Thursday, March 29, 2007

in the shadows

Kevin Johnson at ImmigrationProf Blog gives us a peek at the police state in which out-of-status immigrants live:

Lilia Velasquez, a San Diego immigration attorney and immigration professor at California Western, says in the last 10 days, she's received twice as many calls as normal. She says many Latino residents in North County are terrified because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have detained their relatives and neighbors. According to the radio interview (here) by KPBS Reporter Amy Isackson, Lilia Velazquez says the stories callers are telling her are nearly identical. Velazquez:

The immigration officer had gone to their homes looking for someone else. They didn't find that someone else. So they arrested the husband or the relative instead. And they were very worried as to whether there was a special operation taking place or why was ICE staking out those places.

Velazquez says callers tell her agents often detain everyone at the house who can't show immigration papers.

And from the LA Times (via Johnson again) we learn that there are shanty towns in Southern California:

Jose and his family live in a world few ever see, a vast poverty born in hundreds of trailer parks strung like a shabby necklace across the eastern Coachella Valley.

Out here — just a few miles from world-class golf resorts, private hunting clubs and polo fields — half-naked children toddle barefoot through mud and filth while packs of feral dogs prowl piles of garbage nearby.

Thick smoke from mountains of burning trash drifts through broken windows. People — sometimes 30 or more — are crammed into trailers with no heat, no air-conditioning, undrinkable water, flickering power and plumbing that breaks down for weeks or months at a time. "I was speechless," said Haider Quintero, a Colombian training for the priesthood who recently visited the parks as part of his studies. "I never expected to see this in America."

. . .

Some of the largest and poorest parks are on the Torres Martinez Indian Reservation where they are not subject to local zoning laws and the county can't monitor safety, hygiene and building standards. The reservation is also home to the worst illegal dumps of any tribe in California, Arizona or Nevada, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The federal agency has closed 10 of the 20 most toxic dumps and cited four of the largest trailer parks for health violations.

. . .

The presence of the parks on the reservation has frustrated Torres Martinez Tribal Chairman Raymond Torres.

"The owners started off with good intentions, then I think it overwhelmed them," he said. "I have a real problem with it. Someone is going to get hurt. I'd like to see the parks gone and the owners start over again."

But in the complex world of tribal sovereignty, Torres cannot close the parks; only the Bureau of Indian Affairs can. The bureau said last week that parks on the reservation are illegal because they do not issue bureau-approved leases to tenants. They are now threatening legal action against [trailer park] Duroville and said other parks could be next.

Trailer parks began springing up on Indian land largely because of a county crackdown. In 1998, after several fatal accidents caused by faulty wiring, Riverside County began closing parks that did not have permits and threatening to sue others not up to code. Faced with outrage from farmworker advocates and the Roman Catholic Church, who feared thousands could be rendered homeless, officials backed off, but not before many panicked park dwellers had moved onto the reservation.

Bad things happen when an entire community lives outside of the law.

On the other side of the park, Cesar Rafael, 17, a Purepechan, lives in his parents' trailer. He and several other students at Desert Mirage High School in Thermal made a short video about their world, "The Contaminated Valley," which was shown at school.

"I wanted people to see another side of life," he said. "Everything is poisonous here, even the water is poisonous. And nobody really cares about it. We are invisible.
As is often the case on the immigration blogs I read, a lone VDare troll is the only person motivated to comment on the situation. His love for humanity is palpable.

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