Oklahoma's constitutional amendment that bars the state's judges form considering sharia law is heading to the 10th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, after Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange ruled it unconstitutional, saying "the will of the ‘majority’ has on occasion conflicted with the constitutional rights of individuals." Oklahomans voted up the amendment last year by 70%, but Muneer Awad from the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) filed a suit to keep it from going into effect. The district court found that the amendment amounted to an official disapproval of Islam by the state of Oklahoma, curtailing Muslims' political rights and violating the First Amendment. Oklahoma's Attorney General has appealed the decision. (KFOR, Oklahoma City, Sept. 9; WP, Sept. 8)
California's Legislative Analyst's Office released a status report on Aug. 5 concluding that California is unlikely to meet the US Supreme Court's two-year deadline to reduce the state's prison population by 34,000 inmates. California's prisoner realignment plan, which entails shifting thousands of low-level offenders to county jails, could reduce the prison population by 32,000 inmates—still a few thousand inmates short of decreasing the 180% prison capacity to the mandated 137.5% capacity, by June 27, 2013. The report states that despite statutory sentencing changes, out-of-state transfers, the construction of new prisons, and the realignment of certain adult offenders and parolees, California is urged to request additional time to comply with the order. The number of inmates currently in California prisons is approximately 143,500, about a 19,000 inmate reduction from 2006.
An immigrant family on Aug. 1 accused federal immigration officials of brutalizing a 46-year-old woman during a drug raid on a their home in Norco, Calif., where they had moved less than three weeks before. Carmen Bonilla told reporters in Spanish at a press conference at the headquarters of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles that roughly 40 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents stormed the house on July 19, pointing guns at her and threatening to shoot. They said "shut up or we'll shoot," said Bonilla, before the agents shoved her to the floor and began kicking her. Bonilla said she and her daugter-in-law were held face-down on the floor with guns to their heads as agents searched the house, apparently for drugs. She said she later went to a hospital for treatment of scratches and bruises. "This family suffered an unjust attack by the authorities and had nothing to do with the drugs they were looking for," said immigration lawyer Jessica Domínguez, who represented the family at the press conference. Since the raid, the Bonillas say deportation proceedings have been brought against all undocumented family members. (LA Weekly's Informer blog, AP, EFE, NBC LA, Aug. 1)
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) reports that as of July 8, at least 6,600 prisoners in at least 11 of the state’s 33 prisons have joined the hunger strike initiated by some 400 inmates at the Pelican Bay facility on July 1. With large numbers of inmates striking at Corcoran, Folsom, Tehachapi, Centinela, Calpatria and San Quentin state prisons, advocates and lawyers working to support the strike claim the number is much higher, and are pressing the CDCR to enter into negotiations with prisoners at Pelican Bay and immediately implement their demands. The demands outlined by hunger strike leaders in the Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay Prison include an end to long-term confinement and collective punishment, and an end to the practice of "debriefing," or requiring prisoners to divulge information about themselves and other prisoner in order to be released back into general population.
Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens filed a notice of appeal in the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on July 5, stating that he plans to appeal the recent injunction of the state's controversial immigration bill. Judge Thomas Thrash issued a preliminary injunction for the plaintiffs—the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) and other rights groups—last week. Thrash granted the injunction request for sections 7 and 8 of HB 87, saying that the plaintiffs would face irreparable harm should the law take effect and that the public interest weighed in favor of issuing the injunction. The bill, which was scheduled to take effect on July 1, allows law enforcement officers to ask about immigration status when questioning suspects in criminal investigations. The law also imposes fines and prison sentences of up to one year for anyone who knowingly transports illegal immigrants during the commission of a crime, and requires businesses to use the federal E-Verify system to check the immigration status of potential employees, providing that workers convicted of using fake identification to gain employment could face up to 15 years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Georgia's appeal will be filed within the week in the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.
The US Border Patrol shot dead a Mexican national who was among three men allegedly attempting to cross the frontier at San Ysidro, Calif. June 21. The dead man, identified as Jose Alfredo Yañez Reyes, 40, was shot after throwing stones at the agents from the southern side of the border, in Tijuana. One of the border agents reportedly sustained injuries but has since been released from hospital. The Border Patrol said the agent fired in self-defense. But the Mexican government condemned the killing, calling it a “disproportionate use of force” and has demanded a thorough investigation. President Felipe Calderón Tweeted that he had protested about the incident to Hillary Clinton at a Guatemala summit they are both attending. The death comes almost exactly a year after a 15-year-old Mexican boy was shot on the border at El Paso, Tex., after allegedly throwing stones at Border Patrol agents. (UPI, InSight Crime, June 23)
The governments of Mexico and several other countries, along with the Anti-Defamation League filed amicus briefs on June 16 in support of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) class action lawsuit against Georgia's new immigration law. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru all filed briefs in support of the ACLU. In its brief, Mexico said the law will irreparably harm diplomatic interests between the US and Mexico. The suit is scheduled for its first hearing next week, where Judge Thomas Thrash is expected to rule on the ACLU's request for an injunction and Georgia's motion for dismissal.
We noted last year the FBI raids on activists in the midwest over their alleged ties to the PFLP and the FARC. We've also noted the hardline proclivities of federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, whose harsh "anti-terrorist" measures have bottlenecked free speech before. Now, this story from the Washington Post of June 13 connects the dots. We are not privy to the details, but it certainly doesn't sound good...