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September 23, 2011
From the Desk of Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton:
Judicial Watch Earns Key Victory for Police Sergeant Client in Illegal Alien Sanctuary Lawsuit
Let’s start with some great news this week.
Judicial Watch client Sergeant Joslyn Johnson, the widow of a fellow police officer gunned down by an illegal alien criminal, may finally get her day in court thanks to a landmark Judicial Watch court victory!
On September 9, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Sergeant Johnson. At Judicial Watch’s urging, the three-judge panel reversed a decision by the district court. Sgt. Johnson’s lawsuit against the city of Houston’s illegal sanctuary policy will now continue.
As noted by the appellate court, under the Houston Police Department’s (HPD) illegal alien sanctuary policy, “HPD officers are forbidden from notifying federal authorities that they have encountered a known illegal alien unless they arrest that person on a ‘separate criminal charge (other than a class C misdemeanor).’”
Moreover, Houston’s sanctuary policy also prevents police officers from obtaining immigration information from a number of federal government databases. (The policy only allows police officers to check the “wanted” status of an illegal alien from a single federal database that tracks illegal aliens who have been convicted and deported for “drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, or serious violent crimes.”)
As we argued in our September 21, 2009, lawsuit on behalf of Sergeant Johnson, Houston’s restrictive illegal alien sanctuary policies harm her ability to communicate with federal immigration officials:
Officer Johnson does not seek to detain or arrest persons in order to inquire about their immigration status…Rather plaintiff [Johnson] seeks to use her professional judgment to determine when it is appropriate to contact ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to inquire or provide information about a person’s immigration status if, in the course of carrying out her duties and responsibilities as a law enforcement officer, she has reason to believe a crime may have been committed.
To this point, Sergeant Johnson has not even been able to make this case in a court of law. The district court dismissed her lawsuit on a technicality, ruling that Sgt. Johnson was precluded from bringing the lawsuit because the court had previously dismissed a separate lawsuit over the death of her husband. The appellate court reversed this decision, ruling that the lower court had incorrectly determined that Sgt. Johnson’s lawsuit was essentially “duplicative” of her previous lawsuit and had therefore already been adjudicated.
Now we go back to the district court.
This is a tremendous victory for Sergeant Johnson, Judicial Watch, and our members who make all of our legal advocacy possible. And we are very much looking forward to the opportunity to try to end Houston’s lawless sanctuary policies that place law enforcement officers and the citizens of Houston at risk.
On September 21, 2006, Sergeant Johnson’s husband, Officer Rodney Johnson, was making a routine traffic stop when he was shot and killed by Juan Leonardo Quintero-Perez, a previously-deported Mexican national who had reentered and was living in the U.S. illegally. After reentering the U.S. illegally, Quintero-Perez had multiple interactions with the HPD before shooting and killing Officer Johnson, including at least one arrest for driving under the influence and citations for failing to stop and give information following an accident and driving with a suspended license.
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Unfortunately for the citizens of Houston, the city has become a hotbed for illegal alien criminal activity. Judicial Watch uncovered a shocking sex trafficking operation set up by illegal aliens right under the nose of the HPD. This operation was kept alive by illegal alien sanctuary policies. JW also uncovered documents showing that Houston immigration officials, at the direction of the Obama administration, suspended the deportations of dangerous illegal aliens convicted of violent crimes, including sexual assault, solicitation of murder, aggravated assault, assaulting a police officer, and kidnapping, as well as numerous drug charges.
And earlier this year, yet another Houston police officer, Kevin Will, was struck and killed by an illegal alien drunk driver as he was investigating a hit and run traffic accident.
Now that Sergeant Johnson can make her case in court, she could be able to help put an end to illegal alien sanctuary policies in Houston before the list of victims can grow any longer.
Border Violence Update: JW Client Tiffany Hartley Testifies to Congress, JW Files Three FOIA Lawsuits
This week, Judicial Watch and its client Tiffany Hartley jacked up the heat on the Obama administration to provide some answers related to the murder of Mrs. Hartley’s husband, David, who was gunned down in September 2010, apparently at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. Mr. and Mrs. Hartley were driving jet skis on Falcon Lake, which sits on the border between the U.S. and Mexico, when gunmen opened fire from a nearby boat striking Mr. Hartley in the head.
The Obama administration, for its part, seems to have ended its participation in the murder investigation and is now giving Mrs. Hartley the stiff arm regarding her request for information.
That’s where we come in.
On September 16, Judicial Watch filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the Department of State, Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI to obtain all government records pertaining to the September shooting, including Obama administration communications with Mexican law enforcement officials, military authorities, and other Mexican officials.
CNN’s Justice Blog had the story:
Almost a year has passed since Tiffany Hartley’s husband was shot and killed while on a personal watercraft on Falcon Lake, which sits on the border and is shared between Texas and Mexico.
Now she has sued the State Department, the Justice Department and the FBI in an attempt to get answers about what happened that day and why no one has been brought to justice in the killing of David Hartley.
It is believed that he was shot by members of the Zetas drug cartel, but no one has been arrested or even named as a suspect in his death.
With the help of Judicial Watch, an organization dedicated to investigating corruption, Tiffany Hartley filed the three Freedom of Information Act lawsuits Friday.
Mrs. Hartley also testified Monday before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security in a field forum on border issues held in Brownsville, Texas. Members in attendance included: Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX); Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI); and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX).
The hearing captured widespread attention from the press not only in Texas, but around the country, including The Associated Press, which identified Mrs. Hartley as the hearing’s “highest profile witness.”
Mrs. Hartley’s mission is simple. She wants justice and accountability. And if Obama officials don’t want to pursue an investigation of their own, they certainly have an obligation under FOIA law to turn over records related to what they know about the incident. But so far, they’re not cooperating.
As I told The Associated Press in an interview, the Obama administration has political reasons for not wanting to make too much of this case. Highlighting the fact that a murder took place at a tourist destination on our border runs against the narrative that the administration is trying to put out that the border is safe.
Of course, we know this is a bald faced lie. Mexico is a war zone making our border dangerous. This isn’t helped by the Obama administration’s shocking lack of interest in securing the border or enforcing immigration laws.
Remember the Mexican government incursion reports we previously uncovered through the FOIA? They detail hundreds of violent incidents on the border, including shots fired on both sides of the border, unmarked helicopters invading U.S. airspace, drug smuggling, and confrontations between U.S. Border Patrol agents and members of the Mexican military.
Now we have Mexican drug pirates picking off innocent tourists out on a lake for a day of recreation. This is a massive national security problem, as Mrs. Hartley emphasized in her remarks: “The men who murdered David live right across the river, they aren’t over in Afghanistan, they’re not in Iraq, they’re right in our backyard…The cartel members are taking over Mexico and they’re killing anyone in their way.”
I tweeted yesterday an excellent and disturbing report by Houston television station KPRC that details how the out-of-control border even threatens our food supply. In my tweet, I suggested all the presidential candidates should read this piece. And I mean the challengers and the incumbent. Reporting like this (by KPRC’s Robert Arnold) ought to get our nation’s attention:
Local 2 spoke with several farmers and ranchers who declined to speak on-camera for fear of retaliation. However, several said the threats from drug smugglers have increased to the point they no longer question strangers on their property.
“We just walk the other way,” said one farmer who asked not to be identified.
The attacks are not only happening in the rural parts of the border.
“The shots ricocheted off this wall,” said Othal Brand, president and general manager of Hidalgo County Water Improvement District No. 3. “Hit within 18 inches of each man.”
Brand said water district employees were fired on while working to repair an intake line at the pumping station on the Rio Grande River. Brand said the shots came from Mexico’s side of the border.
“They wanted to bring something across, and they didn’t want anybody around,” Brand said. “We haven’t seen this since the days of Pancho Villa.”
The day after the attack, Brand gave his workers permission to carry guns.
“Because nobody is going to stand out here and protect my men on the embankment of the river, nobody,” said Brand.
“Did you every [sic] think you would reach a point where you would tell employees of a municipal water district that it’s OK to arm themselves?” Arnold asked.
“Never, never, but we’re next to a country that’s at war, a civil war, and make no mistake, it is a war,” said Brand.
I just want to close by thanking the members of Congress who listened to Mrs. Hartley. In addition to the members of Congress who presided over the border event, Mrs. Hartley recently received support from Governor Rick Perry (R-TX). And as I’ve previously detailed in this space, Governor John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Senators Mark Udall (D-CO) and Michael Bennett (D-CO) have all sent letters to Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging them to help gain “closure and justice” for Tiffany Hartley.
All should be commended for joining the bipartisan effort to bring attention to Mrs. Hartley’s plight and border violence. Let’s hope the calls for justice grow so loud they finally gain the attention of the Obama White House.
JW Client MDPetitions.com Fights to Keep DREAM Act Referendum on 2012 Ballot in MD
Here we are smack dab in the middle of a terrible economy and a massive budget crunch, and public officials still insist on wasting taxpayer dollars on perks for illegal aliens. This includes using taxpayer money to pay for discounted tuition for illegal aliens. If you’ve been reading this space for any length of time, you know Judicial Watch has taken a leadership role in the effort to put a stop to this unlawful and wasteful practice.
That effort continued this week as we filed a “Motion to Intervene” on behalf of MDPetitions.com, the organization that sponsored the petition drive to place the Maryland DREAM Act on the ballot for the November 2012 elections. We filed the Motion in response to a lawsuit that seeks to deny voters an up-or-down vote on the Maryland DREAM Act. The chairman of MDPetitions.com is Maryland Assembly Delegate Neil Parrott of Washington County; Delegate Patrick McDonough of Baltimore and Harford Counties is its honorary chairman.
By way of review, the DREAM Act was enacted by the Maryland General Assembly and signed by Governor Martin O’Malley on May 10, 2011. The law creates a new taxpayer-subsidized public benefit – the ability to pay reduced tuition rates at Maryland community colleges and public higher education institutions – for certain eligible illegal aliens. The petition drive was perhaps the most successful in Maryland history. The drive collected nearly twice the amount of signatures required by law to put the new benefit to voters in a referendum.
As Judicial Watch lawyers stated in MDPetitions.com’s filing:
As the sponsor of this overwhelmingly successful petition, MDPetitions.com obviously has a compelling interest in ensuring that voters across the State of Maryland have the opportunity to vote on the Maryland DREAM Act in the November 2012 election.
MDPetitions.com represents not only its leaders and organizers and the hundreds of volunteers who worked to make the successful petition possible, but also the 108,923 confirmed registered voters who signed the petition in the exercise of their rights under Article XVI, Section 2 of the Maryland Constitution. In addition, as the creator of a web-based computer program that as many as 28,860 confirmed registered voters used to generate, print, sign, and mail in clear and accurate petition pages, MDPetitions.com has a unique interest in preserving the availability of this…tool for use by registered voters in future petition drives. MDPetitions.com seeks intervention… to protect these…interests against the unfounded allegations of the [lawsuit]…
The filing also included an “Answer of Intervenor MDPetitions.com to Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief,” which responds point-by-point to the allegations of the plaintiffs, who include two illegal aliens and the advocacy group CASA de Maryland.
As Delegates Neil Parrott and Patrick McDonough pointed out in statements issued in conjunction with our court filing, this effort by MDPetitions.com is all about giving Maryland voters an opportunity to have their voices heard on an issue that impacts their families and their communities.
“CASA de Maryland and the illegal alien lobby are attempting to throw out over 100,000 validated voter signatures and ignore the will of the people,” said Delegate Neil Parrott. “It appears that those who oppose the referendum process are doing so because they know how unpopular this bill is and, fearing that they will lose at the ballot box, have mounted this lawsuit to prevent Marylanders from exercising their constitutional right to decide the issue on their own. Marylanders across the state have worked hard to bring this bill to referendum, because they know Maryland cannot afford to subsidize college tuition for illegal aliens and they want to see our existing immigration laws enforced. Maryland’s referendum process has worked, and now Marylanders should have their voices heard at the ballot box.”
“It is a great asset to the voters of Maryland to have Judicial Watch help to make sure that Marylanders will have an opportunity to vote on this important issue in November of 2012,” said Delegate Patrick McDonough. “As Honorary Chairman I know the volunteers worked hard to make this petition campaign the most successful in the history of the state. This is the people’s petition and the voters have the right to exercise their power on this key issue.”
MDPetitions.com followed the letter of the law in its overwhelmingly successful petition drive, and there is no question that the Maryland DREAM Act should be put to a referendum. The illegal immigration lobby simply wants to keep Maryland voters from having their say on the issue of taxpayer-funded tuition benefits for illegal aliens. Because they well know that the American people are fed up with bankrolling perks for illegal aliens.
Given Maryland’s devastating budget crunch, now is not the time to spend taxpayer dollars by paying for the education of illegal aliens who can’t legally work in Maryland or anywhere else in the United States.
After a conference with the court yesterday, we expect that the court will allow our client to intervene and defend its interests in this litigation. I’ll be sure to keep you updated as the case moves along.
Until next week…
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