Results 1 to 2 of 2

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

  1. #1
    Senior Member cvangel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006

    Illegal immigration: Crime & consequences

    Posted on Sun, Mar. 30, 2008

    By Robert Morris -
    He hasn't held his daughter long enough to get to know her, Margen Perez says, but he marks her growth in visits twice a week at J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Conway while he awaits trial.
    Janet Blackmon Morgan/The Sun News
    He hasn't held his daughter long enough to get to know her, Margen Perez says, but he marks her growth in visits twice a week at J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Conway while he awaits trial.

    CONWAY --
    On one side of thick glass, a blond teen with braces holds her 8-month-old daughter, who taps her little hands on the metal counter and, with wide brown eyes, chants, "Da-da-da-da."

    On the other side, a young man in tan prison scrubs listens to the muted sound of his little girl's voice through tiny holes bored in the steel window frame. He looks up at the ceiling, covers his eyes with his hands and sighs deeply.

    Margen Perez and Brittney Childers spend Perez's half-hour visitation days talking about the future. But, even if Perez is exonerated of the armed-robbery charge against him, his chance of a reunion with Brittney Childers is remote.

    Perez, 19, was brought illegally from his native Honduras to the United States by his mother when he was 6 years old. Because of his robbery charge, he has been identified by immigration authorities as "removable," subject to deportation to a country he barely remembers.

    "The state, they don't care. All they look at is, 'Oh, they don't do taxes,' this and that. That's all they look at," said Brittney Childers. "They don't look at, they've got family here, that they've been here almost all their life."

    'Just stuck'

    Honduras, one of the poorest countries in the Americas, sits one country away from Mexico's southern border. It is midway in size between North and South Carolina and home to 7.5 million people, just less than North Carolina's 8 million.

    Unemployment there is at 28 percent. More than half the country lives on $50 a month or less, the World Bank estimates.

    When Perez was young, his mother traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Honduras, said Brittney Childers and her mother, Windy Childers, who are Perez's adoptive family here. His great-grandmother raised him until his mother brought him to the United States. Since then, the rest of the family also has emigrated to the States - except that grandmother, who now has a heart condition.

    "He has nobody to turn to," Windy Childers said. "When they send him back to Honduras, he's in the same boat all over again."

    Perez exemplifies one of the harshest realities of unconditional deportation, said Tammy Besherse, a Columbia-based attorney for the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center, which advocates for low-income people.

    Millions of children have been brought to the United States illegally by their parents - without any choice in the matter, Besherse said. Now grown, they are fully Americanized, caught without any legal status here or knowledge of their native country.

    "This is the only life they've known," Besherse said. "They are in legal limbo. They have absolutely no chance to legally contribute to society. They are just stuck."

    Soon inseparable

    Perez lived in North Carolina for a while, before his family moved to a mobile home park outside Conway. There he met Brittney Childers when he was 17 and she had just turned 15, new neighbors, quickly inseparable.

    "We started off as friends, and then we just got together," Brittney Childers said. "He was the most sweet person I ever met in my life."

    After only four months, they were engaged. She learned Spanish from him, and he learned English from her. She skipped school when rainy days kept him home from his house-framing job.

    When Perez's mother moved back to the Charlotte area, he stayed behind and moved in with the Childerses. For a while, Windy Childers took him with her to her own job, refurbishing used mobile homes. Once, when the family's electricity was about to be turned off, Perez went out and raised money, asking for loans from everyone he knew.

    For Perez and Brittney Childers, their engagement is more of a pledge than a plan, as state law requires a Social Security or tax ID number of anyone seeking a marriage license.

    Perez has neither, so the Childerses looked into getting him legal residency. Perez would have to return to Honduras, they were told, then apply for citizenship the same as anyone else - a process that takes years.

    Living in fear

    For some immigrants, even those on the road to citizenship, deportation looms as a daily threat over even the most routine activities.

    Maria Arreola, who used false documents to get into the United States 12 years ago, has hired an attorney and applied for residency based on her husband's legal status here. Yet every day, she drives in fear to her 2-year-old daughter's day care or to her job as a waitress in Socastee.

    Her driver's license is expired and from out of state, a relic of an era when it was easy to drive to North Carolina and get a license. Even the slightest infraction - maybe just a crash someone else causes - could bring her to the attention of an unsympathetic officer, maybe jail and then deportation.

    "Every day is scared," Arreola said. "Maybe one day they're coming for me, and what will happen to my daughter?"

    Though his office often works with federal immigration authorities on deportation cases, 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Greg Hembree said he sympathizes, to a point.

    "I do not blame someone who sneaks across the border and tries to eke out a better life for his family," Hembree said. "But what an awful existence to be worried every single day when that knock's coming on the door."

    Candice Lively, the prosecutor in the Perez criminal case, said she personally empathizes with the struggles of immigrants, even illegal immigrants, if they are trying to become American citizens: She has close family members who did just that.

    "They should have every opportunity, but when they commit a crime, I lose all respect for them," Lively said.

    Masked intruder

    After two years with the Childerses, Perez decided to move to Charlotte to make a home for himself and Brittney Childers. By that time, Brittney Childers was pregnant and her mother asked her to stay home until the baby was born.

    Perez traveled back and forth from Charlotte to be with Brittney Childers as often as possible. But after one trip back in May, Windy Childers got a shocking phone call from a former neighbor: A robbery had taken place in the old neighborhood, she said, and Perez was involved.

    According to police, the victim told them two mask-wearing men barged into her home. One held a shotgun; the other demanded money. She gave them $50, and they left.

    Though the one who took the money has never been identified, the one with the shotgun spoke, the woman told officers. He sounded like her old neighbor, Margen Perez.

    Before police could find him, Perez went into hiding.

    "He said he didn't do it, so he didn't want to go to jail for it," Brittney Childers said.

    Perez eluded police long enough for Emylee to be born, although he couldn't attend her birth - police were watching the hospital, family members said. He saw the newborn a handful of times, but his borrowed time didn't last long.

    Back in Charlotte in September, he got into a car wreck, police ran his name, and the Horry County warrants came up. The charges: assault with intent to kill (the legal term for making credible threats with a weapon in hand), armed robbery and first-degree burglary - the home-invasion charge, which can carry up to life in prison.

    Had those charges been by themselves, $50,000 would have bought his bond out of J. Reuben Long Detention Center. Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents placed a detainer on Perez, however, that will keep him jailed until they are ready for him.

    Letters from a father

    Perez's visiting days in jail are Wednesday and Sunday, and Brittney Childers always comes, bringing his daughter so he can at least watch her grow.

    "He's got a baby here that don't even know she has a daddy," Windy Childers said. "Through the glass is all she knows of her daddy."

    Prison rules would allow Perez a 10-minute collect call to Brittney Childers every day. The call costs her $1, though, and her phone is broken anyway.

    Instead, he writes.

    Brittney Childers said she usually gets two or three letters a week from him, unless they're both short of money for envelopes and stamps. Some are addressed "Brittney Perez."

    Sometimes, the letters are accompanied by drawings. In one letter, a Tweety Bird cartoon character says, "I love you, Emylee," and in another, a pair of pencil-drawn praying hands covers the center of the page, with the words of the letter written around them.

    Roses adorn the edges of some pages, or hearts dot the i's.

    "I'm glad you have agreed upon being together when I get out, me, you and our daughter Emylee as a family," reads one letter from late February. Sitting at home, the box of his letters emptied around her, Brittney Childers wept as she read aloud.

    "I really do know that I have found the love of my life."

    He knows about her tears.

    "Baby, don't tell me that you are crying, because that makes me upset, to know that you're going through it and I can't help you because I'm not there to make you feel happy, to make you laugh, and most of all just to hold you," he wrote. "You and Emylee are my everything, and let her know that daddy loves her, and kiss her for me."

    He has to ask other inmates for help to write in English, Brittney Childers noted as she cried. To her, the words are still his.

    In a holding pattern

    The family said they believe Perez's case is dragging along because of his immigration status. Because he cannot bond out of jail, officials feel no hurry to bring him to trial, they said.

    Nothing has been unusual about the timeline of Perez's case, the prosecutor countered. He was indicted Nov. 29, not long after his arrest. Since then, the local courts have been occupied by a succession of high-profile, death-penalty murder trials, Lively said, but Perez's case will be heard as soon as possible. He has a tentative date set in May.

    "His is just waiting for its turn," Lively said, noting that jailed defendants such as Perez are given quicker trials than those free on bond. "I don't want somebody languishing out in jail, but I have to wait."

    Perez also will have to wait. Immigration judges in Atlanta grant immigration bonds so rarely that Columbia-based immigration-court attorney Charles A. Phipps said he usually doesn't even request them. For one client last year who had no criminal record, he was able to secure a $20,000 bond.

    "They say the bond is so high through immigration because they know once they pay the bond and they walk out that door, they're going to run," Windy Childers said. "So therefore they're going to set them an untouchable bond, just about."

    Waiting is a familiar burden for those in the immigration system. Omar Arias crossed the border illegally as a young teen and moved to New Jersey, where his brother was living, in hopes of getting an education. Instead, Arias dropped out of school and went to work.

    Last year, he was arrested in Myrtle Beach when agents found cocaine in a truck Arias said belongs to a friend, but the 27-year-old is now awaiting deportation. While he doesn't mind going back to Mexico, Arias has no plans to return to the United States and risk a long wait in prison again.

    "If you've got no family, you can't even talk to nobody, you've just got to wait," Arias said. "You're alone."

    Odds of deportation

    No matter what happens in his criminal trial, the odds of avoiding subsequent deportation are not in Perez's favor.

    Only 6 percent of the 273,000 cases that went before federal immigration judges and reached decisions in 2006 ended up in dismissals, according to statistics at the Justice Department's Executive Office for Immigration Review. Nearly 80 percent ended in deportation, and 13 percent were granted asylum, meaning they admitted to their illegal status but were allowed to stay in the United States because of some danger they face in returning to their home country.

    Asylum, too, is a long shot for Perez. Only 66 of the more than 1,100 asylum requests for Hondurans across the country were granted in 2006.

    Immigration laws are complex, and some cases are winnable based on obscure changes in the law, said Phipps, the immigration attorney. The federal system, however, does not provide public defenders for immigrants, and private attorneys cost thousands of dollars.

    "The system is very much stacked against people who are here from another country and commit a crime, especially if they have no documents," said Phipps, noting that only a handful of immigration lawyers practice in South Carolina.

    Would poverty-stricken Honduras be dangerous for Perez? Though he says his tattoos are not gang-related - and investigators with Myrtle Beach's gang unit agreed based on a description of them - Perez said he worries they would be taken that way in Honduras and that he could be attacked or killed.

    "Brown pride" is written on his arms, one word on each forearm. "Honduras" is written across his chest. A cigar-smoking skull wearing a fedora is on an arm, and a tear drop - a common symbol of a jail stint - is tattooed under one eye.

    Perez's tattoos may reflect more the young man's desire to belong than anything he actually did, Windy Childers said.

    "I think he wanted to think he was something he wasn't," she said. "I've never seen the side of him that put him where he's at right now."

    Whether Perez will be deported is beyond local prosecutors' control, now that federal authorities are interested in him. All the home-invasion case will determine is whether he serves prison time in South Carolina before his immigration case comes up.

    As a prosecutor, Lively said she puts those details out of her mind.

    "Is it sad? If you look at it without considering everything else going on with this guy, it would be sad," Lively said. "But when you look at the violence of the crime he is accused of, it takes away that sympathy."

    Defense attorney Ed Chrisco declined to discuss the particulars of the Perez case but said he always discusses the ramifications of pleading guilty with his clients. Every time he has seen immigration authorities place a detainer on someone, Chrisco said, the result has been the same.

    "Once they put a hold on you, it might take some time, but they will go through with the deportation," Chrisco said.

    Could Perez come back? For anyone who enters the U.S. illegally and stays more than a year, as soon as they leave, they face a 10-year ban on returning. If they were deported, there's an additional ban. A criminal record brings a ban of its own.

    The way it was

    During a recent jailhouse visit, the conversation between the young parents proceeded smoothly - as long as deportation didn't come up, as if there was no immigration hold.

    He talked about his local court dates, just as he always does, Windy Childers said. Sometimes, it seems like wishful thinking, the mother said.

    "When he comes home, he's going to go back to work," Brittney Childers said later. "We're just going to get everything back the way it was before."

    As the young couple spoke to each other about the pace of Perez's case, they grew increasingly frustrated. In her mother's arms, baby Emylee likewise began squirming, voicing short, needy yells.

    Brittney Childers sat the baby down on the metal counter and gave her a plastic bottle, and Emylee leaned back to drink, instantly happy.

    Laughter rang out on both sides of the glass, and the prisoner blew kisses to his little girl.

    "Go to daddy," the young girl told her daughter when she finished drinking. The child put her hand against the glass.

    Illegal immigration is a hot political issue.

    But it is not a new debate: Waves of immigrants to the U.S. have prompted similar discussions about invasion of culture, loss of jobs and societal costs for centuries.

    The fear of terrorism after Sept. 11, 2001, also put the spotlight on national security and illegal immigration.

    Congress has been trying to strengthen border security and refine paths to citizenship. Presidential candidates have made immigration policy part of their campaigns.

    Immigration bills are pending in the S.C. legislature.

    The immigration debate, however, is fraught with misconceptions. Many people describe hospitals, schools and jails as bursting with illegal immigrants who have taken citizens' jobs and overburdened social services without contributing taxes.

    To help separate fact from fiction, The Sun News will look at the assumptions driving the issue, the legislation surrounding it and the people living it.

    Coming Monday

    Find out whether illegal immigrants contribute more crime to communities. ... 99150.html

  2. #2
    loneprotester's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    Here is my reply to the Myrtle Beach article.

    Here we go again, one more sob story about illegal aliens. Why hasn't he been charged with having sex with an underage minor? It seems like to me that every reporter in this state is more worried about criminal illegal alien invaders that they are the citizens. Every time I pick up a newspaper there is an article similar to this one. How hard they have it here, about the jobs they have stolen from the citizens, etc, etc, etc. Mr Morris, why don't you use your investigative skills and write some articles on how the illegal aliens have stolen the livelihoods from thousands of citizens of South Carolina. Write some stories about how the illegal invasion has devastated our lives. I am in construction, and haven't been able to find any work for the last month. Would you like to take a guess why? Or do you even care? I am not in jail for any crime that I have committed, my only problem is that I am almost broke because I follow the laws we have. I imagine that if I were an illegal alien then you might do an article on my situation. But hardworking citizens do not matter because we have been replaced by the new work force.Lone Protester- South Carolina?s Workers are Being Replaced


    In violation of all the laws of this state and country, our native born South Carolinians are being replaced in large numbers in the work force by industries and other businesses that employ illegal aliens. In the last three years my industry, construction, has literally been invaded by an entire army of replacement workers in direct contravention of our laws. The changes that I have seen are simply unbelievable. In my line of work, roofing, 75% of the employees are illegal aliens, 75% of the brick masons are illegals, and the same applies to the carpenters, siding crews, insulation crews and every other business in the construction industry.

    And it seems that nobody gives a damn. My fellow businessmen and myself are being forced out of business and bankrupted by criminal competition and the only response that we can get from our leaders, such as Mayor Bob Coble of Columbia is to pretend that the problem doesn?t exist. Another one of my leaders here, the esteemed Senator Lindsey Graham, considers me a racist and a bigot just because I am trying to bring attention to a huge problem. Just because I complain about being bankrupted and replaced by an illegal work force I am considered to be a bigot and racist. My rights under our state constitution and the US Constitution are being violated on a daily basis by our elected and appointed officials and the only thing that my senator can do is call me a racist and bigot.

    The Columbia Police Department will enforce the laws against spitting on the sidewalk, littering, cursing, dui and various other crimes but let it come to businesses that are employing illegal aliens then they will run for cover. The day I was arrested, sitting on that hot road being watched over by two police officers, I saw five illegal aliens hard at work, knowing for a fact that they would not be arrested by those two cops. I watched the homeowner who had admitted to me that he was using illegals, act like he was really offended by my protest of him because of the negative attention I brought to him from his neighbors and people passing by. I watched the contractor who built the house, M&H Development drive by and not stop. I think he knew what was up and wanted no part of it. The thing that I am getting at is that there were nine different people breaking all kinds of our laws in that man?s yard but those two cops from the Columbia City Police Department pretended like they were all law abiding American citizens. None of them were questioned by the cops about their illegal activities, none of them were put in handcuffs, like me. None of them had any worry in the world about being arrested because in those two cops eyes these criminals got a free pass. But the thing is, every last one of them were breaking the law, right in front of those two cops. And the cops did nothing.

    And that is the current state of affairs in the construction industry in South Carolina. We are not supposed to say anything as we are ran out of business by criminal companies. We are not supposed to say anything about the new work force that is currently replacing all South Carolinians in the home building industry. We are not supposed to say or do anything, contrary to the wishes of our elected leaders that refuse to do anything to protect our business against illegal competition. No, we are just supposed to shut up and go quietly into the night when each of our time comes.

    But I refuse to shut up about it. When those two cops took me away to shut me up, it made me want to shout all that louder. I am an American citizen, guaranteed rights under our system of laws, just like my fellow workers in this state are supposed to have, but we don?t anymore. No, the enforcement of our laws has been co-opted by people in this state with their own agenda. Every cop refuses to enforce our immigration laws. Even our judges are in violation of their oaths of office. And nobody cares. We have 500,000 illegal aliens in this state and nobody cares. We have thousands of businesses that break our laws every day, but nobody cares.

    But I refuse to shut up, and I want to encourage every citizen of this great state to make your voices heard to our so-called leaders. Our politicians are currently having illegal immigration legislation discussion. And they are listening more to the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce that they are to the citizens of this state. And it is time for our voices to be heard. It is time to tell these deadbeats that the time for aiding and abetting lawbreakers is at an end. It is time to tell them to take their screams of racism and bigotry and shove it where the sun don?t shine. It is time to tell them that we want our laws enforced and that we will not accept any excuses for their non-compliance. It is time to take this state back!

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts