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immigration

July 16, 2019 - 11:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, NY-27, immigration, news.

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins introduced The Red Light Act, his new legislation that withholds federal highway funds from any state that grants driver licenses or identification cards to illegal aliens present in the United States.

Congressman Collins' legislation comes on the heels of Governor Andrew Cuomo recent signing of the Green Light Bill into law last month. This new state law grants driver's license privileges to illegal immigrants.

“Once again, Governor Cuomo has put his socialist agenda ahead of the safety of American citizens,” said Congressman Collins. “Governor Cuomo should be enforcing laws that protect Americans instead of supporting those who break our laws. Citizens should feel safe behind the wheel, but now in New York, there will be a strong likelihood that illegals could be driving uninsured and unregistered vehicles wreaking havoc on our roads.”

"Cuomo has threatened the lives of New Yorkers who are legal U.S. citizens with this legislation,” added Collins. "If he wants to help illegal immigrants avoid the law while threatening highway safety, he can pay for it.”

If enacted, the Collins’ legislation would withhold funds beginning in the fiscal year 2020 and each fiscal year thereafter. Any funds withheld from noncompliant states will be appropriated to states that do not allow illegal immigrants to have a driver's license or identification cards.

July 13, 2019 - 6:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in immigration, news, batavia, federal detention facility.

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Press release:

A day after a “Close the Camps” coalition shut down traffic in Downtown Buffalo, vigils for those held in detention camps were held in several locations across Western New York.

More than 100 citizens gathered in Batavia for a peaceful rally and vigil Friday evening near the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to protest the inhumane treatment of children in migrant detention centers at the Southern border.

Organized by a team of concerned women, this event was part of a nationwide movement, Lights for Liberty: A Vigil to End Human Detention Camps. This movement has partnered with more than 150 international, national, regional and local communities and organizations, including religious groups, refugee relief services, and immigration activists.

The event included a rally with several speakers and a performance by the Rochester Raging Grannies, followed by a vigil. Rev. Jim Renfew, who spoke at the rally, commented, “Eugene Debs once said, ‘While there is a soul in prison, I am not free.’ This quote underscores the horror of child incarceration at the present time and is why I am here. It is wrong, very wrong, and even wronger than we can imagine given some of the reporting from inside of these facilities.”

Co-organizer Nikki Calhoun said, “I refuse to be desensitized to the suffering of others because they may not look like me. To do so, especially with children, opens the door for worse atrocities. This is why myself and thousands of those with a conscience across the country are taking a stand.”

Monica Elderkin traveled from Cheektowaga to the vigil in Batavia, and said, “I thought it was important to attend a vigil at an ICE facility where there are actually immigrants being held to send a message that the mistreatment of children or any of those being detained is not OK.”

While there are no children immigrants held at the Batavia facility and conditions there are known to be reasonable in comparison to facilities at the border, organizers believed holding the vigil at this location would be more effective symbolically.

More than 500 Lights for Liberty vigils were held across the United States on Friday including local events in Buffalo, Williamsville and Rochester, as well as international ones in Germany, Canada, and as far away as Japan and Senegal.

Photo: By Rachel Doktor. Doktor said when the vigil was almost over a group from the vigil lined against the gates beyond where security personnel were standing. She wrote, "We sang songs of peace, love and caring for the children of the world. A small group of people approached the gates after a while, standing close. Everyone got a little tense and watched them, but didn't stop singing. The stand off began, and they stayed until everyone else that attended was gone. They were the closest group to the gates in front of immigration."

November 3, 2018 - 11:06am
posted by Howard B. Owens in immigration, news.

An East Rochester resident being held at the Buffalo Detention Facility in Batavia was denied her asylum request following a continuation of her deportation hearing Friday morning.

Immigration Judge Steve Connelly ruled that an intellectual disability, unlike mental health issues, is not sufficient grounds for asylum in the United States. While acknowledging the 21-year-old is at a fifth-grade reading level, the defense failed to prove there is persecution in Mexico of people with intellectual disabilities.

Connelly found that the possibility of the stepfather of Abigail Hernandez moving to Mexico to help care for her, plus the possibility of care from her grandmother or other relatives, proved she had sufficient family structure to be cared for in Mexico.

Hernandez was arrested after posting threats of violence against students at her high school on Facebook. Hernandez pled guilty to a lesser, nonviolent offense, and Connelly said although there was no evidence that she is a future threat, in the current environment, such threats must be taken seriously.

Hannah Vickner Hough, representing Hernandez, has 30 days to appeal the decision. In the meantime, Hernandez will be held at the detention facility.

Information via The Batavian's news partner, 13WHAM. For the full story, click here.

October 19, 2018 - 5:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in immigration, news, notify.

The family of Abigail Hernandez, the special-needs former East Rochester High School student accused of making a terroristic threat and now being held at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, will have to wait at least two more weeks before learning whether she will be deported.

After more than three hours of motions by attorneys and testimony by Hernandez and her stepfather yesterday, the case was not completed, and Immigration Judge Steve Connelly had other items on his calendar for the afternoon, so he scheduled closing arguments for 9 a.m., Nov. 2.

Hernandez was arrested and charged last year after creating a fake Facebook account, under the name Martin Doll, and then posting a threat to shoot fellow students at East Rochester with a shotgun.

She was brought here illegally at age 3

The 21-year-old who was brought into the country without documentation when she was 3 years old was originally charged with a felony count of making a terroristic threat. She reached a plea deal in the case and her family hoped a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false report would save her from deportation but ICE officers were in court the day she entered her guilty plea and took her into custody with the intent to deport her.

Dressed in the blue uniform of the detention facility that designates her as a low-level offender, Hernandez, or Abi as her family calls her, told Connelly she didn't need a Spanish language interpreter to understand the proceedings. She did struggle at times to comprehend what she heard or the questions asked but not because of any language barrier. Her stepfather testified later in the morning the doctors had told the family she had the cognitive ability of an 8-year-old.

Immigration attorney Hannah Vickner Hough has filed a petition for asylum in the United States, according to her statements in court yesterday, based on her client's intellectual disability. Hough contends that Hernandez has no family in Mexico who can properly care for her, that she has no knowledge of life in Mexico, that Mexico has inadequate community-based services to see to her needs, and that Hernandez would be victimized in Mexico.

Her stepfather, Flores Moya, testified  -- in testimony often interrupted by sobbing -- that he feared Mexican gang members would turn his daughter into a prostitute or kill her if she returned to Mexico.

U.S. attorney argues asylum application should be dismissed

The government's attorney, who refused to give his name to reporters, tried to argue that the asylum application should be dismissed outright because Hernandez was time-barred from filing for asylum and that her arrest was for a serious crime.

Connelly ruled against the motion because there is no time limit on an asylum application in a case involving potential torture, and while the government can make the case that the underlying events of her guilty plea involved a serious allegation, she only admitted to a misdemeanor charge.

The hearing opened with Connelly asking Hernandez if she understood the difference between the truth and a lie. Hernandez sat silent for a long time and then said she didn't understand the question. He tried to rephrase it, and Hernandez said she didn't understand. Then he held up a pad of yellow sticky notes and said asked if she knew her colors. She did she said, and she said, "that's yellow."  

He asked her, "If I told you it was red would I be telling the truth or lying."

"Lying," she said.

Hernandez answered questions from her attorney with Connelly jumping in with questions of his own on occasion. She said she knew her grandmother brought her from Mexico to New York City when she was 3 or 4 but she didn't know how she got there.

Her family moved to Rochester when she was 7.

Both her mother and her father -- actually, stepfather -- were in the country legally and she said she had seen her mother's green card.

She didn't know if anybody had filed a petition for her to be in the country legally prior to her DACA application. She was accepted into the DACA program but her status was revoked once removal proceedings commenced.

Her grandmother returned to Mexico and lives there now, but Hernandez saw her grandmother in November 2017 in Rochester (Moya would later testify that her grandmother visited the United States on a 25-day visa in November and December of 2017).

She said she couldn't live with her grandmother because her grandmother, at 85, can't take care of her, that she can barely take care of herself. She said she doesn't know where her grandmother lives or where her aunt and uncle live in Mexico.

When asked what kind of help she might need if she lived in Mexico, she said she didn't know.

Her abilities are very limited

She has never learned to drive and has never had a bank account.

Hough asked her if she knew how to prepare meals herself. She said her mother tried to teach her to make pancakes.

Connelly asked if she knew how to make pancakes. Hernandez said she did not know how to make pancakes. Connelly asked her if she knew how to make anything. She said she did not.

"Do you know how to make eggs?"

"Yes," Hernandez said.

"What kind of eggs do you know how to make?"

Hernandez, who wore her long dark hair, with blonde streaks, in braids, tried hiding her face.

"Don't be shy," Connelly said.

"Mexican eggs."

"How do you make Mexican eggs?"

After a long silence, Hernandez said, "I don't know."

Hernandez sometimes babysits her 3-year-old sister and knows not to let her climb on the table because she might fall and hurt herself.

She's had volunteer jobs in the cafeteria at school and a local hospital washing dishes and taking out the trash but has never earned a paycheck.

After her arrest she was prescribed medicine to help her cope with her anxiety because otherwise, she throws up when she is with her attorney or in front of a judge.

The government attorney asked Hernandez several questions during cross-examination about her interaction with Rochester PD, which led to her arrest. Connelly allowed the line of questioning because the government is trying to establish that while Hernandez was convicted of only a misdemeanor, her actual crime was serious.

Though convicted on misdemeanor, crime was serious

He asked if Hernandez created a fake account by herself using the name "Martin Doll." She said she did. She didn't know why she picked that name. She also has a Facebook account under her own name. She testified she knows how to make and accept friend requests, make posts, and send messages.

She couldn't remember being asked certain questions or didn't remember certain answers in her interview with police, which related to possible statements about half the kids in school being mean to her, that she said she understood why the Parkland, Fla., shooter did what he did, and that she wanted to hurt one particular person at school.

She didn't remember telling police she wanted to cause fear among her fellow students at East Rochester.

She said she doesn't know why she wrote, "I'm coming tomorrow. I'm going to shoot all of you bitches."

She was accused of posting that comment on the Martin Doll account under a picture of East Rochester students.

When the attorney switched to questions about Hernandez obtaining her DACA status, Connelly jumped in with his own questions.

He wanted to know if she thought DACA was a good thing for her. She said it was. He asked why? She said, "so I can have a job and go to school or college." He asked if there was any other reason it was good. She said, "I don't know."

Moya, 55, then took the stand. He spoke in Spanish. The court provided an interpreter.

He said he was a legal resident of the United States for 30 years and came from the Dominican Republic. He met his wife, Abigail's mother, while working as a taxi cab driver in New York City. They lived in the Bronx and were only married eight years ago.

He is close to obtaining citizenship, he said.

Abi needs a lot of help, family fears criminals in Mexico

When he was first with his wife, he learned of Abigail's situation, both her cognitive disability and a problem with an eye that wouldn't open properly. He had seen pictures of her before he ever met her.

To help his wife, he said he paid for a "coyote" (an immigrant smuggler) to help Abigail and her grandmother cross the border illegally when Abigail was 3 years old.

He said his wife's mother, besides being elderly, has diabetes. He's not really sure how she is managing to care for herself. Her house, he said, is dilapidated and he's been sending her money to repair it. He said Abigail's uncle is an alcoholic living in Mexico City and her aunt is a single mother with four small children. He said neither could adequately care for Abigail.

He said besides school and school activities, Abigail rarely leaves the house. She likes to play video games and watch wrestling on TV.  She has friends but never socializes with them. She's afraid to leave the house on her own, even to walk to the store and get her father a soda. 

He would like her to learn to do even these little things "so she can be a normal person," he said, but that he also fears she wouldn't fair well on her own outside the house.

"She will probably never be out alone because she's not like the other girls," Moya said. "She doesn't know what the other girls know or about life on the streets like the other girls."

In Mexico, he said, things are even much worse.

"A lot of criminals turn women into prostitutes," he said. "She would allow it because she doesn't know about these things and many, many, many women are killed daily. She would not really live long in Mexico especially with the problems she has."

Hough asked Moya if he had thought of moving to Mexico if his daughter was deported. This was one of the points where he started to cry. He said he had.

It would be a difficult decision, he said.

"I have a good job with the transportation authority," he said. "I have benefits, a retirement. I own a home."

The government attorney pressed Moya on his own recent arrest. He wanted Moya to admit to an arrest for petit larceny. Moya was more interested in defending his actions.

He said he wasn't arrested but just given an appearance ticket. He said he had been in a store and took the price tag off of one doll and put it on another, not knowing there was a $1 price difference between the dolls.

"I make $500 a week," he said, "why would I steal one dollar?"

He said he did own a shotgun but that Abigail didn't have access to it. It was locked in the basement of another resident and he didn't have shotgun shells for it. He said he bought so his wife could protect herself merely by brandishing it if any bad people came to her door.

Both attorneys expect to make closing arguments Nov. 2 but Connelly left the record open in case either attorney decides in the interim to present other exhibits or call additional witnesses.

June 20, 2018 - 3:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in immigration, chris collins, NY-27, news, notify.

This afternoon, The Batavian contacted the office of Congressman Chris Collins and asked for a statement on the current controversy over reports of children being separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Statement from Rep. Chris Collins:

“Last night, House Republicans had a very productive meeting with President Trump. I am pleased to hear he signed an executive order and is supportive of also fixing this crisis legislatively by closing the loopholes in our immigration laws and significantly increasing our border security.

It is very sad to see children without their parents at our borders, and as a compassionate country we are taking action to keep families together while making sure we won’t be faced with a similar crisis in the future.”

January 18, 2018 - 5:38pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, news, batavia, elba, immigration.

Of 46 suspected or convicted criminal foreign nationals arrested this past week by Immigration Customs Enforcement in Western New York, seven were arrested in Genesee County, according to an ICE spokesman.

No details were released on the seven arrested locally. They were apprehended in Batavia, Elba, Byron and Bergen.

ICE provided examples of some of the people arrested without providing names or details on the locations of the arrests, such as: 

  • A 39-year-old Mexican male with convictions for two counts of illegal entry, driving while intoxicated, and a protection order for domestic violence. He will remain in ICE custody pending the outcome of his removal proceedings.
  • A 23-year-old Guyanese male with convictions for driving while ability impaired and harassment, following his arrest for menacing with a weapon. He will remain in ICE custody pending the outcome of his removal proceedings.
  • A 53-year-old United Kingdom male with convictions for two separate convictions for felony grand larceny. He will remain in ICE custody pending the outcome of his removal proceedings.
  • A 49-year-old Vietnamese male with convictions for theft, burglary, abuse, and menacing, following his arrest for menacing with a weapon, child endangerment, and criminal possession of a weapon. He will remain in ICE custody pending the outcome of his removal proceedings.

The arrests were made over a five-day period as part of an operation targeting at-large criminal aliens, illegal re-entrants, and other immigration violators.

ICE said half of those picked up had prior criminal convictions. Of the 23 who were counted among the non-criminal violators, four were fugitives and six illegally re-entered the country after being deported.

Criminal convictions of those arrested included: felony grand larceny, firearms possession, drug possession, child endangerment, abuse, driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, and forgery.

“Operations like this one demonstrate ICE’s continued focus on the arrest of dangerous criminal aliens as well as those who enter the United States illegally,” said Thomas Feeley, field office director for ERO Buffalo in a statement. “Illegal aliens will not find safe harbor in New York.”

In the press release, ICE states:

Some of the individuals arrested during this week’s enforcement action will be presented for federal prosecution for re-entry after deportation, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Those not being criminally prosecuted will be processed for removal from the country. Individuals who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country.

ICE stated that during the operation, which ended Jan. 12, officers may have encountered additional suspects who may be in the United States without proper documentation. Those persons were evaluated on a case by case basis and, where appropriate, arrested by ICE.

December 19, 2017 - 1:29pm

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Before her deportation hearing this morning, immigrant-rights protestors rallied outside the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia in support of Dolores Bustamante, a single mother who has been living and working in Wayne County.

Bustamante was taken into custody in 2014 when a trooper stopped her for a traffic infraction. Her attorney and supporters say the trooper violated State Police policy and constitutional protections by running an immigration status check on her. The trooper found she was in the country without proper documentation.

Her hearing was delayed until May this morning because the translator scheduled to handle the case couldn't speak clearly because of illness and no other translator was available.

Her attorney, Jose Perez, did make a motion to dismiss the case because Bustamante's rights had been violated by the trooper.

The judge refused to hear the motion because Bustamante's first attorney previously made factual admissions that Bustamante is from Mexico, was in the country without documentation, and admitted Bustamente was subject to possible removal.

That, Perez said, was a mistake by that attorney and could lead to a complaint to the New York State Bar for negligence and malpractice. 

The admissions potentially deny Bustamante the ability to challenge her arrest and deportation on constitutional grounds.

Once the complaint is filed with the Bar, the immigration judge can agree to hear and consider the motions.

Immigration-rights advocates in Central and Western New York are using Bustamante's case to highlight what they see as a disturbing trend under the Trump Administration to increase deportations, which are up 40 percent. 

Supporters say under the previous administration, Bustamante would not have as readily faced deportation because of her community ties, regular employment, and dependent children.

Perez said in May he will make the case that Bustamante would be granted asylum because she had been a victim of domestic violence in Mexico. Also, he noted, her son, who was not involved in gang activity in Mexico, was recently killed by gang members there, which could make it unsafe for Bustamante to return to Mexico.

NOTE: Information about proceedings in court this morning come entirely from the defense attorney in the case because of convoluted rules at the detention facility. For some reason, defendants are allowed only 10 friends and family guests in the courtroom, and for some inexplicable reason, journalists are included in that count. I agreed to leave so another family member could get into court, in part because of another inexplicable rule -- I couldn't have my mobile phone with me, even while attorneys were allowed their phones.  

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November 16, 2017 - 3:14pm
posted by Billie Owens in GCC, immigration, news, Announcements, history.

Press release:

Genesee Community College's History Club proudly welcomes the public to the Batavian Campus to hear Orleans County Historian Matt Ballard present, "Fear of the Unknown: Creating the Illegal Immigrant in 19th Century America." 

The theme of immigration to the United States is a relative topic in current events, but the establishment of the "illegal immigrant" only dates back to the turn of the 20th century.

In the earliest years of immigration, Europeans were accepted without restriction, but an influx of new immigrants during the latter half of the 19th century raised concerns about potential impacts on American society. Uncertainty and unfounded fears created excessive restrictions focused on limiting access to specific ethnic/racial groups, religious groups, the disabled, the infirmed, and those likely to become a "public charge." 

This lecture, the fourth one in the fall Historical Horizons Lecture Series, will take place at 7 p.m. on Dec. 6 in room T102 of the Conable Technology Building at GCC's Batavia Campus.

The lecture is FREE, open to the public and an RSVP is NOT necessary. The lecture series is sponsored by the GCC History Club and the Barnes & Noble College Bookstore.

November 12, 2017 - 5:06pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, GCC, immigration, Announcements.

Press release:

As part of this year's Global Migration theme, which explores human migrations from a macro and micro perspective, Genesee Community College's Global Education Committee and the Student Government Association invite the community to participate in a book discussion featuring Sonia Nazario's novel, "Enrique's Journey."

Start reading now and join us for an enlightening review and discussion on Nov. 30.

Following previous lectures by GCC faculty on "Global Migration -- Terms, Trends and Tensions" and "Ancestry Revealed in our DNA", the review of "Enrique's Journey" is directly aligned with this year's Global Migration theme.

"Enrique's Journey" is the nonfictional account of one boy's terrifying and treacherous journey from Honduras to the United States in an attempt to be reunited with his mother. The book includes details and images of migration journeys and documents Enrique's success and setbacks, including being detained in prison during one attempt.

The journey from Central America, like Enrique's, is among the most difficult journeys in contemporary times.

Here's an excerpt from page 5 of "Enrique's Journey":

"They must make an illegal and dangerous trek up the length of Mexico. Counselors and immigration lawyers say only half of them get help from smugglers. The rest travel alone. They are cold, hungry and helpless. They are hunted like animals by corrupt police, bandits, and gang members deported from the United States. A University of Houston study found that most are robbed, beaten or raped, usually several times. Some are killed."

The discussion, led by Associate Professor of Reading, Julie Jackson-Coe, will take place at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 30 in room T119 of the Conable Technology Building at GCC's Batavia Campus.The discussion session is free and open to the public. Seating is first come-first served.

The novel is available for purchase at the GCC Campus Bookstore at One College Road in Batavia. The bookstore is open to the public: Mondays and Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

A limited number of copies of the novel will also be available for purchase at the event. A portion of all bookstores sales is donated to the college.

To reach GCC's Campus bookstore, please call 585-345-6878 or email at [email protected].

For more information, contact Academic Support Assistant in Human Communications and Behavior's Academic Support Assistant, Nina Mortellaro at (585) 343-0055, ext. 6228, or via email: [email protected].

March 30, 2017 - 12:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Buffalo Federal Detention Facility, immigration, news.

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Immigration rights supporters were at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia this morning to protest the detention of José Coyote Pérez, an immigrant who had been cleared to work in the United States but has been held in detention since Feb. 24 without explanation, according to his supporters.

The Worker Justice Center of NY released the following statement from Pérez:

“Last September a judge administratively closed my case, and I had so much hope to finally be a part of the community – I had a work permit, I was about to get my driver’s license, I was part of the community and represented my colleagues and I felt free finally, after living in fear for so long. People know me, I speak up, I am not hiding, and when they called me to go in and sign I went, I didn’t hide. It is so upsetting what is happening to immigrants. I’ve been here in jail for more than a month, without the chance to see a judge, and I don’t know why, not even my lawyer knows why. I have gotten phone calls, visits (from) the organizations I am a member of and even the students at Geneseo, too. This is what keeps me strong, the people who are fighting for me and helping me.” 

Pérez had been working in the United States for 15 years and has three children, all U.S. citizens. He's active with the Worker Justice Center in support of farm labor and immigrant rights.

Pastor Chava Reddonet, speaking in the top photo, said she came out to the protest today because she feels farmworkers are not treated fairly and now face new challenges with seemingly increased immigration enforcement.

She said farmworkers work harder than she can imagine.

"They do this day after day so they can send money home to their families and help them all to survive and then we punish them for being here," Reddonet said.

Jaqueline Travis, from the Syracuse area (second photo), came to the United States from Bolivia in 1997. She said she is proud of the farm work she and her fellow immigrants do. 

"I enjoy apples and my daughter loves cheese and yogurt and my husband loves milk in his coffee and we really do have great products," she said. "It’s a shame — (how) we are treating (farmworkers), these are my brothers and sisters, just like you are, and we are putting all of that aside ... These are the people who are making so much money for these farmers and I can’t make sense (of it). It makes me so sad that we can treat people like this and we can be OK with that and as a society we don’t even want to think about it. When you mention things like this, people get uncomfortable. 

She said people need to know what's going on.

"If this is what makes America great, then, I am sad and I’m so afraid for our farmworkers and everybody who brings food to our table," she said.

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March 15, 2017 - 12:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in immigration, batavia, news.

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About a dozen people rallied in support of Dolores Bustamante this morning outside of the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia.

Bustamante, who lives in Sodus, was scheduled for a deportation hearing and supporters were concerned she was being targeted because of her work with the Workers Center of CNY following President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration.

In a short statement before her hearing, Bustamante said she was hopeful that President Trump is serious about only going after immigrants who are criminals because, she said, she is not a criminal. She came to this country to get away from an abusive spouse and provide a better life for her daughter.

At the hearing today, Bustamante was allowed to stay in the country but ordered back to the immigration court in two months.

Another worker activist with the Workers' Center, Jose Coyote Perez, is currently being detained, according to Rebecca Fuentes.

Fuentes said Perez was administratively cleared to stay in the country in September and obtained a work permit and a Social Security number and was in the process of getting a driver's license when he was detained.

She said Perez was assaulted by a coworker at the dairy farm in Livingston County where he's employed and as a result, Perez contacted local law enforcement. Officers responded but made no arrests and left it to the parties to work it out amongst themselves.

The next day, she said, Perez was ordered by ICE to report to Batavia to fill out paperwork. She said officials told him it was just routine and he had nothing to worry about. He was detained the day he turned up, Feb. 24, and has been in custody since then.

He has a hearing at the end of the month, she said, and there will likely be another rally at the facility to support his cause.

In 2014, Bustamante was stopped by a trooper for a traffic violation and as a result was turned over to immigration authorities. Bustamante and members of the Workers' Center participated in a campaign that led to an executive memo that prohibits troopers from asking citizenship status during routine contacts.

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June 7, 2016 - 12:28pm
posted by Billie Owens in steve hawley, news, immigration.

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) criticizes Assembly leadership for voting to give taxpayer-funded tuition to illegal aliens.

“Once again, New York City liberals have passed the DREAM Act, which allows illegal aliens access to taxpayer-funded tuition assistance programs on par with legal citizens. At a time when middle-class families are struggling to send their children to college, Assembly leadership prioritizes giving freebies to illegal aliens instead of passing initiatives that help hard-working legal citizens.

“This is yet another in the long line of disgraceful and unconscionable acts that are completely out of line with New Yorkers’ values. Upstate infrastructure is crumbling, the heroin epidemic is ripping apart our families, businesses are leaving the state in droves, and Assembly leadership would rather approve freebies for people who aren’t supposed to be here in the first place.”

November 20, 2014 - 10:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, immigration, NY Farm Bureau.

Press release: 

“President Obama’s executive action demonstrates there is a critical need to act on immigration reform, but it is not the long-term solution that New York’s farmers have called for to deal with the existing labor shortage. That action must come from Congress. Our farms must have both a flexible visa program to address the seasonal workforce needs that are required to pick fruits and vegetables, along with provisions that allow skilled workers already here to earn an adjustment in their status and remain working in New York.

This is a food security issue for our country. Without a legal, stable workforce willing to work in agriculture, our farms will continue to face a growing problem of being unable to provide enough healthy, safe food to our people. The alternative will be a greater reliance on foreign imports to feed ourselves,” said Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau president.

July 25, 2014 - 4:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, immigration.

Via Orleans Hub, a documentary on the difficulty WNY dairy farmers face because of current immigration policy.

Fruit and vegetable farms have access to legal foreign workers through the H2A program, but the federal government hasn’t made that possible for dairies because the work isn’t considered seasonal. Dairies haven’t had much success finding local Americans to work the night shifts.

Many dairies say they have been forced to hire Mexicans who don’t have proper documents. They are hard-working and dedicated, but they are also vulnerable to sudden removal by immigration officers. Germano interviews one dairy farmer who will soon have long-term milking employees deported.

“I am tired of the inaction in Washington,” a WNY dairy farmer tells Germano. “We’re trying to run a business. We’re the ones caught in the crosshairs between the government that makes the laws and the other agency that has to enforce the laws.” 

June 7, 2013 - 10:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in business, agriculture, farm bureau, immigration, NY-27, chris collins.

House Republicans are staunchly opposed to one element of an immigration reform bill -- a path to citizenship -- that some supporters think is critical to its passage, Rep. Chris Collins said today during an event at Post Farms in Elba.

"As a country that was founded on the rule of law, the first action that these adults took in coming into this country was to break the law, so a pathway to citizenship will not come out the House Republicans," Collins said.

The immigration reform bill is the result of hundreds of hours of negotiations between farmers and the farm labor community, which wants to see people who have been working the the United States for years, although illegally, have a chance to become citizens.

While Collins doesn't support allowing such individuals to become citizens, he said he doesn't see a problem with allowing them to obtain permanent work status.

"Call it a blue card," Collins said. "We're fine with making it so that workers who are now here illegally are stay here legally. Make it so that they can go home and visit their families and come back and we know who they are and where they are and that they pay taxes."

Dean Norton (left in photo), said that if the House Republicans can't be brought into the fold, we could wind up with two versions of immigration bills that will go to conference committee. Losing the path to citizenship will be a disappointment to some members of the coalition who worked on the bill, but he thinks when it comes down to it, both sides need some sort of reform to pass.

"I've got to believe in my heart that once we get people sitting down at the table, they won't do anything to scuttle reform," Norton said. "It's too important to the country and to our food supply."

Collins did say he supports citizenship for the children of workers here illegally.

"This is the country they know and love," Collins said.

May 16, 2013 - 6:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, immigration.

For more than 20 years, CY Farms has been a major cabbage producer, but this year, not one seedling of cabbage will be dropped in the 400 to 500 acres of land normally set aside for the typically lucrative crop.

Instead, CY will grow a crop less labor intensive -- corn.

Craig Yunker said it was a difficult decision, but the twin challenges of Obamacare and the lack of immigration reform made growing cabbage this year untenable.

The decision will take millions of dollars out of the local economy, Yunker said.

Yunker and his staff made the decision in February because CY had to notify Pudgie Riner, owner of Triple P Farms, that CY wouldn't buy cabbage seedlings from him this year.

"We're not selling our cabbage equipment and we're not selling our cabbage facility," Yunker said. "We're taking a year off to see if this immigration thing settles out and to see if they can come up with more farmer-friendly regulations for Obamacare. If they do, we may grow cabbage again next year."

Typically, CY Farms employs 68 full-time equivalents, and 20 of those workers handle the cabbage operation.

Eliminating those 20 jobs, brings the CY workforce to 48, two below the 50-worker threshold that requires healthcare coverage under President Barack Obama's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The act requires employers with 50 or more employees, regardless of revenue, to provide health coverage or pay higher taxes.

There's also a farm labor shortage in Western New York because of decades of immigration mismanagement.

Yunker is hopeful, to some degree, that the House and the Senate will be able to agree on immigration reform this year.

There is a bill under review in the Senate this week that both farmers and ag-worker groups seem to agree is a good move.

The bill would create a "blue card" for experienced workers already in the country. The workers would pay a $400 fee, need to prove they've paid taxes on their earnings and show they've not been accused of committing crimes. Up to 113,000 workers annually who are currently in the country without documentation would be eligible for the newly created blue cards over the next five years.

The bill also sets new visa policies for farm workers to cross the border legally for temporary farm work.

Ag-worker advocates applaud the bill's new minimum wage requirements in several ag-worker categories and praise the chance for workes to gain legal status, which advocates believe will improve working conditions.

The bill also puts farmer worker immigration under the oversight of the USDA, which is where it belongs, said NYS Farm Bureau President Dean Norton.

"We brought together a coalition of agriculture and the farm workers unions and negotiated," Norton said. "Do we get everything we wanted? No, but if this becomes law, it will be a lot better than what we have now."

Maureen Torrey, who has been working on immigration reform for 17 years and has seen attempt after attempt at reform go down in flames, is worried the highly partisan climate in Washington these days will kill this effort as well.

Reform is absolutely necessary if New York wants to keep its dairy industry, she said.

"If Congress doesn't get this passed fast enough, our dairy industry is in trouble," Torrey said. "We don't have enough people to work on the dairies and the dairies have no other option."

Non-dairy farms can use the H2A visa program to bring in a limited number of temporary workers for seasonal work, but dairy work is year-round and there is no visa program to address that need, she said.

The lack of immigration policy is having an ongoing effect on the nature of agriculture in WNY, Torrey said, and not in a good way.

More and more farmers are growing more and more corn because it's cheaper to grow and less labor intensive, but with fewer workers and lower profit margins, millions and millions of dollars are being drained out of the local economy.

Torrey said the labor costs are from $70,000 to $90,000 to grow one thousand acres of field corn, but from $1.5 million to $2 million to grow one thousand acres of cabbage.

Even with the lower cost, she said, the amount of profit on corn isn't what it is for cabbage.

"I'm really concerned about our rural communities," Torrey said. "The ag community has always been very, very good about supporting nonprofits, the hospitals, the colleges, the Boy Scouts, but if you don't have a chance to generate a profit, you don't have a chance to make the community a better place."

Ag workers are also an important part of the local economy with a real multiplier effect when they spend their earnings at local stores, car dealerships and restaurants.

Some local farming families began as immigrant families, Torrey said, migrant workers also gain experience and fill other needed roles in the economy.

Migrant workers and their children tend to be the most qualified to take on food processing jobs, she said. They have the skills and experience necessary to do the work.

"Do you think a degree from a two- or four-year school is going to prepare you for food processing work?" Torrey said. "It isn't. Only hands-on experience is going to do that. Because of the lack of an immigration policy, we've lost two generation of workers."

Yunker is worried that the House and the Senate won't be able to arrive at a compromise with the biggest sticking point being the Senate version's "path to citizenship."

"My take on it is the Senate is intent on passing a comprehensive immigration reform package that includes a path to citizenship," Yunker said. "Personally, I don't object to that at all. The House has a conservative wing that is objecting to that pathway."

Yunker said he's spoken personally to Sen. Charles Schumer -- one of the key architects of the reform bill -- and Rep. Chris Collins about the legislation.

"Selfishly, I say the blue card is adequate and just get me workers," Yunker said. "I'm not sure that's the right thing in the long run. The House wants to go piecemeal on this and just solve some problems. The Senate will want a comprehensive package and they'll deadlock.

"I think Collins believes if the House pushes back on the path to citizenship and just takes care of agriculture that the Senate would accept that as a compromise," he added. "I'm not so convinced."

December 23, 2009 - 5:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Bank Street, crime, immigration.

A traffic stop by State Police on Bank Street near College Road about 7:30 this morning led to the detention of 12 individuals who may have entered the country illegally.

All 12 are from Mexico, according Mike Gilhooly, spokesman for Immigration Control Enforcement.

Ten of the individuals were turned over to the U.S. District Attorney for criminal prosecution, one suspect is already awaiting a court hearing on a previous charge of entering the country illegally and the 12th was a minor who was turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement for processing.

One of the group had previously been deported, Gilhooly said.

The names of the individuals were not immediately available.

The driver of the white van was not picked up by immigration, Gilhooly said. He referred us back to State Police for information on that person and we are awaiting an answer to our e-mail on that subject.

Thank you to a reader tip for bringing this item to our attention.

August 11, 2009 - 4:26pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime, immigration.

State troopers stopped a van last night on Route 98 in the Town of Batavia for allegedly speeding and found that two people inside were apparently in the country illegally.

Taken into custody were Leodegario Vazquez-Rodriguez, 48, and Francisco Hernandez-Gomez, 24.

Both were charged with unlawfully entering the United States.

Hernandez-Gomez was also charged with seven vehicle and traffic violations.

Vazquez-Rodriguez was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Hernandez-Gomez was placed in Genesee County Jail on the alleged vehicle and traffic violations, awaiting transfer to federal authorities after the local charges have been answered.

June 5, 2009 - 7:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Tom Rivers, immigration.

tom rivers elba talk.jpg

Daily News reporter Tom Rivers spoke to the Elba Historical Society yesterday evening about his award-winning series on farm labor.

Rivers gave an energetic, anecdote-laden, hour-long talk on the series in which he explained that he set out to really understand what it's like to work in the fields, doing the work that migrant workers do, and whether an average American could handle the task.

His conclusion: Not only can't the average American not handle the jobs (and they rarely apply, and when  they do, they usually wash out after two hours of work), most world class athletes couldn't handle what immigrant workers do every day.

"After being out in the fields with these guys for eight hours a day, professional sports seems pretty lame," Rivers said.

He's used his experience picking cucumbers and tossing cabbage to help him get through running a marathon, which he said wasn't nearly as difficult compared to his work among the migrants.

The work ethic of the migrants astonished him, Rivers said. He explained that in picking berries, it's important to get the ones at the right stage of ripeness, otherwise the suburban housewife will be unhappy if she arrives home with bitter berries.  At the berry farm where Rivers worked one day, the owners had tried hiring teen-age workers once, but they just didn't take enough care about which berries they threw into baskets.

"The Mexican workers impressed me with their quality control," Rivers said. "Among themselves there is a lot of pride, you could even say perfection."

Such praise for the migrant workers didn't always win Rivers fans, he said. He said people actually called the paper to complain about his stories.

"Some people have a problem with showing the humanity of farm workers," Rivers said.

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