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LILA CHAVEZ Service -have argued that without witnesses on hand, they won’t be able to prove their cases against smugglers. They claim that depositions may not be allowed in the court as evidence. If depositions are used, they fear the accused smugglers will have grounds for appeals. U.S. Assistant Attorneys Jack Wolfe in McAllen and Christopher Milner in Brownsville and INS attorney David Ayala all declined to comment for this article. The ACLU victory brings the Southern District into line with two other U.S. districts where courts have ruled to limit the witnesses’ jail time. In Arizona, the government has ten days to take the witnesses’ depositions and in the Western District of Texas it must be done within 60 days. Judge Vela has not yet responded to the second and just as critical part of the ACLU lawsuit, which deals with the fate of the witnesses once their depositions are taken. When the smuggler’s case is over, the Marshals Service turns the witnesses over to the INS, where their deportation proceedings begin. Thus, “release” for the witnesses means transfer to another prison the detention center of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. For example, after the five Guatemalans in the Rivera case were interviewed and released, they continued to be held as material witnesses in “el corralon,” the detention center near Port Isabel, until a Brownsville taxi driver also charged in the smuggling case pled guilty. The ACLU suit challenges this collusion of the INS with the Marshals Service. Although the INS may hold the witnesses for deportation, they may not hold them as witnesses. The fate of the five Guatemalans illustrates the disadvantage in being a witness for the government case. By virtue of serving as a material witness, the refugees are branded as more of a bond risk than other refugees. The average INS-set bond of a detained refugee is $3,000; the bonds of de Paz and 19-year-old Jesus Pixabaj Chavez were $4,000 each; the bonds of the other three were $5,000 each. Because the five had spent 73 days in county jail, they were particularly impatient to resolve their immigration cases once they entered the detention center. De Paz, the only one of the five without a strong asylum claim, decided to ask for a deportation order after her sister in California could come up with only $1,000, $300 short of what de Paz could have paid a bond company for her release. Pixabaj, an Indian from Solala, one of the most violent regions of Guatemala, asked for deportation after almost four months in detention even though he was afraid to return because he had fled a draft notice from the Guatemalan army. His friends in Seguin, Texas, were unable to raise his bond money. Hector Ines Pena Alvaredo, who had .a ACLU Lawyer Carter White $5,000 bond, contacted his uncle in New York, who said he could raise $2,000 to $3,000 if his nephew’s lawyers could arrange for a bond reduction. Even though Proyecto Libertad, a Harlingen-based legal aid group for Central Americans, gathered the necessary papers for a bond reduction, Immigration Judge Howard Achstam refused to lower the bond. The other two Guatemalans also asked for deportation when relatives and friends could not raise their bond money. “I’m afraid of what will happen to them when they go back,” said the Proyecto paralegal who interviewed the Guatemalans. SMUGGLING CASES ARE NOT the only ones in which the government has justified holding material wit nesses. On October 19, ten Mexican men were arrested and held in an amnesty fraud case against Felipe Gonzalez, a crew leader from Pharr who was charged With making false statements on the Seasonal Agricultural Worker application forms of the ten workers. Gonzalez and Alma Garcia, a notary public, were also charged with conspiring with the aliens to submit the false documents. Both Gonzalez and Garcia soon were released from jail on bond; the ten Mexicans couldn’t afford to post bond. Gonzalez even received permission to visit his goat ranch in Chino, Nuevo Leon \(home of the ten Magistrate Mallett ordered the depositions of the Mexicans in December, they continued to be held after the government revised charges against Garcia. In early March, Gonzalez pled guilty to petty offenses. He was fined $1,500 and placed on probation. He was also ordered to pay $100 in restitution to each of the Mexicans. Garcia went to trial, was found guilty, fined $2,400, and given supervised probation. She is appealing the case. The ten Mexicans were not released until after Garcia’s trial on March 23. Garcia’s attorney, Susan Williams of McAllen, says that at least two and probably four of the Mexicans were not even needed in her case and could have been released much earlier. In the end, six of the Mexicans were not even named in the indictment. Williams discovered that the cost of detaining each witness is $25 to $30 a day. The total cost of holding the ten Mexicans for five months was at least $37,500. Judge Vela’s ruling comes at a critical time. The ACLU expects to see a new stream of detained witnesses because of violations of the employer sanctions provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. “What better way for the INS to prove that an employer has been hiring illegal aliens than to have the aliens right there to testify,” White says. “That’s a big reason the ACLU is getting involved now.” Employer sanctions went into full force June 1. Also, now that the amnesty program is over for all but seasonal agricultural workers, the INS can forget about being Mr. Nice Guy and shift into the enforcement mode, a transition made especially easy by the expanded Border Patrol budget provided for in the new immigration law. The McAllen Border Patrol sector alone is in the process of adding 150 agents. “Those guys have to be doing something,” White says. “They’re going to be catching more people. We’re going to be seeing an increase in alien smuggling indictments.” This publication is available :\\ in microform from University Microfilms International. Call toll-free 600-521-3044. Or mail inquiry to: University Microfilms International. 300 North Zook Road. Ann Arbor. MI 40106. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 15