I was under the impression that I was aware of all types of visas offered by the United States government. But I’ve only recently discovered an option offered to those that are victims of crime: U visa.

The U-visa provision was created in the federal Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. To qualify for the visa, authorities must verify that a victim of a crime such as domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking participated in the investigation and⁄or prosecution of a suspect. (Gazette)

No more do undocumented immigrants need to suffer in silence, and afraid to speak up due to fears of deportation.

A Montgomery Village woman, a victim of domestic violence, is one of the nine U-visa candidates who have worked with the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office this year.

Manuel Donis Davilla, who was the woman’s live-in boyfriend, was found guilty of attempted murder and related charges during a four-day trial in Circuit Court in January. He will be sentenced Thursday and faces life in prison.

In her opening statement during the trial, Assistant State’s Attorney Deborah Feinstein said Davilla planned to beat the woman unconscious. ‘‘He then planned to tie her up. After that he planned to pour paint thinner all over her body and to set her on fire,” she said. (Gazette)

Finally, a human side to this immigration debate. But apparently I’m not the only one who learned of the U visa so late, since it was created almost 8 years ago.

Edma Castañeda endured repeated beatings, cigarette burns and other abuse through three years of marriage because she was afraid that if she called police, she would be deported.

The Riverside woman did not know that some undocumented immigrants can gain legal residency if they prove they were victims of domestic violence and other violent crimes. The immigration laws sheltering them were enacted to help overcome the fear that prevents many undocumented abuse victims from reporting crimes. (PressEnterprise)

As you read the stories of these victims’ ordeal, you begin to appreciate the dire need for this type of visa. The victims are primarily female put in an uncmpromising situations by male in power — be it husband, boss, trafficking agent or as in the following scenario: immigration agent.

The calls from the agent started three days later. He hinted, she said, at his power to derail her life and deport her relatives, alluding to a brush she had with the law before her marriage. He summoned her to a private meeting. And at noon on Dec. 21, in a parked car on Queens Boulevard, he named his price — not realizing that she was recording everything on the cellphone in her purse.

“I want sex,” he said on the recording. “One or two times. That’s all. You get your green card. You won’t have to see me anymore.”

She reluctantly agreed to a future meeting. But when she tried to leave his car, he demanded oral sex “now,” to “know that you’re serious.” And despite her protests, she said, he got his way. (NYT)

Isaac R. Baichu, 46, an adjudicator for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, was arrested after he met with a green card applicant at the Flagship Restaurant, a diner in Queens. He is charged with coercing oral sex from her.

The above stories continues to tell the agonizing tale of many other victim and perpetrators. But what’s even more unfortunate is that despite enduring such torment these injured parties have a very tough time obtaing the U visa.

For more information on the U visa please click here.

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A U.S. commander said Tuesday he is “deeply ashamed” by the Marine killings of Afghan civilians in March and reported that the American military has made condolence payments to their families.

“Today we met with the families of those victims: 19 dead and 50 injured,” said Col. John Nicholson, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, deployed in eastern Afghanistan. “We made official apologies on the part of the U.S. government” and payments of about $2,000 for each death. (AP via USA Today)

Old news, but I only came to learn of it during my commute back from work on NPR two days ago. Turns out the U.S. military makes condolences payments — officially called “solatia” payments (unofficially also “martyr” payments) — to the families of those accidentally killed during combat fire.

The Pentagon has set $2,500 as the highest individual sum that can be paid. Most death payments remain at that level, with a rough sliding scale of $1,000 for serious injury and $500 for property damage. Beginning in April of last year, payments of up to $10,000 were possible for “extraordinary cases” but only with a division commander’s authorization.

The report, titled The Department of Defense’s Use of Solatia and Condolence Payments in Iraq and Afghanistan (pdf),” offers a particularly coldblooded example of how payments are estimated, drawn from CERP‘s operating procedures: “Two members of the same family are killed in a car hit by U.S. forces. The family could receive a maximum of $7,500 in CERP condolence payments ($2,500 for each death and up to $2,500 for vehicle damage).”(WaPo, 06/18/07)

Some pics of these condolences payments being made from this article that makes it sound okay:

I’m frankly at loss for words. Can’t figure out what aspect to begin commenting on first. I don’t believe monetary apology to be valid after any wrongdoing. But let’s suppose that your life situation is desperate, and you make the trip to the official place to get ‘reimbursed,’ how far does $2,500 really go? Take any of the following scenario for instance, what do you suppose the money given to the victim’s family could most effectively be used for?

Approximately $8,000 was paid by the Pentagon to two children who lost their mother when the taxi in which she was traveling came under fire. The vehicle was said to have run a checkpoint. The children were alongside their mother when she died and were also injured. A measly “condolence” payment of $500 was paid to the family of a deaf man shot outside a museum in Samarra and a larger condolence payment of $2,500 was granted to the parents of a 4-year-old girl who died when a bullet fired from a Humvee struck her.

In what the U.S. military said “negligent fire,” an Iraqi ambulance driver was shot dead on his way to a bomb scene by a coalition soldier. The dead man’s family was paid $2,500. (AmericanFreePres)

Iraq Body Count, a Web site that reputedly maintains most accurate account of casualties of the war, reveals more instances where American military has put a supposedly justified price on lives or limbs lost. Please also read these two articles on the NYT, and listen to a report on NPR to learn more.

Lastly, I don’t mean to compare but, I would like to point out the amount given to the families of victims who lost their lives on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003: $26 million. This is far too sad for me to disrespectfully end the post with the usual clever comment. Because even these families likely are not satisfied, and would much rather have their loved ones returned, instead.

I live in one of the more diverse state in the United States — New Jersey. And the creed of many my acquaintances reflect the same. I won’t lie to you. The conversation on the topic of religion more often than not actually ends on an uncomfortable note. We can’t agree on origin of life, we argue if certain actions are moral or immoral, and, of course, we believe our God(s) is more powerful than the others’.

The funny thing about these disagreements during our talks is that none of us are truly that religious to begin with. We just argue for argument sake — you know, to fill the time gap between downing “Coors Light.”

Regardless, though, of whatever religion we identify ourselves with, we usually don’t squabble about Karma — what goes around comes around. E.g.: do good for others, good things will happen to you, and vice versa.

But such a basic similarity of all beliefs creates doubt in my mind of existence of God (or necessity of religion) when I hear news of model citizens facing acts of violence from complete strangers. According to the rules of Karma, these unselfish individuals’ actions deserves the very opposite of such horrendous outcomes.

Take for example the case of psychologist Susan Barron, who was stabbed multiple times by a deranged man when she was walking her dog.

Screaming at her, the man chopped, hacked and stabbed her head and arms, straddling her after she fell to the street, picking up a new knife when he lost one from the force of his blows.

To those who witnessed it, the violence seemed to be a crime of toxic passion; they could not fathom the truth, that one total stranger had simply and suddenly set upon killing another. (NYT)

Of course, no one deserves this treatment. I wouldn’t want that to be a punishment for the terrible of crimes. But you will agree Barron, of all people, should be regarded as a saint on earth.

She was a fixer — the friend who hunted down a kidney for someone in need of a transplant, mentor to a man starting his own therapy practice, regular volunteer on winter coat drives and at holiday soup kitchens. “That Jimmy Stewart character in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ had nothing on her,” said one friend, a self-described cynic.

A case in the same sense takes place in Fort Qu’Appelle, Canada. Where 61-year-old Christina Cook gets shot at by young men when she attempted to dial 911. Only to witness her husband of 17 years catch the bullet on the face and chest when shielding his wife.

With a calmness that belies the calamity of the night and the enormity of her loss, a woman who would often open her home to troubled young people recalled Thursday how her companion of 17 years took a bullet she figures was destined for her and died while shielding her on the floor.

“I don’t know where my hubby came from, but he took me and he threw me on the floor and put his whole body over me. Next thing I know, he was gone,” Cook said. (CP)

The funny thing is that neither Cook nor Barron become bitter after the incidents.

“I just hope that they can find a solution to stop this gang violence or whatever the violence is that’s causing this because the children are lost,” Cook said.

“They need love and understanding and that’s what I’ve always tried to do with my life – make room for the kids.”(CP)

“Yes, I feel what happened to me is pretty terrible. People can complain about the smallest things, but that is their pain. Hopefully, they will never have something terrible happen to give them context,” Barron said. (NYT)

43-year-old Jorge Muñoz’s sister, Luz, says his brother has “got no life.” But what Luz really means by that comment is that Jorge’s life is dedicated to serving others, leaving little time to indulge in for himself.

The people he serves are undocumented immigrants — often homeless and always hungry — who seek jobs on the cold streets in Queens every morning. Folks in whom he likely sees himself only a few years ago reflected in.

Muñoz drives to the same location every night in his white pickup truck at 9:30 p.m. to feed these individuals in desperate states with a warm meal.

“Every single night, Jorge is here,” said one worker, his leathery face peering out from a hooded sweatshirt. “Doesn’t matter. Rain, thunderstorm, lightning. He do that from his good will, you know.

“He feeds everybody, make the stomach happy,” the worker added. “He’s an angel.” (NYT)

Ms. Zapata, Muñoz’s mother with whom he prepares the meal everyday in the small apartment they live in, said that his son displayed this altruistic trait since he was very young. She cites a time when Muñoz was only 7 and a stranger requested the family something to eat.

Ms. Zapata told the visitor they had none. “But Jorge gave him his plate,” she recalled. “I said, ‘Jorge, you have to eat for school.’ And he said, ‘No, I’ll just have bread.’”

Although his devotion to the welfare of others might seem selfish at the superficial, Muñoz claims he gets compensated more than appropriately with gratitude.

“I know these people are waiting for me,” he said. “And I worry about them. You have to see their smile, man. That’s the way I get paid.”

I swear that ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, must be the most unconstitutional federal agency ever created in the United States. They keep getting away with violating basic human rights everyone agrees we’re born with.

What’s worse is that local police assist them in doing so. When was border patrol added to their job description?

The latest of these unlawful violations in today’s Times. I was left with a knot in my stomach after reading the first paragraph.

It was still dark the morning of Sept. 27 when armed federal immigration agents, guided by local police officers, swept into this village on the East End of Long Island. Within hours, as the team rousted sleeping families, 11 men were added to a running government tally of arrests made in Operation Community Shield. (NYT)

The details of this ordeal is most horrifying. The agents arrested

Omar Lopez, 25, a Shelter Island landscaper, who had been asleep with his fiancée and infant son. Valentin Rudy Escobar Montenegro, a Guatemalan carpenter, also was with his wife and baby.

But first a little back ground on this “Operation Community Shields” from the official Web Site.

In February 2005, ICE began Operation Community Shield, a national law enforcement initiative that targets violent transnational street gangs through the use of ICE’s broad law enforcement powers, including the unique and powerful authority to remove (deport) criminal aliens, including illegal aliens and legal permanent resident aliens. (ICE)

“Broad law enforcement power?” Damn. ICE seems to me to be the most connected gang. I mean isn’t their tactics illegal? and the organization itself, too? Where do I go to report them? Then deport them?

“We’re not here stomping all over anybody’s rights,” said Peter J. Smith, the special agent in charge of the Long Island operation. “We’ve got immigration powers.”

Maybe I’m a bit harsh with my criticism. I know they are just doing their job. But wait…

Only one of the 11 men taken away that morning was suspected of a gang affiliation, according to the Southold Town police. The 10 others, while accused of immigration violations, were not gang associates and had no criminal records.

Possibly, the argument half of you reading this will back is that, “well those arrested were still breaking the law. They were here illegally.” Or something close to it. Am I in the ballpark?

Omar Lopez, his fiancée, Yanci, and their son, Kevin, born in May in Greenport. With Marvin still missing, Omar surfaced eight days after the raid in a call from a jail in New Jersey. “I cry here inside prison, just thinking about Yanci and what she’s doing to survive,” he said. “And then I think about my son, and it’s very painful.”I understand what you’re saying. But tell me something. Had they broken any other law, let’s say, dealing couple of kilos of cocaine, wouldn’t the government still need a warrant to enter their home? These folks’ “illegal activity” isn’t the least bit comparable to dealing hard drugs, but they’re treated worse.

If some of you still remain lost for compassion, I understand. I can’t change your mentality if you’re set on your beliefs. But you couldn’t possibly disagree that something is wrong when someone legally can break into a house in the middle of the night and break up families sleeping together.

Someone somewhere is doing their job. Someone somewhere isn’t. WaPo and 60 minutes did a little investigative journalism to find out that FBI’s technique of matching bullets in crime-scenes with those found in the suspect’s possession is faulty.

Specifically, the National Academy of Sciences said that decades of FBI statements to jurors linking a particular bullet to those found in a suspect’s gun or cartridge box were so overstated that such testimony should be considered “misleading under federal rules of evidence.”(WaPo)

And this fact was actually stated by scientists back in 2004. Meaning high ranking official must’ve deliberately discarded experts analysis, sending potentially innocent individuals to prison.

In at least two cases, the bureau has tried to help state prosecutors defend past convictions by using court filings that experts say are still misleading. The government has fought releasing the list of the estimated 2,500 cases over three decades in which it performed the analysis.

Folks like my man (pictured) Lee Wayne Hunt, are now challenging the court rulings against them. Hunt was convicted of a double murder 22 years ago based on this baseless technique. He has a 2 to 4 year window to appeal.

But you know, had anyone asked me if this way of determining the guilty criminal was a sure thing or not, I would’ve given you the same answer that we recently learned from the credible experts. I would’ve actually told you so back in 1963.

The science, known as comparative bullet-lead analysis, was first used after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.

I wrote my English paper in college about the JFK assassination. It is arguably the most disputed case in recent history. It’s backed by hundreds of conspiracy theories. Remember the magic bullet theory as one? And this is what we base the outcome for 2,500 lives on.

I urge you to read the complete article available here. It gets worse by the paragraph.

Documents show that the FBI’s concerns about the science dated to 1991 and came to light only because a former FBI lab scientist began challenging it.

“I have never seen such a catastrophe in my 20 years as a government administrator,” said Harisprasad Pal, a local official in the hard-hit southern district of Jhalokati. (ABC)

 

On eve of Thursday, Nov. 15, The tropical Cyclone Sidr has devastated much of southern Bangladesh with its 140 miles per hour wind, claiming over 2000 lives, destroying entire communities, and displacing over 650,000 people from their homes, said Ali Imam Majumder, a senior government official.

In one district, called Shatkhira, according to local journalists, roughly 5,000 mud homes collapsed back into the ground. Local relief workers for Caritas, the Catholic relief agency, reported that an entire island in Barisal district was submerged under at least six feet of water and houses were blown away by winds. (IHT)

Over a million had evacuated their homes for nearby safe shelters. Upon their return, a few have, if at all, have found a place to return to. Realizing so, foreign countries and concerned organization rush to provide aid.

U.S. government has provided an initial $2.1 million in emergency relief aide. (AP)

Direct Relief International Reaching Out to Partners in Bangladesh, Releases $280,000 in Medical Aid. (DR)

Action Aid team is carrying emergency relief items which include 2000kg of beaten rise, molasses, oral re-hydration salts, clothes and water purification tablets. ActionAid intends to reach over 5000 families with these supplies. (AA)

The U.N.’s humanitarian chief on Friday said the world body has made several millions of dollars available for aid to Bangladesh (IHT)

Of course, similar to Hurricane Katrina and the flood in Tabasco, Mexico, all were aware beforehand that this part of Bangladesh was dangerously prone to such devastating storm.

And as is the custom, nothing was done about it.