Rep. Vern Buchanan Releases Statement on Russian Election Hacking via Twitter

On Thursday, U.S Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, released a public statement strongly condeming the Russian cyber-hacking of two florida county voter databases after attending a classified briefing via Twitter.

U.S Rep. Vern Buchanan’s public statement in response to attending an FBI briefing on Russian cyberhacking of two Florida county voting systems on Thursday. (Via Twitter)

In the release, Buchanan describes the alarming nature of the cyber security threats posed to state voting systems, stating ‘Vladmir Putin is not our friend’ and called on a bipartisan approach to deal with future election inteference.

Buchanan’s response comes after the revelations of Russian cyber interference from Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this week.

Gov. DeSantis told reporters that he was not ‘allowed to disclose’ information related to the FBI investigation due to signing a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for a private briefing. via Politico.

Buchanan’s response comes after his public statement last month on the Mueller Report, stating that ‘America needs to move on.’ (Via Zac Anderson, Sarasota-Herald-Tribune)

As of this time Thursday, none of the two counties has been identified.

Do you feel Vern Buchanan’s response is adequate? Please comment below.

Sick Day Part 2: More Sick Child, More Unreleased Content

My boy is sick yet again today, so it’s time for some more unreleased content in lieu of not being able to get out there and find some scoops for your fine people of southwest Florida.

Today, I present to you the unreleased PSA video I created a few month’s back in my graduate program for ThinkProgress.org. What follows is a one-minute piece on the expensive failure, the Avrocar: A joint top-secret U.S. and Canadian military flying saucer built in the 1950’s and 60’s.

The Avrocar, which Avrocouldn’t. (Video: Alex M Buono)

Despite it’s failure to ignite a new fleet of cold-war era saucers, the lifting fan prototype designed for the Avrocar found it’s way into the future Lockheed X-35 fighter jet in order for it to vertically land, as described by MIT Technology Review back in August 2015.

My point? Fail to go forward. And despite the loftiness and hyper-inspirational public domain imagery of this video, I still think the sentiment resonates with me.

Hope you are all having a great Thursday!

See you tomorrow, hopefully with a healthy child.

-Alex

Sick day today, so why not watch a spec video I made?

In lieu of fresh content for today due to Sammy getting a double whammy stomach virus and mild ear infection, I bring to you a spec video I created while shooting for the “Seen on Scene” for the St. Jude’s Foodlosophy 2018 event in November of last year. Foodlosophy is an annual charity event hosted by St. Jude’s Research Hospital that brings together some of Sarasota’s best chefs to create meals inspired by child patients of the hospital.

In this video, I spoke with Chef Christian Hershman of Sarasota’s The Overton. We spoke about his philosophy driving the event as chef-chair, and how the event continues to resonate with him.

Please keep in mind the final audio was never mixed down, hence all the “clicking and clicking,” of pans and dishes. It’s annoying, I know.

Also keep in mind that this video below is spec, and is no way affiliated with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Spec video of Foodlosophy interview with Chef Christian Hershman of Sarasota’s The Overton. (Video: Alex M Buono)

Would love to hear feedback and comments on it!

Hope you’re all having a good day, and I’ll hoping I’ll get this boy into better shape!

-Alex

Trump’s Trade Battle unsettles local Bradenton Business Owner

The Chinese government announced a new set of tariffs on American goods upwards of $60 Billion dollars on Monday, according to The New York Times. The tariff increase is reportedly in response to the Trump Administration’s $200 million dollar tariff hike on imported Chinese goods.

John Wong runs Wong Kai Imports in Bradenton, a family-owned specialty store of ethnic food products that he has owned for the last 38 years.

From Chinese pork buns, hard-to-find vegetables, teas, and condiments, Wong Kai import’s ethnic food goods from China and other Asian countries for retail and wholesale customers.

Despite the good business he has received of late, Wong claims that he is already witnessing the negative impact on local businesses due to the potential trade war with China.

“This lady I talked to today, and it hasn’t even started yet, her container is coming in is already 25 percent on top of normal before she paid for it,” Wong said.

“It’s not right,” he added.

Wong Kai Imports Owner John Wong speaks with a customer. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

Wong is not alone in his concern, as media reports reflect this week:

  • The Washington Post reported the fears expressed by U.S soybean farmers are witnessing the effects of stalling exports to China.
  • We’re Freaked.” CBS News quoted the official statement by the American Apparel Association in response to the prospect of retail price hikes.

In 2016, Wong voted for the president.

Going into 2020 as of this moment, he’s lost confidence in the president’s ability to focus on the plight of the American people, equating his dispute with China to a petty family squabble.

“The way I look at it is, you are helping the people of the United States, and now you are trying to, you know, ‘you don’t do this for me, I’m not going to do that for you’,” Wong said. “It’s like a sibling, your kid, your brother and sister.”

Wong Kai provides a plethora of ethnic food goods as a supplier for local restaurants. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

The potential impact of Trump’s potential trade war and immigration focus having a chilling effect on Asian-American voters are already being felt according to Vox.com’s Li Zhou, where exit-poll data indicated a 77 percent increase in Asian-Americans who voted for Democratic house candidates in the 2018 midterm election.

President Trump continued his justification via Twitter on Tuesday with claims that the 25 percent increase on imported Chinese and foreign “dumped” steel will help save the American auto industry.

In one year Tariffs have rebuilt our Steel Industry – it is booming! We placed a 25% Tariff on “dumped” steel from China & other countries, and we now have a big and growing industry. We had to save Steel for our defense and auto industries, both of which are coming back strong!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2019

Despite President Trump’s continued hostile tone on the web, John Wong hopes that cooler heads will prevail.

“This trade war, hopefully both sides talk about it,” Wong said. “Not just the United States and China, but the whole world.”

For more information and updates on products from Wong Kai Imports, visit their Facebook page.

Happy Mother’s Day

There’s a lot resonating with me on this Mother’s Day at this point in my life.

To: Mom

My mother, Valerie, circa 1980-something with a fierce bob.

I absolutely appreciate the continuing love and unconditional support I’ve received from my mom, Val. Thank you for demonstrating how to continue to grow, explore, and engage life at every stage. I use those tools every day, and for that I love you.

To Nan:

That catch is my grandmother, Marion.

love you too, Nan (my grandmother), for being a steadfast, hilarious, and compassionate grandmother to me and great-grandmother to Sam!

To Julia:

Julia and Sammy in the motel, 2017.

Julia, you’ve been a wonderful support to Sammy and me and I appreciate how well we’ve done with raising Sammy so far. I know we will be great partners in the years to come, and I look forward to developing the bright, sweet, goofy, curly-haired boy that we love. I will never forget your strength, care and resilience through the difficult times (as it was in this photo). Sammy will no doubt be better for this.

To Laura:

My mother-in-law Laura, with Sammy.

Thank you for the constant support you have given to Julia and me throughout the years. You have been so crucial in making Sammy’s day to day a better experience, and I will never, ever, not be appreciative of that.

To Rosa:

Rosa (left) hands off guava and cheese empanadas to Sammy in the “One Butt” kitchen.

You are the master of gift giving and no doubt about it, Sammy plays in that lovely kitchen every day and makes food for us. With any luck, he’ll be as capable as you in the “one-butt.”

Side note:

I took Sammy to the pool this morning, where we met a little boy who loved playing with Sammy. We all played together in the pool, where he and Sammy grabbed onto each arm as I launched them both in the air.

In playing with this other friendly little guy, I could feel that something was missing by the urgency of him wanting to have me interact with him. My gut feeling was confirmed as his babysitter told me that his father past away, the boy was no more than four.

It made me think about his mom.

It made me think about his dad.

What is each day like after that?

Enduring all of the emotional freight of a child wanting his daddy and perhaps feeling helpless, yet carrying on nevertheless.

I admire that strength- and realize that no matter the frustration, exhaustion, and ambiguity we enter into, through the different seasons of our lives, we have to keep going.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all, and to those I deeply care about.

-Alex

Celebrating the 10th Annual Harvey Milk Festival 2019 in Sarasota

The 10th Annual Harvey Milk Festival celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary this Saturday, May 11 in Sarasota. The festival honors the enduring activist legacy of pioneering LGTBQI political activist and San Francisco politician, Harvey Milk.

This year’s celebration brought together a diverse array of emerging local artists, musicians, roller derby bombers, food trucks, jello shots, and an array of political activist groups and vendors.

(Photo: Alex M Buono)

The festival crowd was young and old, with fishnets or chest-mounted baby (or leashed fur-baby), teal-haired or bald. That said, everyone was flawless.

The stated mission of Festival organizers is by “fostering emerging talent in musicians and artists who support diversity and reject discrimination. While we promote equality for LGBTQ people through supporting equal rights legislation.”

Harvey Milk’s historical mark being the first openly gay politician in America was tragically cut short, when November 11, 1978 Milk and then San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, a rival city supervisor.

The festival’s impact continues throughout the year with youth outreach and scholarship programs, performance art and other events.

For more info, visit www.harveymilkfestival.com.

Southwest Weekly Roundup

Here are some headlines that you may have missed this week:

  • Kathryn Varn delivered a great profile on controversial Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri in this week’s Tampa Bay Times.

Varn’s profile digs deep into Gaultieri’s tenacious rise through the ranks of law enforcement and his recent forays into advocacy for arming Florida’s teachers and introducing the Warrant Service Officer Program for several county law enforcement agencies to serve ICE warrants to the undocumented in jail.

Don’t worry, it’s not the dreaded one.

  • Manatee County Commissioners decided this week to place the future location of a Confederate memorial statue on the 2020 ballot for Manatee voters. Via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

In other news…….

Anything I missed? Let me know, and I’d love to hear your comments below.

-Alex

Hello Again…Again.

So, it’s been a while since I’ve published here. I am derelict of my public duty.

I know it’s this. A great indicator is whenever I change my branding image.

Feelin’ more ‘beachy’. Perhaps a little more casual. Relaxed is probably a better word.

In an effort to be a bit more conversational and above all, consistent, I want to reach out today to say that I’m starting fresh yet again.

I’m hoping I can share more of me with you.

In this reboot, I’m hoping to capture local southwest Florida stories and present them in multimedia features in the upcoming months. Stay tuned.

Most importantly, I want to know what you care about, what stories you have, and what I can help shed some light on. Please reach out to me on social media for tips at @alexmbuono.

Also, I aim to publish much more frequently, hopefully on a daily basis with musings, commentary, and recaps of what’s happening locally and nationally.

To start here’s something truly…Florida. It happened right down the road from me.

Stay tuned and hope to hear from you.

Onward and upward,

-Alex

Oscura Cafe & Bar serves up craft culture to Downtown Bradenton

As evidenced by the ongoing “revitalization” of new storefronts populating the 13th street and 6th Avenue west corner in downtown Bradenton, native Bradentonians Keith Nasewicz and Ben Greene of Oscura Cafe and Bar are hoping to make Oscura the hub of local, craft culture.

“I think we’re trying to create a cultural outlet for people here, something for the artists, and the musicians, and the people who are interested in that,” said Nasewicz. “We want to be the flagship for it and see where it grows, and hopefully we’re trying to get this street really developed and turned into the ‘mecca’ of trend and art and music for 13th street in Bradenton.”

Nasewicz and Greene’s journey towards building their own “mecca” in Bradenton began years before in 2005, as the two Manatee High School students would orbit the now-closed V Town Surf and Skate III skateboard shop where Greene worked. The two cite the V Town’s casual meeting spot atmosphere as a precursor to what is now Oscura.

Oscura Cafe and Bar (Photo: Alex Buono)

The two spent years apart as Nasewicz went off to college to study psychology, briefly flirting with becoming a psychologist before pursuing a photography career that rekindled his creativity. Greene’s post-high school years were spent traveling nationwide with a touring “metal-core” band at 19, where his curiosity in the music business inspired him to start his own music label.

Coffee being prepared at Oscura Cafe and Bar. (Photo: Alex M Buono)
Oscura prepares various menu items, including a Cuban sandwich. ( Photo: Alex M Buono)
Oscura Cafe and Bar. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

After his time in the music business, Greene’s interest in business grew into becoming a full-fledged serial entrepreneur in recent years, where he launched several startups locally. Nasewicz meanwhile was burning out on the heavy traveling of his photography career, where he later transitioned to launching tech startups of his own centered around application development.

According to Nasewicz, it was around this time Greene approached him about starting a business in Bradenton.

“Growing up, I mean, you would hear it so often your friends saying, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to get out of Bradenton, Bradenton’s lame, there’s nothing to do here,’ when in reality there’s so much opportunity here,” Greene said. “We have some of the best beaches in the world, we still have that small-town feel, everybody’s friendly, everybody’s cool here. And so coming back to that as an adult and seeing its potential was exciting,” Greene added.

In conceptualizing their vision for what would become eventually become Oscura as their business, Nasewicz and Greene knew that they wanted to start a cultural trend for other businesses in the area to blossom.

“When we did our research we found that a meeting place, something like this, where there’s more of a curated experience; whether it’s the high quality of the coffee or the food or the drinks that we offer, things like that, and it developed more into a coffee shop as the primary focus,” Nasewicz said.

When trying to figure out what they would eventually name this new business, the idea of coffee as a ‘dark matter’ that gives energy that “binds the universe” became a prominent theme. Greene credits Nasewicz with the trending idea of changing the language, where they discovered the Latin translation of dark matter as “materia obscura.”

Oscura Cafe and Bar owner Keith Nasewicz chats with customers. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

Formerly the location of Foster Drugs and Surgical Supplies that bookended the 13th street west corner for over fifty years, Oscura’s bright white exterior storefront and DIY aesthetic was self-financed and designed by Greene and Nasewicz themselves. According to Greene, Nasewicz’s preoccupation with interior design has been evident since the beginning of their friendship.

“He will straight up be reading an interior design catalog when we’re playing Call of Duty or just goofin’ off,” Greene said. ” He’s just so into that and so good at it.”

The exterior of Oscura Cafe and Bar on 13 Street and 6th Avenue West (Photo: Alex M Buono)
Oscura’s ornamental DIY design features vintage box cameras and a variety of vegetation. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

Oscura’s DIY aesthetic also influence their approach to their ever-changing menu. Greene and Nasewicz do not have formal culinary training but credit their research in traveling to the cities on the forefront of contemporary restaurant and coffee culture. From experimenting with the coffee soda to new tasting and pairing menus as well serving beer and wine trivia nights for the over 21 crowds during the evening, Greene and Nasewicz explained that Oscura’s goal of being the craft destination for Bradenton includes a plethora of upcoming events.

“We want to develop our own market in our area, something new for the craft person to get plugged in with,” Greene said. “We’re definitely trying to shake things up, get people excited.”

A lunchtime business meeting held at Oscura (Photo: Alex M Buono)

In looking towards future expansion, including an outdoor wine and beer garden, to partnerships with local breweries for Oscura-brand beer and friendly city flea market on Feb. 23, Greene and Nasewicz praise their longtime friendship and their connection to the local business community for Oscura’s continued success.

“If you’re looking to start a business, surround yourself with the people who have the experiences and have the strengths, and realize you have weaknesses that you need those people as a team to help you with,” Nasewicz said. “And work with your community, don’t fight them. That’s a big part of it.”

For more on Oscura Cafe and Bar’s list of events and updates, visit Oscuracafe.com.

Cafe Oscura owners Keith Nasewicz and Ben Greene. (Photo: Alex M Buono)


Manatee County Pilots Controversial ICE Agreement as Deportation Fears Increase

 

On Jan. 17, 2018 in Largo, Florida, a press conference was held by Tampa Bay law enforcement agencies to announce a new inter-governmental law enforcement partnership with ICE called a “basic ordering agreement.”

Bradenton Rallies to Keep Families Together
Photo(s): Alex M Buono

(Bradenton, Florida)“The people that were doing these lawsuits were arguing, ‘Oh no, the state or the local jail doesn’t have jurisdiction to hold them,’” 

explained Adriana Guzman-Rouselle, an immigration attorney who has served Manatee County since 2005, on the liability exposure felt by local law enforcement agencies that inspired ICE’s “basic ordering agreement.” “The way to go around this was, ‘Okay, we’re going to hire those jails as providers of the service,” said Guzman-Rouselle.

According to Tampa Bay Online, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, also a representative of the National Sheriff’s Association, had been working with U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement to develop the contract that was reportedly planned be piloted by 17 Tampa Bay area law enforcement agencies.

The “basic ordering agreement” or BOA was described in a press release by ICE on January 17, “an existing procurement tool for acquiring a substantial, but presently unknown quantity of supplies or services.” The housing agreement was designed to afford liability protection for local law enforcement agencies housing “illegal criminal aliens in their jails and prisons.” ICE would then reimburse the service provider or law enforcement agency for the costs up to 48-hours of detention of an individual detainee. These actions would all take place after an individual is released from custody, having been charged with state-level criminal charges.

Also in attendance at the press conference was Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells, who according to public record signed the agreement with ICE on the Jan. 19. Sheriff Wells commented to Hannah Morse of the Bradenton Herald on Jan. 18 regarding the agreement, “We’re just trying to keep our community safe, and when you have a criminal illegal alien who has been committing crimes in our community, they need to be held accountable.”

Media Controversy Surrounding the Agreement

Since the announcement of the joint law enforcement program in January, the agreement has generated media controversy. According to Guzman-Rouselle, the national media has been complicit in conflating the fears of the undocumented community in recent months. “Even if you are undocumented, if you comply with the law, you will be okay,” Guzman-Rouselle explained. “When you start doing things you are not supposed to, you encounter problems.”

According to The Gainesville Sun, Shortly after the press conference on the 17th, Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell announced the next day that the County Sheriff’s office would not opt into the pilot program because “they are not in the business of immigration,” according to the Alachua sheriff’s spokesman, Art Forgey. On Jan. 24, The Southern Poverty Law Center sent public records requests to all 17 Florida counties involved with the pilot program, demanding transparency and more information on the federal program. Florida Politics’ Mitch Perry reported in February a number of Tampa Bay area faith-based organizations rejecting the merits of the agreement.

In March, the Tampa Bay times reported of local undocumented immigrants seeking retainer agreements amid fears of detention and deportation by ICE. In April, 88.5 WNMF reported of a “heated debate” between Pinellas Sheriff Gualtieri and immigrant rights activists on the implementation of the agreement as a pretext to detain undocumented individuals that were initially arrested on charges of driving without a license or identification. April also marked the beginning of the controversial “zero-tolerance policy” implemented by the Department of Justice along the southwest border.

The policy created a national fervor that was also felt here in Manatee County over the separation of families in detention facilities that included South Florida’s Homestead federal facility.

Recent History of Immigration Enforcement in Manatee County

“I haven’t seen any changes, you know, just in paper,” Guzman-Rouselle said of her recent legal experiences with the BOA in comparison to other programs like 287g and Secure Communities. According to public record documents available on online via freedom of information act requests from ina287.org, Manatee County has been actively participating in joint partnerships with ICE since signing a “memorandum of agreement” or “MOA” in July 2008.

In Dec. 2006, former Manatee County Sheriff Charles B. Wells, father of current Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells, sent a written request to ICE to participate in the 287g program in order to train corrections officers in response to what Wells claimed was a large population of undocumented aliens who, “end up in our jails for everything from traffic-related crimes to homicide.” Charlie Wells successor, former Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube signed the agreement in Jun. 2008, only to request a withdrawal from the 287g Program in Sept. 2009.

Steube cited changes ICE made to the MOA requiring law enforcement agencies to provide certified interpreters that were, “cost prohibitive under MCSO’s current budget.” The hiatus was brief, as the Sheriff’s Office joined the Secure Communities program in Oct. 2009 until the Obama administration’s sun-setting of the program in November 2014. The Trump administration reactivated the program via executive order in Jan. 2017.  The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is currently not participating in the program.

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Breaking Down the BOA’s implementation in Manatee

According to the Booking Manual procedures provided by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) Detainers and Notifications” was implemented on Mar. 8 2018, defining the department’s role as a “service provider to the DHS ICE pursuant to the BOA and authorized by federal law to hold alien detainees when all requirements for detention are met.”

“The narrow service we provide to ICE is detention for 48 hours after release from custody on local criminal charges, and that is only done when proper documentation is submitted by ICE for detention of a particular subject,” according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office General Counsel, Eric Werbeck. “ICE then has 48 hours to pick the subject up from our custody. If they don’t arrive within that time period, the subject is released. All of the subjects being detained will have been arrested for state criminal charges,” Werbeck said.

Since the agreement’s implementation in March, the Sheriff’s Office has held 32 individuals as of June, 14, according to a public record. Of the 32 individuals detained for the maximum of 48-hour period, 25 have been transferred to ICE custody. The criminal charges of detainees that were transferred to ICE ranged from battery and domestic violence, DUI, attempted murder and controlled substance. The individuals released from the detention ranged from unanswered court summonses, driving without a license, or probation violations.

Elizabeth M. Nicholson, ICE Community Relations Officer for Central and Northern Florida, stated that the local field office does not have an accounting of individual detainers at the county level, but pointed to 2017 fiscal year removal statistics for Florida. According to the ICE Fiscal Year data for Florida from 2016-2017, there was a 14-percent increase in removals.

Peter Lombardo, a local criminal defense attorney located in Bradenton who has had clients from the undocumented community, believes that the overall majority of undocumented criminal defendants do not get deported or jailed in Manatee County. “We’ll go to court and its usually misdemeanors, and we’ll go in, they’ll plead guilty, they’ll either get a fine or probation or whatever, and they just walk out the courtroom with me,” Lombardo said.

“I definitely believe that what people have to understand, sometimes, it’s not like ICE is looking for them,” Guzman-Rouselle said. Rouselle explained further that she believes that substance abuse in the undocumented community invites attention from authorities. A study titled, “Undocumented Immigration, Drug Problems, and Driving Under the Influence in the United States, 1990-2014” released in August of 2017 by the American Public Health Association concluded that there was “no significant relationship between increased undocumented immigration and DUI deaths.”

The Trump Administration and Interior Immigration Enforcement

In 2015, the New York Times reported from the campaign trail that Donald Trump’s immigration rhetoric was scolded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush as “extraordinarily ugly.” In April 2017, The American Bar Journal hosted a legal panel in Miami that emphasized the Trump administration’s focus on criminal immigration enforcement.

Ariel Ruiz Soto, an Associate Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute who co-authored a May 2018 MPI report titled, “Revving Up the Deportation Machinery: Enforcement under Trump and the Pushback,” believes that the creation of federal BOA’s by the Department of Homeland Security and ICE are meant to incentivize participation of local law enforcement agencies who are concerned about prohibitive costs and legal blowback.

“Rather than incentivizing new participation in immigration enforcement, BOA’s have facilitated access to local law enforcement agencies which had considered cooperating more closely with ICE but had common concerns regarding the cost and liability of holding an immigrant beyond the time they were charged to serve for their criminal convictions,” Soto said.

“The practices of the current administration, however, can and must also be traced to the crime politics of liberal Democrats that shifted the discourse on unauthorized migration,” writes Patricia Macia-Rojas in a 2018 article featured in the Journal of Migration and Huma Security. Amanda Frost wrote in a Nov. 2017 article in the Iowa Law Review, that the legacy of the Obama administration’s removal or forbearance model of immigration enforcement and lack of congressional response to immigration enforcement, should prompt alternative enforcement strategies in the future.

According to Guzman-Rouselle, an urgent problem facing Manatee’s undocumented community is being able to parse fact from fiction by finding legitimate sources of legal help for friends and family. “Mostly what I have seen is notary fraud, telling people things, ‘Oh no, let’s apply for asylum, let’s apply for this or let’s apply for that’,” Guzman-Rouselle said. “They don’t understand the consequences of doing one of those applications, that eventually, they are going to put you in front of an immigration judge when you didn’t have to be there.”

For more information on the Manatee County Basic Ordering Agreement via the National Sheriff’s Association, click here.

Click here for ACLU’s fact sheet on the Basic Ordering Agreement.

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The Immigrant Youth Project Hopes to Inform Central Florida and Lawmakers

According to Dr. Heide Castaneda, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of South Florida, and co-founder of The Immigrant Youth Project, recruiting undocumented youth to speak on their experience for the federally funded research project has been a challenge after the DACA recision.

“When people had DACA, they felt certainty with their status, they were more willing to talk about how they felt, what they experienced,” Castaneda explained. “As soon as the DACA recision was announced, people shutdown,” she added.

The project began in Sept. 2017 with the aim of investigating the social and emotional well-being of undocumented young adults living in Central Florida and across the United States. The legal battle to decide the uncertain fate of DACA recipients is still being waged in U.S District Courts. On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that DACA protections should remain in place, and the government must continue to accept new applications.

According to Dr. Castaneda, the goal of the project’s research is to inform policymakers and the public on the social implications of undocumented young adults who are living in a transitional status.

“We’ve talked to people who are afraid to enter long-term relationships because they don’t know what’s next for them, and I think that really impacts their ability be full members of society and express themselves as humans,” Castaneda said.

 Castaneda is a co-creator of the project along with University of South Florida Assoc. Prof. of Sociology Dr. Elizabeth Aranda and former USF faculty and now Assoc. Prof. of Sociology at George Washington University, Dr. Elizabeth Vaquera. The three professors met at the University of South Florida in 2007, and all shared a common interest in immigrant families, youth, and incorporation into society. According to Castaneda, The National Science Foundation awarded their project proposal in June of last year and provided the perfect opportunity to combine their research efforts into an interdisciplinary focus on “an urgent issue In their own backyard” in Central Florida. The project has also extended an outreach partnership with the Florida Immigrant Coalition, where the researchers themselves take part in events and clinics held by the coalition.

In Castaneda’s and the researchers’ view of their preliminary findings, participants have shown a variety of responses, ranging from high levels of emotional distress, depression, and suicidality to high levels of political engagement and activism. According to a Jan. 2017 article from the National Institute of Mental Health, child of immigrants born in the U.S. may have a higher risk for mental disorders than their parents. According to the Pew Research from Sept. 2017, two-thirds of DACA recipients are ages 25 or younger.

 President Trump continues to press Democrats on the issue of immigration, where on Monday Trump tweeted out on Monday that he has instructed Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen P.Nielsen to, “not let these large Caravans of people into our Country.”

According to Castaneda, the key for Central Florida to understand the plight of its undocumented immigrant youth is how ingrained they already are in the community.

“The key thing to understand is that what passport you are holding and how valid your visa is, it’s not that it’s not important, but for the everyday experience of living in our communities here in Central Florida, it’s not as important,” Castaneda said. “These are people who have jobs in all sectors of society,” she added.

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As the project heads into the summer, their recruiting push is expecting an increase in participants, with the overall goal of reaching 140 individual experiences for the project’s total.

“More and more people in the US are living in a family where there is at least one undocumented person,” Castaneda said. “Immigration doesn’t just affect the immigrant, it affects their family members and their communities,” she added.

For more information on how to get involved with the Immigrant Youth Project, click here.

ICE’s 287(g) Program is not decreasing crime in North Carolina, According to New Cato Institute Study

On Wednesday, Alexander Nowrasteh, an Immigration Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute, a D.C public policy think-tank, tweeted out the abstract of a new Cato Working Paper analyzing the two-year rollout of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) 287(g) program in the state of North Carolina. The paper was co-authored with Cato research associate Andrew Forrester, titled, “Do Immigration Enforcement Programs Reduce Crime? Evidence from the 287 (g) Program in North Carolina,”  and specifically focuses on the program’s impact on local crime and police clearance rates across the counties participating in the program.

Nowrasteh summarized their results in his Wednesday tweet.

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(Alex Nowrasteh via Twitter)

Nowrasteh’s findings on the 287 (g) program counter Trump administration claims of a correlation between undocumented immigration and criminal activity. According to Washington Post on April 2, the administration is planning to implement a deportation quota system for federal immigration judges that link to their performance reviews. President Trump also tweeted on April 4 accusing U.S Democrats of upholding Obama Era border policies to allow for unchecked illegal immigration that would lead to an uptick in crime. In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act added section 287 (g) to the act, where ICE and local law enforcement could enter into Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), enabling ICE to designated local officers to perform immigration enforcement functions. The administration expanded the ICE program via executive order in January of 2017.

“President Trump’s reactivation of 287(g) task force agreements has prompted us to evaluate how this program has affected crime rates and police clearance rates in the past,” writes Nowrasteh and Forrester in their conclusion of the Cato Working Paper. “We find no statistically significant elasticity between immigrants deported through the 287(g) program and the index crime rates under multiple specifications. Similarly, we find no significant elasticity between crime clearance rates and 287(g) deportations. Combined, these results demonstrate that the 287(g) program did not reduce crime in North Carolina,” they concluded.

Nowrasteh tenure as an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity started in 2012, after serving as a policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, another Libertarian D.C public policy organization based in Washington D.C. Earning his Masters of Science degree in Economic History at The London School of Economics and Political Science in 2011, ABC news cited Nowrasteh as one of the top 20 immigration experts to follow on Twitter in 2013. Nowrasteh has been active on various social media platforms promoting his policy research on immigration, with titles ranging from “Immigrants Did Not Take Your Job,” “Obama Administration Adopts De Facto Dream Act,” and “Trump’s Deplorable Travel Ban.”

 

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(Created by Alexander Michael Buono via Infogram)

 
Nowrasteh’s research arrives in the wake of a public debate last month between law enforcement officials in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina,  on the merits of the program current implementation in the county. Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael stated in a March 13 Charlotte Observer article that, “A person will never encounter that 287(g) program unless they get arrested for breaking the law.” Countering the Sheriff’s assertion was Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney, where Putney stated to the Charlotte Observer on March 26 that the program would be a “good” tool for targeting violent felons and gang members but doubted the program’s overall effectiveness. According to Nowrasteh and Forrester’s findings in their research, Mecklenburg County had the highest recorded number of removals by 287(g) in the available ten-year data set.

According to Kristin Bialik of Pew research in a February 15 article, 2017 ICE fiscal data revealed that 74 percent of immigrant arrestees had prior convictions, a 13 percent increase from last measurements taken in 2009. Bialik was quick to point out that despite this increase of immigrants with prior convictions from 2016 to 2017, the overall arrest increase is attributable to arrestees without priors. Senior Immigration Policy Analyst Nicole Prchal Svajlenka of the Center for American Progress concludes in her March 20 CFAP article that with the elimination of prosecutorial discretion by Trump administration policies, ICE has arrested far more people without criminal convictions while emboldening local law enforcement officials to take part in the federal government’s deportation procedures.

Nowrasteh took to Twitter on Saturday in a tweet that appeared to echo his paper’s conclusion about the perceptions of criminality in the U.S.

“More evidence that fear of crime is influenced by social entertainment or news rather than perceived local danger,” Nowrasteh wrote, citing criminaljusticedegreehub.com data.

For more information on Nowrasteh and his work at the Cato Institute, click here.

Columbia County Sheriff releases “basic ordering agreement” ICE data

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office has provided via public records request the agency’s transactional data of individuals held under the “basic ordering agreement” or BOA with U.S Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE). According to their data which accounted for individuals held under the agreement’s parameters from the initial start date to June 30, only one out of a total of six individuals was transferred to ICE custody.

[infogram id=”d562537e-b513-4d16-9bdc-4086a80d8519″ prefix=”i02″ format=”interactive” title=”Manatee County Basic Ordering Agreement Detainee Breakdown”]

The inclusion of their data adds to a total of now seven, BOA-participating Florida law enforcement agencies as reported last month. In recent developments according to Krystel Knowles of Spectrum News 13, Brevard County’s BOA was an indicator of the eventual passage of a county commission resolution banning “sanctuary cities” policies.

Brevard County commissioner John Tobia was quoted in a follow up piece by Spectrum News 13’s Matt Fernandez on the passage of the resolution, stating that the resolution ” prevents future sheriffs or politicians from failing the shining example of Sheriff Ivey and interfere and fail to cooperate with federal assets of law enforcement,” while mentioning the threat of the Trump administration to withhold federal funding as an additional justification.

According to USA Today from August 1, a federal judge from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Trump Administration’s attempt to withhold federal funding via the January 2017 executive order was unconstitutional.

For more information and updates on the BOA, click here.