Things That Matter

A Man Was Cutting Down A Tree When Police Discovered He Didn’t Have A License, So They Turned Him Into ICE

Regardless of who wins the 2020 elections and whether Donald Trump will be impeached before then or not, the past few years will be remembered by many as a traumatic period in which thousands of immigrants, many of them undocumented but some just wary of the color of their skin, lived in fear of migration authorities. There have been multiple cases of family separations and trauma that 

Jose Villalta was helping a pariente cut down a tree. His sin: not having a license to do so.

Credit: Jose Villalba / Facebook

The 31-year-old Maryland resident and citizen of El Salvador was doing something that is totally right: he was helping out a family member cut down a dead tree in his property last August 7. However, he was approached by police when he was helping because the law establishes that you need a license to do this. José Ricardo Villalta Canales (his full name) violated a state law by not having the document, a violation that is punishable with a $500 fine. However, police officers from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources went beyond a mere fine… 

This is when things went from bad to worse for Villalta, as the officers turned him over to immigration authorities.

Credit: WJLA

According to The Washington Post, the officers took five minutes to fine him for $320, “But they detained him for more than two hours after making a routine check of a national database to see if he was the subject of any outstanding state, federal or local warrants”. They went above and beyond the standard procedure, most likely motivated by Villalta’s ethnic background. It is important to mention that Villalta had no previous criminal record. At all. But a search in the database revealed that ICE has filed an administrative warrant for deportation. 

So Villalta is now suing the police officers for handing him over to ICE.

Credit: Washington Post

Villalta is now suing the authorities for what he and his lawyers claim was a wrongful arrest. He is being supported by attorneys with the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. Because Maryland authorities are only meant to act on judicial or criminal warrants, and not administrative warrants, the officers were wrongful in detaining Villalta until the ICE authorities arrived. As The Washington Post reports, Villalta has since then been held in detention: “He was consequently arrested and has remained in ICE detention in Frederick County for more than three months.”

According to his defense, the case is far from ambiguous. Azadeh Erfani, an associate counsel at he Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs said unequivocally: “His rights were very much violated”. Also, cases like Villalta’s set a precedent for any law enforcement agency to call on ICE when they have a suspicion. And well, this suspicion is of course based on physical appearance and ethnicity… there really isn’t another way around it is there?

He is now suffering from depression. 

Villalta has been in the United States since he was 17-years-old, when he crossed the border by foot. His whole adult life has been spent in the United States, where he has a network of support. In a recent press conference, his aunt Mirna Canales informed that Jose is suffering from depression while on ICE detention, with the prospect of deportation to a country that he would barely recognize today looming over his future. In the United States he has been working in roofing in Rockville, and he has supported his partner’s children and several nieces and nephews. He is a hard working immigrant. 

Social media is finding clear racial implications in this case.

There is no way this would have happened if Jose Villalta was, say, a British man who had overstayed his visa. Because he is Brown, he was immediately found suspicious of being an undocumented migrant. Cases like these exacerbate the already stressful situation experienced by millions in the United States and most widely the world over. 

And some went even further and compared today’s environment to some of the darkest episodes in human history, while some MAGA dudes are bringing out their nastiness.

While some social media users are comparing this type of inter-agency cooperation to the methods used by the Gestapo during the Nazi regime, others have obviously brought out their nastiness. Come on, man, at least show some understanding of law before you bring out your venom. Cases like this bring out the best and the worst in people, and while some are sacando a relucir el cobre, supporters have rocked signs with legends such as “IMMIGRANT RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS” and “HE IS NOT A CRIMINAL”. 

The Trump Administration Raised Fees For Immigration Cases Including For Refugees

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The Trump Administration Raised Fees For Immigration Cases Including For Refugees

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

In its continuing campaign against immigrants and refugees, the Trump administration has increased the costs of immigration proceedings – in some instances by more than 80%. These new fees could make the cost of seeking asylum protection in the U.S. or becoming a citizen out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes.

The Trump administration announced major changes to the fees charged for immigration proceedings.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced it would dramatically increase the fees for U.S. immigration services on everything from refugee asylum requests to naturalization services. The new fee structure, released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is expected to take effect on October 2.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes. It will also have an outsized impact on business that hire foreign workers.

The agency, which has closed offices and suspended most services during the pandemic, has said it faces a significant revenue shortfall that could trigger furloughs. Earlier this year, the agency requested $1.2 billion in emergency funds from Congress.

The U.S. will now be one of just a few countries that actually charge refugees to file asylum requests.

Credit: Gregory Bull / Getty Images

With the new fee charged to refugees and asylum seekers, the U.S. will become one of just four countries that actually charge for this application. The new fee for asylum is a blatant attack on the most vulnerable among us and is another way for the administration to target and restrict protections for those fleeing their home countries.

The $50 application fee for asylum applications now puts the U.S. in the same ranks as Iran, Fiji, and Australia. The new rule would also raise the cost for an asylum applicant to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) from the current zero to $490, one of many policy changes to discourage potential asylum applicants. DHS commented, “DHS does not believe that the EAD fee is unduly burdensome for asylum seekers.”

However, one asylum officer who spoke with BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity said the fee was discouraging.

“The larger problem is that humanitarian applications by their nature should be free,” the officer said. “The idea of charging people who are fleeing — and not helping if they don’t pay up — is disgusting.”

Another asylum officer said it will cost the agency more to collect the fee than $50, “which doesn’t come close to covering the cost of adjudicating an asylum application.”

Other fees – from green card replacements to citizenship applications – will also be going up.

The new fee changes impact several categories of services offered by USCIS that will impact our community. Two of the most common types of visas issued by the agency (L and H-1B visas) will increase by 75% and 21% respectively.

The L visa – which is used for short term work in the U.S. – will increase from $460 to $805. The fee for an H-1B petition (which is used by employers to hire highly-skilled workers) will rise from $460 to $555.

For season workers in the U.S., of which there are hundreds of thousands, their fees will also increase by almost 50%. The current fee for these visas is $460 but the H-2A (season agricultural) will rise to $850 and the H-2B (seasonal non-agricultural) will rise to $715.

USCIS would increase the cost of the application (N-400) to become a U.S. citizen by more than 80%, rising from $640 to $1,160 (for online filings, although a separate $85 biometrics fee would be eliminated). 

The new increased fees come as the agency faces a financial crisis that many say are of its own making.

Many are concerned about the timing of these fee increases because USCIS is in the midst of historic mismanagement, that has face the agency from a substantial surplus to a deficit so severe USCIS has requested a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, held a July 29, 2020, oversight hearing that helped explain how the Trump administration caused the financial problems at USCIS through its policy choices on immigration.

“Under the Trump Administration, USCIS has issued a flurry of policies that make its case adjudications more complicated, which reduces the agency’s efficiency and requires more staff to complete fewer cases,” testified Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. “There are dozens if not hundreds of such policies.” 

A California ‘Karen’ Harasses Landscape Worker As She Demands To See His Papers

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A California ‘Karen’ Harasses Landscape Worker As She Demands To See His Papers

Juan Carlos Andrade Mendez / YouTube

Yet another white woman has been outed as a ‘Karen’ thanks to a now viral video showing off her ignorant and racist behavior. The woman, who hasn’t yet been identified, decided it was OK to harass a landscape worker who was tending to her lawn at her California apartment complex.

‘Karen’ knew she was being recorded, but that didn’t stop her one bit from acting like a rogue ICE agent, demanding to see this man’s papers and questioning him on his citizenship. The video has since been seen more than a million times and officials are investigating the incident.

Another ‘Karen’ harassed a man doing his job and demanded to see his ‘papers.’

Landscape worker Juan Carlos Andrade Mendez was working at an apartment complex in Rancho Mirage, California when the woman seen in the video approached him. The unidentified woman first blows a kiss towards Mendez as he worked before approaching him and beginning her racist interrogation.

In the video you can see the woman with no mask and no respect for social distancing as she stands in front of him and his equipment, demanding to see his citizenship status.

“Like any other complex, I was just doing the work for all of them, mowing the lawn. I passed by her apartment and when I turned around to do the second round that’s when I saw her standing,” Mendez told NBC Palm Springs. “When she was harassing me, I started to feel mad because I was just doing my work,” said Mendez.

The smiling woman then circles Mendez before blocking his way, prompting the man to ask her to step aside as he shuts off his mower. “Can you move?” Mendez said. “I’m doing my work. Can you move?”

The woman then walked away briefly before returning and continuing to ask where the man was from. “No, you’re not Mexican,” she told Mendez after he made a playful reference to Mexico. “What am I?” Mendez replies. “I don’t know, you tell me,” said the woman, who later surmises he may Filipino or Vietnamese, according to the clip.

The woman stares at Andrade before the video ends with her saying, “Show me your papers, mariposa.” Mariposa is Spanish for “butterfly” and can also be used as a slang term for homosexual.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that the woman has harassed Andrade.

According to Mendez, this woman has caused issues for him in the past. About three months ago, according to Mendez, the same woman told him to “go back to his country.”

In an interview with NBC Palm Springs, Mendez said: “Based on what I have seen from her, I think she thinks she didn’t do anything wrong. She believes she’s in the right, so I don’t think she’ll ever apologize.”

Immigration lawyers who have seen the video said some people think they’re acting as makeshift police, but their actions are simply racist.

“Unless you are law enforcement, but aside from that, they are using that conversation as just another way to intimidate and create objects out of human beings who appear to be different from them,” Megan Beaman Jacinto, an immigration lawyer from Coachella Valley, told NBC Palm Springs.

The now viral video has sparked an investigation that had been “pretty much” completed as of Sunday, the Desert Sun reports.

“It wasn’t very difficult,” city attorney Steve Quintanilla told the newspaper.

The investigation centered on city housing policy and whether any steps needed to be taken to prevent similar encounters from occurring, but officials decided it was an isolated incident. Still, property managers at the development are conducting a separate investigation that could lead to the woman’s eviction.

“I can say action will be taken,” Quintanilla told the newspaper, declining to elaborate.

Quintanilla also refused to identify the woman. City officials have said, however, she was a resident of the complex for people 55 and over.

“This matter will not be ignored, nor tolerated,” Mayor Dana Hobart said in a statement. “It is appalling to learn of the hateful misconduct of one of Rancho Mirage’s senior living residents. Racist conduct if any sort is strictly prohibited and not taken lightly in our public housing.”