No federal law mandates use of the system, and only Arizona has a law requiring its use. The acting head of USCIS, which manages e-verify, touts the system as nearly capable of handling checks by all 7 million employers nationwide to verify the status of 60 million new hires a year.

Read More

Casting ballot threatens immigrant’s stay

An elections clerk told Hong Skains she could vote. Now the Chinese woman married to a U.S. citizen may be deported.

A Chinese newlywed who proudly declared as she applied for citizenship that she had voted for George W. Bush is now facing deportation as a result of her admission. A Fremont County elections clerk signed up Hong Skains, 37, to vote in the 2004 elections in what officials now acknowledge was a misunderstanding. But the federal law barring non-citizens from voting makes no allowance for misunderstandings.  Now, unless an immigration judge rules otherwise, Skains’ art education at the University of Colorado is jeopardized, and her husband, Doug Skains, 73, would have to move to China to avoid separation.

Read More

El Paso jail locks in feds’ funding

Immigration enforcement yields new revenue during tight times.

Faced with a budget crunch that forced him to lay off deputies, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has tapped a new source of revenue: illegal immigrants. Maketa has started leasing space in his jail to house an average of 150 immigrants a night for federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He also sent 17 jail deputies for training in immigration procedures so they can initiate deportations without waiting for federal agents. ICE pays $62.40 a night for each detained immigrant, plus mileage for transport in sheriff’s vans. The arrangement pumped $3.6 million into El Paso County over the past year and now provides 10 percent of the jail’s budget. “I feel like we’re truly contributing to (solving) a national problem,” said Maketa, one of 67 law enforcement agency chiefs nationwide who have had deputies authorized to enforce federal immigration laws.

Read More

Palestinian fully calls U.S. home

A blind immigrant wins his five-year battle to become a citizen.

A five-year fight for citizenship ended with a closed, five-minute swearing-in ceremony Tuesday for Palestinian refugee Zuhair Mahd. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials, known for routinely conducting mass swearing-in ceremonies of new citizens in downtown Denver, excluded the media for the brief presentation of a certificate of naturalization to Mahd. Some of Mahd’s family and friends attended. “It’s over,” Mahd, 35, said on the windy steps outside the USCIS building, waving a U.S. flag. “Someone asked me, ‘Why do you even want to be a citizen after all this?’ In my mind, this is a country with good people that get up every morning to do the right thing — just to be good people. I wanted to be part of that.”

Read More

Giving up on the American dream

With its faltering economy, the U.S. is no longer the land of opportunity it once was for Mexican immigrants.

The tightening economy may be driving once-hopeful immigrants home. This report presents evidence of a gradual exodus: Workers line up at Mexico’s consulate for permits that let them haul U.S.-purchased possessions tax-free. Car dealers catering to immigrants say cash-only business is brisk as workers hunt for affordable pickups, 1998 or newer to comply with Mexico’s laws. Bank data show that the amount of money Mexican workers send home is falling. Mexico-bound buses at Denver’s bus deport are filling up more swiftly than usual.  Interviews  indicate growing numbers of immigrants uprooted by economic hard times are recalculating whether to go or stay. Violence in Mexico complicates decision-making. Any exodus would add to what recent surveys in both the U.S . and Mexico show to be sharply reduced migration into the United States. Colorado’s population of 5 million includes 243,000 Mexico-born residents — many of them with U.S.-born children — and another 37,000 immigrants from elsewhere in Latin America. Latinos, half of them immigrants, make up 14 percent of the nation’s workforce.

Read More

Immigrants’ final trip home

Edwin Lara’s circuitous final journey began in Denver’s Funeraria Latina, then went by air to his home country of El Salvador, and finally he was driven on a road past a volcanic lake — nearly a month after he died — to the village where he was born.

“He always wanted to go back,” his sister, Cecelia, said at a visitation. “It was his dream to save money and then be with his children in El Salvador.”

Journeys such as this are increasingly common as the families of immigrants in Colorado, and throughout the United States, arrange for deceased loved ones to be transported back home. It’s a reverse migration of sorts that requires a new body-shipping dimension in the multibillion-dollar business of caring for the dead.

Read More

Next entries »