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Letters of the Week: July 14 - July 18

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  1. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
    Dear ILW.com Editor:

    I wrote an article last week on the unaccompanied alien children crisis. It occurred to me earlier this evening that despite the research I did for that article, I didn?t know just how dangerous the countries are. So, I went to the State Department Travel Warnings to find out. I found the following information about Honduras. You can find the travel warnings for the other countries at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings.html

    Honduras Travel Warning
    LAST UPDATED: JUNE 24, 2014

    The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens that the level of crime and violence in Honduras remains critically high. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated December 24, 2013, and includes additional information on crime and security in Honduras, as well as updated contact information.

    Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens visit Honduras each year for study, tourism, business, and volunteer work without incident. However, crime and violence are serious problems throughout the country, and the Government of Honduras lacks the resources to address these issues. Since 2010, Honduras has had the highest murder rate in the world. The Honduran Ministry of Security recorded a homicide rate of 75.6 per 100,000 people in 2013, while the National Violence Observatory, an academic research institution based out of Honduras? National Public University, reports that the 2013 murder rate was 79 murders per 100,000 people.

    U.S. citizens are victims of crime at levels similar to those of the local population, and do not appear to be targeted based on their nationality. Although Roatan/Bay Islands, Copan Mayan ruins, and other tourist destinations and resorts have a lower crime rate than other parts of the country, thefts, break-ins, assaults, and murders do occur and are still high by international standards. In 2012, the Government of Honduras increased police presence and established special police forces in areas frequented by tourists, such as the Copan Mayan ruins and Roatan. The Honduran government is evaluating similar options for other locations, and major hotels and other tourist installations have increased private and police security.

    Tourists traveling with group tours also report fewer criminal incidents. However, the San Pedro Sula area has seen armed robberies against tourist vans, minibuses, and cars traveling from the airport to area hotels, and there have also been armed robberies along the road to Copan. Visitors are strongly urged to exercise caution in discussing travel plans in public.

    Several U.S. citizens have reported being robbed while walking on isolated beaches. All visitors should be vigilant of their surroundings at all times, avoid unfamiliar or isolated areas, and take care to book only with reputable tour companies during their visit to Honduras. The vast majority of cruise line passengers in Honduras experience no problems, but incidents of armed robbery and carjacking have been reported. Coxen Hole on the island of Roatan should be avoided after dark. The vast majority of serious crimes in Honduras, including those against U.S. citizens, are never solved.

    Members of the Honduran National Police have been known to engage in criminal activity, including murder and car theft. The government of Honduras lacks sufficient resources to properly investigate and prosecute cases, and police often lack vehicles or fuel to respond to calls for assistance. In practice, this means police may take hours to arrive at the scene of a violent crime, or may not respond at all. As a result, criminals operate with a high degree of impunity throughout Honduras. The Honduran government is still in the early stages of substantial reforms to its criminal justice institutions.

    Transnational criminal organizations also conduct narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout the country, using violence to control drug trafficking routes and carry out criminal activity. Other criminals, acting both individually and in gangs in Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, and other large cities, are known to commit crimes such as murder, kidnapping, extortion, carjacking, armed robbery, rape, and other aggravated assaults.

    Kidnappings remain a concern and are believed to be underreported. Since January 1, 2012, four cases of kidnapped U.S. citizens were reported to the U.S. Embassy. The kidnapping victims were all subsequently released, sometimes paying large ransoms to their captors.

    U.S. citizens should be vigilant of their surroundings at all times and in all locations, especially when entering or exiting their homes, hotels, cars, garages, schools, and workplaces. Whenever possible, U.S. citizens should travel in groups of two or more. It is also advisable to avoid wearing jewelry and carrying large sums of money or displaying cash, ATM/credit cards, or other valuables. U.S. citizens should avoid walking at night in most areas of Honduras or walking alone on beaches, historic ruins, and trails. Motorists should avoid traveling at night and always drive with their doors locked and windows up to deter potential robberies at traffic lights and on congested downtown streets.

    The location and timing of criminal activity is unpredictable in Honduras. The U.S. Embassy recommends that all travelers exercise caution when traveling anywhere in the country; however, certain areas of the country demonstrate higher levels of criminal activity than others. Most of Honduras? major cities (Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba, and others), as well as several Honduran ?departments? (a geographic designation similar to U.S. states) have homicide rates higher than the national average for 2013, including:

    DEPARTMENT CAPITAL
    Atl?ntida La Ceiba
    Col?n Trujillo
    Cort?s San Pedro Sula
    Ocotepeque Ocotepeque
    Yoro Yoro

    There are no reliable statistics for the department of Gracias a Dios; however, travelers to the area should note that it is a remote location where narcotics trafficking is frequent, infrastructure is weak, government services are limited, and police or military presence is scarce.
  2. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
    If you would like to see my article, it is available at --
    Nolan Rappaport, ?Is There A Better Way? - Meeting the Challenge of Unaccompanied Alien Children at the Southwest Border? (July 10, 2014). http://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/immigration/b/insidenews/archive/2014/07/10/nolan-rappaport-is-there-a-better-way.aspx
  3. Honza Prchal's Avatar
    Normally, I am all in favor of military law in war zones and of broad police powers, but I have to agree with this:

    ---
    Comment: Eliminate Constitution Free Zones
    Jose Vargas, perhaps the best-known undocumented American, was apprehended by Customs and Border Protection in what the ACLU calls a "constitution-free zone" at CBP checkpoints. He was performing his job at the time, reporting on the border crisis, which has now been further exacerbated by these constitution-free zones, where searches and seizures which would otherwise be banned under the 4th amendment are permitted to CBP officials at checkpoints within 50 miles of the United States border. Mr. Vargas's arrest highlights the serious error in suspending the 4th amendment for CBP in areas containing 2/3rd of the American population. We understand the Republican House is considering legislation to deal with the border crisis where juveniles fleeing violence in Central America are seeking refuge on American shores. Perhaps House Republicans should use this legislation to revoke authority for CBP to place these checkpoints which properly belong only at the United States border, not 50 miles away from the border. If House Republicans wont so act, we urge President Obama to order CBP to terminate any "border checkpoint" which is not actually on the United States border. The funds thus saved could be re-programmed by executive action into the $3.8 billion the President has requested for the unaccompanied minors crisis. It would truly be a win-win -children from Central America would find refuge, and CBP officials could seek gainful employment in the United States instead of thumbing their noses at the 4th amendment every day.
    ---

    It is part of a disturbing trend that?s only accelerated recently. It is bad enough that taxpayers must prove their innocence to the IRS, but now the Federal Government is mandating university courts come into compliance with regulations issued under Title IX to create zones where one would supposedly feel safe from sexual harassment and assault. Unfortunately, these regulations claim to trump the confrontation clause and the right to counsel to name just a few functions.

    I am reminded of the wit who observed that as government tries to do more, it?s competence declines proportionately, so it tries to arrogate power unto itself exponentially. People snared in Article III immigration courts are perhaps those most obviously jerked around by this one way ratchet, perhaps because they lack the vote (for understandable reasons). Even well-meaning enforcers, and almost all immigration agents and judges are better than the average citizen in terms of intelligence and good intent, are working with a dysfunctional system guaranteed to produce unsettling results at a rate we?d be uncomfortable with outside wartime. Therefore, as regulatory bodies from the National Energy Commission to the FEC and EPA adopt similar tactics, I hope and expect that more Americans will call for a root and branch rethinking of our Byzantine immigration system. We need to simplify this internally contradictory special interest turkey that is the immigration code before we can call any reform ?comprehensive.
  4. Don Riding's Avatar
    This is in response to the July 15 opinion about Constitution Free Zones


    I am not an immigration attorney. I was an immigration officer for 39 years and spent 29 years in management positions, such as the INS Port Director in Laredo, Texas and the INS Officer in Charge in Fresno. I was the USCIS Field Office Director in Fresno for the last nine years of my career. I worked both enforcement and benefits, including inspections, and I take exception to the term "Constitution Free Zones."
    International inspection stations, such as the land border ports of entry I worked at in El Paso and Laredo are "Constitution Free Zones." We can search any person or vehicle entering the country without a warrant, and even without probable cause. We can deny entry to anyone we believe does not qualify to enter the country. We have the discretion to let the person enter the U.S. and prove admissibility later, or we can deny entry until we are convinced of admissibility.

    The Border Patrol checkpoints are similar to sobriety check points set up by police. They are set up on major highways leading away from the border in an attempt to discourage alien smuggling. Unlike the land border inspection stations, most cars are waived through with no questions being asked. The only cars stopped and searched are those that appear suspicious. We call this "Articulable Facts." That means we can give a reason for asking questions or for searching a vehicle. Trained dogs are often used to help find people or drugs hidden in cars and trucks. Anyone arrested has constitutional rights and cannot be sent back to Mexico, or any other country, without a hearing before an immigration judge. Anyone stopped has the right to refuse to answer questions, just like anyone stopped at a sobriety checkpoint can refuse to take a breathalyzer test. However, refusing to respond does not entitle someone to use our federal funded highways and drive away unchallenged.

    Do some federal officials abuse their authority? Of course they do. I fired several INS officers for taking bribes and/or using excessive force. The check points are provided for in the law. Moving them to the border would be redundant since we already have CBP officers checking those who cross at international ports of entry.

    There are many good people who are sympathetic to immigration reform. As an INS office I worked with Silvestre Reyes, who is now a Congressman from El Paso. He enforced the law but now supports reform, as do I. Rhetoric like "Constitution Free Zones" when referring to check points turns off those of us who might otherwise favor immigration reform.
  5. Teresa Rosenow's Avatar
    I agree with your opinion regarding refugee children from Central America.

    It seems that the only interest our republican lawmakers have is to pick in our President. They are wasting valuable time of our justice system and financial tax payer's sources suing our President.
    The money spent in this ridiculous suit should be use to help those kids in need, most of them fleeing from being inducted in the Salvatrucha and Maras gangs. We deported a while ago these gangs to El Salvador, Honduras , Guatemala and they rapidly took over and got control over young girls and boys and the government of those countries are not able to overpower them, in the contrary I have heard that the police system is being corrupted by the gangs with the money these groups received from drug dealers.
  6. Kinza Schuyler's Avatar
    Loved your suggestions

    on the house republicans getting religion! Thank you
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