The Latest Immigration Balloon

May 25, 2010

The latest proposal for immigration legislation stresses border security.  As an indicator in how far the immigration debate has moved, it is New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer who is one of the sponsors of this latest proposal. It calls for more federal agents and other enforcement at the border with benchmarks before illegal residents can become American citizens.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, Senate Majority Leader, Senator Schumer of New York, and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, all Democrats, are sponsoring the legislation.  The benchmarks they proposed are: a) more ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) inspectors at work sites; b) more ICE officers assigned to investigate fraudulent documents and better means to spot fake documents; c) more personnel assigned to find contraband at ports; d) additional resources to prosecute drug and human smugglers, for illegal border crossings, and deportations.

The legislation does not specify the number of agents to be added or the exact increase in resources. It would create a two-tier system for granting citizenship to those here illegally, but before the benchmarks are met, the Department of Homeland Security could begin registering and screening illegal immigrants and considering them for an interim legal status.  These people could begin to apply for legal permanent residence, eight years after backlogs of visas have been cleared for those who have come to the U.S.

The State of Arizona’s new immigration law has prompted new demands that Congress pass a comprehensive immigration bill.  Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that the drug violence along the Mexico-American border is evidence that the border is not secure.  He said there would be no comprehensive immigration bill this year.

Democrats have been unable so far to lasso a second Republican, in addition to Graham, to join writing a bi-partisan immigration bill.  The Democrat’s proposal floated yesterday appears to be an attempt to invite more Republicans to join them.

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The Latest Car Bomber

May 15, 2010

The case of the bungled car bomb parked in Times Square appears solved, at the first level at least, if news accounts are to be believed.  Apparently good detective work,  a frenzy over two days with investigators reviewing film from 48 cameras was credited in a joint statement from the Department of Homeland Security and the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Preet Bharara.

How ironic, Mr. Bharara, the United States Attorney immigrated with his family from India when he was a child, and now he is United States Attorney in the most prestigious post in the United States for that office.   The suspect is reportedly a  naturalized American citizen, originally from Pakistan, perhaps even from Kashmir.  The suspect may be prosecuted by a naturalized Indian, to wit:  insult to injury.

The bomb suspect, Faisal Shahzad, after his arrest reportedly told investigators that he had received bomb-making training in Waziristan.  This and other facts are recited in the criminal complaint filed, sworn to by F.B.I. agent Andrew Pachtman.  It runs 10 pages, claims he admitted making the car bomb and details his purchase of the car, a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder.  There is a question whether Shahzad was given his Miranda Warning before he was questioned, but there may be sufficient other evidence regardless of his statements.  After obtaining the vehicle identification number from the frame of the Pathfinder, investigators tracked down the registered owner.  He had sold the vehicle, and that person sold it to Shahzad.  There were no papers from the transaction, but the buyer had used an e-mail address.  They showed the seller a group of photos, and the vehicle’s seller picked out a photo of Shahzad.

Shahzad reportedly told investigators he drove to the airport in an Isuzu sport-utility.  Investigators found the vehicle and in it, found a 9-millimeter Kel-Tech automatic pistol with a folding stock and several spare magazines.   At his home in Connecticut in his garage, they found fertilizer and M-88 firecrackers, just as were found in the Pathfinder in Times Square.

Shahzad is not the first Pakistani-American to be involved in terrorist activities in the news lately.  Two months ago David Headley pleaded guilty to helping plan the 2008 bombing in Mumbai.  Headley, the son of a Pakistini diplomat, was a resident of Chicago and retained his ties there even as his ties to militant groups grew.  Reportedly including a coconspirator named Ilyas Kashmiri, a Qaeda member reportedly one of the most dangerous from the tribal regions  of Pakistan.  Headley was arrested in 1998 for heroin smuggling but avoided a lengthy prison sentence by cooperating with police, including volunteering undercover operation in Pakistan for the D.E.A. It was probably while still working for the D.E.A. that he picked up his militant contacts and initial training.


Alternative School Struggling

May 7, 2010

Prisons are full of people who had trouble in school.  Many spent time at an alternative school.  The idea, as criminal defense lawyers know as much as anyone, is that those who attend the alternative school stay out of prison.
Emerson Alternative School is one such school.  Part of the Oklahoma City School District, offers day care for the girls’ babies and serves young men who are at risk.  Built in 1894, the school will be one of the District’s last schools renovated in the MAPS for kids program

The school suffers from a number of problems.  Conditions are cramped and seriously need renovation. The walls are so thin between math and language arts classes that one sitting in one class can hear both lectures.  Two portable buildings at Emerson were damaged in the Murrah Building bombing 15 years ago.  They have leaking ceilings and no temperature control.
When voters approved the MAPS for Kids bond issue assessing a ½ cent tax, $1.8 million was scheduled for renovations to Emerson Alternative School.  On further consideration, officials decided Emerson needed more.  Now, $3.5 million worth of improvements are projected for the school, including a new building addition of 17,500 square feet.

Soon the School Board will vote on whether to increase the budget by transferring money from unallocated MAPS for Kids funds assigned to “alternative schools” to Emerson School.  Construction of the improvements to Emerson are scheduled to begin in the spring of 2011.
About 7,600 babies were born to teen mothers in Oklahoma in 2007, the sixth birth rate in the nation. There are scores of teen mothers in Oklahoma public schools, and 115 of them attend Emerson. If a teen mother has support at home from a family member who can baby sit or the teen mother can afford day care, she can continue her education attending the regular schools.  But for those who do not have such advantages, the teen mother must attend a school like Emerson or just drop out of school.   Emerson offers mothers support that includes day care on-site and social workers.

Emerson also provides a second chance to male and female students who have been kicked out of other schools or are academically far behind.  The two distinct missions are co-located at Emerson but operated independently from each other.

Emerson is located in Midtown, now enjoying a revival. Emerson has partnered with St. Anthony’s Hospital, which itself has invested $200 million in Midtown redevelopment since 2003.  The hospital hopes to reinstitute the health clinic at Emerson, which lost funding in 2009.