Database Admin Support:
MS Sql Server,
Static & Dynamic
Software Technical Support
Software Development Support
Software Technical Writing
Software Formal Instructor Svc
MIND BODY HEART
News & Journalist Article Critiques & Opinion
By Stephen Dinan-The Washington Times
Forest Service hit for Border Patrol call
A federal department ruled last week that the Forest Service violated a Spanish-speaking woman's civil rights by calling the Border Patrol to help translate during a routine stop, saying it was "humiliating" to Hispanics and an illicit backdoor way to capture more illegal immigrants.
The ruling by the Agriculture Department's assistant secretary for civil rights could change policies nationwide as law enforcement agencies grapple with how far they can go in trying to help the Border Patrol while not running afoul of racial profiling standards.
Assistant Secretary Joe Leonard Jr. said calling the Border Patrol automatically "escalates" encounters between Hispanics and law enforcement. He ruled that the Forest Service cannot routinely summon the Border Patrol for assistance and said the agency now must document suspected racial profiling nationwide.
"Given the increased risk of being questioned about immigration status during an interaction with [Border Patrol], the policy of using BP for interpretation assistance is problematic in all situations because it places a burden on [limited English proficient] individuals that non-LEP individuals do not experience," Mr. Leonard ruled.
The case stems from a 2011 incident in Olympic National Forest in Washington in which a Forest Service officer encountered a Hispanic couple who he said appeared to be illegally harvesting plants on the federal lands.
The couple didn't speak English and he didn't speak fluent Spanish and, anticipating that situation, he called the Border Patrol for backup and translating.
But when a Border Patrol agent arrived, the couple fled. The woman was apprehended, but the man jumped into a river to try to escape and drowned. The Border Patrol took the woman into custody but released her several days later, reportedly on humanitarian grounds.
The Northwest Immigrant Rights Project complained to the Agriculture Department, which oversees the Forest Service, and last week's ruling was the result.
Matt Adams, legal director of the project, said the Border Patrol has been expanding its reach in the Northwest and that has meant more encounters well away from the border.
"They've got nothing to do out there as far as their traditional mission, that is enforcing people coming through the border. So in order to justify those expanded numbers, they utilize these other tactics," Mr. Adams said. "At the end of the day, they can drag in bigger numbers, but it's not focused on the border."
His group is challenging other federal agencies' use of the Border Patrol for translation services, and has filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act seeking logs for how often agents are used for translation.
Last week's ruling relies in part on an executive order issued during the Clinton administration that says language is interchangeable with national origin, which is protected by federal law.
Groups that push for English-language policies in the U.S. called the new ruling illegal and said the government appeared to be granting special language rights to illegal immigrants.
"The ACLU and illegal alien rights groups are well aware that American courts have never upheld their argument that language and national origin are equal, so they battle out these disputes in private between the agencies in order to come to a settlement where both the courts and the taxpayers are absent from the table," said Suzanne Bibby, director of government relations for ProEnglish. "This is their new strategy because they know they will lose in the courts."
A spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, said the agency is reviewing the ruling but is committed to civil rights.
The union that represents Forest Service employees didn't return a call seeking comment.
In the proceedings, the Forest Service fought on behalf of its officer. It pointed to an operational memo with the Border Patrol that said they are allowed to back up each other. Since Forest Service employees generally are not trained in Spanish, Border Patrol agents are particularly helpful in backing up encounters with Hispanics, the agency said.
Mr. Leonard's 40-page ruling underscored deep mutual distrust on both sides in the town of Forks, in northwestern Washington.
Town residents who told the review board that the Forest Service officer involved in the 2011 stop was known for harassing Hispanics and for working with the Border Patrol.
Meanwhile, the Forest Service officer said he felt like the Hispanic community had been "tracing" his movements.
Mr. Leonard was skeptical of the officer's reasoning and said he found the complaints from the community more convincing.
The ruling doesn't reveal the names of those involved.
Underpinning the ruling were some key legal arguments: First, that the complainant was entitled to visit the national forest; second, that a law enforcement stop affects the availability of the service provided by the national forest; and third, that the Forest Service must take steps to protect those with limited English, including making them not feel unduly threatened.
"A policy that causes individuals to actually flee from the service being provided does not provide meaningful access," Mr. Leonard wrote.
Fear keeps migrant workers from getting health care
SLOCOMB, Ala. – Many of the Mexican men and women picking green beans, peaches and strawberries in this lush, southeast corner of the state are fearful about seeking health care since a tough new immigration law was enacted last year.
Marisela Clemente, outreach coordinator from Slocomb Family Health Center, is trying to ease those fears one farm at a time. She joins eight workers taking a break at 150-acre Aplin Farms. After joking with the men and women in Spanish, she asks about their health and urges them to visit the nearby migrant clinic, where the staff speaks Spanish and doesn't require proof of citizenship.
"We have to go to them because they are afraid to come here to the clinic," says Clemente.
Such clinics, part of a 50-year-old federal program that treats migrant and seasonal farmworkers, have become flash points in the national immigration debate.
Local, state and federal law enforcement authorities have staked out some migrant clinics, detained staff taking patients to medical appointments and set up roadblocks near their facilities and health fairs as part of immigration crackdowns, according to federal reports and interviews with clinic officials in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New York and North Carolina.
"We are looking at a growing climate of fear where folks really think long and hard about accessing basic services," says Milton Butterworth, who oversees outreach migrant health services for Blue Ridge Community Health Services in Hendersonville, N.C.
Even many legal workers do not seek care at the health centers because they are fearful of exposing family members who are not legal residents, says Tara Plese, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Association of Community Health Centers. "It's a big concern from a public health perspective."
Those concerns include making sure farmworkers' children are vaccinated, stopping the spread of infectious diseases such as AIDS and treating those with chronic problems such as diabetes, officials say.
Backers of the nation's 156 migrant clinics say caring for all farmworkers is a humane way to treat 3 million people toiling at the heart of the nation's food supply. About half are illegal immigrants , according to the latest federal survey in 2009.
Federal aid opposed
Conservative groups say the federal government shouldn't pay for those here illegally, except in emergency cases. "These people have a responsibility to take care of their own health needs," says Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group seeking stricter immigration laws.
In 2010, the federal government spent $166 million to help care for nearly 900,000 migrant farmworkers, who pay on a sliding scale. A visit in southeast Alabama averages $30.
A report in November found that immigration enforcement fears kept workers from getting care at centers in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
"There have been credible reports of roadblocks and raids near health clinics, giving farmworkers good reason to be afraid," said the report by the Florida Association of Community Health Centers. It said 82% of surveyed migrant providers indicated that in the past year "there have been incidents of farmworkers or immigrants in their area being arrested or intercepted in the process of accessing health care services."
In December, a caseworker for Finger Lakes Migrant & Community Health in Upstate New York was pulled over by federal border patrol agents while driving two farmworkers to a dentist. She was handcuffed, detained for several hours and accused of transporting illegal immigrants. The farmworkers were taken to a detention center. The caseworker wasn't arrested, but the incident shook up the staff, CEO Mary Zelazny says.
Daniel Hiebert, U.S. Border Patrol deputy chief patrol agent in Buffalo, says the case was a "single incident," and not part of a crackdown on care providers. But he notes that it is illegal to transport illegal immigrants, whether knowingly or not.
Gillian Christensen, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, denies that her agency targets clinics to find illegal immigrants.
Outreach is pivotal
Since Alabama's law took effect in September (several provisions are blocked pending court review), the Slocomb Family Center has seen a change: The clinic's annual health fair at a local church in September drew 74 people, down from 300 in previous years.
"People feared immigration services would be there," says Melissa Bradford of Southeast Alabama Rural Health Associates, which runs the center.
Maria Lopez, who has worked at Aplin Farms for several years, says the center helped treat her back pain and arthritis. "They are very good for me," she says.
John Aplin, whose family owns Aplin Farms, says he welcomes outreach staff because they help keep his workers healthy. Noting that state troopers have set up nearby roadblocks, he adds: "They say they are looking for drugs, but we know who they are really looking for."
Contributing: Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
Send Comments ASKFMB OPINION
|home page | our news | politics | askfmb opinion | beauty care | sports | contact us
Batiste Technical Services © All Rights Reserved