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Sunday, July 18, 2004

The Orwell Watch

Don't mind me, I'm just spinning in my grave

Homeland Security, despite what Tom DeLay thinks, is not your personal intimidation agency.

Using Threats, N.Y. Landlords Feed Immigrants' Fear

By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 18, 2004; Page A03

NEW YORK -- They sat there, three diminutive and worried Mexican women, in the shadows in the back pews of St. Jerome's Church in the Bronx. Father John O. Grange noticed and motioned them forward.

The women handed Grange a letter. They had asked for apartment repairs, and this letter contained what appeared to be the landlord's response.

"Dear Tenants," the letter stated, "As you know the United States Government and specifically the Homeland Security Administration is investigating illegal aliens . . . I have given them all the information that I know about my tenants (age, names, work, cars, marriage, country of origin, telephone numbers, children) . . . You should expect a visit in the near future."

Grange, 64, forms a fist and frowns.

"Their hands were shaking as I read the letter -- they were scared stiff," said the priest, who is a founding member of South Bronx Churches, an ecumenical organizing group that is helping the women. "Evil has reared its head and threatens to ruin their hardworking lives."

Much has changed in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, world of New York. There are subway announcements advising riders to watch for suspicious people and unattended packages. There is the shared memory of attacks past and the fear of more to come. And for some of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the city, especially those whose visa papers are not in order, the fear is doubled. They worry about more attacks and about those who might take advantage of them in these troubled times.

"This case in the Bronx is a particularly flagrant example of what our constituency faces with some frequency," said Andrew Friedman, co-director of Make the Road by Walking, an immigrant advocacy group that has worked with tenants in Brooklyn who have received similar verbal threats from landlords. "People put up with absolutely ghastly living conditions and feel they can't complain in this security-conscious world."

The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund handled several cases in the past year in which landlords tried to intimidate Muslim tenants by threatening to call the FBI. An organizer who works with nannies said that such threats are common -- and that they recently won a court case for back wages against a tennis instructor who warned he would call the Department of Homeland Security.

"We hear about this quite often -- it's our main challenge, because employers know everyone is so scared now," said Ai-jen Poo, who works for Domestic Workers United in the Bronx. "Even people with legal green cards are afraid of deportation post-9/11. It's a double whammy because the economy isn't great."

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in New York report often receiving tips from landlords. "It's very common to hear from landlords," said spokesman Michael Gilhooley. "But our inspectors are careful to balance the tips with the fact that New York has so many immigrants. We prioritize based on threats to public safety."

And in other Orwellian news :

Minn. GOP Asks Activists to Report on Neighbors' Politics

By Brian Faler
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, July 18, 2004; Page A05

All politics is local. But this year, it is getting downright neighborly.

Take Minnesota. The state Republican Party has developed a Web site that allows its activists to tap into a database of voters whose political allegiances and concerns it would like to know. But it is not just any group of voters -- they are the activists' neighbors.

The project, dubbed WebVoter, gives GOP activists the names and addresses of 25 people who live, in most cases, within a couple of blocks from them. The party has asked 60,000 supporters from across the state to figure out what issues animate their neighbors and where they stand in the political spectrum, and report that information back to the party -- with or, possibly, without their neighbors' permission.

Those who seem persuadable will receive campaign literature from Republican candidates -- including President Bush -- with whom the party plans to share its data. Those deemed incorrigible Democrats will be struck from the list.

"We don't want to waste our time or money on people who are not going to vote with us regardless of what we do," said Larry Colson, a Minnesota entrepreneur who helped develop the site. "We would like to be able to hone the message to people who are already with us and then people who are on the fence -- those are the people that we'd like to target."

So when those names wind up in the Homeland Security database, it woiuld be an "accident".

It's one thing to report positives, but another to keep track of negatives. This is the kind of thing which gets people sued.

posted by Steve @ 11:15:00 AM

11:15:00 AM

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