Saturday, January 19, 2013

Unintended consequences of the "drug war": International Crime Syndicates

Cartels are now International Crime Syndicates.
Turning a blind eye to negative repercussions of the co-called "drug war" for far too long produced a monster. Instead of snuffing out crime, the "drug war" only made it worse. The enemy we formerly termed "drug cartels" has morphed into International Crime Syndicates.

No longer content with merely trafficking drugs, international crime syndicates began growing and producing illegal substances. Seeing lots of potential for lucrative income in extortion and kidnapping, guess what came next?

Arms trafficking was a natural. They could use weapons and, in Mexico, arms sales are illegal and possession of arms is, too. Crime enters in.

Now, international crime syndicates have adopted the most lucrative enterprise of all: human smuggling and trafficking. From my (limited) perspective on the border, nearly all illegal entry into the U.S. is controlled by the crime syndicates. This opens the door to exploitation of those smuggled, many are duped and then imprisoned to work for the cartel in the sex industry or as laborers.

When an elderly Catholic sister retired from a decade of ministry at an HIV/AIDS clinic in Juarez a few years ago, she announced at a meeting I attended that she'd devote her remaining years to activism in the cause of legalizing marijuana in the US. She'd seen enough death, mayhem and suffering, so she'd take the obvious first step in opposition.

Illegal drugs are cheaper now than ever, and more easily obtained. Humans charged with drug possession fill U.S. prisons. Police arrest more people for possession than for violent crime. The drug war has helped munitions manufacturers and international crime syndicates prosper and grow.

No matter how you name it, evil is evil. End the drug war.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Looks like DREAMers will be (legal!) drivers

This afternoon, the federal government updated its guidance page for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) page. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Obama Administration has now confirmed that recipients of deferred action are authorized to be in the United States. They are now, therefore considered to be “lawfully present” under federal immigration laws. This counteracts the arguments from those opposed to allowing them to receive drivers licenses.
DREAMERS may be drivers in all states now.
Acting under the assumption that DACA recipients aren't “lawfully present” under federal law, four states have refused to issue driver’s licenses to DACA recipients.These states are Arizona, Iowa, Michigan, and Nebraska. The DACA beneficiaries are eligible for work permits under the federal order. Lacking access to transportation, however, has been a curtailment that has handicapped them.

This new clarification from the federal government will give DREAMers a tool with which they can contend those states' rulings.

In a separate release, the administration also updated statistics on the DACA program. As of Thursday, USCIS had received 407,899 requests for deferred action (an average of 80,000 per month since the program began). Of these, 394,533 had been accepted and 154,404 approved.

Interestingly, USCIS received an average of less than 1,500 requests per day in January, down from a high of more than 5,700 per day in October soon after the program began accepting applications. The majority of DACA recipients continue to hail from Mexico and reside in California.

Source: American Immigration Council "Immigration Impact"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Major sex trafficking ring broken by U.S. immigration (ICE)

Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the major success of a lengthy investigation into a U.S. sex trafficking ring. Operation Dark Night broke a major criminal enterprise operating in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. The investigation culminated in a takedown yesterday.
Authorities made 13 criminal arrests and 44 administrative arrests that were tied to the investigation. Additionally, they rescued as many as 11 victims. The investigation was led by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Today, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the results of a lengthy investigation, called Operation Dark Night, into a sex trafficking stretching from Florida to Georgia to North and South Carolina. The investigation was led by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Seen here is HSI agent with criminal. [Image credit: ICE]

Among the many duties ICE serves, preventing sex trafficking ranks among its most critical.

"ICE investigates a wide array of crimes, but the trafficking of women and girls for prostitution is among the most sinister," said ICE Director John Morton, who explained the urgency of the task.

"Few crimes so damage their victims and undermine basic human decency. Our fight against this evil must be relentless, both here and abroad," Morton stated.

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Edward Tarver called sex trafficking “modern day slavery” that is “reprehensible” and "a cancer facing our society….”

According to the indictment, Joaquin Mendez-Hernandez, known as “El Flaco”, conspired to transport people across interstate boundaries for prostitution. Mendez-Hernandez also allegedly conspired to lure women from Mexico, Nicaragua and elsewhere to travel to the United States. He offered them false promises of the American dream.

However, once the women were inside the United States, they were allegedly threatened. The victims were forced serve as prostitutes in many locations in Savannah and throughout the Southeast.
The indictment alleges that Mendez-Hernandez told a Mexican woman that she would be sent back to her home country unless she serviced 25 clients a day.

HSI provides relief to victims of human trafficking by allowing for their continued presence in the United States during criminal proceedings. Victims may also qualify for a T visa, which is issued to victims of human trafficking who have complied with reasonable requests for assistance in investigations and prosecutions.

ICE relies on information from the public to alert them to human trafficking. They operate an HSI tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423). The Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 also accepts information. Anonymous calls are welcome.

Like dark energy, human trafficking is all around us, unseen but influencing lives.

Don't allow it to slip under your radar.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Finding Healing, Renewal in 2013

By: Caroline Flohr, guest blogger

As a new year dawns, many Americans still grieve losses experienced in 2012. For some, it’s very personal – the death of a parent, spouse or child. Others mourn the lives lost in one of the many tragedies we experienced together as a nation.

As a mother of a 16-year-old twin daughter killed in a car accident involving eight teenagers, I assure those of you who are still coming to terms with your loss and grief – it is possible to journey from the unimaginable to acceptance and a spiritual peace. I urge you to embrace the healing power of family and community, love and faith. You will be surprised at how it can transform you.

You can find renewal in this new year.

I have learned that death defines not the end, but a beginning. I have learned that, by weaving tragedy into the fabric of our lives, we can be stronger, spiritually richer and, yes, even happier for it.

Here are some of the milestones I experienced on my journey to inner peace:

• Deeper meaning: Through the death of someone so important, you will be changed. The question is how you will be changed. Will you grow, or become diminished? I grew with the realization that death – so often viewed as an end – is just the beginning of another phase of existence. One of my favorite quotes is from poet Rabindranath Tagore: Death is not extinguishing the light. It is putting out the lamp because dawn has come.

• Celebrate life: When the bereaved are able to look at the life of a person who has passed and see more beauty than pain, they should rejoice. The reality of a person’s absence will always have an element of sadness, but the joy of wonderful memories is even more powerful. When loved ones leave this Earth, graces are given to those relationships left behind. These are gifts. When we can acknowledge them, our lives can expand in the present.

• Ready for anything: Once you’ve experienced the worst and pulled through, you know you will be able to weather just about any adversity. Maya Angelou wrote, ‘“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” Have faith in that inner strength we all harbor.

• Appreciate what you have: Life as we know it will come to an end. This includes everyone we know, love and care about; it’s a fact that we often forget, and it’s as startling to remember as it is true. Come good or bad, we do not know what the future will bring, which means we should take every opportunity to fully embrace the present, and our loved ones.

About Caroline Flohr

Caroline Flohr is the author of Heaven's Child. It details her spiritual journey beginning with the sudden death of 16-year-old twin daughter, Sarah. Flohr was forced to dig into the deeper meaning of existence and came away with profound edification and appreciation for the gifts left behind by those who leave us. Flohr lives with her husband and children on Bainbridge Island, a suburb of Seattle.