Saturday, January 30, 2010

Travel Alert to India


January 29, 2010

"The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to ongoing security concerns in India. The U.S. government continues to receive information that terrorist groups may be planning attacks in India. Terrorists and their sympathizers have demonstrated their willingness and capability to attack targets where U.S. citizens or Westerners are known to congregate or visit. This replaces the Travel Alert dated December 29, 2009, and expires on April 30, 2010...

U.S. citizens with questions or concerns may contact the American Citizens Services Unit of the Embassy or the Consulates General for further information:

-- The U.S. Embassy in New Delhi is located at Shanti Path, Chanakya Puri 110021; telephone +91-11- 2419-8000; fax +91-11-2419-8407. For after-hours emergencies, call 91-11-2419-8000.

-- The U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai (Bombay) is located at Lincoln House, 78 Bhulabhai Desai Road, 400026, telephone +91-22-2363-3611; fax +91-22-2363- 0350. For after-hours emergencies, call 91-22-2363-3611, ext. 0.

-- The U.S. Consulate General in Chennai (Madras) is at 220 Anna Salai, Gemini Circle, 600006, telephone +91-44-2857-4000; fax +91-44-2811-2027. For after-hours emergencies, call 91-44-2857-4000, 91-44-2811-2000, or 91-44-2811-2021.

-- The U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata (Calcutta) is at 5/1 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, 700071; telephone +91- 33-3984-2400; fax +91-33-2282-2335. For after-hour emergencies, call 91-99030-42956 (cell) or 91-33-3984-2400, ext. 0.

-- The U.S. Consulate General in Hyderabad is at Paigah Palace, 1-8-323, Chiran Fort Lane, Begumpet, Secunderabad 500 003; telephone: +91 (40) 4033-8300. For after-hours emergencies, call 91-90-0060-4234. "

Read the full alert:

Friday, January 29, 2010


"USCIS and Los Angeles Announce Immigrant Integration Partnership"
"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced today a new partnership to strengthen immigrant integration efforts in Los Angeles through proactive citizenship awareness, education, and outreach activities. The initiative kicks off with a free citizenship information session and naturalization workshop on Saturday, Jan. 30, 2010, at Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez Learning Center in Northeast Los Angeles. USCIS Los Angeles District Director Jane Arellano will be on hand to answer questions...

Los Angeles is the first city to enter into an agreement with USCIS to strengthen and enhance local immigant integration efforts. USCIS will regularly evaluate the program’s effectiveness to determine whether a similar agreement may be replicated in other locations. Launched as a pilot, the partnership between USCIS and Los Angeles will remain in effect for two years."

Read the full story:

"USCIS to Reissue Advance Parole Documents"
"U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (USCIS) announced [January 27, 2010] that it will reissue Advance Parole documents (Form I-512) in response to documents that were mailed to applicants with an incorrect issue date of January 5, 1990. All affected documents have been identified and USCIS will automatically reissue documents to individuals who have received a document with the incorrect issue date.

All documents continue to be valid as the expiration dates remain accurate, therefore it is not necessary for applicants to contact USCIS regarding their pending application unless their application is outside the normal processing time of 90 days.

If you need to travel urgently and you have received a document with an invalid issue date, then you may travel using the incorrect document. U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) has been alerted however, you may be questioned about the issuance date. Therefore, please print this explanation to share with CBP if necessary."
"Change of Filing Location for Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility"
"U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) [January 27, 2010] announced revisions to Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility.

As of January 4, 2010, infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is no longer a ground of inadmissibility. If you have the HIV infection, you are no longer inadmissible to the United States, and are no longer required to file Form I-601 because of your HIV infection. As part of the revisions to Form I-601, any reference to HIV infection in the form and the instructions were removed.

In addition, USCIS today announced that there are revised filing instructions and addresses for applicants filing Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility. The change of filing location is part of an overall effort to transition the intake of benefit forms from USCIS local offices and Service Centers to USCIS Lockbox facilities. By centralizing form and fee intake to a Lockbox environment, USCIS can provide customers with more efficient and effective initial processing of applications and fees.

Beginning 1/27/2010, the following filing location changes are in effect for applicants located in the United States:
Applicants who a) have an approved Form I-360 based as a Self-petitioning spouse or child of an abusive U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, or b) are a T nonimmigrant seeking adjustment of status, and who are filing Form I-601, must file their application at the USCIS Vermont Service Center;

USCIS Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden Street
St. Albans, VT 05479-0001.

Applicants who are filing Form I-601 together with Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, must file the I-485 and the I-601 at the filing location specified on the Form I-485 instructions.

Applicants who have a pending Form I-485 must file Form I-601 with a USCIS Lockbox facility, based on the first 3 letters in their application receipt number. Detailed guidance can be found in updated Form I-601 instructions as well as at Applicants must include a copy of the I-797C, Notice of Action, showing that their Form I-485 was accepted.

Applicants for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) under the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 244, must file Form I-601 with Form I-821, Application for Temporary Protected Status. Consult the applicable Federal Register notice for the applicant's country’s TPS designation.

Individuals in removal proceedings, must file Form I-601 with the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) office with jurisdiction over your case and according to the instructions that are provided to the individual in court.

USCIS Offices will forward incorrectly filed I-601 applications to the USCIS Lockbox facilities for 30 days, until 2/27/2010. After that, incorrectly filed applications will be returned to the applicant, with a note to send the application to the correct location.

Applicants located outside of the United States will continue to file their Form I-601 with the U.S. Embassy or consulate where they are applying for a visa.

When filing Form I-601 at a Lockbox facility, applicants may elect to receive an email and/or text message notifying them that USCIS has accepted their applications. To receive notification, the applicant must complete an E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (Form G-1145), and attach it to the first page of the application."

Travel Alert to Peru

January 28, 2010

"Heavy rains have caused landslides throughout Peru’s Sacred Valley, blocking overland and train routes into and out of the major tourist destinations of Cuzco and Macchu Picchu. The government of Peru has declared a state of emergency in the affected region. The U.S. Embassy is actively engaged in a joint Peruvian-led effort to help evacuate stranded U.S. citizens and others in Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu. U.S. citizens intending to travel to the Sacred Valley of Peru should postpone their plans for at least the next several days.

The Peruvian government and the Embassy are sending helicopters to the city of Aguas Calientes to assist in removing people stranded by the weather. Delays resulting from the rains, high altitude and fuel shortages have hampered air operations. The Embassy sent teams to Aguas Calientes, where many tourists are stranded; to the town of Urubamba, where tourists who are being evacuated from the area of Machu Picchu are arriving; and to Cuzco, to assist American citizens who are stranded there. The road from Urubamba to Cuzco is open and transportation is being provided to the evacuees. U.S. citizens in Cuzco may wish to contact the U.S. Consular Agency located at Avenida Pardo #845, in Cuzco. For inquiries about U.S. citizens in the affected region, please call 1-888-407-4747 or email"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Signs of Child Trafficking Amid Haitian Earthquake Survivors

Human Predators Stalk Haiti's Vulnerable Kids
Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010

"Mia Pean's heart sank last week when she saw the Toyota pickup truck cruising the debris-cluttered streets of Léogâne, ground zero for the earthquake that has devastated Haiti. Each time the driver saw a child — especially a young teen — he would stick his head out of the window and shout, 'Manje, manje,' Creole for 'eat.' Pean says she watched the hungry kids, four or five at a time, hop into the back of the pickup, which then disappeared. 'I saw the same man again a few days later in Carrefour,' a poor suburb of Port-au-Prince, says Pean. "I asked him, 'What are you doing with all those children?' He said, 'Don't worry, we're going to put them in safe homes.' Then he drove off."

But Pean, a Haitian-American emergency consultant for the Andrew Young Foundation, doubts that altruism is the motive of the pickup driver and others like him who are now prowling Haiti's streets. The quake that has killed 150,000 people has left thousands of children orphaned and consequently vulnerable to being preyed upon by child traffickers and Haiti's shameful tradition of keeping child slaves, known as restaveks. 'I really fear,' says Pean, 'that most of the kids you see being picked up on the streets in Haiti right now are going to become restaveks or victims of sexual trafficking.' ...

Pean isn't the only one who is concerned. Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive on Tuesday expressed the fear that amid the clamor to airlift Haitian orphans out of the devastated country to waiting adoptive parents in the U.S. and Europe, others are being trafficked. The U.N. says it's on alert to prevent the exploitation of the thousands of Haitian kids who have lost or been separated from their parents and who wander aimlessly in search of food, water and shelter. UNICEF, the U.N.'s child-advocacy arm, as well as groups like Save the Children and the Red Cross, say they're registering at-risk kids and setting up shelters exclusively for them. Says a UNICEF official who is monitoring reports of scenes like the one witnessed by Pean: 'Traffickers fish in pools of vulnerability, and we've rarely if ever seen one like this.'

The earthquake seems to have shaken more Haitians into vigilance as well — and perhaps, unfortunately, some vigilantism. In the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Petite Place Cazeau on Wednesday, a crowd of quake survivors living in tents surrounded a pickup truck and beat up the driver, saying he had for several days been trying to kidnap young girls. Bleeding from his nose, mouth and scalp, he managed to get back in his truck and flee. (The angry crowd then threatened to beat up a journalist for even asking questions about child trafficking.)

But the problem remains daunting, and it is exacerbated by the fact that children are not accorded much if any protection under Haitian law or culture. That's a big reason restaveks are still so prevalent today, not just in Haiti but even in Haitian-American enclaves in the U.S., such as New York and Miami, as TIME first reported in 2001. Restavek in Creole means 'to stay with,' an innocuous term for a far more sinister practice — children, often given up by their poor Haitian families, "stay with" more affluent families as slaves. And like most slaves, they're usually subject to physical, emotional and sexual abuse...

Under prodding from the U.N., the Haitian government last year had finally begun to move against the restavek practice. Last May, some 500 Haitian officials attending a conference with Conn and other child advocates pledged to make restavek and child protection a legislative priority. But word has yet to trickle down to the general Haitian population, says Conn, and most restavek recruiters and other child traffickers still feel they have carte blanche to funnel kids to wealthier Haitian families or abroad.

Worse, says Pean, many of them are exploiting the rush to get Haitian children out of the quake-ravaged country. She recalls the man in the Toyota pickup telling her that 'Senators in Washington want us to expedite getting the kids to the U.S.' But, she adds, 'the Senators are talking about kids who already have adoption papers ready. These guys are trying to exploit all that confusion.' The situation for Haitian youths was difficult enough before the earthquake. Now, in addition to losing their families, many are under the threat of losing their childhoods as well."

Read the full article:,28804,1953379_1953494_1957160,00.html?cnn=yes&hpt=T2

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Children of Haiti Most Vulnerable Survivors

Haiti’s Children Adrift in World of Chaos

Photo by Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
Published: January 26, 2010

"Haiti’s children, 45 percent of the population, are among the most disoriented and vulnerable of the survivors of the earthquake. By the many tens of thousands, they have lost their parents, their homes, their schools and their bearings. They have sustained head injuries and undergone amputations. They have slept on the street, foraged for food and suffered nightmares.

Two weeks after the earthquake, with the smell of death still fouling the air, children can be seen in every devastated corner resiliently kicking soccer balls, flying handmade kites, singing pop songs and ferreting out textbooks from the rubble of their schools. But as Haitian and international groups begin tending to the neediest among them, many children are clearly traumatized and at risk.

'There are health concerns, malnutrition concerns, psychosocial issues and, of course, we are concerned that unaccompanied children will be exploited by unscrupulous people who may wish to traffic them for adoption, for the sex trade or for domestic servitude,' said Kent Page, a spokesman for Unicef."

Read the complete article:

Child Victim Lashed as "Punishment" for Being Rape

"Rapist spared, victim lashed"
Sheikh Md Shahidul Islam, B'baria
"Eight months after being raped, a 16-year-old at Khargor of Kasba upazila in Brahmanbaria had to receive 101 lashes as 'punishment'.

A village arbitration found her guilty and issued the 101 lashes fatwa (religious edict) but amazingly left alleged rapist ... untouched.

The arbitration also fined the victim's father Tk 1,000 and issued another fatwa that her family would be forced into isolation if he failed to pay up.
Village matbar (local leader) Delwar Hossain alias Ullashi executed the durra (lashes) on January 17...
The girl's family had married her off to a man of neighbouring Ghatiara village but after a month into the marriage medical test discovered she was seven months pregnant.
She was divorced and she had to live at her father's place after an abortion. Following her return, a group of so-called matbars led by Manik Mia declared that her family is to be isolated until punished...
On January 17, the influential group arranged the arbitration at the yard of the victim.

At one stage of the inhuman torture, the girl collapsed and fainted. She regained her sense after two hours...

Wahid Mia said they executed the 101 lashes on the girl following the religious edict and they did not call [the alleged rapist] during the arbitration as he belongs to another village.

A team of human rights activists led by advocate Mili Chowdhury visited the spot.

Their organisation will help the victim file separate cases against the culprits, Mili said."

Read the complete article:

ICE Goes After Transnational Criminal Street Gangs in US

"476 gang members, associates and other criminals were put on ICE during Project Big Freeze"

"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Wednesday the arrests of 476 gang members, associates and other criminals. Agents seized 47 firearms as part of Project Big Freeze, an intensive ICE-led law enforcement operation executed in 83 cities across the country focusing on gangs with ties to drug trafficking organizations.

Through Project Big Freeze, ICE agents worked side by side with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners in a coordinated national initiative against transnational criminal street gangs in the United States.

Transnational street gangs have significant numbers of foreign-national members and are frequently involved in human smuggling and trafficking; narcotics smuggling and distribution; identity theft and benefit fraud; money laundering and bulk cash smuggling; weapons smuggling and arms trafficking; cyber crimes; export violations; and other crimes with a nexus to the border...

Of the 476 arrests, 207 were arrested for criminal offenses and face prosecution for various federal and state crimes, including narcotics smuggling and distribution, firearms violations, identity theft, aggravated assault, obstruction, entry without inspection and re-entry after deportation. Of those arrested, 151 were U.S. citizens and 366 were foreign nationals and face deportation either now or when their criminal prosecution is complete. In addition, ICE agents arrested another 41 individuals on administrative immigration violations...
Nearly 50 percent of those arrested during this operation were members or associates of gangs with ties to drug trafficking organizations in Mexico, South America and Asia."
Read the full story:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Castro, Bolivian President Seek UN Investigation of US 'Occupation' of Haiti

"Castro decries US, others sending troops to Haiti"
The Associated Press

"Fidel Castro is questioning why the U.S. and other countries sent soldiers to quake-ravaged Haiti, saying military presence hindered international cooperation.

The former Cuban president writes that 'without anyone knowing how or why,' Washington dispatched troops 'to occupy Haitian territory,' and other nations followed suit.

In an opinion column Sunday in state-controlled media, Castro said neither the U.N nor the U.S. 'has offered an explanation to the people of the world.'

Castro noted that several governments complained that the troops kept them from landing aid flights and called on the U.N. to investigate.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, a Castro ally, is seeking a U.N. condemnation of what he called the U.S. occupation of Haiti."

El Salvador to Normalize Relations with Honduras

El Salvador to recognize Honduras' new government
The Associated Press

"Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes says he will re-establish ties with neighboring Honduras when president-elect Porfirio Lobo is sworn into office.

Funes says 'we will start the process of normalizing relations' following Lobo's inauguration on Wednesday. Funes was elected on the ticket of the leftist FMLN party formed by former Salvadoran rebels.

The term of ousted President Manuel Zelaya ends on Wednesday.

Some Latin American nations do not recognize Lobo's victory in November elections, because the vote was held under the interim government that replaced Zelaya.

A leader of Honduras' congress says lawmakers will start considering a bill on Tuesday to grant an amnesty to those involved in the June 28 coup that removed Zelaya."

Burqa Dilemma in France

"France moves toward partial burqa ban"
January 26, 2010

"French lawmakers Tuesday recommended a partial ban on any veils that cover the face -- including the burqa, the full-body covering worn by some Muslim women.

The ban on the 'voile integrale' -- which literally means 'total veil' -- would apply in public places like hospitals and schools, and on public transport, a French parliamentary commission announced.

It would also apply to anyone who attempts to receive public services, but it would not apply to people wearing the burqa on the street, the commission said.

The commission stopped short of recommending a full ban because not all of the 32 commission members could agree on it.

They will now recommend that Parliament pass a resolution on the partial ban. Such a resolution, if passed, would not make the wearing of a full veil or burqa illegal, but it would give public officials support when asking people to remove it.

Commission members began their work six months ago after French President Nicolas Sarkozy controversially told lawmakers that the full veil was 'not welcome' in France.

Sarkozy said the issue is one of a woman's freedom and dignity, and did not have to do with religion."

Read the full article:

Brazilian Foreign Minister: Haiti's Elected Government Needs to Be More Visible, Relay Needs of People to International Community

"Brazilian minister: Haiti government must 'appear more to the people'"
By Tom Evans, CNN
Based on Interview between CNN's Christian Amanpour and Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim

"The government of earthquake-ravaged Haiti must become more visible now, even amid a global outpouring of aid as the impoverished island nation struggles to recover, Brazil's foreign minister said Monday.

'The government, in spite of all the difficulties, should appear more to the people,' Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

'I think it's important because after all, they are the ones who transmit the needs of the Haitian people to us, to the international community.'

Amorim, speaking from an international conference on Haiti in Montreal, Canada, said it's important for the world to follow the priorities of the Haitian government.

'We cannot lose sight of the central role of the elected leaders of Haiti,' he said. 'Haiti is a country that has an elected government.'

Amorim was among more than a dozen foreign ministers and leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, attending the Montreal conference. Representatives of many international institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union were also there...

Haiti's Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive was also in Montreal. He said the international aid effort has only just begun.

'I can simply tell you that the population is in need of more and more and more to confront the massive task of reconstruction,' Bellerive said.

The aim of the Montreal meeting is to develop a strategy for early recovery and longer-term reconstruction. Once the strategy is set, a donors' conference to secure funding for Haiti would take place...

Amorim told Amanpour that as part of his country's efforts to bolster security in Haiti, the Brazilian Congress Monday approved a plan to almost double the number of Brazilian troops in the U.N. force in Haiti, to as many as 2,600 soldiers.

The U.N. force there, known as MINUSTAH, has been led by a Brazilian general since 2004. It lost dozens of its civilian headquarters staff during the earthquake.

Amorim, who has just been to Haiti, said it was also vital to rebuild the country's national symbols.

'I think this is very important so that the Haitian people feel also not only that they are receiving food and water, but also they are recovering their self-esteem,' he said."

Read the complete article:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fake Immigration Agent Sentenced to 65 Months in Prison

"Coldblooded Scam Targeted Mexicans"

"A 56-year-old Texan was sentenced to 65 months in federal prison for posing as an immigration agent to steal $95,000 from 80 unsuspecting victims by selling them phony documents. Several of his victims were ill and sought temporary visas to get medical treatment. One traveled from the interior of Mexico to Nuevo Laredo only to be denied admission and die on her way home, prosecutors said.

Eladio Carpintero, of McAllen, pleaded guilty in November 2009 to one count of mail fraud. He admitted that from August 2006 until December 2007, he posed as a federal agent and solicited money from San Antonio residents and their families.

Prosecutors said Carpintero sold supposedly legal immigration documents.

'On several occasions, Carpintero-Castillo brandished a fake Immigration Officer's badge to induce the victims,' the Department of Justice said in a statement. "Carpintero-Castillo represented to the victims that he worked for the 'Immigration Customs Center,' and the victims gave him money orders made out to 'I.C.C.' for the immigration documents."

Carpintero then changed I.C.C. to 'E.C. Carpintero,' and deposited the money orders in his bank accounts.

Carpintero also was ordered to pay $95,660.00 in restitution and will serve 3 years of supervised release when he gets out of prison.

Carpintero has two prior felony convictions for similar conduct."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Bait-and-Switch" Recruitment Scam Alleged in Miami

"Rooked by Recidivist, Filipino Class Claims"
"A federal class action claims Miami-based Star One Staffing cheated more than 100 Filipino workers in a bait-and-switch recruitment scam, charging as much as $9,000 up front for visas and other 'fees,' then sending them to jobs at far different circumstances, and pay, than promised. The class claims Star One did this in defiance of a 2008 agreement with New York State that cost the recruiter $113,000.

Star One recruits workers for country clubs in Arkansas, according to the complaint. The workers say they were promised 'at least 40 hours of work each week at specific job sites with a specific pay rate.' But when they arrived as guest workers, on H-2B visas, they were told 'the specific jobs they were supposed to work were no longer available.'

They say they were offered different jobs at different pay which they were forced to accept because Star One did not provide money for a return trip home.

'Plaintiff Morena Roco paid Star One over $9,000 in placement and legal fees in order for her to work in the United States,' according to the complaint.

Workers say they were forced to work illegally because Star One failed to file paperwork for the job switch. They Star One paid them late and deducted so much money from their paychecks for 'expenses' that they went into debt.

The illegal deductions included $100 a week for housing, $60 a week for transportation, $40 a week for food, and more money for uniforms and telephones, the class claims."

Read the full article:

Supreme Ct.: Judicial Reviews of Administrative Decisions of the Attorney General that are Discretionary by Regulation, as Opposed to Statute, are not Barred

"Supreme Court Rules for Albanian Who Overslept"

"An Albanian immigrant who slept through his alarm and missed his final asylum hearing won another shot at fighting his deportation. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that courts can review an immigration board's refusal to reopen his case.

The justices reversed a 7th Circuit decision that the order denying Agron Kucana's motion to reopen his case was non-reviewable.

Kucana said he arrived at his asylum hearing shortly after the immigration judge ordered his removal. He asked the court to reopen his case, explaining that he accidentally slept in, but was denied.

In 2006, he again moved to reopen his case, saying conditions were worse in Albania. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) denied his motion, and the 7th Circuit said it lacked jurisdiction to review the board's decision.

In making that determination, the 7th Circuit relied on a provision of immigration law barring review of administrative decisions placed in the attorney general's 'discretion.' But it wasn't clear whether the statute referred to only those decisions made discretionary by law, or if it extended to decisions made discretionary by the attorney general himself, through regulations.

Kucana argued that judicial review is broadly applicable to the BIA's decisions.

Writing for the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the law's language refers 'to statutory, but not to regulatory, specifications.'

And because a regulation -- not a law -- gave the BIA authority to deny Kucana's motion, that decision is subject to judicial review, the justices ruled...

The high court reversed and remanded."

Read the full article:

Read the Opinion:

Travel Alert for Phillippines


January 20, 2010

"The State Department alerts U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to the southern Philippine islands of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago and urges extreme caution if traveling there. This Travel Alert replaces the Travel Alert dated November 24, 2009, and reflects the continuing instability in the area following acts of violence in the Mindanao province of Maguindanao in November and is supplemental to our September 17, 2009, Travel Warning to the Philippines. This Travel Alert expires on February 28, 2010.

Travelers should exercise extreme caution if traveling in the central and western portions of the island of Mindanao, as well as in the islands of the Sulu Archipelago. The violence in Maguindanao in 2009 and continued instability there resulted in the Government of the Philippines extending a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat and in the city of Cotabato. The state of emergency includes road checkpoints conducted by the Philippine military and law enforcement. If U.S. citizens travel to Maguindanao despite this Travel Alert, they should understand there are heightened tensions and there will be a significant military presence. They should carefully research restrictions imposed upon travel and follow the instructions of officials with regards to limitations on movement.

Travelers to this area should remain vigilant and avoid congregating in public areas. Some foreigners who reside in or visit Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago hire their own security...

The Department strongly encourages U.S. citizens in the Philippines to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Manila through the State Department's travel registration website. The U.S. Embassy is located at: 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines, tel. 63-2-301-2000. The American Citizens Services (ACS) section's fax number is 63-2-301-2017 and the ACS web page can be accessed online.

For information on general crime and security issues, U.S. citizens should also consult the Department of State's Country Specific Information for the Philippines and the Worldwide Caution, located at the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs website. U.S. citizens may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 from the United States and Canada, or 202-501-4444 from overseas."

Read the complete Warning:

I.C.E Deports Former Bosnian-Serb Commander to Bosnia and Herzegovina to Face Genocide Charges

Bosnian taken to face genocide charges
A former Bosnian-Serb commander in the wartime Special Police Forces of the former Republika Srpska was removed from the United States on Jan. 19, 2010, by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in order to face genocide related charges in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nedjo Ikonic, formerly of Milwaukee, Wis., came into ICE custody after completing a one-year sentence in federal prison. He was escorted by ICE agents to Sarajevo, where he was turned over to the Bosnia and Herzegovina Border Police.

Ikonic was arrested by ICE in December 2006, after it was determined that he had been the commander of a composite police unit involved in a genocide that occurred in Srebrenica in July 1995. Following the seizure of Srebrenica, Bosnian-Serb army and police forces captured nearly 8,000 military-age Bosnian men - almost all of whom were subsequently murdered in a series of mass-executions. Police officers under Ikonic's direct command were involved in the capture of hundreds of these men, and have been implicated in the extrajudicial killing of at least 20 men. Those forces were also part of the effort to forcibly transfer approximately 40,000 Bosnian women, children and elderly permanently from the area.

Ikonic's arrest and subsequent guilty plea on two counts of immigration fraud in the Eastern District of Wisconsin on Sept. 15, 2008, was the result of a transnational investigation undertaken by ICE after receiving information that he was residing in the United States. Working with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Milwaukee, ICE sought to establish Ikonic's activities during the 1992-95 conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. ICE worked with international war crimes investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (in The Hague), and investigators from the Prosecutor's Office of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo. Based on this investigation, ICE was able to determine that Ikonic committed a number of fraudulent acts by concealing his police service from immigration officials when he sought to enter the United States in 2001. He later reiterated those omissions when he applied for legal status in 2003...

While still serving his prison sentence, Ikonic was entered into removal proceedings by ICE immigration attorneys, where an immigration judge subsequently ordered him removed to Bosnia and Herzegovina. After completing his sentence on Dec. 31, 2009, Ikonic was returned to ICE custody and held at the El Paso Processing Center in El Paso, Texas pending his removal.
Read the full story:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Canadian Immigration Minister Announces that Haitian Adoptions will be Expedited

"Ottawa expedites Haitian adoptions

as troops assess damage in Jacmel"
Jane Taber

"Canadian troops, meanwhile, have moved into Jacmel, the ancestral town of Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, finding that between 80 and 90 per cent of it is in ruins.

This was the grim picture provided today at the federal government’s morning briefing.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced, too, that the government will expedite adoption cases.

The pictures of Haitian orphans and stories of their plight are heartbreaking; many Canadians are inquiring about adopting children and those that were close to bringing children home are understandably worried.

Mr. Kenney cautioned, however, that only adoption cases that were already in the system will be expedited.

He said that about 100 cases have been identified and his department is working to contact the families involved. Provincial authorities have also been asked to provide lists of adoptive parents to the federal government.

As well, he said, his officials are contacting the Haitian government, which has been severely compromised, to receive confirmation to bring children to Canada.

'We cannot take Haitian children away without approval of the local authorities,' he said, noting that orphans can’t be taken from Haiti at this time as relatives or parents may eventually be found...

There have been reports that orphans have already arrived in the Netherlands and the United States...
The Immigration Minister also warned Haitians hoping to seek refuge in Canada to be wary of paid immigration consultants.

'I would like to remind you that no paid immigration consultant can speed up the process and be vigilant with individual consultants,' he said."

Read the full article: Sues

"Baidu Hacked by 'Iranian Cyber Army'"
"Baidu, China's leading Internet search engine, demands millions of dollars from, claiming the Baidu Web site went down for 5 hours and was not fully restored for two days after it was hacked by 'the Iranian Cyber Army.' Most Americans were introduced to Baidu recently, when Google threatened to pull out of China because it could no longer tolerate the Chinese government's censoring of information.

In a heavily redacted complaint in Manhattan Federal Court, Baidu claims that its site was vandalized so that users were 'misdirected to a Web page depicting an Iranian flag and broken Star of David and proclaiming: 'This site has been hacked by the Iranian Cyber Army.''

Baidu says it was 'locked out of its own account,' and its 'operations were thus interrupted for approximately five hours and did not fully resume for two days - resulting in serious and substantial injury to Baidu's reputation and business, including millions of dollars of lost revenue and out-of-pocket costs expended in restoring service to its users.'

Stories reporting Google's threat to leave China made headlines around the world - except in China - reported that Baidu has a greater share of the Chinese search engine than Google...

Baidu seeks punitive damages for breach of contract, gross negligence, aiding and abetting tortious conversion, and breach of duty of bailment.

'By replacing's search service interface with the politically charged graphic described above, the imposter committed trespass upon Baidu's reputation,' the complaint states."
Read the full article:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Israel: Immigration of Jewish Ethopians On Again

"Israel resumes airlifts of Jewish Ethiopians"
"Israel has restarted an immigration scheme for Ethiopians of Jewish descent after halting it for more than a year."
Photo: Brian Hendler, Jewish Agency

"Eighty-one new immigrants arrived on a flight from Ethiopia to Tel Aviv early on Tuesday morning.

It is the first flight since August 2008, when Israel said it planned to end the immigration scheme.

The Falash Mura community converted to Christianity under pressure in the 19th Century. Some 8,000 still in Ethiopia want to emigrate to Israel.

The scheme was halted in 2008 after the arrival of the last of some 20,000 people the Israeli government agreed to allow entry in 2003.

But campaigners have continued to press for those still waiting - many in poor conditions in transit camps - to be allowed into Israel...

Ethiopia's last remaining Jewish community, the Falash Mura trace their roots to the biblical King Solomon.

But they are not eligible to enter Israel under the Law of Return, which guarantees a place in the country for every Jew, because they have largely been unable to prove they are Jewish.

Ethiopian Jews who kept their faith throughout centuries of adversity were flown to Israel by the thousands in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The last mass immigration was in 1991, when Israel organised a dramatic airlift of 15,000 people who had fled fighting at the end of Ethiopia's civil war."

Read the full article:

Traffickers Jailed in Abu Dhabi for Trafficking Women

"Abu Dhabi court jails 13 for trafficking Moroccan women"
"A court in Abu Dhabi has jailed 13 Syrians for trafficking Moroccan women to the United Arab Emirates to work as prostitutes."

"Seven men were given life sentences. Five other men and one woman were jailed for 10 years each.

According to court documents, the women - some as young as 19 - had been lured with the promise of well-paid work.

One man - described as the ringleader - escaped to Syria and was sentenced to life in prison in absentia.

An Ethiopian maid was sentenced to two months in jail.

The women were told they had to work as prostitutes to pay back the money it had allegedly cost to bring them from Morocco.

They said they had been locked up, beaten, starved and then chauffeured under guard to clients in hotels and homes.

Abu Dhabi police raided three flats after one of the women escaped from a villa in Al Bateen, where she was being held, in October last year."

Monday, January 18, 2010

9th Circuit: "Whistle-blowing Against Government Corruption is an Expression of Political Opinion"

"Armenian Immigrant Wins Asylum "
"The 9th Circuit revived the asylum bid of an Armenian man who claims he was persecuted because he organized opposition rallies to protest a corrupt politician and government official's violent and intimidating leadership.

Armen Baghdasaryan ran a small business at an Armenian market owned by General Hakopian, a prominent general in the Armenian Ministry of Defense. The market had hundreds of vendors, all of whom paid rent to Hakopian.

Baghdasaryan claimed Hakopian's men demanded an additional $100 a month, which he refused to pay and instead filed a complaint with a local judge.

He was allegedly arrested by the tax authority for operating his store without a license, even though no other vendor was required to have one.

He said he paid a $500 bribe to be released and get the license so he could go back to work.

He allegedly began organizing, rallying and striking with other business owners to 'fight against General Hakopian's corruption.' They protested the bribes, which they believed were government-sanctioned.

When Baghdasaryan began receiving threats, he stopped protesting and paid the bribes for several years, according to his petition. He eventually sent his wife and two children to the United States for safety, he said, and took up organizing again with the other merchants.

He claimed he was taken by militia men, held for 20 days and severely beaten, because government officials thought he was 'defaming' and 'raising his head' against General Hakopian.

Baghdasaryan entered the United States on a fraudulent visa in 2001.

An immigration judge rejected his bid for asylum, finding 'very little indication' that the Armenian government's alleged harassment of him had anything to do with his political views. The Board of Immigration Appeals agreed.

But the 9th Circuit reversed, finding that Baghdasaryan had, in fact, been punished for his political opinion.

'Baghdasaryan was mistreated because of his political opinion,' Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the Pasadena-based panel. 'Whistle-blowing against government corruption is an expression of political opinion.'

The court sent the case back to the Board of Immigration Appeals to determine whether the mistreatment Baghdasaryan suffered 'rose to the level of persecution.'"
Read the  Decision:

Travel Alert for Malaysia


January 15, 2010

"The State Department alerts U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to eastern Sabah, in Malaysia, due to threat of violence against foreigners, and urges extreme caution if traveling there. This Travel Alert expires on April 15, 2010...

The Department strongly encourages U.S. citizens in Malaysia to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur through the State Department's travel registration website in order to obtain updated information on travel and security. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in the case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at: 376 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tel. 03-2168-5000. The American Citizens Services (ACS) section's fax number is 03-2148-5801.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's internet website where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Alerts and Travel Warnings can be found. U.S. citizens may also obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 from the United States and Canada, or 202-501-4444 from overseas. The Department also encourages U.S. citizens to read the Country Specific Information Sheet for Malaysia, available on the Embassy’s website and also on the Department's website."

Read the complete Alert:

US State Department, DHS and Haitian Gov't Working to Expedite Adoptions of Haitian Children

"U.S. works to expedite adoptions of Haitian children"
From Elise Labott, CNN

"The State Department said Monday it is working with the Department of Homeland Security and the Haitian government on processing nearly 300 cases of Americans who are waiting to adopt Haitian children.

Of those, 200 cases are being accelerated. Twenty-four of those children, whose cases 'were at the very end of the process' before the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti nearly a week ago, have departed Haiti and joined their new families after the embassy expedited processing for immigrant visas, said Michele Bond, deputy assistant secretary for American citizen services.

Department officials said Sunday that 150 children had already left Haiti, but corrected that number Monday.

Officials are reviewing every case individually to see where they are in the process, what actions have been taken in the case and whether the case can be accelerated, Bond said. The department said it will be announcing an adoption plan with travel specifics shortly.

If an American adoption case was early in the process, there is no guarantee of an accelerated adoption, Bond said. Examples of being early in the process would be if prospective parents have not been properly vetted; have not been matched with a specific child; or have been matched with a child but the Haitian government is still attempting to prove absolutely the child is an orphan. The State Department is working with DHS to examine the documents in each case and show some flexibility, but this also requires the agreement of the Haitian government, she said...

If a family is in the process of adopting from Haiti and wants information, family members can send an e-mail to"
Read the full article:

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in US on January 12, 2010

Designation of Temporary Protected Status for Haitians in U.S.
Allows Haitians who were here January 12 to stay for 18 months
Statement by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
Release Date: January 15, 2010
Office of the Press Secretary

"As part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to assist Haiti following Tuesday’s devastating earthquake, I am announcing the designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitian nationals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010. This is a disaster of historic proportions and this designation will allow eligible Haitian nationals in the United States to continue living and working in our country for the next 18 months. Providing a temporary refuge for Haitian nationals who are currently in the United States and whose personal safety would be endangered by returning to Haiti is part of this Administration’s continuing efforts to support Haiti’s recovery...

It is important to note that TPS will apply only to those individuals who were in the United States as of January 12, 2010. Those who attempt to travel to the United States after January 12, 2010 will not be eligible for TPS and will be repatriated...

Haitians in the U.S. who are eligible to apply for TPS should go to or call USCIS toll-free at (800) 375-5283."

Read the full statement:

Friday, January 15, 2010

U.S. Issues Travel Warning for Haiti

January 14, 2010

"The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the situation in Haiti and urges them to avoid travel to Haiti in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12. An earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck near Port Au Prince, followed by multiple aftershocks. The U.S. Embassy is working to ascertain the extent of the damage and check on the status of U.S. citizens around the island. The Department of State has ordered nonemergency U.S. government personnel to depart Haiti. This Travel Warning expires on February 13, 2010...

Evacuation flights have begun to depart the International Airport in Port-au-Prince. U.S. citizens wishing to depart Haiti should make their way to the airport during early daylight hours, in as safe a manner as possible. They are encouraged to bring their passport and identification, if available, and food, water and supplies, if possible, as facilities at the airport are limited to nonexistent.

If possible, U.S. citizens in Haiti should contact friends and relatives outside of Haiti to inform them of their welfare.

The U.S. Embassy in Port Au Prince has set up a task force at the Embassy which is taking calls as conditions permit. The Embassy is working to identify U.S. citizens in Haiti who need urgent assistance and to identify sources of emergency help.

U.S. citizens are urged to contact the Embassy via email at to request assistance. U.S. citizens in Haiti can call the Embassy's Consular Task Force at 509-2229-8942, 509-2229-8089, 509-2229-8322, or 509-2229-8672. The State Department has also created a task force to monitor the emergency. People in the U.S. or Canada with information or inquiries about U.S. citizens in Haiti may reach the Haiti Task Force at 888-407-4747. Outside of the U.S. and Canada, call 202-501-4444. For further information and updates, please see the State Department's Consular Affairs website."

Read the full Warning:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

China Restores Government Censorship of Google

"Censors back on Google as China defends Internet actions"
January 14, 2010
CNN's Jo Kent, Mike Ahlers, Carol Cratty, Jeanne Meserve and Doug Gross contributed to this report.

"The Chinese government was defending its Internet practices Thursday, even as censorship of Google results -- which had briefly been lifted -- appeared to return.

Chinese officials' assertion that China 'works hard to encourage the healthy development and expansion of the Internet' came a day after Google said it may close its China-based site.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu spoke after Google announced that a 'highly sophisticated and targeted attack' from China targeted it and the e-mail accounts of at least 20 others, evidently to gain access to the e-mail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

The activists were in the United States, Europe and China, a Google spokesman said...

Within hours of Google's announcement that it was no longer willing to self-censor in China, was retrieving results for sensitive topics including the 1989 crackdown at Tiananmen Square, the Dalai Lama and the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement.

Previously, a search for 'Tiananmen' would only return images of the square itself.

Pages appeared to fluctuate between uncensored and somewhat censored throughout Wednesday and, by Thursday, government censorship of Google seemed to have been restored, with terms such as 'Tiananmen Square' returning limited results.

Jiang emphasized that China 'welcomes international Internet enterprises to enter China according to the law.'

In response to repeated questions from journalists about the hacking and cyber attacks, she said Chinese law forbids cyber attacks and hacking.

When asked if this law means that the Chinese government itself is forbidden to conduct cyber attacks, she had no comment.

Chinese newspapers have reacted to the flap on opinion and editorial pages. The state-run Global Times said Google's departure would create a 'setback to China' and 'serious loss to China's Net culture.'"

Read the full article:

Latest on International Relief Efforts in Haiti

"Haiti aid begins to arrive in quake zone"
"Red Cross officials say death toll could hit 50,000"

"Desperately needed aid from around the world slowly made its way Thursday into Haiti, where supply bottlenecks and a leadership vacuum left rescuers scrambling on their own to save the trapped and injured and get relief supplies into the capital.

The international Red Cross estimated that 45,000 to 50,000 people were killed in Tuesday's magnitude-7 earthquake...

Planes from China, France, Spain and the United States landed at Port-au-Prince's airport, carrying searchers and tons of water, food, medicine and other supplies — with more promised from around the globe for the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation, where the international Red Cross estimated 3 million people — a third of the population — may need emergency relief.

"Money is worth nothing right now, water is the currency," one foreign aid-worker told Reuters.

But an official at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said the agency had stopped all civilian flights from the United States to Haiti at the request of the Haitian government, because there is no room on the ground for more planes and not enough jet fuel for planes to go back.

“It’s been just crazy,” said Charity Peguero, a company spokeswoman for Aero Ambulancia. “People are willing to pay whatever price to get their people there.”

Her firm, an emergency flight company in the Dominican Republic, had shuttled medical crews and injured passengers in and out of Haiti on 15 flights on Wednesday. Most victims had suffered from facial fractures, skull fractures and other life-threatening injuries, she said.

On Thursday, it was a different scene.

The firm’s helicopters were grounded, stranding aid workers, news crews and others hoping to travel to Haiti, she said.

“Minutes are passing by and people are needing help,” she said...

It took six hours to unload a Chinese plane because the airport lacked the needed equipment — a hint of possible congestion ahead as a global response brings a stream of aid flights to the airport, itself damaged by Tuesday's magnitude-7 earthquake.

"We don't have enough handling equipment or the people to run it," said U.S. Air Force Col. Ben McMullin, part of the team handling traffic control at the airport. "We're trying to control the flow of aircraft."

There seemed to be little official Haitian presence in much of Port-au-Prince — or at the airport.

McMullin said about 60 planes carrying 2,000 people had landed since Wednesday, when the airport reopened after the quake, and noon Thursday.

U.S. military forklift operators helped unload some foreign flights as well as U.S. cargoes and Haitian staff were far outnumbered by foreign aid workers and military, and no senior Haitian officials were visible...

Bodies lay in the street, often covered by a white cloth, in the tropical heat. Some people dragged the dust-covered dead along the roads, trying to reach a hospital where they might leave them.

Others tried to carry dead relatives to nearby hills for impromptu burials, prompting Brazil's military — the biggest continent among U.N. peacekeepers — to warn the practice could lead to an epidemic. It said it is asking authorities to create a new cemetery.

The Brazilian military said it also was worried that bodies could be left too long because many Voodoo followers in Haiti do not allow the dead to be touched before all their rituals are concluded.

'This is much worse than a hurricane,' said Jimitre Coquillon, a doctor's assistant working at a triage center set up in a hotel parking lot. 'There's no water. There's nothing. Thirsty people are going to die.'

Aid workers reported confusion over how to cope with the sudden flood of aid from scores of places.

'Donations are coming in to the airport here, but some are coming without notice from very well-meaning groups,' said Save the Children spokeswoman Kate Conradt. 'There is not yet a system to get it in' to those who need it.

Search and rescue squads from Virginia and Iceland arrived Wednesday and some groups — from Cuba's government and Doctors Without Borders — used physicians already in the country to treat victims immediately after the quake...

The State Department announced one American had died in Haiti, saying that at least 164 U.S. citizens have been evacuated since the quake.

Coast Guard C-130 planes have airlifted 42 American officials and their families and another 72 private citizens to safety, Crowley said.

Another 370 Americans were awaiting flights out, he said. There were about 45,000 Americans living in Haiti at the time of the earthquake.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it set up a Web site to help Haitians find missing loved ones. Robert Zimmerman, deputy head of the group's tracing unit, said people in Haiti and abroad can use the site to register names of missing relatives."

Read the complete article:

Malasyian High Court: Muslim Word for "God" Not Exclusive to Muslims

Lawyers' office in Malaysia 'Allah' case ransacked
AP, 14 January 2010, 08:05am

"KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Burglars ransacked the offices of lawyers representing Christians fighting for the right to use the word 'Allah' to refer to God in this Muslim-majority country, officials said Thursday.
Lawyer S. Selvarajah said that staff arrived at work in the morning to find several locks and steel grill doors to enter the 2nd and 3rd floor offices cut, drawers ransacked and papers strewn on the floor.

He said his partner's laptop was missing. A mobile phone service provider's shop and tuition center on the first floor were not broken into, he said.

'Only our office has been targeted,' he said. 'It looks like it is an intimidation tactic ... We anticipated something will happen. We are definitely upset about this,' he told The Associated Press.

The incident adds to the tension building up since attacks since Friday night on nine churches, one of which was partially gutted.

The attacks followed a High Court ruling on Dec. 31, allowing a Catholic publication, the Herald, to use 'Allah' as a translation for God in its Bahasa Melayu language edition. The ruling, which overturned a government ban on the word, upset many Muslims in Malaysia.

Bahasa is the language of the Malay Muslims, who comprise about 60 percent of the country's 28 million population. It is also spoken by indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak states on Borneo, who form more than 70 percent of Malaysia's 2.5 million Christians.

The government, which has appealed against the High Court ruling, says 'Allah' is exclusive to Islam and its use by Christians would mislead Muslims. The Christians say they have been using the word for decades, and it is the only word they have for God in their language.

The government, which is also Muslim-majority, has condemned the attacks on the churches and has vowed to uphold the freedom of religion guaranteed to minorities by the constitution.

The ban is over the use of 'Allah' only in published material and not in everyday verbal use by the country's various ethnic minorities, who form about 40 percent of the country's 28 million people. Ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities do not use the word 'Allah.'''

Read the complete article:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

DHS Temporarily Halts Deportations to Haiti in Response to Catastrophic Earthquake

"US halts deportations to Haiti"
Associated Press writer LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ in Miami contributed to this report.
"Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano temporarily halted deportations Wednesday of some Haitians illegally in the U.S. in response to the Caribbean nation's devastating earthquake.

Those with deportation orders will be allowed to remain in the U.S. Those held in detention centers will remain jailed, Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler said.

The magnitude 7.0 earthquake that hit Haiti Tuesday is believed to have left thousands dead. Corpses were piled in the streets near flattened buildings as the world relief response got under way.

The impact of Napolitano's decision should be limited, because the Obama administration quietly stopped deporting Haitians without criminal records last March, said Florida Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek.

In 2009, 221 noncriminal Haitians were deported to Haiti, down from 1,226 the previous year, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics. Deportations of Haitians with criminal records totaled 466 last year, compared to 428 in 2008...

Several members of Congress who represent Haitian communities have been pressuring the Obama administration to give temporary protected status, or TPS, to Haitians illegally in the U.S.

The designation would allow Haitians to remain and work legally in the U.S. The latest disaster gave new urgency to the lawmakers' demand."

Read the complete article:

Google: China Involved in Cyber-Attacks on Gmail Accounts of Human Rights Activists

"Google may quit China over cyber-attacks"

"Firm vows to stop censoring search results after Gmail accounts are hacked"
Associated Press and Rueters contributed to this article

Picture by Ng Han Guan/AP

"Google Inc. will stop censoring its search results in China and may pull out of the country completely after discovering that computer hackers had tricked human-rights activists into exposing their e-mail accounts to outsiders.

Google said on Tuesday that it had detected 'highly sophisticated' cyber-attacks in mid-December on the Gmail accounts of Chinese human-rights activists, and that at least 20 other large companies from a wide range of businesses have also been similarly targeted.

The change of heart announced Tuesday heralds a major shift for the Internet's search leader, which has repeatedly said it will obey Chinese laws requiring some politically and socially sensitive issues to be blocked from search results available in other countries. The acquiescence had outraged free-speech advocates and even some shareholders, who argued Google's cooperation with China violated the company's 'don't be evil' motto...

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Google allegations 'raise very serious concerns and questions' and the U.S. is seeking an explanation from the Chinese government.

Google officials also plan to talk to the Chinese government to determine if there is a way the company can still provide unfiltered search results in the country. If an agreement can't be worked out, Google is prepared to leave China four years after creating a search engine bearing China's Web suffix, '.cn' to put itself in a better position to profit from the world's most populous country.

Free-speech and human rights groups are hoping Google's about-face will spur more companies to take a similar stand.

'Google has taken a bold and difficult step for Internet freedom in support of fundamental human rights,' said Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a civil-liberties group in Washington. 'No company should be forced to operate under government threat to its core values or to the rights and safety of its users.' ...

Google's new stance on China was triggered by what it described as a sophisticated computer attack orchestrated from within the country...

Without providing details, Google said it and at least 20 other major companies from the Internet, financial services, technology, media and chemical industries were targeted. The heist lifted some of Google's intellectual property but didn't get any information about the users of its services, the company said. Google has passed along what it knows so far to U.S. authorities and other affected companies.

It does not appear that any U.S. government agencies or Web sites were affected by the attack, according to two U.S. administration officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

The assault on Google appeared primarily aimed at breaking into the company's e-mail service, Gmail, in an attempt to pry into the accounts of human right activists protesting the Chinese government's policies.

Only two e-mail accounts were infiltrated in these attacks, Google said, and the intruders were only able to see subject lines and the dates that the individual accounts were created. None of the content written within the body of the e-mails leaked out, Google said.

As part of its investigation into that incident, Google stumbled onto another scam that was more successful. Google said dozens of activists fighting the Chinese government's policies fell prey to ruses commonly known as 'phishing' or malware. The victims live in the United States, Europe and China, Google said.

Phishing involves malicious e-mails urging the recipients to open an attachment or visit a link that they're conned into believing comes from a friend or legitimate company. Clicking on a phishing lin... installs malware — malicious software — on to computers.

Once it's installed on a computer, malware can be used as a surveillance tool that can obtain passwords and unlock e-mail accounts."

Read the complete article:

Chinese Detain Indians for Diamond Smuggling

"Indians held in China over 'smuggling diamonds' "

"Chinese customs officials in the southern city of Shenzen have detained 21 Indians and charged them with smuggling diamonds.

They were allegedly working as "carriers" for a group involved in smuggling diamonds from Hong Kong to China, reports said.

Indian consular officers are expected to be granted access to the detained men, the Indian foreign ministry said.

Reports say many jewellers in Shenzen hire Indians to source supplies.

Customs officials in Shenzen, according to local reports, said they had conducted a raid last week following an investigation into a local smuggling ring.

Following the raid, some 33 foreigners, including 21 Indians, were arrested."

U.S. Travel Alert for Haiti


January 13, 2010

"The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the situation in Haiti and urges them to avoid travel to Haiti in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12. An earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck near Port Au Prince, followed by multiple aftershocks. The U.S. Embassy is working to ascertain the extent of the damage and check on the status of U.S. citizens around the island. This Travel Alert expires on March 13, 2010.

There are reports of extensive damage, and communications remain extremely difficult. Additional aftershocks remain a possibility. A Tsunami Watch for Haiti and neighboring islands issued by the Pacific Tsunami Alert Center has expired.

U.S. citizens in Haiti should remain in shelter. If exposed when an aftershock hits, take steps to avoid falling debris by getting to as open a space as possible, away from walls, windows, buildings and other structures. If indoors, take shelter under a heavy table or desk, or in a doorway. Avoid damaged buildings, and obey all instructions from local authorities. Do not use matches, lighters, candles or other flame in case of disrupted gas lines. Avoid downed power lines.

If possible, U.S. citizens in Haiti should contact friends and relatives outside of Haiti to inform them of their welfare.

The U.S. Embassy in Port Au Prince has set up a task force at the Embassy which is taking calls as conditions permit. The Embassy is working to identify U.S. citizens in Haiti who need urgent assistance and to identify sources of emergency help.

U.S. citizens are urged to contact the Embassy via email to request assistance. U.S. citizens in Haiti can call the Embassy’s Consular Task Force at 509-2229-8942, 509-2229-8089, 509-2229-8322, or 509-2229-8672. The State Department has also created a task force to monitor the emergency. People in the U.S. or Canada with information or inquiries about U.S. citizens in Haiti may reach the Haiti Task Force at 888-407-4747. Outside of the U.S. and Canada, call 202-501-4444. For further information and updates, please see the State Department’s Consular Affairs website."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Scalia Makes News by Looking to Hague Convention to Resolve Child Abduction Case

"Justice Scalia says Supreme Court should look to foreign law to resolve child custody dispute"
Associated Press Writer

"Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia practically hisses when his colleagues consult foreign law to help interpret the U.S. Constitution. But on Tuesday, Scalia found himself looking approvingly to other countries in a case over an international custody dispute.

The court is taking its first look at how American authorities handle the Hague Convention on child abduction, aimed at preventing one parent from taking a child to another country without the other parent's permission.

'The purpose of a treaty is to have everybody doing the same thing,' Scalia said, 'and I think, if it's a case of some ambiguity, we should try to go along with what seems to be the consensus in other countries that are signatories to the treaty.'

That view seemed to put Scalia, who has said the same thing before, on the side of a British father who accused his estranged American wife of violating Chilean law and a court order in Chile by taking their son to Texas without his consent. The child, born in Hawaii and now 14, is a U.S. citizen.

Timothy Abbott asked an American court to order the child returned to Chile, based on the treaty. The mother argued that she has exclusive custody of the boy and that U.S. courts are powerless under the treaty to order his return. The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the mother, Jacquelyn Abbott.

The high court appeared inclined to side with Timothy Abbott, although some justices raised concerns that a decision in his favor in this case could lead to undesirable results in others."

Read the complete article:,0,5574434.story

USCIS Reorganizes its Organizational Structure

"Statement from USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas on the realignment of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services organizational structure"

“We at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services have realigned our organizational structure to achieve greater efficiency and to more ably accomplish our mission. The realignment reflects the prioritization of certain critical Agency responsibilities. The three most significant changes are:

The creation of a Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate. This change reflects our prioritization of our anti-fraud and national security responsibilities and will bring greater focus to them.

The creation of a new Customer Service Directorate. This change reflects our prioritization of customer service and recognizes the significant efforts that will be needed to ensure that we are at the cutting edge of service modeling.

The division of the existing Domestic Operations Directorate into two separate directorates, Service Center Operations and Field Operations. This change will foster greater innovation and achieve greater efficiency in our delivery of immigration services.

'We at USCIS look forward to working collaboratively with you, the public whom we serve, to deliver better service and to more ably accomplish our mission, which is defining of our nation.'”

Alejandro N. Mayorkas, Director
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Department of Homeland Security
See the organizational chart:

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hundreds Defrauded in Foreign Employment Scam

"Visa agent dupes 300 job aspirants"

"A man posing as a visa and foreign employment agent duped more than 300 aspirants and decamped with the application money... According to police, a man who identified himself as Ketan Mehta, placed an advertisement in Gujarati dailies in November inviting applications for salesmen at malls in Dubai and Singapore and gave the address of Aniket Building near Mithakhali crossroads for correspondence.

'The advertisement got around 400 replies. All applications were submitted with Rs 200 as form fees. Soon, many were informed that they were selected and asked to pay Rs 42,500,' said a cop.

When the first lot of aspirants approached Mehta’s office on Monday, they were shocked to find they had been duped. Mehta’s mobile phone was switched off."

Read the full article:

Unrest Between Italians and African Immigrants in Town of Rosarno

"Migrants leave Italian town amid violence"
By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

"The message blaring out of the speakers on the van was stark: "Any black person who is hiding in Rosarno should get out. If we catch you, we will kill you."

Abdul Rashid Muhammad Mahmoud Iddris got out.

He's one of hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of African migrants taken by bus out of the Italian town over the weekend after violent demonstrations shook southern Italy.

The unrest was among the worst of its kind in recent Italian history, said a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration.

'We have not witnessed such protests in a long time,' said Flavio Di Giacomo. "There were several thousand, but I don't know exactly how many people were involved."...

It was the shooting of an African migrant that sparked two days of protests, [according to]Iddris ... He said the shooting was unprovoked. Police said they were investigating the circumstances of the shooting.

Iddris lived with other migrants in an abandoned factory outside Rosarno, he said.

On Thursday, a BMW pulled up outside the factory, a man got out, shot one of the Africans living there, 26-year-old Ayiva Saibou, and drove off.

A passing policeman told Iddris and his friends it was not his job to help the wounded man, so they called the Red Cross to take the man to a hospital for treatment, Iddris said. Press reports said Saibou -- who is a native of Togo with regular working papers -- was shot with a compressed air gun.

A few hours after the shooting, a group of about 300 immigrants poured into to the street where the incident took place earlier. "They put on an angry demonstration, hampering the free circulation in the streets, damaging garbage bins, hitting with sticks and rocks numerous passing cars," according to a police report.

Iddris and his friends then decided to march to Rosarno's town hall to protest.

'About 2,000 people came -- all of us,' he said. 'It started about 6 or 7 in the evening, a few hours after he was shot.'

But police forced the demonstrators to turn back, threatening them with tear gas, Iddris said. Six or seven people were arrested, he said.

Police attempted talking with the immigrants, but negotiations did not produce positive results, according to a police statement.

The next morning, Friday, the immigrants tried again, playing drums as they tried to march from the factory to Rosarno's town hall, he said.

That's when they heard the warning...

Pope Benedict XVI spoke out against the violence in his weekly address on Sunday.

'An immigrant is a human being, different by background, culture and tradition, but a person to be respected,' he said.

'Violence must never be a way to resolve difficulties,' he said, urging people 'to look at the face of the other and discover that he, too, has a soul, a story and a life. He is a person and God loves him just as He loves me.'

Di Giacomo, the International Organization for Migration spokesman, said Italy has many migrants, often from Africa, living in conditions bordering on slavery.

The migrants who demonstrated last week 'were exploited. They were just paid 20 euros (about $29) per day and they lived in slums, the same as slavery conditions. A few months ago in (the southern Italian region of) Campagna we discovered a similar situation. It's unfortunately a reality in many places, especially in southern Italy.'

Italy is one of the top European destinations for migrants, the migration organization's figures show. More than 3.6 million legal migrants live in the country -- 6.2 percent of the total population -- and Italy has the European Union's highest annual growth rate of migrants, along with Spain...

Italian media have speculated that the Mafia was behind the shooting that triggered the violence."

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

7th Circuit to BOIA: "[T]o be deported to the country that made you stateless and continues to consider you stateless is to be subjected to persecution"

"Court Incredulous at Immigration Board's View"

"Ethiopia's denationalization of about 75,000 ethnic Eritreans in 1998 amounted to persecution, the 7th Circuit ruled, finding it 'hard to believe' that the Board of Immigration Appeals determined otherwise.

The federal appeals court in Chicago told the board to reconsider the asylum case of Temesgen Woldu Haile, an ethnic Eritrean who was stripped of his Ethiopian citizenship after Ethiopia and the recently independent Eritrea went to war in 1998. Ethiopia rounded up and expelled some 75,000 citizens of Eritrean origin, but Haile fled before he could be expelled.

An immigration judge denied Haile asylum, explaining that a country has a right to determine who is a citizen and who isn't. The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed, but a 7th Circuit panel reversed, calling the immigration judge's reasoning 'problematic.'

On remand, the board again denied Haile asylum. It found that while denationalization can be 'a harbinger of persecution,' an immigration judge must approach each petition on a case-by-case basis to see if the circumstances warrant asylum.

The board took the position that even if a person loses citizenship on a protected ground, such as religion or ethnicity, the loss of citizenship in itself does not amount to persecution.

Judge Richard Posner found this stance 'hard to believe.'

'We asked the Board's lawyer at argument whether this meant that had the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks stripped all Muslim citizens in the United States of their U.S. citizenship, but allowed them to remain in the United States, this would not have been persecution - they would have to show additional harm. She said yes,' Posner wrote.

'By the same token, the mere fact that Nazi Germany's having denationalized its Jewish citizens in 1941 would not have been persecution, though their subsequent further mistreatment would have been.[']

'We find it hard to believe that that is actually the Board's position,' Posner wrote.

He granted Haile's request for review and once again sent the case back to the board."

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Houston Law Firm Accused of Filing False Asylum Applications for Chinese Nationals

"Former Houston law office employee pleads guilty to immigration fraud"
"A former employee of a Houston law office has pleaded guilty to conspiring to file false asylum applications on behalf of Chinese nationals who claimed they were being persecuted in China for practicing Christianity, U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson announced Friday. The investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Department of Labor - Office of Inspector.

Elizabeth Jones, aka Elizabeth Tsai, 52, pleaded guilty to the charge before U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon this morning. Jones was indicted in August 2007 and arrested in Hong Kong in January 2008. After waiving her right to an extradition hearing in Hong Kong, Jones was returned to Houston to face charges.

According to Jones's plea agreement, from 1999 through 2003, the law office for which Jones worked filed approximately 70 asylum applications on behalf of Chinese nationals that listed persecution based on practicing Christianity as the grounds for asylum. This was an unusually high number of applications from one law firm, claiming the same type of persecution and similar details of the claimed torture in the applications. An investigation by federal agents revealed the law office routinely provided clients seeking asylum with a Chinese-language document titled 'Basic Facts About Christianity.'

One of the asylum applicants, a Chinese national residing in Houston, visited the law office and met with Jones. Jones recommended the Chinese national file an application for asylum claiming he was persecuted in China for practicing Christianity even though he was not a Christian. Jones provided a statement of persecution which was included in the application.

The asylum story Jones provided falsely stated, among other things, that the Chinese national was arrested in China for bringing bibles to a church and that Chinese officials then tortured and 'beat him up badly' in an attempt to have him provide the name of the foreign organization that provided the bibles.

Jones also provided the Chinese national with a study guide providing information about Christianity and a list of 200 bible verses to learn prior to the interview with the asylum officer. A receptionist at the law office told the Chinese national to rewrite the statement Jones created in his own handwriting because it 'has to be in your own words.'...

Shelly Winn, of the Law Offices of Shelly Winn and Jones' employer during the relevant period, and the receptionist were also charged for their alleged role in this scheme. Winn is set for trial in late February 2010 and is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law. The charges against the receptionist, who passed [a]way during the court case, have been dismissed by the court.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Gregg Costa and Doug Davis are prosecuting the case."

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Friday, January 8, 2010

New US State Dept Travel Warning


January 07, 2010

"The State Department warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Pakistan. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated June 12, 2009, updates information on security incidents and reminds U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns in Pakistan.

Pakistani military forces have engaged in a campaign against violent extremist elements across many areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and parts of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Terrorists blame the Pakistani and the U.S. governments for the military pressure on their traditional havens and the death of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader- Baitullah Mehsud- in NWFP in August 2009. In response, militants are seeking to increase their attacks on civilian, government, and foreign targets in Pakistan's cities...

Threat reporting indicates terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to attack locations where Americans and Westerners are known to congregate or visit, such as shopping areas, hotels, clubs and restaurants, places of worship, schools, or outdoor recreation events. In recent incidents, terrorists have disguised themselves as Pakistani security forces personnel to gain access to targeted areas. Some media reports have recently falsely identified U.S. diplomats – and to a lesser extent U.S. journalists and NGO workers – as being intelligence operatives or private security personnel.

Visits by U.S. government personnel to Peshawar and Karachi are limited, and movements by U.S. government personnel assigned to the Consulates General in those cities are severely restricted. American officials in Lahore and Islamabad are instructed to restrict the frequency and to minimize the duration of trips to public markets, restaurants, and other locations. Only a limited number of official visitors are placed in hotels, and for limited stays. Depending on ongoing security assessments, the U.S. Embassy places areas such as hotels, markets, and/or restaurants off limits to official personnel. American citizens in Pakistan are strongly urged to avoid hotels that do not apply stringent security measures and to maintain good situational awareness, particularly when visiting locations frequented by Westerners.

U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in Pakistan despite this Travel Warning are encouraged to register with the Embassy in Islamabad or the Consulates General in Karachi, Lahore, or Peshawar. This registration can be completed online through the Department of State's travel registration website. Alternatively, Americans without Internet access should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate for information on registering in person. Registration enables citizens to obtain updated information on travel and security within Pakistan via the emergency alert system (Warden Notices).

The Embassy reiterates its advice to all Americans to take measures for their safety and security at all times. These measures include maintaining good situational awareness, avoiding crowds, and keeping a low profile. The Embassy reminds Americans that even peaceful demonstrations may become violent and advises Americans to avoid demonstrations. Americans should avoid setting patterns by varying times and routes for all required travel. Americans should ensure that their travel documents and visas are valid at all times. Official Americans are instructed to avoid use of public transportation and restrict their use of personal vehicles in response to security concerns.

Security threats may on short notice temporarily restrict the ability of U.S. Missions, particularly in Peshawar, to provide routine consular services. All American citizens are encouraged to apply for renewal of travel documents at least three months prior to expiration.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad is located at Diplomatic Enclave, Ramna 5; telephone (92-51) 208-0000; Consular Section telephone (92-51) 208-2700; fax (92-51) 282-2632; website; Email address: For after-hours emergencies, please call +92-51-208-0000.

The U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, located at 8 Abdullah Haroon Road, provides service to U.S. citizens by appointment only. U.S. citizens requiring assistance should call the consular section in Karachi. Their telephone is (92-21) 3520-4200; fax (92-21) 3568-0496; website For after-hours emergencies, please call +92-21-3520-4200.

The U.S. Consulate General in Lahore is located at 50- Sharah-E-Abdul Hameed Bin Badees, (Old Empress Road) near Shimla Hill Rotary; telephone (92-42) 3603-4000; fax (92-42) 3603-4200; website; Email address: For after-hours emergencies, please call +92-42-3603-4000.

The U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar is located at 11 Hospital Road, Cantonment, Peshawar; telephone (92-91) 526-8800; fax (92-91) 527-6712; website For after-hours emergencies, please call +92-91-526-8800.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Pakistan are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy or Consulates or through the State Department's travel registration website,, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Pakistan. U.S. citizens without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy or Consulates in Pakistan. By registering, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at where the Worldwide Caution and the Pakistan Country Specific Information can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays)."

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