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FridayApril 8, 2011

Latino Daily News: Bringing You the Latest Hispanic Current Events and News Stories 24/7

To reflect the dynamic interests of our audience, Latino Daily News is an online daily news source and virtual cultural center for and about Latinos. We offer the latest news headlines, as well as innovative and insightful Hispanic current events stories, photos, videos, and commentaries from a Latino perspective, 24/7.

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Texas Names Streets After Slained ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata

Earlier this year, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Special Agent Jaime Zapata was tragically shot and killed in the line of duty while driving between Monterrey and Mexico City, Mexico. Since then, ICE and its community partners have made every effort to celebrate his life. At only 32 years old, Zapata had the world ahead of him.

Jaime Zapata’s hometown of Brownsville, Texas, came together this week to celebrate his life. The city held a special ceremony to rename a street close to Zapata’s parents’ home, Jaime J. Zapata Avenue. After the ceremony concluded, Zapata’s family was the first to drive down the street named after their son. That’s when they were met with another surprise.

“The City of Brownsville had gone ahead and also renamed the private drive leading to their house as Jaime Jorge Drive,” said Jerry Robinette, special agent in charge of the ICE Homeland Security Investigations San Antonio Office.

This kind act on behalf of the City of Brownsville has helped preserve Zapata’s legacy for generations to come. Robinette notes that each time his family travels along these two streets, they’ll be reminded that their son and brother sacrificed his life to protect others.

Zapata joined ICE in 2006. He was assigned to the Office of the Deputy Special Agent in Charge in Laredo, Texas, where he served on the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Unit, as well as the Border Enforcement Security Task Force. At the time of his death, he was detailed to ICE’s attaché office at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Agents Seize More than $9.5 Million Worth of Drugs in 72 Hours

Agents Seize More than $9.5 Million Worth of Drugs in 72 Hours

Photo: Confiscated Drugs

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Over the past three days, U.S. Border Patrol agents confiscated more than 5 tons of narcotics in multiple seizures throughout the Rio Grande Valley sector.

One of the largest seizures occurred Tuesday evening when agents assigned to the Rio Grande City station received a report from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine air interdiction agents that a blue Chevrolet Suburban had picked up bundles of narcotics near Garceno, Texas. When the driver noticed he was being followed by a helicopter, he quickly turned the van around, sped toward the Rio Grande and abandoned the vehicle on the banks of the river with nearly 900 pounds of marijuana inside. The marijuana has a value of close to $700,000.

In another unrelated incident Wednesday morning, Rio Grande City station agents found a fishing boat hidden in a woody area near La Rosita, Texas. A Border Patrol canine detected the odor of marijuana coming from the boat and agents found close to 1,000 pounds of marijuana concealed within two false compartments in the boat’s hull.

Several more seizures throughout the sector netted nearly 9,000 additional pounds of marijuana and more than 15 pounds of cocaine, pushing the estimated value of the 72-hour total to more than $9.5 million.

Read more by HS News Staff →

“I Didn’t Know She Was Dead,” says Man Who Drove Dead Friend Around for DAYS

“I Didn’t Know She Was Dead,” says Man Who Drove Dead Friend Around for DAYS

Photo: Jerry Maestas of New Mexico drove around town with friend, Amy Marquez. She was dead.

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Almost like a scene from the 80’s classic Weekend at Bernie’s a man in Espanola, New Mexico has been arrested for driving around the city with his dead friend in the car.

Espanola police arrested Jerry Maestas, 64, on Monday, after he showed up Espanola Hospital and told nurses that his friend needed a wheelchair. However, when the nurses got close to the car, they quickly realized his friend was dead. In fact, the woman had been dead for at least 66 hours.

Though he claims he had no idea his friend, Amy Marquez, 33, had died, Maestas was arrested on grounds that he did not report a death.

Maestas and Marquez had been driving around and drinking Sunday, then passed out, said Maestas. When he woke up, he continued to drive aroun. unaware that Marquez was no longer alive. He told officers that since Marquez was a paraplegic, she did not move around a lot, so he did not think too much of it.

Officials say Marquez likely died of ”positional asphyxiation,” which may happen when paralysis doesn’t allow signals to get to a person’s brain to alert them to a body position that may be cutting off their oxygen supply.

Still, many are wondering the same thing…

HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW YOU’RE DRIVING AROUND A DEAD PERSON?!

About Maestas, Lt. Christian Lopez of the Espanola Police Dept. said, “I have no confirmation that he has a mental illness but this guy isn’t running on all cylinders.”

Read more at KOAT 7 (ABC) →

Perú Goes Dry in Prep For Presidential Elections

Perú Goes Dry in Prep For Presidential Elections

Photo: Perú under dry law for elections

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From midnight tonight, and until noon on Monday, Peruvians will not be able to purchase alcoholic beverages, in observance of the nation’s general elections this Sunday.

According to the current electoral legislation, bars, night-clubs, liquor stores and every establishment dedicated to the sale of alcohol will either have to close its doors, or simply not sell any kind of alcohol, as the fine for selling beer and spirits ascends the $650.

In addition to forbidding alcohol, the law also forbids political meetings and/or manifestations, as well as concerts and other shows, theatre presentations, movie theatres and religious meetings.

In the plus side,  the director of Citizen Civic Formation and Education of the National Elections Jury, Virgilio Hurtado told the press that voters “cannot be detained by any authority, for any reason, unless caught committing a felony”  through the election weekend.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Men Charged with Hate Crime Related to Assault of Five Hispanic Men

The Justice Department announced today the arrest of Sean Popejoy, 19, and Frankie Maybee, 20, both of Green Forest, Ark., on charges related to a racially-motivated assault on five Hispanic men.  A federal grand jury in the Western District of Arkansas returned an indictment on April 5, 2011, charging Popejoy and Maybee with federal hate crime charges and conspiracy to commit a federal hate crime.

According to the indictment, Popejoy and Maybee have been charged with one count of conspiracy and five counts of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was enacted in October 2009.  Specifically, the indictment alleges that on June 20, 2010, the defendants yelled anti-Latino epithets at the victims while at a gas station parking lot.  When the victims drove away, the defendants chased after them in the defendants’ truck.  The defendants eventually caught up to the victims’ car and repeatedly rammed their truck into the victims’ car, causing the victims’ car to go off the road, overturn and ignite.  All five of the victims were physically injured as a result of the defendants’ actions.

If convicted, the defendants face maximum penalties of 10 years in prison on each of the civil rights charges.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Fayetteville Division in cooperation with the Arkansas State Police Department and the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.  The case is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Conner Eldridge and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner for the Western District of Arkansas and Trial Attorney Edward Chung of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Justice Department Settles Allegations Of Immigration Discrimination Against Iowa Firm

The Justice Department today announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with LF Staffing Services Inc., located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to resolve allegations that LF Staffing Services engaged in employment discrimination by improperly pre-screening job applicants and rejecting valid work authorization documents presented by certain groups of immigrant workers. 

The department found that LF Staffing Services did not permit job applicants to begin the application process unless they were able to present documents sufficient to establish their employment eligibility and further failed to permit at least one individual who presented valid Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) to apply for employment.  The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) prohibits employers from refusing to honor valid employment authorization documents on the basis of citizenship status or national origin. 

“The INA’s anti-discrimination provision protects all authorized workers from unfair documentary requests during the Form I-9 process,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department is committed to stopping workplace discrimination against citizens and work-authorized non-citizens alike.” 

Under the terms of the settlement, LF Staffing Services Inc. has agreed to pay $1,100 in civil penalties and full back pay to the injured party.  LF Staffing Services will also train its human resources personnel about employers’ nondiscrimination responsibilities in the I-9 process, and will provide periodic reports to the department. 

The Civil Rights Division’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) is responsible for enforcing the anti-discrimination provision of the INA, which protects work authorized individuals against discrimination in hiring, firing and recruitment or referral for a fee on the basis of citizenship status and national origin. The INA also protects all work-authorized individuals from discrimination in the employment eligibility verification process and from retaliation.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Univision One of “Big Four” Networks in Prime-time Once Again

Univision One of “Big Four” Networks in Prime-time Once Again

Photo: Univision one of prime-time "Big Four"

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With the help of wildly popular telenovelas, Univision pulled in enough prime-time viewers to take one of the Big Four network spots.

The Spanish-language network also beat out NBC in the 18 to 49 demographic on almost half of the nights during the first quarter of 2011.

This is the second time in four weeks that Univision has been one of the Big Four.

Judging by the 2010 U.S. Census and the fact that Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the population, Spanish-language networks like Univision and Telemundo have the potential for even more growth.

Read more at Business Insider →

Chilean Actors Go On Strike, Seek Compensation for TV Re-Runs

Chilean Actors Go On Strike, Seek Compensation for TV Re-Runs

Photo: Chilean Actors on Strike

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Hundreds of Chilean performers have organized a march in support of a law that grants them the right to monetary retribution for re-runs of television shows. The actors guild of Chile, Chileactores, said they will strike until the studios sit down to discussions. 

The law 20.243 orders studios to compensate actors not only for the first time an episode airs, but for every time it is run. 

Chilean actors went on strike at 8:30 in the morning of Thursday. Protesters marched from the Bellavista area of Santiago, where TVN, Canal 13 and Chilevisión are located, to the Montecarmelo Cultural Center where they were joined by members of the public and other performers not currently involved in TV.

“Chileactores knows the economic reality of telenovelas,” said Hernan Trivedi, a lawyer for the TVN channel. “Obviously they (the TV Stations) could not exist if they paid what the actors are asking, which is 2 percent of each channel’s gross profit, nearly equivalent to the total cost of producing a telenovela.” 

Chilevisión officials said, “Chileactores is trying to ignore their current contract and impose their own fee.”

The television channels are concerned and unsure of just how much the strike will cost them in terms of lost revenue from unused studio space rentals and maintaining other staff that is not on strike.

The actors’ guild hopes to involve other workers in the arts and entertainment industry.

“This is not just for television actors. It’s a law that covers us all, the movies, video stores, dancers. It is an audiovisual law in general,” said Claudio Arredondo, the vice-president of Chileactores, who added that the studios’ behavior had made striking the only viable alternative; there are disputes that have remained unsolved for over a year and a half.

Patricio Gonzalez, director of the popular telenovela “Infiltradas,” said the actors warned him they would be unavailable for work. “Fortunately it’s not too complicated because we have a lag of two weeks between recording and broadcasting, so we have a cushion of shows.”

 

Read more by HS News Staff →

Community Outraged Over ICE Agents “Stalking” Parents to Detroit Schools

A Michigan lawmaker is alleging that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested suspected undocumented immigrants after stalking them “without warrants” as they took their children to school.

Democratic State Rep. Rashida Tlaib says that ICE agents stalked Detroit Hispanics on the city’s southwest side, and Ryan Bates, director of the Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform-Michigan, stated, “Some parents were trapped inside the school because they were too terrifies and frightened to leave because they thought they would get arrested.”

Bates told local reporters that this kind of action has added to the “pattern of abusive enforcement by ICE.”

Tlaib said known of those arrested have had criminal records.

Brian Hale, ICE Director of Public Affairs said, “While a preliminary analysis suggest that certain requirements were followed, elements of the operation appear to have been inconsistent with policy and our standards and priorities.

“ICE officers are required to follow a policy that prohibits operations near schools unless approved by headquarters. It is not clear that this policy was appropriately followed in this matter,” Hale said in a statement.”

ICE is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Read more at UPI →

Argentine Soccer Star Leo Messi Opens Official Facebook Page

Argentine Soccer Star Leo Messi Opens Official Facebook Page

Photo: Leo Messi Facebook

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The athlete has garnered almost 7,000,000 fans in less than three days!

“Hola! Welcome to everyone. Thank you very much for the great number of messages that I have received. I am so excited! From now on we will be more closely connected through facebook” reads the first ever facebook post penned by the Barça star.

There’s only one other post on his wall, and it links to a video featuring footage from Argentinas September game against Spain, produced by Addidas.

Want to see just how cool is to be the number one player in the world? Go to his facebook page and just sit there and hit Reload to witness his fan base increase literally every 20 seconds!

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Screenshot taken on 4/8 at 1:32pm

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Taken at 1:33pm, 20 seconds later

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...20 seconds later…

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...1 second before 1:34pm….

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Two minutes after the first picture. Messi effectively made 166 facebook friends in 2 minutes.

 

Read more by HS News Staff →

New Biofuel Uses Mexican Plant to Power Jet Engines

New Biofuel Uses Mexican Plant to Power Jet Engines

Photo: CFM International's CFM56-5B4/3 engine, which was powered by the

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Last week, Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport showed off the progress they have made in biofuel research with the flight of an Interjet Airbus A320.

The aircraft had a successful flight using Honeywell UOP’s green jet fuel. It traveled from Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas. The flight was to demonstrate how the conversion of an inedible plant, jatropha, can create a replacement biofuel that can be blended with traditional petroleum-derived jet fuel. The 50-50 mix would allow for a reduction of reliance on the environmentally unfriendly petroleum fuel.

The biofuel made from the Mexican-sourced plant powered one of the aircraft’s CFM56-5B4/3 engines, from CFM International.

SmartPlanet reported that the fuel “was originally developed by the U.S. Department of Defense’s research arm, DARPA for use by the American military. The idea: find a way to power transportation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid adversely impacting the agriculture industry.”

Read more at SmartPlanet →

Meet Maria José Cristerna, The Mexican Vampire Woman

Meet Maria José Cristerna, The Mexican Vampire Woman

Photo: Maria José Cristerna

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ImageHard to look at for some, impossible not to stare for others, the body of this lawyer from México tells a story of overcoming domestic violence, and finding an identity through body modification.

María José Cristerna comes from a family of lawyers in Guadalajara. “My family was and is deeply Catholic; I went to catholic school, I fell in love, got married in white at 17, followed a career. I wanted to make things right.”

Following devastating and systematic episodes of abuse from her ex-husband, she decided to turn her life around, reinvent herself and become the vampire woman.

Her body, tells her story. Every tattoo, piercing and modification tells a part of her story, of the things she did and changed to provide for her four children.

Using her body as a canvas, and her voice to reach other mistreated women and empower them to not take abuse from anyone, Maria José is certainly an example of persistence, overcoming adversity and courage.

Despite her frightening appearance and her turbulent life story, María José sees herself as a normal person.

“I am a normal stay at home mom, a woman also dedicated to tattooing, body art, I do suspension shows, but at the same time I try to help and empower other women who have been abused, because I come from domestic abuse”  she says.

María josé got her first piercing at age twelve, her first tattoo at 14, and hasn’t stopped since. She says she stopped counting long ago how many tattoos and other body modifications she has had “about 95% of my body, the left over space is for like, fillers, backgrounds, you know? Like a canvas painting.” She has tattoos all over, multiple piercings where even the most daring would only think to put one, her ears are gauged, and she even has titanium implants in her forehead simulating horns; these were done without anesthetics, and she says she wants a couple more, on the back of her head.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Pharmaceutical Companies Looking to Better Reach the Hispanic Market

Pharmaceutical Companies Looking to Better Reach the Hispanic Market

Photo: Ppharmaceutical companies looking to better reach the hispanic market

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A new physicians study indicates that though pharmaceutical companies spend large sums of money on advertisements for their drugs, they are still not reaching the Hispanic market very well.

Research from KCI Partners and the Jeffrey Group showed that, asked to rate how well the pharmaceutical companies were reaching the Hispanic audience on a scale of 1 to 7, 33 percent of physicians gave them a rating of 7 (the worst.), while 27 percent gave them a 4 rating. Only 7 percent of the physicians gave the companies a rating of 1.

While research indicates that physicians believe 48 percent of the general population has “excellent access” to pharmaceutical solutions, they feel that only 14 percent of Hispanic consumers have the equal access. It is believed that lack of insurance and possibly even immigration status could be reasons for the lack of access.

What worries physicians is the fact that Hispanics are now at a higher than average risk for Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, yet the access to new, and possibly life-saving drugs is limited. The doctors believe the most effective means of reaching Hispanic consumers are through television, and the internet and digital media are the leas effective.

The study has shown that using the knowledge that Hispanics more more television on average, the drug companies have increased the amount of targeting for Hispanic audiences on television.

President of the Jeffrey Group, Mike Valdes-Fauli, said that “from a communications perspective, we were surprised that television stories, not television advertising, were rated very/extremely effective at educating HIspanic patients.” With this discovery, pharma companies can now better address Hispanic audiences, and will do so through television, utilizing the new knowledge tat the “power of story” is effective in researching them.

Read more at Ad-ology →

Colombian Actress Sofia Vergara Could Join the “Three Stooges” Movie

Colombian Actress Sofia Vergara Could Join the “Three Stooges” Movie

Photo: Sofia Vergara Could Join Stooges Cast

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The actress would join Sean Hayes and Will Sasso, already confirmed to play Larry and Curly.

The Farrelly brothers are reportedly trying to lure Vergara into taking the part of a devious woman who makes the stooges believe she’s the wife of a dying man, and promises the threesome a lot of cash, if they snuff the old man in his sleep.

If you think this sounds a little bit too convoluted for a Three Stooges film, and more like an Iggy and the Stooges are in charge of production, here’s a few more details to corroborate that thought:

The film apparently revolves around the Stooges growing up in an orphanage, then leaving in their early 40s, and adjusting to life in the outside world. The film will apparently be divided into three half-hour shorts.

Brad Pitt, Hank Azaria, Johnnie Knoxville, Sean Penn,  Jim Carrey, and Benicio del Toro have all been rumored to play one or another stooge at some point. Physical slapstick comedy stopped being all the rage, about at the same time that color TV came out, so we can’t help but wonder, will this film ever get made? And if it does, will it be “a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm,” or more like “God’s Forgotten Son” ?

Read more by HS News Staff →

President Obama and President Santos Meet in Oval Office (VIDEO)

President Obama and President Santos Meet in Oval Office (VIDEO)

Photo: Presidents Juan Manuel Santos and Barack Obama

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Yesterday afternoon, President Obama met with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia in the Oval Office at the White House.

In remarks following the meeting, President Obama discussed the U.S. interests in progress in Colombia and Latin America:

The United States has an enormous interest in the development of Latin America and an enormous interest in progress in Colombia. We have been a partner there as Colombia dealt with some very difficult times and has now blossomed into a strong democracy that is respectful of human rights and is moving forward vigorously to provide economic opportunity for all of its people.
President Santos I think is at the forefront of a progressive and thoughtful agenda within Colombia. He’s obviously initiating a whole range of reforms. Colombia is also a leader when it comes to security in the region, and we are glad that we’ve been able to partner with Colombia not only to deal with security situations inside Colombia, but now increasingly Colombia can be a role model for the rest of the region.
The two heads of state discussed the important economic ties between our two countries, and highlighted the mutual benefits of the recently announced trade agreement between the United States and Colombia.

Obviously, the United States represents an important market for Colombian businesses, and so this is going to be a win for Colombia. It’s also a win for the United States. This represents a potential $1 billion of exports and it could mean thousands of jobs for workers here in the United States. And so I believe that we can structure a trade agreement that is a win-win for both our countries, and I’m looking forward to working with President Santos to ensure that both countries benefit. And this will help me meet my goal of making sure the United States has doubled exports over the coming years and that we’re as competitive as we can be in a global marketplace in the 21st century.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Mexico Shaken by Strong Earthquake with No Report of Serious Damage or Casualties

Mexico Shaken by Strong Earthquake with No Report of Serious Damage or Casualties

Photo: Earthquake in Las Choepas, Veracruz Mexico

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The Mexican government is reporting a strong earthquake occurring early Thursday morning at approximately 8:11 a.m. local time in the state of Veracruz.

The strong earthquake registered 6.5 on the Richter scale and struck approximately 103 miles deep into the earth which resulted in no reports of serious damage or any casualties.  The center of the quake occurred 51 miles southwest of Las Choepas where buildings swayed for several seconds causing some panic and having people run into the streets from the buildings.

The review concluded, we have no damage,” said Marcelo Ebrard, Head of Mexico’s Federal Government.

In the early hours in Japan a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck killing one.  This was considered the strongest aftershock after the devastating 9.0 earthquake that triggered the deadly tsunami several weeks ago. 

Read more at Wire Update →

US Gov to Pay $1.95M to Family of Immigrant Denied Care in Detention

US Gov to Pay $1.95M to Family of Immigrant Denied Care in Detention

Photo: Government Pay Out

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This week the federal government agreed to pay the family of a now deceased undocumented immigrant who died while being denied medical treatment in detention.

The government agreed to pay $1.95 Million to the family of Salvadoran immigrant Francisco Castaneda.

Castaneda was denied a biopsy on a painful lesion while he was in federal custody from March 2006 until February 2007. He died in 2008 at the age of 36 from cancer.

Castaneda’s 18-year-old daughter will receive roughly $550,000 and the rest will go for legal fees and expenses.
Conal Doyle, the family’s attorney, said the settlement is about eight times the cap placed on medical damages in California.

“It is certainly a recognition by the federal government that every human life has great value,” Doyle said. “It was very significant in light of the limitations we faced if the case went to trial.”

Read more at The Washington Post →

Impending National Boycott of Georgia

Impending National Boycott of Georgia

Photo: Boycott Hate

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A national network of organizations instrumental in coordinating the boycott in Arizona after controversial anti-immigrant legislation passed there in 2009 has sent a letter to Governor Deal of Georgia “notifying [him] of efforts underway to organize a national boycott of Georgia, in the event that Georgia’s Arizona copycat legislation—HB 87 and SB 40—should become law. “

The National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON) and The Turning the Tide campaign sent the letter via facsimile early this morning.  B. Loewe, a spokesperson for the organization, said “We are currently prepared to contact all conventions, organizations, companies, cities, counties, and states that participated in the Arizona boycott to advise them of the current status of Georgia’s legislation and tell them to be ready to change plans, divest, and/or issue travel alerts to avoid the state of Georgia.”

B. Loewe said that various organizations and community members of Georgia, including the SomosGeorgia/WeAreGeorgia campaign, notified them of the efforts by Georgia’s Republicans to drive immigrants out of the state.  NDLON and Turning the Tide will wait for those groups to give the go-ahead in the event that the bills pass and the Governor does not issue a veto.
Georgia State Senator Vincent Fort said he and others will give just such a go-ahead. “If House bill 87 passes and the Governor refuses to veto it, we, in Georgia, will call for a boycott. These laws have devastating effects on families, students, workers, and entire communities.  People of good conscience will find other places for their vacations and conventions until this state gets back on the right side of history.”

The National Lesbian and Gay Task Force is in support of the boycott, and also sent a letter to Governor Nathan Deal and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, stressing that “should the State of Georgia follow Arizona down a regrettable path to codifying anti-immigrant bias in its laws, we would be forced to reconsider our choice of venue and host city for the 2013 Creating Change Conference.” Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people living in Georgia will be disproportionately affected by increased ‘identity’ policing.

Supporters of the boycott state that Georgia has historically thrived in part because it’s a state with some of the largest and most minority-owned businesses in the Southern region. These businesses in particular will suffer economically if immigrant communities and people of color are driven out.

Referring to the recent New York Times report that Arizona had, less than six months after passage of the controversial HB1070, lost $45 million in convention revenue and stands to lose upwards of $750 million overall, Paulina Hernandez, co-Director of Southerners on New Ground said “A boycott will undoubtedly hurt the state of Georgia as it did the state of Arizona and our Governor will be squarely to blame if he does not do the right thing and commit to vetoing these anti-immigrant bills.”

Georgia Representative Virgil Fludd (D-66) commented on the economic impact of multiple pieces of legislation pending in the legislature. “Republican are proposing to turn down $175 million in unemployment benefits from the federal government for over 20,000 Georgians who are currently unemployed and looking for work. The current tax proposal we will be voting on next week has a fiscal note of $200 million—creating a massive hole in the state’s budget.  Should an anti-immigrant Arizona style law pass, and a boycott ensue, the economic impact will simply be devastating. Georgia has always been known as a business friendly state and HB 87 is not business friendly. We cannot afford this.”

Members of the faith and nonprofit communities have also opposed HB 87 stating that provisions of this legislation create new, significant criminal and civil liabilities that will chill the work of communities of faith across Georgia who provide critical physical and spiritual support to some of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Owners of L.A.-area Immigration Consulting Business Arrested for Visa Fraud

Owners of L.A.-area Immigration Consulting Business Arrested for Visa Fraud

Photo: Fake Visas

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Three members of an Orange County family who operate an immigration consulting business that caters primarily to Indian nationals were arrested Wednesday morning on immigration fraud charges for allegedly filing bogus marriage and work visa petitions on behalf of aliens who paid fees as high as $60,000.

Ajit Kumar Bhargava, 61; his wife, Nisha Bhargava, 56; and their daughter, Runjhun Bhargava, 30, were arrested this morning after being named in a criminal complaint filed March 29 in U.S. District Court.

The three defendants, all residents of Yorba Linda, Calif., own and operate MPEagle Consultants in Cerritos, Calif., where special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) executed a search warrant Wednesday. All three are charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud.

According to court documents, the three members of the Bhargava family recruited unemployed and low-income United States citizens with promises of $2,000 payments in exchange for “marrying” MPEagle’s alien clients. To make the bogus marriages appear legitimate, the defendants had the “couples” pose together for photos and open joint bank accounts. Based on the sham marriages, MPEagle sought permanent residency for the aliens by filing fraudulent immigrant visa petitions with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint describes how Ajit Bhargava quoted different fees to MPEagle clients depending on the type of visa desired - $15,000 for a work visa, or up to $60,000 for a visa based upon marriage to a U.S. citizen.

“America’s immigration system is not for sale and those who think they can game the system for personal gain will find there’s a high price to pay,” said Claude Arnold, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in Los Angeles. “Visa fraud is a serious crime. Not only does it undermine the integrity of our legal immigration process and penalize those who abide by the law, it also poses a significant security vulnerability.”

The investigation in this case began in September 2009 after officers with the Fraud Detection and National Security Division at the USCIS Field Office in Santa Ana noted suspicious similarities involving 21 visa petitions that were ultimately traced back to MPEagle. In some instances, the applicants used the same marriage certificates, divorce certificates, marriage witnesses or even United States citizen “spouses.”

“Our fraud detection officers work collaboratively with ICE HSI to investigate fraudulent conduct that jeopardizes the integrity of our immigration system,” said Jane Arellano, District Director for USCIS in Los Angeles. “We are very proud of the work that they do.”

A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

The three defendants arrested Wednesday morning are expected to make their initial appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon. The charge of conspiracy to commit visa fraud carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.

On its website, MPEagle says it offers immigration services related to employment, business and investment needs. In addition to the Cerritos office searched this morning, the website lists contact information for business locations in Georgia, New Jersey and India.

Read more by HS News Staff →

Mexico Revises Its 2011 GDP Upward to a 4.3% Growth Rate

“The (original) forecast ... was 3.8 percent for 2011. Today the finance ministry is adjusting its forecast to 4.3 percent,” for the year, President Felipe Calderon of Mexico told a banking convention in the resort city of Acapulco.

The new figure is a result of the U.S. economy recovering which is helping spur Mexico’s economy even further.  After initially pegging the 2011 GDP at 3.8% the Finance Ministry revised it to 4.0% in March when there was an employment increase with 230,721 jobs created in the first quarter of the year.

The country’s inflation rate was lower than expected in the first quarter and at its lowest level in close to five years giving everyone confidence in a higher GDP.  However it was the U.S. economic growth that is making Mexico feel it can meet the 4.3% GDP and that it might even exceed 2010’s GDP of 5.5%, which was the country’s fastest growth in a decade. 

Read more at Reuters →



FridayApril 8, 2011